And the award for the world's most charitable drug dealers goes to: a couple in England, who have been using the proceeds from their pot farm to help support a small village in Kenya. Susan Cooper and Michael Foster, a couple in their early 60's, were found to be piloting a massive-scale marijuana operation that raked in approximately £400,000 ($645,000) in profits over the past six years. “The evidence demonstrates much of the money was put to charitable and good use,” said the couple's attorney. “While in Kenya they bought a computer for a local eye hospital, paid for children to be put through school and paid for a lifesaving operation on a man's gangrenous leg.” The philanthropical grow-op remained under-the-radar until officers, while chasing a burglar through the couple's yard, noticed a peculiar smell coming from their Lincolnshire farmhouse. A subsequent raid uncovered 159 plants worth approximately £20,000 ($32,000), and the equivalent amount more in cash. But while being do-gooders may have compelled the judge to call them a “respectable couple of positive good character,” they were nonetheless given three years in jail on charges of production of cannabis and possession of criminal money. "You were growing it on a significant scale, jetting off to Kenya on it," said the judge. "I am sure you were doing good things in Kenya with your drugs money, whether that was to appease your consciences, I can only speculate."
Every four years, Americans of all political persuasions threaten to quit the country if their party loses the Presidential election. It’s become so commonplace, in fact, that JetBlue this year is even running an “Election Protection” promotion: You can win a free flight out of the country if your guy loses. But there’s another way in which Presidential uncertainty affects future plans—and that’s in rehab admissions. Authentic Recovery Center (ARC) founder Cassidy Cousens tells The Fix that, over his 12 years in the rehab biz—three top-office election cycles, in other words—he’s noticed a “significant drop” in treatment admissions from September through early November. But it’s not across the board. “We do a bunch of charity treatment, and the free [rehab] sector, the programs that are sponsored by the state or federal grants, don’t typically see a reduction,” says Cousens. “Where there seems to be a slowdown is in the boutique, mid- to high-end programs.”
Why should price make a difference? Cousens believes: “When people are talking about spending $25,000 to $80,000 [on treatment], uncertainty about their tax rates or what’s happening next April tends to cause people to delay a little bit, if it's not completely crisis-driven.” On top of that, the general economic bad vibes surrounding both this and the 2008 election have only amplified the phenomenon, which also has been observed in the retail world. Even though it’s just a theory, Cousens has asked around in the treatment industry, and, he says, "Everybody I know is fairly slow." It’s worth nothing that rehab-admission downturns aren’t evident in conjunction with state-level or midterm election seasons, or specific legislation. It’s pretty much strictly a Presidential-contest thing.
Reader's Question: Is the portrayal of alcohol abuse on reality shows like Jersey Shore helpful, in that it puts the subject in the public eye? Or is it just exploitation?
[Jane is now exclusively answering your questions about addiction, recovery and the like. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Gerard Butler is finally talking about his rehab experience after checking out of the Betty Ford Center eight months ago, and slashing rumors that he was being treated for alcohol abuse. The actor checked into a pain-management program for three weeks after being injured in a surfing accident while shooting the film Chasing Mavericks, which hits theaters tomorrow. "Maybe a stronger person wouldn't have needed to go," he says. "When you hear the word rehab, you think, ‘He's a mess, he's fucked up.' But I'm glad I did it. I've made a shitload of wrong decisions in my life. But I know I've made some right ones as well." Initial media reports were that Butler was in treatment for alcoholism, but the actor contends he has been booze-free for 15 years. He says he's had pain problems ever since filming war flick 300 in 2006, but that the issue got worse after filming Of Men and Mavericks. It reached a boiling point when a surfing accident left him trapped underwater for nearly a minute, and he began experiencing "visceral" flashbacks of the incident. "I was actually taking a minimal amount [of pills] when I went in," he says. "It was more about becoming a mental warrior and not letting pain bother you. The [instructor] would say, ‘I don't want to hear about your fucking MRIs or your fucking X-rays...Let's learn how to say to the pain, 'Fuck you.'"
The Colombian government will hold new peace talks with the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in hopes of ending a drug trade-fueled civil war that's lasted nearly 50 years. The last negotiations took place in the late '90s, when former President Andres Pastrana awarded FARC a Switzerland-sized haven of jungle which the group subsequently used to train troops and traffic drugs. But FARC membership has since fallen from 17,000 to 9,000, and many of their leaders have been killed—while the strength of the Colombian army is at an all-time high. The government's goal is to get the revolutionary group to lay down its weapons (which the FARC is reportedly willing to do) and dismantle a criminal enterprise that transports upwards of 60% of the cocaine brought into the US. “The trick is to get the guy who is in charge of a front that’s getting tens of millions of dollars a year, has a lot of local power and is doing business [with other traffickers] to actually give it up,” says Adam Isacson, a senior associate of the Washington Office on Latin America.
The FARC's commander, who took over late last year and uses the alias Timochenko, has a $5 million bounty on his head in the US, due to allegedly helping to set the group's policies for “the production, manufacture and distribution of hundreds of tons of cocaine,” and his involvement in hundreds of killings. A successful peace deal would likely see FARC members avoid prison for their crimes—something that many in Colombia vehemently oppose. “I am concerned that the president is being fooled by the FARC," says Colombian senator Jose Dario Salazar. "If the government is winning the war, why sit down as equals at a table?"
- Baggage Handler Gets 3 Life Sentences for Drug Smuggling Ring [New York Post]
- Video Shows Drunk, Stoned US Security Contractors in Afghanistan [ABC News]
- Crack Addicts Rounded Up After Rio Slum Takeovers [Associated Press]
- Painkiller Abuse by Kids Way Up, Study Finds [HealthDay]
- Religious Community In Colorado Divided Over Marijuana Legalization [Huffington Post]
- Nike Drops Lance Armstrong [Wall Street Journal]
- Mitt Romney Had to Practice Sitting on a Bar Stool For Debate [Gawker]