- Judge: Graphic Cigarette Labels Violate First Amendment [Wall Street Journal]
- New Jersey Issues Immediate Ban on Synthetic Marijuana [NJToday.net]
- Hepatitis C Death Rate Creeps Past AIDS [New York Times]
- Connecticut Moves Closer to Sunday Alcohol Sales [CBS News]
- How Addicted to Twitter and Facebook Are You? (Infographic) [MediaBistro.com]
- Tatum O'Neal Checks Back Into Rehab After Cocaine Relapse [NY Daily News]
- Newspaper Heiress Admits Running Crack House in Vermont [USA Today]
There are some amends you just can't make. A 26-year-old woman was arrested in Florida yesterday for burning down the fifth oldest tree in the world. "The Senator," a famed bald cypress in Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida, was once used by the Seminole Indians as a landmark; surviving hurricanes and lightning, it stood proudly on the site for an estimated 3,500 years. That is, until this January 16, when unemployed, reportedly sometime-nude model Sarah Barnes clambered into The Senator's majestic branches to smoke some meth with a friend. The result was a blaze that burned the ancient tree "from the inside out," reports say, leaving a smoldering stump just 20 feet tall. Authorities announced they were looking for an arsonist and Barnes—who now admits to lighting a fire so she could see what she was doing—was arrested after some anonymous tip-offs. She hid her face as she was led away in handcuffs. Barnes apparently took pictures of the burning Senator and downloaded them onto her cellphone and computer, showing her handiwork to friends and exclaiming, "I can't believe I burned down a tree older than Jesus!"
On November 2, a network of Costa Mesa rehabs and sober-living houses called Morningside Recovery—which Lindsay Lohan reportedly checked into in summer of 2010—was told by the state Dept. of Alcohol and Drug Programs that it had to close up shop. Yet that’s not what has happened, as the Orange County Register has discovered. The shut-down order was issued after investigators found Morningside to be careless in dispensing prescription medications, and to be “operating beyond the scope of its licenses”—specifically, treating 70 clients in unlicensed facilities. In one case, a woman who was housed by the rehab in an apartment building for 10 days said that during her stay she met just once with a therapist for 15 minutes, besides being given a pile of pills—a misadventure for which she was billed $24,000. In another instance, a young man said that staff never came by to pick him up so that he could receive his meds; he either had to skateboard over to get them, or just skip his 'scrips altogether. The president of Morningside Recovery, Mary Helen Beatificato, denies that the November order meant her rehab network had to shut down. “If we weren't supposed to be operating, somebody would be doing something about it,” she told the Register. The Dept. of Alcohol and Drug Programs begs to differ. “They are not supposed to be doing anything at all,” confirmed a spokeswoman.
The amount of cocaine captured by law enforcement in Mexico is falling fast, according to an International Narcotics Control Board report released yesterday. Just 10 tons of the drug were taken last year, compared with 53 as recently as 2007. But the figures aren't thought to suggest that cocaine trafficking is decreasing. Rather, as Mexican president Felipe Calderon's forces squeeze the traffickers' space—leading to more fighting for position—while the US tries to tighten up its border, the cartels have moved much of their trade to other parts of Central America, like Honduras, where coke seizures have stayed steady. (The problems this shift has caused are severe enough for some Central American leaders to contemplate total drug decriminalization in an attempt to wrest power back from the cartels.) Much cocaine now skips Mexico entirely on its way from South America to the US, taking Caribbean routes instead. But despite a few promising signs, this doesn't mean Mexico can leave its drug problems behind; drugs that are produced within the country, like meth and marijuana, are just as prevalent there as ever.
Congressmen in Brazil will take a vote tomorrow on whether to allow the sale of alcohol in stadiums during the 2014 soccer World Cup. The issue is divisive and the vote has already been delayed by two weeks. FIFA, soccer's international ruling body, says Brazil must allow the sale of beer inside stadiums during the World Cup and the Confederations Cup next year—largely because Budweiser is a major sponsor of the events. But some congressmen oppose this; selling alcohol in Brazilian soccer stadiums has been against the law for years and fan violence at games has been reduced as a result. If booze is allowed to be sold, it would only be for these two competitions, and would be mostly limited to beer in plastic cups—only those in the VIP areas would have access to other alcoholic drinks. "If the commission approves this, we will take our fight to the [lower house and the senate], this is a mistake,'' says opposition congressman Wanderlei Macris. FIFA, which earns big money from World Cup-related deals, has already lost battles on other 2014 issues, such as limiting cheaper tickets for elderly and students—another guarantee currently mandated by Brazilian law. Brazil will be hosting the World Cup for the first time since 1950.
The Hawaii Island Recovery rehab facility has a new and unorthodox approach: wild dolphin-assisted psychotherapy. It may seem unusual, but Eliza Wille, the animal-assisted psychotherapy specialist who brings patients to swim with the dolphins in their ocean home, says the marine mammals' complex emotions and community-oriented nature make them ideally suited for such therapies. “There are no other animals you can be put into nature with and necessarily expect them... to interact with you," she tells The Fix, presumably thinking mainly of survivable interactions. "If I were to go into the woods and try to sit with some birds, they would fly away.”
While captive dolphins have been used in therapies for autism and PTSD, Hawaii Island Recovery believes it's the wild element that makes this addiction treatment unique. Once a month, participants are taken out into open waters to meet an obliging pod of native Hawaiin spinner dolphins. The natural habitat is vital to the dynamic of the visit: dolphins in the wild, without trainers with fish in their hands, have no ulterior motive to interact with patients. And there's no knowing what they'll do. “Someone might use substances to feel a sense of control in the world, but now they are in a big, uncontrollable ocean with lots of wild animals,” says Wille. “The emotions that come up are therapeutic. It's a way to begin to feel mastery over the world and find resources within yourself, drawing from whatever tools are available.” Wille adds that patients invariably love the therapy and benefit from it. “Peak experiences can flush you with a lot of feelings,” she says. “Tremendous joy, insight, peace and overcoming fears and obstacles encountered in rehab. Anything and everything can happen.”