Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez won his fourth presidential election last night—earning another six-years in charge by capturing 54.4% of the vote against 44.9% for his opponent, Henrique Capriles. The victory inspired wild celebrations in Caracas, but it remains to be seen how his re-election will impact the drug traffickers that plague Venezuela. Despite Chavez' government recently purchasing millions in radar and other anti-trafficking gear from China, his administration has often been accused of being soft on drug trafficking. President Barack Obama said that the country is "failing to meet its obligation" to address the issue: 24% of the cocaine shipped out of South America—over 200 tons—passes through Venezuela, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The amount of cocaine seized in the country has decreased from 58 tons in 2005 to 28 tons last year. That said, Chavez's socialism and his ambivalence towards relations with the US don't help his stateside press: just last May, journalist Dan Rather announced that Chavez, who has had cancer, would die "in a couple of months at most."
Mothers, not fathers, primarily influence their children’s future drinking habits, a new study claims. Researchers from the UK's Demos policy think-tank examined the drinking patterns of 18,000 people across three decades. They found that 16-year-olds' drinking habits were mostly influenced by their peers, rather than their parents. But by the age of 34, a person's likelihood of being a binge drinker was found to line up with the amount they reported their mother drank as a child. Each step that a mother's reported drinking rose on a four point scale—never, sometimes, often or always—correlated with a 30% increase in the adult offspring's chances of binge drinking. “What we found really interesting was this delayed effect; the impact of what teenagers perceived about their mothers' drinking habits doesn't show an impact at the time, but decades later,” says Jonathan Birdwell, head of Demos' Citizens Program. The study found no correlation between fathers' drinking habits and those of their adult children. Researchers note that fathers were more likely to drink outside the home, while mothers were more likely to drink at home, and be seen by their children, which may account for their greater influence. Birdwell says that the relative "cultural acceptability" of male drinking might also partly explain why fathers' drinking had less influence.
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- Report to Reveal Key Details in Armstrong Drug Case [LA Times]
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Visions began as a screenplay about addiction, penned by a newly-sober auto worker in between shifts at a New Jersey factory. But it's evolved into something much larger—a theater company, a far-reaching play, and now a full-length film—all with the sole purpose of helping addicts get clean. "Our only mission is to bring hope," Bob, the screenwriter, and founder of the Visions Recovery Inc. theater company, tells The Fix. Their hour-long play chronicles 20 addicts as they hit bottom, then find a moment of awakening that leads them into 12-step recovery. It's now been performed to an estimated 30,000 people.
But it started small: in 1991, after several community theaters turned it down, Bob's short play was first performed at a New Jersey treatment center. After the show, he recalls, "people were crying like babies, guys as large as houses weeping, hugging us." The initial cast and crew of 20 non-actors, pulled randomly from a recovery room, has since expanded to include over 400 volunteer actors and production crew—many of them recovering addicts, and most with no prior acting experience. Although the show has appeared in an off-Broadway theater, it's mainly performed in churches, rehabs, shelters, prisons and correctional facilities, and other "places no one will go," says Bob. Mainly performed in the tri-state area, it's also gone as far west as Kansas, and south to Washington, DC, where it played in front of congressional aides and addiction field, in an effort to secure more funding for treatment.
Visions follows 12-step traditions by excluding last names and putting on its shows for free, relying solely on donations. "It's special because it's a gift to us," says Bob of the experience, which has helped him stay sober for nearly 24 years. "A good portion of [cast and crew] have remained clean and sober, not entirely because of the show, but because it provides us with an opportunity to do service." The powerful story was recently picked up by notable documentarian and NYU professor Karl Bardosh, who produced a documentary feature about the play called Demons and Angels that premiered in the Reel Recovery Film Festival in NYC this week. Bob says he was nervous about seeing his work on screen: "Doing a live show is magic," he explains. "Over the period of editing, I had doubts that it would capture the magic. But when we premiered it—the magic was there." You can watch the film trailer here.
On the addiction-wracked Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, a drug-legalization drama is playing out among 45,000 resident members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The drug in question is alcohol—which has long been banned on reservation land. Just like with other drugs, though, people who want to drink will get it somehow—in this case, driving to the nearby town of Whiteclay, Nebraska (population: 10), and purchasing some 13,000 cans of beer and malt liquor—per day—from just four stores. Clearly, prohibition isn't working. That’s why the chairman of Oglala’s Law and Order Committee, James Big Boy, said yesterday that he will soon submit a proposal to the tribal council to lift the ban. He believes that allowing alcohol to be sold on the reservation would free up the tribal police to investigate more meaningful crimes; it would cut back on drunk-driving deaths; and the tribe could use money raised by taxes on the sale of booze to fund alcohol-abuse education and addiction treatment programs. The tribe's half-a-billion-dollar lawsuit against the Whiteclay liquor stores was recently tossed out by a federal judge. Following thdecision, Big Boy told the New York Times, “I think it’s time to legalize alcohol.”
Ants: crawling all over your body. It sounds like a less-than-recreational side effect of a drug. But for some feathered "addicts," the stimulation it may provide could be the whole point. Birds' well-documented love of letting ants crawl all over them—or even slathering chewed up mouthfuls of ants onto their bodies—is called “anting,” reports NPR. It's particularly popular among smarter birds like ravens and magpies. Scientist Y.C. Wee divides it into two categories: "active anting," when you pick up ants in your beak and place them on to you, and "passive anting," which involves simply lying down on an ants' nest and seeing what happens. It's not certain why birds do it. Scientists theorize, firstly, that ants transfer chemicals that repel other insects and fungi. But it may also just feel good. One British scientist assessed that "the purpose of anting is the stimulation and the soothing of the body... similar to that gained by humanity from the use of external stimulants, soothing ointments, counter-irritants (including formic acid) and perhaps also smoking." But as with human self-medication, some bird-brains let their anting progress to a point where "it has no biological purpose but is indulged in for its own stake, for the feeling of well-being and ecstasy it induces."