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Celebrity Roundup

5/18/12 12:46pm

Celebrity Roundup: May 18, 2012


A sober summer beckons for The Situation. Photo via

After heading to rehab, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino seems to have cleaned up his hard-partying ways. But now the Jersey Shore star is going to have to find a way to stir up drama without imbibing. New court documents suggest that the show will begin shooting its sixth season later this month—the timing was previously up in the air given his, er, situation. Good to hear that MTV is taking a shot on Mike. Now he's not drinking, it'll be interesting to see what he's gonna do all summer.

From mistress to mama, Celebrity Rehab alumna Rachel Uchitel—best known for being Tiger Woods’ mistress—gave birth this week. The child, a baby girl named Wyatt Lily, was her first with former Penn State football player Matt Hahn; the couple tied the knot last October. Sounds like the former bad girl is settling down—or at least saving the Ambien sex for nights when the baby’s with the in-laws.

News broke yesterday that Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s estranged wife Mary Kennedy, who struggled with substance abuse for many years, was found dead in their Bedford, New York home. More details have now trickled out, including her cause of death: asphyxiation by hanging, which leads to the probable assumption that Kennedy committed suicide. The Bedford Police Department reports that it was an “unattended death,” meaning there were no other witnesses.

A beauty queen with the pageant-friendly name of Tori Vance, who holds the tiara for Miss Arizona Teen USA 2010, was arrested for driving under the influence after making an illegal U-turn in Los Angeles; she later failed the field sobriety test. Vance reportedly had plans to compete for Miss California 2013.

The name Raffles Van Exel has been making the rounds lately; he’s a celebrity hanger-on who was known to party with the likes of Whitney Houston and Natalie Cole. Some sources even allege that Van Exel was supplying Houston with cocaine in the days before her death; now, he’s gearing up to begin suing the outlets making those allegations. While Van Exel describes himself as “a private consultant to the stars,” TMZ declares, “No one really knows who he is or what he does.”

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By Sam Lansky

drug policy

5/18/12 11:40am

More Drug Treatment Would Cut Crime


Marijuana "guiltiest" drug, followed by cocaine.
Photo via

Illegal drug use plays a pivotal role in most US crimes, says an annual drug monitoring report released by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; this supports President Obama's position of tackling substance abuse by providing treatment rather than jail for non-violent offenders. The report shows that an average of 71% of men who were arrested in 10 US metropolitan cities last year tested positive for at least one illegal substance. Marijuana was the most common drug, followed by cocaine. The figures ranged from 64% of arrests in Atlanta to 81% in Sacramento, California, but nearly half of the cities experienced an increase in positive tests since 2007. Charlotte, North Carolina, had the highest proportion of drug-related violent crime offenses (29%), while New York City had the highest for drug-related property crimes (32%). "Tackling the drug issue could go a long way in reducing our crime issues," says Gil Kerlikowske, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. "These data confirm that we must address our drug problem as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue." However, the report also showed that cocaine use has dropped significantly in the last decade and by half in major cities such as New York City and Chicago from 2000-2011, suggesting that drug intervention and pubic education programs may be having a positive impact. The overall rate of illegal drug use in the US has also declined by 30% since 1979.

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By McCarton Ackerman

alcohol bans

5/18/12 10:44am

Rowdy Railroad Bans Booze—After Midnight


The ban won't affect Cinderella.
Photo via

Starting this weekend, the Long Island Rail Road will no longer allow passengers to bring alcoholic drinks on board—but only after midnight—following an increase in passenger misbehavior. Back in March, two LIRR conductors were assaulted in separate incidents, and there were six assaults on conductors in 2011—double the average. “The conductors have been aware of an increase in attacks,” says MTA spokesman Salvatore Arena. “We’re not talking about tremendous numbers here. But look, what we want is zero incidents.” One regular LIRR user tells The Fix that changes are long overdue: "Kids get so frickin' rowdy [on the train]," complains 28-year-old Abigail. "The worst is the night train when people are on their way back from the city." But she adds that earlier trains, particularly those which sports fans use to travel to Mets, Knicks or Rangers games, are also regularly afflicted by public drunkenness. And "riding the 8pm Saturday night train makes me want to shoot myself." Alcohol is prohibited entirely on commuter railroads in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. But Felix Kumira, the night manager of a food outlet at Penn Station, doubts that any ban will really work in New York: “What does it do if you cannot drink the beers on the train if you already have had the beers in the station or in Madison Square Garden? The people will be drunk anyway.” And Salvatore Arena admits, “The city cannot ban being drunk at midnight on the weekend.” For those who prefer early-morning intoxication, the new ban will only last until 5am.

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By Valerie Tejeda


5/18/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: May 18, 2012


Tyra is taking a stand. Photo via

By Reina Berger

Alcoholism Cures

5/17/12 5:40pm

The "Eight-Week Herbal Cure" for Alcoholism


Was the answer as simple as that? Photo via

An 84% success rate? Eight weeks of liquid herbal solutions and you’re done? Most of us know that alcohol treatment come-ons like this are nonsense—the one-year abstinence rate of the best known programs never approaches 84%, and no responsible recovery center promises to “cure” you of alcoholism in eight weeks. To complicate matters, "Last Call," the company in question, is basing this astounding claim on the use of a substance called daidzin, an organic ingredient of the kudzu vine: “The Last Call Program is an 8-week at-home, do-it-yourself program that has been proven to help you reduce your desire to over-drink alcohol with ease—no willpower needed.”

It doesn’t get any better than that, now, does it? But before you call BS, consider that kudzu, the organic treatment in question, is being studied intensely at Harvard Medical School and its affiliate, McLean Hospital, for its anti-alcohol properties. And while Last Call has clearly jumped the gun, the research behind their overblown claims is quite compelling. Commenting on a study just published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal, its lead author Dr. David Penetar of McLean Hospital said that his group had discovered “further evidence that components found in kudzu root can reduce alcohol consumption and do so without adverse side effects.” Subjects in the study were installed in an “apartment” and allowed to drink as much beer as they wanted. But those taking puerarin—a major ingredient in kudzu root—drank significantly fewer beers. While Penetar didn't say that puerarin would stop people from drinking, he stated that “their rate of consumption decreased… it appears to slow the pace and the overall amount consumed.”

Last Call’s kudzu concoction is called Sobrexa, and while scientists still aren’t sure how kudzu works, investigators believe it may prevent alcohol-induced dopamine surges in the brain’s pleasure center. So, will Sobrexa cure your drinking in two months? Probably not. But keep your eye on more sober pronouncements based on continuing Kudzu research. This is one herbal treatment that may have legs.

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By Dirk Hanson

Alcohol laws

5/17/12 5:10pm

Strip Club Booze Tax to Fund Rape Centers


A "skin tax" is imminent. Photo via

Strip clubs with liquor licenses would have to charge admission fees or pay more in taxes under a "skin tax" bill passed unanimously yesterday by the Illinois Senate Public Health Committee. The money raised under the measure sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson would fund rape crisis counseling centers. While it is not a law yet, the measure has the support of Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who testified by saying: "Sexually-orientated businesses contribute to objectifying and exploiting women. There's been a strong, scientific recognition that when you associate those industries with alcohol, that there's a substantial effect there, an increase in crime, particularly sexual assault." If the bill were to pass, Illinois strip clubs that sell or allow alcohol would have two options: either pay a $3 per patron surcharge—likely be passed on to customers at the door—or pay a flat rate based on their taxable income. Clubs that don't serve alcohol would be exempt from the tax. Al Ronan, the Chicago lobbyist representing the clubs, argued that raising the tax would only hurt the economy. "We wholeheartedly support the need to fund these types of centers," he said. "[But] it's still a tax on businesses that pay a lot of taxes already." The strip clubs themselves stayed neutral on the legislation; the bill now goes to the state senate for a vote.

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By Chrisanne Grise


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