Every four years, Americans of all political persuasions threaten to quit the country if their party loses the Presidential election. It’s become so commonplace, in fact, that JetBlue this year is even running an “Election Protection” promotion: You can win a free flight out of the country if your guy loses. But there’s another way in which Presidential uncertainty affects future plans—and that’s in rehab admissions. Authentic Recovery Center (ARC) founder Cassidy Cousens tells The Fix that, over his 12 years in the rehab biz—three top-office election cycles, in other words—he’s noticed a “significant drop” in treatment admissions from September through early November. But it’s not across the board. “We do a bunch of charity treatment, and the free [rehab] sector, the programs that are sponsored by the state or federal grants, don’t typically see a reduction,” says Cousens. “Where there seems to be a slowdown is in the boutique, mid- to high-end programs.”
Why should price make a difference? Cousens believes: “When people are talking about spending $25,000 to $80,000 [on treatment], uncertainty about their tax rates or what’s happening next April tends to cause people to delay a little bit, if it's not completely crisis-driven.” On top of that, the general economic bad vibes surrounding both this and the 2008 election have only amplified the phenomenon, which also has been observed in the retail world. Even though it’s just a theory, Cousens has asked around in the treatment industry, and, he says, "Everybody I know is fairly slow." It’s worth nothing that rehab-admission downturns aren’t evident in conjunction with state-level or midterm election seasons, or specific legislation. It’s pretty much strictly a Presidential-contest thing.
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Gerard Butler is finally talking about his rehab experience after checking out of the Betty Ford Center eight months ago, and slashing rumors that he was being treated for alcohol abuse. The actor checked into a pain-management program for three weeks after being injured in a surfing accident while shooting the film Chasing Mavericks, which hits theaters tomorrow. "Maybe a stronger person wouldn't have needed to go," he says. "When you hear the word rehab, you think, ‘He's a mess, he's fucked up.' But I'm glad I did it. I've made a shitload of wrong decisions in my life. But I know I've made some right ones as well." Initial media reports were that Butler was in treatment for alcoholism, but the actor contends he has been booze-free for 15 years. He says he's had pain problems ever since filming war flick 300 in 2006, but that the issue got worse after filming Of Men and Mavericks. It reached a boiling point when a surfing accident left him trapped underwater for nearly a minute, and he began experiencing "visceral" flashbacks of the incident. "I was actually taking a minimal amount [of pills] when I went in," he says. "It was more about becoming a mental warrior and not letting pain bother you. The [instructor] would say, ‘I don't want to hear about your fucking MRIs or your fucking X-rays...Let's learn how to say to the pain, 'Fuck you.'"
The Colombian government will hold new peace talks with the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in hopes of ending a drug trade-fueled civil war that's lasted nearly 50 years. The last negotiations took place in the late '90s, when former President Andres Pastrana awarded FARC a Switzerland-sized haven of jungle which the group subsequently used to train troops and traffic drugs. But FARC membership has since fallen from 17,000 to 9,000, and many of their leaders have been killed—while the strength of the Colombian army is at an all-time high. The government's goal is to get the revolutionary group to lay down its weapons (which the FARC is reportedly willing to do) and dismantle a criminal enterprise that transports upwards of 60% of the cocaine brought into the US. “The trick is to get the guy who is in charge of a front that’s getting tens of millions of dollars a year, has a lot of local power and is doing business [with other traffickers] to actually give it up,” says Adam Isacson, a senior associate of the Washington Office on Latin America.
The FARC's commander, who took over late last year and uses the alias Timochenko, has a $5 million bounty on his head in the US, due to allegedly helping to set the group's policies for “the production, manufacture and distribution of hundreds of tons of cocaine,” and his involvement in hundreds of killings. A successful peace deal would likely see FARC members avoid prison for their crimes—something that many in Colombia vehemently oppose. “I am concerned that the president is being fooled by the FARC," says Colombian senator Jose Dario Salazar. "If the government is winning the war, why sit down as equals at a table?"
- Baggage Handler Gets 3 Life Sentences for Drug Smuggling Ring [New York Post]
- Video Shows Drunk, Stoned US Security Contractors in Afghanistan [ABC News]
- Crack Addicts Rounded Up After Rio Slum Takeovers [Associated Press]
- Painkiller Abuse by Kids Way Up, Study Finds [HealthDay]
- Religious Community In Colorado Divided Over Marijuana Legalization [Huffington Post]
- Nike Drops Lance Armstrong [Wall Street Journal]
- Mitt Romney Had to Practice Sitting on a Bar Stool For Debate [Gawker]
In 1998, Bernice Cubie was sent to prison for life under California’s "Three Strikes" law, for possession of $10 worth of cocaine. She's never injured anyone and has served over 14 years. The 59-year-old grandmother now suffers from an advanced form of terminal cancer. She's one of over 4,000 people serving life for nonviolent crimes in California under Three Strikes, which imposes a life sentence for almost any offense—including simple drug possession, no matter how small the amount—if a defendant has two prior convictions for “violent” or “serious” crimes. Three Strikes is disproportionately applied to people of color like Cubie (71.2% of three-strikers are black or Hispanic), mentally ill people and the poor. And of course, the law hits addicts hard: they account for nearly two thirds of those affected.
On November 6, Californians will vote on Proposition 36, a bill seeking to reform Three Strikes. Repeat criminals would still get life in prison for serious or violent crimes under the new proposal—and a third crime that isn't serious or violent would still earn double the normal sentence. But backers say Prop 36 will protect people with no history of violence from life sentences, save California over $100 million a year, and leave prison space for violent offenders. Dan Newman, a strategist for the Yes on Prop 36 campaign, tells The Fix, “The campaign is going well. We have support from Democrats and Republicans, leaders in law enforcement and civil rights, and virtually every editorial board in California.” The LA Times reports that 95% of the money raised around this cause has been in support of the proposition.
One organization, PORAC (Peace Officers Research Association of California) is dedicated to fighting Prop 36, and has donated $100,000, the largest single contribution, to do so. Its president, Ron Cuttingham, tells The Fix that Prop 36 is unnecessary because there is "already judicial review… If it's appropriate they can waive the strike.” But if the possibility of judicial review already exists, why should we worry about Prop 36 passing? According to Cuttingham, those whom Prop 36 would benefit “are not nice people… Nice people don’t get sent to prison.”
Earlier this year, at the recommendation of prison doctors, a California parole board met to consider a compassionate release petition for Bernice Cubie. Despite the fact that she has less than six months to live, and would seek drug treatment counseling upon release, her plea was denied. Under current law, she won't have another opportunity for parole until 2023. Californians will soon have the chance to help non-violent addicts receive treatment, rather than a lifetime behind bars.