Copyright UN Photo/UNODC/Zalmai
If you’re even a teensy bit cynical, you could say that Afghanistan is a giant heroin lab that also happens to be a sovereign nation. The country produces 90 percent of the world’s opium; the drug is grown on family-cultivated poppy fields in rural areas like the Farah Province and shot by skag fiends in broad daylight on the streets of Kabul. With at least 200,000 users among a population of 30 million, the only place with more junkies per capita is Iran.
One related statistic that seems to be ignored is that the greatest victims of Afghanistan’s drug epidemic are women, many of who suffer silently under a haze of opium smoke. In 2007, there were an estimated 100,000 female addicts in the country, largely a byproduct of the 1 million widows and recently returned refugees. Considering the conservative Islamic traditions that keep many women confined to their homes and stigmatize drug abusers, 100,000 is most likely a drastic understatement. Worse still, only 10 percent of Afghan women even have access to the scant drug treatment that is available.
Drug dealers seek out women here the same as anywhere else. Nazif M. Shahrani, a professor of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University, said, “There are people who would peddle it, and they will go and encourage the women to indulge. They may even give it to them for free. And eventually it hooks them. It’s not long before those women have to go and find money, or even steal to support the habit.”
Of course, addiction isn’t just wrecking the lives of women. Increasing drug-abuse rates will have a profound impact on the next generation who are being raised by dope-fiend moms. A 2010 study conducted by the US State Department found that in 31 out of 42 homes where adult addicts lived, there were signs of children being exposed to drugs.
Videos from the rural northeast Wakhan region depict families huddled together in shanties, passing around the dream stick. When their children cry of hunger pains or cold, the mothers blow smoke in the kids’ faces or rub opium powder on their lips to settle them down—practices once isolated to small ethnic groups like the Wakhi that are now widespread because of limited access to doctors in the wake of recent wars. And suckling from a junkie tit can be lethal, which is pretty much the most hopeless image imaginable.
A member of the bomb squad inspects an object after a controlled detonation at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Police have blown up two unattended backpacks found near the Boston Marathon’s finish line on Tuesday. They say they’ve taken a man into custody in connection with them. Photo: Michael Dwyer, AP
Environmental regulators and North Dakota state officials have expressed concern that the state has failed to adequately adjust to the state’s sudden influx of crude oil output, a worry highlighted by the recent discovery of abandoned radioactive waste.
Last month, the North Dakota Health Department announced that a large pile of oil filter socks –radioactive nets that are used to strain liquid during the oil production process – had been found at an old gas station in Noonan, a small town in the northwestern region of the state.
The bags were covered in dust – an indication they had been there for some time – and dumped illegally at the mechanics station owned by a fugitive named Ken Ward, who reportedly worked in North Dakota’s fledgling gas and oil industry.
SHREVEPORT, La. — On the blocks surrounding Calumet Specialty Products’ Shreveport Refinery the stench of rotten eggs is nearly constant. It’s a sign that hydrogen sulfide is in the air, and residents say the chemicals they’ve come to associate with that smell are responsible for a host of health issues — from cancers to lung disease to nerve damage — that plague families in the area.
Still, hundreds of little wooden houses on small plots of grass dot the blocks surrounding the plant, in the Ingleside neighborhood of Louisiana’s third largest city.
Some houses are so close that their backyards end where the Calumet’s chain link fence begins. The plant’s smokestacks are the skyline. It’s not that people don’t mind the smell, but they say there’s little they can do.
Unknown, USA, circa 1920s
A study following more than 1,800 children from ages 6 months to nearly 8 years found a small but consistent association between increased television viewing and shorter sleep duration. The presence of a television in the room where a child sleeps also was associated with less sleep, particularly in minority children. Investigators from MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) report their results – the first to examine the connection between television and sleep duration over several years – in the May issue of Pediatrics.
The study participants, children and their mothers, were enrolled in Project Viva, a long-term investigation of the health effects of several factors during pregnancy and after birth. This study analyzed information – reported by mothers when the children were around 6 months old and then annually for the next seven years – regarding how much time each day infants were in a room where a television was on, how much time older children watched television daily, whether children ages 4 to 7 slept in a room where a TV was present and their child’s average daily amount of sleep.
The study revealed that, over the course of the study, each additional hour of television viewing was associated with 7 fewer minutes of sleep daily, with the effects appearing to be stronger in boys than in girls. Racial and ethnic minority children were much more likely to sleep in a room where a television was present, and among those children, the presence of a bedroom television reduced average sleep around a half-hour per day.
The study authors note their results support previous short-term studies finding that both television viewing and sleeping in a room with a television decrease total sleep time, which can have negative effects on both mental and physical health.
It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end. Could dedicate their entire lives to it. It seemed admirable and at the same time pathetic. We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe. God or Satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately- the object seemed incidental to this will to give oneself away, utterly. To games or needles, to some other person. Something pathetic about it. A flight-from in the form of a plunging-into. Flight from exactly what? These rooms blandly filled with excrement and meat? To what purpose? This was why they started us here so young: to give ourselves away before the age when the questions why and to what grow real beaks and claws. It was kind, in a way. Modern German is better equipped for combining gerundives and prepositions than is its mongrel cousin. The original sense of addiction involved being bound over, dedicated, either legally or spiritually. To devote one’s life, plunge in. I had researched this. Stice had asked whether I believed in ghosts. It’s always seemed a little preposterous that Hamlet, for all his paralyzing doubt about everything, never once doubts the reality of the ghost. Never questions whether his own madness might not in fact be unfeigned. Stice had promised something boggling to look at. That is, whether Hamlet might be only feigning feigning.
David Foster Wallace
i woke up like dis