While members of Newt Gingrich's own staff are happy to describe him as a "sociopath," no known evidence has him down as an alcoholic. But politicians are rarely ready to let the truth stand in the way of a possible advantage, and hints about Newt Gingrich’s sobriety or lack of it are now dogging him on the campaign trail. Yesterday, Mitt Romney repeated a line of attack used in Saturday's debate, contrasting his rival's "zany" personality with the idea that "A leader needs to be someone of sobriety and stability and patience and temperance." The attempt to tar Newt with the "alcoholic" brush is clear. Presumably he should be more like Mitt, with his ability to mobilize language most of America hasn’t used since the 1950s. The claim that Newt Gingrich lacks the “temperance” to be president seems to be linked to his embrace of AA-style rhetoric and spirituality.
A federal judge has recommended that disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich enter a prison rehab program, making him eligible for a shorter term. James Zagel, the same judge who sentenced Blagojevich to a 14-year prison term—one of the stiffest sentences for corruption in Illinois history—has recommended him for the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP). The recommendation comes after Blagojevich disclosed a substance abuse problem in a confidential interview with his probation officer over the summer. It's inviting plenty of speculation: the nature of Blagojevich's alleged substance abuse remains a mystery, while the recommendation could qualify him for the nine-month program, which with good behavior could shave up to four years off the sentence he received last week.
By 10:00 am, a ragtag posse of nicotine addicts has gathered outside Island Smokes, a tobacco shop in Chinatown, waiting for it to open. They don’t seem to mind the delay, although they're getting fidgety. “You know how much a carton of Bloomberg smokes costs?” shouts one raspy-voiced man. “$120 dollas! This is the only way man, the only way!” The company's two stores, in Manhattan and Staten Island, have found a creative way to bypass New York's sky-high cigarette tax, which has pushed a pack of smokes above $14. Here, you pay a sticker price circa 1993. The novel approach is selling organic, loose tobacco, and letting clients use 11 in-house electronic rolling machines to make perfect, out-of-the-box cigarettes with filters. State law requires packaged cigarettes to carry a minimum of $5.85 tax, on top of $1.01 federal tax. When added to state and federal minimum retail price guidelines, the expense is a powerful deterrent to smokers. But loose tobacco can be sold with only standard sales tax added on.
The brainchild of retired NYPD Officer Pat Donnelly, Island Smokes is controversial. The city accuses it of manufacturing—a legal violation—and has filed suit. And city attorneys accuse it of tax evasion for not imposing the packaged cigs taxes. "No one would claim that Ikea is not selling furniture just because the clients have to assemble that," says city attorney Eric Proshansky. But for now, Island Smokes rolls on, and the low prices pull in customers. Francesco del Core, an Italian exchange student who travels from Brooklyn to buy his cigarettes from Island Smokes, likes the tobacco taste there, but admits cost is the biggest factor: “It’s so much cheaper than buying a pack from the store—it only takes me three minutes to make a pack using their machines, so it’s worth the trip.”
- Hezbollah Linked to Large-scale Drug Trafficking in US [NYTimes]
- High School Seniors Smoke More Pot Than Cigarettes [Christian Science Monitor]
- Bad Batch of Bootleg Booze Kills 100 in India [BBC]
- Cocaine Seized By Ghana Police Mysteriously Turns Into Washing Soda [Ghanaweb]
- Brooke Mueller Checks In at Rehab, Again [Philly Inquirer]
- Suspects In Police Chase Pelt Cops With Weed [Washington Post]
Former Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan, a founding band member from 1985-1997, has given an extensive interview about the alcoholism that caused his acute pancreatitis in 1994, aged just 30. When his pancreas burst and he was rushed to hospital, the pain was so intense that morphine just didn't work, he tells the BBC's Sarah Montague. He'd been through a few "brutal" years of alcohol abuse, partly in an attempt to self-medicate for panic attacks—when he was trying to "taper off" his drinking, he went from "a gallon of vodka to...ten bottles of wine a day," he recalls. After he left hospital, rather than going to rehab, he took up mountain biking as a form of "self-flagellation," for "failing my mom and some of my friends." This led to drinking lots of water for the first time in years, eating healthily and long-term sobriety. But McKagan still claims Guns N' Roses needed their hell-raising lifestyle to make their music: "We had to go out on the edge to get the songs we got."
A young Virginia mother who used heroin and OxyContin during her pregnancy had the child abuse charge against her dismissed yesterday. Circuit court Judge J. Martin Bass threw out the case against 24-year-old Krystal Lynn Woodson after her defense attorney argued that child abuse laws do not apply to fetuses. Woodson was arrested earlier this year in connection to an armed robbery committed by the child’s father. Prosecutors later charged her with child abuse when she admitted to using drugs throughout her pregnancy. Despite the latest development, she remains in jail, awaiting sentencing next March for felony drug possession—she faces up to ten years in prison.The child—Woodson’s ninth—was born in February and underwent treatment for addiction. He's presently in good health and in the care of his grandmother. Rapidly increasing numbers of babies nationwide are affected by opioid use in their pregnant mothers.