Things just keep getting worse for Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino: Crack sleuthing by TMZ has revealed that wardrobe guidelines at Cirque Lodge, where The Sitch is currently checked into rehab for addiction to prescription meds/exhaustion, will prevent the Jersey Shore star from displaying his world-famous six-pack (of abs). Beyond a strict prohibition on skin exposure, the guidelines also seek to prevent wardrobe malfunctions by banning muscle shirts, sleeveless tops, ripped jeans, hats, sunglasses and all clothing with obscene language. Seeing as how that sounds like pretty much everything The Situation has ever worn, could a total makeover—both spiritual and sartorial—be in the cards for the muscle-bound MTV icon?
“Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly.” So reads the brazen, bold-faced caption of a vodka ad depicting a man dragging a terrified-looking woman onto his lap. The implication of forced sex—especially in light of the historical (and statistical) association between drinking and rape—has prompted outrage on Twitter and Facebook after the ad was posted late Friday. It was removed shortly thereafter, but not before thousands of fans and followers bore witness to the offensive piece of marketing. “We apologize to any of our fans who were offended by our recent tweet. We continue to be an advocate of safe and responsible drinking," Belvedere tweeted in response. Belvedere Senior Vice President of Global Marketing Jason Lundy issued a more comprehensive follow-up apology, which read in part, "As an expression of our deep disappointment and regret, we are making a charitable donation to a women’s support cause." That better be one big donation.
Drugs may have played a role in Army staff sergeant Robert Bales' recent massacre of 16 Afghan civilians—but not alcohol or opiates or any of the other substances we might reasonably suspect. Whether the anti-malaria drug mefloquine (Larium) may have served as the trigger is the possibility pondered by a former high-ranking Army psychiatrist, writing in a blog on Time’s Battleland.
Mefloquine has a long history of triggering abrupt, gruesome and otherwise-inexplicable psychotic episodes, including an infamous case in the summer of 2002 when four Army officers at Fort Bragg murdered their wives after returning home from the war in Afghanistan. VA officials have also raised questions about the drug's potential implication in the escalating high rate of veterans' suicides. By 2004 the Pentagon had grown so alarmed by reports of the drug’s neuropsychiatric risks that it banned its use. Later that year, the VA alerted veterans' doctors to be on the lookout for signs of bizarre mental-health symptoms among vets—side effects that could occur even years after the anti-malaria prevention was last dosed.
Neither the VA nor the Pentagon has confirmed whether Sgt. Bales, who was charged on Friday with 17 counts of murder, received mefloquine. But the odds are very high that the 38-year-old husband and father of two did take the drug because it was routinely prescribed to tens of thousands of soldiers sent to do battle in Iraq where Bales was deployed from 2003 to 2010.
Last Monday, the Defense Department ordered an emergency review of all mefloquine prescribing, seeming to underline concerns about the drug's possible dangers, according to the Huffington Post. Yet if Bales did, as is likely, take mefloquine, the Army may have no record of the fact. A UPI investigation in 2004 found that many soldiers back from Iraq reported having taken the drug, even though their medical records omitted all mention of the treatment.
How this mefloquine angle will play out, if at all, in Sgt. Bales' legal defense remains, for now, a mystery. But it seems at least probable that we have not heard the last of mefloquine or the gap-ridden medical records.
Although it's been illegal for months now in Missouri, sales of the synthetic drug K2 are thriving, due in part to a lack of awareness about its potentially lethal side effects. The designer drug with marijuana-like effects, made from a mix of herbs and chemicals, has been responsible for a surge of hospitalizations. Marketed under youth-friendly, weed-strain-reminiscent monikers like "Mr. Happy and Purple Diesel", the illegal substance is popular among teens, who can still purchase it under-the-counter at many gas stations and convenience stores.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly one in nine high school seniors have gotten high on synthetic drugs. The director of Jackson County, Missouri's anti-drug program, Stacey Stacey Daniels-Young, agrees: “Synthetics have been used more by young people than any illegal substance other than marijuana, probably because they have been so easy to obtain through ‘legal’ sources," she says. "Word about the availability of something new spreads faster than information about dangerous effects.” One Kansas City parent describes how her son's K2 addiction led to hospitalization and rehab, warning other parents to be vigilant. "Parents don’t have a clue as to what this stuff is," she says. "They need to walk into their children’s room and look into their cars, because they are going to be shocked.”
Millions of Chinese have lottery fever, a recent survey by the Lottery Investigation Center of China has found. Of the 200 million lottery players that live in China, 7 million are addicted and 430,000 are "severely" addicted. The Beijing Times reports that addicts tend to be men between 18 and 45 with decent education—either a high school or college diploma—though they only earn around 1,500 to 3,000 yuan a month ($240 to $475—the national average is $2,700 a month). According to Chen Haiping, a doctor in psychology at Beijing Normal University, lottery addicts are driven by the compulsion to elevate their social standing in a society that offers few avenues to wealth. To help addicts, the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council is urging the government and lottery agencies to set up rescue funds. Though these figures are initially alarming—there are two-thirds as many lottery players in China as there are people in the United States—7 million addicts in a population of 1.3 billion is a tiny fraction, which comes to about a 0.5% gambling addiction rate. Comparatively, 6 million Americans, or 2%, are addicted to gambling.
Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina was the most outspoken at a weekend meeting among Central American leaders on ending the drug violence in the region, proposing several ideas that included legalizing drugs. In addition to decriminalizing the transport and consumption of drugs, Perez Molina also suggested creating a regional court to try drug trafficking cases and having the US provide economic compensation for seized drugs. Although the leaders did not come to an agreement, the meeting was still a success in the eyes of Perez Molina. "It was as successful as we were hoping, successful in that we got rid of these taboos and myths that before kept the leaders of the region from talking or debating ideas, ideas that for a long time could not be talked about openly," he says. The 61-year-old surprised many with how quickly he wavered from his election season promises of cracking down on cartels "with an iron fist"—just after his first month in office he began advocating for the legalization of drugs. Perez Molina isn't the first Central American leader to support legalizing drugs. A 2009 report showed that three former Latin American presidents—Brazil's Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Colombia's Cesar Gaviria, and Mexico's Ernesto Zedillo—called for decriminalizing marijuana for personal use, former Mexican President Vicente Fox has also echoed advocacy for cannabis legalization.