Vice Squad
Friday, December 31, 2004
New Year's Eve and Alcohol

New Year's Eve never fails to bring out our ambiguous relationship with alcohol. Imbibing is part of the stereotypical New Year's Eve celebration. Even excessive drinking receives a bit more of a pass on New Year's: newspapers tend to run stories about purported hangover preventions or cures at this time of year (examples here and here.) But the ambiguity is evidenced by the other sorts of alcohol stories in the news, particularly those involving drunk driving; here's an excerpt from one such story, from the LA Times: "New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are the most dangerous days of the year when it comes to alcohol-related collisions, according to a recent study by the Automobile Club of Southern California. Drivers and passengers on those days are 148% more likely to be killed or injured in a drunk driving crash than on other days."

Recently, some communities have been promoting alcohol-free celebrations, thanks largely to the efforts of First Night International. From their website: "First Night seeks to foster the public's appreciation of visual and performing arts through an innovative, diverse and high quality New Year's Eve program which provides a shared cultural experience, accessible and affordable to all." Here's the list of more than 130 municipalities that will host First Night celebrations today.

In general, I think that vice regulations should make it not too costly for someone to live in a "standard" way without being subjected at every turn to vices that he or she might prefer to avoid. In much of the US, it is hard for teetotalers or recovering alcoholics to shield themselves from alcohol in their day-to-day activities, and I can't go to my local deli without facing the importuning of the state of Illinois to sell me lottery tickets. At any rate, events like First Night celebrations are, I think, useful developments, by providing a "regular," but alcohol-free, New Year's celebration.

However you choose to celebrate, have a happy and safe New Year, and may 2005 smile upon you.

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Another Smut Purveyor Coddled

This time, it is the Rehoboth Beach Film Society in Delaware that will face no sanction for its filth peddling. An upright citizen brought the Society's showing of films with explicit sex to the attention of state authorities. A thorough investigation by the state police's vice unit, however, failed to result in any charges -- this despite the fact that the citizen noted reviews of one of the movies, Cacharro (Bear Cub), which indicated that gay sex was depicted. Sure, the film has won various international film awards, but that does not mean that we should allow adults in Delaware to see it. But really, it's not so much about the adults, it's the children we are concerned about, don't you know. Sure, children were not admitted to the dirty movies -- but one or two could have snuck in! Better safe than sorry -- but not according to the wild libertine Attorney General of Delaware, who is willing to allow trashy films to be hawked to adults, ignoring the risk that some innocent might evade the age controls and suffer irreparable damage.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Youth Will Not Be Served

The state of Illinois is making it harder for people under the age of 21 to pass for legal alcohol purchasers. Driver's licenses for those under 21 will be arranged "vertically," instead of the standard "horizontal" design. So changing that birth year won't be enough to get you past the scrutiny of alcohol sellers.

The rule of verticality has already been adopted by some other states. Authorities expect that this device will eliminate underage drinking in Illinois. (OK, maybe not. Vice Squad supports enforcing underage alcohol restrictions, at least if the punishments were not overly severe -- and if the drinking age were itself rational. I lean towards an age of 19 for beer and wine, and 21 for harder stuff, but a voluntary licensing system for those 19 or above might be helpful, too. People of sufficient age could choose whether to be licensed to purchase alcohol or not; then, employers and insurance companies could discriminate on the basis of possession of a drinker's license, if they so chose.)

Apologies for neglecting Vice Squad recently. I have now returned to Chicago, though if things go according to plan, I will be out of town quite a bit over the next month. I continue to cling to the myth that come February, sanity will be restored.

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Illicit Alcohol Deaths

India's recent troubles have been augmented in the past few days, alas, by poisonous bootleg alcohol. In the Bombay region, 65 people have died and many others have been sickened after consuming illicit liquor that contained a high concentration of methyl alcohol. (The potable version is ethyl alcohol, or ethanol.) The victims are poor people who apparently frequented low-priced, underground liquor sellers.

Tainted drugs are usually associated with prohibitions, but high taxes or any controls that engender a large gap in price or availability between above and below-ground varieties also can lead to risky (and even deadly) adulterations. In the Bombay case, the underground market appears to have been well-established and tolerated. Authorities have now transferred some police and tax officials for looking the other way.

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Thursday, December 23, 2004
Extreme Vice Enforcement Cruelty

What could be more inhumane than imposing the death penalty for victimless vice crimes? But inhumanity never lacks for a strong constituency. In Iran, plans are in place to hang a 21-year old alleged prostitute, following last year's judicial murder of a 16-year old for having an "illegal sexual relationship." Amnesty International claims that this year's scheduled victim has the mental capacity of an 8-year old, but that has been denied by Iran. Why bother with the denial? They are planning to "execute" someone whose sexual behavior they don't condone, and they quibble over her mental age? Whose mental age is most questionable in this vile, unspeakable practice?

"Would the duke that is absent have done this?
Ere he would have hanged a man for the getting a
hundred bastards, he would have paid for the nursing
a thousand..." Maybe the mullahs should take Shakespeare's hint, and worry more about helping women engaged in prostitution than about trying to extirp them.

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Monday, December 20, 2004
Lager Louts

Still time to mine The Guardian for another vice tale or two. Today's edition tells the uninspiring tale of a paramedic who heads out at night in Cardiff to treat those injured one way or another (often via fights) in incidents that can fairly unambiguously be termed 'alcohol-related'. A sample:
Throughout the night the rapid response van races up and down the street and its offshoots, where every second building is a late night bar, dealing with everything from intoxicated, weeping girls who have fallen off their high-heeled shoes to testosterone-fuelled men with bloody faces, suspected heart attacks and broken legs, and female victims of assault, like Sophie.

Her Christmas celebrations came to an end when a man in The Yard bar punched her in the face, splitting her cheek and plumping her eye out in a black, blue and red mess.
At the end of the article (that's for the on-line version -- for the non-virtual version, it's off to the side) is a listing of British alcohol statistics. The one that I found most surprising is that 90 percent of British adults drink alcohol. In the US, the comparable number is more like 2/3; the US has a large cohort of adult teetotalers.

Speaking of The Guardian, in an unrelated story, their cracking columnist Simon Hoggart has turned up in the David Blunkett affair -- actually, he is more-or-less literally involved in the affair.

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Monks Gone Bad

I am sitting in an Internet Cafe in London and the person next to me has a pack of cigarettes (Dunhill's) with a large warning message: 'Smoking Kills.' Thailand, on the other hand, is getting more creative than Britain with its warning messages. The warning message soon to be placed on Thai cigarette packs: 'Donating cigarettes to monks is a sin.' Where's the economist to warn of fungibility? Won't would-be cigarette-donors switch to monetary donations, so the monks can buy their own smokes?

Apologies for being the disappearing blogger. I was temporarily indisposed -- though for a good cause.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004
'Abuse of Process'

That's what a British crown court recorder said would occur if the charges against two Gloucester magic mushroom purveyors were allowed to go to trial. So there will be no trial. Given the ambiguity in the rules (as noted yesterday) a trial, the court recorder found, according to the linked Guardian article, "would be a breach of the men's rights." There's a slippery slope for you -- once you start respecting rights in adult vice policy, all sorts of changes would be required.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Quasi-Legal (or Quasi-Illegal) British Mushrooms

Vice Squad has noted before (here and here) the odd legal position of 'magic' mushrooms in Great Britain. They are legal to possess, to grow, and (less certainly) to sell as long as they are not 'prepared'. Why? The reasoning is that they are 'natural', so possession or consumption alone can't be illegal. But any 'preparation' might convert a mushroom seller into a supplier of a class A drug, for which life imprisonment is a possibility. (Perhaps this is why the mushrooms are magic -- they lead the law to hallucinate.) So now there are lives at stake with respect to precisely what it means to 'prepare' the mushrooms. If any packaging or weighing or cultivation is deemed to be preparation, then the mushrooms will effectively be illegal.

There are apparently some 400 shops selling magic mushrooms openly in Britain -- but now some sellers are being arrested. Today's Guardian has the story. Has the law changed? Not the written law, but police behavior, in some parts of Britain, seems to be hardening. The whole situation is in a muddle. Customs and Excise declared that mushroom sales were subject to the value-added tax, but had to back away from that determination when the police were trying to make some of these sales illegal. (Vice Squad has mentioned before the possibility that taxing an illegal good can pave the way to its legalization.) One Labour MP, quoted in the Guardian article, sums up the situation this way:
"It's crazy: if you pick them, that's legal; if you keep them overnight, that's illegal because they dry out. The effect of magic mushrooms is minor compared with other drugs. There is a market for them and it would be better to allow it to operate. There are plenty of medicinal drugs that cause far more damage than magic mushrooms. But there are no signs of any intelligence in drug policy from the government. When they say the word 'drugs', you can be sure that the word 'tough' won't be far behind."

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Monday, December 13, 2004
London Lottery, Linkless

This post comes to you from an internet cafe in London, from where I don't think that I will be able to add any links. Sorry. While on the subject of the location of Vice Squad, I should mention that I am slated to be away from Chicago for the next two weeks (London, Moscow, Baltimore). This will make for sporadic blogging, I am afraid, but that is in keeping with the uneven pace of the past couple of months. I maintain this odd confidence that come February, I will be able to be a more attentive vice blogger. Hope over experience, as it were, to draw upon London history.

Not only can I not link, I managed not to bring yesterday's Observer with me, complete with its two articles touching upon the National Lottery. The first article concerned an examination by statisticians of past winning lottery numbers. The British National Lottery uses one of those 'numbered ping pong ball' selection methods. Anyway, the results seem to be fairly consistent with the hypothesis that the draws are 'truly random,' though there are some anomalies. Then again, some anomalies should be expected, even if the draws met the (impossible in practice) 'truly random' ideal! But one of the anomalies is pretty severe, suggesting that the ping pong method might have a detectable (and potentially exploitable) bias. What is the mysterious bias? The number 38 has been drawn waaaaaay too much. Wow.

The second lottery story in the Observer, and furthered in today's Guardian, is that there seem to have been some irregularities in distributing the revenues raised by the National Lottery. Specifically, some charities look as if they received their lottery grants through a less-than-arm's-length process. Details are sketchy -- even if I had managed to bring the article with me.

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Saturday, December 11, 2004
Lazy Link-Based Post

(1) Hallucinogen hoasca legal (for now) in US when taken for approved religious ceremonial use. From Mark Kleiman.

(2) The New York Times looks into "dirty driving," where DVD-equipped motor vehicles play porn movies that are clearly visible to pedestrians or those in other cars. Will Baude at Crescat Sententia provides the pointer and the legal analysis. Concerned Women for America have a legal analysis, too -- in which the fact that possession of (adult) porn cannot constitutionally be criminalized in the US is lamented.

(3) While at Crescat, keep up with Will (here and here) on Chicago liquor regulators and a major Chicago wine store.

(4) More bad news for moi: even one cup of coffee per day can harm you. From a blog by Edward Staines entitled "One More Cup of Coffee"

(5) Vice Squad hasn't had too much to say about the recent vice Supreme Court cases, medical marijuana and interstate wine. I think that the "liberalizers" are going to have a hard time in both cases, but especially in the cannabis case. But if my pessimism proves to be warranted, I hope that the losing sides nevertheless use the resulting publicity to make the case that the laws in question -- the federal demonizing of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, and the protectionist wine shipment bans -- should themselves be repealed. (Of course they make these cases all the time, but I hope they will "redouble their efforts.") Bad laws that are Constitutional are still bad laws.

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Friday, December 10, 2004
Alcohol Pipeline into the European Union

The title of this post, surprisingly enough, is literal. Authorities have unearthed a pipeline that apparently has been used to ship some sort of unspeakable alcoholic concoction from Belarus into neighbor and EU member Lithuania. Actually, it is the fourth Belarus-Lithuania alcohol smuggling pipeline to be uncovered, but the others were shorter than the 3 kilometer length of the newest find. Alcohol prices have risen in Lithuania since its recent accession to the EU, increasing the incentive for the smuggling.

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"Pitch, as ancient writers do report, doth defile..."

Some good folks donate toys to poor kids during the holiday season. Public housing residents in North Carolina have benefited from such generosity in the past. But not all toys are welcome at the Statesville Housing Authority in Iredell County, NC. Last year's donated toys from a local adult nightclub caused controversy, so this year, the Housing Authority will not accept the tainted largesse.

Thanks to Sister Geoff at The Superlative Suppository for the pointer; part of the good sister's take: "Strip clubs contribute nothing to the community, and we intend to keep it that way!"

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Prostitution News, US-style

My old haunting ground of Durham, NC, has joined the parade of communities that post the pictures of people arrested -- not convicted -- of prostitution-related offenses. Durham goes the extra mile, by not noting that these people are, like all of us, considered innocent until convicted in a court of law, nor does it omit web-publishing the arrestees addresses along with their names and photos. (The most recent Vice Squad notice of a similar website was for Frederick, Maryland.)

In other news, a major league baseball pitcher lost his job -- and, possibly, more than a million dollars -- for his recent prostitution-related arrest. How is it again that many other countries are able to get by without criminalizing either side of a commercial sex transaction between adults?

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Drug War Lunacy Declines in New York

New York State is reducing the severity of the punishments it attaches to some drug "crimes" -- better 30 years late than never. It's a start, I suppose, but only a start: "Two longtime goals of drug law reformers — giving near-total sentencing discretion to judges and allowing some offenders to avoid prison entirely in favor of treatment — are not included in the agreement."

The linked article quotes Governor George Pataki: "'Now we put in a new law that will rationalize that sentencing (structure) and make the punishment fit the crime,' he said." But with "victimless" drug crimes, the punishment can never be calibrated to the crime, if there is any appreciable punishment at all, because the proscribed activity itself does not create any non-consensual harm, or even create a significant probability of creating such harm. So adult vices are sometimes punished harshly, and at other times are ignored or legal or even celebrated. The calibration of the punishment is made to swings in the popular mood, not to the harmfulness of the outlawed behavior -- a theme that Vice Squad has sounded before.

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Macao Gambling Monopoly Threatened?

Just last week Vice Squad mentioned that Macao was the only part of China that permitted casinos. Now The Standard ("China's Business Newspaper") suggests that Chinese authorities might be thinking about expanding legal casinos to other parts of the country. The evidence for that view, however, is not exactly overwhelming. It seems to be primarily based on the notions that the government could use the money, illegal gambling happens anyway, and Peking University is co-hosting a conference about gambling.

Thanks to Harry Hutton, impresario of Chase Me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry, for the pointer. Harry sort of lives in Hong Kong, when he isn't visiting Mars or Alpha Centauri or some such. Harry's take on Macao? "It's like Las Vegas but without all the good taste and understatement."

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Monday, December 06, 2004
Prostitution, Britain, and New Zealand

Prostitution per se is legal in Britain, though related activities like streetwalking and solicitation are not legal. Britain is in the midst of looking anew at its prostitution policies, with an eye towards creating managed zones where streetwalking would be tolerated and services provided to prostitutes, and possibly even to licensing brothels. A gathering of sex workers took place in London last weekend, for the purpose of discussing desirable reforms. Some sex worker groups, such as the English Collective of Prostitutes, believe that the proposed liberalisations do not go far enough -- they support complete decriminalisation instead.

New Zealand recently decriminalised prostitution. Catherine Healey, of the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective (NZPC), attended the London meeting:

Ms Healey, a former primary school teacher, says she and her NZPC colleagues started the campaign for decriminalisation out of a sense of injustice.

"I was charged with soliciting but contested it because a conviction sticks with you and inhibits your movement in and out of the sex industry. It certainly shut the door on teaching for me, not that I minded."

Now they are no longer members of an illegal industry, sex workers have a lot more personal security and bargaining power, Ms Healey says.

"Since the change in the law, people feel they can approach the police and report violence. And it has changed the dynamics between sex workers and clients."

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Adult Superstores and Their Discontents

Back in April Vice Squad noted the grand jury proceedings in Dickinson County, Kansas, aimed at a Lion's Den Adult Superstore. A criminal indictment for violating obscenity laws ensued, and the Lion's Den counter-(en)sued Dickinson County in federal court. Today's Chicago Tribune includes a lengthy article out of Abilene, Kansas, about the whole rural adult superstore phenomenon. Why are such stores popping up in rural areas? Uh, because they are rural; this means limited competition, among other factors:
Rural locations also appeal to store owners because land and buildings tend to be cheap. There are few neighbors to complain about late-night hours. Potential customers stream by on the interstate, including long-haul truck drivers who are likely to stop anywhere that's open at 3 a.m. just to keep themselves awake.

And, perhaps most important, out-of-the-way counties like this one have few -- if any -- laws to restrict sexually oriented businesses.
In April we noted that protestors had been reporting the license plate numbers of Lion's Den customers, but we couldn't imagine to whom they might be reporting these license numbers. Today's Trib article unlocks the mystery: "They took down the license numbers of truck drivers who went into the store and reported them to their companies."

I can understand how rural residents would be concerned about the sudden intrusion (the Abilene Lion's Den opened "without warning"!) of pornography into their lives. Wait, hold it, you mean they have had porn available for a long time now?:
Along with the standard Hollywood blockbusters, the local Video Junction used to stock a small -- but popular -- selection of pornographic titles. "We had them here 18 years and never heard a word about it," said owner Gary Sweatland, who stopped carrying them after protesters raised a ruckus about the Lion's Den.

Just over the county line, in a dingy old gas station reeking of cigarettes, I-70 Adult Novelty has operated without protest for a dozen years, selling pornographic videos and charging by the minute to watch X-rated movies in a curtain-draped booth.

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Sunday, December 05, 2004
Smoking Ban Referenda

An e-mail from Scott at Grits for Breakfast inadvertently (at least I think it was inadvertent) reminded me that I hadn't recorded the outcome of the referenda on two existing Ohio public smoking bans, one in Columbus and one in Toledo. (This failure, despite the big Vice Squad build-up to these votes, in August and October!) What happened was this: voters in Toledo opted to repeal their ban and replace it with a weaker one, while voters in Columbus upheld their ban. Other communities are looking to the results of six such November referenda, which seem to indicate interest in curbing public smoking but less interest in complete, New York City-style bans:
Lincoln and Columbus voters both approved by wide margins outright bans on smoking in all indoor public places. But voters in Fargo and West Fargo, N.D., approved compromise bans that allow smoking in bars that serve only people 21 years or older. And voters in Toledo, Ohio, repealed an existing smoking ban, while voters in Duluth, Minn., rejected a proposed ban similar to the one in place in Lawrence.


Afghan Sanity

No one is stepping up to take the credit for the recent aerial spraying of poppy fields and environs in Afghanistan, according to this article in today's New York Times. But surely we can all be pleased that the vicious criminal (impoverished) poppy growers are finally paying a price, can't we? I mean, our own drug czar wrote less than two weeks ago that:
Our fourth pillar [of our five-pronged anti-drug "assistance" to Afghanistan] will help the Afghans launch eradication programs to destroy poppy fields. Farmers in the past faced little threat from growing poppy and were able to reap three to four times more profits than those from food crops. Destroying poppy fields outright will be a powerful tool to discourage any future planting of illicit crops.
It turns out, though, that the Afghans themselves think that not all means of eradication are fair game -- at least judging by the comments of Jawed Ludin, President Karzai's spokesperson, as related in the Times article:
"We do not support aerial spraying as an instrument of eradication," Mr. Ludin said at a news briefing this week. "We have never in the past, at present, and never will in the future authorize the use of poppy-spraying chemicals."
Pete at Drug WarRant has more. And I should note that in the Drug Czar's op-ed, although he enthused about crop eradication and "Colombia's dramatic progress," he did not explicitly endorse aerial spraying.

The Times article referred to a 45-year-old Afghan poppy farmer as a "village elder". Why, he's only 45, I thought, he's practically a kid. But alas, life expectancy at birth for Afghan males: 42.27 years. Such are the folks who get to bear the burden of poppy eradication.

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Saturday, December 04, 2004
Pre-Empting the FCC...

...with a suspension and multiple apologies. In Milwaukee on Thursday Mike McGee, a talk radio host, used unapproved language -- aimed at state legislators -- on the air. A day later, McGee was off the air, thanks to a suspension by station owner Jerrel Jones. Was Jones offended by McGee's statement? I don't know, but apparently, it wasn't any personal affront that drove the suspension. Nor has the FCC been deluged with offended listeners. It appears it took media publicity (not the broadcast itself) to stir up the defenders of purity:
While he understands McGee uttered the offensive word in the heat of the moment, "the bottom line is, I'm not going to risk my FCC involvement," Jones said, referring to his Federal Communications Commission broadcast license. "I've had it now for 35 years. I'm walking on eggshells with the FCC . . . I know the rules."

The FCC bans obscene language and restricts use of indecent language from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to protect children who might be listening. An FCC spokeswoman said Friday that the agency had not received any complaints against McGee or WNOV [the station] about his Thursday remark.

Jones said, however, that he had been deluged with complaint calls Friday, prompted by a report in the Journal Sentinel. Jones offered an apology to listeners of McGee's show and pledged there would be no repeat of such language.

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Friday, December 03, 2004
Canadian Visa Policy Changes

Back in July, ever-vigilant Vice Squad noted Canada's policy of providing temporary work permits for exotic dancers -- as well as the surprising preference for dancers from Romania. The whole program, Romanian preference and all, is now going by the boards; indeed, it was a specific Romanian preference that crumbled the edifice:
The Canadian government, under fire because one of its ministers has been accused of giving preferential treatment to a Romanian stripper, said on Wednesday it was scrapping a program that handed out temporary work permits to foreign-born exotic dancers.
Now I knew that Canada was small, but I didn't know that public policies require unanimous consent: "Human Resources Minister Joe Volpe said it was clear that not all Canadians supported the program, which granted permits to around 660 foreign strippers to work in Canada last year."

A hat tip to this shockingly-named blog for the pointer.

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Brothel Valuation

How much is this centrally-located Melbourne brothel worth? More than 8 million Australian dollars, apparently.

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Public Safety or Protectionism?

The Chicago Tribune (registration required) brings brief word today of the nearby city of Chicago Heights. The city banned alcohol sales from locations where gasoline is sold. The city claimed that it is for safety reasons. The city also noted that there have been no problems that have arisen so far from having both types of sales at one location. And the kicker: "One [gas] station, however, at 201 E. Lincoln Highway, which has been selling alcohol, will be allowed to continue to do so."

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Thursday, December 02, 2004
Is Ongoing Drug Use Equivalent to Addiction?

We still don't have a good handle on the precise nature of addiction. But we do seem to be learning more, and one of the best places to keep abreast of what is being learned is the journal named, er, Addiction. In the December 2004 issue of Addiction appears the short article "ADDICTION, DISINHIBITION, IMPULSIVITY, COMPULSIVITY: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE, WHY DOES IT MATTER AND WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CONTEXT?," by MURAT YÜCEL, DAN I. LUBMAN, and CHRISTOS PANTELIS. Here's an excerpt:
We know that some drugs appear to be more addictive in certain societies/environments, in certain individuals, at certain times. This is another way of saying that addiction is a complex and multifaceted condition involving factors internal to the individual (neurobiological; such as genetics, neurochemistry, cognitive-affective regulation, personality) and factors external to the individual (contextual; such as environmental, cultural, spiritual, situational). As such, we strongly support the suggestion that context has an important role in the addictive process. We would argue that neurobiological vulnerabilities set the stage for psychopathology, but they by no means determine its onset, nature and course. In support of this, we know that neurobiological vulnerabilities expressed in different contexts often lead to vastly different outcomes. An example of this might be that only 6% of American soldiers who had used heroin in Vietnam became re-addicted three years after returning to the United States of America, despite 75% feeling that they had been addicted in Vietnam (Robins 1993). However, heroin was certainly more available and acceptable in Vietnam, and the relative consequences of ongoing use (in the face of a constant external threat) were likely to be much less severe than on return to the USA. This suggests that ongoing drug use in certain contexts does not necessarily equate to intractable addiction, but rather addiction should include the notion of continued use in the face of severe adverse consequences that far outweigh the benefits of using.

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Peru Proves Pivotal... bringing the World Health Organization's international treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), into effect. The treaty needed to be ratified by 40 of the 168 signatories to take effect, and Peru became number 40 on November 30. From the WHO's press release:
The WHO FCTC will enter into force on 28 February 2005, in 90 days. From that date on, the 40 Contracting Parties will be legally bound by the provisions of the Treaty. These provisions set international standards on tobacco price and tax increases, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, labelling, illicit trade and second-hand smoke.
Pre-Peruvian ratifiers include Brunei Darussalam, Cook Islands, and Nauru. The US, like Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, has signed the treaty, but not yet ratified it. Here's the WHO website with the complete list of signatories and ratifiers; the Convention itself is available here.

[Update, February 7, 2005: the pronouncement of Peru's pivotal status was premature! Basically, there was mass confusion at the WHO: here's the amended word.]

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Misplaced Suspicion

Here's a story out of Dallas, Texas, of an arrest for solicitation of prostitution that went bad, way bad. On October 10, after 3 in the morning, a Rapid Transit officer sees a woman strike up a conversation with a man; the conversing couple get in the man's car and drive off together. The officer stops the car, and arrests the woman for suspicion of solicitation. Before she is booked at the station, she goes into a restroom, the officer follows, he allegedly offers the woman immunity from the pending arrest in exchange for sex, and they have sex. Yesterday, the officer is arrested and charged with a sex offense. Further, it turns out he does not have the authority to make a solicitation arrest for activity that takes place away from a rapid transit site. Further still, the woman had approached the original man in the convenience store for a ride, not for sex, apparently.

For reams of information on, among other topics, Texas law enforcement shortcomings, be sure to check in with Grits for Breakfast.

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Gambling Competition In, and From, Macao

Casino gambling is illegal in China except on the island of Macao, which followed Hong Kong into the mainland fold in 1999. For 40 years, one man held the gambling monopoly in Macao, but the Chinese ended that exclusivity last year. As a result, the casino industry on Macao has been growing at an impressive clip, and threatens next year to bring in more gambling revenue than the Las Vegas strip. This article in the Financial Times provides the details.

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