Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Netherlands: Amsterdam Police Warn Tourists That White Heroin is Being Sold as Cocaine

According to the UK-based The Telegraph, two British men, ages 20 and 21, were found dead in a hotel on Wednesday (November 26) after snorting heroin, which causes respiratory failure if inhaled, in the apparent belief that the substance was cocaine

Late last month a 22-year-old British tourist also died in Amsterdam after taking white heroin, a crystalline form of the opiate drug that is usually injected by users. 

Police have put up flashing electronic English language signs at entry points to central Amsterdam in an attempt to stop the deadly trade by warning British tourists of buying “extremely dangerous cocaine."

“The men apparently died after sniffing white heroin which they may have thought to be cocaine,” said Rob van der Veen, a spokesman for the Amsterdam police.

“We found drugs in the hotel room and immediately had it tested to see if the composition was the same as other investigations into deaths and people getting sick, and that proved to be the case.”  

COMMENT: As well as the three deaths, 14 people, mostly British, have needed medical treatment after using white heroin in the belief it was cocaine.  

Dutch investigators believe British tourists are being targeted by the same street dealer, or drug gang, who might not be aware that he is selling white heroin. 

“We assume that it’s only one person who’s selling this,” said Van der Veen. 

“White heroin is more expensive than cocaine, so that’s not smart, we are working on the assumption that the dealer doesn’t know exactly what he’s selling.” 

Leaflets warning British tourists are being handed out fliers at Amsterdam's Central railway station, hotels and hostels and the city’s main squares. 

“Over the last couple of weeks several tourists were admitted to hospital with severe health problems after using cocaine bought on the street,” said the leaflet.

“Research has revealed that the cocaine used was not cocaine, but white heroin…You won't be arrested for taking drugs."

Career Opportunities at Peugeot SA

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For career opportunities at Peugeot, see the below link:

Tip of the Day: Listening and Observation Can Tell You So Much About People, Where They're From

I know that I’ve raised the importance of maintaining a low-profile in the past, but every now and then it seems that foreign travelers need to be refreshed on just how important the power of observation and listening can produce.

Let me give you some examples of what I’m referring to: Most criminals select their targets based upon nationality, thinking that country of origin has a lot to do with producing a treasure-trove of valuables:

1. Avoid wearing apparel that identifies you as a foreign national (including company logos and university T-shirts, ball caps and sweatshirts, etc.;

2. Avoid apparel that identifies your nationality;

3. One very easy way of recognizing US citizens from a distance is that young adults from the US almost invariably wear ball caps reversed (with the ball cap bill turned backwards);

4. One technique that I strong recommend to foreigners before their departure abroad, is to have an ample supply of business cards printed with only your name on it…nothing else…so you can jot information down on the card for people you encounter on your travels, particularly if you’re unsure of the bona fides of such persons;

5. Unfortunately, many foreigners wear their citizenship on their sleeves so-to-speak;

6.  If you are in an international airport or a foreign country, you can usually pick out certain nationalities based on their mannerisms, language, etc.;

7. These techniques can be learned very easily if you know what to look for: Typically, I find that Americans are by far the loudest and particularly in groups really draw attention to themselves. Just imagine how useful such information is to criminals? Imagine!; and

8. All you have to do is close your eyes and listen. Look for logos and insignia. This same technique can be used effectively to determine the language that others are speaking, where they’re from and what they’re carrying (in terms of valuables).

Give these techniques a try and you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn through the techniques of observation and listening.

Georgia: Occupants Arrested for Obstruction, False Imprisonment, Child Cruelty

According to AFP, a 13-year-old boy whose mother reported him missing four years ago was found by police hidden behind a false wall in his father's Georgia home, US media said.

Authorities arrested five people including the father and stepmother, in Jonesboro, GA, near Atlanta, the WXIA news network said, showing moving footage of the boy cuddling up to his mother, both in tears, as they were reunited on Saturday (November 29).

Clayton county police were called to the home late Friday (November 28), but Police Sergeant KT Hughes said occupants denied any knowledge of the child to officers. 

But just to be sure, police searched the house. They found nothing, the report said.

Yet, when police hours later received another call seeking help at the house, they returned. As a second search was being done, the boy was able to call to his mother and tell her where he was being held, reports said. She directed police to a false wall, hidden by towels, enabling them to find him.

The apparent hiding space was above the garage of the home, WXIA said.

COMMENT: "It shocked all of us, honestly," said one neighbor. "They were really nice people, they were open. They were like, 'Hey, come over any time you want.'"

Police told Atlanta's Channel 2 the mother had apparently reported the child missing to child welfare authorities in 2010, but not to police, possibly because she was an immigrant and unfamiliar with the legal system.

Authorities said there were still many unanswered questions over custody and why police had not been involved earlier, and that the child would remain with family services for the time being.

The father and stepmother, Gregory Jean, 37, and Samantha Joy Davis, 42, respectively, and three others were charged with obstruction, false imprisonment and cruelty to children.

Neighbors said the boy was seen at times working in the yard, and that they heard that he was home-schooled, reports said.

Colombia: President Santos' Weakened with No Consequences for Late Release of Three Hostages

According to EFE, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) confirmed Saturday (November 29) that Gen. Ruben Dario Alzate and the two other hostages with him will be released this Sunday (November 30), after activating early Saturday morning the humanitarian protocol for their release.

“In the early hours on Saturday the Special Humanitarian Protocol was activated for freeing, tomorrow Sunday, Gen. Alzate Mora, head of the army’s Titan Task Force, Cpl. (Jorge) Rodríguez Contreras and attorney Gloria Urrego,” the peace negotiators of the FARC said in a communiqué from Havana.

According to the text, Alzate, Rodríguez and Urrego will be released b FARC commanders of the Ivan Rios Bloc to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and to representatives from Cuba and Norway, guarantor nations of the peace talks that the Colombian government has held with the FARC in Havana since 2012.

“We hope that the times favor this humanitarian mission, which today waves in the immensity of Atrato the white flag of Liberty and Peace,” the FARC said.

COMMENT: Even as peace negotiations have continued since 2012, I find it very strange that President Santos has not levied some consequences for the captives’ abduction, particularly considering that the three captives release were further delayed and not released on Saturday as the FARC had promised.

If anything, such an “unwarranted pass” places President Santos in a position of weakness, given the FARC’s going back on their word.

The Atrato River in Choco province has been the scene of a number of clashes of armed groups due to its strategic pass to the Pacific Ocean, through which arms are brought in and drugs shipped out.

“We want this liberty, founded on humanitarian principles, to extend its beneficent effects to all political and social prisoners of the country. How easy and how humanitarian it is for the government to decree a pardon for the innocent,” the FARC said.

Gen. Alzate, Cpl. Rodríguez and attorney Urrego were seized by the FARC in Choco province on November 16, which led Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to suspend peace talks with the insurgents.

A few days later the two sides agreed on conditions for freeing the hostages as soon as possible, so as to open the way to renewing negotiations to end the Colombian conflict.

Gen. Alzate is the highest-ranking military officer ever captured by the FARC and is considered by the guerrilla organization as a “prisoner of war.”

The FARC also promised to free Saturday an Indian boy it has held captive since Nov. 20 in the southwestern Colombian province of Cauca, Fabian Mulcue, a member of the Indigenous Guard that will take part in the youth’s release, told EFE.

The minor, a young defender of the Pioya commune, will be set free “this afternoon” at a place somewhere in the extensive jurisdiction of Caldono, where the community is located and where he was kidnapped.

The insurgent group already freed last Tuesday (November 25) two soldiers kidnapped on November 9 in eastern Colombia, in an operation seen as a precedent for the anticipated release of Gen. Alzate.

Global Impact: Ukraine, Russia, NATO: Potential Exists for Sept. 5 Cease-Fire to Collapse Entirely

According to Reuters, Ukraine said on Sunday (November 30) that a convoy of 106 vehicles had entered its eastern territory from Russia without Kiev's permission and accused Moscow of once again using humanitarian aid shipments to send weapons and ammunition to pro-Russian separatist rebels.
In the separatist-held city of Donetsk, fighting intensified at the local airport, a Reuters witness said. There has been continued shelling from both government forces and the rebels, even after a peace deal signed on September 5. 
Months of fighting in Ukraine's separatist regions have left many without sufficient food and medical supplies. Russia has regularly dispatched shipments of aid, a move which the pro-Western Kiev government has denounced as uncanny.
"The lion's share of humanitarian supplies find their way to the rebels partly in the form of food, but mostly it is ammunition, equipment and other materials for combat operations," Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in a televised briefing.
COMMENT: The latest delivery of Russian supplies is the eighth since mid-August, Russian news agency RIA cited Russia's emergency ministry as saying, adding that a total of 9,500 tons of mainly food, building materials and medicine had been delivered by the first seven convoys.
A REUTERS witness in Donetsk said repeated volleys of artillery fire could be heard from the direction of the local airport, a strategic position that both Ukrainian troops and rebels lay claim to.
Both sides have accused each other of violating the terms of the truce, raising fears it could collapse entirely. 
Lysenko said three Ukrainian servicemen and an 82-year-old civilian had been killed in the past 24 hours.
He also said Ukrainian positions in Mariupol, a strategic city on the Sea of Azov, were once again coming under attack from rebel shelling.

Egypt: According to "The Telegraph's" Richard Spencer, Cairo Has Come Full Circle

According to the UK-based The Telegraph's Richard Spencer, the acquittal of Hosni Mubarak brings the wheel full circle. Whatever the terms of the verdict, it will be seen by both sides of Egypt's fractured politics as setting a judicial seal on a reversal of the Tahrir Square revolution. 

The "Day of Rage," January 28 2011, was one of the most remarkable, dramatic, and certainly telegenic moments of modern history. The feared Mubarak police, so long the tormentors of ordinary Egyptians, were driven from the streets of central Cairo and the bridges over the River Nile by massed ranks of protesters, who stood shoulder to shoulder against tear gas and water cannon. 
The battle for the Square was captured live by television cameras filming from the balconies of central Cairo's tourist hotels, and seemed to mark the beginning of the end for the Arab dictatorships. 
But away from the cameras, another story was playing out. In the suburbs of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities, mobs were burning down police stations. The police were trying to disperse the crowds in the only way they seemed to know: firing live rounds directly into them. 
They went on to shoot wildly into other gatherings, eventually laying waste to demonstrations near Tahrir Square itself. 
In total, on that and succeeding days, 846 people were killed. Thanks to the joyous festivities on the liberated Tahrir Square, these killings passed almost unnoticed--except in the rapidly filling hospital morgues nearby. 
Were the shootings the result of direct orders from the top? In Egypt's hierarchical politics, it seems impossible to think otherwise. Nevertheless, Saturday morning's judgement tells us they were not a direct command. 
It was, of course, already politically impossible for Mr Mubarak and his interior minister, Habib al-Adly, to pay any real judicial price for what happened on those days. The horror that unfolded during the afternoon and night of January 28 has been matched or outdone by events since, in Egypt and elsewhere. 
Most importantly, Egypt's new strongman, President Abdulfattah al-Sisi, owes his own position to the tough line he took with protests subsequent to the military coup that brought him to power. A thousand more protesters died in August last year, and the line of command for those shootings is on record. 
Mr Sisi's cabinet was warned that to clear the streets of demonstrations then might cost even more lives – two or three thousand. The possibility, and fear, of subsequent prosecution was among the issues discussed. 
Defenders of the military will say that there were other unseen forces at work on January 28, whose consequences are also being played through today. 
The decision of the Muslim Brotherhood to join the protests, originally organised by trade unions and other secular groups, was recorded but not properly understood: the Islamists were a much stronger part of the subsequent revolutionary movement than journalists realised, and more determined to create the new Egyptian society in their image. 
There is some truth to that. It turned out that while overwhelming numbers of Egyptians, including many in the military and the police, were happy to see the end of Mubarak's decrepit rule, visceral hostility to Islamism, particularly in the police, was a much sterner challenge. 
It is also true to say that liberal, secular politicians and their followers proved so disorganised and feckless that it became easier to sell the idea that Egypt faced a straight choice between military rule and hard-line Islamism. 
Some of those liberals now back Mr Sisi and his new authoritarianism: the new rulers are far more brutal and capricious than Mr Mubarak's regime. 
They say a "stable government" now can allow them to plant the seeds of a democratic landscape to come. There are precedents for that – in Pinochet's Chile, and former Asian dictatorships like South Korea's or Taiwan's. 
The regime still claims to be "revolutionary."
But then the regime has claimed to be revolutionary ever since Mubarak's military predecessors came to power six decades ago. 
Real democracy may take decades more. In the meantime, those who kill for the state will remain unpunished.

Venezuela: Crude Drops to $68.08 on Nov. 28, Maduro Orders Drastic Cuts in Spending

According to The Latin American Tribune, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has ordered budget cuts in response to a sharp drop in oil prices, calling for salary reductions for himself and other senior government officials.

He said in a speech on state-run television Friday (November 28) that he was naming a special presidential commission to identify areas of superfluous public spending.

The budget was prudently calculated based on an oil price of $60 a barrel with the idea that excess petroleum-export earnings would be used to fund government-subsidized social programs, but the steep decline in Venezuela’s crude oil has made spending cuts mandatory, Maduro said.

Venezuelan crude, which accounts for nearly all of the country’s export revenue, fell to a four-year low of $68.08 on Friday.

COMMENT: Although in the privacy of the Presidential Palace, it seems clear to virtually everyone that Hugo Chávez’s Socialist experiment has failed, as have similar revolutionary misadventures.

With crude oil being the one natural resource that keeps Venezuela from collapsing into the abyss, it is a sad reality that the country is struggling to effectively feed its population.

According to, the 2013 Global Misery Index Scores, Venezuela was ranked as the top spot globally with the highest misery index score, while the Heritage Foundation ranked Venezuela 175th out of 178 countries in economic freedom, classifying it as a "Repressed" economy.

In early 2013, Venezuela devalued its currency due to growing shortages in the country. The shortages included necessities such as toilet paper, milk, and flour. Fears rose so high due to the toilet paper shortage that the government occupied a toilet paper factory.

In late 2013, Venezuela's inflation rates increased even higher, to 54.3%, and forecasts from the IMF show Venezuela as one of the slowest-growing economies in Latin America for 2013. Black market estimates that most Venezuelans have to use for purchases have risen to almost ten times the official exchange rate.

Venezuela's bond ratings have also decreased multiple times in 2013 due to decisions by President One of his decisions was to force stores and their warehouses to sell all of their products, which may lead to even more shortages in the future.

President Maduro also created "a freeze on commercial rents at rates more than 50% lower than they had been at some malls" which resulted with Venezuela's malls and retail industry losing 75% of their incomes.

Venezuela's outlook has also been deemed negative by most bond-rating services. According to a Johns Hopkins University professor, Venezuela had a 297% implied inflation rate for 2013.

As of early 2014, many companies have either slowed or stopped operation due to the lack of hard currency in the country.

Ford Motor Co. is one of the largest companies that has slowed production in Venezuela due to its lack of foreign currency for supplies. Because of recent economic uncertainties, Ford also believes that there will be a significant devaluation of the bolívar as well.

In January 2014, many airlines, including Air Canada, Air Europa, American Airlines, Copa Airlines, TAME, TAP Airlines, and United Airlines, suspended international flights operating in Venezuela because the government has been restricting access to the US dollar.

There are talks among airlines of canceling even more international flights out of the country since Venezuela still owes foreign airlines nearly $3.3 billion USD.

Venezuela has also dismantled CADIVI, a government body in charge of currency exchange. CADIVI was known for holding money from the private sector and suspected to be corrupt. In February, Toyota, the largest automobile manufacturer, has stopped production indefinitely in Venezuela due to an 87% drop in automotive sales. General Motors Company has also suspended production after losing $162 million USD and stated that they "saw no horizon or resolutions to business operations in Venezuela.”

In February 2014, physicians at the University of Caracas Medical Hospital stopped performing surgeries due to the lack of supplies, even though nearly 3,000 people require surgery.

The government's currency policy has made it difficult to import drugs and other medical supplies. The Venezuelan government stopped publishing medical statistics in 2010 and does not supply enough dollars for medical supplies; doctors say that 9 of 10 of large hospitals have only 7% of required supplies with private doctors reporting many patients that are "impossible" to count are dying from easily treated illnesses due to the "downward sliding economy.”

In March 2014, the executive director of the Venezuelan Association of Hospitals and Clinics explained how in less than a month, shortages of 53 medical products rose to 109 products and explained how the CADIVI system is to blame since 86% of supplies are imported. Both public and private sector hospitals have only about two months of supplies with private sector hospitals claiming they owe suppliers US$15 billion in order to pay for debts.

In April 2014, the IMF said that activity in Venezuela is uncertain, but may continue to slow saying that "loose macroeconomic policies have generated high inflation and a drain on official foreign exchange reserves.” The IMF suggested that "more significant policy changes are needed to stave off a disorderly adjustment.”

Venezuela was also the only country in the world that the IMF predicts will experience a drop in GDP. They predicted Venezuela's GDP to contract at a rate around -.5% for the year 2014.

Coca-Cola Company announced that Venezuela's currency controls created "adverse impact" on its operations expecting a "negative impact of 7% in their overall performance this year from the impact of currency exchange.”

EL TIEMPO reported that some goods in Venezuelan stores had a 114% to 425% premium due to "under the table" negotiations between the Venezuelan government and traders.

EL NUEVO HERALD reported that SEBIN has cut down its work due to the lack of money limiting their work to the monitoring of "potential external threats" and asking for Cuban intelligence agents to return to Venezuela.

In May 2014, the Central Bank of Venezuela announced that the shortage rate of automobiles was at 100%. Citibank believed " that the economy has little prospect of improvement" and that the state of the economy was a "disaster.” General Motors Venezolana stopped automotive production after 65 years of service due to a lack of supplies.