Bill Weinberg's blog

Anti-drug death-squad boss elected president of Philippines?

Posted on May 10th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

South East AsiaPresidential election results in the Philippines came in May 10, and the bombastic anti-crime hardliner Rodrigo Duterte appears to be the winner. The victory isn't official yet, but ruling-party candidate Mar Roxas has already conceded defeat. Duterte is the mayor of Davao City in the conflicted southern island of Mindanao—which has been hit by a wave of death-squad terror in recent years. The paramilitaries are ostensibly a response to crime and narco networks on the island, but ecology activists and peasant leaders have also been targeted. Duterte has been named as a mastermind of the paramilitaries, and certainly makes no bones about his intolerant position on drug use. "All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you," he Duterte told a huge cheering crowd in his final campaign rally in Manila. "I have no patience, I have no middle ground, either you kill me or I will kill you idiots."

Drug war orthodoxy prevails at UN confab —despite dissent

Posted on April 22nd, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

earthThe UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem closed in New York on April 21—formally adopting a document (PDF) with no actual debate in the General Assembly. The document had actually been prepared out by a select coterie of diplomats in Vienna weeks before the UNGASS even opened. There were some small improvements over the last UNGASS document in 1998, which hubristically called for a "drug-free world" within 10 years. The new document does not repeat this language, and does for the first time mention "human rights." But, as the Talking Drugs blog notes, the new document continues to use the words "use" and "abuse" as synonymous.

Scorpion-smoking: latest Pakistani craze

Posted on April 18th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

PakistanDon't try this one at home. A grimly fascinating report in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper April 15 features an interview with an aging scorpion-venom addict in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, near the border with Afghanistan. Sohbat Khan, 74, says he has been smoking scorpions to get high off the venom since the '60s, and only recently managed to kick the habit—by switching to opium. "Drugs are beaten by other drugs," he sadly told a reporter, speaking in his native Pashto. The stuff sppears be highly addictive, and when Khan could not find scorpions in his village, he would travel to Peshawar, the regional capital, to buy them in the market. The piece does not make clear if the scorpion trade is officially tolerated by authorities.

US anti-opium effort in Afghanistan: total failure

Posted on April 11th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

Afghanistan John F. Sopko, the Pentagon's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, gave a sobering assessment last week of the situation in the country 15 years after the fall of the Taliban. Corruption is endemic and security practically non-existent. More than 700 schools have been closed in recent months due to the ongoing insurgency. And despite at least $7 billion in counter-narcotics spending, opium production hit 3,300 tons in 2015—exactly the same level it was in 2001 when the US invaded.

Merle Haggard, redneck icon who embraced cannabis, passes on

Posted on April 6th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Merle HaggardCountry music legend Merle Haggard died at his ranch near Northern California's Lake Shasta on April 6, his 79th birthday. Haggard had the hard-living authenticity that helped make him an icon for the working folks of rural America. Of Okie stock, he grew up in Bakersfield and came up as a musician in the Central Valley town's local honkytonk scene—before actually turning 21 in San Quentin State Prison after a burglary conviction in 1957, as immortalized in his famous hit "Mama Tried." Unlike what the lyric said, however, he wasn't "doing life without parole." He was paroled in 1960, returned to his music career, acheived success, and was granted a pardon in 1972 by California's then-governor (and fellow conservative icon) Ronald Reagan.

Cannabis interceptions on Mexican border down —again

Posted on March 20th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , , , .

MexicoFor a second year running, the US Border Patrol reports drastically reduced cannabis seizures along the Mexican border—and even the mainstream media can't help making the connection to the growing trend toward legalization and tolerance in the United States. In reporting the findings, the Washington Post uses the headline, "Legal marijuana is finally doing what the drug war couldn't." Last year, border agents confiscated some 1.5 million pounds—down from a peak of nearly 4 million in 2009. Increased domestic production in California, Colorado and Washington have driven prices down, especially at the bulk level. "Two or three years ago, a kilogram [2.2 pounds] of marijuana was worth $60 to $90," a Mexican cannabis farmer recently told NPR. "But now they're paying us $30 to $40 a kilo. It's a big difference. If the U.S. continues to legalize pot, they'll run us into the ground." 

Alabama prison riot: more to come?

Posted on March 16th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

AlabamaGov. Robert Bentley visited Holman prison in southwest Alabama March 15—in the wake of a bloody uprising at the facility. Inmates stabbed the warden and a guard when the trouble began four days earlier, then seized control of a dorm for several hours the day before the governor's visit. A Correctional Emergency Response Team was sent in to restore control. Both the warden and guard survived, but the facility remains on lockdown, with visitation rights suspended. Bentley pledged to address problems of overcrowding at the state's prisons during his visit, reported local WHNT.

Palestinian police in West Bank cannabis raid

Posted on March 15th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

Middle EastPalestinian police on March 12 raided a plant nursery in the West Bank village of Yasid, north of Nablus, and discovered more than 2,000 saplings of "narcotic hybrid cannabis" growing in seven greenhouses. A Palestinian Authority police spokesperson said in a statement the bust was part of an ongoing crackdown on drug use across the West Bank. Two suspects found on scene were arrested after attempting to flee the scene, the spokesperson told the indpendent Ma'an News Agency. The report did not mention what was done with the seized cannabis, but it was presumably incinerated.

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