Vietnam's growing "addiction" to rhinoceros horn threatens to wipe out the world's dwindling rhinoceros population. Rhino horns—composed of keratin, a protein found in human hair and fingernails—are considered good luck in the Asian nation, where they're widely used to prevent hangovers and cure a range of physical and spiritual ills. The horns, smuggled illegally from Africa, are often ground up and ingested in liquified form after a night of hard drinking. Authorities say Vietnam's voracious demand drives the rhino horn trade, with the high price perhaps even increasing the appeal: in Asia, the crushed powder fetches up to $55,000 per kilogram ($25,000 per pound)—a price that rivals the US street value of cocaine. Meanwhile, illegal rhino killings in Africa reached record heights in 2011 and are expected to rise again, with 150 rhinos already poached this year. Vietnamese laws around horn trafficking are less than watertight and, despite pledges to curb the problem, government crackdowns are rare. "It's a very dire situation," Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe tells the Associated Press. "We have very little cushion for these populations in the wild."
The Southwest border could soon resemble a war zone, if calls from two Texan members of Congress and several sheriffs in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona are heeded. They've called on the US Department of Defense to send military equipment that's on its way back from Afghanistan and Iraq to local law enforcement agencies in the region. Democrat Henry Cuellar and Republican Ted Poe wrote a letter recently to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, citing the need for war gear due to an ongoing security threat from drug cartel operations, combined with budget shortfalls in local and state police departments. "With the drawdown of US troops and equipment in Iraq, and our role in Afghanistan winding down," they write, "it is to be expected that in the next few years there will be a significant amount of surplus equipment that will become available that could be extremely beneficial for border security operations." The idea of police departments receiving wartime gear isn't entirely new. California police picked up 163,344 new and used wartime items last year that are valued at over $26 million, while the Texas Department of Public Safety has more than a dozen state-of-the-art helicopters and is in the process of acquiring "interceptor" gunboats that reportedly have fully automatic machine guns, bulletproof shielding and night-vision capabilities.
You walk into a 7-Eleven to pick up a lottery ticket and perhaps a snack. All is calm. Then the walls literally crash in around you. On Monday Jonaya Peterson, of Waterbury, Connecticut experienced exactly this terrifying situation. A black SUV smashed through the store window directly behind her, grazing her back and narrowly avoiding killing her. She instinctively jumped up onto the counter, out of the vehicle's way, as it reversed back over the broken glass and debris and drove off. The driver was Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Kennedy Dowdell. When the cops caught up with him, he refused to take a sobriety test because, “I’m drunk and I know I will fail the test.” Dowdell appeared in court yesterday on charges of third degree assault and operating a vehicle under the influence. Peterson was taken to the hospital, but was unharmed. “I think I’m very lucky,” she says. “My angels were looking over me because, after seeing that video—it's hard to watch.”
Booze makes potential partners seem sexier, according to a gasp-inducing study, but the effect isn't equal for both sexes. Researchers at Roehampton University in London sought to discover the science behind “beer goggles” by recruiting more than 100 men and women and dividing them into two groups. One group receiving alcohol, and the other a non-alcoholic beverage. After drinking, participants had to rate the attractiveness of images of male and female faces. The pictures were distorted to make some more symmetrical and some less; previous studies have shown that more symmetrical faces are generally believed to be more attractive. Both the men and women in the study had a hard time judging attractiveness—but women's perceptions were more dramatically altered. “People that had drink tended to be less good at noticing if a face was asymmetrical, they often saw it as being symmetrical when it was asymmetrical,” says researcher Lewis Halsey. “What we have shown is that people’s ability to detect symmetry is part of the explanation for the beer goggle effect.” Many of the participants admitted to meeting their spouse while drinking. “A lot of people say they met their partner when they were drunk. Are their marriages shorter or longer lasting? Does it change the nature of the relationship?” worries Halsey. More research is planned.
People at public universities, community colleges, and child-care facilities in Arizona will no longer be allowed to use, or be in possession of medical marijuana; Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed the law yesterday and it'll take effect in the summer. The measure is the latest of a series of attempts to restrict the therapeutic use of marijuana in the state; it moved quickly through the legislature with bipartisan support. Those backing the law say it will protect federal funding for colleges and universities, which they claim would be threatened if medical marijuana were allowed on campus. "With the health and safety of Arizona's students, as well as literally hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, this legislation is critically necessary," says Republican State Representative Amanda Reeve. "Our children and adult students are far too important to risk. I'm proud to say we acted swiftly and decisively when confronted by this obvious concern." The concern was prompted in part by events in neighboring California: in recent months the federal government has sought to shut down medical marijuana greenhouses and pot shops in located near schools and parks, and one terminally ill medical pot patient was ejected from a university hospital.
- Colombia's FARC Rebels Release Hostages [BBC]
- New Study by Bronx Public Defenders Claims NYPD Cops Made Hundreds of Unlawful Marijuana Arrests [NY Daily News]
- Onyango Obama, President's Uncle, Gets Driver's License Back After Drunk Driving Arrest [Huffington Post]
- Does America Need Rehab for Sugar Addiction? [Test Country]
- Spice Addiction and Treatment Spiking; Side Effects Similar to Meth [KSL]
- Why Is Quitting Smoking Harder For Women? Blame the Nicotine [MSNBC]
- Drug Addicts and Sun Worshippers Share the Same Brain [The Trentonian]
- Alcohol Can Make You Feel Prettier, Study Finds [Huffington Post]