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4/17/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: April 17, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

faulty labels

4/16/14 7:30pm

Nearly a Third of Alcoholic Beverages Have Inaccurate Labels

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Investigators from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) discovered that 30 percent of alcoholic beverages have inaccurate liquor content labels.

In a February 10 survey compiled by the TTB, alcohol content has been dramatically understated in many of the cases, placing consumers at significant risk. While most alcoholic beverages had accurate labels, the transgressors not only had more alcohol than stated, but even exceeded the maximum amount of proof allowed.

The TTB’s Alcohol Beverage Sampling Program is conducted at random every year on alcohol products available across the country. The latest 2013 survey sampled 275 distilled spirits, 239 malt beverages, and 154 wines. A total of 190 products were found to be non-compliant, with 80 of the non-compliant products being distilled spirits with the highest alcohol content. Although the TTB did uncover 15 distilled spirits with less alcohol than claimed on the label, over 50 contained more alcohol than expected.

The bartending trade publication, The Spirits Business, has said that the inaccurate labels are a significant risk to the public. “They pose a threat to consumers who are unaware of how much alcohol they are drinking.”

For social drinkers, they may be drinking a lot more than they intended, placing them at obvious risk. This particularly is true for social drinkers outside their homes at bars, restaurants, parties, and the like. If an 80 proof (40 percent) shot of rum turns out to be 100 proof (50 percent), casual drinkers easily could be pushed over the legal driving threshold of 0.08 blood alcohol concentration. Considering the past national track record of drunk driving tragedies, innocent lives could be endangered.

According to the TTB, “their mission to protect the public includes ensuring that labels on alcohol beverages contain adequate descriptive information and are not likely to mislead consumers.” The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau states it will raise awareness of the problem and develop educational tools to assist distillers “with their gauging skills” using standardized scientific methods.

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By John Lavitt

addiction abroad

4/16/14 5:30pm

Treatment Center in India Exposed As Drug Den

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In India, a drug de-addiction center in the city of Imphal has been busted for operating as a drug den for the financial gain of the officials and employees entrusted to help their clients find the path of recovery. Run under the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the government agency is responsible for welfare, social justice, and empowerment of the marginalized sections of Indian society, including drug abusers and addicts.

This shocking revelation was revealed in a press release issued by the All Manipur Anti Drug Association (AMADA). The press release was in response to multiple reports of officials at the New Life De-Addiction Centre dealing various drugs to their patients. According to Meghachandra Konjengbam, secretary of the AMADA, local activists from his organization raided the rehab in Imphal. Although the information had been handed over to officials at the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, no action had been taken since.

The treatment centers are seen as a last attempt by desperate parents to access recovery for their children. Many of these families reportedly pawned gold ornaments and other valuables to help pay the costs. But rather than “Offering Hope and Recovery to Those Struggling with Addiction,” the New Life De-Addiction Centre did the exact opposite. During the raid, the AMADA activists discovered that most of the clients were under the influence of drugs or in the process of taking drugs.

Even worse, counselors and staff members were also found to be abusing illegal drugs on the premises. The type of drugs being used were not specified in the reports, and it remains uncertain whether or not the doctors and staff will be prosecuted by authorities.

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By John Lavitt

compassion

4/16/14 3:30pm

Christian Leaders Criticize War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration

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Who would Jesus incarcerate?
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A group of Christian leaders have released a statement in time for the Easter holiday calling for an end to the war on drugs and mass incarceration.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance press release, they chose the upcoming Easter holiday to make their statement in light of the spirit of the Resurrection, to “call for a rebirth and resurrection of communities burdened by the harms of injustice oftentimes masquerading under the guise of law and order and criminal justice.” 

“The war on drugs has become a costly, ineffective and unjust failure,” said Reverend Edwin Sanders, a Senior Servant for the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tenn. Sanders criticized the misguided war waged on entire communities, which has been done “ostensibly under the guise of combating the very real harms of drug abuse.”

The coalition’s recommendations outlined in the statement take aim at policies that criminalize drug possession that result in racially disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates, instead favoring health approaches to drug use, including evidence-based drug treatment.

The statement criticized the drug war’s disproportionate burden on poor and black communities. According to Reverend John E. Jackson, the mass incarceration of the poor has been robbing whole communities of their most precious resource, their young, whose futures are being ruined at a critical point in their lives.

“We are called upon to follow Jesus’ example in opposing the war on drugs, which has resulted in the United States becoming the world’s biggest jailer, with about five percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners,” Sanders said.

The Christian leaders will meet for a press teleconference on Wednesday to discuss their statement.

Not all religious leaders are on board with drug policy reform, however — not even progressive-minded Pope Francis. Last June, while on a visit to a crack cocaine clinic in Brazil, the pope came out in disagreement with the growing group of Latin American leaders who now favor liberalizing drug policies to combat the many societal ills that stem from the drug war.

“A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America,” he said. The pope instead focused on addressing the underlying problem behind drug use, favoring “educating young people in the values that build up life in society."

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By Victoria Kim

rats on pcp

4/16/14 1:00pm

Brain Activity in Rats on PCP Offers Clues to Schizophrenia

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Researchers in Denmark have made significant strides in identifying brain activity that resembles the symptoms of schizophrenia by administering PCP to laboratory rats.

The study, conducted at the University of Southern Denmark, consisted of giving the powerful hallucinogenic drug to rats in order to study its effect on certain proteins in the brain; the animals were used due to the difficulty in studying people with the disorder and because they are affected by the drug in a manner similar to human beings.

When PCP was administered to the test animals, researchers could see immediate changes in 352 brain proteins – specifically, the proteins experienced a series of disturbances, including changes to the molecular network around the proteins that affected metabolism and calcium balance. In turn, these protein imbalances induced physical and mental changes in the rats, including affected movement and reduced cognitive functions.

According to Dr. Ole Nørregaard Jensen, head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Southern Denmark, the disturbances are “probably comparable to the devastating changes in a schizophrenic brain.” By studying these reactions, Jensen said that researchers can now look for similar reactions in the brain proteins of schizophrenic patients.“If that’s the case, it will of course be interesting to develop a drug that can prevent the protein changes that lead to schizophrenia,” said Jensen.

Currently, the condition is treated with a host of conventional, or typical, antipsychotic medications like Thorazine and Haldol, as well as newer “atypical” antipsychotics, including Risperdal and Zyprexa.

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By Paul Gaita

bad parenting

4/16/14 10:30am

Everyday Average Couple Accused Of Running Massive Drug Ring

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Sarah and Ben Hannan. Photo via Courier Mail

A young mother from Australia has been accused of using her paid maternity leave to help her husband run a multi-million dollar drug empire. Sarah Hannan, 27, allegedly controlled the finances of the marijuana business that she ran with her husband Ben, which was so successful that they bought a $1.1 million mansion on the Gold Coast to house their underground cannabis plantations.

Police claimed that while Ben handled the growing of hydroponic crops in hidden bunkers, Sarah funneled $1 million into 17 accounts over two years, using advice from a local accounting firm that assumed they were running a legitimate business. In addition to the waterfront mansion, they used the money from their drug dealing to buy investment properties worth $2.2 million and several luxury cars.

Transcripts from wiretapped phone conversations indicated that Sarah spoke with Ben’s brother, Scott, about needing to wait for drug cash to arrive so that she could pay a $5,000 bill. The phone taps also revealed the Hannan brothers arguing over the use of pesticides on marijuana crops and Scott’s plans to get a roommate. “It doesn’t bother me as long as the guy never, ever, ever gets a whiff of what you do for work,” said Ben. “It’s way too close.”

Unfortunately for Sarah, she became the first woman to be charged under Australia’s new Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act, which would give her an extra 15 years in prison if convicted on charges of drug trafficking and supply. Ben faces an additional 25 years in jail under the new act as the alleged leader of a criminal organization. All of their assets and properties have also been frozen as alleged criminal proceeds.

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By McCarton Ackerman

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