Posts Tagged ‘drugs’

Philippines: Duterte urges Filipinos to ‘further enrich democracy’ — 32nd anniversary of the bloodless revolution that toppled the dictatorship of late Ferdinand Marcos

February 24, 2018


Early this month, the hugely popular President Rodrigo Duterte defended his “strongman” style of leadership, saying the country would make no progress if he did not act like a “dictator.


Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( – February 25, 2018 – 6:11pm

MANILA, Philippines — “Let us further enrich our democracy.”

This was the message of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been accused of having strongman-like tendencies, in commemorating the 32nd anniversary of a bloodless revolution that toppled the dictatorship of late Ferdinand Marcos.

“More than three decades ago, we have shown the world how a people’s courage and resolve can alter the course of our nation’s history,” Duterte said.

“re than three decades ago, we have shown the world how a people’s courage and resolve can alter the course of our nation’s history,” Duterte said.

“Since then, the People Power Revolution has become the enduring symbol of our determination to fight for what is right and — during our country’s most crucial and trying times — to defend and uphold our cherished democratic values,” he added.

Early this month, the hugely popular Duterte defended his “strongman” style of leadership, saying the country would make no progress if he did not act like a “dictator.”

Malacañang on Friday confirmed that Duterte will not join the 32nd EDSA People Power anniversary celebration in Manila on February 25—the second time the maverick leader decided to skip the commemoration of the historic event.

In 1972, tens of thousands of suspected communist rebels and political foes were killed when Marcos, whom Duterte considers as “the best president ever,” declared martial law and ruled the country with an iron fist for two decades.

Accused of committing massive human rights violations and plundering billions of dollars from state coffers, Marcos was ousted by a bloodless, army-backed uprising in 1986.

Despite the death of the dictator while in exile in 1989, his family has been making a political comeback with his widow and their children becoming powerful politicians.

Critics fear history is repeating itself amid alleged human rights abuses in Duterte’s deadly drug war and declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Saying he was just fulfilling a campaign promise, Duterte in 2016 ordered the military to bury Marcos at the Heroes’ Cemetery, a move that triggered scattered protests around the country.

In its world threat assessment published last week, the US intelligence noted that democracy and human rights in many Southeast Asian countries will remain “fragile” this year, including in the Philippines.

“In the Philippines, President Duterte will continue to wage his signature campaign against drugs, corruption, and crime,” the report read.



We’ve heard 白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)



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China has long had its eye on James Shoal and may move toward the island unless Malaysia or Indonesia protest…


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.


The Parkland Massacre and the Air We Breathe

February 16, 2018

What’s gone wrong with our culture that produces such atrocities? It’s a very long list.

A teacher hugs a student at a police checkpoint Thursday.
A teacher hugs a student at a police checkpoint Thursday. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

We discuss motives, but isn’t it always the same motive? “I have murder in my heart.” Why do so many Americans have murder in their hearts?

That is my question after the St. Valentine’s Day shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. We all know it is part of a continuing cultural catastrophe. A terrible aspect of the catastrophe is that so many central thoughts about it, and questions, have been flattened by time into clichés. People stop hearing when you mention them. “We talked about that during Columbine, didn’t we? That couldn’t be it.”

So we immediately revert to discussions of gun law, and only gun law. There is much to be improved in that area—I offer a suggestion at the end—but it is not the only part of the story. The story is also who we are now and what shape we’re in.

A way to look at the question is: What has happened the past 40 years or so to produce a society so ill at ease with itself, so prone to violence?

We know. We all say it privately, but it’s so obvious it’s hardly worth saying. We have been swept by social, technological and cultural revolution. The family blew up—divorce, unwed childbearing. Fatherless sons. Fatherless daughters, too. Poor children with no one to love them. The internet flourished. Porn proliferated. Drugs, legal and illegal. Violent videogames, in which nameless people are eliminated and spattered all over the screen. (The Columbine shooters loved and might have been addicted to “Doom.”) The abortion regime settled in, with its fierce, endless yet somehow casual talk about the right to end a life. An increasingly violent entertainment culture—low, hypersexualized, full of anomie and weirdness, allergic to meaning and depth. The old longing for integration gave way to a culture of accusation—you are a supremacist, a misogynist, you are guilty of privilege and defined by your color and class, we don’t let your sort speak here.

So much change, so much of it un-gentle. Throughout, was anyone looking to children and what they need? That wasn’t really a salient aim or feature of all the revolutions, was it? The adults were seeing to what they believed were their rights. Kids were a side thought.

At this moment we are in the middle of a reckoning about how disturbed our sexual landscape has become. This past week we turned to violence within marriages. We recently looked at the international sex trade, a phrase that sounds so 18th-century but refers to a real and profitable business.

All this change, compressed into 40 years, has produced some good things, even miraculous ones. But it does not feel accidental that America is experiencing what appears to be a mental-health crisis, especially among the young. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported as many as 20% of children 3 to 17 have, in any given year, a mental or emotional illness. There is research indicating depression among teenagers is worsening. National Public Radio recently quoted a 2005 report asserting the percentage of prison inmates with serious mental illness rose from less than 1% in 1880 to 21% in 2005. Deinstitutionalization swept health care and the psychiatric profession starting in the 1960s, and has continued since. The sick now go to the emergency room or stay among us untreated. In the society we have created the past 40 years, you know we are not making fewer emotionally ill young people, but more.

And here, to me, is the problem. A nation has an atmosphere. It has air it breathes in each day. China has a famous pollution problem: You can see the dirt in the air. America’s air looks clean but there are toxins in it, and they’re making the least defended and protected of us sick.

Here is one breath of the air:

Two weeks ago the U.S. Senate blocked a bill that would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks. Exceptions were made—the life of the mother, incest and rape. Twenty weeks—right up to the start of the sixth month—seemed reasonable. But Democrats said it was an assault on women’s rights. So as far as the Senate is concerned, you can end the life of a 6- to 9-month-old baby that can live outside the womb, that is not only human but recognizably and obviously human.

And even if you are 100% for full-term abortion—even if you think this right must be protected lest we go on a slippery slope and next thing you know they’ll outlaw contraceptives—your own language might have alerted you along the way to your radicalism.

Imagine you are pregnant, in the last trimester, and suddenly feel movement in your belly, a shift from here to there. You say, “Oh my God, feel,” and you take the hand of the father, or of another intimate, and you place it on your stomach. You don’t say, “The fetus lurched,” or “A conglomeration of cells is making itself manifest.” You say, “The baby moved. The baby’s moving.” You say this because it is a baby, and you know it. You say it because in your wonder at it, and at life, you tell the truth.

I should add who used that example with me. A great liberal journalist who sees right through his party’s dishonesty on this issue.

The failure to ban late-term abortion is one of those central things we rarely talk about.

And I’ll tell you what I think a teenager absorbs about it, unconsciously, in America. He sees a headline online, he passes a television in an airport, he hears the quick story and he thinks: “If the baby we don’t let live is unimportant, then I guess I am unimportant. And you’re unimportant too.” They don’t even know they’re breathing that in. But it’s there, in the atmosphere, and they’re breathing it in. And it doesn’t make you healthier.

The National Rifle Association too fears their slippery slope, and their fear means nothing common-sensical can be done regarding gun law. Concede anything and it will mean they’re coming for your hunting rifle.

Congress has been talking, at least recently and to some extent, of a trade on immigration. New protections for Dreamers on one hand versus increased border security on the other. This would be a good deal. Dreamers are integrated into American life, and a good many work in education and health care. And America is a great sovereign nation with not only a right but a responsibility to control its own borders.

Compromise is often good.

On gun law, Republicans oppose banning assault weapons such as the AR-15, the one the Parkland shooter used, because of the numbers, power and contributions of gun owners and the NRA. Democrats oppose banning late-term abortion because of the numbers, power and contributions of the rising left, feminists and Planned Parenthood.

The idea: Trade banning assault weapons for banning late-term abortion. Make illegal a killing machine and a killing procedure.

In both cases the lives of children would be saved.

Wouldn’t this clean some of the air? Wouldn’t we all breathe a little easier?

Meth, the Forgotten Killer, Is Back. And It’s Everywhere.

February 14, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. — They huddled against the biting wind, pacing from one corner to another hoping to score heroin or pills. But a different drug was far more likely to be on offer outside the train station downtown, where homeless drug users live in tents pitched on the sidewalk.

“Everybody has meth around here — everybody,” said Sean, a 27-year-old heroin user who hangs out downtown and gave only his first name. “It’s the easiest to find.”

The scourge of crystal meth, with its exploding labs and ruinous effect on teeth and skin, has been all but forgotten amid national concern over the opioid crisis. But 12 years after Congress took aggressive action to curtail it, meth has returned with a vengeance. Here in Oregon, meth-related deaths vastly outnumber those from heroin. At the United States border, agents are seizing 10 to 20 times the amounts they did a decade ago. Methamphetamine, experts say, has never been purer, cheaper or more lethal.

Oregon took a hard line against meth in 2006, when it began requiring a doctor’s prescription to buy the nasal decongestant used to make it. “It was like someone turned off a switch,” said J.R. Ujifusa, a senior prosecutor in Multnomah County, which includes Portland.

“But where there is a void,” he added, “someone fills it.”

The decades-long effort to fight methamphetamine is a tale with two takeaways. One: The number of domestic meth labs has declined precipitously, and along with it the number of children harmed and police officers sickened by exposure to dangerous chemicals. But also, two: There is more meth on the streets today, more people are using it, and more of them are dying.

Drugs go through cycles — in the 1980s and early ’90s, the use of crack cocaine surged. In the early 2000s, meth made from pseudoephedrine, the decongestant in drugstore products like Sudafed, poured out of domestic labs like those in the early seasons of the hit television show “Breaking Bad.”

Narcotics squads became glorified hazmat teams, spending entire shifts on cleanup. In 2004, the Portland police responded to 114 meth houses. “We rolled from meth lab to meth lab,” said Sgt. Jan M. Kubic of the county sheriff’s office. “Patrol would roll up on a domestic violence call, and there’d be a lab in the kitchen. Everything would come to a screeching halt.”

In 2005 Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Act, which put pseudoephedrine behind the counter, limited sales to 7.5 grams per customer in a 30-day period and required pharmacies to track sales. Although some meth makers tried “smurfing,” sending emissaries to several stores to make purchases, meth cases plummeted.

States like Oregon and Mississippi required a prescription, making smurfing almost impossible. And a new epidemic took hold: prescription painkillers and opiates like heroin. With no more meth lab explosions on the nightly news, the public forgot about the drug.

But meth, it turns out, was only on hiatus. When the ingredients became difficult to come by in the United States, Mexican drug cartels stepped in. Now fighting meth often means seizing large quantities of ready-made product in highway stops.

The cartels have inundated the market with so much pure, low-cost meth that dealers have more of it than they know what to do with. Under pressure from traffickers to unload large quantities, law enforcement officials say, dealers are even offering meth to customers on credit. In Portland, the drug has made inroads in black neighborhoods, something experienced narcotics investigators say was unheard-of five years ago.

“I have been involved with meth for the last 25 years. A wholesale plummet of price per pound, combined with a huge increase of purity, tells me they have perfected the production or manufacturing of methamphetamine,” said Steven Bell, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “They have figured out the chemical reactions to get the best bang for their bucks.”

Read the rest:


US Navy probes alleged drug use by sailors in Japan

February 10, 2018


© AFP/File | The US Navy is investigating sailors at Yokosuka base for alleged drug use, reportedly including some serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan


The US Navy said Saturday it was probing sailors at a base in Japan over alleged drug use and vowed no tolerance for any misconduct.

“Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is investigating Yokosuka-based sailors for alleged drug use and distribution,” the 7th Fleet said, referring to its home base southwest of Tokyo.

“The Navy has zero tolerance for drug abuse and takes all allegations involving misconduct of our sailors, navy civilians and family members very seriously,” it said in a comment emailed to AFP.

It added the allegations were still under investigation and would not comment further.

The response came after the Wall Street Journal reported that at least a dozen sailors were being investigated on suspicion of buying, selling and using LSD, ecstasy and other drugs.

Some of them were serving aboard the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier whose home port is Yokosuka, the journal quoted navy officials as saying Friday.

The navy was also probing whether US sailors were using the internet to buy or sell drugs or were distributing them to local Japanese residents, it said.

The drug allegations come at a time when Japan is touting its security alliance with the United States to counter missile and nuclear threats from North Korea.

The 7th Fleet has also been hit by a string of accidents in the last year.

In August, the destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker off Singapore, killing 10 sailors and injuring five others.

Two months earlier in June, another destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, and a cargo ship smashed into each other off Japan, leaving seven sailors dead.

United Nations have called for a balanced approach to illegal drug problems by putting people first through care for health and human rights

January 1, 2018
At a joint training program on “Regional Law Enforcement in New Psychoactive Substances” in Singapore, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said officials from 11 Southeast Asian and Pacific Island countries made the call that reaffirms the emphasis on health and welfare of humankind as the founding purpose of international drug conventions. UN/Released

MANILA, Philippines — Member-states of the United Nations have called for a balanced approach to the world problem on drugs by putting people first through approaches that attend to health and human rights, and promote the safety and security of all societies.

At a joint training program on “Regional Law Enforcement in New Psychoactive Substances” in Singapore, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said officials from 11 Southeast Asian and Pacific Island countries made the call that reaffirms the emphasis on health and welfare of humankind as the founding purpose of international drug conventions.

Singapore and UNODC teamed up for a pilot initiative to combat the growing and global challenges posed by new psychoactive substances. It is aimed at helping developing countries in the region achieve development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It also supports the implementation of the relevant operational recommendations outlined in the Outcome Document of the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, which called for member states to adopt measures to address the challenges posed by new psychoactive substances (NPS).

“Let us be clear, the threat of NPS is very real. NPS, including fentanyl analogues, continue to multiply and evolve. Fentanyl analogues, for example, are helping to fuel tragic increases in opioid overdoses,” said UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov.

During the training, experts and law enforcement practitioners from Singapore, the US Drug Enforcement Administration and Australian Federal Police shared their expertise on legislative responses, forensic identification, field detection, enforcement and diversion of precursor chemicals.

The course allowed participants to gain a better understanding of the recent trends in the global and regional markets for NPS and to identify best practices in its detection and investigation.

It was conducted under the Singapore Cooperation Program, which is the country’s primary platform in extending technical assistance to the developing world. Over 170 countries and territories have taken part in the program since its inception in 1992.

Meanwhile, UNODC said technology has become a cornerstone of criminality in just two decades, making close cooperation among countries a necessity to succeed against this challenge.

Criminals, after 20 years, are the unintended beneficiaries of technology and globalization as it enables criminals to work across regions, increasing their reach, their crimes and their profits, the group added.


China says US should do more to cut its ‘enormous’ opioid demand

December 29, 2017


Yu Haibin of the China National Narcotics Control Commission speaks during a press conference held in Beijing, China, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. (AP)

BEIJING: The United States should take action to reduce demand for the drugs fueling its deadly opioid crisis rather than simply accusing China of being the major source, a top Chinese drug control official said.

“The biggest difficulty China faces in opioid control is that such drugs are in enormous demand in the US,” Yu Haibin of the China National Narcotics Control Commission said at a news briefing, the China Daily reported on Friday.
US President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in October and said he discussed with Chinese President Xi Jinping how to “stop the lethal flow” of the drugs during his visit to China last month.
Opioids include prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic drug 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
American law enforcement agencies and drug control experts say most of the fentanyl distributed in the United States, as well as its precursor chemicals, come from China.
While Chinese officials dispute that assertion, the government has taken steps to crack down on the production and export of them, and has placed fentanyl and other related compounds on its list of controlled substances.
Yu said the United States should intensify law enforcement and share more police intelligence with Chinese authorities to combat the problem.
China’s drug control agency said on Thursday that five more precursor chemicals that can be used to produce fentanyl and methamphetamines had been added to its list of controlled substances, the China Daily reported.
Wei Xiaojun, the deputy secretary-general of China’s National Narcotics Commission, said last month that China did not “deny or reject” that some fentanyl produced in China had made its way to the United States but there was not enough evidence to say most of it originated from China.
The US Department of Justice indicted two major Chinese drug traffickers in October on charges of making illegal versions of fentanyl and selling the highly addictive drug to Americans over the Internet and through the international mail.

Anxiety, evasion and addiction: how Mexicans deal with endless violence — More than 23,000 dead

December 29, 2017


© AFP/File / by Sofia MISELEM | A Mexican woman protests the assassination of journalist Javier Valdez

MEXICO CITY (AFP) – Between anxiety, addiction and evasion, Mexicans have found coping mechanisms to deal with the violence plaguing their country and which peaked in 2017 to the highest level in two decades.The year is not yet over, but the number of murders committed in November reached 23,101, according to a government registry of violent deaths, the highest count since the tally was launched in 1997, and topping the 22,409 killed in 2011 when the big drugs cartels started to fracture.

The statistics do not show how many of the deaths were linked to narco-trafficking, but experts believe the majority were attributable to the wave of drugs-related violence that has risen incessantly since 2006, when the government launched all-out war on Mexico’s powerful cartels.

– Collective violence –

“Since the start of this absurd war on drugs, Mexico has entered into what the World Health Organization technically defines as ‘collective violence,'” said Juan Ramon de la Fuente, a psychiatrist and former dean of the Autonomous National University of Mexico, or UNAM.

“It is a kind of epidemic when there are more than 10 homicides for every 100,000 people,” he said.

WHO figures show that in 2015 Mexico was suffering 19 murders per 100,000 people, but De la Fuente, who participated in a multidisciplinary study of the impact of violence on society, puts that figure at at least 22 per 100,000.

The lack of security that has reigned over large tracts of Mexico for years has had a tangible emotional impact on the population, said De La Fuente, while life expectancy has dropped yearly among young people because of the number of youths being killed.

“We cannot separate the violence from the mental health problems which are on the rise across the country,” said De La Fuente. “There is a feeling of helplessness which creates reactions that people express symptomatically, in terms of anxiety, a disturbance to sleep patterns, or the increased use of alcohol and other drugs.”

According to government data, drug consumption has in fact increased by more than 40 percent since 2010.

“In Mexico there are no fewer than a million people who probably have suffered from some emotional or psychological impact derived from the drugs war since the army was sent on to the streets,” said Rogelio Flores, a researcher into the societal effects of violence at UNAM’s psychology department.

De la Fuente estimates that with the 200,000 people murdered, and tens of thousands missing since 2006, around 250,000 homes in Mexico have been affected by “a process of pain, depression, helplessness, frustration and fear, a gamut of very powerful and complicated emotions which is overlooked by the state from a medical and psychological point of view.”

– Scenes from Dante –

In other cases, people display the phenomenon of “normalization” or “habituation” to the endless violence that is incorporated into daily life, from school children learning how to protect themselves during shootings to drugs lords being lionized in television shows or in the folk ballards known as “narco-corridas.”

“It is worrying that we come to see death as an element of everyday life,” said Flores. “There is a process of desensitization in large parts of society which is promoting and legitimizing violence, without considering its consequences.”

The spectacular cruelty of the drug cartels has produced scenes of Dantesque horror, with people being beheaded, dismembered, skinned alive, tortured and hung from bridges — their bodies dumped, often by the dozen, in the streets for all to see.

Martin Barron, a criminologist at the National Institute for Criminal Science, said that in the past the cartels had “codes of respect” that included not killing a victim’s wife or children.

But in 2009, with the rise of the Zetas — the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, which was made up originally from government special police who defected to the drugs lords — all the rules started to disappear.

“The criminals now have no limitations preventing them inflicting whatever degrading acts they wish upon another human being,” he said.

He underlined the lack of importance given to the origin of the Zetas, former elite commandos around whom swirl macabre legends, such as the story that one their late leaders used to eat the human flesh of his victims.

“We have to analyze these figures that come from a military background, they start out there and then the cartels look for someone who would do be prepared to do something like this. This violence is not in the normal make-up of Mexicans, you have to go out looking for someone with psychotic tendencies,” he said.


Sessions orders review of abandoned Hezbollah-linked drug prosecutions

December 23, 2017
Jeff Sessions is pictured. | Getty Images


“We will review these matters and give full support to investigations of violent drug trafficking organizations,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement released to reporters Friday evening. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Inquiry follows POLITICO report that potential cases languished amid Obama drive for Iran nuclear deal.


Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered the Justice Department to dig into allegations in a POLITICO report that a series of potential drug prosecutions related to the pro-Iranian militant group Hezbollah were abandoned as the Obama administration pressed to strike a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

Sessions indicated that he was troubled by allegations that Project Cassandra — the Drug Enforcement Administration’s drive to target Hezbollah’s foray into drug trafficking — ran into high-level roadblocks that stymied many of the cases agents wanted to bring as well as efforts to get suspects extradited from overseas to the U.S.

“Operations designed to investigate and prosecute terrorist organizations that are also fueling that drug crisis must be paramount in this administration,” Sessions said in a statement released to reporters Friday evening. “While I am hopeful that there were no barriers constructed by the last administration to allowing DEA agents to fully bring all appropriate cases under Project Cassandra, this is a significant issue for the protection of Americans. We will review these matters and give full support to investigations of violent drug trafficking organizations.”

Justice Department officials declined to comment on who will conduct the review or any other details about the inquiry.

The deeply reported POLITICO story has unleashed furious pushback from Obama administration officials who have denied that the high-priority push to reach a nuclear pact with Tehran derailed any law enforcement operations.

However, Republicans and pro-Israel activists have jumped on the story as evidence that the Obama administration was so focused on the nuclear deal that it was willing to ignore other troublesome activity by the Iranian regime and its allies.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who has pressed for more information on the issue, called Sessions’ action an “appropriate first step.”

“I’m encouraged that the Justice Department recognizes that this is important and I hope that they will swiftly provide answers,” he said in a statement. “Terrorists don’t get a pass to exploit drug addiction here at home and use American dollars to fund their global violence.”

Sessions has made the war on drugs a top priority at the Justice Department since he took over in February. His predecessors in the Obama administration argued that drug sentences were excessive and that too much focus was being put on prosecution, rather than drug treatment and rehabilitation.

Decisions to review criminal investigations conducted and closed under prior administrations are unusual, but not unheard of. This marks the second instance in the past two months of Sessions ordering a review of Obama administration practices.

Last month, Sessions agreed to review how the Justice Department handled allegations that proponents of a deal to purchase a mining transport company known as Uranium One made large donations to the Clinton Foundation in a bid to influence former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or her aides to approve the purchase. Sessions agreed to the review after many Republican lawmakers demanded appointment of a special counsel to investigate the issue, which was previously the subject of some investigative work by the FBI.

Under the Obama administration, Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a review of Bush-era investigations into alleged abuse and deaths of war-on-terror prisoners held by the Central Intelligence Agency. The inquiry led to the investigations of two deaths being formally re-opened and a grand jury convened to hear evidence, but no charges were ever brought.


Republicans seek answers on Obama actions around Hezbollah


Justice Department to Investigate Hezbollah, Obama Administration “Operation Cassandra” Related to Iran Nuclear Deal

December 22, 2017

Fox News is reporting that the Justice Department will open an investigation into the allegations that the Obama administration shielded Hezbollah from law enforcement during the completion of the Iran Nuclear deal (JCPOA).

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Fox News that he had given the go ahead for DOJ to investigate Project Cassandra, reported by Politico…..


Republicans seek answers on Obama actions around Hezbollah

A deafening media silence on the Obama-Hezbollah scandal

December 22, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

Obama protected Hezbollah. Getty Images

By David Harsanyi

Politico published a jaw-dropping, meticulously sourced investigative piece this week detailing how the Obama administration had secretly undermined US law enforcement agency efforts to shut down an international drug-trafficking ring run by the terror group Hezbollah. The effort was part of a wider push by the administration to placate Iran and ensure the signing of the nuclear deal.

Now swap out “Trump” for “Obama” and “Russia” for “Iran” and imagine the eruption these revelations would generate. Because, by any conceivable journalistic standard, this scandal should’ve triggered widespread coverage and been plastered on front pages across the country. By any historic standard, the scandal should elicit outrage regarding the corrosion of governing norms from pundits and editorial boards.

Yet, as it turns out, there’s an exceptionally good chance most of your neighbors and colleagues haven’t heard anything about it.

Days after the news broke, in fact, neither NBC News, ABC News nor CBS News — whose shows can boast a collective 20 million viewers — had been able to find the time to relay the story to its sizeable audiences. Other than Fox News, cable news largely ignored the revelations as well.

Image may contain: 3 people, suit

Most major newspapers, which have been sanctimoniously patting themselves on the back for the past year, couldn’t shoehorn into their pages a story about potential collusion between the former president and a terror-supporting state.

Perhaps if President Trump had tweeted about the story, outlets would’ve squeezed something in.

Even when outlets did decide to cover the story, they typically framed it as a he-said/she-said. “Politico Reporter Says Obama Administration ‘Derailed’ Hezbollah Investigation,” reads the NPR headline. Did Josh Meyer of Politico say something about Obama or did he publish a 14,000-word, diligently sourced, document-heavy investigative piece? If you get your news from NPR, you’d never know.

Fact is, the Drug Enforcement Agency began its classified investigation (called Project Cassandra) into Hezbollah in 2008. It found that the Iranian proxy had laundered nearly a half a billion dollars and was moving cocaine to the United States. According to Politico, the Obama administration not only threw obstructions in front of investigators but failed to prosecute major players in the enterprise.

What makes the media blackout particularly shameful is that the story isn’t a partisan hit job. It was written by a well-regarded journalist at a major outlet. The story has two on-the-record sources — which is more than we can say for the vast majority of so-called scoops about the Russian “collusion” investigation. One of these sources, David Asher, was an illicit finance expert at the Pentagon who was tapped to run the investigation. There’s no plausible reason to ignore him or the story.

Then again, ignoring or diminishing Obama’s shady dealings with Iran isn’t new. Obama administration officials bragged to the New York Times Magazine last year that they’d created an echo chamber, relying on the ignorance, inexperience and partisan dispositions of reporters to convey their lies to the American people.

We saw this when the Obama administration claimed it was releasing 14 Iranian civilians on humanitarian grounds, when in fact it was releasing spies and weapons dealers. Or when Team Obama claimed diplomacy had won US hostages’ release, when it fact it had sent hundreds of millions of euros, Swiss francs and other currencies on wooden pallets in unmarked planes to Iran. The press was uninterested in those stories, too.

Establishment media personalities will often point out that none of us would have any knowledge of these incidents if not for their reporting. This is true. There are intrepid journalists at media institutions who aren’t swayed by partisan considerations.

The preponderance of editors, journalists, pundits and bookers, on the other hand, still coddle Democrats. They may do it on purpose or unconsciously, but it’s destroying their credibility. Because as David Burge once noted, “Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.”

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist.