Given the Zetas' reputation as possibly the bloodiest of all Mexico's terrifying drug cartels, it seems unlikely that ordinary citizens would issue a public challenge to them. But an apparent vigilante group calling itself the "Zeta Killers" has already been doing exactly what the name suggests, reports the Huffington Post—claiming responsibility for 35 tortured bodies that were dumped on a highway in Veracruz state last week. Although the bodies included 12 women and two children, both a Mexican armed forces official and the five masked "Zeta Killers" who appeared in a Spanish-language YouTube video claimed the dead were all "linked" to the Zetas cartel. Ironically, given the grotesque killings, the Zeta Killers claim in their video that their "ethical code" prevents them from carrying out kidnappings or extortion. Their spokesman praises the work of Mexican law enforcement and announces, "We are the armed wing of the people, and for the people." But many doubt that. A "vigilante" group called "New Generation" that emerged in 2007 was said by US officials to be a front for the rival Sinaloa cartel. A threat-laden banner bearing the initials GN (Gente Nueva) left with the 35 bodies would seem to link New Generation with the Zeta Killers. But whatever the truth about their identity, there's no chance that their emergence will provide any relief for Mexico's innocent civilians.
A long-time AA regular was beaten to death this week in Covington, Kentucky, allegedly by one of the people he sponsored. On September 19, 54-year-old Shain Pierce returned to his apartment from the hospital where he'd just had a toe amputated following a work-related injury. Much to his surprise, he found his sponsee, Leslie Haun and Haun's son, Robert, drinking inside his home. He threw them out, and the pair then attended an AA meeting while drunk. But they returned to Pierce's apartment after the meeting, where Pierce called Haun Sr. a "punk." According to police reports, Leslie Haun then attacked him with an aluminum baseball bat. Robert Haun told cops that he and his father thought Pierce was dead, but that he started making a noise—so Leslie Haun finished him off with a table leg. Robert Haun disposed of both the murder weapons in a nearby sewer—following his father's orders, he said. Leslie Haun, 47, who is being charged with murder but continues to deny any involvement in the crime, is currently being held on a $500,000 bond. His son, 19, is charged with evidence tampering and is being held on $100,000 bond. Huan Sr. has a long criminal record and has been diagnosed with numerous mental health problems including anti-social disorder, depression, hallucinations and schizophrenia. He had been kicked out of the Droege House rehab facility in Dayton in August. Shain Pierce had previously served time for burglary, but was working at a metal recycling facility before his death and had long been involved with AA. Even though he wasn't an alcoholic himself, he viewed his service in the organization as a way to help others. Fellow members claimed he sponsored many people and even let them stay with him when they needed to. "He went there for friends and to see who he could help," said his sister, Tammy Callen. "He took in I don't know how many people."
Students at the University of Central Florida are voting this week on a new alcohol emergency policy. The rule change, proposed by the Student Government Association, would mean that anyone who puts in an emergency call because of their own dangerous alcohol intoxication—or someone else's—would be made exempt from any punishment, other than mandatory alcohol awareness classes. "You'll get overly intoxicated people and their friends worried about whether they should call an ambulance or 911 or not in fear of themselves and their friends getting kicked out of school," said one student. If the vote is passed, the policy will go before the school's administrators—who have yet to take a stance on the matter—for final approval. This approach is already being applied at other Florida schools like the University of Florida and Rollins. An 18-year-old UCF nursing freshman named Ann Hefferin died a month ago after drinking at a frat party.
- Medical Marijuana Patients Angered by Firearms Limits [USA Today]
- Jackson Chef: Murray Never Asked Me to Call 911 [LA Times]
- Heroin Use in Dublin Soars [Irish Independent]
- Obama's Uncle Makes Drunk Driving Court Appearance [Fox News]
- Smokers Quit with Cheap Bulgarian Remedy [Business Week]
- California Toddler Swallows Cocaine, Parents Jailed [Sacramento Bee]
- Man Says Field of Weed Was Just Personal Stash [Orlando Sentinel]
Danish drug manufacturer Lundbeck is trying to stop its product from killing people. Since last year, its sedative Nembutal (Pentobarbital) has been used in executions around the US, and this March the state of Ohio employed it for the first time for a single-dose execution. In response, Lundbeck announced in July that it would block sales of the drug to any US prison that carries out the death penalty. However, many prisons have already stockpiled the drug: Nembutal played its part in the killing of Troy Davis last week. This week Lundbeck's president, Staffan Schuberg, wrote to Florida's governor, Rick Scott, asking him not to allow the use of their product—for the first time in Florida—in the planned execution of Manuel Valle, a 61-year-old Cuban national convicted of the 1978 murder of a police officer. But Valle was put to death yesterday. Schuberg wrote that the use of Lubeck's product in executions “contradicts everything Lundbeck is in business to do—provide therapies that improve people’s lives.” The company also enlisted the help of the Danish government, whose embassy in the US has written to state governors protesting the death penalty and the use of Nembutal. Florida courts earlier rejected an appeal for a stay in Valle’s execution based on the uncertainty and unreliability of Nembutal in capital punishment. That appeal was written by Dr. David Nicholl, a neurologist and human rights activist who cited Lundbeck scientists' concern that the drug can cause “undue pain and suffering" to prisoners. “The use of Nembutal in lethal injections has never been clinically tested or approved,” Dr. Nicholl wrote. He further argued that the unlawful use of Nembutal—because it hasn't been legally approved—to end human life creates a double-standard that will “demean the authority” of the State of Florida to address the “crisis of rampant unlawful prescription of controlled substances.” If the State of Florida can illegally use a prescription drug to kill people, under what authority can it arrest its citizens who also use such drugs illegally?
Kentucky, America's Bluegrass State, is not usually known for establishing legal precedents. But later this month it is about to become the first state in the union to take on one of the world's biggest pharmaceutical firms, Purdue Pharma, arguing that despite ample evidence of the drug's addictive dangers, the company silently watched as Oxycontin become the one of the most widely abused—and deadly—prescription pills in the United States. The Kentucky lawsuit, waged by state prosecutors, alleges that Purdue knowingly downplayed the addictive nature of a pill that has thus far hooked an estimated 80,000 Kentuckians, as well as millions of Americans nationwide. A key aim of the state's prosecutors is to prove that the company used misleading graphs—reminiscent of tobacco companies' past efforts to minimize tobacco risks—to misrepresent Oxycontin's addictive nature. At a time when drug-related fatalities outnumbered traffic fatalities nationwide for the first time since such statistics were collected, Kentucky’s lawsuit is unique. Instead of just seeking reimbursement for Medicaid payments for patients who were prescribed Oxy, the suit demands restitution to pay for all the harm that the drug has caused in the state. The fine would cover education, prevention, healthcare and rehab for addicts, as well as “excessive prescription costs.” The state's lawsuit alleges that its citizens' “public health and safety have been significantly and negatively impacted due to the misrepresentations and omissions by Defendants [Purdue Pharma] regarding appropriate risks and uses of Oxycontin, ultimately leading to widespread inappropriate use of the drug.” One graph presented by Purdue in hearings over the safety of the drug indicated that Oxycontin stays in a patient’s bloodstream for at least 24 hours, which would significantly reduce the physical and psychological impact of withdrawal. But Kentucky prosecutors allege that the chart presented by Purdue was clearly manipulated and factually wrong. In fact, many doctors claim, Oxycontin's effects peak quickly in the bloodstream and leave the system after just a few hours, triggering severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Though the FDA ordered the misleading chart removed from Oxycontin's promotional materials way back in 1995, it continues to be a part of the company’s official labeling (see page 6 of this document). The lawsuit further alleges that despite the FDA's explicit 1995 ban on Purdue portraying extended-release Oxycontin as less addictive or less susceptible to abuse than other treatments—it's equivalent to other available drugs. Even so, Purdue still marketed Oxy to physicians as a less addictive opiate pain medication. The company stated that there were “fewer ‘peaks and valleys’ than with immediate release oxycodone,” doctoring the graphs to back its claims.