Bill Weinberg's blog

Yemen war fuels dope-for-guns trade

Posted on March 29th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

Middle EastThe dizzyingly escalating crisis across the Middle East was ratcheted up several degrees last week as Saudi Arabia and its Gulf State allies intervened in Yemen, launching air-strikes against the Shi'ite rebels that have seized much of the country. Saudi troops are amassing on the border and there are fears that the air campaign, dubbed "Operation Decisive Storm," may soon be followed by a ground invasion. Within Yemen, Sunni tribes and militants in al-Qaeda's orbit are also battling the Shi'ite rebels, known as Houthis. (CNN, Al Jazeera, March 29; Yemen Post, March 22)

Hezbollah connection to Suriname narco-state —not!

Posted on March 11th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

CaribbeanHere we go again: the headline says one thing, the actual text (if you read carefully enough) something else entirely. In the relentless effort to hype a Middle East terrorist connection to the Latin American narco-traffic, the feds just scored a real coup. Dino Bouterse, the son of Suriname's current president and former military dictator Desi Bouterse, was on March 10 sentenced in federal court in New York City to 16 years for attempting to provide material support to Hezbollah, along with narco-trafficking and firearms charges. Bouterse, who was arrested in Panama in 2013 and pled guilty, was an architect of Suriname's Counter-Terrorism Unit (of course).  "Dino Bouterse was supposed to oppose terrorism," said US attorney Preet Bharara. "Instead, Bouterse betrayed his official position and tried to support and aid Hezbollah, including his agreement to assist Hezbollah in acquiring weapons, and conspiring to import cocaine to the US. Today he has been sentenced to a lengthy prison term for those odious crimes."

Israel: legalization goes mainstream

Posted on March 9th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Middle EastCannabis legalization as a political platform in Israel has traditionally been the domain of the Green Leaf Party, an idealistic, single-issue effort which has yet to gain even one seat in the Knesset. But Israeli news site YNet reported March 3 that Meretz, a traditional party of the center-left, held a confab at the Zionist Organization of America building in Tel Aviv to promote medical marijuana (at least), with more general legalization also discussed. Entertainment was provided by topical hip-hop/funk outfit Hadag Nachash before headlining speakers including Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg and Dr. Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Yarden Gazit of the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS) protested that more than 18,000 criminal cases are opened a year for cannabis-related offenses—despite the fact that only 25% of Israel's populace supports criminalization. Urged  Zandberg in her closing remarks: "If you are a leftist, if you support legalization—vote Meretz."

Chicago cops run 'black site'?

Posted on February 25th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

ChicagoChicago is abuzz with explosive claims in The Guardian Feb. 24 that police in the Windy City operate a CIA-style "black site" where arrestees are held incommunicado, subject to harsh interrogations without being formally booked—and therefore with no paper trail, and no means for attorneys or kin to determine their whereabouts. The facility, in a nondescript West Side warehouse known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of "secretive work by special police units," The Guardian writes, where beatings and abuse can be carried out with impunity. Detainees are held there up to 24 hours before being sent to a precinct to be formally processed. Kids as young as 15 have been held at Honan Square, and at least one man was found unresponsive in an "interview room" at the facility and later pronounced dead, according to a February 2013 Chicago Tribune story cited by The Guardian.

Latin America's cartels build their own arms industry

Posted on February 20th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

narco-tankYet more grim evidence emerged this week that Mexico's warring cartels are becoming a real military force and underground parallel state in the country's lawless northeast. Small Wars Journal on Feb. 13 noted a press release from the Mexican attorney general's office, the PGR, announcing that federal police and army troops had raided a winery near Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, where 13 vehicles were being fitted with armor plating. Small Wars Journal calls it a "narco-tank factory." A huge amount of ammunition was also confiscated in the raid, although it seems the people who were running the workshop all escaped. The PGR said they believe the makeshift factory was being run by the Gulf Cartel.

US legalization initiatives and the Mexican cartels: good news or bad?

Posted on February 16th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

MexicoIs the relieved pressure on cannabis in the United States undermining the Mexican cartels, as we'd long hoped? There are encouraging sigs. Global Post cites a new report by California cannabis industry think-tank The ArcView Group finding that legal marijuana sales jumped 74% in 2014 to a new high of $2.7 billion—a growth pace expected to continue for several more years. And Mexican producers may be taking the hit. In 2014, the US Border Patrol saw a plunge in pot seizures—1.9 million pounds, down 24% from 2011, the year before Colorado and Washington voted to legalize.  

Taiwan descending into drug war dystopia?

Posted on February 13th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

East AsiaIt's the kind of headline we're more used to seeing from Mexico or Brazil. On Feb. 11, Taiwan's Kaohsiung prison exploded into violence as inmates took two guards hostage and seized rifles and other weapons, starting a 14-hour stand-off in which the facility was surrounded by police troops. It ended when six of the rebel inmates killed themselves, according to authorities. 

ISIS on meth: evidence mounts

Posted on February 11th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , .

ISISOK, some of the sources have axes to grind, but claims are mounting that the ultra-puritanical ISIS are stoned out of their minds on meth. Reuters reported last month that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has noted a surge in trafficking across the Middle East of Captagon, brand-name of fenethylline—an amphetamine notorious for its popularity among militants fighting in Syria and Iraq. Black-market knock-offs of the stuff are being produced by armed factions in Syria, both to fund their insurgencies and for their own fighters' use. Reuters said, "Syrian government forces and rebel groups each say the other uses Captagon to endure protracted engagements without sleep." We're sure they're both right.

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