31 January, 2004
As the drug is downgraded, police crack down on internet vendors offering supplies by post
Saturday January 31, 2004
It will arrive next day by registered delivery in an unassuming padded envelope, promises the blurb on the British website. Inside, vacuum-sealed, will be 7.5g of AK47 – high-grade Cannabis sativa. “Very strong nice smoke,” gushes the sales copy on the site. “Back by popular demand.”
On Thursday British drug law underwent its most radical shakeup for decades when cannabis was downgraded to class C. Although simple possession is unlikely to lead to prosecution in most cases, the drug remains illegal and dealing or possession with intent to supply will carry a maximum 14-year prison sentence.
But a Guardian investigation has established that at least five large-scale online cannabis vendors are operating in this country, in competition with more established Dutch sites. As a result, the drug has never been so easy to buy online.
Electronic payment systems, anonymity and ease of-use have led to a boom in illegal web weed outlets. For an increasing number of dealers and users, the internet is now the first port of call for buying and selling cannabis.
The British sites vary in sophistication and scale. Some are glossy and graphic-designed, brazenly selling their wares to all comers. Others are just simple login pages, with passwords for regular customers only.
All offer a selection of cannabis rarely seen outside Amsterdam coffee shops: potent connoisseur varieties including Jack Herer, Charas, and Ketama Gold. Some are so strong they require health warnings. “Caution!” reads the description for super-strong hashish Black Ice available from one retailer. “Extremely experienced smokers only, please.”
Each of the sites boasts levels of technological sophistication more associated with mainstream 21st century e-commerce outfits such as Amazon or eBay. Most sites support “one click” ordering and secure digital payment systems such as Paypal and its smaller rival, nochex.com. Minimum orders are typically 7g (0.25oz), maximum 28g. Many are open from 9am until 5pm weekdays and provide customer service via email. Orders placed before 1pm are guaranteed to arrive the next day. They can even be tracked via the Royal Mail website.
The product arrives fresh, potent and perfectly weighed. The prices are not cheap – around £50 for a quarter of an ounce on average – but web forums have been full of customers praising the merchandise.
There are now the first signs of a crackdown by the authorities. On December 22, in the first operation of its kind, police from the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit raided one of the leading cannabis e-tailers after a five-month investigation. The site – which before the raid had the internet address http://www.pepespage.net – had been active for around 18 months. A picture of the cartoon skunk Pepe Le Pew, smoking a large joint, adorned the homepage.
The police estimate that the site generated more than £500,000 in revenues. They made three arrests and confiscated several computers in Herefordshire and Sussex.
“All the investigation team have been amazed by the amount of activity that these sites have had and the quantity of orders placed via the internet,” said an investigating officer, Matt Cornish of the Herefordshire police.
This sudden show of force has sent ripples through an already fearful market. Since the bust, several leading sites have shut down. One, similar in scale to Pepe’s, has taken an extended Christmas break. A promise on its homepage to “reopen fully on December 29” has not been honoured. Forums are swollen with pot smokers bemoaning the loss of their suppliers.
Given the scale and openness of the industry, few seem surprised that the crackdown has been launched.
“Advertising a website in that way, they were asking for it. I would never do that,” said Hermes the Hash Trader, a Dutch online dealer with a large customer base in Britain.
Hermes, in his late 20s, is one of several dealers who operate out of email addresses to minimise their chances of being caught.
The former trader and funds administrator has been running his e-business for six months. “I spent months, not to mention thousands of euros, establishing a network of contacts,” he said.
His downloadable menu offers 50 varieties of grass and hash. Prices range from £15 to £75 for an eighth of an ounce. The minimum order is £50.
But he confesses to being dogged by constant worries about being busted. “Generally I do enjoy it,” he said.
“It’s a good job, and usually fun, but it has its downside. It can get very stressful at times.”
Customs’ seizures are also a constant bugbear. He estimates that one in 50 of his deliveries is intercepted en route to Britain. He does offer refunds for lost orders but only to customers who supply a digital scan of the official Customs and Excise 271 form received if controlled drugs are discovered in your mail.
Most of his customers come from word of mouth and referrals. Most traders are hard to find and prefer it that way.
Websites are hidden from search engines like Google. Most experts agree that the given the scale and anonymity of the internet, the online drug trade is unstoppable.
“The government is going to learn what the music industry is learning. The net is a wall-buster,” the technology journalist and former Wired magazine columnist Jon Katz has said.
“It’s not policeable. There are not enough cops in the world to monitor all the communications and digital commerce that’s going on.”
Forensic experts of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit are examining the computers seized in December for electronic evidence, including the names and email addresses of customers. The unit would not comment on whether this would lead to arrests of those who had used the service.
Most buyers, however, are not put off by the risk of potential intercepted mail or arrest.
“My source got busted but I definitely would buy from an online supplier again,” said Sam, 31, a video technician who ordered nearly two ounces from one retailer last year. “I haven’t found a new source yet, but I’m looking.”
The police insist the downgrading of cannabis to class C will not change their attitude to online cannabis retailers.
“We will target any site engaged in the wholesale supply of controlled drugs,” they say. “This is one of our key priorities.”
The dealers, however, are hoping it will signal an upturn in business. “There’s a fair chance the trade will mushroom when the laws relax,” Hermes said. “My plans are to expand until I reach full capacity.”
31 January, 2004
This is getting so much worse. Zillions of mails from Nigeria [in particular], promising free money, all clearly scams by the local gangsters.
But, not engaging with these chaps is not enough. The volume of them is simply getting oppressive. It amounts to a ‘denial of service’. Bloody hooligans!
I tried writing a simple request for info, from the Nigerian High Commission. No courtesy of a reply of course, but though I would try the correct way of complaint before I go to stage two 🙂
I’ve just sent the first batch of several hundred spam mails, sent to me, forwarded on to them. Just me doing this, wont change much, but if all gave it a go .. .. .. I imagine they’ll get cross.
* * * * * *
Nigerian High Commissioner
Subj: spam mail from Nigeria
As you may know, span [unsolicited email] is an international problem, and needs to be dealt with by international treaties, to most effective.
Like everyone else, I get my fair share.
However, over this last year, over 90% of such mail, arriving in my mail box, is from people in Nigeria, asking me to engage in non-existent business proposals. They usual involve the laundering of ex-presidents money etc.
To have your country so over represented in this annoying practice, may perhaps be considered my many, to be indicative of a lack of care, by your government, in its business reputation.
I guess there are millions of us in this situation, but as time goes by, the volume is increasing. You may gather, so is the annoyance of those receiving all this.
I don’t suppose that there is an easy answer, but I would ask what, if anything at all, is being done to deal with the situation.
I know little of your country, but, I think you’ll agree that your reputation international is being harmed by this plague.
I have many contacts in the UK, both friends and business, and ALL report the same situation, so it is not as if I am just an unlucky recipient. The police also say the same.
A simple request to you for information. What is being done?
If you doubt the volume of the problem I report to you, perhaps I may start to forward examples, to so demonstrate, rather than just delete by the hundred, as I currently do.
I trust I may hear from you shortly.
* * * * * *
Nigerian Emails africanscam.co.uk http://www.africanscam.co.uk and ….
http://www.ebolamonkeyman.com further, http://www.met.police.uk/fraudalert/419.htm
29 January, 2004
This is from this week SchNews.
I think this a bloody sickening, but fear, and expect, there to be much more like it. Bastards!!!
People being kicked off land which they own and then having their dwellings burned out?! We must be talking about Palestine, here…
Er, no – Essex.
On Monday, a travellers’ site at Meadowlands near Chelmsford was evicted, with four arrests, forcing 30 people off land they own and had been on since 2001. To do the dirty work, Chelmsford Council brought in self-proclaimed ‘gypsy and squatter eviction specialists’ Constant And Co, who had to get past earth banks, barricades and ditches, plus the travellers and supporters in order to clear the site. Constant were determined not to lose two
in a row after travellers in Bulkington near Coventry successfully defended their self-owned site several weeks before, giving the 150 residents a much-needed reprieve.
When the bailiffs took the site in Meadowlands on Monday, it was agreed after negotiations that the ten caravans still there were to be taken by Constant to another site at Epsom. This never happened, however. Instead, by the end of the following day, several caravans had been burned out on the nearby roadside where Constant had left them after briefly towing them away from the original site. A witness with a camera who visited on Tuesday to
see the smoldering ruins of peoples’ homes was intimidated by Constant staff, who claimed that the caravans were torched – by the travellers themselves! – at 3am on Monday night. A supporter who stayed in one of the caravans on Monday night contradicted this ridiculous claim. Now travellers are trying to get a straight answer from the Chelmsford Council as to why Constant never delivered the caravans to the Epsom site. It makes us at SchNEWS
wonder… we know Constant And Co are the ‘gypsy and squatter eviction specialists’, now we’d like to know who the covert arson specialists are!
To compensate the travellers for the inconvenience of being made homeless, Chelmsford Council set up a “homeless office” in nearby Great Waltham at the parish hall, but omitted to tell the travellers the facility was available, and anyway there was a roadblock stopping them getting there. A few travellers were then sent to the Silverwood motel in Essex, but after only two nights, and during mid winter snowfall, they were being forced to provide ID, proof of income, and proof of links to Meadowlands, for the privilege of continuing their stay. There is also a chance that the council will exercise their legal right to repossess the land to pay for the eviction, which cost £100,000. The site is conveniently worth £90,000.
Now, we know that it’s the middle of winter and all that, but Meadowlands could have been saved if there’d been more support at the eviction. This was not a one-off event – counties up and down the country have long-held campaigns to rid their area of travellers, whether they be Romany, or so-called ‘new age’. For instance two self-owned sites near Epping – Hamlet Hill and Paynes Lane – are under threat of eviction and urgently need help.
Trouble also looms for the traveller-owned Dale Farm near Basildon – home to over 1,000! – which is a virtual village with established gardens and dwellings (albeit without planning
permission). The local Tory MP is soon to meet Tory Tony himself to seek extra powers to enforce an eviction. Travellers in Totnes wrote to us recently about being forced onto an ‘authorised’ council site next to a busy road.
Travellers are struggling for the right to live on land – even when they own it – yet countless developments and roads get rubber stamped all the time on public land. Contact the following groups to find out how you can help travellers resisting eviction in your area:
* National Travellers Action Group 01767689736
* Romani Congress 2004 www.lafn.org/~romanokongreso
* For recent history of travellers in Britain see http://tash.gn.apc.org/
* For more info on Meadowlands 01206 523528 or firstname.lastname@example.org
* Please don’t pester Constant And Co, who are doing a great job of ethnically cleansing Britain!Constant And Co
66 Harpur Street, Bedford, 01234 340091
28 January, 2004
28 January, 2004
Media Guardian Monday January 26, 2004
Just 48 hours before Lord Hutton delivers his verdict on the controversy surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, the BBC has begun an advertising experiment that involves buying up all internet search terms relating to the inquiry.
Despite being one of the main players in the drama, anyone searching for “Hutton inquiry” or “Hutton report” on the UK’s most popular search engine Google is automatically directed to a paid-for link to BBC Online’s own news coverage of the inquiry.
No other news broadcaster or any newspaper has paid Google for this facility, leaving the corporation’s move even more conspicuous.
As one of the chief “interested parties” in the Hutton inquiry into the apparent suicide of Dr Kelly, the move will strike many as worthy of comment, not least because the BBC’s online news pages will not be the most obvious place to go for the most comprehensive coverage, which is bound to include painful criticism of the corporation.
It will also raise questions about the use of licence payers’ money at a time when the corporation faces criticism for spending so much money online from private rivals including the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Times newspapers.
Through Google’s Ad Words service advertisers can bid to buy up search terms that relate to their business. The more they bid, the higher up their link is shown on the right-hand side of the page next to Google’s normal results sorted by relevancy.
The chain of events that led to Dr Kelly’s apparent suicide began with Andrew Gilligan’s report on the Radio 4’s Today programme alleging that the government had “sexed up” an intelligence dossier on Iraq and sparking the corporation’s bitter row with the government.
Despite the sensitive climate surrounding the publication of Lord Hutton’s report, the BBC’s marketing department has decided to focus on the BBC website’s in-depth coverage of the inquiry as part of a drive to attract new users.
The BBC is experimenting for the first time with paid-for search advertising, a relatively new form of new media marketing that has given a fillip to internet companies.
Last week internet giant Yahoo! ascribed most of its 62% rise in profits to its purchase of paid-for search company Overture.
Overture and UK company E-Spotting are the main players, while search giant Google offers its own version through Ad Words. In all cases, advertisers bid for key words but only pay when a searcher clicks on the link.
And because the listing is only displayed when a user searches for a specific term, the medium boasts a much higher “click-through rate” than other forms of online advertising.
The two-week trial will come out of the BBC’s £63.5m annual marketing budget and a BBC spokesman said that, if successful, the trial would be extended. He added that the corporation was bidding on a number of search terms relating to its news and sports coverage in an effort to drive users to in depth content that they might otherwise miss.
“The idea behind it is to attract people that would not normally come to BBC.co.uk and add to our 8.4 million existing monthly users. It’s very cost effective because we’re appealing to people who are already online and looking for information on a specific subject,” said the spokesman.
· To contact the MediaGuardian newsdesk email email@example.com or phone 020 7239 9857
* * * * * *
Now, as a licence fee payer, I just don’t think that this is a proper use. Especially on this occassion, in that they are a criticised organisation, in the report.
I have just written the following letter in complaint.
I let you know, dear readers, of the reply.
* * * * * *
Letter of complaint to BBC: Hutton Report / BBC buys Google links
I am looking for information, on how i might make a complaint about the BBC, in respect of the item covered in this article.
Hutton report BBC buys up ‘Hutton inquiry’ Google links
Monday January 26, 2004
Just 48 hours before Lord Hutton delivers his verdict on the controversy
The information, contained in the article appears correct, and have just conducted a search for the Hutton Report using Google and am returned lots of BBC links on the subject, when I might have been expecting the Hutton Report itself to be at the top.
Bearing in mind the findings of the report, just published, and that there is much Criticism of the BBC contained therein. It seemed reasonable suppose that a search might have been less partial. I now realise otherwise.
As a licence fee payer, I feel the use of funds to angle my enquiry to your sites, rather that the impartial / original information I was looking for, is an abuse and I would like to make a complaint. I note that other pages, were I might complain, are programme specific. With this in mind, I use this form, and trust that either my comments will be dealt with directly, or, forwarded to those in a position to consider such a complaint.
If neither is true, would you please reply, giving me details of the correct procedure for me to follow?
I thank you for your assistance with this matter.
* * * *
This the BBC reply, just arrived in.
Dear Mr. Lodge
Thank you for your email. We hope that the information below helps to answer
the points you raise regarding the business relationship between Google and
the BBC, and Google’s search results for the Hutton Report.
Firstly, in response to your question about contacting the BBC: the best way
to contact us with general comments and complaints is via our “About the
BBC” site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/contactus/form.shtml . If you believe
that the BBC is in breach of its Producers Guidelines then you may wish to
make a serious complaint. Information on doing so is captured here:
The paid-for search to which you refer was a temporary trial which the BBC
undertook from the 13th to the 27th of January. It is worth noting that the
Hutton Report was released after this trial had ended. The endeavour was
purely a marketing tool, and covered a variety of search engines and a
variety of topical subjects – including, for instance, such search terms as
“Elgin Marbles.” The aim of the campaign was purely and simply to encourage
new users to visit http://www.bbc.co.uk.
The BBC does advertise its programmes and services via a wide variety of
media – for instance poster sites and newspapers/magazines. It does so under
the belief that it is important to let as many licence fee payers as
possible know about the output we are providing for them. Our research shows
that approximately 75% of licence fee payers appreciate being directed to
our services in this manner. This particular campaign was considered to be a
very cost-effective way of alerting new users to the variety of content
featured on BBCi.
These searches present a wide variety of results. Sponsored results are
clearly labelled, and often presented separately from standard results, for
instance in a different part of the page, highlighted in a tinted box. In
this case, the results were literally marked with the word “Sponsored.” It
is our belief that such transparency on the part of the search engines would
make any attempt at “skewing” the results in the manner you describe very
We hope that the information above helps to explain the circumstances around
the trial, and our intentions in highlighting our content via these means.
We can assure you that the intent was in no way an attempt to drive users
towards anything less than entirely impartial reporting of the events
covered by the Hutton Report. We would also draw your attention towards the
results of a search using the BBC’s own search engine, which return as the
first result the official website (http://www.the-hutton-inquiry.org.uk/):
Thanks for taking the time to contact us with your feedback. Please rest
assured that we take your comments very seriously indeed, and appreciate
your taking the time to get in touch.
BBCi Customer Service
28 January, 2004
Nine Ladies Protest Camp, Derbyshire, Possession Court Order Obtained Thursday 22/01/2004. PAPERS SERVED THIS MORNING (Friday) eviction – imminent!
Background: If Quarrying goes ahead, a 100m deep scar will blight a beautiful, and well loved landscape. The protest camp has been protecting the site since 1999. People are needed urgently to help with defences, and resist the eviction
Monday 19th Jan, Papers were served, and they are in court for posession order on 23rd of Thursday. People urgently needed to sort out defences, and to be there if eviction follows shortly after. Climbers have and are being approached.
New site number – 07005942212 The official nine ladies website has not been updated since August 2003, so use the number above for up to date info.
Nine Ladies Anti-Quarry Campaign,
Derbyshire DE4 2LQ.
Tel: 0700 5942212
27 January, 2004
It has taken weeks ….. But since the new year, have been going back through my colour work and have tried to make a ‘best edit’ of ‘vehicles’ and ‘vehicle artwork’
I am half way through making a DVD disc of these with a groovy soundtrack.
Have also prepared a gallery, and you’re welcome to brows at:
’tis a really colourful set.
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