It didn't take long for someone to produce an addiction-related parody of The Artist, the throwback silent film that took Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director honors at the Oscars. And the clip is just the latest in a growing number of Intervention spoofs to hit the web, including the Funny or Die “Intervention Intervention” sketch that we enjoyed a few weeks ago. “The Artist’s Intervention” [below] charts the harrowing journey of “Jeff” (Paulo Costanzo, of Road Trip fame) who, since seeing the film two weeks prior, has lapsed into a silent, tap-dancing, black-and-white existence, ruining his friendships and his relationship. “I left him last week,” laments his fiancee. “But he didn’t even really seem that upset. He just blew his nose really hard into this cartoonishly large handkerchief, and then he did the Charleston for, like, five minutes straight.” Be forewarned: This subject matter may not be suitable for all viewing audiences.
Anti-drug trafficking grants from the White House paid for cars that plain clothes NYPD officers used to conduct surveillance on Muslim neighborhoods, and for computers that stored trivial information about Muslim college students and mosque events. Since the 9/11 attacks, the Bush and Obama administrations have provided $135 million to the New York and New Jersey region through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program (HIDTA), whose grant program is overseen by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. This is confirmed by the AP through secret police documents and interviews with current and former city and federal officials. However, the Obama administration says it has no control over how the NYPD spends its grant money and that congress isn't provided with a breakdown of activities. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney adds that the White House drug policy office has no authority to direct, manage or supervise law enforcement operations, including NYPD surveillance of Muslims. "This is not an administration program or a White House program," says Carney. "This is the New York Police Department." NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly is unapologetic, claiming that local politicians who questioned NYPD methods are pandering to voters. The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union yesterday called for a federal investigation.
Neil Hope, who starred in the 1980s Canadian dramas Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High and was an alcoholic, was found dead at 35 years old in 2007—but members of his family only discovered this four years after the event. Police and the coroners were originally unable to identify Hope's body after he died in an Ontario boarding house, and he was buried unclaimed in a municipal morgue. Hope played the role of Derek “Wheels” Wheeler in the Degrassi dramas, a character whose series of misfortunes leads him down the road of alcoholism. The show's producers revealed that Hope's character drew largely from Hope himself: his neglectful parents took his earnings from the show to feed their own alcohol habits. He had his own drinking problem by the time Degrassi High finished filming; at the age of just 19, Hope contributed to a public service film about alcoholism. “It's nothing to be ashamed of. Because it's not your fault,” he said, hoping to help other teens growing up in similar circumstances. For the rest of his life he worked odd jobs, unable to recapture his acting career, and ultimately disappeared from the public eye entirely.
The huge human toll of the War on Drugs—47,000 deaths in Mexico and many others in Honduras, for example, which has the highest homicide rate in the world—has some Latin American leaders debating the decriminalization of narcotics. But US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano insists that would be a bad move. “I would not agree with the premise that the drug war is a failure,” she asserts. “It is a continuing effort to keep our peoples from becoming addicted to dangerous drugs.” US and Mexican forces continue their hunt for Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, Mexico's most wanted drug kingpin, who has been at large since 2001; Napolitano notes that it took 10 years of perseverance to capture Osama bin Laden. However Latin American leaders are less optimistic than she is, with many seeking alternative ways to approach the drug problem. “We have to keep open ears and open minds,” says El Salvador's president, Mauricio Funes. “I think decriminalization could deliver a serious hit to the finances of organized crime groups... But we also need to consider how [it] could stimulate consumption among our youth.” The decriminalization issue will be debated in April at the Latin American leaders' summit in Colombia.
Photographer Chris Arnade documents heroin and crack addicts in the Bronx for his ongoing photo essay, Faces of Addiction. The portraits and accompanying stories reveal an arresting intimacy between subject and photographer. "In particular what struck me is how self aware and open so many of the addicts were and how willing they were to talk to me," 46-year-old Arnade tells The Fix. He always returns with a printed portrait for each of his subjects, many of whom are lifelong addicts who have been in and out of recovery. Sonia, a crack-addicted mother of five, tells a painful story of relapse after eight years clean: "I went to a program, mothers and children, everything was great, I came out, got a job, felt good, had money." She has been back out for four years. "I am a good person with a very bad disease. If I had all the money in the world I would own all the crack in the world." Arnade's experiences have changed his view of addiction, revealing a very different reality from the often crude portrayals in the media. "When I read all the nasty things people had written about Whitney Houston in the press, I thought of Sonia," says Arnade. "What I am hoping to do, by allowing my subjects to share their dreams and burdens with the viewer and by photographing them with respect, is to show that everyone, regardless of their station in life, is as valid as anyone else.” Some of his work will be presented at the Urban Folk Art Gallery in Brooklyn on March 9.
California senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has introduced a bill that would turn possession of drugs including, cocaine, meth and heroin in the Golden State into a misdemeanor, rather than a felony. The bill would set a maximum penalty of one year in a county jail, compared to current laws, which allow for up to three years in a state prison. Leno claims his bill would help to relieve California’s overcrowded prisons and allow people to get treatment for addiction while keeping their job prospects. "There is no evidence to suggest that long prison sentences deter or limit people from abusing drugs," says Leno. “In fact, time behind bars and felony records often have horrible unintended consequences for people trying to overcome addiction because they are unlikely to receive drug treatment in prison and have few job prospects and educational opportunities when they leave.” According to Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, the bill could save $2 billion over the next 10 years through reducing overcrowding in prisons. Not everyone is a fan, of course. John Redman, executive director of Californians for Drug Free Youth, says the proposal, "sends a mixed message to our youth that taking drugs is not a big deal, that taking drugs is not a problem." Thirteen other states currently have similar laws on the books.