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7/12/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: July 12, 2012

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Celebrity chef Cat Cora faces DUI heat.
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By Chrisanne Grise

Drug death mystery

7/11/12 5:42pm

Did Drugs Kill Eva Rausing?

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The Rausings this past June. What went wrong?
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The Rausings' story pays testament to the fact that riches can't quell addiction. Eva Rausing, the American wife of billionaire Tetra Pak heir Hans Rausing, was found dead in their luxurious London home yesterday—raising questions about the couple's druggy history. The couple first met in rehab 25 years ago. They were best known for their 10 billion-dollar fortune and commitment to philanthropic causes—many of which supported recovery from addiction. But it seems the philanthropic pair continued to struggle with their own drug issues. Mr. Rausings, 49, was reportedly "driving erratically" around London on Monday when he was arrested on suspicion of drug possession, leading police to search the property he shared with his 48-year-old wife in the exclusive Belgravia neighborhood. Her body was discovered inside. Sources say she'd been dead for an undetermined period—with some claiming it was up to a week. Four years ago, Eva Rausing was charged with trying to smuggle small amounts of crack cocaine and heroin in her handbag into the American Embassy in London. Police searched the Rausings' home then and found stashes of heroin, cocaine and crack; the charges were later dropped and Mrs. Rausing acknowledged her actions as "a serious mistake," vowing to get help. “She bravely fought her health issues for many years,” said her family in a statement released today. Police haven't said that foul play was involved in her death, the cause of which is still undetermined after an initial autopsy. Hans Rausing is being questioned while receiving treatment at a London hospital.

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By Gabrielle Wuhl

Mexican drug war

7/11/12 4:48pm

Mexican Paper Goes Silent on the Violence

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The latest casualty: freedom of the press.
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A Mexican newspaper has publicly announced that it will no longer cover drug war-related crimes—after two violent attacks on its office in two months. Many other news sources in Mexico have taken similar vows of silence, but El Mañana newspaper—based in northern border city of Nuevo Laredo—took the unusual step of releasing a public statement, following a grenade attack on its office on Tuesday. "We ask for the public's comprehension and will refrain, for as long as needed, from publishing any information related to the violent disputes our city and other regions of the country are suffering," their editorial declared. "The company's editorial and administrative board has been forced to make this regrettable decision by circumstances we are all familiar with, and by the lack of adequate conditions for freely exercising professional journalism." The area surrounding Nuevo Laredo has been ravaged by violence, as the Zetas and Gulf cartels battle for control of drug-trafficking in the region. 

The cartels have a complicated relationship with the press: they've been known to seek media attention to threaten their rivals and publicize their power, but frequently lash out at journalists who displease them. At least 45 journalists have been reported missing or murdered in Mexico since former President Felipe Calderón began his crackdown on the cartels in 2006—and the government's human rights commission alleges that 81 journalists have been killed and 16 kidnapped since 2000. Many Mexican newspapers have adopted policies to avoid covering the violence directly—often filling crime sections with stories about traffic accidents. When they do report crimes, they generally publish police records without further investigation, and avoid mention of specific gangs or cartels.

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By May Wilkerson

Staying Sober

7/11/12 3:39pm

Recovery Debit Card Aims to Guide Addicts' Spending

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Will controlling spending help recovery?
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Stepping out of rehab and back into the “real world” can be a difficult process; temptations abound and money can be scarce. The Next Step MasterCard program—started up by three recovering addicts—hopes to make things a little easier for people getting back on their feet. Their re-loadable prepaid debit card is structured to make it as difficult as possible for users to relapse: the card can't be used in restricted areas like liquor stores, nightclubs and gambling establishments; cash-back and ATM withdrawals are prohibited; and parents can set a daily spending limit. Based on their own experiences of recovery, the program's founders have tried to block as many loopholes as possible. “We can’t obviously be foolproof, but we want to add another line of defense in the way of people being triggered to go out and relapse,” Eric Dresdale, one of the founders, tells The Fix. “The unfortunate thing with people in this community is, if they want to relapse, they’re going to find a way to relapse," he acknowledges. "What we’ve done with this product is make it that much more difficult.”

The program also aims to teach healthy spending habits. Dresdale remembers coming out of treatment for his own addiction to painkillers—and spending $500 on almost nothing useful. “It’s almost like someone who was paralyzed and they’re learning how to walk again,” he says. “You’re really starting at the basics and some of these people who never learned any life skills come out with no idea on how to manage money.” For this reason, users are limited to 40 swipes a month, and progress reports and budgeting tools will be available online. “In talking to my parents, they really wished they had something like this, because truth be told, they were biting their nails anytime they gave me money,” Dresdale recalls. Most of all, the program aims to encourage open communication between those in recovery and their loved ones. While the card will be available for anyone, Dresdale expects most users will be between ages 17 and 30.

Further down the road, the Next Step Network hopes to set up a charitable organization and have scholarships towards treatment. But for now, they're taking things, well, one step at a time—the debit card program will likely launch in early August. Ultimately, the organization will seek to help people get past its own program. “While obviously from a business standpoint, it’d be nice to have people on for a while, our real goal is to have them get off of it,” says Dresdale. “From an altruistic standpoint, we really want them to learn what they can from this and move on.”

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By Chrisanne Grise

Prison Drug Smuggling

7/11/12 2:05pm

Prison Drug Smuggling: The Warehouse Move

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Warehouses are a major smuggling route
into prisons. Photo via

Prisoners use every ounce of their creativity to invent new ways to support the thriving drug markets inside; the methods used are as wide-ranging as the substances that are brought in. "At some prisons they bring in drugs and tobacco through the warehouse," one prisoner tells The Fix. "If everything goes right, it's a hell of a move." This is a multi-person, highly coordinated scheme that groups of prisoners or gangs use to launch drug-dealing ventures behind prison walls. "The warehouse move is complicated. You need the right people in place at the camp and on the inside," says our source. "Your guys have to be in the right jobs: food service, commissary, laundry, Unicor. Any place where stuff is coming in on a daily basis." 

Outside warehouses—which accept the incoming goods and materials that institutions need to operate—are a necessity. And most institutions have an adjacent minimum-security camp outside their fences, which supplies the prisoners that staff the warehouse. Getting these minimum-security prisoners to coordinate with the guys behind the fence isn't hard—although a cell phone or other means of exchanging information is vital. Then it's just a question of hiding a package of drugs in a box bound for the inside. "The guy at the camp notifies the point man inside of the specifics like when, where and how the drugs are coming," the prisoner explains. "He in turn tells the guys who work at the critical spots, and boom—they get the package, distribute it and count the money all the way to the bank, taking care of their homie on the outside who made it happen." It's an intricate process, but one that prisoners pull off daily.

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By Seth Ferranti

alcoholic moms

7/11/12 1:01pm

"Vodka Mom" Kills Herself After TV Shaming

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Was Nancy Grace too harsh? Photo via

A Minneapolis woman who was vilified by CNN host Nancy Grace on national television has died after setting herself on fire in her mother's backyard. Toni Medrano, 29, accidentally killed her three-week old son last November, when she drunkenly rolled onto him while sleeping on the couch and crushed him. The woman, who became known as "Vodka Mom," admitted to drinking a fifth of vodka before going to sleep—her blood alcohol level was at .11 (.08 is the limit for driving). Medrano had reportedly been suicidal over personal issues, but had been seeking help for alcoholism and parenting counseling. However, when Grace got hold of the story after Medrano was charged last month with two counts of manslaughter, she lambasted the woman on her show and theorized that the baby had been "crushed" for hours. "There was a long period of time that baby’s life could have been saved," Grace said, before claiming there should be murder one charges for premeditated murder. Grace also held up a fifth of cheap vodka and said she was going to see how many glasses she could get out of the bottle, pouring at least nine in the segment as the words "vodka mom" appeared on the screen. Nancy Grace and CNN haven't responded to requests for comment.

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