ALERT! 3 Ways Criminals are Exploiting Consumers during Coronavirus Outbreak

Recent reporting from multiple sources indicates an increase in financial fraud schemes, as scammers have seized upon the ever-growing demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)a to target healthcare providers and the general public. Many of the schemes attempt to capitalize on high demand, low supply PPE such as N95 (NIOSH)-approved respirator masks, which are among the required PPE for healthcare personnel responding to COVID-19.

  1. When ordering PPE from online retailers, always verify the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and confirm “https” in the web address, as a lack of a security certification (“https”) may be an indicator that the site is insecure or compromised
  2. Consult the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) NIOSH website to view a list of all NIOSH approved manufacturers of N95 respirator masks and validate approval and certification numbers.
  3. Confirm N95 respirator mask approval status and certification numbers using the NIOSH flyer (Figure 1), the NIOSH website, or the CDC website, which includes examples of identified counterfeit or unapproved N95 respirator masks.

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part/default.html

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/usernotices/counterfeitResp.html

As of 11 March 2020, many large U.S. retailers and suppliers have sold out of their N95 respirator mask inventories and are now warning consumers against the rise of counterfeit versions. A survey of safety masks and respirators on one U.S. e-commerce platform found at least one hundred product listings that were counterfeit or unapproved.

If you believe your organization has purchased counterfeit PPE or COVID-19 testing kits, or were the victim of a fraud or scam, please contact your local FBI Field Office and report details regarding this incident to the Internet Crimes Complaints Center at IC3.gov and/or the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at IPRCenter.gov.

NIOSH website at https://cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part/default.html

U.S. Suburban Families Unaware of Sex Trafficking of Teen Girls

WASHINGTON—An innocuous encounter with a polite young man at a local movie theater was the unknown beginning step toward being sex trafficked for a young Virginian teen.

Susan Young said her daughter had just celebrated her 15th birthday when she met a boy who was “close in age, polite, and well-mannered” while at the movies with friends.

They swapped phone numbers and Facebook information.

“With this seemingly small exchange of information, Courtney had no way of knowing that her life and the life of her family would change forever,” Young said during a recent Justice Department (DOJ) anti-trafficking event.

“The boy was not who he appeared to be. Rather than a sweet, innocent young man, he was an MS-13 gang member. His job was to recruit young girls under the false pretense of friendship, luring them into the dark world of human trafficking.”

That was seven years ago, and gang-related trafficking is getting worse, according to Bill Woolf, founder of Just Ask Trafficking Prevention.

“One of the most disturbing but rapidly emerging trends is that of gang-controlled sex trafficking,” Woolf said during a congressional hearing on Dec. 11, 2019.

“Gangs have learned that sex trafficking, particularly of minors, is a low-risk, high-yield criminal enterprise that adequately funds their gang operations throughout the United States and around the world.”

Woolf said gangs, “glorified through Hollywood,” often use violence or threats of violence to control their victims.

Young said that once the MS-13 gang members, who attended her daughter’s high school, found out Courtney was trying to break away from them, they took her to a secluded part of the school’s property and gang-raped her.

“They videotaped that, and told her if she ever told anyone what was happening, they would share the video on social media, and with her friends and family,” Young told The Epoch Times.

“And that episode right there is really what started her whole trafficking. Following that, she was immediately trafficked every day after school. She would tell me that she was staying after school for homework club or yoga club. In fact, the gang was taking her to a nearby house and trafficking her, where eight to 10 gentlemen were waiting. And she had to pretend as if nothing had happened.”

As Courtney was being sex-trafficked by the gang, Young said she found out later that her three younger children— two boys, aged 12 and 11, and a girl who was almost 3 at the time—were also victimized.

On Saturday afternoons, Young and her husband would go for a bike ride at a local park for an hour or so. Little did they know that their house was under constant surveillance and, as they walked out the front door, gang members would enter through the back door.

“The boys were threatened at gunpoint. They both were raped at gunpoint, to keep them silent. They even injected our youngest daughter with drugs. They really used the kids very much against each other to make sure no one talked to the parents, or anyone,” Young said.

The gang members would force Courtney out of the house with them by pointing a gun at her younger sister and saying, “Come with us, or we’re going to shoot your sister right now.”

Young said she and her husband didn’t find out that their sons and younger daughter were abused until a year after Courtney’s situation came to light, “because they were still too scared to speak up and afraid that the gang members were going to come back and get them,” she said.

Young, now the director for Just Ask’s Parent Coalition to End Human Trafficking, said her family fell through the cracks.

She said Courtney tried to seek help 22 times with her school resource officer and school counselor. “They didn’t get back to her once.”

“She did not feel safe to talk to my husband and I—at that time, the gang was threatening her, ‘If you do speak with anybody, we’ll kill your parents, we’ll hurt your little brothers, your sister,’” Young said.

“No one knew how to help our family or how to navigate this delicate situation. The failsafes established to protect families and their children did little to nothing for ours—from the school system to law enforcement, court systems, therapists, doctors.”

Courtney went missing twice over a six-month period—the first time for four days and the second time for two weeks,  said Young. Both times, Young said they notified law enforcement and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

“It wasn’t until she was recovered the second time by a law enforcement officer who was trained in the area of human trafficking that we began to fully understand the magnitude of our situation,” she said.

The family moved, and Courtney spent 4 1/2 years in inpatient residential therapy, trying to recover from the trauma, Young said.

“Oftentimes for victims, one of the hardest things for them to do is to reintegrate back into society. And we need to create programs that teach them to do so, how to live a normal life,” she said.

She said it can be daunting for survivors to carry out everyday tasks such as picking out a shirt or deciding what to eat.

“These traffickers have manipulated them and gained so much control over them that they actually lose the ability to think for themselves,” Young said.

Experts say the average lifespan for a child who is pulled into sex trafficking is seven years. Very few get out and even fewer stay out. Drug addiction and violence are par for the course and the trauma bond created by the trafficker can entice a victim back in, even after they’ve been rescued.

Foster Care, Homelessness, and Trafficking

The 2019 State Department trafficking report said children in the U.S. foster care system are at high risk of becoming trafficked.

“Recent reports have consistently indicated that a large number of victims of child sex trafficking were at one time in the foster care system,” the 2019 Trafficking In Persons report states.

In 2019, more than 437,000 children were in foster care, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Bill Bedrossian is the CEO of Covenant House in California, which provides residential programs and services to children and youth facing homelessness in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America.

He said that 30 percent to 50 percent of the human trafficking victims that Convenant House works with come from the foster care system, and that traffickers deliberately target foster kids.

“We see traffickers get young victims to try to victimize others through group homes, through foster care networks,” he said.

Bedrossian stressed that child sex trafficking is predominantly a domestic issue. He said 90 percent of the young women who have been trafficked that come through Covenant House are from the United States.

Another group of vulnerable children who are targeted by traffickers are the homeless, including runaways.

Of the more than 23,500 endangered runaways reported to NCMEC in 2019, 1 in 6 were likely victims of child sex trafficking.

Bedrossian cited a recent study directed by Convenant House that showed that 20 percent of young people who experience homelessness also experienced human trafficking.

“And so, by default, we’ve been doing victim services for human trafficking victims over the last 50 years,” Bedrossian said. “But in the last five to 10 years, the victimology has become much different. The sophistication of the traffickers has become much different. The insidiousness of the course of this has become much different.”

Young homeless people are “relatively easy” to lure from the streets with promises of love, protection, food, and financial security, the Covenant House website states.

“For a lot of these young people, they literally have begun being trafficked at 8, 9 years old by their family members, by the gangs, by the street life that they’ve been exposed to,” Bedrossian said.

Convictions and New Challenges

The DOJ convicted 501 sex traffickers in fiscal 2018, up from 471 in fiscal 2017. It took down Backpage.com in 2018, the largest internet site that advertised the sex trafficking of minors and adults. But other sites have since sprung up, including those hosted overseas, which presents an extra challenge for law enforcement.

The NCMEC CyberTipline received 1.1 million reports of child online sexual exploitation in 2014; in 2019, it received 16.9 million reports.

But the challenges with technology remain the most complex for law enforcement to contend with. Tech companies are providing users with more applications that have end-to-end encryption; cryptocurrency hides the money trail; and advertising sites are hosted overseas or on the dark web.

The DOJ has said end-to-end encryption without a backdoor for law enforcement stymies criminal investigations. Tech companies say a backdoor presents a security risk for users.

Victim Services and Moving Forward

While the Youngs slipped through the cracks years ago, more organizations have since sprung up to support survivors and their families.

The DOJ has also poured more funding into victim support services, which are becoming a more integral component of the law enforcement side of trafficking.

During fiscal 2018, the DOJ provided $31.2 million for 45 victim service providers—a significant increase from 18 providers receiving $16.2 million in fiscal 2017.

But, as Young said, gangs have also proliferated.

“It was really hard for us to find a safe place to go and kind of hide the family, so to speak, after our situation,” she said. She said they moved to an area that doesn’t have an MS-13 presence, to their knowledge. However, the surrounding areas do.

“We feel as safe as we can be from our situation,” she said. “We just try to stay in the shadows and not draw any attention to ourselves or to our family.”

Even now, she is learning more about what happened. Recently, she found out that her eldest son was also trafficked with Courtney.

“So he and Courtney, life will always be different for them, it will always move at a much slower pace. They will have to deal with complex PTSD and anxiety and depression—the fear that someone will always come back to get them or will be waiting for them—that will never leave them. I’m always looking for new therapies to try for PTSD and try to help them,” she said.

Courtney is now almost 24 and lives close by, while studying to be a veterinarian. The boys are 20 and 19; one is at college working toward a degree in cybersecurity and the other is about to start college. And the youngest daughter is nearly 12.

The traffickers haven’t faced justice.

Young wants people to understand that they shouldn’t wait until they know of a victim before they take notice of the problem.

“I really just want to empower the public, for them to understand and educate themselves that human trafficking is real. It’s happening every single day.”

For Help

NCMEC 24-hour Hotline: 1-800-843-5678

www.missingkids.org

BY CHARLOTTE CUTHBERTSON 

TRANSGENDER BACKLASH – NHS gender clinic ‘should have challenged me more’ over transition

TRANSGENDER BACKLASH – NHS

A 23-year-old woman who is taking legal action against an NHS gender clinic says she should have been challenged more by medical staff over her decision to transition to a male as a teenager.

A judge gave the go-ahead for a full hearing of the case against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust.

Lawyers will argue children cannot give informed consent to treatment delaying puberty or helping them to transition.

The Tavistock said it always took a cautious approach to treatment.

Gender identity charity Mermaids said that people face a long wait for access to such services, that they can save lives and that very few people regret their decision.

The clinic based in Hampstead, north-west London, which runs the UK’s only gender-identity development service (GIDS), added that it welcomed an examination of the evidence in this contentious area.

Keira Bell is one of the claimants and will give evidence in the judicial review, which is likely to be heard in early summer.

The second claimant, known only as Mum A, is the mother of a 15-year-old girl with autism, who is awaiting treatment at the clinic.

Keira describes being a tomboy as a child. When asked how strongly she felt the need to change her gender identity, she replied that it gradually built up as she found out more about transitioning online.

Then as she went down the medical route, she said “one step led to another”.

The Tavistock Centre sign

She was referred to the Tavistock GIDS clinic at the age of 16. She said after three one-hour-long appointments she was prescribed puberty blockers, which delay the development of signs of puberty, like periods or facial hair.

She felt there wasn’t enough investigation or therapy before she reached that stage.

“I should have been challenged on the proposals or the claims that I was making for myself,” she said. “And I think that would have made a big difference as well. If I was just challenged on the things I was saying.”

What are puberty blockers?

They are drugs which can pause the development of things like breasts, periods, facial hair and voice breaking

They can be prescribed to children with gender dysphoria who feel their sex at birth doesn’t match up with their gender.

This is meant to give them more time to weigh up their options before they go through the physical changes of puberty.

Although puberty blockers are described by the NHS as reversible, GIDS acknowledges that their impact on brain development and psychological health is not fully known.

A year after starting the puberty-blockers she said she was prescribed the male hormone testosterone, which developed male characteristics like facial hair and a deep voice. Three years ago, she had an operation to remove her breasts.

“Initially I felt very relieved and happy about things, but I think as the years go on you start to feel less and less enthusiastic or even happy about things.

“You can continue and dig yourself deeper into this hole or you can choose to come out of it and have the weight lifted off your shoulders.”

‘Too young’

She decided to stop taking cross-sex hormones last year and said she was now accepting of her sex as a female. But she was also angry about what had happened to her in the last decade.

“I was allowed to run with this idea that I had, almost like a fantasy, as a teenager…. and it has affected me in the long run as an adult.

“I’m very young. I’ve only just stepped into adulthood and I have to deal with this kind of burden or radical difference – in comparison to others at least.”

Keira’s lawyers will argue that children cannot weigh up the impact such a treatment might have on their future life, including for instance, on their fertility.

Former staff at the clinic have raised concerns that teenagers who want to transition to a different gender are being given puberty blockers without adequate assessment or psychological work.

It has been claimed that children as young as 12 have received the drugs, which block the hormones that lead to puberty-related changes like periods or facial hair.

But she also understands why teenagers arrive at the clinic deeply distressed and desperate to change their gender.

“I did say the same thing years ago when I went to the clinic. I would say it was saving me from suicidal ideation and depression in general and at the time I felt it relieved all those mental health issues I was feeling, alongside gender dysphoria.”

She described her family life as difficult. She also believes if she had felt more accepted by society as she was then, she might not have wanted to change her gender. She added that she wouldn’t have wanted to listen to voices of caution when she was younger.

“I feel I could say anything to my 16-year-old self and I might not necessarily listen at that time. And that’s the point of this case, when you are that young you don’t really want to listen.

“So I think it’s up to these institutions, like the Tavistock, to step in and make children reconsider what they are saying, because it is a life-altering path.”

Dr Polly Carmichael is the consultant clinical psychologist who runs the Gender Identity Development Service. She praised Keira for speaking out, but insisted the clinic did have a thorough assessment process.

‘Really complex’

She described their approach as cautious and said they work closely with children and their families to reach the right decisions for them, with fewer than half of those seen going onto take puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones.

“This is a really complex area with strong feelings on all sides. And at its centre, the young people we work with – they come to us in often really great distress around their sense of themselves.

“We’re talking about identity here, their identity, and a feeling that their gender identity does not match that body.”

She believes the judicial review, when it happens, will be an important opportunity to ensure the evidence around treatment and a child’s ability to consent is thoroughly examined.

“This is a heated debate at the moment. And I think taking a step back – and having an external considered review of the evidence and people’s feelings about the most appropriate way to support young people – can be nothing but beneficial at this point.”

Waiting time

Gender identity charity Mermaids provides support to trans and gender-diverse young people and their families.

Its chief executive, Susie Green, has defended the current process, which she said was based on years of research, and said she hoped the judicial review would “shine a light” on young people’s experiences.

She told BBC News that many people who approached the charity were “very distressed” and that research had suggested puberty blockers could help reduce rates of self-harm and suicide.

And she said it was “not proportionate” to take away services because of “a very small number” of people who regretted undergoing medical intervention.

“In the first instance the waiting time is well over two years and when young people get into the service there is then a process which takes well into a year before medical intervention is considered,” she told BBC News.

“The process is very detailed they get a lot of information about the benefits, the pitfalls and the projected outcomes of what comes of any kind of medication. So they make informed consent and that underpins the NHS.”

NHS England is an interested party in the legal case. It has already announced an independent review of its policies on the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.

It describes this as part of a planned examination, which will be undertaken by a panel of independent experts.

By Alison Holt Social Affairs Correspondent, BBC News

Addiction: Women, Compulsive Behavior and the New Wine Mom

“Pride and ego are what keeps people locked into addiction”

  • Alcohol-related­ deaths for white women ages 35–54 have more than doubled.

We naturally want to feel good. But what happens when our favorite method of stress relief becomes destructive?

Serious addictions take an undeniable toll both physically and mentally. But according to Lisa Boucher, author of “Raising the Bottom: Making Mindful Choices in a Drinking Culture,” the 2017 winner of the Best Book Award for women’s health, people often overlook the true root of addictive behavior: a wounded spirit.

Addiction is a spiritual malady,” said Boucher, a registered nurse who has helped women overcome alcoholism for the past 28 years. “People are just trying to fill the hole of the soul.”

Most addiction counselors acknowledge the spiritual aspect of their clients’ compulsion. “The Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), for example, emphasizes a spiritual awakening as a necessary step in breaking free from alcohol’s grip.

But it’s a notoriously hard lesson to learn. A common theme among the hundreds of addicts Boucher has worked with is that they can take years or decades to even admit they have a problem.

“Pride and ego are what keeps people locked into addiction,” she said. “They don’t want to accept that they can’t control something.”

The New Alcoholic

We’re all prone to occasional indulgence, but we can be lax at judging when we’ve gone too far. Substance abuse can be even harder to accept when society supports it. Unlike heroin or cocaine, alcohol is a legal and socially encouraged drug. But Boucher says these features can make it even more insidious. She points to an increasingly common character: the wine mom.

“We have normalized alcoholism,” Boucher said. “The new alcoholic carries a diaper bag and wears designer pumps.”

While recreational drug use, in general, is at an all-time high, alcohol remains the most abused drug in the world after tobacco, and it’s hitting women especially hard. Alcohol-related­ deaths for white women ages 35–54 have more than doubled since 1999, according to an analysis of federal data by The Washington Post. Researchers studying the spike call it a public health crisis.

According to a 2013 study, the alcohol industry has increased ad spending almost 400 percent since 1971. Ads make a brief nod toward “drinking responsibly,” but the predominant message is that booze is a fun, sophisticated, and socially sanctioned excuse for letting go.

It’s an appealing proposal, especially for those trying to juggle a career and family. But Boucher believes women have become so conditioned to reach for a drink under stress, that they lose touch with their innate coping skills.

“People drink because they can’t handle the way they feel,” Boucher said. “If you’re trying to change the way you feel, you’re not coping with some deeper emotion.”

It’s not just alcohol; all of our most destructive drugs tend to be those that provide a temporary escape from misery. Such substances can be a short-term blessing for serious injuries and illness. But we lose an important part of ourselves when they become our primary coping method.

Chronic reliance on a substance for our sense of well-being can stunt our emotional and spiritual growth, says Boucher, because we never develop the strength of character that comes from facing life’s challenges with a clear mind. A prime example is Boucher’s sister, a successful career woman in her 50s who’s four years sober of a serious meth habit.

“This is a woman who never learned to cope with life,” Boucher said. “She has had to go back and relearn how to deal with conflict in an appropriate manner.”

Researchers point to genetic markers that may increase the risk for addiction, but role modeling may seal the deal. Boucher and her siblings grew up resentful of their alcoholic mother who was either in a Valium stupor or drunk for most of their childhood, yet they all followed a similar path.

“Our mother never taught us coping skills,” Boucher said.

Spiritual Disease

Why would anyone choose to waste money, destroy relationships, and ruin their health? Addiction doesn’t make any logical sense, but we can’t seem to stop the tide. Despite the government spending more than $1 trillion on the war on drugs over the past four decades, the rates of addiction and overdose deaths in the United States are now higher than ever before. Opioids get the most attention, but in some states, meth may soon claim the highest number of addicts and overdose deaths.

Addiction used to apply primarily to substances. Today, it is found with vices such as pornography, gambling, shopping, excessive smartphone use, and countless other compulsive pleasures.

Researchers believe they may soon uncover a physical fix to our addiction epidemic. Studies are underway to develop treatments that target the chemical imbalances and faulty wiring found in the brains of addicts.

But what if our addiction problem is more complex than any solution science can conjure?

Spirit is a concept that is often at odds with contemporary medicine, but it wasn’t always this way. People once looked for meaning in their suffering.

Of course, each addict has a unique backstory of trauma and pain.

Medicating Addiction

Since people usually do drugs to feel better, there’s a prevailing notion that substance abuse is merely a symptom of depression. But Boucher believes that’s a backward idea.

“You can’t diagnose depression when they’re smoking pot every day, drinking alcohol, using meth, smoking crack, taking opioids, or whatever that person’s drug of choice is,” she said. “How do you know what that person’s baseline is?”

Alcohol, for example, is a depressant. So, if a heavy drinker complains of depression, they may be guzzling the root cause.

Boucher is sympathetic to legitimate cases of depression, but she believes that in order to properly diagnose it, sobriety should come first. In her experience, those who go clean for three to six months often eliminate their need for drug treatment.

“In 90 percent of the cases that I’ve worked with, these women were able to get off their antidepressants,” she said.

Beyond Willpower

Few people can drop their bad habits cold turkey. But for many addicts, connecting to something larger than themselves helps them work toward recovery. However, adopting this mindset can be a difficult leap, especially since those who turn to drugs often do so because their faith in God or man has been shattered.

For those resistant to talk of a higher power, Heller suggests more deity-neutral language.

“One could say that the person needs to be able to expand their consciousness to incorporate new ideas,” she said, “but in order for anyone to engage in a process of healing and self-exploration, they have to be able to surrender to something greater than their own will.”

Some insist willpower is the key to recovery—if we’re determined to deny our cravings for long enough, we can be whole again. But according to Kimberly Hershenson, a New York-based therapist specializing in substance abuse, willpower will always fall short.

“If you’re looking at this from a disease model, you are as powerless over addiction as you are with cancer,” Hershenson said. “No matter what you try to do, your brain is going to crave more. And it’s really about accepting that.”

Our addictive impulses are connected to the survival and pleasure centers of our brain, so they react faster and with greater force than the part of our brain responsible for reasoning. This means that cravings surge long before thoughts of consequence kick in. Beating back urges can be a losing battle even for the strongest of wills.

“An addict cannot force themselves into a place of health by soldiering through life,” Heller said. “This is about being willing, not being willful.”

If addiction is a spiritual disease, then the cure has to come from within. There are tools to address the physical aspects of addiction, but experts say we must also cultivate positive behaviors, such as humility, accountability, a sense of purpose, and healthy coping mechanisms.

Life can be cruel, the world can seem crazy, but how we handle it makes all the difference. Boucher urges us to step back, be thankful for what we have, and reconnect with what is essential to our souls.

“We are human beings. We need quiet. We need to reflect. We need to nurture the whole person,” she said.

BY CONAN MILNER

FACTS ABOUT OPIOID CRISIS: China Is Using Fentanyl as ‘Chemical Warfare’

FACTS ABOUT OPIOID CRISIS: China Is Using Fentanyl as ‘Chemical Warfare’

Behind the deadly opioid epidemic ravaging communities across the United States lies a carefully planned strategy by a hostile foreign power that experts describe as a “form of chemical warfare.”

It involves the production and trafficking of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that caused the deaths of more than 32,000 Americans in 2018 alone, and fentanyl-related substances.

China is the “largest source” of illicit fentanyl in the United States, a November 2018 report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated. That same commission said that since its 2017 report, they found no “substantive curtailment” of fentanyl flows from China to the United States. They also noted that in “large part, these flows persist due to weak regulations governing pharmaceutical and chemical production in China.”

President Donald Trump has continued to increase his crackdown on fentanyl—he recently ordered all U.S. carriers to “search for and refuse” international mail deliveries of the synthetic opioid pain reliever. Trump specifically named FedEx, Amazon, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

Jeff Nyquist, an author and researcher of Chinese and Russian strategy, said China is using fentanyl as a “very effective tool.”

“You could call it a form of chemical warfare,” Nyquist told The Epoch Times. “It opens up a number of opportunities for the penetration of the country, both in terms of laundering money and in terms of blackmail against those who participate in the trade and become corrupt like law enforcement, intelligence, and government officials.” 

China also uses the money generated by the importing of fentanyl to effectively “influence political parties,” according to Nyquist. 

“It opens doors for Chinese influence operations, Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and intelligence services, so that they can get control of certain parts of the U.S.,” he said. 

In August, Trump called out Chinese leader Xi Jinping, accusing him of not doing enough to stop the flow of fentanyl, which enters the United States mostly via international mail.

Liu Yuejin, vice commissioner of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, disputed Trump’s criticism, telling reporters on Sept. 3 that they had started going after illicit fentanyl production, according to state-controlled media. China also denies that most of the illicit fentanyl entering the United States originates in China.

“President Xi said this would stop—it didn’t,” Trump said on Twitter on Aug. 23.

Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl surged from around 29,000 in 2017 to more than 32,000 in 2018, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Not all opioid-related deaths in the United States can be blamed on China’s fentanyl export policies, as some come from prescription overdoses, according to Dr. Robert J. Bunker, an adjunct research professor at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.

But Bunker told The Epoch Times that China is still “greatly contributing” to America’s opioid epidemic. Bunker described how Beijing is using the trafficking of dangerous drugs to achieve its greater Communist Party goals.

“Contributing to a major health crisis in the U.S., while simultaneously profiting from it would in my mind give long-term CCP plans to establish an authoritarian Chinese global system as a challenge to Western liberal democracy,” he said via email.

“[It’s] a win-win situation for the regime,” he continued. “In fact producing and sending fentanyl to the U.S., which could be considered a low-risk policy of ‘drug warfare,’ is very much in line with the means and methods advocated in the 1999 work ‘Unrestricted Warfare.’”

The book mentioned by Bunker is authored by two of China’s air force colonels, Qiao Liang, and Wang Xiangsui, and published by the People’s Liberation Army.

Local police, fire department, and deputy sheriffs help a man
Local police, fire department, and deputy sheriffs help a man who is overdosing in the Drexel neighborhood of Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 3, 2017. It’s unclear what he overdosed on. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose and deaths are linked to “illegally made fentanyl,” the CDC has said. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

Fentanyl has been approved for treating severe pain for conditions such as late-stage cancer. It is prescribed by doctors typically through transdermal patches or lozenges. Fentanyl should only be prescribed by doctors who are experienced in treating pain in cancer patients, according to Medline Plus, an online site by the United States National Library of Medicine. It may become addictive, especially with prolonged use.

A USPS spokesman told The Epoch Times they are “aggressively working” to add in provisions from the STOP Act. The Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention legislation, signed in 2018 by Trump, aims to curb the flow of opioids sent through the mail while increasing coordination between USPS and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

USPS has notified China’s postal operations that if any of their shipments don’t contain Advance Electronic Data (AED), they “may be returned at any time,” the spokesman said via email. CBP is also notifying air and ocean carriers to confirm that 100 percent of their postal shipment containers have AED before loading them onto their conveyance.

Recent Seizures

In August, law enforcement seized 30 kilograms (around 66 pounds) of fentanyl, among other narcotics as part of a major arrest operation over the course of three days. As a result, officers arrested 35 suspects for “conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute large amounts of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and cocaine base.”

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement that the amount of fentanyl seized was enough to “kill over 14 million people.” One of the suspects in Virginia had ordered the fentanyl from a vendor in Shanghai and was receiving it at his residence through USPS, according to the indictment.

“The last thing we want is for the U.S. Postal Service to become the nation’s largest drug dealer, and there are people way above my pay grade working on that, but absolutely, it’s about putting pressure on the Chinese,” Terwilliger said.

CBP Enforcement Statistics reveal that fiscal year seizures of illicit fentanyl spiked from about one kilogram (2.2 pounds) in 2013 to nearly 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) in 2018. The number of law enforcement fentanyl seizures in the United States also vaulted from about 1,000 in 2013 to more than 59,000 in 2017.

Also, in August, the Mexican navy found 52,000 pounds of fentanyl powder in a container from a Danish ship that was coming from Shanghai. The navy intercepted the unloaded 40-foot container on Aug. 24, at the Port of Cardenas.

“There is clear evidence that fentanyl or fentanyl precursors, chemicals used to make fentanyl is coming from China,” Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, told The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times Photo
A fatal dose of fentanyl displayed next to a penny. (DEA)

Two commonly used fentanyl precursors are chemicals called NPP and 4-ANPP. In early 2017, journalist Ben Westhoff started researching the chemicals, finding many advertisements for them all over the internet from different companies. He later determined a majority of those companies were under a Chinese chemical company called Yuancheng, according to an excerpt from his upcoming book “Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic,” an excerpt of which was published in The Atlantic.

Fentanyl Analogs

One of the concerns related to the production of illicit opioids is the creation of fentanyl analogs, products that are similar to fentanyl and also simple to make.

“You can very easily manipulate the molecule and create a new fentanyl-like product that hasn’t been banned, that’s not technically illegal,” Kolodny told The Epoch Times. “Some of the manufacturers, the folks creating the drugs, are aware of that.”

“We saw this with other synthetic drugs that are abused in the U.S., when law enforcement make the drug illegal or when they ban the molecule,” he said. “In some cases, fentanyl analogs are even stronger than fentanyl. There’s an analog called carfentanil, which is even more potent than fentanyl.” 

Carfentanil has a quantitative potency “approximately 10,000 times that of morphine and 100 times that of fentanyl,” according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Just one microgram is needed for carfentanil to affect a human. The drug is “one of the most potent opioids known” and is marketed under the trade name Wildnil “as a general anesthetic agent for large animals.”

“Sometimes, it’s hard for law enforcement to keep up with the chemist,” Kolodny added. 

A bill dubbed the SOFA Act or the “Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act,” has yet to pass Congress. The act was introduced in May by Republican senators and would give law enforcement “enhanced tools to combat the opioid epidemic and close a loophole in current law that makes it difficult to prosecute crimes involving some synthetic opioids.”

Kolodny said pharmaceutical industries have been lobbying to stop any legislation meant to restrict fentanyl analogs “because these are products they are trying to bring to market.” 

In August, an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572.1 million to the state for deceitfully marketing addictive opioids. The sum was less than what investors had expected, according to Reuters, which resulted in shares of the multinational corporation rising in value.

“We should be doing everything we can to keep fentanyl out of the country,” Kolodny said. “We should be doing everything we can to ban fentanyl analogs.” 

Billion-Dollar Grants

As part of the Trump administration’s latest efforts to combat the opioid crisis, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Sept. 4 announced nearly $2 billion in funding to states.

The funding would expand access to treatment and also support near-real-time data on the drug overdose crisis, according to a release.

In announcing the move, White House counsel Kellyanne Conway told reporters in a conference call that their administration is trying to interject the word “fentanyl” into the “everyday lexicon” as part of their efforts to increase awareness.

Data suggests that of the approximately 2 million Americans suffering from opioid use disorder, approximately 1.27 million of them are now receiving medication-assisted treatment, according to the HHS.

“Central to our effort to stop the flood of fentanyl and other illicit drugs is our unprecedented support for law enforcement and their interdiction efforts,” she said.

Conway then brought up the DHS seizures of fentanyl in 2018, which totaled an equivalent of 1.2 billion lethal doses.

“Ladies and gentlemen, that is enough to have killed every American four times,” she told reporters.

Just weeks ago, the White House released a series of private-sector advisories aimed to help businesses protect themselves and their supply chains from inadvertently trafficking fentanyl and synthetic opioids.

The four advisories aim to stem the production and sale of illicit fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and other synthetic opioids. The advisories focus on the manufacturing, marketing, movement, and monetary aspects of illicit fentanyl.

In March 2018, the Interior Department created a task force aimed to specifically combat the crisis on tribal lands. Since then, the department has arrested more than 422 individuals and seized 4,000 pounds of illegal drugs worth $12 million on the street, including more than 35,000 fentanyl pills.

Conway, on the conference call, described the epidemic of pain relievers as an “opioid and fentanyl crisis.”

BY BOWEN XIAO