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Category Archives: War On Drugs

Operation Ace in the Hole: 26 indicted in gang-related drug trafficking case – WSAV-TV

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 10:47 am

LYONS, Ga. (WSAV) More than two dozen defendants face federal charges in a multi-agency operation, authorities announced Wednesday in Toombs County.

Dubbed Operation Ace in the Hole, the year and a half long investigation netted 61 counts, 20 plus firearms, and drugs with a street value in the millions.

Local, state and federal agents were involved in the operation targeting a gang-related drug trafficking ring in the Vidalia area.

Were here as both a celebration of accomplishment and as a warning that with the united effort with these and other agencies here today we will continue to take down drug traffickers and violent criminal street games to make our neighborhoods safer, said United States Attorney Bobby Christine with the Southern District of Georgia alongside law enforcement officials involved Operation Ace in the Hole.

Officials said the investigation first started as a small drug case by law enforcement in Lyons and Toombs counties, adding that neighbors were instrumental in bringing a spotlight to the crimes.

They couldnt let their children go out and play. They were scared to come out themselves, especially at night, said Toombs County Sheriff Alvie Knight. They were scared to even go out and sit on the front porch, afraid of getting shot.

Raymonia Apartments in Vidalia is just one of the places that investigators say members of the gangster disciples were using as a headquarters to push massive amounts of cocaine, marijuana, pills, and even gallons of liquid codeine across the state of Georgia.

The members of the suspected gang were allegedly involved in creating a distribution center of illegal activity which took their product not just to locals, but to other gang members as far away as Atlanta.

The team on this bust says this is just the beginning of the war on gangs in Georgia.

Take a look around at all the guys standing here. This is how you win the war on drugs and gangs, said Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman. The only way you can lose the battle is to quit fighting. You win it by fighting and thats what we will do.

Our gang is bigger than your gang, our gang is better than your gang, and our gang is tougher than your gang, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds warned.

This isnt finished yet. Thirty more suspects are expected to face state charges in connection with this operation.

Involved in the investigation are the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, the Toombs County Sheriffs Office, the Lyons Police Department, the Oconee Drug Task Force and the Liberty County Sheriffs Office.

The case is being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys E. Greg Gilluly Jr. and Joseph McCool.

The battle is won when all these agencies federal, local state work together in addition to the prosecutors office working together to prosecute on a state or federal level, said FBI Special Agent Marcus Kirkland. That is how we win the battle.

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Green Rush: Californias Belated Effort to Create Equity in the Cannabis Industry – The Yale Politic

Posted: at 10:47 am

At the age of 17, Daniel Montero began smoking and selling marijuana full-time in California. Even near-death encounters and two prison sentences for felony marijuana charges didnt dissuade him. Its not just about getting high. Its a green renaissance.

Montero is a first-generation American and survivor of the war on drugs. But after Californias recent legalization of marijuana in 2018 under the states Proposition 64, his business is now illegal. Montero is now considered a legacy operatora cannabis businessman with previous experience in the industry. He is an avid enthusiast of cannabis culture, the chair of the San Jose Cannabis Equity Working Group, and a skilled community organizer in the rapidly expanding industry.

In the past year, businesses have invested millions of dollars into opening hundreds of marijuana shops in Californias modern-day equivalent of a gold rush. The media has heralded legalization as a policy win for racial justice due to its radical departure from the former tough on crime drug policies that criminalized marijuana use. However, some fear this praise risks erasing the oppressive history of the war on drugs.

***

Former U.S. president Richard Nixon is notorious for declaring this war on drugs. As executive, Nixon created the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, responsible for tackling drug use and smuggling; dramatically increased federal drug agencies presence in communities of color; and issued no-knock warrant policies, which give absolute authority for police officers to force entry.

President Ronald Reagan zealously upheld Nixons anti-drug legacy by increasing mandatory minimum drug sentencing. Incarceration skyrocketed during his presidency, disproportionately for black people, the majority of whom were nonviolent offenders.

Despite the lack of any scientific proof, marijuana was demonized as a highly addictive Schedule 1 Drug, more dangerous than cocaine or fentanyl. Under the Clinton administration, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which dramatically increased prison funding and instituted a three-strikes rule: Anyone convicted of a violent crime who had two or more prior convictions, including drug crimes, was sentenced to life in prison.

Californias law enforcement followed suit. From elected officials to school administrators, those in positions of power were similarly staunch in enforcing zero-tolerance drug policies. In the 1980s, Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates intentionally targeted black and brown communities in drug raids and strongly advocated for harsher penalties. In a 1990 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Gates boldly testified that casual drug users should be taken out and shot.

Between 2000 and 2010, a person was arrested for marijuana possession in the United States every 37 seconds. In total, eight million Americans have been incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes, with 88 percent of those incarcerations only related to possession. But as prisons remain overcrowded and the racialized consequences of the war on drugs become strikingly apparent, public sentiment toward marijuana use has shifted. Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use. Ten additional states, including California, followed suit in years afterwards.

***

Adam Bierman, CEO of MedMen, will tell you that he does not run pot shops.

The assertion at first is startling: MedMen, one of the nations leading legal marijuana dispensaries with over 36 physical stores, is an influential presence in seven out of the ten states with marijuana legalization.

Its all part of the goal. Bierman prides himself on destigmatizing marijuanahis strategy is to market to the untraditional demographics of chardonnay moms and nine-to-five dads.

The moment you walk into a MedMen store, youre greeted with the luminescent glow of glass cases perfectly positioned on sleek tables. Alluring adjectives like euphoric, uplifted, and elite denote the effects of different marijuana strains. This Apple-store-like space, satisfyingly arranged with clean-cut, colorfully labeled marijuana strains and gleaming vaporizers, seems worlds away from Californias recent history of criminalization and harsh incarceration.

Political commentator and author Solomon Jones reminded readers of the ever-present effects of Californias demonization of marijuana use in his Philadelphia Inquirer article: Legalizing marijuana is the same kind of economic bait-and-switch that America has always pulled on people of color, he argued. Blacks create an industry that has valuewhether through legal or illegal meansand white folks change the rules, change the language, and change the perception in order to bring about a change in ownership.

This economic bait-and-switch is glaringly visible in the current demographics of legal marijuana business ownership. In the most recent survey by Marijuana Business Daily, white people like Bierman own 81 percent of new marijuana businesses. In contrast, fewer than five percent of marijuana businesses in the United States were owned by black people. In a devastating irony, between 2000 and 2010, black people were 3.73 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana, despite roughly equal usage rates.

***

Historically, Californias three major counties of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Long Beach were home to a disproportionately high number of marijuana arrests. Today, these counties boast the highest concentrations of legal marijuana businesses.

These counties recognize their history, and their Departments of Cannabis have designated zip codesdisproportionately impacted zones based on past high rates of cannabis convictionsfor specific social services. In these zones, more than 90 percent of residents are people of color and more than 80 percent are low-income.

Rarely do these residents participate in the new, legal economy.

Many prospective business owners have a criminal record, making it difficult for them to sign even a reasonably-priced lease. Although California recently passed AB 1793 to expunge marijuana criminal records, in many other states, felons are forbidden from attaining a retail marijuana license, even if their convictions are marijuana-related.

It costs at least a quarter of a million dollars to start a marijuana business, and there are no federal bank loans available. Prospective business owners must navigate the legal jargon of multiple permits and extensive building and facility inspections, which can quickly become expensive.

To counter this inequity, the three counties have instated Cannabis Social Equity Programs with the mission to promote equitable ownership and employment opportunities in the cannabis industry, focused on those hit hardest by the War on Drugs. They offer public application workshops, priority applications, and fee waivers for licensing and business permits.

Los Angeles Countys Department of Cannabis assigns different benefits to individuals through a three-tiered system based on their length of residence in a disproportionately impacted zone and past record for marijuana-related crime. Tier 1equity applicants access the most benefits, including licensing fee deferrals and access to a newly established industry investment fund to assist in startup costs.

All legal cannabis businesses in San Francisco must also provide a community benefits agreement policy in which they detail employment opportunities for those affected by the drug war. For example, Barbary Coast Dispensary, which provides public employment fairs in disproportionately impacted zones, is frequently co-sponsored by the San Francisco Department of Cannabis. In addition, the Departments staff recently toured the San Quentin State Prison to discuss thoughtful drug policy with inmates.

***

Now that California has legalized recreational marijuana, the trajectory of the industrys influence and growth in the state is unclear. In an interview with The Politic, Angie Maina, Program Specialist of the Long Beach Department of Cannabis, described this uncertainty as the most difficult part of the [departments] job.

Social Equity LA is a non-profit organization that hosts bilingual Spanish and English workshops to provide legal and technical assistance for potential marijuana business owners. In an interview with The Politic, co-founders Adriana Gomez and Luiz Rivera detailed the challenge Maina acknowledged. Their organization has facilitated one-on-one training for applying for licenses, making sure that their boots were on the ground, [by] holding candidates hands and making sure that they were not left behind. Gomez stressed the reality that making policy does not necessarily mean people have access to it.

As other states consider legalizing marijuana, many look to Californias attempt at reconciling the history of the war on drugs with profitable, safe, and accessible marijuana businesses. As we move forward with legalization, we need to start from the bottom up, Gomez reflects. How are our communities of color being left behind? We need to make sure that in ten years we dont regret this.

Social Equity LAs mission for community investment is shared by Cage-Free Cannabis, another Los Angeles-based organization focused on social responsibility in the cannabis industry. In an interview with the The Politic, co-founder Adam Vine reflected on how incredibly nuanced the cannabis industry is and how it is easy to lose sight of the humanity at the core of this issue. Cage-Free Cannabis has launched an annual National Expungement Week when they offer legal relief, voter registration, health screenings, employment workshops, and other services in addition to their usual work helping individuals expunge their criminal records.

Vine believes that the biggest challenge behind city-sponsored cannabis social equity programs is the lack of financial support from city and state government. Cage-Free Cannabis and similar organizations are trying to fill in the gaps and provide the services that aspiring cannabis retailers need. Vine is excited for the growth of National Expungement Week: You can expect to see the week continue to grow, he explained. These people need legal relief and opportunities to enter the industry.

While the uncertainty of the legal marijuana industry can be a formidable obstacle, Maina acknowledged that it has been rewarding to regulate a brand new and emerging industry, while thinking hard on how to connect with other cities and our own community for the best and most fair practices.

***

You often glorify the criminal lifestyle, Daniel Montero admitted. But surviving bullets, robberies, parents being killed, families being killed. Its a lot. Its not glorifying at all. Despite the cannabis industrys ambiguous future, some positive effects of marijuana legalization are undeniably clear.

Californias legalization of marijuana has been so humanizing for Montero because hes now able to openly promote the cannabis plant he loves. But in Californias efforts to regulate the new and highly profitable marijuana industry, Montero reminds us that there is no point in building a mansion if the foundation is not correct. That foundation must exist in marijuana equity.

Marijuana equity is especially important when considering what Montero describes as marijuanas tip of the iceberg of opportunities. He notes the diverse uses of cannabis, some of which include effective pain treatment (CBD in the pharmaceutical industry) and sustainable building development (industrial hemp in the construction industry).

But the question of this equity in Californias green renaissance still remains. As the chair of the San Jose Cannabis Equity Working Group, Montero advocates for permanent funding in cannabis equity programs. He recognizes that policies fail to matter if there is no money to put it in play and will continue making sure the money generated [from the cannabis industry] is going to the right places.

Montero reminds us that building these businesses is not just about getting high, but rather about expanding opportunities for all communities. I can die happy if I can continue this work. Equity is about giving opportunity to those of us disadvantaged by the war on drugs, he declared. Its about our mothers, brothers, and sisters whove also suffered a domino effect from this war. Equity is to empower our people through cannabis.

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Lawmakers split on whether legal weed is a boon or health threat – Santa Fe New Mexican

Posted: at 10:47 am

More than a decade after New Mexico legalized marijuana for medical use, permitting it to any adult for any reason is still proving to be a significant challenge.

This week, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that legalizing recreational marijuana is one of her top legislative priorities in 2020, and on Friday, a House bill that would do so was unveiled. During a 30-day budget session, the states constitution requires the governor to release an official list of what nonbudget bills will be debated. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use is on that list.

The Legislature has the opportunity to pass the largest job-creation program in New Mexico in a decade, Lujan Grisham said in a statement about House Bill 160.

Although supporters including the governor and Democrats in the state House have been vocal in touting its expected economic boon, the jobs they say it will create, and the law enforcement and other programs it could help fund, the negative perception of pot lingers enough that the effort could go up in smoke yet again.

In an hour-and-a-half interview with The New Mexican, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, expressed skepticism about whether the bill can clear the Senate.

It is expected to have little trouble passing the state House, where Democrats have a 46-24 majority and passed a legalization proposal last year. While Democrats also have a majority in the Senate, some more conservative Democratic senators still have concerns about how recreational cannabis would impact the state.

Even with the projected 11,000 jobs the Governors Office argues legalization will create, and more than $600 million in projected revenue by the fifth year of the program, the effort could face an uphill climb.

A large hurdle will be convincing moderate Democrats that marijuana does not pose a public health threat. Republicans who could support the measure, meanwhile, want more local control and funding for law enforcement.

Theres an economic side of this, but I think the real heart of it is the focus on the health impact and the societal impact of adding this in a state with the challenges that we have, Wirth said, referring to already high rates of drug and alcohol abuse across New Mexico. Its one more substance being added.

I dont know the votes are there within our caucus, but there are other Republican votes on the floor, Wirth said. The bill last session, I think, would have passed had it been on the Senate floor.

The Senate leader said he has heard the same concern about marijuanas impact on health from other senators on both sides of the aisle, including Papen.

Papen, the Senate president pro tem, said she is particularly concerned about the effect of marijuana on teenagers developing brains and the possibility that legalizing it for recreational use could encourage more teens to use it. Papen said she also is concerned about a lack of long-term research on the health impacts of marijuana.

Thats my biggest concern, said Papen, who added she remains undecided on how she will vote. Nobody seems to be able to come up with that.

The senator added, As more and more states get involved, we probably wont make the money that we think were [going to be] making now. It shouldnt be just the money.

More money or more problems?

Despite concerns from the Senate, Lujan Grisham is using her political clout to try to win over the skeptics.

During a 30-minute address Thursday at a $50-per-plate luncheon with the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the governor told business leaders recreational weed will be an economic game changer.

She acknowledged it will be a heavy lift in the Legislature but reminded luncheon attendees of the thousands of jobs its projected to create, hundreds of millions in projected sales, and $100 million in annual revenue for state and local governments.

More than 75,000 people in New Mexico are already registered as medical cannabis patients. The adult-use recreational market is expected to grow to six times the size of the states Medical Cannabis Program in five years. New Mexico growers are already producing more hemp and medical marijuana than they are alfalfa or green chile, the states historically biggest crops.

For big proponents like state Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, who is sponsoring HB 160, the money is more than enough of a reason to support it. It could be used to help repair some of the damage Martinez argues was done to communities hit hardest by the war on drugs.

For far too long, cannabis has gotten the same type of treatment that other hard drugs have gotten based on bogus science and really based on very racist worldviews, Martinez said. I think New Mexico is prime not only to be a leader in legalization, but a leader in legalizing the right way, which is what our goal is with our bill.

Martinezs bill would create a cannabis training and education program that would be offered at New Mexico colleges. Martinez also argues the legislation is centered on ensuring equity for communities that have suffered most from the criminalization of marijuana and ensuring that we protect and enhance the medical program.

The lawmaker is pushing for gross receipts taxes on medical marijuana to be reduced and subsidizing medical weed with adult-use revenue. It also would create a training program to help police identify drivers who might be high, and it offers some degree of local control on the timing and location of marijuana businesses.

It does not offer local governments the option to opt out of the market as in some states, such as Colorado and Michigan.

Broadly, it would regulate from seed to sale every aspect of the marijuana market, bringing the industry out of the black market and into the sphere of regulation and taxation.

But some simply wont be swayed. They argue it still presents a danger to drivers and believe it could increase crime and addiction. I think its kind of unfortunate with all the other issues facing New Mexico ... that we get bogged down with something thats as controversial as this, said state Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia. I havent talked to a law enforcement officer or a rehab director yet that tell me, Oh dont worry about it, its not gonna have an impact, Townsend said.

But more crucial to the bills passage are senators who remain on the fence.

Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, for example, said he could support it with the right degree of local control and if there was enough funding for law enforcement that came along with the measure.

Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, also expressed skepticism, in large part because of the governors decision to put Pat Davis, an Albuquerque city councilor, in charge of the work group that developed the recommendations the legislation is based on.

I dont have much faith in it, Moores said. The governors decision to put a radical political operative who has spent his career attacking Republicans and moderate Democrats in charge chilled the process.

It sent the message she wants this as a political issue and isnt interested in working on a bipartisan effort, he continued. Putting him in charge sent the message to Republicans and moderate Dems in the Senate she wanted this more for a campaign issue and to raise political donations than coming up with a solution.

Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, has argued New Mexico isnt ready to legalize marijuana. Cervantes supported decriminalization and allowing it for medical use, but said past legislation that has been introduced has not ensured workplace safety.

Carlos Martinez, an Albuquerque attorney who chairs the state bars cannabis law section, said he hears mixed reactions from many different factions in the marijuana business community. But a budget session doesnt offer a lot of time in a state where marijuana still has a negative aura for many. I just dont think its gonna be able to pass in this 30-day session, he said.

Staff writer Jens Gould contributed to this report

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The Pitfalls and Possibilities of the Measurement Revolution for National Security – War on the Rocks

Posted: at 10:47 am

It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture, said one former NSC official. Said another: There was no head turning movement or measurement on how things are going to be improving.

Petabytes of data were collected throughout the war in Afghanistan, yet as the recently published Afghanistan Papers highlight, they rarely informed strategy. Instead, conflicting priorities and changing benchmarks of success ruled the day. And even when leaders did settle on metrics, such as the number of Taliban attacks, their interpretation was often tailored to match a desired high-level message, rather than being based on clear-eyed, consistent arguments about what different trends meant about the underlying political process. Realizing the measurement revolutions potential to enable better security policy does not require a military led by statisticians. It requires a military led by thinkers.

Because the trifecta of big data, the Internet of Things, and machine learning creates tremendous potential for quantifying human behavior. From tracking the spread of diseases to measuring refugee integration, data that were impossible to gather even a decade ago can now be used to inform policy decisions with great precision. The paralyzing issue for todays policy leaders is how to figure out which data-driven claims are credible and which are not. Nowhere is this more true than in national security policy, where hard-to-interpret data abound and the stakes couldnt be higher.

To see the measurement revolutions promise, consider some hard security policy questions.

Do countering violent extremism programs work, and if so, where should they be targeted? Recent work leveraging social media and high-resolution data on program administration can help answer both questions. New research by Tamar Mitts geolocates roughly 35,000 Twitter users in the United States who followed one or more Islamic State propaganda accounts and parses their tweets from 2014 to 2016 to identify which tweets explicitly express pro-ISIL sentiment. She finds that those living in areas where the Department of Homeland Security held community engagement events posted less content sympathetic to ISIL and followed fewer propaganda accounts in the period after the event compared to the period before. No similar change happened in places where Homeland Security did not hold events. Of course, wed like to target effective countering violent extremism programming at communities that in fact have a significant pro-ISIL presence. Here Mitts again provides helpful evidence. A new paper uses geolocated Twitter data to show that pro-ISIL sentiment increases following anti-Muslim protests in Europe and does so more strongly in regions with more far-right voters.

How about whether decision-makers should target aid in conflict zones at microenterprises or larger firms? This is not merely a development question; getting economies growing again is widely viewed as important for long-term stability. A recent study uses three years worth of cellphone data to assess how the war affected firm-level economic activity in Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, the authors find that companies avoid conflict-prone areas. One major violent event in a district is associated with a 6 percent reduction in the number of firms operating in that district in the next month, and the effect persists for six months. But only firms with more than 12 employees are able to adjust in this way; there is no statistical relationship between violence in one month and the level of activity among smaller firms in the next month. In Afghanistan, at least, this evidence suggests policies to reduce the impact of conflict on the economy should target larger enterprises.

Training Thinkers?

Is the American defense community building the capacity to spot such learning opportunities and ask the right questions?

The United States spends billions of dollars every year to ensure that its forces have great equipment. And there are entire training bases, such as the Joint Readiness Training Center, devoted to preparing the force to make tactical and operational decisions under pressure in sensitive circumstances. Army infantry train in the most realistic settings money can buy, practicing interacting with local civilians, coordinating supporting fires, and helping wounded comrades under fire. Air Force, Marine, and Navy fighter pilots spend hundreds of hours learning to operate highly technical systems under tremendous physical stress, including exercises such as Red Flag, which can involve hundreds of aircraft and more than 10,000 airmen, sailors, and soldiers. These kinds of exercises train structured responses, everything from the kind of immediate, nearly automatic reactions needed to handle battlefield problems to the complex managerial challenges staffs face in coordinating the actions of dozens of subordinate units based on information from hundreds of sensors and intelligence platforms, all in the face of complex logistical considerations.

Despite that prodigious investment in training to solve immediate and near-term problems, military education systems do very little to systematically train defense leaders on how to use evidence to inform longer-term decisions. The Army War College curriculum, for example, teaches necessary subjects such as Strategic Leadership and Theory of War and Strategy, but does not provide instruction on which kinds of data should inform which decisions. The professional military education system has no equivalent to the University of Washingtons Calling Bullshit: Data Reasoning in a Digital World, which systematically takes students through common mistakes such as assuming correlation implies causation, failing to consider base rates, and scaling data graphics in deceptive ways. Without education on how to use data to inform the big picture, modern technology has produced what Peter Singer calls tactical generals, leaders pulled by technology to micromanage at the tactical level, leaving few thinking about how the profusion of information could be used to learn and plan at the operational or strategic level.

This is an unfortunate state of affairs, as botching a few key principles can cause even the most astute leader to arrive at the wrong conclusion.

How Evidence Goes Wrong

Consider a few concrete questions. What drives suicide bombings? Will small-scale aid packages help establish stability in counter-insurgency campaigns? Will additional funding to airport security reduce the incidence of terrorism? In each case, an intuitive and superficially sensible evidence-based approach to the question leads to the wrong conclusion.

If you want to understand what motivates suicide terrorism, at first blush it seems sensible to look for commonalities among groups that use suicide bombings. That is, after all, the kind of thing people tend to do when they think about lessons learned. One prominent study did this and concluded that suicide terrorism tends to occur in conflicts involving foreign occupation by a democracy. But just focusing on the suicide terrorists was a mistake. To figure out what distinguishes groups that turn to suicide terrorism from groups that do not, you have to compare those two types of groups to one another. And studies that do so find no association between foreign occupation and suicide terrorism.

How individuals make inferences matters because those inferences drive strategy. In the suicide bombing case, different conclusions could be drawn from different datasets. For example, from 1970 to 1982 the only terrorist group using suicide bombings was the Tamil Tigers, so one might have concluded that suicide bombings were used by groups that combined socialist ideology with Tamil nationalism. But by 1989, both Hezbollah and Amal had used the tactic in the Lebanese civil war, so one might reasonably have concluded the common factors were socialist ideology plus Tamil nationalism or Lebanese Shiite Muslim groups fighting occupation. As suicide terrorism spread, by 2003 at least seven more groups were using the tactic, including Hamas, the Kurdistan Workers Party, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaida, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and several Kashmiri rebel groups. One might then have concluded that the common factor was groups fighting directly or indirectly against occupation by a U.S.-allied country. Finally, by 2016, one would have been forced to add the Pakistani Taliban, various Chechen groups, al-Qaida in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq, ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Free Syrian Army, and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to the list. The common conditions would then have to encompass fighting a U.S.-, Saudi-, or Iranian-supported regime, as well as engaging in factional competition against other Sunni Islamist groups.

This is an example of a more general mistake. If you want to know whether two features of the world (say, occupation and suicide terrorism) are correlated (i.e., tend to occur together), you cant just look at cases where one of those features occurs. You have to compare the frequency of occupations in conflicts with and without suicide terrorism.

And failure to appreciate this point doesnt just affect academic studies; it can also undermine the efficacy of American defense institutions. For instance, think about the practice of performing a postmortem following some operational failure. It is natural to ask what rules were not followed or what warning signs were ignored during the failed mission. But if those postmortem procedures dont compel leaders to ask whether those same rules were broken or warning signs brushed aside during previous successful missions, then they allow them to make the mistake of not comparing and lead leaders to jump to the wrong conclusions.

Even when individuals do compare, things can go wrong. Think about trying to assess the efficacy of small-scale aid spending in insecure environments, a topic one of us has studied extensively. We can compare across Iraqs 104 districts and ask whether places where the United States devoted more money to small-scale aid experienced less insurgency. The answer turns out to be no. Districts with more small-scale aid projects experienced more insurgent violence, not less. But does that mean small-scale aid is counterproductive? As anyone who directed those projects will tell you, smart military leaders directed money to places where they faced bigger problems for instance, to districts where the people were more firmly opposed to the new Shiite-led government. So, the positive correlation between aid and insurgent violence doesnt necessarily reflect the counterproductive effects of aid spending. Instead, aid spending chased insurgency. A more clear-minded comparison can help untangle this question. We can account for the underlying level of insurgent support in a district by comparing changes in aid spending and changes in insurgent violence within districts, from one period to the next, instead of comparing levels across districts. Consistent with the concern that the positive correlation between spending and violence didnt reflect the true causal relationship, when you compare changes, you discover that increases in aid spending from month to month are actually associated with decreases, not increases, in violence.

Accuracy in tactical assessments only really matters, though, if those assessments are linked to the broader mission you are trying to achieve. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, a rash of airline hijackings led the United States to require metal detectors at all major airports. This was the first step down the road to owning toiletries that fit only in a quart-size bag. The number of hijackings of airplanes dropped quickly, from an average of almost 20 per quarter before metal detectors were installed to fewer than 10 per quarter after. Big counter-terrorism success, right? Well, maybe.

Lets stop and think about whether weve measured the counter-terrorism mission properly. If the counter-terrorism mission is to stop hijackings, then this seems like evidence of a clear win. But what if the mission is broader not just stopping hijackings, but terrorist attacks more broadly? Then, by looking only at the effect of the policy on hijackings, we havent quite measured the mission. And, indeed, it turns out that the reduction in hijackings was almost perfectly offset by an increase in other kinds of hostage takings by terrorists, who likely decided that if the United States was going to protect airplanes, they would attack other targets instead.

We can see a similar example in the war on drugs. Successful U.S. efforts to shut down drug transshipment through the Caribbean led drug traffickers to move their operations to Central America and Mexico, with no long-term reduction in drugs flowing to the United States, but with devastating consequences for those countries.

Questions to Avoid Common Mistakes

A firmer understanding of a few key evidence-based principles would add tremendous value to the defense educational framework. Leaders, especially at the senior level, can begin by asking their team, and themselves, four questions when trying to use evidence to make better decisions:

Our ability to collect data has vastly improved in recent years. But to reap the national security benefits of this data revolution, our ability to think clearly about how to use evidence to make better decisions has to keep up. The good news is that, in our experience creating and teaching an executive education course on leading evidence-based decisions, leaders can acquire the key conceptual tools needed to navigate todays information-rich environment without devoting years to becoming technical data analysts.

Like all important skills, however, evidence-based decision-making doesnt come naturally. It takes careful training and practice. The United States should reform its defense education system to prepare leaders to understand common conceptual errors, ask the critical questions, and retain the healthy level of skepticism necessary to use evidence effectively to make better decisions. This means bringing short courses on leveraging evidence into the curriculum at many levels, from the service academies through the National Defense University. Applying some basic principles can help leaders to filter through the noise and think clearly in a data-driven age. We are at a pivotal point in history. It is vital that our leaders education keeps pace with innovation.

Ethan Bueno de Mesquita is the Sydney Stein Professor and Deputy Dean at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. He is co-creator ofLeading Evidence-Based Decisionsand the author ofPolitical Economy for Public Policy.

Liam Collins is the Executive Director of the Madison Policy Forum and the Viola Foundation. He is retired Special Forces Colonel and former Director of the Combating Terrorism Center and Modern War Institute at West Point. He is co-creator ofLeading Evidence-Based Decisions.

Kristen G. DeCaires is Program Manager for the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project (ESOC) at Princeton University. Prior to ESOC, she served in various public health initiatives and research administration programs. DeCaires conducted field research and program evaluations in the U.S. and Myanmar for refugee populations, emergency response, and maternal child health projects.

Jacob N. Shapiro is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, where hedirectsthe Empirical Studies of Conflict Project.He is co-creator ofLeading Evidence Based-Decisions, author ofTheTerrorists Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations,and co-author ofSmall Wars, Big Data: The InformationRevolution inModern Conflict.

Image: U.S. Army National Guard (Photo by Sgt. Jennifer Amo)

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Human rights in the drug war | Inquirer Opinion – INQUIRER.net

Posted: at 10:47 am

Of several survey items that SWS recently reported on the administrations drug war, the one with greatest consensus is the perception of abuses of human rights (Fourth Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: 76% of Filipinos see many human rights abuses in the administrations war on illegal drugs, 24% see few, http://www.sws.org.ph, 1/12/20). The said 76 percent (correctly rounded), consists of 33 percent calling the abuses very many (napakarami) and 42 percent calling them somewhat many (medyo marami).

Perceived drop in the usage of illegal drugs. Slightly below the 76 percent who are concerned about the volume of human rights abuses is a 74 percent who perceive that the number of users of illegal drugs has fallen since the start of the Duterte administration in 2016. Of the 74 points, only 28 say it has fallen a lot (bumaba nang malaki), while 46 say it has fallen somewhat (bumaba nang kaunti). This tells me that the peoples concession of the wars desired impact on drug usage is not as intense as their concern for human rights.

Approval of the right of VP Robredo to know the HVTs. The item with the third-highest consensus was about the right of Vice President Leni Robredo, when she was cochairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (Icad), to see the list of so-called High Value Targets in the illegal drug trade. Sixty percent say she had the right to see the list, and only 15 percent say she did not; 25 percent are neutral on this matter.

Approval of the UN move to investigate EJKs. Fifty-five percent agree with the move of the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings committed in the drug war. Only 19 percent disagree, while 24 percent are neutral. Thus, Mr. Dutertes repeated attempts to vilify the UN for interfering in our domestic affairs are not popular with the people.

Implicit failure of the war on illegal drugs. Half of all Filipinos (49 percent) agree with the proposition that the removal of political oppositionist VP Robredo from her position as Icad cochairperson was an implicit admission by the administration that its war is failing. Only 21 percent disagree with this; 30 percent are neutral.

Dutertes sincerity in appointing Robredo. Nevertheless, a strong plurality of 44 percent say that President Duterte was sincere in appointing VP Robredo to the Icad. Only 27 percent say he was insincere; 29 percent are undecided.

Satisfaction with Robredos Icad performance. When asked to rate what VP Robredo did while with Icad, 44 percent were satisfied, while 26 percent were dissatisfied, for a net satisfaction rating of +18, which is classified as Moderate. (This item, inadvertently missing from the 1/12/20 SWS report, was added on 1/15/20.)

Public opinion on the drug war is mostly unfavorable. The December 2019 SWS survey shows Filipinos as critical of the drug war, except that they concede that the usage of illegal drugs has fallen.

The presidential spokespersons claim (BusinessWorld, 1/14/20) that EJKs occur because of violent resistance by the suspects in buy-bust and police operations, endangering the lives of the law enforcers hence their resort to self-defense sanctioned by law, has few believers. Eight SWS surveys from December 2016 to September 2019 all show strong rejection of the nanlaban excuse (Third Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: 29% of Pinoys do not believe police claims of nanlaban, 26% believe, and 45% are undecided, http://www.sws.org.ph, 12/22/19).

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Massapequa and Freeport compete in ‘Wrestling Takes Down Drugs’ initiative – Newsday

Posted: at 10:47 am

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder walked to the center of the Massapequa gym and started to speak. The Freeport and Massapequa wrestlers surrounded him in a large circle as the crowd listened to his impassioned speech on how Wrestling Takes Down Drugs.

Ryders rousing speech sent a strong message about the departments initiative to Take Down Drugs Wednesdaynight before the regular season dual meet championship between Freeport and Massapequa.

Ryder nailed it. The former Lynbrook wrestler in his anti-drug message empowered the high school athletes to educate the younger kids in the community and lead by example.

Were educating kids and building a foundation for our future, Ryder said. Our initiatives start in the schools. We cant continue to just lock people up and think the drug problem will go away. We need to get the message out and educate the young people. And it starts in places like Massapequa that is such a large area and has tons of youth programs.

In Wednesdaynights pregame ceremony, every wrestler on the varsity and junior varsity teams signed a pledge to take down drugs.

And then the night belonged to the Massapequa wrestlers as the states defending Division I dual meet championstook down Freeport, 58-12, to capture the Nassau Conference 1A crown. Massapequa improved to 15-4 and 5-0 in conference and Freeport is7-5 and 4-1.

We have strength in numbers in the wrestling community, Massapequa coach Ron Serrano said. I believe so strongly in this program to take down drugs. And we have 200 kids in our program from the middle school to the high school program. This is a statement by wrestling that we will lead people away from the opioid epidemic. People that go to drugs, use drugs, are running away from their problems, hiding their issues with drug use. In wrestling we confront our fears, we overcome our problems, we build our inner strength to face adversity and come forward with a confident mindset.

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But Wednesdaynights message was so much more than an athletic event for Freeport and Massapequa. They came together to battle for a regular season title. But they also came together to fight in the biggest battle of all the war on drugs.

Its an incredibly strong message when the Police Commissioner himself comes into the gym and addresses the crowd, Freeport coach Joe Chetti said. It was a powerful message. Its the same message we preach every day to our athletes to stay away from drugs. We want our wrestlers to be leaders and role models and teach the younger wrestlers to lead good, clean lives.

Massapequa eighth-grader Matt Reehil opened the dual meet with a pin in 2:13 over Justin Rienke at 99 pounds. Chiefs junior Chase Liardi pinned Miguel Payamps in 53 seconds for a 15-3 lead.

Sophomore Anthony Conetta forged a 15-10 third period lead and locked Terry Ellis up for the pin in 4:33 at 126 pounds. Ellis and Conetta battled through the first two periods in an entertaining back and forth bout. Ellis looked like he had the win midway through the second period when he had Conetta on his back.

We never quit, we just battle, Serrano said. Anthony battled off his back and came back to win. He had the confidence to overcome the adversity. Thats a big character check.

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JPM: Biotech, VC execs on where the industry should look beyond cancer – FierceBiotech

Posted: at 10:47 am

SAN FRANCISCOOncology is clearly a major medical and societal issue: a major killer that, while predominately affecting the older population, can strike the young through a mixture of environmental factors or a genetic lottery. Its no wonder we struggle to even call it by its name, preferring just the "big C."

Biopharma has acted accordingly over the years and spent billions (and made many more billions) developing new oncology therapies, with the media and political focus falling on cancer drugs far more acutely than any other area, whether that be over pricing (the current average cost of a new cancer drug in the U.S. is around $100,000), effectiveness/safety or rejection from healthcare gatekeepers, such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in England.

But cancer is only one disease area: Heart disease is the biggest killer in the U.S., yet there are very few new and innovative CV drugs out there, with influenza complications, such as pneumonia, Alzheimers disease, stroke and diabetes complications all leading causes of death in the U.S. There has been a war on cancer, but not a war on stroke.

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There is also the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, where decades-old antibiotics are ceasing to work against common forms of bacteria as they evolve; this, coupled with the fact that most life science companies arent working on a next generation of antibiotics (R&D costs are high with little or no ROI), means we could very well be facing a new surge in deaths in the future from once preventable diseases and infections.

At the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this week, we at FierceBiotech wondered what the industry was doing about this and asked a range of life science C-suite execs: What therapeutic areas beyond cancer are most important to the industry now? both in terms of unmet need as well as where there is some real innovation.

Jim Robinson, chief operating officer at Paragon Biosciences, said: I spent 10 years in oncology, so I understand that point. Still, the biggest issue we face today that has to be figured out is Alzheimers. Looking at the aftermath, its scaryits going to be trillions of dollars in 20 short years in terms of the expense treating patients with Alzheimers. In 20 short years, I might be one of those patients!

I think its been a vast wasteland of failure. Im hoping something comes about before Im 70 to allow us to treat it. Whether the industry is willing to shift more resources to pursue treatments or not remains to be seen, especially after the latest failures. I dont know if the industry will shift to Alzheimers or more CNS treatments associated with cognition, but Im hoping.

Oncology good news is when the industry shifted and thousands of drugs moved through development. We see a significant transformation in certain cancers. If the incentive or the approach from a regulatory pathway that shifts incentives to research in Alzheimers, we will find some answers.

The biotechs CEO, Jeff Aronin, who is also CEO of Paragon Capital Partners, echoed this need for answers. I have a focus there with one of our companies, but in general, I would answer a little broader, he explained. Ive been involved in CNS drug development for a very long time and remember the 90s, which they called the decade of the brain, but we really didnt make a lot of advances in neuroscience and psychiatry that we thought we would have.

I think over the next few years is where we are really going to see many medicines approved. We have learned so much more and advancing in many different areas. In neuroscience and psychiatry, I would add theyre also an area of tremendous cost to the healthcare system and we still dont have a lot of great solutions, whether its Alzheimers or any of the neuropsychiatry areas were working in.

BioNTechs Sean Marrett also saw Alzheimers and other neuroscience areas, such as Parkinsons disease, as still major and unmet issues, as well as multiple sclerosis, which has seen great strides but still needs work.

Alzheimers is certainly a major issue, but also one that is more entrenched in the west: We live longer and are therefore more susceptible to diseases associated with aging.

Lyndra Therapeutics CEO Patricia Hurter asked us whether we meant our question in relation to the developed world or the developing world? We asked her two cents on both.

Women in Africa either get pregnant or get HIV, she said starkly. Their economic prospects are horrendous. It means their childrens economic prospects are horrendous. Were working with Gilead on HIV prophylaxis and on an oral birth control. Eventually, when the drugs are potent enough, we could do a once-a-month pill of each. To have them in one capsulethat would be fabulous. That would be transformative for developing countries.

For America, I think so many things like hypertension and diabetes are a chronic epidemic and people are having bad health outcomes [that could be avoided] if they took well proven drugs in an adherent way. Its an adherence issue. Theyre not feeling sick so they dont take the medicine. But in fact, it is still progressing [it, referring to stuff like hypertension, NASH that progressively gets worse without you feeling sick until its advanced].

It leads to unnecessary hospitalizations. If we could combine modern methods of distribution that a poly-pill combination that a person neededonce a week they would take one thing to keep them from progressing.

Karuna Therapeutics CEO Steve Paul also pointed to suicide rates that keep going up, whereas in certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease theyve started tracking down.

And, finally, Westlake Village Biopartners Managing Partner Sean Harper said: Because there are so many areas of unmet need, its hard to say just one therapeutic area or one modality. Its exciting: the cellular engineering thats going to result in the ability to do regenerative medicine type efforts is I think going to be the next really amazing sort of thing.

With the fact that you can manipulate human cells now the way you can, and make multiple difficult edits to engineer things out of them and so on, that is just a new frontier. There are a lot of settings where you can just imagine what that can do. Its not 100 years away. Its now. Its happening already, people are doing it. I think that, to me, is the most exciting area.

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Cory We Hardly Knew Ye – The Nation

Posted: at 10:47 am

Cory Booker speaks during the third day of Brett Kavanaughs Supreme Court confirmation hearing on September 6, 2018. (Alex Brandon / AP Photo)

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Cory Booker launched his 2020 Democratic presidential bid on the first day of Black History Month in 2019, with a promise to crusade for a criminal justice system [that] keeps us safe, instead of shuffling more children into cages and coffins.Ad Policy

Politicians generally pack their announcement speeches with platitudes that are far more ambitious than their candidacies. They begin with poetry, yet more often than not end up speaking the compromised language of our all-too-predictable politics.

But Booker kept his audacious promise throughout a campaign that ended Monday, on the eve of a debate he was turned away from because of the Democratic National Committees ill-conceived rules.

The senator from New Jersey campaigned as a passionate and consistent advocate for bold and long-overdue reform. He kept coming back to the issue, going deeper, pushing harder. He linked it to the most fundamental challenges facing American society, declaring in the September Democratic presidential debate in Houston, We have systemic racism that is eroding our nation from health care to the criminal justice system. And its nice to go back to slavery, but dear God, we have a criminal justice system that is so racially biased, we have more African Americans under criminal supervision today than all the slaves in 1850. MORE FROM John Nichols

In particular, Booker ran against the devastatingly destructive war on drugs that top Democrats once embraced as enthusiastically as top Republicans. Though he regularly emphasized unity, and had kind words for his fellow contenders, on this issue the senator cut the front-runner no slack. After former vice president Joe Biden expressed skepticism about legalizing marijuanaemploying 1980s rhetoric about the need for more research on whether smoking weed is a gateway to more serious drug useBooker delivered one of the most memorable lines of the 2020 campaign.

I have a lot respect for the vice presidenthe swore me into my office, hes a hero, Booker said as the two men faced off on a debate stage in November. Then, noting that this week I hear him literally say that [he doesnt] think we should legalize marijuana, Booker turned to Biden and announced: I thought you might have been high when you said it.

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But Booker, the sponsor of the federal Marijuana Justice Act (a measure that seeks to reverse decades of failed drug policy that has disproportionately impacted low-income communities and communities of color) was serious about delivering this message.

[Marijuana] in our country is already legal for privileged people, said the senator, who explained that the war on drugs has been a war on black and brown people.

As the applause from the crowd grew, Booker continued. With more African-Americans under criminal supervision in America than all the slaves since 1850, do not roll up into communities and [fail to] talk directly to issues that are going to relate to the liberation of children, because there are people in Congress right now that admit to smoking marijuana, while there are peopleour kids are in jail right now for those drug crimes.

Concluding one of the last statements he made from a Democratic debate stage, Booker said that the party needs somebody authentically committed to addressing the issue as its 2020 nominee, because these are the kind of issues that mean a lot to our community.

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He was right. But he will not be the nominee.

The remaining Democratic contenders have had some nice things to say about Booker and his campaign. Rightly so. He deserves credit for having mounting an honorable, upbeat bid that was all about ideas and relentlessly focused on the work of defeating Donald Trump.But the candidates who are still in the runningseveral of whom (including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren) have worked with Booker on marijuana law reform initiativesshould do more. If they really want to recognize and respect Cory Bookers many contributions to the 2020 race, they can begin by fully and explicitly embracing his crusade on behalf of criminal justice reformand his essential critique of the drug war.

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Deported Activist Files Suit Demanding Return to New York – The Intercept

Posted: at 10:47 am

A New York City immigration rights activist who was deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2018 filed a lawsuit in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday morning, alleging that he was targeted for deportation because of his political speech. Jean Montrevil said his removal from the U.S. was in violation of his First Amendment rights and demanded that the government return him to his home in New York from Haiti.

The suit brought by Montrevil, 51, a founding member of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, builds on a significant ruling last spring by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of a former colleague, activist Ravi Ragbir. In Ragbirs case, the court found that ICEs moves against Ragbir in early 2018 were intended as retaliation for Ragbirs political speech and thus, violated his rights under the First Amendment.

Its only once he began speaking out as an activist that his real problems with ICE began.

Ragbirs suit revolved around surveillance, intimidation, and an attempted deportation foiled only by an emergency court order, all in January 2018. Montrevils record of being threatened for his activism goes back further, stretching over a decade. And while Ragbir was able to narrowly escape deportation, Montrevil was not in large part, he alleges, because of an elaborate and carefully planned conspiracy of official lies and misconduct that deprived him of access to courts, his lawyer, and his due-process rights just long enough to get him on a plane out of the country.

Since 2005, Jean was, like nearly a million other people, living under an order of supervision, which allowed him to live in the U.S. with authorization, said Lauren Wilfong, one of the advocates representing Montrevil. Its only once he began speaking out as an activist that his real problems with ICE began.

Montrevils friends and family describe the trajectory of his life as precisely the sort of story of redemption and growth that is demanded of people convicted of crimes. They say hisadult life was characterized by the industry, community building, and love that this country valorizes in its immigrants. In their eyes, Montrevils deportation is a double-jeopardy punishment for youthful crimes he long since served time for. Even more troublingly, it is punishment for daring to raise his voice to call attention to the violence and injustice of Americas immigration enforcement apparatus. Montrevils lawsuit is seeking to make the court recognize what seems plain to many who have followed his case: that his deportation was, at its essence, political the literal banishment of a dissident who challenged the government too often and too loudly.

Montrevil came to New York legally in 1986, at the age of 17, when his father, a former Haitian military official living in Brooklyn, obtained a green card for him. For Montrevil, who had grown up fending for himself in Port-au-Prince, the transition to living under the stern authority of his father was difficult. It was a bit of a shock, Montrevil told The Intercept from Port-au-Prince. He was very tough, you know, ex-military. It was hard for me to get along with him. Looking back, I blame myself for not listening.

Montrevil ran away from home and, in his telling, fell in with the wrong crowd. Over a two-year period, he racked up convictions for drug possession with intent to distribute in Virginia, a gun possession misdemeanor in New York, and a federal drug possession conviction in New Jersey. In jail awaiting trial on his Virginia charges, Montrevil got in a fight, leading to further charges. In 1989, with the war on drugs in high gear, mandatory-minimum sentences dictated meting out lengthy prison stays. At the age of 21, Montrevil was staring down a 30-year sentence. As a legal permanent resident, his convictions also made him deportable.

When he was released onprobation in 2000, Montrevil was 32 and determined to lead a different life. He took up management of a religious goods shop in Flatbush, Brooklyn. He met Jani Cauthen, a public-school aide, and they got married and had children. He scrupulously kept to the terms of hisprobationand checked in regularly for his scheduled appointments with immigration authorities. He volunteered with HIV patients through his church. And he began working with Families for Freedom, an organization that offers support to detained immigrants and their families.

Juan Carlos Ruiz, a Lutheran minister and immigration activist, met Montrevil through his work with Families for Freedom, and invited him in 2006 to help found what would become the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City. Where Families for Freedom focuses its work on serving people caught up in the machinery of deportation, the New Sanctuary Coalition would be more outward-facing, more political, and more high-profile. Jean didnt let his fears stop him, but of course, he was concerned about the risks of becoming a public face of the movement, Ruiz said.

Those concerns proved well-founded. As Montrevils new role put him in the media spotlight, ICE responded with what he took to be retaliation. Within a year, the agency enrolled him in the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program, or ISAP, which was more ordinarily reserved for people who had failed to keep their scheduled check-ins or were otherwise considered a flight risk. Montrevil was required to wear an ankle monitor, check in with ICE three times a week, and keep a curfew of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Though most people at the time were placed on ISAP for short periods of time, Montrevil was kept on the program fornearly a year. The curfew crippled his new business, using a van to drive customers to airports or visit relatives upstate. The electronic shackle irritated his skin, leaving scars that he stillwears today.

ICE was definitelyaware ofhis political activism, Montrevil said. At a check-in in December 2009, as he was taken into custody as a prelude to deportation, an ICE officer referred to his media profile, calling Montrevil the one complaining to the Village Voice. As Montrevil waited in a Pennsylvania prison, his family, church, and supporters rallied round him, flooding ICEs New York Field Office phone lines and getting themselves arrested in noisy protests outside. Theres no question in my mind that Jean was being targeted for speaking out, the pastor of Montrevils church, Rev. Donna Schaper, said.

Montrevil was ultimately released, but he was given a stern warning from high up. In an unusual step, Christopher Shanahan, then the director of ICEs New York City Field Office, met with Montrevil, Schaper, and Montrevils lawyer, Joshua Bardavid. This cant happen again, Shanahan said, according to Schaper. If Montrevil would agree to lay low, Schaper said Shanahan told them, he wouldnt have any more problems. Montrevil said that Shanahan even told him that if he kept his head down, the ICE New York director would himself look into getting Montrevil deferred-action status, giving him lasting protection from deportation.

The Intercept could not reach Shanahan for comment by the time of publication. Rachael Yong Yow, a spokesperson for the ICE division that encompasses New York City, denied that Montrevil was targeted because of his activism, citing his convictions on multiple felony charges and final order of removal by an immigration judge. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement does not target unlawfully present aliens for arrest based on advocacy positions they hold or in retaliation for critical comments they make, she said. Any suggestion to the contrary is irresponsible, speculative, and inaccurate.

Shaken, traumatized, and worried about what would happen to his family if he continued to antagonize ICE, Montrevil decided to takeShanahans suggestion and step back from his activism. He stopped giving interviews and focused on his business, his church, and his family. Seven years went by, and Montrevil kept his periodic appointments with ICE without incident.

In 2017, President Donald Trump was elected on campaign promises to get tough on immigrants. Montrevil decided to take part in one of the New Sanctuary Coalitions prayerful demonstrations outside the local ICE headquarters. At his next check-in, Montrevil was detained, fingerprinted, and asked to turn over his property. Bardavid, his lawyer, showed ICE officials a paper receipt demonstrating that Montrevil still had a motion pending with the Board of Immigration Appeals, but ICE insisted thatit had no records of any open proceedings in its system. And then, as suddenly as his check-in had escalated, Montrevil was released without explanation. They just told me it had come from upstairs, Montrevil said. I think they were trying to scare me.

One of the guys said to me in the car, Dont you know we have Trump as president now? He doesnt like immigrants.'

Montrevil was given another check-in date on January 16, 2018, but ICE never intended for him to keep it. Sworn statements by ICE officials in Ragbirs case later revealed that they had begun planning Montrevils and Ragbirs deportations in October. Though they initially denied it, ICE officials later admitted that they put Montrevil, Ragbir, and the offices of the New Sanctuary Coalition under secret surveillance.

On January 3, plainclothes ICE officers who evidently knew that Montrevil regularly returned home on his lunch break arrested him near his house in the Far Rockaway area of Queens as he was returning to his car. Montrevil was taken to the local ICE office at 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan

One of the guys said to me in the car, Dont you know we have Trump as president now? He doesnt like immigrants, Montrevil said. I kept telling them I have a motion pending. They said, Anything you have pending, its been revoked.

At the ICE office, Montrevil repeatedly asked to speak with his lawyer but was told that his lawyer wasnt in the building. In fact, Bardavid was in the building, but was being told that he couldnt meet with his client. ICE moved Montrevil to detention in New Jersey but kept Bardavid in the dark at 26 Federal Plaza all afternoon, telling him that he could meet his client the next day.

Bardavid finally spoke with Scott Mechkowski, then the deputy director of ICEs New York Field Office, on January 5. We war-gamed this over and over, Bardavid recalled Mechkowski telling him, of Montrevils detention. What Mechkowskididnt initially tellBardavid was that ICE was moving his client that very day to the Krome Detention Facility in Florida. Montrevils outstanding paperwork was resolved over the long holiday weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. By the time court opened at 8 a.m. the following Tuesday to consider Bardavids emergency petition, Montrevil was on a plane to Haiti that had taken off at 7:38 a.m.

ICE planned and executed Jeans removal in a way that would prevent him from accessing counsel and the courts, Bardavid concludes, in a sworn declaration attached to todays lawsuit.

Montrevils advocates in his new lawsuit, Wilfong and Diana Rosen, students in New York University Law Schools immigration law clinic, said the legal and civic issues at question in Montrevils case are critical. There are dozens of other documented instances around the country of immigration activists being targeted for deportation. This is an ongoing harm, and ICE clearly feels they can act with impunity to silence their critics, Rosen said. In deporting Jean the way they did, ICE sought to send a chilling message to immigrants who might exercise their First Amendment rights. Whats at stake with this case is really whether theyre successful in that or not.

For Montrevil and his family, there are more personal stakes as well. Montrevil said he is having a tough time in Haiti, a country he left as a boy, where conditions are deteriorating rapidly. His oldest child with Cauthen, Jahsiah, is now 16 and a junior at the prestigious Brooklyn Technical High School, but since his fathers deportation, he has been struggling and the family is worried about him. Montrevils daughter, Jamya, said she talks to her father each day over WhatsApp, when Haitis unreliable communications infrastructure permit, but that its not the same as having him present in her life. I thought he was going to come back, but he never actually did, she said. I wish people understood: When you deport someone, it doesnt only affect one person, it affects their families too.

Correction: January 16, 2020, 1:06 p.m.This story has been updated to reflect that Jean Montrevil was released from prison in 2000 on probation, not parole, and that ICEs Scott Mechkowskiinitially withheld information aboutMontrevils transfer to a detention center in Florida from his lawyer.

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Panelo: Those pleased with Robredo’s ICAD stint are backers of ‘attacks’ vs drug war – INQUIRER.net

Posted: at 10:47 am

MANILA, Philippines Filipinos who expressed satisfaction on Vice President Leni Robredos abbreviated stay at the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) are believers of the incessant, unrelenting attacks against President Rodrigo Dutertes drug war, Malacaang said Thursday.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo issued the statement after a survey, conducted by the Social Weather Station from December 13 to 16, 2019, showed that 44 percent of Filipinos are satisfied with Robredos stint as co-chair of anti-drug body.

Yun ang napaniwala doon sa mga (Those people are the ones who were made to believe the) incessant, unrelenting attacks against the drug war of the President. But as I have pointed out earlier, this is contradicted by the peoples satisfaction of how he is handling the drug war, he said.

Duterte previously appointed the opposition stalwart as co-chair of ICAD after the latter criticized his brutal war on drugs. In less than 20 days, Duterte fired Robredo supposedly due to incompetence.

The same survey also found out that at least 49 percent of Filipinos agree that Robredos removal from the ICAD post is an admission that the brutal drug war is failing.

But Panelo, who is also Dutertes legal counsel, refuted this and claimed that the drug war failed during Robredos stint at ICAD.

Failing because she was the co-chair (of ICAD) for 18 days. Kaya nag-fail (Thats why it failed), Panelo said.

Shortly after her stay at ICAD, Robredo came out with a report tagging the governments drug war as a failure because it hardly scratched the surface of the drug menace despite all the money and resources given to it by the Duterte administration.

Citing government data, the Vice President said shabu supply and drug money were only reduced by 1 percent in the last three years. She also recommended that the chairmanship of ICAD be transferred from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to the Dangerous Drugs Board as the latter, according to her, has the capacity to lead the campaign from all facets.

But the President rejected her recommendation, calling her a colossal blunder.

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