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6/20/13 5:00am

Morning Roundup: June 20, 2013

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The real-life Nancy Botwin could face 10
years in prison and a $10M fine. Photo via

By Victoria Kim

drunk robbers

6/19/13 5:55pm

Drunk Robs Gas Station With Clear Plastic Bag as "Mask"

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Cops saw through it.

A robber in Cornwall, England who drunkenly tried to stick up a gas station while wearing a clear plastic bag as a "mask" has been sentenced to prison after his chosen disguise gave him away. Jamie Neil, 41, and his accomplice Gareth Tilley, 20, were both reportedly drunk and high last September when they decided to rob the convenience store at a local gas station. So they grabbed "the nearest thing they could find" to disguise themselves. “Before arriving at the location Tilley disguised his face using a scarf,” says Detective Constable Steve White. “And Neil, being less resourceful, put a plastic bag on his head.” Tilley then pointed his cell phone at the gas station clerk and demanded cash, but when the phone's keypad lit up and betrayed the fact that it wasn't a pistol, the employee hit the alarm. Neil grabbed and headbutted the employee and, with several bottles of liquor in hand, he got free—but only temporarily. An off-duty officer recognized Tilley on the street two days later, identifying him from the gas station's security footage, in which his face was clearly visible through the plastic bag. Both have pled guilty and will spend the next two years in prison. Constable White called the plastic bag the most "ridiculous" disguise he had ever come across.

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By Bryan Le

holy war

6/19/13 4:44pm

NYC Pastor Faces Off With Local Drug Users

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"You think your all that holy?" Photo via

The newly-gentrified neighborhood surrounding the Roman Catholic St. Joseph’s Church of Yorkville on the Upper East Side is now under 24-hour police surveillance after the pastor received a threatening letter from local drug dealers, the New York Times reports. “Watch your back! You have to walk outside—you know," reads the letter. "Do you think that your all that holy?” The threat was not unprecedented. On Memorial Day Weekend, Father Boniface, perturbed by open drug use in the neighborhood and even within his church, confronted a man slumped over in a back pew. "I said to him, ‘Kevin, you’re using drugs, who is selling them to you?’” the pastor told the Times. “He got to his feet, mumbled, ‘Father, Father,’ and walked out. There was a filthy needle on the bench.” The incident provoked Father Boniface, 67, to write to the local police about drug use, dealing and loitering. “We are dismayed that the children who attend our school can see the same things that adults can, including public urination and defecation, indecent exposure, prostitution, and extreme drunken and drug addicted behavior,” he wrote, and collected about 700 signatures from his parishioners. Cops have since stationed a van on the church’s corner and cleared loiterers from the surrounding area. Boniface seems unruffled by the threats, noting that whoever wrote them: "left DNA evidence all over the envelope."

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By Mei Schultz

gaming addiction

6/19/13 3:33pm

Chinese Official Blows Public Funds on Gaming Addiction

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The game Chu couldn't stop playing.
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An official in China faces 11 years in prison after he embezzled 2.6 million yuan ($424,247) in public funds to support his addiction to a role-playing video game. The local official, identified only as Chu, was responsible for allocating taxpayer money in the Neighborhood Cooperative Economic Administration Center in Nanjing City. But in 2005, he got hooked on a multiplayer online role playing game called Zhengtu, a Chinese game similar to the immensely popular and notoriously addictive World of Warcraft. After spending 10,000 yuan ($1,633 USD) on in-game equipment for his avatar and 100,000 yuan ($16,327 USD) on two Zhengtu premium accounts, he soon dried up his savings. Within the year, Chu began dipping into public funds to fly himself and fellow players to meet up or attend Zhengtu-related events across the globe. After five years, his wife left him due to his obsession. By 2012, Chu finally turned himself in after having blown through millions of yuan in taxpayer money and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. A blogger on Sina Weibo, a Chinese site similar to Twitter, says: “A neighborhood official can do this kind of messy thing for six years without being caught!” China has taken steps to curb its widespread problem of gaming addiction. Initiatives include campaigns launched earlier this year to diagnose the condition, and to intervene with kids' Internet use. 

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By Bryan Le

interfaith effort

6/19/13 2:52pm

Christians and Muslims Unite to Fight Drug Abuse in Kenya

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Churches and mosques offer preventative
education Photo via

Christian and Muslim groups in Kenya are putting aside their religious differences to join in helping combat alcohol and drug addiction, as concerns over substance abuse increase, The Washington Post reports. Religious leaders have declared a national disaster, saying that young Kenyans are increasingly turning to drugs—mainly heroin, cocaine, alcohol, bhang (marijuana) and khat—due to poverty, unemployment, foreign influences and ignorance about the dangers of addiction. In an effort to improve the situation, both Sunday schools and Islamic madrassas are offering preventative education and life skills training to improve public awareness. Some groups are also offering rehab and psychosocial support. “We have been taking a leading role for some time, since the community and the government have been in denial,” says Rev. Wilfred Kogo, head of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa’s drug abuse division. “We are going beyond our own congregations to also educate our neighbors.”

Churches began speaking out about substance abuse in the East African country back in the late 1990s, when drug-related riots became a problem for schools. And in 2008, students accused of consuming alcohol and drugs in over 300 secondary schools destroyed millions of dollars worth of school property. “We were very alarmed,” says Francis Kihara, a lay leader in the East African Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church of Kenya. “We went visiting primary and secondary (high) schools and educating the children about drugs.” A 2012 report found that 13% of kids ages 10 to 14 have used an intoxicating substance like alcohol. In addition, almost 12% of 15 to 24-year-olds abuse alcohol, and 6% regularly consume tobacco products. But the government may finally be willing to step in: President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered security forces to deport or arrest any suspected foreign drug traffickers earlier this month. “This is the strongest commitment against drugs that we heard in 51 years,” says Sheikh Juma Ngao, director of Kenya’s National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol And Drug Abuse. “It is a key boost to our work.”

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By Chrisanne Grise

marijuana moms

6/19/13 2:20pm

"Marijuana Moms" Are Pot-Smoking and Proud

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Smokin' marijuana mom January Thomas
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Meet the Real "Stoned" Housewives of Beverly Hills. A group of moms in California, where medical pot is legal with a prescription, have declared that marijuana makes them better parents and partners. The self-described "Marijuana Moms" take pot as prescribed for aches and pains, but also to help them cope with the pressures of marriage and motherhood. Once a month, they gather at the home of Cheryl Shuman for a dinner party, in which they indulge in pot-infused delicacies like cannabis leaf salad and marijuana milkshakes, and sample various strains of the plant. They've been met with some judgment in the community, but say they're working to salvage pot's reputation and showcase its benefits. "We've all come up against people who say marijuana is for dirty druggies, but we are proof you can be good parents and productive members of society and use it," says Shuman, 53, and a mother of two, who claims pot eases her stress and helps her to stay calm and rational at home. Simmi Dhillon, 40, credits the drug with helping her overcome dependence on painkillers prescribed for an injury, so she could become the "wife I always wanted to be" to her husband, who happens to be a cop. And January Thomas, 37, who takes pot to treat early onset arthritis, says weed makes her "a better and more creative parent" to her two-year-old daughter, Zeena: "It puts me in the moment with Zeena and stops me worrying about everyday problems." Watch the Marijuana Moms in action:

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By Victoria Kim

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