Sources

Drug Dealers' Love For U.S. Postal Service At All-Time High

So many parcels to deal with
So many parcels to deal with
Joe Davidson

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service likes to boast that it is the nation's most trusted government agency.

It certainly has the trust of dope dealers.

A report by the Postal Service Office of Inspector General demonstrates just how valuable the mail is as a marketing tool for drug pushers: "For example, a cocaine trafficker claimed to have used the Postal Service to successfully distribute nearly 4,000 shipments, stating that they had a 100% delivery success rate. In addition, of the 96 traffickers who indicated they used the Postal Service as their shipping provider, 43% (41) offered free, partial, or full reshipment if the package did not arrive to the buyer's address because it was confiscated, stolen, or lost."

Using the Internet, inspector general staffers found that out of 104 illicit drug websites identifying a shipper, 92% indicated that they use the Postal Service. On the "clear Web" — publicly accessible pages indexed on search engines — 80% of the 20 sites they searched that provided guidance on how to ship illicit drugs "instructed traffickers to use the Postal Service," according to the report.

The report found several reasons, a.k.a. "vulnerabilities in the network," that dealers prefer using "government resources to perpetrate a crime," including:

- "The Postal Service is generally prohibited from opening international and domestic mail, including packages."

- Private carriers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can inspect packages shipped into the country.

- There is no "distinct penalty" for using the Postal Service to ship illegal drugs.

- There is "a need for the Postal Service to educate employees about the dangers of colluding with drug traffickers."

Why the employees don't know that without special education was not explained. Or it might have been, but the redactors must have really been juiced when they reviewed the report because the entire section on the "Risk of Employee Collusion with Drug Traffickers," even the inspector general's recommendation, was blacked out with no explanation.

Opioids, a growing problem in the U.S. — Photo: Sgt. Ryan Crane

"Drug traffickers in the U.S. can send their packages like any other customer — dropping them in a blue collection box, or presenting them at a post office or through a third-party approved shipper," the report noted.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, requested the report. "The use of the Postal Service's network to import and distribute illicit drugs puts the Postal Service, its employees, and the public at risk," she wrote in a letter asking for the study. She said at a committee hearing last month "that mail facilities have the largest number of individual CBP seizures of opioids."

The inspector general's report had seven recommendations, including:

- Congress should authorize the Postal Inspection Service "to open and inspect domestic packages suspected of containing illicit drugs."

- Congress should approve "separate and enhanced criminal penalties for using the U.S. mail system to distribute illicit drugs."

- The postmaster general should designate an officer to implement a "unified, comprehensive organizational strategy to combat the role of the postal network in facilitating illicit drug distribution."

Guy Cottrell, the chief postal inspector, disagreed with all but one of the recommendations, though his response to the one regarding employee collusion also was redacted. His comments, included in the report, said the "discussion of the Postal Service's current efforts is incomplete, and the report makes certain inaccurate assertions."

Postal workers handling the toxins also are at risk.

Inaccurate, he wrote, is the assertion "that the Postal Service lacks a "unified, comprehensive organization-wide strategy to combat the flow" of illegal drugs through the mail."

Yet the Postal Service's reliability makes it an integral element in the nation's growing and lethal drug problem. Deaths from synthetic opioids jumped 525% from 2013 to 2016. That doesn't include methadone, which registered a slight decline in deaths. Postal workers handling the toxins also are at risk. Far less important than the deaths, but of concern to postal officials, is the effect on image.

"The presence of packages containing illicit drugs in the mail stream puts Postal Service employees in harm's way and jeopardizes its brand," the report said. "Every story about drugs being shipped through the postal network erodes the public's trust in the postal system."

I guess that includes this one.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Protests against gasoline price hikes in Lebanon

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Wai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where leaked documents show how some countries are lobbying to change a key report on climate change, Moscow announces new full lockdown and the world's first robot artist is arrested over spying allegations. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt looks at the rapprochement between two leaders currently at odds with Europe: UK's BoJo and Turkey's Erdogan.

[*Bodo - India, Nepal and Bengal]


💡  SPOTLIGHT

Bulgaria is COVID fail of the week: Our roving reporter is tired of asking "why"

With much attention now focused on rising COVID-19 cases in the UK and Moscow's new lockdown, a hidden story is in Bulgaria, which claims both Europe's highest death rate and lowest vaccination rate. By now, this reporter knows the drill

I suspected, while Google translating the Bulgarian news Wednesday morning, that I might be the last person in Sofia with an internet connection to have found out about the new COVID rules.

Following reports of 4,979 new COVID-19 cases and 214 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, the Bulgarian government had announced that proof of vaccine or negative PCR tests will be required for access to restaurants, theaters, cinemas, gyms, clubs and shopping malls. Starting tomorrow.

I'd heard some chatter at the co-working place the night before, but after 18 months of coronavirus reporting, and pandemic living, both in my native Sweden and my former home in Paris, I wasn't up for another round on the topic.

Perhaps, that same plague fatigue was what caused me — when deciding to set up shop in Bulgaria a month ago — to miss the detail that this is both Europe's least vaccinated country and the one with the highest COVID-19 mortality rate.

I had chosen Sofia (Europe's oldest city!) on the latest stop of my now 12-year hunt for a place to sort of settle down for its cheap rent, cobblestoned city center … and its excellent nationwide WiFi. What more could you ask?

Well, vaccinations, it turned out. So here I was facing the COVID story again, after months exploring France's extra strict lockdown measures, Sweden's famous flirt with herd immunity, the mask morality police and anti-vaxx ideologues everywhere.

The world's pandemic press this week is focused on the UK, where again cases are skyrocketing, and Moscow's new lockdown. But here in a country of barely 7 million, where I didn't speak the language or know the history, what might I find? After just six weeks, I considered the social dispositions I had discerned, what political leanings I'd nosed out that might explain why 80% of the population still isn't vaccinated.

I had, for example, observed with great interest that Sofians never jaywalk. Maybe that was the angle? The striking incongruence between social conformity and vaccine refusal? Or maybe the upcoming parliamentary elections held a clue to the bad COVID management.

To answer these questions, I went where any hungry reporter would go: the burger joint on the corner.

- "So new restrictions huh? You think they might lockdown?"

- "Dunno. The usual? No chili?"

- "Right, no chili … So you think more people will get vaccinated now?"

- "We'll see. That'll be four leva."

Having spent the past 18 months among the army of finger-wagging, number-crunching armchair social scientists (both in and out of print) I had suddenly lost my hunger to "explain" why Bulgarians were the world's bad boy of the moment on the COVID front. Consider this just one roving reporter's version of pandemic fatigue.


Carl-Johan Karlsson

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Documents reveal countries lobbying against climate action: Leaked documents have revealed that some of the world's biggest fossil fuel and meat producing countries, including Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, are trying to water down a UN scientific report on climate change and pushing back on its recommendations for action, less than one month before the COP26 climate summit.

• COVID update: The city of Moscow plans to reintroduce lockdown measures next week, closing nearly all shops, bars and restaurants, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a nationwide seven-day workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to combat the country's record surge in coronavirus cases and deaths. Meanwhile, India has crossed the 1 billion vaccinations milestone.

• India and Nepal floods death toll passes 180: Devastating floods in Nepal and the two Indian states of Uttarakhand and Kerala have killed at least 180 people, following record-breaking rainfall.

• Barbados elects first ever president: Governor general Dame Sandra Mason has been elected as Barbados' first president as the Caribbean island prepares to become a republic after voting to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

• Trump to launch social media platform: After being banned from several social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, former U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would launch his own app called TRUTH Social in a bid "to fight back against Big Tech." The app is scheduled for release early next year.

• Human remains found in hunt for Gabby Petito's fiance: Suspected human remains and items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found in a Florida park, more than one month after his disappearance. Laundrie was a person of interest in the murder of his fiancee Gabby Petito, who was found dead by strangulation last month.

• Artist robot detained in Egypt over spying fear: Ai-Da, the world's ultra-realistic robot artist, was detained for 10 days by authorities in Egypt where it was due to present its latest art works, over fears the robot was part of an espionage plot. Ai-Da was eventually cleared through customs, hours before the exhibition was due to start.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Nine crimes and a tragedy," titles Brazilian daily Extra, after a report from Brazil's Senate concluded that President Jair Bolsonaro and his government had failed to act quickly to stop the deadly coronavirus pandemic, accusing them of crimes against humanity.


📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Erdogan and Boris Johnson: A new global power duo?

As Turkey fears the EU closing ranks over defense, Turkish President Erdogan is looking to Boris Johnson as a post-Brexit ally, especially as Angela Merkel steps aside. This could undermine the deal where Ankara limits refugee entry into Europe, and other dossiers too, write Carolina Drüten and Gregor Schwung in German daily Die Welt.

🇹🇷🇬🇧 According to the Elysée Palace, the French presidency "can't understand" why Turkey would overreact, since the defense pact that France recently signed in Paris with Greece is not aimed at Ankara. Although Paris denies this, it is difficult to see the agreement as anything other than a message, perhaps even a provocation, targeted at Turkey. The country has long felt left out in the cold, at odds with the European Union over a number of issues. Yet now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is setting his sights on another country, which also wants to become more independent from Europe: the UK.

⚠️ Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel always argued for closer collaboration with Turkey. She never supported French President Emmanuel Macron's ideas about greater strategic autonomy for countries within the EU. But now that she's leaving office, Macron is keen to make the most of the power vacuum Merkel will leave behind. The prospect of France's growing influence is "not especially good news for Turkey," says Ian Lesser, vice president of the think tank German Marshall Fund.

🤝 At the UN summit in September, Erdogan had a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the recently opened Turkish House in New York. Kalin says it was a "very good meeting" and that the two countries are "closely allied strategic partners." He says they plan to work together more closely on trade, but with a particular focus on defense. The groundwork for collaboration was already in place. Britain consistently supported Turkey's ambition to join the EU, and gave an ultimate proof of friendship after the failed coup in 2016.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin's regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life."

— David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter, following the announcement that imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was awarded the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Union's highest tribute to human rights defenders. Navalny, who survived a poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin, is praised for his "immense personal bravery" in fighting Putin's regime. The European Parliament called for his immediate release from jail, as Russian authorities opened a new criminal case against the activist that could see him stay in jail for another decade.

💬  LEXICON

魷魚的勝利

Chinese video platform Youku is under fire after announcing it is launching a new variety show called in Mandarin Squid's Victory (Yóuyú de shènglì) on social media, through a poster that also bears striking similarities with the visual identity of Netflix's current South Korean hit series Squid Game. Youku apologized by saying it was just a "draft" poster.

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

A child stands in front of burning tires during a protest in Beirut against a new rise in fuel prices as Lebanon faces a crippling energy and economic crisis. — Photo: Marwan Naamani/dpa/ZUMA


✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Anyone want to guess Trump's first post on his upcoming social media platform...? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ