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blurring the lines

7/11/14 1:00pm

Expert Refutes Tabloid's Claim That Gaming Is As Addictive As Heroin

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Really? Photo via

An article published Tuesday by the British tabloid The Sun with the headline “Gaming as addictive as heroin” claimed Britain “is in the grip of a gaming addiction which poses as big a health risk as alcohol and drug abuse.” But Dr. Mark Griffiths, Director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University and an expert who contributed to the Sun piece, staunchly refuted the paper’s position.

“I’ve spent well over 25 years studying video game addiction,” Griffiths told Eurogamer. “If we’re going to use the word addiction we have to use the same concepts, signs and symptoms we find in other more traditional addictions, like withdrawal and tolerance. By doing that, the number of people who end up being addicted by my criteria are actually few and far between.”

The Sun article quoted Dr. Aric Sigman, who said that games produce dopamine in players’ brains in a process similar to the release of chemicals triggered by heroin use, adding that “violent games have been found to make young people more likely to cheat, be impulsive and unable to control their emotions.” Steven Noel-Hill, a therapist at The Alchemy Clinic, which treats addicted gamers, was quoted as saying that video games are “the scourge of our generation,” and that Call of Duty has been “linked” to three or four suicides.

Despite The Sun’s claim that the country is “in the grip” of a dangerous gaming addiction, Griffiths had a different view. “There is no evidence the country is in ‘the grip of addiction.’ Yes, we have various studies showing a small minority have problematic gaming. But problematic gaming doesn’t necessarily mean gaming addiction. They’re two very separate things. Yet the media seem to put them as the same.”

“It’s quite clear that some, whether it’s kids or young adults, have some problems around the fact they seem to be unable to control the amount of time they spend gaming, and maybe it’s impacting other areas of their life," Griffiths added. "But just because there are some addictive-like components there it doesn’t mean they’re genuinely addicted.”

This is not to say that gaming addiction does not exist, Griffiths stressed. However, these cases are few and “most kids can afford to play three hours a day without it impacting on their education, their physical education and their social networks.”

“Yes, I believe video game addiction exists, and if it is a genuine addiction it may well be as addictive as other more traditional things in terms of signs, symptoms and components," Griffiths said. "But the good news is it is a very tiny minority who are genuinely addicted to video games.”

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By Victoria Kim

inspiration or glorification?

7/11/14 10:30am

Lana Del Rey Glorifies Miami Drug Scene In 'Florida Kilos'

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Lana Del Rey’s new Ultraviolence album includes a bonus track called “Florida Kilos,” which romanticizes cocaine dealing and the drug scene in South Florida.

Inspired by legendary drug documentary, Cocaine Cowboys, which was produced by the Miami-based media studio Rakontur, the lyrics to the song read like a celebration of cocaine. Although the original documentary explored the cocaine-fueled crime epidemic that ripped Miami apart in the 1970s and the 1980s, Del Rey's track reflects only a glorified nostalgia for those dark days.

The song was co-written by Harmony Korine, the infamous scribe of Kids and the director of Spring Breakers, and has been designed as the theme song for the planned Spring Breakers sequel. In an interview, Del Rey claimed to have written the lyrics on her own after watching the documentary. “I was inspired by a documentary called Cocaine Cowboys speaking of traffickers in Miami in the 70s," she said. "I attract those who use illegal methods to get what they want. When I was a kid I thought I had the right to have whatever I wanted at any cost. I like the idea of getting to the top with your method, it is legal or illegal.”

On YouTube, the song can be heard with the lyrics rolling over a murky picture of cocaine being cut on a mirror, revealing a romanticized story of cooking crack and snorting lines of coke, among other criminal exploits:

White lines, pretty baby, tattoos,
Don't know what they mean,
They're special, just for you.
White palms, baking powder on the stove,
Cookin' up a dream,
Turnin' diamonds into snow.

Combining such lyrics with the infantilized sexualization of Del Rey’s vocals, the song is bound to raise a storm once released as a single. Of course, Del Rey is no stranger to controversy. Recently, she caused a stir for saying "I wish I was dead already" in talking about musical heroes Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain in an interview with The Guardian. Cobain's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, tweeted a response to Del Rey, saying "the death of young musicians isn't something to romanticize...I'll never know my father because he died young, and it becomes a desirable feat because people like you think it's 'cool.' Well, it's f**king not."

Here is the YouTube video of "Florida Kilos":

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By John Lavitt

going once...

7/11/14 8:30am

Detroit Launching Program To Seize Auction Drug Houses

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The urban wasteland of Detroit. Shutterstock

Showing continued commitment to get itself out of the bankruptcy declared last summer, Detroit has announced a program to seize known drug houses throughout the city and auction them off.

The proposal is essentially a piggyback of an already existing home auction program of fixable abandoned homes, which has netted Detroit over $1 million in sales. The city will notify property owners of homes that police have raided and found drugs in that if it happens again, a lawsuit will be filed to take the houses under nuisance laws and threats to public safety.

Mayor Mike Duggan and Police Chief James Craig have already notified 339 drug houses since the beginning of the year. Craig revealed in a news conference this week that his department will also increase the number of raids on suspected drug houses throughout the city. He believes that “we have too many neighborhoods in this city where people are afraid to go out in front of their homes or let children play in front of their homes because there is a drug house operating on the block.”

Neighbors within two blocks of a raided home will also receive a postcard alerting them about the drug bust, in addition to the number of a confidential hotline to report any suspicious drug activity. Craig said that he believes targeting drug houses will help reduce violent crime throughout the city, but also wants to implement an initial warning because landlords are often absentee and unaware that their properties have become drug dens.

The problem with drugs even extends to teenagers through Detroit. City schools faced a major problem in 2011 when “boozy bears,” or gummy bears soaked overnight in vodka, routinely made their way into classrooms.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

7/11/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: July 11, 2014

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Find another name, pilgrim. Warner Bros.

By Shawn Dwyer

ballot initiative

7/10/14 7:30pm

Florida Seniors Among Medical Marijuana’s Biggest Supporters

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This November, Floridians will decide whether to legalize the medical use of marijuana in the Sunshine State. As both sides of the debate gear up for election day, a seemingly unexpected demographic has revealed itself as one of legalization’s biggest supporters—seniors.

Many senior citizens favor the initiative, called the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, or Amendment 2. “What we’re hearing from older voters is not a lot different from the electorate as a whole,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United For Care, which landed the issue on the ballot. “For the most part, it’s not a controversial topic…If their doctor recommends a particular treatment plan, whether it’s a medication regimen, a new diet, exercise, yoga or medical marijuana, they should be able to follow their doctor’s orders without being treated like a criminal,” he said.

Some seniors prefer marijuana to narcotic painkillers. Angie Wilt, 65, of Canaveral Groves, would rather use marijuana to alleviate her husband’s shoulder and back pain. “It would be so nice to have the option of giving him medical marijuana on an as-needed basis, instead of the narcotic pain meds he takes,” she said. Her husband suffered a massive stroke in 2009 that affected his right side.

Another supporter of Amendment 2, 57-year-old Mary Greene, was anti-marijuana all her life until she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 10 years ago. She lives in constant pain but does not want to be heavily medicated.

Other supporters of the initiative, like Joan Crutcher, 60, of Melbourne Beach, realized marijuana is not the “horrid gateway drug” of childhood fear mongering. They support any kind of legal relief for people with a terminal illness or in serious, long-term pain.

Amendment 2’s opposition includes the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Medical Association, as well as the state’s own Gov. Rick Scott. “There are many people who think marijuana relieves pain. Marijuana is not an analgesic. You can get more pain relief from aspirin than marijuana, if you’re talking about it in that sense,” said John Anderson, 87, of Cocoa Beach. Anderson is a former chairman of the Brevard GOP and a retired nurse anesthetist. He claimed most medical marijuana advocates “have no idea about the pharmacology or the pharmaceutical-therapeutic dynamics of any drug, whether it’s aspirin or some fancy beta blocker.”

About 84% of Florida voters who support the initiative are older than 65, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted this spring. Among all voters, support was at 88%. Among voters 50- to 64-years-old, 62% admitted smoking marijuana, more than any other demographic.

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By Victoria Kim

humanitarian crisis

7/10/14 5:30pm

Rep. Luis Gutierrez Says U.S. Drug Addiction Is Fueling Immigration Crisis

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Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is making headlines for his recent comments claiming that America’s drug habits are fueling both an immigration crisis and violent cartels throughout Central America.

Gutierrez is trying to nudge President Barack Obama to “keep families together” and ease up on deportations. President Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to address the issue of children who are fleeing Central America and crossing the U.S. border. Gutierrez said many of these children are left with no choice but to flee due to the violence and poverty in their home countries, but blamed American drug users for promoting the problems south of the border and declared that Congress has an obligation to not send them back to dangerous spots.

"How do the drug cartels maintain their power? With American guns bought with American dollars because of American consumption of the drugs," he said. "The drugs don't stay in Honduras. They don't stay in Mexico. They come straight to the streets of the United States of America. And so, I think we have a great responsibility in the debilitating of those countries."

Many Republicans are calling for the Obama administration to simply deport the latest round of new arrivals. White House spokesman Josh Earnest has already acknowledged that “most of these kids…will not have a legal basis for remaining in this country and will be returned,” only further adding to the total number of deportees under Obama’s reign. Carlos Rosa of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said that Obama has already deported two million people since taking office, more than any other president in U.S. history.

Gutierrez believes that the solution doesn’t lie with deporting desperate children, but rather addressing and fixing the nation’s broken immigration system. "Shame on people who want to exploit children," Gutierrez said. "You want to change the law? I'm here. I'm ready. Let's sit down at a table and let's get this done together."

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By McCarton Ackerman

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