Archive for the ‘opium’ Category

Rice on unannounced visit to Afghanistan

February 7, 2008
By Anne Gearan, AP Diplomatic Writer

KABUL, Afghanistan – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit Thursday, carrying a joint message of support and prodding to Afghan officials as the U.S. continued a drive to recruit more NATO troops.

This is an image release by the International Security Assistance ...
This is an image release by the International Security Assistance Force of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shaking hands with Canadian Major-General Marc Lessard, the Commander of Regional Command (South), during her visit to the Regional Command (South) Headquarters at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan Thursday Feb. 7, 2008. Rice was on the visit with Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband. Rice said Thursday the Afghan government must meet its responsibilities in fighting a resurgent Taliban as the United States and Britain lead an effort to boost the number of NATO combat forces. In a show of unity, Rice was making the point as she and David Miliband got a firsthand look at the front lines of the NATO-led fight against insurgents in Kandahar, visiting an alliance airfield in this former Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan.
(AP Photo/Liepke Plankcke/ Royal Netherlands Air Force, ISAF, HO)

Rice and Miliband flew together to the Afghan capital from London. They were seeing Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other officials amid a welter of outside assessments that progress in the six-year war is stalling.

The two made clear they expect cooperation from the Karzai government, widely seen as weak.
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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (L) and British Foreign ...
Prime Minister Gordon Brown (R) and Foreign Secretary David Miliband (L) with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at 10 Downing Street in London. Rice and Miliband travelled to the heart of the Taliban insurgency during a surprise trip to Afghanistan.
(AFP/Pool/Sang Tan)

NATO urged to do more in Afghanistan

February 7, 2008

From combined dispatches
(Peace and freedom thanks AP, Reuters, CNN, ABC)
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Senior U.S. officials yesterday turned up the heat on NATO allies to do more in the war against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, warning that a planned influx of 3,000 Marines is unlikely to halt the deterioration of security there.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Organisation du traité de l’Atlantique Nord

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in London that Western countries must prepare their citizens for a long fight, while in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said a failure in Afghanistan would put “a cloud over the future” of NATO.
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The remarks came amid a drumbeat of discouraging news on several fronts, including a new U.N. report predicting another bumper opium crop that will help to fund the insurgency.
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Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said during a visit to Tallinn, Estonia, that more foreign troops are needed. The threat from the Taliban “is much higher than anticipated in 2001,” he told reporters.
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Germany agreed yesterday to boost its force in the country by 200 troops but refused to let them serve in the south where they might face combat. In Canada, which has 2,500 troops fighting in the south, it became clear that an effort to extend the mission could bring down the Conservative-led government.
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A British think tank said that country’s relief efforts in Afghanistan were failing, undermining military gains.
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Britain’s Department for International Development in embattled Helmand province “is dysfunctional, totally dysfunctional. Basically it should be removed and its budget should go to the army, which might be better able to deliver assistance,” said the president of the Senlis Council, which has long experience in Afghanistan.
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The Taliban staged more than 140 suicide missions last year, the most since it was ousted from power in late 2001 by the U.S.-led invasion that followed the September 11 attacks. “I do think the alliance is facing a real test here,” Miss Rice said at a press conference with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in London. “Our populations need to understand this is not a peacekeeping mission” but rather a long-term fight against extremists, she said. 

Mr. Gates said he was not optimistic that the addition of 3,000 Marines to Afghanistan this spring will be enough to put the NATO-led war effort back on track. He has sent letters to every alliance defense minister asking for more troops and equipment but has not received any replies, he said during a Senate hearing. 

All 26 NATO nations have soldiers in Afghanistan and all agree the mission is their top priority, but only the Canadians, British, Australians, Dutch and Danes “are really out there on the line and fighting,” Mr. Gates said.

He said he would be “a nag on this issue” when he meets NATO defense ministers today and tomorrow in Europe.

But there was little evidence yesterday that the allies are prepared to increase their contributions.

In Berlin, Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung told reporters Germany will send around 200 combat soldiers to northern Afghanistan this summer to replace a Norwegian unit, but would not move them to the nation’s endangered south. 

“If we neglected the north,” where conditions are relatively peaceful, “we would commit a decisive mistake,” Mr. Jung said. 

In Ottawa, a spokeswoman for Opposition Leader Stephane Dion said Mr. Dion had been told by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that a parliamentary vote to extend Canada’s mission would be treated as a matter of confidence, meaning the minority government will fall if it fails. 

Canada has already said it will not extend the mission if other NATO countries do not increase their contributions.

In Tokyo, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime predicted that this year’s production of opium poppies would be close or equal to last year’s record of 477,000 acres. Taliban rebels receive up to $100 million from the drug trade, the agency estimated. 

The Taliban “are deriving an enormous funding for their war by imposing … a 10 percent tax on production,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. agency.

Mr. Gates told the Senate hearing that he worries “a great deal” about NATO evolving into “a two-tiered alliance, in which you have some allies willing to fight and die to protect peoples’ security, and others who are not.”

Overall, there are about 43,000 troops in the NATO-led coalition, including 16,000 U.S. troops. An additional 13,000 U.S. troops are outside NATO command, training Afghan forces and hunting al Qaeda terrorists.

Related:
SecDef Gates, Admiral Mullen Testify Before SASC

Rice: NATO-led Afghan mission ‘bumpy’

February 6, 2008
By Anne Gearan, AP Diplomatic Writer

LONDON – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan is “bumpy,” and the international aid effort needs firmer coordination among the many nations participating.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice  gestures during a joint ... Rice said she hopes a new candidate will be chosen quickly to replace a respected British diplomat who had accepted a job as overall international coordinator of aid, government and economic projects in Afghanistan but backed out because of objections from Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The choice for the job would probably be a European, not an American, Rice said as she traveled to Britain….
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Britain Accused of Undermining Afghanistan

February 6, 2008

By David Blair
London Telegraph
February 6, 2008

Britain’s troubled relations with Afghanistan’s government have worsened with the disclosure that London had secretly planned to build training camps for former Taliban fighters.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, pictured on January 21, ...
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, pictured on January 21, said his country along with Pakistan faces “gloom and doom” from Taliban insurgents, and called for the world to “join hands” to defeat the Islamist rebels.
(AFP/File/Shah Marai)


The Afghan authorities denied any knowledge of the scheme to rehabilitate gunmen who have defected from the Taliban in Helmand province, a key opium-growing region. .
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Officials said this was another example of Britain undermining President Hamid Karzai’s authority.
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Two Western diplomats, one working for the United Nations and the other serving the European Union, were asked to leave Afghanistan in December after they reportedly held direct talks with Taliban commanders without Mr. Karzai’s official permission.

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China is the World’s E-Waste Dumping Ground

January 5, 2008

By Terry J. Allen
In These Times
January 5, 2008

The highway of poisoned products that runs from China to the United States is not a one-way street. America ships China up to 80 percent of U.S. electronic waste — discarded computers, cell phones, TVs, etc. Last year alone, the United States exported enough e-waste to cover a football field and rise a mile into the sky.

So while the media ride their new lead-painted hobbyhorse — the danger of Chinese wares — spare a thought for Chinese workers dying to dispose of millions of tons of our toxic crap.

Most of the junk ends up in the small port city of Guiyu, a one-industry town four hours from Hong Kong that reeks of acid fumes and burning plastic. Its narrow streets are lined with 5,500 small-scale scavenger enterprises euphemistically called “recyclers.” They employ 80 percent of the town’s families — more than 30,000 people — who recover copper, gold and other valuable materials from 15 million tons of e-waste.

Unmasked and ungloved, Guiyu’s workers dip motherboards into acid baths, shred and grind plastic casings from monitors, and grill components over open coal fires. They expose themselves to brain-damaging, lung-burning, carcinogenic, birth-defect- inducing toxins such as lead, mercury, cadmium and bromated flame retardants (the subject of last month’s column), as well as to dioxin at levels up to 56 times World Health Organization standards. Some 82 percent of children under 6 around Guiyu have lead poisoning.

While workers reap $1 to $3 a day and an early death, the “recycling” industry — in both the United States and China — harvests substantial profits. U.S. exporters not only avoid the cost of environmentally sound disposal at home, but they also turn a buck from selling the waste abroad. After disassembly, one ton of computer scrap yields more gold than 17 tons of gold ore, and circuit boards can be 40 times richer in copper than copper ore. In Guiyu alone, workers extract 5 tons of gold, 1 ton of silver and an estimated $150 million a year.

Many U.S. exporters pose as recyclers rather than dumpers. But a 2005 Government Accountability Office report found that “it is difficult to verify that exported used electronics are actually destined for reuse, or that they are ultimately managed responsibly once they leave U.S. shores.”

This dumping of toxic waste by developed countries onto developing ones is illegal under the Basel Convention, a 1992 international treaty that was ratified by every industrialized nation — except the United States.

Unhindered by international law and unmonitored by Washington, U.S. brokers simply label e-waste “recyclable” and ship it somewhere with lax environmental laws, corrupt officials and desperately poor workers. China has all three. And a packing case with a 100-dollar bill taped to it slips as easily as an eel through Guiyu’s ports.

E-waste fills a neat niche in the U.S.-China trade. America’s insatiable appetite for cheap Chinese goods has created a trade deficit that topped $233 billion last year. While e-waste does little to redress the financial disparity, it helps ensure that the container vessels carrying merchandise to Wal-Mart’s shelves do not return empty to China.

In the 19th century, England faced a similarly massive deficit with China until a different kind of junk — opium — allowed it to complete the lucrative England-India-China trade triangle.

Britain, after destroying India’s indigenous textile industry and impoverishing local weavers, flooded its colony with English textiles carried on English ships. The British East India Company fleet then traveled to China to buy tea, silk and other commodities to sate Europe’s appetites for “exotic” luxuries. But since there was little the Chinese wanted from either India or Europe, the ships traveled light and profitless on the India-China side of the triangle. That is, until England forced Indian peasants to grow opium and, in the process, precipitate mass starvation by diverting cultivable land.

The trade fleet then filled up with opium and pushed it to China through the port of Canton. Since opium was illegal in China, Britain started a war in 1839 to force Peking to accept the drug. By 1905, more than a quarter of China’s male population was addicted.

Now it is Americans who are addicted to Chinese junk. And our own government policies and corporations are the ones stoking the jones. Slick marketing and consumer fetishism push Americans to buy the latest, lightest, biggest, smallest, fastest, trendiest items. And even if you are not hooked on the latest gadgets, repairs or upgrades are impractical. The half billion computers we trashed in the last decade have to go somewhere, and shipping them to China and other poor nations is a win-win solution for Chinese and U.S. industry.

As for the populations of both countries, we can feast on the irony that the same ships that carry toxic toys and food ingredients to Americans return bearing deadly e-waste for the Chinese.

Terry J. Allen is a senior editor of In These Times. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, The Nation, New Scientist and other publications.

Vietnam sentences 43 heroin traffickers to death in a month

December 28, 2007
by Frank Zeller

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam has sentenced eight heroin traffickers to death, a court official said Friday, raising to more than 40 the number of drug smugglers to receive the death penalty over the past month.

Heroin, most of it from the ‘Golden Triangle’ countries of Myanmar and Laos, is the most popular illegal drug in Vietnam and — because it is often injected with shared needles — the leading cause of HIV infections, experts say.

In the latest mass trial, the Hanoi people’s court also jailed 29 others, 18 of them for life, for trafficking heroin across the country’s mountainous north over two years, a court clerk told AFP.

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China set to pass first anti-drug law

December 23, 2007

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is expected to pass its first anti-drug law this week to combat drug-related crimes and reduce the number of abusers, state media said on Sunday.

Opium, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine hydrochloride — commonly known as “ice” — as well as morphine and cocaine were listed as banned drugs in the draft, Xinhua said.

A revised version also said drug-addicted pregnant women who breast-feed babies under one year old were not suitable for compulsory rehabilitation.

At present, drug dealing is considered a crime under more general criminal laws.

Drug abuse was virtually wiped out after the Communist Party took power in 1949, but….

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Thailand: UN Drug Agency Says Methamphetamine Most-abused Drug In Much Of Asia

August 8, 2007

BANGKOK, THAILAND: Illicit amphetamine-type stimulants have become the main drug of abuse in much of East and Southeast Asia, a U.N. agency announced Tuesday (Aug 7th).

Methamphetamine and similar drugs are now being produced on an industrial scale in the region, challenging the past position of opiates such as opium and heroin being the area’s dominant illicit drugs, said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

In a 179-page report on Patterns and Trends in Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) in East Asia and the Pacific 2006, it said that almost 40 million methamphetamine pills were seized ….

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