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10/18/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: October 18, 2012

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Sitting pretty Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

Drug laws

10/17/12 4:40pm

"Three Strikes" Could Be on Its Way Out

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Inmates in a yard at Central California's
Women's Facility. Photo via

In 1998, Bernice Cubie was sent to prison for life under California’s "Three Strikes" law, for possession of $10 worth of cocaine. She's never injured anyone and has served over 14 years. The 59-year-old grandmother now suffers from an advanced form of terminal cancer. She's one of over 4,000 people serving life for nonviolent crimes in California under Three Strikes, which imposes a life sentence for almost any offense—including simple drug possession, no matter how small the amount—if a defendant has two prior convictions for “violent” or “serious” crimes. Three Strikes is disproportionately applied to people of color like Cubie (71.2% of three-strikers are black or Hispanic), mentally ill people and the poor. And of course, the law hits addicts hard: they account for nearly two thirds of those affected.

On November 6, Californians will vote on Proposition 36, a bill seeking to reform Three Strikes. Repeat criminals would still get life in prison for serious or violent crimes under the new proposal—and a third crime that isn't serious or violent would still earn double the normal sentence. But backers say Prop 36 will protect people with no history of violence from life sentences, save California over $100 million a year, and leave prison space for violent offenders. Dan Newman, a strategist for the Yes on Prop 36 campaign, tells The Fix, “The campaign is going well. We have support from Democrats and Republicans, leaders in law enforcement and civil rights, and virtually every editorial board in California.” The LA Times reports that 95% of the money raised around this cause has been in support of the proposition.

One organization, PORAC (Peace Officers Research Association of California) is dedicated to fighting Prop 36, and has donated $100,000, the largest single contribution, to do so. Its president, Ron Cuttingham, tells The Fix that Prop 36 is unnecessary because there is "already judicial review… If it's appropriate they can waive the strike.” But if the possibility of judicial review already exists, why should we worry about Prop 36 passing? According to Cuttingham, those whom Prop 36 would benefit “are not nice people… Nice people don’t get sent to prison.”

Earlier this year, at the recommendation of prison doctors, a California parole board met to consider a compassionate release petition for Bernice Cubie. Despite the fact that she has less than six months to live, and would seek drug treatment counseling upon release, her plea was denied. Under current law, she won't have another opportunity for parole until 2023. Californians will soon have the chance to help non-violent addicts receive treatment, rather than a lifetime behind bars.

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By Sarah Beller

Drunk Flying

10/17/12 4:01pm

Loaded Ukrainian Menaces Delta Flight

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Don't drink and fly. Photo via

There's something about airplanes that lends itself to drunken meltdowns—then again, a Ukrainian flyer arrested by the FBI on Monday had already been binging at ground level for no fewer than 50 days. US resident Anatoliy N. Baranovich's woes began when he went home to Ukraine to build a house, but found he couldn't start construction as planned. So he started drinking instead: "Baranovich stated that he got drunk and stayed drunk for the entire 50 days," wrote FBI Special Agent Cameron Smilie in the affidavit. He "never sobered up” before returning to the US via Amsterdam and boarding a Delta flight from Boston to Salt Lake City. He drank on in the sky, but unsurprisingly "could not specify when, how much or where he consumed the alcohol," reports the FBI. During the descent, Baranovich "regained consciousness" and started yelling in Russian, under the mistaken impression that the wing was on fire. As soon as the plane landed, he got up and ran to the back, attempting to open an emergency exit door. It jammed, and the emergency inflatable slide malfunctioned, causing “extensive damage” to the fuselage. His attempt to open a second door ended when fellow passengers wrestled him to the ground. Baranovich appears in court today on charges of attempting to disable an aircraft and assaulting the crew.

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By Chrisanne Grise

Methadone clinics

10/17/12 3:12pm

Methadone Mosque Closes Clinic

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An addict waits to be given methadone by
a staff member. Photo via

Two years in, the world's first mosque with a methadone clinic, which won worldwide publicity for its work, has halted its program for rehabilitating drug addicts. The Ar-Rahman Mosque in Kuala Lumpur cites a lack of pharmacists, as well as the need to honor a decision made by the mosque's newly elected leadership committee. Many of the mosque's congregation members support the decision, having reportedly witnessed addicts attempting to sell the methadone distributed for free by the facility, using the mosque's toilets to shoot heroin and stealing items such as donation boxes. "We felt [the addicts] were desecrating the place. Some of them come here and perform prayers while they are under the influence," says Shahrin Mohammad, assistant to the imam and assistant registrar of marriages of the mosque. However, Rusdi Abd Rashid, chief co-ordinator with University of Malaya Centre for Addiction Sciences and pioneer of the programme, argues that petty thefts are common in community mosques and that blaming them on the addicts is unfair. He claims that all patients in the program are referred by the National Drug Agency, have undergone a screening process and are certified as "ready to change for the better." All clinical operations for Ar-Rahman's 50 or so patients have been moved to a center in nearby Kampung Kerinchi. Malaysia has an estimated 170,000 intravenous drug users, with heroin the dominant drug.

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By McCarton Ackerman

women and addiction

10/17/12 2:06pm

Alcoholism Is "Twice as Deadly" for Women

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A poison that discriminates Photo via

Mortality rates among active alcoholics, as compared to the general population, and the results are dire, a new study reveals—especially for women, who are found to be twice as likely as men to die from alcoholism. German researchers identified 149 alcoholics, according to criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and then followed up 14 years later. They found that nearly a fifth of the alcoholics had died—21 of the 119 men, and seven of the 30 women. This translates to an alcoholic mortality rate of 1.26% for men, double the rate of the general population. For the alcoholic women, the rate was 1.67%, or nearly five times higher than the general population. For reasons still unknown, women tend to be more susceptible to alcohol-related diseases, which likely explains the disparity. "Females, in a more short time span, develop diseases such as liver cirrhosis," says study author Ulrich John, an epidemiologist at the University of Greifswald Medical School.

The study also found that death rates among alcoholics who sought specialized treatment—such as addiction counseling and therapy—were the same as for those who did not seek treatment. And the alcoholics who entered a detox actually had a lower survival rate. However, experts say this doesn't indicate that treatment and detox programs don't work, rather that these programs tend to attract the "sickest" alcoholics, those suffering from the worst drinking-related physical and mental health issues. "Those with advanced disease are usually the ones who cycle in and out of detox programs or end up in treatment programs, many of which do not provide evidence-based care," says Susan Foster, director of policy research and analysis at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. She emphasizes that "treatment must address all manifestations of the disease" instead of simply focusing on alcohol intake and abstinence.

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By May Wilkerson

Rock 'n Roll

10/17/12 12:50pm

How Duran Duran's John Taylor Came Undone

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No longer one of the "Wild Boys." Photo via

Unsurprisingly, Duran Duran's wildly successful career as '80s pop Gods did little to protect bassist and co-founder John Taylor from addiction. After many years living the life of drugs, booze and one-night stands—or "Ba da bing ba da boom," as Taylor terms it—he began to feel he was in "an uphill slog," both personally and professionally. “I couldn’t get on top of my music,” he says in a new interview. He met with a therapist, who convinced him he could really be happy if only he kicked his cocaine and alcohol addictions . “I won’t say I went [to rehab] right away, I had to hit bottom, which meant going out and getting so fucked up, so disillusioned by my own inability to control myself, and then surrender,” says Taylor. That last part was far from easy: “I was just so miserable and I thought it can't be any worse...but I did fight it all the way. All the way from the airport I was saying, ‘I don’t want to go!’” He's glad he did. “The education that I got in that 30-day program was as good as any four-year university course anywhere,” he claims. “It was the most mind-expanding. Leaps of faith are required every step of the way.” Now he hopes that by speaking out about his experience, he can encourage others who are struggling, and don’t believe sobriety is possible. “Every 23 hours out of 24 I’ve been happy that I’ve done it, and for that one hour in each day where I want to question it and I want to rebel against it, that’s my addict looking for a way to take the wheel back,” Taylor says. “I think I’m more mindful and aware as a human being than I’ve ever been.”

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By Chrisanne Grise

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