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  1. ‘Cartels are scrambling’: Virus snarls global drug trade NEW YORK (AP) — Coronavirus is dealing a gut punch to the illegal drug trade, paralyzing economies, closing borders and severing supply chains in China that traffickers rely on for the chemicals to make such profitable drugs as methamphetamine and fentanyl. One of the main suppliers that shut down is in Wuhan, the epicenter of the global outbreak. Associated Press interviews with nearly two dozen law enforcement officials and trafficking experts found Mexican and Colombian cartels are still plying their trade as evidenced by recent drug seizures but the lockdowns that have turned cities into ghost towns are disrupting everything from production to transport to sales. Along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border through which the vast majority of illegal drugs cross, the normally bustling vehicle traffic that smugglers use for cover has slowed to a trickle. Bars, nightclubs and motels across the country that are ordinarily fertile marketplaces for drug dealers have shuttered. And prices for drugs in short supply have soared to gouging levels. “They are facing a supply problem and a demand problem,” said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former official with CISEN, the Mexican intelligence agency. “Once you get them to the market, who are you going to sell to?” Virtually every illicit drug has been impacted, with supply chain disruptions at both the wholesale and retail level. Traffickers are stockpiling narcotics and cash along the border, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration even reports a decrease in money laundering and online drug sales on the so-called dark web. “The godfathers of the cartels are scrambling,” said Phil Jordan, a former director of the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center. Cocaine prices are up 20 percent or more in some cities. Heroin has become harder to find in Denver and Chicago, while supplies of fentanyl are falling in Houston and Philadelphia. In Los Angeles, the price of methamphetamine has more than doubled in recent weeks to $1,800 per pound. Source
  2. PEORIA — A Peoria resident complained to police after his phone was stolen while planning to buy drugs with his "government check." On Thursday, a 62-year-old North Valley man called police to relate a misbegotten series of events. On Monday, he received his "government check" for $700 and immediately "went to buy drugs," according to a Peoria police report. He went back to his apartment to smoke crack cocaine, during which time he heard a rap at the door, the report stated. At first, he ignored the knocking, then decided to answer the door "because he likes to have company," the report said. The visitor was an acquaintance, who then joined the resident in smoking crack, the report stated. The visitor said he knew where to get more crack, if the resident could provide $60. As the resident pulled out his wad of bills, the visitor snatched the cash and tried to flee, the report stated. However, the resident grabbed the visitor, put him in a leg lock and got the money back, the report stated. However, during the tussle, the visitor whacked the resident several times and somehow got hold of his cellphone before managing to break free and run away, the report stated. The resident does not know anything about the visitor except that his name is Chris and he lives in Chicago. Asked why he waited three days to call police about the theft, the resident said he had been busy smoking crack. Source
  3. A Maryland man convicted of running over a fellow high school student has been sentenced to 25 years in prison. EDGEWATER, Md. (AP) — A Maryland teen convicted of running over a fellow high school student has been sentenced to 25 years in prison. News outlets report Nicholas Kyle Hoffman was 17 when he was charged as an adult with attempted murder in November. Charging documents say the 16-year-old victim was targeted for allegedly stealing marijuana from Hoffman's friend. Anne Arundel County prosecutors say Hoffman was filmed intentionally speeding into the boy before leaving the scene. Hoffman was "heard uttering a derisive comment indicating a lack of concern for the victim's welfare." The victim survived. Hoffman was convicted in August and sentenced Monday. In a statement, State's Attorney Wes Adams called it "one of the most callous displays of violence" he'd seen. The now 18-year-old's attorney disputed the assertion that he showed no remorse. Source
  4. A new ingredient Public services grapple with a street drug that is like no other ON A busy street corner in Manchester’s central shopping area, a young man has just collapsed, unconscious. Judging by his grubby clothes, he is one of the many people sleeping rough in the city centre. There is no need to call an ambulance, says a shop assistant, after assessing the situation. “It’s spice,” he explains with a shrug, as he walks back inside, adding that it would be best to stay away, because when the man comes round he may become violent. Spice is the name collectively given to 200-300 synthetic cannabinoids, drugs that hit the same brain receptors as cannabis but are more potent and addictive. The drugs, made mostly in China and illegal in Britain, take the form of chemicals sprayed onto dried plant leaves and smoked. In 2017-18 only 0.4% of 16- to 59-year-olds in Britain used the category of drugs that includes spice, according to the Home Office. But spice has become an epidemic among two groups not covered by these statistics: prisoners and rough sleepers. Over 90% of homeless people in Manchester smoke it, according to one survey, as do many in other cities, including Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and Newcastle. It is “one of the most severe public-health issues we have faced in decades,” wrote 20 police commissioners in an open letter to the Home Office last month. The trouble is that what has been tried and tested for other illegal drugs cannot be readily copied for spice. For a start, its effects on users are unpredictable. One reason is the rapid turnover of the chemicals in the mix. Chinese authorities have been banning individual chemicals found in spice, but the laboratories that make them get round the bans by tweaking the composition of their product. Another worry with spice is that the spraying of the chemicals is uneven, leading to highly variable potency within the same batch. In April last year the concentration of chemicals in spice in Manchester jumped from 1-2% to nearly 20%—possibly because someone missed a decimal point in a recipe found online, says Robert Ralphs, a criminologist at Manchester Metropolitan University. Ambulance crews were overwhelmed, with nearly 60 call-outs for comatose people on the streets in a single day. Smaller spikes in concentration have turned users into what the tabloids call “spice zombies”, for their pale faces, pink eyes and staggering gait. Doctors and paramedics are having to learn on the fly how to treat severe reactions to the many varieties of spice. Psychosis and paranoia are common, which is why users are often aggressive. One hospital doctor, who sees someone high on spice on almost every shift, says that the effects are wildly varied and that it is impossible to predict how long they may take to wear off. One man on spice walked around the ward naked for three hours. “We didn’t know what to do,” the doctor says. “We just locked the door, locking ourselves in with him.” A national network set up last year collects clinical reports about spice users brought to hospital emergency departments. The process is similar to that used to track adverse reactions to medicines. Treatment guidelines are updated online. Prisons are also grappling with new problems caused by spice. Failing a drug test while inside or on parole brings extra time behind bars. But the prisons’ drug-testing kits do not detect synthetic cannabinoids, so many drug users switch to spice in order to hide their habit. “You go in as an alcohol, heroin or crack user and come out as a spice user,” says Mr Ralphs. Peter Morgan, who has worked with vulnerable youths in Manchester for 20 years, says spice has been a “horrific thing” for the homeless. He lays out the problems in “The Spice Boys”, a book about a group of young homeless people hooked on the drug. By making users limp, spice turns them into targets for theft, rape and assault. Outreach workers can usually catch four or five hours of lucidity a day from a heroin addict. With spice, the brain is foggy all the time. “You need to smoke it constantly,” says one former user. Weaning people off spice is also tougher than getting them off other drugs. Some do not consider themselves addicts, a designation they reserve for heroin junkies. Even as they struggle with withdrawal symptoms and resort to selling sex or stealing to get their next fix, they see spice as not much more harmful than cannabis. So far nothing makes an effective substitute for it, as methadone does for heroin. Treatment therefore targets withdrawal symptoms, using drugs that dull pain, stomach problems and psychosis. One thing that those who pick up spice tend to have in common is previous drug use. As spice users become more stigmatised, those on other illegal drugs may be less inclined to switch to it. Even some heroin users are now looking down on spice zombies, says Mr Ralphs. Source
  5. A recent review published in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis summarized the potential drug-to-drug interactions between green tea and cardiovascular drugs. Green tea is the most popular beverage in Asian countries and it has recently gained popularity in the West. Part of its popularity stems from the notion that green tea and exhibits therapeutic benefits for many complications, including cardiovascular disease. Considering the high prevalence of cardiovascular disease and the increasingly common use of green tea, health care providers are becoming wary of potential drug-to-drug interactions that may negatively affect a patient’s health. A recent review, published in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, provides a comprehensive commentary on the reported interactions between green tea and its derivatives with different cardiovascular drugs. Green tea may interact with cholesterol-lowering drugs Statins are a family of blood cholesterol-lowering drugs that act by inhibiting the production of cholesterol in the liver. Studies have found that green tea can interact with both statins simvastatin and rosuvastatin to alter their kinetic profiles in the body. Recent research shows that alterations in the kinetics of rosuvastatin are likely due to green tea inhibiting metabolic liver enzymes, which are necessary for the absorption of rosuvastatin. Green tea may lower the effects of a drug for blood pressure, chest pain, and arrhythmias A study in healthy Japanese volunteers found that consuming green tea with nadolol, a drug used for high blood pressure, chest pain, and cardiac arrhythmias, reduced the effects of the drug. Furthermore, in a study on sildenafil, a therapeutic drug commonly prescribed for pulmonary hypertension and erectile dysfunction, the researchers found that sildenafil kinetics were altered when the drug was administered with green tea. The only limitation to the study was that Sildenafil was co-administered with midazolam, which may partly account for the changes observed in sildenafil kinetics. Possible interactions with anticoagulants and immunosuppressants A case study of a 58-year-old male recipient of a kidney transplant reported higher levels of tacrolimus, an immunosuppressant commonly used during organ transplants, after ingesting green tea. Another single case was also reported to suggest a potential interaction between green tea and warfarin, an anticoagulant. However, it is important to note that the potential interactions reported between green tea, and warfarin and tacrolimus are based on single-patient cases. Future studies are necessary to validate these interactions and better understand their consequences on patient health. In conclusion, the authors report that green tea and its derivatives may interact with cardiovascular drugs and could potentially affect patient health and alter drug efficacy and availability. Most of the studies reported thus far indicate a low-to-moderate interaction and may not necessarily cause severe problems, albeit more thorough studies are necessary, particularly among susceptible patients. < Here >
  6. U.S. has not found 'one dollar' of El Chapo’s money http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.3134052.1493833448!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_1200/mexico-crime.jpg The feds have hit a wall when it comes to seizing El Chapo’s money. After Texas Sen. Ted Cruz proposed a plan last month to stick reputed drug cartel king El Chapo with the tab for President Trump’s much-ballyhooed border wall, it was revealed Wednesday that American authorities have not been able to find a trace of his dirty money. According to Mexico’s attorney general, getting the jailed drug lord — whose real name is Joaquin Guzman — to foot the border bill is as reasonable as expecting him to turn over a new leaf. “As of today, U.S. authorities have not found not even one dollar of El Chapo’s assets,” Mexican Attorney General Raul Cervantes said in a local TV interview. EL CHAPO Act proposes funding Trump wall with cash from drug lord A federal indictment in the United States seeks the forfeiture of more than $14 billion of drug proceeds and illicit profits allegedly derived from the Sinaloa Cartel’s activities. Mexico has only found minor assets belonging to Guzman, Cervantes said. “His money hasn’t been found because he didn’t use the financial system,” he added. Prosecutors balk at Amnesty International jail probe for El Chapo But Trump was one-upped by Cruz, his former campaign rival, who said Guzman’s money should help pay for the wall http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/u-s-not-found-dollar-el-chapo-money-article-1.3134053
  7. We may not have x-ray specs — but now we have have the world's first handheld x-ray gun, which enables police to search for explosives, guns and drugs in inaccessible places. American Science & Engineering developed the device, known as the Mini Z, using the same Z Backscatter technology as the large scanners at airports. The beams are not strong enough to penetrate organic tissue the way a medical x-ray does; instead, they scatter off surfaces they encounter. It took the company seven years to miniaturize the technology into a 9-pound handheld device, according to the blog Defense One. It can scan cramped environments, such as the interior of a boat, or a wall that might have contraband hidden in it. The beams only travel a few feet, however, which means police will still need a warrant to search an apartment. The Z Backscatter rays highlight organic materials, as well as metallic objects. It can see currency, weapons and drugs. It can even spot a 3D-printed plastic gun, according to the Daily Mail. A tablet attached to the device displays an image in real-time, allowing quick scans of an object from different angles. Operators require little to no training, and Defense One points out they don't even need to be literate to use the scanner. AS&E CEO Chuck Dougherty told the Mail that the Mini Z system is "a game-changer for law enforcement and border security officials who are constantly challenged to quickly and accurately detect potential threats in hard-to-reach environments." On the Mini Z website, you can simulate scanning a port, airfield, border or city. Source
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