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Why Smoking Bans Are More Dangerous Than Smoking

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 - by Robert Wargas
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One lamentable feature of the contemporary West is the ruthless efficiency of the nanny state. It works overnight. You wake up, slouch over your coffee and corn flakes, and read of the new Bad Thing that must be stopped Right Now. In Britain, the latest activity slated for oblivion is smoking in public parks. Readers, I’m sure, do not need to be reminded that parks are outdoor places; the traditional excuse of “secondhand smoke” does not appear to apply (although it is possible to find “studies” on the dangers of “thirdhand smoke”).

Nevertheless, British officials moved quickly. In September 2013, the mayor of London, alleged conservative Boris Johnson, ordered a “major review of health in the capital,” according to The Independent. The results are already in: Lord Darzi, Britain’s former health minister and the appointed chair of Johnson’s special commission, has said smoking needs to be banned in London’s parks and public squares. There is news that ”councils throughout England are also understood to be analysing how the proposals could be applied locally, paving the way for potentially the biggest crackdown on smoking since the Smoke Free legislation of 2007.”

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Is It Better to Drink Coffee or Tea? Or Avoid Both?

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

Hat tip to Jon Rowe, from The Atlantic in 2012: “The Case for Drinking as Much Coffee as You Like”

“Coffee and caffeine have been inexorably intertwined in our thinking, but truth is coffee contains a whole lot of other stuff with biological benefits,” said Martin. And most concerns about caffeine’s negative effects on the heart have been dispelled. In June, a meta-analysis of ten years of research went so far as to find an inverse association between habitual, moderate consumption and risk of heart failure. The association peaked at four cups per day, and coffee didn’t stop being beneficial until subjects had increased their daily consumption to beyond ten cups.

Caffeine might also function as a pain reliever. A study from September suggested as much when its authors stumbled across caffeinated coffee as a possible confounding variable in its study of the back, neck, and shoulder pains plaguing office drones: Those who reported drinking coffee before the experiment experienced less intense pain.

The data is even more intriguing — and more convincing — for caffeine’s effects as a salve against more existential pains. While a small study this month found that concentrated amounts of caffeine can increase positivity in the moment, last September the nurses’ cohort demonstrated a neat reduction in depression rates among women that became stronger with increased consumption of caffeinated coffee.

And a new article at The Atlantic today: “Research suggests that a person’s consumption of the beverage is determined in part by his or her DNA—and that its benefits could extend beyond a caffeine buzz.”

A study released last Tuesday by an international consortium of caffeine scholars may help explain why some of these customers visited more often than others. Spearheaded by Marilyn Cornelis, a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health, the team investigated the link between genetics and coffee consumption. By analyzing DNA as well as data on 120,000 adults of European and African-American heritage, the researchers identified eight genetic variants that predispose individuals to seek out and drink caffeine.

“Our results show that people are naturally consuming the amount of coffee that allows them to maintain their optimal level of caffeine” to get that good caffeine feeling without becoming jittery, Cornelis told me. “If we need more, we’re reaching for it.”

Six of the genetic variants examined in the study were newly discovered by the researchers. According to Cornelis, individuals whose DNA expressed all the variants tended to drink around half a cup of coffee more than those without them. Additionally, the new genes can explain about 1.3 percent of all coffee-drinking behavior, or about the same amount that genes can explain other habits, like smoking and alcohol consumption. While those effects may seem small, Cornelis said the study sheds light on why individuals’ bodies and brains react differently to caffeineand how some people feel anxious after a single cup of coffee, whereas others can down a Starbucks Venti and feel just fine.

I wonder who the editor(s) might be at the Atlantic with the serious coffee habit…

Anyway, what do you recommend for daily caffeine consumption? Is waking up to the smell of coffee every morning a good enough reason to favor it over tea?

And if you have a coffee/tea or other product you’d like to see reviewed at PJ Lifestyle then please get in touch: DaveSwindlePJM @ Gmail Dot Com @DaveSwindle on Twitter

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Are You a Bad Person if You Give to the Homeless?

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 - by Robert Wargas

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A few weeks ago, I was in New York City to meet someone for drinks, and got on the subway at 34th and 7th to head downtown. I dislike the New York subway for many reasons. It is the only such system in a major Western city to look as if it had been swapped with the metro of a third-world backwater. Pick any otherwise dodgy country on Earth, and chances are the subway of its capital city is a gleaming tube with smooth rolling stock and palatial stations. Not New York. The trains lurch between filthy platforms like winos stumbling to and from tenement doorsteps.

It is also a place in which I am continually confronted with the human condition. Sometimes it takes the form of rudeness; other times, drunkenness. On this particular day, it was poverty. Immediately after the doors closed, a disheveled man entered the car at the far end, battered cap in hand, and made the following announcement to us passengers:

“Ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attention for one moment, please,” he said loudly. “I don’t want to bother you, but I am a homeless veteran. If you could spare some money, I would greatly appreciate it.”

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Flip the Frog Hallucinating in the Opium Den

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Cartoon at Noon

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Is It Really a Shock So Many Americans Are On Drugs?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I read the headline at Drudge: HHS shock: 1 in 12 Americans use illegal drugs, could fill all MLB stadiums 19 times:

America is doped up — and drunk.

According to a shocking new report from the Health and Human Services Department, there were 24.6 million people aged 12 or older who used illicit drugs during just one month last year.

“That’s enough people to fill every major league baseball stadium in the U.S. 19 times,” said the report. There are 30 MLB stadiums.

Even worse: Of the 24.6 million dopers, 2.2 million were adolescents aged 12 to 17.

Actually, I’m surprised the number isn’t higher. It’s like the ’70s all over again but worse, with drugs, apathy and incompetence rewarded or at least rarely penalized and success, achievement and hard work treated with disdain and distaste. I wonder where this will lead?

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cross-posted from Dr. Helen, image illustration via shutterstock / 

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Free Pot for Veterans This Saturday!

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 - by Stephen Green
Stoned soldiers.

Stoned soldiers.

Vets in Colorado Springs will have the chance to get free pot this Saturday, courtesy of Operation Grow4Vets:

The organization’s goal is to help veterans suffering from emotional and physical pain. They hosted their largest-ever cannabis giveaway event in Denver Saturday. KDVR reported about 500 people–mostly veterans–attended that event. Each veteran at Saturday’s event got $200 worth of cannabis products for free, according to KDVR. The bag included a week’s supply of tincture, a cannabis chocolate, and eight marijuana seeds to grow.

I’d rather see MDMA legalized for this kind of purpose, as it’s been shown time and again to have real and lasting benefits to helping people cope with PTSD.

****

cross-posted form Vodkapundit

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How Many People Show Up to Work Stoned?

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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According to this article, 10% of Americans go to work high:

Showing up to work high? You’re not alone.

A new report has found nearly 1 in 10 Americans are showing up to work high on marijuana. Mashable.com conducted the survey in partnership with SurveyMonkey, and found 9.7 percent of Americans fessed up to smoking cannabis before showing up to the office.

The data analyzed the marijuana and prescription drug habits of 534 Americans. What’s more, nearly 81 percent said they scored their cannabis illegally, according to the survey.

Cannabis and the workplace seem quite linked lately. Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel recently chimed in on marijuana and work. While criticizing Twitter during an appearance on CNBC Wednesday, Thiel said Twitter is a “… horribly mismanaged company—probably a lot of pot smoking going on there.”

I find it amazing that this many people would confess to smoking at work and that 81% stated that they obtained the cannabis illegally. Some businesses drug test but others don’t or can’t afford it.

Do you mind if your barista or server is high? What about your doctor? Isn’t this a problem to be taken more seriously? How are these high people getting to work? I see a lot of people in my area riding bikes on the main roads these days. Maybe they are high just trying to get to work. I guess a bike is better than driving, but it still doesn’t seem like a great idea.

******

cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image illustrated via shutterstock / gabriel12

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When Is a Public Health Emergency Really an Emergency?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

The question is important because public health emergencies allow governments to ignore the usual restrictions or restraints upon their actions. In public health emergencies, governments can override property rights and abrogate all kinds of civil liberties such as freedom of movement. They can .r our goods and tells us where to go and where to stay. They do so only for our own good: health being the highest good, of course.

A recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine discusses the issue in the context of the declaration of a public health emergency in Massachusetts by the governor of that state, Deval Patrick.

In most people’s minds, no doubt, a public health emergency would be something like the Black Death, the epidemic of plague that wiped out a third of Europe’s population in the fourteenth century. A natural disaster of large proportions might also count, not only because of the death and injury caused directly by the disaster, but by the epidemics which often follow such disasters.

What, then, was the public health emergency that “obliged” Patrick to declare that it existed and that he could and should take uncontrolled administrative measures to halt it?

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Will (Not) Work for Pot

Friday, September 12th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

GOOD STUFF

You probably already saw yesterday’s Washington Times report that welfare recipients can use EBT cards to buy pot. If not, here’s the gist:

Welfare recipients can’t use their EBT cards at liquor stores but they can at marijuana dispensaries in states such as Colorado that have legalized pot, Sen. Jeff Sessions revealed Tuesday.

The Alabama Republican announced that he was drafting legislation to close the welfare-for-weed loophole after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed to him that marijuana shops were not off limits to EBT cards, which replaced food stamps, or other federal benefits.

I know there’s a proper moral attitude of “They shouldn’t be allowed to use welfare money to buy [junk food/booze/cigarettes/pot/lap dances]!” But money being fungible, the most you can do is put up easily-scalable barriers to people doing what they will with other people’s money.

But leave it to Berkeley to take an uncomfortable situation and make it comically awful:

The Berkeley City Council has passed a law requiring medical marijuana dispensaries to distribute 2 percent of their stashes to people making less than $32,000 per year or $46,000 per family.

Under the new ordinance, which was approved unanimously this summer, only city residents will be eligible and they must have a prescription.

‘Basically, the city council wants to make sure that low-income, homeless, indigent folks have access to their medical marijuana, their medicine,” Councilman Darryl Moore told CBS San Francisco.

Everybody knows that in California, “medical marijuana” was just stealth legalization, so let’s not pretend this is about helping low-income grandma afford her glaucoma relief. This is just Berkeley being Berkeley, and if there’s a way they can glean a bit of smug moral superiority by giving away other people’s stuff, they will.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Tax Revenue from Colorado’s Legal Pot Sales Is Falling Far Short of Expectations

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

HAPPY SHOPPERS

From CBS Denver:

When voters approved recreational marijuana sales the state predicted it would pull in more than $33 million in new taxes in the first six months. The actual revenue came up more than $21 million short.

The problem is that buying pot is less expensive on the streets where people don’t have to pay taxes or fees.

Medical marijuana is also less expensive than recreational pot, so those with medical cards are sticking to buying that way.

Don’t confuse legal pot with a free market for it. Supplies are constrained by a maze of legal restrictions on what is a weed that can grow most anywhere. Yes, the high-quality stuff is more expensive to produce, but not that much more expensive. Denver lawmakers very smartly put together a pot growers cartel, to which Denver holds the strings. And of course pot shops are similarly restricted. What we need is a modern Bill W. to found Rent Seekers Anonymous.

There might be something else going on here as well. It may well be that recreational pot just isn’t as popular as many people expected it to be. I suspect that most non-smokers didn’t imbibe because we had better things to do, and not because the stuff was illegal. I know for certain that I never met a smoker who was ever more than delayed by prohibition. Deterred? Only when a cop was actually present.

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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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California’s New Booming Business: Medical Marijuana Home Delivery

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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I don’t know if there’s anything like this yet in Colorado, but California has a booming business in medical marijuana home delivery:

Needing to replenish his stash of pot one recent afternoon, the Burbank resident dialed Speed Weed. Within the hour, a driver arrived with a white paper bag carrying a gram of cannabis, 10 joints and a handful of pot-infused candies and cookies.

“They come to my house, and they’re in and out,” said Reichle, 39, a comedian who spends about $100 a week on medical marijuana. “I shouldn’t have to go to a store.”

I say this as a guy who isn’t about to pare down his martini habit, but doesn’t $100 a week sound a bit excessive? I remember what the stuff used to cost a quarter century ago and how long each purchase would last, and inflation doesn’t come anywhere near to covering the difference. I don’t see how anyone can ingest that much THC and still stand up off the sofa to go to the bathroom, much less do comedy.

That aside, the story opens by claiming that Reichle “couldn’t have gotten a pepperoni pizza much faster.” And I bet right now he’s thinking, “Mmm, pizza.”

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

image via shutterstock / Juan Camilo Bernal

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Will Legal Marijuana Be a Bonanza for Trial Lawyers?

Saturday, June 14th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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Pressure to control the consumption of tobacco has grown in tandem with the pressure to liberalize the consumption of marijuana. Perhaps this is not a paradox in the most literal sense, but it is certainly very striking.  The yin of prohibition, it seems, always goes along with the yang of permission.

An article in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine discusses the forthcoming tussle between what it calls Big Marijuana – the commercial interests, analogous to Big Tobacco, that will inevitably grow if marijuana ever becomes as accepted as tobacco once was – and the public health authorities.  For while the smoking of marijuana does not yet cause anything like as many health problems as tobacco or alcohol, it would do so if its use were as general as the use of tobacco or alcohol. A little statistic that was published some time ago in the Lancet caught my eye: the French police attribute 3 percent of fatal road accidents to intoxication with cannabis and 30 percent to intoxication with alcohol. If, as seems likely, ten times as many Frenchmen drive drunk as drive stoned, marijuana is as dangerous as alcohol where driving is concerned.

The authors of the article point out that commercial growers and marketers of marijuana are likely, given the chance, to resort to all the techniques and obfuscations employed by the tobacco companies. They will minimize the harms done by marijuana while trying to increase the concentration of the very substance in their product that does the harm. The concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in modern cannabis plants is already much higher than it was when hippiedom first struck the western world; Uruguay, where the cultivation and sale of cannabis has recently been legalized, is attempting to control the strains of cannabis that can be sold, with what success remains to be seen.

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3 Songs With Sweet Music And Stupid Words

Friday, May 30th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

I don’t have a lot of pet peeves — why would I keep a peeve as a pet? But since this is supposed to be a cultural blog, I’ll tell you a cultural phenomenon that really bugs me: songs with beautiful music that have crappy lyrics. Now remember those criteria…  don’t come back on me and say, “Hey, that song is lovely.” I know it is.  The music is. The music is lovely and catchy and lyrical…  but that’s exactly what makes the crummy lyrics so, so annoying.

Remember this one? Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill:

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Really pretty tune but come on!

“Sometimes when we touch, the honesty’s too much, and I have to close my eyes and hide. I want to hold you till I die, till we both break down and cry. I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides.”

I mean, gag me with a spoon! Dan! Danster! Are you a dude or a chick? “I want to hold you… till we both break down and cry?” Bleagh! Does a huggy-wuggy make you weepy-deepy? “I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides…” I’m sorry, check me on this, ladies. If a guy actually said that to you would you 1) laugh in his face and dump him or 2) well, wait, there is no 2…

[My wife says I'd like the song if the sexes were reversed. You know: holding a tremulous girl until her fear subsides...  kind of sexy. But this is exactly why I make my wife live in the basement. Or would, if I had a basement. If she's going to start expecting me to make sense, our marriage is doomed!]

Anyway, later in the song, there’s this gender-non-specific stinker: “I’m just another writer, still trapped within his truth.” Hey, listen, I have that problem too. Mostly, it’s when a little piece of cloth gets stuck in the zipper. Just pull sharply.

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Pacepa’s Seeds of Knowledge, Part 5: The Drug of Disinformation

Monday, May 5th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Introduction to Pacepa’s Seeds of Knowledge: Starting Down the Yellow Brick Road…

Part 1: The Mask of Marxism

Part 2: Getting to the Heart of Social Justice

Part 3: Who Needs a Brain?

Part 4: Are Conservatives Cowards?

“The August 1991 coup in Moscow collapsed three days after it had started, providing the ultimate, ironic proof that nothing, not even a coup, could succeed any more in a society whose vital arteries had been calcified by 70 years of disinformation and dismal feudalism. The main loser was the Communist Party.”

– Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa

Both the Democrat and Republican parties have been disinformed by Marxism. The Liberal wing of the Democrat Party has been duped into putting their faith in Marxism’s many forms (socialism, economic determinism, progressivism), while the Republican Party has legitimized Marxism as a form of party politics instead of a murderous, atheistic religion that empowers despots. The Conservative movement, by and large, is slow to recognize Marxism’s true nature, because we are a nation that has been drugged by Disinformation. Pacepa continues:

At the end of the 2001 summit meeting held in Slovenia, President George W. Bush said: “I looked the man [Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.” Unfortunately, even President Bush was deceived by disinformation. Putin consolidated Russia into an intelligence dictatorship, not a democracy. During the Cold War, the KGB was a state within a state. Under Putin, the KGB, rechristened the FSB, is the state. Three years after Putin enthroned himself in the Kremlin, some 6,000 former officers of the KGB—that organization responsible for having slaughtered at least 20 million people in the Soviet Union alone—were running Russia’s federal and local governments.

…Is it too far-fetched to suggest that this new Russia calls up the hypothetical image of a postwar Germany being run by former Gestapo officers, who reinstate Hitler’s “Deutschland Über Alles” as national anthem, call the demise of Nazi Germany a “national tragedy on an enormous scale,” and invade a neighboring country, perhaps Poland, the way Hitler set off World War II?

That is the secret power of disinformation.

Pacepa share these thoughts with me mere weeks before the Ukranian revolution and secession of the Crimea to Putin’s Russia. Disinformation is wielding its power on the American homefront as well. In his critique of Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, David Brooks embraces Piketty’s idea of a tax on the wealthy’s investment capital in order to create intellectual equality among the classes:

Think of how much more affordable fine art would be. Think of how much more equal the upper class would be.

His musings aren’t that far off from those of Russian intellectuals, who are “making do” with their government’s clampdown on free media and the right to protest. In exchange for their rights, these Russians whose intellectual arteries have been “calcified by disinformation” are being doted upon by their increasingly despotic government:

All sorts of entertainment is being lavished on Russia’s hipsters. Their favorite public parks have splashy, beautifully designed restaurants and clubs, comfortable biking areas and luxurious places to chill. Sanctions or not, Fedoseyev’s friends can still dine out at restaurants full of expats, take shopping trips to Milan, or buy their electronic gadgets online. Fashion Week this weekend was another party blooming with charming models and celebrities; the usual hipsters clubs, Solianka, Simachev, Oldich Dress and Drink or Strelka, felt as cuddly and crowded as ever.

To paraphrase Brooks, it would seem that the fine art is quite affordable in Russia these days. Like junkies seeking a quick fix, Russian intellectuals pursue disinformation at the expense of their freedom. Is Brooks suggesting we do the same, or have we already succumbed to the addiction? In either case, what we need to know now is: What is the antidote to disinformation?

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Ohio Paper Can’t Find a Single Person to Argue Against Legalizing Pot… Really??

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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According to Mediaite, an “Ohio Paper Can’t Find a Single Person to Argue Against Legalizing Pot.” On 4/15, the Dayton City Paper (DCP) published a “debate” about marijuana legalization it its “forum” section. DCP moderator Alex Culpepper offered a fairly balanced introduction to the debate followed by a pro-legalization piece, “Debate Left: Don’t Believe the Damning Hype About Marijuana” by Marianne Stanley, who is listed as a DCP blogger on the paper’s website. Next to Stanley’s opinion piece is a large empty space with the following disclaimer:

[Editor's note: On behalf of the Dayton City Paper staff, we apologize, but we were unable to locate a debate writer who was able to submit a view opposed to the legalization of marijuana in Ohio at this time.]

The Dayton City Paper (not to be confused with the widely circulated mainstream Dayton Daily News) is a free weekly alternative newspaper that describes itself this way:

Dayton City Paper offers pages full of challenges to prevailing notions, investigations of local institutions and voices that are not those of the usual figureheads in the community. Our entertainment pages are filled with local talent — jazz musicians, filmmakers and musicians. The paper is unabashedly local, unashamedly grassroots and absolutely alternative. And the Dayton market loves it.

DCP claims a circulation of 18,000 (and somehow that swells to a readership of 132,000) through its distribution at over 500 pick-up locations, marketed to an audience you would expect to support legalizing pot:

Dayton City Paper consistently delivers a valuable audience mix of professionals, community leaders and university students. This is an audience interested in our unique coverage of music, art and independent thought. These are readers that other print media wish they could have: professional women, young adults, the highly educated and those with high disposable incomes and the imagination to spend creatively.

None of my friends in Dayton have even heard of the paper, for what that’s worth, and even many Reddit users from the area had never heard of it, though those who did said it was mainly distributed in student-oriented bars and shops around several Dayton-area universities and colleges.

Is it possible that DCP couldn’t find a single person willing to argue against legalizing pot? Well, anything is possible, but the more likely scenario is that the cool kids over at DCP don’t actually associate with the types of people who might be in opposition — or even know where to find them. Their disclaimer (and the celebratory headline that followed from Mediaite) suggests an editorial staff that didn’t try very hard. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out studies showing that long-term cannabis use stifles motivation. You can draw your own conclusion.

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The New Charlotte’s Web Medicine

Friday, April 18th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

My home state of Colorado is a guinea pig for the pros and cons of marijuana legalization. Other states are observing closely to see if they should move down the path towards legalization.

There’s plenty of bad news to go around. Police in other states are pulling over Colorado drivers with no justification other than the green license plate. (We’re all stoners now, I guess.) A college student named Levy Thamba fell to his death from a high balcony during spring break after eating a marijuana cookie. And last week a Denver man who ate pot-infused candy became incoherent and paranoid and shot his wife to death.

Is there good news? Turns out there is. Colorado Springs is the source of the Charlotte’s Web strain of medical marijuana that has sent parents with gravely ill children flocking to the city for treatment.

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The strain was developed by Joel Stanley and his brothers in their Colorado Springs medical marijuana facility. They’d read that marijuana strains that are high in a chemical called CBD can help to shrink tumors and prevent seizures. The chemical in marijuana that gets users high is called THC, and since it has an adverse affect on seizures the Stanley’s bred it out of the plant.

Their first patient, 5 year old Charlotte Figis, was so affected by a genetic seizure condition called Dravet’s Syndrome that she was not expected to live much longer. Today, she’s almost seizure free. The Stanley brothers named the strain after their first little patient, and it’s showing the world what medical uses marijuana can offer.

Today there are nearly a hundred families with gravely ill children who have relocated to Colorado Springs, purchasing a treatment for their children that would have landed them in prison just a few years ago. Medical marijuana is well known to help in the treatment of nausea in cancer and AIDs patients, but the strains now being investigated may uncover new lifesaving medicines such as Charlotte’s Web.

The recreational use of marijuana is proving to be the problem it was predicted to be, but while the stoners fill the headlines the researchers in medical marijuana are quietly making amazing advances in the treatment of illnesses. That’s some very good news indeed.

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Image via CNN Health.

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Does Valium Increase Your Chances of An Early Death?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

Nearly half a century ago, in 1965, the Rolling Stones wrote a song called Mother’s Little Helper. The words went:

Kids are different today, I hear ev’ry mother say

Mother needs something today to calm her down

And though she’s not really ill, there’s a little yellow pill

She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper

And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day…

They continued:

And if you take more of those

You will get an overdose

No more running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper

They just helped you on your way

Through your busy dying day…

The pill was valium (diazepam) and the yellow pill was 5 milligrams – as it still is. White is 2 milligrams and blue is 10.

The song was not great poetry, perhaps, but for pop music it was prescient pharmacovigilance, the epidemiological study of the adverse effects of drugs: though strictly speaking overdoses of diazepam are not dangerous. Many thousands of people have taken overdoses of diazepam in attempts to kill themselves with it, but few have succeeded unless they took something else with it.

However, it has long been known that diazepam and other similar drugs cause falls in the elderly, and such falls are often the precursor of death. It has also been suspected that, by some unspecified mechanism, diazepam (and sleeping draughts of all kinds) promote death.

A paper in a recent edition of the British Medical Journal compares the death rates of primary care patients who were prescribed diazepam-like medicines and hypnotics with those who never were prescribed them more than once (they excluded patients who had been prescribed them only once because it was possible that they had never taken them, which was unlikely if they were prescribed them twice). The authors compared the records of 37,000 of the former with 63,000 of the latter. They attempted to match them for such variables as age, social class, sex, and medical and psychiatric history. They followed the patients for an average of 7.6 years.

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We’re No Better Than The Walking Dead In Dealing with the Mentally Ill

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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Love it or hate it, The AMC channel hit series The Walking Dead is a mirror of our culture. The show is nominally an apocalyptic zombie series but it is really about how people deal with a total societal collapse.

The answer is: Badly. Usually very badly.

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Episode #14 of season 4, “The Grove,” is a thoughtful and tragic examination of what a society should or can do with a psychopath. (Spoilers!) Set in the woodlands of the American south after a zombie apocalypse, in this episode a group of five refugees find a cabin to stop and rest for a few days. There, disturbed young Lizzie goes homicidal. She stabs another little girl to death. Her mother-figure, Carol, then asks her to “look at the flowers” while she prepares to execute her, the only solution possible in their terrible new world.

The clues were all there, laid out carefully in past episodes. The girl had an obsession with capturing and cutting up live rats. She had sudden outbreaks of violent rage and anger. She was fascinated with zombies and couldn’t distinguish between the living and the dead.

The clues are all here in the real world as well, and we are no better at preventing the slaughter when a mentally disturbed person decides to kill. The Sandy Hook killer, the Aurora theater killer, the murderer at Virginia Tech, the killers at Columbine High School, all exhibited distinct indicators of violence and psychosis. All of these killers were under psychiatric care and on medically prescribed drugs. Each of them showed signs like little Lizzie on The Walking Dead, and her path ended the same as theirs, in blood.

In “The Grove,” just as in America today, we wait until a disturbed person becomes a killer and only then do we do something about them. Only then do they receive the confines of a cell or a grave. We can do better than this. Unlike Carol on The Walking Dead, we have options.

In the heartbreaking and frightening essay “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” the mother of a mentally disturbed boy explains how she cannot find care for him. “With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill.” This mother doesn’t want to put her innocent (but violent and disturbed) twelve-year-old boy in prison. Would you like to live in a world where people are jailed for crimes they might commit? Instead, we need to re-build our mental health care system in this country and that includes treatment centers and hospitals. If we don’t, we will continue to endure the slaughter of innocents at the hands of the mentally ill.

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10 Controversial Medical Questions Answered by Dr. Dalrymple

Saturday, March 15th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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Editor’s Note: Dr. Theodore Dalrymple has been contributing thoughtful pieces on medicine, culture, and politics to PJ Media for a number of years. This is the beginning of an attempt to collect and organize some of his writings on similar subjects. Here is an assortment of 10 articles weighing in on perpetual medical controversies.

1. Is obesity a disease or a moral failing?

2. Should an alcoholic be allowed a second liver transplant?

3. Are psychiatric disorders the same as physical diseases?

4. Do doctors turn their patients into drug addicts?

5. As life expectancy increases will the elderly become too much of a burden on society?

6. Is marijuana a medicine?

7. Is nutrition really that important for good health?

8. Is drug addiction really just like any other illness?

9. Are obese children victims of child abuse?

10. Should you vaccinate your kids?

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Should Taxpayers Pay for the Junky’s Substitute Smack?

Monday, February 17th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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The problem with banks, say their critics, is that they privatize their profits but nationalize their debts. But this is perfectly normal behaviour for human beings: did not Bastiat say that the state is the means by which everyone seeks to live at everyone else’s expense? How many people seek the freedom to behave as they wish while expecting others to pay for the adverse consequences? Moral hazard has become our way of life.

An article in a recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association advocates the distribution of a drug called naloxone to heroin and opioid addicts. Thousands of such addicts die of overdoses of these drugs each year in America, and naloxone is an effective antidote to them that reverses their effect. More than half of the 38,000 deaths from overdose in the United States are from prescription drugs, and 16,000 of them from prescribed opioids, more than from illegal heroin.

The article cites evidence from Wilkes County in North Carolina (the county with the third highest rate of deaths from opioid overdose in the country) that the distribution of naloxone to addicts has almost halved the death rate from overdose. Not all those whose lives were saved were either prescribed opioids by pain clinics or addicted to street heroin: they were foolish friends or acquaintances of either of these types of people who had been induced to try their drugs.

What is completely lacking in this article is any wider perspective. The people who pay for the naloxone are often not the people taking heroin or opioids; one might have supposed that those who can afford street heroin, at the very least, could also afford to buy their own naloxone. If they do not care enough for their own safety to do so, it can be argued that no one else should care – unless, of course, they are deemed, like Ophelia, to be “incapable of their own distress.” But if so, why should they be left free to take the heroin in the first place? In other words, like bankers, addicts want to be free to indulge in their own excess but  want someone else to pick up the pieces when the excess leads to a smash.

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Which Drug Is the Best, Worst, Most Dangerous: Tobacco, Alcohol, Marijuana, Heroin or Caffeine?

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

What does the future hold for California's experiment with marijuana as medicine?

USA Today: Obama: Pot no more dangerous than alcohol

President Obama says marijuana use is no more dangerous than alcohol, though he regards it as a bad habit he hopes his children will avoid.

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,” he said in a magazine interview. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

He said marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”

“It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy,” he said.

Obama made his remarks in a series of interviews with The New Yorker, which published a story about the conversations in its Jan. 27 issue and on its website.

Marijuana remains illegal to possess or sell under federal law, although Colorado and Washington have adopted state laws making it legal to possess and use small amounts. A number of states have decriminalized the weed and authorized it for medical uses.

Obama said he was troubled by the disproportionate arrests and imprisonment of minorities on marijuana charges.

“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he said. “And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.

Bridget Johnson at the PJ Tatler: Obama Praises CVS for Pulling All Tobacco Products from Its Shelves

Drugstore chain CVS got a shout out from President Obama after announcing this morning that it would stop selling tobacco products at its more than 7,600 stores across the country.

“Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health,” said Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO, CVS Caremark. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

“As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care through our pharmacists and nurse practitioners. The significant action we’re taking today by removing tobacco products from our retail shelves further distinguishes us in how we are serving our patients, clients and health care providers and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving health care marketplace,” Merlo added.

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CNN: How heroin kills you

 The autopsy results aren’t in yet, but police believe heroin played a role in the death of Academy Award winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman — if not the primary role.

Using heroin can kill you, but it may not be in the way you think. If Hoffman did die from using heroin, his death was atypical in some aspects. Here’s how heroin kills.

Most people die from heroin overdoses when their bodiesforget to breathe.

“Heroin makes someone calm and a little bit sleepy, but if you take too much then you can fall asleep, and when you are asleep your respiratory drive shuts down,” said Dr. Karen Drexler, director of the addiction psychiatry residency training program and an associate professor in Emory University’s psychiatry and behavioral sciences department.

“Usually when you are sleeping, your body naturally remembers to breathe. In the case of a heroin overdose, you fall asleep and essentially your body forgets.”

A heroin overdose can also cause your blood pressure to dip significantly and cause your heart to fail.

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Why Would Someone in Colorado Keep Buying Weed Illegally?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

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It’s now legal to buy pot in two different ways in Colorado. You can get clearance to use it for medicinal purposes, or you can just go to a dispensary and buy your pot and pay sales and other taxes along the way.

BuzzFeed reports that many in Colorado are just keeping on buying their pot illegally.

But some people like Mario, a 31-year-old graduate student who works part-time at a restaurant, are still turning to the black market for their weed.

Sitting in a vegetarian café near his Denver apartment that has a bathroom covered in graffiti like “Urban Farming Is The Future!”, Mario said he feared being on a medical registry while still in school.

A lifelong Colorado resident, Mario, a slight man with glasses and a goatee, who asked that his last name to be withheld, has yet to step foot in a dispensary. That’s because he can get an ounce of weed for $60 from a coworker whose family member has a home grow. Granted, that’s an unusually low price, as high-quality green generally costs an average of $237 an ounce, according to priceofweed.com, a self-described “global price index for marijuana.”

Purchased legally, without a medical card, that same amount would put him out around $400.

“I’m afraid that information could get somehow compromised,” he said about his fears of his loans being affected by being on a medical registry. “The last thing I’d want is to get my federal funding cut off.”

Heaven forbid.

On the other hand, Mario’s fear of getting on any government list makes sense and should be encouraged.

Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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image courtesy shutterstock / KUCO

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An Open Letter to Stage Parents

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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Dear Stage Parents,

I’m watching Justin Beiber’s public meltdown, but only because the headlines are so big. It’s a sure thing I’ve never actually listened to one of his songs, or at least not one all the way through. But I wonder if there might be a way for you to avoid having to watch your kids go through something similar.

What I came up with isn’t much. It might be enough though.

If you’re lucky enough to watch your kid have some success, take those earnings and put them in a blind trust. Let them have a generous allowance — enough to keep them comfortable, pay for tutors and college and all the rest. Just don’t let them have enough money to think they’re invincible and can load up the Ferrari with drugs and booze and yell obscenities at cops.

Because your kids aren’t invincible; they’re kids. Given that kind of power — and let’s remember that money is power — kids will almost always hurt themselves. We’ve seen it time and time again.

So put the bulk of that money in trust, where they can’t blow it all on booze and cars and whatnot. And keep it there until they turn 25. Or maybe even 30. Give them the opportunity to either transition gracefully and responsibly into adult stardom. Or should they fail that, give them the opportunity to learn to be responsible human beings before they come into a sudden fortune.

It’s the very rare child who can handle sudden wealth. It’s an even rarer child who ever becomes a real adult after acquiring it. And it’s rarer still for these grown child-adults to keep their fortunes.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really tired of watching talented, beautiful kids grow up to become ugly adult addicts — if they live long enough to do even that.

-Your Friendly Neighborhood VodkaPundit

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image via CBC News

cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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