July 19th, 2011
By: J.D. Heyes
No parent wants to lose a child, but when one dies from something that should be very preventable, the heartbreak and tragedy is compounded. Such is increasingly the case with prescription drugs – they’re killing our youth.
Sarah Shay and Savannah Kissick, of Morehead, Ky., best friends since high school, were both victims of what experts and the White House are describing as an epidemic of prescription drug deaths. Sarah died in 2006 at the tender age of 19; Savannah just three years later, at 22.
Since the medications they were using were prescribed by physicians, some experts believe they carry some sort of legitimacy. But the fact is they are being abused by young people just the same as drugs that are illegal – more so even, in some cases.
“I don’t think the kids have any idea how addicting the substance is,” Karen Shays told the BBC in an interview. “Before they know it, bam! They’re addicted.”
Drugs like Xanax, Oxycodone, Klonopin and Hydrocodone are routinely being abused more and more in Kentucky in particular, but in other parts of the nation too, by teenagers and young adults. So bad is the problem that the state has set up rehabilitation centers, where a huge number of addicts – more all the time – are being treated.
So bad is the addition that some kids have even turned to crime to feed it.
Some of the kids say they could have likely found other drugs to feed their habit, but prescription drugs were not only legal but much easier to get.
All in all, it’s sort of like Armageddon, but with prescription drugs – a sort of “Pharmageddon,” if you will, as evidenced by Kentucky’s overflowing jails, say state officials.
“I believe I can safely say that over 80 percent of the inmates in the Pike County regional detention center are in there for something dealing with their addiction to prescription drugs,” Dan Smoot, director of law enforcement with an organization called Unite – a new and innovative counterdrug that combines police investigations, treatment and education.
According to the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, in a recent report, the problem stretches beyond the borders of Kentucky – and it’s getting worse.
“A number of national studies and published reports indicate that the intentional abuse of prescription drugs, such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives, to get high is a growing concern — particularly among teens — in the United States. In fact, among young people ages 12-17, prescription drugs have become the second most abused illegal drug, behind marijuana,” said the study, called, “Teens and Prescription Drugs.”
“Though overall teen drug use is down nationwide and the percentage of teens abusing prescription drugs is still relatively low compared to marijuana use, there are troubling signs that teens view abusing prescription drugs as safer than illegal drugs and parents are unaware of the problem,” it said.
In particular, the study found:
- Teens are turning more and more away from illegal street drugs and instead are taking (and abusing) more prescription medications – so much so that new users of prescription drugs have caught up with new users of marijuana;
- Next to marijuana, the next most common thing kids use to get high are prescription drugs;
- Teens abuse prescription medications because they mistakenly believe that, since they are prescribed, they provide safe highs;
- Most teens get prescription drugs easily and free, usually from friends or relatives;
- The most commonly abused drugs by kids are OxyContin and Vicodin; and
- Adolescents are more likely to get hooked on prescription medication than are young adults.
The study found that teens most likely to abuse prescription medications live in the west and southeast. The most common abuse occurs in the following states: Arkansas (10.3 percent); Kentucky (9.8 percent); Montana (9.6 percent); Oregon (9.3 percent); Oklahoma (9.1 percent); Tennessee (8.9 percent); and West Virginia (8.9 percent).
“There’s a reason that prescription drugs are intended to be taken under the direction of a doctor: if used improperly they can be dangerous,” said a recent National Institute of Drug Abuse summary.
Abuse of prescription painkillers in general is not new. In fact, such abuse has risen 400 percent between 1998 and 2008.
But now it seems, our kids have made a startling discovery – that using prescription meds to get high – is too easy and too accessible. And it’s costing more of them their lives.
March 14th, 2011
Gas prices are still hovering around $4 per gallon in Chicago, but the disaster in Japan could actually bring them down a bit.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the average price of regular unleaded in Chicago is $3.71, about 1 cent cheaper than a week ago. At the Des Plaines Oasis Mobil station Monday morning, the price was $3.73 for regular, and $3.97 for super unleaded.
Now experts say in the short-term, the prices could continue to fall because of the devastation in Japan.
The tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last Friday has halted the fast-paced Japanese society, leading to a decline in the demand in oil there, and thus, a drop in worldwide oil prices and gas prices here at home.
AAA says Japan is the third largest consumer of crude oil.
Back in the U.S., in the past month, gas prices have surged up 37 cents, as a result of anxiety over unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.
While gas prices are starting to fall now, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is also calling on President Obama to help bring gas prices down in the long-term.
“As families and businesses are facing these high gas prices, I’ll be working with President Obama to urge him to release the strategic petroleum reserves so we can start stabilizing and bring these gas prices down,” Durbin said.
Experts say this week, prices will likely drop about 1 to 2 cents because of the woes in Japan. But it’s unclear how the prices will look in the coming weeks.
May 17, 2010
Police in Detroit, Michigan, on Sunday expressed “profound sorrow” at the fatal shooting of a 7-year-old girl in a police raid.
Aiyana Jones was shot and killed by police executing a search warrant as part of a homicide investigation, Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee said in a statement.
“This is any parent’s worst nightmare,” Godbee said. “It also is any police officer’s worst nightmare. And today, it is all too real.”
The warrant was executed about 12:40 a.m. ET Sunday at a home on the city’s east side, Godbee said. Authorities believed the suspect in the Friday shooting death of 17-year-old high school student Jarean Blake was hiding out at the home. Blake was gunned down in front of a store as his girlfriend watched, Godbee said.
Preliminary information indicates that members of the Detroit Police Special Response Team approached the house and announced themselves as police, Godbee said, citing the officers and at least one independent witness.
“As is common in these types of situations, the officers deployed a distractionary device commonly known as a flash bang,” he said in the statement. “The purpose of the device is to temporarily disorient occupants of the house to make it easier for officers to safely gain control of anyone inside and secure the premise.”
Upon entering the home, the officer encountered a 46-year-old female inside the front room, Godbee said. “Exactly what happened next is a matter still under investigation, but it appears the officer and the woman had some level of physical contact.
“At about this time, the officer’s weapon discharged one round which, tragically, struck 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones in the neck/head area.”
The girl was immediately transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Godbee said he and other officers went to the hospital while others stayed at the home to execute the warrant.
Aiyana’s father, Charles Jones, told CNN affiliate WDIV, “She was sleeping and they came in the door shooting and throwing flash grenades … burned my baby up and shot her, killed her.”
Jones claimed the officers had the wrong house, but Godbee said in the statement the 34-year-old suspect in Blake’s death was found and arrested at the home. In addition, a vehicle and a moped matching the descriptions of those involved in Blake’s shooting were also found, he said.
The suspect’s name was not released.
Godbee said he wished to “express to the family of Aiyana Jones the profound sorrow that we feel within the Detroit Police Department and throughout this community. We know that no words can do anything to take away the pain you are feeling at this time.”
Police obtained the “high-risk search warrant” based on intelligence, and it was approved by the prosecutor and a magistrate, Godbee said. “Because of the ruthless and violent nature of the suspect in this case, it was determined that it would be in the best interest of public safety to execute the search warrant as soon as possible and detain the suspect … while we sought a murder warrant,” he said.
The police statement said Chief Warren Evans is out of town and could not be present “to personally address this tragedy,” but “his thoughts and prayers are with the family and loved ones of Aiyana Jones.”
The officer’s weapon was secured, and an investigation is under way, Godbee said, emphasizing the information gained so far is preliminary.
“This is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude to Aiyana’s parents, family and all those who loved her,” Godbee said. “… It is a tragedy we also feel very deeply throughout the ranks of the Detroit Police Department.
“We cannot undo what occurred this morning,” he said. “All we can do is pledge an open and full investigation and to support Aiyana’s family in whatever way they may be willing to accept from us at this time. I understand that they may not be open to such a gesture at this time, but we do stand ready to do anything we can to support them.”
May 5, 2010
by Sebastian Smith
New York officials say they could stop attacks like the attempted Times Square car bomb by expanding a controversial surveillance system so sensitive that it will pick up even suspicious behavior.
New York is already a heavily policed city, with 35,000 officers and a counterterrorism bureau — the first of its kind in the country — partnering the FBI.
But Saturday’s failed terrorist bomb in the Times Square tourist hot spot has provided the authorities with a new argument for expanding a sometimes controversial security blanket of cameras, sensors and analytical software.
The system “will greatly enhance our ability and the ability of the police to detect suspicious activity in real time, and disrupt possible attacks,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.
The high-tech system, modeled on the “ring of steel” in London’s financial district, is already in service in lower Manhattan, where Wall Street and the World Trade Center reconstruction site are located.
Headquartered at 55 Broadway, the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative goes far beyond the traditional hodgepodge of police cameras, such as the 82 devices installed around Times Square.
Instead, an integrated system maintains an unblinking eye, not just watching, but constantly collecting license plate numbers and video of pedestrians and drivers, as well as detecting explosives and other weapons.
An important component of the program is coordination between the police network and private businesses’ cameras, something that has not been established in Times Square, causing detectives significant extra work.
Also, a separate, but similar program called Operation Sentinel plans to log every vehicle entering Manhattan island by scanning their license plates and checking for radiation.
Last October, Bloomberg announced plans to expand the lower Manhattan system into Midtown, including the Times Square area.
On Sunday, New York police chief Raymond Kelly reiterated the plan and used the occasion to press for more federal funding from Washington.
Kelly also gave details about the system, explaining how the aim is for “analytic software” allowing experts to make sense of raw information in real time.
For example, alarms would trigger when cameras noticed an unattended bag or a car circling a block too many times to be considered normal, Kelly said.
“This is a whole new area for us,” he told Fox News. “We’re very enthusiastic about it.”
Bloomberg said the city has budgeted “more than 110 million dollars to expanding the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative and incorporating it with the Midtown Manhattan Security Initiative.”
That large-scale, yet simultaneously detailed intelligence gathering clearly pays in some terrorism investigations.
Officials point out that acquiring the ingredients for a bomb or weapons exposes plotters to precisely the kind of surveillance New York is promoting.
Kelly noted on Fox News that Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi found it “very difficult to get explosives” for his plan to bomb the New York subway system. A major piece of evidence against him was security camera footage of a shopping trip for chemicals in Colorado.
Similarly, although the Times Square bomber tried to disguise the car, it was still quickly traced, providing detectives with an important lead.
But while law enforcement officials tout a brave new world of security, rights groups fear a “big brother” presence violating fundamental privacy.
The New York Civil Liberties Union has sued the Department of Homeland Security in an attempt to extract more information about the Manhattan security system and to
know how the information will be used, shared and stored.
The irony is that the lowest tech responses can sometimes best the most sophisticated gizmo.
The misfiring of a device hidden in the underpants of a Nigerian passenger and the quick reaction by others on the US-bound flight prevented potential tragedy in a December 25 attempted airliner attack.
And in Times Square, a vigilant street vendor and nearby beat cop — not a computer — raised the alert on the suspicious vehicle.
“Think about the street vendor. Think about the passengers on the flight on Christmas Day,” said Republican congressman Pete Hoekstra.
“All of these people perhaps were the difference between a major disaster and actually what happened: a failed terrorist attack.”
January 8, 2010
By Michael Tarm
A would-be terrorist tries to board a plane, bent on mass murder. As he walks through a security checkpoint, fidgeting and glancing around, a network of high-tech machines analyzes his body language and reads his mind.
Screeners pull him aside.
Tragedy is averted.
As far-fetched as that sounds, systems that aim to get inside an evildoer’s head are among the proposals floated by security experts thinking beyond the X-ray machines and metal detectors used on millions of passengers and bags each year.
On Thursday, in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt over Detroit, President Barack Obama called on Homeland Security and the Energy Department to develop better screening technology, warning: “In the never-ending race to protect our country, we have to stay one step ahead of a nimble adversary.”
The ideas that have been offered by security experts for staying one step ahead include highly sophisticated sensors, more intensive interrogations of travelers by screeners trained in human behavior, and a lifting of the U.S. prohibitions against profiling.
Some of the more unusual ideas are already being tested. Some aren’t being given any serious consideration. Many raise troubling questions about civil liberties. All are costly.
“Regulators need to accept that the current approach is outdated,” said Philip Baum, editor of the London-based magazine Aviation Security International. “It may have responded to the threats of the 1960s, but it doesn’t respond to the threats of the 21st century.”
Here’s a look at some of the ideas that could shape the future of airline security:
The aim of one company that blends high technology and behavioral psychology is hinted at in its name, WeCU – as in “We See You.”
The system that Israeli-based WeCU Technologies has devised and is testing in Israel projects images onto airport screens, such as symbols associated with a certain terrorist group or some other image only a would-be terrorist would recognize, said company CEO Ehud Givon.
The logic is that people can’t help reacting, even if only subtly, to familiar images that suddenly appear in unfamiliar places. If you strolled through an airport and saw a picture of your mother, Givon explained, you couldn’t help but respond.
The reaction could be a darting of the eyes, an increased heartbeat, a nervous twitch or faster breathing, he said.
The WeCU system would use humans to do some of the observing but would rely mostly on hidden cameras or sensors that can detect a slight rise in body temperature and heart rate. Far more sensitive devices under development that can take such measurements from a distance would be incorporated later.
If the sensors picked up a suspicious reaction, the traveler could be pulled out of line for further screening.
“One by one, you can screen out from the flow of people those with specific malicious intent,” Givon said.
Some critics have expressed horror at the approach, calling it Orwellian and akin to “brain fingerprinting.”
For civil libertarians, attempting to read a person’s thoughts comes uncomfortably close to the future world depicted in the movie “Minority Report,” where a policeman played by Tom Cruise targets people for “pre-crimes,” or merely thinking about breaking the law.
One system being studied by Homeland Security is called the Future Attribute Screening Technology, or FAST, and works like a souped-up polygraph.
It would subject people pulled aside for additional screening to a battery of tests, including scans of facial movements and pupil dilation, for signs of deception. Small platforms similar to the balancing boards used in the Nintendo Wii would help detect fidgeting.
At a public demonstration of the system in Boston last year, project manager Robert Burns explained that people who harbor ill will display involuntary physiological reactions that others – such as those who are stressed out for ordinary reasons, such as being late for a plane – don’t.
The system could be made to work passively, scanning people as they walk through a security line, according to Burns.
Field testing of the system, which will cost around $20 million to develop, could begin in 2011, The Boston Globe said in a story about the demonstration. Addressing one concern of civil libertarians, Burns said the technology would delete data after each screening.
THE ISRAELI MODEL
Some say the U.S. should take a page from Israel’s book on security.
At Israeli airports, widely considered the most secure in the world, travelers are subjected to probing personal questions as screeners look them straight in the eye for signs of deception. Searches are meticulous, with screeners often scrutinizing every item in a bag, unfolding socks, squeezing toothpaste and flipping through books.
“All must look to Israel and learn from them. This is not a post-911 thing for them. They’ve been doing this since 1956,” said Michael Goldberg, president of New York-based IDO Security Inc., which developed a device that can scan shoes while they are still on people’s feet.
Israel also employs profiling: At Ben-Gurion Airport, Jewish Israelis typically pass through smoothly, while others may be taken aside for closer interrogation or even strip searches. Another distinquishing feature of Israeli airports is that they rely on concentric security rings that start miles from terminal buildings.
Rafi Ron, the former security director at Israel’s famously tight Ben Gurion International Airport who now is a consultant for Boston’s Logan International Airport, says U.S. airports also need to be careful not to overcommit to securing passenger entry points at airports, forgetting about the rest of the field.
“Don’t invest all your efforts on the front door and leave the back door open,” said Ron.
While many experts agree the United States could adopt some Israeli methods, few believe the overall model would work here, in part because of the sheer number of U.S. airports – more than 400, versus half a dozen in Israel.
Also, the painstaking searches and interrogations would create delays that could bring U.S. air traffic to a standstill. And many Americans would find the often intrusive and intimidating Israeli approach repugnant.
Some argue that policies against profiling undermine security.
Baum, who is also managing director of Green Light Limited, a London-based aviation security company, agrees profiling based on race and religion is counterproductive and should be avoided. But he argues that a reluctance to distinguish travelers on other grounds – such as their general appearance or their mannerisms – is not only foolhardy but dangerous.
“When you see a typical family – dressed like a family, acts like a family, interacts with each other like a family … when their passport details match – then let’s get them through,” he said. “Stop wasting time that would be much better spent screening the people that we’ve get more concerns about.”
U.S. authorities prohibit profiling of passengers based on ethnicity, religion or national origin. Current procedures call for travelers to be randomly pulled out of line for further screening.
Scrutinizing 80-year-old grandmothers or students because they might be carrying school scissors can defy common sense, Baum said.
“We need to use the human brain – which is the best technology of them all,” he said.
But any move to relax prohibitions against profiling in the U.S. would surely trigger fierce resistance, including legal challenges by privacy advocates.
December 18, 2009
The Morning Bulletin
By Adam Wratten
AFTER 15 years loyal service with Fitzroy River Water, Graham Demeny says his career is down the gurgler because of fluoride and an uncompromising council.
Graham, who was responsible for making Rockhampton’s drinking water safe, resigned earlier this month after his request for a transfer within Rockhampton Regional Council was refused.
He said he questioned the safety of adding fluoride to the city’s water supply and ethically wasn’t prepared to do the job.
From today fluoride will be added to drinking water in Rockhampton, The Caves and Gracemere.
Protesters, including councillor Glenda Mather, will rally against the situation this morning outside City Hall.
Yesterday Cr Mather said Graham’s situation was a tragedy.
“I consider staff, especially long-term staff, as the organisation’s most valuable asset and we need to treat them like liquid gold,” Cr Mather said.
“I feel very sad for this family, especially at Christmas time, as clearly the breadwinner has ended a career because he stood by principles.
“I don’t know what I can do, but will certainly be making some internal enquiries to see if a solution can be found.”
Graham, who finished up with council on December 7, said he was one of five people who added the chemicals to the water supply.
“For the last 15 years I have worked at the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant operating the chemical dosing of water taken from the Fitzroy River for the city’s consumption,” Graham said.
“Until now all processes adopted have made the water either clean or safe to consume.
“Fluoride addition does neither and questionably compromises the safety aspect.
“With this ethical, plus a few moral issues, I realised my present position was untenable.”
He said he approached council about a transfer.
“Not wishing to make waves and expecting respect on my stance on fluoride and for the years of loyal service I requested redeployment,” Graham said.
“Without negotiation I was told to leave if I wasn’t prepared to dose the city water supply with fluoride, for there would be no redeployment.”
He said his was just one of many examples of the “consequences of supercilious policies and procedures adopted by council since amalgamation which are drastically reducing morale in the council workforce”.
A council spokeswoman confirmed Mr Demeny had worked for the council before resigning, however said it was not council’s policy to comment on staffing matters.