In order to save its over half a million web-addicted youths in Japan, the Japanese Ministry of Education is putting together government-sponsored Internet fasting camps.
“We estimate this affects around 518,000 children at middle and high schools across Japan,” said Akifumi Sekine, a representative at the ministry. “But that figure is rising and there could be far more cases, because we don't know about them all.” That number, according to a Nihon University study, means about 8.1% of Japanese school children admit to being addicted to the Internet. At these proposed camps, the Japanese government hopes to see kids playing outside and speaking to one another face to face so that they achieve "limbic resonance" - a feel-good rush in the brain that comes from interacting with others. “Verbal and non-verbal communication releases specific neuro-chemicals,” Hilarie Cash, co-CEO of internet addiction rehab reSTART, explained. “It's not a reaction that occurs when you're online. A lack of it can even hinder developing social skills.”
But some feel the camps only address symptoms, not problems. "Why are these young people turning to the internet? Why do they feel more comfortable talking to strangers on the Internet, instead of their classmates or family?" said Kaz Aoyama, a Japanese student. "I feel like there are more important issues to tackle for these middle and high schoolers, like bullying at school and on the web. Taking away the Internet won't put an end to it."
Japan is not the only country struggling to understand online addiction; Internet addiction boot camps have also sprung up in China and South Korea.
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Transporting illegal drugs is a logistical nightmare for traffickers. But for one Florida couple, carrying 11 pounds of marijuana 900 miles across state lines proved to be rather easy…if only because it was an accident.
“This could have been really bad,” said Monroe County Sheriff Sgt. Al Ramirez. “These people were traveling all over with this stuff in their truck. If they had been pulled over with it, they could have wound up in jail and their truck may have been seized.” It all began when their vacation home housekeeper called about a mysterious package arriving on their doorstep. The Key Largo couple had the housekeeper send it back, but the package arrived on their doorstep once again. During a series of checkup visits to their rental properties, the couple noticed the package was still there, and they simply decided to throw the box into their truck and contend with the matter later. Once back home in Florida, they finally opened the package and were shocked to find bags of marijuana inside. They called the sheriff’s department about their discovery, which was duly confiscated and will subsequently be destroyed.
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. If the state legislature has its way, Utah could soon raise its minimum smoking age from 19 to 21 years old in hopes of cutting down on underage smoking in the state.
Lawmakers recently voted 14 to 5 in favor of advancing the measure through committee, setting up a possible vote in the legislature next year. Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, one of the five voting against the measure, claimed such a ban would restrict personal liberty. "We have a responsibility to protect first and foremost the liberties of our citizens, not to protect them from harm that they may cause to themselves," said Greene. Despite opposition, there was overwhelming support for the bill, including from anti-smoking groups and local health departments who testified before the committee. "Ninety percent of legal adults that purchase tobacco for underage smokers are under age 21," said David Patton, executive director of the Utah Department of Health. Also according to health officials, most kid smokers under 18 in the state get their supply of smokes from people who are just above the current legal limit of 19. The law's proposers reason that underage smokers will have a harder time finding a 21-year-old friend willing to buy them cigarettes than a 19-year-old one. And in a state where the average resident tries his or her first cigarette at a little over 12 years old, blocking this means of obtaining smokes is critical.
Nationally, two-thirds of American smokers began smoking at age 18 or younger, according to the American Lung Association, so such policies could very well reduce the amount of future smokers over all. The town of Needham, MA raised their minimum smoking age to 21 in 2005 and saw high-school smoking rates drop by 50 percent since. Similar measures to the one moving through Utah are being considered in Hawaii, Texas, Colorado, and New Jersey.
A nine-year study conducted by the University of Buffalo Research Institute of Addictions has concluded that married couples with equal drinking habits – even if heavy – have had more successful marriages than couples who consume dissimilar amounts of alcohol.
Researchers followed 634 couples and classified them into four distinct groups: one where neither was a heavy drinker, one where the husband was a heavy drinker, one where the wife was a heavy drinker, and one where both drank like sailors. Their findings showed that 45 to 55 percent of marriages where either the husband or the wife drank more ended in divorce by the ninth year. But when both drank equally, the divorce rate dropped to 35 percent. "Our results indicate that it is the difference between the couple's drinking habits, rather than the drinking itself, that leads to marital dissatisfaction, separation and divorce," said Kenneth Leonard, director of the research institute and lead author of the study. Even more surprising, the research showed that the divorce rates for heavy-drinking couples – heavy drinking being defined as six or more drinks, or drinking to intoxication – were no worse than they were for non-drinking couples. Meanwhile, rates for divorce were higher for couples where the wife drank more than when the husband did.
Earlier this year, more comprehensive research was conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, which examined almost 20,000 couples and reached a similar conclusion. Still, Leonard hoped that his research would spur further study. “The fact that this is something that is not typically explored or may not be viewed as being problematic is something that we hope will change,” he said.
According to the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), some 850 British citizens are currently locked behind bars in overseas prisons on various drug charges, with many of them facing harsh conditions and lengthy imprisonment without trial.
In conjunction with the charity Prisoners Abroad, the FOC has launched a campaign warning British nationals of the harsh penalties that await them in other countries for drug offenses that would earn them a slap on the wrist at home. "People continue to be astonished at some of the penalties handed down for certain crimes overseas,” said Consular Affairs Minister Mark Simmonds. “In some countries possessing small amounts of marijuana can lead to decades in prison.” Pauline Crowe, the chief executive of Prisoners Abroad, echoed concern about the often shocking treatment even minor drug offenders face. “In many countries, men and women find themselves without access to food, clean water and the most basic of medical care,” she said in The Guardian. “We urge people to consider the unsanitary conditions, overcrowded cells and the constant threat of disease before they get involved in drugs."
At the moment, Prisoners Abroad offers support to some 84 British nationals imprisoned for drugs in countries as varied as Spain, Peru, Thailand, and even the United States. In Spain, for example, offenders can be held for up to a year before trial or denied exit from the country even if out on bail. Sentences in Spain can be as long as 20 years for hard drugs and up to six for lesser drugs. Of the 84 detainees under Prisoners Abroad’s watch, 62 have yet to face trial.
Currently, there are 33 countries and territories across the world that use capital punishment for drug offenses, including Thailand, a popular hotspot for British students.