Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Afghan opiate use doubled in last 5 years, UN says

Use of opiate drugs such as heroin and opium has doubled in Afghanistan since 2005 — with nearly 3 percent of Afghan adults now addicted, according to a U.N. report released Monday.

The data suggest that even as the U.S. and its allies have poured billions into programs to try to wean the Afghan economy off of drug money, opium and heroin have become more entrenched in the lives of ordinary Afghans, creating yet another barrier to international efforts to knock out support for the trade that fuels the Taliban insurgency.

"The human face of Afghanistan's drug problem is not only seen on the streets of Moscow, London or Paris. It is in the eyes of its own citizens, dependent on a daily dose of opium and heroin above all — but also cannabis, painkillers and tranquilizers," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Some Afghan addicts say they started using drugs to blunt the agonies of the grinding war. In some areas, users also give opium to their children to quiet them, the report says.

Afghanistan supplies 90 percent of the world's opium, the main ingredient in heroin, and is the global leader in hashish production. Drug crops have helped finance insurgents and encourage corruption — particularly the opium poppy crop in the south where the Taliban control cultivation and smuggling routes.

The Afghan government and its international backers have made a massive effort in recent years to discourage farmers from growing opium poppy, and its cultivation dropped 22 percent last year. Some of the drop is likely due to lower market prices, but the government has said it also shows that the Afghan war on drugs is having some success. Twenty of the country's 34 provinces were declared poppy-free in 2009.

Yet about 1 million Afghans — 8 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 64 — are regular drug users, and the use of opiates has spiked in recent years, according to the survey of 2,614 drug users throughout the country.

In 2005, 1.4 percent of the adult population were regular opiate abusers, the report said. But four years later, that number at almost 3 percent.

The number of regular opium users jumped 53 percent to 230,000 in 2009 from 150,000 in 2005, while regular heroin users more than doubled to 120,000 from 50,000, according to the report. Much of the jump in heroine use was in the south.

"We've never seen anything like this in the history anywhere across the world. So it is alarming," said Sarah Waller, who works on projects to reduce drug demand with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which published the report.

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Afghan minerals: Uncovered conspiracy



The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials. Webster Tarpley says that this is a planted story in The New York Times by the government to keep the war going.

Google's dark side - the Google conspiracy

Musical Innerlube: The Black Crowes - A Conspiracy

'Gringo chief' Randy Borman helps Ecuador's Cofan Indians survive, thrive

On a recent day, the man known as the Gringo Chief wore a traditional black smock and a necklace strung with jaguar and wild boar's teeth, perfectly suitable for the Cofan Indian ceremony marking the acquisition of yet another slice of rain forest.

With his fellow Cofan listening, Randy Borman gave a speech celebrating the latest accomplishment for a native people intent on taking back their vast ancestral lands. He spoke flawless Cofan, and no one dwelled on his unusual background: an American born to missionaries who grew up to become the Cofan's most prominent, influential leader.

The blue-eyed, gray-haired Borman, 54, is described by those who know him as an energetic, almost frenetic administrator who over 30 years has helped spearhead the revival of a people buffeted by encroaching settlers and oil companies.

Along the way, he has won respect for his ability to hunt monkeys with a blowgun and spend weeks trudging through an unforgiving jungle.

But fellow Cofan say his most lasting accomplishment has been helping the Cofan acquire so much territory that they now manage a swath nearly the size of Delaware. Their success, say those knowledgeable about native peoples in the Amazon, is a model for other indigenous groups.

(U.N. Ambassador of Goodwill Angelina Jolie visits Ecuador)

"His body, his skin, all that is gringo, but Mr. Randy's heart is Cofan," said Roberto Aguinda, 39, who oversees a network of Cofan park guards who patrol the community's reserves. "He manages both worlds, the Cofan and that of his parents. But when he is here in the community, he knows more about this life than the Cofan themselves."

Surviving . . . and thriving

Across South America, Indian tribes are increasingly confronted by miners, ranchers, farmers, and the roads and power-generating dams that always seem to accompany them. A few groups remain "un-contacted," having never come face to face with outsiders. Some are fading fast, but a few are thriving, controlling territories as large as countries.

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Oakland protesters prevent unloading of Israeli ship

Hundreds of peace activists prevented the unloading of an Israeli ship at the Port of Oakland Sunday by forming a picket line.

Organizers said their goal was to delay the ship"s unloading for 24 hours in protest of the Israeli military"s May 31 open-seas raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla that had been bringing goods to Gaza. The raid ended in the death of nine Turkish citizens.

Several hundred people gathered at the Oakland port about 5:30 a.m. at berths 57, 58 and 59, which is operated by SSA Terminals. An Israeli Zim Lines ship was expected to arrive in the morning, but didn"t. So the crowd stayed until the afternoon, preventing workers from unloading a ship from China, according to SSA officials.

"Free, free Palestine! Don"t cross the picket line!" the pickets shouted, blocking the berths" entrances and preventing about 100 longshoremen from walking past.

The longshoremen"s union largely cooperated with the picket line. No workers tried to cross it.

Clarence Thomas, an executive board member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 said, "We don"t want our members getting into fist fights or anything. We don"t want police escorting us to work. That"s unsafe."

Organizers had informed Oakland police of their plans for the picket, and police reported no arrests.

Richard Mead, president of Local 10, said Sunday night that SSA decided against ordering night shift workers to unload the Israeli ship, so employees didn"t show up and didn"t have to cross any picket lines.

"We can"t make them order a crew," Mead said. "It is what is."

"We consider this to be a huge victory and a historic moment," said organizer Richard Becker. "This is the first time this has happened, that an Israeli ship was blocked from unloading in a U.S. port."

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Israel bars German minister from Gaza

German Development Aid Minister Dirk Niebel was denied entry into the Gaza Strip during his current visit to Israel, German officials said Saturday evening.

A ministry spokesman said talks had continued to the last moment with Israeli officials over Niebel's aim to visit the Palestinian areas.

Niebel, who arrived in Israel earlier Saturday, had hoped to visit a sewage treatment plant being financed with German development aid.

Speaking on the second German TV network ZDF program"heute" (today) Saturday evening, Niebel expressed his anger about being denied entry.

"I would have wished for a clear political signal would be sent for an opening and for transparency," said Niebel, of Germany's liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).

"Sometimes the Israeli government does not make it easy for its friends to explain why it behaves the way it does," he added.

Niebel said that Israel's latest announcement on easing the Gaza blockade was "not sufficient" and that Israel must "now deliver" on its pledge.

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Medvedev sees chance for new world order

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, said Moscow was bidding to help lead efforts to build a new world economic order after the old system collapsed in the global financial crisis.

Opening Russia's annual economic forum in St Petersburg where hundreds of global chief executives have flocked, Mr Medvedev said the renewed interest in Russia this year was a sign of a changing world in which the institutions of the western-dominated world order had had their day amid thousands of corporate defaults and the threat of sovereign defaults.

“What had seemed untouchable has collapsed. The bubbles that created the illusion of flourishing economies have burst,” Mr Medvedev said. “For Russia this situation is a challenge and an opportunity. We are living in a unique time. And we should use it to build a modern, flourishing and strong Russia ... which will be a co-founder of the new world economic order and a full participant in the collective political leadership of the post-crisis world.”

Mr Medvedev insisted “Russia has changed” in the past year as it sought to pursue a course of “smart politics” that would leverage its competitive advantages in the raw materials sector, while shifting emphasis towards modernising the economy and focusing on boosting innovation over resources.

~ more... ~

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