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Sunday, September 5

"Resistance Forces in Afghanistan Regain Control of Highlands in Panjshir"

KABUL (Sputnik) - The Spokesman for the Panjshir Resistance in Afghanistan, Fahim Dashti, said that the resistance forces had regained control of the Paryan highlands in the eastern part of the province.

"The Paryan district of the Panjshir province was completely cleared of the Taliban [a terrorist group banned in Russia]. At least 1,000 terrorists were blocked. All militants were killed, surrounded or captured by resistance forces during attempts to escape and retreat. Most of the prisoners are foreigners, mostly Pakistanis," Dashti wrote on Twitter.

[...]

 Resistance Forces in Afghanistan Regain Control of Highlands in Panjshir - Sputnik International (sputniknews.com)


Saturday, September 4

Panjshir Reports

FDD Long War Journal's Bill Roggio talked about the Panjshir situation on the John Batchelor Show for CBS last night. They emphasized the importance of the terrain for defense. Podcast:

https://audioboom.com/posts/7935805-afterafghanistan-panjshir-digs-in-billroggio-longwarjournal-fdd-glxxg 

See also this September 2 report at LWJ by Bill and Andrew Tobin, National Resistance Front repels multi-day Taliban  assault on Panjshir | FDD's Long War JournalThe second video in the report, showing what are obviously Al Qaeda fighters  in a pickup truck headed for Panjshir, is the one Bill mentioned during his talk with John.   

Also, today Sputnik reported on developments including these two items:

Posted at 14:42

Taliban Offensive in Panjshir Reportedly Slowed Down by Land Mines

The offensive of the Taliban (terrorist group, banned in Russia) against the capital of Afghanistan's northeastern province of Panjshir has been slowed down by land mines, Al Jazeera reported on Saturday, citing a source in the radical movement.

Landmines are said to be placed on the road to the capital city of Bazarak as well as the provincial governor's residence.

According to the broadcaster's source, the offensive and demining are being conducted at the same time.

Panjshir is the stronghold of the National Resistance Front, led by Ahmad Massoud, the son of late ex-Afghan guerrilla commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, and ex-Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who declared himself caretaker president. Massoud pledged to step down in case the group forms an inclusive government and guarantees equal rights for all Afghans.

and

Posted at 17:29

Panjshir Resistance Forces Say About 600 Taliban Militants Eliminated

Roughly 600 militants from the Taliban (terrorist movement, outlawed in Russia) were eliminated in Afghanistan's northeastern province of Panjshir on Saturday, the Afghan resistance forces said.

"About 600 Taliban terrorists have been liquidated in various districts of Panjshir since morning. More than 1,000 Taliban militants have been captured or surrendered themselves," the resistance forces' spokesman Fahim Dashti tweeted.

The spokesman added that the Taliban had problems with getting supplies from other Afghan provinces. [...]

There are more updates in the report.    

Live Updates: Panjshir Resistance Forces Say About 600 Taliban Militants Eliminated - Sputnik International (sputniknews.com)

Re the mine clearing, one of Amrullah Saleh's posts to his Twitter page on Sept 3:

Talibs have blocked humanitarian access to Panjshir, do racial profile of travelers, use military age men of Panjhsir as mine clearance tools walking them on mine fields, have shut phone, electricity & not allow medicine either. People can only carry small amount of cash.

 Amrullah Saleh (@AmrullahSaleh2) / Twitter

At seems some of the electricity was knocked out by Taliban shelling during fighting, at least according to the power company spox. From an earlier Sputnik report: 

08:07 GMT 03.09.2021 Sputnik live updates on Panjshir resistance
10:00 update:

Afghanistan’s northern province of Panjshir and parts of Kapisa province were left without electricity after at least two electricity pylons were destroyed in a shelling during the continuing clashes, local power utility company DABS said on Friday.

“As clashes continue on the Panjshir road, two electricity pylons were destroyed … as they were hit by an artillery shell. which resulted in power outage in the province,” DABS said in a statement, adding that some districts across Kapisa were also affected.

DABS staffers are ready to begin technical effort to restore electricity as soon as “suitable conditions are in place,” the company added.

Related news

TTG, at Col. Lang's Turcopolier site, features news about a PBS Frontline documentary,  What Is the Fatemiyoun Brigade and Why Does It Make the Taliban Nervous?

What Is the Fatemiyoun & Why Does It Make the Taliban Nervous? (pbs.org)

 The Hazara and the Liwa Fatemiyoun - TTG - TurcopolierTurcopolier

Also, this report published August 29

India rethinking strategy on Afghanistan; changing situation challenging: Rajnath Singh | NewsBytes (newsbytesapp.com)

... Speaking on Afghanistan, [Defense Minister] Singh said, "The changing equation in Afghanistan is a challenge for us... These situations have forced our country to rethink its strategy. We are changing our strategy and the formation of QUAD underlines this strategy."Singh said the Centre is considering forming Integrated Battle Groups, which will facilitate faster decision making and increase the number of integrated fighting units. ...

India is in a difficult position, as this tough-minded analysis explains:

India Poised to Lose Influence in Afghanistan – The Diplomat

We'll see whether Singh can pull a rabbit out of a hat.  

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Monday, August 30

Latest AP summary of current conditions in New Orleans after Ida exits

No evidence yet of feared catastrophic flooding in New Orleans and at this it looks as if the levees held for the most part, especially the federally built one. Only one fatality recorded as yet, although officials warn the count could rise.

The rest is is wall-to-wall bad news. 

Hurricane Ida traps Louisianans, leaves the grid a shambles (apnews.com) 

AP report filed 25 minutes ago.  

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Sunday, August 29

Edward Snowden explains what Apple is up to

... "Apple’s proposal to make their phones inform on and betray their owners marks the dawn of a dark future, one to be written in the blood of the political opposition of a hundred countries that will exploit this system to the hilt. See, the day after this system goes live, it will no longer matter whether or not Apple ever enables end-to-end encryption, because our iPhones will be reporting their contents before our keys are even used." ...

Quote from - 


Looks like the only solution is to stop using the iPhone. If the government orders people to use iPhones or makes life impossible for other 'smartphone' companies, this would be a problem.   

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Massive wildfire keeps inching toward Lake Tahoe

 Lake Tahoe threatened by massive fire, more ordered to flee (apnews.com)

AP posted the report an hour ago.

Ida UPDATED 8:25 PM ET, 10:50 PM ET

Update 11:50 PM

All of New Orleans without power after Hurricane Ida leaves 'catastrophic transmission damage' | Hurricane Center | nola.com

Another report, maybe from AP, said there has been flooding in New Orleans, although how much and where was unclear.  We'll know more in the morning. 

Update 8:25 PM

Storm downgraded to Cat 3 about 50 minutes ago.  Still very dangerous storm that has already done tremendous damage across a wide swath. From this CNN report updated 8:09 PM the storm will make its closest pass to New Orleans within the next two hours.

Live updates: Hurricane Ida path, Louisiana landfall and news coverage (cnn.com)

END UPDATE

 10 MINUTES AGO

At 11:55 a.m. CDT Sunday, the eye of Hurricane Ida plowed into the coast of Louisiana over Port Fourchon. It was rated as a powerful Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, just 7 mph shy of Category 5 status. Howeverwinds gusts were estimated to be over 180 mph in the worst part of the monstrous storm. The worst of the storm is far from over despite landfall with dangerous, tornado-like winds and substantial rainfall expected.


Live reports -- lots more information in their earlier reports


 LIVE: Ida nears Cat 5 strength as it bears down on Louisiana Coast | AccuWeather

Friday, August 13

"It’s hard to see cause and effect when we’re chasing dopamine"

Many thanks to Dr Lembke and the Wall Street Journal for publishing this critically important information. As the author makes clear, this is not just about video gaming addiction.  This is about a world of hurt we're blindly and needlessly inflicting on ourselves. Below, her entire essay for WSJ.    

Digital Addictions Are Drowning Us in Dopamine

Rising rates of depression and anxiety in wealthy countries like the U.S. may be a result of our brains getting hooked on the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.

By Anna Lembke

Over the course of my career as a psychiatrist, I have seen more and more patients who suffer from depression and anxiety, including otherwise healthy young people with loving families, elite education and relative wealth. Their problem isn’t trauma, social dislocation or poverty. It’s too much dopamine, a chemical produced in the brain that functions as a neurotransmitter, associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.

When we do something we enjoy—like playing videogames, for my patient—the brain releases a little bit of dopamine and we feel good. But one of the most important discoveries in the field of neuroscience in the past 75 years is that pleasure and pain are processed in the same parts of the brain and that the brain tries hard to keep them in balance. Whenever it tips in one direction it will try hard to restore the balance, which neuroscientists call homeostasis, by tipping in the other.

As soon as dopamine is released, the brain adapts to it by reducing or “downregulating” the number of dopamine receptors that are stimulated. This causes the brain to level out by tipping to the side of pain, which is why pleasure is usually followed by a feeling of hangover or comedown. If we can wait long enough, that feeling passes and neutrality is restored. But there’s a natural tendency to counteract it by going back to the source of pleasure for another dose.

If we keep up this pattern for hours every day, over weeks or months, the brain’s set-point for pleasure changes. Now we need to keep playing games, not to feel pleasure but just to feel normal. As soon as we stop, we experience the universal symptoms of withdrawal from any addictive substance: anxiety, irritability, insomnia, dysphoria and mental preoccupation with using, otherwise known as craving.

Our brains evolved this fine-tuned balance over millions of years in which pleasures were scarce and dangers ever-present. The problem today is that we no longer live in that world. Instead, we now live in a world of overwhelming abundance. The quantity, variety and potency of highly reinforcing drugs and behaviors has never been greater.

In addition to addictive substances like sugar and opioids, there is also a whole new class of electronic addictions that didn’t exist until about 20 years ago: texting, tweeting, surfing the web, online shopping and gambling. These digital products are engineered to be addictive, using flashing lights, celebratory sounds and “likes” to promise ever-greater rewards just a click away.

Yet despite increased access to all of these feel-good drugs, we’re more miserable than ever before. Rates of depression, anxiety, physical pain and suicide are increasing all over the world, especially in rich nations. 

According to the World Happiness Report, which ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be, Americans reported being less happy in 2018 than they were in 2008. Other wealthy countries saw similar decreases in self-reported happiness scores, including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Japan, New Zealand and Italy. The Global Burden of Disease study found that the number of new cases of depression worldwide increased 50% between 1990 and 2017, with the highest increases in regions with the highest income, especially North America.

It’s hard to see cause and effect when we’re chasing dopamine. It’s only after we’ve taken a break from our drug of choice that we’re able to see the true impact of our consumption on our lives. That’s why I asked my patient to give up videogames for a month, enough time to allow his brain to reset its dopamine balance. It wasn’t easy, but he was motivated by the counterintuitive idea that abstaining from the thing that made him feel good in the short-term might actually make him feel better in the long-term.

To his surprise, he did feel better than he had in years, with less anxiety and less depression. He was even able to return to playing videogames without negative effects, by strictly limiting his playing time to no more than two days a week, for two hours a day. That way he left enough time in between sessions for the brain’s dopamine balance to be restored.

He avoided videogames that were too potent, the ones that he couldn’t stop playing once he started. He designated one laptop for gaming and a different one for school, to keep gaming and classwork physically separated. Finally, he committed to playing only with friends, never with strangers, so that gaming strengthened his social connections. Human connection itself is a potent and adaptive source of dopamine.

Not everyone plays videogames, but just about all of us have a digital drug of choice, and it probably involves using a smartphone—the equivalent of the hypodermic needle for a wired generation. Reducing phone use is notoriously difficult, because at first it causes the brain’s pleasure-pain balance to tilt to the side of pain, making us feel restless and cranky. But if we can keep it up long enough, the benefits of a healthier dopamine balance are worth it. Our minds are less preoccupied with craving, we are more able to be present in the moment, and life’s little unexpected joys are rewarding again.

[END ESSAY]

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Wednesday, August 4

Information that can save your life UPDATED

I've updated the post to correct link problems with the articles I reference, and also revised the post to show updated remarks about kale and juicing.  

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This post is to share links (and my comments) to online articles about some important health issues. Although the articles report on scientific research they are written for the public.  I think I've already published here a number of the reports, going back years. But we could all stand for a review.  All the websites I link to are 'safe.'  

Most of the articles relate to research about sleep. It turns out the body has a red line where sleep is concerned. But because we don't immediately drop dead when we cross the  line, we've assumed that we could get away with chronic loss of sleep. The scientists have been learning that instead of killing us outright the body finds workarounds to keep going that over time are devastating to mental and physical health. Just how devastating is a horror story, well told in the articles I'm sharing.

 If you read nothing else on the list, I hope you'll read the first one -- or listen to it; there's a video. What the sleep expert has to say will get you in the ballpark fast:


(What is "enough" sleep?  A minimum of seven hours.)  


"Those with diabetes, [and/or] frequent sleep problems were 87% more likely to die in the following 9 years."


I'd ignore the "six hour" minimum mentioned as "universally accepted" in the above report. The six hours is probably based on old research. Again, seven hours is the minimum. See Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep (And How Much You Really Need a Night) – Cleveland Clinic for a list of how much sleep is needed for each age group.    



The first article on the list explains why I'm including the one on early-onset dementia.


Of course they're stressed if they don't get enough sleep. I don't recall that the article mentions the age of the study participants but from the type of people in the study, I'd guess most if not all were in their early 20s.  From this article and others, it's looking as if early-onset dementia is an even bigger problem in the United States than the research on dementia shows at this time.   

"Cassia can contain relatively high concentrations of coumarin, a plant compound that can damage the liver. "

Please take special note of the advice in the article about research in general into spices and herbs for health benefits. 

I recall the story of the woman who'd heard a little nutmeg was good for health so she decided that more would even better for her.  She almost died. 

Spices and herbs and essential oils, no matter how 'natural,' must be taken with caution if they're used for therapeutic reasons. The article on cinnamon pounds home the point. Whether natural or made in a lab, they're all chemicals. 

Naomi Campbell, the supermodel, takes lavender pills for anxiety. But she would have the money to hire a nutritionist/herbalist to advise her.  

Speaking of overdosing on a good thing:  


"Four-and-a-half cups of chopped kale – the amount in 8 ounces of juice for a “cleanse” – can be lethal if your kidneys are weak."

The above sentence was deleted from the updated (2021) version of the article, which had been on the internet for years.  The article now reads, under point #3 ("You Can Damage Your Kidneys for those who have Kidney Disease") 
Fruits and vegetables are naturally wealthy causes of potassium, which is generally a good factor – the mineral plays a vital role in bloodstream pressure regulation, based on the American Heart Association. Your kidneys perform the important job of excreting excess potassium. For those who have chronic kidney disease (CKD), that function doesn’t act as well, and potassium can take shape in your bloodstream. As a result, you’ll need to limit your potassium intake, as a lot of mineral may cause harmful negative effects, including an irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest, based on the National Kidney Foundation (NKF).
So the updated edited version is scaled back from those with "weak" kidneys to those with chronic kidney disease.    

This said, it's important to pay attention to your kidneys' needs. Here is a 2016 list from the National Kidney Foundation: 10 Common Habits That May Harm Your Kidneys | National Kidney Foundation. Sedentary people might want to take special note of Point 10
Sitting for long periods of time has now been linked to the development of kidney disease. Although researchers don’t know yet why or how sedentary time or physical activity directly impact kidney health, it is known that greater physical activity is associated with  improved blood pressure and glucose metabolism, both important factors in kidney health. 
And the takeaway from the article about juicing remains the same: Best to eat fruits and vegetables instead of drinking them.


It was news to me that there are 'good' bacteria in the mouth along with bad bacteria. So I wish the dentist who wrote the article had focused first on just getting across that the mouth has good bacteria. Even so, I found the article an important read, and a very surprising one. 

The big question is whether the 'good' mouth bacteria are killed by antibacterial preparations that kill bad bacteria.  Clearly the dentist who wrote the article thinks the answer is yes, and warns to stop using antibacterial mouthwashes. I assume his advice would also apply to antibacterial toothpaste and dental floss coated with antibacterial preparations. 

I note the maker of Listerine mouthwash has published an article that mentions there is both good and bad mouth bacteria -- but doesn't address whether its product kills good bacteria along with the bad stuff. (I've misplaced the link to the article.)

Anyhow, I learned from the dentist's article that protecting the good mouth bacteria is very important to health for a number of reasons that he details. I wish the dental and medical professions, as a whole, would emphasize this. No dentist or doctor ever told me that I have mouth bacteria I shouldn't kill. 

That's enough articles for now. More on the way soon.

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Tuesday, July 20

When?

Not sure. Watching, waiting for signs.  One thing is certain.   

"Whatever comes out of these gates, we've got a better chance of survival if we work together. Do you understand?  We stay together, we survive."

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Wednesday, June 9

Staggering food waste: "What we pay for perfection is the really quick destruction of our planet."

 A great documentary from Russia's RT on food waste. Although everyone knows there is food (and water!) wasted all along the food chain, the numbers quoted in the documentary are an eye-opener.  The only criticism I have is that at least at the beginning various speakers harp on the evils of capitalism and the profit motive, but the rest is so interesting I'll forgive these idealists for bringing in what I think is a useless  argument -- particularly because these are not lecturers; they are doing something, in immediate, hands-on fashion, to combat food waste:


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Tuesday, June 8

Governments are actually planning themselves into obsolescence

Meet the new Britain. Same as the old Britain:
Britain has been “living out a foreign policy of a world that has gone,” one of [Boris Johnson's] closest advisers said. Beijing and Moscow have shown us the limits of the rules-based order. Britain can no longer afford to be a “status quo power” naively trying to resurrect a defunct system. “The world is moving faster,” the adviser said, “and therefore we have got to get our shit together and move faster with it.”

To do so, Johnson insists, Britain must be independent, united, and nimble.

Sounds good. But just how do independence, unity, and nimbleness translate into action? 

(His foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, told me that instead of “some big cumbersome whale,” the country needed to be “a more agile dolphin.”) The prime minister has already indicated what this might look like:  imposing human-rights sanctions on Russia, using the presidency of the G7 to turn the group into a wider alliance of democracies, and trying to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

If that's that their idea of nimble, unifying, and independent thinking, God help the British. Yet to change one's entire way of thinking is extremely hard. In lieu they create 'narratives' that sound nimble, etc.  This in the hope that if they repeat the new narratives enough, it will somehow translate into real change.

But the British government does recognize that a chasm now exists between between the ways things are today and the old political narratives the government has constructed about it. To return to Tom McTague's profile of Boris Johnson for The Atlantic (The Minister of Chaos):

[Boris Johnson] also believes that the global zeitgeist has radically changed since the 2008 financial crisis, and therefore so too must Britain’s foreign policy. This is not an ephemeral, insubstantial thing: Voters will not accept a laissez-faire attitude toward free trade, deindustrialization, or the rise of China any longer. Whether voters’ demands on these issues are reasonable or constructive is beside the point—they are reality.

Yet all such issues ignore that the traditional form of central government, which has been in place for centuries, is crumbling.

The only glue holding central government administrations and their copycat regional governments together in certain parts of the world is authoritarian policies -- and in the more 'liberal' parts of the world, government policies that can only be described as sneaky. 

Both strategies are an attempt to keep the system of government going because a truly different system is unimaginable, a kind of black hole into which we'll disappear. 

The future in many respects is indeed unimaginable, but the key to responding to the present is to understand that governments are becoming obsolete because they became synonymous with overarching planning. 

In general changes happened slowly enough in earlier times that governments could develop plans for entire swaths of society. In recent times, changes happen so fast that often by the time broad-scale plans are finalized and implemented, the situations they were meant to address have changed so greatly the plans are obsolete.  

This has left governments attempting to stuff situations that no longer exist into plans that no longer work.

How to deal with the problem?  On paper the solution is two-fold:  reduce overarching planning, and accompany every plan with a detailed de-planning strategy.  

The sticking point is that many people earn their living being planners at one stage or another of planning for governments. Reducing government planning also means  reducing a work force.  

So the change would have to start with simply addressing the government planning problem -- making it an issue. Get people to understand that the more extensive, costly, and permanent a plan, the harder it is to undo or revise it in the face of changed conditions. And emphasizing that applied sciences and technologies and many other factors are forcing fast and extensive changes in entire societies.   

Secondly, don't make the mistake in reverse; that is, don't say, "We have to stop government planning."  That wouldn't happen anyway. What can work is to pinpoint areas where less government planning makes overwhelming sense, and work toward reducing planning in those areas.

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Thursday, June 3

Michael Yon still reporting from Darién Gap for John Batchelor's audience

June 2Upriver and into the Darién Gap with Congressman Tom Tiffany. Michael Yon, Patreon.com; The John Batchelor Show. (Audioboom podcast.) 


For background I'm republishing my April 20 post, With Michael Yon at the edge of the Darien Gap

Michael Yon

 

Michael Yon is reporting for the New John Batchelor Show on the many thousands of people from scores of countries struggling through the Darien Gap in a desperate effort to get to the United States.  Here's part one of his report, and here's part 2.  

What is the Darien Gap? It's a hellhole for people traversing it. From an article at Dangerous Roads:

... The Darien Gap is a region of southern Panama that borders Colombia and is the only overland route into South America. ... It consists of a large watershed, forest and mountains. It’s possible to cross it. However to all intents and purposes at the time of this writing ... it is strictly off limits for the vast majority of travelers.
The barrier of the gap is partly natural due the dense rainforest that covers the region and over more recent years the significant safety concerns from guerilla activity have further reinforced this.
The gap is 50km wide, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and 96km long. Known as a drug smuggling corridor between the two countries, it’s rarely seen by outsiders. It’s a lawless wilderness teeming with everything from deadly snakes to antigovernment guerrillas. Tens of thousands of migrants a year risk their lives to cross it. ...

The Gap also represents a break in the Pan-American Highway -- a lethal break. Dangerous Roads notes that the few people who successfully make it on their own through the Gap are Special Forces types driving off-road vehicles. Even for the most experienced it's tough going. (See the photo at Dangerous Roads of two men with the Trans-Darien Expedition trying to push their off-road vehicle across the terrain). 

The migrants who attempt the same journey are not Special Forces types and they travel on foot. They put their lives in the hands of guides who work for criminal gangs. Many of the migrants are murdered or die from the horrific rigors of the journey through the Gap.

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Two million so-called migrants at U.S. border by end of this year

Two million migrants --including 200,000 unaccompanied children and 1.1 million single males -- encountered at the border by the end of the year; Pacific Watch with Jeff Bliss, The John Batchelor Show, April 3 (Audiboom podcast)


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Deviant globalization with a vengeance: Transnational crime cartels with weaponized drones

The drones are purchased legally in the United States.

For background on deviant (or black) globalization, see my 2008 post, Nils Gilman on black globalization, the world as it is today, and how it got that way

My take: The U.S. needs to pay less attention to Russia, more to Mexico. The U.S. also needs to pay less attention to the Middle East, more to Latin America. The U.S. also needs to designate the Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations. The U.S. needs to all these things right away -- and the Biden administration needs to tell the Get Russia crowd to sit down and shut up.

See also: Mexican Cartels use China's Tik Tok to recruit US-based human traffickers; John Batchelor Show with Jeff Bliss, April 2, Audioboom podcast.  

Drug cartels attack enemies and spread terror with weaponized drones in US, Mexico
By Karol Suárez
Wed, June 2, 2021, 3:20 PM
Louisville Courier Journal/USA Today Network
via Yahoo! News

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It began as a routine operation: Mexican police were clearing blockades placed by organized crime groups in El Aguaje, a western Mexico town that has become a battleground for drug cartels.

Suddenly, authorities said, a drone flew over, dropping a gunpowder bomb and wounding two members of the Michoacán state police force in the arms and legs.

The attack in April underscored an emerging danger in the international fight against illegal drugs – weaponized drones.

The bloody and powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG, and its rival Cárteles Unidos have upgraded their arsenals, using drones to bomb enemies, posing a growing threat to Mexican and U.S. citizens and allowing more drugs to flow into the USA.

Drones are part of the cartels' larger strategy to arm themselves like rogue militaries.

"I've been a strong advocate of designating the Mexican cartels as terrorist groups because they're acting like terrorist groups. They're equipped like terrorist groups. They're distributing record levels of poisonous drugs in America," said Derek Maltz, a former agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division.

"They're going to use the latest and greatest technology" to defeat adversaries in Mexico, go after police and fight for territory that gives them better routes to funnel drugs into the USA, he said.

n an exclusive interview with The Courier Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, one rookie drone operator with Cárteles Unidos, who did not want to give his name, given the cartel’s criminal activities, said his organization has about 100 drones. Cartel members receive training on their use, he said, from a man nicknamed "Lord of the Skies."

“He's been training us since last year,” the cartel member said. “We have many drone models. They're not too sophisticated but can carry a considerable amount of explosives."

He said the drones “come legally from the U.S.” through “groups in Michoacán that support us and have legit money to buy the drones."

The man said Cárteles Unidos deploys drones to keep watch over territory and attack CJNG. He said neither his organization nor CJNG uses drones for trafficking drugs because it's not worth the money or effort; drones are an inefficient way to carry the large volume of drugs CJNG exports to the USA.

CJNG – which is known for kidnappings, torture and murders in Mexico and the USA – is blamed for the spread of fentanyl, one of America's deadliest illicit drugs.

CJNG and other Mexican cartels make fentanyl in clandestine laboratories and produce and traffic “the overwhelming majority of the heroin available in the United States,” according to the DEA’s 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment.

Mexican Secretary of Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval blamed CJNG for the drone attack against police in April and said the person who used the drone was arrested.

Aguililla, the municipality containing El Aguaje where the attack occurred, has become a strategic hub for the production of methamphetamine. It’s the birthplace of Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, also known as "El Mencho," suspected of being the most powerful drug lord in Mexico and leader of CJNG.

Shortly after the attack, The Associated Press reported, Papal Nuncio Monsignor Franco Coppola visited Aguililla, offering a Mass for residents and walking through the streets with an image of Christ "to symbolically reclaim roadways where dozens of bodies – some decapitated – have been left in recent months."

The drone attack in El Aguaje was one of many in the past few years. CJNG has been blamed for many attacks in Tepalcatepec in the Michoacán state and one in Baja California, a Mexican state bordering the USA where the cartel targeted the house of Public Security Secretary Gerardo Manuel Sosa Olachea.

During a briefing in Mexico City, Sandoval said such attacks are concerning but “haven’t been as effective” as the cartels would like. He said the drones they use can’t carry enough explosives to seriously harm a person or destroy a building.

Authorities are concerned cartels could get hold of more deadly devices. They worry cartels may step up efforts to smuggle drugs across the border with drones; they say some use this tactic to bring marijuana and other drugs into the USA.

In the academic journal International Studies Perspective in 2018, researchers cited an expert who said cartels use drones to look for Border Patrol agents and inform drug smugglers of their positions.

As drones proliferate among cartels, public safety officials in Mexico try to curb their use. The office of Mexico's attorney general has launched several investigations into terrorism by organized crime and seized drones and C-4 explosives, which are commonly used in drone attacks.

Experts in Mexico and the USA worry more militarized cartels will mean more casualties in both countries, a more difficult battle for law enforcement and more drugs on American streets.

Last month, government officials from both nations held talks at Mexico City's Foreign Ministry to discuss a new joint security policy. A statement released by the Foreign Ministry said, “Mexico and the United States reaffirm the commitment to work together against transnational organized crime.”

The ministry said the two countries’ priorities include reducing arms, narcotics trafficking and violence caused by organized crime; addressing addiction as a public health problem; and attacking the finances of criminal organizations that operate in the two countries.

Judging by history, none of this will be easy.

Over the years, various strategies against organized crime have been implemented in Mexico with no success. The so-called war on drugs led to tens of thousands of deaths. Cartels grew stronger and better able to fuel America’s drug epidemic.

And that epidemic kept taking more lives.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 81,000 people died from drug overdoses in the USA in the 12-month period ending May 2020 – the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in 12 months.

“They're killing our citizens as we've never seen in the history of the country," Maltz said.

Follow Karol Suárez on Twitter: @karolsuarez_

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Mexican drug cartels use drones to spread fear across border

[END REPORT]

A new plant-based Covid vaccine with no adverse side effects.

I saw the news report the day it was published but I've been holding off mentioning it, just in case any bad news about the vaccine trickled out. Not so far.   

As to when the vaccine will be available, it's still in the Phase Three clinical trials, which started in March and include up to 30,000 volunteers, but it's already been fast-tracked by the FDA for distribution in the USA.  And given that GSK is a big pharma firm, I don't think there will be manufacturing/
distribution problems.

So if it doesn't crash and burn in the last of the trials, which seems unlikely at  this stage, we could get the vaccine here in the USA by the fall, or even end of the summer.  I assume it would be the same in Canada.  As for the rest of the world -- this is GlaxoSmithKline under discussion. And I note some test volunteers are in Brazil. 

It doesn't seem two shots are necessary, although don't hold me to that because the report below and the Guardian one I linked to above don't specifically say, but it is "refrigerator stable."  Good for distribution in countries that don't have the freezer capacities. 

Meanwhile, the Covid pandemic is getting worse, not better. 

By Rupert Steiner
Market Watch

Trial participants have 10 times more antibodies in their systems than patients recovering from COVID-19

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline GSK, +0.15% and Canadian vaccine maker Medicago have reported promising results from a Phase 2 clinical trial of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

In a joint statement posted on Tuesday, the companies say the study shows trial participants have 10 times more antibodies in their systems than patients recovering from COVID-19. They reported that there were no severe adverse reactions among trial participants.

It will be good news for GSK, which has been overshadowed by vaccine progress made by rivals, and it may relieve pressure on Chief Executive Emma Walmsley after Elliott Management, an activist investor, took a recent stake in the business.

This COVID-19 collaboration involves Medicago providing the plant-derived vaccine candidate, which is tested in combination with GSK’s pandemic adjuvant, a substance intended to increases of [increase or] otherwise affect an immune response to a vaccine. It is different because most proteins for vaccines are grown in the cells of insects, while Medicago’s protein is grown in plants.

Dr. Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer of GSK’s vaccine division, said: “We are delighted to see that the results suggest a very strong immune response. Medicago’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate combined with GSK’s pandemic adjuvant was also well tolerated, reinforcing its potential benefits. We now look forward to the outcome of the ongoing Phase 3 trial of this refrigerator-stable vaccine candidate as the next step forward in our contribution to the global response to the pandemic.”

Phase 3 of the trial started in March, involving volunteers in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Brazil, with additional sites expected to be added in the coming weeks. The vaccine candidate has received fast-track designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Health Canada has initiated a review of Medicago’s COVID-19 rolling submission.

Read: Austria to phase out AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Meanwhile, Austria’s health minister, Wolfgang Mückstein, said in a in a television interview that the country would phase out use of AstraZeneca’s AZN, -0.27% COVID-19 vaccine. He told Puls 24 that the reason was delivery issues, and some citizens were worried about using this vaccine because of reports of rare side effects.

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