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10/10/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: October 10, 2012

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10 years later, a brand new Brand.
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By Chrisanne Grise

Sin Tax

10/09/12 4:44pm

Can a New "Sin Tax" Save Haiti's Schools?

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One of many schools needing to be rebuilt.
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Haiti’s government is hoping to raise $100 million for education by putting an additional tax on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe announced that the new 2% "sin tax" would amass enough money to build 200 schools and refurbish 2,000 more. In addition, the money is needed for training and pay raises for thousands of teachers. "In Haiti, 70% of the teachers have not completed sixth grade," says Lamothe. "We need to train the teachers, and that is a $23 million program.” The proceeds raised by the tax would go into a government fund that already has accrued nearly $34 million in taxes on international phone calls and money transfers. However, the new sin tax must be approved by Parliament before it can go into effect. Lamothe hopes that efforts to improve and rebuild the educational system would boost enrollment in schools; Haiti has about 4.5 million school-age children and only about half of them were attending school before the 2010 earthquake that destroyed and damaged thousands of classrooms.

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By Chrisanne Grise

Methadone

10/09/12 3:31pm

Methadone Therapies Found to Reduce HIV Risk

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The addiction "cure" remains controversial.
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It has been long documented that the use of injection drugs is a major risk factor for spreading HIV and AIDS, but a new study has confirmed a link between methadone treatments and a reduced risk of HIV transmission in people who inject drugs. An international team of researchers carried out a meta-analysis of several published and unpublished studies from nine countries including the US, Austria and China, which looked predominately at men between the ages of 26-39. Pooling the results, the researchers found opiate substitution therapies such as methadone and buprenopine were linked to a 54% fall in risk of HIV infection among people who inject drugs. "Increases in HIV incidence have been reported among PWID (people who inject drugs) in a number of countries in recent years, where opiate substitution therapies are illegal or severely restricted," says co-author Julie Bruneau, from the CHUM Research Centre (CRCHUM) and the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Montreal. "There is good evidence to suggest that opiate substitution therapies (OST) reduce drug-related mortality, morbidity and some of the injection risk behaviors among PWID. However, to date there has been no quantitative estimate of the effect of OST in relation to HIV transmission." 

The researchers noted that HIV/AIDS account for nearly a fifth of the burden of disease among people who use illicit drugs and that 5 to 10 percent of HIV infections worldwide are contracted via intravenous drug use. Using methadone to combat withdrawal and HIV has long been a controversial subject: billionaire George Soros released a comic book character called "Methadone Man" urging for methadone and buprenorphine maintenance programs, whereas actor-comedian Russell Brand is against the practice, claiming it prolongs drug use. “We might as well let people carry on taking drugs if they’re going to be on methadone," said Brand. "Obviously it’s painful to abstain, but at least it’s hope-based.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

Recovery in Prison

10/09/12 2:13pm

Drug Treatment in Prison: Making Strides

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Groups are an important part of RDAP.
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Prisoners are admitted to the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) in line with their projected release dates. RDAP consists of a minimum of 500 face-to-face contact hours over the course of 10 months, and its unit-based component has three phases: Orientation, Core Treatment and Transition. Participants are exposed to a variety of interventions during each phase, including community meetings, pychoeducational groups, service groups, process groups and individual sessions as warranted. "They got three parts you have to take and complete to get the year off [your sentence]," one prisoner tells The Fix. "Phase one is Orientation; it's 11 weeks, it goes over the eight attitudes of change and confronting and leveling. Phase two, which is broken into two eleven-week sessions, goes over RSAs [rational self-analysis], criminal thinking errors and how to have healthy relationships. Phase three is 11 weeks and it gives you the tools to evaluate the balance of your life."

Each program segment requires active participation and a commitment to change—mere attendance and observation, without active participation, is not sufficient to complete the program. Before a participant can make the transition from one stage to the next, he must demonstrate acceptance of his diagnosis, take responsibility for the entire community, actively and appropriately engage in group activities, make an observable commitment to positive change and demonstrate mastery of phase-related concepts. "I learned how to be more aware of myself and the attitudes I demonstrated in Orientation," the prisoner says. "In phase two I learned that I look for unhealthy relationships because I am codependent, and in phase three I'm learning that every aspect of my life has to be in sequence for me to be balanced."

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By Seth Ferranti

Drug War

10/09/12 12:45pm

Zetas Founder Killed, Corpse Stolen

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Lazcano's death is a victory for Mexico.
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Top Zetas drug cartel leader, Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano, was killed yesterday during a shoot-out between marines and the Zetas cartel, reports have confirmed—and now his body has been stolen by an armed gang. The corpse had been handed over to local authorities and was being stored at a funeral parlor in Northern Mexico on Monday, when the gang raided the building and stole the body. Still, Lazcano's death is a major victory for Mexico, as the Zetas cartel, which Lazcano helped found, is responsible for some of the country’s bloodiest massacres and largest jail breaks. Lazcano, aka “El Verdugo” (meaning "the Executioner"), is suspected in hundreds of murders, and under his leadership, the Zetas transformed from a small group of assassins into an elite army group. They were also the first group to publicly display their beheaded rivals, earning them a reputation for brutality. But even with Lazcano dead, Mexico’s problems are far from over; leadership of the Zetas would likely be taken over by Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, who is known for being even more brutal and ruthless than Lazcano.

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By Chrisanne Grise

rags to riches

10/09/12 11:59am

Jada Pinkett Smith Thought She'd Be Dead by 21

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Smith is grateful she made it to 40. Photo via

Life wasn't always glitz and glamour for Jada Pinkett Smith. The multi-millionaire actress, the wife of multi-multi-millionaire actor Will Smith, has opened up about being raised in poverty by her drug-addicted mother and grandmother, claiming the neighborhood she grew up in was so rough that she expected to be dead by 21. "I grew up in a drug-infested neighborhood where you walk out each day and you just hope that you make it. I came from a war zone," she says. "There was a possibility that I wouldn't make it past 21—that was the reality. When I turned 40 (last year) it was a surreal moment because I had never imagined reaching 40." Her two children Willow and Jaden are both burgeoning musicians; Jada says she would be "terrified" to raise them in the environment she grew up in. "I wish to God I could have had the luxury to sit back and think, 'Mom, I want to go out and get my vocal lessons today because I have this new song that I want to write,' she says. "What I had to think about was, 'Oh man, I wonder what I'm going to eat tonight because there's no food here. How am I going to get to school? And is my mom going to be okay today? Will this be one more day she survives her addiction?' That's the kind of stuff I had to think about at 11."

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By McCarton Ackerman

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