Testing It Up » December 2009

Monthly Archives: December 2009

Substance Abuse

Britain Condemns China Execution of Mentally Ill British Citizen

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British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has expressed strong reactions over the execution of a British national in China on charges of drug smuggling yesterday morning.

‘I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms and am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted,’ the Prime Minister said.

Akmal ShaikhThe days and weeks leading up to the December 29 execution were spent pleading with Chinese authorities to spare 53-year-old British citizen Akmal Shaikh, who was charged with smuggling drugs into China. He was caught coming into China in September 2007 with 9 pounds of heroin, and was executed on December 29 in Urumqi in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. He is the first European to be executed in half a century.

The British government has tried to intervene in the case as Shaikh’s family repeatedly claimed that he suffered from bipolar disorder. This claim was corroborated by independent assessments from social workers in Poland. Shaikh had been living in Poland before flying to China.

According to an interview by BBC with Shaikh’s daughter Leilla Hornsell, her father had been convinced by drug smugglers in Poland that they would turn him into a pop star in China while singing about world peace. He was then given a suitcase to carry to China and allegedly had no knowledge that he was carrying drugs into the country.

Amnesty International was quoted with the following statement: “Under international human rights law, as well as Chinese law, a defendant’s mental health can and should be taken into account.” China, however, insists that Shaikh had been given a fair trial and that drug smuggling was a grave crime that will not be dealt with lightly.

The British Foreign Office reportedly summoned Chinese ambassador Fu Ying for a meeting with Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis “to hear of the government’s regret that Akmal Shaikh’s mental health had been ignored by the Chinese judiciary despite repeated interventions by those with an interest in his case”.

Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Julie Ann Kroll’s Battle with Alcoholism

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The body of a woman from Woodbridge, Virginia who has been missing since December 16 has been found. Police and firefighters recovered the remains of 39-year-old Julie Ann Kroll from a 100-ft ravine behind a row of townhouses near the intersection of Forestdale and Beaumont roads in Dale City, according to a report.

KrollThe circumstances surrounding her disappearance were sad and disheartening, to say the least. Apparently, Kroll was intoxicated on the afternoon of December 16 and drove her SUV with her 8-year-old daughter. Investigators believe that she received a call on a mobile phone to stop her SUV and let the child out of the vehicle.

Kroll eventually did stop the SUV as a neighbor shared how he witnessed a little girl get out of the vehicle and go to a neighbor’s house for help; this was around 5:45 pm on December 16. Kroll herself reportedly got out of the SUV, but even as she did so she left the vehicle in drive. The car then drove off by itself and came to rest in a bush. Kroll was then seen walking down the street and did not return to take her daughter. It was the little girl’s father who picked her up in the evening.

Warrants of arrest for Kroll on charges of felony child neglect, driving on a revoked operator’s license and driving with an open alcoholic container were issued by the police.

Neighbors pitched in and organized search parties to find Kroll since her disappearance, to no avail.

According to Jim Patricio, Kroll’s father, Julie Ann had been struggling with alcoholism for many years. Court records show that she had had a few alcohol-related incidents, ranging from charges of drunken driving, refusal to undergo breath analyzer testing from a police officer and driving with a revoked license.

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Marijuana Legalization in Washington and Other States

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Washington is said to be one of four states where there are measures that have been introduced towards the legalization and regulation of marijuana. There are also around two dozen other states that are looking into marijuana-related legislation, from medical marijuana to not considering the possession of small amounts of marijuana as a crime.

marijuanaAccording to Ethan Nadelmann, the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance based in New York, this year is considered as “the most active” in as far as state legislatures regarding marijuana is concerned. The Drug Policy Alliance supports the reformation of marijuana laws.

Bills towards the legalization of marijuana were introduced early in 2009 in the states of California and Massachusetts. This month, bills were pre-filed in advance of legislative sessions to be held in January in the states of Washington and New Hampshire.

The marijuana legalization bill in Washington State is sponsored by Seattle Democrat Mary Lou Dickerson. Based on the details provided regarding the provisions of the bill, it will seem like marijuana will be treated in the same way as liquor currently is: marijuana may be sold in state-run liquor stores and consumers who will purchase it will pay a tax of 15% per gram, and have to be aged 21 years or older. The money that will be raised from the regulated selling of marijuana will be channeled into programs for substance abuse prevention and treatment. According to Rep. Dickerson, the bill can bring in as much as $300 million a year, roughly the same amount that is brought in by alcohol.

The Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Allen St Pierre, mentioned that tough economic times have driven lawmakers to take a closer look at the potential tax value that legalizing marijuana may bring.

Seattle Drug Screening

Substance Abuse

Parents Arrested: Too High on Marijuana to Care for Their Kids!

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A couple in Reno, Nevada, was arrested on Sunday for being too high on marijuana to be able to care for their two children, according to a news report.

The Reno police identified the couple as 26-year-old Tristan Oliver McConley and 27-year-old Delilah Pearce. According to the police, they were investigating a case involving destruction of property in an apartment complex on Sunday evening. Their investigation led them to the apartment of the couple, and when officers opened their apartment door, there was an unmistakable odor of marijuana. The couple had two children with them in the apartment, aged 3 and 5.

smoking marijuanaMcConley and Pearce were booked in the Washoe County Jail for child endangerment and being under the influence of a controlled substance. They were released after posting bail of $4,500 each. They had not yet been assigned an attorney and could not be reached for comment as of Monday.

As for their children, the police report indicated that the couple was “unable to properly care for their children due to their alleged drug intoxication”. The children, who were said to be in good health, are in the custody of social workers.

Health & Wellness

New Cable Show About Marijuana Law!

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A cable show that is set to air next month will focus on medical marijuana and the law that governs it. Maine is one of the states that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes and the establishment of marijuana dispensaries.

marijuanaTwo lawyers, Roger Katz and Walter McKee, are the hosts of “It’s the Law” which will be aired on Time Warner Cable channel 9. The episodes in January will be looking into the legal issues that surround medical marijuana, as well as the law that was recently passed in Maine that allowed marijuana dispensaries.

“It’s the Law” will first air on January 12 and on January 14, and will run on various days the rest of the month.

Celebrity Substance Abuse Substance Abuse

AP Sports Story of 2009: Baseball and Steroids

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As the year draws to a close, news agencies and organizations all over the world are choosing the stories that made 2009 memorable – or infamous. For the Associated Press, the story that will be remembered as having rocked the boat in 2009 is that of the steroid controversy that dogged Major League Baseball.

steroids in baseballThere were rather significant names that joined the roster of users of performance-enhancing drugs, something that has placed a cloud over the world of baseball. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are joined by Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and David “Big Papi” Ortiz figured in big stories this year.

The controversy of Tiger Woods and his indiscretions landed fifth on the AP list.

Alcohol Testing Workplace Testing

Alcohol Testing Mandatory for Pilots on Flights to and from India

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At the end of March this year, we ran a post regarding two Indian pilots who failed random breath analyzer tests prior to flying on scheduled commercial flights. Early this month, a story revealed that a total of 24 pilots failed in pre-flight medical examinations as of end of November, proof that pilots are still taking a drink or two and ending up positive for alcohol prior to a scheduled flight.

Air IndiaWith the Yuletide season and the expected increase in number of international travelers, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has put its foot down and implemented a no-exception 100% alcohol testing for all pilots who will be flying internationally from India. Alcohol tests are thus mandatory for all pilots of Air India, Jet and Kingfisher.

The same directive holds true for all flights that are coming home to India from a foreign airport; the cockpit crew will be required to pass breath analyzer tests prior to a flight. If an Indian airliner medico is not stationed at a foreign airport, then an international flight is required to have a doctor on board to perform the testing prior to the flight home, following Indian aviation safety laws and not the foreign country’s local rules.

Such a zero-tolerance policy is important. History has proven, after all, how vulnerable the aviation industry is to irresponsible internal acts of the people who are involved in it as well as to external attacks from those with the intention of spreading terror, as evidenced by the repeated use of commercial airliners in attempted and completed acts of terrorism. And the sad thing about it is that innocent civilian lives are caught in the middle of it all.

At present, Indian safety laws only call for random pre-flight breath tests, but that may become more stringent in 2010.

Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Car Wreck Killed 3, Driver Arrested on Marijuana Possession

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The driver involved in a fatal car wreck that left a couple and their son – 42-year old Michael Mulanax, 41 year-old Angela Mulanax and 18 year-old James Mulanax – dead was arrested on charges of possession of marijuana and driving using a cancelled license, according to a report.

car wreckThe suspect is 20 year-old Steven Wade Jameson. According to the police, Jameson said that the cause of the accident was his turning to look at his dog who was at the back seat of his Hummer. When he turned around, he had already crossed onto oncoming traffic and eventually figured in a head-on collision with a Chevy Cobalt.

After the accident, Jameson was taken to St. John Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was treated for leg injuries. He was arrested after he was released.

The authorities revealed that they had found a bag of marijuana in the 20 year-old’s vehicle. It also turns out that he was carrying a license that has already been cancelled for “drugs/alcohol under the age of 18”. The fatal car wreck between Jameson and the Mulanax family happened on Christmas Eve.

Early Disease Detection

Brittany Murphy Had Diabetes

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Her petite frame may not have made it obvious, but news reports now say that actress Brittany Murphy, who suffered a full cardiac arrest and passed away last Sunday morning, had diabetes. This was apparently revealed by her mother to paramedics.

brittany murphyWhile it may be true that death is perhaps the last thing that one would expect from someone as young and as full of potential as Murphy was, it is rather unfair to immediately think of such accusations as eating disorders or substance abuse, especially when the one being accused has just passed away. Although the actual cause of Brittany Murphy’s death will not be known until toxicology reports are completed (this could allegedly take about six weeks). we are one with those who believe that no one is in a position to draw conclusions based on speculations.

We, however, found a feature that talked about what gossip mongers will not find too interesting to talk about – the fact that diabetes can take a toll on one’s heart and can be fatal to someone as young as, or even younger than, Brittany Murphy. On a more personal note, this writer had a friend as a teenager who suffered from diabetes and succumbed to a full cardiac arrest one tragic morning – at the age of 16.

Having diabetes is generally considered as a risk factor for heart attack and stroke; statistics suggest that a diabetic is at least twice as likely to suffer from either condition as someone who does not suffer from diabetes. This is due to the fact that having high glucose levels – a characteristic of diabetes – leads to an increase in fatty deposits on the inside walls of blood vessels. These deposits, over time, can cause clogging of the arteries. A heart attack for someone who is diabetic is considered as a serious matter, and they are reportedly more likely to succumb to it.

Substance Abuse

Cocaine Smuggling Linked to Terrorists

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One of the groups that may be profiting from the cocaine trade may turn out to be one of the groups that aim to spark terror in the world.

Three men believed to have ties with Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden were charged before federal court in New York. The men were accused of attempting to smuggle cocaine, and were arrested during a sting operation staged by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Ghana.

cocaineThere is allegedly an 18-page complaint that discusses a web of mafia and terrorist activity in Northwestern Africa and is now causing increasing alarm among European, African and U.S. investigators.

West Africa reportedly saw a rise in cocaine traffic over the last few years. The area is now believed to have been turned into a hub by the Latin American Mafia where cocaine passes through as it journeys through the Atlantic into the profitable European drug market.

An Al Qaeda cell in the Maghreb region is reportedly engaged in the smuggling of cocaine through routes that cross the Sahara. Part of their income allegedly comes from providing protection and participating in the moving of illegal substances through “smuggling corridors” that pass through Morocco into Spain and by way of Libya and Algeria into Italy.

Having such ties may have one consequence that has authorities worried; profits gained from such trade may be used to finance terrorist attacks in the West. As an example, the train bombings in Madrid in 2004 were said to have been financed by North Africans with Al Qaeda connections who earned the money dealing hashish and Ecstasy.

Authorities were quick to clarify, however, that the three suspects were not members of Al Qaeda themselves, but are believed to have connections with the group.

New York Drug Screening