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U.S. should not act alone…

U.S. should not act alone against Iraq, James Baker

 Former Secretary of State, James Baker said Sunday the political and economic cost of ousting Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein could be great if the United States acts alone and urged the Bush administration to first seek to build a wide international coalition.

Baker, who published his views in an opinion piece in The New York Times, is the latest in a series of public figures and former U.S. officials voicing reservations about unilateral U.S. military action to topple Saddam.

The War on the Right about the wisdom of an Iraq War continues.  Poppy vs. Junior?  Having James Baker do an op-ed in the NY Times is definitely bringing in the heavy artillery.

Good point…

Good point…

Terrorist Caught In U.S.. A “terrorist” cell has been captured by police in Flordia – but it’s not what you think. Will this “enemy combatant” see time in jail, without a lawyer? Unlikely. []

This “terrorist” apparently wanted to blow up mosques.  So why isn’t he being treated like other terrorists, i.e. held incommunicado, denied rights, etc.?  A double standard?

Drugs, thugs, and banks

Drugs, thugs, and banks

Afghan heroin crop nears record levels

Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is close to record levels a year after being nearly wiped out under the hard-line Taliban regime, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“It is estimated that 2,952 tons of opium will be produced (in 2002),” the FAO said, referring to the usual drug producing regions in the southwest.

One would have to be terminally naive to believe the current Afghanistan government wasn’t deeply involved in this.  Hey, if Dubya is so anti-drug, why isn’t he demanding they end heroin production? 

Burma, not to be left behind, is busily making speed and heroin.  Burma, of course, is home to probably the nastiest, most repressive government in the world (and there’s some serious competition).  It’s a given their government and army is behind the drugs production. 

The production capacity of 40-50 methamphetamine factories in Burma and between 20-30 plants in Laos would total 800 million speed pills or more this year, he said.

He added that heroin production capacity would this year increase 20% to about 90 tonnes _ 72 tonnes in Burma and 18 tonnes in Laos. About six tonnes of raw opium was expected to come from Thailand this year.

New Asian speed hits America

Federal agents arrested 10 people in Sacramento on Monday in what authorities called the first significant U.S. bust involving Ya Ba, a powerful methamphetamine from Asia that is gaining favor among teens and young adults on the West Coast.  Methamphetamine, a stimulant, is highly addictive. Confiscated Ya Ba pills also have included ephedrine and caffeine.

And so, much of these drugs end up here.  The U.S. is the biggest market for illegal drugs.  Which leads me to money laundering.  Much money is made and circulated from illegal drugs, so it has to be laundered somewhere.  Check this useful explanation for details on money laundering.

There’s lots of friendly little governments with bank secrecy laws that facilitate the process.  Construction projects are known for being handy ways to both launder money and to produce off-the-books money.  Michelle Sidona, a financier/money launderer of huge scale, in a prison interview (Power on Earth by Nick Tosches, 1986) detailed how there existed large accounting firms in Europe whose sole purpose was to create double sets of books for construction projects.  This insured that everyone got their kickbacks and that the money got cleaned.

Are there such firms in the U.S.?  Are there banks in the U.S. whose primary purpose is money laundering?  It would appear so.  Citibank, the same Citibank that is being investigated now for possibly corrupt involvement in AOL and ATT Wireless stock deals, has been implicated in money-laundering.

An investigation by the United States Congress has concluded that it is not difficult for foreigners to use US banks for money laundering.

The report, by the General Accounting Office (GAO) – the investigative arm of Congress – found questionable transactions involving more than $1bn at Citibank and Commercial Bank of San Francisco.

At the climax of one of the biggest undercover money-laundering investigations in United States history, federal agents seized $1.8 million in 1998 from Citibank accounts in New York that were held by a mysterious Cayman Islands bank that had no corporate offices anywhere in the world.

But despite indications that the money had come from drug dealers in Mexico, Citibank continued to do business with the Caymans bank for almost two years, moving another $300 million through the accounts before they were finally closed by Citibank.

Until the Enron etc. scandals exploded, the U.S., it was claimed our financial systems was the cleanest, most transparent in the world.  I doubt anyone would be boasting that now.

So where does drug money go?  And why can’t governments find it?

California state quarter design contest

California state quarter design contest

Help the State of California choose a design for the California state quarter. The Governor’s website has full information on the contest and lots of really boring ideas.  Birds, surfers, Yosemite – yawn.  How uninspired.

California needs a state quarter design that truly tells who we are.  Let us know your ideas by adding a comment to this item.

Hmmm.  A gridlocked freeway? Mickey Mouse? White police pounding the crap out of a black man?  Get those entries in now!

McDonalds introduces… the McAfrica burger!

McDonalds introduces… the McAfrica burger!

In a stunning display of bad taste and stupidity, McDonalds introduced a McAfrica burger in Norway and immediately got hosed down by infuriated food relief organizations.  Considering that millions are starving in Africa, the relief organizations thought the name was just a teensy bit on the tacky and insensitive side. <No, I am not making this story up>