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Dublin: New Blog For Citizen’s Free Press Ireland.com

11 Oct

FOLLOW THIS LINK FOR FUTURE POSTS:

http://www.citizensfreepressireland.com/

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Lamezia Terme, Italy: Pope Denounces ‘ndrangheta mob’ As “Inhuman Mafia”

9 Oct

Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful as he arrives with his popemobile to celebrate …

Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful as he arrives with his popemobile to celebrate a mass in Lamezia Terme, Italy, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

LAMEZIA TERME, Italy (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday denounced the “inhuman” mafia that plagues southern Italy and urged residents there to respond to the region‘s suffering by caring for one another and the common good.

Benedict made the comments while celebrating an open-air Mass in Lamezia Terme, in Calabria in the “toe” of boot-shaped Italy.

The region is home to the ‘ndrangheta mob, which is today considered more powerful than the Sicilian Mafia and is one of the world’s biggest cocaine traffickers. Calabria is also one of the poorest regions in Italy, with a 27 percent unemployment rate.

Benedict noted the region is seismic — “not just geologically but from the structural, behavioral and social point of view” — and said high unemployment and Calabria’s “often inhuman criminality wounds the fabric of society.”

He praised Calabrians for their ability to live with such problems and a near-constant state of emergency and urged them to continue responding to the ills afflicting the region with faith and Christian values.

“Force yourselves to grow in the ability to collaborate with one another, care for one another and all the public good,” he said.

It was Benedict’s first visit to the region and police estimated about 40,000 people had turned out under cold, dark skies for the Mass.

The city’s mayor, Gianni Speranza, welcomed Benedict but didn’t gloss over the region’s ills. “Welcome to Lamezia Terme, your holiness, a land of suffering,” he said.

He said the region’s young people needed a sign of hope that they can live without the mob and fear. “Enough with the mafia!” he added.

Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful as he arrives to celebrate a mass in Lamezia Terme, Italy, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011. At right is Lamezia Bishop, Luigi Cantafora. (AP Photo/Adriana Sapone)

Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful as he arrives to celebrate a mass in Lamezia …

Mexico City: Vicious Drug Gangs Competing For ‘Cartel Cred’

9 Oct

Alfredo Carmona alias “el Capi,” leader of the New Generation gang, right, is escorted …
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Masked gunmen dump the bodies of 35 slaying victims during rush hour as terrified motorists watch and tweet friends to avoid the avenue in a Gulf coast city. A couple of weeks later, 32 more corpses are found nearby in three houses.

A woman’s decapitated body is left at a border city’s monument to Columbus, the head atop a computer keyboard with a sign saying she was killed for blogging about drug traffickers.

The severed heads of five men are dumped outside an elementary school in Acapulco, and two more near a military base in Mexico City days later.

That was just in the last three weeks.

The brutal public killings that began about five years ago have worsened as Mexican drug cartels try to one-up each other in their quest to scare off rivals, authorities and would-be informers — and still stun Mexicans increasingly numbed to the gory spectacles.

“These gangs have to keep escalating because they want the shock value but the shock value wears off,” said Clark McCauley, a psychology professor at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and an expert on terrorism. “Now, to get a headline you have to get more heads, or more bodies or do something more horrific.”

Latin American drug lords have long turned to grisly killings and torture tactics. At the height of its powers in the 1990s, the Juarez cartel used to cut off the fingers of snitches and shove them down their throats, a practice that other cartels soon followed.

The current show of savagery began in April 2006 when two police officers were decapitated; their heads dripping blood were left in the resort city of Acapulco, where four alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel had been killed in a shootout with police. Along with the heads was a sign that warned, “So that you learn to respect.”

The Zetas are a gang of drug smugglers and hit men led by deserters from an elite Mexican army unit, who for many years were assassins for the Gulf cartel.

Five months later, the La Familia cartel rolled five human heads purportedly belonging to Zetas across a dance floor in the western state of Michoacan. An attached note said La Familia “doesn’t kill for money, doesn’t kill women, doesn’t kill innocents, just those who should die,” an apparent retaliation warning for the particularly violent group.

Since then, drug traffickers have plunged into even more gruesome tactics. They have tied victims to overpasses and shot them to death during rush hour as sickened motorists watched. Some have decapitated people alive and then posted videos of it on the internet.

“In terms of the cruelty, it’s the Zetanisation of the country because the Zetas were the first to introduce these ghastly tactics into Mexico,” said George W. Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, who has written several books about the rapidly expanding drug cartel. The Zetas are the game-changers.

Officials blame a group calling itself the “Zeta Killers” for dumping 35 bodies on a busy boulevard in the Gulf coast city of Veracruz on Sept. 20. They say the group also killed 32 people whose bodies were found at three houses in the area on Thursday.

On Monday, police in Mexico City found two severed heads on a street near a major military base accompanied by a note referring to the “Mano con Ojos,” or “Hand with Eyes,” drug gang. Motorists called the police after spotting one of the heads on the hood of an SUV.

“If you want to have cartel cred,” said Grayson, “you have to show you can carry off any act at any time and go as far as your enemy.”

Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna has said Mexican drug traffickers copied the terror tactic from the al-Qaida in Iraq after it posted videos on the internet of the decapitations of Americans. He said the cartels are using al-Qaida’s methods to pressure the government to halt its crackdown against drug traffickers, which has fractured many of the gangs.

Authorities have also said that in 2005, the Zetas began enlisting “Kaibiles,” former members of an elite Guatemalan counterinsurgency unit, to train newly recruited foot soldiers. The Kaibiles were known for massacres during the Guatemalan civil war that ended in the mid-1990s.

Very few of the killings result in arrests or convictions, so the only deterrent is revenge by another cartel.

In the five years since the beheading of the two Acapulco police officers, decapitations have become almost weekly occurrences and a prime terror tactic.

The practice dates back at least 2,000 years, said Dr. Michelle Bonogofsky, an bioarchaeologist who edited two books on the significance of of the human head in different cultures, from skull collection to decapitations.

“One of the worst things you can do to the body, in some instances, is to desecrate or dismember it and historically, this has been used by kings and various other groups to establish control,” Bonogofsky said. “This could be tied to the religious belief that you need your body intact to be resurrected.”

Residents in some cities caught in the bloody turf battles are already adapting to living with violence, said Dr. Oscar Galicia, a psychology professor who specializes in violent behavior at Iberoamerican University in Mexico City.

In the northern city of Monterrey, where the Zetas are fighting the Gulf drug cartel, many people don’t go out at night in certain neighborhoods, they avoid night clubs and bars and have added extra locks to their doors at home.

“What people are doing in Monterrey is adapting,” he said.

More worrisome is that the prolonged violence is creating a sense of helplessness among Mexicans, who are becoming increasingly numb to what’s happening, Galicia said.

“Now if it’s not 20 bodies, it doesn’t get our attention and that’s terrible and really dangerous for our society because we’re becoming as desensitized as the criminals,” he said.

FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2011 file photo, relatives weep after gunmen opened fire on a taxi killing the driver and the passenger in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, Mexico. The brutal public killings that began about five years ago have worsened as Mexican drug cartels try to one-up each other in their quest to scare off rivals, authorities and would-be informers _ and still shock Mexicans increasingly accustomed to the gory spectacles. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 2, 2011 file photo, relatives weep after gunmen opened fire on …

Nepal: Unpaid Charity Workers ‘Turn To Prostitution’ For Survival

9 Oct

Desperate AIDS charity workers in Nepal are turning to prostitution to pay bills and buy food because government bureaucracy has denied them their wages, campaigners said Friday.

Gay rights and AIDS charity the Blue Diamond Society said it had been unable to pay its outreach workers, who receive as little as 3,000 rupees ($38) a month, for 12 weeks because of a lack of funding.

The group’s leader, Nepalese lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant, said he employed about 400 “educators” in Nepal, some with HIV, who worked to raise awareness about safe sex, contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases.

“We don’t have exact details, but many have turned to sex work to survive,” he explained.

Nepalese youth volunteers take part in a rally to mark World AIDS Day in Kathmandu in 2009

Pant said some of his employees working in border areas might even be failing to use condoms because of the lack of free contraception there.

The World Policy Institute think-tank highlighted this week that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) battling HIV/AIDS in Nepal were being denied $10 million in aid currently being held by the government.

The money has been in limbo since 2009, when Nepal announced it would stop funding HIV/AIDS education programmes, saying that infection rates were slowing down.

After pressure from the World Bank, the deeply impoverished Himalayan country agreed to reverse its decision, but problems with contract negotiations and other bureaucratic delays have meant the money has still not been released.

“While stories of stagnant bureaucracy in Nepal?s fledgling democratic government are not new, the consequences this time will put those increasingly dependent on NGO support at great risk,” said Kyle Knight, author of the World Policy Institute blog post.

About one percent of the adult population of Nepal is estimated to be HIV positive, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

But female sex workers are said to be a particularly high-risk group.

Since Nepal?s first cases were reported in 1988, the disease has primarily been transmitted by intravenous drug use and unprotected sex, UNAIDS said.

“About 70,000 people are estimated to be infected with HIV in Nepal, most of whom are not aware of their infection,” the United States Agency for International Development‘s 2010 Nepal HIV/AIDS profile said.

“As of the end of 2009, only 14,320 HIV-positive persons were officially reported.”

Nepal’s National Centre for AIDS and STD Control (NCASC) reports HIV infections to be more common in the far western region of the country, where migrant labour is more common, and in urban areas.

Poverty, low levels of education, illiteracy, gender inequalities, marginalisation of at-risk groups and stigma and discrimination compound the epidemic?s effects, the organisation said.

No one was available for comment from the health ministry.

Desperate AIDS charity workers in Nepal are turning to prostitution to pay bills …

Nepalese transgender performer Swecha Lama dances on World AIDS Day in Kathmandu in 2008

Killarney, Co Kerry: Drug Culture Can Be Changed By Tackling Social Issues

8 Oct

THE prohibition system favoured in this country in the fight against drugs has failed miserably and should be abandoned to facilitate a more practical and workable policy, a leading criminologist has insisted.

Dr Paul O’Mahony, associate professor of psychology at Trinity College, Dublin, said the traditional “cops and docs” method, combining the criminal justice system with the health service, is totally inadequate and new legislation is urgently needed if matters are to improve.

He said medics and law enforcers obviously have significant roles to play but to totally rely on them is a farce that provides an excuse for the Government to do nothing.

“We need to tackle the whole issue of social justice, culture and our love of mood-altering substances through education and prevention.

“We have an almost universal and irresistible urge to indulge in mood-altering substances and problems have been created by doctor-caused epidemics through the supply of tranquillisers and drugs such as Prozac,” he remarked.

Speaking at the annual Getting A Grip conference in Killarney — organised by Kerry Life Education and the Southern Regional Drugs Task Force — he said the whole drug culture takes on a glamour that is appealing to rebellious young people.

“They resist attempts at control and need to establish independence and autonomy as they grow. It’s as if drug use proves maturity.

“Prohibition has created a criminal monopoly that enriches those willing to defy the law who are ruthless enough to use violence and intimidation to turn a profit.”

Dr O’Mahony said that while there was a flow of “showcase successes” highlighting major drugs seizures made by gardaí, prohibition has been a massive failure as situations where there is huge profit are being created and spread through the prison system.

“We are spending huge amounts of money on law enforcement that’s simply not working.”

The respected criminologist said triggers for drug abuse include the stresses of attempting to maintain materialistic lifestyles, more competition in education and in the workplace, and the increased pace and intensity of life.

“We had a mad situation where people were buying houses 50 or 60 miles away and commuting for two hours to work while their children were in care for 10 or 12 hours a day.”

He said that another major problem is what he termed “the X-Factor scenario” in which expectations of success are limitless but there was not much to go around.

“All of these interacting changes have impacted dramatically on our way of life and on the quality of life and people have become more susceptible to the allure of drugs,” he said.

He said the way to succeed was through legislation and not medicalisation and with ubiquitous and energetic educational programmes highlighting the destructive use of drugs.

www.drugsfreeworld.org  & www.drugs.ie

Amsterdam: Cofee Shops Ponder Compliance On New Cannabis Sales Law

8 Oct

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Coffee shops in the Netherlands were left wondering on Saturday how to comply with restrictions announced by the Dutch government on the sale of “strong” cannabis, saying enforcement would be difficult given the laws on production.

The Netherlands is famous for its liberal soft drugs policies. A Dutch citizen can grow a maximum of five cannabis plants at home for personal use but large-scale production and transport is a crime.

On Friday, the coalition government said it would seek to ban what it considered to be highly potent forms of cannabis — known as “skunk” — placing them in the same category as hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine.

But the industry said the guidelines were not clear enough.

“Commercial cannabis growers are already breaking the law so how can testing be legal? It’s not clear what coffee shops need to do,” said Maurice Veldman, a lawyer from the Dutch cannabis retailers association who represents coffee shops in court.

A pioneer of liberal drug policies, the Netherlands has backtracked on its tolerance in the last few years, announcing plans in May to ban tourists from coffee shops, which are popular attractions in cities such as Amsterdam.

The government said it would now outlaw the sale of cannabis whose concentration of THC, seen as the main psychoactive substance, exceeds 15 percent.

The average THC concentration in cannabis sold by Dutch coffee shops is between 16 and 18 percent, according to the Trimbos Institute.

“All this will do is lead to people smoking more joints and me selling more grams. But as it’s used with tobacco it will damage their health more,” said Marc Josemans, who owns a coffee shop in the city of Maastricht.

The Dutch government says high THC content is detrimental to mental health, particularly when used at a young age, and that it wants to send a clear signal that strong cannabis poses an unacceptable risk to users.

(Reporting By Greg Roumeliotis Editing by Maria Golovnina)

New York: Sexual Behaviour Causing Spread Of Mouth & Throat Cancer: Study

5 Oct

NEW YORK – Cancer of the back of the mouth and throat is on the rise, primarily because of more cases stemming from a viral infection called human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a US study.

The number of people who were diagnosed with HPV-related oral cancer in 2004 was triple the number diagnosed in 1988 – due largely, researchers suspect, to changes in sexual behaviour that have helped spread the virus.

HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection that can cause genital warts and certain cancers, including of the cervix, anus and penis.

“The whole relationship between HPV-related head and neck cancer completely changes our ideas of who is at risk, how to treat the cancer, the prognostics of the cancer, and prevention,” said Maura Gillison, at the Ohio State University, who led the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology .

Dr Gillison and her colleagues examined oral cancer tissue collected from 271 patients over a 20-year period.

The type of cancer they examined, called oropharyngeal, originates in the back of the tongue, the soft part of the roof of the mouth, the tonsils, or the side of the throat.

They checked the samples for evidence of HPV infection and found that the HPV-related cases became more and more common each decade, while those samples that did not test positive for the virus became less common.

From these results, they estimate that HPV-related oral cancers afflict 26 out of every million people in the United States, compared with eight out of every million people in 1988.

Tina Dalianis, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden who did not take part in the study, said she believed the increase in oral cancers were due to an HPV epidemic. “We believe sexual habits have changed, and that there is an increase in sexual activity earlier on in life, with an exchange of many more sex partners in general,” she wrote.

The current study confirms what Dr Dalianis had found previously in Sweden – that HPV-related oral cancers were becoming the dominant form of the disease.

Previously, tobacco had been the primary cause of oral cancer, and most oral cancer cases were HPV-negative.

Dr Gillison’s group found that HPV-negative cancers have been cut in half since the 1980s. HPV-positive cases, which had made up just 16 per cent of oral cancer cases in the 1980s, comprised more than 70 per cent in the 2000s. – (Reuters)