"You have your purists. You have the people saying. 'Walt is spinning in his grave'" admits A.J. Wolfe, editor of the Disney Food Blog. She reports a 50-50 split in reader opinion on a new decree in Disney's Magic Kingdom: for the first time in the park's 41 years, guests will be able to buy booze. But before we start conjuring images of drunken mobs brutalizing Mickey Mouse and friends, the wine and beer will only be sold at one specific restaurant and only during dinner hours. The "Be Our Guest" restaurant is based on Beauty and the Beast, and will serve French cuisine, which apparently demands alcoholic accompaniments. "You cannot walk into a French restaurant and not get a glass of wine or beer," explains Maribeth Bisienere, vice president of food and beverage for Walt Disney Parks. "It made more sense to do it than not to do it." Be Our Guest will now offer 20 wines and several Belgian and French beers. Says Bisienere, "We really wanted to wait until it became something that worked with the particular theme."
Next month, the government of Tanzania will begin issuing medical injection equipment such as hypodermic syringes, needles and swabs to narcotic drug abusers, in a major effort to prevent the spread of HIV. The "Needle, Syringe Programme" (NSP) will also educate addicts on safe injections and the dangers of needle-sharing. It's an approach that has plenty of opponents: "Surely, this cannot be the solution to the problem," says Fabian Theopil, the secretary general of Sober Tanzania, an organization that combats alcohol and drug abuse. "The plan will only succeed in promoting addiction among our youths." Sober Tanzania is completely against the program, and is asking the government to look for a better solution. The situation is urgent—a recent survey found that 51% of the estimated 25,000 people injecting drugs in Tanzania are HIV positive.
Other approaches are available: the Muhimbili National Hospital began providing methadone treatment back in 2007, and now sees about 490 patients. According to Dr. Frank Masao, head of the hospital's psychiatry department, the biggest challenge is just getting addicts to come in daily to receive their methadone, due to transportation and personal issues. "They have a specific kind of life where they only think of getting the drug and nothing else," he says. "After the therapy we try to rehabilitate them often giving them something to do thereafter. Some of them engage in gardening at the clinic." Despite these difficulties, the project is considered a success—so much so that the government decided to open more methadone clinics at other hospitals. Says Dr. Hussein Mwinyi, the Minister for Health and Social Welfare: "This effort is tailored to bring the methadone treatment closer to patients so they can easily access it without having to travel from afar."
Last night, My 12-Step Store in West Hollywood threw a celebration in honor of Recovery Month and Fix Executive Editor Anna David, whose first novel, Party Girl, they now carry. As guests guzzled soft drinks and Speaker Water, old friends reunited and new TV shows were shot. Seth "Shifty" Binzer made his first public appearance since falling into a coma in April—and a VH1 crew followed him around to capture the now-sober action. Meanwhile Iron Man 3 star Ashley Hamilton met up again with Tom Sizemore: the two were in each other's weddings in the '90s (Sizemore's to actress Maeve Quinlan, Hamilton's to model Angie Everhart) but hadn't seen one another in years. Councilman and former West Hollywood mayor John Duran joined Hills owner Howard Samuels, Malibu Beach Sober Living owners Charlie Bentz and Kimberly James, Recovery Media chairman Paul McCulley, Fix contributors Nic Sheff and Amy Dresner, and My 12-Step Store owner RJ Holguin, as Sizemore and Shifty spoke to TMZ and David signed copies of the book that details her journey from Hollywood party girl to sober woman. Sizemore, who tapped David to be the co-writer of his biography, I Can't Believe I Made It Out of There Alive (due in April, 2013 from Simon & Schuster), said he loved being a part of the sober action: "I haven't had this much fun at a party in years."
Alcohol and prescription drug abuse is reportedly getting out of control in the US military, and a blue ribbon committee is today urging the Pentagon to acknowledge the crisis and take steps to deal with it. The report, produced by an Institute of Medicine panel, calls for stronger policing of underage drinking, restricting access to booze on bases and updating the treatment programs available—as many haven’t changed since the Vietnam War. And it coincides with The Fix's report today on the addiction problems that plague returning veterans, and what is and isn't being done about it.
"I think they're ready to acknowledge that they can do better," says Dennis McCarty, a public health expert on the panel. The military is dealing with record numbers of suicides, which are often linked to drug or alcohol abuse. The rate of prescription drugs supplied by the military has also increased fivefold since the Afghanistan War began in 2001: Nearly 5 million prescriptions for pain medications, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, stimulants and barbiturates were issued last year. The problem is the worst in the Army, where one in four soldiers in 2008 admitted to abusing prescription drugs. Data also suggests that binge drinking—the consumption of five or more drinks in a sitting—is 50% higher among military members aged 18-35 than among civilians.
Efforts to help include an experimental Army project that provides soldiers with confidential counseling; while successful, it only exists at 10% Army installations, so the panel urges its expansion to all bases and to the Navy, Marines and Air Force. (The Marines are also making efforts to curb their boozing.) For now, Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith says military health officials are in the process of analyzing the report’s recommendations. "But most importantly, we want to do the right thing by the servicemember,” she says. “If there are areas in need of improvement, then we will work to improve those areas. The health and well-being of our service members is paramount."
If it seems "totally ridic" to wish hard time on someone because you were once in the slammer yourself, well, that's because it is. But that's precisely how perennial hot mess Lindsay Lohan is responding to the continued car troubles and alleged drug use of former Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes. Over the last several months, Bynes has had numerous hit-and-run mishaps, and has been pulled over by police several times, leading to a DUI charge—and many of those incidents happened when her license was already suspended. Then last week she was snapped behind the wheel, smoking what appeared to be a weed pipe, with remnants of marijuana scattered around her car's cup holder. But Bynes hasn't faced jail time yet, and doesn't seem in danger of getting sent upriver—which rubbed Lohan the wrong way. "Why did I get put in jail and a Nickelodeon star has had NO punishment(s) so far," she tweeted. “These are the moments that I appreciate my life experiences, living without regrets and Disney for supporting me as an actress.” LiLo herself was involved in several car accidents this summer—despite her movie project's production company hiring her a full-time driver and ordering her not to drive—including a major smash-up which totaled her Porsche. Bynes hasn't responded to the tweet, but maybe that's because she's got bigger worries: she's due back in court on September 27 on two hit-and-run charges, as well as her alleged drug use.
On Saturday night, a glittering gathering of roughly 800—including Larry King, Nicole Richie, Kris Jenner, Buzz Aldrin and Robert Duvall—gathered at philanthropist Jeff Greene's palatial Beverly Hills estate to listen to X Factor finalist Chris Rene, dine on Wolfgang Puck's roasted chicken and red velvet cake and watch a Baracci of Beverly Hills fashion show. But they weren't doing this for nothing: $500,000 was raised for The Brent Shapiro Foundation, which was launched by the Shapiros (renowned defense attorney Robert Shapiro, his wife Linell and their son Grant) after they lost their beloved son and brother, Brent. He died in 2005 when he ingested half a hit of ecstasy with alcohol, having been sober for the previous 18 months. The completely dry event—which also featured a ferris wheel, photo booth and overflowing candy bowls—was MC'd by Pat O'Brien, who started things off by reciting the Serenity Prayer. "I didn't know I was a celebrity until Larry King did an hour on me," O'Brien joked, before praising the Shapiros for "turning a horrible tragedy into a positive." Robert, Linell and Grant also spoke movingly about the way this year's funds will be spent: plans include a pilot program in Boyle Heights called "Brent's Club," offering incentives to kids who stay clean and remain in school.