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China Crime The Internet

How the Web Makes a Real-Life Breaking Bad Possible 194

Posted by samzenpus
from the say-my-name dept.
gallifreyan99 writes "The real revolution in drugs isn't Silk Road—it's the open web. Thanks to the net, almost anyone with a basic handle on chemistry can design, manufacture and sell their own narcotics, and in most cases the cops are utterly unable to stop them. This piece is kind of crazy: the writer actually creates a new powerful-but-legal stimulant based on a banned substance, and gets a Chinese lab to manufacture it."
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How the Web Makes a Real-Life Breaking Bad Possible

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  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:10AM (#46107875) Homepage

    The internet has information on it. We'll bring you the latest as this story unfolds.

  • Federal Analog Act? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:21AM (#46107903) Journal
    Obviously enforcement of every bespoke chemical being synthesized to order is impractical even by the standards of the drug wars; but are substances such as the one described in the article actually 'legal'? My (admittedly layman's) understanding of the Federal Analog Act was that it was a fairly blatant blanket ban on 'absolutely anything that looks like something illegal and has some recreational potential'. A rather expansive law; but one that you can't just wiggle past on a technicality (though, obviously, you can wiggle past on sheer logistical impracticality; but so can ~40 billion dollars worth of cocaine, so that isn't really a legality test...)
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:58AM (#46108059)

      The problem I personally have with the analogue act is the other side of it: Considering that pretty much anything that you can somehow introduce to your body and that doesn't kill you outright has some kind of psychological effect on it. If only it simply eliminates your feeling of hunger, i.e. food. Now, considering how similar from a chemical point of view many things are, especially when it comes to things that contain benzene- or furan-rings, according to that catch-all act you can essentially outlaw whatever you see fit.

      Half of the E-numbered additives should actually be on the banned list according to that rubberband law.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @05:06AM (#46108091) Journal
        Oh, it's an egregiously sloppy law, leaving the power of selective enforcement right in the hands of people who really shouldn't be trusted with safety scissors, much less discretionary state force; but that's part of why I'm skeptical that this exercise in analog production is 'legal'. No way is the multinational-supply-chain-chemical-industry going to approve of meddling DEA agents getting in the way of business, so it's probably pretty low risk; but it would take some serious doing to come up with a psychoactive variant of a banned substance that doesn't fall within scope, if somebody notices.
      • by sudon't (580652) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @12:32PM (#46111159)

        Look, it's just a fancy, science-y way of (preemptively) saying, "anything that gets you high, anything enjoyable, is illegal." That is the basis of all of our drug law. They came up with all this "safety" jive when racism went out of fashion, and because they can't say what they really mean, which is that, "we don't want to see people enjoying things we don't enjoy." It's the puritan ethic.

        • "Prohibition... goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes... A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded."

          Abraham Lincoln
    • by stenvar (2789879) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @05:08AM (#46108099)

      Brilliant! It won't actually do much to reduce recreational drug use, but it will mean a lot more restriction on companies developing legal drugs. Big pharmaceuticals should love that, because in the end, only a few of them will be left who are actually able to pay for the licenses and security associated with drug development under such restrictions. Crony capitalism at its best!

    • by lucm (889690) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @05:23AM (#46108147)

      You don't read the right kind of websites. The reason why the coke business is thriving is that it has the blessing of the Secret Government who has agents in South America injecting a DNA marker in the raw product so drug users can be detected and prevented from joining the Secret Government. This strategy was inspired by the bomb-sniffing dogs who actually can't detect bombs but rather are sensitive to a specific compound injected in the explosives for the purpose of detection.

      As for designer drugs (aka the generics of the illegal drug trade): they are a shameful byproduct of greed and are standing in the way of chemical innovation by depriving mainstream drug labs from a large proportion of the revenue they should get. Like the Goophone.

    • by sjames (1099)

      That's why they always claim 'not for human consumption'.

      There are many things normally used for perfectly legitimate purposes that will also act as a drug if 'misused'.

    • by Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @07:54AM (#46108535) Homepage

      Obviously enforcement of every bespoke chemical being synthesized to order is impractical even by the standards of the drug wars; but are substances such as the one described in the article actually 'legal'?

      In Australia where the story is based, maybe (Designer Drugs Legislation), but would it be enforced? No. Sythetic Cannabis analogs are illegal here under the same legislation, but before seizing them they have to be run through Lidcombe labs where there is a long waiting list, in the meantime the distributors are making a lot of money - and have legal heavyweights that can and have stalled the process.

      One of the things the sensationalised story overlooked is that the same compound could be manufactured to order almost anywhere in the world - China just happens to give the story more zing.

      It should also be noted that these and other "designer" drugs are not very enjoyable. The reality is that all the "good" drugs (relatively harmless, few unpleasant side effects) are either illegal or heavily taxed and subject to production and distribution monopolies.

      In New South Wales they have laws in place that can make possession of a length of garden hose and a milk bottle illegal. The laws against drugs have a purpose and it's not to stop people taking them. Good luck banning them - I studied organic chemistry and pharmacology, everything on your spice rack, even your lawn itself has non-amine precursors. But that'd involve a bit of work and an outlay. Give me a truck, a woodchipper, a chainsaw, and malicicious intent and I can actually get paid big money to legally collect large amounts of (very) rich *amine* precursors for Alpha Methyl PhenEthyl Amines (MMDA and speed/Ice etc) - as could any number of people who likewise have no motivation to get rich from recreational drugs - or compete with very competitive existing marketers, and the host of "officials" who live off them. By rich I mean 5 - 8% and in semi trailer loads. Continuously.

      The drug industry, the other industry that calls their clients "users".

      • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:50AM (#46110643) Journal

        It should also be noted that these and other "designer" drugs are not very enjoyable. The reality is that all the "good" drugs (relatively harmless, few unpleasant side effects) are either illegal or heavily taxed and subject to production and distribution monopolies.

        We've only scratched the surface of what's possible. You're right, many of the current "research chemicals" are worse than their natural counterparts. JWH is absolutely less fun and more harmful than THC. Whatever they're passing around on blotter these days is no match for real LSD.

        But for that matter, LSD was an unknown research chemical once. And it's at least as good as any natural psychedelic. I have it on good authority that MXE, discussed in the article, is more enjoyable than Ketamine. At this point we don't know what the side effects are, but it's possible that it's safe.

        There are receptors in our brain that we don't even know what they bind. The receptors that we do know the ligands of, have allosteric sites that could bind novel chemicals. The drugs we know of could be improved upon, we don't know until we try.

        So yes, don't take "spice" or bath salts. But don't be surprised if something new and amazing comes out of these basement labs either.

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      Cooking up your own drugs probably can't be outlawed, any more than drinking household cleaners can be outlawed- it's impossible to legislate for every little thing a person could do to themselves.

      On the other hand, it would be eminently possible to outlaw "supplying a substance to a person with the intention or knowledge that they would consume it without having been through the proper licensing and testing authorities", which essentially deals with Breaking Bad style home-cook drug dealers.

      That's probably

  • Why wait? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Krneki (1192201) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:27AM (#46107935)

    Legalize everything and fight abuse with proper education, not the duck and cover shit!

    • Re:Why wait? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kesuki (321456) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:48AM (#46108019) Journal

      "Legalize everything and fight abuse with proper education, not the duck and cover shit!"

      that fails to satiate the power grab of being able to arrest dissenters at any time for having a tiny bit of drug planted on or near them by the Powers That Be.

      • Re:Why wait? (Score:5, Informative)

        by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:55AM (#46108043)

        that fails to satiate the power grab of being able to arrest dissenters at any time for having a tiny bit of drug planted on or near them by the Powers That Be.

        They can just plant a pirated movie. Stiffer fine. Point is, the arguments for criminalization are based on a lie: Properly regulated, there wouldn't be any more harm from most of these drugs than what you can do getting piss drunk.... which is legal. Until they ban alcohol, anything less dangerous than that is a disengenuous argument; It's hypocricy.

        • by geniice (1336589)

          One of the issues these new drugs throw up is that there is no way to properly regulate them. They make 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol look well documented. Probably the closest you could get is "we have no idea what this chemical does if you do decide to take it please let us know what happens".

    • The whole legislative around drugs is selective and by no means in any way coherent. Drinking alcohol is legal, smoking cigarettes is legal. Smoking marijuana is not. And why are Oreos legal [medicalnewstoday.com]?

      Ok, that last one was more a joke than anything. But there simply is no rhyme or reason in laws concerning sex, drugs or copyright.

      Not to mention that "Alcohol, tobacco and firearms" is more a name for a store than anything else!

      • Not to mention that "Alcohol, tobacco and firearms" is more a name for a store than anything else!

        Deer camp or a good weekend works as well.

    • Re:Why wait? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by symes (835608) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @06:39AM (#46108341) Journal

      Exposure is an important predictor of misuse in a population. If you legalise (which decreases the costs of use) then there will be an increase in those using and therefore an increase in those suffering harm. Just like alcohol - the more bars there are in an area, the cheaper the alcohol, the more accessible the alcohol the more people drink. I am not against legalisation. But at the same time it is a policy that will probably reduce the criminal side of drug use (e.g. theft to support an addition) but also increase the number of those suffering harms because of drug use. It is hard to know what the best course of action is.

      • Exposure is an important predictor of misuse in a population.

        I don't think so. Exposure does not mean an automatic path to misuse or addiction.
        The percent of the population who are truly alcoholics will remain the same whether alcohol is banned or available. If alcohol prohibition does not work, how do you expect banning/prohibiting drugs will work? Banning/prohibiting will help only the criminals and the LEO types who get their paycheck from 'drug war'...not anyone else.

    • by hey! (33014)

      You needn't even legalized *everything*. You could legalize a reasonable cross section of relatively safe recreational drugs so that people could have the kinds of experiences they're seeking without having to become an armchair toxicologist.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:53AM (#46108039)

    The "traditional" drugs are known risks with known treatments; we should simply legalize them and offer support and treatment to those who want it. There would be less suffering and as a society, we'd be a lot better off.

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @05:21AM (#46108139) Journal

      The opinion of the "chief of operations" at the DEA on decriminalization
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/dea-operations-chief-decries-legalization-of-marijuana-at-state-level/2014/01/15/17af548a-7e38-11e3-9556-4a4bf7bcbd84_story.html [washingtonpost.com]

      "Every part of the world where this has been tried, it has failed time and time again."

      This is why we're not going to offer support and treatment.
      This is why there will not be less suffering in our society.

      It's not just enough for there to be a change in public opinion, there has to be a change in political will and a massive bureaucratic upheaval to push out everyone who has invested decades in being afraid of the public's consumption of drugs.

      • by meta-monkey (321000) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @10:37AM (#46109661) Journal

        Which is bald-faced lie. Case in point: Portugal. Other cases in point: the dozen-plus states that have medical marijuana laws on the books. It's too soon to declare Washington and Colorado's legalization experiments a success, but I would hardly be surprised if these states did not descend into anarchy.

        He lies to protect his job, and to protect the powers that be. Without criminalized drugs, the prisons would be half-empty, and we've gotta keep those private prison contracts satisified. Also, we need to turn poor, stupid 18 year olds who make a mistake with drugs into felons so they will either be trapped in minimum wage jobs when they get out, or will become hardened criminals who will then scare the white middle class enough to justify the taxation required for the police state. Mexico might not be a blood-drenched narco state, and then why would their honest, hardworking people flee north to pick our tomatoes and clean our houses for cheap?

        Just like every other war in history, the war on drugs is a racket. The poor suffer and die, the middle class pays for it, and the rich get richer.

        • by whoever57 (658626)

          Also, we need to turn poor, stupid 18 year olds who make a mistake with drugs into felons so they will either be trapped in minimum wage jobs when they get out, or will become hardened criminals who will then scare the white middle class enough to justify the taxation required for the police state.

          Let's not forget that we also need to deprive those people of their votes.

          • by stenvar (2789879)

            Let's not forget that we also need to deprive those people of their votes.

            Unfortunately, it doesn't stop losers from becoming president.

    • There are certain drugs that should be made legal and have supervised usage. Like marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol.

      Then there's bad stuff which has little to no use in society, where drug rehab programs should step in. Like PCP and heroin.

      Then there's crazy shit, where society in general would benefit if it was uninvented. Like krokodil.

      • Nobody would do shit like krokodil if they had cheap access to the drugs they actually want, like marijuana and cocaine.

      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Then there's bad stuff which has little to no use in society, where drug rehab programs should step in. Like PCP and heroin.

        Why should society "step in"? As long as people don't hurt anybody, let them take whatever they like. If they can't take care of themselves anymore, then institutionalize them, not before.

        Then there's crazy shit, where society in general would benefit if it was uninvented. Like krokodil.

        Krokodil is just desomorphine prepared under unsanitary and improvised conditions. If people could j

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @05:02AM (#46108067) Homepage

    See, there are two sides to this story and they always talk past each other. One side says drugs are cool, and everyone should do a little, just to see what it's like and if it's not your thing then it's OK. They only see the positive effects. The other side works in emergency rooms and treatment centers and only sees the negative effects, and warns everyone to stay away, don't even try drugs once because we hear that story everyday of the guy who tried it once, liked it, and ruined his previously promising life.

    What do these two views have in common? Fucking druggies. People who are wholly incapable of controlling themselves so they ruin it for everyone. There is a certain kind of person that freaking loves drugs. They'll structure their entire lives so that they can do drugs, and they don't care about who they harm in the process. They will steal from and hurt people they love. Hunter S. Thompson said, "You can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug," and he knew what he was talking about. Other people don't care for drugs at all. I've known veterans who have been prescribed the best sorts of opiates for legitimate medical reasons, and all they do is complain about how their minds "feel fuzzy and can't think straight". This fuzzy feeling is exactly what pleases druggies the most.

    So, what do you do? Legalize drugs and let druggies run wild? Put them all on an island where they don't pay rent, eat for free and get all they drugs they want? Hell, why should I work for a living when I can just do that? Keep drugs illegal and scare away most of the good people? Who knows, maybe I've been looking all my life for methamphetamine and just don't know it yet because I've never tried it because I'm scared of going to jail. The main problem that both sides have is the fucking druggies. If it weren't for them, we could have safe, legal drugs and it wouldn't be a goddamn problem.

    • by Viol8 (599362) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @05:44AM (#46108195)

      Some become addicted to drugs, others drink or gambling or base jumping. They're part of the human spectrum and you'll never get rid of them. Some would argue (and I'd agree) that a healthy civilisation needs all types of personalities to function. However because of their type of personality they need to be protected from themselves when it comes to really dangerous stuff and drugs comes into this category. Whats the solution? I don't know. Complete prohibition never works , but then a free for all would be a disaster for all concerned too. *shrug*

      • I've never heard of a base jumper who robbed his mother to get money to buy a parachute.
        • by Viol8 (599362)

          If they had to buy a new parachute for every jump I suspect some probably would.

      • by swillden (191260)

        Some become addicted to drugs, others drink or gambling or base jumping.

        And some read and comment on slashdot articles, long after the site has become crap. Sigh.

    • When drugs are legalized they cost nealry nothing and could be distributed via normal drug stores or medical stores.
      Hence the "druggies" you are so afraid of don't have to "structure their entire lives so that they can do drugs" and they don't have to steal to get the drugs.
      This fuzzy feeling is exactly what pleases druggies the most. That feeling comes from abuse, hint: overdose. Not from ordinary consumption of 'clean' opiates.

      Bottom line with legalized drugs there won't be any "druggies" anymore or at le

    • by Bob9113 (14996)

      See, there are two sides to this story and they always talk past each other. One side says drugs are cool, and everyone should do a little, just to see what it's like and if it's not your thing then it's OK. They only see the positive effects. The other side works in emergency rooms and treatment centers and only sees the negative effects, and warns everyone to stay away, don't even try drugs once because we hear that story everyday of the guy who tried it once, liked it, and ruined his previously promising

    • by sjames (1099)

      It' a self-solving problem. If the drugs are cheap and readily available, the 'druggie' will soon fall down the rabbit hole. It won't matter that they could have free rent, food, etc since they'll be too out of it to be bothered to pick up their check. They'll die off soon enough.

      Or we can do it your way and keep everything illegal. Same people I described above will get their 3rd strike by their early 20s and will cost a great deal of money to warehouse in a prison somewhere where he will spend his time st

    • Who the freek modded this up?

      I logged in just to reply to your... let me clear my throat... WWWHHHAAAHHHHKK!!! (ahem) post.

      Well, first off, you FAIL on a global scale in your assessment by making the black/white all/nothing argument.
      EPIC FAIL

      "One side says drugs are cool"
      What?!?! Where did you hear that from?
      It's obvious you have no knowledge of this debate or the reasons behind it.

      Oh, and I'm a huge Hunter S. Thompson fan, but one area of expertise I would not trust his insight into is dr
  • With designer drugs, scientists can't agree on what exactly a 'drug analogue' means, so an analogue law would be unenforceable. All drugs invented after, say, 1950 without FDA approval could be banned; but then trade of the drug wouldn't be prosecutable until it were proven that it's artificial and invented; if it were naturally occurring (say, from Psilocybin mushrooms) then it can only be discovered and not invented. The drug scheduling works as a blacklist, but could be reworked to only allow whitelisted

    • With designer drugs, scientists can't agree on what exactly a 'drug analogue' means,

      Where do you get this shit? Or do you just make it up? We know exactly what an analog is, and how to design them to give fairly predictable effects. Replace the benzene ring with Sulphur etc.

      PiHKAL [wikipedia.org]

      The rest of your argument sucks balls too - the government has no problems legislating against nature. Existing laws already hamper "medicinal" drug research, even with the recently enlightened changes to cannabis legislation in some States of the US, it's still extremely difficult to get funding or approval for

    • Not gonna lie, that sounds like an amazing brave new world. A shadowy underground data trade for illegal programs that let you synthesize all sorts of homebrew compounds to change your mental state for good or ill. Like the biotech version of Neuromancer.

  • Joking. Interesting read. Clearly some drugs, by all means not all, should be legalised - better quality, increased safety, less incentives to invent untested and often hazardous chemicals and, last but not least, PROFIT for the country's budget! Old school politics and the WOD nonsense have caused enough damage already. Even the head of UK Police is saying it: End war on drugs, says Durham police chief Mike Barton [bbc.co.uk]
  • [sarcasm]

    Obviously we need more legislation, not just against these insidious drugs, but also against bad weather and sharp corners on furniture. Zeus forbid we stop for a moment and consider why people throughout history take drugs. Cue King Cnut [wikipedia.org]. Personally I'd rather see my tax dollars spent on a more productive excercise than pissing up a rope.

    [/sarcasm the lowest form of wit... except for the witling fools (f* wits) it's aimed at]

    Oh, and kudos and more funds to Caldicot, the man in the middle of this s

  • by TractorBarry (788340) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @06:32AM (#46108323) Homepage

    Trying to stop people altering their consciousness with chemicals is a waste of time. As long as people aren't driving around under the influence, or otherwise endangering third parties, who gives a shit ? If someone is stupid enough to get addicted to something that's their problem. Give it to them free and give them free treatment until they get clean (i.e. don't force them to become petty thieves to sustain a habit)

    The real problem with drugs is that they can cause people to lose their societal conditioning and they will no longer play the game and act like a good sheeple.

    Not forgetting that prisons and the court system are a great money spinner for the privileged classes.

    Look at Victorian England. Laudenum, Cocaine, Opium, Heroin all available over the counter from the local chemist. High society parties where people would have a good dinner then sit around sniffing glue and ether. Did society collapse ? Did people spend all day high doing nothing ? No. A myriad of wonderful mechanical inventions came about, amazing stuff got built and people got on with their lives.

    If that's what happens when people can get high in peace bring it on.

  • TFA is worth reading. [medium.com]

    The part with the Chineese lab is in the middle, search "I decided to get one made myself"

    Also:

    A single gram of 25i-NBOME contains up to 10,000 doses; it is as potent as a chemical weapon in the wrong hands.
    A typical line of a powdered drug might contain around one hundred milligrams—for Bjerk, that was enough for a thousand-fold overdose. He died quickly in the street.

    I really don't get it: how people can trust anyone selling such drugs ?
    Even when the dose is correct, pills can contain so many other unknown substances...

    • A single gram of 25i-NBOME contains up to 10,000 doses; it is as potent as a chemical weapon in the wrong hands. A typical line of a powdered drug might contain around one hundred milligrams—for Bjerk, that was enough for a thousand-fold overdose. He died quickly in the street.

      I really don't get it: how people can trust anyone selling such drugs ? Even when the dose is correct, pills can contain so many other unknown substances...

      Ask yourself the same question when you pour yourself a bowl of CocoPops in the morning and add that permeated milk. 25i-NBOME, easier to dose by several factors than d-lysergic diethylamide tartrate. And, how much contaminants can there be in 100mg?

  • by PeerWat (247790) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @07:37AM (#46108495)

    It's only because drugs are all banned that the problems exist. If someone wishing to get high could take a drug which has been regulated, they would be less interested in taking any old crap their mate recommends, in what could be a completely incorrect dose.

    Surely, as technology improves the number of drugs will increase? Just banning every single drug is barely feasible now, as the article makes clear, and the problem is just going to get worse. If society is going to tolerate the consumption of any kind of mind-altering substance, we will have to learn to investigate and regulate them.

    PeerWat

  • There's a picture of the Beatles not even most of their fans have seen, which we will prevent you from saving conveniently through the RMB because although it's your culture, it belongs to us. Had to save the whole article just to get the images.

    • by turp182 (1020263)

      Use a screen capture utility, I recommend Greenshot (and and full featured).

      I enjoy Medium articles, but don't like the "style" they bring to presenting information.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Use a screen capture utility, I recommend Greenshot (and and full featured).

        If you save the images then you avoid loss. I used to use scrapbook plus and then extract them from there, now it's gone I just save to a temp dir, and loot the images directory for the largest files. I also use an extension which saves straight to a directory, which still works when the context menu save image item is missing.

        • by turp182 (1020263)

          Thank you for the reply, ended up resulting in the funniest thing I encountered today.

          The reply caused an email to my inbox with the subject:
          [Slashdot] Reply to "Re:What a gang of assholes" by drinkypoo

          After telling several people a writer friend of mine wants to write a book titled "What a Gang of Assholes" and use the fake name "Drinkpoo" as the author.

          And the meta-comedy is that drinkypoo referred to a gang of assholes...

          Holy Shit, Batman!

  • Tip of the iceberg. I'm waiting for someone to start taking advantage of azaborine chemistry to make new stuff. Just replace a C=C bond in a carbon ring with a N=B. It's recently been applied to indoles, which opens the door to a couple dozen psychoactive chemicals. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1... [wikipedia.org]

  • by swb (14022) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @10:42AM (#46109749)

    ....for existing pharmaceuticals?

    How difficult is it to create a series of shell companies in various third world countries in order to more or less legitimately obtain narcotics or precursors at wholesale quantitites through global pharmaceutical or chemical supply chains?

    I imagine that the likely places of manufacture, like India, have pretty strong controls on domestic wholesale, but what about international sales? If you're a wholesaler in Nairobi buyng from India and reselling to Paraguay, how closely is that monitored and by whom? How do the exporters in India vet who they sell to as distibutors overseas? And how much vetting is done by distributors to overseas end users?

    Given the level of corruption in most of these places, it seems like it wouldn't be very hard to see this exploited, especially if the USA or other first-world country wasn't part of the list of transaction partners.

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