In the NYT, a judge who has cancer argues for the legalization of medical marijuana

Admittedly, I am biased, but New York state supreme court judge Gustin L. Reichbach speaks for me when he writes in a New York Times op-ed today that medical marijuana "is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue."

Like me, justice Reichbach has cancer. He has pancreatic cancer, and a prognosis that involves a short window of survival, and great pain and suffering during treatment.

"Medical science has not yet found a cure," he writes, "but it is barbaric to deny us access to one substance that has proved to ameliorate our suffering."

Read it and demand change: A Judge’s Plea for Medical Marijuana.

(NYT, via Clayton Cubitt) Read the rest

Mexican drug cartels now using Claymore mines

Just after a horrific week of news about mounting body counts in Mexico from the drug war, Danger Room points to news that at least one narco arsenal was found to include Claymore Mines. The mines can be triggered with an electronic remote, and are capable of spewing 700 steel balls in any direction, with a wounding range of 50 yards. Here's a video. Read the rest

Obama vs. Marijuana: What is the deal?

Michael Scherer writes about President Obama's medical-marijuana policy and the increasing federal intervention on medical marijuana on For the online piece and a related magazine feature, Scherer spoke with "nearly a dozen people" in the medical marijuana industry, three U.S. Attorneys, White House officials and local officials who oppose the federal crackdown.


Despite Obama’s promises during the 2008 campaign, federal prosecutors have lost faith in the ability of state and local officials to control a booming commercial industry for a drug that is still illegal to grow, possess or sell under federal law. As a result, a once broad exemption from prosecution for medical marijuana providers in state where it’s legal has been narrowed to a tiny one.

Read the rest

Student abandoned in cell for 5 days by DEA gets apology but wants $20 million

Mark blogged yesterday about Daniel Chong, a 23-year-old college student in San Diego who was detained by the Drug Enforcement Administration on "420 day" without charges, then abandoned in a holding cell for 5 days with no food or water. He drank his own urine in an effort to stave off fatal dehydration.

Today, he received an apology from the DEA. The Associated Press reports that "San Diego Acting Special Agent-In-Charge William R. Sherman said in a statement that he was troubled by the treatment of Daniel Chong and extended his 'deepest apologies' to him."

Chong's attorney says that's not enough. They intend to sue for $20 million. From the Los Angeles Times: Read the rest

Richard Branson hosts live "War on Drugs" global debate on Google+

Watch the first-ever live global debate on the War on Drugs today on Google+, hosted by Virgin CEO Sir Richard Branson at 7pm GMT/ 2pm EST. Details on the webcast here.

Participants will include...

Julian Assange; Russell Brand and Misha Glenny; Geoffrey Robertson and Eliot Spitzer: experts, orators and celebrities who’ve made this their cause, are set to lock horns in a new debate format. Some of our speakers will be on stage in London's Kings Place in front of a ticketed audience, and others will join in from Mexico City, São Paulo or New Orleans, made possible through Google+ Hangouts; a live multi-person video platform.

About the content of the debate, Branson writes:

We’ve carried out two surveys in the last two weeks, one where we asked Twitter, Facebook and Google+ users globally whether they thought the war on drugs had failed, and one UK-specific survey through YouGov.In the global online poll, 91% agreed that the war on drugs has failed. Over 90% also thought that providing treatment for addiction would be a better approach than putting people in jail.Meanwhile, over 95% of 12,090 people surveyed online globally think governments should open the debate to look for other ways then jail to solve the drugs issue. More than 81% of people surveyed globally also agreed that drug use would decrease if governments focused on treatment and stopped putting people in jail for minor drug offences.

Read the rest

US to go after "Border Tunnels" by prosecuting landowners, wiretapping communications

In the San Diego Reader, more on a bill passed last week by The U.S. House Judiciary Committee to help law enforcement crack down on illicit tunnels along the US-Mexico border: "The bill would allow law enforcement to prosecute landowners, prosecute those that fund the tunnels, and wiretap communications in suspected buildings that house tunnels. Previously wiretaps were only available with proof of drugs or contraband." Read the rest

Your tax dollars at work: Afghan Air Force used as "flying drug mules"

Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room on reports (utterly shocking reports!) that Afghanistan’s military uses its US-bought aircraft to transport drugs throughout the country.

At a cost of nearly $2 billion for two years’ worth of building the Afghan Air Force, the U.S. inadvertently purchased a more convenient mechanism for trafficking opium and weapons than Afghanistan’s drug lords were previously using. But it actually gets worse than that. The aerial trade in guns and drugs through the Afghan Air Force appears to be financing the rearmament of private militias hedging against the country’s implosion after the U.S. leaves.

Read more: Afghan Air Force: Flying Drug Mules That Fuel Civil War | Danger Room |

Related item at the Wall Street Journal, requires subscription. Read the rest

Mexican gov detains Twitter user over joke about helicopter crash that killed top drug war official

[Ed. note: A Mexican Twitter user was detained by the government last week, after he posted a tweet that referenced a recent helicopter crash that killed a top official. Below, guest contributor Wookie Williams in Mexico shares more.—Xeni Jardin]

"How many tweets does it take to bring down a plane?"

That was the joke yesterday, circulating around outside of the PGR offices in Mexico City where Mario Flores was being held. Mario is often funny in his twitter account, he's an all around nice guy who's worst crime is working in publicity (aside from the often juvenile prank he performed with his posse when he was younger) and, let's face it, a dorky guy who loves comics and Batman, and probably wishes he had superpowers.

On 2008, he had the bad luck of working in the building right next to where Secretary of State Juan Camilo Mouriño's plane went down. He was given the afternoon free amid the chaos that reigned the whole neighborhood (the whole country really), something very uncommon for those poor lab rats that work for one of those huge publicity firms.

So on the afternoon of Thursday, November 10th, not five days ago, when he was given the afternoon free, he remembered that fateful day three years ago and took it to his account, @mareoflores. "Not since Mouriño's plane went down was I out of the office this early.

Take care, flying officials", he tweeted. ("No salía tan temprano del trabajo desde que se cayó la avioneta de Mouriño. Read the rest

Mexico: Interior Minister killed in mysterious chopper crash 3 years after predecessor's death in mysterious plane crash

There's no evidence of foul play in the death today of Mexico's Interior Minister José Francisco Blake, but amid the country's raging drug war, there's plenty of suspicion. The helicopter carrying the country's top domestic security official and seven others crashed in the southern part of Mexico City en route to a meeting of prosecutors in nearby Morelos state. The cause of the crash is unknown.

Blake's death is seen as a symbolic blow to the government's military-directed assault on organized crime. 40,000 Mexicans have died in the drug war over the last five years.

The accident occurred almost exactly three years to the day after Mexico’s previous interior minister Juan Camilo Mouriño was killed in the crash of a small plane, also near Mexico City.

Another mysterious detail: Blake's last tweet before the crash was a nod to the anniversary of his predecessor's death.

Sources: Christian Science Monitor, Guardian, NYT, WaPo, CNN, AP Video, Global Voices.

Reports circulated early today that Mexican president Felipe Calderon had been scheduled to travel in the very same helicopter that crashed, but the administration later issued a statement denying. (via Andrés Monroy H.)

Related reading: the Wikileaks-leaked State Department cable on Mouriño's death, from November 5, 2008. (via Shannon Young) Read the rest

Mexico's "War on Drugs" leads to catastrophic rise of murder, torture, "disappearance"

Human Rights Watch reports that instead of reducing violence, the ‘war on drugs’ in Mexico has resulted in a dramatic increase in killings, torture, and "disapparances." Read the report. [Video Link] Read the rest

Mexico: moderator of online discussion forum about narcos reported as tortured, decapitated by narcos (UPDATED)

UPDATE: One media outlet in Mexico reports that there is no proof that the man killed in Nuevo Laredo on Wednesday was a social media user. Police say they are still investigating. Unlike in previous cases involving administrators/contributors to the online message board in question, the newspaper affiliated with that forum has not come forward to confirm the identity of the dead.

UPDATE 2: Nuevo Laredo Live reports that the man killed is "not one of our collaborators," but "a scapegoat" whose murder serves to send a message of fear.

The moderator of an online discussion forum about local cartel-related crime is reported to have been killed in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Near the corpse, a "narco manta," or sign taking responsibility for the murder, was found and points to the ultraviolent cartel known as the Zetas.

Wired News reports that the victim was a 35-year-old man who went by the nickname “Rascatripas” or “Scraper” (literally, “Fiddler”) on the web-based chat network Nuevo Laredo en Vivo where he served as a community moderator. The body was handcuffed, with signs of torture, and was decapitated and was placed next to a monument for Christopher Columbus about a mile south of the Texas border. That same site has previously been used as a dumping ground for victims of this form of crime.

The discussion board in question is the same one at the center of the near-identical murder of two other Nuevo Laredo residents two months ago. They were outed as active participants in the site's crime-tip forum, and they were gruesomely murdered as "snitches." Their bodies were dumped in the same location, with a sign indicating that their killing should serve as a warning for others who share information about cartel activities on the internet. Read the rest

Anonymous vs. Zetas: is #OpCartel a flop, hoax, or honeypot?

[Video Link] Over the last few days, word has spread of a purported #antisec operation by Anonymous against the most brutal of all Mexican drug cartels, Los Zetas. One element in the story is this video, above. Weeks after it came out, George Friedman's Austin Texas-based consulting firm Stratfor issued this report, and media gobbled it up. A story was born: "Anonymous is taking on the most feared drug cartel in the world, for great justice."

What was unusual about the way this story spread was the speed at which it was amplified by credulous reports from larger media outlets, despite a dearth of confirmable facts. This op got lots of press, fast. Faster, in fact, than it got support from Anons.

Geraldine Juarez and Renata Avila were two of the earlier voices I read expressing doubt about the prevailing storyline—a report by Juarez is here. Some I spoke to within Mexico wondered if the Mexican government (no bastion of purity) might be involved.

Over at Wired News, a must-read piece by Quinn Norton that cinches the deal for me (and in it, she references the aforementioned Global Voices item). Quinn's been covering Anonymous extensively for some time, and I trust her spidey sense on this one.

Read the rest

Blog del Narco, site chronicling Mexican drug cartel violence, is under attack

Mexico's Blog del Narco, the subject of a previous Boing Boing interview feature, denounces attempts at censorship as access to their website access is blocked. More: Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. (Via @Rosental) Read the rest

Five human heads found at Acapulco, Mexico primary school, in presumed drug cartel mass killing

Photo: A relative reacts after his arrival at a crime scene where a man was shot dead in Acapulco two days ago. According to local media, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a DVD and music salesman. The next day, the charred and headless remains of five people were found in the same city. And today, five disembodied heads, presumably the same victims, were discovered near a primary school nearby. [REUTERS]

In the Mexican city of Acapulco, where violence related to drug cartels has been escalating in recent weeks, police today found five decomposing human heads outside the Benito Juarez primary school [Google Maps link]. Armed men placed a wooden box outside the school early Tuesday, with a white cloth sack inside containing the severed heads and four handwritten cards inside threatening local officials and drug traffickers. The earliest reports appeared at the Milenio news website.

Prensa Latina reports that teachers in Acapulco schools have increasingly become the target of extortion demands, prompting the closure of schools and causing many teachers and children to stay away in fear. Just 200 feet from where the gruesome discovery was made today, a group of Mexican federal troops are stationed. More from

The discovery occurred in full view of young students and pedestrians, sparking fear in the area. Soldiers and police removed the remains and cordoned off the location.

Yesterday in the same city - a major port and tourist resort on Mexico's Pacific coast - police found five decapitated bodies: three badly burned inside a pickup truck, and two others outside the vehicle.

Read the rest