Updated: Aug 30
In the past week, governments around the world have taken a number of idiosyncratic measure in addressing alcohol-related public health crises. This morning, numerous news agencies reported that the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota have launched a $500 million class action lawsuit against five major North American brewing companies. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which covers approximately 5,000 square miles in the northern United States, has been technically “dry” since 1832. The reservation is plagued by systemic poverty and fetal alcohol syndrome, however, which community leaders attribute to the continued willingness of companies to sell liquor to tribe members. In Britain, the ongoing moral panic over drinking continues, as London Mayor Boris Johnson has adopted South Dakota-style electronic breathalyzer bracelets for problem drinkers. Meanwhile, a particularly savage winter in Eastern Europea has resulted in 135 weather-related deaths in Ukraine this year. Viktor Baloga, the head of the nation’s emergency situation ministry, blames the deaths not on his office’s failure to shelter the homeless, but on the public’s insistence on fighting the cold with liquor. Baloga’s own advice for fighting the cold? “Run 8-10km every morning and bathe in cold water, all year ’round.”
Drugs are at the centre of two rather curious political struggles this week. The deaths of twenty-nine miners at the Upper Big Branch coal mine on April 5, 2010 spurred the government of West Virginia to push for a mine safety bill that requires regular drug testing for certified miners. This is a remarkable move, given that Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and the federal-level Mine Safety and Health Administration have already placed the blame for the tragedy squarely on the shoulders of Massey Energy’s corporate culture rather than worker incompetence. Meanwhile, the Knights of Templar, a prominent Mexican drug cartel from the Michoacan region, handed out hand-painted banners to rival gangs in hopes of convincing their enemies to tone down their violent temperaments while Pope Benedict XVI visits Mexico City. Apparently the Knights do not see any irony in a group that regularly performs executions demanding “peace” with the threat of “confrontations.”
Lastly, regular readers of Friday Reads will know that drug use in baseball is a topic of particular interest to the author. The past two days have been more than a little exciting on this front. Yesterday, former Red Sox pitcher Dennis “Oil Can Boyd” admitted, incredibly, that he was on cocaine in two-thirds of the games he played. Boyd’s admission of heavy coke use should have given the Baseball Hall of Fame, which remains doggedly committed to its public moralizing about steroid use, some food for thought. On Wednesday, however, the HOF doubled down on its steroid-centric drug focus, announcing it was starting what might be euphemistically called an “education program” about the evils of Human Growth Hormone.