Whatever you think of Michael Bloomberg's politics, he sure does care about public health. The NYC mayor has gone after cigarettes, trans fats and sugar-filled drinks—and now he's taking on booze. The city’s Health Department plans to gage the extent of alcohol abuse with the help of a mass 50-question telephone survey. "Issues to be explored include behavior patterns around unhealthy alcohol consumption and awareness of existing alcohol-related laws and standards,'' the department reportedly told bidders hoping to conduct the poll. To downplay the role of alcohol in the survey, health officials claim they "routinely conduct surveys about important health issues to learn more about them." But reports have surfaced saying that the survey "will put a heavy emphasis on booze, along with some questions on drug use, indicating the city is delving deeper into the drinking problem." Health officials reassure a nervous public that the survey won’t lead to a ban on alcohol, but rather a potential increase in public education over alcohol's dangers.
Recent reports have surfaced, claiming that Rihanna and Chris Brown spent last night together aboard a yacht in St. Tropez, despite the fact that he famously, and brutally, assaulted her back in 2009. The pop star's alleged interactions with the her abusive ex have prompted some to speculate that they are back on—adding to the list of self-destructive behaviors that have caused the public to worry for Rihanna's health and well-being. In the past year, the "Umbrella" singer has been photographed smoking marijuana on multiple occasions, published a photo of herself where it appears she's doing drugs on the shoulder of her security guard, tweeted about rolling a "kush" for Coachella, been hospitalized for "exhaustion", and given an ultimatum by Jay-Z to clean up her act. As far as her relationship with the Brown, a source told The Sun: "They have this weird addiction to each other and can't stay away." The uproar of speculation led Brown's rep to release a statement that he was in France for business, not pleasure. "CB is in France to shoot a music video...[His girlfriend] Karrueche [Tran] is there with him...There is no Rihanna connection".
A sheriff's investigation has been launched into an Oklahama Narconon rehab center with ties to the Church of Scientology after a third patient within the last three months died. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Human Services and Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation are also involved in the case. Twenty-year-old Stacy Dawn Murphy was found dead in her room at Narconon Arrowhead last week; she didn't have any abrasions or prior medical conditions. Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns confirmed that Murphy had tested positive for drugs upon returning to the center from visiting family and investigators are exploring whether the death was an overdose. Gabriel Graves, 32, was found dead at the facility on October 26 last year, and his autopsy report was unable to reveal a cause of death. Although trace amounts of morphine were found in his system, the report said it's unlikely that was related to the death. Hillary Holten, 21, also died on April 11 last year, and didn't have an autopsy report completed. A fourth patient, 28-year-old Kaysie Dianne Werninck, died in March 2009 after being transferred to a Tulsa hospital—a wrongful death lawsuit was settled in that case. "For those of us who have committed their lives to saving people from drug and alcohol addiction, losing a young adult to drugs during their recovery process has taken an extreme emotional toll on us as well," says center director Gary Smith. "It is truly a sad day for everyone when something as unfortunate and devastating as this occurs." Narconon uses a highly unconventional regimen of saunas, vitamins, mild exercise and a special diet in its three-month drug treatment program, which the center's website says is designed to flush toxins from the body, including drug residue that the center says get lodged in "fatty tissues" and cause cravings.
Seventy people were arrested, and seizures included 30 grams of cocaine and 156 grams of marijuana, as the largest surprise parole sweep in California's history took place in Los Angeles County yesterday morning. Around 700 federal, state and local law enforcement officers came to the homes of 400 parolees, who were cuffed while their homes were searched for potential violations. As well as drugs, officers confiscated five pitbulls—possibly used for dogfighting—and 20 fully grown marijuana plants. One child was taken into protective custody. An estimated 7,000 of LA County's 16,000 parolees are thought to have gang ties, and “Operation Guardian” was meant to counter a spike in gang-related crime. “It keeps them on their toes,” says parole agent Rick McKail. “They don’t know when we might come out.” Arthur Mosqueda, an assistant manager for the department’s Los Angeles division, adds “By doing these surprised or unannounced searches, you have the opportunity to take guns off the streets…then we’re all safer.” Parole officers say that they're often the only buffer that parolees who want a fresh start have against the ever-present gang life and violence—their job is to encourage them to seek rehabilitation programs and employment.
- Kerry Kennedy Had Sleep Aid in Blood After Crash, Test Finds [New York Times]
- No Booze Served to Athletes in Olympic Village [USA Today]
- California County Makes Industry Pay to Toss Pills [USA Today]
- New Poll Suggests Mayor Bloomberg Eyeing Booze For Next Public Health Campaign [Huffington Post]
- Group Asks FDA for Painkiller Guidelines [Wall Street Journal]
- Frances Bean Cobain Advises Demi Moore's Daughters [Winnipeg Free Press]
This is not your average case of voter fraud. In a drug-ridden political scandal straight from America's heartland, major cocaine and marijuana dealers have admitted to buying votes in order to steal elections and guarantee protection from politicians. The state is now cracking down on the fraud in a series of court cases, and so far, more than 20 public elected officials and others have been convicted or plead guilty in the last two years in the Eastern District of Kentucky alone. Kerry B. Harvey, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, describes the scheme as “very extensive, organized criminal activity, involving hundreds of thousands of dollars and in many cases that involves drug money.” The area faces enormous financial difficulties, which has helped the practice of vote-buying to thrive. “These folks go out and hijack the local elections for their own purposes and then they use those jobs to enrich themselves and their confederates,” Harvey says. Prosecutors say that more than $400,000—much of it drug proceeds—was pooled by both Democratic and Republican politicians over several elections, and used to buy the votes of more than 8,000 voters. “When it comes to vote buying, it’s an everyday thing,” says Michael Salyers, a former magistrate candidate who is now serving jail time for buying votes in 2010. “It’s pretty much like jaywalking."
Major drug dealers allegedly give candidates money to buy votes, or line up bribed voters themselves, in exchange for protection once the candidate was elected. "I've also bought, traded, bought votes for different candidates," testified Eugene Lewis—a Democratic Board of Elections Judge who is also a convicted cocaine trafficker and marijuana dealer. "I would pay them right in the booth…You would not believe the percentage of people, from school teachers down, that I have bought their vote from. It's unbelievable." J.C. Lawson, another convicted marijuana and cocaine dealer, also testified that he helped win elections by giving candidates "voters and people and money," and he even gave the sheriff about $20,000 for his race. Lawson admits the money came from drug dealing. In order to fight the conspiracy, an election integrity task force and special hotline have been set up to prevent voter fraud, and investigators have been placed across the state. “If you sell your vote, you are selling the heart of democracy,” says Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. “If the government belongs to someone who is out there buying votes, rather than the free will of the people, then it doesn’t belong to everybody. It is very central to our democracy, so I think this work is very important.”