Opinion | Inside New York City’s Radical Approach to America’s Overdose Crisis – The New York Times

Ms. Interlandi is a member of the editorial board. Mr. Smallwood is a photographer based in New York.


“It was late summer, and the sun was high over East Harlem. Terrell Jones stepped out of a large black van that advertised help with detox and free hepatitis C testing and scanned the homeless encampment beneath the elevated train tracks across the intersection from where he stood. He was looking for a specific inhabitant, a white woman in her late 20s or early 30s whom he and his colleagues had heard about for weeks but had yet to meet. Like many of the women Mr. Jones encountered in his work, this one was unhoused, was attached to a possibly abusive man and was using hard drugs (crack, in this case). Unlike the others, though, she was also about five months pregnant.”

NYT Editorial | America Has Lost the War On Drugs. What Now? – The New York Times

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.


“For a forgotten moment, at the very start of the United States’ half-century long war on drugs, public health was the weapon of choice. In the 1970s, when soldiers returning from Vietnam were grappling with heroin addiction, the nation’s first drug czar — appointed by President Richard Nixon — developed a national system of clinics that offered not only methadone but also counseling, 12-step programs and social services. Roughly 70 percent of the nation’s drug control budget was devoted to this initiative; only the remaining 30 percent went to law enforcement.”

Inside the Case Against General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda – The New York Times

“. . . . . Ebrard told Barr he wanted to see the evidence against Cienfuegos. On Barr’s orders, Robotti and other Eastern District prosecutors hurriedly assembled a file of more than 700 pages of intercepts. They had no illusions that the information would remain secret, and they did not make any mention of the new witnesses they had found, who, officials said, included at least two traffickers who told of face-to-face meetings with Cienfuegos. In a cover letter, Shea emphasized that Cienfuegos “was never a direct investigative target of the Drug Enforcement Administration.” As the intercepts showed, he said, Cienfuegos’s name had surfaced during a routine narcotics investigation.

Ebrard read the dossier over the weekend. Before he had a chance to pick apart the evidence in his next conversation with Barr, the attorney general told him he was ready to drop the case. “I made it clear that I was willing to return Cienfuegos and was taking care of the formalities necessary to do that,” Barr wrote in his memoir. “Personally, I felt that Cienfuegos’s case was not worth scuttling any prospects of broader cooperation with the Mexicans.”

According to two officials briefed on the call, Barr asked the Mexicans not to publicly disparage the D.E.A.’s evidence against Cienfuegos and expressed his hope for the capture of Rafael Caro Quintero. But he did not receive any formal agreement on either point. “He didn’t nail down any commitment from the Mexican side,” one official said. “There were no real conditions imposed on the return.” ” . . . .

DL: So William Barr and Trump set the drug war effort back 30 years, and the next question should be, why.

Christy Thornton | The U.S. Has Led the War on Drugs Abroad for Decades, and It’s Been a Staggering Failure – The New York Times

Ms. Thornton is an assistant professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University.

“Colombia, one of the world’s top producers of cocaine, has long been a key partner in Washington’s failed war on drugs. But Gustavo Petro, the country’s newly sworn-in president, has made good on a campaign pledge to take the country in a different direction. Last month, he said he would end forced eradication of coca, and support legislation to decriminalize and regulate cocaine sales in an effort to undercut illicit markets and the profit motive that drives them.

Here at home, the Biden administration has also signaled an important shift. In April, Dr. Rahul Gupta, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, introduced a new strategy that directs federal resources to harm-reduction services. The aim is to prevent deaths from opioid overdose by increasing access to medical treatment and addiction recovery programs, and promoting alternatives to incarceration for minor drug-related offenses.

This new strategy recognizes that the way we have approached the drug problem here at home hasn’t worked. But U.S.-led international drug control efforts have also been a staggering failure, contributing to violence, degradation and displacement in places like Colombia, which largely export cocaine. It has also fueled the move toward synthetic opioids like fentanyl, driving overdose deaths here at home. The Biden administration’s new forward-thinking national policies are a step in the right direction, but the president must go further and end the global drug war.”

‘Absolute Warfare’: Cartels Terrorize Mexico as Security Forces Fall Short – The New York Times

CELAYA, Mexico — The butcher had been killed and no one knew why. The execution occurred in broad daylight as he worked in a family-owned restaurant, one of many murders that go unsolved every week in Celaya, among Mexico’s most dangerous cities.

His co-workers and family cried and drank tequila to calm their nerves, while a forensic expert walked among tables still covered with food left behind by customers who had fled during the shooting.

The plight of this city is part of the worsening security situation across the country. Police in places like Celaya say they are outgunned by criminal gangs in a war they are losing, while the federal forces meant to fight these battles often seem to show up after the shooting is over.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
What a tragedy. My thoughts are that the US helps the gangs and the violence. If we legalized addictive drugs, and stopped the easy sale of guns, the gangs ruining Mexico would lose a huge revenue source, and the easy access to weapons to kill with. Such measures have worked in other countries. David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Maia Szalavitz | The War on Drugs Has a Warning for Post-Roe Ameriarca – The New w

Ms. Szalavitz is a contributing Opinion writer. She covers addiction and public policy.

“With the fall of Roe v. Wade, physicians across the country are struggling to balance the conflicting imperatives of their calling to care with their institutional duty to avoid legal liability, all to the detriment of their patients.

Medicine is hard to govern with the blunt instrument of criminal law. Human biological processes, including pregnancy, are enormously variable. In many cases, determining the precise moment when someone’s life or health is so threatened that abortion would be legal under a particular law is not an ethically answerable scientific question. And so doctors turn to lawyers, often with no medical experience, to protect themselves from prison.

Under Roe, most obstetricians and gynecologists didn’t face this level of legal peril. But this isn’t the first time America has criminalized aspects of medicine. Physicians who prescribe controlled substances like opioids carry a similar burden. They can face decades in prison if prosecutors target them for overprescribing. Although there are cases of bad actors who prescribed opioids for profit, even legitimate physicians may fear being targeted by law enforcement, and research shows that the threat of legal action has a broad chilling effect on the way doctors provide care. The war on drugs shows that when medicine is criminalized and politicized, harm to patients and doctors increases, while the activities that the laws are intended to curb continue or even increase.”

Teens Are Getting Sick From Products With High THC Levels – The New York Times

“It didn’t smell, which made it easy to hide from her parents. And it was convenient — just press a button and inhale. After the second or third try, she was hooked.

“It was insane. Insane euphoria,” said Elysse, now 18, whose last name is being withheld to protect her privacy. “Everything was moving slowly. I got super hungry. Everything was hilarious.”

But the euphoria eventually morphed into something more disturbing. Sometimes the marijuana would make Elysse feel more anxious, or sad. Another time she passed out in the shower, only to wake up half an hour later.

This was not your average weed. The oil and waxes she bought from dealers were typically about 90 percent THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. But because these products were derived from cannabis, and nearly everyone she knew was using them, she assumed they were relatively safe. She began vaping multiple times per day. Her parents didn’t find out until about one year later, in 2019.”

Excellent article with good comments, both pro and con THC use and abuse.

Here is a comment that stood out for me.

Springfield3h ago

It’s the number one cause of reversible erectile dysfunction and male infertility for men under 30 at my urology office. Large increase in patients since state where I practice legalized. Similar to alcohol- a little might promote the mood, a lot – not so much. A generation of guinea pigs having to learn moderation is key to life.

3 Replies110 Recommended

How a Police Chief in Wyoming’s Ranchlands Lost Her War on Drugs – The New York Times

“GUERNSEY, Wyo. — It was a few days before New Year’s Eve 2019, and Terri VanDam, the chief of Guernsey, Wyo.’s three-person Police Department, had run out of options.

For more than a year, Ms. VanDam and her sergeant, Misty Clevenger, had tried and failed to get to the bottom of the drug and alcohol problem in Guernsey, population 1,124. Methamphetamine use was rampant, and much of it was bought and sold right at the bars, they were told, but when anyone tried to investigate, they ran into a wall of silence that went right up to City Hall.

Not long after she had first started asking questions, she said, she had found a dead bird on her front porch, with a nail driven through it. Now, as chief, she had opened a full-scale investigation, and two townspeople warned that they had overheard the mayor talk about crippling the Police Department.

Not knowing where else to turn, Ms. VanDam reached out to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, asking for a team of state investigators to come into Guernsey and help turn her suspicions into a case.

“It is becoming a huge issue and is out of control,” she wrote.

Far from bringing in a posse, the emails would prove to be the new police chief’s undoing. Two weeks later, Ms. VanDam was fired, and then Ms. Clevenger. In federal lawsuits, the women contend they were ousted because they tried to confront an insular, small-town network of powerful ranchers, business owners and politicians that was unaccustomed to questions.  . . . “

David Lindsay: I sent a letter to the NYT. Letters@nyt.com:

This was an excellent piece of reporting, by Ali Watkins, How a Police Chief in Wyoming’s Ranchlands Lost Her War on Drugs,  and a fascinating piece, which begs for discussion and comment. Is this a travesty of justice, or an example of the drug war going where it shouldn’t, because Americans like to buy and sell drugs? It begs for more reporting, and a serious discussion through comments. How many folks are getting hurt by this drug trafficking in this small town? Would this town’s community be improved if illegal drugs were decriminalized?

By Maeve Higgins | Joe Biden, the Irishman – The New York Times

Ms. Higgins is a contributing opinion writer who regularly writes about immigration and life in New York City.

Credit…Paul Faith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“In November, a BBC reporter shouted a question at President-elect Joe Biden. He responded, “The BBC? I’m Irish” before flashing a huge smile and disappearing through a doorway. The clip went viral and Ireland went wild.

President Biden’s Irishness is important to him: He likes to quote Seamus Heaney and W.B. Yeats, and borrowed James Joyce’s words as he bid farewell to Delaware the night before his inauguration. An Irish violinist played Irish hymns at the mass before the event. Back in the old country, people are keen to claim him, too. His ancestral family are mini-celebrities there — his third cousin, a plumber named Joe Blewitt, emblazoned his work van with the words “Joe Biden for the White House, Joe Blewitt for your house.” Frankly, the whole thing is adorable. What I want to know is, how deep does it go?” . . .

It’s gratifying to see, certainly. But what my Irishness leads me to is the old Ireland, the truly dark and terrifying place that Mr. Biden’s forefathers fled from. Who is their equivalent now? And can the president see them for what they are and act accordingly?

The parallels between Ireland in the 1800s, when Mr. Biden’s forefathers left, and, say, Syria or South Sudan today are horribly apt. The Syrian people, brave and revolutionary, simply needed a fair system of government and, later, a safe place to recover and restart their lives. But Americans have looked away. The South Sudanese, reeling from brutal colonization, continue to struggle through ethnic division and civil war. Surely too in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, there are poets and musicians who dream of the rhyme of hope and history, if only we stopped to listen.

The early signs are promising. During his campaign, Mr. Biden promised to lift the cap on refugee admissions from 15,000 to 125,000. But so much more is needed from America — just as it was in the 19th century, when roughly one in two people born in Ireland emigrated. Patrick Blewitt, Mr. Biden’s great-great grandfather, left a famine-stricken land in 1850, becoming one of the 1.8 million Irish people to arrive in America between 1845 and 1855. His parents and siblings soon followed. Another million Irish people did not make it, staying behind to die of starvation or sickness.” . . .

Lovely piece by Maeve Higgins.  She would have us taken as many refugees as is possible without delineation. I can’t agree with her.  Biden is doing enough, to allow in 125,000 a year. Part of taking care of the planet, is reducing population growth. We need to stop illegal immigration, allow for guest workers after amending the constitutional amendment that makes their children all citizens, and work towards a generous Marshall like plan to help our neighbors to the south curb their population growth, and rebuild their economies, and in some places, their governments. Legalizing all addictive drugs, would help reduce the negative effects of the $50 Billion a year illegal drug trade, that destabilizes governments, while empowering drug gangs.

Regarding Syria and the middle east, we can return to strengthening our allies, if there are any left, after Trump betrayed them, and let the Turks, the Russians, and the  Bashar al-Assad regime slaughter them. 

She Stalked Her Daughter’s Killers Across Mexico, One by One – By Azam Ahmed – The New York Times

“SAN FERNANDO, Mexico — Miriam Rodríguez clutched a pistol in her purse as she ran past the morning crowds on the bridge to Texas. She stopped every few minutes to catch her breath and study the photo of her next target: the florist.

She had been hunting him for a year, stalking him online, interrogating the criminals he worked with, even befriending unwitting relatives for tips on his whereabouts. Now she finally had one — a widow called to tell her that he was peddling flowers on the border.

Ever since 2014, she had been tracking the people responsible for the kidnapping and murder of her 20-year-old daughter, Karen. Half of them were already in prison, not because the authorities had cracked the case, but because she had pursued them on her own, with a meticulous abandon.

She cut her hair, dyed it and disguised herself as a pollster, a health worker and an election official to get their names and addresses. She invented excuses to meet their families, unsuspecting grandmothers and cousins who gave her details, however small. She wrote everything down and stuffed it into her black computer bag, building her investigation and tracking them down, one by one.”

David Lindsay:  Thank you for an excellent piece of journalism and reporting. I hope this story gets turned into a movie, and it stops before the angry mother, Miriam Rodríguez,  is murdered. It should stop with her last successful arrest, and reveal her murder in before the credits.