How can they tell?
In September 2010, Kim Jong Il unveiled his third son, the twenty-something Kim Jong Un, as his successor, putting him in high-ranking posts.
The NY Times has a graph on
Money Laundering at Lebanese Bank
The chart below shows the intricate money-laundering system the Lebanese Canadian Bank used to divert money to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, according to United States officials.
At the same time, the investigation that led the United States to the bank, the Lebanese Canadian Bank, provides new insights into the murky sources of Hezbollah’s money. While law enforcement agencies around the world have long believed that Hezbollah is a passive beneficiary of contributions from loyalists abroad involved in drug trafficking and a grab bag of other criminal enterprises, intelligence from several countries points to the direct involvement of high-level Hezbollah officials in the South American cocaine trade.
The revelations about Hezbollah and the Lebanese Canadian Bank reflect the changing political and military dynamics of Lebanon and the Middle East. American intelligence analysts believe that for years Hezbollah received as much as $200 million annually from its primary patron, Iran, along with additional aid from Syria. But that support has diminished, the analysts say, as Iran’s economy buckles under international sanctions over its nuclear program and Syria’s government battles rising popular unrest.
Yet, if anything, Hezbollah’s financial needs have grown alongside its increasing legitimacy here, as it seeks to rebuild after its 2006 war with Israel and expand its portfolio of political and social service activities. The result, analysts believe, has been a deeper reliance on criminal enterprises — especially the South American cocaine trade — and on a mechanism to move its ill-gotten cash around the world.
Venezuela plays a part, too,
According to Lebanon’s drug enforcement chief, Col. Adel Mashmoushi, one path into the country was aboard a weekly Iranian-operated flight from Venezuela to Damascus and then over the border. Several American officials confirmed that, emphasizing that such an operation would be impossible without Hezbollah’s involvement.
It doesn’t end there.
Go read the whole thing.
Congressional negotiators struck a deal Thursday that overturns the new rules that were to have banned sales of traditional incandescent light bulbs beginning next year.
That agreement is tucked inside the massive 1,200-page spending bill that funds the government through the rest of this fiscal year, and which both houses of Congress will vote on Friday. Mr. Obama is expected to sign the bill, which heads off a looming government shutdown.
The Dems haven’t passed a budget in 3 years, but I won’t look like Lilly Munster – hooray!
Christopher Hitchens—the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant—died today at the age of 62. Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the spring of 2010, just after the publication of his memoir, Hitch-22, and began chemotherapy soon after. His matchless prose has appeared in Vanity Fair since 1992, when he was named contributing editor.
I remember his article waxing about the limits of the self-improvement culture.
also via Danelle, Christopher Hitchens Dies: His Best Writing, Photos, and More
Popular former French president Jacques Chirac was convicted of graft on Thursday but escaped jail, receiving a suspended two year sentence for running ghost workers at Paris city hall.
The 79-year-old statesman, who was excused from court on medical grounds, was found guilty of influence peddling, breach of trust and embezzlement between 1990 and 1995, when he was mayor of the French capital.
In their ruling, judges said Chirac’s behaviour had cost Paris taxpayers the equivalent of US$1.8-million (1.4-million euros).
Readers of this blog may remember Blacque Jacques sipping piña coladas earlier in the trial; now his lunch money shenanigans while he was mayor of Paris earned him a slap in the wrist while others are in the clink,
He was tried alongside nine alleged accomplices. Two were cleared, but the rest were convicted of helping Chirac run a system at Paris city hall under which political allies were paid municipal salaries for fake jobs.
The city of Paris, which is now run by a Socialist mayor, dropped a case for damages over the case after Chirac and his UMP party agreed to pay 2.2-million euros to cover the embezzled funds.
Chirac — who lives in a luxury Paris flat overlooking the Seine near the Eiffel Tower paid for by the family of the late former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri — repaid 500,000 euros out of his own pocket.
He was convicted of hiring members of his political party for non-existent municipal jobs, using the civic payroll to employ his own campaign staff.
In all, 19 fake jobs were created in Paris and its suburb Nanterre between 1990 and 1995, ahead of Chirac’s successful presidential bid.
Several people were convicted in connection with the ghost worker case in 2004, including Juppe, who was found guilty of mishandling public funds but is now a key figure in the government of Chirac’s successor Sarkozy.
C’est la vie,
mon mes amis.
Elyssa Pachico asks the question,
Is Puerto Rico Becoming a Narco-State?
With over 1,000 murders in Puerto Rico this year, some commentators have warned that the US territory is on the verge of becoming a “narco-state” that has been infiltrated by the drug trade.
there is little evidence that 2011’s record wave of violence is because more drugs are passing through Puerto Rico northwards. Even the US Justice Department says that the “overall drug threat” to the island has “remained relatively consistent” in recent years.
The big change has to do with the island’s domestic drug trade. Since two of Puerto Rico’s most powerful drug traffickers, Angel Ayala Vasquez and Jose Figueroa Agosoto, were arrested in 2009 and 2010 respectively, their organizations have splintered. The instability means that it has become more important to control domestic distribution spots. As most of those places, known as “puntos,” are based in the country’s 332 public housing projects, this means the local gangs dedicated to protecting their punto have more incentive to respond aggressively to threats.
According to one Justice Department report, not only does this mean more retail-level drug dealers are fighting to regain control of more puntos, but they are more willing to use indiscriminate violence to do so. Instead of picking their targets carefully, gang members are more willing to enter with guns blazing. Massacres which kill innocent bystanders, frequently children, have become more deadly. Police have also said it is more common for distributors to pay their employees with weapons instead of cash.
One of the most intense gang wars involves fugitive gang leader Jaime Davila Reyes, alias “Peluche,” and his rival Carlos Morales Davila, alias “Cano Navarro,” who was trumpeted as Puerto Rico’s “most dangerous drug trafficker” when security forces arrested him in November. The feud allegedly started when Davila stole several of Morales’ distribution points in the eastern municipality of Humacao. Morales responded by moving in on Davila’s territory in Caguas, 20 miles south of the capital, where one of the nation’s largest housing projects is located. The wave of homicides unleashed by this move is partly responsible for the spike of murders in 2011.
But a plague of turf wars over other, smaller housing projects also caused the body count to rise. In Manati municipality, the gang leaders responsible for overseeing three puntos have decided to join together and fight a rival group, based in the Campo Alegre housing project. In Bayamon municipality, the former stronghold of drug trafficker Angel Ayala Vasquez, alias “Angelo Millones,” another fight has broken out over control of the 22 housing projects found here. These kinds of highly localized conflicts, complete with their own intricate histories of shifting alliances and betrayals, are found all over Puerto Rico.
Often, those who control Puerto Rico’s puntos do much more than oversee retail drug distribution. They control the sale of contraband goods or stolen car parts. They host concerts and back nightclubs. In some projects, gang leaders even decide who is allowed to sell pirated DVDs and CDs in the neighborhood. Those who go against the local gang may find themselves targeted in a retribution killing.
Puerto Rico’s geographic importance as a transhipment point between the Caribbean and the US is not going to change. And judging from the patterns of violence on the island in the past 20 years, with most of the killings caused by drug trafficking turf wars, the fundamental cause of these homicide outbreaks hasn’t changed much either. As the US Justice Department pointed out this year, Puerto Rico’s police force have a long way to go before they are capable of meeting these challenges. Until there are sweeping changes in the island’s security policy, the murder rate in the projects may keep on climbing.
Go read it all.
The WSJ has an interesting article and graph,
Far Fewer Enter U.S. Illegally From Mexico
Arrests of people trying to sneak into the U.S. from Mexico have plunged to the lowest level in four decades, the latest sign that illegal immigration is on the retreat even as legislatures, Congress and presidential candidates hotly debate the issue.
The article lists several reasons,
Behind the historic drop is a steep decline in the birthrate in Mexico and greater opportunities there relative to the weak U.S. economy. Stepped-up U.S. patrols along the border make it both riskier and more expensive for Mexicans to attempt to enter the country.
Government crackdowns on U.S. employers who hire illegal workers also have discouraged immigrants.
Yes, these are all powerful reasons, but I would add another reason: The border smuggling traffic coming from Mexico, be it of people or drugs, is controlled by the drug cartels. It has been that way for several years, particularly for the last four years, and the trend matches that of the above graph. The days where the coyotes were a mom-and-pop business are gone. The cartels control entire towns in the border area.
This would “make it both riskier and more expensive”, and also possibly a longer-term commitment to a criminal organization. That alone may be the most powerful reason, but I don’t have the resources to prove it.