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Bayer completes $63-billion Monsanto takeover

AFP|Updated: Jun 07, 2018, 06.58 PM IST

FRANKFURT AM MAIN: German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant BayerNSE 0.00 % said Thursday its two-year pursuit of US-based MonsantoNSE 1.01 % was over, as the two firms signed off a $63-billion merger deal.
“Shares in the US company will no longer be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, with Bayer now the sole owner of Monsanto Company,” the German firm said in a statement.

Here’s what you need to know about the $63-billion megadeal:

– Heroin and Agent Orange –
Founded in Germany in 1863, Bayer is still best known for making aspirin. More infamously, it briefly sold heroin in the early 20th century, marketed as cough cure and morphine substitute.
During World War II, Bayer was part of a consortium called IG Farben that made the Zyklon B pesticide used in Adolf Hitler’s gas chambers.
Through a series of acquisitions over the years, Bayer has grown into a drug and chemicals behemoth.

It reported revenues of 35 billion euros ($41 billion) last year and employs nearly 100,000 people worldwide.
Monsanto meanwhile was established in St. Louis, Missouri in 1901, setting out to make saccharine.
By the 1940s, it was producing farm-oriented chemicals, including herbicide 2,4-D which, combined with another dangerous chemical, was used to make the notorious Vietnam War-era defoliant Agent Orange.
In 1976, the company launched probably its best-known product, ..the weed killer Roundup.
In the 1980s, its scientists were the first to genetically modify a plant cell. Monsanto then started buying other seed companies and began field trials of GM seeds.
It eventually developed soybean, corn, cotton and other crops engineered to be tolerant of Roundup.
Today, Monsanto boasts annual sales of some $15 billion and over 20,000 employees.

A keen suitor –
In an industry preparing for a global population surge with billions more mouths to feed, Bayer was keen to get its hands on Monsanto’s market-leading line in GM crop seeds designed to resist strong pesticides.
It was also lured by Monsanto’s data analytics business Climate Corp, believing farmers will in future rely on digital monitoring of their crops.
The tie-up comes amid a wave of consolidation in the agrochemicals industry, spurring Bayer to become a bigger player if it did not want to get left behind.
But Monsanto wasn’t easily wooed, and Bayer had to increase its offer three times before the US rival finally agreed to a deal at $128 per share in 2016.

High price to pay –
The takeover, the largest-ever by a German firm, comes at a high cost to Bayer.
As well as the eye-watering price tag, Bayer must give up much of its seeds and agrichemical business to satisfy the competition concerns of global regulators.
Those divestitures have gone to none other than Bayer’s homegrown rival BASF, making it the unexpected beneficiary of the mega-deal.
Bayer’s sacrifices mean the takeover will be less lucrative than expected, with annual savings now forecast to amount to $1.2 billion from 2022 onwards — some 300 million less than initially thought.

– Goodbye ‘Monsatan’ –
Hoping to ditch Monsanto’s toxic reputation, Bayer will drop the company’s name from its products after the takeover.
Dubbed “Monsatan” and “Mutanto”, the US firm has for decades been targeted by environmental groups, especially in Europe, who believe that GM food could be unsafe to eat.
Campaigners also abhor Monsanto’s production of glyphosate-based Roundup, which some scientists have linked to cancer.

Friends of the Earth, which has labelled the Bayer-Monsanto merger a “marriage made in hell”, said their protests will now be turned on Bayer so long as it keeps up Monsanto’s practices.

– What does this mean for farmers and consumers? –
The Bayer-Monsanto union follows last year’s merger of US companies Dow and DuPont and the tie-up between Swiss-based SyngentaNSE 0.00 % and ChemChina.
These three giant corporations now control more than two thirds of the global market for seeds and pesticides — although Bayer’s sell-offs have allowed BASF to become a sizeable fourth competitor.

While Bayer has been able to ease regulators’ worries, critics say too much power is now in the hands of just a few players, potentially pushing up prices for farmers and limiting choices.
Bayer has vowed to continue developing some of Monsanto’s most controversial activities, including the crop protection technologies it insists are needed to meet growing food demand.
It has however promised not to introduce GM crops in Europe

CONTINUE READING…

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The Elkhorn Manifesto

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Apparent overdose in Ohio McDonald’s parking lot captured on Facebook live

 

 

 

Alyssa Raymond, WKYC 12:30 PM. CST November 19, 2016

SANDUSKY – A desperate search for help from the man seen in a Facebook Live stream who overdosed in a McDonald’s Parking lot in Sandusky Thursday evening.

The video and the man’s story are a powerful reminder of the heroin and opioid epidemic here in Northeast Ohio. The problem is real and so we want to warn you that we wanted to show you a clear picture, which some of you may find hard to watch. 

But the man on the ground and his family say they are glad this video is out there.

This is real life and people are dying. 

There have been 30 overdoses in 30 days in Sandusky.  Four people died. 

The family of the man you see on the ground wants everyone to share this story and this video.  They want the truth about heroin out there.

In an eleven and a half minute Facebook Live stream, you see a 27-year-old man gasping for air after overdosing on heroin.  That man lying there, seemingly lifeless, is Michael Williams.  Like so many, he watched the video over and over again.

“I was fighting back the tears,” said Michael Williams.  “I got goosebumps and teary eyed.  Like I said, I am a strong individual, and it was hard to watch.”

His older sister, Amber Roesch, found it hard to watch too.

“Watch that video and share it because that is terrifying,” said Roesch.

She hopes users all over the country see what happened to her brother.

“I do not want to have to bury him,” said Roesch.  “He needs help now.”

Amber says a week ago he told her he needed help, and he said it again today.

“I definitely have a problem,” said Williams.  “If I could get the help right now, I would definitely go.  I need it I want it.”

Michael’s family expected the worse when they received that phone call.  But EMS and Narcan saved his life.  Amber says they tried to thank everyone including Eddie Wimbley, the man who recorded it all.

“I hope it is like a wakeup call,” said Wimbley.  “I just do not understand how people can do something knowing that they could possibly die.”

Michael says he started using heroin four months ago.  Before that, he drank a lot and took pain pills.  But when he lost his job, he turned to something cheaper.  Michael will tell you, he never thought it would happen to him, but it did.

You might be wondering why Williams can’t just go out and get the help he needs.  He says he recently lost his job so he does not have insurance and he was told a lot of places would not take Medicaid.  His family told me it costs around $800 a day for him to go to an inpatient facility, which they say that’s what he needs, but cannot afford.

CONTINUE READING AND TO SEE VIDEO!

Could marijuana become a treatment for heroin addicts?

Some think it offers a gateway out of opioid use

Matt Koesters | WCPO contributor

7:00 AM, Sep 25, 2016

 

Is marijuana a gateway drug? Carrie Roberts sure hopes so.

%page_break%Roberts, a consultant with Colorado-based Medicine Man Technologies, doesn’t believe that marijuana use leads to abuse of harder drugs, though. Instead, she thinks it might present a gateway out of risky drug use for people struggling with opioid dependency.

"I think we could save a lot of lives," Roberts said. "Right now, it’s really about needing to focus on harm reduction. That’s so much of what we’re seeing in other states."

Roberts points to a 2014 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that concludes "medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates." States with medical marijuana laws saw about 25 percent fewer overdose-related deaths than states without, according to the study.

Roberts argues that this could be the case in Ohio, a state in the throes of an opioid epidemic that saw fentanyl-related overdoses spike in 2015. Fentanyl continues to cause heroin users to overdose, and the more recent introduction of carfentanil into the drug ecosystem has provided cause for further alarm.

"There is a lot of anecdotal evidence regarding being able to use cannabis as a treatment, either for people coming off of opioid pain medication to help them through the withdrawal phase of it, or just to keep people from having to use it in the first place," Roberts said.

WCPO Insiders can find out how this idea relates to Ohio’s new medical marijuana legislation, and why some people think it’s a distraction.

CONTINUE READING…

Jesse Ventura Calls For Legalizing All Drugs

JESSE VENTURA

VIDEO AT THIS LINK

By Jason Devaney   |   Thursday, 08 Sep 2016 04:54 PM

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura wants to see marijuana and every other drug made legal in order to regulate them better.

During a series of interviews with Newsmax TV, Ventura — the author of the book “Marijuana Manifesto” — said Wednesday legalizing marijuana would also create jobs and help the economy.

“We’ve got an entire industry out there waiting to happen,” Ventura told J.D. Hayworth on “America Talks Live.”

“It hasn’t got any of these negatives they’ve sold to you over the years. The experiments in Colorado and Washington are phenomenal. In fact, in the state of Washington, their first trickle-down effect of legalizing marijuana, their statewide judicial budget fell 15 percent. In Colorado, they’ve got $300 million more to spend on schools and infrastructure because of the legalization of marijuana.”

Ventura added that someone he knows used medical marijuana to treat epileptic seizures. The seizures went away with the use of the drug.

“That’s why I’m so passionate that it needs to be legalized,” he said. “There’s people out there suffering and marijuana can help them.”

In a separate interview on the “Steve Malzberg Show,” Ventura claimed marijuana is not a gateway drug like people say it is.

“The gateway drug is tobacco,” Ventura said. “I was a kid, the first thing I did was smoke tobacco. Second gateway drug was alcohol. Marijuana might have been third.”

Malzberg and Ventura later went back and forth about legalization. Ventura said he would legalize heroin, and then answered yes when asked if he would make all drugs legal.

“You know what? Then you ensure the addict, addiction is a disease, it’s a medical condition,” Ventura said. “We choose to treat it criminally rather than medically.

“If you bring it above board, anything that isn’t brought legally is then run by criminals. So you bring in a criminal element, the price goes up 10 times as high because it’s illegal and then crimes are committed to support the addiction. You don’t see crimes being committed to support cigarette smoking, you don’t see crimes committed to support drinking. Why? Because they’re legal and you can get it.”

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Pain Medication-Roger Mason

170px-Cannabissativadior

People are generally completely uninformed about pain medications.

Doctors are almost as completely uninformed. Pain medication is a blessing for the TEMPORARY relief of pain, or for people who are dying and suffering. All drugs were legal in America for almost 150 years, until the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1913.

There was not even an age limit!

Heroin, morphine, opium, cocaine, amphetamine, hashish, and marijuana were inexpensive, over the counter drugs. Only about 3% of Americans had a dependence problem.

There was simply no reason whatsoever to pass this act. All drugs should be legal for adults. Period. That’s right- all drugs for all adults. Anyone who commits a crime while under the influence of any drug (including alcohol) should get doubled penalties. People with drug problems are medical patients, not criminals. This would put an end to drug cartels, most organized crime, most gangs, and empty the prisons over-night. Police would be free to arrest real criminals. It would also take all the profit, false allure, and fake glamour out of illegal forbidden drugs. Drug dependence is Boring with a capital B.

If you have a headache, or other minor pains, try an ice pack. If that doesn’t help, try a heating pad. One or the other should help you very much. Only real world experience will tell you whether hot or cold helps relieve your pain. Aspirin is not toxic, if you take one or two , and only occasionally. It is simply the acetyl derivative of salicylic acid from willow bark. If you have regular headaches, or other pains, your body is telling you there is a problem you need to address. Americans swill down too many tons of aspirin to count every year.

Countless millions of clueless Americans also swill down acetominophen like candy. This drug is so toxic, so poisonous, and so so dangerous, it should be outlawed. Warning labels are not enough here. Acetominophen (aka paracetamol) will turn your liver into pudding. This is sold as Tylenol® and Anacin®.  Another dangerous toxin is ibuprofen. This is sold as Advil® and Motrin®. This is also toxic with many side effects. This should also be outlawed due to it’s toxicity.

If you have stronger pain, there are only a few good prescription options, and all are natural opiates or opiate derivatives. Codeine 60 mg is not strong, but is effective for mild pain. It has a “ceiling”, so if you take, say, 200 mg it will not be any more effective. The most you can take is about 60 mg AM, and 60 mg PM. Codeine is sold over the counter in many countries with no problems at all. The fact it is a prescription drug is ridiculous. It was sold over the counter in America in the 1960s with no problem. Never buy codeine with aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or any other filler. Codeine cough syrup is very effective and safe.

Hydrocodone 10 mg is six times stronger than codeine, and much more euphoric. In November 2013 you can finally buy Zohydro® without acetaminophen. Do NOT use Vicodin®, which is full of toxic acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed prescription drug of all, by far in America, but people are ruining their health with the acetaminophen in Vicodin®. Only use Zohydro®.

Oxycodeine 10 mg is also six times stronger than codeine, and just as euphoric as hydro-codeine. You get eurphoria plus energy. This combination makes it potentially addictive for weak minded people. This is the best pain killer known, and most people actually prefer it to morphine. For some reason, this is only sold in a very few countries. This is the best overall pain medication known to man. Believe it or not, this was invented in 1914, and only recently has become so popular. For almost 100 years it just sat on the shelf. Oxycontin® is high dose oxycodeine, up to 160 mg (!) for terminal patients. Per-coset® is full of toxic acetaminophen for no valid scientific reason.

Morphine 30 mg was considered the gold standard for pain relief, but most people prefer oxycodeine, due to the enhanced euphoria and feeling of energy. Morphine is basically only given to people with serious chronic pain, and the terminally ill. Morphine does not work for some people as they lack the enzyme necessary to metabolize it. Morphine is good for people who do not want the extra energy and euphoria, just pain relief. Using it intrarectally is 50% more effective. This does not work with any other pain medicine ex-cept morphine and it’s derivatives.

Hydromorphine 4 mg is known as Dilaudid®, and more than seven times stronger than morphine. It was invented in 1924. This is also only prescribed for very serious cases. There is really no basic difference between morphine and hydromorphine except dosage. 50% more effective when used intrarectally.

What about heroin (diacetyl morphine) 5 mg itself? This is a fine pain killer, and no more addictive than morphine. This is used in Europe but not in the U.S. It makes no sense at all to outlaw heroin as a pain medication. The only problem is that it cannot be taken orally, and that does make it impractical. Never inject any drug unless you are in the emergency room of a hospital. Oral opiates are far preferred. Heroin has been demonized for no reason at all.  The fact it must be injected makes it very impractical however.

Oxymorphine aka oxymorphone 5 mg (Opana®) is similar to hydromorphine, but for some reason is rarely used in the U.S. This has also been available for almost 100 years. This is a shame, as it is very strong and very effective. This just proves the ignorance of medical doctors to ignore a safe and effective drug like this. This is very underutilized. 50% more effective when used intrarectally.

Opium tincture is known as Paregoric®, but it very diluted and weak. Opium powder is not used in America for pain, and concentrated opium (Pantopon®) is almost never used. There are too many harmful alkaloids in unconcentrated opium to use safely. You do not want to take these alkaloids. Paregoric is sold over the counter in some countries. It was legal in America until the 1960s.

What about the synthetic non-opiate drugs like Tramadol®, Demerol®, fentanyl, methadone, ketamine, and propoxyphene? Don’t use these, since you have more effective, less toxic opiates to use. Tramadol® is weak and toxic. Demerol® is very effective, but more toxic than real opiates. Fentanyl is best used as an anesthetic for surgery. Patches are available. The Russians use it as a military aerosol to incapacitate crowds. (The problem is many people die when it is used that way.)   Methadone is illegal in the U.S. and very toxic. Ketamine is a deleriant anesthetic drug with psychedelic properties. The ketamine patches do not cause disorientation. Propoxyphene (Darvon®) is toxic and simply should not be used.   

This leaves codeine, hydrocodeine, and oxycodeine for most people. Serious pain can require morphine or hydromorphine, since oxymorphine is rarely used. This is a short but effective list. Do not let the doctor, in his ignorance, dictate your pain management. Demand real opiates with no fillers.

For pet lovers, the same is true for our beloved companions. Codeine is weak and rather ineffective. This leaves hydrocodeine, oxycodeine, morphine, and dilaudid as the only real choices. Veterinarians are stupid beyond belief, and will give your beloved pet inef-fective Tramadol® and other such drugs. Demand proper pain medication if your pet needs it, and find a new vet if he won’t do it. Some pets cannot metabolize morphine.

The drugs laws have turned America, and most of the whole world, into police states. America has 5% of the world population, but 25% of the world prison inmates!!! One third of American prisoners are locked up for drugs. The drug laws make pharmacists, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies rich. Opiates would literally cost no more than candy bars if legalized. Again, pain medication is for the TEMPORARY relief of suf-fering, unless you  have an incurable chronic condition, or are terminal. You need to be educated about pain relief because your doctor certainly isn’t.  

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Ian Bell: Let’s end the war on drugs by making them legal

An Italian policeman holds a bag full of cocaine which was found in a car in the Scampia area of  Naples

IT could be a pub quiz question. What do Armenia and Argentina have in common? The Czech Republic and Chile? Paraguay and Poland? The answer isn’t football. Each has decided, in some fashion, that if you just say no to drugs, you say nothing useful at all.

Depending on the definitions used, there are between 25 and 30 such countries. Their laws, methods, aims and ambitions vary. Some have legalised drugs. Some have “re-legalised”. A few never got around to prohibition to begin with. Most have experimented – for personal use, you understand – with a gateway policy, decriminalisation.

Last week the Republic of Ireland decided, in effect, that what’s good enough for Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Estonia, the Netherlands and others might help with its own liberation from the half-century of failure we still call, without irony, the war on drugs. With a leaked report suggesting that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is on the brink of advocating decriminalisation, Ireland joins a growing consensus.

Britain doesn’t want to hear about that. Or rather, the Conservative Government doesn’t want to hear the accusation “soft on drugs” from its press sponsors. Amid a fragrant haze of hypocrisy, the line is that there will be no change, funding cuts aside, in UK drugs strategy. Meanwhile, police forces the length of these islands are improvising policies of their own.

In Ireland, serious thinking has been going on. The result, if carried through, will be the decriminalisation of drugs in “personal use” quantities combined with the introduction of injection (“consumption”) rooms. Narcotics will remain illegal, but in future – or such is the hope – no-one will be treated as a criminal because of an addiction or a problematic habit. The Irish are making a fundamental distinction.

Officially, Britain remains tough, tougher than tough, on drugs. Unofficially, an ad hoc pragmatism guides enforcement. A fall of close to a third in cannabis possession offences in England and Wales between 2011-12 and 2014-15 has not happened because dope has lost its allure. With budgets cut to ribbons, police forces have concluded they have better things to do than harass cannabis users.

There are worse principles a government could apply. In a speech at the London School of Economics last Monday, Aodhain O’ Riordain, the Irish minister responsible for drugs strategy, maintained that a “cultural shift” is required. Addiction should be regarded as a health issue, he argued, both for the sake of individuals and for the benefit of law enforcement. Time and money spent hunting addicts could be better used against a criminal trade.

O’Riordain advocates decriminalisation, not legalisation. He is not alone in that, though at the LSE he failed to explain the logic. Portugal’s experience over the last 14 years is the Irish minister’s inspiration, as it is for many reluctant conscripts in the war on drugs, but a conspicuous Iberian success remains half an answer to a complicated question.

With Europe’s highest HIV infection rate among injecting drugs users, Portugal faced an undoubted crisis at the turn of the century. Desperate, it decided that drug use or possession should remain offences, but not criminal offences. The money spent on treatment and prevention was doubled. The police meanwhile began to ignore mere marijuana use. And the HIV rate started to fall.

It has not been plain sailing since. According to some studies, hard drug use has increased. More people have sought treatment, perhaps as a result, but the number of drug-related deaths has declined. Pressure on courts has eased, meanwhile, and the street price of drugs has fallen. Adolescent use seems to be waning, but with the police still seizing several tonnes of cocaine each year, the effect of reform on organised crime has been hard to measure.

That, though, is an aspect of decriminalisation too often overlooked. On its own, without a wider health policy or O’Riordain’s “person-centred” strategy, it does not “solve” a narcotics problem. Chiefly, it spares individuals the brutal effects – prison, stigma, unemployment, existence without treatment or medical care – that are legacies of the unending war. But decriminalisation alone is not enough.

It counts as a start, nevertheless, and that is more than Britain has managed. Last October, the Home Office caused strife within the coalition by publishing a report, Drugs: International Comparators, that looked at the experience of Portugal and a dozen other countries. To the dismay of Tories, the survey said there was “no apparent correlation” between tough laws and the level of drug use. While decriminalisation would not curb use, there were “indications that decriminalisation can reduce the burden on criminal justice systems”.

Who’d have thought? In the ensuing battle, the LibDem Norman Lamb resigned as a Home Office minister while policy – “this government has absolutely no intention of decriminalising drugs” – was reaffirmed. Faced with a problem, Britain had not got beyond failing to put two and two together.

Why decriminalise? For an Irish recreational user, far less an addict, the question is superfluous. Nevertheless, O’Riordain, like his peers around the world, has taken a first step and refused the second. As the Home Office report suggested, decriminalisation has little effect on use. People go on buying their blood-stained substances and enriching some of the nastiest people on the planet. A few more police go to work hunting traffickers. Users are no longer persecuted. The mafias remain.

In 2006, the Italian journalist Roberto Saviano published Gomorrah, an expose, in the proper sense, of the Neapolitan Camorra. He has been forced to live since under armed guard in secret locations. Nevertheless, this summer he published Zero Zero Zero, a title derived from a traffickers’ joke name for pure cocaine. The book is horrifying, but not just for the routine, fantastical violence. In Saviano’s account, the cartels’ trade has corrupted the world.

UNODC will mention “vast sums” that “compromise” economies, buy politicians and rig elections. Saviano will tell you that drugs money courses through the world’s financial systems, that it touches all of us, and that it alone kept banking afloat in parts of the Americas during the great crash. He calls it narco-capitalism.

The journalist has dedicated his life to opposing the mafias. Nevertheless, in the last pages of Zero Zero Zero he writes: “As terrible as it may seem, total legalisation may be the only answer. A horrendous response, horrible perhaps, agonising. But the only one that can stop everything.”

That strikes me as true. By one calculation, the United States alone had spent $150 billion on the drugs war by 2010. Any victories? Or just the news that Barack Obama has been commuting sentences on dozens of hapless souls locked away for life because of recreational use? According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, as of September 26, 48.4 per cent of the entire US inmate population, 93,821 individuals, had been locked up for drug offences. Some war; some victory.

So legalise the lot. Those who want to use drugs will go on using drugs. In a country with common sense, like Ireland, they might get the help they need. But Saviano is right. Only one thing will put the traffickers out of business and end this hopeless war.

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"The irony of the situation is that he’s basically taking heroin to maintain his physical condition to continue to investigate major drug dealers," the attorney said.

How one FBI agent who busted drug rings became an addict

 

 

Washington (AFP) – Matthew Lowry once had a promising career in the FBI. But his drug addiction got the better of him, and on Thursday, he was sentenced to three years in prison for stealing heroin he had collected as evidence.

Lowry, 33, was relieved of his duties after his tampering with evidence forced US prosecutors to abandon their cases against more than two dozen drug traffickers.

His fall from grace began with an addiction to prescription painkillers to treat his ulcerative colitis — a painful inflammation of the large intestine.

His dependency on medication to relieve his chronic pain morphed into a heroin addiction during his work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, defense attorney Robert Bonsib told AFP.

"The irony of the situation is that he’s basically taking heroin to maintain his physical condition to continue to investigate major drug dealers," the attorney said.

"He was using heroin not to get high, but to be able to work hard."

It was a precipitous downward spiral for a young agent from whom many had anticipated great things.

At his sentencing, in a statement interspersed with tears and long silences, Lowry apologized to his former FBI colleagues and the US government, stating that he accepted "full responsibility" for his actions while asking Federal Judge Thomas Hogan for "leniency."

Lowry, the father of an 18-month-old toddler, had dreamed all his life of following in his police officer father’s footsteps into a career in law enforcement.

He graduated with honors from the FBI training academy near Washington, and just three years later was assigned to an elite anti-drug trafficking unit.

But even as he was receiving accolades from his superiors, Lowry secretly found ways over many months to steal small amounts of the heroin seized as evidence in various drug busts, to which he had access.

"We have a federal agent who for a long period of time, 14 months, committed a crime repeatedly," prosecutor Kevin Brenner said at the hearing.

View gallery

Former FBI agent Matthew Lowry (R) arrives for sentencing …

Former FBI agent Matthew Lowry (R) arrives for sentencing at US District Court on July 9, 2015 in Wa …

Lowry’s wrongdoings were finally uncovered during a drug-induced high in late September, in a section of Washington infamous as a haven for trafficking.

The counternarcotics agent, according to court documents, was found to be "incoherent."

His car, which had run out of gas, had traces of heroin seized in the drug arrests in which he had participated — along with some emptied evidence bags.

Authorities also found weapons and cell phones confiscated during the same sting operations.

Lowry pleaded guilty in late March to 64 counts, including obstruction of justice, falsification of records and possession of heroin.

His father, William Lowry, pleaded for forgiveness for not having noticed his son’s decline, while choking back tears.

"He protected the whole community but he didn’t protect himself, he didn’t save himself," he said at the sentencing.

Rendering one of his "most difficult sentencings in more than 32 years" Hogan compared addiction to "a serious brain disease" and said he considered it a mitigating factor.

Clearly relieved at having received three years rather than the seven to nine recommended by the government, Lowry said as he left the court that he thought "the judge understood how powerfully addiction can affect one person’s behavior."

– Drug stings lost –

Lowry’s theft of drug evidence led to the unraveling of several cases, and forced authorities to free about 30 drug dealers because the evidence used in their arrests had been tampered with.

Charges were notably dropped for 15 dealers from a notorious trafficking ring that operated between California and Washington, and for a dozen New York drug traffickers who ran a flourishing crack and heroin smuggling operation.

Officials also prematurely shut down several other probes.

Another four convicted drug traffickers with sentences of up to five years in prison asked for their sentences to be vacated.

Lowry’s lawyer said his client went through rehab but was still attending "Narcotics Anonymous" programs.

"This is a young man who from the time he was a child wanted to be a police officer," the attorney said.

"When he was four, five, six, he was dressing as a police officer," Bonsib said.

"That aspiration has been crushed by his own conduct."

Nevertheless, some good may come from Lowry’s effort to make amends — by serving as a warning to others in law enforcement not to repeat his mistakes, the attorney added.

"He’s willing to tell his story," Bonsib said.

"He’s devastated by the consequences of his conduct… There’s a story to be told, which could be helpful for others."

Lowry will serve out his sentence at a prison in Maryland.

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Heroin use and addiction are surging in the U.S., CDC report says

Heroin use

Rate of heroin use in the U.S. has climbed 63% in the past decade, according to experts at the CDC and FDA

The rate of heroin abuse or dependence has jumped 90% between 2002 and 2013, new CDC report says

Heroin use surged over the past decade, and the wave of addiction and overdose is closely related to the nation’s ongoing prescription drug epidemic, federal health officials said Tuesday.

A new report says that 2.6 out of every 1,000 U.S. residents 12 and older used heroin in the years 2011 to 2013. That’s a 63% increase in the rate of heroin use since the years 2002 to 2004.

Opioids prescribed by doctors led to 92,000 overdoses in ERs in one year

The rate of heroin abuse or dependence climbed 90% over the same period, according to the study by researchers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Deaths caused by heroin overdoses nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, claiming 8,257 lives in 2013.

In all, more than half a million people used heroin in 2013, up nearly 150% since 2007, the report said.

Heroin use remained highest for the historically hardest-hit group: poor young men living in cities. But increases were spread across all demographic groups, including women and people with private insurance and high incomes — groups associated with the parallel rise in prescription drug use over the past decade.

The findings appear in a Vital Signs report published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"As a doctor who started my career taking care of patients with HIV and other complications from injection drugs, it’s heartbreaking to see injection drug use making a comeback in the U.S.," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC.

Overdoses fell after 2 narcotic painkillers were taken off the market

All but 4% of the people who used heroin in the past year also used another drug, such as cocaine, marijuana or alcohol, according to the report. Indeed, 61% of heroin users used at least three different drugs.

The authors of the new study highlighted a “particularly strong” relationship between the use of prescription painkillers and heroin. People who are addicted to narcotic painkillers are 40 times more likely to misuse heroin, according to the study.

Once reserved for cancer and end-of-life pain, these narcotics now are widely prescribed for conditions ranging from dental work to chronic back pain.

“We are priming people to addiction to heroin with overuse of prescription opiates,” Frieden said at a news conference Tuesday. “More people are primed for heroin addiction because they are addicted to prescription opiates, which are, after all, essentially the same chemical with the same impact on the brain.”

 

Frieden said the increase in heroin use was contributing to other health problems, including rising rates of new HIV infections, cases of newborns addicted to opiates and car accidents. He called for reforms in the way opioid painkillers are prescribed, a crackdown on the flow of cheap heroin and more treatment for those who are addicted.

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Bali nine men brace for execution on Tuesday

April 26, 2015 – 11:27PM

 

Jewel Topsfield

Jewel Topsfield
Indonesia correspondent for Fairfax

Myuran Sukumaran has painted what could be his last self-portrait: a torso with a palm-sized black hole over the heart dripping with blood.

The eerie painting, brought back from Nusakambangan by their lawyer Julian McMahon, is a portent of Bali nine pair’s  ghastly fate –  death by firing squad.

Michael Chan and Chinthu Sukumaran, brothers of the two Australians facing execution, give a press conference at Wijaya Pura, Cilacap.

Michael Chan and Chinthu Sukumaran, brothers of the two Australians facing execution, give a press conference at Wijaya Pura, Cilacap. Photo: James Brickwood

Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were officially given 72 hours warning of their executions on Saturday.

 

Chinthu Sukumaran said his brother’s last wish was to paint for as long as possible. Chan’s was to go to church with his family in his final days.

The Indonesian government has not officially announced the execution date but the men are bracing for Tuesday night  – the earliest it could be held.

 

The government had previously said it was waiting on the outcome of Indonesian marijuana trafficker Zainal Abidin’s court case before setting a date.

However on Sunday Attorney General spokesman Tony Spontana told Fairfax Media the Supreme Court had rejected Abidin’s request for a judicial review late on Friday.

The Chan and Sukumaran families were once again forced to make the grim ferry trip to Nusakambangan to visit their loved ones..

Lawyer Julian McMahon carries a self-portrait painted by Australian death row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran.

Lawyer Julian McMahon carries a self-portrait painted by Australian death row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran. Photo: Reuters

Chan’s fiancée, Feby Herewila, brother Michael, mother Helen and long-term friend and supporter Senior Pastor Christie Buckingham all boarded the ferry.

Michael Chan said the two Australians  are still holding up "pretty well considering they feel that it is unjust given what has has happened over the last 10 years with their case".

Michael Chan and Myruran Sukumaran’s brother, Chinthu, pleaded with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to intervene and spare their brothers’ lives. 
"it still doesn’t have to be this way," a tearful Chinthu Sukumaran said.

"I would ask the president to please, please show mercy. There are nine people with families who love them – mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. We ask the president to please intervene and save their lives."

Somewhere in the legal system in Indonesia, Michael Chan said, there has got to be mercy. "The president needs to show that now. He’s the only one that can stop it and it’s not too late to do so. so I ask the president please show mercy."

Sukumaran’s mother Raji, brother Chinthu and sister Brintha also visited Besi prison.

They will be allowed to visit every day until the final hours when only a spiritual counsellor of their choice can be present.

The lawyer of another condemned man, Martin Anderson, described scenes of desolation and crying as the nine prisoners on death row began to say their goodbyes.

Anderson, Filipina maid Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, and Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte all refused to sign their notification of exemptions, although this will have no effect on the execution.

Anderson’s lawyer, Casmanto Sudra, said his client kept repeating in disbelief: "Fifty grams. Death".

He was convicted of possessing just 50 grams of heroin in Jakarta in November 2003.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made a last-ditch bid for mercy for the Bali nine pair.

Mr Abbott made the appeal to the Indonesian president while in Turkey on Saturday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign.

He asked the president to extend clemency to Chan and Sukumaran, describing them as reformed individuals and asking for them to not be executed.

Mr Abbott said the government had been making representations "at every possible level to the Indonesian government for many months now".

"We abhor the death penalty, we oppose it at home we oppose it abroad and I want to reassure Australians that even at this late hour we are continuing to make the strongest possible representations to the Indonesian government that this is not in the best interests of Indonesia let alone in the best interests of the young Australians concerned," he said.

"I know that this is obviously a late hour and so far our representations haven’t been crowned with success – so again I simply make the point that it is not in the best interests of Indonesia, it is not in accordance with the best values of Indonesia.

"This doesn’t accord with the Indonesia that I know well and respect very greatly to go ahead with something like this."

He said the topic was likely to come up in discussions on Monday with the French government, and he expected all like-minded countries would stand together in wanting to uphold "the best values of civilisation", which did not accord with the death penalty.

The Prime Minister has had limited success in his attempts to speak to Mr Widodo about the pair; after an initial phone call, Mr Widodo said he was too busy to take the second and third calls.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who is also in Turkey, said the news that Chan and Sukumaran could be executed as soon as Tuesday was a "deeply worrying development".

"No one thinks they deserve to escape punishment, but they don’t deserve this," he said.

"Labor opposes the death penalty in every circumstance, in every country. I believe it demeans us all."

Earlier on Sunday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi about the pair during a brief stop in the Middle East while flying back to Australia.

Ms Bishop stressed the need for all legal processes to be determined before any action is taken.

Evangelist preacher Matius Arif Mirdjaja, a former drug addict and prisoner in Bali’s Kerobokan jail who was baptised by Chan, said Indonesia would be remembered as a nation that killed a pastor and an artist, not drug kingpins.

"History will write that we are a nation that killed all the repented, a nation that loses empathy and compassion for people who have transformed their lives and helped others," he said.

On Monday Amnesty International will spell out the words #KeepHopeAlive with thousands of flowers at Blues Point Reserve, overlooking Sydney Harbour.

A public protest will be held outside the Indonesian Consulate General in Sydney at 4pm on Monday.

Indonesia Institute president Ross Taylor said retribution in the wake of the Bali nine executions would not be in the best interests of Australia or the region.

"With (the Australians’) deaths will come calls for retribution, including withdrawal of aid funding, trade and tourist sanctions and perhaps even the withdrawal of Australia’s new ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson," Mr Taylor said.

"To impose retribution of this kind would be counter-productive to Australia’s interests in the region, and such action will invite an increase in the already high level of nationalistic sentiment, and a ‘tit-for-tat’ response from the new Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo government."

Meanwhile, lawyers for Gularte, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, will lodge a request for a judicial review into his case on Monday.

They say Gularte was mentally ill when he tried to smuggle six kilograms of cocaine into Indonesia hidden inside surfboards and should be hospitalised not executed.

Gularte’s lawyer, Christina Widiantarti, said he became angry and upset when he was notified of his execution on Saturday.

"He said, I’ve been here for seven years, I did one mistake, everybody uses illegal narcotic, why do I have to be executed?" Ms Widiantarti said. "Everybody there knows Rodrigo is mentally ill. He refused to sign the notification of his death. "Because he was angry, he didn’t say what his last request was, he didn’t say what to do after the execution."

On Friday lawyers for Veloso lodged a request for a second judicial review on the grounds she was "primarily a human trafficking victim in the first place, and therefore, must be protected".

However Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told Fairfax Media that under Indonesian law only one judicial review was allowed.

Veloso maintains she was tricked by her godsister into carrying a suitcase lined with heroin into Yogyakarta, where she was seeking employment as a domestic helper.

Veloso’s plight has captured the sympathy of Indonesians still reeling from the beheadings of two Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia earlier this month.

The hashtag #SaveMaryJane has been trending on Twitter with several local celebrities supporting her case for mercy.

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As heroin trade grows, a sting in Kenya

Heroin addicts prepare heroin before using it in Lamu, Kenya, on November 21, 2014.

One evening last November, a handful of policemen in Kenya’s sweltering port city of Mombasa were handpicked to help in the final stages of a U.S.-led drugs sting that spanned three continents.

The target was a mansion in the wealthy beach suburb of Nyali. The policemen were banned from using their mobile phones and the names of the men they wanted were kept from them until two hours before the raid. Secrecy was deemed vital in a region known for its corruption.

The quarry that night were the alleged leaders of the "Akasha organisation." The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had spent years infiltrating Akasha and alleges that the gang is part of a heroin supply chain that stretches from the poppy fields of Afghanistan through east Africa to the cities of Europe and the United States.

Inside a mansion girded by palm trees and a two-metre cobblestone wall, police captured the alleged leader of the crime syndicate, Baktash Akasha, his brother Ibrahim, and two other men. Kenyan police charged them with trafficking narcotics to the United States. Prosecutors in the United States subsequently indicted all four on charges including conspiracy to import heroin.

In documents filed in a court in the Southern District of New York on Nov. 10, the U.S. prosecutors alleged that the Akasha organisation was responsible for the "production and distribution" of large quantities of narcotics in Kenya, Africa and beyond.

All the men deny the Kenyan charges and are fighting a U.S. request to have them extradited. Instead, they want their case heard in Kenya.

The raid was part of a wider effort by the DEA and Kenya to counter the growing power of drug cartels operating in east Africa. But while the raid was a success, the story of the operation highlights the many hurdles to slowing drug flows: corruption, porous land borders, poor maritime surveillance and a weak judiciary.

The operation, revealed in court documents and interviews, came at a crucial time. Law enforcement agencies are worried that a record opium harvest in Afghanistan will flood global heroin markets this year. The United Nations reported Afghan opium cultivation rose 7 percent in 2014. Western drug agencies are worried this will grow further following the withdrawal of all British and many American troops from Afghanistan.

Western officials are concerned that increased drug trafficking in east Africa could destabilise the region. They fear a repeat of what happened on the other side of Africa in Guinea-Bissau, which has been flooded with South American drugs. The United States has called that west African country Africa’s first "narco state."

Most Europe-bound Afghan heroin still goes through the established "Balkan route" via Iran and southeast Europe. But a spate of seizures along the Kenyan and Tanzanian coastline over the past few years points to a switch to a "southern route" via Africa.

Short of funds and anti-trafficking expertise, east African countries rely on the Combined Maritime Force (CMF) to go after drug traffickers. While the 30-nation naval force was set up to protect busy shipping lanes from Somali pirates, it is intercepting more and more drug deliveries. Last year it seized 3.4 tonnes of heroin, a 66 percent increase on 2013.

To help, Western law enforcement agencies are stepping up operations in east Africa and countries closer to Afghanistan. The DEA says it plans to re-open its office in Karachi, Pakistan, to work with DEA agents in Nairobi and with Pakistani authorities.

Britain, which estimates it is the destination for about 20 percent of the heroin shipped through east Africa, has also stepped up its presence in the region.

"Now it is not just about us here in Kenya," Hamisi Masa, the head of Kenya’s elite Anti-Narcotics Unit, told Reuters. "The whole world is concerned."

THE FAMILY BUSINESS

The Akasha family has been involved in the drug trade for years, Western diplomats allege.

In the 1990s, the clan was led by Baktash’s father Ibrahim. U.S. Embassy cables published by WikiLeaks describe Ibrahim Akasha as a drug baron. "The Akasha family long controlled drugs (then mostly hashish, heroin, cannabis) along Mombasa to Europe," said a cable dated Jan. 9, 2006.

In 2000, Ibrahim Akasha was killed in a drive-by shooting in Amsterdam’s Red Light district, according to the cables. That dented the business and split the family. Baktash and his half-brother Nurdin, better known as Tinta, Ibrahim’s son with another of his wives, accused each other of murder plots against the family.

Tinta could not be reached for comment.

The DEA had been monitoring the Akashas for years, according to Cliff Ombeta, a lawyer representing the Akashas in Kenya.

By 2014, when the agency began the operation to catch the Akashas, Baktash had taken over the family business. A burly man with a receding hairline, he had built close links with major Pakistani heroin traffickers, the DEA alleges.

One such contact, the U.S. indictment states, was Gulam Hussein, also known as the "Old Man." Hussein had lived on and off in Kenya since 2012. The indictment describes him as "the head of a transportation network that distributes massive quantities of narcotics throughout the Middle East and Africa."

Another alleged contact was Vijaygiri Goswami, an Indian businessman who had spent more than a decade in a Dubai jail for drug trafficking offences. Goswami is married to 1990s Bollywood star Mamta Kulkarni and had built business empires in Zambia and South Africa.

Goswami and Hussein were captured with the Akasha brothers in the Mombasa raid. As well as the heroin charges, U.S. prosecutors have charged the Akashas and Goswami with conspiracy to import methamphetamines, according to the indictment in the New York court.

None of the men have pleaded to the U.S. charges, according to Daniel Arshack, a New York-based lawyer for Goswami. He said he was confident all four men will not be extradited. "We have no reason to believe that the allegations in the U.S. indictment are supported by facts," he said.

PRIVATE JET

According to U.S. court documents and to Kenyan lawyer Ombeta, who represents not just the Akashas but also Goswami and Hussein, the DEA sting started in March last year.

Ombeta told Reuters the sting against his clients amounted to entrapment.

An undercover DEA source posing as a member of a Colombian drugs cartel was introduced to Baktash by a friend of the Akashas. The friend "was also a DEA agent," Ombeta said.

The DEA would not discuss details of its operatives or informants. Ombeta said the man pretending to work for the Colombians was a Moroccan national who had been jailed for a drug trafficking offence in the United States. Peppering his conversation with talk of a private jet and ambitious business plans, the man cultivated an image of opulence, Ombeta said.

Soon after their first meeting, the Moroccan man gave 3 million Kenyan shillings ($32,870) in cash to the Akashas as a goodwill gesture, Ombeta said. "He was flashing money so they could see this was someone who has money and is ready to buy."

The Moroccan man told Baktash Akasha that the Colombians wanted to buy high-quality heroin to sell in the United States, according to prosecutors. In one of many conversations recorded by the DEA, Baktash allegedly said that he could get them unlimited amounts of "white crystal," a reference to pure heroin.

Weeks later, Baktash allegedly told one of his Pakistani suppliers that the Colombians wanted 500 kg (1,100 lb) of "carat diamond," a reference to high quality heroin.

The supplier replied the heroin would cost them about $12,000 per kg and said that he had 420 kg of pure heroin.

"THE SULTAN"

As the DEA source was negotiating with the Akashas, the CMF naval force made a series of seizures in Indian Ocean waters off Kenya, Tanzania and the island of Zanzibar. The U.S. extradition document links at least one of these shipments to Hussein.

In April 2014, CMF forces boarded a traditional wooden dhow and found a tonne of heroin stashed among cement bags. That was roughly equal to all the heroin that 11 east African governments had seized between 1990 and 2009, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Then in July, for the first time ever, Kenya’s navy made a major heroin seizure. Tipped off by a Western agency, it intercepted a rusting vessel that had set off from Pakistan. A week after they towed the ship into port in Mombasa, officials discovered nearly 800 kg of heroin in its diesel tank.

According to a U.S. extradition document, the man responsible for that second shipment was Gulam Hussein. U.S. court documents allege Hussein told undercover DEA sources he had transported "tons of kilograms of heroin by sea."

Undeterred by the seizure, Hussein, the Akashas and Goswami allegedly set about agreeing a deal on their upcoming shipment.

In mid-September, Baktash told the Moroccan man that a heroin supplier known as "The Sultan" had sent a representative with a one kilogram sample of heroin for the Colombians to test, court documents allege.

The shipment arrived in Kenya in October. Goswami allegedly told the Moroccan that he was working with Baktash to get another 500 kg.

POLYGRAPH TESTS

As the sting neared its end, the DEA and Kenyan authorities grew worried that word would leak.

Junior officers in the Kenyan police earn less than $200 a month. Such low pay helps fuel corruption, according to Kenyan officials. "Drugs barons have bought some of our officers and this is very sad," Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa told journalists in December. "We have information that police vehicles and ambulances are being used to transport drugs within (Mombasa) county and the coast region."

The Mombasa police rejected this claim. It said Marwa’s statement was "shocking" but promised to conduct an internal investigation.

In the days leading up to the raid, Kenya’s Anti-Narcotics Unit (ANU) suddenly transferred nearly 30 police officers, including some of its own men, away from the Mombasa region.

Local media linked the redeployments to the Akasha bust, saying most of the policemen were moved because of corruption fears. Hamisi Masa, the ANU chief, told Kenyan press he was behind the transfers, but called it a "regular" move.

Fearful of possible corruption, the DEA has in the last three years helped set up a special "vetted" unit within the ANU. Officers who want to join the inner circle have to pass extra checks including polygraph tests. Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) carries out similar vetting and due diligence checks with local security officials. It is also beefing up its Kenya team.

THE RAID

In early November, Baktash’s brother Ibrahim allegedly delivered 98 kg of heroin to the man from the Colombian cartel in Nairobi, unaware that the DEA was clandestinely recording their meetings. A couple of days later, he allegedly delivered 1 kg of methamphetamines.

Soon after, Ibrahim left Nairobi on a commercial flight to Mombasa, and the DEA and ANU made their move.

ANU officers handpicked several regular policemen to provide back-up and then hid in a mansion opposite the Akasha home. At about 1.30 am on Nov. 10, they launched their raid, arresting the men and confiscating laptops, tablets, mobile phones and cars.

"There was no resistance … just shock that they had been caught completely unaware," said one member of the Anti-Narcotics Unit.

Ombeta, the Kenyan lawyer representing the four men, said Baktash has told him that he suspects his estranged brother Tinta collaborated with the DEA.

The four men have also told their lawyer that their initial mistrust of the Moroccan man had receded as he splashed more and more cash around.

The men deny any involvement in drug trafficking, Ombeta said, but were tempted by the sight of all that money.

"They were taken over by greed," Ombeta said. (Additional reporting by Edith Honan; Edited by Simon Robinson and Sara Ledwith)

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