Saturday, April 30, 2005

Colombia Central Banker Says Peso Rally May Boost Coca Output

April 29 (Bloomberg) -- Colombian central banker Carlos Gustavo Cano said he's concerned the two-year rally in the peso against the dollar may push some farmers into planting illegal crops such as coca and opium poppy.

The peso's 27 percent surge against the dollar since January 2003 is making Colombian crops such as coffee, bananas and corn more expensive in dollar-terms, hurting farmers' ability to compete against imports and to sell in export markets.

``An acute and prolonged appreciation hurts the production of legal crops and strengthens the production of illegal crops,'' Cano, 58, said in an interview in Paipa, a town about 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Bogota, on April 24.

Cano, who left his agriculture minister post in February to become one of the central bank's seven directors, said halting the peso's appreciation would help the government's battle against rebel insurgents who control much of the drug trade in Colombia, the world's biggest producer of cocaine.

``Combating by all measures the farming of illegal crops is a matter of national security because that's where terrorist groups get their financing,'' Cano said. ``And when I say by all means I am including the economic front -- creating the right environment so that the legal agricultural industry flourishes.''

Julian Cardenas, an economist at Corporacion Financiera del Valle in Bogota, said he doubts the rally in the peso will lead more farmers to plant illegal crops.

Coca, Opium

``I don't see the exchange rate being a decisive factor that leads small farmers to start planting illegal crops,'' Cardenas said in a telephone interview in Bogota. ``Deciding what type of crop to farm is a long-term decision. The peso's appreciation is expected to reverse at some point and therefore it doesn't make sense for farmers to go into illegal crops based on this.''

Drug figures from 2004 show no signs of an increase in the farming of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, or opium poppy, which is used to make heroin. Colombia's coca farmers had 114,000 hectares under cultivation in 2004, unchanged from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. Opium poppy cultivation fell to 2,100 hectares in 2004 from 4,400 hectares.

The peso is little changed today, falling 0.02 percent to 2,348.55 to the dollar at 11:45 a.m. New York time. It's up 0.3 percent this year and 13 percent in the past 12 months, driven higher by a surge in foreign investment amid the South American country's fastest economic expansion in a decade.

The central bank has taken several steps to slow the currency's rally over the past two years, including selling pesos for dollars and forcing investors to keep their money in the country for at least a year in a bid to discourage foreign investment in the stock and bond markets.

Cano declined to comment on whether the central bank will take more measures to try to weaken the peso.

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Prenatal cocaine exposure exerts subtle effects on schoolchildren

Medical News Today

Children exposed to cocaine before birth show subtle but discernible differences in their ability to plan and problem-solve once they reach school age, University of Florida researchers report.

Still, most fare far better in the first few years after birth than many experts once predicted, contradicting the notion that as a rule, cocaine-exposed infants would be born with devastating birth defects or miss major developmental milestones.

"I think the early information we had was that these children might be irreversibly damaged - that they would potentially have lots of problems in school, that they might have lots of behavior problems, that they might have problems thinking and learning," said UF neonatologist Marylou Behnke, M.D.

Instead, UF researchers write in the April online issue of the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, prenatal cocaine exposure is linked to smaller head circumference at birth and to less optimal home environments, which in turn have direct yet mild effects on developmental outcome at 3 years of age. Those effects persist at ages 5 and 7, once more demands are placed on the children during the formal school years, according to related findings the researchers presented at the recent annual meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development.

"We have found that at age 3, the more cocaine the child was exposed to, the smaller the head circumference at birth, and the smaller the head circumference at birth, the worse the developmental or cognitive outcomes," said Behnke, adding that head circumference at birth is an important measure because generally the head grows as brain size increases. "So cocaine is not directly affecting outcome, but it affects this intermediary measure that we're looking at that then goes on to affect outcome. We think that head circumference may be some sort of a marker for what is going on in the prenatal environment, that it's a proxy marker for other things."

Each year, about 45,000 infants who were exposed to cocaine in the womb are born, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. When the dangers of prenatal cocaine exposure first grabbed headlines in the mid-1980s, no studies had followed children beyond infancy. UF researchers began studying crack and cocaine users and their offspring about 13 years ago, launching a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that assesses physical and developmental outcomes among 300 children from birth on. Half the study participants were exposed to cocaine in utero, half were not; all were from rural areas of north Central Florida.

Average daily cocaine use among the 154 mothers who used drugs throughout pregnancy was $32.70, the cost equivalent of approximately three rocks of crack cocaine. Of that group, one quarter were considered "heavy users."

"We have found in our developmental studies of our newborns that there were some subtle differences between the groups, not the kind of things that moms and dads would notice particularly, not the kinds of things that family members might suspect if they saw the baby," said Behnke, a professor of pediatrics at UF's College of Medicine. "As the children have started to get older, we have begun to see a few more subtle effects, so by the time they were at six months, we could see some effect of cocaine on their developmental processes, but again, we're not talking about dramatic effects. And as they moved on to age 3, we began to see even more effects."

Cocaine-exposed children were assessed at age 3 in part by using the standardized assessment known as the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, which assesses a child's ability to perform age-appropriate functions such as following simple directions and completing puzzles and other problem-solving tasks. At 5 and 7, more extensive neuropsychological and intelligence testing was done.

"Some kids just have trouble getting going, getting started and once they get going they do a little better," said co-researcher Fonda Davis Eyler, a UF professor of pediatrics. "Others have trouble maintaining their attention and they respond to other cues and not what they're supposed to be targeting on and doing, or they only have simple strategies, not more complex ones."

The quality of the home environment was even more likely than smaller head size to influence outcome, Eyler said. UF researchers have analyzed measures of depression and self-esteem among caregivers and studied their views on parenting and child development. Children living in nurturing environments with supportive, competent caregivers scored higher on developmental measures, even when they had been exposed to cocaine before birth.

The children participating in the study are now entering the pre-teen years. As their academic responsibilities and social pressures increase, other, more serious effects may surface, Eyler said. Meanwhile, researchers are increasingly able to refine the tests they use to more precisely assess the children's progress, homing in on the areas of the brain more involved with planning and thinking strategically - the regions that cocaine, in theory, would most likely affect.

In this next arm of the study, all will undergo intelligence and achievement tests, including assessments of language ability, attention, problem-solving and abstract thinking, Eyler said. Researchers also will ask the youngsters about their attitudes, behavior, family relationships and friendships. In addition, they will assess the children's home environment and interview their caregivers and schoolteachers.

Deborah A. Frank, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, said the UF team's work will "do much to dispel the inaccurate and hysterical predictions that inaccurately stigmatize children with intrauterine cocaine exposure."

"This is an important contribution to the field, since it thoughtfully addresses both biologic and social risk factors, viewing intrauterine cocaine exposure as only one of many possible influences on children," Frank said. "The importance of positive environmental characteristics in promoting toddler development, regardless of intrauterine cocaine exposure, is a crucial finding of this work that can guide evidence-based interventions for families.

"Although these findings are reassuring, long-term follow-up of this sample will be important, since intrauterine exposures such as tobacco and marijuana have been shown to have 'sleeper' effects on development that do not emerge until adolescence," she added.

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Donatella Versace says after rehab stint, she has 'all new habits'

NEW YORK - Donatella Versace has designs on staying sober after a trip to rehab last year.

The fashion guru tells the May issue of Vogue that her 18-year addiction to cocaine began at 32, when she mostly used the drug at parties in New York and Los Angeles.

"I had so much fun," Versace, now 50, told the magazine. "I had the best time of my life."

The murder of her brother Gianni Versace in 1997 prompted Donatella to abandon cocaine, but the sobriety didn't last.

When she began again, she mixed cocaine with sedatives and fought chronic headaches with "lots of Excedrin," Versace said.

She hit bottom after her women's show in March 2004.

"I was crying, laughing, crying, sleeping — I couldn't understand when I was talking; people couldn't understand me," she said. "I think if I didn't go (to rehab) I would have died."

Family and friends — including Elton John — used the 18th birthday party of Donatella's daughter, Allegra, in Italy to stage an intervention. That night, Versace boarded a plane to Arizona. She spent five weeks in rehab.

Now, she says, "I have all new habits. My day is totally different. ... I don't want to feel that way again."

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How Brian Wilson became detactched from reality

CX Magazine

We at CX are champions for the repressed, who can sometimes take the form of a misled celebrity. We see them dragged out of comfortable hotel beds after just 3 hours sleep for meaningless photo shoots and interviews. We see them fed lies about their careers, given very bad advice and drugs, then dropped stone cold by their record company with calls not returned.

Nothing is sadder than a public face whose manager and PR flack have gone to ground - which they usually do when the money machine sputters to a halt. A year or two later, the accountant is telling them they have a crippling tax bill. They can't get a job, because everyone says 'hey - aren't YOU ?'
In fact, we feel very, very sympathetic, unlike some people within the industry who seem to get a jolly from FIS - Fallen Idol Syndrome.
So it came to pass that in researching the story of Brian Wilson, a terrible tale of abuse emerged. It's probably one of the worst examples of what can and sometimes does happen to a famous person.

The following text is from the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights, an American body who champion the cause those who fall by the wayside.

With the band’s career well on the way, in 1965, at the age of 23, Brian dropped acid for the first time. It was undiluted LSD. After the trip, Brian wrote, “My home life was most tumultuous. Marilyn [his wife] complained that the LSD had changed me... I didn’t see it then, but she was right. The change was gradual. Like a slow allergic reaction. I slept later. I was subject to wider, more unpredictable mood swings, crying one minute, laughing hysterically the next for no reason. I ate tremendous amounts of sweets. I refused to be sociable.”
As is now known, LSD is unpredictable in its potential effect and is known to induce psychosis. Over the next several years, Wilson withdrew from touring with the Beach Boys and limited his involvement to writing songs. Locking himself in his bedroom for months on end, living on candy bars and milk shakes, he became completely dependent on his family for his spending money and his ability to get around.
The services of Dr. Eugene Landy, a clinical psychologist and reputed “pioneer” in drug treatment, were contracted for most of 1976. Landy’s controversial method of “treatment” required that he have “total therapeutic authority over the patient and the patient’s environment.” Under this program, Brian was also prescribed additional drugs, “psychotropics... tranquilizers....”
The control was too much for The Beach Boys, who eventually fired Landy.
But Brian’s drug addiction continued to ruin his life. Landy was engaged again after Brian overdosed on a combination of booze, cocaine and psychoactive pills. In January of 1983, orchestrating a plan to “save Brian’s life,” Landy insisted on total control of all aspects of Brian’s life for 18 to 36 months at a cost of nearly half a million dollars. He arranged with The Beach Boys for Brian to be “fired from the group and not given any more money unless he (Brian) agreed to see Landy for ‘extensive treatment.’” Landy is quoted as saying, “the success of 24-hour therapy rests on the extent to which the therapeutic team can exert control over every aspect of the patient’s life....” to “... totally disrupt the privacy of their patient’s lives, gaining complete control over every aspect of their physical, personal, social and sexual environments.”
Between 1983 and 1986, Landy and his team of assistants looked after Brian while sharing his lifestyle for a fee of some $420,000 annually. Two years later, when Landy requested even more money, a desperate Carl Wilson gave away 25 percent of Brian’s publishing royalties to cover the costs of continuing the program.
By 1986, everything began to unravel for Landy. He was accused of being a “Svengali* who was holding Brian captive.” It was discovered that he was writing songs with Brian as “part of his therapy,” not to be given to The Beach Boys, but for Landy’s own personal gain. After The Beach Boys cut off the money, Dr. Landy got Brian to sign with him to do a solo album. During the songwriting for this album, Brian’s longtime songwriting partner Gary Usher reported that during their time together, Brian told him that he was “... a goddamned prisoner... I have no hope of escape.” Gary turned over his detailed diary to the Attorney General’s office, which had already begun to investigate Landy.
In February 1988, the California Board of Medical Quality charged Dr. Landy with ethical and license code violations. These charged violations amounted to the moral and spiritual rape of Brian Wilson. Landy gave up his license to practice for two years. When he requested reinstatement in 1992, the Board opposed it.
As part of a battle to control Brian’s estate in 1990, his daughter told Rolling Stone, “I think that Dr. Landy has really taken advantage, no question about it. When my dad has been off drugs, he’s whispered in people’s ears, like, ‘He’s really got control of me. I’m afraid to leave him. I’m afraid.’”
In 1992, a lawsuit filed against Landy by the Beach Boys and Brian’s mother, resulted in the barring of Landy from Brian’s life. (Thanks to C.C.H.R. for text).

Brian Wilson is back with us, at least musically.

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Cocaine Turns To Sugar In Police Custody


WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish prosecutors are investigating the disappearance of 20 kg (44 lbs) of cocaine from a police warehouse, where it had been replaced by an identical quantity of sugar, police said on Monday.

Zbigniew Matwiej, spokesman for Poland's organised crime fighting unit, the Central Investigative Bureau, said the switch was discovered when officers were disposing of evidence that had been seized several years ago and used in trials.

"The officers noticed that something suspicious was happening with the drugs and immediately stopped the destruction process. Their suspicions that the material was not in fact cocaine proved to be well founded," Matwiej said.

The lost cocaine had a street value of about $1 million (530 million pounds), according to Polish private television TVN24.

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IQ Dips More on Email Than Pot

Red Herring

Scientists find distractions of email, instant messages, and phone calls temporarily lower employee IQ by 10 points—more than twice the effect of marijuana.

The constant barrage of emails, text messages, and phone calls decreases IQ test scores in office workers more than twice as much as smoking marijuana, British researchers reported Friday.

Scientists at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that environments with distracting technologies lower IQ by an average of more than 10 points when compared with quiet conditions.

By comparison, other research has shown that smoking marijuana causes just a 4-point drop. A 10-point reduction is similar to the impact of missing an entire night’s sleep.

The study also demonstrated that the problem is widespread. A separate survey of 1,100 people found that 62 percent of British adults check messages out of office hours and when on holiday, and most employees respond to an email within an hour.

“We have found that infomania, if unchecked, will damage a worker’s performance by reducing their mental sharpness,” said researcher Dr. Glenn Wilson.

Asked if he had a message for Silicon Valley, Dr. Wilson told Red Herring, “Control technology rather than let it control you.”

Frequent phone calls and incoming emails had a greater impact on the IQ of men than women.

However, female employees reported higher stress levels from constant distraction. The IQ tests were carried out on 80 office workers.

“This is more worrying when you consider the consequent impact on businesses,” said Hewlett-Packard spokesman David Smith, pointing out that HP didn’t want to discourage people from buying its products.

HP commissioned the study.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Marijuana monkeys



A gang of drunk monkeys went on a rampage through a village in India, injuring three people.The monkeys had been boozing on liquor made of marijuana leaves, which they stole from outside the residents' huts in Baralapokhari village.Locals had been preparing the drink as part of an offering to Hindu gods for a religious festival, the Times of India reports. Villagers fought back against the group of drunken primates with sticks and other weapons, finally managing to drive them back into the forest.However, three people were injured in the battle and had to be taken to hospital.

© 1998-2005 DeHavilland Information Services plc. All rights reserved.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Colombia pursues US troop cocaine smuggling case

ABC News Online

Colombia's defence minister has said a deal giving US soldiers immunity from prosecution was amendable, as law-makers want to charge five US soldiers suspected of cocaine smuggling.

Five US soldiers were arrested aboard a US military plane leaving Colombia on March 29, allegedly with 16 kilograms of cocaine.

They had been in Colombia on an anti-drug mission. One of the five has been released for lack of evidence.

"I am not saying that [the agreement] should be modified, but if problems are found that merit a change, I am sure that officials at the Colombian Foreign Ministry and US State Department officials would sit down for that," Jorge Alberto Uribe told reporters.

US Ambassador to Bogota, William Wood, said the soldiers are covered by a 1974 US-Colombian immunity deal, which allows them to be tried under US law.

Colombian Foreign Minister Carolina Barco agrees.

However, some Colombian law-makers argue that a bilateral extradition treaty for drug offences takes precedence, and therefore US soldiers who break the law in Colombia should face justice in Colombia.

The soldiers were serving as part of the US war on drugs under the $US3 billion ($3.9 billion) "Plan Colombia," which pays for equipment and some 800 soldiers and 600 contractors to work in-country.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Drug-driving overtakes drink-driving in Victoria

ABC News Online

Police figures show driving under the influence of drugs is now more than three times more prevalent than drink-driving.

Victorian police are conducting a year-long trial of random roadside drug testing for cannabis and methamphetamines.

They are mainly concentrating their efforts around rave parties and on interstate truck routes.

The saliva tests were modified earlier this year after some positive results later showed up negative in laboratory testing.

Police Minister Tim Holding says the tests are now proving successful and reliable, but the results are alarming.

"We're now very confident that the technology is working effectively and that the police personnel are operating the tests appropriately," he said.

"We've now conducted over 4,600 tests and we're very, very concerned that one in 73 Victorians has tested positive to drug-driving in the four months that the trial has been under way."

He says a decision on whether the saliva tests will be fully adopted will not be made until the end of the trial in December.

"We have to be a little bit cautious with the figures because unlike our booze buses, which are in a sense more random, we have been using the drug-driving bus particularly targeting rave parties and the parts of our road network that are heavily used by truck drivers, but nevertheless the results are still very, very concerning," he said.
Approach questioned

The Youth Affairs Council believes a broader education campaign is needed to deter drug driving.

Executive officer, Georgie Ferrari, says many young people think it is safe to drive on drugs.

"Victoria Police would be well suited to target a campaign around young people dispelling those myths, and educating young people on the dangers, rather than just putting a bus outside a rave party."

The Law Institute of Victoria is concerned the results of the drug tests are too limited.

Chief executive John Cain says the tests do not show if using drugs actually affects a person's driving.

"People will be saddled with the stigma of a drug-related criminal record for a driving offence in circumstances where there's absolutely no impairment to the person's capacity to drive," Mr Cain said.

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Musical 'Reefer' too high on camp

New York Daily News

REEFER MADNESS. Saturday night at 10, Showtime.

On paper, Showtime's telemovie version of "Reefer Madness," an expanded version of the recent cult stage musical about the infamous 1938 anti-marijuana propaganda film, sounds like fun.

It has a good cast and a great look, and is the sort of project that looks irresistibly enjoyable in previews.

It's not.

"Reefer Madness" arrives Saturday night at 10 not on paper - but on television. And by adapting the stage musical with the camp values amped up, it arrives with a tone that's too loud, too obvious and much too disappointing.

The original stage musical version of "Reefer Madness," performed on both coasts in relatively small productions, was written by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, who also wrote the teleplay; Murphy wrote the lyrics, which contain bursts of cleverness, and Studney wrote the music, which doesn't.

Andy Fickman directs the TV version, which encompasses everything from animation and special effects to Busby Berkeley camerawork and headless horror-movie scenes.

Behind the scenes, Murphy is a much hotter draw this season as one of Marc Cherry's collaborators on ABC's "Desperate Housewives."

And in front of the camera, Kristen Bell, as the innocent girl tempted to sample the evils of the illegal weed, has seen her star rise as well, as the protagonist of UPN's "Veronica Mars."

Also starring in "Reefer Madness" are Alan Cumming, throwing himself into his role of anti-drug lecturer with the same enthusiasm he did as the emcee in Broadway's revival of "Cabaret" - but without the quality of material with which to work.

Ana Gasteyer, formerly of "Saturday Night Live," and Steven Weber, formerly of "Wings," play two evil influences on Bell's Mary Lane and her initially sweet boyfriend, Jack, played by Christian Campbell.

Campbell, who originated the role in the stage production, is joined here by his better-known sister Neve, who has a small role just to help out.

This is a cast that could, maybe even should have worked - but most of them are directed here to play for the last row of the balcony, and, in the tradition of "The Rocky Horror Show," to try to get people to throw toast. The tone is so over-the-top camp, it's deafening. And tone-deaf, in a musical, is not a pleasant attribute.

If it's worth watching, it's to watch the blondes having more fun. Bell is a blast as the good girl gone bad - gone, briefly, all vinyl and whips - and demonstrates not only a very good singing voice, but modulates her performance properly as well.

So does Amy Spanger, a TV newcomer who was featured in Broadway's recent revival of "Kiss Me Kate."

Cumming and Weber are the best of the men, who also include John Kassir as a hophead and Robert Torti as Jesus. But Weber's role, like this movie, isn't good enough to allow him to soar as other of his former "Wings" cast members have.

"Reefer Madness" the TV musical, though, is no cult hit.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Drug dealers glorified in Mexican school book


Did selection of popular songs go too far?

The Associated Press
Updated: 4:07 p.m. ET Feb. 21, 2005

MEXICO CITY - Mexico’s school libraries are stocking a book that includes the lyrics of “narcocorridos” — folk songs that glorify drug traffickers — causing a storm of criticism in a country where the drug market and its violence have become part of life in thousands of communities.
Opposition activists are livid that the administration of President Vicente Fox, which has declared a “war on all fronts” against drug gangs, allowed tens of thousands of copies of the book “100 Corridos: The Heart of Mexican Song” to slip into grade-school libraries.
The book, printed by a private publishing company but bought in bulk by the government, contains lyrics for songs like “The Red Car Gang,” which describes Mexican cocaine smugglers shooting it out with Texas Rangers:
“They say they came from the south/In a red car/Carrying 100 kilos of cocaine/bound for Chicago ... “
Another song describes female drug traffickers who poisoned police with opium to protect a drug shipment, then praises “The Lord of the Skies,” the nickname for the deceased drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes:
“They caught him alive/but they couldn’t pin anything on him/ now they can display him dead/on trumped-up charges."
Hard-copy heroes?Experts say the corrido is Mexico’s national song form. Born along with the country’s independence in the 1820s, it reached its peak during the 1910-1917 Revolution. Narcocorridos didn’t start becoming popular until the 1970s and 80s.
Legislators say the books have no place in Mexican schools and have scheduled hearings.
“It’s very bad to put books like this into the hands of children because they portray drug lords as heroes,” said Salvador Martinez, who heads the education committee of the lower house of Congress.
“That’s bad, because we have a problem in this country where drug traffickers sometimes pave a town’s road, build its school or hospital, and thus have a much better reputation among some people than the police. We have to work against that.”
The U.S.-driven drug market has woven its way into the life of thousands of Mexican communities, where narcotics have been a source of otherwise scarce money and of power. Ambitious young men are drawn by the vast profits in shipping Colombian cocaine to the United States. Poor farmers often see cultivation of marijuana or opium as a step away from starvation.
In addition, Mexico has a growing domestic consumption problem — possibly aggravated by the increasing difficulty of smuggling drugs over the U.S. border — and concern about drug sales have led officials to routinely search students at some schools.
No reviewers objectedThe sheer bulk of candidate books for libraries — and the fact that narcocorridos account for only a few of the corridos in the book — apparently allowed the narcotics issue to be overlooked.
Education Department officials say the volume is merely secondary reading material, purchased as part of an effort to put as many as 30 million books in school libraries across the country, while supporting Mexican publishers.
More than 13,000 titles were submitted by local book distributors as candidates for the plan. The books were vetted by three non-governmental civic groups at the national level and then were evaluated by committees of parents, teachers and local officials in Mexico’s 31 states and the capital.
All but one of those states — whose committees had access to the full text — picked “100 Corridos” as a top choice for local libraries. The other state listed it as a second choice. None rejected it.
About 80,000 copies of the book were printed, though it is not clear how many made it into schools. Officials say they have no immediate plans to withdraw it.
Just like Cucaracha?Some education officials tried to depict the scandal as an example of overly zealous censorship of a song genre that for centuries has celebrated outlaws and the common man. They noted one of the best-known and oldest corridos, “La Cucaracha,” also contains references to drugs.
One verse runs: “La Cucaracha/ La Cucaracha/can no longer walk/Because he hasn’t got/because he ran out of/marijuana to smoke.”
Many other corridos, like the 1930s song “The Smuggler,” glorify thieves, rebels, or smugglers.
Border towns in northern Mexico — where drug vendettas have cost thousands of lives in recent years — have tried to ban local radio stations from playing narcocorridos, saying too many lives have been lost to the drug culture.
In 2002, Baja California state radio stations agreed to ban narcocorridos and decided to play only songs that promote positive messages.
“I certainly recognize that corridos are part of our cultural values,” said federal Sen. Jesus Ortega. “But they should be corridos, not these songs that glorify crime.”

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Tornado Uncovers Pot Operation in Florida

SF Gate

(04-13) 14:22 PDT PALM BAY, Fla. (AP) --
A tornado that ripped through Geoffrey Crook's home in February didn't just tear away his roof. Authorities say it exposed his elaborate marijuana-growing operation.
Crook, 41, was charged Tuesday with possession and manufacturing of cannabis after police officers served him with an arrest warrant at his job. He was released on $1,000 bond Tuesday night.
The operation had lamps, hydroponic equipment and log books. Fifty-four marijuana plants neatly arranged in master bedroom had a street value of about $8,000, authorities said.
The operation was uncovered after an F-1 tornado swept through the Palm Bay neighborhood where Crook lived. The tornado, with winds whipping up to 112 mph, tore away Crook's roof.
Palm Bay police and other emergency crews were searching through the debris for injured victims when they came across the two-to-three foot plants. Crook was not at home during the storm.
Crook had a disconnected telephone number and couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

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Free heroin in Canada

The Washington Times

By Rachel MarsdenOutside View Commentator
Vancouver, BC, Apr. 11 (UPI) -- The Canadian government has decided to issue free heroin to heroin addicts at a cost of $8 million of taxpayers' money starting this week, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Every leftist politician I've spoken with, and every Canadian media report I've seen, parrots the "success" of the same Swiss study as justification for this scheme. But what no one has pointed out is that this Swiss study was deemed to be an abject failure in 1999 in a World Health Organization External Evaluation Panel report.
Subsequently, a letter to the International Narcotics Control Board from the director-general of the WHO concluded that the project was an "observational study without the possibility of making reliable unbiased comparisons between treatment options." It did "not provide clear evidence for the benefits of heroin treatment over other substitution agents." The project established "no causal link ... between prescription of heroin and improvements in health or social status ..." Therefore, "it is difficult to conclude that the available results of this Swiss study could assist any other country ..."
However, when asked about the Vancouver free heroin trials, University of Amsterdam Center for Drug Research Director Dr. Peter Cohen explained why he was still all for the idea, "(O)piates are remarkably nontoxic and impose very little health hazards. However, the junkification of users that happens to some of them is not a result of the opiates, but of the social conditions in which people land. Intense marginalization under conditions of prohibition 'creates' junkies ... Now, if you supply heroin to users, you relieve them from the black market and you supply self esteem to them which creates all sorts of possibilities ... But, compared to the social conditions that create junkification, the conditions inside the maintenance program are more humane and more promising."
Cool word, that "junkification." It evokes images of grunge-rocker Courtney Love trashing a pricey hotel room.
I asked Robert Weiner, former White House drug policy spokesman, and now president of a Washington-based think tank specializing in drug policy -- what he thought of Cohen's statement, and the idea that heroin isn't harmful. He replied with, "You get to the point where the person is obviously an idiot. It doesn't pass any thinking person's common sense test."
Canadian Conservative Party Member of Parliament Stockwell Day, used to be a pastor and counselor of troubled youth. He said of the free heroin giveaway, "In all the time we worked with heroin addicts, I never saw one case 'cured' by giving the patient more poison. Encouraging more people to live on heroin eventually means more people die on heroin."
And the people who would know best happen to agree. Billy Weselowski was a heroin addict for 20 years on Vancouver's "Skid Row" where the trials are being conducted and spent his share of time in penitentiaries. He took the hard road to recovery, started a licensed addiction recovery clinic that has 58 beds, recently finished his master's degree, and is beginning his doctorate.
Weselowski said: "Everyone has copped out to the degree of reducing a little bit of crime and a little bit of harm at the expense of human beings. They're just throwing these people away."
He added, "No one's going to be able to maintain (their addiction on the three prescribed hits per day) because you can't maintain heroin. You build a tolerance to it. Inside a few months, you'll need more of it to get the same sort of punch."
Weselowski also made a point that no one appears to have considered. He felt strongly that "someone's going to end up killing somebody (while on government heroin), and they're going to blame the government and use that as a legal defense. The addict has got a gun to the citizenry's head. It'll be, 'You created this. You put me in this position, and now you're going to pay for it.'"
Although the Vancouver project is being billed as a "trial," history suggests that it's likely more of a soft-launch for a permanent program than anything else, and about as much as a "pilot" as a movie trailer preview is for the associated feature film released a few months later.
According to Conservative Party Member of Parliament Randy White, whose constituency is located near Vancouver and who has worked extensively with addicts, "Ironically, when the first needle exchange came into Vancouver, people said 'this would prevent HIV and people will come in here and talk to us.'
"That didn't work at all. So they said that now we need an injection site ... That didn't do the job. Now they've got a heroin clinic, and fully intend to operate a heroin clinic after the results come in because those that are working in that field have a vested interest.
"I've had people in those kinds of facilities challenge my concerns because they were concerned that I would have their jobs taken away if the project failed ... (These measures) reflect a terrible lack of strategy, and (the heroin project) is an approach that basically says, 'We give up.'"
Meanwhile, as the Canadian government is funding heroin injections for junkies, diabetics can't afford needles, and addicts who want into treatment centers to get off heroin end up on a waiting list.
The "junkification" of Canada is certainly well underway, with projects like free heroin and the idea of decriminalizing marijuana taking the country one step closer to a culture war with the United States -- it's largest trading partner.
As Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., a member of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, pointed out: "Canada has a right to pass whatever they do. But if you don't have harmonization of drug laws, and there is a disconnect, then we will have a right in the United States to re-evaluate our border strategy."
With one foot in a dumpster and the other on a banana peel, Canada is the doped-up, misdirected, know-it-all kid who thinks he's cool and 'progressive' but he clearly doesn't care about his future.

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

GOP adviser died of drug overdose in Carrie Fisher's home

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Republican media adviser R. Gregory Stevens, recent co-chairman of the Bush/Cheney Entertainment Task Force who died at actress Carrie Fisher's home, died from an overdose of cocaine and a painkiller, a coroner's autopsy showed.

"The cause of death was cocaine and oxycodone, but he also had hypertrophic heart disease, that's an enlarged heart, and coronary heart disease. It's an accidental death," coroner Lt. Emil Moldovan said Thursday.

Stevens, 42, was a friend of Fisher and was found Feb. 26 in the guest room of her Coldwater Canyon home in Beverly Hills.

Fisher, the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and actor Eddie Fisher, played Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" trilogy, and she is the author of several books, including "Postcards From the Edge" which became a successful movie starring Meryl Streep.

Stevens, an associate with the Washington lobbying group Barbour Griffith & Rogers, specialized in foreign campaign consulting and has advised candidates in 24 international elections, according to his biography on the Barber Griffith & Rogers Web site.

He consulted on political operations in Costa Rica, Hungary, Kenya, Macedonia, Montenegro, Nigeria, South Korea, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand and Togo.

During last year's Bush for President campaign, Stevens served as co-chairman of the Bush/Cheney Entertainment Task Force and managed the campaign's relationships with key entertainment industry leaders and film, television and music celebrities.

He served as director of Entertainment Outreach for the 2001 Presidential Inaugural Committee, where he recruited and directed celebrity involvement on behalf of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Stevens, a native of San Clemente, received a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Southern California.

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Use Afghan Opium Crops to Make Morphine, NGO Says


Mar 9, 2005 — By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) - Opium from Afghanistan, the world's biggest source of heroin, should instead be used to legally produce morphine and codeine, a drugs think tank said on Wednesday in a suggestion cautiously endorsed by Afghanistan.

The Senlis Council, a Paris-based non-governmental organization (NGO) said it was launching a feasibility study into licensed opium production in Afghanistan to counter a global shortage of the painkillers.

"There is a huge shortage of those essential medicines in the world — morphine and codeine — and Afghanistan has certainly the expertise to be one of the producers of morphine and codeine in the face of this huge shortage," Emmanuel Reinert, head of the Senlis Council, told reporters.

Reinert said the shortage of morphine and codeine amounted to roughly 10,000 tons of opium equivalent a year, while Afghanistan produces roughly 4,000 tons a year.

"For the moment, Afghanistan relies heavily on opium poppy cultivation for survival. Our solution would allow farmers to carry on producing opium for the legitimate and useful legal market instead of the illicit trade in heroin," he added.

Afghanistan's Minister of Counter Narcotics, Habibullah Qaderi, cautiously supported the proposal.

"We will not have any objection provided this idea helps Afghanistan and the international community," Qaderi told the news conference.

Afghanistan's opium cultivation reached a record high in 2004, the United Nations drugs office said last year, warning that the country was at risk of becoming a "narco-state."

The study's findings will be presented in September. If they suggested the idea should be implemented, the council would launch one or two pilot projects in Afghanistan, he said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government has refused to allow U.S. forces to destroy opium crops by spraying them from the air, which would destroy the livelihoods of farmers in a country where opium is thought to be 60 percent of the economy. Instead, Karzai has asked foreign donors to focus their anti-drugs efforts on helping Afghanistan promote alternative crops and set up law enforcement bodies to catch and prosecute drug warlords.

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Whyalla school teachers at drug party


Four teachers at St John's College in South Australia's Port Pirie Diocese have been apprehended by police after an LSD drug party.

The Advertiser
reports that one of the teachers, a man, 23, was reported for supplying a prohibited substance – LSD or lysergic acid diethylamide, a hallucinogenic drug – and will appear in court next month.

Three other teachers – two men aged 37 and 34, and a woman, 26 – have been placed in a drug diversion program for treatment and rehabilitation.

While the 23-year-old teacher facing the drug charges has been suspended, the remaining three were allowed to continue teaching this week. One of them holds a senior position at the school and is involved in its management team.

"This is a very serious allegation," he said. "If there are four teachers involved in this, a full inquiry by the Catholic Education Office has to be made. If four teachers have been involved in some sort of drug taking, then it would be my thoughts the four of them should be stood down until the investigations are completed and the matters cleared."

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Police say drug suspect obliterated his own fingerprints with acid

Salem, Mass. -- A man charged with trafficking in cocaine in Salem burned his fingertips with acid to obliterate his fingerprints and hide his identity, police say.

The man, who gave the name Jorge Lopez when arrested, was ordered held on $250,000 cash bail after pleading innocent at his arraignment Friday while authorities try to figure out who he is.

Salem police Lt. Brian Gilligan told a judge that when they took fingerprints of Lopez after his arrest Wednesday, they were surprised to find that there were no prints. Police do not think he gave his true identity and asked that he be held without bail.

Police think he burned his fingers deliberately, noting there were no other scars or burn marks on his hands.

Lopez claims he burned his fingertips while working as a mechanic and grabbing hot exhaust parts, his court-appointed lawyer said.

Police arrested Lopez after receiving a tip that a man was selling cocaine from a car that traveled around the city. Police allegedly found a tin stuffed with 23 bags of cocaine hidden under the passenger seat of the suspect's vehicle.

The roughly 14 grams of cocaine has a street value of about $1,100, police said.

Lopez is scheduled back in court on Wednesday.

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Saturday, April 09, 2005

Smelly cash prompts marijuana arrest in Greensburg, Ind.

A man who went to the sheriff's department in Greensburg to pay bond for his brother-in-law wound up in jail when police noticed the money he handed them reeked of marijuana.

Timothy Richards,45, of Columbus, Indiana, went to the Decatur County Sheriff's Department in Greensburg Tuesday to pay the $400 get his brother-in-law out of jail.

A dispatcher noticed that the cash smelled funny and asked a state trooper to investigate. Richards allowed the trooper to search his car and was arrested when the trooper found some marijuana and a pipe in his car.

Police didn't confiscate the cash, so Richard's brother-in-law got out of jail. He returned a few hours later with $250 to bond Richards out.

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Marijuana Compound Fights Hardened Artieries


April 6, 2005 -- The active ingredient in marijuana that produces changes in brain messages appears to fight atherosclerosis -- a hardening of the arteries.

But puffing pot probably won't help. The findings, reported in the journal Nature, "should not be taken to mean that smoking marijuana is beneficial for the heart," says Michael Roth, MD, a professor of medicine at UCLA medical school.

It takes a very specific amount of THC -- marijuana's key chemical -- to help the arteries. That dose is too low to produce mood-altering effects in the brain, according to the new study.

"It would be difficult to achieve such specific concentrations in the blood by smoking marijuana," Roth explains in a Nature editorial.

Smoking Pot: Bad for the Heart?

Smoking marijuana can speed up the pulse and raise blood pressure (followed by a sudden fall upon standing or walking), Roth notes.

"These effects lower the exercise threshold for chest pain [angina], and are an independent risk factor for heart attack and stroke," he writes. Inhaling marijuana smoke can also impair oxygen delivery via the blood, says Roth.

The best way to take advantage of THC's artery-protecting effects may be by developing new prescription drugs "rather than using marijuana or oral THC as medicines," he writes.

Testing THC on Mice

The new study was conducted on mice, not people. First, mice went on an 11-week fatty diet designed to clog their arteries. For the last six weeks of the diet, some mice also got an orally administered low dose of THC along with the high-fat food.

Afterward, the mice who had received THC had fewer signs of atherosclerosis. None of those mice died during treatment or showed unhealthy behavior, says the study.

The results may be due to THC's anti-inflammatory properties, write the researchers, who included François Mach, MD, of the cardiology division at University Hospital in Geneva, Switzerland. Inflammation has been shown to be associated with the development of atherosclerosis.

Tracing THC's Effects

The researchers took a closer look at THC. They knew the chemical has two receptors, called CB1 (mainly found in the brain) and CB2 (mostly found outside the brain).

When they used another drug to block CB2 receptors in the mice, THC couldn't protect the animals' arteries. As for the CB1 receptors, the THC dose used in the study was too low to affect them, so no "high" was created.

The study and editorial appear in Nature's April 7 edition.


LONDON (Reuters) - An active ingredient in cannabis can ease inflammation and slow the progression of coronary artery disease in mice, and possibly humans, researchers said on Wednesday.

Daily low doses of the ingredient, THC, prevented atherosclerosis, a primary cause of heart disease and stroke in western countries, without producing the associated high.

"We have proven that very low doses of cannabis therapy will have an anti-inflammatory effect that will slow the progression of atherosclerosis in mice," said Dr Francois Mach, of Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland.

He and his team do not know whether TCH, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, will have the same effect in humans. But they believe the discovery will help find compounds that produce the same effect in humans without side effects such as raised blood pressure or euphoria.

"The goal now is to find new molecules, new compounds, that will act only on this anti-inflammatory effect," Mach told Reuters. Atherosclerosis is a common disorder of the arteries. Fatty materials build up and eventually block the arteries and interfere with blood flow.

THC and similar molecules are known as cannabinoids. Cannabis, which contains more than 60 different cannabinoids, and hashish have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes.

Mach and his team gave mice which were genetically engineered to be prone to atherosclerosis very low oral doses of THC with food each day. The dose was about 10 times less than that from smoking cannabis.

"It is the first study showing any beneficial effect of cannabis therapy on atherosclerosis," said Mach.

Cannabis creates a high when it binds to receptors called CB1 on the surface of cells in the brain. In the mouse study, another receptor, CB2, which is found on immune system cells and has nothing to do with euphoria, was affected. The dose given to the mice was too low to create a sense of euphoria.

Mice given THC had a slower progression of the disease than other mice not given the compound. The scientists are now studying whether THC can prevent the illness in the rodents.

"We are planning to look in more detail into how cannabis interferes with inflammation," said Mach.

"What we have proven in mice is that acting on this receptor 2 ... has an anti-inflammatory effect that is very beneficial against the development of atherosclerosis."

In a commentary on the research in Nature magazine, Michael Roth, of the University of California in Los Angeles, described the findings as striking.

"But they should not be taken to mean that smoking marijuana is beneficial for the heart," he said.

On the contrary it increases the pulse rate and causes sharp rises and then falls in blood pressure upon standing and walking.

The Netherlands was the world's first country to make cannabis available as a prescription drug for cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis (MS). In the United States it is used to treat weight loss in AIDS patients and nausea and vomiting in cancer sufferers.

In Britain, GW Pharmaceuticals Plc has been pioneering cannabis-based medicine.

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US Troops 'tried to smuggle cocaine'

Guardian Unlimited

Four US soldiers serving on anti-narcotics missions in Colombia are being held on charges of drug trafficking after the discovery of 35lb (15kg) of cocaine on a military aircraft.

The four, who have not been identified, were arrested at the end of March when their plane landed in Texas after taking off from southern Colombia. A fifth man was released.

Colombian authorities are investigating to see if other members of the US or Colombian military were involved.

Article continues
William Wood, the US ambassador in Bogotá, said the four would not be extradited even if it was proved they had committed crimes on Colombian soil. He said a three-decade old agreement gave immunity to US soldiers serving in Colombia, but stressed: "We do not tolerate corruption."

The news that the soldiers can not be extradited to Colombia, which has sent over 200 nationals to stand trial in the US in the past three years, provoked uproar in congress.

"This agreement must be changed," said Senator Jairo Clopatofsky, of the foreign relations committee. "It's completely unjust that we are sending Colombians abroad to stand trial and we can't request anyone be sent here."

With its four-decade civil war and huge drugs industry, Washington views Colombia as the southern front in the "war on terror" and the battlefield for the "war on drugs".

Colombia plants an estimated 70% of the world's coca. The US, the single largest consumer of cocaine, has provided more than $3bn (£1.6bn) in aid since 2000.

President Alvaro Uribe remains the darling of Washington with his hard line against the Marxist guerrillas and the drugs industry.

While some Colombians see harsh US prisons as the only way to stop drug lords running their businesses from their jail cells, many see extradition as an affront and insist that crimes committed in Colombia must be judged and paid for in the same country.

The arrests are the second setback on the frontline of the war on drugs in as many weeks. Last month it was revealed that in spite of record fumigations across Colombia in 2004 the estimated land given over to planting coca remained unchanged at 114,000 hectares.

Aerial fumigations, the principal weapon in disrupting coca growing, remain controversial. While the US and Colombian governments insist fumigations are safe, peasants living in heavily fumigated zones complain of a host of problems ranging from the destruction of legal crops to skin rashes and birth defects.

The four soldiers are among about 1,000 US military and private contractors working in Colombia, providing training, supplying intelligence and helping run fumigation missions.

The case of the four soldiers has shown once again how cocaine and its billions of dollars can corrupt.

During the 1980s and 1990s drug traffickers were able to reach the highest echelons in society with the succinct offer of "silver or lead".

In 2001 Colombian police found traces of heroin in a package that was presumed to have been sent by an employee of Dyncorp, a company which continues to work in Colombia providing contractors to help fight the drugs industry.

Two years earlier the wife of a colonel in the US embassy in Bogota was sentenced to five years after having been convicted of sending cocaine abroad.

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Our Big Bang

Welcome to The DrugSpot! We created this blog to highlight some of the many news stories out there involving drugs in some form or another - from amusing stories involving stupid people and bad decisions, to some of the more serious stories involving deaths or the sad state of drug policy in our country. We plan on posting local, national, and world news articles (drugs are everywhere!), both stories that you may have heard about and stories that were probably overlooked or not reported by the mainstream media (which is what often happens). Basically, we think it would be nice to have an archive of some of the drug news stories we stumble across on a daily basis, and we'd like to share it with you. Please feel free to email us with any stories you find interesting that we don't post - maybe we missed it somehow. Comments are always welcome, of course. We'll post regularly, so check back often!