Double Olympic gold medalist Shaun White—"The Flying Tomato"—has been charged with vandalism and public intoxication in Nashville, Tennessee, after allegedly causing drunken chaos. The 26-year-old snowboarding phenomenon was a guest at Nashville's Loews Vanderbilt Hotel this weekend. Police were summoned at 2 am Sunday morning, after a fire alarm was pulled by a drunk man—identified as White—causing the hotel to be evacuated. A hotel employee also claims to have witnessed White destroying a hotel telephone. Police say the athlete smelled of alcohol and appeared extremely intoxicated. White then attempted to leave the scene and was stopped by a hotel guest—whom White allegedly kicked before running away. The man chased him, and the two collided, causing White to fall backwards and hit his head on a fence. The Olympian was taken to a local hospital and given the opportunity to sign misdemeanor citations—but refused. "He basically put himself in jail by not signing that," says a police source. White was released from the hospital early yesterday morning, and arrested shortly after. Released later in the day, he's set to appear in court on October 10. This isn't White's first hotel-related incident: back in December 2007, he was cited by Colorado police after discharging a fire extinguisher.
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"You have your purists. You have the people saying. 'Walt is spinning in his grave'" admits A.J. Wolfe, editor of the Disney Food Blog. She reports a 50-50 split in reader opinion on a new decree in Disney's Magic Kingdom: for the first time in the park's 41 years, guests will be able to buy booze. But before we start conjuring images of drunken mobs brutalizing Mickey Mouse and friends, the wine and beer will only be sold at one specific restaurant and only during dinner hours. The "Be Our Guest" restaurant is based on Beauty and the Beast, and will serve French cuisine, which apparently demands alcoholic accompaniments. "You cannot walk into a French restaurant and not get a glass of wine or beer," explains Maribeth Bisienere, vice president of food and beverage for Walt Disney Parks. "It made more sense to do it than not to do it." Be Our Guest will now offer 20 wines and several Belgian and French beers. Says Bisienere, "We really wanted to wait until it became something that worked with the particular theme."
Next month, the government of Tanzania will begin issuing medical injection equipment such as hypodermic syringes, needles and swabs to narcotic drug abusers, in a major effort to prevent the spread of HIV. The "Needle, Syringe Programme" (NSP) will also educate addicts on safe injections and the dangers of needle-sharing. It's an approach that has plenty of opponents: "Surely, this cannot be the solution to the problem," says Fabian Theopil, the secretary general of Sober Tanzania, an organization that combats alcohol and drug abuse. "The plan will only succeed in promoting addiction among our youths." Sober Tanzania is completely against the program, and is asking the government to look for a better solution. The situation is urgent—a recent survey found that 51% of the estimated 25,000 people injecting drugs in Tanzania are HIV positive.
Other approaches are available: the Muhimbili National Hospital began providing methadone treatment back in 2007, and now sees about 490 patients. According to Dr. Frank Masao, head of the hospital's psychiatry department, the biggest challenge is just getting addicts to come in daily to receive their methadone, due to transportation and personal issues. "They have a specific kind of life where they only think of getting the drug and nothing else," he says. "After the therapy we try to rehabilitate them often giving them something to do thereafter. Some of them engage in gardening at the clinic." Despite these difficulties, the project is considered a success—so much so that the government decided to open more methadone clinics at other hospitals. Says Dr. Hussein Mwinyi, the Minister for Health and Social Welfare: "This effort is tailored to bring the methadone treatment closer to patients so they can easily access it without having to travel from afar."
Last night, My 12-Step Store in West Hollywood threw a celebration in honor of Recovery Month and Fix Executive Editor Anna David, whose first novel, Party Girl, they now carry. As guests guzzled soft drinks and Speaker Water, old friends reunited and new TV shows were shot. Seth "Shifty" Binzer made his first public appearance since falling into a coma in April—and a VH1 crew followed him around to capture the now-sober action. Meanwhile Iron Man 3 star Ashley Hamilton met up again with Tom Sizemore: the two were in each other's weddings in the '90s (Sizemore's to actress Maeve Quinlan, Hamilton's to model Angie Everhart) but hadn't seen one another in years. Councilman and former West Hollywood mayor John Duran joined Hills owner Howard Samuels, Malibu Beach Sober Living owners Charlie Bentz and Kimberly James, Recovery Media chairman Paul McCulley, Fix contributors Nic Sheff and Amy Dresner, and My 12-Step Store owner RJ Holguin, as Sizemore and Shifty spoke to TMZ and David signed copies of the book that details her journey from Hollywood party girl to sober woman. Sizemore, who tapped David to be the co-writer of his biography, I Can't Believe I Made It Out of There Alive (due in April, 2013 from Simon & Schuster), said he loved being a part of the sober action: "I haven't had this much fun at a party in years."
Alcohol and prescription drug abuse is reportedly getting out of control in the US military, and a blue ribbon committee is today urging the Pentagon to acknowledge the crisis and take steps to deal with it. The report, produced by an Institute of Medicine panel, calls for stronger policing of underage drinking, restricting access to booze on bases and updating the treatment programs available—as many haven’t changed since the Vietnam War. And it coincides with The Fix's report today on the addiction problems that plague returning veterans, and what is and isn't being done about it.
"I think they're ready to acknowledge that they can do better," says Dennis McCarty, a public health expert on the panel. The military is dealing with record numbers of suicides, which are often linked to drug or alcohol abuse. The rate of prescription drugs supplied by the military has also increased fivefold since the Afghanistan War began in 2001: Nearly 5 million prescriptions for pain medications, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, stimulants and barbiturates were issued last year. The problem is the worst in the Army, where one in four soldiers in 2008 admitted to abusing prescription drugs. Data also suggests that binge drinking—the consumption of five or more drinks in a sitting—is 50% higher among military members aged 18-35 than among civilians.
Efforts to help include an experimental Army project that provides soldiers with confidential counseling; while successful, it only exists at 10% Army installations, so the panel urges its expansion to all bases and to the Navy, Marines and Air Force. (The Marines are also making efforts to curb their boozing.) For now, Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith says military health officials are in the process of analyzing the report’s recommendations. "But most importantly, we want to do the right thing by the servicemember,” she says. “If there are areas in need of improvement, then we will work to improve those areas. The health and well-being of our service members is paramount."