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January 14, 2004 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers said on Wednesday they had found a gene that seems to put people more at risk of alcoholism, but said they cannot yet explain how it works.

 
December 19, 2003 PHOENIX, AZ -- A two-year-old girl survived on a diet of butter, mayonnaise and water for at least several days in her west Phoenix home as her father lay dead on the couch nearby.
 
Police said they believed the girl was able to open the refrigerator and turn on a kitchen water faucet to sustain herself for the days she spent alone in the small residence.
 
She was found late on Wednesday by police officers and was reported to be in good condition at a crisis nursery at a local hospital.
 
"This is just an amazing story," said Detective Tony Morales. "She was dehydrated and a little undernourished but she came through it and should be fine."
 
Officers were called after an alert neighbor spotted water spilling from the home, knocked on the front door and heard cries when no one answered, Morales said. The daughter apparently was unable to turn off the water faucet. Morales said the tiny girl was crying and distraught when officers arrived, but was in reasonably good shape despite the heart-wrenching ordeal.
 
Her 29-year-old father was found dead from what are believed to be natural causes. Authorities are trying to locate his family in El Salvador. Police said the mother is apparently a known drug addict who has no custodial rights to the child. Her whereabouts were not immediately known. -- Edited from a story by Reuters

Tulia Picking Up the Pieces

Finally, Justice In Tulia

Prosecutors, conceding that they made a crucial mistake by relying solely on the uncorroborated testimony of an undercover officer in a 1999 drug sweep, overturned the convictions of 38 people, almost all of them black, who were caught in the arrests that have scarred this town.

The extraordinary turnabout followed hearings in which the undercover officer, Thomas Coleman, and many other witnesses testified about his troubled law enforcement career, unorthodox methods, pervasive errors, combustible temperament and apparent racism.

But defense lawyers said the prosecutions were fueled by more than one unreliable officer. The prosecutions, they said, were the consequence of poisonous small-town race relations, a misguided desire to claim victories at any cost in the war on drugs and a legal system in which poor defendants did not have a fighting chance.

"It is established by all parties and approved by the court that Tom Coleman is simply not a credible witness under oath," Chapman said. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest court for criminal matters, is not required to accept the parties' request or Chapman's recommendation. The court could reject the recommendation in some or all of the cases, overturn the convictions outright or order new trials.

But given their concessions about Coleman, prosecutors are unlikely to pursue retrials even if the appeals court allows them.

West Texas Drug Bust Raises Questions Of Racial Prejudice, Officer's Credibility

The Tulia 46 may finally see justice served -- but the damage of the national drug war isn't anywhere near being undone.

Tulia Picking Up the Pieces of Shattered Justice  

November 16, 2003 TULIA, TX  -- The Statue of Liberty greets me as I drive into Tulia on U.S. 87. She doesn't know that Tulia scares me more than Jasper.
Say the name Jasper, and the image of a screaming man being dragged to his death on a dark East Texas road is pulled across people's minds.

Mention Tulia and it's likely to invoke little more than a furrowed brow and vacant gaze. If its significance is known, it's doubtful that anyone will associate it with the Statue of Liberty. Yet she salutes me with her torch.

It's actually a green and weathered 6-foot replica of the statue that stands in front of a motel named Liberty Suites. She was there June 16 to welcome Freddie Brookins Jr. and 12 other defendants who returned home on a bus after spending years in prison for crimes they didn't commit.

It's why they were taken from their homes that Tulia scares me more than Jasper. Not the tiny town itself, hidden in the Panhandle between Amarillo and Lubbock. With its brick streets and more than two dozen churches, Tulia is an economically depressed town with closed and boarded-up businesses and where at 10 o'clock on a Friday morning, its pulse is hardly livelier than at 10 o'clock Sunday night.

Nor is it the people of whom I'm wary, people who are polite and who easily shake your hand and engage you in conversation.

Tulia scares me because this community's tragedy of people arrested, convicted and sentenced for things they didn't do could just as easily happen to me. Or you. And it's more likely to happen than our being victims of a motorized lynching.

Values we hold dear to our national soul, enshrined in our laws and engraved on our public conscience civil liberties, the presumption of innocence, fair trials were shattered in Tulia, and it's now up to this farming town of less than 6,000 to pick up the pieces.

The danger of picking up broken pieces is in cutting yourself, but Tulia has been cut enough and already has bled too much.

Tulia is Spanish for "destined for glory." But Tulia's name is a mistake. When it was settled in the 19th century, it was supposed to be named after nearby Tule Creek, but a misspelling changed its name. The mistake has outlasted the now anonymous man who made the clerical error.

With fortune and reflection, Tulia's name will outlast that of Tom Coleman, the strange and devious man who did so much to tarnish its name and the names of its citizens. In another town, by mistake or malice, the tarnished name could be mine. It could be yours.

The people of Tulia can't be blamed for bringing Coleman into their midst. The fault lies with those who hired him as an undercover agent for the Panhandle Regional Narcotics Trafficking Task Force, despite the soiled reputation he'd earned in previous law enforcement jobs.

Nor can the people of Tulia be blamed for the infamous pre-dawn raid on July 23, 1999, in which 46 Tulians, 39 of them black, were arrested. That raid led to 38 of them being sentenced to prison with no evidence that Coleman actually made the drug buys from the defendants that he claimed.

On Aug. 22, Gov. Rick Perry issued pardons to the defendants. Coleman has been indicted on three counts of perjury.

What the people of Tulia must ask themselves is why so many of them were willing to believe the worst about fellow citizens with whom they'd lived for years. Why would they take the word of a stranger who had lived among them for only 18 months?

Like Jasper in its moment of infamy, Tulia deserves the opportunity to search its soul for answers. When I visited Jasper on Easter weekend in 1999, between the trials of the men who murdered James Byrd Jr., I was impressed with the people's willingness to understand how this crime could happen in their community and to talk openly about it. Blacks and whites admitted to working harder at a civility they'd taken for granted, but the most powerful comment I heard came from Willis Webb, publisher and editor of the Jasper Newsboy:

"We all have to ask ourselves, what little have I done that might have contributed to this that allowed this to happen."

Last month, I visited Tulia. Before my trips to both Jasper and Tulia, there were warnings from friends to be careful. The warnings were both playful and serious, but had I been white I doubt anyone would have been concerned about my safety.

I understood. Race played a role in both crimes. I'm a black man. Most of the Tulia defendants were black males. Many people, including Jeff Blackburn, the Amarillo attorney who was the lead defense counsel for all the defendants, believe that the drug sting was an attempt to get blacks, about 8 percent of the town's population, out of Tulia.

Tulia scares me more than Jasper, because the threat of physical violence doesn't frighten me nearly as much as the possibility of being falsely accused and convicted of something I didn't do and having people believe the charges.

The brutality in Jasper and the injustices in Tulia were so egregious as to transcend race. In Tulia, especially, what happened isn't simply an example of one rogue lawman turned loose on one community, but what can transpire when people become lax in safeguarding their constitutional rights and liberties. What happens when they neglect to assume responsibility for neighbors whose rights and freedoms have been violated?

In Tulia, it doesn't matter now what Vicki Fry's ethnicity was when she was wrongfully arrested. What's important is that a woman who was seven months pregnant lost her baby days after her arrest.

I'm not one of those who sees the government as some demonic entity dispatching its agents in black helicopters to burst into the homes of law-abiding citizens and ferry them away into the darkness. Still, that's what happened to Freddie Brookins Jr.

On the morning of the raid in Tulia, Brookins was sleeping when his wife woke him to tell him someone was knocking on the door of their duplex in Tulia. He wrapped a bed sheet around himself and went to the door. When law officers brought him out of the house, they stripped him of the sheet he was covering himself with, revealing his nakedness in front of bright lights and television cameras.

"Kids and everybody were outside," Brookins says. "Every corner you looked at they (law enforcement officers) were running into houses."

Now 26, Brookins spent 31/2 years in prison for something he didn't do. On the jury were people who'd known him since he was a child. "Everyone in the jury, I knew," he says. "One guy was my basketball coach when I was a kid. I spent the night at his house, even as a teenager. His boys have spent the night with me. This man knew me, and he still convicted me."

Inside Rip's Country Grill, Brookins walks by an older white man who shakes his hand and talks to him for a couple of minutes. "That's Darrell Stapp," he says. "He's good people."

Near the Swisher County Archives and Museum on Southwest Second Street, I met a white woman who'd served on one of the juries. She says she reluctantly voted to convict one of the defendants. But that was before she knew about Coleman's duplicitous and criminal past.

"I'll never serve on a jury again," she says, not wanting her name used. "Not if it's going to hurt people."

Alan Bean, a Methodist minister in Tulia who helped publicize the plight of the "Tulia 46," believes that once the hurt caused by the sting operation is acknowledged, the town can move forward.

"Anytime that you can get people on both sides of the issue to sit down at the table, it's positive," says Bean, referring to conversations now taking place. "If we can change the economic development instead of who was right and wrong about Coleman, we're putting it behind us."

In the Jasper City Cemetery, the grave of James Byrd Jr. has a metallic tomb in which someone, an entire town even, can see his or her reflection.

There is no similar monument in Tulia on which people can pause to reflect, only the faces of living men and women and the pain they're trying to get over. It's only when all of Tulia's citizens see each other and the promise of a future together that they'll bridge that pain.

When that's done, it will no longer be symbolic that the Statue of Liberty standing in front of Liberty Suites has her back to the town. -- by Cary Clack, My San Antonio.com

January 15, 2004 LONDON (Reuters) - People who take the drug ecstasy are more likely to suffer from long-term memory loss, according to a British study published on Thursday.

 
January 15, 2004 BERLIN (Reuters) - The untimely bowel movements of a man arrested with marijuana at an airport yielded German crime fighters an unexpected haul of 54 condoms containing cocaine, authorities said on Thursday

"Believe it or not, even though a lot of people smoked pot, I think beer was still the drug of choice. It was for me." -- Democratic presidential candidate HOWARD DEAN discussing his '60s experiences in Rolling Stone.

Marijuana: as harmless as a cocktail at Happy Hour
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or a mind-destroying killer that supports terrorism?

Two People Arrested as Police Crash Opening Day of Montreal Marijuana Cafe

November 29, 2003 MONTREAL  -- Police arrested two people on Saturday as dozens of people celebrated the opening of a pot cafe by passing around joints and breathing in air thick with marijuana smoke.

Several police officers from a station less than a block away squeezed into Chez Marijane and arrested two men who were holding joints, said Hugo St-Onge, president of the Bloc Pot party.

"To tell you the truth, I'm surprised," St-Onge said when reached on his cell phone at the police station where he was helping the two men, aged 26 and 51.

"It's a waste of their time, a waste of money. But it's simple possession and it's illegal." One of the men arrested has multiple sclerosis, he added.

The cafe does not sell pot but people can bring their own to smoke, said St-Onge, who called the day a success despite the arrests.

"Only about two or three people left because of the police, the rest are still there."

Before police arrived, customers and cafe volunteers sipped coffee, passed joints and revelled in having a place they could congregate to smoke dope.

Serge Granger said not even the cold snowy weather could keep him away.

"We need transparency when it comes to drugs," he said, cradling his 14-month-old daughter in his arms. "Drugs need to be out in the open if we are going to deal with the problem."

Antoine Debast, 23, peered through the thick haze of smoke at the cafe's hustle and bustle and described the atmosphere as "more like a rave than a cafe."

Police had the cafe under suveillence all afternoon. A police spokesman would not say why they decided to go in when they did or if they would return on Sunday.

"I can't comment on that but the cafe will be visited in a regular fashion in order to enforce the law," Const. Michel Kriaa said.

Police said two children, aged between two and five, were present when they entered. Quebec's child-protection agency was informed.

Earlier, St-Onge was all smiles as he cut a red, black and green ribbon and declared the cafe officially open.

"It's time to stop the persecution," St-Onge said on the cafe steps as trucks passed by honking support. "Here at Chez Marijane (people) can come to express themselves and share their culture in a friendly and secure environment."

Organizers' plans to open a pot cafe at a nearby location last September drew howls of protest from the landlord and nearby businesses. The building housing Chez Marijane previously was home to a club that provided pot to the seriously ill. Nearby businesses said they weren't worried about the cafe taking its place.

"Look at all the bars around here," said Yves Martel, owner of a nearby art gallery, as he waved his arm towards the street. "I'm more worried about the people who come out of them drunk, aggressive and vomiting all over the sidewalk. I've got no problem with (Chez Marijane) being there."

St-Onge said the cafe will be open to "members." Day-long memberships will cost about a $1, with year-long memberships costing as little as $5. Coffee, juice and snacks will be available for a donation, he said.

"Above all this is a place to meet and exchange ideas," St-Onge said. "And if people want to smoke a joint while they're doing it, it's fine. We're not here to encourage it or discourage it."

Similar cafes have been opening across Canada after rulings by courts in Ontario, P.E.I. and New Brunswick this year that ruled charges for simple possession of marijuana were unconstitutional.

The Cannabis Cafe in Saint John, N.B., which opened in April, allows people to bring their own marijuana to smoke along with a cup of coffee.

Police arrested five people at the cafe in May but charges are still pending. Meanwhile, pot smokers continue to frequent the store.

No Quebec court has made a similar ruling so possession of even small amounts of pot is illegal. Montreal police said recently they would enforce the law.

A proposed federal bill that would decriminalize marijuana for small-time users caught with less than 15 grams died when Parliament shut down this month. The bill is expected to be reintroduced later.
-- by EILIS QUINN in The Canadian Press

Police Charged With Peddling Drugs to Children

Toluca, Mexico -- Authorities arrested more than forty city police officers in central Mexico state for selling drugs to schoolchildren, officials said. Forty-two officers from Ecatepec, a city of nearly 3 million people on the outskirts of Mexico City, were arrested Thursday. The arrests came after an eight-month investigation prompted by complaints from parents.

"This nation has been fighting a war on drugs ever since New York governor, Nelson Rockefeller mandated harsh drug sentencing in 1973 and it may be time to announce that this is one war we've lost. More than a million people are serving time in our prisons and jails for non-violent offenses, most drug-related, at a cost to the public of some 9.4 billion dollars a year." ~ Sasha Abramsky,in The Nation

Who Gets Hooked Faster?

New evidence shows one of the sexes gets hooked faster and suffers greater consequences of substance abuse and addiction. Do you know which sex it is? Can you guess why?

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Legalize It? The history of the war on marijuana.

 
Overwhelming numbers of kids are on drugs -- prescribed by their doctors. Is this a miracle cure for inattentive kids who do poorly in school, or an an indication of a sick society?

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