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]
In 1998, Bernice Cubie was sent to prison for life under California’s "Three Strikes" law, for possession of $10 worth of cocaine. She's never injured anyone and has served over 14 years. The 59-year-old grandmother now suffers from an advanced form of terminal cancer. She's one of over 4,000 people serving life for nonviolent crimes in California under Three Strikes, which imposes a life sentence for almost any offense—including simple drug possession, no matter how small the amount—if a defendant has two prior convictions for “violent” or “serious” crimes. Three Strikes is disproportionately applied to people of color like Cubie (71.2% of three-strikers are black or Hispanic), mentally ill people and the poor. And of course, the law hits addicts hard: they account for nearly two thirds of those affected.
On November 6, Californians will vote on Proposition 36, a bill seeking to reform Three Strikes. Repeat criminals would still get life in prison for serious or violent crimes under the new proposal—and a third crime that isn't serious or violent would still earn double the normal sentence. But backers say Prop 36 will protect people with no history of violence from life sentences, save California over $100 million a year, and leave prison space for violent offenders. Dan Newman, a strategist for the Yes on Prop 36 campaign, tells The Fix, “The campaign is going well. We have support from Democrats and Republicans, leaders in law enforcement and civil rights, and virtually every editorial board in California.” The LA Times reports that 95% of the money raised around this cause has been in support of the proposition.
One organization, PORAC (Peace Officers Research Association of California) is dedicated to fighting Prop 36, and has donated $100,000, the largest single contribution, to do so. Its president, Ron Cuttingham, tells The Fix that Prop 36 is unnecessary because there is "already judicial review… If it's appropriate they can waive the strike.” But if the possibility of judicial review already exists, why should we worry about Prop 36 passing? According to Cuttingham, those whom Prop 36 would benefit “are not nice people… Nice people don’t get sent to prison.”
Earlier this year, at the recommendation of prison doctors, a California parole board met to consider a compassionate release petition for Bernice Cubie. Despite the fact that she has less than six months to live, and would seek drug treatment counseling upon release, her plea was denied. Under current law, she won't have another opportunity for parole until 2023. Californians will soon have the chance to help non-violent addicts receive treatment, rather than a lifetime behind bars.
There's something about airplanes that lends itself to drunken meltdowns—then again, a Ukrainian flyer arrested by the FBI on Monday had already been binging at ground level for no fewer than 50 days. US resident Anatoliy N. Baranovich's woes began when he went home to Ukraine to build a house, but found he couldn't start construction as planned. So he started drinking instead: "Baranovich stated that he got drunk and stayed drunk for the entire 50 days," wrote FBI Special Agent Cameron Smilie in the affidavit. He "never sobered up” before returning to the US via Amsterdam and boarding a Delta flight from Boston to Salt Lake City. He drank on in the sky, but unsurprisingly "could not specify when, how much or where he consumed the alcohol," reports the FBI. During the descent, Baranovich "regained consciousness" and started yelling in Russian, under the mistaken impression that the wing was on fire. As soon as the plane landed, he got up and ran to the back, attempting to open an emergency exit door. It jammed, and the emergency inflatable slide malfunctioned, causing “extensive damage” to the fuselage. His attempt to open a second door ended when fellow passengers wrestled him to the ground. Baranovich appears in court today on charges of attempting to disable an aircraft and assaulting the crew.