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Liquor Privatization: The Fallout
The unintended (and intended) consequences of privatizing Washington state liquor sales.
Published Aug 21, 2012, 10:59am
By Erica C. Barnett
Be careful what you wish for. On November 8, 2011, after a $22 million campaign financed primarily by Costco, Washington residents voted overwhelmingly to privatize the state’s liquor sales and distribution system. On June 1, after a series of thwarted lawsuits by privatization opponents including the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention, hundreds of new, privately run stores opened their doors across the state.
Proponents of privatized liquor sales argued that the switch would generate hundreds of millions in new tax revenue, promote competition and lower prices, and increase access to liquor of all kinds, including high-end specialty brands. Opponents, meanwhile, argued that private booze sales would incite a flood of underage drinking, drive prices up, reduce consumer choices, and harm Washington state’s homegrown wine, beer, and craft-distillery industries.
While it’s still too early to say what the ultimate outcome from liquor privatization will be, a number of consequences—intended and unintended—have become clear. Here’s a look at the fallout so far for consumers, big-box retailers, small wine distributors, and some 1,000 union workers who used to staff the state’s 328 public liquor stores.
Although detractors predicted a Costco monopoly (1183 restricted liquor sales to stores larger than 10,000 square feet and gave Costco the exclusive right to serve as its own distributor), it hasn’t exactly worked out that way. In addition to new liquor megamarts like Total Wine and More in Bellevue, booze is popping up in stores large and small(ish) across the state—from chains like Bartell Drugs and Target to minimarts like the Village Store in Port Ludlow, the Getchell Gas Station in Lake Stevens, and the 405 Express Mart in Renton. Out of 1,652 applications for spirits licenses statewide, Costco has filed only 29.
Don’t pull out your hanky for the big-box stores just yet, though. According to Joe Gilliam, president of the Northwest Grocery Association (which represents big grocery chains like Albertson’s, Safeway, and Costco), liquor sales at the stores he represents are “exceeding expectations,” especially among customers who wouldn’t ordinarily shop at liquor stores—a group Gilliam identifies, bluntly, as “moms.”
“There were a lot of moms who, before, would not go into a liquor store because they had their kids with them or because liquor stores were horrible to go into. They are now shopping for liquor with their regular shopping.”
Liquor consumers who voted for privatization on the assumption that it would mean cheaper booze and a better selection have had a rough awakening.
Whoops. Far from dropping, prices have actually increased across the board, thanks to the magic of the private market (shop owners can set prices as high as the market will allow) as well as new fees imposed under 1183.
The new fees have induced sticker shock among many liquor consumers, who apparently didn’t read the fine print when they voted for 1183. As a concession to the state, which didn’t want to lose its lucrative liquor taxes, 1183 supporters tacked on a 10 percent fee on distributors and a 17 percent fee at the cash register, ensuring that liquor privatization would be “revenue neutral” (whether it works out that way, of course, remains to be seen). Brendan Williams, a former state legislator who campaigned against the privatization measure, says 1183 assumed that liquor would have to get more expensive.
Recent news reports have also indicated that Washington state residents, particularly those who live near Oregon and Idaho, are crossing state lines to take advantage of lower liquor prices. In June alone, liquor sales at some stores just over the Oregon border surged 35 percent. But Gilliam doesn’t expect the trend to last. “The story that came out about that was based on June’s numbers,” the first month of privatized liquor sales. “Oregon has always had less expensive liquor than Washington. The average bottle in Oregon prior to privatization was almost $2 less than the average bottle in Washington. I think you’re going to see [runs for the border] dissipate.”
When the state’s 328 public liquor stores closed down, some 1,000 unionized state workers lost their jobs, along with their health care and, in some cases, pension plans. Since then, Washington State Labor Council member Bill Messenger says, he’s heard anecdotally that many of those workers are having trouble finding new employment or are working in retail jobs that pay less, include fewer benefits, or offer fewer hours than their previous state positions. Prior to privatization, state liquor store clerks made between $11 and $14 an hour. At one state-turned-private store in the Tri-Cities, Messenger says, laid-off state workers were offered their old jobs back—at 20 percent less pay, and with no health care benefits. “The big thing in today’s economy is that health care kills you,” Messenger says.
The General Public
During the 1183 campaign, opponents claimed that privatized liquor sales would be a straight line to underage drinking, juvenile crime, drunk driving, and general disorder. While crime stats aren’t yet available, according to anecdotal reports, shoplifting of liquor and underage consumption have gone up, though it’s unclear how much. “Anytime you increase the number of outlets that sell liquor, drinking and consumption goes up considerably,” says Brian Smith, communications director for the Washington State Liquor Control Board. And Gilliam—a firm supporter of privatization—offers this anecdote: “We ran into a few stores where people went into the state stores right before they closed and bought bottles that they tried to return the next day after they opened,” in the belief that they’d get a windfall returning bottles to the more-expensive privatized store. “Well, you can return liquor, but you have to have a receipt” from the new store. “That kind of squashed the whole thing. They didn’t have a receipt, so the response was, ‘Well, it looks like you own whatever you bought there.’”
The Little Guys
Small beer and wine producers and distributors, craft distilleries, and neighborhood wine shops opposed 1183, arguing that privatization would lead stores to pursue the lowest common denominator and name brands such as Gallo and Absolut would edge out costlier local products.
Williams, the former state legislator, contends that that’s exactly what has happened. “Washington wines have been squeezed off the shelves,” Williams says. “You can do volume discounting and you can do pay-to-play when it comes to shelving. You can pay a grocery store to shelve your products and give them prominent shelf space, and that operates to the detriment of your competitors.”
“It’s the perfect storm of high prices and reduced consumer choices.”
Gilliam, the big-box lobbyist, sees reduced selection as the inevitable result of supply and demand. Under the state-run system, he says, “they would put a lot of things on the shelf that would just sit there. What the private market is going to do is find out what the customers want, and they aren’t going to carry everything.”
“Moms are now buying liquor with their regular shopping.”
Liquor Control Board spokesman Smith agrees that privatization has, so far at least, decreased the selection available to consumers. Smith says state liquor stores typically stocked around 1,500 items. “I’m seeing much less than that at your typical grocery store,” Smith says. “Some of the former liquor stores and the contract stores are really trying to amp up their selections, and stores like BevMo! and other superstores can carry a lot more.”
But that, Williams counters, is part of the problem: Big cities like Seattle and Bellevue have gained access to liquor superstores, including not just BevMo! in Tacoma and Silverdale but Total Wine and More in Bellevue and Wine World and Spirits in Wallingford (see Washington's New Liquor Superstores). But smaller towns and rural areas have lost access to the diversity of products state liquor stores provided. “In Seattle, you’ll have all sorts of choices—that’s great—but if you live in a rural community or a smaller community that’s only served by grocery stores, you’re not going to have many options,” Williams says.
Meanwhile, some smaller wine stores are adapting to survive. Alisha Gosline, marketing director for Esquin Wine and Spirits in SoDo, explains Esquin’s “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” response to privatization this way: “We expanded. We were not quite 10,000 square feet.” So to meet the minimum size required to sell spirits, “we expanded our retail space so that we can accommodate liquor.” Gosline says Esquin is trying to carry as much local and craft liquor as possible, “because the grocery stores aren’t going there.” Although Esquin’s wine sales have dipped slightly, Gosline attributes the drop-off to the “novelty” factor of liquor in a wine shop. “Our liquor sales are higher than we thought they would be,” Gosline says. “People are like, ‘Oh, well, here’s liquor! We should buy some liquor because we can.’”
Jan Gee, president and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association, which represents small and midsize independent grocery stores, says her members have scaled back the amount of space they dedicate to wine. “Because our stores have to provide some space for spirits, they have started to shrink their wine inventory,” Gee says.
Gilliam, the lobbyist for big grocery stores, says consumers who want more options should ask their grocery manager to stock the items they want. “If someone is looking for a Walla Walla wine from some small winery, all they have to do is ask,” he says. “Stores are going to find out what their customers want” and act accordingly.
That’s a comforting thought—supply and demand will balance out, and the wisdom of the market will prevail. For now, though, the biggest winners appear to be the big-box stores that can buy and sell high-volume, popular bottles at a discount, while the smaller stores, and consumers, find themselves getting less and paying more.
Updated August 30, 2012, to reflect the correct name of Total Wine and More, rather than the original Total Wine and Spirits, in Bellevue.
2C-I or 'Smiles': The New Killer Drug Every Parent Should Know About
By Piper Weiss, Shine Staff - Healthy Living – Thu, Sep 20, 2012 3:18 PM EDT
Witnesses described the 17-year-old boy as "shaking, growling, foaming at the mouth. "According to police reports, Elijah Stai was at a McDonald's with his friend when he began to feel ill. Soon after, he "started to smash his head against the ground" and began acting "possessed," according to a witness. Two hours later, he had stopped breathing.
The Grand Forks, North Dakota teenager's fatal overdose has been blamed on a drug called 2C-I. The night before Stai's overdose, another area teen, Christian Bjerk, 18, was found face down on a sidewalk. His death was also linked to the drug.
2C-I – known by its eerie street name "Smiles" – has become a serious problem in the Grand Forks area, according to local police. Overdoses of the drug have also been reported in Indiana and Minnesota. But if the internet is any indication, Smiles is surfacing in many parts of the country.
"At the moment I am completely and fully submerged, if you can't tell by my eyes, in a psychedelic world known as 2C-I," says a man who appears to be in his late teens or early 20s on a YouTube video posted back in October. His pupils are dilated. He struggles to formulate a description of what he's feeling – it's hard to tell if it’s because his experience is profound or if his speech skills are simply blunted. He's one of dozens of users providing YouTube "reports" of their experiences on the synthetic drug.
Smile's effects have been called a combination of MDMA and LSD, only far more potent. Users have reported a speedy charge along with intense visual and aural hallucinations that can last anywhere from hours to days.
"At first I'd think something was extremely beautiful and then it look really strange," another user says in a recorded online account."I looked at my girlfriend's face for a minute and it was pitch black…the black started dripping out of her eye."
Because the drug is relatively new – it first surfaced around 2003 in European party scenes and only recently made its way to the states – the most readily accessible information about 2C-I comes from user accounts, many of which detail frightening experiences.
On an internet forum one user describes the high as a "roller coaster ride through hell," while another warns "do not drive on this drug," after recounting his own failed attempt on the roadway.
Over the past few years, synthetic drugs like K-2, Spice and Bath Salts, have become increasing popular with teenagers and young adults. Their ingredients are relatively easy to obtain and until recently, they weren't classified as illegal substances. But as they come under legal scrutiny, one by one, they've triggered a domino effect of newer, altered, and more potent versions.
"I think [the drugs] just keep changing to try to circumvent the law," Lindsay Wold, a detective with the Grand Forks police department, told Yahoo Shine "Anytime we try to figure something out, it changes." Since July, her department has launched an awareness campaign in an effort to crack down on 2C-I's growing popularity with teens and young adults in the area. While reports of overdoses have increased, Wold says it's difficult to measure its growth in numbers.
According data obtained by the American Association of Poison Control half of those exposed to 2C-I in 2011 were teenagers. That statistic was before two fatalities and multiple overdoses were linked to the drug in North Dakota.
"The unfortunate thing is if kids who are overdosing on 2C-I go in to the hospital with a physical problem, a lot of times they can't test for it so it doesn't show up as a drug overdose," says Wold.
The fact that 2C-I is new and untraceable in standard drug tests makes it more of a challenge for doctors to treat. It also contributes to drug's growing popularity among high school and college-age kids.
"Synthetic drugs don't generally show up on drug tests and that's made it popular with young adults, as well as people entering the military, college athletes, or anyone who gets tested for drugs," Barbara Carreno, a spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Agency, tells Shine.
2C-I may be undetected in drug tests, but its effects are evident in emergency rooms.
According to James Mowry, the director of Indiana's Poison Control Center, 2-CI overdoses have been known to cause seizures, kidney failure, and fatally high blood pressure.
"They do something that is called 'uncoupling." Mowry told an Indianapolis news station this month. "Basically, their muscles get to the point they cannot uncontract, so they sort of get rigid and then your temperature goes up really high and if you don't treat them really aggressively, those people usually end up dying."
In July, the DEA announced Operation Log Jam, the first nationwide coordinated US Law Enforcement strike specifically targeting designer synthetic drugs. That same month, 2C-I was classified as a Schedule-1 substance, making possession and distribution of the drug illegal. Those caught distributing even a small amount are facing serious criminal charges. Stai's friend, who allegedly obtained the drug that caused his overdose, has been charged with third degree murder.
While the drug's potential for overdose is apparent, the specific cases of fatalities are confounding. According to one site designed as a "fact sheet" for users, the dosage of the drug, which also comes as a liquid or a pill, is difficult to measure in powder form. When users snort the drug they could end up taking more than they realize, prompting an overdose. But in the case of Stai, the powder wasn't snorted, but melted into a chocolate bar and eaten.
Some speculate those "hobby chemists" – making the drug using powders shipped from China, acetone and plant-based materials – are to blame for concocting particularly strong or toxic batches.
"Anybody with a little money to front can import chemicals, mix, and sell it," says Carreno. "Many of these types of drugs were originally designed for research to be used on animals, not people." In fact, 2C-I was first synthesized by Alexander Shulgin, a psychopharmacologist and scientific researcher. He's responsible for identifying the chemical make-up of the so-called "2C" family, a group of hyper-potent psychedelic synthetics. In 2011, 2C-E, a sister drug to 2C-I, was blamed for the death of a Minnesota teenager and the overdose of 11 others.
Because of his research, Shulgin has become an unintentional icon of the synthetic drug movement, and his formulas have been reprinted, and reduced to plain language, on drug-related web forums.
"Drugs used to take longer to get around but now with the internet they can spread by word of mouth online," says Carreno. If drugs like Smiles can be as viral as an internet meme, they have a similarly brief life-span. Already, a newer, re-booted version of the drug is cropping up on the other side of the planet, and by early accounts it's terrifying.
The new drug called 25b-Nbome, is a derivative of 2C-I, that's sold in tab form. This past month, the drug has been linked to the non-fatal overdoses of two young adults in Perth, Australia. It's also been blamed for the death of a young man in the same area, who died after repeatedly slamming his body into trees and power line poles while high on the drug.
"Overdose on these drugs is a reality... and can obviously result in dire consequences," a Perth police department official warned.
It isn't obvious to everyone. "I can't recommend for anyone to go out and use this legally," says one alleged 2C-I user in a YouTube video with 12,000 views, "but why not?"
Majority in U.S. Drink Alcohol, Averaging Four Drinks a Week
Beer edges out wine by 39% to 35% as drinkers' beverage of choice
by Lydia Saad
August 18, 2012
Americans' drinking habits held steady in the past year, with 66% saying they consume alcohol and drinkers consuming just over four alcoholic drinks per week, on average. Beer continues to be Americans' preferred drink, although wine remains a close second, with liquor favored by 22%.
The findings are from Gallup's annual Consumption Habits poll, conducted July 9-12. Although 66% of Americans say they "have occasion to drink alcoholic beverages such as liquor, wine, or beer," a third of these say they had no drinks in the seven days prior to the survey. This leaves roughly four in 10 Americans (44%) who appear to be regular drinkers, consuming at least one alcoholic beverage in the past week.
While only 12% of drinkers report consuming eight or more drinks in the past week -- averaging more than one per day -- Gallup finds 22% of drinkers saying they sometimes drink too much. This is up from 17% last year, but similar to the percentages in most other years over the past decade. Prior to 2001, the proportion tended to be higher.
Drinking Rates Higher Among Men Than Women, Whites Than Nonwhites
Drinking habits vary considerably by gender, race, and age. While roughly equal proportions of men and women say they ever have occasion to drink, men tend to drink more. Specifically, men who drink report consuming 6.2 drinks, on average, in the past week, compared with the 2.2 drinks consumed by women. Also, nearly three in 10 male drinkers admit they sometimes consume more alcohol than they think they should, versus 14% of female drinkers.
Not only are whites more likely to drink than nonwhites, but white drinkers report consuming more alcohol than nonwhites -- 4.5 drinks on average in the past week among whites, compared with 3.3 among nonwhites.
Younger adults drink more than older adults and, as a result, men aged 18 to 49 are the heaviest drinkers of any age/gender group. The sharpest differences are seen in self-reported overdrinking, with 36% of younger men admitting they sometimes drink too much, compared with 18% of older men, 20% of younger women, and 8% of older women.
Men Still Prefer Beer; Women Still Prefer Wine
The slight majority of male drinkers, 55%, say they most often drink beer, followed by liquor and wine at 21% and 20%, respectively. Female drinkers have an equally strong preference for wine, with 52% saying they most often drink wine and just over 20% favoring either liquor or beer.
Beer is the beverage of choice among both 18- to 34-year-olds and those aged 35 to 54, while adults aged 55 and older lean more toward wine.
Additionally, drinkers in the Midwest show the greatest preference for beer, while those in the East are the most likely to drink wine, as Gallup has found in prior years.
Alcoholic Beverage Consumed Most Often by U.S. Adult Drinkers, by Gender, Age, and Region, July 2012
Drinking is commonplace in the U.S., with two-thirds of Americans saying they ever drink alcohol, and just over 40% reporting that they had at least one drink in the past week. Drinkers still show a slight preference for beer, but wine is not far behind.
With drinking comes overdrinking, and despite possible reluctance by some respondents to admit problems, one in five drinkers -- representing 14% of all U.S. adults -- say they sometimes drink too much. The rates are particularly high among men and younger adults, making younger men the most at risk for this behavior.
LANSING — Alcohol is different from other consumer products and requires different laws, a panel of alcohol policy experts said at a Center for Alcohol Policy forum this week in Lansing.
Brannon Denning, professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law and CAP Advisory Council member, began the session by providing a global perspective on alcohol regulation, discussing factors that influence alcohol laws such as religion, ethnicity, climate and history. He recounted the history of America’s experience with alcohol, noting how unique it is for a product to be the subject of two constitutional amendments. America’s history of abuses with alcohol leading up to national Prohibition is important to remember, he argued, in order to understand why we have the state-based alcohol regulatory system that we have today.
“According to national polling, over three-fourths of people say they understand that alcohol is different and needs different rules,” Denning said.
Steven Schmidt, senior vice president of public policy and communications at the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association,provided a national perspective of current alcohol regulatory and safety trends and described broad themes driving deregulatory efforts, including anti-government sentiment, state budget shortfalls, big retailers, alcohol abuse apathy and consumer and media perceptions that alcohol is just like any other product.
“The three-tier system and alcohol regulation in the U.S. has worked very well,” Schmidt said, indicating that America does not experience large problems with bootlegging, counterfeit products or a black market, which have proven deadly in other parts of the world that lack an effective regulatory system for alcohol.
Michigan Liquor Control Commission Chairman Andrew Deloney explained how Michigan’s alcohol laws guide the commission’s operations and described the goals of the Snyder Administration of creating a simple and predictable process for licensing, a system of certainty for decision making based on statute as well as open and accountable operations.
Howard Goldberg of Willingham & Cote P.C. in East Lansing spoke about the history of legal decisions impacting Michigan alcohol law and noted that actions by the state legislature indicate that its members clearly care about public health and safety. He also cautioned that policymakers should be cautious when developing legislation to assist in-state breweries and wineries due to the potential of court challenges.
Pamela Erickson, President & CEO of Public Action Management PLC and former executive director of Oregon Liquor Control, reiterated the theme that alcohol is not like other products on the market, and it should be sold, marketed and handled with a great deal of care because there is a high cost to getting it wrong.
Erickson contrasted the balanced approach of the U.S. regulatory system with the United Kingdom, which deregulated alcohol over several decades so it is now sold almost anywhere 24 hours per day, is aggressively promoted and sold below-cost at supermarkets. As a result, she said, hospital admissions for alcohol-related problems in that country have doubled in just 10 years and death rates have doubled since 1991.
“It pays to be very careful when considering deregulation as it will be difficult to revert back,” Erickson said.
The forum, “What’s Happening in the World of Alcohol Regulation,” was the third and final session of the CAP’s 2012 Michigan Alcohol Policy Forum Series held at the Radisson Hotel Lansing.
The Center for Alcohol Policy is a 501c(3) organization whose mission is to educate policy makers, regulators and the public about alcohol, its uniqueness and regulation. By conducting sound and scientific-based research and implementing initiatives that will maintain the appropriate state-based regulation of alcohol, the Center promotes safe and responsible consumption, fights underage drinking and drunk driving and informs key entities about the effects of alcohol consumption. For more information, visit www.centerforalcoholpolicy.org or follow the Center on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlcoholPolicy.
You will see a menu on the right of the screen. Simply click on “Watch Video.” The video is 46 minutes long, but worth the time! I encourage all of our ALCAP Family to share this with others in your circle of influence.
I would add one important point to Pastor Dennis’s message. When he talks about the Commandment, “Do not steal,” he addresses the “redistribution of wealth” concept. I would add that America’s growing addiction to gambling (both by individual citizens and by local, state and the federal governments), runs counter to this Commandment, as well as several other Commandments.
Dallas NAACP Seeks End To Texas Lottery
By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, CNN
updated 12:06 PM EDT, Sat June 30, 2012
(CNN) -- The NAACP chapter in Dallas is calling for an end to the Texas state lottery, saying the game drains the finances of low-income ticket-buyers who can least afford it, especially minorities.
"It's an addiction," chapter President Juanita Wallace said. "Many, many people have actually spent all their money in hope of getting out of a situation, when in fact, they're getting themselves into a worse situation." She said one man she knew died last week without health insurance. "He had an insurance policy," she said, "and he withdrew all of the funds from the policy, actually, to play the lottery."
Wallace also believes that minorities are disproportionately drawn to playing the lottery. "The way things are set up in the store is targeted for black people and poor people," she said. A spokeswoman with the Texas Lottery Commission rejected that assertion, saying the Texas lottery does not target low-income areas specifically and does not market any differently from one demographic to another.
"Our marketing and advertising efforts are designed to reach a broad audience of adult Texans," spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said. Wallace says her NAACP chapter is already lobbying lawmakers, as are organizations like the Baptist General Convention of Texas that were already opposed to the lottery.
But at a convenience store in Dallas this week, some ticket-buyers did not appreciate the idea of losing the option of playing. "It's up to me," David Anderson told CNN affiliate station KTVT as he stood in line. "If I make a certain amount, it's up to me: Should I spend this $5 (on a ticket)? Or should I go buy a loaf of bread and hamburger to feed the kids?"
Professor Irwin Morris of the University of Maryland says low-income people are more likely to play the lottery, not necessarily because they are targeted but because they have more to gain. "It's an opportunity to change your living circumstances," he said. "So for someone who's already wealthy, it would take a dramatic lottery win -- a Lotto, let's say -- to significantly change their living circumstances. If someone is of much more meager means, a much smaller win could literally change the character of their living circumstances." As a result, he said, "I think there is considerable evidence that the poor pay a greater portion of their income on lotteries than the wealthy."
Statistics show that for the Pick 3 lottery in Texas, a third of people who make less than $20,000 play, but only about a quarter or fewer of people making more than $20,000 do. And for instant scratch-off tickets, the most popular game, unemployed people were more likely to play than employed people or retirees. Wallace says that means the people who can least afford it are the most likely to splurge.
Lottery players point out that the games are fun to play, and they offer the hope of winning life-altering riches. The ticket sales also raise substantial revenues for state coffers. "Since the first ticket was sold in 1992, the Texas Lottery has generated $20 billion in revenue for the state," Cripe said, "and contributed more than $14 billion to the Foundation School Fund. These are not insignificant numbers."
Morris said he has not seen evidence that states with lotteries spend more on schools than states without. But now that states have come to rely on those revenues, he said, it would be difficult for a state to pull the plug on its lottery. "If that were eliminated," he said, "how difficult would it be politically to come up with the same amount of revenue through other taxes or fees?"
Contact: Cynthia Hallett or Bronson Frick 510-841-3032
ANR Announces Winners of 2011 Smokefree Indoor Air Challenge Award
Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) is pleased to announce the winners of the annual ANR Smokefree Indoor Air Challenge Award, which recognizes the states that achieve the greatest number of strong local smokefree laws each year – either by passing new ordinances or strengthening existing laws. The 2011 winners are based on the analysis of all new laws enacted during 2011 that meet the ANR Foundation’s criteria for 100% smokefree bars, restaurants, and non-hospitality workplaces. Congratulations to all the winners!
First Place (Tie): Alabama and California
It’s not often that Alabama and California are mentioned together as smokefree leaders, but now they are. Both states will be receiving the famous ANR crystal award for their significant accomplishment in leading the U.S. local smokefree movement in 2011.
Alabama led the nation in having enacted the greatest number of strong, new smokefree laws in 2011. This is a landmark achievement for public health in the state. This progress is thanks to the hard work of many advocates, champions, and networks. This is Alabama’s first time winning the First Place Award.
California has returned to the top of the award list. While the state legislature has failed to strengthen its historic smokefree workplace law to address problematic exemptions, California cities continue to take action to ensure everyone’s right to a smokefree workplace.
Second Place (Tie): Mississippi and Missouri
Mississippi took first place last year, and Missouri is repeating as Second Place Winner. This shows that these states have created consistent momentum for strong local smokefree laws with infrastructure to help support it.
Third Place (Tie): Kentucky and Indiana
In addition to statewide smokefree campaigns, both of these states achieved a significant number of strong local smokefree laws in 2011. Congratulations to all the organizations in both states that helped achieve this progress. Indiana recently enacted a partial statewide law that will cover non-hospitality workplaces and restaurants.
There are now at least 507 cities and counties with strong local laws to ensure smokefree air in at least non-hospitality workplaces, restaurants, and bars. Ten years ago, there were less than 50. Thanks in large part to the success of local smokefree laws, many states now have strong smokefree laws as well. Check out a chart showing the dramatic increase in strong local smokefree ordinances over the years: http://no-smoke.org/pdf/current_smokefree_ordinances_by_year.pdf
American Character Builders
Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham Grant Supplies Character Education to Area Schools
Study Connects Alcohol and Sex
Creech says study should motivate to address alcohol use and abuse, not promote safe-sex
One News Now
Chris Woodward, Reporter/Anchor
January 3, 2012
A new study out of Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health confirms that unprotected sex is more likely to occur after drinking, so one pastor thinks that should motivate Christians to address the abuse of alcohol rather than promote the message of safe sex.
Though the topic is not popular today, Dr. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League and the American Council on Alcohol Problems says the fact remains that where disease prevention is concerned, the failure rate for condoms is really high.
He thinks people ought to realize that sex within the context of a life-long monogamous marriage -- what it is intended for -- is always safe.
"Protected promiscuity is not a part of God's plan," he notes. "But what I think we can learn from this is that we're discovering every day the new links between seriously self-destructive behavior and the use and abuse of alcohol."
Creech describes alcohol as one of the few legal commodities in the U.S. that is inherently dangerous. With every drink a person takes, the individual moves closer to acting out some form of regrettable behavior. "Alcohol doesn't produce the behavior, mind you. But it most certainly greases the wheels for it," he suggests.
And Creech cites a recently published book as evidence.
"Laura Sessions Stepp in her book, Unhooked, examined the culture of casual sex of young women in high school and college," he explains. "Of the hundreds of young women that she interviewed, less than a half-dozen said that they were sober at the time. She said that alcohol is what fuels the unhooked culture among young people, especially those in college."
He decides a new study like the one from Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health further affirms such research.
"[Stepp] said that these young women would drink for different reasons -- some for the exhilarating high, sometimes because others around them were drinking. But many of them were drinking to quiet the cautionary voices in their heads," Creech tells OneNewsNow.
So he finds it unfortunate that alcohol is largely a subject that much of evangelical Christianity no longer seems willing to address.
"We hear about the problem of gambling; we hear about sex, about abortion; we hear about the breakdown of the family and all of those things, but it's also true more than we realize that alcohol is the social lubricant that energizes these negative actions," he contends.
Basically, he agrees with Solomon's words found in Proverbs 20: "Wine is a mocker."
"In other words," the pastor concludes, "it will make a fool of you, 'and whoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
The White Castle hamburger chain is considering the idea of selling alcohol at more of its restaurants, but one group doesn't think alcohol should be given any more outlets.
At this time, White Castle is only testing beer and wine sales at a location in Lafayette, Indiana. A spokesman for the chain tells Associated Press American Council on Alcohol Problems says it is all about marketing more outlets. "Marketing 101 is [the] more outlets [you have, the more] you sell of your product. That's why McDonald's has an outlet seemingly on every corner," he explains. "And the same is true for alcohol. If you have more outlets, you're going to sell more alcohol. More will be consumed over time."
In 2011, Burger King opened "Whopper Bars" in Miami, Las Vegas, and Kansas City. In the summer, Sonic drive-ins began offering beer and wine at new locations in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, although the chain said it had no plans of expanding sales outside of South Florida and assured that certain restrictions applied (see earlier story).
"The American Council on Alcohol Problems did issue a resolution with respect to Sonic and Burger King. It was broad and it also addressed any of this kind of initiative at any fast-food restaurants," Creech notes.that the company has not decided whether to expand alcohol sales, but he notes that customers have reacted positively to the fact that alcoholic beverages are being offered.
Dr. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League and the
He contends that fast food and alcohol do not mix because "fast food and alcohol makes for fast drunks."
If you only have time to watch one, watch the second video and read the article below it!
Light drinking linked to slight breast cancer risk
(Link to USAToday article)
November 2, 2011 (Reprinted in The Birmingham News on 12/1/11)
The link between alcohol and breast cancer isn't new, but most previous studies found no increased risk for breast cancer.... The new research provides compelling evidence...experts say. Click here to read the article.
Police say teens using vodka-soaked tampons to get drunk
By Kim I. Hartman
Nov 11, 2011
Phoenix - Teenagers have found a new way of getting drunk by inserting vodka-soaked tampons into their vaginas, says a Phoenix police resource officer. And it's not just girls; boys are inserting the alcohol-drenched feminine hygiene products in their rectum.
The disturbing trend, first noted by the Oxford Journals in 1999, said the teens experience "rapid onset of effects, lower doses of alcohol are required for intoxication, and the reduced likelihood of recent alcohol consumption being being detected on the breath," all contributed to the popularity of this method of abusing alcohol.
KPHO in Phoenix, Arizona, reported on the problem in local high schools and said the growing number of incidents related to students immersing tampons in vodka has school officials concerned for student safety."This is not isolated to any school, any city, any financial area," Officer Chris Thomas, a school resource officer, said. "This is everywhere. There's been documented cases of people going to the hospital with alcohol poisoning just from utilizing it that way."
Thomas said it was definitely not just girls using the tampons to get drunk; he said that rectal beer bongs is another bizarre trend created under the same concept and is becoming as popular as beer bongs used at college drinking bashes. He said that is called "butt chugging."
According to Thomas, the students are inventing new ways to consume alcohol that is less detectable by their parents and teachers. He suggests parents become more involved in their children's lives to combat these problems of alcohol use among teenagers.
Dr. Dan Quan, of the Maricopa Medical Center, told KPHO that students would obtain a "quicker high" and the effects were "more intense" then through oral consumption. "It's problematic because you don't really know how much you're going to absorb," Quan said.
Quan added that vodka-soaked tampons, which contain about a shot of alcohol, can cause "mucosal irritation to the vagina" or rectum. The physician said the trend could have life-threatening consequences. "If the person does pass out or lose consciousness, health care professionals won't necessarily know that they have to look in those areas and that may delay treatment."
KPHO reports that a myth persists among teenagers that if they use alcohol-soaked tampons they would "pass a breathalyser test because they didn't actually drink the booze." But this is untrue. A breathalyser "checks what's in your blood-stream not the amount of booze on your breath," and wouldn't change the blood alcohol content determined by the test.
The average American teen is heavily exposed to alcohol brand names in popular music, according to a study published online in the journal Addiction. Researchers analyzed 793 of the most popular songs in the youth market between 2005 and 2007 and found that brand names came up about a quarter of the time alcohol was mentioned.
There were about 3.4 alcohol brand references per hour of music, and the average teen hears about 2.5 hours of music per day, meaning they’re getting significant annual exposure, the authors said. Mentions of alcohol brands are the most common in rap, R&B and hip-hop songs and were more often positive than negative, the study found.
Local Governments in Southern States Look to Alcohol to Boost Revenues
Local governments in southern states are starting to look to alcohol sales as a way to boost revenues.
In Harrison, Arkansas, stores began selling beer and wine earlier this year, the Associated Press reports. The city hopes it will bring in up to $200,000 annually from alcohol-related sales taxes and fees—which represents about 1 percent of the budget.
The city of 13,000 residents, in the Ozark Mountains, finds tourists are staying longer ever since voters approved alcohol sales in the city last year. “We’re a pretty poor county, and we just can’t afford to say we don’t want anyone’s business,” Gerald Ragland, Harrison’s Finance Director, told the AP.
Until last year, Boone County, where Harrison is located, was “dry,” as were many municipalities across the South. Critics of the move to allow alcohol sales in Harrison said dry laws help prevent criminal activity and underage drinking. Supporters of lifting the alcohol sales ban countered that the law promoted increased drinking, because people would buy alcohol in bulk when they had to drive further to purchase it.
Other towns across the South are easing alcohol sales restrictions, including laws that prohibit sales on Sundays. Many dry laws have been eliminated in Texas since 2003, when the state legislature changed state law to make it less complicated to hold “wet/dry” elections, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
[NOTE from ALCAP: No one is quoting the figures from the costs of alcohol to our society. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the total cost of alcohol use in the United States in 1998 was estimated at $185 billion. More recent estimates have pushed that number up to $220 billion per year!]
The study says restricting the availability of higher-alcohol drinks in Alko, the state monopoly liquor store, will save around 350 people a year from alcohol-related deaths.
HELSINKI (Sept 8, 2011): Finnish researchers are recommending that beer and other drinks with more than 3.5% alcohol be banned from grocery stores to curb alcohol-related deaths.
The joint study by three research institutes said that restricting the availability of higher-alcohol drinks in Alko, the state monopoly liquor store, would save around 350 people a year from alcohol-related deaths.
Around 3,000 people die in Finland each year because of diseases or incidents related to alcohol.
The suggested ban would be modelled on a similar move by neighbouring Sweden in 1977, which helped curb alcohol-related deaths.
Finland's current limit for alcohol content at grocery stores is 4.7%.
The report on Thursday said Finland's alcohol consumption is now highly problematic, having tripled from 1968 to 2009, with the quantity of pure alcohol consumed by each person estimated at around 10.2 liter per year. Deaths directly caused by alcohol have also tripled.
Any move to reduce the alcohol content in beer in stores would reduce total alcohol consumption by 9%, researchers say.
"The public health and economy would benefit. There would be a bigger work force, and public health costs would fall. Some jobs would be cut in the brewing industry, but restaurants would need more workers as demand shifts," said Aki Kangasharju, the head of the Government Institute for Economic Research.
"It is not a matter of beer taste, there are plenty of tastes around with 3.5%. It is more of a cultural thing."
Pia Makela from the National Institute for Health and Welfare said Finns' typical drinking habits had changed from the occasional, heavy binge to more frequent drinking.
"People still drink a lot at a time, but additionally they drink smaller amounts more regularly. Liver cirrhosis deaths have increased a lot," she said. – Reuters
Blood Spilled at Games Because of Alcohol Sales Must Stop!
By Gregg Doyel
CBSSports.com National Columnist
Aug. 25, 2011
That spillage of blood the other night in San Francisco, where two NFL fans were shot in the parking lot and a third was beaten in a Candlestick Park bathroom? Don't obscure the truth by blaming that on the passion of football or the hatred of gangs. That wasn't 49ers vs. Raiders. It wasn't Nortenos vs. Surenos.
It was Budweiser vs. the bloodstream.
And Budweiser, or whatever those animals were guzzling, wins every time.
Which is why I'm not particularly impressed with all the anguish coming out of the 49ers, the Raiders or the NFL after those two shootings and that one beating at Candlestick. They can talk all they want, but I don't hear solutions. I hear tut-tutting. I hear tsk-tsking.
What I don't hear is anyone -- not a team, not the league -- announcing that alcohol will no longer be sold in the stadium or tolerated in the parking lot.
Yeah, I know. I just lost you there. Listen, I understand. I do. You're not the problem. You weren't holding a pistol in the parking lot, and you weren't kicking a guy in the men's room. You weren't one of the monsters who pounded Giants baseball fan Bryan Stow into a coma on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. When fans brawled at Yankee Stadium during Game 5 of the 2010 American League Championship Series, you weren't throwing haymakers.
You're not the problem. You're not. I get it.
Alcohol is the problem, and if 70,000 people can handle their alcohol but three cannot -- and as a result, two fans get shot and another gets beaten into critical condition -- then that's three too many.
You don't have to agree with this argument, and I don't expect that you will. I'm not wanting your conversion. But I do want you to listen. To hear the other side. To consider, for a moment, that the risk of fan violence -- fans in hospitals, fans in comas, fans dying -- isn't worth the pleasure you get from that 12-ounce beer.
Unless you think it is, and then I don't know what to tell you. You're not a monster, no. But that argument is monstrous. You'll risk fans being beaten half to death, and you'll risk fans being shot or stabbed, because that's how badly you want to drink that beer on the 30-yard line?
There's a whole civil liberties argument here, the galling idea that by banning alcohol from stadiums, everyone would have to pay for the sins of a few. And I hear that argument. It's compelling. Less compelling is the notion that teams have tried to police their fans -- or at least cut down on drunk drivers -- by cutting off beer sales after three quarters in football, seven innings in baseball, two periods in hockey. That's a start, but the violence isn't finished. It seems to get worse.
Some of you will read this argument as politics. There goes the liberal media, wanting Big Government to take away our rights. And that is one way of looking at it.
Here's another: I'm tired of people leaving the stadium for a hospital.
I'm sad for the family of MLB fan Bryan Stow, still fighting for his life at San Francisco General after being attacked March 31. I'm sad for the family of the NFL fan who was beaten on a bathroom floor Saturday night, his final sensations probably the smell of urine and the feel of a foot to his face.
I'm heartbroken for this devastated father, whose son was one of the shooting victims Saturday at Candlestick.
And I'm tired of sports teams making a buck off you, risking your health for their financial happiness. NFL teams will never fix this problem because they don't want to fix this problem. Not badly enough to actually dig into the root here, the root being alcohol.
Does a fan have to be drunk to become a monster? Of course not. Testosterone, pride and pack mentality can make monsters of lots of people. We're walking time bombs, lots of us.
Alcohol is the most obvious fuse, and professional sports franchises offer you that fuse because you're willing to pay heavily for it. Do the math: An NFL team buys a case of beer for $12, then sells those 24 bottles for $10 each.
That's $240 for a $12 investment. Multiply that by thousands of cases.
That's why the violence will continue. Because teams and leagues can tut-tut all they want about their outrage -- and for good measure they can throw in a stern tsk-tsk -- but they're not serious about saving lives. They're not serious about protecting, frankly, you. Because next time, it could be you. It could be your father, your son. That video of the devastated dad from Candlestick? At this time last month, you think that guy ever dreamed he would be biting his lip, trying not to cry, as millions of us watched?
Of course he didn't think that. This stuff, it doesn't happen to us. It happens to them.
Problem is, them is us. Them is you. One of you out there, you're next. It's your turn.
Hope you enjoy that beer.
Could be the last one of your life.
Short-term drink deterrent
The Birmingham News
September 8, 2011
College freshmen who take an online alcohol prevention course may drink less, but the effects don’t last long, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers looked at the effectiveness of a commercial course against binge drinking called AlcoholEdu, which is often offered just before freshmen arrive on campus. They conducted a randomized trial at 30 public and private universities in the United States, giving half the freshmen the course and then following up with surveys with some of them. They found that students who took the class reported significantly less alcohol use and binge drinking during the fall compared with the other students. But the results didn’t last into the spring semester; the authors suggest that other methods are needed to reinforce the message.
[NOTE: Colleges could use the American Character Builders kit, "Alcohol--It's a Killer!" as a follow-up later in the year. For more information concerning this and other programs available from American Character Builders, go to www.AmericanCharacterBuilders.org.]
Liquor Store Density Linked to Youth Homicides
September 7, 2011
UC Riverside researchers also find connection between sales of single-serve containers of alcoholic beverages and violent crime.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Violent crime could be reduced significantly if policymakers at the local level limit the number of neighborhood liquor stores and ban the sale of single-serve containers of alcoholic beverages, according to separate studies led by University of California, Riverside researchers.
In the first of two groundbreaking studies published in the September issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Review – “Alcohol availability and youth homicide in 91 of the largest U.S. cities, 1984-2006” – researchers found a correlation between the density of alcohol outlets and violent crime rates among teens and young adults ages 13 to 24. Study authors were sociology professors Robert N. Parker and Kirk R. Williams, co-directors of the Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies at UCR; Kevin J. McCaffree, UCR research assistant; sociology professor Emily K. Acensio of the University of Akron, who earned her Ph.D. at UCR; Angela Browne of the Vera Institute of Justice in Washington, D.C.; and Kevin J. Strom and Kelle Barrick of RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
The second study, “The impact of retail practices on violence: The case of single serve alcohol beverage containers,” examined crime rates and cooler space allocated to containers sold individually in San Bernardino, Calif. Researchers generally found higher rates of violent crime in neighborhoods around alcohol outlets that allot more than 10 percent of cooler space for single-serve containers. Study authors were Parker, McCaffree and Daniel Skiles of the Institute for Public Strategies in San Bernardino.
Drug and Alcohol Review is published by the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs.
“These results suggest that alcohol control can be an important tool in violence prevention,” Parker said. “Policies designed to reduce outlet density can provide relief from violence in and around these neighborhood outlets. And banning or reducing the sales of single-serve, ready-to-consume containers of alcohol can have an additional impact on preventing violence.”
Researchers in the first study analyzed federal crime data for offenders ages 13 to 17 and 18 to 24 and census population and economic data to determine crime rates and the density of beer, wine and liquor stores in 91 of the largest American cities in 36 states.
Taking into account other factors known to contribute to youth homicide rates – such as poverty, drugs, availability of guns, and gangs – the researchers found that higher densities of liquor stores, providing easy access to alcoholic beverages, contributed significantly to higher youth homicide rates.
“Our findings suggest that reducing retail alcohol outlet density should significantly reduce the trends of youth homicide,” Parker said.
In the study of single-serve alcohol containers, researchers from UCR and the Institute for Public Strategies in San Bernardino collected data on alcohol outlet locations, violent crime reported to the San Bernardino Police Department and census data on a variety of population, family and age indicators. Workers from the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Program visited every liquor store in the city, and counted the number of coolers containing alcoholic beverages at each location and the amount of cooler space devoted to single-serve containers.
All of that data was mapped using a Geographic Information Systems software program.
The researchers found that violent crime rates were significantly higher in neighborhoods that had both higher densities of liquor stores and retail outlets that devoted more cooler space for single-serve containers. The impact of sales of single-serve containers of alcoholic beverages alone was “modest,” they said. The higher the percentage
“As far as we are aware, this is the first study of its kind to examine the impact of single-serve sales on violence, and the first study to use the proportion of cooler space as an indicator of sales volume of a type of alcoholic beverage,” the researchers wrote. … “There is no reason that communities concerned about single-serve containers and their impact cannot take regulatory action on the basis of this limited study. Community interests should dictate local policy, and the potential benefits of reduced violence outweigh any potential harm that the banning or limitation of such sales would create.”
Parker said one type of regulatory measure that could be justified on the basis of the study’s findings would be the adoption of a Deemed Approved Ordinance. Such a law would give cities more authority “to set acceptable standards of practice for existing alcohol retailers, as well as help to reduce existing outlet density by strengthening the local authority’s ability to punish consistent violators of these standards of practice with the permanent loss of the ability to do business.”
**Cities included in the youth homicide study, by state:
Alabama: Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery
Arkansas: Little Rock
California: Anaheim, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Ana, Stockton
Colorado: Colorado Springs, Denver
Georgia: Atlanta, Columbus
Indiana: Fort Wayne, Gary, Indianapolis
Iowa: Des Moines
Kentucky: Lexington-Fayette, Louisville
Louisiana: Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Shreveport
Massachusetts: Boston, Springfield, Worcester
Michigan: Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids
Minnesota: Minneapolis, St. Paul
Missouri: Kansas City, St. Louis
Nevada: Las Vegas
New Jersey: Jersey City, Newark
New Mexico: Albuquerque
New York: Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse
Texas: Amarillo, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Lubbock, San Antonio
Utah: Salt Lake City
Virginia: Norfolk, Richmond, Virginia Beach
Washington: Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma
Wisconsin: Madison, Milwaukee
Top 100 cities eliminated from study for incomplete data:
District of Columbia, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Omaha, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Tucson and Wichita.
Facebook Linked to Teenage Drinking, Drug Use
Published August 24, 2011
American teenagers of middle and high school age are more likely to smoke, drink and use drugs if they also spend time on social networking sites, according to a new study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
The study, released Wednesday found that teens spending any time at all on social networking sites were five times more likely to smoke cigarettes, three times more likely to drink and twice as likely to smoke marijuana. It lists Facebook and Myspace specifically, though it casts a much wider net.
CASA Columbia surveyed 12-to-17 year olds asking whether they spent any time on social media sites, finding that 70 percent of the teens they surveyed do use the sites. The survey also found that 40 percent of all teens have seen pictures on those sites of kids drinking or using drugs and that half of those teens were not yet teens – they were 13 years old or younger.
Seeing pictures appears to be a real focus of the study, as exposure to such images seems to spark higher usage of alcohol and marijuana.
“The relationship of social networking site images of kids drunk, passed out, or using drugs and of suggestive teen programming to increased teen risk of substance abuse offers grotesque confirmation of the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Columbia’s Founder and Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
In the report, Califano also called for social networking sites to act against this trend.
“The time has come for those who operate and profit from social networking sites like Facebook to deploy their technological expertise to curb such images and to deny use of their sites to children and teens who post pictures of themselves and their friends drunk, passed out or using drugs. Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse.”
Americans appear closer than ever to being able to gamble online -- as a bill aimed at legalizing Internet casino gaming could find its way before Congress by the end of the year, people close to the matter tell The Post.
The confidence over the federal legalization of online poker and other games comes as momentum in Washington builds behind the effort.
“I think there is becoming a feeling in Congress that this is something that needs to be regulated and be done,” a source close to the discussions said. “I believe there is a possibility a bill will pass towards the end of the year.”
“The only question is how it is structured,” according to Roger Gross, the publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine.
The momentum is clear in at least three ways:
·Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Jon Kyl in the last few weeks asked the Justice Department to stop state efforts to legalize gambling, sources said. If states act on their own, that could disrupt the federal effort.
·Large Republican donor and Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson is now on board with such a federal move, Gross said. Adelson, he said, sees the move as a window of opportunity to grow sales. Adelson is close to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who will be important for gambling advocates to win over. Adelson did not return calls for comment.
·House Speaker John Boehner is another important Congressional leader to get on board, and his long-time aide, Lee Askew, earlier this year became vice president of government affairs for the American Gaming Association.
The source close to the situation says he believes Adelson is neutral.
Kyl, essential for passage, also had a recent change of heart.
In July 2006, when the House passed a bill outlawing Internet gambling, Kyl likened the addictiveness of e-gaming to “crack cocaine.”
In April, Kyl changed his tune. His Web site said, “Efforts to carve out an exception for games like poker, which many believe is a game of skill, may be considered later this year.”
Many cash-strapped states would jump at the chance to add a new income stream.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller last month in an effort to win a debt ceiling extension proposed legalizing Internet gambling saying it could raise an estimated $41.8 billion over 10 years, and an estimated additional $30 billion for states, along with 17 other ideas.
While legalizing gambling would raise billions of dollars, Les Bernal, executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling, said, “This is a government policy that shrinks the middle class and pushes people in deeper debt at a time the government should be encouraging people to save more money.”
No Convictions in the Alabama bingo trial; judge to set new trial date on mistrials (updated)
Published: Thursday, August 11, 2011, 2:34 PM Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011, 4:20 PM
By Kim Chandler -- The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News
MONTGOMERY, Alabama --- The jury in the Alabama bingo corruption trial handed down no convictions in the case. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on many charges, and it said defendants were not guilty on the rest.
The judge is declaring mistrials on the charges for which the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict, and he said he would set a new trial date within a month. [Click here to read the entire story.]
Though the gambling corruption trial resulted in no convictions for the nine defendants and a mistrial has been declared on several of the counts, the fact remains that gambling and corruption go hand-in-hand. It is always difficult to prove intentions when money changes hands. The fact that the gambling bosses gave large sums of money to various legislators and candidates was never denied; all that happened is that the prosecution could not prove the money was associated with particular votes on gambling. It must also be remembered that two of the original eleven defendants pled guilty to the corruption charges.
We can be confident that the gambling bosses will likely continue to identify candidates, incumbent legislators and constitutional officers they can support financially in order to affect the laws of Alabama to be favorable to their multi-million dollar gambling establishments. If, eventually, they are not convicted on any of the counts, they are also likely to continue applying tremendous pressure on legislators in the hallways of the Alabama State House.
During the 2009 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature, one particular pro-gambling bill tied up the Senate for an entire 10 days out of 30 total legislative days (one third of the Regular Session)! During the 2010 Regular Legislative Session, the gambling bill which led to the FBI investigation and the corruption charges, monopolized the entire session.
The citizens of Alabama must make sure to elect people who are pro-life, pro-family and pro-moral, and especially, men and women who oppose legislation that promotes gambling. ALCAP will continue to serve as the voice of the faith community in the Alabama Legislature. We will continue to keep you updated on the current issues facing our state, and we will continue to provide your church with quality resources concerning the issues confronting our state as, together, we stand for what is right and good in Alabama! ALCAP will also continue to represent our Lord Jesus Christ in the halls of the Alabama State House as your missionaries to the center of state government.
Please continue to pray for us and remember that we depend on your financial support in order to accomplish the ministry to which God has called us. Visit our website, www.alcap.com, for resources and information that will help you to stand for the Lord in your community, our state, our nation and the world.
Risky Business: Teens Buying Fake IDs from Overseas Via Internet
by JIM AVILA (@JimAvilaABC) , BRINDA ADHIKARI AND ENJOLI FRANCIS
Aug. 5, 2011
They can arrive in jewelry boxes, playing cards and even inside a game of Chinese checkers -- illegal IDs from China, mailed to your waiting teenager.
"They hide [fake IDs] behind things ... and inside boxes," said Sheriff Tom Dart of Cook County, Ill. "This is full service. They want to make sure their customers are happy. They are very accommodating."
One website refers to the fake IDs as "novelty items."
"The Internet so readily makes these [fake IDs] available that anybody looking for them can find them literally with a quick mouse click," Dart said.
Working with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and other agencies in Chicago, Dart has confiscated more than 1,700 IDs hidden in boxes arriving from China at the airport in the last six months. Most of them were on their way to 17- to 20-year-olds planning some underage bar-hopping.
Fake IDs: The New Rage
The under-21 crowd says they are the new rage because when the IDs are placed side by side with a legal ID, it's impossible to tell the difference. Even under ultraviolet light, used by the Transportation Security Administration, the real and fake IDs are indistinguishable.
A 19-year-old Philadelphia student who asked not to be identified said she bought two IDs by sending $100 through Western Union to a person in China whom she'd been e-mailing. She said she knew of more than 20 people who had purchased a fake ID off the Internet.
"They just mail you a children's toy from China. Once you break it apart, there's just IDs in there," she said. "I did it so I can get into bars. For me, it's worked everywhere I've gone."
Lydia Ruiz said a fake ID wasn't worth the danger. In February 2009, her son Alex was killed in Berkeley, Calif., by an underage drunken driver carrying a fake ID.
"More access to false IDs ultimately means more death on the roads," her husband, Michael Ruiz, told ABC News. "There's no two ways about that."
Dart said parents have to be aware. "They've got watermarks, holograms. They've got it all," he said of the phony IDs. "Parents have to wake up. They really have to wake up here."
Pabst's Horse of a Different Color: Colt 45 Enters Controversial Ring
Published March 18, 2011
By DAVID KESMODEL
This isn't your father's Colt 45.
The new owners of that malt-liquor brand, with the help of rapper Snoop Dogg, plan to unveil next month a label called Blast by Colt 45. The beverage will contain fruit flavors and 12% alcohol by volume, about twice the level of the original version of Colt 45.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A few well-known drinks popular among students on college campuses have been banned. Alcohol and caffeine mixed beverages are now illegal to sell in the state of Alabama. The Alabama alcoholic beverage control board banned the malt drinks in February.
The ABC board sent out notices to Alabama distributors about the ban. Many manufacturers have now re-formulated these drinks taking out the caffeine.
The popular alcohol drink, Four Loko, was known as "black out in a can" or "liquid crack". Last year, the drink contained caffeine and 12% alcohol, which experts say is a dangerous combination.
"One of the problems with these types of drinks is that they're very high in caffeine and very high in alcohol. What you end up having is what people are calling, a wide awake drunk," UAB Nutrition Sciences Assistant Professor, Beth Kitchin.
Following a warning from the FDA, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Board issued a ban on the sale of caffeinated alcohol beverages in the state. An effort registered Dietician, Beth Kitchin says was the best move because of the effects those beverages have on inexperienced drinkers.
"They think I'm fine. I can go drive. I can do all the things that I would normally do. Or I might even drink more because I don't feel, like I'm drunk. And that's a very dangerous combination," said Kitchin.
The danger hit a peak in 2010, when several Western Washington University students were hospitalized after mixing, Four Loko, with hard alcohol. However, reaction is mixed on the University of Alabama-Birmingham campus.
“I think it should be banned because it’s like an energy drink and alcohol mix and I don't think that's a good mixture," UAB student, Mary Frances.
"Students are going to find something else to drink regardless. If it’s banned or not," said UAB student, Tisa Low ski.
“I'm surprised that they got mad, like that. Cause like, I didn't know how serious it was. It makes you think why are they getting banned?" said UAB student, Trevor Scott.
What you will find now on store shelves is a re-vamped version of these drinks, like Four Loko, without the caffeine, making the drink legal.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala-- Voters in the West Alabama city of Tuscaloosa have overwhelmingly approved Sunday alcohol sales.
With nearly all the ballots counted, YES votes outnumbered NO votes by nearly a 4 to 1 margin.
Sunday alcohol sales have long been a source of contention in Tuscaloosa.
The city was the largest in Alabama not to allow alcohol to be sold on Sunday.
Proponents said allowing alcohol to be sold seven days a week will be an economic windfall for the city.
Chad Smith, owner of Alcove International Tavern, said if some University of Alabama fans choose to stay an extra day after home football games, it might entice larger restaurant and hotel chains to open in the city.
The first day of Sunday alcohol sales will be March 6.
Unless the city council votes otherwise, businesses which currently sell alcohol will be allowed to sell it when Sunday sales begin.
Cartoon in the Mobile Press-Register by JD Crowe 2/2/11
Mobile County health officials want cities to go smoke-free
Published: Tuesday, February 01, 2011, 7:30 AM
By Rena Havner Philips, Press-Register
Mobile County health officials want more local cities to ban smoking in restaurants, bars and other public places. (The Associated Press)
The Mobile County Health Department and other local agencies are launching a two-year campaign to try to encourage nine local municipalities, including Mobile, to prohibit smoking in public places.
That would include restaurants, bars, hotels, shopping malls and other facilities.
“We’re not saying that you can’t smoke,” said the health department’s Missy Wilson, who is administering the grant. “We’re saying we don’t want to breathe your smoke.”
According the health department:
22 percent of Alabamians smoke, but that number is slightly higher in Mobile County.
Second-hand smoke is the third most preventable cause of death in the United States, causing at least 35,000 deaths each year from heart disease and 3,000 more from lung cancer.
Waiters and waitresses who work in restaurants that allow smoking are 50 percent more at-risk to get cancer.
And a bartender who pours drinks in a smoky bar for an eight-hour shift experiences the same effects as someone who just smoked three packs of cigarettes.
“It’s not an issue of smokers’ versus non-smokers’ rights,” said Cathy Clothier, a health department educator. “It’s a health issue.”
Health officials here — along with representatives of the American Cancer Society, American Lung Society, Mobile County Medical Society, the University of South Alabama’s Mitchell Cancer Institute and others — are using an ordinance from the city of Auburn as an example.
Dr. Bernard Eichold, who leads the county health department, said officials have been trying to get Mobile and other cities to enact a similar policy for years. “The smaller cities have said we’re not going to do it unless Mobile does.”
Opponents of such legislation say restaurant and bar owners should be able to decide on their own — without government interference — whether to allow smoking.
Mobile Mayor Sam Jones could not be reached for comment Monday. City of Mobile spokeswoman Barbara Drummond said he’s evaluating the issue and doesn’t have an opinion yet on whether the city should enact such a law.
Citronelle and Bayou La Batre have ordinances that prohibit smoking in public places, as do a growing number of municipalities in Baldwin County.
Saraland Mayor Howard Rubenstein said his city allows restaurants and bars to be either completely smoking or completely smoke-free. Rubenstein — who is meeting with health officials today to hear their proposal — said at least 90 percent of restaurants and bars are now smoke-free. He said he doesn’t know yet if he would favor an ordinance like what the health department is proposing, adding that the city council would have to decide.
Eichold said it’s not just small cities that are enacting such legislation. New York and Chicago prohibit smoking in restaurants, bars and public places.
Health officials said they’re beefing up efforts to educate the public on the risk of second-hand smoke with help from a $2.25 million grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control, part of which must be used over the next two years on advertising.
“The grant will help us educate the people and elected officials that smoking in public is a problem,” Eichold said. “The sad part is that the only reason we got the grant money is because we have a problem here in Mobile County.”
The county health department recently began taking points off inspection reports of restaurants and bars that allow smoking. And the department places warning stickers on doors of establishments that allow smoking, warning those who enter that they will be exposed to second-hand smoke.
As a result, several restaurants, including Heroes Sports Bar & Grille in downtown Mobile, T.P. Crockmiers in midtown Mobile and local Waffle Houses, now ban smoking.
In 2004, city of Mobile attorney Jim Rossler wrote an opinion saying that such an ordinance would conflict with Alabama’s Clean Indoor Air Act and would thus be void. That act prohibits smoking in some public places, but allows it in bars.
Since then, former Alabama Attorney General Troy King wrote an opinion saying cities could pass their own laws that are stronger than the Clean Indoor Air Act. And the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in 2009 upheld a Gulf Shores’ smoke-free ordinance after a woman who was fined for smoking in a bar sued the city.
A new study has found that alcohol and sports make a truly dangerous combination, with one in every 12 fans leaving major sporting events drunk. The study was reported online in January this year, and will be published in the April 2011 print edition of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota conducted the research following 13 baseball games and three football games in 2006. Fans volunteered to participate in an anonymous breathalyzer test as well as a brief verbal survey as they were leaving the event stadium. The study is the first ever in the U.S. to measure blood alcohol content levels in fans after professional sporting events. Here’s a summary of what they learned:
One in 12 fans was legally intoxicated when he or she left the event.
Fans under the age of 35 were nine times more likely to be drunk.
Fans who tailgated before a game were 14 times more likely to leave the game drunk.
About one in four fans who tailgated said they had consumed five or more alcohol beverages while tailgating.
Given the startling data of the study, public health advocates are calling for sobriety check-points and tests for fans after games, as well as discouraging tailgating and halting alcohol sales in the latter portion of games. While these measures are certainly a good start, others are working to disentangle alcohol and sports – especially when it comes to college sports.
In North Dakota, state representative Chuck Damschen has introduced a bill that would ban alcohol at the state’s collegiate athletic events. Representative Damschen has said that the purpose of the proposal is to help fight underage drinking at college sport events. If approved, the bill would ban alcohol at all collegiate sporting events, including all college facilities and adjacent properties that are often used for tailgating.
Elsewhere on the college front, there are signs that sports can be freed from the alcohol connection. For example, among the 120 largest schools in NCAA Division 1, only about three dozen allow beer sales inside the stadiums, and most limit alcohol sales to luxury suites. The country’s largest college football venue, Michigan Stadium, has been and continues to be alcohol-free – even after a recent renovation and addition of luxury suites. Other prominent college football schools, such as Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Colorado at Boulder – are all examples of universities that fill their stadiums, game after game and season after season, without alcohol sales.
Another positive sign has been the success of the Big Ten Network, which is the first television sports network that does not accept alcohol advertising. The Big Ten Network is a dedicated cable sports channel for the Big Ten Conference. As of September last year, the network had approximately 43 million subscribers, as well as a sold-out ad schedule for the 2010 football season – without beer commercials. According to the network’s vice president of advertising, the alcohol-free policy has been positive. “People like us for having a different environment,” he said. The success of the Big Ten Network has demonstrated that sports television can succeed without beer ads. Now that other conferences such as the Southeastern Conference have also announced plans to launch their own cable sports channels, hopefully they will follow the Big Ten’s example of alcohol-free college sports television.
Sources: “One in 12 fans leaves major sports events drunk: study,” BusinessWeek.com, January 18, 2011. “Bill to ban alcohol at collegiate athletic events introduced,” GrandForksHerald.com, December 31, 2010. “Big Ten Network cashing in on football,” Broadcasting & Cable.com, September 6, 2010. “Beer sales make a comeback at college stadiums,” Wall Street Journal, September 12, 2009.
The rot in values that is causing America’s decline
By SHMULEY BOTEACH 02/01/2011 00:51
Thrift, hard work, close-knit families, a pioneering spirit, a love of adventure, a rejection of indolence, faith-based ethics, a God-centric society, a belief in spreading freedom and democracy – where did that all go?
Science and math. Science and math. President Barack Obama’s new mantra is science and math. If only America’s students focused on science and math, he told us in his State of the Union address, then we’ll be as innovative as China and will no longer have to farm out the building of wondrous handheld gadgets. The gods of science and math will make our economy blossom.
But missing from the president’s new, post-midterm vision for America is any mention of the rot in values that is causing our decline. The reason we don’t excel in education is not because our schools focus on philosophy and the humanities to the exclusion of science and math, but rather because we are becoming a pack of ignoramuses watching inane TV shows, following the lives of mostly decadent celebrities, and engaging in an endless orgy of consumption. Our problem is not that we read too much Nietzsche and too little astrophysics, but rather that our character is becoming corrupt.
The solution for America is not to raise an army of sterile drones, engineered into productive obedience by a government that emphasizes equations. I have no interest in living in China; communist totalitarianism dare not be our model. Rather, our solution is to reembrace the values that made America great: thrift, hard work, close-knit families, a pioneering spirit, entrepreneurship, a love of adventure, fearlessness, a rejection of indolence, faith-based ethics, a God-centric society, and a belief in spreading freedom and democracy. [To read the rest of the article, click here.]
Georgia Facing a Hard Choice on Free Tuition
Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times
Robbie Ottley, left, Katie Black and Josh Delaney, Hope scholarship students at the University of Georgia, discussed the program.
By KIM SEVERSON
Published: January 6, 2011
ATHENS, Ga. — Students here at the University of Georgia have a name for some of the fancy cars parked in the lots around campus. They call them Hopemobiles. But there may soon be fewer of them.
The cars are gifts from parents who find themselves with extra cash because their children decided to take advantage of a cherished state perk — the Hope scholarship. The largest merit-based college scholarship program in the United States it offers any Georgia high school student with a B-average four years of free college tuition.
But the Hope scholarship program is about to be cut by a new governor and Legislature facing staggering financial troubles. [Click here to read the entire story of how the Georgia Lottery is failing!]
Alcoholic Whipped Cream: Another Binge Drink in a Can?
By Meredith Melnick Monday, November 29, 2010
Four Loko is so last season. There's a new faddish booze-infused product whipping up interest from public-health experts: alcoholic whipped cream.
According to a report in the Boston Herald, products like Cream and Whipped Lightning are appearing on liquor store shelves all over the country. They look innocent enough: they are canisters of whipped dairy, like the Reddi-wip used on top of ice cream sundaes and waffles. But unlike the standard variety, the alcohol-charged "whipahol" Cream packs a 30-proof wallop. That's 15% alcohol by volume, containing about as much or slightly less alcohol as drinks like Bacardi Mojito and Bailey's Irish Cream. Another brand, Whipped Lightning ranges from 16% to 18% alcohol by volume, equivalent to the alcohol contained in three or four beers — that is, if you ingest the entire canister.
Although alcoholic whipped cream isn't likely to get kids as wasted as quickly as Four Loko did — not without first causing a stomachache — public health experts fear that the boozy whip targets young consumers. It comes in flavors like chocolate, raspberry, orange and cherry. Cream's MySpace page recommends adding the product to drinks like Jell-O shots — a staple at college parties.
Compared with the alcoholic energy drinks that were recently declared illegal by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, whipahols are somewhat less accessible to underage drinkers: for one thing, it costs about $13 per canister and it is sold in liquor stores, rather than convenience stores. (Cream is also available for purchase online.)
Whipahol is not considered a food and is thus not regulated by the FDA; as a result, manufacturers are not required to reveal nutrition information on the packaging beyond alcohol content. The Heraldreports:
"They can get a significant amount of alcohol in one shot," Dr. Anita Barry, a director at the Boston Public Health Department, said of drinkers who consume the boozy topping.
Barry said alcohol-infused whipped cream needs to be monitored for potential abuse. One of the big worries is whether canisters prominently mention that the product contains high alcohol levels, she said.
Still, my guess is that flavored alcoholic whipped cream is less a harbinger of booze-induced problems in teens and more a sign that the culinary tastes of the nation's food manufacturers need a serious reboot.
[ALCAP response: Yet another way that “Big Alcohol” is pushing its way into our lives! When is “enough” enough!?]
Citing crime, Dutch may crack down on marijuana tourism
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (BP)--Acknowledging that marijuana decriminalization has led to an increase in crime and societal problems, the new Netherlands conservative-leaning government wants to crack down on drug tourism by limiting marijuana sales in so-called "coffee shops" to Dutch residents.
The proposal was outlined weeks ago when the coalition government detailed its goals but is getting more attention now because Ivo Opstelten, the government's minister of security and justice, said the government is serious about the proposal.
Millions of tourists from all over Europe come to the Netherlands each year to smoke pot, which is relatively cheap at the coffee shops, or marijuana cafes. There are hundreds of such shops in Amsterdam and elsewhere.
"No tourist attractions. We don't like that," the minister, Ivo Opstelten, said during an interview with Netherlands media Nov. 17, Reuters reported. "The heart of the problem is crime and disturbances sur rounding the sale. We have to go back to what it was meant for: local use for those who would like it."
The move could lead some of the marijuana cafes to shut down. One Amsterdam cafe employee told the Guardian newspaper that 99 percent of the shop's customers are tourists.
"All these coffee shops will have to close," the employee said.
Some British companies have unabashedly catered to drug tourists. One company calling itself the Dam Express (for Amsterdam) offers weekend roundtrip bus tours to Amsterdam for about $95 in U.S. currency, and advertises with depictions of cartoon characters getting stoned and drunk. "Why not visit the world famous Red Light District?" the website asks.
The coalition government's marijuana proposal said it wanted to take action to combat "anti-social and criminal behaviour linked to prostitution and drug trafficking." (The prostitution proposal includes raising the minimum age for prostitutes to 21.) Among the coalition's proposals related to marijuana:
-- turning the marijuana cafes into clubs with membership, with Dutch residents having to show proof of membership in order to purchase pot.
-- banning marijuana shops within 350 meters of schools.
-- increasing the penalties for importing or exporting drugs.
Dutch police already have begun a crackdown on illegal marijuana farms, which drain the power grid because of the amount of electricity needed to power the lights that help grow the plants.... Read More
Study: Alcohol more lethal than heroin, cocaine
By MARIA CHENG
The Associated Press
Sunday, October 31, 2010; 8:08 PM
LONDON -- Alcohol is more dangerous than illegal drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, according to a new study.
British experts evaluated substances including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, ranking them based on how destructive they are to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole.
Researchers analyzed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body, in addition to other criteria like environmental damage caused by the drug, its role in breaking up families and its economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.
Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, were the most lethal to individuals. When considering their wider social effects, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the deadliest. But overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.
The study was paid for by Britain's Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and was published online Monday in the medical journal, Lancet.
Experts said alcohol scored so high because it is so widely used and has devastating consequences not only for drinkers but for those around them.
"Just think about what happens (with alcohol) at every football game," said Wim van den Brink, a professor of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Amsterdam. He was not linked to the study and co-authored a commentary in the Lancet.
When drunk in excess, alcohol damages nearly all organ systems. It is also connected to higher death rates and is involved in a greater percentage of crime than most other drugs, including heroin.
But experts said it would be impractical and incorrect to outlaw alcohol.
"We cannot return to the days of prohibition," said Leslie King, an adviser to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and one of the study's authors. "Alcohol is too embedded in our culture and it won't go away."
King said countries should target problem drinkers, not the vast majority of people who indulge in a drink or two. He said governments should consider more education programs and raising the price of alcohol so it isn't as widely available.
Experts said the study should prompt countries to reconsider how they classify drugs. For example, last year in Britain, the government increased its penalties for the possession of marijuana. One of its senior advisers, David Nutt - the lead author on the Lancet study - was fired after he criticized the British decision.
"What governments decide is illegal is not always based on science," said van den Brink. He said considerations about revenue and taxation, like those garnered from the alcohol and tobacco industries, may influence decisions about which substances to regulate or outlaw.
"Drugs that are legal cause at least as much damage, if not more, than drugs that are illicit," he said.
Doctors: Alcohol-Caffeine Drinks Pose Health Risk to College-Age Fans
Doctor Says Teen Suffered Heart Attack After Drinking High Octane Beverage
By CLAYTON SANDELL and LYNNE GUEY
October 20, 2010
Cans of Four Loko are seen on display at a liquor store in Palo Alto, Calif., Oct. 18, 2010.
(Paul Sakuma/AP Photo)
Concern over a controversial beverage concoction of caffeine and booze, that some experts say may not even be legal, could be posing a new health threat for the drinks' biggest fans: college-age people.
Two weeks ago, an athletic, otherwise perfectly healthy 19 year-old man arrived at the emergency room at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.
"He had chest pains, he was sweaty, short of breath," said Dr. Robert McNamara, who heads the department of emergency medicine.
The patient was suffering a heart attack.
Tests, however, showed the man had none of the usual signs of an unhealthy heart or arteries.
The symptoms were extremely unusual for such a young person, said McNamara, who added they're typically seen in people who overdose on cocaine or speed. After further questioning, the patient admitted he'd been drinking a new type of beverage, which is growing in popularity, which combines high alcohol content with a large dose of caffeine.
"That was the only explanation we had," for the heart attack, said Dr. McNamara.
The drinks—with names like Joose, Torque and Four Loko-- come in large cans covered with colorful graphics that experts and some students say make the alcoholic beverages hard to tell apart from non-alcoholic ones. The drinks sell for about three dollars each.
Four Loko comes in a 23.5 ounce can that contains 2.82 ounces of alcohol, or 12 percent. Experts say you'd have to drink almost six cans of Bud Light beer, or 67.2 ounces, to get the same amount of alcohol.
The drinks also come with a jolt. The fruit punch-flavored Four Loko has 156 milligrams of caffeine. An eight ounce cup of coffee, by comparison, has about 100 milligrams of caffeine. "This is a dangerous product from what we've seen," Dr. McNamara said. "It doesn't have to be chronic use. I think it could happen to somebody on a first time use."
Dr. McNamara said he had never seen a case like this before. And he said he is now hearing from colleagues about similar cases. A growing number of doctors, lawmakers state and federal officials are warning of potentially serious health problems from the drinks, and some experts argue they are illegal under current federal law.
"It is a quick way to get drunk," said Bruce Goldberger, director of toxicology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. "It is popular among young folks. The marketing and packaging has so much to do with it."
Doctor Mary Claire O'Brien of Wake Forest University led a recent study on the effects of combining alcohol and caffeine. She found that compared to college students who drink only alcohol, students who drink booze mixed with energy drinks are twice as likely to be injured, require medical attention or ride with an intoxicated driver. Those students are also more than twice as likely to take advantage of someone sexually.
Why the difference?
O'Brien said mixing a depressant like alcohol with a caffeine stimulant is akin to stepping on the gas and brake of a car at the same time.
"They can't tell that they're drunk," said O'Brien, an associate professor of emergency medicine and public health. "What this behavior gets is a wide awake drunk."
FDA Investigating 'Cocaine in a Can'
Drinkers like University of Florida sophomore Daniel Patterson noticed the effects the first time he tried Four Loko.
"I pretty much went into my inebriation without really realizing it," he said in an e-mail. "I was talking a lot, being loud, yet I also felt very alert and sober as if the drink was doing nothing to me."
A website for the manufacturer of Four Loko — Chicago-based Phusion Projects — said the drink is distributed in 47 states.
Phusion says the Philadelphia case is exactly why the company goes to "great lengths" to make sure its drinks are not sold to underage consumers.
"Our cans feature seven different warnings about the product's alcohol content and the necessity of an ID for purchase," the company said in a statement provided to ABC News. "And we're the only manufacturer to prominently place a 'WE ID' message on our can. We also offer free, point-of-sale materials to stores selling our products that reinforce the importance of asking for identification when selling any alcoholic beverage."
The company says it has also rejected social marketing tactics used by some of its competitors.
"There is no company-sponsored "Four Loko" Facebook page or You Tube channel," the statement says.
Fans, however, are using social media to create popular -- if unofficial— places for Four Loko enthusiasts to spread the word.
One Facebook page bearing the title "four lokos are blackouts in a can and the end of my morals" has more than 71,000 "likes."
As the alcohol-caffeine concoctions -- sometimes dubbed "cocaine in a can" -- are becoming more popular on college campuses, officials are taking notice.
Attorneys general in several states are investigating whether the drinks are being marketed to underage drinkers.
One New Jersey college banned the drinks this month after 23 students were hospitalized with alcohol-related problems. At least some of them reportedly drank Four Loko.
"There's no redeeming social purpose to be served by having the beverage," Ramapao College President Peter Mercer told The Associated Press.
But across Twitter, many people seem to think the ban will only make the drink more popular. "Four Loko stock is goin (sic) to go thru the roof this weekend," wrote Reacy23.
A Food and Drug Administration spokesman told ABC News that determining whether drinks like Joose and Four Loko are legal is a high priority for the federal agency.
The FDA says food additive regulations currently do not allow mixing caffeine with booze. Drink manufacturers maintain their products contain ingredients that are "generally recognized as safe" but now the FDA wants them to prove it.
Last year the agency sent 27 letters to drink makers seeking more information. 19 companies responded.
"FDA intends to evaluate the information submitted by the manufacturers and other available scientific evidence as soon as possible in order to determine whether caffeine can be safely and lawfully added to alcoholic beverages," spokesman Michael Herndon said in an email
Critics Accuse FDA of Foot-Dragging
Herndon said the timing of any FDA decision to regulate the drinks is difficult to predict. Until then, the drinks will continue to be sold. If the agency determines the drinks are illegal or should be regulated, sanctions against the manufacturers could range from a warning letter to having their products seized.
"FDA intends to exercise all options that are appropriate for the product in question," said Herndon.
Dr. O'Brien believes the FDA is dragging its feet by allowing the drinks to stay on store shelves.
"I'm mad as hell," O'Brien said. "These drinks are not safe."
Phusion Projects says it is cooperating with the FDA and maintains its products comply with federal and state laws.
"No one is more upset than we are when our products are abused or used unlawfully. But Four Loko is neither the sole contributor to alcohol abuse, nor will additional restrictions on it solve the problem," said the statement.
Dr. McNamara said his 19 year-old patient will recover, but warns it could have been fatal.
"Seeing this in a young guy kind of raises your eyebrows as to whether these products should be available at all," he said.
ABC's Florinda Ricks and The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Rendell’s something-for-nothing scheme leaves Pennsylvania in a fiscal mess
Outgoing Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s primary legacy will be the introduction of casinos across the state. To sell his predatory gambling plan politically, he tied it to “tax relief.”
So what does the future look like for the state’s taxpayers as Rendell leaves office? According to today’s Philadelphia Inquirer “the state’s budget gap could widen to $4 billion. The state also needs to fill a $472 million hole for highway capital projects. The extra pension costs, which escalate in 2013, could be from $3 billion to $5 billion.”
The government program of predatory gambling is a public policy failure. Pennsylvania will not meaningfully improve its fiscal situation until it pulls back from a policy that worsens budget deficits and leads to higher taxes for every citizen.
Doctors and children’s health experts are speaking out against a controversial study recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, which suggests that “light consumption” of alcohol during pregnancy may not be harmful to babies. The study flies in the face of the extensive body of research substantiating the dangers of drinking while pregnant.
The study in question tracked data from more than 11,000 children born between September 2000 and January 2002. Mothers in the study were categorized as those who never drank; light drinkers – one to two drinks per week; moderate drinkers – three to six drinks per week; or heavy drinkers – seven or more drinks per week. Children in the study were monitored to the age of five, at which time the researchers reported that there was little difference between the children of abstainers versus light drinkers. Critics of the study point out that it is too early to conclude whether or not the children in the study will have lasting problems, as the study has only tracked them to age five.
In an ABC News article, a physician and vice president with March of Dimes said he was worried that the study would be misinterpreted as a “green light” for mothers to drink while pregnant. “You can walk on a railroad track and not be hit by a train, but that doesn’t mean it’s a safe thing to do,” said Dr. Michael Katz. “I worry about this because it could be over-interpreted, and over-interpreting data of this nature is probably dangerous.”
Further evidence of the dangers of drinking while pregnant has been revealed in another recent study conducted at Wayne State University School of Psychiatry. The study showed that exposure to alcohol during gestation definitely affects many different aspects of fetal brain development, including brain size, memory and information processing abilities.
According to the March of Dimes, fetal alcohol exposure interferes with proper brain development, causing problems that last a lifetime: physical and mental disabilities as well as emotional and behavioral problems. Drinking during pregnancy also increases the chances of miscarriage, pre-mature birth and stillbirth.
When it comes to drinking and pregnancy, the bottom line is clear. No amount of drinking can be considered safe during pregnancy, and the potential lifetime risks to the child are simply not worth it. Fetal alcohol exposure is the only 100% preventable birth defect. See the March of Dimes website to learn more.
“A drink or two during pregnancy? Not so fast,” abcnews.com, October 6, 2010
“Drinking alcohol during pregnancy decreases your baby’s brain power,” ivanhoe.com, October 21, 2010
Now that the State of Alabama is fully enforcing its gaming laws, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are the latest target of Gov. Bob Riley’s anti-gambling movement.
For over a year, Riley’s anti-gambling task force was on a mission to rid the state of gambling establishments as it traveled county-by-county raiding such facilities.
Now, with only three months left in his administration, Riley is preparing to ask federal officials to shut down the state’s Indian casinos owned by the Poach Band of Creek Indians based out of Atmore.
“Gov. Riley has said that once the state has proven its determination to combat illegal gambling in our state, then the federal government will have to address the issue at Indian casinos,” Press Secretary Todd Stacy said. “There are still cases ongoing, however, the state’s determination to enforce the law has certainly been proven.”
Stacy said that determination was made after non-Indian gambling establishments such as Victory Land, Greenetrack, White Hall and numerous others statewide were raided and essentially forced to cease operations leaving PCI the only existing gaming in the state. He added that it all stemmed from an investigation conducted by the National Indian Gaming Commission in 2004 when investigators were sent to investigate Indian gaming in Alabama at the request of the governor and attorney general.
“They sent a letter to the attorney general confirming that there were Class III slot machines in Alabama in operation on Indian land and that essentially they couldn’t do anything about it because the same machines were in use on non-Indian facilities at Victory Land, Greenetrack and White Hall specifically,” Stacy said. “The commission essentially said that’s the reason why they can’t do anything about the Indians because the State is allowing this same activity to occur on non-Indian land. Obviously that has changed, that is no longer the case.”
Poarch Creek Indian Gaming President Jay Dorris, who was unavailable for comment, said earlier this year that the Tribe answers to the NIGC.
“We have many, many years, decades, of legal precedence that clearly establishes that our operations are governed by the federal agency and not the state,” Dorris said.
NIGC officials have stated that the games being operated at the Tribe’s facilities including Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Atmore, Tallapoosa Casino in Montgomery and Riverside Casino in Wetumpka are permissible at Indian casinos as long as paper bingo is legal in Alabama. The Tribe operates more than 3,000 of what they refer to as Class II electronic bingo games 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Riley’s office views the issue differently, Stacy said.
“Years ago, when laws weren’t being enforced, that was understandable that the federal government wouldn’t do anything about the Indians, but today, that’s no longer the case,” Stacy said. “Alabama is enforcing the law and it’s being enforced equally and evenly in every county throughout the state whereas in the past, it wasn’t.”
Now Riley’s administration will make sure that the federal regulatory authorities are aware that since the law prohibits these machines, they are not to be operated anywhere in the state, Stacy said.
Caught on Tape: A Lobbyist's Golf Party for Lawmakers
Alabama Bingo Scandal Brought On By Loose Laws, Say Critics
By DAN LIEBERMAN
Oct. 20, 2010
The arrest of four Alabama state legislators and three lobbyists has exposed what has long been a too cozy relationship between the two groups, say critics.
The indictment handed down earlier this month alleges that Alabama legislators and lobbyists broke the law by trading votes for cash and other perks in order to pass pro-gambling legislation. But what is actually permitted under Alabama law is also shocking, according to good government advocates, and a symptom of a larger national problem.
Alabama allows lobbyists to spend up to $250 a day on an individual legislator without disclosure – or more than $90,000 a year, an amount that Ellen Miller of government watchdog The Sunlight Foundation calls "outrageous."
"That's a lot of money," said Miller, executive director of the DC-based group. "It has to be one of the worse practices that I've heard of at the state level."
Two months before the arrests in Alabama, ABC News found four Alabama lawmakers and a gambling lobbyist enjoying a round of golf together at a posh Kentucky golf course.
Apparently, some members of the group playing at Persimmon Ridge did not want to be found. Alabama State Rep. Artis McCampbell, a Demopolis Democrat, responded to questions from an ABC News crew by brandishing his golf club. "Look, if you don't want me to take this to you, then leave!" he said.
The National Conference of State Legislatures annual convention was in full swing in Louisville, Kentucky, on the afternoon of July 27, with a well-attended session called "How Good Is Your Legislature?" But at 3 p.m. ABC News found Alabama gaming lobbyist Greg Jones, Rep. McCampbell and three other Alabama lawmakers more than 20 miles away on the links.
Though none of the lawmakers with Jones would turn out to be among those arrested, all were supporters of the gambling bill at the heart of the current Alabama corruption scandal. Three of the four had also received tens of thousands in campaign donations from Greenetrack, a gaming client of Jones'.
The Persimmon Ridge golf group was listed under Jones' name, but Jones did not return calls from ABC News asking him to confirm that he paid the greens fees. Asked who had paid for the outing, one golfer, Republican State Rep. Harry Shiver, told ABC News, "They paid for some of it, I paid for the rest of it."
Shiver and the other three legislators did not respond to subsequent requests from ABC for more information about who had footed the bill. But even if Jones did pay, the Persimmon Ridge outing was perfectly legal under state law. Eighteen holes of golf at Persimmon Ridge costs from $70 to $80 per person, far below the $250 cap allowed in Alabama.
Lax Lobbying Rules in Alabama
Lobbying rules in Alabama are some of the most lenient in the nation. Jim Sumner, executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, has long advocated for a reduction in the spending limit. He calls the existing rules "outlandish ... It's far above the norm for hospitality and entertainment around the country."
Other states have far stricter rules on gift expenditures. Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and South Carolina are considered "no cup of coffee states," where lobbyists cannot give a legislator anything -- not even a cup of Joe. In Arizona, lobbyists can spend just $10 a year on a single legislator before disclosure is required. In California, it's $10 a month. Some states take a more moderate stance, allowing lobbyists to spend $50 to 100 annually before requiring disclosure.
While Alabama may now be paying the price for loose laws with an influence peddling scandal, regulations are permissive in many states. Kansas has a $40 a year limit on gifts, but lobbyists can spend as much as they want on lawmakers in the form of recreation, food and beverages without disclosure. In South Dakota, there are no restrictions at all.
And the legislators' choice of a round of golf over an ethics seminar is emblematic of the challenges facing would-be reformers. Often poorly paid or part time, lawmakers are outnumbered in state capitals by lobbyists -- six or seven to one.
In Alabama, Republican Governor Bob Riley has pushed for ethics reform since he took office in 2003, but complained that his efforts and those of several watchdog groups hit an immovable obstacle each year in the legislature.
"It's the leadership. They have no incentive to pass ethics reform," said Chris Pritchett, a senior policy analyst at the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative think tank based outside of Birmingham. "There is such a culture of corruption in Alabama that people believe it's beyond repair."
'There Is So Much Money Involved'
The indictment handed down earlier this month alleges that Alabama legislators and lobbyists traded votes for cash and other perks in order to pass electronic bingo legislation. Gambling is against state law, but some counties allow an exception for bingo, and gaming interests responded by creating a form of electronic bingo virtually indistinguishable from slot machines. The gambling industry has tried year after year to make gambling legal statewide. One of the lobbyists indicted allegedly offered to provide campaign contributions "until the damn cows came home" in exchange for a legislator's pro-gambling vote.
The volume of money spread around meant that two of the golfers at Persimmon Ridge, Democratic state Reps. Bobby Singleton and Oliver Robinson, counted gaming companies and lobbies as their first and second largest campaign contributors from 2006 through 2010, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Greenetrack gave Singleton $97,500 and Robinson $25,000 in that time period. The gaming lobbyist Bob Geddie, whose Fine Geddie & Associates gave $52,500 to Singleton and $26,500 to Robinson, was among the lobbyists arrested earlier this month in connection with alleged vote buying involving other lawmakers.
"There is so much money involved," said Gov. Riley, "and there were so many people that had been hired -- all of the lobbyists here." Riley, a longtime foe of gambling, said it was very difficult to protect the anti-gambling votes in the legislature from the influence of the gaming lobby's money.
"You have to remember," said Riley, "our legislators here do not have a paid staff. Most of these people are pharmacists or doctors or insurance agents that come here."
"A lobbyist really can perform a useful function [and] if you're going to be in politics you're going to have to raise money. ... It's when you get to the point that you offer a cash reward for any particular vote, then there's no one who can defend that."
All 11 people arrested to date in the Alabama investigation have pleaded not guilty.
Milton McGregor, Alabama legislators indicted in bingo probe; lobbyists among 11 charged in federal vote-buying scheme
Published: Tuesday, October 05, 2010, 5:30 AM Updated: Tuesday, October 05, 2010, 12:48 PM
Country Crossings owner Ronnie Gilley is led away in handcuffs by U.S. Marshals as they leave the the U.S. Marshals' office for the federal courthouse. ( The Birmingham News / Joe Songer )
In one of the biggest investigations of corruption in the history of the Alabama State House, federal agents Monday arrested four state senators, several powerful lobbyists and Milton McGregor, who has dominated the world of Alabama gambling for a quarter century.
In all, 11 people were indicted in a broad vote-buying scheme in which federal prosecutors allege millions of dollars in campaign contributions, a $1 million-a-year job and election-year assistance were offered in exchange for critical yes votes on a gambling bill that went before legislators last spring.
Prosecutors said the casino owners, legislators and lobbyists formed a corrupt network to buy and sell votes in the Legislature. But some of the defendants called the indictment an overtly political move designed to influence the outcome of the Nov. 2 elections.
Announcing the indictments in a press conference in Washington, D.C., Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division, said: "The people of Alabama, like all our citizens, deserve to have representatives who act in the public's interest, not for their own personal financial gain. Vote-buying, like the kind alleged in this indictment, corrodes the public's faith in our democratic institutions and cannot go unpunished."
In addition to McGregor, Country Crossing owner Ronnie Gilley was charged with trying to buy yes votes for a bill that could have allowed bingo casinos like his to continue operating.
Gilley's lawyer, former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones of Birmingham, said politics are behind the indictments.
"The Department of Justice killed the bill back when it was in the Legislature. Now 30 days before an election they hustle this indictment up," Jones said.
McGregor lawyer Joe Espy of Montgomery said McGregor is innocent and he looks forward to proving it in court.
"We are supremely confident that a trial based on the truth will show that the government's allegations are wrong and that Mr. McGregor is innocent," Espy said.
The 39-count indictment charges that McGregor and Gilley conspired with some lawmakers and lobbyists to buy the votes of legislators on a bill that would have let voters go to the polls in November to decide whether to allow electronic bingo. The Senate passed the bill in March, but it died in the House after federal investigators told legislators about the corruption probe.
Sens. Jim Preuitt, a long time Talladega Democrat who switched over to the Republican Party this year, and Larry Means, an Etowah County Democrat, were two lawmakers McGregor and Gilley offered money for their yes votes, the indictment alleges.
One lobbyist who pleaded guilty last week to corruption charges said she offered Preuitt $2 million for his vote on the gambling legislation. Means was offered $100,000 for his vote by the same lobbyist, who said the offers were approved by fellow lobbyist Jarrod Massey. Massey's biggest client is Gilley.
Both Preuitt and Means provided critical yes votes for the gambling bill that passed the Senate.
In a written statement issued late Monday, Means denied he had done anything wrong.
"The accusations against me are false and offend every value I hold dear," Means said.
Massey, who also was indicted Monday, was named by Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, earlier this year as the lobbyist who told him he could arrange a $250,000 campaign contribution if Sanford supported a yes vote on gambling. Sanford voted no on the bill.
The indictments identify three unnamed lawmakers who were offered bribes in exchange for yes votes on gambling. Earlier this year, The News reported that three lawmakers -- two House members and one senator -- agreed to wear wires for the FBI.
The state senator who cooperated with prosecutors is Gardendale Republican Scott Beason. In the indictment, Beason is identified as legislator 2. The indictment spells out a series of offers made to Beason if he would vote yes on the gambling legislation.
The indictment details meetings Beason had with Gilley, Massey, McGregor and fellow Sen. Harri Anne Smith, who also was indicted Monday. The indictment contends it was made clear to Beason that, in exchange for a yes vote on gambling, supporters were ready to offer him a $1 million-a-year contract to do public relations work and even to help him gain a leadership position in the Legislature.
Beason voted no on the bill.
Reached by phone Monday, Beason said he could not comment now.
"I can't confirm anything right now. I don't want to do anything that might jeopardize the investigation," Beason said.
Smith reacted strongly to her indictment.
"This is an outrage," Smith said. "This is a nakedly political move, coordinated by prosecutors in cahoots with the governor's office to deny the people of the Wiregrass their right to vote and their lawful representation."
Also indicted Monday were lobbyists Bob Geddie and Tom Coker, both of whom are among Montgomery's most influential lobbyists and both of whom count McGregor as a client.
Geddie released a prepared statement saying that he had committed no wrongdoing and was confident the charges against him would be proved false. Geddie also said he was taking a leave of absence from his lobbying firm, Fine Geddie & Associates.
Joseph Crosby, an analyst with the Legislative Reference Service, was indicted on charges he conspired with McGregor in the crafting of the gambling legislation. Prosecutors contend McGregor paid him $3,000 per month.
Monday afternoon, all 11 defendants were led into a Montgomery federal courtroom in shackles for their initial appearance in the case. All 11 were granted unsecured bonds and later released, including McGregor who as a condition of his bond has to wear a monitor.
Democrats were quick to dismiss the indictments as politics.
"It would seem to be very political in nature and if, in fact, they have been doing a 19-month investigation .¤.¤. . Why would they not wait three more weeks until after the elections if this wasn't designed to influence the outcome of an election?" said state Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, who sponsored the gambling bill in the Senate.
Another powerful Senate Democrat echoed Bedford.
"Since this investigation has been going on for 19 months, I'm deeply bothered that it breaks 29 days before the election. That smacks of politics to me," said Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma.
Breuer of the Justice Department was asked Monday about the political implication of the indictments and why they were announced so close to an election.
"In a case like this we had to go with where the facts and the law were and we had to make the decision at the appropriate time and that's 100 percent what dictated the timing on this case irrespective of whether (an) election may or may not occur," Breuer said. The indictments were handed down Friday but sealed until Monday.
DOJ policy does caution against bringing voter or election fraud charges close to an election, but gives no such guidance on public corruption cases.
The gambling issue has dominated the state's politics for much of the past three years. At stake has been potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in gambling profits and a seeming growing desire among Alabamians to vote on the issue.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Ron Sparks, has made legalizing and taxing gambling his signature issue in the campaign and his opponent, Republican Robert Bentley, while personally opposed to gambling, has supported a vote on the issue.
Asked during a Monday night forum whether the indictments mean Montgomery is corrupt, Sparks said, "Absolutely not," adding that the indictments were not convictions. "These people will have their day in court," Sparks said. "But it's pretty suspicious that you drop indictments 28-29 days before an important election."
McGregor's, Gilley's and the all of the state's non-Indian bingo casinos closed earlier this year under threat of raids by the state Task Force on Illegal Gambling.
Kim Chandler and Mary Orndorff also contributed reporting to this story.
[For a complete copy of the indictments, click here.]
The following video is from the FBI press conference in Washington, DC on Monday, October 4, 2010...
Cheap, deadly 'cheese' mix of heroin, crushed Tylenol PM aimed at kids
Despite the small numbers, the DEA says it's recently seen more dealers marketing heroin to a younger audience and more teens busted for using it. Cheese has been blamed for the deaths of more than 20 young users in the Dallas area. "It can ruin lives," said an NYPD commander who recently taught patrol officers how to spot cheese.
In spite of the deep recession and troubling budget shortfalls, alcohol tax policies in many states haven’t been updated for decades and remain stuck in the 20th century.
According to the U.S. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 46 states have struggled with budget shortfalls for the 2011 fiscal year. Nevertheless, most state alcohol taxes (especially beer taxes), have been untouched for decades. For example, here’s a list of 10 states and the year when beer taxes were last raised:
In fact, there are only eight states that have raised beer taxes at all since the year 2000. When inflation is factored into stagnant alcohol tax rates, the reality is clear: many state governments are making it cheaper to drink, year after year, when they can least afford the rising costs of dealing with alcohol-related problems and crime.
There have been a number of proposals for increasing alcohol taxes in various states over the past several years, but only a few have been successful. Efforts to update state alcohol tax policies have been derailed by an overall lack of information and confusion about most states’ outdated policies. Oftentimes, the alcohol industry works hard to contribute to the confusion. However, a 2004 study by the American Medical Association showed that, when they are informed about their state’s alcohol rates, most Americans would support an increase.
Alaska is one state that has been successful in modernizing its alcohol tax rates over the last 27 years. The state’s alcohol taxes were raised significantly in 1983 and again in 2002. Alaska now has the country’s highest beer tax of $1.07 per gallon. Researchers from the University of Florida studied the effects of Alaska’s increased alcohol taxes and found that it undoubtedly saves lives. After alcohol taxes were raised in 1983, alcohol-related deaths in Alaska dropped by 29 percent. When alcohol taxes were raised again in 2002, alcohol-related deaths subsequently fell another 11 percent.
The compelling evidence from Alaska should bolster existing and future efforts around the country to modernize state alcohol taxes. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has gathered a wealth of information on alcohol tax policy at cspinet.org. Or, visit faceproject.org to learn more – and watch for next month’s article on the top research-based reasons to increase alcohol taxes.
Center for Science in the Public Interest, cspinet.org
“Factbook on State Beer Taxes, Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Excise Tax Rates by State, taxfoundation.org.
“Study: paying more for alcohol saves lives,” CNN.com, December 8, 2008.
“Why settle for a ‘better’ Cullman when we already have the BEST?”
Ken Allen, Pastor, Eastside Baptist Church
September 24, 2010
Can anyone see this scenario? The “wet” side needs more signatures as the deadline approaches. In comes a development that has been on the radar before the recession started. Someone says, “We need a medium to get our propaganda out – ah yes, The Cullman Times.” I don’t know if this scenario is true or not, I’ll leave it to the readers to decide. The Cullman Times did not even publish an article or quote anyone showing the ills of alcohol or if it has helped or hurt or had no effect on cities like Decatur or Birmingham. And although our city and county leaders did not say in Sunday’s articles, “I’m for going wet,” their sentiment gave them away.
By the way – did anyone notice all of the positives about Cullman in Sunday’s articles: “Growing town in a market that’s not growing; great transportation access and schools; people want to come to Cullman to shop because they like it; and we haven’t felt the extreme qualities of the recession.” The pro-alcohol folks call themselves the “Coalition for a Better Cullman.” A friend said this to me, “Why settle for a ‘better’ Cullman when we already have the BEST?” We have a great city without the sale of alcohol. Does anyone in Cullman want to move to Jefferson County? Their county government should be giving money away from alcohol tax revenue. Instead they are laying off workers and cutting back services. Which one of the wet cities in local counties would people want to move to when comparing that city to Cullman? People want to live and move here because Cullman is a special place.
Alcohol sales will not make us a “Better” Cullman, just the opposite will happen. Cullman’s last murder (a few years ago) involved one Hispanic male stabbing another Hispanic male. Both were under the influence of… alcohol. If alcohol becomes more accessible, then violent crime WILL go up. According to research, “Being a dry county situationally reduces murder by more than half.” (Source: Sean Maddan, Gwen Ervin-McLarty, Jeffery T. Walker, & Richard D. Hartley. An Examination of the Link Between Alcohol Availability and Violent Crime in Arkansas – Arkansas Crime Information Center – pg. 22, 2006.) I am all for retail development in Cullman, but at what cost. There will be a cost and it will involve people. Will having a Red Lobster and Bonefish Grill be worth changing the cultural landscape of our community? According to a Los Angeles Times article on Dec. 29, 2008, “The closer teens live to where alcohol is sold, the greater the seeming risk of binge drinking and driving under the influence. Researchers from the Pardee Rand Graduate School in Santa Monica researched the relationship between proximity to alcohol retailers in zones around homes in California and drinking in children ages 12 to 17. They found an association among homes within walking distance (about half a mile) of places selling alcohol and evidence of binge drinking and driving after drinking. The Study also noted that alcohol is more readily available in minority and lower-income areas.” (http://articles.latimes.com/2008/dec/29/health/he-capsule29)
For anyone willing to examine the facts, they will agree that increased accessibility to alcohol will make for a “worse” Cullman. Additional information can be found at www.alcap.com, then look to the left for “wet/dry issues” and scroll down for numerous articles.
Drinking red wine has been touted over the years as way to reduce heart disease risk but new studies have found that eating grapes and drinking grape juice is just as beneficial without the negative effects of alcohol. This article discusses the benefits of eating grapes and drinking grape juice over drinking red wine.
Over the years numerous studies have reported that drinking red wine may decrease the risk of heart disease, but in truth, simply eating grapes or drinking grape juice can supply the same healthy benefits.
Eating Grapes for Heart Disease Prevention
According to Martha Grogan, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, drinking grape juice and eating grapes can produce the same heart-healthy effects as red wine. Grapes and grape juice contain the same antioxidants, flavonoids and resveratrol, as red wine. These are the basic components that provide the heart-healthy effects. Grogan says that recent studies have found purple and red grape juice and grapes provide the following heart-healthy benefits:
Lowers the risk of blood clots
Lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol
Prevents damage to the heart’s blood vessels
Maintains a healthy blood pressure
Raises HDL (good) cholesterol
Lowers the risk of atherosclerosis
An additional benefit of eating whole grapes over drinking red wine is consuming the fiber in the fruit.
Recent Study Confirms Heart-Healthy Benefits of Grapes
A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan Health Systems found that eating grapes of all colors lowered blood pressure, caused better heart function and reduced inflammation in the heart and blood. The study reported at the April 26, 2010 Experimental Biology Convention showed that adding grapes to the diet, even a high-fat diet, can lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The researches believe it is the high content of antioxidants in the grapes that are the main component in its heart-healthy benefits.
The Truth about Wine and Heart Disease
While drinking red wine may sound like a good way to reduce the risk of heart disease, the truth is that drinking too much alcohol can have negative effects on the heart and other functions of the body. The American Heart Association (AHA) states that drinking too much alcohol causes the following negative effects:
Raises triglyceride levels in the blood
Increases blood pressure
Leads to heart failure
Increases calorie intake and leads to obesity
Increases the risk of developing diabetes
Increases the risk of stroke
The heart-healthy effects of red wine lie mainly in the grapes which the wine is made of. These benefits can be achieved more effectively from eating grapes and drinking grape juice. The only true known benefit of alcohol is a slight rise in HDL (good) cholesterol levels. However, the AHA states that regular exercise or adding niacin to the diet can have the same healthy effect. If you enjoy drinking red wine, the AHA suggests no more than one glass of wine (4 ounces) per day for women and two glasses for men. The AHA does not promote non-drinkers to start drinking wine for its heart-healthy benefits, but instead to drink grape juice or eat grapes.
Move over red wine, purple grape juice is proving to be just as beneficial to our health without the negative effects associated with alcohol consumption.
Packed full of powerful antioxidants that have been shown to do everything from reducing inflammation to discouraging artery-blocking clots, studies have found that as little as two cups (500 mL) of purple grape juice consumed daily may do wonders for our health.
Researchers from the Université de Strasbourg in France have found that purple grape juice is just as effective as red wine at increasing nitric oxide production in the arterial lining. Nitric oxide causes the arteries to relax and widen, allowing blood to flow freely. Purple grape juice’s ability to lower blood pressure has been attributed to this artery-widening effect.
In one study researchers found that when hypertensive men drank purple grape juice daily for eight weeks, the participants experienced a significant reduction in both their systolic and diastolic blood pressures.
In addition to lowering blood pressure, purple grape juice may also have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. Researchers have found that the flavonoids in purple grape juice may help slow the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the arteries while increasing the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels are essential in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The powerful antioxidants in purple grape juice not only keep the heart healthy, but may also help protect the brain against the accumulative effects of oxidative stress and inflammation that occurs with aging.
Researchers from the University of Cincinnati found that when 12 adults with early memory decline drank between 15 and 21 ounces (444 to 621 mL) of purple grape juice daily for 12 weeks, the participants showed significant improvement in cognitive function, including short-term memory retention and spatial memory.
Although research is still preliminary, there is also evidence to suggest that the polyphenols found in purple grape juice may be beneficial in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
In one population-based study participants who reported drinking juice containing a high concentration of polyphenols at least three times a week were 76 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who drank it less than once a week.
Previous studies have shown that resveratrol, a polyphenol found in the skin of purple grapes,can significantly reduce the levels of amyloid beta peptides in the brain. Amyloid beta peptides are commonly found in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
If keeping the heart and brain healthy wasn’t enough, purple grape juice may have anticarcinogenic properties as well.
Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that the flavonoid anthocyanin in purple grape juice may help protect healthy human breast cells from DNA damage that can lead to cancerous tumours.
In a laboratory test, researchers exposed healthy human breast cells to an environmental carcinogen. When purple grape juice compounds were added, the researchers observed that the compounds inhibited the carcinogen from causing DNA damage while also increasing the enzyme activity that detoxifies carcinogens from the body.
Purple grape juice is also showing promise in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. In one study, when researchers treated pancreatic cancer cells with the antioxidant resveratrol in combination with radiation, they found that the antioxidant was able to destroy the pancreatic cancer cells while at the same time protecting normal tissues from the effects of the radiation.
Moderation is key
Although there are many positive health benefits associated with drinking purple grape juice, remember, with approximately 170 calories per 250 mL serving, too much may have a negative effect on the waistline.
Powerful purple juices
Regular consumption of purple- and blue-coloured fruits has been associated with a lowered risk of metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Like purple grape juice, the following five purple-hued juices all pack a healthy antioxidant punch.
Acai berry Acai berry juice is a good source of LDL cholesterol-lowering dietary fibre, heart-healthy fatty acids, and free-radical-fighting antioxidants.
·125 calories per 250 mL serving
·ORAC value: 102,700 units per 100 mL serving
Gogi berry Used in Chinese medicine for centuries, goji berry juice is an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C and beta carotene.
·166 calories per 250 mL serving
·ORAC value: 25,300 units per 100 mL serving
Wild blueberry A nutritional superstar, blueberries rank high in antioxidants that may improve memory and help fight aging, cancer, and heart disease. Pure, wild blueberry juice can now be found in many health food stores.
·110 calories per 250 mL serving
·ORAC value: 6,552 units per 100 mL serving
Pomegranate This heart-healthy juice is rich in vitamins A, C, and E and contains antioxidants that may help prevent cholesterol buildup in the arteries.
·140 calories per 250 mL serving
·ORAC value: 2,341 units per 100 mL serving
Cranberry Known for its ability to prevent and treat urinary tract infections, research is showing that cranberry juice may also promote healthy cholesterol levels, aid in stroke recovery, and even help prevent cancer.
·130 calories per 250 mL serving
·ORAC value: 865 units per 100 mL serving
Stephanie Raymond is a Toronto-based freelance writer.
Racing Commission props up abusive greyhound racing
Letter to the Editor
September 12, 2010
As an advocate for racing greyhounds, I've watched the battle over electronic bingo with concern. Alabama's three dog tracks are all losing money on live racing. Milton McGregor's losses on dog racing at VictoryLand have been subsidized by the casino there, until its recent closure. The other two tracks, however, have been barely hanging on, hoping for expanded gambling to prop up dog racing at their facilities.
But when VictoryLand's casino stopped lining McGregor's pockets, he turned to the Birmingham Racing Commission for a handout to keep the Birmingham Race Course open ("Commission OKs city race course funds," The News, Thursday). He is worth millions of dollars, yet the county will spend $400,000 in public funds to make "improvements" to one of his two dog tracks, which is losing money hand over fist.
Additionally, despite his claims of benevolence for the people of Alabama, McGregor will stop paying a contribution of 2.5 percent of the racing handle that, in 2009, was given to help support "more than 50 public agencies and charities ranging from volunteer fire departments to schools."
All of this adds up to more than $1 million in the next year alone -- and the Racing Commission put it directly into the pockets of a very wealthy man.
The public has spoken, and the financials prove it: Alabama citizens no longer support this cruel and inhumane sport. But dog racing at the Birmingham Race Course will continue, at the cost of greyhounds' lives.
New study shows 1 in 25 deaths worldwide attributable to alcohol
New study shows 1 in 25 deaths worldwide attributable to alcohol, but CAMH researcher sees glass as half full
For Release: June 26, 2009, (Toronto) Research from Canada’s own Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) featured in this week’s edition of The Lancet (PDF) shows that worldwide, 1 in 25 deaths are directly attributable to alcohol consumption. This rise since 2000 is mainly due to increases in the number of women drinking.
CAMH’s Dr Jürgen Rehm and his colleagues found that alcohol-attributable disorders are among the most disabling disease categories within the global burden of disease, especially for men. And in contrast to other traditional risk factors for disease, the burden attributable to alcohol lies more with younger people than with the older population.
Dr. Rehm still takes an optimistic ‘glass half full’ response to this large and increasing alcohol-attributable burden. “Today, we know more than ever about which strategies can effectively and cost-effectively control alcohol-related harms,” Dr. Rehm said today. “Provided that our public policy makers act on these practical strategies expeditiously, we could see an enormous impact in reducing damage.”
The study showed that Europe had a high proportion of deaths related to alcohol, with 1 in 10 deaths directly attributable (up to 15% in the former Soviet Union). Average alcohol consumption in Europe in the adult population is somewhat higher than in North America: 13 standard drinks per person per week (1 standard drink = 13.6 grams of pure ethanol and corresponds to a can of beer, one glass or wine and one shot of spirits) compared to North America’s 10 to 11 standard drinks. The recent Canadian consumption rate is equivalent of almost 9 standard drinks per person per week age 15 plus, and has been going up, as has high risk drinking. Globally, the average is around 7 standard drinks per person per week (despite the fact that most of the adult population worldwide actually abstains from drinking alcohol).
Most of the deaths caused by alcohol were through injuries, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and liver cirrhosis.
“Globally, the effect of alcohol on burden of disease is about the same size as that of smoking in 2000, but it is relatively greatest in emerging economies. Global consumption is increasing, especially in the most populous countries of India and China.”
CAMH is known for its pioneering research in the most effective ways of reducing the burden of alcohol. For example, CAMH endorsed the legislative change implemented this year requiring young Ontario drivers to maintain a 0% blood alcohol content; in many jurisdictions this measure has reduced alcohol-related crashes and saved lives.
Other evidence-based policies proven to reduce harms include better controls on access to alcohol through pricing interventions and outlet density restrictions as well as more focused strategies such as violence reduction programs in licensed premises. Within health care, provision of screening and brief interventions for high risk drinkers has enormous potential to reduce the contribution of alcohol to the onset of cancer and other chronic diseases.
“There are significant social, health and economic problems caused by alcohol,” said Gail Czukar, CAMH’s executive vice-president, Policy, Education and Health Promotion. “But research gives us sound, proven interventions that governments and health providers can use to address these problems.”
To arrange an interview please contact Kirk LeMessurier, CAMH Media Relations, at 416 595 6015.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in the area of addiction and mental health. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development, prevention and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues.
Internet gambling—illegal in the United States—suffered a serious blow in June as long-delayed regulations to put the squeeze on industry profiteers and consumers evading the law finally took force. The regulations are the cornerstone of a 2006 law to block U.S.-based customer transactions to offshore online gambling merchants, thereby slowing cash flow offshore to a trickle. The plan is working.
Yet some in Washington are already plotting its undoing. Congress is considering legislation that not only would repeal the law that authorized the new regulations but also would leap a frightful step further—legalize Internet gambling. The Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act (H.R. 2267) sailed through the House Financial Services Committee last week in a 41-22 vote. Seven Republicans gave their approval, while four Democrats held the line in opposition.
To see how all members of the Financial Services Committee voted on H.R. 2267, click here (32 KB PDF).
Committee chairman Barney Frank’s (D-MA) bill would effectively repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which passed by wide margins as part of a broader bill in the waning hours of Congress in 2006—409 to 2 in the House and with no objections in the Senate. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission ardently supported the bill.
UIGEA puts enforcement teeth to the industry that was banned under a 1961 law on wireless communication, long before the advent of the Internet. Under regulations based on the law, banks and other financial institutions are now supposed to have in place tools to block transactions between U.S.-based customer accounts and offshore gambling merchants. Those efforts would unravel under the Frank bill.
But Rep. Frank and cohorts are not interested merely in legalizing and regulating online gambling, the twin pillars of his bill. They are hoping the government will cash in with a slice of the multi-billion-dollar pie. For this reason, the Frank bill by itself serves the government minimal interest. It is only part one of a two-part act.
Act two is taxation. This is accomplished through a second bill, H.R. 4976. When Congress reconvenes in September, the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to take up committee chairman Jim McDermott’s (D-WA) bill that would tax online gambling, giving the debt-laden government—$13 trillion in the red and counting—more of Americans’ dollars to fritter away.
Their defense is simple. As long as the government keeps a watchful eye on the offshore online gambling sites, and as long as the federal coffers are swimming in a new revenue stream, then the industry is basically harmless, perhaps even good for society. But this rationalization is unfounded.
Legalizing online gambling is a predictable wager. As evidenced by countless sad testimonials, the ease and addictive power of point-and-click gambling from the privacy of a personal computer all too often yields financial ruin and broken families. Rolling the dice on Internet gambling is no game. Putting the government’s pocket book ahead of the American people’s best interests is always a losing wager. The 41 representatives who voted last week in committee to overturn the 2006 tough-on-illegal-gambling law should be held to account.
If you agree, please tell your representative that you oppose the Frank bill (H.R. 2267), the McDermott bill (H.R. 4976), and any other legislation to legalize online gambling.
To see how all members of the Financial Services Committee voted on H.R. 2267, click here (32 KB PDF).
Ron Bogle is a retired Superior Court Judge from North Carolina who recently published a column in The Herald Sun about the debate on lowering the national drinking age. Bogle provided a brief history of the 21 law as well as the recent movement to lower the drinking age led by John McCardell, currently university president in Tennessee. As Bogle’s column described, McCardell is a frequent speaker for the alcohol industry who continues to call for lowering the drinking age to 18.
The movement initiated by McCardell has actually resulted in a national discussion about the 21 law, which is probably not exactly what he intended. That’s because there is now an overwhelming amount of evidence that shows the 21 law has reduced underage drinking and saved thousands of lives. As Bogle wrote in his column: “With current medical research confirming the health dangers of teen drinking and more supportive of continuation of current law, most prevention advocates wanted this forum to inform the nation about the health, safety and behavioral realities associated with teen drinking. With those facts in his way, McCardell seems no longer interested in a national conversation.”
However, the 21 law is no longer just a national conversation here in the U.S. – it’s becoming a global discussion. This is especially ironic since McCardell and others who promote a lower drinking age often point to Europe as a model, arguing that a lower legal drinking age takes the mystery out of drinking and promotes more moderate drinking habits. The problem with this argument is that the facts show otherwise.
For example, consider what’s happening in the United Kingdom, where the legal drinking age is 18. In the U.K. Daily Mail, one British journalist recently wrote an article about returning to his home country after a lengthy assignment in the U.S. “I wasn’t expecting life in Britain to be easy to get used to again,” he wrote. “But nothing prepared me for the booze. Sometimes it seems as if everyone here is drunk.” He went on to write that drinking in English cities has led to increased crime and unsafe streets, even in small towns. “It still annoys me that my mum, during the last few years of her life, could not walk the streets of the city of Bath at night,” he wrote. “Bath, of all places! Hardly the roughest of English cities. But, at night, it was infested with enough drink-fuelled yobbishness to make it unsafe for frail folk to walk home from the cinema.”
In Scotland, the drinking culture is even worse. On average, adults in Scotland consume the equivalent of 46 bottles of vodka every year – or 12.2 liters of pure alcohol for every person over the age of 18. The number of alcohol-related deaths in Scotland has doubled in 10 years, and the country has one of the world’s fastest growing rates of alcohol-induced illnesses such as cirrhosis and chronic liver disease, according to the Scottish government. In 2008, the government published a report recommending a variety of actions to reduce the country’s alcohol problems, including raising the legal purchase age from 18 to 21 for off-premise purchases of alcohol.
The drinking age debate is also taking place in New Zealand, where the Law Commission issued a report in April 2010, calling on the government to raise the drinking age to 20. New Zealand’s legal drinking age was lowered to 18 from age 20 in 1989 – and binge drinking has steadily increased since then. The country’s alcohol-related car crashes and crime problems are increasing dramatically, with police now calling for action to raise the legal drinking age and certain communities enacting their own regulations to curb drinking-related problems.
Clearly, the facts from the United Kingdom and New Zealand show that lowering the legal drinking age does not promote a culture of moderation – in fact, research shows that lowering the drinking age increases alcohol-related harms across the board and affects kids at ever-younger ages.
As the debate continues about the legal drinking age in the U.S. and around the world, it is important to recognize arguments based on myth and learn the facts. See www.why21.org to learn more. As Ron Bogle has shown by example in his recent column, arm yourself with facts – and keep the conversation going in the right direction.
“After a decade in sober America… is everyone in Britain drunk?” by Justin Webb, U.K. Daily Mail, July 8, 2010.
“Last call for move to lower drinking age to 18,” by Ron Bogle, The Herald Sun, July 2, 2010.
“Return the drinking age to 20 – Law Commission,” by Tracy Watkins. www.stuff.co.nz, April 27, 2010.
“The statistics are clear: Higher age saves lives,” Associated Press, September 14, 2008.
“Changing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol: A discussion paper on our strategic approach,” The Scottish Government, June 2008.
Should Internet Gambling Be Legalized?
[NOTE: The following article is a New York Times op-ed by Les Bernal, Executive Director of Stop Predatory Gambling, a national organization with which ALCAP is associated.]
The potential boon for cash-strapped states versus the social costs associated with addiction.
A Predatory Business
July 29, 2010
Les Bernal is the executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling, a nonprofit group that is against casinos and state lotteries.
Allowing Internet gambling is like opening a Las Vegas casino in every house, apartment and dorm room in America.
It is totally different from social gambling like playing cards at the kitchen table or buying a square in the Super Bowl office pool. Instead, it represents one of the purest forms of predatory gambling, which is the practice of using gambling to prey on human weakness for profit.
What makes it predatory compared to a kitchen table poker game? The speed of the game, the frequency of play (gambling operators allow users to play multiple games at once), the intensity of the high or buzz people get when they play and the enormous amount of money people lose, all of which goes down 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is the equivalent of opening a Las Vegas casino in every house, apartment and dorm room in America.
Gambling operators say these facts justify why we need to “regulate” predatory Internet gambling. Yet casinos like Harrah’s make 90 percent of its gambling profits from the financial losses of 10 percent of its visitors, according to Christina Binkley’s book, “Winner Takes All.’’ The obvious question is this: How do you regulate a business in which nearly all its profits are based on people who are addicted and out of control?
You can’t. Which is why the business model for predatory Internet gambling (and for land-based casinos and state lotteries as well) only works if our government, in its role as regulator and promoter, takes away the freedom of millions of Americans. By definition, someone who is an addict is not free. They have lost their free will and their freedom to choose.
The issue is not whether citizens are free to gamble. The issue is whether billion-dollar gambling interests, in partnership with our government, can use predatory gambling to take away the freedom of millions of citizens.
Teaching children to drink sensibly may not be sensible
The idea that parents can prevent alcohol misuse in their children by teaching them to drink responsibly at home is a popular one in many parts of Europe and elsewhere. But it may owe more to folk lore than to science, according to a new study in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
In a study of 428 Dutch families, researchers found that the more teenagers were allowed to drink at home, the more they drank outside of home as well. What is more, teenagers who drank under their parents’ watch or on their own had an elevated risk of developing alcohol-related problems. Drinking problems included trouble with school work, missed school days and getting into fights with other people, among other issues.
The findings, say the researchers, put into question the advice of some experts who recommend that parents drink with their teenage children to teach them how to drink responsibly -- with the aim of limiting their drinking outside of the home.
That advice is common in the Netherlands, where the study was conducted, but it is based more on experts’ reasoning than on scientific evidence, according to Dr Haske van der Vorst, the lead researcher on the study.
“The idea is generally based on common sense,” said van der Vorst, of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. “For example, the thinking is that if parents show good behavior -- here, moderate drinking -- then the child will copy it. Another assumption is that parents can control their child’s drinking by drinking with the child.”
But the current findings suggest that is not the case. Based on this and earlier studies, van der Vorst says, “I would advise parents to prohibit their child from drinking, in any setting or on any occasion.”
The study included 428 families with two children between the ages of 13 and 15. Parents and teens completed questionnaires on drinking habits at the outset and again one and two years later.
College Drinking - Who's Problem Is It?
At the American College Health Association’s annual meeting held in June this year, one college health official gave a speech on student alcohol abuse with a frank and peculiar conclusion that colleges simply can’t do anything to stop it.
That’s the gist of a presentation given by Edward Ehlinger, director and chief health officer of Boynton Health Services at the University of Minnesota. As reported in USA Today, Ehlinger spoke at the meeting about alcohol as a problem for society, not for colleges. “I don’t think the problem of alcohol is an underage problem,” he said. “It is not a college or university problem. I think alcohol is a community problem – it is a societal problem. We need to be humble about the fact we don’t know what the heck we’re doing and we need to do something different.”
Ehlinger’s comments would seem to support efforts by groups like the Amethyst Initiative and the National Social Norms Institute at the University of Virginia that advocate for lowering the U.S. legal drinking age to 18, as if legalizing drinking for 18- to 20-year-olds will suddenly make underage alcohol problems go away. What Ehlinger and these groups ignore, however, is the solid science about the biological effects of alcohol on young people’s health, causing lasting damage to the liver, brain and nervous system, not to mention the escalated risk of accidental injury and death. And as the USA Today article points out, Ehlinger did not explain why colleges frequently work with local governments and businesses to fight other health problems such as H1N1, meningitis and tobacco use, but have yet to address alcohol as a health priority.
In fairness to Ehlinger, his presentation also called for more leadership from college presidents in battling underage drinking on campus, especially public university presidents. “We have let our college presidents off the hook,” he said. “It’s a responsibility that my university president has… to meet with the governor, the state legislature and other government officials to say, ‘this is a problem.’”
While Ehlinger’s point may be well taken that underage drinking is a societal problem, he fails to admit that colleges are part of society too. Underage drinking is a difficult problem, but that should not and does not allow colleges to simply shrug off the responsibility of enforcing laws and protecting student health. For more information about the 21 law and other controversial alcohol topics, visit the new FACE website at faceproject.org.
“Campus drinking: colleges’ problem or society’s?,” USA Today, June 4, 2010.
Nevada Leads Nation in Unemployment Rates
Christian Science Monitor June 21, 2010
For the first time in four years, Michigan does NOT have the highest unemployment rate in the United States. That dubious distinction now belongs to Nevada.
Unemployment at 13.6 percent is nothing to brag about, but it's better than the 14 percent in Nevada, the new No. 1 in unemployment among the states. And the trends don't look so good in Nevada.
Its labor force has been shrinking, which usually helps suppress official unemployment counts. Nevertheless, unemployment shot up compared with 13.7 percent in April.
One reason for the difference is that manufacturing tends to recover early after a recession, while services (like Nevada's big tourism and hospitality industries [a.k.a. "casino gambling enterprise"]) tend to recover later.
Nevada holds one other dubious title among the states: It has the nation's highest foreclosure rate.
Study Shows Drinking on the Rise Among Teens
After making great strides in previous decades, one study shows that teen drinking is now on the rise. The study was conducted by the Partnership for a Drug Free America among 9-12 grade students in 2009 and was released in March this year. The study’s results showed a considerable increase in students who admitted to drinking in the past month – up to 39 percent or 6.5 million students. In 2008, the number of students who reported drinking over the past month was 35 percent, or 5.8 million teens.
One newspaper in New Jersey reported on and confirmed the study’s results at local high schools such as Holmdel High School, where teachers and counselors are not surprised by the increase in drug and alcohol use in teens.
Jon Gaspich, a student assistance counselor in New Jersey’s Toms River Regional Schools District, commented on the study and his own experience in an article published in the Asbury Park Press. “Prevention and intervention were very strong in the late 1980s through the ‘90s, resulting in great strides against teen drug and alcohol use,” he said. “However in the past decade, prevention hit a plateau, and the state as a whole was riding off the efforts of the previous decades, rather than doing anything new…. Now, we’re going to see a rebound.”
Gaspich went on to say that one of the biggest problems in fighting underage drinking is that many parents downplay the dangers of alcohol versus drugs – an attitude that “it’s only alcohol.” But statistics show that alcohol is the leading cause of death among young people – a fact that needs to be communicated early and often to teens and parents.
Also noted in the article was the work of the Holmdel Youth Alliance in New Jersey, a group of concerned teens who give presentations to middle schools students to build alcohol awareness and promote a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle. The group admits that the work is challenging, but they’re enthusiastic about showing younger kids that not all teens are drinking or using drugs. Alliance member Austin Guiarino, age 16, was quoted in the article as saying, “We hope younger kids will see that there’s a group of kids who don’t do drugs and they will think, ‘if they can do it, maybe I can too.’”
“Study: More teens turn to drugs, alcohol,” app.com, May 16, 2010.
San Bernardino Bans Single Beer Sales in Response to Study
On May 3, 2010, the city of San Bernardino, California, banned single sales of beer and other alcohol products, partly in response to a research project that shows a definite link between alcohol and crime.
As reported in the San Bernardino County Sun, research conducted by Professor Robert Nash Parker at the University of California Riverside was a significant factor in the City Council’s decision. The San Bernardino County Public Health Department assisted Professor Parker in the study, which analyzed city crime data and alcohol outlets selling single-serve size beer and malt liquor. The study concluded that areas with a high availability of single-serving beer and alcoholic beverages were more likely to have higher rates of crime and violence.
In the research project’s final report, professor Park wrote, “We would expect that if alcohol from single serve containers is being immediately consumed, rates of violence would tend to be higher around retailers with higher percentages of cooler space devoted to these products.” The research findings as well as other factors reported by law enforcement prompted the San Bernardino City Council members to pass the new law banning single serve beer sales as an “urgency ordinance,” meaning it went into effect immediately. The measure also includes new penalties for alcohol sellers in the city who fail to control other public nuisances such as graffiti and loitering around their stores.
Although alcohol laws are usually determined by state government, city officials in San Bernardino see this measure as an important way to hold liquor stores accountable – while also helping to control crime and protect public health.
“Study inspires San Bernardino beer ban,” San Bernardino County Sun, May 12, 2010.
Geneva voters decided overwhelmingly Tuesday to allow the sale of alcohol within the city limits.
With 946 supporting the sale of alcohol in the city and 498 opposing it, Geneva Mayor Wynnton Melton said the message was clear.
“I’m shocked, to tell you the truth. I’m not shocked at all that it went wet, but I’m shocked at the margin of victory and voter participation in a one-issue election,” Melton said. “The numbers are almost at a two-to-one ratio. It’s a very distinct message sent to the leadership of the City of Geneva that people feel strongly about this.”
The vote will have some tangible benefits for the town.
With the additional money from taxes and licenses, Melton estimated the city will see between $50,000 and $100,000 of additional annual revenue.
Dothan's Country Crossing bingo casino decides not to reopen
(Press-Register/Bill Starling)Country Crossing owner Ronnie Gilley, seen here on Tuesday Nov. 17, 2009, says he has considered reopening Country Crossing's electronic bingo casino on Thursday but decided against it.
DOTHAN -- The developer of the Country Crossing electronic bingo development in Dothan says he won't reopen immediately.
Country Crossing's casino, restaurants and inn have been closed since late January to prevent a raid by the task force.
Alcohol and Gambling Often Go Together for a Reason!
Watanabe restates his casino losses
OMAHA WORLD-HERALD MAY 22, 2010
Terry Watanabe has given new heft to his unofficial title as Vegas' biggest loser.
Watanabe alleges in his latest court filings that in a single year he gambled away $189 million — an average of more than a half-million dollars a day — at two Las Vegas casinos owned by Harrah's Entertainment Inc.
His total losses over a two-year period hit $200 million, said Pierce O'Donnell, his attorney from Los Angeles.
Watanabe, a former Omaha businessman, is embroiled in a dispute with Harrah's on several legal fronts. He is believed to be one of Vegas' all-time biggest “whales” — the name used for high-rolling gamblers.
Watanabe faces criminal charges for allegedly skipping out on $14.7 million owed to Harrah's. And, in rebuttal, Watanabe filed a civil complaint alleging that Harrah's took advantage of his gambling addiction and allowed him to gamble when drunk.
In earlier court filings, Watanabe had reported $112 million in gambling losses in 2007. He upped that number last week in his civil complaint against Harrah's after receiving more information from the casino, his lawyer said.
“It's an incomprehensible number. He was very, very ill at the time, and Harrah's took advantage of his vulnerability,” said O'Donnell.
Gary Thompson, a spokesman for Harrah's, questioned whether Watanabe lost $189 million in one year or whether he took out “markers” that he never used to gamble. He also said Watanabe's civil complaint and other allegations were an effort to “divert attention” from his criminal case.
“It's not going to change the fact he owes us money,” said Thompson.
Watanabe, 52, is the former owner of the Oriental Trading Co. of Omaha. He claims to have embarked on a compulsive gambling binge in 2007, during which he lived at Caesars Palace for six months.
His gambling woes came to light last year when county attorneys in Las Vegas brought felony charges against him in Clark County District Court, alleging he skipped out on money owed to Caesars Palace and the Rio.
Harrah's owns both. His trial is set for July 12.
O'Donnell met last month with the lead prosecutor in the case, Bernie Zadrowski. He said he supplied information to Zadrowski in an effort to get the case dismissed. Zadrowski has said he would review the information, as he would in any case.
In addition, Watanabe has filed a complaint with the Nevada Gaming Control Board, alleging Harrah's violated its policy of allowing a visibly intoxicated person to gamble. Harrah's has denied the allegation.
Thompson said the casino company is confident that when the board finishes its investigation, it will find that Harrah's acted “appropriately” in its dealings with Watanabe.
Andy Rooney segment on 60 Minutes, May 16, 2010:
“I have good news for you tonight. According to an American Gaming Association report, revenue from casino gambling fell by almost two billion dollars last year.
A lot of people are out of work and it turns out that when people are unemployed, they gamble less. You'd think they might gamble more but they don't. There's some good things about everything, I guess.
In 2008 the casinos earned $32.5 billion. Last year they earned only $30.7 billion. I use the words "earned" and "only" loosely but casino income was down a lousy little two billion dollars last year. It's enough to bring tears to your eyes.
It's a law for people to protect themselves by wearing seat belts for their own safety when they're in car. How come the government doesn't protect citizens from losing their money by making gambling in casinos illegal? There should be a sign in front of every casino that says "enter at your own risk...of losing your shirt."
The thing that bothers me most about gambling is that people fritter away money so they don't get to spend it on things that someone else has been paid to produce. Gambling produces nothing.
There's only so much money in the world and if it's lost at a gambling table, it's money that isn't spent on things America makes. I mean who's best for this country - a machinist at an automobile plant in Detroit or a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas?
The gambling casinos keep something like 20 percent of everything bet for themselves, so there's no chance of anyone but the casinos winning over a period of time. They make billions - and where do the billions come from? They come from all of us because we're the losers. I mean, suckers is what we are.
If I write as though I was above all this, I'm not writing right. I've gambled half a dozen times in Las Vegas and even though I know how dumb it is. I think I can win. I've never won but that doesn't stop me from thinking "maybe next time."”
Chips are down for US casinos as revenues slide
by Bob Lever (AFP) 3/7/10
WASHINGTON — US casinos have run into a string of bad luck as the recession and other factors cut into gambling revenues, even as more states move to get a piece of the action.
Gaming revenues in the 12 US states authorizing casinos fell 5.7 percent in 2009 to 30.7 billion dollars, according to a preliminary estimate by the American Gaming Association, a trade group.
This followed a 4.6 percent drop in 2008 gross gaming receipts, the figures showed.
Gaming industry analysts say the recession has hit gambling along with all other consumer and leisure activities.
But some say other factors are hurting casinos, including new entertainment offerings such as Internet gambling, which is illegal in the United States but according to some surveys is still widely practiced.
A study by market research firm Mintel showed that 30 percent of adults visited a casino in the past year, down from 35 percent in 2001 -- a 14 percent decline.
"This shift has been gradual, which suggests that this is not a result of the recession," said Billy Hulkower, a Mintel senior analyst.
Hulkower said the trend suggests little or no growth in casino attendance over the past decade, a period that included two recessions and an economic upturn. This means economics is not the only factor, he said.
"Casinos may be losing audience to the increasingly compelling entertainment offerings in the home; such as HDTV (high definition TV), high-end video game systems and the Internet, including Internet gambling," he said.
Of those who did visit a casino in the last 12 months, 27 percent were Indian reservation casinos, followed by 24 percent in Las Vegas and 12 percent in Atlantic City, Mintel found.
AGA spokeswoman Holly Thomsen said the industry's own surveys show steady or slightly rising casino attendance, even if gamblers are betting less.
"Our industry has been impacted by the recession like most other consumer-discretionary reliant industries," she said.
"We know that people are watching their entertainment spending more in the tight economy."
Thomsen said the worst hit by the sour economy were "destination" areas such as Las Vegas, Nevada, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, with some gamblers choosing casinos closer to home.
In Nevada, the major casinos lost nearly 6.8 billion dollars in gaming activity in the fiscal year to June 30, the latest for which data is available. Revenues for the state's casinos doing more than one million dollars in business fell 12.6 percent in the period, according to the state gaming commission.
Atlantic City gambling revenue for the city's 11 casinos in 2009 was at its lowest in more than a decade.
The hard luck for casinos also means woes for states depending on gaming revenues for education, health care and other general government needs.
New Jersey figures show casino revenues for January fell 8.5 percent from the same month a year ago to 294.2 million dollars.
Twelve states currently authorize casino gambling, but Mintel notes that at least 25 states have proposed or are considering expanding gambling operations including lotteries and sports betting to help balance their budgets.
"If a whole lot of states are suddenly starting to allow gambling and were counting on this revenue you're going to have a problem," Hulkower said.
A survey by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, meanwhile, said state and local government tax revenues from authorized gambling operations excluding tribal casinos declined by 2.6 percent in the fiscal year 2009, marking the first time those revenues have declined in over three decades.
"The expansion of gambling does not bring more customers into the market," said Lucy Dadayan, a senior analyst at the Rockefeller Institute.
"There are only so many customers, so with every new casino there are only marginal increases."
Although the economy is showing signs of reviving, casinos are still struggling, based on tax receipts, said Dadayan, who calculated a decline of five to six percent in state revenues for the July-December period.
"The overall trend for the state tax collections from casinos... is still downward," she said.
CASINO BOSS ADMITS ORDERING INVESTIGATION OF OPPONENTS
"Sounds Like Something Straight Out of a Mob Movie"
MONTGOMERY, AL - Eric Johnston, president of Citizens for a Better Alabama made the following statement today:
"So if you've ever wondered what a casino mogul does with the millions he's made off Alabamians who lost their hard-earned money at his casino, now you know."
"In an article appearing in today's edition of the Mobile Press-Register, casino boss Milton McGregor admits he hired a private eye to follow a law enforcement official who disagreed with him about gambling in Alabama. McGregor then claims he threatened to expose him, if the Governor did not. That sounds like something straight out of a mob movie."
"Alabamians should pay attention to this. The evidence that casinos and gambling bring increased crime and corruption is indisputable. Milton McGregor has just helped prove that point with his claim that he would use such information to intimidate people."
# # #
House committee approves gambling bill
By George Altman
January 21, 2010, 8:30AM
Mobile Press-Register photo: Visitors to the Wind Creek Casino in Atmore play some of the electronic bingo machines at the facility, which is owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. A bill in the Alabama Legislature would allow state-regulated facilities to offer the same games that are offered at Indian casinos.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- A bill that would allow state-regulated casinos to offer the same games as Indian casinos, as well as shield cruise ship casinos from gambling raids, passed a House committee on Wednesday.
The approval, on a voice vote, followed hours of discussion before the House Tourism and Travel Committee, mostly by members of the public. State House security estimated that 450 to 500 people came to see the first vote on a gambling bill in the 2010 legislative session.
Among them were several representatives of Country Crossing, a new gambling and country music venue that has been targeted by Republican Gov. Bob Riley, as well as a handful of cruise industry officials.
"I think the music industry, and I think the cruise-line industry, is critical to the development of the tourism industry in our state," said Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay and the committee chairman. "It's very important, from the standpoint of tourism, that we pass this legislation."
Opponents argued that cruise ships are in no real danger of being raided, and that gambling is an economic drain. Joe Godfrey, executive director of the faith-based Alabama Citizens Action Program, said casinos are "preying upon the weakness" of Alabamians.
"This bill will just expand their predatory practices," he said. "It's not the cash cow that everybody says, and it's money that comes from the losers."
For more than a year, officials under Riley's direction have cracked down on gambling across the state. The action has been focused on controversial gambling machines that look and play much like illegal slots but pick winners through fast, computerized games of bingo, a game that is allowed in parts of Alabama.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, said it is meant as a stopgap measure to protect casinos and cruise ships from further raids by Riley's antigambling task force. As such, all of the bill's provisions will expire in early November, by which time Black hopes to have enacted a broader constitutional amendment on gambling.
Black's bill would allow casinos like VictoryLand in Macon County and Country Crossing in Houston County to offer the same types of games permitted for Atmore's Wind Creek Casino & Hotel.
As an Indian casino run by Poarch Creek Indian Gaming, Wind Creek is governed by federal, rather than state, rules and officials. State-regulated casinos have long expressed concerns that Indian casinos could gain an advantage as a result of state crackdowns.
The measure gained bipartisan support Wednesday, with Rep. Warren Beck, R-Geneva, speaking in favor of it. While Democrats were largely behind Black's bill, some expressed concern that it restricted new casinos from opening in their districts. Black said he would work to address that issue in coming weeks.
Maritime protections were added to the bill after Morrow sent letters to dozens of officials last week expressing concern that cruise ships, as well as ships with casinos being repaired in Mobile shipyards, could be in violation of state law.
Riley's office said Wednesday that the protections are not necessary, as federal law already prevents raids on such vessels. Spokesman Jeff Emerson said that expressing fear over possible raids is a "red herring" to help pass a bill under which "cruises to nowhere would be allowed to conduct full-scale casino gambling, including card and table games and slot machines."
Leon Maisel, president of the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the committee that the issue puts Alabama's reputation as a cruise hub at stake.
"Gaming is part of the cruise industry. It needs to be protected by the state," Maisel said.
Gov. Bob Riley asks Alabama Supreme Court to declare all electronic bingo illegal
Riley: Machines are illegal
Friday, October 23, 2009
Birmingham News staff writer
MONTGOMERY - Gov. Bob Riley said Thursday he has urged the Alabama Supreme Court to rule that the slots look-alike game of electronic bingo is illegal across the state.
Riley and St. Clair District Attorney Richard Minor filed a joint brief with the court earlier this month asking the court to issue a ruling in a St. Clair County bingo case that declares all of the machines illegal.
The Alabama Supreme Court in June issued a 6-3 order delaying enforcement of a St. Clair judge's ruling that allowed the games to be installed at the American Legion Hall in Ashville. Riley urged the court to use the opportunity to issue a broader ruling on the machines.
"Ultimately, only this court can put a statewide end to the cancer of slot machines masquerading as `electronic bingo,'" Minor and lawyers for the governor wrote. "The clearest way for the court to do so is to rule, as the federal court did, that these machines are prohibited slot machines under the Alabama Code."
Riley and Minor wrote that it is urgent for the Supreme Court to act.
"Slot machines are illegal in every county of this state - period. But because Alabama's law against slot machines is not being uniformly enforced, they are popping up in communities throughout the state," Riley said in a statement issued Thursday.
Ashville Mayor Robert L. McKay said he hoped the court would declare the machines legal, or at least allow Ashville to have electronic bingo while the issue is decided in court.
"I want a ruling. I want them to hear the case," McKay said.
McKay said he was frustrated that the Ashville operation was shut down while other electronic bingo operations across the state thrive.
"They came up here when we had a campfire, when the whole woods are on fire. ... The 40 bingo halls in Walker County is a prime example," McKay said.
Eighteen constitutional amendments and other laws approved over the years allow the operation of charity bingo in several locations across the state. The thousands of electronic bingo machines being played look nearly identical to slot machines played at Las Vegas, Biloxi and other gambling meccas.
Riley argues the machines are, in fact, illegal slot machines. Bingo operators contend the machines are legal, saying they are wired for players to play rapid-fire games of bingo against each other.
Jay Walker, a spokesman for Country Crossing, a Wiregrass country music-themed development that proposes to include electronic bingo, said the issue before the Supreme Court is whether St. Clair County bingo was operating within the bounds of the local constitutional amendment. The legality of electronic bingo is not on trial, Walker said.
Riley press secretary Todd Stacy said the issue is squarely before the Supreme Court.
"The Supreme Court is going to have the opportunity to decide once and for all whether there is a loophole that allows organized gambling to operate slot machines under the guise of bingo," Stacy said.
WASHINGTON (BP)--A new law in Mexico decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and other narcotics -- including cocaine and heroin -- will inflict "a serious setback" to the battle against drugs in the United States, a Southern Baptist policy expert has predicted.
"We now have an entire country on our southern border that is a haven for drug abuse," Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, noted in an Aug. 29 blog.
"Our southwestern states will suffer first from this tragic surrender as more drug-addicted people come across the border. Then the rest of the country will feel it as they move inland," Duke wrote.
"Inspections at the border will become more difficult as well, as more people attempt to cross into the country with their 'legal' drug amounts. You can be sure that U.S. relations with Mexico are going to be more strained as a result of this decision. …
"You can also expect Mexico's decision to lead to increased calls for decriminalization of drugs in the U.S.," Duke predicted, citing an Aug. 27 decision by a marijuana policy panel in Denver to urge the county court's presiding judge to adopt a $1 fine for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. "Such actions will be more common as our cities feel the added weight of Mexico's drug problem spilling over the border," Duke wrote.
Under Mexico's new drug decriminalization law, which went into effect Aug. 20, possession of 5 grams of marijuana is legal, as is half a gram of cocaine, 40 milligrams of meth (methamphetamine) and 50 milligrams of heroin, the Associated Press reported. Cocaine and LSD also would be legal in small amounts.
Selling such narcotics, possessing larger amounts of such drugs or using them in public remain illegal, the AP noted.
The new law, Mexico Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora told a news conference, will free up law enforcement officials to focus on major drug traffickers, the AP reported.
Duke, however, pointed to "a superb editorial" in Investor's Business Daily critical of Mexico's drug decriminalization. Duke noted that the IBD editorial makes "five irrefutable arguments":
"1. Consumption will increase.
"2. Addiction will increase.
"3. Treatment costs for addicts will increase.
"4. Drug traffickers will profit.
"5. The law-abiding population will be demoralized."
The Investor's Business Daily editorial predicted that "new customers mean new cash for already powerful cartels. To these organized crime groups, it means money to buy guns or to bribe officials. All of this lowers their cost of doing business, and raises it for the state to fight them. grow more powerful -- not less."
The IBD editorial singled out Venezuela and Ecuador as the "worst" of nations "with little will to fight cartels," stemming in large measure from leaders "with ties to drug traffickers like Colombia's FARC," which controls much of the nation's embattled cocaine trade. Argentina and Bolivia, IBD added, "still see the drug war as a gringo war and are indifferent to their own responsibilities even as crime and addiction grow." The IBD editorial also said: "Think tanks financed by distant billionaire George Soros have worked to make the idea of decriminalization trendy among the smart set."
However, the editorial noted that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is turning the tide against Colombia's traffickers and has "dealt hard blows to Marxist narcoterrorists -- all from a position that looked hopeless. Unlike less successful leaders, he's moving harder against legalization because he knows he can win."
Mexico President Felipe Calderon, in embracing drug decriminalization, has waved a "white flag throws away the sacrifices courageous Mexicans have already made, in blood and treasure, to crush these lawless organizations," IBD wrote. "Mexicans can't be blamed for wondering what they're fighting for if others can use drugs in front of their faces as they fight. Morale will plummet."
More than 10,000 Mexicans have been killed in the country's fight against drug cartels in recent years, including 1,000 troops, even while the nation's drug addiction rate has soared 30 percent over the last five years, according to IBD.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws' deputy director, Paul Armentano, called the new Mexico law "a small step in the right direction" but complained that private and commercial production of marijuana and possession of larger amounts of marijuana remain criminal offenses. Armentano also complained that "marijuana will continue to be classified as contraband (and therefore seized by police), and the user will be strongly urged to seek drug treatment (or coerced to do so if it is one's third 'offense.')"
Duke, of the Southern Baptist ethics agency, frequently has countered NORML's push for marijuana legalization.
In a Baptist Press column in April, Duke noted that the push for legalizing marijuana "must be tempered by personal and social responsibility. Decriminalization of marijuana will encourage destructive behavior in users and affect the entire nation. When users no longer fear arrest, they will have marijuana more often and use it more often. Inebriation is only part of the problem. Marijuana users have higher risks of numerous medical problems, including cancer, psychosis, strokes, respiratory damage and heart attacks. They increase these risks with increased use. Additionally, increased use will lead to more personal and family problems. Work productivity will decrease as will employability. Such outcomes will put additional pressure on families, communities, businesses, health services and law enforcement."
Addressing the push for marijuana legalization for medical purposes, Duke wrote that "marijuana's pain-relieving ingredient has been available by prescription for years. The use of marijuana as a means to self-medicate one's mental health is also not justifiable. People dealing with depression need the regular care of a trained professional. If they require drugs, there are plenty of proven mood-altering ones available that do not introduce as many potential and likely problems as marijuana. Smoking marijuana medicinally threatens to make bad situations worse for many users. Marijuana introduces multiple toxic chemicals into the systems of people whose bodies are already weakened from their ailments. Not only might these toxic chemicals interfere with the healing process, but users risk developing additional problems."
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. Barrett Duke's blog post on Mexico's drug decriminalization law can be viewed at http://rampartwatch.blogspot.com; the Investor's Business Daily editorial at www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=335748953038743; and Duke's column challenging marijuana legalization at http://baptistpress.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=30379.
The following open letter to President Barack Obama has been distributed to news outlets throughout the nation by Dr. Dan Ireland, Executive Director of the American Council on Alcohol Problems (ACAP) and the Director Emeritus of ALCAP. It addresses the inappropriateness of the recent "Beer Summit" held by the President in the White House Gardens.
August 5, 2009
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
With your recent “Beer Summit” you have provided a tremendous complimentary boost to the alcohol industry at the public’s expense. As the American Medical Association as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention point out, alcohol is a drug. As reflected by the millions of alcoholic and problem drinkers in the United States, alcohol is an addictive drug as well as a killer drug. The Surgeon General says the nation averages 100,000 deaths a year due to alcohol abuse.
As I’m sure you are aware, underage consumption of alcohol is a grave concern in this nation and beer is by far the drink of choice among young Americans. The American Council on Alcohol Problems with its 30 state affiliates shares the concern of the U.S. Surgeon General and join his national efforts to reduce this major problem. The Columbia University Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that underage drinkers account for 20 percent of all alcohol sales. The same study concluded that excessive drinkers and teens account for nearly half of the billions of dollars spent on alcohol in one year. NIDA and NIAAA studies reveal that one in twenty Americans could be diagnosed for alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse.
The Marin Institute reports that alcohol is a leading cause of death among youth. The report also points out that every day, on average, 11,318 American youth (12 to 20 years of age) try alcohol for the first time. Alcohol is by far the most used and abused drug among America’s teenagers. According to a report in Surveillance Summaries, June 9, 2006, “Alcohol is a significant factor in the four leading causes of death among persons ages 10 to 24: (1) motor-vehicle crashes, (2) unintentional injuries, (3) homicide, and (4) suicide. According to a report of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “In spite of laws about underage drinking, 1.1 billion cans of beer are consumed by junior and senior high school students each year.” It is also reported that alcohol in all its forms causes one-third of all preventable deaths in the United States.
Mr. President, in addition to all the research revealing the multiplied negatives of alcoholic beverages it is appalling that you, as the President of the United States, would taint the high esteem of your office with a “Beer Summit” on public property by hosting a week of free advertising for the beer industry in the press, radio and television.
Dr. Joe Godfrey, Executive Director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program has well concluded, “When considering the lives that have been destroyed, the homes that have been broken, the job hours that have been lost and the health costs that have spiraled upwards as a result of alcohol use in America, it is regrettable that the President of the United States has given such unnecessary attention to this drug by hosting his recent ‘Beer Summit.’”
Mr. President, a “Beer Summit” does not solve problems. The alcohol product intensifies problems. Local officials and our court systems are quite capable in solving problems without a “Beer Summit.” Public officials do not need to dignify killer drugs with public property summits. This display of approval, indeed, sends the wrong message to the general public, especially the underage group.
Dr. D.L. Dan Ireland, Executive Director
American Council on Alcohol Problems
"What can I do to make a difference?"
Often, people will ask me, “What can I do to make a difference in my community, in our state and in our nation?”
The following is an edited version of my response to someone asking that very question. Of course, there are a number of other actions that an individual can take, but these are given as a way of triggering other ideas in your own mind. While I don’t mention it in the list below, prayer should certainly head the list! As Christians, we are called by the Apostle Paul in Romans 13 to pray for our government leaders.
Stand up and let your voice be heard concerning the moral issues confronting our nation! Make contact with your United States Senators (Shelby and Sessions) and with your U.S. Representatives (depends on where you live). Let them (or someone in their local or Washington offices) know where you stand on specific issues and encourage them to vote accordingly. On the state level, make contact with your State Senator and Representative (depends on where you live). The fact that you have gone to the trouble of looking them up and made an effort to contact them will make your concerns VERY serious to them.
[Go to our “Legislative News” page and click on the appropriate link to find your senators and representatives and their contact information. To find your U.S. Representative, click here; to find contact information for each of our two U.S. Senators, click here.]
What other specific actions might an individual take in order to make a difference?
1.Allow your name to be put on the “ALCAP Alert!” list. When the Alabama Legislature is in session, ALCAP sends out alerts so that the people of Alabama can be aware of specific bills that are being introduced in the House and Senate in Montgomery and, when appropriate, I ask people to contact their state legislators. ALCAP occasionally sends out alerts when the Legislature is not in session, but those are very rare (we try not to fill up your in-box with unnecessary information). Call or email the ALCAP office and give us your e-mail address and we will add it to our list. [NOTE: Anything you receive from me or other organizations (see #3 below), please forward to everyone in your e-mail address book and/or data base.]
2.Be sure and check out all of the resources and links available on our ALCAP website. These resources can provide you with information that will help you when you are talking to others about the moral issues facing our state and nation.
3.If you would like to receive information from the Alabama Policy Institute (headed by Gary Palmer) you can stay informed on both state and national issues that are of concern to believers. Also, you can find resources on the “Eagle Forum of Alabama” website. Eagle Forum is headed by Eunie Smith, a member at FBC of Birmingham. Both of these organizations have e-mail alerts and newsletters that you can sign up to receive and both are excellent organizations. ALCAP, while we do deal with a few broader issues, tries to focus mostly on alcohol and gambling issues. API and the Eagle Forum often discuss broader issues such as environmental and economic issues. ALCAP stays focused on state-level issues, but API and Eagle Forum will give much more attention to national issues.
4.If you are interested in presenting one or more of our ALCAP modules in local schools (listed and described on our “Education” page on our website), contact Dr. Bill Day who will provide you with the training and resource material you will need. ALCAP pays its presenters mileage to and from the schools and a small stipend. We are getting ready to rename our educational arm of the ministry, “American Character Builders,” and after raising the money necessary for the up-front production costs, we are going to begin turning our modules into kits that the classroom teachers can use themselves if they desire to do so.
5.I would also encourage you to stay involved by writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper on issues that may come up throughout the year. This is a great tool for influencing our culture as the “salt and light” God has called us to be—a tool that is often overlooked by Christians.
New Shoulder Tapping Prevention Campaign
A campaign, targeting parents and businesses, got underway this month to raise awareness about shoulder tapping. Shoulder tapping, also known as "Hey Mister," is when youth ask adults, usually strangers, to buy alcohol for them.
The campaign is part of the statewide Face it, Parents underage drinking prevention initiative and coordinated by Oregon Partnership, the Department of Human Services, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association. The campaign includes posters, articles, radio public service announcements and other materials.
With hundreds of thousands of smokers dying each year, tobacco companies are expanding their product line to smokeless tobacco products that target a new batch of customers: young people.
A recent Portland Family Magazine guest op-ed by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley talks about a dangerous new product, tobacco candy, currently being test marketed in three cities across the country, including Portland.
NOTE: The following article is an introduction to a longer article that gives 12 questions and answers concerning predatory gambling (please click on the link at the end of the article to read the entire article). The article focuses on the evil nature of predatory gambling. ALCAP opposes all forms of gambling (social as well as predatory). However, the electronic bingo machines that some are attempting to foist on the people of Alabama are an especially hideous and dangerous form of gambling. It is because of our concern with predatory gambling that this article from the national organization, Stop Predatory Gambling (formerly the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling), is being published on our ALCAP website:
Predatory Gambling, Democracy and the American Dream
Summary : “It’s predatory, deceptive, addictive and undermines the purpose and promise of America.”
No major public policy issue exists in America that is more talked about yet less understood than casino-style gambling. While there are many well-intentioned public officials, reporters, editorial writers and bloggers who discuss the issue in terms of state revenues and potential jobs, most know virtually nothing about the product design, the technology, the marketing and the business model used by the casino trade. Most don't even use the products frequently, if at all. And most don't have personal relationships with the out-of-control gamblers who make up nearly all of the profits.
The debate on slot machines and casino-style gambling is not about jobs and revenues. Nor is it about whether we "permit" gambling. It's not about buying a square in the Super Bowl office pool or playing poker with the guys from the neighborhood on Friday night. Those are examples of social forms of gambling.
The debate is about predatory gambling - using gambling to prey on human weakness for profit-and it is government’s version of subprime lending. The key question in the debate is this: Why is government, especially during these severe economic times, trying to convince citizens to spend large sums on virtually worthless gambling products instead of urging them to save and invest in their future? [Click here to read the entire article.]
Natasha Schull, who was raised in New York’s Greenwich Village, first encountered Las Vegas on the way to college, when her connecting flight was delayed there for a few hours.
“It was the most bizarre place I’d ever been. I wasn’t familiar with malls or theme parks or any of the elements that you see exemplified in Las Vegas,” she says. “I was immediately fascinated.” Schull, who has studied gambling in Las Vegas for the past 15 years, is a cultural anthropologist and assistant professor in MIT’s Program on Science, Technology, and Society. She recently wrote Machine Zone: Technology and Compulsion in Las Vegas, a book based on her research on compulsive gamblers and the engineers who design the slot machines they play. The book will be published next fall.
She also has created a documentary film, BUFFET: All You Can Eat Las Vegas, which aired recently on PBS. Her current work focuses on the social dimensions of neuroscience, specifically neuroeconomics, neuromarketing, and addiction pharmacology.
Schull says that the casino industry is building gambling machines that are increasingly effective at taking gamblers’ money. Slot machines, which now earn more than 75 percent of casino revenue, are designed to make people play longer, faster, and more intensively. “The ideal customer is someone who sits at a machine until their money is gone,” she says. “In the industry it’s called “player extinction,” and that’s the aim.
“I don’t think the gambling industry is an evil empire intentionally trying to addict people,” Schull says. “What they’re trying to do is maximize profit. But when you mix maximizing profit with the design of a human-machine interface, and then you add people who are looking for escape, it’s a perfect storm of elements to produce a situation of dependency.” Schull thinks it’s telling that we speak about problem gamblers but not problem machines, problem environments, or problem business practices.
“Since addiction is a relationship between a person and an object or activity, it makes sense to take a close look at the gambling technology — not just the gamblers.”
As Schull explains, today’s machines are much different from ones of the past. Visual graphics are now calibrated so the gamblers’ eyes won’t get tired so quickly. Sound is manipulated as well, to reduce the stress of cacophony in cavernous spaces. To facilitate faster play, today’s machines have buttons and touch-screens instead of handles and mechanical reels.
Instead of coins, they accept player credit cards. Instead of a few games per minute, it is now possible to play hundreds. Inside the machines, complicated algorithms control the odds.
“Every feature of the machines is geared to keep people playing until they’re broke.”
A STATE OF FLOW
In an effort to pull in revenue for state coffers, Massachusetts, along with several other states, including Kentucky, Illinois, and Maryland, recently had plans to license casinos, she says. “If you actually do the math, it’s not really a viable economic solution to the woes of state finance. What it offers, though, is a very tempting immediate injection of cash.”
Schull herself is not a gambler, but says she can relate to gamblers when they talk about the repetitive, absorbed relationship they enter into with the technology. “I think many of us understand what it’s like to zone out on machines.
“The experience they describe is not unlike the sense of flow people experience when they dance, paint, or write. It’s sometimes a glorious thing to be swept away by something for hours. Sometimes you come out with a wonderful product. But the gamblers don’t have a product. They emerge from the zone totally depleted — physically, mentally, and financially. They feel drained and empty. In effect, these machines exploit the very human desire to become absorbed.”
Among addiction specialists, video slot machines have come to be known as the "crack cocaine" of the gambling industry.
The mechanical wheels of spinning fruit used in the old one-armed bandits have gone the way of the typewriter. Modern-day slot machines are computerized sound-and-light shows so skillfully designed to keep players glued to their seats that some have been known to wear adult diapers to avoid bathroom breaks.
As state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill promotes the idea of licensing three slot parlors in Massachusetts, some mental health and gambling specialists warn that the newer machines deliver such potent gambling highs that they can be particularly addictive.
The video slots allow players to gamble incredibly rapidly, winning or losing a game every several seconds without a break, to the point that their brains are undergoing the equivalent of an intravenous drip of an intoxicating drug, said Bob Breen, director of the Rhode Island Hospital Gambling Treatment Program.
"When you sit in front of the slots, especially if it's 24/7, there are no cues for you to quit," he said. "There's no time to stop and think. You're getting that constant drip, and people describe it as being in the zone," he said.
The gaming industry defends the computerized slots, saying their widespread use has not led to increased addiction problems.
But in 15 years of clinical experience, Breen has found that gambling descends into pathology much more quickly among slots players than among people who bet on sports, races, cards, or lotteries.
It tends to take just a year, as opposed to up to five for other types of gambling, said Breen, who has published two studies that analyzed more than 200 addicted patients.
It is not only the speed of the games that makes so addictive the playing of new-style electronic gaming machines, which include video lottery and electronic poker games along with high-tech versions of traditional slots. The machines produce a highly intense and continous experience for players, said Natasha Schull, an MIT professor who has studied the machines, their designers, and their players.
There is no waiting for the horses to run or the wheel to stop spinning, she said. And the machines have been cramming more and more betting possibilities into each wagering moment, so that a nickel machine might actually allow 100 bets of a nickel at one push of the button.
"It's like playing 100 machines at once," she said.
Brain studies have shown that gambling causes the release of dopamine, a feel-good chemical that spurs the desire to repeat a pleasurable behavior and that is involved in drug addiction. The pleasure comes not just from winning, but from the process of playing and anticipating a possible win.
"Worldwide evidence shows that slot machines tend to be more problematic than most other types of gambling, in terms of addiction," said Mark Griffiths professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University in England. In some European countries, he said, up to 80 or 90 percent of the calls to help lines for gambling addiction now concern slot-machine problems.
Overall, there are perhaps 30 different ways in which electronic slot machines keep players playing, Griffiths said, including their use of lights, colors, "ka-ching!" sounds, familiar television characters such as those in "The Simpsons," and rapid-fire payouts. "It's the kitchen-sink approach," he said.
One trick: Though the machines generate their winning or losing combinations randomly, they also tend to be programmed to make it look as if players have a great number of near-wins, said Roger Horbay, president of Game Planit Interactive, a Canadian company that develops educational tools to prevent problem gambling. "You get the impression your odds are good, you're about to win," he said.
Horbay, a former addiction counselor, and Breen both say that slots gamblers they have treated tend to differ from other gambling addicts, who often have preexisting psychiatric or life problems that put them at risk for addiction.
After slot machines came to Ontario, Horbay said, "what stuck out for me was that a lot of these folks had never had a problem before they met a machine."
Cahill has argued that slot machine parlors would not generate any more social problems than the resort casinos proposed last year by Governor Deval Patrick; both have a revenue model that relies heavily on slot machines. And, he says, people are gambling in other states anyway - Rhode Island has slots emporiums, and Connecticut has casinos - and bringing slots to Massachusetts would allow the state to establish a fund to treat gambling addictions.
"All we're saying is to let Massachusetts people do what they want with their money in their state, as opposed to having to drive out of state," Cahill told reporters this week. "We're not looking to exacerbate the problem, just try to capture it here in the state."
Some also dispute whether the machines are more of a problem than other forms of gambling.
"We don't believe any one activity is more addictive than any other," said Christine Reilly, executive director of the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders, which receives most of its funding from the gambling-industry-supported National Center for Responsible Gaming.
"What the research is telling us now is that addiction is a relationship between a vulnerable person and the object of addiction, which can be just about anything," she said.
She pointed out that despite the huge growth in the gambling industry in recent years, gambling addiction in the United States has remained steady at about 1 percent of the population, with an additional 2 to 3 percent having a gambling problem that falls short of full-blown addiction.
Holly Thomsen, spokeswoman for the gambling industry's leading trade group, the American Gaming Association, cited those unchanging figures, as well.
"They put the lie to the premise that these machines are causing more addictions," she said. The machines "are clearly in more locations than they've ever been, and yet the studies keep coming back the same."
Schull countered that while addiction may be relatively rare in the general population, a number of studies have found that problem gamblers generate between 30 percent and 50 percent of the revenue from machine play, indicating that the figures cited by the industry understate the addiction's impact.
The gambling industry "promotes the idea that there's a small group of people who are predisposed and the rest of us can gamble normally," she said.
But machine manufacturers aim to maximize their profits by "getting people to sit there as long as possible and gamble as intensively as possible," she said.
While they may not intend to produce addicts, Schull said, they can.
Matt Viser of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Carey Goldberg can be reached at email@example.com.
How to Stop Drunk Drivers
Parade Magazine, Page 6
February 1, 2009
Drunk drivers kill about 13,000 Americans each year and injure hundreds of thousands more. Now, California and Wisconsin are considering new laws that would require people convicted of drunk driving to use a technology called an ignition interlock. Drivers blow into a device that measures blood-alcohol content. If the level is too high, the car will not start. Fourteen states already routinely use the technology, which experts say can reduce subsequent drunk-driving offenses by up to 64%.
Critics say that manufacturers of the devices--for which convicted drunk drivers must pay up to $110 a month--have aggressively lobbied to make the units mandatory to increase profits. But law-enforcement officials say ignition interlocks work. "When the device is on, you see a decrease in repeat offenders," says Barbara Lauer of Florida's Department of Motor Vehicles. "Once it's off, the numbers go right back up."
Youth Drinking Higher Where Alcohol Outlets Proliferate
January 5, 2009
Adolescents who live within walking distance of a liquor store or other alcohol outlet are more likely to engage in binge drinking or drive drunk, according to researchers from the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif.
The Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 29 that drinking rates were higher among 12- to 17-year-olds who lived within a half-mile of an alcohol outlet, and that minority neighborhoods tended to have a higher density of alcohol outlets than predominantly white communities.How do alcohol outlets affect communities?
"Our study suggests that living in close proximity to alcohol outlets is a risk factor for youth," according to the researchers. "In California, retail licenses are not typically approved within 100 feet of a residence or within 600 feet of schools, public playgrounds and nonprofit youth facilities, but proximity by itself is not sufficient to deny a license ... More attention on the proximity rule is needed and environmental interventions need to curb opportunities for youth to get alcohol from commercial sources."
1. "You can't win..."
Everyone knows the house has an advantage. But most casino patrons don't realize just how heavily the odds are stacked against them. Take keno, in which you pick a string of numbers, hoping to match them to what the casino randomly generates. The house advantage is at least 25%, increasing with the more numbers you pick, says John Alcamo, author of Casino Gambling Behind the Tables. The odds of hitting, say, the 10 spot — a string of 10 numbers — are nine million to one. (Getting killed by fireworks is nine times more likely.) Despite those odds, a $2 bet usually pays off at only $50,000 to $200,000. Slot machines are popular because they offer a shot at a big jackpot for little investment. For example, $3 gets you a chance at the Megabucks jackpot, which links slot machines in Nevada and builds like a state lottery from a base of $5 million. The odds of winning? Nearly 17 million to one. You have a better chance of being killed by an asteroid striking Earth.
OK, so maybe you won't win the jackpot in slots. But surely you have a decent shot of walking out ahead of the game, right? Don't count on it. "Slot machines are the biggest moneymakers in the casino," Alcamo says. "That should tell the players something." Experts like him never play games that give the house more than a 2% advantage, and quarter slots put the advantage at about 8%.
Your best bet? Blackjack. If you play perfect strategy, the house advantage is less than 1%. And in craps, the pass- and come-line bets give the house an advantage of less than 1.5%.
2. "...and if you do, we might not pay you."
While on vacation in Lake Tahoe in September 1996, Cengiz Sengel stopped to show his wife the lights of Reno, Nev. They walked into the Silver Legacy casino, got a $20 bag of quarters and headed straight to one of the slot machines. A few pulls later, three jackpot symbols popped up in the windows. The Sengels jumped up and down, hugging each other as fellow slot players rushed over to congratulate them. They had just won nearly $1.8 million. Or so they thought. A supervisor, claiming the machine had malfunctioned, denied the Sengels the payout. The couple appealed all the way to the state Supreme Court, which this June ruled against them.
Effie Freeman can sympathize. In 1995, she put $3 into a slot machine at the now — defunct Splash Casino in Tunica, Miss., and was stunned to see red, white and blue ducks line up, signaling a $1.7 million jackpot. But the state gaming commission ruled that it didn't count because the machine had gone into "tilt" mode.
Todd Westergard, a Nevada regulator, says that such decisions, no matter how cruel they sound, are only fair. It's the computers inside the machines, not what pops up in the window, that determine winners, he says, and in the Sengels' case the computer connection was disrupted.
But gamblers don't care about the technical explanations. "The main thing is that we got those three symbols," says Cengiz Sengel. "They found a way not to pay us."
3. "We promise more than we deliver."
Twenty-seven years ago only seven states had lotteries, and only Nevada allowed casinos. Now 37 states have lotteries, and 28 have casinos (including Indian gaming). Why have policy makers and the public allowed gambling to flourish? One reason is the notion that it creates jobs and commerce.
But research suggests the downside far outweighs the benefits. "The economy as a whole would be much better off had we not allowed [casino gaming] to expand," says Earl Grinols, a University of Illinois economics professor. Figuring in a broad range of factors — crime, lost productivity, bankruptcy, social services and regulatory costs — Grinols determined that each pathological and problem gambler costs the public $13,600 per year; the total works out to $180 per citizen. That more than negates the industry's economic benefit, which Grinols estimates at $50 to $70 per citizen.
Much of the income generated by casinos simply gets diverted from other local businesses, critics say. Atlantic City's a good example. Within four years of the casinos' arrival, a third of the city's retail businesses had closed. Meanwhile, crime soared.
What about lotteries? That money surely is a windfall for causes like public education, right? Not always. A study by St. Mary's College professors Patrick Pierce and Donald Miller found that while lotteries provide an initial boost to education budgets, the increases quickly taper off. In fact, the professors say, states with lotteries eventually provide less support for public education per capita than do states without them.
4. "We know everything about you."
Casinos have developed sophisticated techniques for targeting and profiling repeat gamblers. Harrah's Entertainment (HET) has led the way, hiring marketing experts and a Harvard professor. In 1997, the company began gathering details on players when it rolled out its Total Gold frequent-gambler cards (now called Total Rewards) and has built a database of 19 million customers. Players insert the cards into slot machines or hand them to casino supervisors when they play table games. The cards are marketed as a prestige item that helps players accumulate comps such as free rooms, meals and show tickets. But the real purpose is to track the habits of each customer and tailor a marketing plan that will keep players coming.
If you're a big bettor, you'll find that casinos know all kinds of creepy information — just enough to push your buttons. "You put your slot card in the machine and bing, it's ticking off in the office," says syndicated columnist Mark Pilarski, who spent 18 years working at casinos. "If you're a good customer, they send down a hostess, she pats you on your back and offers you dinner. She gets information on you. Next time you come in they ask about your wife or dog by name. They know your anniversary. They'll definitely send you a card for your birthday."
5. "We're a lousy investment."
If you don't want to bet on their games, maybe wagering on casino stocks is a good option. Think again. Though gaming stocks are up 16% this year, most haven't provided a great return over the long haul. The sector's up only 22% over the past five years, compared with the S&P 500's 171% increase.
Some stocks have been outright busts. Harrah's is trading 47% below where it was five years ago. Mandalay Resort Group (MBG) is down 35%. And let's hope you didn't let your money ride on The Donald. Stock in Trump's gaming company, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts (DJT) is down 78% over the past five years.
One big winner has been MGM Grand (MGM: 13.00, +0.15, +1.16%), up 36% this year. Still, analysts at Salomon Smith Barney and Lehman Brothers just downgraded their ratings on the stock from Buy to Neutral. The reason? With a recent expansion of casinos and hotel rooms, Vegas may be getting saturated. Add in competition from Indian gaming in California and the prospect of a slowing economy, and revenue could take a hit.
Gaming stocks are not for the faint of heart. Saddled with debt, many of these companies experience the kind of wild price swings that only a day trader could love. "It's a very trade-oriented sector," says Lehman Brothers analyst Stuart Linde. "It goes in a boom-or-bust cycle."
6. "Addicts keep us in business."
Does the gaming industry target addicts? "It's like asking, Does the vodka industry target alcoholics?" says Henry Lesieur, head of the Institute for Problem Gambling. "Well, they target heavy drinkers, and a certain percentage are alcoholics."
Duke professors Charles Clotfelter and Phillip Cook did a study that found that 10% of lottery players account for 68% of lottery purchases. Similarly, Illinois professor Grinols estimates that one-third to one-half of casino revenue comes from problem or pathological gamblers. "After a while [some casinos] don't want compulsive gamblers because they overrun their credit," Lesieur says. "But by then they've already made a lot of money off of them."
Perhaps more disturbing are cases where casinos allow known addicts to continue betting. After losing a million dollars, Houston businessman Joe McNeely sent a letter to several Louisiana casinos asking that they not allow him to gamble. But that didn't prevent him from losing another $2 million. McNeely then sued five casinos, claiming they continued to market to him aggressively even after they were aware of his addiction. Representatives of one casino, he says, even showed up at his mother's funeral and invited him to stop by. Though the casinos pointed out that McNeely hadn't registered with the state police, which has a self-banning system in place for addicts, they settled the suit last fall for an undisclosed amount.
7. "We target your children..."
More kids today gamble than are involved with drugs, smoking or drinking, according to Jeff Derevensky, a psychology professor at McGill University in Montreal. One reason: They're growing up with a message that wagering is acceptable. "Today's 10-year-old will spend their entire life in a world in which gambling is sanctioned and owned by the government," he says. To make matters worse, Derevensky has found that the addiction rate among youths is two to four times that of the population at large.
Though it's illegal to play the lottery if you're under 18, studies show that a high share of adolescents buy tickets — 32% in Louisiana, 34% in Texas and 35% in Connecticut. How? In some states, ticket sales aren't always monitored. Twenty-nine states use automated machines in public places such as airports and stores as one way of dispensing instant-game tickets. "You'll see that [the industry is] trying to appeal to younger people," says Laura Letson, executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling. Last year, for example, the council flagged the New York lottery for its marketing tie-in with Warner Bros." "Wild Wild West" — a movie rated PG-13.
It's not just lotteries that are accused of catering to kids. Pete Earley, author of "Super Casino", points to the new family-friendly atmosphere promoted in Las Vegas. (MGM Grand now has the second-largest theme park in the country.) "It's calculated," he says. "You're encouraging future generations to come there, and reinforcing that gambling is OK."
8. "...and your parents."
Five years ago an elderly woman was brought by her adult children to a geriatric clinic in Omaha. Caring for their mother after she had a stroke, the children discovered that she had rung up $35,000 on credit cards at casinos in nearby Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was the first of many similar cases for Dennis McNeilly, a psychologist at that clinic.
He began studying the effects of gambling on seniors and found that casinos tailor their marketing to attract an older crowd. The Station Casino in St. Charles, Mo., for instance, has a Golden Opportunities Club for people 55-plus, in which they can earn credits toward meals and gambling chips. The casino also offers free valet parking and $1 lunches to seniors, and some of its slot machines are based on detective stories from the '40s. Some casinos run shuttle buses from retirement homes. McNeilly found one casino that featured former stars of Lawrence Welk's TV show. The industry even has a term, "third-of-the-month club," to describe gamblers whose casino trips coincide with the arrival of Social Security checks.
"The senior population is getting destroyed by gambling," says Ed Looney, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey. He cites the fact that in 1997, gamblers 60 and older accounted for 65% of the $3.7 billion Atlantic City took in. "You have a right to market your product, but there's a line you need to draw," Looney says. He points out research that shows seniors get to the crisis stage of gambling faster, and don't have the time to rebuild their finances when they get in trouble. "There's no way they can recover," he says.
9. "We have your legislators in our pocket."
At an investors' conference in June, MGM Grand Chief Financial Officer James Murren was asked about the status of the company's new temporary casino in Detroit. He acknowledged that MGM couldn't complete a permanent facility in four years, as it had promised the city. Still, he added, "There's no way in the world they're going to shut us down. We pay our gaming taxes daily."
His comments reflect just how reliant policy makers have become on casino money. And it's not just in the form of taxes. In 1998 congressional and presidential candidates received $5.7 million from the gaming industry, up from $1.1 million in 1992. Soft-money contributions jumped from $400,000 to $3.8 million.
From 1997 through 1999, the gaming industry spent $22.5 million lobbying federal lawmakers, more than such powerful contingents as alcohol and gun groups, according to political watchdog Common Cause. With that kind of spending, it would be tough to pass antigaming legislation, says William Thompson, a professor of public administration at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. "They've got the bucks, and the opposition doesn't. The casinos make contributions to every viable candidate." Adds Robert Goodman, head of the U.S.Gambling Research Institute: "Government is moving toward relationships that are problematic."
10. "Our regulation is full of loopholes."
Gaming industry officials like to say that their business is tightly regulated. But the truth is, regulators often have their hands tied. Take Indian casinos. Though they have to cooperate with the states to some extent, often tribes are left to regulate themselves. A new compact in California, for instance, leaves it unclear whether the state has the power to audit the tribes' books or inspect their slot machines.
Keeping tabs on Internet gambling is even tougher. Congress is discussing possible measures, but for now regulators can do little about the 850 foreign sites that cater to U.S. gamblers. In some countries, all that's necessary to get a license is to register. "They don't have anything like regulation," says Sue Schneider, chair of the Interactive Gaming Council.
Then there are the "cruises to nowhere," boats that depart from coastal U.S. cities and head into international water, where they offer gambling in an unregulated environment. "In a lot of cases, we aren't even sure who the entities are operating these games," says Kent Perez, Florida assistant attorney general.
Before you buy your teen a cell phone ...
Posted on Dec 19, 2008 | by Dwayne Hastings
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--If someone in your family has a new cell phone on their Christmas list, you might want to get to Santa before he packs his sleigh.
The latest generation of cell phones offers an expanded array of features -- some which may put your teenager at risk. New wireless technology allows users to download digital video content and other material directly from the Internet to wireless handheld devices such as the feature-rich cell phones and iPods.
These rapid advances in wireless technology and mobile entertainment prompted the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families to publish a timely and practical guide for parents: "Sex and Cell Phones: Protect Your Children."
Approximately 79 percent of all teens (17 million) have a mobile device -- a 36 percent increase since 2005, according to the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry (CITA). Most teens have a conventional cell phone, but a growing number (currently 15 percent) own a smart phone, which has capabilities far beyond those common to most phones introduced just two years ago.
While cell phones allow parents and their children to communicate more easily at any time of day, the phones are increasingly being used for less-than-wholesome activities, including the transmission and receipt of sexually explicit content.
While some advanced phones allow parents to actually locate their child using the phone's GPS chip, the devices also allow students to cheat in the classroom using texting features. School officials recognize the value of students having phones in an emergency but are concerned about the distractions offered by the newer phones' features. On many wireless phones, students can surf the Internet or watch live television while their geometry teacher explains the wonder of yet another theorem.
The Sex and Cell Phones publication warns that every child is at risk -- directly or indirectly -- because of the "sexually explicit content delivered over the Internet by computers and wireless technologies." The booklet notes, "Each day in our nation, young people are victimized by those who seek to steal their innocence and corrupt their minds."
The adult entertainment industry expects 2009 to be a breakout year for "mobile porn" as more phones come on the market with "high-quality graphics," according to a Reuters report earlier this year. The story said Apple's iPhone is ideal for viewing pornography because of its graphics and upgraded Web browser.
The Sex and Cell Phones guide encourages parents to become educated about the new technology and "engage in open and consistent discussions" with their children about safe use practices. The booklet provides a suggested "Safe Use Agreement" for parents and children to read and sign that offers a basis for developing "specific understanding and agreement" between parent and child relating to the cell phone use.
One of the booklet's most valuable features is a series of questions that parents should ask a wireless company's representative when purchasing a phone. The script includes questions about the phone's Internet accessibility and blocking and filtering options and is designed to give parents more than just a basic comprehension of the phone's capabilities.
The guide includes a table that lists parent-control features offered by each of the major cell phone carriers, including the estimated cost of the controls.
The Sex and Cell Phones resource can be downloaded from iLiveValues.com/cellphones.
Dwayne Hastings is a vice president with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Good News Concerning Alcoholic Energy Drinks!
Great news! Several months ago, Anheuser-Busch agreed to stop distributing alcoholic energy drinks, but MillerCoors refused to do so. Now, MillerCoors has been forced by a settlement with a group of state attorneys general to suspend their marketing of these dangerous drinks! [Read the full story below]
A settlement between MillerCoors and a group of state attorneys general will spell the end of the brewer's foray into marketing alcoholic energy drinks.
The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 18 that MillerCoors announced that it will stop producing and selling caffeinated alcoholic beverages, including those sold under its popular Sparks brand. At the same time, company officials maintained that the AGs allegations that the drinks were marketed to young drinkers were "inaccurate."
"Attorneys general from around the country are gravely concerned about premixed alcoholic energy drinks because these products are dangerous and look and taste like popular nonalcoholic energy drinks," said Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe. "They're popular with young people who wrongly believe that the caffeine will counteract the intoxicating effects of the alcohol."
Critics condemn youth-orinted Sparks marketing materials implying that alcoholic energy drinks allow users to stay awake longer and drink more. "It was a bad idea that never should have gotten as far as it did -- adding caffeine to sweetened, high-alcohol-content malt beverages and marketing them to young people via word-of-mouth and infantile web sites," said Steve Gardner, director of litigation for The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which sued MillerCoors earlier this year over Sparks.
"We're thrilled that MillerCoors finally got the message that they were dealing with a public-health hazard," said Pete Schulberg, communications director for the Oregon Partnership, a community-based antidrug coalition. "High caffeine with high alcohol content and the fact that these products are marketing to young people makes for a dangerous combination."
Sparks has emerged as the leading brand in the alcoholic energy drink niche market; MillerCoors said it will continue to sell a reformulated version of Sparks that does not include caffeine, taurine, guarana and ginseng.
The company also agreed to end some marketing strategies that the AGs said appeared to be aimed at underage drinking, including content on the Sparks website. David Rosenbloom, director of Join Together, said the settlement's marketing reforms are just as important as the product's reformulation.
"Removing caffeine and other stimulants from Sparks is an important step for public health because it removes a significant risk associated with the product," said Rosenbloom. "We hope that this settlement will really lead to the end of the company's efforts to sell alcopops to underage audiences with youth-oriented marketing strategies."
CSPI's Gardner said that today's settlement nearly finishes off the product category. "Now that Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors have each agreed separately to discontinue caffeinated alcoholic drinks, this entire niche of products is all but shut down," said Steve Gardner, director of litigation at CSPI. Gardner called on the remaining, smaller companies producing caffeinated alcohol beverages to quickly follow suit.
Earlier this year, Anheuser-Busch reached a settlement with CSPI and state attorneys general in which it agreed to stop producing and marketing alcoholic energy drinks.
Abstainers Working for a Better World
An article from "The Inside Story"
The International Organization of Good Templars (IOGT), under the leadership of Vince Peterson, PhD, a former professor at Indiana University and author of the book, A Nation Under the Influence: America's Addiction to Alcohol, has proposed a 10-point agenda for all who are concerned about educational and public policy issues regarding alcohol. Click here to read this story.
Booze may speed shrinking of the brain
NEW DANGER | Smaller brains a risk, study finds
October 14, 2008
First, the experts said drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol was a good idea, that it might protect against heart disease.
Now, a study has found that such drinking has a risk: It might speed the shrinking of the brain that naturally comes with age.
The scientists found that the more people drank, the smaller the size of their brains. Even people who drank lightly -- one to seven drinks a week -- had slightly smaller brains than non-drinkers, according to the study in the Archives of Neurology.
The association was especially pronounced in women, perhaps because women's typically smaller body size renders them more vulnerable to alcohol, according to the researchers from Wellesley College, Boston University, the Framingham Heart Study and the University of California, Davis.
The gradual decrease in brain size seen as participants drank more was "slightly larger than the average decline in brain volume per year with aging."
The group studied 1,839 adults who were part of the Framingham Offspring Study, which began in 1971. The participants underwent brain scans from 1999 to 2001 and reported the number of alcoholic beverages they consumed each week.
Their brain volumes were measured as a percent of total cranial volume. Those in the lowest drinking category -- one to seven drinks a week -- had brain volumes of 78 percent of their total cranial volume, compared with 78.6 percent in abstainers. Those in the highest drinking category -- 14 or more drinks a week -- had brain volumes of 77.3 percent. Researchers computed the figures after adjusting for age, body size, weight and other factors.
meant to make it more difficult for young people to acquire alcohol have significantly reduced drunk-driving deaths, according to a new study.
Two federal policies meant to make it harder for young people to acquire alcohol have significantly reduced drunken-driving deaths, a new study finds.
The policies — banning purchase or possession of alcohol by people under 21 and making it illegal to use false identification to buy alcohol — have been in effect in all 50 states since at least 1988, when Congress made them a condition for federal highway money.
Reporting in the July issue of Accident Analysis and Prevention, the scientists calculate that the possession and purchase laws reduced the ratio of drinking to nondrinking drivers involved in fatal crashes by about 11 percent. Laws requiring an automatic license sanction for the use of fake IDs resulted in a 7 percent decrease.
“Raising the drinking age to 21 does save lives,” said James C. Fell of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, lead author of the study, “and while every state makes it illegal to have a fake ID, they really should strongly consider a driver’s license sanction for the offender. That made a big difference in our analysis.”
The authors acknowledge that their study measured only the presence or absence of the laws, not the effect of lax or vigorous enforcement. But they add that the effect of the laws was independent of other factors, including auto safety improvements and the reduction in the allowable blood-alcohol level in drivers to 0.08 from 0.10.
Article from CitizenLink (a publication of Focus on the Family)
Should Christians Argue Politics?
by Frank Pastore
'Our political and social policies should grow out of our theology, not vice versa.'
Note: This column originally appeared Sept. 30 on Townhall.com. It is used with permission.
For the past several months, I’ve heard two recurring themes from critics of my show: “You’re too political and unloving; Christians shouldn’t argue about politics,” and “You’re not fair and balanced; you’re close-minded and too biased against liberals.”
Perhaps many Christians believe these things because they don’t understand politics is really an exercise of theology applied — one way we love our neighbors as ourselves. Our political and social policies should grow out of our theology, not vice versa. We are not to reverse engineer our theology based upon our political and social agendas. Our faith is foundational to everything else. For Christians, theology creates and shapes our approach to politics; for non-Christians, politics creates and shapes their approach to theology — or at least their worldview.
A Christian becomes too political when their politics is no longer rooted in their theology, when their faith becomes merely peripheral and unnecessary to their political agenda, rather than the one thing that is fundamental and essential.
How we vote to spend our tax dollars, what economic and social policies we hope to advance through votes for particular candidates, and what domestic and foreign policies we hope our government advances — these things are the applications of the values rooted in our Christian worldview.
Just as how I choose to invest my time and treasure is the best expression of whether I’m living out my Christian values, so too what the government spends money on and what policy preferences it pursues is the best expression of our true American values.
The best way for me to love my neighbor is through those things I choose to do personally. The second best way is through votes for candidates who support policies that I believe will promote the common good. Thus, I am political because I am loving, and I am loving because I am Christian. Therefore, I should argue — albeit in a God-glorifying manner — about politics.
Perhaps many Christians don’t know how to argue without getting angry — though there are times when anger is morally justified. The two things that we should be willing to argue about are theology and politics. This isn’t about getting mad or letting your emotions get out of control. In fact, when we lose our cool and merely emote, we’re not arguing very well and we actually become less persuasive rather than more so. It usually escalates into a test of whose emotional intensity is strongest, rather than the strength of the arguments themselves.
Perhaps many Christians think arguing is bad because they can’t distinguish between a person and their ideas. Even for themselves, they can take it personally when someone is arguing against their ideas. But not arguing does make me a nice person. And the fact that I do argue about consequential things does not make me unloving. Nice people can be wrong, and mean people can be right. I can criticize a person’s ideas without criticizing the person. The challenge is to communicate my disagreement — to argue — in such a way that the person understands I disagree with their ideas, not them personally. Friends can and do argue over their disagreements, though it is most often the case that they are friends precisely because they do agree on so many things.
Finally, with regards to the criticism that I am “not fair and balanced” and that I am “close-minded and too biased against liberals,” I am perhaps guilty as charged. However, it is only because I have weighed the arguments on both sides and found the current expressions of modern liberalism deficient. I gave liberalism a fair hearing when I began to formulate my political philosophy and found it contrary to my Christian values. I am no longer struggling with moral equivalence between the left and the right. I would be close-minded and biased if I were unwilling to weigh arguments for liberalism. Having done so, I am a conservative precisely because I have found the arguments for liberalism unpersuasive.
Some Christians may claim, “Christians shouldn’t argue about politics” simply because they’re political liberals who are unwilling to actually engage in argument over their political views. Instead, they would rather attempt to stifle debate by taking the pseudo moral high ground, saying something like, “Truly spiritual Christians are above politics.”
That’s too bad. Christians can and should argue, especially about theology and politics — and hopefully in that order.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Frank Pastore is a radio talk-show host heard daily on KKLA in Los Angeles. Read his interview with CitizenLink.
(NOTE: Referral to Web sites not produced by Focus on the Family is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of the sites' content.)
College presidents seek debate on drinking age
By Justin Pope
Associated Press Writer / August 18, 2008
College presidents from about 100 of the nation's best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus.
The movement called the Amethyst Initiative began quietly recruiting presidents more than a year ago to provoke national debate about the drinking age.
"This is a law that is routinely evaded," said John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont who started the organization. "It is a law that the people at whom it is directed believe is unjust and unfair and discriminatory."
Other prominent schools in the group include Syracuse, Tufts, Colgate, Kenyon and Morehouse.
But even before the presidents begin the public phase of their efforts, which may include publishing newspaper ads in the coming weeks, they are already facing sharp criticism.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving says lowering the drinking age would lead to more fatal car crashes. It accuses the presidents of misrepresenting science and looking for an easy way out of an inconvenient problem. MADD officials are even urging parents to think carefully about the safety of colleges whose presidents have signed on.
"It's very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses," said Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD.
Both sides agree alcohol abuse by college students is a huge problem.
Research has found more than 40 percent of college students reported at least one symptom of alcohol abuse or dependance. One study has estimated more than 500,000 full-time students at four-year colleges suffer injuries each year related in some way to drinking, and about 1,700 die in such accidents.
A recent Associated Press analysis of federal records found that 157 college-age people, 18 to 23, drank themselves to death from 1999 through 2005.
Moana Jagasia, a Duke University sophomore from Singapore, where the drinking age is lower, said reducing the age in the U.S. could be helpful.
"There isn't that much difference in maturity between 21 and 18," she said. "If the age is younger, you're getting exposed to it at a younger age, and you don't freak out when you get to campus."
McCardell's group takes its name from ancient Greece, where the purple gemstone amethyst was widely believed to ward off drunkenness if used in drinking vessels and jewelry. He said college students will drink no matter what, but do so more dangerously when it's illegal.
The statement the presidents have signed avoids calling explicitly for a younger drinking age. Rather, it seeks "an informed and dispassionate debate" over the issue and the federal highway law that made 21 the de facto national drinking age by denying money to any state that bucks the trend.
But the statement makes clear the signers think the current law isn't working, citing a "culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking," and noting that while adults under 21 can vote and enlist in the military, they "are told they are not mature enough to have a beer." Furthermore, "by choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law."
"I'm not sure where the dialogue will lead, but it's an important topic to American families and it deserves a straightforward dialogue," said William Troutt, president of Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., who has signed the statement.
But some other college administrators sharply disagree that lowering the drinking age would help. University of Miami President Donna Shalala, who served as secretary of health and human services under President Clinton, declined to sign.
"I remember college campuses when we had 18-year-old drinking ages, and I honestly believe we've made some progress," Shalala said in a telephone interview. "To just shift it back down to the high schools makes no sense at all."
McCardell claims that his experiences as a president and a parent, as well as a historian studying Prohibition, have persuaded him the drinking age isn't working.
But critics say McCardell has badly misrepresented the research by suggesting that the decision to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21 may not have saved lives.
In fact, MADD CEO Chuck Hurley said, nearly all peer-reviewed studies looking at the change showed raising the drinking age reduced drunk-driving deaths. A survey of research from the U.S. and other countries by the Centers for Disease Control and others reached the same conclusion.
McCardell cites the work of Alexander Wagenaar, a University of Florida epidemiologist and expert on how changes in the drinking age affect safety. But Wagenaar himself sides with MADD in the debate.
The college presidents "see a problem of drinking on college campuses, and they don't want to deal with it," Wagenaar said in a telephone interview. "It's really unfortunate, but the science is very clear."
Another scholar who has extensively researched college binge-drinking also criticized the presidents' initiative.
"I understand why colleges are doing it, because it splits their students, and they like to treat them all alike rather than having to card some of them. It's a nuisance to them," said Henry Wechsler of the Harvard School of Public Health.
But, "I wish these college presidents sat around and tried to work out ways to deal with the problem on their campus rather than try to eliminate the problem by defining it out of existence," he said.
Duke faced accusations of ignoring the heavy drinking that formed the backdrop of 2006 rape allegations against three lacrosse players. The rape allegations proved to be a hoax, but the alcohol-fueled party was never disputed.
Duke senior Wey Ruepten said university officials should accept the reality that students are going to drink and give them the responsibility that comes with alcohol.
"If you treat students like children, they're going to act like children," he said.
Duke President Richard Brodhead declined an interview request. But he wrote in a statement on the Amethyst Initiative's Web site that the 21-year-old drinking age "pushes drinking into hiding, heightening its risks." It also prevents school officials "from addressing drinking with students as an issue of responsible choice."
Hurley, of MADD, has a different take on the presidents.
"They're waving the white flag," he said.
Associated Press Writer Barbara Rodriguez contributed to this report from Durham, N.C.
Combat Veterans From Recent Wars Are At Increased Risk Of Alcohol-Related Problems
Article originally published in Medical News Today on August 13, 2008
After returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan, younger service members and Reserve and National Guard combat personnel are more likely to begin heavy drinking, binge drinking, or other alcohol related problems. These findings are reported in a study published in the August 13 issue of JAMA.
Previous studies have suggested a strong link between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse. Additionally, several other psychological disorders are known to occur after stressful and traumatic events such as war. As alcohol is commonly used to help those cope with traumatic events, there is a high probability that military deployment is associated with increased rates of alcohol consumption or problem drinking. There have been reports from earlier conflicts that personnel have misused alcohol at high rates after deployment, but there is little information on patterns of alcohol use regarding the most current crop of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
To determine if deployment to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is linked to new-onset or changes in alcohol consumption, binge drinking behavior, or other alcohol related problems, Isabel G. Jacobson, M.P.H. (Naval Health Research Center, San Diego) and colleagues analyzed data from the Millennium Cohort Study. Baseline data were collected via questionnaires from 77,047 participants from July 2001 to July 2003, and 55,021 participants completed follow-up surveys from June 2004 to February 2006. A series of inclusion and exclusion criteria yielded a sample of 48,481 participants - 26,613 active duty and 21,868 Reserve or National Guard personnel. Of the total sample, 5,510 were deployed with combat exposures, 5,661 were deployed without combat exposures, and 37,310 did not deploy.
Jacobson and colleagues report that among Reserve or National Guard personnel who deployed with combat exposure, 8.8% developed new-onset heavy weekly drinking, 25.6% developed new-onset binge drinking, and 7.1% developed new-onset alcohol-related problems. Active-duty personnel had new-onset rates of 6.0%, 26.6%, and 4.8%, respectively. Members of the Reserve or National Guard who were deployed with combat exposure were more likely to develop all three drinking outcomes compared to their nondeployed counterparts. Specifically, these personnel with combat experience were found to be 63% more likely to experience onset of heavy weekly drinking and 63% more likely to experience alcohol-related problems than nondeployed personnel.
Deployed active-duty personnel were found to be 31% more likely than their nondeployed counterparts to develop new-onset binge drinking at follow-up. Though significantly less likely to report new-onset or changes in binge drinking or alcohol-related problems, women were found to be 1.2 times more likely to report new-onset heavy weekly drinking. In addition, the researchers found that personnel born after 1980 - younger soldiers - were at 6.7 times increased odds of new-onset binge drinking and 4.7 times increased odds of new-onset alcohol-related problems.
The authors conclude: "These results are the first to prospectively quantify changes in alcohol use in relation to recent combat deployments. Interventions should focus on at-risk groups, including Reserve/Guard personnel, younger individuals, and those with previous or existing mental health disorders. Further prospective analyses using … data [from this study group] will evaluate timing, duration, and [co-existing illnesses] of alcohol misuse and other-alcohol related problems, better defining the long-term effect of military combat deployments on these important health outcomes."
Alcohol Use and Alcohol-Related Problems Before and After Military Combat Deployment
Isabel G. Jacobson, MPH; Margaret A. K. Ryan, MD, MPH; Tomoko I. Hooper, MD, MPH; Tyler C. Smith, PhD, MS; Paul J. Amoroso, MD, MPH; Edward J. Boyko, MD, MPH; Gary D. Gackstetter, DVM, PhD, MPH; Timothy S. Wells, DVM, PhD, MPH; Nicole S. Bell, ScD, MPH JAMA(2008). 300: pp. 663-675. Click Here to View Abstract
Written by: Peter M Crosta
Copyright: Medical News Today Published by permission of Medical News Today
Getting Older, Drinking Less, Study Finds August 7, 2008
Participants in this comprehensive, long-term health study generally drank less as they got older and later generations drank less than their predecessors, WebMD Health News reported Aug. 6.
Study subjects also were found to drink less beer and more wine as they got older, with that shift more pronounced for men than for women. Beer made up at least half of men's alcohol intake before they reached their mid-30s, but only about one-quarter by their mid-70s.
The study of residents of Framingham, Mass., included 50 years of data of 8,600 white adults, all of whom were born between 1900 and 1959 and were at least 28 years old when they began reporting in detail on their health and lifestyle habits.
The study found that heavier drinking gave way to moderate drinking as later generations' behaviors were analyzed. Yet it is uncertain as to whether these findings reflect national trends, since a study published earlier this year by different researchers suggested the opposite -- that alcoholism may be increasing among women born after 1953.
Researcher Yuqing Zhang, D.Sc., of the Boston University School of Medicine, said researchers did not attempt to determine why participants from each generation tended to drink less as they got older.
SAN FRANCISCO (BP)--Supporters of a proposed constitutional marriage amendment in California filed suit against the state attorney general July 29, charging that a new ballot title and summary is inflammatory and could lead voters to oppose the measure.
The title and summary -- the language voters see on the ballot when entering the voting booth -- was changed recently by California Attorney General Jerry Brown. A Democrat, Brown changed the title to read, "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry" and the first sentence of the summary to read, "Changes California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry." The new ballot summary also says the amendment's fiscal impact would result in "potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars" to state and local governments over the next few years. [Click here to read the full story]
Drinking games prove deadly to college students
Published: 7/7/08, 5:25 PM EDT
By AMY FORLITI
WINONA, Minn. (AP) - On the morning after the house party on Johnson Street, Jenna Foellmi and several other twentysomethings lay sprawled on the beds and couches. When a friend reached over to wake her, Foellmi was cold to the touch.
The friend's screams woke up the others still asleep in the house.
Foellmi, a 20-year-old biochemistry major at Winona State University, died of alcohol poisoning on Dec. 14, one day after she had finished her last exam of the semester. According to police reports, she had three beers during the day, then played beer pong - a drinking game - in the evening, and downed some vodka, too.
Foellmi's death was tragic, but typical in many ways. [Click here to read the full story]
Long-time California residents have experienced their share of earthquakes over the years, but perhaps they were rocked most on two days recently over the course of three weeks. These fault lines, however, ran not in the Earth’s crust but in the state’s highest court, and its citizens are still feeling the aftershocks.
The first quake came somewhat unexpectedly on May 15 as the state Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, granted homosexuals the legal right to “marry” in the Golden State, trampling underfoot the will of 61 percent of voters who approved a 2000 ballot measure on traditional marriage. [Click here to read the full story]
The Empty Promises of Casinos
At best, destination casinos are in places that generally remain checkered destinations for daily living. This is worth remembering as Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s claim of 30,000 new construction jobs for three resort casinos appears to be crumbling.
An independent analysis done for the Globe says that as few as 4,000 to 5,000 jobs might be created. Even the Massachusetts Building Trades Council projects just 20,000 jobs. Just as important, it is unclear what casinos change. Take Atlantic City, N.J., Las Vegas and the state of Mississippi.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Atlantic City casino industry is in the midst of spending $20 billion to rehab its fading image as a Las Vegas wannabe.
Las Vegas casinos are in the midst of spending $35 billion to brighten their already blinding image. And the first thing Mississippi did after Hurricane Katrina was to make sure the Gulf Coast casinos reopened, changing all kinds of rules, including ones that let them be built on land instead of being constrained to structures floating on water.
Atlantic City, after three decades of having casinos, was described by The Economist as a place where “multimillion-dollar casinos are steps away from crime-ridden neighborhoods. A quarter of the 40,000 residents live below the poverty line.”
The Associated Press described it a year ago as a place where “a stone’s throw from the glittering, billion-dollar casinos, thousands of people live in grinding poverty in rundown houses surrounded by drugs and prostitutes. These are the neighborhoods that the state requires casinos to help by setting aside a portion of their revenue for development projects.”
It was exposed last year that New Jersey let the casinos take a significant portion of money supposedly meant to clean up such neighborhoods and funnel it back to their own projects. The New York Times wrote, “Atlantic City continues to grapple with blocks of dilapidated buildings and seamy motels that draw drug dealers and prostitutes, all within the shadows of towering, brightly lighted casinos.”
In Mississippi, the Washington Post wrote, “Nowhere has the rebound from Hurricane Katrina been gaudier than along Mississippi’s casino- studded coast.
“Even as the storm’s debris was being cleared, (Biloxi’s) night sky was lighted up with the high-wattage brilliance of the Imperial Palace, then the Isle of Capri, then the Grand Casino .... Yet in the wrecked and darkened working-class neighborhoods just blocks from the waterfront glitter, those lights cast their colorful glare over an apocalyptic vision of empty lots and scattered trailers that is as forlorn as anywhere in Katrina’s strike zone.”
This is despite those casinos racking up in 2007 a new record for revenues, nearly $3 billion.
Last fall, 24 ministers in the region said in a letter to state officials that “our recovery effort has failed to include a place at the table . . . for our poor and vulnerable.” Not to mention that Mississippi remains in the bottom five, according to statistics of the National Education Association, in per-pupil public school spending. Nevada’s casinos racked up a record $12.8 billion in revenues in 2007. But the Toronto Star says that “Nevada also leads in other areas, such as gun deaths, suicide and now home foreclosures. It has one of the worst public school systems in the United States. Bankruptcies are high. It ranks below average for the number without health insurance.”
According to the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, Las Vegas ranks 43rd out of 50 major metropolitan areas for its high school graduation rate, second to last for its college graduation rate and dead last for its volunteer rate.
The residents of Las Vegas are so disconnected that its volunteer rate of 14.4 percent is at least doubled by 25 other cities.
The Toronto Star quoted William Epstein, a social work professor at the University of Nevada- Las Vegas, as saying, “The state is intriguing. It’s very wealthy. Yet the services are near the bottom.”
There is little to suggest from the Atlantic City, Mississippi or Las Vegas experience with destination casinos that those at the bottom will rise up.
Derrick Z. Jackson
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Copyright (c) 2008 Omaha World-Herald 04/14/2008
Australia - Problem gambling a 'root cause of homelessness' (2)
Research has pointed to a link between problem gambling and homelessness. While the Federal Government has been quick to act on its election promise to address homelessness, there are calls for the Prime Minister to extend the action to include problem gambling. Social researchers say addiction to gambling is one of the root causes of homelessness and that Kevin Rudd needs to address it.
Mr Rudd initially went about examining homelessness with little fanfare but now that he is loudly trumpeting his intention to do something about the homeless problem, there are some who believe he should just as carefully examine one of the reasons behind it. Problem gambling has long been an area of debate in Australia, but it is an area that has not been examined closely since a Productivity Commission report in 1999. But research has pointed to a link between problem gambling and homelessness - put simply, somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent of the homeless population is there because of a gambling addiction.
Gabriela Byrne once had a costly addiction to poker machines but she now runs a service helping others with the same problem. She told ABC radio's The World Today about one of her current clients. "He worked very high up in the corporate industry. He had a beautiful home, a loving family. He lost millions of money to poker machines," she said.
His wife supported him for 15 years, close to 15 years. They're now divorced. "He, for many weeks, had to sleep in a hostel and on the streets, and now lives in a very, very small commission housing flat."
Ms Byrne says her current client is but one of many problem gamblers she has seen end up on the streets. And she is among a number of social workers and researchers calling for the Federal Government to add a wide-ranging investigation into problem gambling to its inquiry into homelessness.
Financial, family strains
Charles Livingstone, from Monash University's School of Health Sciences, says there is a link between the incidence of problem gambling and the rate of homelessness in the general community. "That's not to say that everyone who has a problem with gambling is going to become homeless," he said.
"But there's no doubt that anything which causes a dissolution of family life imposes extreme financial stress on individuals and families and so on is likely to have an impact on the rate of homelessness, and there is no doubt further that gambling falls into that category."
Dr Livingstone says an examination of problem gambling should be a high priority for Mr Rudd, given that such a study has not been carried out for nearly a decade. "If we were to re-examine the costs and benefits of gambling with ... another nine years or so of experience under our belts then we would have to start looking at a broader range of social issues than were examined in that inquiry," he said.
"These would include a more detailed understanding of the relationship between problem gambling and homelessness, between problem gambling and crime, between gambling and the break-up of families and so on."
Government inquiry needed
Dr Livingstone says there is one particular area of gambling the Federal Government needs to investigate. "There is no doubt that poker machines cause the overwhelming majority of problem gambling in Australia, and there are a number of reasons for that," he said.
"One of them is that poker machines are ubiquitous in most Australian states and territories, the only exception to that being WA where they're not allowed outside the casino.
"But in every other Australian state and territory, pokies proliferate in pubs and clubs and almost on every street corner in some places.
"So, what that means is you just can't get away from them, even if you're trying very hard not to play them, they are there and they're very hard to avoid. "
AUSTRALIA (Audio) - Gambling linked to homelessness - 29/01/2008
The Australian government has been quick act on some of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's key social concerns and now, there are calls for him to extend the action to include problem gambling. Now, the government is being told that there is a strong link between problem gambling and homelessness.
Presenter - Daniel Hoare Speaker - Gabreilla Byrne, gambling counsellor; Charles Livingstone from Monash University's school of health sciences.
ONDCP Launches Initiative to Combat Teen Prescription Drug Abuse January 24, 2008
White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)
National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign
P.O. Box 6000, Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Tel: (800) 666–3332 ONDCP contact form www.theantidrug.com
Washington, D.C. - The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is launching its first major Federal effort to educate parents about teen prescription drug abuse. This national public awareness campaign will begin with advertising during this year's Super Bowl, and is ONDCP's first paid TV advertising targeting parents in nearly two years. [Click here to read the full story]
Health Effects of Alcohol Consumption
Increases risk of gouty arthritis
Increases the risk of cancer in the liver, pancreas, rectum, breast, mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Causes physical and behavioral abnormalities in the fetus
Raises blood pressure, blood lipids and the risk of stroke and heart disease in heavy drinkers. Heart disease is generally lower in light to moderate drinkers.
Raises blood glucose
Lowers blood glucose, especially for people with diabetes
Enlarges the kidneys, alters hormone functions, and increases the risk of kidney failure
Causes fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis
Increases the risk of protein-energy malnutrition,; low intakes of protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6 and riboflavin, and impaired absorption of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and zinc.
Causes neuropathy and dementia; impairs balance and memory
Increases energy intake, but not a primary cause of obesity
USA Today's view: "Idea gains traction on campus, but evidence shows 21 law saves lives."
Article from USA Today, Page 12A
November 26, 2007
On most college campuses, only seniors and some juniors are old enough to consume alcohol legally. But you'd never notice that distinction on a Saturday night. Or, for that matter, Thursday night or Friday night.
Despite the minimum drinking age of 21, students of all ages imbibe, many to excess. The American Medical Association links drinking to 1,400 deaths, 500,000 injuries and 70,000 sexual assault cases on campuses every year.
This all suggests that the age 21 law has been about as successful at preventing underage drinking as Prohibition was at banning alcohol from society as a whole. So does that mean it's time to revert to 18? Supporters of the idea, which is gaining traction, make a number of logical arguments. But what sounds logical isn't necessarily prudent public policy.
The drinking age is a hot topic on campuses and beyond. In the past five years, four states have considered lowering the age, set at 21 in 1984 by Congress. Former college president John McCardell created an advocacy group, Choose Responsibility, that is pushing for age 18, coupled with an education and licensing program. Not surprisingly, more than 30,000 students have signed a pro-18 online petition.
The pro-18 argument goes like this: If 18-year-olds are allowed to vote and serve in the military, they ought to be able to drink. The age 21 minimum simply undermines respect for the law and prevents young people from learning to drink responsibly at home before they get to college. Once they arrive, the 21 law prevents them from imbibing sociably in restaurants or bars. Instead, students huddle in dorm rooms or fraternity and sorority houses, where they tend to binge on "forbidden fruit" and harm themselves or others.
These arguments are not without merit. The pro-18 case, however, runs aground over the inconvenient truth about highway deaths. In the early 1970s, many states lowered the drinking age to 18 to accommodate Vietnam War veterans, but when alcohol-related highway deaths rose, states went back to 21.
About 50 major studies point to the same conclusion: On average, traffic deaths drop by 16% when the drinking age goes from 18 to 21. Since 1984, about 25,000 lives have been saved, federal highway authorities estimate. While it's true that other safety measures, such as seat belts, save even more lives, that's not a reason for giving up the gains attributable to the drinking age.
Lowering the legal drinking age would undoubtedly make even more alcohol, purchased legally by 18-year-olds, available to younger teens, some of whom are just learning to drive. Inexperienced drivers and alcohol are a particularly dangerous mix.
Choose Responsibility's argument that 18-year-olds could be issued "drinking licenses" after completing alcohol education courses is also unconvincing. Would fake drinking licenses be any less rampant than fake IDs are now?
Rather than try to poke holes in leak-proof research, groups such as Choose Responsibility would be better off advising colleges how to deal effectively with a difficult issue, without either turning a blind eye or transforming campuses into police states.
Americans are entering a holiday season, Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve, during which 1,773 people — 247 of them under 21 — were killed in alcohol-related crashes a year ago. To be sure, the problem is far more complex than an arbitrary age limit, be it 18 or 21. But based on the best available evidence, lowering the drinking age would only increase the carnage.
Landmark study: Change for homosexuals is possible
September 14, 2007
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--In what some are calling groundbreaking research, a new four-year study concludes it is possible for homosexuals to change their physical attractions and become heterosexual through the help of Christian ministries. The data was released Sept. 13 at a news conference in Nashville, Tenn., and is published in the new book, "Ex-Gays?" (InterVarsity Press) by psychologists Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse. Thirty-eight percent of the subjects followed in the study said they had successfully left homosexuality, while an additional 29 percent said they had had only modest successes but were committed to keep trying. In another significant finding, Jones and Yarhouse said attempts at conversion do not appear to be psychologically harmful. [Read more]
Get the Truth About the 21 Law
The following is an introduction found on a website sponsored by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).
While ALCAP does not agree with or support all of the positions held by MADD, the resources on this website are beneficial
in light of the debate now taking place in America that seeks to lower the legal drinking age from 21 years of age.
As the nation’s current debate on the 21 Minimum Drinking Age Law rages on, it’s easy to mistake opinions as facts. Here is where you can get the straight truth on why the law is important to you—regardless of your age—and how it saves lives.
You will also find information on how alcohol affects the teen brain, the realities of underage drinking, facts to common myths and a history of the drinking age law. There is also a wealth of information, resources and tips for parents, educators and communities on preventing underage drinking.
Arm yourself with the truth and then decide. [Click here to find all of the resources associated with this statement.]
Walking on the “Mild” Side: The burgeoning modesty movement
From the Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention Website
Overexposed is a word that comes to mind when considering young celebrities like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Nicole Richie. We see too much coverage of them in the news and not enough coverage on their bodies. But it’s not just Hollywood. Young women in general are looking a bit trashy these days... [Read more]
Lifestyle choices or modifiable, behaviors are major causes of mortality in the United States. A lifestyle choice or modifiable behavior is something that a person has some control over whether or not he or she will do that behavior. In 2000 well over a third of all deaths in the United States could be attributed to a limited number of largely preventable behaviors and exposures including smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity and alcohol consumption. Changing these modifiable behaviors can increase a person's life expectancy or longevity and prevent early deaths. [Read more]
CASA’s 2007 Teen Survey Reveals America’s Schools Infested with Drugs; Popular Kids at Drug-Infested Schools Much Likelier to Get Drunk and Use Drugs
Washington, D.C., August 16, 2007 - Eleven million high school students (80 percent) and five million middle school students (44 percent) attend drug-infested schools, meaning that they have personally witnessed illegal drug use, illegal drug dealing, illegal drug possession, students drunk and/or students high on the grounds of their school according to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XII: Teens and Parents, the twelfth annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.
For the first time, this year CASA sought to survey in depth the drug situation in America’s schools. The survey revealed that at least once a week on their school grounds, 31 percent of high school students (more than four million) and nine percent of middle school students (more than one million) see illegal drugs used, sold, students high and/or drunk. At least weekly, 17 percent of all high and middle school students (4.4 million) personally see classmates high on drugs at school.
Read the Statement by CASA Chairman Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
New survey shows most parents support sexual-abstinence programs
Washington, DC — The National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) today released a new survey from Zogby International showing that when parents become aware of what abstinence education vs. comprehensive sex education actually teaches, support for abstinence programs jumps from 40% to 60%, while support for comprehensive programs drops from 50% to 30%. This sharp increase in support of abstinence education is seen across all political and economic groups. As federal and state lawmakers debate funding for sex education in public schools, this new survey offers a compelling look into what parents want for their children.
In casinos from coast to coast, in slot parlors from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Shore, at racetracks and in lotteries across the country, Americans will legally gamble away—that is, lose—nearly $90 billion this year.
How times change. A hundred years ago, gambling was a national vice almost universally outlawed. A mere 30 years ago, Americans could only gamble legally in Nevada and Atlantic City. Yet, since the early 1990s, state-sanctioned gambling has exploded. To read the full story, click here!
The Marlboro Journal of Medicine Cartoon Series
Alan Blum, MD, Professor, Gerald Leon Wallace Endowed Chair in Family Medicine and Director of The University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society recently teamed up with Matt Bors to develop a series of satirical cartoons that poke fun at the tobacco industry and the Food & Drug Administration for their hypocrisy concerning tobacco products. The first of these cartoons, originally published in The Birmingham News in June 2007, is published below with permission from Dr. Alan Blum. It is followed by an explanation of the events and actions addressed in the cartoon.
Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif) have introduced a bill (S.625 in the Senate and H.R. 1108 in the House of Representatives) that would provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with regulatory control over tobacco products but would not permit the FDA to ban the sale or promotion of cigarettes. The bill is likley to come up for a vote in July by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Dr. Alan Blum, Director the The University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society and a staunch critic of placing America's most lethal consumer product under the control of the same agency entrusted to ensure the safety of our medications and food, was invited to testify in opposition to the bill at the Committee's hearing earlier this year. Dr. Blum collaborated with cartoonist Matt Bors of Portland, Oregon, to shed light on the glaring inconsistencies of the bill and the strange bedfellows who are supporting it.