Newly elected Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who will take office on Saturday, has enlisted the help of the US in tackling his country's ongoing drug conflict. His decision to depend on the US represents a break from other Latin American countries, who have been attempting to diverge from US tactics, looking instead to Europe for solutions. In a meeting with Barack Obama on Tuesday, Peña Nieto said his long-term plan includes establishing jobs and social programs for those who might otherwise be drawn into the drug trade. He also hopes that economic cooperation with the US could stimulate job growth across North America as well. Outgoing president Felipe Calderon had also been a proponent of cooperation with the US, but he took a more combative approach; he often criticized the US for fueling the violence by providing drug cartels with easily obtainable firearms and a massive, insatiable drug market. Perhaps as a result, his attempts to engage the help of his northern neighbors proved largely futile. Peña Nieto is working to emphasize that his more cooperative approach could benefit the US both economically and in terms of public safety. According to a study from University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, foreign-born residents and visitors to Arizona annually contribute over $31 billion to the state’s economy—an example of how strengthening Mexico-US economic linkage could bring in revenue for Arizona and other border states. Also, with the looming possibility that Mexico's drug war could bleed across the border, US collaboration with Mexico could help keep the violence off US soil.
An estimated 2.55 million people in South Korea are addicted to smartphones, using these devices for eight hours a day or more, according to a recent national survey; and children as young as three years old are thought to be affected. The National Information Society Agency also says that 160,000 of the nation's children aged 5-9 are addicted to the Internet, which they access via smartphones, tablets and personal computers. "Babies are in a stroller with a smartphone holder. Kids sit in the grocery shopping cart watching movies on the tablet computer," says Kim Jun-hee, a kindergarten teacher who conducted an eight-month study on Internet safety and addiction education for pre-school children. "I've been teaching at kindergartens for more than 10 years now but compared to the past, kids these days are unable to control their impulses." Concern about the rise in digital addiction has prompted the country to provide tax-payer funded counseling for those who struggle with excess internet usage; and a recent law was enacted to help parents prevent gaming addiction among kids. The South Korean government also plans to implement programs to teach children aged 3-5 how to protect themselves from overusing digital gadgets. The programs will include teaching songs with lyrics that instruct kids to close their eyes and stretch their bodies after playing computer games; kids will also read fairy tales in which a character succumbs to Internet addiction and must learn to play games not involving computers. Internet addiction is not yet recognized as a mental illness, but there has been growing pressure from doctors and health officials across the world to treat it as one.
- South Korea Sees Digital Addiction in 2.5 Million as Young as 3 [Fox News]
- Jailed Mexican Kingpin Alleges He Bribed Top Officials [Wall Street Journal]
- Illinois Considers Legalizing Marijuana for Medical Uses [Chicago Tribune]
- Some US Muslims Struggle With Alcoholism Despite Belief that Drinking is a Sin [Southern California Public Radio]
- Smoking Causes 270,000 Cancers Yearly in Europe [Baltimore Sun]
- Young Adults More Likely to Smoke Pot Than Drink Before Driving [Medical Xpress]
- Plans for a Booze-Free St. Patrick's Day in Ireland [Belfast Telegraph]
Recovering addicts often connect off the radar—in private basements or anonymous messaging boards. The Tweakers Project takes a different approach, by connecting addicts (and their allies) in a public forum. The nonprofit is devoted to helping people get clean from crystal meth. It relies largely on an online network of support for those seeking recovery, and also helps to educate addicts and their friends and families about addiction. There are no paid employees: volunteers, most of them recovering addicts themselves, do all the work. Over the past three and a half years, they've placed 39 people in rehab or recovery services, including hospitalizations. Volunteers take a hands-on approach, booking rehab beds themselves or driving people to the hospital. They don't endorse a single recovery method, and their sole purpose is to help people get and stay sober, by any means necessary. "We don't endorse anything but we endorse everything," founder Jimmy Palmieri tells The Fix. "Not one model will be a workable solution to each individual." Palmieri founded the group after losing someone close to him to addiction. "There wasn't enough peer-based support," he says. "[The project] works because people are sharing the same experience. It reminds people they're not alone."
The group has gone global, linking people on multiple continents via email and Facebook—which Palmieri calls a "miracle" for its ability to reach such a large audience. The Tweakers Project Facebook page is like a 24/7 recovery group, and currently has over 2,500 members. "It's an open group," he says, "which I did so everyone could join—not just addicts—so moms and dads, friends and family members could learn more about the disease of addiction." Palmieri knows the lack of anonymity might dissuade some potential members, but he feels passionately about changing public attitudes towards addiction—particularly meth addiction, which is the subject of heavy stigma and ignorance. "A lot of people are afraid people will find out they're addicts. They have a lot of shame-based fear," he says. "And it's true that not everyone will look at addiction like a disease, like diabetes or cancer. But we hope to educate people, to show that addiction shouldn't be shameful."
Country star Randy Travis is officially done with alcohol, says his lawyer. Some would say it's about time, as the six-time Grammy winner has been arrested twice for alcohol-related incidents this year: first in February for public drunkenness outside of a baptist church after celebrating the Super Bowl, then again in August for crashing his car while driving drunk (and nude). But now Larry Friedman, Travis’s lawyer, says the 53-year-old singer has “eliminated alcohol from his daily life” and is focused on getting healthy. “[Randy] works out three hours every day and is in the best shape of his life,” Friedman says. “He has a high protein diet and takes a lot of vitamins.” In addition to getting fit, Travis is also working on new music—he reportedly started recording tracks in the studio in Texas last week. His previous bouts of drunkenness could give him plenty of material for some classic country songs.
A private prison company conducting a high school raid in a search for the next generation of for-profit prison inmates may sound like an Orwellian nightmare—but that doesn't mean it's not true. The private prison business is booming in Arizona, where its growing influence and power saw a failed bid last year to privatize almost the entire state prison system. Now a disturbing PR Watch report lifts the lid on the industry’s latest unsavory practice: taking part in high school drug raids alongside local police, despite not having the training or the legal authority to do so. "To invite for-profit prison guards to conduct law enforcement actions in a high school is perhaps the most direct expression of the 'schools-to-prison pipeline' I've ever seen," says Caroline Isaacs, program director at the Tucson office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker social justice organization.
The raid in question took place at 9 am on October 31, at Vista Grande High School in Casa Grande. Without warning, the school was “locked down”; students were confined to their classrooms and sniffer dogs were brought in. According to police, four agencies took part: the Casa Grande Police Department, Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Gila River Indian Community Police Department...and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Sadly, drug sweeps like this aren't unusual these days. But the presence of a private company like CCA—which has a vested interest in locking people up—is a disturbing new development.
The raid resulted in three marijuana arrests: two 15-year-olds and a 17-year-old. While charges have yet to be filed, the 17-year-old was in possession of enough marijuana to see her tried as an adult, if a smart prosecutor were to get a distribution charge to stick. So it's no surprise that the private prison industry ranks among the top special interest groups lobbying to keep pot illegal and drug sentences harsh (alongside police unions, pharmaceutical companies, alcohol companies and prison guard unions). Republic reporter Matt Stoller revealed last year how CCA’s regulatory filings show that keeping the War on Drugs going is actually part of their business model. To this end, they've spent millions bankrolling pro-drug war politicians, and routinely use front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council to sponsor laws. No longer content with such efforts, they've now resorted to going into high schools and dragging out teenage drug "offenders” themselves. What better way to get these kids started on the path to for-profit recidivism?