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Drug war

6/25/12 12:32pm

More DEA Death and Intrigue in Honduras


The DEA is watching Honduras from
the skies. Photo via

As The Fix reported last week, US-backed drug enforcement violence in Honduras looks set to continue. Early Saturday morning, a DEA agent killed a man in another drug-seizure operation. It's the first time the DEA has admitted to one of its own agents opening fire in Honduras, an action it says was justified because the target—who was being arrested—was reportedly reaching for his weapon. Meanwhile an investigation continues of the May 11 massacre in Ahuas, in which four seemingly-innocent bystanders were killed by gunfire from a US-owned helicopter.

The New York Times reports that it obtained (but didn't release) video of the incident, taken by an unmanned drone hovering overhead. But the video adds mystery to an event already clouded by conflicting reports. The people killed were in a dugout canoe that villagers say was ferrying lobster fishermen and families back to town. The canoe came on the scene of an in-progress drug sting, with DEA agents supporting Honduran and Guatemalan law enforcement in the seizure of a boat loaded with cocaine. According to the video—in a detail omitted from both official reports and the reports of eyewitnesses and victims to human rights observers—the canoe seemingly collided with the drug-smuggling boat as the former was docking, before the American helicopters opened fire on it. Although this doesn't clarify the conflicting stories—the identities of those killed in the boat have been verified separately as including a young boy and two pregnant women—the Times reports that the video “satisfied Congressional staff members that the American agents on the raid did not fire their weapons.” Which seems to mean that Americans are unlikely to accept any responsibility for the incident.

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By Jed Bickman

addiction in the movies

6/25/12 11:47am

MLB Addict Josh Hamilton's Life to Hit Big Screen


Hamilton's rise from addict to MVP will soon
hit the big screen. Photo via

Josh Hamilton's story of overcoming his addictions to crack, cocaine and alcohol, and then returning to pro baseball better than ever, could have come straight out of a movie—and Hollywood producers seem to think so too. A feature film on the life of the Texas Rangers star is already in the works, with Casey Affleck taking on the role of writer-director and Thunder Road Pictures signing on for the flick. A statement from Hamilton and his wife Katie says that while they won't be involved in the Hollywood pitching process themselves, they will have "an integral part of the film's creative direction and accuracy as the project develops." As of now, the biggest issue in the film is finding an actor who physically matches Hamilton and can play the role. Will Ferrell's name was tossed around initially because he bears the closest resemblance in terms of facial structure—but unfortunately he doesn't have an athletic enough body. Other actors who may come out swinging include Channing TatumJesse Eisenberg of The Social Network and Cole Hauser of Good Will Hunting.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Addiction and the Brain

6/25/12 10:59am

Food Addicts "Less Likely to Do Coke"


Coke, or cake? Photo via

People with food addictions may be less likely to do cocaine, according to new research from Yale University's School of Medicine. The new study—published in Nature Neuroscience—finds that overeating and an appetite for cocaine are both driven by the same set of brain neurons. Researchers performed some tests on mice: first "knocking out" a molecule that controls hunger neurons in the brain, and then measuring how the mice responded to coke. "We found that animals that have less interest in food are more interested in novelty-seeking behaviors and drugs like cocaine," says Professor Tamas L. Horvath, one of the authors. "This suggests that there may be individuals with increased drive of the reward circuitry, but who are still lean." The researchers believe that the hypothalamus—the part of the brain controlling body temperature, hunger, thirst and sleep—is vital to higher brain function, which impacts behavior. "These hunger-promoting neurons are critically important during development to establish the set point of higher brain functions, and their impaired function may be the underlying cause for altered motivated and cognitive behaviors," says Horvath. The study was originally conducted to find treatments for metabolic disorders like diabetes and obesity, but instead flipped the common wisdom about obesity and drug addiction on its head. "There is this contemporary view that obesity is associated with the increased drive of the reward circuitry," says Horvath. "But here, we provide a contrasting view: that the reward aspect can be very high, but subjects can still be very lean. At the same time, it indicates that a set of people who have no interest in food, might be more prone to drug addiction."

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By Valerie Tejeda


6/25/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: June 25, 2012


The wrong man Photo via

By Bryan Le

Drug policy

6/22/12 5:20pm

Video: DEA's Denial Does It No Credit


Leonhart sticks to her mantra.

“I’m just asking you, as an expert, is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?” A simple question. And one that DEA chief administrator Michele Leonhart is apparently unable—or unwilling—to answer. A House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing this week saw Leonhart repeatedly refuse to admit that any drug is more dangerous or addictive than marijuana, as The Raw Story reports:

Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado pressed Leonhart on whether illegal drugs like methamphetamine and crack, as well as legal prescription drugs, caused greater harm to public health compared to marijuana. But within a three-minute time-span, Leonhart dodged his questions eleven times. “Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?” Polis, who has called for an end to marijuana prohibition, asked.

“I believe all illegal drugs are bad,” Leonhart responded.

“Is methamphetamine worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?” Polis continued. “Is heroin worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?”

“Again, all drugs,” Leonhart began to say, only to be cut off by Polis.

“Yes, no, or I don’t know?” Polis said. “If you don’t know this, you can look this up. As the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency, I’m asking a very straightforward question.”

The scene recalled Big Tobacco denying the addictive nature of nicotine during the Waxman hearings, or Soviet scientists being forced to denounce any work that ideologically contradicted state policy. Leonhart exhibits a pronounced “deer in the headlights” look, as Rep. Polis repeatedly demands a straight answer:

But don’t be fooled into thinking that Leonhart is clueless. She's just cynically touting the party line, rather than replying honestly. A Bush appointee, nominated to DEA Administrator by Obama in 2010, she's a living example of how a willful lack of openness on drugs flourishes across partisan lines. Listening to her repetition of the “All illegal drugs are addictive” mantra is strangely reminiscent of someone...

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By Tony O'Neill

drinking trends

6/22/12 4:38pm

Americans Now Booze More at Bars


Apparently martinis were bigger in the '80s. Photo via

It looks like the stocked liquor cabinets of MadMen days have been replaced by social drinking in public venues. Drinkers in the US are spending significantly more money on alcohol in bars and restaurants, and less on alcohol in stores—according to an NPR report featuring some fascinating infographics. Overall, consumers have spent about the same amount on alcohol for the last 30 years—about $1 out of every $100—but 40% of the booze budget now goes to bars and restaurants, a 16% climb since 1982. But this doesn't necessarily imply that they're going out more often. After adjusting for inflation, the price of alcohol at stores has actually gone down, probably because of increased productivity over time, while prices at bars have shot up. The report also notes that when consumers do drink at home, they now prefer wine to hard liquor—another major change over the last 30 years. Almost 40% of American booze money at the store is spent on wine, compared to 16% in 1982. Hard liquor spending has decreased over 20%, while beer remains the number one type of alcohol purchased at stores. So one thing, at least, hasn't changed: Americans love beer.

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By Chrisanne Grise


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