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United Nations

3/12/13 4:11pm

Drugs Endanger Democracy, Says UN Director

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Yury Fedotov urges world leaders to step it
up. Photo via

llicit drugs and ensuing violence are endangering democracy in developing nations, said a UN official yesterday at the opening of the UN's 56th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes, urged world leaders to collaborate to address the problem. “In so many ways, illicit drugs and crime and development are bound to each other," he said. "If countries are denied the rule of law and justice, development is jeopardized, and societies weakened by the lack of sustainable development can become the staging areas for the criminal networks.” During the five-day conference, more than 1,000 representatives will discuss issues ranging from international counternarcotic efforts to public health and safety concerns. Fedotov noted that consumption and production of cocaine has declined, and the production of opium—for the most part—is restricted to Afghanistan. But these improvements are countered by the rising threat of synthetic drugs. “The overall prevalence of drug use is not decreasing," he said. "Illicit drugs kill more than 500 men, women and even children every day.” Fedotov pushed for countries to find alternative measures for suppliers to make a living, and to work on developing better treatment for addicts. “Building synergies between our approaches to law, health and alternative development is a necessity," he said. "All of these activities must also be reinforced by a sense of shared responsibility, which we should never allow to be weakened.”

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By Ben Feuerherd

Spring Break

3/12/13 3:11pm

Binge Drinking Threatens Spring Breakers

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YOLO Photo via

Drug war violence rages on in some regions of Mexico, but young Americans visiting on vacation are in far greater danger from getting too drunk. Each year, over 100,000 US teenagers and young adults travel to resort areas throughout the country for Spring Break. And though Mexico's drug war is far from over, most students don’t seem too concerned. “They cut your limbs off and sell your organs on Craigslist. I'm just kidding," says student Eric Dempsey, or “DJ Hazy Hays” as he likes to be known. Alcohol—not cartel activity—causes the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes and deaths suffered by American students in Mexico around this time every year. And each year, the US State Department publishes a travel advisory with tips to keep people out of harm's way, including cautioning against "excessive alcohol consumption and unruly behavior." Naturally, the warnings go widely unheeded. Students' boozing often kicks off well before noon; drinking contests keep things going throughout the day, until bars and nightclubs open for the evening. “Your system just gets used to it,” says 21-year-old Zach Sklar. But even those with an "immunity" to booze remain subject to Mexico's laws—and could end up behind bars. "It's about 36 hours for a misdemeanor for public intoxication," says Carmen Perez, an officer working at the Cancun Police Station. And those who evade jail may face other penalties for inebriation: Just a few years ago, a drunk student from Texas was bitten by a crocodile while urinating in a lagoon.

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By Chrisanne Grise

Drug Gangs

3/12/13 1:45pm

Texas "Whites Only" Meth Gang Indicted

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They won't be missed. Photo via

Twelve people have been indicted and arrested for meth distribution, and four on murder charges, in connection with a large-scale white supremacist Texas drug gang. According to the indictment, the gang "Stupid Woods" (also known as "SWS" or "Solid Wood Soldiers") is a "whites only" organization that primarily distributes methamphetamine inside and outside of Texas jails and prisons. According to the indictment, the group has a complex system of rules and regulations for membership, with a "blood in, blood out" commitment that requires those joining or leaving the group to undergo violent beatings. According to the US Attorney's Office in Beaumont, Texas, SWS operates with a chain of command, electing positions such: president, vice-president, captain, lieutenant, and soldier. Four members of the gang are accused in the murder of James Lee Sedtal, after he allegedly assaulted a member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. The indictment charges all twelve defendants with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine between September 2010 and March 2011, for which they could each face 10 years to life in federal prison. If convicted of murder as charged, the four defendants face either life imprisonment or the death penalty.

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By Ben Feuerherd

Justin Bieber

3/12/13 1:01pm

Justin Bieber Smokes Pot In Amsterdam

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Bieber gets high after a low week. Photo via

Pop icon Justin Bieber escaped last week's nightmare experience in the UK, which included collapsing during a London show, trying to attack a photographer and some questionable gas mask fashion, with a party-filled weekend in Amsterdam. The 19-year-old was reportedly spotted at Amsterdam coffee shop Easy Time, where he was smoking a joint and eating a "space cake," or a cake made with marijuana. The drug is notoriously legal in Amsterdam, so Bieber was able to go unnoticed in the shop. Of course, this isn't his first experience with marijuana. Photos surfaced last January of the singer smoking what appeared to be a blunt, which he indirectly acknowledged on Twitter and later lampooned during a recent guest hosting appearance on Saturday Night Live. "I also heard he got busted for smoking weed. And he’s really sorry about it, and people make mistakes, and he’s never going to do it again,” he said in a sketch where he plays the president of the Miley Cyrus Fan Club.

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By McCarton Ackerman

prescription drugs

3/12/13 12:12pm

Parents of Rx Overdose Victims Plead for Change

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Mother and daughter who lost a family
member to an Rx overdose. Photo via

After hearing emotional testimony from parents whose children died of drug overdoses, lawmakers in Sacramento called Monday for the Medical Board of California to use a statewide prescription database (known as CURES) to help identify doctors who overprescribe narcotic drugs. "If we are going to take seriously the role of patient protection, then we have to be proactive in determining if there is a pattern of overprescribing," said Assemblyman Richard Gordon, who co-chairs a joint legislative panel that oversees the medical board. Currently, the board only launches investigations in response to complaints. But Gordon said: "I don't think that the complaint-driven system has produced the appropriate results." In California, CURES is primarily used to identify "doctor shopping" addicts who obtain prescriptions from multiple doctors, but technical shortcomings in the database and a limited budget make these investigations infrequent. An investigative report from the Los Angeles Times found that nearly half of the prescription drug overdose deaths in Southern California from 2006 through 2011 were partly due to drugs prescribed by doctors. 71 physicians were responsible for three or more overdoses, while several had a dozen or more patients who died. In most cases, the board was unaware of the patients' deaths. Medical board President Sharon Levine blamed the problem largely on California's mandatory physician training that emphasizes using potent drugs to treat pain. "We do have a physician workforce that we need to re-educate," she said, "In many ways, physicians have been misled by people exhorting them to treat pain."

Some physician groups expressed concern that aggressive and frequent CURES investigations would discourage doctors from prescribing the medications for legitimate pain treatment. But the grieving parents in Sacramento, many of whom showed up wearing shirts bearing the word "ENOUGH," argued it would be a price well worth it. "I'm a contractor. In my industry, if somebody dies on my job, the job is immediately stopped and everybody goes home," said Tim Smick, whose 20-year-old son Alex fatally overdosed last year on doctor prescribed drugs. "How many more deaths will be allowed before the California medical board stops dangerous doctors who fail to adhere to their own industry standard?" James Kennedy, from Orange County, said his son bought methadone and Xanax from a doctor who had been dubbed the "candy man" for overprescribing drugs, but is still practicing medicine. Kennedy, whose son overdosed three years ago, said: "The medical board does nothing to police their own."

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By McCarton Ackerman

bad parenting

3/12/13 10:31am

Video Shows Toddler Smoking Pot From a Bong

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It wasn't funny.

A cell phone video has surfaced showing a 22-month-old boy smoking marijuana out of a bong. The toddler's mother Rachelle Braaten, 24, of Centralia, Washington, has been arrested and is facing charges. "Well, it was like, you can't see in the camera, but the person taking it, and then there was like a group of people there," Braaten told authorities, "and I guess it was a joke and stupid mistake that wasn't really funny." She claims the child was not affected by the drug and continued to play as usual. Braaten says she feels “horrible,” because, “he's two and he shouldn't have known about that. He shouldn't have that in his body." When local police went to check on the toddler’s welfare, they discovered 40 marijuana plants in the house. According to the boy’s father, Tyler Lee, the plants are for medicinal purposes. Both Lee and Braaten were arrested, and Braaten remains in jail, where she is being held on bail.

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By Valerie Tejeda

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