The DailyBrief

Tuesday February 7, 2017

Asia’s enforcement agencies are on the back foot in the fight against drugs. Roderic Broadhurst writes that rising affluence in the region has revitalized the narcotics trade, boosting the gangs who reap enormous profits from it. Huge demand for amphetamine-type stimulants, opiates and new psychoactive substances among the increasingly wealthy urban residents of East Asia and beyond has driven a boom that benefits criminal entrepreneurs in a global industry.

Islamic State is faltering. That’s the message from a UN report to the Security Council released on Monday. It says that the militant group is militarily on the defensive, and faces both a drop in revenue from oil and extortion activities and a shrinking ability to attract new recruits. The findings come in the wake of President Donald Trump signaling his intent to defeat the organization.

What’s been missing from recent coverage of Japan’s energy policies? Only the fundamental change happening at the local level as smart communities and renewable energy systems flourish, according to Andrew DeWit. Writing for Asia Times, he says the debate over re-starting nuclear power plants and building coal-fired plants obscures the hundreds of districts across Japan now building local distributed energy systems that tap local renewable-energy resources.

Chinese traffickers are about to face a much tougher time trying to move money out of the US following a probe into Western Union’s illegal wire fraud activities, writes Peter J. Brown for Asia Times. Western Union agreed last week to forfeit US$586m to the US government after admitting that it violated US anti-money laundering laws by ignoring evidence that thousands of its agents were involved in sending illicit cash to criminals from 20014 to 2012. One company, Shen Zhou International, sent in excess of US$310 million in Western Union transactions to China, with around half of its money orders deliberately structured to circumvent US reporting regulations.