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Allowing the use of drug-testing facilities at music festivals should be a no-brainer

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drug-testing facilities at music festivals

Many experts believe that some drugs which are currently illegal in most countries are on balance far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. Whether or not substances such as ecstasy, cannabis or LSD are safer than vices most western nations have deemed permissible is open to debate, but it is hard to argue against the fact that a great deal of the harm caused by illicit narcotics comes about as a result of the unregulated nature of the criminal markets on which they are sold. As has been the case for generations, drug users can never be truly sure what is in the substances they buy, regardless of how well they know and trust their supplier. While this has always been the case, the problem has been brought into sharp focus over recent years as drug producers have sought to outdo their rivals by making their products more potent than anything else on the market.

Illegal drugs have historically been cut with all manner of unpleasant ingredients, but evidence now suggests criminal gangs are seeking to set their products apart by making them as strong as possible, be that by adding greater quantities of MDMA to ecstasy tablets, or cutting batches of heroin with deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl. Meanwhile, less scrupulous drug producers continue to pass off products that bear little resemblance to what they claim they are, such as ecstasy pills that contain pentylone instead of MDMA. Caring little for the welfare of the people who end up taking the drugs they make, the criminal gangs behind the illicit narcotics trade have one motive; to make as much money as possible. As such, and in light of the fact that the legalisation of most outlawed drugs looks to be a very long way off in most countries, lawmakers and others should focus their energies on harm reduction.

One of the best ways of keeping drug users safe from harm is to empower them with the means to discover what is really in the substances they are planning to consume, and how strong they might be. This is what makes drug-testing stations at music festivals and nightclubs such a good idea. A number of major festivals, such as Groovin the Moo in Australia and Bestival in the UK, have adopted the concept, allowing drug testers onto their sites to anonymously analyse the composition of narcotics festival-goers are planning to take. Users can then make an informed decision as to whether they should consume their drugs or not. Testing carried out at a festival in the UK city of Bristol recently revealed ecstasy pills that were up to four times stronger than regular tablets. At the very least, arming drug users with information such as this gives them the opportunity to take smaller doses.

Despite the potential for drug-testing facilities at festivals to save lives, some are less than enthusiastic about the idea. Festival Republic surprised campaigners this month by announcing that it will not be allowing drug testers on site at its UK events this year, despite having applied to the British government for a licence that would have allowed it to do so. It has been speculated that the company’s licence application was most likely turned down, prompting it to make a business decision not to go ahead with testing. Doing so could leave it open to prosecution should any harm come to drug users who had their illegal substances tested. Other festival organisers in the UK that choose to go ahead with allowing drug-testing facilities at their events do so without a licence from authorities. The British government’s current position is that “no illegal drug can be assumed to be safe and there is no safe way to take them”. Commenting on the drug-testing service offered at Australia’s Groovin the Moo festival this year, the country’s Shadow Attorney General Jeremy Hanson claimed the decision to allow it to go ahead would encourage drug use.

It has become clear over the years that a zero-tolerance approach to drug use at nightclubs and music festivals simply does not work. If young people want to take drugs, they will more often than not find a way in which to do so. It is for this reason that allowing drug-testing facilities at festivals should be a no-brainer, particularly in the absence of sensible drug policies that would take the production of narcotics out of the hands of criminals who care little as to whether the end consumer of their products live or die. Only last month, two young people lost their lives after taking “dangerous high-strength or bad-batch” ecstasy pills at Portsmouth’s Mutiny Festival. If they had been able to have the tablets they were about to take tested, there is a chance they might still be alive today. Event organisers should not have to put themselves at risk of prosecution by allowing drug-testing facilities on site without the approval of the authorities. All the while legislators refuse to implement drug policies that could greatly reduce the harm caused by narcotics, the least they should do is sanction the use of drug-testing facilities at festivals and nightclubs that really could save lives.

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Customs officers in Taiwan catch woman smuggling dozens of gerbils strapped to her legs

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smuggling dozens of gerbils

Coastguard officials on the Taiwanese island of Kinmen have caught a woman attempting to smuggle 24 gerbils in small bags strapped to legs.

Reportedly returning from a trip to mainland China, the 60-year-old Taiwanese woman was pulled aside for questioning after customs officers noticed that she walking in a strange way and acting nervously.

During a search of the woman, officials were surprised to find the animals individually wrapped in plastic bags that had been strapped to her legs and concealed underneath a long skirt.

The woman, identified by local media outlets only as Wu, is said to have claimed that she smuggled the gerbils into the country on behalf of friends having purchased them from a pet shop in China.

She is reported to have confessed to buying each gerbil at a price of 50 Chinese yuan ($7.38) for a male, and 150 Chinese yuan for a female.

In Taiwan, the going rate for a male gerbil is the equivalent of around $16, while a female can fetch up to double that amount.

Wu is said to have told investigators that she was paid a fee of 60 Chinese yuan to smuggle each gerbil into Taiwan.

Noting how the woman was unable to identify who she was smuggling the animals for, coastguard officials said she may have been testing security procedures at the port on behalf of a smuggling gang that may be planning to sneak other contraband past customs officials.

After being questioned by coastguard investigators, the woman was passed to the local prosecutor’s office and charged with violating Taiwan’s Infectious Animal Disease Prevention and Control Act.

The gerbils she attempted to sneak into the country were later destroyed.

In a similar incident earlier this month, customs officers caught a man attempting to cross from Malaysia into Singapore with four kittens stuffed down the front of his trousers.

In a statement issued on Facebook, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) of Singapore said: “On 2 January, ICA officers detected four live kittens concealed in the pants of a 45-year-old male Singaporean in a Singapore-registered car at Tuas Checkpoint.

“Officers were prompted to conduct further checks when they heard ‘meowing’ sounds coming from a bulge in his pants.

“The case was referred to Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) for investigation. The kittens are now under the care and quarantine of AVA.”

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Al Jazeera-owned beIN Media Group publishes sports content piracy allegations against Saudi rival

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sports content piracy

The Qatar-based beIN Media Group has published “dossier of evidence” on a new website that it claims demonstrates how Saudi Arabia-based pirate TV channel beoutQ and Riyadh-headquartered satellite provider Arabsat are stealing its content and repackaging it as their own.

beIN, a subsidiary of the Al Jazeera Media Network that runs a global network of sports channels, claims the website outlines how the two organisations have stolen its sports and entertainment content on “an industrial scale” over the past 18 months, detailing all the commercial rights that have been infringed since beoutQ was launched in August 2017.

According to beIN, its rival has “brazenly” stolen its original coverage of top sporting events from around the globe and repackaged it as its own, even producing its own beoutQ-branded set-top boxes.

The website, which beIN said will be regularly updated with details of legal challenges it launches against its rival, outlines how beoutQ has illegally broadcast premium sports and entertainment content worth billions of dollars since it was launched, stealing other media groups’ content as well as its own.

It claims that while beoutQ began life as a website that was geo-blocked to Saudi Arabia, it has grown to become “the most sophisticated piracy operation that the world has ever seen”.

beIN alleges that its Saudi rival inserts its own logos and branding over its own and other media firms’ content, allowing it to sell subscriptions, carrying separate advertising, and add its own commentary.

The website claims that beoutQ illegally broadcasts live sports content every day, stolen from rights holders including Fifa, Uefa, the Premier League, LaLiga and other football leagues, as well as the NFL, the NBA, world tennis, Formula 1 and the Olympics.

Evidence published on the website links beoutQ with Saud al-Qahtani, an advisor to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has been implicated in the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Commenting on the allegations featured on the new website, Yousef Al-Obaidly, CEO if the beIN Media Group, said: “For the past 18 months beoutQ has brazenly stolen on a daily basis the commercial rights of almost every major sports rights holder and every movie studio around the world; and attempted to sabotage our broadcast business at the same time.

“We have a very simple message on behalf of the whole sports and entertainment industry: we will not cease our fight against this unprecedented piracy operation until it is eradicated.”

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Australian police arrest Malaysian flight attendants accused of helping drugs gang smuggle heroin and crystal meth

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Australian police arrest Malaysian flight attendants

Two flight attendants working for Malaysian airline Malindo Air were among eight people arrested by police in Australia over the past two weeks during an investigation into an organised crime network suspected to be behind the importation of heroin and methamphetamine worth an estimated A$20 million ($14.35 million) into the country.

The two cabin crew members are suspected of having links to a Melbourne-based Vietnamese gang involved in the importation of high-purity heroin and methamphetamine into Australia from Malaysia.

In a series of raids on a number of properties in Melbourne that resulted in the arrest of the suspects, investigators from a coalition of Australian law enforcement agencies seized 6kgs of high-grade heroin with an estimated street value of A$14.5 million, and 8kgs of methamphetamine with a street value of $6.4 million.

Police also confiscated 0.5kgs of cocaine, assorted drug paraphernalia, a large quantity of cash, and a number of cars, including a Porsche Macan.

Six of the suspects were remanded into custody after appearing before Melbourne Magistrates Court, where they were charged with a multiple offences including importing a marketable quantity of border controlled drugs, and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Malindo Air, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Lion Air, said it had suspended one of the cabin crew members with immediate effect pending termination.

In a statement, the company said: “Malindo Air stands ready to co-operate with all the relevant authorities be it in Australia or in Malaysia in this regard…

“As a responsible international air carrier, Malindo Air does not condone any act that is criminal in nature or misconduct by our personnel.”

Congratulating the officers who took part in the operation, Victoria Police Crime Command Assistant Commissioner Tess Walsh said its success sent a strong message that Australian law enforcement agencies remain focused on disrupting major drug trafficking conspiracies.

“This was a well organised syndicate we know had operated across Australia undetected for many years,” she said.

“To be in a position to make these arrests and dismantle this group is a significant win for both police and the Victorian community.

“The amount of heroin alone involved in this investigation amounts to almost fifty thousand hits in real terms.

“We know the harm that drugs bring – not just the physical and health impacts on users, but the negative flow on effects to the broader community such as property crime, assaults and drug driving.”

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