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What Makes A Heavy Drinker?

There’s been a significant rise in “heavy drinking” among Americans, according to a new study out of the University of Washington.

But what do these researchers mean by “heavy drinking”? wine lovers must ask. For a woman, heavy drinking is defined as more than one glass of wine a day. For men, it’s more than two. Other definitions of heavy drinking use similar measures. But hmm.

I’m often a heavy drinker by these lights, but not by my lights. Many days, I’ll have two glasses of wine. Occasionally, I’ll have three. I don’t think that’s a big deal, and I don’t see myself in any kind of denial.

Is the Frenchwoman who takes a glass of rosé with lunch and a cabernet at dinner a “heavy drinker”? And if she should add an aperitif before dinner and a dash of cognac when the meal ends two hours later — that is, consume four alcoholic beverages in the course of 24 hours — does that make her a “binge drinker,” as many would define her?

Even doctors pointing to the cardiac benefits of moderate consumption urge people to not start drinking for health reasons. Well, why not, unless the person is addicted to alcohol?

Other healthy adults should be able to split a bottle of wine with a friend without being told they are headed to the gutter. Somewhere in our society’s gut lives the notion of alcohol as inherently evil.

When experts talk about the one-drink-a-day limit for a woman, they ignore vast differences in the sizes, ages and health conditions of the sisterhood’s members.

“I can’t drink anything,” my 90-year-old aunt Shirley told me during a recent dinner out, “but would you like another glass of white?”

Aunt Shirley has only 102 pounds on her but a ton of wisdom.

Even getting tipsy now and then should be the drinker’s own business, assuming that he or she doesn’t then drive. On that subject, campaigns against drunken driving have succeeded in sharply reducing alcohol-fueled fatalities on the road. Unfortunately, the modern-day temperance movement has gotten into its head that the way to push these numbers still lower is to make alcoholic beverages more expensive through higher taxes.

In truth, the dangerous drivers are typically alcoholics with repeated arrests and blood alcohol levels that are double the legal maximum or more. They are not real sensitive to the price of the substance.

Promoting higher prices as a response to campus binge drinking is also a non-solution. The problem of students’ downing rotgut until they pass out is not just of too much alcohol but of too little civilization.

Giancarlo Gariglio, editor-in-chief of Slow Wine magazine, touched on this in his criticisms of a European Union plan to discourage binge drinking with minimum prices and regulated alcoholic percentages. His big complaint was it lumped artisanal wines with industrial, pre-mixed alcohol beverages.

“Without culture,” he wrote, “we drink poorly and we don’t even enjoy ourselves, because we gulp down rubbish.”

Taxes on alcohol are, of course, regressive. The Beer Institute, an industry trade group, reports that beer drinkers pay $5.6 billion a year in hidden excise taxes alone — hidden because they are levied at the brewery.

Low- and middle-income Americans are beer’s chief consumers. The institute estimates that households earning less than $50,000 per year pay half of beer taxes.

The battle is on to define moderate drinking. If that means dishing out the same guidelines to a skinny Nancy Reagan at 93 and a large Melissa McCarthy at 44, then they’re not going to say much.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com. 

Photo: Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Newcombe Lifts Lid On ‘Party Boy’ George W. Bush

Sydney (AFP) – Australian tennis legend John Newcombe has lifted the lid on “party boy” George W. Bush and the drink-driving revelation that clouded his 2000 U.S. presidential election campaign.

Bush, who served as president from 2001 to 2009, admitted to the drink-driving arrest that he kept secret for nearly 25 years just days ahead of the poll, after the story broke on U.S. networks.

The incident occurred in 1976 near his family’s Kennebunkport summer home in Maine, and followed a night’s drinking with Wimbledon champion Newcombe, who was also in the car.

Newcombe has kept quiet since on exactly what happened but told Melbourne commercial radio station SEN late Thursday that he was with the Bush family that night as a guest of George H. W. Bush, who was then director of the CIA.

He had not met the younger Bush but they were similar ages — Newcombe 32 and Bush 30 — so “we went to the local pub”, along with Newcombe’s wife, Bush’s younger sister, and Peter Roussel, then press secretary to George H. W. Bush.

“George was a bit of a party boy in those days,” Newcombe said of George W.

“I noticed that George was sort of eyeing me off,” he added as they began drinking “reasonable-sized mugs of beer”.

“I put on a bit of pace and he’d keep pace with me. A little silent game was going on.

“After about four of these, I picked the glass up in my teeth without my hands and skulled it straight down and I said, ‘What are you made of, George?’ And so he had to do that.”

Newcombe said he then drank another beer from the wrong side of the glass: “I looked at him and go, ‘Have you got any guts, George, or what’s your story?’ So he did that.”

The pair staggered back to their car and Newcombe’s wife Angie offered to drive but Bush insisted he was fine.

“We had about three miles to drive down this road along the sea and after about a mile he got pulled over,” Newcombe recalled.

“The cop got out of the car and made him walk the line and back and he kind of did it alright but he was a bit cheeky when he was doing it,” he said.

“The cop was writing him a ticket and then Peter Roussel got out of the car, and went over to the cop and was telling him he was George Bush’s son, and the cop, his name was Calvin, goes ‘Oh my God, I’ve just booked the son of the director of the CIA, I’m in real trouble.’

“But he’s written the ticket.”

Newcombe said the pair would joke for years that “Calvin’s going to come back to haunt you”, and eventually he did with the story breaking during the presidential campaign.

Newcombe said Roussel called his Sydney office when the story broke. “He says ‘Newk, George just rang me, and he said they found out about Calvin.'”

The phone call prompted Newcombe to flee as reporters swarmed his Sydney office.

Bush, who was fined $150 dollars over the offence, gave up drinking in the 1980s.

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

 

 

SXSW Crash: 9 Remain Hospitalized After Deadly Incident

By Joseph Serna, Los Angeles Times

Nine people remained hospitalized Friday, including two in critical and one in serious condition, after police said a man drove drunk into a crowd at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, leaving two dead.

Officials with University Medical Center Brackenridge told the Los Angeles Times that two people were discharged Thursday after being injured when Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, allegedly tried to flee a DUI checkpoint and hit a bicyclist, two people on a moped, and then barreled into a crowd on the sidewalk.

Three other people were listed in good or fair condition at Brackenridge. Three other victims are recovering at St. David’s HealthCare facilities and are listed in fair condition, hospital officials there said.

Owens, meanwhile, is being held in Travis County Jail without bond. He was held on suspicion of two murders and injuring 23 other people. Owens’ court date was not immediately available. Owens has a previous conviction for a DUI in Fairbanks, Alaska, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

According to police, Owens was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint about 12:30 a.m. Thursday outside the music festival. He was in town to rap at a club in Austin, according to local news channel WFAA.

Owens allegedly fled the checkpoint and drove the wrong way down a one-way street and hit Steven Craenmehr of the Amsterdam music booking and promotion agency MassiveMusic. Craenmehr was riding a bicycle when he was hit and was pronounced dead at the scene.

MassiveMusic released a statement on its website Friday morning that read: “It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden passing of our close friend and colleague Steven Craenmehr, 35, on March 13th, 2014 at SXSW. During the 8 years that Steven worked for MassiveMusic, we got to know him as an unstoppable force, full of life, love and laughter.

“This is an irreplaceable loss for the MassiveMusic family and we are grateful for the years we spent with him. Our thoughts are with Steven’s family and friends.”

Also killed was 27-year-old Jamie Ranae West of Austin. West was on a moped when she was fatally struck. She was married and worked as a sales clerk at Leighelena Boutique.

Shon Cook, Jamie’s mother, a resident of Garrett, Indiana, held back tears when talking about her daughter on the phone.

“She was beautiful and warm,” she said. “She was excited about life and art. She loved her family and her family loved her.”

Despite the crash, the festival will continue as planned, event officials said. And police said they would review how they block off streets for major events like SXSW but also noted sturdier blockades would make it difficult for them to quickly move emergency vehicles, the Statesman reported.

At a news conference, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said a person determined to mow people down in a vehicle would be difficult to stop, and that Owens “showed no regard for the human beings he plowed through … to get away,” the American-Statesman reported.

At least one officer had to jump out of the way to avoid Owens’ vehicle, police said.

Photo: Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman/MCT

Man Jailed Based On Mistaken Identity Can’t Sue, Court Rules

By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times

SAN FRANCISCO — A man jailed in Los Angeles County for a month because he was mistaken for someone with the same name and birth date lost a legal effort Wednesday to hold law enforcement agencies responsible for the mix-up.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected claims by Santiago Rivera that the Los Angeles and San Bernardino County sheriff’s departments violated his constitutional rights when they arrested and held him based on a warrant for another man.

“The deputies were not unreasonable in believing that Rivera was the subject of the warrant at the time of arrest,” Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, a Reagan appointee, wrote for the court. “The name and date of birth on the warrant matched Rivera’s exactly. The height and weight descriptors associated with the warrant, although not matching Rivera exactly, were within one inch and 10 pounds of Rivera’s true size.”

The confusion began when the Los Angeles County Superior Court issued a warrant in 1985 for a Santiago Rivera who was wanted in connection with a fatal drunken driving incident. A different Santiago Rivera was arrested in 1989 on the warrant and spent a week in jail before fingerprints exonerated him.

Los Angeles court officials gave him a document showing he was not the subject of the warrant, but Rivera lost the paperwork years later when his wallet was stolen.

In 2009, San Bernardino County deputies again arrested the wrong Rivera based on the outstanding warrant. Rivera told the deputies he had been cleared, but he was incarcerated because he could not produce the form exonerating him.

After being transferred to Los Angeles County, Rivera again tried to clear up the mistake, but he had to stay behind bars until court officials located the fingerprints of the true suspect.

To prevent another mishap, the Los Angeles court added Rivera’s photograph and fingerprints to the case file and reissued the warrant with the true subject’s middle name, which differs from Rivera’s.

Judge Richard A. Paez, a Clinton appointee, agreed with most of the ruling but dissented on the grounds that Rivera deserved a trial on whether his due process claims were violated.

Paez said Rivera told deputies at the Los Angeles jail about the misunderstanding, and they failed to investigate. A quick search at the jail could have rectified the mistake, Paez said.

“Exonerating a jailer of any obligation to investigate once a court remands a detainee to custody is an unsound policy,” Paez wrote. “As this case demonstrates, if the detainee’s only recourse is to seek court intervention to verify his identity, he may languish in detention for weeks while the court searches its records for dated physical files.”

Casey Konstantín via Flickr.com