Category: Health Care
Where Does Heroin in the US Come From?
Connecting the Pieces

Where Does Heroin in the US Come From?

Connecting The Pieces

Get short URL
Jay Johnson

While large-scale international war has yet to break out, seemingly enough, a domestic war is about to be re-kindled.

The old woman, who was living on social security, hit an unexpected rough patch when she found herself raising her grandchildren after her daughter died and her son became ill. After a while, she realized that this lifestyle was for the birds, so she thought long and hard about what she could do, and like most people these days, began digging among the boxes in her garage for stuff to sell online. Opening an old box, she hit the payload. Getting out a present given to her husband, she immediately began to feel better. Knowing who exactly would be interested in the trinket that could bring in a few needed dollars, she made a phone call, and that is where our story begins. The party that she contacted became interested in what she was selling and agreed to meet her at a local diner at a specific time.The woman went to the meeting and found the buyer in the parking lot. Upon identifying her, six heavily armed officers forcibly took the woman’s paper weight, which happened to be a moon rock the size of a piece of rice, from her by gunpoint. Upon seeing masked men covered in body armor with weapons drawn shouting at her and eventually forcing her to lie on the ground like a common criminal, understandably the old woman peed her pants. As it all went down, the lead officer shouted at her — “Where’s the rock? Where’s the rock? If you don’t tell me, you will go to Federal jail!” Because, that’s right — it is illegal to sell moon rocks and apparently NASA, the space agency, has a specialized team of highly trained commandos ready to stop anyone that tries, even silver-haired 75-year-old women.

This week has been awash in news of war, possible war, and even potential nuclear war. Even though the American people elected Donald Trump to be a president of peace, as opposed to Hillary Clinton, which more than likely would have been a hawkish president, war is what the American people, and the world for that matter, are getting, whether they want it or not. And while international war has yet to break out via false flags, outright provocations, tragic mistakes or even great misunderstandings, there is at least one domestic war that that is also seemingly about ready to kick-off.

Recently, the BBC wrote an article that was headlined — “Officers rue the return of US ‘war on drugs’. That’s right. The so-called war on drugs is back in vogue. The article continued — “Nearly half a century ago, Richard Nixon called for an “all-out offensive” on drug abuse. It was the opening salvo in America’s longest running war. Successive presidents took up the call to arms. Arrest rates soared and mandatory minimum sentences sent young men — particularly black men — away for long stretches for low-level offenses.” Some have even argued that the war on drugs was really a war on minorities, but that is a topic for another time.The article continued — “Then as violent crime rates fell under George W Bush and prisons became clogged, prosecutions eased. The war on drugs fell out of fashion. Barack Obama called it “unproductive” and sent memos guiding prosecutors away from pursuing low-level offenders. Now a new administration looks set to turn back the clock. Attorney General Jeff Sessions likes to reminisce about the aggressive law enforcement of the 80s and 90s and recently labeled cannabis “only slightly less awful” than heroin.”

And speaking of heroin, or hey-ron, as they also call it, Breitbart recently ran an article where — “US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly has largely blamed Latin American drug cartels for the unprecedented 52,000-plus drug overdose deaths in America during 2015 alone, the latest year for which data is available.” That’s right. 52 thousand people died of drug overdoses in 2015. And that’s up from 2014, where 47 thousand people died from similar causes. In total, around 100 thousand people have died due to taking too many drugs, the great majority of them opioid related.

In fact, the Breitbart article noted that — “It’s the highest number of drug-related deaths (America) has ever seen. It’s more deaths than the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1995. In (2015), a single year, nearly as many Americans were lost to drug overdose … in 12 years in Vietnam.” But that’s not all — and here is where it gets interesting.In that article, “Kelly said that most of the heroin in the United States originates in Mexico.” Mexico! While “…the majority of heroin in neighboring Canada comes from Afghanistan”. That’s right. From half way around the world! In fact, a recent “DEA estimate suggests that only one percent of the Afghan-based drug makes it into the United States.” Which seems strange, right? Canada also shares a large unsecured border with America, but apparently, heroin only flows from countries with mostly brown people to countries with mostly white people. Fake news, much?

The Breitbart article addressed this issue when it wrote — “Not everyone agrees with the DEA’s assertion that most of the heroin in the US is cultivated in Mexico. Last year, an article published by the Alliance for Human Research Protection (AHRP), a patient advocacy group, criticized the former US administration and the mainstream media for misleading the American public about the influx of heroin from Afghanistan.” It continued — “In the report, a scientist and author of articles in scientific journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry, noted: Heroin from Mexico cannot supply even 10% of US heroin demand. Yet the DEA claims most heroin in the US is from Mexico.” So, where does the rest come from? Could it be that very same Afghanistan that America has arguably occupied for more than 15 years now?So, what do you think dear listeners — “Where does heroin in the US come from?”

We’d love to get your feedback at

Have you heard the news? Sign up to our Telegram channel and we’ll keep you up to speed!

Why an American went to Cuba for cancer care

20 April 2017

Judy Ingels

Cuba has faced more than 50 years of US sanctions. Now, for the first time, a unique drug developed on the communist island is being tested in New York state. But some American cancer patients are already taking it – by defying the embargo and flying to Havana for treatment.

Judy Ingels and her family are in Cuba for just six days. They have time to go sightseeing and try out the local cuisine. Judy, a keen photographer, enjoys capturing the colonial architecture of Old Havana.

And while she is in the country, Ingels, 74, will have her first injections of Cimavax, a drug shown in Cuban trials to extend the lives of lung cancer patients by months, and sometimes years.

By travelling to Havana from her home in California, she is breaking the law.

The US embargo against Cuba has been in place for more than five decades, and though relations thawed under President Obama, seeking medical treatment in Cuba is still not allowed for US citizens.

“I’m not worried,” Ingels says. “For the first time I have real hope.”

She has stage four lung cancer and was diagnosed in December 2015. “My oncologist in the United States says I’m his best patient, but I have this deadly disease.”

He does not know she is in Cuba. When she asked him about Cimavax, he had not heard of it.

“But we’ve done a lot of research – I’ve read good things,” Ingels says. Since January, Cimavax has been tested on patients in Buffalo, New York state, but it isn’t yet available in the US.

Ingels, her husband Bill and daughter Cindy are staying at the La Pradera International Health Centre, west of Havana. It treats mostly foreign, paying patients like Ingels, and with its pool complex, palm trees and open walkways, La Pradera feels more like a tropical hotel than a hospital.

This trip from their home in California, together with a supply of Cimavax to take back to the US, will cost the Ingels family more than $15,000 (£12,000).

Cimavax fights cancer by stimulating an immune response against a protein in the blood that triggers the growth of lung cancer. After an induction period, patients receive a monthly dose by injection.

It’s a product of Cuba’s biotechnology industry, nurtured by former President Fidel Castro since the early 1980s.

Ironically, Cuba’s biotech innovations can partly be explained by the US embargo – something Castro continually railed against. It meant Cuba had to produce the drugs it could not access or afford. And medications like Cimavax – low-tech products that could be administered in a rural setting – were developed to fit the Cuban context.

Now the industry employs around 22,000 scientists, technicians and engineers, and sells drugs in many parts of the world – but not in the US.

And although the Cubans will not reveal the cost of producing Cimavax, it is cheaper than other treatments.

For Cuba’s residents, all health care is free. One beneficiary is Lucrecia de Jesus Rubillo, 65, who lives on the fifth floor of a block of flats in the east of Havana

Last September she was given two or three months to live. What began as pain in Lucrecia’s leg, was diagnosed as stage-four lung cancer that had spread.

She had chemotherapy. “That was really very hard,” she says. “It gave me nausea, and it hurt. But my kids asked me to fight, so I did.”

After radiotherapy, Lucrecia began Cimavax injections. Now she is strong enough to walk up the five flights of stairs to her home, and her persistent cough has diminished. She feels better, more hopeful, and is thinking about what to do next.

“Perhaps I’ll go to Spain to visit my kid,” she says. “I feel happy, and I’m still dreaming of the future, but I also feel sadness. I’ve had a lot of friends who’ve died of cancer, and they never had the chance I’m having with these injections. I feel privileged.”

Her doctor is Elia Neninger, an oncologist at the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital in Havana. Neninger is one of the principal clinicians to trial Cimavax on patients since the 1990s.

“Lucrecia arrived incapacitated by her disease in a wheelchair,” Neninger remembers. “Now the tumour on her lung has disappeared, and the lesions on her liver aren’t there either. With Cimavax, she’s in a maintenance phase.”

In Cuba, specialists like Neninger do not talk about curing cancer – they talk about controlling it and transforming it into a chronic disease. She has treated hundreds of patients with Cimavax.

“I never thought I’d work on something that would improve the lives of so many people,” she says. “I have stage-four lung cancer patients who are still alive 10 years after their diagnosis.”

But mostly Cimavax is proven to extend life for months, not years. And it does not help everyone. In trials, around 20% of patients haven’t responded, Neninger says, often because the disease is very advanced, or they have associated illnesses that make treatment more difficult.

Nonetheless, Dr Kelvin Lee is impressed. He is the Chair of Immunology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, where the American trials of Cimavax are taking place.

It is the first time a Cuban medication has been trialled in the US, and required special permission because the embargo prohibits most collaboration and trade.

Cancer immunotherapy is getting more expensive in the US, Lee says. A cheap vaccine that can be administered at primary care level is very attractive. And he thinks it is possible that Cimavax could be used to prevent lung cancer, too.

“If we could vaccinate the high-risk smokers to prevent them from developing lung cancer, that would have an enormous public health impact both in the United States and worldwide.”

This has not been proven, however, and the initial US trials of Cimavax only began in January.

There is political uncertainty, too. On the campaign trail before his election, President Trump said he would reverse the thaw with Cuba that began under the Obama administration, unless there was change on the island, which is governed as a one-party state.

“Our demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people, and the freeing of political prisoners,” Trump said on the campaign trail in Miami.

So far, Cuba has not made it to the top of his in-tray. There is a large constituency of Americans who believe that Cuba does not deserve the kind of recognition and status the association with the Roswell Park Cancer Institute brings.

Find out more

But Lee thinks political arguments against US-Cuba collaboration are misplaced.

“The gas we put in our cars, the iPhones we tweet from, the shoes we buy our kids – all come from countries that the United States has fundamental differences with regarding women’s rights, freedom of speech, personal liberties. Yet that has never stopped us from working with them in areas that benefit the people in both countries.”

For now Bill Ingels, Judy’s husband, isn’t worried about falling foul of US authorities.

“I told them I was coming for educational purposes,” he says. “And I am learning about cancer and medication! I’m basically a very honest person, but if I have to, I will lie.”

Ingels will not know if the vaccine has made a difference until she has a scan in three months.

“We feel pretty positive, and we thought this would be a great experience and journey for my family to take together. It’s the first time I’ve felt up since I was diagnosed.”

Cindy Ingels, Judy’s daughter, is a nurse – she will administer the Cimavax shots to her mother back home in California.

“Even if she remains stable – that it maintains the tumour size, and it doesn’t worsen – we’d be happy with that,” she says. “If the tumour decreases from what it is now, that would really be a miracle.”

Cuban doctors head to Peru in the wake of severe flooding
| April 4, 2017 | 9:06 pm | Cuba, Health Care, political struggle | No comments

Cuban doctors head to Peru in the wake of severe flooding

Cuban doctors departed for Peru early this Friday, March 31, to provide services in areas of the country affected by the recent heavy rains. On leaving, they dedicated their solidarity efforts to the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro

Photo: Jose M. Correa

Cuban health personnel departed for Peru early this Friday, March 31, tasked with providing services in areas of the country affected by the recent heavy rains.

Gathered at the Central Medical Cooperation Unit for a farewell ceremony yesterday evening, they dedicated their solidarity efforts to the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro.

They were joined by Public Health Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda, who presented this 23rd Brigade of the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Doctors Specializing in Disasters and Serious Epidemics, with the customary Cuban flag.

The 23-strong brigade is made up 12 physicians and 11 health professionals, with more than ten years experience and having fulfilled other international missions.

Morales Ojeda, who is also a member of the Party Political Bureau, noted that the Henry Reeve Contingent was formed as part of the solidarity initiatives led by Fidel, and that today 50,000 Cuban collaborators are offering their services across 62 countries.

The Minister also told reporters that the brigade is armed with 7.2 tons of medicines and expendable supplies, which will allow these professionals to provide health care services to some 20,000 people.

Dr. Rolando Piloto, leading the medical mission, noted that Cuba has provided solidarity of this kind on two previous occasions to the people of Peru, flowing earthquakes in May, 1970, and August, 2007.

Bernie Sanders And Elizabeth Warren Rock Trump With Free College Plan Paid For By Taxing The Rich

By on

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled legislation that would make public universities and community colleges tuition free for working families, and he had a powerful backer with him in Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Bernie Sanders And Elizabeth Warren Rock Trump With Free College Plan Paid For By Taxing The Rich

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled legislation that would make public universities and community colleges tuition free for working families, and he had a powerful backer with him in Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Sen. Sanders said, “Higher education in America should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few. If we are to succeed in a highly competitive global economy and have the best-educated workforce in the world, public colleges and universities must become tuition-free for working families and we must substantially reduce student debt.”

The College For All Act would eliminate tuitions and fees at community colleges and public universities for families making $125,000 or less. The legislation is completely paid for with a half of a percent tax on stock trades and one tenth of a percent fee on bonds, and a 0.005 percent fee on derivatives.

Sen. Warren said, “We believe that we should be making investments that align with our values, and we believe that means investing in opportunities to get an education without getting crushed by student loan debt. That’s what we believe in.”

The contrast between the two parties has never been more stark while Bernie Sanders and a long list of Democrats are supporting a free college for the middle class bill, while the Trump budget makes it more difficult for students to pay for college.

The College For All Act is great piece of legislation that will be publicly popular that is another reminder to Republicans that their biggest problem remains the party’s deeply unpopular agenda.

Sens. Sanders is showing the American people what the future could be. If Americans want college for all, they just have to boot Trump and his corporate owned puppets out of office ASAP.

Will Sanders Single Payer Bill Revolutionize Healthcare in the US?

US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders smiles after winning at his 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary night rally in Concord, New Hampshire February 9, 2016.

Will Sanders Single Payer Bill Revolutionize Healthcare in the US?

© REUTERS/ Rick Wilking


Get short URL

Popular Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is reportedly preparing to announce a single-payer healthcare bill that would grant Medicare to all US citizens. This idea has a lot of public support but often does not have the same appeal amongst the political establishment.

Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear speaks with Dr. Carol Paris, president of Physicians for a National Health Program about how a single payer system could be a benefit to Americans across the political spectrum.

​Paris said that although the idea of single-payer healthcare isn’t new to the US, “My understanding is that the bill this year is going to better reflect what he campaigned on, in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. So what he campaigned on was very much a single payer, Medicaid-for-all plan for the country. But we haven’t seen the actual piece of legislation yet so we don’t really know what exactly is in it.”

Republicans recently failed a much-touted attempt at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare.” If passes, the American Health Care Act would have denied coverage to as many as 24 million people over the next decade.

The doctor points out that the US is the only country in the “developed” world that does not have some form of national health care, saying that a single payer plan is currently enjoying higher rates of approval than the GOP’s AHCA and the ACA.

“I think that is because the Republican attempt to dismantle the ACA has brought the whole issue of health reform back on the table, and with the groundswell of citizen energy and activism since the Trump election, more and more people are actually paying attention and becoming involved, and what they’re realizing is ‘Oh my gosh, the Affordable Care Act actually did some good things for me and I sure don’t want to go backwards from that,” she said. “But even more importantly, what we’re seeing at town halls across the nation is that whenever someone stands up and says, ‘What about a national health plan?’ all of a sudden, the room bursts out in cheers and applause. Because that’s what the American people are realizing; that that’s what they really want.”

Paris added, “and that’s not just liberal Democrats, that is conservative Republicans as well.”

She pointed out that the ACA was originally conceived by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, and presented by the Democrats under then-President Barack Obama in a failed attempt at extending an olive branch to conservatives.

Loud and Clear Host Brian Becker pointed out that conservatives in countries like Britain and Canada acknowledge the benefit of a national health plan, but the “rugged individualism mentality” present in the US’ two main parties turns healthcare into another opportunity to generate profit.

Paris agreed, saying Democrats and Republicans are “very confused about who it is they actually represent when it comes to these issue of healthcare reform. And if we look at their behavior, I think that’s a pretty good statement that they represent the moneyed interest of the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the medical device industry [and] the hospital industry.”

The disease killing white Americans goes way deeper than opioids


March 24

In rich countries, death rates are supposed to decline. But in the past decade and a half, middle-aged white Americans have actually been dying faster. Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton first pointed out this disturbing trend in a 2015 study that highlighted three “diseases of despair”: drugs, drinking and suicide.

On Thursday, the pair released a deeper analysis that clears up one of the biggest misconceptions about their earlier research.

The problem of dying whites can’t only be blamed on rising rates of drug overdoses, suicides and chronic alcoholism, they say. More and more, middle-aged white Americans are dying for all kinds of reasons — and the underlying issue may have less to do with opioids and more to do with how society has left behind the working class.

“Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high school educated, working class after its heyday in the 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline,” they write.

On the streets of Chillicothe, Ohio: ‘Shooting heroin is like drinking beer’

Chillicothe, Ohio is grappling with an addiction epidemic driven by opioids like heroin. But some here aren’t letting overdoses rule. (Lee Powell/The Washington Post)
Chillicothe, Ohio is grappling with an addiction epidemic driven by opioids like heroin. But some here aren’t letting overdoses rule. On the streets of Chillicothe, Ohio, the fight against an opioid addiction epidemic means police work. And high school students taking to those streets. (Lee Powell/The Washington Post)

This is slightly different than what they said in their first paper, where they emphasized that the trend of rising white mortality was “largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis.” That’s technically correct — but by focusing only on the increase in death rates, Case and Deaton distracted from the larger picture.

The alarming fact isn’t just that middle-aged whites are dying faster, but also that mortality rates have been dramatically declining in nearly every other rich country. The United States is getting left behind.

In the last 15 years, a chasm opened up between middle aged whites in America and citizens of European countries like France, Germany and the United Kingdom. While white death rates in America rose slightly, death rates in those other countries continued to plummet. In comparison to what happened in Europe, the situation for American whites starts looks much more dire — and it’s a bigger problem than opioids or suicides can explain. It’s not just about what went wrong in America, but what stopped going right.

Fifteen years ago, middle-aged whites in the United States were neck and neck with their German counterparts. Now, middle-aged white Americans are 45 percent more likely to die than middle-aged Germans.

As Case and Deaton show, the gap in mortality between white middle-aged Americans and middle-aged Germans is about 125 deaths per 100,000 people now. Every year, of 100,000 Germans between the ages of 45 and 54, about 285 die. In the United States, it’s more than 410.

Out of those 125 additional American deaths, only about 40 might be explained by the spike in deadly drug use, drinking and suicides. And the rest? It’s hard to say. In their latest paper, Case and Deaton say that heart disease is part of the problem. While other countries have cut down heart disease deaths by over 40 percent in the past 15 years, heart disease remains a significant killer for white middle-aged Americans.

There’s still much left unexplained, but the latest data tell a larger — and more troubling — story. Most of the increase in white deaths is concentrated among those who never finished college. These are the same people who have been pummeled by the economy in recent decades. It’s gotten more difficult for them to find jobs, and what jobs they do come across nowadays don’t pay as well.

Yet, it’s not entirely a matter of income either. Some of these same economic trends — driven by globalization and automation — afflicted countries like the U.K. and Germany, where the death rate has been dropping. Besides, according to a Washington Post analysis of recent Census Bureau data, white American men without a college degree still earn 36 percent more than their black counterparts. But the death rate among less-educated black Americans has actually been decreasing. In recent years, the two groups have converged — they are dying at about the same rate — even though white Americans still earn more.

So the theory comes back to despair. Case and Deaton believe that white Americans may be suffering from a lack of hope. The pain in their bodies might reflect a “spiritual” pain caused by “cumulative distress, and the failure of life to turn out as expected.” If they’re right, then the problem will be much harder to solve. Politicians can pass laws to keep opioids out of people’s hands or require insurers to cover mental health costs, but they can’t turn back the clock to 1955.

Bernie Sanders Defends Real America And Obliterates Trump’s Budget In Just 94 Words

Bernie Sanders Defends Real America And Obliterates Trump’s Budget In Just 94 Words

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) didn’t need many words to express his feeling of disgust and contempt for President Trump’s first budget.

Bernie Sanders Defends Real America And Obliterates Trump’s Budget In Just 94 Words

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) didn’t need many words to express his feeling of disgust and contempt for President Trump’s first budget.

In a statement provided to PoliticusUSA, Sen. Sanders said, “President Trump’s budget is morally obscene and bad economic policy. It will cause devastating pain to the very people Trump promised to help during the campaign. At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when 43 million Americans are living in poverty, and half of older Americans have no retirement savings, we should not slash programs that senior citizens, children, and working people rely on in order to provide a massive increase in spending to the military industrial complex. Trump’s priorities are exactly opposite of where we should be heading as a nation.”

Sanders was correct on all counts. The Trump budget is bad economic policy. Trump wants to take government aid away from people that need it the most, and give tax dollars to people who need them the least. Because of the multiplier effect, every dollar spent on assistance for a poor or retired individual benefits the economy. Studies have demonstrated that taking resources from the people at the bottom and giving them to the people at the top does not grow the economy.

On a human level, what Trump is proposing is appalling. The President wants to harm tens of millions of Americans because he doesn’t view their well-being as a priority.

Much ink has already been spilled discussing Trump’s budget, but Bernie Sanders has it right. The Trump budget doesn’t need thousands of words of explanation. A few words can adequately explain how morally wrong and unjustifiable, Trump’s vision for America is.