------------------------------------------------------------------- Employee drug tests challenged on philosophical, technical grounds (The News Tribune, in Tacoma, Washington, examines the brief history of urine testing in the United States, noting a 1996 survey from the American Management Association showed that employee drug testing among major U.S. firms increased by 277 percent in the previous 10 years, to 81 percent of all businesses polled. The association admits that "no finding . . . can confirm with statistical certainty that testing deters drug use," since marijuana consumers make better employees and drug testing has been shown to reduce productivity. The ACLU is encouraging companies to instead use computer-assisted performance tests that measure eye-hand coordination and response times.) Date: Thu, 28 Jan 1999 16:07:09 -0800 (PST) From: email@example.com (Darral Good) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: HT: Employee drug tests challenged on philosophical Reply-To: email@example.com Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org The News Tribune Tacoma, Washington send an email to the tacoma news tribune today! email@example.com Employee drug tests challenged on philosophical, technical grounds Technology has improved but ACLU contends focus should be on performance January 24, 1999 Gestin Suttle; The News Tribune Often, employers' scrutiny goes beyond watching their workers or checking their computer use. It can delve into physiology. Over a 10-year period, employee drug testing among major U.S. firms increased by 277 percent, notes a 1996 survey from the American Management Association, a management resource group headquartered in New York. In 1987, 21.5 percent of companies surveyed said they tested employees for drugs. By 1996, 81 percent of organizations gave employees drug tests, the association reported. The group stopped its drug test survey after 1996 because the responses had remained consistent over the last few years, said Eric Greenberg, director of management studies for the association. The biggest gains in drug testing occurred between 1987 and 1992, Greenberg said. Part of the reason for the jump in tests, he said, was due to changes in federal regulations. The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, enacted as part of omnibus drug legislation, requires federal contractors and grant recipients to provide drug-free workplaces, according to a U.S. Department of Labor Web site. And federal laws, combined with changes in local and state legislation, in some cases require testing for certain jobs, such as commercial drivers or pilots. Drug testing also surged following court decisions that recognized an employer's right to test employees and job applicants in the private sector. According to American Management Association 1996 survey on drug testing: * A third of the companies surveyed gave random or periodic tests of all employees. * Nearly 70 percent test employees "for cause," which includes testing when an employee is suspected of drug use or following an accident. * More than three-quarters of firms surveyed said they test new hires for drugs. The management association reported that 92 percent of companies use urine sampling when conducting drug tests, while 15 percent use blood and 2 percent use hair sampling (some companies employ more than one testing method). Eighty-three percent of employers responding to the survey said they believe that drug testing is an effective way to deal with workplace drug abuse. However, the association warns that "no finding ... can confirm with statistical certainty that testing deters drug use." Part of a policy Greenberg said his group recommends that testing not be a stand-alone policy, but rather part of "a comprehensive policy to deal with workplace drug abuse that includes education and awareness programs and (an) employee assistance program." A number of local companies, including Boeing, Weyerhaeuser and Regence BlueShield, require prospective employees to pass a urine drug test before being hired. But the ACLU is encouraging companies to instead use computer-assisted performance tests that measure eye-hand coordination and response times. The ACLU believes response tests are better at detecting whether employees are up to the demands of their job or are impaired - either from drug abuse, fatigue or illness. But Greenberg said employers favor drug tests because they are inexpensive. According to the group's survey, the cost of drug testing averaged $35 per test taker. The price of coordination tests wasn't available, but Doug Honig, public education director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, said the price would be a one-time cost, versus the ongoing costs for urine drug tests. Accuracy questioned The ACLU also contends that drug tests are flawed, because they don't show impairment, but only show that a drug has been taken. "For example, an employee who smokes marijuana on a Saturday night may test positive the following Monday, long after the drug has ceased to have any effect. But another worker could snort cocaine on the way to work and test negative the same morning. This is because the cocaine has not yet metabolized and will, therefore, not show up in the person's urine," notes an ACLU Web site statement. Years ago there were problems with "false positives" with Ibuprofen showing up as marijuana and poppy seeds showing up as morphine, said Dr. Andrew Parker, certified medical review officer for Health South MRO Services in Bellevue. But those problems have been solved with more sophisticated testing methods and an increase in the test limit for morphine, Parker said. Now if a person eats a poppy seed muffin, the "morphine" level indicated by the test would generally be too low to create a positive result. "It would still be possible that if you went out and ate a whole bunch of poppy seed muffins that you would still be positive," but would be unlikely, Parker said. Whenever a sample shows a positive result, a medical review officer such as Parker can talk to the person to find out what they've been eating or what prescription or over-the-counter drugs they are taking that could account for it. Based on the information, the officer has the authority to categorize the results as negative, Parker said. "The tests now are very, very accurate; very, very specific," he said. The ACLU disagrees, saying errors in testing are still too risky. Business should not view drug use lightly, notes a Department of Labor Web site, which states that 73 percent of all drug users over the age of 18 were employed in 1997. The National Institutes of Health reported that alcohol and drug abuse cost the economy $246 billion in 1992, the most recent year for which economic data are available. Alcohol and drug abuse hurts productivity, increases absenteeism, accidents, turnover and medical costs, the Labor Department reports. Even with drug testing, some employees who use drugs will find ways to pass inspection. The Internet is loaded with products that promise to help users pass drug tests. Quipped Greenberg: "Human ingenuity will always find a way to identify drugs, and human ingenuity will always find a way to escape their detection." Staff writer Gestin Suttle covers the workplace. Reach her by phone at 253-597-8646 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The New York Times contributed to this report. (c) The News Tribune TRIBnet is the New Media Division of The News Tribune 1950 South State Street, Tacoma, Washington 98405 Letters to the editor via email to email@example.com TRIBnet comments to firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising inquiries via e-mail to email@example.com (c) 1998 Tacoma News Inc.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Junkie Nation (The Los Angeles Times prints an excellent review of four books: "Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out," by Mike Gray; "Ending the War on Drugs: A Solution for America," by Dirk Chase Eldredge; "The Fix: Under the Nixon Administration, America Had an Effective Drug Policy. We Should Restore It. (Nixon Was Right)," by Michael Massing; and "Webs of Smoke: Smugglers, Warlords, Spies and the History of the International Drug Trade," by Kathryn Meyer and Terry Parssinen) Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 13:19:00 +0000 To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: Peter Webster (email@example.com) Subject:  LA Times Book Reviews: EXCELLENT Pubdate: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 Source: Los Angeles Times (CA) Copyright: 1999 Los Angeles Times. Website: http://www.latimes.com/ Forum: http://www.latimes.com/HOME/DISCUSS/ Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Section: Book Reviews JUNKIE NATION DRUG CRAZY: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out; By Mike Gray; (Random House: 251 pp., $23.95) ENDING THE WAR ON DRUGS: A Solution for America; By Dirk Chase Eldredge; (Bridge Works: 206 pp., $22.95) THE FIX: Under the Nixon Administration, America Had an Effective Drug Policy. WE SHOULD RESTORE IT. (Nixon Was Right); By Michael Massing; (Simon and Schuster: 336 pp., $25) WEBS OF SMOKE: Smugglers, Warlords, Spies and the History of the International Drug Trade; By Kathryn Meyer and Terry Parssinen; (Rowman & Littlefield: 316 pp., $29.95) By ROBERT SABBAG (Robert Sabbag Is the Author of "Snowblind: a Brief Career in the Cocaine Trade") Dope, especially the business of dope, and the response it provokes in various governments, not to mention the breathless response it provokes in such institutions as the press, is a thrilling spectator sport, and nothing is more spellbinding than the numbers. Colombia exports to the United States about a ton of cocaine a day, an average of 1,000 kilograms. It costs the larger of the cartels about $4,000 to put a kilo on the street in Los Angeles, about 25% of the average wholesale price. According to a former accountant for the Cali cartel, that $4,000 cost-to-market includes raw material, processing, protection, storage, bribery, pilots, aircraft, airstrip, aircraft insurance, flight fuel, transportation of the dope through Mexico, and wholesale distribution in the United States. Yet, even by the most economical, in-house methods, it costs the same cartel an additional 25% to launder its money. Handling the proceeds of the sale, in terms of organizational cost, is just as expensive as the product. More expensive, in fact. The burden of laundering and investing profits has now become so onerous that it has spawned an entire collateral service industry in Colombia, an illegal one, which has attracted the interest of more than a hundred venture capitalists there. They're known as money brokers, and many major traffickers simply subcontract the work to them, paying about 30% after investment. The late Tom Forcade, founder of High Times magazine, once said that there are only two kinds of smugglers: those who need fork lifts and those who don't. That was 20 years ago, in the early days of the industry's expansion. Today you know you're a major trafficker when the money is a bigger headache than the dope. An estimated $25 billion in U.S. dope revenue is repatriated by Colombian traffickers annually. And that's just the money generated by cocaine. Of the 13 million regular users of illicit drugs in America, 77% spend (or also spend) their money on marijuana; about a million buy heroin regularly (or at least frequently) half of whom are considered addicts. But what we pay in hard currency for the dope we use--even after adding the $17 billion budgeted annually at the federal level, and perhaps that much again at combined state and local levels, to combat its use, a total of about $50,000 a minute--is dwarfed by the price we have paid over the last two decades in the erosion of our civil liberties and corruption of our public institutions to wage what the government promotes as its War on Drugs. Much has been written about drug policy in the United States, and much oratory has been expended in support of the current offensive, but only an animated feature could convey the story of this nation's disastrous attempt to legislate morality. Only a cartoon could effectively communicate the slapstick. It was Lord Byron, a man who could be trusted to misbehave in the absence of drugs, who said: 'And if I laugh at any mortal thing, / 'Tis that I may not weep.' 'Drug Crazy,' by Mike Gray, is one of the few contributions to the recent dope literature that displays any sense of humor on the subject. That is not to say that his book is not serious, merely that Gray does not let his passion for reason subvert a felicitous and very entertaining prose style. The sanity he brings to the subject is refreshing. His is easily the most enjoyable, and arguably the most instructive, of four new books on drug policy, three of which cover what is pretty much the same territory. If you pick only one, pick his. Stipulating the inarguable, that prohibition as policy has produced the opposite of what was intended, Gray makes an airtight case for reform and a very convincing case for legalization, concluding that "a drug-free America has no more chance of success than an alcohol-free America." (Page 188) Opening his book in present-day Chicago, and flashing back from there to the early 1920's, when bootleggers ran the city, he shows how the failure of the current drug war was inevitable. Examining modern drug policy without first considering the sordid history of alcohol prohibition in the United States is like trying to appreciate Revelation without ever having read Genesis. Gray's research, among other things, counters the claims of those who argue that dope use would automatically rise in the absence of criminal sanctions. The effect of Prohibition, he reports, was a dramatic drop in the consumption of beer, while the sale of hard liquor doubled. The equation was reversed by Repeal, and for the next 10 years the total amount of alcohol consumed remained about the same. "State liquor laws held down consumption about as well as Prohibition, but without all the gunplay," he writes. It is difficult to imagine any circumstance under which cocaine and heroin might be more accessible than they are today. They travel virtually unimpeded into the country. Wholesale prices are lower, street-grade purity levels are higher, and availability is greater than ever. Interdiction is merely notional, a consoling hypothesis: It's not substantive; it's a state of mind. Dope of all kinds today, with the possible exception of cheap marijuana, is just a phone call away, and anyone can get his hands on as much as he cares to ingest. As Gray points out, "You can buy it in the schoolyard, in the alley, and you can buy it in small Indiana farm towns that just a few years ago had never even heard of the stuff." (Page 189) Not only is it cheap, but chances are you can have it delivered. In the 1970s interdiction efforts significantly disrupted the importation of bulk shipments of Colombian marijuana to the United States, especially in the Caribbean. And among the more palpable fruits of that success was the industrialization of cocaine, which Colombian traffickers found to be far easier to transport and by far the better bargain profit-wise, pound-for-pound. Spawned by that same success was a domestic marijuana-growing enterprise of enormous scope in the United States, the commercial and esthetic iterations of which parallel those of the California wine industry. Gray points to a University of Maryland survey of high-school students who said that the drug most difficult to score today is not marijuana, but alcohol. Which should not be surprising, he suggests: "Alcohol distribution is controlled by the government. Drug distribution is controlled by the mob." The history of the U.S. drug war is a history driven by various zealots--office holders, empire-building bureaucrats and others--who in the main know little about drugs, but who have found a hard line on their use be an easy position to hold. Discovering a wealth of emotional rhetoric open to almost effortless manipulation, they have promoted the drug threat often for no greater reason than to make political capital. As a result, the "U.S. Constitution is now so riddled with drug-emergency exceptions it looks like the flag over Fort Sumter," writes Gray. (196) And it is therefore not surprising to find the forces of reform being led by the nation's libertarians, among them William F. Buckley, Jr., former Secretary of State George P. Schultz and economist Milton Friedman, all of whom see in current policy an eating away of our civil rights. Ours is a republic at least predicated on the notion that rights are not something the government grants but something the government cannot take away. *** Dirk Chase Eldredge is among those conservative who advocate legalization. His book, "Ending the War on Drugs," while as incisive in many ways, is not so sophisticated as Gray's, but that may be one of its strengths. Square by comparison, in both outlook and style--there is nothing elegant about the way Eldredge writes--it may be that much more persuasive to those on the other side of the issue. Pointing out that 80% of the deaths associated with heroin and cocaine are the result not of drug use, but of the illegal nature of the market, Eldredge gives special weight to the crime and corruption of public officials engendered by current policy. Everybody is on the take. A further danger of that policy, he notes, is the disrespect for the law that it breeds: "It is estimated that 63 percent of Americans born since 1955 have used illegal drugs at one time or another. Each year, more than 1.1 million of our citizens are arrested for either possession of or trafficking in illicit drugs." Criminalizing the behavior of a substantial number of the country's citizens, at the expense of pursuing truly dangerous felons, has led to a near collapse of the criminal justice system in the United States. Courts have become virtually inaccessible. In many jurisdictions today the typical probation or parole officer had more than 200 offenders to supervise. What remained a fairly stable prison population throughout the nation's history has more than tripled since prosecution of the drug war. The U.S.Bureau of Prisons--the federal system alone--spends about $2 billion a year to house drug offenders. Between 1980 and 1990 the number of men and women being held in state and federal custody more than doubled, to just over a million. In the next six years it doubled again. By 1992 many facilities were operating at over 200% capacity. That year the federal system was holding about 60,000 prisoners, operating at 162% capacity, and half of them were in for dope. Eldredge, in delivering the bad news from the front, arrives with logic, coherence and common sense on his side, but Gray, reporting from the same battlefield, offers the more rewarding and comprehensive analysis. *** Michael Massing's "The Fix" is executed very professionally, and written strictly by the numbers. He opens with a picture of drug addiction on the streets of New York, cuts from there to the making of policy in Washington, and after that all you need to know is in the subtitle. A persuasive advocate of increased spending on drug treatment 7/8 Nixon's policy--Massing offers beyond that little more than more of the same. His beef is not with the bloated budget itself, but merely with its priorities. The current budget is weighted 66% on the supply side (enforcement) and 34% on the demand side (treatment). He would like to see the percentages reversed. The government's preoccupation with recreational dope use is a mission he enthusiastically supports. Massing's enlistment is permanent--choosing sides among bureaucrats, he is in the drug war to stay. *** "Webs of Smoke," by Kathryn Meyer and Terry Parssinen, examines the development of the international narcotics trade, specifically the traffic in opium, and the relationships that developed between traffickers and politicians, chiefly from 1907 to 1949. Academic without being particularly scholarly, the book will appeal to only the more strung-out dope policy junkies. It is hard to envision a time when any of the chest heaving will end. The drug war accounts for the livelihood of thousands of people whose interests are heavily vested in its structural inability to deliver any positive results--politicians, traffickers, bureaucrats and law-enforcement officials employed by the drug enforcement industry, not to mention everyone on the take--good guys and bad guys on all sides of the issue and on both sides of the gun. We prosecute the drug war not because it is effective, but because it is fundable. The DEA, many of whose agents will admit as much off the record, was budgeted last year at $1.2 billion. Ask the police chief in your local community what percentage of his budget is earmarked for drug enforcement; ask him to explain "equitable sharing," authorized by Congress in 1985, whereby local law-enforcement agencies share in the proceeds of assets forfeited in federal drug cases in which they participate. We are a nation hooked on drug enforcement. Like the citizens of Colombia and Mexico, we now live in a narcoeconomy. We've seen this policy in action before. We heard the same government line from soldiers prosecuting another of our disastrous wars: those GIs quick to inform us from the jungles of Indochina that in order to save the village we had to destroy it.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Dark Alliance: the CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion (A review of Gary Webb's book in the Los Angeles Times ignores the CIA's recent corroboration of Webb's "Dark Alliance" series for the San Jose Mercury News and continues the newspaper's campaign against Webb. It asserts, for example, that "To maintain against this backdrop that the Contras and the CIA played a key part in spreading crack seems a grab for headlines.")Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 18:45:30 -0800 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US CA: OPED: Bookreview: DARK ALLIANCE, The Cia, The Contras, Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: Jim Rosenfield Pubdate: 24 January 1999 Source: Los Angeles Times (CA) Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.latimes.com/ Fax: 213-237-4712 Forum: http://www.latimes.com/HOME/DISCUSS/ Copyright: 1999 Los Angeles Times. DARK ALLIANCE: The Cia, The Contras, And The Crack Cocaine Explosion By Gary Webb; (Seven Stories Press: 548 pp., $24.95) Gary Webb is a man on a mission. The series he wrote for the San Jose Mercury News two years ago alleging that the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras helped ignite the nation's crack explosion set off its own outburst of indignation and dismay. Radio talk shows burned up long hours discussing the story, and the Mercury News' Web site received more than 1 million hits a day. Both California senators wrote CIA Director John Deutch demanding an inquiry, and Deutch eventually agreed to conduct one. Webb seemed well on his way to winning a Pulitzer. Then came the counterattack. The Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Washington Post ran long articles questioning Webb's findings. Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos, conducting his own investigation, decided to run a front-page column backing off the series. Webb was exiled to a distant suburban bureau and then left the paper. Seething at the treatment he'd received, he determinedly set out to vindicate himself. The result is "Dark Alliance," a densely researched, passionately argued, acronym-laden 548-page volume. Its combative, unyielding tone is apparent from the first page. " 'Dark Alliance,' " Webb writes, "does not propound a conspiracy theory; there is nothing theoretical about history. In this case, it is undeniable that a wildly successful conspiracy to import cocaine existed for many years, and that innumerable American citizens--most of them poor and black--paid an enormous price as well." Is "Dark Alliance" more history or conspiracy theory? To answer this, it's necessary to assess the book's three main claims: that the Nicaraguan Contras were involved in drug trafficking; that the CIA knew about, condoned and even encouraged this trafficking; and finally that this trafficking helped set off the crack epidemic in South-Central Los Angeles and, by extension, the rest of the country. Webb focuses on the activities of two Nicaraguan traffickers operating in the United States: Norwin Meneses, an alleged importer of cocaine from the Cali cartel; and Danilo Blandon, Meneses' main distributor in Los Angeles. Relying on court documents, interviews with undercover agents and a meeting with Meneses himself in a Nicaraguan prison, Webb contends that both men supported the Contras and gave them part of their trafficking revenues at a time when that group was strapped for cash. Though the sums involved are in question--Webb puts the figure in the millions of dollars, his critics in the tens of thousands - he seems on solid ground in arguing that money from Nicaraguan traffickers ended up in Contra coffers. This also happens to be Webb's least original point; in the late 1980s, congressional hearings led by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) firmly established connections between the Contras and drug traffickers. As to how much the CIA knew about or approved of these activities, Webb notes that Blandon and Meneses met with prominent Contra leaders like Enrique Bermudez and Adolfo Calero, both of whom were on the CIA payroll. He also describes the activities of a number of shadowy figures who, while supplying arms and other assistance to the Contras, seemed to have been smuggling drugs as well. In no case, however, does Webb demonstrate that the CIA was involved in or sanctioned these activities. What does seem clear, from Webb's account and the CIA's own investigation, is that many agency officials heard allegations of Contra-linked drug activity but did little to intervene. As CIA Inspector Gen. Fred Hitz told Congress in 1998 (as quoted by Webb), "There are instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals supporting the Contra program who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking activity." This, to Webb, is shocking. Of one Contra faction involved in drug smuggling, for instance, he writes, "why the CIA was so eager to promote such a drug-tainted organization as UDN-FARN is one of the enduring mysteries of the Contra War." This seems naive. In Central America in the 1980s, the CIA had one overriding goal - defeating communism - and everything else was secondary. In the drive to overthrow the Sandinistas, the CIA overlooked political assassinations, disappearances, massacres, torture and rape. Is it really so surprising, then, that it would overlook drug trafficking as well? Of course, if that trafficking could be shown to have caused a drug epidemic, that would be news indeed, and it is here, in charging that the CIA and the Contras helped set off the nation's crack explosion, that Webb's analysis is most controversial - and most shaky. In Webb's telling, Blandon in the early 1980s began selling large quantities of cocaine to Ricky Ross, an enterprising young Los Angeles dealer. Nicknamed "Freeway Rick" (after the Freeway Motor Inn, a hotel he bought with his drug profits), Ross quickly gained control of South-Central's burgeoning crack trade. He became so big that he began supplying other dealers, including members of L.A. street gangs, who in turn started distributing the drug. "As the South-Central crack market became saturated," Webb writes, "Ross' gang customers started traveling to other cities in California to make their fortunes, setting up new crack markets and using their connections with Ross to supply them. It was the start of an unprecedented cross-country migration by the Crips, and later the Bloods, which would spread crack from South-Central to other black neighborhoods across the United States." All this, Webb insists, is traceable to Ross and his Contra-linked supplier, Blandon. Regarding one of the most vexing aspects of the whole crack phenomenon--why the drug took root mainly in the black ghetto--Webb asserts that the explanation "seems obvious" once the Blandon-Ross partnership is taken into account. "There was no market until we created it," Webb quotes Ross as saying. "We started in our neighborhood and we stayed in our neighborhood. We almost never went outside it. If people wanted dope, they came to us." In other words, the crack epidemic--a calamitous event that in a few short years engulfed the nation's inner cities and decimated a generation of African Americans--can, in Webb's view, be pinned on a lone Nicaraguan supplying a single Los Angeles dealer over a one-or two-year period. Such a simplistic analysis is belied by Webb's own reporting. At one point, for instance, he notes that one of crack's big advantages over powder cocaine was that it democratized cocaine not only for users but for dealers as well. It didn't take a large investment anymore to call yourself a player. With sellers popping up on every street corner, Ross faced vigorous competition. It is thus misleading to maintain, as Webb does, that Ross headed a crack "cartel" in Los Angeles; the market was far too decentralized. Moreover, it's clear that Blandon was but one of many distributors supplying that market. Webb quotes a police detective who, citing information from two informants, says that "the blacks were getting their cocaine from three Colombians and 'a fourth peripheral source.' Two of the Colombians they knew only by nickname; the 'peripheral source' they knew quite well: Danilo Blandon." Rather than draw the obvious conclusion--that Blandon was a minor player in a market controlled by Colombians--Webb insists on focusing narrowly on Blandon, the Nicaraguan connection. The farther one gets from South-Central, the less important the Ross-Blandon connection seems. Crack initially appeared in four cities: New York, Miami, Detroit and Los Angeles. In none of these three other cities did Ross or the Bloods or the L.A. street gangs play a part. Beginning in 1986, crack began seeping out from these enclaves into neighboring towns and cities and, while L.A. gang members helped spread the drug, so did Dominicans, Jamaicans, Haitians, Guyanese, Mexicans, Cubans, Panamanians, Puerto Ricans and many non-gang-affiliated black Americans. What's more, all of these carriers were simply middlemen; in the end, it was the Colombians, operating out of the great trafficking centers of Medellin and Cali, who controlled the flow of cocaine into the United States. To maintain against this backdrop that the Contras and the CIA played a key part in spreading crack seems a grab for headlines. Sensational claims abound in "Dark Alliance." At one point, for instance, Webb cites a Colombian trafficker who "claimed to have a picture of [George] Bush posing with Medellin cartel leader Jorge Ochoa, in front of suitcases full of money." According to the trafficker, Pablo Escobar, another Medellin leader, said he would make the photo public at the "appropriate time." "By 1993," Webb writes, "Escobar was dead, killed in a shootout with Colombian police, and Jorge Ochoa was in jail. The photos, if they ever existed, were never heard of again." That Webb would even entertain such an outlandish claim raises questions about his judgment. Webb's overall thesis--that the CIA helped set off America's crack explosion--seems fantastic. Like most drug epidemics, crack arose from a tragic confluence of circumstances: the growing appetite of Americans for cocaine in the late 1970s; the ability of Colombian traffickers to smuggle tons of the drug into the United States, causing a sharp decline in its price; the change in cocaine usage patterns away from sniffing toward smoking; the discovery of a quick and easy means of producing smokable cocaine; and, finally, the existence of a large market in the inner city for a cheap, instant and powerful high. In the end, it was this last factor--the growing desperation of black Americans in the mid-1980s--that made the crack epidemic possible. Some of these points were made in the newspaper critiques of Webb's series in the Mercury News. In reading "Dark Alliance," I was curious to see whether Webb would make any concession to his critics--whether he would perhaps humbly acknowledge that some of their concerns were justified. The closest he comes is near the book's end, where he observes that "I never believed, and never wrote, that there was a grand CIA conspiracy behind the crack plague. Indeed, the more I learned about the agency, the more certain of that I become. The CIA couldn't even mine a harbor without getting its trench coat stuck in its fly." This seems disingenuous, for Webb's entire book, beginning with its subtitle ("The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion"), seems pitched toward implicating the CIA in the crack epidemic. The CIA's complicity with the drug trade is a central theme of "White Out" by Alexander Cockburn, a columnist for the Nation, and Jeffrey St. Clair, an investigative journalist. Heavily dependent on secondary sources, "Whiteout" rehearses the long history of the CIA's alleged ties to international drug traffickers, from Corsican mobsters in Marseilles in the late 1940s to moujahedeen-linked smugglers in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s and drug-running Contra supporters in Central America. That such episodes are not better known, Cockburn and St. Clair maintain, is the result of the liberal media's instinctive willingness to cover up for the CIA. And Webb's case is Exhibit A. "The attack on Gary Webb and his series in the San Jose Mercury News remains one of the most venomous and factually inane assaults on a professional journalist's competence in living memory," Cockburn and St. Clair write. Devoting two full chapters to Webb's experience, the authors strenuously seek to defend him against his attackers. Unfortunately, their account seems a sanitized one, with some of Webb's more questionable journalistic practices cleaned up for public consumption. In "Dark Alliance," for instance, Webb describes attending a 1995 preliminary hearing in the federal government's prosecution of Ricky Ross. Among those scheduled to testify is Blandon, who--now a DEA informer--was a key witness against Ross. For nine months, Webb had been trying to interview Blandon, without success, and he attended the hearing in the hope of connecting with him. Blandon brushes him off, however. Alan Fenster, Ross' lawyer, is much friendlier. Inviting Webb to lunch during a break in the hearing, Fenster expresses his frustration at the government's refusal to provide him with documents about Blandon's ties to the Contras--documents that, he says, could help exonerate Ross. Listening to Fenster, Webb suddenly hits on the idea of providing him with questions based on his own research that he could ask Blandon; in this way, Webb could indirectly conduct the interview that had for so long eluded him. To most journalists, this would seem an unacceptable degree of personal involvement in a story one is covering, but Webb proceeds to feed him questions. Back at the courthouse, Fenster questions Blandon about his ties to the Contras. Blandon's answers, as recorded in "Dark Alliance," seem vague and inconclusive. He has trouble recalling dates and other key details regarding his trafficking activities, and he seems completely in the dark about U.S. efforts to help the Contras. But Webb, untroubled by this and by his own feeding of information to Fenster, grandly concludes that Blandon's testimony confirms his basic findings about the Contras. In "Whiteout," Cockburn and St. Clair relate this episode quite differently. After dutifully recounting Webb's lunch with Fenster, they write: "Webb told Fenster to look at the DEA records and the grand jury transcripts that had been turned over as part of the discovery process in the investigation into the Meneses drug ring in the Bay Area. Fenster immediately reviewed the documents and was able to lead Blandon through a series of questions about his ties to the Contras. . . ." In "Dark Alliance," Webb makes no mention of asking Fenster to look at documents; rather, Fenster gets his information directly from Webb. This is the type of airbrushing of history one expects to find in a Soviet archive. It serves Cockburn and St. Clair's purpose, however, of portraying Webb as a journalistic martyr, a courageous battler against the CIA and its apologists in the media. "Whiteout" is filled with bitter attacks on reporters at such papers as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times for helping cover up the intelligence agency's misdeeds. Oddly, though, the authors, in making their case against the CIA, frequently cite stories appearing in those very papers. In a chapter on narco-trafficking and money-laundering in Mexico, for instance, the authors in their notes acknowledge the work of Douglas Farah of the Washington Post, Laurie Hays of the Wall Street Journal, and Sam Dillon and Tim Golden of the New York Times. Such citations seem to contradict Cockburn and St. Clair's view of the press as CIA lap dogs. Had Cockburn, St. Clair and Webb limited themselves to reporting on the CIA's periodic alliances with forces involved in drug trafficking, they would have performed a useful service. By instead placing the CIA at the heart of the international drug trade and blaming it for the woes that drugs have inflicted on American society, they have guaranteed themselves an audience limited to true believers. Reading their books, I was struck by how much their worldview resembles that of the DEA and other prosecutors of the war on drugs. If only the CIA would get out of the way and let the DEA do its job, these writers suggest, the flood of drugs into the United States would diminish. For them, foreign traffickers and suppliers are the main source of the nation's drug problem, rather than any internal social factors. Such an approach feeds the belief that the solution to that problem lies not in reducing the demand for drugs but in arresting more traffickers and busting more drug rings. Books like "Dark Alliance" and "Whiteout," while purporting to expose the hypocrisy of the drug war, paradoxically support it.
------------------------------------------------------------------- ACM-Bulletin of 24 January 1999 (An English-language news bulletin from the Association for Cannabis as Medicine, in Cologne, Germany, focuses on a new dronabinol/THC preparation from the Bock pharmacy in Frankfurt, Germany, extracted from industrial hemp and manufactured in conjunction with the company THC Pharm at one-quarter the cost of synthetic Marinol; and the questioning in the U.S. of states rights being trumped by federal law.) Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 16:51:53 -0500 To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com From: Richard Lake (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: ACM-Bulletin of 24 January 1999 (FWD) From: "Association for Cannabis as Medicine" (email@example.com) *** ACM-Bulletin of 24 January 1999 *** NEW EMAIL-ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org * Germany: New dronabinol/THC preparation of THC Pharm * USA: Trumping of states rights by federal law questioned 1. Germany: New dronabinol/THC preparation of THC Pharm Since January 1999, a pharmacy in Frankfurt/Main offers dronabinol (THC) for about one quarter of the horrendous price, that has to paid in Germany for the US dronabinol preparation Marinol. It is the Bock-Pharmacy (address: Leipziger Strasse 71, 60487 Frankfurt, Phone +49-69-9706370, Fax +49-69-97063777, email@example.com). Dronabinol is manufactured in the pharmacy in cooperation with the company THC Pharm GmbH, The Health Concept, and can be delivered as an ordinary formula. This procedure is a transition model, used until the granting of a trade permission. Then, dronabinol can be delivered to all German pharmacies. The following formulas are available: - Dronabinol solved in sesame oil and packed in hard gelatine capsules - Dronabinol solved in alcoholic liquid. 25 capsules of 5 mg cost 354,10 DM (German marks, about $220) and 25 capsules of 10 mg cost 684,70 DM (about $430). 10 ml liquid with 1 percent THC cost 269,70 DM and 10 ml liquid with 2 percent THC cost 534,12 DM. More pharmacies in other cities will follow. Starting point of the manufacturing is industrial hemp, from which the CBD (Cannabidiol) is extracted and than converted to THC in a laboratory. THC-Pharm can as well deliver CBD to other pharmacies. Price comparison: 5 milligrams of THC/Dronabinol cost - about 8 DM ($5) as a Marinol capsule in the USA - about 60 DM ($38) as a Marinol capsule in Germany - about 14 DM ($9) as a dronabinol capsule of THC Pharm - about 1 DM ($0.6) as 0.1 gram marijuana of medium quality. (Source: personal communication of THC Pharm of 14 January 1999) 2. USA: Trumping of states rights by federal law questioned The U.S. Constitution doesn't allow federal law to automatically trump states rights, the City of Oakland argues in a legal brief filed on 11 January 1999 in support of the embattled Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative. In its latest efforts to bolster the 2,000-member club, the city is banking on the 9th and 10th amendments to the Constitution in an amicus curiae brief in the 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals. The brief was written pro bono for the city by Linda LeCraw and former general counsel to the U.S. Federal Drug Administration Peter Barton Hutt. "It's an extremely important case," said Hutt, who helped write the Controlled Substances Act of 1974. The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit last January to close the club, maintaining marijuana is an illegal substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The city's brief maintains federal laws regarding medical cannabis are "legislated truths," unsupported by logic, comparable to laws that persecuted African Americans, declared women unfit to vote and incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II. Hutt argues that California voters, by approving Proposition 215, the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996, "have deemed the medical use of cannabis to be a fundamental liberty interest." Under the 9th Amendment, the burden is on the federal government to show the necessity of infringing that right, the city's brief argues. And under the 10th Amendment, the federal government may not interfere with a power "reserved to the states ... or to people." (Source: Oakland Tribune of 13 January 1999) 3. News in brief USA: Steven Kubby, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor of California and an acknowledged medical marijuana patient, and his wife Michele were arrested on 18 January and charged with possession of marijuana for sales, cultivation and conspiracy. About 300 plants were confiscated. Mr. Kubby and his wife are patients who say they have authorization from licensed physicians according to Proposition 215. Mr. Kubby, 52, has malignant phaeochromocytoma, or terminal adrenal cancer, causing attacks of high blood pressure. Marijuana works for Mr. Kubby better than conventional medications. (Source: Orange County Register of 21 January 1999) 4. THE COMMENT ... on the hopes, connected with the planned research in the UK on cannabis in pain therapy: "I stuck to prescription drugs for nearly three years and also tried TENS machine and chiropractic. But nothing worked as well as cannabis - something I tried, reluctantly, after a friend suggested it and bought some for me. I smoked it first thing in the morning. If I didn't, my muscles would go into spasms and I would barely be able to move. I also smoke in the evening to help me sleep. I see myself as a totally law-abiding citizen and would hate anyone to think of me as a criminal. You see MPs interviewed with a scotch in one hand and a cigarette in the other. They're taking much more dangerous drugs than I am." Diana Beedle, 44, suffering from traumatic chronic back pain and spasms for 13 years (Daily Mail of 19 January 1999) Association for Cannabis as Medicine (ACM) Maybachstrasse 14 D-50670 Cologne Germany Phone: +49-221-912 30 33 Fax: +49-221-130 05 91 NEW EMAIL-ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org Internet: http://www.acmed.org If you want to be deleted from or added to the email-list please send a message to: email@example.com -------------------------------------------------------------------
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