Despite HSBC's admission of laundering over $800 million for Mexican drug cartels and covering up many more illegal transactions, the US Department of Justice has ruled that no criminal charges will be filed against the London-based bank. A DOJ report labels HSBC as "the preferred financial institution of drug cartels and money launderers" due to its "willful failure" to report suspicious activity and uphold banking protocols. HSBC will pay $1.9 billion to the US government, the largest such fine in history. "The investigation revealed that staggering amounts of cash, hundreds of thousands of US dollars daily, were being deposited into HSBC Mexico using boxes specially made to fit through tellers' windows to speed the transactions," says US attorney Loretta Lynch. Last July, HSBC admitted allowing drug cartels to launder billions of dollars from 2002-2009, and to cutting its total number of internal watchdogs to save money. The bank dodged criminal charges because federal officials never found individuals or branches knowingly acting together; HSBC is instead painted as a disorganized whole, collecting fees without knowing, or wanting to know, their origins. While some are accusing HSBC of buying its way out of jail, Lynch insists that's far from the case. "That's a very short-sighted view, I think, because in this case they're obviously paying a great deal of money, but they also have to literally had to turn their company inside out," she says. "And the message should be that that's what you have to do." HSBC states that it has fired executives and rescinded bonuses in response to the scandal. The bank must demonstrate its compliance with all laws to a federal monitor over the next five years.
Glorifying marijuana—with its new, legal-in-some-places status as not too edgy, but just edgy enough—seems to be a smart PR move for pop stars right now. At a recent concert in Berlin, Rihanna sported a mesh tank top with a jumbo marijuana leaf across her chest; her love for mary jane is of course no secret. Then there's Lady Gaga, who smokes pot on stage, and donned a “Princess High, the Cannabis Queen,” costume for Halloween. And Lana Del Rey passes around a joint in her video, Born to Die. What should we draw from all this? “When you look at what went down in Colorado, the dramatic rise in the public’s support of marijuana-law reform is being driven by a large part by an increase in support among women,” says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “Are there parallels between women being open and honest about cannabis use at the polls on a grass-roots level and some of the most visible women in music today being open and honest about their use in the news? Absolutely.” There's been little-to-no outcry. “During the Reagan era, this sort of stuff would get you banned from radio,” says Will Hermes, a senior critic for Rolling Stone. “Now marijuana is about as normalized as beer or cocktails, but still enough of an issue politically that it feels like uncharted territory for these women to explore. Being a pop star, transgression is good for business," he continues. "And at this particular moment in American culture, saying you smoke weed is a pretty safe way to transgress.” Of course, image isn't everything; money also matters: “If marijuana gets legalized to the point where it can actually be marketed,” says Hermes, “then these ladies are really in a good position be on the front line of endorsement deals.”
- Board Wants Alcohol-Testing Ignition Locks For All Drunk Drivers [Washington Post]
- Drug Smugglers Pose Greater Challenge in Move From Land to Sea [CBS]
- How HSBC Became the "Preferred" Bank for Mexican Drug Cartels [MarketWatch]
- How Videogames Could Help Train the Next Generation of Robotic Surgeons [Wired]
- Drug Abuse Runs in Families [Medscape]
- New Anti-Smoking Drug Has His and Hers Effects [Metro]
- For Young Female Pop Stars, Pot Use Ties Into Endorsements [New York Times]
- Former President Jimmy Carter OK with Legalizing Marijuana [Politico]
Actor Andy Serkis has revealed that his portrayal of Gollum in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is inspired by addiction. Serkis first brought Gollum to life (with the help of some computer-generated imagery) on the big screen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy over 10 years ago. He reprises the role in the new film, the first of another trilogy based on JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. Gollum is a creature consumed by his desire to possess "the ring," which he often refers to as "my precious" and "my birthday present." Throughout his rather wretched life, he's often torn between this desire and a parallel yearning to be free from it. "Gollum is entirely based on the notion of addiction," says Serkis. “The way that the ring pervades him, makes him craving, lustful, depletes him physically, psychologically and mentally.” Serkis says that playing the creature as an addict makes him more relatable to viewers—a good thing for a story that takes place in the fictional world of Middle Earth. "It was important to find something very real to people watching in this day and age,” he says. “You feel sorry for him but you hate him. Gollum has a weak personality and isn't able to cope with the power of the ring.” Even the character's distinctive, scratchy voice was designed to show "how he carries that pain [of addiction]". The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens in theaters this Friday.
The Fix is preparing to review a new batch of five rehabs, chiefly in Southern California and Florida—and we need your help to do so. If you've spent time in treatment at the following facilities, The Fix wants to hear about your experience, via our handy Rehab Review survey:
The Fix's Rehab Review is the only unbiased, independent assessment of addiction-treatment facilities in the industry. Each review is based on feedback about the food, bedrooms, roommates, recovery program, medical care and more from countless alumni at each rehab. So which of the above deserve a five-star rating? You decide.
People may think AA meetings aren't necessary in prison because there's no alcohol. But on that account they're wrong: prisoners are adept at making their own hooch and some guards will smuggle in real liquor, for the right price. But even beyond helping people to stay sober, AA meetings can provide an important source of emotional support for recovering alcoholics in prison. "The meetings take place in the prison's psychology department at schedule times," one prisoner tells The Fix. "No staff members are present but they are on duty in the building." AA meetings often begin with the group reciting the Serenity Prayer in unison. Then, one person may read a section from the Big Book and go over the 12 Steps, followed by a reading from a book of quotations. "From there the meeting is open, we can discuss whatever we want to bring up and everyone in the circle has an opportunity to respond, give advice or relate to what is being talked about or decline if they want," says the prisoner. "Everyone announces themselves as 'I'm Mr. So-and-So, and I'm an alcoholic.'" Unlike what you may suspect, no one is forced to go to AA—meetings are attended and run by volunteers. In some cases, AA members from outside are permitted to visit prisons to facilitate meetings and share their stories.
All over the world, AA meetings may vary in format, size and demographic—but they all gather around the same basic principle, which is to "stay sober and help others alcoholics to achieve sobriety," according to the official "AA Preamble." In prison, it's no different. "It is mostly a positive group of guys trying to change their lives and spread a positive message," the prisoner says. "You see dudes getting real emotional and even crying when discussing their problems or past lives. These are big bad dudes and known killers just breaking down like babies. The concept of an alcoholic helping another alcoholic is noble—especially in here with all the racist, criminal and convict attitudes. But we try to help each other as much as we can. We understand where each other are coming from."