The Oglala Sioux Tribe has found an unlikely supporter in its fight against the nearby towns and beer companies that allow alcohol to reach their reservation: rapper Lupe Fiasco. Oglala's $500 million lawsuit, which claimed that nearby businesses made illegal alcohol sales, contributing to the epidemic of alcoholism on the already-impoverished Pine Ridge reservation—was just dismissed in federal court. Fiasco made an unannounced visit earlier this summer to the South Dakota reservation and the nearby town of Whiteclay (where alcohol is sold). He also gave a shout-out to Pine Ridge in his single "Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)" and is now encouraging his 1.3 million Twitter followers to support the fight against alcoholism with a #toasttopineridge campaign. His goal is to get 100,000 photos over the next two weeks of people toasting their support with a glass of water. "I'm not reaching out as a famous rapper or attention seeker but as a concerned spirit to show solidarity that something must be done," tweeted Fiasco. "The hope is to raise spirits and raise awareness on the situation on the Rez and similar situations elsewhere. So for the next two weeks...Skip The Beer but Keep the Cheers and join me as WE propose a #toastopineridge Calling all activists!" The tribe's lawsuit may have life yet: the federal judge dismissed it without prejudice, which means they're free to take their claims to state court.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is releasing the details of its investigation into Lance Armstrong today, and things don’t look good for the seven-time Tour de France winner. While Armstrong still denies ever doping, the agency claims that Armstrong was at the center of the most sophisticated doping program in recent history. The file against him includes sworn testimony from 26 people—including 11 former US Postal Service teammates who have admitted to doping and say that Armstrong not only doped himself but encouraged others to do it, and administered doping products on the team. “The USPS Team doping conspiracy was professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices,” the USADA reports, “a program organized by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sport today.” The file contains more than 1,000 pages of evidence, which the agency calls “conclusive and undeniable proof that brings to the light of day for the first time this systemic, sustained and highly professionalized team-run doping conspiracy.”
Armstrong has refused to comment on the report, but one of his lawyers, Timothy J. Herman, has called the case a farce: “USADA, the prosecutor, now pretends to issue its own ‘reasoned decision,’ even though there was no judge, no jury and no hearing,” he wrote in a letter to the agency’s lawyer. Armstrong was stripped of his titles back in August when he gave up the fight against the doping allegations.
Looking healthier than he has in years, Redmond O'Neal—the son of Ryan O'Neal and the late actress Farrah Fawcett—has been released from the yearlong live-in rehab he was ordered to attend after he violated his probation. Earlier this year, Judge Keith Schwartz congratulated O'Neal on his progress in the program, telling him: “I’m very proud of you. You’ve done an outstanding job.” But he's not out of the woods quite yet; he must return to court in three months for a progress report, complete additional psychological and substance abuse counseling, and continue to wear an electronic monitoring device. His probation will continue until 2016, and any violation of the terms will result in a return to state prison to finish a three-year suspended sentence. O'Neal was arrested for heroin possession last year and placed on probation, then pleaded no contest later that year to additional charges of heroin and firearms possession by a felon. However, Schwartz suspended his sentence and instead ordered a year of residential rehab, plus five years' probation. Redmond O'Neal has been in and out of jails and rehabs since his teens. He and his father were even booked together on suspicion of narcotics possession in 2008, when the elder O'Neal pleaded guilty and accepted the option of a drug-diversion program.
Opening in limited release this weekend, the new indie film Smashed—starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul—brings the dangers of social drinking to the big screen. The movie, which was a critics' favorite at both the Toronto and Sundance film festivals, follows a first grade teacher (Winstead) whose nightly drinking binges see her lose control of her life, leading her to attend AA meetings. The story is loosely based on co-writer Susan Brooke's personal experience with alcoholism and sobriety, so Winstead went to AA meetings with Brooke before shooting, to help develop her character. “I don't think many of us really look at ourselves and think, 'Okay, do I drink too much?'" says Winstead. "At a certain point, you have to really get to a point where you are able to look at yourself and say, 'Okay, I think this is too much. I think I have a problem.' Sometimes it's really that fine line of 'I'm just having fun.' It can be a blurry line sometimes.” Though the movie deals with serious issues, the writers aimed to do it with a light touch. “We really wanted something to add humor and didn't want to take ourselves too seriously,” says co-writer James Ponsoldt. “Usually in movies people feel like they have to treat [characters] who are struggling with something as fragile, but they're not. People are tough and resilient and complicated. We wanted the film to feel that way and a main character that had all of those things.”
Last Friday, New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, conditionally vetoed the state's bipartisan Good Samaritan Bill, which sought to grant immunity from prosecution to people who call 911 when someone is OD-ing in their presence. Christie claims that the bill wasn't wide-ranging enough on subjects like drug deterrence and public safety; opponents accuse him of stalling at the expense of addicts' lives. On Saturday, Patty DiRenzo, advocacy leader for the New Jersey affilate of the National Council for Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD-NJ), created a “NJ 911 Good Samaritan Bill” Facebook page. “We are not giving up," she tells The Fix. "We have people all over the country supporting this bill. This epidemic is out of control, and saving lives must take precedence over arrest.” DiRenzo has personal reasons to back the bill: “I will keep fighting in honor of my son Sal and for every child struggling with addiction and those we have lost.”
Christie has asked the Division of Criminal Justice to report back in 18 months with a study that addresses the “many social problems that accompany…drug distribution and use.” Roseanne Scotti, state director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance, tells us, “We are very saddened. We had 30 to 40 public health groups and drug treatment organizations support it with no opposition. Overdosing is the leading cause of accidental deaths in NJ," she continues. "This needs immediate attention—not 18 months while people continue to die. It’s heartbreaking for the families who have lost loved ones. They have taken time to testify, to call the Governor’s Office.” Candice Singer, NCADD-NJ policy analyst, adds, “Although we are disappointed, we will continue working with interested groups. This bill saves lives.”
- Checking Facebook or Twitter is More Tempting than Sex or Cigarettes [Daily Mail]
- FDA Seeks to Reargue Cigarette-Warning Label Rules [Newsday]
- Could Expired Drugs Cut the U.S. Health Bill? [Reuters]
- Children at Risk From Screen Addiction, Warns Psychologist [BBC]
- Marijuana Extract May Help Ease Muscle Stiffness in MS [HealthDay]
- Kickstarter’s Most Dedicated Backers: Do-Gooders or Addicts? [VentureBeat]
- Russell Brand to Throw a Party Celebrating 10 Years of Sobriety [Entertainmentwise]