Archive

March 29th, 2016

The color of heroin addiction - why war then, treatment now?

    The nation's heroin epidemic found its way from the shadows of America to Capitol Hill on Tuesday as lawmakers and experts struggled with a raging disease that is leaving an increasing number of bodies behind.

    Heroin deaths have almost tripled since 2010, Louis J. Milione, a Drug Enforcement Administration deputy assistant administrator, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. "Today's heroin at the retail level costs less and is more potent than the heroin that DEA encountered two decades ago," he said.

    The surge in overdose deaths is one reason Congress now is examining heroin addiction. Another reason is the complexion of the addicted.

    Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Maryland, who has seen the effects of drug abuse in his Madison Park neighborhood in West Baltimore, pointed to the difference in the way heroin addiction is dealt with now compared with years ago.

    The difference between a war on drugs and drug treatment is like the difference between black and white.

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Don't believe the NRA hype

    By this point, we're all familiar with the National Rifle Association's political playbook.

    We've seen their leaders misinform and exaggerate before, in debates about legislation, candidates for office and judicial nominees. While their tactics might be tried and true, they typically bear little relationship to the truth.

    Their latest campaign, against Judge Merrick Garland, is no different.

    Garland is the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Regarded as the second-highest court in the land, the District of Columbia Circuit has served as a steppingstone to the Supreme Court for former justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February, along with Justices John G. Roberts Jr., Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas, among others.

    Here's something else about Garland's résumé. Nothing about it sheds any light whatsoever on how he views guns or the Second Amendment.

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Terrorists and Their Privacy

    One inevitable sequel to a terrorist attack is seeing the ugly mugs of creeps-turned-monsters thrust before us over a multitude of news cycles. Another is a debate over cellphone encryption.

    Encryption is a means of turning information into secret code. Terrorists communicate through encrypted devices to hide their plans and protect the identities of their co-conspirators. For obvious reasons, law enforcement wants to know what's being said and to whom.

    The FBI had been demanding that Apple turn over an encryption key to crack the iPhone used by San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook. Apple has refused, arguing that helping the FBI hack Farook's iPhone would put the privacy of other iPhone users in jeopardy. That would be bad for business.

    Apple's case has always been morally and legally flawed, but now it may be moot. That's because on the very day of the terrorist outrage in Brussels, the Justice Department announced it may now be able to get at the information in Farook's iPhone without Apple's input.

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And now for some good news

    No doubt we all could use some good news about the 2016 election, and, unaccustomed as I am to playing Pollyanna, I've got some.

    For several election cycles now, pundits and political consultants have been fretting that the political system isn't keeping up with how the country is changing demographically. Yet in 2016 - with almost no fuss and no self-consciousness - the presidential race looks like America and then some.

    Consider: The overwhelming Democratic front-runner is a woman, yet all the questions that used to be raised about whether a woman could be president have disappeared. In fact, this particular woman is criticized for many things, but ladylike incompetence on masculine subjects such as missile "throw weights" (a man's issue, according to Ronald Reagan's chief of staff, Donald Regan) would be laughed out of town if any candidate brought them up now. And there's been nothing about baking cookies, either. In 1980 this was still a subject for discussion - and a requirement for first ladies.

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Millennials embrace 'socialism'

    The latest, greatest aphrodisiac on college campuses across the nation is . . . socialism? According to Fox News pollster Frank Luntz, asked recently about the sudden revival of the political ideology: "If you are a young person and you tell someone of the opposite sex that you are a socialist, you are much more likely to get some action at the end of the evening." Though pundits may disapprove, it seems that socialism is cool. Apparently, a whiff of Marxism can get you hookups and more.

    It's been about six years since I graduated, but I'm fairly confident that this is a bit overblown. Yet socialism does seem to have become the political orientation du jour among voters of a certain (read: young) age. As its popularity has grown, the response from older, purportedly wiser politicos has been fascinating - first mainly dismissiveness, then confusion and now, as Bernie Sanders's campaign improbably persists, genuine alarm.

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Yes, my family had to flee Cuba. But staying mad about it doesn't achieve anything.

    During one of the first phone conversations I had with Papi after he left Cuba, I asked him to send me a bicycle with an umbrella attached to the seat, something I'd seen in a cartoon and believed he could buy in the States because I was 4 and what wasn't possible in the land of opportunity?

    I never got that bike. Instead I spent three years of my childhood without a father to teach me how to ride one.

    My parents were chemical engineers in Cuba; they met while working in the pharmaceutical industry. I was born on Aug. 14, 1990, a day after Fidel Castro turned 64. Mami extended her labor so I wouldn't share a birthday with our country's revolutionary leader.

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Father will rest near child slain at Virginia Tech

    Their graves will be side by side in the historic Virginia cemetery where so many members of their family are buried.

    Erin Peterson, just 18, gunned down in her French class at Virginia Tech almost nine years ago.

    And now, her father, Grafton Peterson, 57, who died last week of a heart attack. Might as well have been heartbreak.

    Grafton never got over Erin's death, and neither did his wife, Celeste. Erin was "their compass," Celeste said recently as she prepared to bury her husband next to her daughter at Rock Hill Cemetery in rural Loudoun County on Saturday.

    Grafton had been through a lot, suffering in private decades ago after Carla, his daughter from another relationship, died of cancer when she was 8. But his second devastation was much more public: He will be remembered as the father who refused to settle with Virginia Tech and the state after Erin was killed on April 16, 2007, by fellow student Seung Hui Cho in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.

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With tweets on Heidi Cruz, Trump sinks to new depths

    "I think the retweet speaks for itself," said Donald Trump's senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, about the candidate's posting of an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz, juxtaposed against his own supermodel spouse.

    "No need to 'spill the beans,'" the caption read. "The images are worth a thousand words."

    Speaks for itself? What does it say? My wife's hotter than yours? This, folks, is where campaign 2016 has descended. As Fox News' increasingly invaluable Megyn Kelly tersely tweeted: "Seriously?"

    It's going to take me a little longer than that to unpack the latest in Trump's menacing brand of misogyny.

    Two points to begin. First, the flat assertion that candidates' spouses are off-limits goes too far. If they say or do things that are questionable, those activities are reasonable for an opponent to raise.

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Crazy About Money

    In this year of Trump, the land is loud with the wails of political commentators, rending their garments and crying out, “How can this be happening?” But a few brave souls are willing to whisper the awful truth: Many voters support Donald Trump because they actually agree with his ideas.

    This is not, however, a column about Trump. It is, instead, about Sen. Ted Cruz, who has emerged as the favored candidate of the GOP elite now that less disagreeable alternatives have imploded.

    In a way, that’s quite a remarkable development. For Cruz has staked out positions on crucial issues that are, not to put too fine a point on it, crazy. How can elite Republicans back him?

    The answer is the same for Cruz and the elite as it is for Trump and the base: Leading Republicans support Cruz, not despite his policy positions, but because of them. They may not like his style, but they agree with his substance.

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Why Bernie Sanders had to run as a Democrat

    During a recent town hall in Columbus, Ohio, Sen. Bernie Sanders said the unthinkable. At least, you would have thought he did, judging by the response of several Democratic operatives. Sanders was deemed "extremely disgraceful" by Donna Brazile, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, and "a political calculating fraud" by Brad Woodhouse, a former DNC communications director.

    What was his crime? The old-fashioned Rooseveltian New Dealer had answered a question about why he is running as a Democrat instead of as an independent with typical candor: "In terms of media coverage, you had to run within the Democratic Party," he observed, adding that he couldn't raise money outside the major two-party process.

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