Some impressive but optional technology may make a dent in drunk driving over the next decade. Two companies are developing a device that's capable of checking blood alcohol content through human skin, using an infra-red sensor—but it's currently as big as a bread-box and there's work to be done. They want to make it cheaper, and small enough to fit on the a car's start button—and that's when the huge potential becomes obvious. Takata—a Japanese company with a US base in Auburn Hills, Michigan—and Albuquerque outfit TruTouch picked up a $2.25-million grant from the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety towards making the device, which is as accurate as a blood test. Takata wants the unique reader to cost no more than $200, with a snappy processing time of 200 milliseconds. "Breathalyzers are invasive," says vice president of business development Kirk Morris. "You have to blow into a tube... Drivers pushing a button wouldn't even know it's there." It's reckoned it'll be on the market in eight to ten years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that the project "is seen as a potential tool for keeping drunk drivers from being able to operate their car... The technology could be voluntarily installed as an option for new cars and signal a new frontier in the fight against drunk driving."
- Massive Phoenix Drug Sweep Targets Gangs, Crack Cocaine [Arizona Republic]
- Murray Covered Up Jackson's Condition, Jury Told [LA Times]
- It's Illegal to Sell Guns to Medical Marijuana Users [AP]
- SWAT Teams Raid Meth House, Children Removed [Northwest Cable News]
- In Decades-Old Program, Uncle Sam Provides Pot [MSNBC]
- Tom Sizemore: Proof My Arrest Was Mistake! [TMZ]
- Two Whiskey Thieves Were "Driven by Need for Alcohol" [The Argus]
- Booze Sorry Now? [The Sun]
The world's media focused on LA yesterday for the opening of the trial of Michael Jackson's physician, Conrad Murray, 58, for the involuntary manslaughter of the pop legend. The most striking piece of evidence submitted by the prosecution on the first day was this recording, allegedly of a heavily-drugged Jackson—the substance is unknown—retrieved from Dr. Murray's iPhone. Images of the entertainer lying dead in the hospital were also shown to the court. The prosecution is seeking to establish that the doctor acted with gross negligence by giving Jackson the sedative propofol, causing his death in June 2009, aged 50. "That is what Conrad Murray is seeing and observing on May 10, 2009," said Deputy District Attorney David Walgren in court after the recording was played. Michael's mother and sister, Katherine and Latoya Jackson, listened tearfully nearby. Choreographer Kenny Ortega was also called as a witness, and testified that although he'd been concerned about Jackson's health, in the last couple of days of his life the star seemed, "full of energy, full of desire to work." The defense contends that Jackson administered too much of the drug to himself, an argument that will partly rest on establishing that he was an active drug addict. Murray faces four years in jail and the loss of his medical license if convicted. "When people leave my show, I want them to say, 'I've never seen nothing like this in my life... He's the greatest entertainer in the world,'" says Jackson in the recording, slurring unrecognizably.
US deaths from prescription drugs may have tripled nationwide between 2000 and 2008, greatly exceeding heroin-related fatalities, but Chicago is seeing numerous pill-poppers moving on to get hooked on the illegal opiate. Experts like Jake Epperly, owner of New Hope Recovery Center in Chicago and Geneva, see prescription drug addiction in the Windy City hitting both teens looking for a high and adults seeking pain relief. But growing numbers of white suburbanites now graduate from pain pills, such as oxycodone, to heroin—often in reaction to their supplies of prescription drugs drying up. As prescription drug abuse increases in Chicago, so the use of traditional street drugs like heroin continues to spread from the city to the surrounding counties. Heroin deaths in Lake County rose 130% between 2000 and 2009, for example. And although Chicago's number of heroin-related deaths during the decade up to 2008 fell overall, the figure increased 40% among white women. Epperly believes that prescription drug and heroin abuse are “intertwined [and] similar enough that addicts who run out of one may take the other as a substitute.” Users who start on prescription meds, which many consider to be “safe,” find it a simple matter to move on to heroin, which is “now easier to try because it’s pure enough to snort or smoke rather than inject,” explains Epperly. In Illinois, drug deaths first outnumbered traffic fatalities in 2006—when 1,410 drug-related cases were reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just this year, nationwide figures were reported to have caught up with this grim trend. Yesterday John Roberts, a retired Chicago Police officer, launched a drug awareness group in the wake of his son’s death from a heroin overdose.
Drinking at least two cups of coffee per day may lower the risk of depression for women, researchers report. Findings from over 50,000 female nurses were analyzed for the study, and those who drank two or three cups per day experienced depression—defined as a doctor's diagnosis and use of antidepressants—15% less often than nurses who drank one cup or none. And drinking four cups or more every day appeared even more effective: these women were found to cut their risk by 20%, with caffeine's effect on brain chemistry believed to be responsible (decaff doesn't work). Coffee drinking has previously been linked to lower suicide rates—although, perhaps counter-intuitively given the traditional connection between isolation and depression, the coffee-gulping nurses were less likely than their peers to be involved in church, volunteer or community groups. But they were also less likely to be overweight, to have high blood pressure or diabetes, and to smoke or drink alcohol, which fits rather better with the latest findings. The link between lack of coffee and depression remains when data is adjusted for other variables. The authors of the study—which is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal—warned that all this shouldn't necessarily be taken as a signal for a mass dash to Starbucks: coffee in high doses causes anxiety and insomnia, and the relationship between coffee drinking and reduced risk of depression may be only a correlation, rather than causal. Pregnant women are advised to consume less than 200 mg of caffeine—less than one and a half mugs of filter coffee—per day. That said, previous studies have linked coffee drinking with reduced risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer and stroke. Most US adults drink coffee, which provides over 80% of the nation's daily caffeine dose.
New Yorkers will now be able to booze-while-they-watch in movie theaters all over the state. Ever since the end of prohibition, all New York theaters have allowed alcoholic drinks to be served—except for those showing movies. Now a new state law will allow cinema-goers to bring alcohol to their seats, so long as the theater has a licensed restaurant on premise and tables at each seat. The law has come about in part due to the lobbying efforts of Matthew Viragh, who recently opened the Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which features a full-service restaurant. Viragh previously had a movie theater in Virginia and has been working to bring a similar concept to New York. A spokesman for national chain AMC Theaters indicates that they're intending to muscle in on the action, as the New York Post reports that the AMC Angelika Film Center in Manhattan is considering adding restaurants that serve alcohol: "We're excited about the possibility of bringing AMC Dine-in Theaters to our guests in New York." Cathy Peake, spokeswoman for Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who sponsored the recent bill, asserted that, "Adults aren't enjoying going to the movies [which cater to] adolescents." Of course, those adults who are in recovery may not agree—New York's movie theaters have long been a place to seek refuge from America's alcohol culture.