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5/15/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: May 15, 2012

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One day at a time. Photo via

By May Wilkerson

labor trafficking

5/14/12 5:01pm

Drug Addicts Forced Into "Modern Slavery"

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Bulls-Hit Ranch in Hastings, Florida
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Slavery may be considered consigned to America's past, but a recent report suggests that several farms in the South are forcing addicts to work for free to fuel their drug habits. The details of the alleged underground labor trafficking came to light when LeRoy Smith—a former worker at Bulls-Hit Ranch and Farm in Hastings, Florida—filed a lawsuit claiming he was lured into working there by contractors who took advantage of his crack addiction. Smith says he experienced: "Slavery. Abuse. Overwork. Deplorable, unsanitary conditions. Drugs." He claims workers—often recruited from local homeless shelters—were given drugs, alcohol and prostitutes on credit rates of 100%, and money was taken from their wages to pay for living expenses. Due to the excessive amounts of debt accumulated, workers couldn't leave and lived in fear of their employers. "They'd intimidate people. If you owed them money, then one guy'd say, 'You owe me money. You can't leave.' He'd threaten you,' says Bennie Cooks, another former Bulls-Hit employee. The farm's labor contractor, Ronald Uzzle, denies the allegations, saying that he does not keep workers in debt and that they are free to leave whenever they want. "There's no drugs sold on this camp," he says. "I'm not going to tell you people don't do drugs, but if people want to do drugs, they do it. I can't stop them." Florida authorities have reportedly failed to stop the practice—despite the fact that Bulls-Hit was sued back in 2004 for similar labor law violations. Workers' advocates believe that between five and 10 other ranching families in Florida use similar practices.

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By Chrisanne Grise

Celebrity rehab

5/14/12 3:55pm

Kelly Preston Got Sober for Her Kids

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Preston with Travolta and their two kids. Photo via

Actress Kelly Preston gave up her excessive use of alcohol and drugs after the birth of her baby son, she disclosed on Lifetime's The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet. In the interview, the 49-year-old wife of John Travolta says she is "so much wiser" since giving birth in November 2010 and subsequently getting clean. "I'm so different, too. Now I don't drink anymore. I don't smoke anymore. I don't do drugs anymore," she says. "All of those come with an 'anymore.' I used to do everything and a lot of everything." Preston, who was once engaged to Charlie Sheen, explains, "with drinking, I just decided that I wasn't always at my best. There were times where I drank too much, for sure" and when she was drinking, she describes "not being myself with my kids, or just with my life 100 percent of the time." She and Travolta, 58, have been married since 1991 and also have a 12-year-old daughter; their son, Jett, died of a seizure in 2009. "Our kids are the center of our universe," she says, and she credits them—and a desire to be more present in their lives— with helping motivate her to get sober. "For me, I find that our kids came in half the time to teach me about myself and to help me with others, and they have helped me so extraordinarily."

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By May Wilkerson

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

5/14/12 3:17pm

Woman's Lip-Filler "Addiction" Nearly Cost Her Life

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Lauren Smalley wants to warn others. Photo via

A British woman suffering from body dysmorphic disorder nearly lost her life because she became hooked to lip filler. Lauren Smalley, now 30, "began to hate the way I looked” from the age of 12, she tells The Sun. She was first prescribed medication for body dysmorphic disorder when she was 15. But driven by her condition to change her appearance, she began making regular visits to Harley Street—the traditional home of expensive private doctors in London—and became "addicted" to monthly lip-filler injections of Perlane and Restylane, costing up to $480 a time. In order to save money and reduce the frequency of her trips to the doctor, Smalley began looking for a permanent filler and discovered Bio-Alcamid. But she developed small tumors called granulomas in her face after using it, and a subsequent infection on top of that meant the filler had to be surgically removed. The painful and costly reconstruction she now needs will take years. “Bio-Alcamid has left me dreadfully scarred and I feel deformed now," she says. "I’d like to tell anyone who is considering using lip fillers to be careful.”

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By Fionna Agomuoh

drug trafficking

5/14/12 2:08pm

Tiny African Country Is Big Drug Hub

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The coastal country is ravaged by corruption.
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With a population of just over 1.5 million, the African nation of Guinea Bissau is known as one of the smallest and poorest countries in the world. It's also becoming a crucial hub for South American drug traffickers, with an estimated few hundred million dollars-worth being transported from South America to Europe through the country each year. A close proximity to Brazil—just a quick four-hour flight—makes it an ideal location; plus, there are dozens of unpopulated islands for drug-bearing planes to land, and an absence of Western police agencies. And even if a shipment is detected, police intervention is nonexistent because the country’s military is apparently deeply involved in the drug trade. “All the problems in Guinea Bissau are because of drug trafficking,” says Lucinda Gomes Barbosa, the former head of the country’s anti-narcotic police, who resigned last year. “There are people in high positions in government who are benefiting from this. They only think about money. They fight each other so that the drug trafficking can continue and they don’t think about the problems that it creates in the country.” Barbosa adds that she unsuccessfully tried to arrest drug traffickers on three occasions in 2008 and that the few high-ranking officials who have fought corruption are often threatened. The drug trade in Guinea Bissau is relatively new; less than one ton of cocaine was seized per year on average prior to 2005. But the UN estimates that 25% of Europe’s cocaine came via West Africa in 2007.

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By McCarton Ackerman

recovery community

5/14/12 12:43pm

Epic Motorcycle Ride Celebrates Drug Courts

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The relay riding out of Gallup, New Mexico

Mike Jones served nine tours of duty in Iraq as an Army Ranger before losing his leg to an IED. These days, he participates in the Orange County Combat Veterans Court, a program that connects veterans who have been arrested and suffer from substance abuse and mental health disorders with the benefits and services they've earned. On May 1 he kicked off "All Rise America! National Motorcycle Relay for Recovery"—a first-of-its-kind 3,000 mile relay across the US, visiting 25 Drug Court, DWI Court and Veterans Treatment Court events in 24 days and celebrating the transformations made by Drug Courts—by leading 25 veterans, law enforcement and court staff on a ride to Los Angeles.

“I have firsthand experience of what these programs have done for me,” said Jones in LA. “When I came home I got hooked on drugs. Instead of being locked up I was given the opportunity to get treatment. It’s given me purpose and direction. I wouldn’t be here today without it.” With that, he handed the All Rise Gavel—the symbolic "baton" of this relay—to Mark, a rider with the Messengers of Recovery Motorcycle Club who led the next group of riders to Arizona. Drug Courts annually refer more people to treatment than any other system in America. Addicts rarely get clean in jail; Drug Courts keep addicted individuals out of jail or prison and in treatment, supervising them closely and using the leverage of the court to keep them engaged for as long as it takes to find long-term recovery.

A few days after the ceremonies in California, All Rise America! was in the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico, attending a graduation ceremony at a Drug Court designed for Native American communities. The former Governor of the Pueblo, Chandler Sanchez, was on hand to receive the gavel from the Mayor of Gallup, NM—who had ridden into town with 30 riders. A welcoming crowd showed the incredible support of a community that recognizes the social and economic benefits of giving its neighbors a chance at recovery. All Rise America! is currently more than halfway across the country, having traveled nearly 2,000 miles through seven states and attended 17 inspiring events so far. You can follow the progress online at the All Rise America! Blog.

West Huddleston is CEO of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

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By West Huddleston

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