- Teen Drunk Driving in US Drops as Gas Prices Rise [San Francisco Chronicle]
- Homeless People Die 30 Years Younger [Wales Online]
- Kentucky’s New Mandatory Drug Tests Can Be Costly [Insurance Journal]
- Ohio Gambling Survey Gives Pre-Casino Picture [Businessweek]
- Feeling the Pressure to Drink for Work [New York Times]
- No, Mitt Romney Will Not Legalize Pot [Washington Post]
- Kenny Rogers Snubbed Alcohol After Watching Dad's Addiction Battle [Reuters]
Mark Twain may have based Tom Sawyer, the daredevilish protagonist of his most famous novel, on an old drinking buddy, according to a new analysis from Smithsonian. The inspiration behind the character has long been disputed, but writer Robert Graysmith claims the original Sawyer was a "stocky, round-faced…customs inspector, volunteer fireman, special policeman and bona fide local hero" of the same name, who allegedly met Twain (real name Sam Clemens) in a San Francisco steam room in 1863. The two became close chums and would hang out at the Blue Wing [saloon], drinking, swapping stories from the past, and "spinning yarns." Twain, who was a journalist at the time, "could drink more and talk more than any feller I ever seen," Graysmith quotes the real Tom Sawyer as saying of his literary bar mate. "He'd set down and take a drink…and then when somebody'd buy him another drink, he'd keep up all day." According to Graysmith, in the midst of a "momentous bender," Twain once told his new friend: "Tom, I'm going to write a book about a boy and the kind I have in mind was just about the toughest boy in the world…he was just such a boy as you must have been."
The great American novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, was published in 1876, years after the author would have parted ways with his old boozing buddy. When asked later on about the inspiration behind his impish hero, Twain said "[Tom Sawyer] was not the real name…of any person I ever knew, so far as I can remember." Whether that account was truth, denial, or the result of drinking-induced memory loss would take a time machine to prove. But if Sawyer's recollection was true—and not a "yarn"—then he really was the novelist's muse. "[Twain] would listen to these pranks of mine with great interest and he'd occasionally take 'em down in his notebook," said Sawyer according to an 1898 newspaper. "One day he says to me: 'I am going to put you between the covers of a book some of these days, Tom.' 'Go ahead,' I said, 'but don't disgrace my name'."
Addicts with busy schedules or a fear of being seen at a traditional rehab have a new option, thanks to Lionrock Recovery. The company offers "shame-free" online treatment and therapy sessions via high quality video conferencing from the privacy of your own home. "Whether you need to stay connected to your life in early recovery because of work or family commitments, or get reconnected after residential care, getting this kind of private and intensive support can make staying sober a lot easier," Lionrock's CEO, Peter Loeb, tells The Fix. The idea came from Loeb and his business partner—two tech guys who have dealt with family members with addictions and wanted to use their skills to help. “This has been a journey of making sure that we’re doing it right,” he says.
Naturally, the program has critics who wonder if getting sober at home is feasible, when you’re still surrounded by the distractions and stresses that may have initially contributed to your addiction. “I don’t try to talk people out of being skeptical, but one of the things that I ask them to do is try it,” says Loeb. He claims that the video technology may even make group work more intimate, as it allows you to look into everyone's eyes—rather than just those of the people sitting across the room from you. Plus, he says, being in your own home could help you feel more at ease. “The clients tell us that it’s easier for them to open up and the clinicians have told us the opposite view of that, that they’ve had to develop some skills around slowing people down because they feel so comfortable.” However, he does recognize that online rehab isn't for everyone: if someone needs a more intensive level of care, Lionrock will refer them to an appropriate treatment facility. "We’re not trying to get rid of in-person therapy," says Loeb. "One size doesn’t fit all in this world.”
Four Loko, that vibrantly colored canned cocktail that simultaneously intoxicates and energizes, is once again under legal fire. The Chicago-based makers of the drink, Phusions Projects, are being sued by an Ohio resident who blames the “dangerous” alcoholic beverage for his accident two years ago. Richard “Tommy” Whaley, 28, had consumed nearly three 23.5-ounce cans of Four Loko when he ran out onto the road, where he was hit by a car. Witnesses say he was launched nearly 10 feet into the air, and his shoe was found on top of a building 100 feet away. At the hospital, his blood-alcohol level was 0.198%, way above the legal limit of 0.08% in Ohio. “The amount of alcohol he consumed should have caused him to lose consciousness,” says the lawsuit. “However, due to Four Loko’s high caffeine amount...he remained awake and in an agitated and irrational state.” Whaley, who has a record of DUI and drunken disorderly conduct, claims that a limp resulting from the accident will prevent him from returning to his former landscaping job. This is not the first time the contentious combo of booze and energy has been blamed for accidents, and Phusions is currently facing a similar suit in Illinois over the death of a 15-year-old boy. While the company cannot officially comment on the pending cases, they did release a statement: “Of course, it is important to remember that just because a lawsuit is filed doesn’t mean the allegations in it have merit.”
Back in the '90s, when the War on Drugs was in high gear, federal prison was drug dealer central. "People were sitting in prison, making drug deals," one prisoner tells The Fix. "Not to say that they aren't now, but back then it was crazy. It was much easier to sell drugs in prison because you're right there where the people that have direct access to the narcotics that you need are—the Colombians, Cubans and Mexicans." Before 1999, federal prisoners had unlimited and unrestricted phone access. Inmates with clout would block off hours of phone use at a time to conduct their transactions. "I would make 60 calls in a day, sometimes using two lines at once," the prisoner says. "It was something for me to do. It was just about everybody inside the jail in some way, shape, form or fashion dealing drugs, directly or indirectly."
What the federal drug warriors didn't figure on when they started locking up dealers in huge numbers, was that they were actually making it easier for them to continue to ply their trade—by incarcerating all the different dealers, of diverse nationalities and locations, together. "The temptation was there," the prisoner says. "You had people everyday hooking up drug deals and most were arranged by phone." Things are a little different now. Due to all the federal cases and investigations around drug empires run from behind bars, the Bureau of Prisons enacted new phone policies in 1999—including allowing each prisoner only 300 minutes per month, as well as other restrictions. Still, "In reality they haven't stopped anything," the prisoner says. "Just look at the news. Dudes are just using cell phones to make drug deals now."
A new app created by two students in Mexico allows citizens to report crimes and incidents of corruption related to the country's drug war—creating instant transparency that holds police and other law enforcement officials accountable. Mario Romero and Jose Antonio Bolio created the free app, "Retio," which allows citizens to report—via Twitter—violent crimes, corrupt activity like road blocks or police abuse, and even broken traffic lights. Contributors use the handle for the corresponding city, eg @RetioDF for Mexico, DF, and tweet a description of the problem, sometimes with photo evidence, while an automatic system categorizes the report. The app can only be downloaded by iPhone and iPad users, but anyone with a computer can access Retio and contribute information. “The original goal was to organize and optimize Twitter to avoid different problematic situations that people face every day in Mexican cities,” says Romero. “Users in different cities started using hashtags to inform themselves of these type of situations, but it wasn’t an ideal solution—our plan was to build a better tool to resolve this and we’ve been able to do that. But we’re still not done.”
The Retio feeds for different areas vary greatly in following: the Mexico City and Monterrey feeds have roughly 62,000 tweets and 6,000 followers, while the feed for Ciudad Juarez has just 14 tweets and 2 followers—which Romero says is common, since the feeds often start slowly before eventually going viral. Even though the site lists contributers by name and photo, no one has received any threats yet. But local police reportedly aren't pleased with the new app. "The system forces an instant transparency as far as attention to citizens, and that’s something [the authorities] are not used to yet,” says Romero. “As far as the criminals, especially narcos, I think they would probably be more worried about other types of reports, like journalistic investigations that expose them and their connections, than about citizens alerting each other about shootings and risky situations.”