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War on Drugs

8/08/12 12:40pm

Brazil Battles Drugs at Its Borders

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92% of Bolivia's cocaine crosses into Brazil.
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As part of a two-week operation to fight drug crime, Brazil is deploying 9,000 troops to secure its borders with Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay. According to the Defense Ministry, the operation, which began on Monday, is intended to block an influx of drugs and arms into the country. "This mobilization along the border is a matter of self-defense," says David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia. "Brazil is invaded by drugs and clandestine arms shipments from the neighboring countries, mostly from Bolivia and Paraguay." Bolivia is the world's third biggest producer of cocaine—and officials estimate that 92% of that produce heads to Brazil. In the past two years, more than two tons of drugs and 59 weapons have been seized in four similar operations. However, in order for such operations to be effective against the overwhelming tide of illegal imports, they would have to employ at least 50,000 troops, Fleischer estimates, "but the country does not have the resources for that."

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By May Wilkerson

Celebrity Busts

8/08/12 11:52am

Randy Travis Arrested, Drunk, Again

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Texans: stay off the roads. Photo via

Country superstar Randy Travis has been arrested for driving drunk—his second drunkenness bust this year—after crashing his car in Texas late last night. Officers reportedly found Travis cut, bruised and for some reason completely in the nude. He'd reportedly gotten into a fight with his girlfriend earlier. Sources tell TMZ that the "No Holdin' Back" singer refused to take a breathalyzer test, so cops ultimately drew blood to test his BAC. They also charged him with "retaliation and obstruction"—a felony—for verbally threatening a police officer during the bust. The six-time Grammy-winner was last arrested just six months ago, also in Texas, when he was cuffed for public drunkenness outside of a baptist church after "an evening of celebrating the Super Bowl." At the time of that arrest, officers described Travis as "cooperative but smelling of booze"—but it doesn't sound like he was so obliging last night. After February's drunken incident, Travis stated: "I'm committed to being responsible and accountable, and apologize for my actions." It remains to be seen whether he'll top that this time around.

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By Gabrielle Wuhl

Bath Salts

8/08/12 10:51am

Cuomo Cracks Down on Bath Salt "Poison"

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"Poison that is being distributed and sold."
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is taking a stand against synthetic drugs: the state Department of Health has made it a crime to possess synthetic drugs such as bath salts and synthetic marijuana, and it's also now illegal for stores to carry them under any name. “We’re talking about poison," says Cuomo. "This is poison that is being distributed and sold.” Individuals can be charged with possession of an illicit substance and face fines up to $500 and up to 15 days in jail, while stores attempting to sell them face up to $2,000 per violation. "It will give us some teeth to go in and take the product off the shelf and issue at least appearance tickets,” says Joseph D’Amico, superintendent of State Police. “And it gives the Department of Health the opportunity to follow up with these locations with civil proceedings.” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued 16 head shops last month for mislabeling substances such as synthetic marijuana and bath salts in an alleged attempt to evade federal and state laws. Bath salt-related emergency room visits in upstate New York have soared from 39 last year to 191 so far in 2012, with 120 coming in June and July. According to the state Poison Control Center, there were 20 calls concerning synthetic marijuana poisonings in 2010, compared to 291 in 2011 and 321 through the first six months of this year.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Headlines

8/08/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: August 8, 2012

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Is Abraham still using? Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

Medical Marijuana

8/07/12 5:00pm

Is Pot a Safer Alternative to Painkillers?

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Is pot the "exit drug"? Photo via

Marijuana may be an effective treatment for chronic pain and a safer alternative than pharmaceutical painkillers, according to new research from the Centre for Addictions Research at the University of Victoria. Researcher Phillippe Lucas reviewed numerous studies carried out from 1975 onwards, in which patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain were treated with a combination of cannabis and opiates. He writes in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, “Research suggests that when used in conjunction with opiates, cannabinoids can lead to a greater cumulative relief of pain, which may in turn result in a reduction in the use of opiates (and associated side effects) by patients in a clinical setting.” Lucas says this would not only have a positive impact on pain levels and quality of life for paitients, but also help reduce the soaring painkiller addiction rates in both the US and Canada. He even believes marijuana could help treat other addictions to stimulants and alcohol, and could therefore help reduce alcohol-related problems like drunk driving and domestic violence.

“So what we’re really talking about in a nutshell," Lucas tells The Fix, "is cannabis as an exit drug to addiction, rather than a gateway drug as it is often suggested it might be. Overall, the more doctors know about the medical use of cannabis, the better potential health outcomes for the patients.”

Of course, other studies have shown that marijuana has its own negative side effects—one just out says pot can cause long-term anxiety in people who smoke it as teenagers, for example. But Lucas says society needs to fully evaluate its prejudices towards marijuana: “As a society, we’re going up against 70 years of reinforcement that this substance is altogether negative... That prevents us from looking at this substance and all its potential benefits," he argues. “I think the current harms of prohibition, particularly cannabis prohibition, far outweigh any potential harm from the individuals and society that legalizing cannabis may have. If we were to discover cannabis in this day and age in a jungle in South America, I think we would consider it almost as a miracle drug.”  

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By Chrisanne Grise

Mass Murder

8/07/12 3:58pm

Sikh Massacre Shooter Had a Drinking Problem

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Page at a white power concert

Wade Michael Page, the white supremacist who burst into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on Sunday and killed six worshippers before being shot dead by a police officer, reportedly battled an alcohol problem that led to his 2006 discharge from the Army, a DWI and the loss of a job at a trucking company in 2010.

The mass-murderer, who was described by his step-mother today as a "gentle" person, was a prominent figure in local white power rock scene. He was also struggling financially, and faced home foreclosure. During an interview last night with CNN's Piers Morgan, one of Page's self-described "close friends" described him as "a very kind, very smart individual—loved his friends. One of those guys with a soft spot," but that he was also “the loner type of person. Even in a group of people, he would be off alone.” According to the friend, Page was awaiting the "holy war."

Page served in the Army from 1992 to 1998, and worked as a technician on missile systems, and later as a psychological operations specialist. He was discharged by what Army officials describe as a “pattern of misconduct” linked to being intoxicated on duty. The following year, Wade was arrested in Colorado on DWI charges. He later took a job at an Iowa-based trucking company, which he managed to hold onto for four years—until he was pulled over in North Carolina and cited for driving while impaired by alcohol or “some other chemical substance,” according to the Washington Post.

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By Mike Guy

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