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)

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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)

London: Police Appeal To Public In Hunt For “Dangerous” Most Wanted Men

5 Oct

Murderers, rapists and robbers are among more than a dozen “dangerous” men wanted abroad and thought to be hiding in the UK.

One suspect is wanted for three murders, while two are brothers who police believe raped a young girl.

Another one of the 14 men being hunted as part of Operation Sunfire is said to have cut the throat of his victim with a beer bottle.

Police Hunt 'Dangerous' Men Hiding In UK

Det Sgt Pete Rance, of Scotland Yard’s extradition squad, said: “We are hoping the public’s vigilance can help us trace these men.

“They are dangerous and not to be approached.

 “If you spot them or believe you know where they are living, working or frequenting, then I urge you to call Crimestoppers so we can find and arrest them.

“The countries where these crimes happened want these men back to face justice for these offences and it is in the interests of London to help find them.”

Among those being sought is 41-year-old Ndrieim Sadushi, who is suspected of committing three murders and an attempted murder in Albania in 1997.

Polish brothers Wojciech and Dariusz Glowacki, aged 29 and 33 respectively, are wanted for the rape of a young girl – and are thought to be living in London.

And Adrian Vasilescu, 31, is wanted in Romania for an attack in which he allegedly cut his victim’s throat using a beer bottle.

Police say he may be living in or around the Manor Park area of the capital.

Details and images of all 14 of those wanted can be found at:

 www.crimestoppers-uk.org

 In Ireland: www.garda.ie

 

Washington: Prescription Drug Abuse By Elderly & Disabled A Problem: (GAO)

5 Oct

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Prescription drug abuse by elderly and disabled beneficiaries of Medicare cost the U.S. program nearly $150 million in 2008, highlighting an area where the government can seek to save health costs.

 According to a government report released on Tuesday, some of these patients went to at least five doctors to get multiple prescriptions of drugs that are often abused.

In all, 170,000 people enrolled in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program went “doctor shopping” for drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, powerful painkillers that can lead to addiction, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Those 170,000 who possibly abused the system were 1.8 percent of the patients who had prescriptions for these commonly abused drugs.

The study began in 2010, using data from 2008, the latest year then available. Medicare enrolled about 43 million people in 2008.

In one example, one individual received prescriptions from 87 different doctors during that year. Senator Scott Brown, a Republican from Massachusetts, dubbed it “taxpayer-funded drug dealing” at a hearing about the issue on Tuesday.

Brown said oxycodone could sell for over $5,000 in some areas of the country.

“Medicare Part D beneficiaries are abusing powerful drugs to fill their own addictions or to sell them on the street,” said Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat and chairman of a subcommittee on federal financial management. “The controls … put in place haven’t done the trick.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) notified doctors about patients who could be abusing prescription drugs. Jonathan Blum, director of CMS’s Center for Medicare, said his agency’s fraud division was receiving a growing number of complaints about the issue.

Fighting Medicare fraud has gained renewed urgency in recent months as a committee of Republicans and Democrats seeks ways to cut the nation’s ballooning budget deficit ahead of a November deadline.

“Everyone always has an angle to screw the government out of taxpayer money,” Brown said. “We’re just doing things so inefficiently, it’s mind-boggling.”

The GAO and others called on CMS to take more stringent steps to prevent Medicare fraud, such as limiting patients to one doctor and one pharmacy to better monitor abuse.

However, Blum said some patients with cancer, multiple-sclerosis or other diseases with complex treatments, or those without primary care physicians, may need to see several doctors.

“Some beneficiaries are bouncing around from emergency room to emergency room,” Blum said at the hearing. “We have a very uncoordinated healthcare system today that we are working hard to reform.”

“There is a balance between stopping behavior that is clearly fraudulent and illegal, and ensuring that beneficiaries have access to medication,” he said.

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; editing by Michele Gershberg and Gerald E. McCormick)

Veracrus, Mexico: Two Murderous Cartels Dominate In Drugs War

3 Oct

VERACRUZ, Mexico (AP) — Five years after President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against Mexico’s five main drug cartels, the nation is now dominated by two powerful organizations that appear poised for a one-on-one battle to control drug markets and trafficking routes.

The government’s success in killing or arresting some cartel leaders has fractured most of the other gangs to such an extent that they have devolved into quarreling bands, or been forced to operate as subsidiaries of the two main cartels. That has often meant expanded territory and business opportunities for the hyper-violent Zetas and drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman‘s Sinaloa cartel.

“They are the two most successful cartels, or at least they have been able to expand in recent years,” said drug trade and security expert Jorge Chabat.

Mexican federal authorities, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told The Associated Press that the Zeta and Sinaloa cartels are now the nation’s two dominant drug traffickers. One or the other is present almost everywhere in Mexico, but officials are braced to see what happens next in a drug war that has already claimed an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 lives. So far, the signs are not hopeful.

GRAPHIC CONTENT - In this Sept. 26, 2011 photo, Mexican Army soldiers look at two bodies lying next to a charred vehicle in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, Mexico. Acapulco has seen a surge of cr

In the Gulf coast seaport of Veracruz, 35 bound, tortured bodies were dumped onto a main thoroughfare during the height of rush hour on Sept. 20. The killers are presumed to be aligned with the Sinaloa cartel, while the victims were apparently linked to the Zetas, who took hold of the important seaport in 2010. In a clash in May, more than two dozen people — most of them Zetas — were killed when they tried to infiltrate the Sinaloa‘s territory in the Pacific Coast state of Nayarit.

When Calderon took office in December 2006, he said the drug cartels were trying to take over the country. He launched the government’s first broad attempt to fight the gangs, deploying thousands of soldiers to capture cartel members and dismantle the organizations.

At the time, the Zetas were not even a separate cartel, but rather an armed enforcement wing of the Gulf cartel, a role created in the late 1990s when they were recruited from an elite army unit. Sometime around 2010, after a falling-out between Gulf and Zeta gunmen, the Zetas split off, ushering in what is possibly the bloodiest chapter of Mexico’s narco wars. Within less than two years, the Zetas had taken control of the seaport and most of the Gulf’s former territory.

According to Chabat, the two have survived the government crackdown because they have been more skilled than their weaker counterparts. He said the new alignment may make it easier for government forces to target the two big cartels, as opposed to fighting half a dozen of them.

“The question is whether the Sinaloa cartel and Zetas are going to break at some point or not,” said Chabat.

“Right now they are very strong, but if in two or three years these cartels are pulverized, they may say that (the drug war) was a success.”

Both the “mega” cartels want to control seaports for shipping drugs from South and Central America, and border towns, for getting the drugs into the United States.

Sinaloa has long been based on the country’s northwest Pacific coast, with occasional incursions farther east along the border. In recent years, it has spread both east and south, reaching into Central America.

In this Thursday Sept. 22, 2011 file photo, a plastic sheet covers the body of a pirated DVD vendor at the central market in Acapulco, Mexico. The Pacific resort city of Acapulco has been hit by increnext

The Zetas, once confined to a stretch of the northern Gulf coast, have grown the most, pushing into central Mexico, and as far south as Guatemala.

Strategies differ. While the Sinaloa cartel is known for forging temporary alliances, officials have said the Zetas are believed to scorn them, preferring direct control of territory. There appears little chance the two groups will ever agree to split their turf; instead, Mexico may be headed into a battle between the two cartels, with each seeking to exterminate the other.

“I see the Sinaloa Federation and the Zetas as being the two polarizing forces in the Mexican criminal system … and between the two, an array of other smaller groups aligned with one or the other, ” said Samuel Logan, director of Southern Pulse, a security consulting firm.

Their operations differ too. The Zetas are involved in human trafficking and other illegal businesses, as well as the drug trade. They have committed some of the worst massacres in the Mexican drug wars and engage in a violence so brutal authorities have called the cartel “irrational.” The Sinaloan hit men, on the other hand, appear to be more focused on the drug business and are less randomly violent.

Zetas often dress in fake military gear, and have erected military-style training camps. Sinaloa gunmen, like other narcotics gangs, are more discreet, favoring ski masks and black clothing.

“Sinaloa has done well by flying under the radar. They’re comparatively less violent, though they’re no saints,” said Andrew Selee, director of the Washington-based Mexico Institute. “The Zetas have certainly gotten bigger since they split with the Gulf, but whether that will amount to a long-term ability to control and defend the territories where they have a presence is a little less clear.

“In reality, they’re much thinner, where Sinaloa is hierarchical and compact.”

Both the big cartels have also been known to launch “spoiler” attacks, aimed at making trouble on an opponent’s turf, even though they have little chance of truly encroaching on it. They have sometimes even launched “poison” attacks on civilians on an opponent’s turf, hoping the rival will be blamed.

In between the two giants, smaller, fragmented remains of vanquished cartels fight their own bloody battles.

On the outskirts of Mexico City, the Knights Templar cartel appears to be fighting Beltran-Leyva remnants, and the same two forces — plus the Zetas — have been battling for Acapulco, terrorizing the Pacific coast resort.

Battles among various cartels proliferate in Mexico’s most violent cities, including Monterrey, where the Gulf cartel is fighting the Zetas.

But Selee notes that the Veracruz fighting may represent a new stage in which the two big gangs take each other head-on as they move deeper into each other’s territory. The battle may have opened in May, when the Zetas apparently sent a convoy of fighters into Sinaloa territory in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit.

For all of the Zetas’ bloody reputation — they have been known to massacre the families of police or soldiers who had already died fighting them — the incursion didn’t go well: 28 presumed Zetas were found slaughtered by the side of a highway.

Soon after, in July, a group of two dozen armed men posted a video on the Internet, identifying themselves as “Mata Zetas” — literally, Zeta Killers — and said they were from a group allied with Sinaloa to hunt Zetas.

A Mexican military official who could not be quoted by name for security reasons said that besides the tit-for-tat aspect of the Veracruz killings, Sinaloa may also want control of the port as a link in the shipping route from Central America.

But Logan sees another reason for a group aligned with Sinaloa to attack deep into Zeta territory in Veracruz — to distract the Zetas from their next target: Guadalajara.

Mexico’s second-largest city also has seen a rise in drug violence in the last year. It was long the home of Sinaloa’s methamphetamine-trafficking arm run by Guzman lieutenant Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, who was killed in a shootout with federal police in July 2010. Since then, factions of Coronel’s operation have been fighting for control, including the New Generation and another group known as the Resistance.

The Zetas have taken over neighboring Zacatecas state in their push west, and are eyeing Guadalajara both for the meth trade and for extortion potential.

“The Zetas aren’t good for business. They do what they have to because they don’t have the distribution networks of the Gulf or Sinaloa. So they have to diversify into kidnapping and extortion,” said a U.S. law enforcement official in Mexico, who couldn’t be identified for security reasons.

Logan said there are rumors that some factions fighting the New Generation are ready to join with the Zetas.

“That’s got to concern El Chapo,” he said, of the Sinaloan leader. “Guadalajara has been a huge part of the meth trade for years, El Chapo’s bread and butter. If the Zetas take that, it won’t be good for El Chapo.”

Both big cartels are trying to cover their actions with public relations campaigns, as is now customary. The Zetas hung banners in several Veracruz towns, accusing the military of rights abuses and favoring Sinaloa.

The Mata Zetas have come out with another video, in which they claim to have moved into Veracruz to protect the public from Zeta kidnappings and extortions. The men’s demeanor and language evoked a military style more than that of a gang foot soldier, raising a specter of a paramilitary response.

“We are the armed wing of the people, and for the people,” says a man with a ski mask, who is seen in the video sitting at a table reading from a prepared statement. He is flanked by four other masked associates, each with a full water bottle placed on the tablecloth. “We are anonymous warriors, faceless, but proudly Mexican.”

www.drugfreeworld.org & www.drugs.ie

Indianapolis: Cocaine Abusers More Likely To Develop Glaucoma: Study

3 Oct

(HealthDay News) — People who use cocaine are 45 percent more likely to develop open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the eye disease, according to a new study.

The study authors said the cocaine abusers who developed the condition were nearly 20 years younger than glaucoma patients who did not do drugs. They suggested that the findings could help doctors develop new treatments for the disease, which is currently the second most common cause of blindness in the United States.

“The association of illegal drug use with open-angle glaucoma requires further study, but if the relationship is confirmed, this understanding could lead to new strategies to prevent vision loss,” the study’s first author, Dustin French, a research scientist with the Center of Excellence on Implementing Evidence-Based Practice at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Indianapolis, said in a news release.

In conducting the study, published in the September issue of the Journal of Glaucoma, the researchers examined information on 5.3 million men and women seen in Department of Veterans Affairs’ outpatient clinics over the course of one year.

The study found about 1.5 percent of those patients had glaucoma. Over this same time frame, about 3.3 percent of all those seen in the outpatient clinics had used cocaine.

Although the study doesn’t prove that using cocaine causes glaucoma, the researchers concluded there is significantly higher risk for the eye condition among those with a history of drug abuse — particularly since people are usually in their teens or 20s when they start using illegal drugs.

The study’s authors noted more research is needed to explore the long-term effects of cocaine use on the development of glaucoma.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on glaucoma

Dublin: Homeless People Afflicted By Addiction and Ill Health: Report

3 Oct

Report highlights ill health suffered by homeless people

DEPRESSION, dental decay and the threat to health from alcohol and drug use feature heavily among homeless people, almost half of whom suffer from both physical and mental ill health, according to a report.

To add to their tragedy, members of the homeless community are plagued by a range of conditions, including hepatitis, arthritis, asthma and high blood pressure.

Nor are they faring well mentally: the survey shows out of 600 people surveyed by Simon Communities of Ireland, more than one third suffer from depression, while schizophrenia, panic attacks, bipolar disorder and social anxiety disorders feature in up to 10%.

Among the other alarming findings of the National Health Snapshot study, published today to mark the start of Simon Week, are:

* 50% used alcohol, of whom 44% reported health complications as a result.

* 31% used drugs (more than half intravenously) causing abscesses, hepatitis C and B, vein collapse, overdose and deep vein thrombosis.

* More than three quarters using drugs used one or more types of drugs (polydrug use), with heroin the most popular (58%), followed by cannabis, prescribed methadone, unprescribed benzodiazepines and headshop drugs.

* 12% had a diagnosed intellectual disability, most commonly attention deficit disorder and autism.

* 19% self-harmed, almost one quarter expressed suicidal thoughts and 17% attempted suicide in the previous six months.

Niamh Randall, Simon’s national research and policy manager, said the results showed an ongoing need for targeted interventions for the homeless as well as better access to mainstream services.

“For instance in Cork, we have a multidisciplinary team which can address a multitude of needs at the same time.

“Or in Dublin, we have Safetynet, a primary care network where GPs come to the hostels and provide primary care intervention on site, which, when you are homeless, provides a point of contact for people who might not necessarily show up at a surgery.”

Ms Randall said there had been no decrease in the 5,000 people using Simon’s services in the past couple of years and the challenge was to maintain services in the face of decreased funding from the Department of Health.

The stark findings of today’s report come hot on the heels of two reports published last week which found Dublin Simon recorded a 26% increase on last year in the number of people sleeping rough during the early summer months and Merchants Quay Ireland said it was providing 1,100 extra meals every week for mainly homeless and financially desperate people, up 26% on last year.

* The Simon National Conference, Health and Homelessness — Making the Link, takes place today at the Radisson BLU Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin.