Dark web child porn bust leads to 338 arrests worldwide

By Andy Sullivan and Raphael Satter, Reuters

Law enforcement officials said on Wednesday they had arrested hundreds of people worldwide after knocking out a South Korea-based dark web child pornography site that sold gruesome videos for digital cash.

Officials from the United States, Britain and South Korea described the network as one of the largest child pornography operations they had encountered to date.

Called Welcome To Video, the website relied on the bitcoin cryptocurrency to sell access to 250,000 videos depicting child sexual abuse, authorities said, including footage of extremely young children being raped. Its upload page specifically stated, “Do not upload adult porn.”

“Darknet sites that profit from the sexual exploitation of children are among the most vile and reprehensible forms of criminal behavior,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said.

Officials have rescued at least 23 underage victims in the United States, Britain and Spain who were being actively abused by users of the site, the Justice Department said. Many children in the videos have not yet been identified.

The site’s vast library – nearly half of it consisting of images never seen before by law enforcement – is an illustration of what authorities say is an explosion of sexual abuse content online. In a statement, Britain’s National Crime Agency said officials were seeing “increases in severity, scale and complexity.”

Welcome To Video’s operator, a South Korean named Jong Woo Son, and 337 users in 12 different countries, have been charged so far, authorities said.

Son, currently serving an 18-month sentence in South Korea, was also indicted on federal charges in Washington.

Several other people charged in the case have already been convicted and are serving prison sentences of up to 15 years, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Welcome To Video is one of the first websites to monetize child pornography using bitcoin, which allows users to hide their identities during financial transactions.

Users were able to redeem the digital currency in return for “points” that they could spend downloading videos or buying all-you-can watch “VIP” accounts. Points could also be earned by uploading fresh child pornography.

‘BOTTOM FEEDERS OF CRIMINAL WORLD’

“These are the bottom feeders of the criminal world,” said Don Fort, chief of criminal investigation at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which initiated the investigation.

The Justice Department said the site collected at least $370,000 worth of bitcoin before it was taken down in March 2018 and that the currency was laundered through three unnamed digital currency exchanges.

Darknet websites are designed to be all-but-impossible to locate online. How authorities managed to locate and bring down the site isn’t clear, with differing narratives by different law enforcement organizations on the matter.

Fort said the investigation was triggered by a tip to the IRS from a confidential source. However, Britain’s National Crime Agency said they came across the site during an investigation into a British academic who in October 2017 pleaded guilty https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-abuse-academic/uk-academic-who-blackmailed-victims-into-sending-horrific-abuse-photos-admits-137-offences-idUKKBN1CL2BA to blackmailing more than 50 people, including teenagers, into sending him depraved images that he shared online.

In a statement, British authorities said the National Crime Agency’s cybercrime unit deployed “specialist capabilities” to identify the server’s location. The NCA did not immediately return an email seeking clarification on the term, which is sometimes used as a euphemism for hacking.

The U.S. Justice Department gave a different explanation, saying that Welcome To Video’s site was leaking its server’s South Korean internet protocol address to the open internet.

Experts pointed to the bust as evidence that the trade in child abuse imagery could be tackled without subverting the encryption that keeps the rest of the internet safe.

Officials in the United States and elsewhere have recently begun prodding major technology firms https://www.reuters.com/article/facebook-security/fbi-director-warns-facebook-could-become-platform-of-child-pornographers-idUSL2N26P0J7 to come up with solutions that could allow law enforcement to bypass the encryption that protects messaging apps like WhatsApp or iMessage, citing the fight against child pornography as a major reason.

Welcome To Video’s demise “is a clear indication that in cases like this, where there’s very low-hanging fruit, breaking encryption is not required,” said Christopher Parsons, a senior research associate at Citizen Lab, based at the University of Toronto’s Munk School.

He said the bust showed that law enforcement could also track criminal activity that employs cryptocurrency transactions.

“There’s a lot of a people who have this perception that bitcoin is totally anonymous,” Parsons said, “and it’s been the downfall of many people in many investigations.”

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Backpage is gone, but a more graphic version is again fueling prostitution busts

Porn Producers Are Charged With Sex Trafficking

Backpage is gone, but a more graphic version is again fueling prostitution busts

By Manuel Gamiz Jr.

An Allentown vice detective responded to an online ad featuring two young, practically naked women.

Through the ad, posted under the name “Bella,” the detective arranged a sexual encounter at a south Allentown motel for $300 for a half-hour. When a woman showed up at the March 28 sting, the detective promptly arrested her — his seventh bust in a month. A few days later, he made his eighth arrest in a similar online sting.

Those are just a few of the busts that local authorities say highlight a sudden surge in prostitution-related activity in the Lehigh Valley ― almost all attributed to a new website that has picked up where controversial site Backpage.com left off when it was shut down a year ago.

The site, Skip the Games, has been described by local police and prosecutors as a more graphic and “in-your-face” version of Backpage, which authorities say had fueled a surge in prostitution in the area since 2010.

After Backpage was shut down by federal authorities last April, the Lehigh Valley witnessed a noticeable decrease in prostitution arrests.

Allentown, where the majority of busts happen, reported a 39% decrease in arrests for prostitution and commercialized vice in 2018, a downward trend seen throughout Lehigh and Northampton counties, according to statistics on the state police’s uniform crime reporting system.

But as local authorities expected, the decrease didn’t last long.

“Initially when the government shut those websites down, we really didn’t do anything for a little while,” said Colonial Regional police Sgt. Michael Enstrom, who led a March 15 sting in Hanover Township, Northampton County. “Now people are getting more creative and bringing up other websites, and the more common one now is Skip the Games.”

Besides the eight Allentown arrests from Feb. 27 and Wednesday that began as online investigations on Skip the Games, police in Northampton County said an investigation on the website led to a prostitution sting at a Hanover Township hotel that netted eight arrests, including one man charged with promoting prostitution for posting ads, Enstrom said.

Skip the Games portrays itself as a sort of dating site, “the premier place online for consenting adults to find each other and have fun with each other,” according to its description online.

However, as its name might suggest and the slogan of “Skip the Games. Get Satisfaction,” the website is only about the sale of sex, Lehigh County Senior District Attorney Robert W. Schopf said.

Personal ads are posted to the site every day, showing mostly women, many of them posing provocatively while naked or scantily clad. Besides the photos, each ad provides a brief physical description, a list of sexual acts they consent to and contact information, while being careful not to mention money.

“It makes Backpage look more innocuous,” Schopf said. “It’s very pornographic, and in your face and a blatant advertisement in sex trafficking.”

Local authorities, like Enstrom, said Skip the Games is taking over the sex trafficking void left with the Backpage shutdown.

Last April, President Donald Trump signed a pair of laws — Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act — that added tougher penalties to web services that knowingly assist, facilitate and support prostitution or sex trafficking.

As a result of the law, Backpage and its affiliated websites were seized by federal authorities in April 2018, and the founders of the website and five others were indicted on federal charges of facilitating prostitution and using foreign banks to hide revenues.

Asked how its website is any different than Backpage, a representative with Skip the Games issued a statement saying, “like many companies, we unfortunately have to deal with people who misuse our networks/facilities to help commit illegal actions or do bad things.

“We are a small company, and even though we have no staff or facilities in the United States, we interact with and help U.S. law enforcement on a near daily basis.”

On the website, Skip the Games only provides an email for police to contact them.

While the Backpage shutdown initially slowed sex trafficking, Rick Dobrowolski, operations manager with the nonprofit advocacy group Valley Against Sex Trafficking, said it “has sadly not changed the nature of trafficking.”

He said the shutdown served as an initial deterrent, but as expected, traffickers have found other websites to use.

“We have more work to do in addressing the demand for sex, including through law enforcement, if we are going to decrease trafficking in the Lehigh Valley,” Dobrowolski said. “Since our efforts in outreach to discover those who have been exploited have been able to increase due to supporters, we have uncovered even more layers to the trafficking that happens in the Lehigh Valley.

“In fact, a law enforcement official even stated that the shutting down of Backpage.com has made their job in discovering victims more difficult due to the plurality of technologies now being used.”

Over the years, police have had to adapt their methods for fighting prostitution. The days of conducting undercover stings on street corners all but ended about a decade ago when websites, like Craigslist and Backpage, took over the way prostitution was advertised.

Craigslist ended its adult section in 2010 and Backpage launched that same year, eventually expanding to 75 countries, in addition to hundreds of metro areas in the United States. At its peak, Allentown’s Backpage site would see more than 20 ads a day, prompting a number of sting operations in Allentown and joint operations by detectives in Northampton and Monroe counties.

As with anything, Schopf, the Lehigh County prosecutor, said law enforcement has had to evolve with the times, from targeting Craigslist to Backpage to sites like Skip the Games.

Earlier this year, Schopf and Julia Kocis, the director of Lehigh County’s Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center, attended a United Nations conference that focused on the use of computer tools in the fight against human trafficking. The county this year partnered with Lehigh University and two nonprofit groups, AEquitas and The Why, to develop an artificial intelligence application to identify potential human trafficking victims and perpetrators.

“It was a great opportunity where we were able to meet with some of the top minds from different countries and professions,” he said.

While prostitution arrests do appear to have dwindled with the crackdown on Backpage, Schopf said buying sex “is as available and as in-demand as it’s ever been.”

Allentown began seeing a surge in arrests in late February, when a vice detective responded to an ad on Skip the Games, which showed three women dressed in underwear in provocative poses. The ad featured “a menu of sex acts the pictured females provide,” the detective wrote in a criminal complaint.

After arranging sex for money, the detective arrested all three on Feb. 27, two at a south Allentown motel and the third at a gas station. The detective responded to another Skip the Games ad the next day and arrested an 18-year-old woman at an Airport Road motel.

Three more arrests were made by the detective in March, all at a south Allentown motel, and another this past Wednesday, all stemming from stings that began with a Skip the Games ad. In the most recent arrest, the detective found several uncapped needles in the woman’s motel room, he wrote in an affidavit.

Colonial Regional police partnered with departments in Bethlehem, Bethlehem Township, Nazareth and Palmer Township, along with Monroe County detectives, the FBI and the Lehigh Valley Crime Victims Council and the Valley Against Sex Trafficking, to conduct a March 15 sting that began by responding to ads on Skip the Games. Months earlier, the same departments teamed up on stings in Monroe County and Palmer Township, Enstrom said.

In the most recent sting, eight people were arrested, including one man who posted the ads for one of the women, Enstrom said.

“Unfortunately, these women and even young girls are being forced into doing this,” he said, which is why representatives from local advocacy groups assist during sting operations. “In all reality a lot of these women are being forced to do this. These guys are getting a hold of them and pumping them with drugs. They are getting them hooked on heroin and they are becoming slaves to heroin.

“We give [the advocacy groups] an opportunity to interview these women and offer them help and a way to get out of this.”

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Porn Producers Are Charged With Sex Trafficking

In a case that could test the online pornography industry, the owners and two employees of two popular pornographic websites were charged this week with sex trafficking and other crimes, accused of coercing several women to engage in sex videos that were posted on the internet.

According to a criminal complaint, the owners and employees “used deception and false promises” to lure women who had answered modeling advertisements on Craigslist to participate in the videos, telling them that their identities would be shielded and that the videos would not be posted online.

The owners, Michael James Pratt, 36, and Matthew Isaac Wolfe, 37, and one employee, Ruben Andre Garcia, 31, were each charged with three counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.

A second employee, Valorie Moser, 37, who the authorities said helped recruit the women, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.

Wolfe, Garcia and Moser pleaded not guilty. Wolfe and Garcia were being held in federal custody Friday and the authorities said Pratt had left the country and was considered a fugitive.

Pratt, Wolfe and Garcia are currently on trial in a civil case in San Diego Superior Court that mirrors the criminal filing. In that case, 22 women said they were tricked into performing in internet pornography.

Ed Chapin, the lead trial lawyer representing the 22 women, called the alleged scheme “outrageous.”

“It is despicable,” he said, “and I am glad that the feds are stepping up and that they’ve seen it and are doing something about it.”

Corey D. Silverstein, a First Amendment lawyer based in Michigan whose practice is focused on issues of pornography and similar entertainment, said this was the first case he knew of in which a content producer was prosecuted under these types of charges.

“The government has a pretty high burden,” he said. “They have to be able to show that someone knowingly recruited, enticed, harbored and patronized a person and then gained value from it.” He said he was “not convinced the government has a case,” adding, “Was the line crossed from content production to sex trafficking?”

In court filings, Pratt and Wolfe, who own the websites GirlsDoPorn and GirlsDoToys, said the women had signed contracts that stated the videos they appeared in could be “used anywhere, anyhow, for any purpose.”

The women also recorded videotaped statements stating that they consented to the videos being used in any way and were not under the influence of drugs or mind-altering substances, according to civil filings from the defendants.

Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami who is the president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, said many women in the pornography industry have lodged similar complaints of coercion but have not felt comfortable telling anyone. Or, she said, they were afraid that complaints would lead to their not working again.

“There’s just a massive amount of fraud and coercion,” said Franks, who coproduced a documentary about the world of amateur pornography. “It’s a very welcome development that all porn companies will be put on notice that there is an appetite to investigate these cases.”

Significant criminal charges have not been brought by federal authorities against pornography producers for more than a decade. In 2008, Paul F. Little was sentenced to 46 months in jail after being convicted on multiple obscenity charges.

Last year, a federal law strengthened the policing of sex trafficking online.

Southern California, especially the San Fernando Valley, has historically been home to major pornography studios and producers, but the internet has made it possible for anyone with a cellphone camera to produce and upload explicit content. And the internet involves interstate commerce, which is regulated by the federal authorities.

“Traffickers use many ways to trick, coerce and manipulate,” said Samantha Vardaman, vice president of Shared Hope International, a nonprofit organization that seeks to rescue victims of sex trafficking. “These brave women suffered exploitation and exposure but they are using the legal remedies to get control back. With the extraordinary abuses of the internet, we will surely see more criminal activity like this.”

Mike South, a former pornography producer who has chronicled the inner workings of the business for his blog MikeSouth.com, said he hoped the case would encourage young women to exercise caution before answering online advertisements in the future.

“There might be a few girls that will read about it and take heed,” he said.

Brian Gross, who has worked closely with pornography producers and actors for more than two decades, applauded the criminal charges.

“I hope it makes people take this industry as a legitimate business,” Gross said. “If you think you’re going to come in here and behave in this kind of manner you know there will be consequences.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

© 2019 The New York Times Company

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Website allows people to find prostitutes, rate sex workers

By Brittany Costello

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Websites are making it easy for people to find prostitutes.

KOB 4 discovered a website that allows people to leave reviews of people they met who offer sex acts.

Posts detail what the sex worker looks like, what they will do and how much it will cost.

Christine Barber, executive director of Street Safe New Mexico, said she’s familiar with various websites that allow people to find prostitutes.

“Honestly, it is gross,” she said. “It is really gross to go onto these websites and see, ‘5’6” green eyes, this is how much I charge,’”

KOB 4 called a person who listed their number on the website. She offered her services and rates, which she described as a donation.

Sex trafficking is a problem widely known in Albuquerque.

“That’s the thing that we really need to start to focus on– prostitute means sex trafficking victim and sex trafficking victim means prostitute,” Barber said. “They’re not anything different.”

Albuquerque Police Department Commander Mizel Garcia said investigating sex trafficking businesses isn’t easy.

“Investigating these businesses is very difficult, not just for APD,” he said. “Reason being – it’s difficult to get the cooperation of the workers that work these businesses.”

APD said it’s aware of websites like the one KOB 4 discovered. However, they don’t have the ability to take them down.

However, officials believe they are making strides in fighting sex trafficking.

“We’ve had a lot more cases where the women are willing to help and we’re seeing a lot more calls to the hotline in our state, a lot more cases in general,” Barber said.

One website user reached out to KOB 4 and said he believes the website does more good than harm.

“I just believe that it’s the kind of the least evil given that this is something that’s going to go on no matter what,” said a user who wanted to stay anonymous.

He claims the website creates a community. An easy outlet for law enforcement, a way to keep people—in his mind—safe. He also believes prostitution and human trafficking are very different.

“Somehow it’s ok for me to go see a lady who wants to rub my back and rub my feet, and I can give her money for that, but she can’t rub those other parts of me because all of a sudden that’s just illegal,” he said. “Even if that’s her choice.”

FBSM Reviews (escort reviews and verified providers.)

To learn more about what the Attorney General is doing to stop human trafficking, click here. 

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Seattle PD clarifies comment that sex workers ‘enjoy’ prostitution

By Brandi Kruse, FOXNews

SEATTLE – A Seattle police captain in charge of the agency’s High Risk Victims Unit said Thursday that he does not believe sex workers “enjoy” such work, despite a controversial comment made by one of his superiors during a city council meeting earlier in the week.

Following a report in Crosscut that the Seattle Police Department has begun routinely arresting sex workers, Deputy Seattle Police Chief Marc Garth Green was asked about the issue at a Seattle City Council meeting Wednesday.

During his remarks, Garth Green suggested some sex workers “choose to do what they’re doing” and said some even “enjoy” it.

“And that comes from my experience of actually working the street up there and talking to the young lady who specifically told me that she was there to make money and enjoyed it,” Garth Green said.

“The idea that we can conclude that women are pro themselves as a choice, is something that is almost shocking to even say,” Councilmember Sally Bagshaw responded.

Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and Kshama Sawant were equally upset with the assertion, Sawant calling it “just not acceptable.”

In a series of tweets Thursday from the department’s official account, Garth Green walked back the comments, writing:

“I’d like to clarify my earlier remarks that I was unable to finish at City Council today. There is a reason we refer to those engaged in prostitution as High Risk Victims. In our experience, victims are forced into prostitution through violence, deception, and other factors not of their choosing. Diversion options can be limited, and we may need to arrest them to disrupt the cycle of violence and abuse. For people trafficked in prostitution, jail can be a safer place than out on the street. That said, our primary enforcement focus will ALWAYS be those who profit from and support this form of human trafficking.”

On Thursday, Seattle Police Captain Mike Edwards, who commands the High Risk Victims Unit, was asked about the remarks in an interview with Q13 News.

“Are those comments made to us? Absolutely. Those are made to us. Do we believe them based on the experience, knowledge of what’s going on, especially with pimps being involved? No,” Capt. Edwards said, going on to suggest that Garth Green wasn’t given enough time to make the same point. “Unfortunately, you need a lot of time to really explain this to folks to really understand what goes on out on the street in particular.”

Captain Edwards said while the agency has increased arrests of sex workers, few result in prosecution and many arrests are carried out in a “care-taking” capacity – the idea being that removing sex workers from a situation they may be forced into can help them break free of pimps.

“We are still victim-centered, trauma informed. That’s our approach,” he said.

“We know what that environment is like. That environment is not healthy. It’s dangerous. We can’t ignore it. It would be inappropriate for us to do so, even for the women in particular.

Edwards said he hopes the Crosscut article, and the resulting attention at City Hall, will spark a dialogue that can ultimately help ensure sex workers have better access to services.

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The Kingdom’s days are numbered

The US has not had wholly “friendly” intentions towards the Kingdom for the past 30 years. Any appearance of such is only the visible veneer of real US military policy. Declassified documents reveal that there has been a constant drumbeat to invade Saudi Arabia that has sounded behind the closed doors of our government. The Pentagon, for three decades, has formulated and updated secret plans to seize Saudi oil wells and rid the Kingdom of the ruling House of Saud.

The London Sunday Times revealed information from a leaked and classified US Department of Defense plan. The plan, drawn up by the Pentagon, was code named “Dhahran Option Four” and provided for an invasion of the world’s largest oil reserves, namely Saudi Arabia.

A report entitled, “Oil Fields as Military Objectives: A Feasibility Study”, was produced for the Committee on Foreign Relations. In this report, the CRS stated that potential targets for the US included Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Venezuela, Libya, and Nigeria. “Analysis indicates … [that military forces of OPEC countries were] quantitatively and qualitatively inferior [and] could be swiftly crushed.”

One senior Israeli intelligence officer stated the goal was to make Israel the dominant power in the region and expel the Palestinians.

Before publication of his book “Sleeping With The Devil”, Robert Baer, ex-CIA officer, was ordered by the CIA to remove multiple passages claiming special CIA knowledge of Saudi royals having funneled money to Al Qaeda for terrorist funding, assassination plots, and even Chechen rebels. He asserts that Saudi Arabia is a “powder keg waiting to explode”, “the royal family is “corrupt”, “hanging on by a thread” and “as violent and vengeful as any Mafia family”.

Related: Secret Report Reveals Saudi Incompetence and Widespread Use of U.S. Weapons in Yemen

Since Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS outmaneuvered his rivals to become Saudi Arabia’s de-facto leader in 2015, the 33-year-old has received favorable coverage in international media, with a multitude of reports focused on his economic and social reforms in the conservative kingdom.

Salman’s record is very different from the hype, one that includes the imprisonment of critics and human rights activists, thousands of civilian deaths in Yemen and a rapid rise of the number of executions since his ascent to power.

“Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ‘reform campaign’ has been a frenzy of fear for genuine Saudi reformers who dare to advocate publicly for human rights or women’s empowerment,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement at the time.

In 2017, Saudi security forces arrested several hundred of the richest people in the country, allegedly in an attempt to combat corruption among the higher echelons of the Saudi bureaucracy.

Related: Saudi Princes’ corruption, drug trafficking, global prostitution and child sex slave trade

Those arrested were locked up for weeks in the luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, where some were reportedly physically mistreated. 

A report by the New York Times said 17 of the detainees required hospital treatment after physical abuse, including one who later died in custody.

“In the eight months after he was appointed crown prince, 133 people were executed,” Reprieve said in March this year. 

Mohammed bin Salman has overseen the execution of 16 people on average per month, every month, since his appointment.

The Crown Prince’s war on Yemen and the huge amount of money it is draining, in addition to the cold war he launched against Qatar, show clear signs of failure.

Then the attacks began. First taking place shortly after President Donald Trump’s administration ended waivers for countries importing Iranian oil, amplifying the effect of crippling sanctions it’s imposed on Iran since late 2018 after the U.S. withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal. Animosity between Washington and Tehran has skyrocketed since then.

I was an adviser to the Saudi Division during the Persian Gulf War. They were the second worst Army I had ever seen. Second worst only because Iraq lost. It looks like things have not changed with them since the army of a Third World country (Yemen) has captured a lot of them.

Yemen’s Houthi movement has said it carried out an attack near the border with the southwestern Saudi region of Najran and captured “thousands” of enemy troops including several Saudi army officers.

Houthi-run Al Masirah TV quoted the spokesman as saying they captured “thousands” of enemy troops, including many officers and soldiers of the Saudi army, as well as “hundreds of armored vehicles”.

The Houthis, who control the northern part of Yemen, have recently stepped up their drone and missile attacks across the southern border of Saudi Arabia.

The rebels claimed responsibility for a September 14 assault on two facilities run by Saudi’s state oil company, Aramco.

It’s surprising Saudi Arabia maintains its armed forces, and spends more than $100 billion annually (of course to keep its western masters happy in order to protect the autocratic Al Saud clan). But the fact of the matter is – a force of only 1,000 Hezbollah fighters can defeat the Saudi armed forces hands down, and overrun the entire kingdom. An internal assessment (a panic discussion within the top Al Saud clan, involving a few top princes around MbS, which spread through palace guards like wildfire) shows that the Al Saudi regime would collapse if this Yemen war continues for another three years. So the clan desperately needs western help in the form of boots on the ground. This had possibly caused the “drone strike” (an inside job) on Saudi oilfields, and attributed falsely to Iran. This has been the prelude for the western forces to be stationed in large numbers on Saudi soil to protect the Al Saudi family. All the latest Saudi moves to liberalize the strict Islamic rules (especially for women) is to sweeten this deal to invite the western forces on its soil, as well as making its own citizens to be more receptive to the western military personnel, women included, to move freely within the Kingdom.

But the moot point is that the Kingdom’s days are numbered by this Yemeni war – thanks to its medieval air force which has been killing Yemeni women and children systematically, because it can’t locate the Houti fighters (in spite of intels being provided by the undercover western military personnel on the ground).

Related: How Saudi elite became five-star prisoners at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton

How could Saudi Arabia, a country with the world’s third-largest military budget and six battalions of U.S.-built Patriot missile-defense systems, fail to defend the beating heart of the oil industry on which the kingdom depends?

That question lies at the heart of responses to Saturday’s attack on Abqaiq, which cut Saudi oil production by half, and is critical to any assessment of whether investors will have to permanently factor higher political risk assumptions into the price of oil.

For years, Saudi Arabia has been a major buyer of U.S.-made weapons. That relationship intensified after President Trump took office, with the American leader pushing oil-rich Riyadh to buy more weapons and Saudi Arabia pledging a purchase of $110 billion in U.S. arms just months after his inauguration.

After this weekend, when a devastating attack on Saudi oil facilities blindsided the kingdom, some observers were left wondering what protection Riyadh’s outreach to the United States has bought it.

The operation appeared to circumvent the defenses of Saudi Arabia’s military, including the six battalions of Patriot missile defense systems produced by U.S. defense contractor Raytheon — each of which can cost in the region of $1 billion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to Saturday’s attack with mockery. At an event Monday in Turkey, Putin suggested that Saudi Arabia buy the Russian-made S-300 or S-400 missile defense system, as Iran and Turkey had done. “They will reliably protect all infrastructure objects of Saudi Arabia,” Putin said.

Until U.S.-Iran tensions subside, the risk of further attacks is likely to remain. In recent months, the U.S. has accused Iran of sabotaging tankers carrying oil through the Strait of Hormuz, while Houthi-claimed drones attacked pumping stations for Saudi Arabia’s East-West pipeline in May, and the Shaybah oil field in August. A Saudi military official said Monday that Iranian weapons were used in the latest attacks.

The success of a drone strike against arguably the most important single piece of infrastructure in the global oil industry could also prove an embarrassment for Raytheon Co.’s high-cost Patriots.

“What amazes me is, what happened to the American anti-missile systems?” said Fawaz A. Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics. “This reflects terribly on the U.S. and its defense systems. The Iranians know this now and the lessons learned here will be applied in Syria, Lebanon and others areas in the future.”

Depending on their size, drones could even be driven into the kingdom and launched at short range.

Related: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Newt Gingrich on Meet the Press this Sunday said we were already in World War III and that the US needed to take direct action against North Korea and Iran.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has warned of astronomical oil prices in the event that tensions escalate in the Persian Gulf, two weeks after his country was hit by a drone and cruise missile attack that Riyadh and Washington have blamed on Iran.

The oil market is on edge after Saudi Arabia issued a combative statement that some are interpreting as a veiled threat to wield crude as a weapon.

“If the world does not take a strong and firm action to deter Iran, we will see further escalations that will threaten world interests,” the crown prince said in an interview with the CBS program “60 Minutes” over the weekend.

“Oil supplies will be disrupted and oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.”

The predawn attack on Sept. 14 hit two of state oil giant Saudi Aramco’s largest facilities, forcing the country to temporarily shut down roughly 50% of its output, or more than 5% of the world’s daily crude production. The following Monday, international benchmark Brent crude rose as much as 19.5% to $71.95 per barrel at the open ⁠— the biggest jump on record ⁠— before paring gains.

Related: Two oil tankers attacked in Gulf of Oman

Washington and Riyadh also blame Iran for a series of mysterious sabotage attacks on several foreign oil tankers in the Gulf near the vital Strait of Hormuz, the narrow conduit through which 30% of the world’s seaborne oil passes. Iran denies those allegations as well.

Incredible success after incredible success against overwhelming odds and technology. BEHOLD! It is the Houthis, the Army of God! Touched by the Divine because of their honor in attacking only military targets and seeking justice where there is none. The Houthis are unbeatable and unstoppable.

Militarily they [the Houthis] have close to 100,000 battle hardened soldiers, and they have demonstrated their power elsewhere.

Related: Assassination of Jamal Khashoggi

The Middle East “represents about 30% of the world’s energy supplies, about 20% of global trade passages, about 4% of the world GDP,” the crown prince, who is next in line for the Saudi throne and considered the kingdom’s de facto ruler, told CBS.

“Imagine all of these three things stop. This means a total collapse of the global economy, and not just Saudi Arabia or the Middle East countries.”

Energy industry experts have cited figures between $100 and $150 per barrel for the price of oil if the adversaries — OPEC’s highest and third-highest oil producers, respectively — went to war.

My son also served in Desert Storm, he had contacts with some Saudi forces. He said they were cowardly clowns, these people in Yemen might well be foreign mercenaries, in which case SA just hires some more. If they actually have Saudi officers, then they may well be profitable hostages.

Related: How Saudi Arabia funded the 9/11 hijackers

Security experts and members of the diplomatic community have told CNBC that Saudi Arabia is ill-equipped for a war with Iran, as the latter employs asymmetrical tools like drones, cyberattacks and regional proxies while Saudi defenses are more suited to conventional warfare.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned world leaders on Wednesday at the U.N. General Assembly that “the Gulf region is on the edge of collapse, as a single blunder can fuel a big fire.”

The royal family is teetering on the edge of collapse, with the possibility of internal dissent, whether it comes from within the royal family or the masses who live in poverty and are waiting for their Arab Spring.

US-led Saudi Arabia is the key pillar of the oppressors in the region. With the collapse of the oppressors’ front, everybody will be witnessing the annihilation of the Al Saud dynasty as well. Al Saud rulers are now facing major problems as the Saudi nation has been awakened. Now, the security and raison d’etre of the Al Saud dynasty has been challenged inside Saudi Arabia. If this weren’t the case, Riyadh wouldn’t have given more than half of its forex reserves to Trump. The dynasty is resorting to such moves to delay its annihilation. But the reality is that the Al Saud dynasty is spiraling down the vortex of destruction.

Anyone preparing contingency plans to secure the Saudi oil fields in times of crisis might want to dust off their work.

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Drug cartels funded DEA sex parties

By ABCNews

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents participated in “sex parties” with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels for a period of several years, according to a report released by the Justice Department’s watchdog group.

Seven of the 10 DEA agents involved, most who held “top secret” clearance, admitted to attending the parties and some were suspended as a result, the Justice Department’s inspector general inquiry found. The report does not specify where the parties occurred, but many news outlets have said they took place in Colombia.

“Many of these agents were alleged to have engaged in this high-risk sexual behavior while at their government-leased quarters, raising the possibility that DEA equipment and information also may have been compromised as a result of the agents’ conduct,” said the 131-page report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. The report, a review of sexual misconduct allegations in the DOJ’s four law enforcement agencies, found widespread mismanagement at the DEA, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The investigation came in response to 2012 allegations the Secret Service and DEA agents used prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia. Overall, the report linked the law enforcement agencies to 26 allegations during a four-year period that ended in 2012. Of that, the DEA was involved in 19. Among the other findings: — DEA agents were provided “money, expensive gifts and weapons from drug cartel members.”

Local police “also alleged providing protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties,” the report said. — An ATF Director of Industry Operations who holds top security clearance modified a hotel room door “to facilitate sexual play” with anonymous people while on assignment.

“In addition, the DIO removed smoke detectors from the hotel room and inadvertently caused damage to the hotel’s centralized fire detection system,” the report said. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor “fire prevention interference” charge. He was suspended for 14 days, but still works for the ATF with “top secret” security clearance.

— A U.S. Deputy Marshal on assignment in Thailand could not be reached by phone. Every time State Department officials tried to contact him, “two women with heavy foreign accents answered the phone and stated (he) could not be disturbed.” The State Department official later confirmed one of the women was a prostitute.

Drugs Are Better and Cheaper Than Ever By Rebecca McCray, Jason Koebler, Reuters

Heroin, cocaine, and marijuana are just as available, far cheaper, and more potent than they were at the start of the War on Drugs, according to a new study.

We’ve known for far too long that the War on Drugs has been a failure, but the statistics reported in the British Medical Journal by Evan Wood, of the University of British Columbia’s Urban Health Research Initiative, are astounding. Wood and his team aggregated government drug surveillance data from seven different countries. Between 1990 and 2010, the street price, adjusting for inflation, of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana fell roughly 80 percent. At the same time, the street drugs became much more potent: The average purity of heroin increased by 60 percent, the purity of cocaine increased by 11 percent, and the potency of cannabis increased 161 percent. The story is much the same in Europe and Australia, with street prices dropping and supply remaining stable, despite a huge increase in drug seizures.

Though we’ve known that weed is stronger than ever, it seems like the trend has extended to other, harder drugs.

New data shows drug policy isn’t doing what it’s meant to. The war on drugs drastically altered the face of the federal prison system, but it hasn’t made anyone safer or meaningfully decreased the availability of drugs. That’s just one of the findings of a new report from the Pew Research Center, which examines the drastic rise in the number of people being sent to prison for drug offenses in the 1980s and 1990s.

DEA driving OxyContin abusers to heroin

The result of the War on Drugs in the 1980s and 1990s was to fill one-quarter of America’s prison cells with drug offenders. The availability of street drugs remained unchanged, and the price of heroin and cocaine dropped by more than half. Drug dealers also began to sell purer versions of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. Recently, the DEA has shifted its focus to physicians who prescribe opioids such as OxyContin, some of which is undoubtedly diverted or abused, although sensation-seeking journalists fueled the perceptions of a “crisis.” The shift prompted a letter from the attorneys general of 30 states, who complained that patients were not getting needed pain relief because doctors were afraid to prescribe. “If enough doctors are jailed or scared into not writing prescriptions, it’s conceivable that this drug war could have more impact than the ones against heroin and cocaine—doctors, after all, are harder to replace than crack dealers,” writes John Tierney. “But even if there’s less OxyContin on the street, is that worth the suffering of patients who can’t get the prescriptions they need?” And what has been the impact on drug abuse? A field survey on drug use in Cincinnati by the White House drug-policy agency found that “because diverted OxyContin is more expensive and difficult to purchase, users have switched to heroin” (John Tierney, “Handcuffs and Stethoscopes,” NY Times 7/23/05).

U.S. Government Finally Admits Marijuana Really Does Kill Cancer Cells

The idea that cannabis kills cancer cells seems to no longer be a conspiracy theory in the United States. With this information, can any state legitimately say no to medicinal marijuana?

Or could it even be considered a preventative herb to avoid getting cancer?

Amy Willis with Metro says that the US government has added a page on the use of cannabis and cannabinoids to their official cancer advice website.

Willis advises, “The National Cancer Institute, part of the US Department of Health, now advises that ‘cannabinoids may be useful in treating the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment’ by smoking, eating it in baked products, drinking herbal teas or even spraying it under the tongue.”

The official government site has a long list of medicinal uses of cannabis, including:

Anti-inflammatory activity, pain relief, anti-anxiety, stress relief, anti-tumor, antiviral activity and relieving muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, and many many more.

The site goes on to talk about how cannabis has been proven to destroy cancer cells in lab experiments.

Related:

Tips for Spotting an Undercover Cop

I Smoke Two Dabs

I Love Drugs

PCP

DMT

Codeine and Barbiturates

Crystal meth

Crack cocaine

Heroin

Magic Mushrooms

Molly/MDMA/E

China White: Fentanyl or Heroin

Beat any drug test for free

The Fix: Drug Informants

Real Snitches (pictures/locations) 

The CIA And The Drug Trade

C.I.A. Secrets: Afghanistan Heroin

Opium: The Other Failed US War in Afghanistan

Drug money is an inherent part of the American economy

Medical Marijuana Could Cost Big Pharma

Once the federal government finally allows medical marijuana to become a legitimate part of the healthcare industry, Big Pharma could suffer the loss of billions of dollars, a new report finds.

It seems the pharmaceutical trade has more than enough reasons to fear the legalization of marijuana, as an analysis conducted by the folks at New Frontier Data predicts the legal use of cannabis products for ailments ranging from chronic pain to seizures could cost marketers of modern medicine somewhere around $4 billion per year.

The report was compiled using a study released last year from the University of Georgia showing a decrease in Medicare prescriptions in states where medical marijuana is legal. The study, which was first outlined by the Washington Post, was largely responsible for stirring up the debate over how a legitimate cannabis market might be able to reduce the national opioid problem. It found that medical marijuana, at least with respect to those drugs for which it is considered an alternative treatment, was already costing pill manufactures nearly $166 million annually.

Researchers at New Frontier identified nine key areas where medical marijuana will do the most damage to the pharmaceutical market — castrating drug sales for medicines designed to treat anxiety, chronic pain, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, nerve pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, Tourette syndrome and glaucoma.

By digging deep into each condition, researchers found that if cannabis was used an alternative treatment in only a small percentage of cases, it could strip in upwards of $5 billion from pharmaceutical industry’s $425 billion market.

Although that may not sound like much of a dent, John Kagia, executive vice president of industry analytics for New Frontier, said, “The impact of medical cannabis legalization is not going to be enormously disruptive to the pharmaceutical industry.”

The report specifically calls out drug giant Pfizer Inc, suggesting that medical marijuana could suck a half billion dollars from its $53 billion in annual sales revenue.

It is distinctly possible that the latest report paints an accurate portrait of the impact medical marijuana could have on the pharmaceutical trade — that is, unless the drug manufactures decide to get in on the cannabis business.

GW Pharmaceuticals and Insys Therapeutics are already developing cannabis-based medications that are set to come to market in the near future. Depending how medicinal cannabis regulations eventually shake out with the federal government, it is conceivable that the medical marijuana programs that we have come to know would disappear, with the pharmaceutical companies being the only ones profiting from this alternative medicine.

Some experts say federal legalization would change the cannabis industry in ways that would be unsatisfactory to most in the business. 

Marijuana could treat chronic pain better than opioids By Abby Hagtage

In 2016, over 64,000 people in the United States died from opioid overdoses — either from painkillers, heroin, or fentanyl (a synthetic opioid). To put that number in perspective, that’s more Americans killed by opioids in 365 days than were killed during the entirety of the Vietnam War. Opioids in America are more than a crisis — they’re a national emergency.

While doctors may have helped fuel this epidemic through the over-prescription of opioids, the underlying issue that they were often trying to treat, chronic pain, remains an enormous issue.

Americans, pain pills or not, are hurting. In a recent National Institutes of Health study, 25.3 million adults reported experiencing chronic pain every single day in the three months prior to the study, a number that makes up 11.2 percent of the population. An even larger number, 126 million people, reported experiencing pain of some sort in the three months prior.

Doctors have long voiced concerns that prescription opioid painkillers — on top of a high potential for addiction — aren’t actually solving the problem of chronic pain. This week, science confirmed it.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared opioids (Vicodin, oxycodone, and fentanyl) to non-opioids (Tylenol, ibuprofen, and nerve blockers) to see if they were better at treating chronic back, hip, or knee pain. The answer was clear: They were not. “Treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with non-opioids for improving pain-related function over 12 months,” the study reads. “Results do not support initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain.”

The news is a major blow for pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma, who have made billions through prescription painkillers, but it’s even worse news for those suffering the effects of chronic pain. The question it leaves behind: If opioids aren’t the answer to chronic pain, what is?

For a growing number of doctors, the answer comes in the form of another less dangerous drug: cannabis. This past November, three doctors in Illinois started a campaign called Physicians Against Injurious Narcotics, or PAIN, which aims to expand the state’s medical marijuana program to allow anyone that qualifies for opioids to also qualify for marijuana.

Last month, promising research results from Israel added scientific evidence to back their fight. Published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, the study followed 2,970 cancer patients between 2015 and 2017 as they embarked on a medical marijuana treatment program for chronic pain. Each patient was able to choose a plan that specifically catered to their lifestyle, and to pick from 16 different strains of the drug. Pain scales were ranked before taking the medicine and then measured again after the treatment was underway.

The results were overwhelmingly positive. Of the 1,211 cancer patients who were ultimately surveyed (902 patients from the original group died and 680 stopped treatment), 95.9 percent reported an improvement in their condition, and the vast majority of them experienced a dramatic reduction in pain. While at the outset, 52.9 percent of patients had rated their pain between 8 and 10 (on a scale of 10), after six months of treatment, the number reporting that level of pain had dropped to just 4.6 percent.

On top of managing pain, the study showed cannabis capable of addressing other issues the patients were experiencing too. Of those surveyed, 91 percent reported improvements in nausea and vomiting, 87.5 percent reported an improvement in sleep disorders, and 84 percent noticed improvement in anxiety and depression. The study’s authors fully endorse the drug as a treatment option.

“In an age where a physician often prescribes a different medication for each [cancer] symptom, cannabis, as a comprehensive treatment that affects several symptoms, becomes a desirable therapeutic option,” the authors conclude. “Cannabis as a palliative treatment for cancer patients seems to be well tolerated, effective and safe.”

Cannabis’s success in treating chronic pain is echoed in a 2018 review of more than 10,000 abstracts on the topic. Also published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, the large-scale review offers individual conclusions about marijuana’s ability to treat a variety of conditions. Under chronic pain, the authors write, “There were five fair-to-good quality systematic reviews that contributed to the conclusion that there is substantial evidence that Cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.”

Despite these reports, not everyone agrees that medical marijuana is the answer to chronic pain. Kevin Sabet, founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), thinks that the studies miss the point. “We do know that components of marijuana like THC have shown results for modest pain relief, but that’s a very different conclusion than saying marijuana, which has hundred of components, is good for that,” Sabet tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“I think we need to really distinguish between THC and raw marijuana — especially the kind that the subject would be getting in Israel for the study.” Sheila P. Vakharia, the policy manager of the Office of Academic Engagement for the Drug Policy Alliance — a nonprofit fighting to end the war on drugs — sees it differently. “The general pain levels reported by study participants went down dramatically,” Vakharia tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “And to see folks reporting that change is really promising.” Vakharia notes that on top of being effective in treating pain, cannabis comes with fewer risks. Namely, it’s less addictive and rarely fatal.

Although some medical professionals remain reluctant to prescribe medical marijuana, Vakharia says patients are beginning to seek out the benefits of marijuana themselves — and are safer as a result. A look at data in the states where marijuana is legal suggests she’s right. According to a 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the rate of deaths from prescription drug overdoses is 25 percent lower in states where medical marijuana is legal.

While Sabet thinks that more research needs to be done before individuals start using marijuana as a substitute for opioids, Vakharia hopes that the shift already underway will gain momentum. “I think the evidence will continue to build — and will start to persuade people who are otherwise reluctant to consider it as a treatment for themselves, or to recommend it as a medical professional,” Vakharia tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “But only time will tell.”

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Could cannabis oil cure cancer? BBC News

The BBC’s Alastair Leithead reports on how evidence is growing that cannabis could cure diseases like cancer. The medical value of cannabis has been hotly debated for years. Its use as a relaxant or a pain reliever is widely accepted now. Read more: Cancer and cannabis

Medical marijuana could prevent recovering addicts from relapse, study finds By Oscar Pascual, SmellTheTruth

Recovering drug and alcohol addicts may be able to stay clean with the help of non-psychoactive cannabis, new research suggests.

A preclinical study published in the medical journal Neuropsychopharmacology finds that the therapeutic compound found in marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD), can help control impulses to use addictive drugs such as alcohol and cocaine, reports Science Daily.

An investigative team at the Scripps Research Institute studied rats with a history of using alcohol or cocaine daily on their own, leading to behavior associated with addiction. The researchers applied a CBD gel to the rats once per day, and reported that CBD effectively reduced relapse provoked by stress and drug cues. The drug-experienced rats also experienced a reduction in anxiety and impulsivity.

The rats were examined five months after being administered CBD, and still showed signs of a reduced relapse. The result was unexpected, considering that CBD was completely cleared from the brain and plasma of the rats only three days after completing therapy.

“Drug addicts enter relapse vulnerability states for multiple reasons,” said the study’s lead author, Friedbert Weiss. “Therefore, effects such as these observed with CBD that concurrently ameliorate several of these are likely to be more effective in preventing relapse than treatments targeting only a single state.”

Study Exonerates Marijuana Smoking, No Link to COPD By Monterey Bud

Smoked marijuana achieves different outcomes for different people: some smoke weed to relax while others use cannabis to medicate. Regardless of the rationale, the Journal Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease revealed there is no direct correlation between prolonged exposure to marijuana smoke and adverse pulmonary function in a report released Tuesday.

In an attempt to drill down the controversial relationship between marijuana use and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a team of inquisitive scientists from the Colorado School of Public Health performed a cross-sectional analysis of 2,304 “current and former tobacco smokers” between the ages of 40 and 80. 

Provided a lofty title, “Marijuana use associations with pulmonary symptoms and function in tobacco smokers enrolled in the Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcome Measures in COPD,” the SPIROMICS study scrutinized the perceived relationship between marijuana use and respiratory function.

“Marijuana lifetime exposure and current use status were assessed at enrollment (online supplement Table 1). Marijuana use was categorized into current (use in the past 30 days), and former (use over 30 days ago) users and compared to never users. Those with a history of marijuana use estimated the number of bowls or joint equivalents smoked per week and how many years the participant had smoked marijuana (one bowl was equated to one joint in this analysis). This information was used to calculate the number of joint years which was kept as a continuous variable; 1 joint year is equivalent to smoking 1 joint or bowl per day for one year. A supplementary analysis was added to assess the impact of joint-year history with lung function and symptoms. Joint years were categorized into <10, 10-20, and >20 joint-year history and compared to those who reported zero joint years.”

Results from the study concluded, “Neither current nor former marijuana use was associated with increased risk for cough, wheeze, or chronic bronchitis when compared to never marijuana users after adjusting for covariates.” While providing the caveat that these results “are likely heavily biased and should be interpreted with caution,” the study concluded that individuals exposed to long-term marijuana use had a lower percentage of emphysema, higher totals of lung tissue volume, and a higher percentage of air trapping, after compensating for covariates.

A study spanning two decades conducted by Dr. Donald Tashkin, a professor of medicine and co-director of the Asthma and Cough Center at UCLA, also concluded that long-term marijuana use does not impair lung function.

Acute Effects Of Smoked Marijuana And Oral Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol In Asthmatics

American Review of Respiratory Disease, Volume 109, 1974, p. 420-428
By Donald P. Tashkin, Bertrand J. Shapiro, and Ira M. Frank

SUMMARY: The acute effects of smoked 2 per cent natural marijuana (7 mg per kg) and 15 mg of oral delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on plethysmographically determined airway resistance (Raw) and specific airway conductance (SGaw) were compared with those of placebo in 10 subjects with stable bronchial asthma using a double-blind crossover technique. After smoked marijuana, SGaw increased immediately and remained significantly elevated (33 to 48 per cent above initial control values) for at least 2 hours, whereas Sgaw did not change after placebo. The peak bronchodilator effect of 1,250 mcg of isoproterenol was more pronounced than that of marijuana, but the effect of marijuana lasted longer.

After ingestion of 15 mg of THC, SGaw was elevated significantly at 1 and 2 hours, and Raw was reduced significantly at 1 to 4 hours, whereas no changes were noted after placebo. These findings indicated that in the asthmatic subjects, both smoked marijuana and oral THC caused significant bronchodilation of at least 2 hours’ duration.

Marijuana prevents people from doing ‘hard’ drugs, claims study By Olivia Petter

Cannabis might still be illegal in the UK, but new research has found that the leafy substance might not be the vilified “gateway drug” it’s widely thought to be.

In fact, in might be the key to discouraging users from progressing to “harder” drugs, such as cocaine and ecstasy, claim scientists at the University of New Mexico.

The five-year-long study involved 125 participants, all of whom were suffering from chronic pain.

83 were taking cannabis as a prescriptive pain mediator, whereas 42 chose to abstain.

They found that 34 per cent of the cannabis users stopped taking their medication, in comparison to just two per cent of the non-smokers, with 98 per cent continuing to take their prescribed drugs.

“Our current opioid epidemic is the leading preventable form of death in the US – killing more people than car accidents and gun violence,” explained lead author and psychology professor Jacob Miguel Vigil.

“Therefore, the relative safety and efficacy of using cannabis in comparison to that of other scheduled medications should be taken by the health providers and legislators,” he told Kobini.

He explained that painkillers and street heroin typically kill 90 people in the US every day; whereas some studies claim that cannabis consumption has never directly caused a fatality.

However, in 2014, Gemma Moss became the first British woman to die from cannabis toxicity, after she reportedly smoked £60 worth of the drug in one week which led her to die from cardiac arrest.

Whilst now legal in several US states, in the UK, possession of the class B drug could put you in prison for five years whilst selling and producing it could land you 14.

Medical Marijuana’s Main Ingredient Isn’t Dangerous or Addictive, World Health Organization Report Says By Melina Delkic, Newsweek

A top global health agency has declared the main ingredient in medical cannabis nonaddictive and nontoxic, according to a new report.

“In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential,” wrote the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency that focuses on public health. Researchers spent months looking into cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that’s often used for medical purposes. It often comes in the form of oils, drops or capsules.

The organization’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) found “no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.” They also found that, according to several clinical trials, CBD could be good for treating epilepsy and “a number of other medical conditions.”

Although the report came out in November, it drew international attention only on Wednesday, after the WHO published concrete recommendations from the ECDD’s November meeting. In addition to recommending a stricter scheduling for a type of opioid, the committee recommended a new approach to cannabis, responding to increased interest among its member states in researching and legalizing it.

In emails to Newsweek, spokespeople for the WHO clarified that the report very clearly “does not say that WHO recommends the use of cannabidiol.” What the WHO recommends “is that cannabidiol should not be scheduled for international control on the basis of current evidence, and that a fuller review will be carried out next year, when other cannabinoids are discussed.”

The committee said that CBD did not need to be controlled (or government-regulated) on an international level, and that this should be left up to individual nations. “Saying it should not be scheduled for international control means that it should not be prohibited, at the international level, to produce and supply it for specific purposes, such as medical treatment and research, given that WHO has not so far seen evidence of potential for abuse or harm from cannabidiol,” a spokesperson wrote. “As to what is legal or illegal, that comes under national law, so it is up to countries to decide.”

The committee will start the expanded review of CBD in May 2018, when it will make more specific recommendations and conclusions.

The legality of CBD has been a source of confusion for years. Even though it’s the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, the Drug Enforcement Administration emphasized in 2016 that it is still illegal and still a Schedule I substance, along with drugs like heroin and LSD. The DEA does not recognize a distinction between CBD and any other kinds of marijuana.

Even though the DEA once eased trials for CBD in late 2015, it released a statement in July saying that CBD was still very much illegal. “Because ‘Charlotte’s Web’/CBD oil is not an FDA-approved drug…it is a schedule I controlled substance under the [Controlled Substances Act],” the DEA said.

Because marijuana is a Schedule I drug, the DEA rarely approves research on it. And even though many states have legalized it for medical and recreational use, it remains illegal on the federal level.

Proponents in the U.S. have long argued that states and researchers should at least be allowed to look into CBD’s benefits and either prove or disprove them.

Even some Republicans, who are typically more hesitant about marijuana legalization, are beginning to agree. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a bill to that effect. “We lack the science to support use of medical marijuana products like CBD oils, not because researchers are unwilling to do the work but because of bureaucratic red tape and over-regulation,” Hatch said.

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Dangers Hyped, Benefits Ignored By Lanny Swerdlow, RN Culture Magazine

When I was a student nurse, I spent two weeks in a maternity ward where I was assigned to one expectant mother to care for. She was 37 and having her fifth child. During the pregnancy, she developed hyperemesis gravidarum, a nausea so severe that it can lead to electrolyte imbalances that can be life-threatening to the fetus. This mother chose to use cannabis to treat the hyperemesis. It worked very well without any of the side effects of other medications commonly used to treat it.

As it was standard operating procedure at the hospital I was interning at, she underwent a drug screen when she came to the hospital for delivery. Not surprisingly she tested positive for cannabis. As a consequence, she was investigated by Children’s Protective Services, a note was put in her chart of child endangerment and after her baby was born (weighing over seven pounds), she was not allowed to breastfeed and was separated from her baby who was placed in neonatal intensive care unit where the baby was fed formula.

Cannabis use during pregnancy to treat nausea, pain and depression is far safer to both mother and child than any of the medications that are given to women to treat those conditions during pregnancy.

Reefer madness and genuflecting to law enforcement drove health care professionals to claim that cannabis is a danger to both the fetus and the baby and that more research has to be done. Until then the horrors experienced by my patients, the 37-year-old mother and her baby, are par for the course.

Finally, the research has been done. Not only does it document that there is no harm from a mother’s use of cannabis, it also debunked the poor methodology of previous research papers which purported to show severe negative consequences to the child.

Published in the October 2016 issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the medical review utilized research findings from 31 previous studies that interviewed over 132,000 pregnant women.

Earlier studies concluded that cannabis use during pregnancy resulted in a greater likelihood of having a preterm birth or a baby with low birth weight.

The new research found that the babies of the 7,800 women who only used cannabis during pregnancy were no more likely to suffer preterm birth or low birth weight babies than the 124,000 women who reported no cannabis use.

The new research demonstrated that the previous studies were deficient as they did not consider tobacco smoking separate from cannabis smoking. Utilizing research protocols that separated those who only used cannabis from those who used cannabis and tobacco, the researchers found that the women who only used cannabis did not have an increase for preterm birth or a low birth weight baby.

Those who used both cannabis and tobacco suffered an 85 percent increased risk of having preterm birth or low birth weight babies. Cannabis only did not produce those results—it was the tobacco. It has been long known that tobacco use during pregnancy is detrimental to the fetus and the same is even truer for alcohol, yet no one seems to be demanding the prohibition of these substances in the name of fetal health.

Opioids used during pregnancy to treat pain can result in babies having spina bifida (neural defect), hydrocephaly (fluid in the brain), congenital heart defects and other deforming and life threatening problems. Anti-depressants, especially SSRIs like Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft, have been demonstrated to produce autism spectrum, developmental disorders and birth defects in babies.


Complicating the picture is that neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) occurs when a baby is exposed to a drug in the womb before birth and then goes through withdrawal from the drug after birth. NAS is most often the result of a pregnant woman taking opioids.

Rather than discouraging women from using cannabis during pregnancy, doctors should be encouraging women to use cannabis in place of the far more dangerous drugs they are given during pregnancy to treat pain, depression and insomnia. This outdated and anachronistic anti-cannabis policy continues to negatively impact the lives of millions of expectant mothers and their soon to be born children.

Read more:

The CIA And The Drug Trade

C.I.A. Secrets: Afghanistan Heroin

Opium: The Other Failed US War in Afghanistan

Drug money is an inherent part of the American economy

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