America’s Crisis with Opioids: The Breadth and Depth of the Opioid Epidemic

America’s Crisis with Opioids: The Breadth and Depth of the Opioid Epidemic

This is the second in a three-part series on the most serious crisis America is facing. Last week’s column introduced you to how serious the problem is and the particular exposure for adolescents. This week we see how deep this problem radiates throughout our country.

How serious can a problem become to be declared a national emergency by the U.S. president?

More than just adolescents, this problem has a depth and breadth that can stagger you.

In 2015, approximately 92 million adults in America used prescription opioids. We know many use these drugs within the parameters established by their medical professionals without abusing the drugs.

Still it is estimated that 11.5 million adults misused the drugs. What this means is these adults did not use the drugs within the directed parameters either by using the wrong dosage or for a longer period of time than directed. They could have also taken them without a prescription for a reason other than for which the drug was additionally prescribed. There is a massive population of “abusers.”

Those are the people who only have a problem. Another 1.9 million Americans had the far more serious determination of having an opioid use disorder. The criteria for having this disorder means that opioid use interferes with your normal life activities — be it work, school or your home life. More importantly, the user suffers withdrawals if they stop usage (they are addicted). Far worse, many die of an overdose.

View Cartoon

To understand how matters have accelerated since the benchmark period of 1999, the rate of overdose deaths was 2.5 times higher in 2015 (21.1 per 100,000 people). The rate increased more among males than females, but was still significantly higher for females in 2015.

Though the problem was widespread throughout the United States, some places were hit harder than others. West Virginia had almost twice the national average of drug overdose deaths in 2015. New Hampshire was the next most affected at 162%, the national average followed by Kentucky and Ohio, which were at 142%. Twenty-one states had higher experiences of drug overdoses than others, concentrated principally in the Midwest and Southwest.

It was not just geographic factors that led to greater opioid problems. If you want to avoid the problem, get married, as the never…

Why ‘Juggalos’ are marching on DC

Why 'Juggalos' are marching on DC

They love clown makeup, Faygo soda and acting outrageous. And they’re coming to D.C. on Saturday.

They are Juggalos — the fans of the hip-hop group Insane Clown Posse (ICP).

But music and (law-abiding) mayhem aren’t the only matters on the agenda for the “Juggalo March.” Instead, the Juggalos are coming to clear their name.

In 2011, the FBI classified Juggalos as a “loosely-organized hybrid gang” in its National Gang Threat Assessment (NGTA), and fans said their community hasn’t been the same since.

“We’re marching on Washington to wake the world up to what’s going on,” said Jason Webber, director of public relations for Psychopathic Records, ICP’s record label.

“On paper, it sounds just plain ridiculous that a group of men and women who like a particular kind of music are being considered gang members, but it’s no laughing matter when you realize how many people’s lives are being destroyed by this gang designation.”

The march’s website includes personal tales of fans being fired from their jobs, stopped and detained by police and losing custody battles for being Juggalos, wearing band merchandise or having the band’s trademark “hatchet man” tattoo, a silhouette of a man wielding an axe.

ICP, which formed in 1991, is known for its clown makeup and expletive-laden lyrics in songs that Webber said are all part of a running story called “The Dark Carnival.”

Webber claims the story’s underlying message is about being a good person. The expletives, misogyny and violence in songs like “I Shot a Hater” are just “tongue in cheek,” Webber says.

“Yes, it’s politically incorrect, but it’s just in good fun,” he said.

But the NGTA report claims that Juggalos are “rapidly expanding into many U.S. communities.”

“Although recognized as a gang in only four states [Arizona, California, Pennsylvania and Utah] many Juggalo subsets exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence,” the report said, citing reporting from the National Gang Intelligence Center.

“Law enforcement officials in at least 21 states have identified criminal Juggalo sub-sets.”

But ICP fans say that, unlike gang members, they are bonded by music instead of crime. They say they shouldn’t be grouped together as criminals because of a few bad actors.

Scott “Scottie D” Donihoo, who runs a Juggalo fan site called “Faygo Luvers,”…

Second night of protests in St. Louis after ex-cop acquitted

Twitter video is loading
Twitter video is loading

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in St. Louis for a second night in a row after the acquittal of a white former police officer in the shooting death of a black motorist.

Protests remained mostly peaceful Saturday, with live stream video on Periscope showing demonstrators marching down the streets chanting “black lives matter” and “united we stand/divided we fall.”

Other videos shared on social media showed rapper and television host Nick Cannon marching with protesters Saturday evening. Video showed…

High stakes as Trump looks to make UN debut

High stakes as Trump looks to make UN debut

President Trump will face high stakes when he makes his debut at the United Nations on Tuesday, where he will be charged with addressing a global body that he once derided as weak and incompetent.

Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the U.N., previewed the president’s upcoming speech on Friday, casting it as an opportunity for Trump to project strength by praising the U.S.’s allies and admonishing its foes.

“I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people, and he comes out with (the) U.S. being very strong, in the end,” she told reporters at a White House press briefing.

Of particular focus for Trump when he takes the podium in New York will be North Korea’s weapons development, which has accelerated in recent months and put the world on high alert.

In a stunning development earlier this month, Pyongyang detonated what it said was a hydrogen bomb. If that claim is true, it would represent a major milestone for the rogue nation’s nuclear weapons program.

Trump himself warned last month that he would unleash “fire and fury” on the North if it continues to threaten the U.S. And the president and other administration officials have repeatedly insisted that they are considering military options for dealing with Pyongyang.

White House national…

FEMA auctioned off disaster-response trailers days before Harvey’s landfall

FEMA auctioned off disaster-response trailers days before Harvey's landfall

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) auctioned off more than 100 disaster-response trailers at discounted prices just days before Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

The 2017 model trailers were reportedly being sold either without problems, or with only minor damage, such as missing furniture or flat tires.

More than 300 of the trailers have been auctioned off since the beginning of the year.

“The ones you will hear about being…

WH denies Trump is softening stance on Paris climate deal

The White House on Saturday denied reports that the Trump administration is no longer seeking to withdraw from the Paris climate deal.

“There has been no change in the United States’ position on the Paris agreement. As the President has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country,” said White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters in a statement.

Multiple reports surfaced on Saturday saying the administration had appeared to soften its stance toward the deal.

A top…

A Mostly Typical Saturday In Washington, D.C.: Political Rallies — Plus Juggalos

People gather at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., for Saturday’s Juggalo March.

As a rule of thumb, it is not big news when multiple political rallies overlap on the same weekend in the nation’s capital, a prime setting for anyone trying to send a message to the people in power.

But there are exceptions to every rule — and certainly an exception can be found in a large gathering of Juggalos airing their grievance against the FBI. (More on this later.)

On Saturday, downtown Washington, D.C., was home to three prominent demonstrations that some feared might combine violently but instead stayed largely separate and peaceful, with modest attendance.

The self-described Mother of All Rallies, designed to support President Trump and “defend American culture,” was staged on the National Mall late Saturday morning.

Around the same time and several blocks away, near the White House, was the Protect American Democracy rally, which organizers say was meant to tell the president to take a tougher stance against Russian interference in American elections.

The rally garnering the most attention was the Juggalo March, an assembly set near the Lincoln Memorial of so-called Juggalos. The fans of the horror-core rap duo Insane Clown Posse are often adorned in face paint, tattoos and other symbols similar to those of group. The march was described on its website as “a collective statement from the Juggalo Family to the world about what we are and what we are not.”

The Juggalo March, on the National Mall on Saturday, was made up of the fans of…

Alan Dershowitz: Hard Left and Hard Right Both Engage in Identity Politics

As seen on Fox & Friends Weekend

Alan Dershowitz recommended bringing the political debate “back to the center” away from the fringe groups.

“Both the hard right and the hard left engage in identity politics,” the retired Harvard law professor told “Fox & Friends” on Saturday.

“I’m a centrist liberal, many of you are centrist conservatives, we can talk. We can have a rational argument.”

In contrast, several recent incidents showcase the unwillingness of the extreme right and left to have a discussion, he pointed out.

Last month, violent white nationalists rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one.

At the University of…

House sets aside Trump’s biggest budget cuts

House sets aside Trump's biggest budget cuts

The House this week quietly pushed aside some of the most controversial proposals in President Trump’s budget request.

Trump’s proposal, released in May, was a jaw-dropping document, containing cuts to programs and agencies unlike anything seen in decades. The administration touted the document as “A New Foundation for American Greatness.”

The blueprint called for slashing budgets at major government agencies, plus cutting funds from the National Weather Service, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts, among other things.

But many of those proposed cuts were reduced or absent altogether on Thursday as the House passed a $1.2 trillion government-funding package.

The package contains significant cuts to government programs, though not nearly as deep as what the Trump administration had recommended.

“I would say that the bill reflects conservatives’ priorities pretty well, as indicated by the fact that only a small number of Republicans [14] voted against it,” said Molly Reynolds, a governance studies expert at the Brookings Institution.

The funding bills are not expected to become law, but represent a likely starting point for fiscal negotiations between the two parties this fall.

“I see the House omnibus as just the first step in an overall process of coming to an agreement,” Reynolds said.

Trump’s budget, released well before hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastated portions of Texas, Louisiana and Florida, would have cut FEMA’s funding by $876 million. Instead, the House voted to increase FEMA’s funding by $39 million. Trump also requested cutting the National Weather Service budget by $62 million, or roughly 6 percent. The House cut $25 million.

The Community Development Block Grant, which many members of Congress noted…

Finally, Some Commonsense Western Fire Policies

Finally, Some Commonsense Western Fire Policies

President Trump promised to bring fresh ideas and policies to Washington. Now Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue are doing exactly that in a critically important area: forest management and conflagration prevention. Their actions are informed, courageous and long overdue.

Westerners are delighted, and I’ve advocated such reforms since my days on Capitol Hill in the 1980s.

As of September 12, amid this typically long, hot, dry summer out West, 62 major forest fires are burning in nine states, the National Interagency Fire Center reports. The Interior Department and Ag Department’s Forest Service have already spent over $2 billion fighting them. That’s about what they spent in all of 2015, previously the most costly wildfire season ever, and this season has another month or more to go. The states themselves have spent hundreds of millions more battling these conflagrations.

Millions of acres of forest have disappeared in smoke and flames – 1.1 million in Montana alone. All told, acreage larger than New Jersey has burned already. However, even this hides the real tragedies.

The infernos exterminate wildlife habitats, roast eagle and spotted owl fledglings alive in their nests, imolate wildlife that can’t run fast enough, leave surviving animals to starve for lack of food, and incinerate organic matter and nearly every living creature in the thin soils. They turn trout streams into fish boils, minus the veggies and seasonings. Future downpours and rapid snowmelts bring widespread soil erosion into streambeds. Many areas will not grow trees or recover their biodiversity for decades.

View Cartoon

Most horrifically, the conflagrations threaten homes and entire communities. They kill fire fighters and families that cannot get away quickly enough, or get trapped by sudden walls of flames.

In 2012, two huge fires near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colorado burned 610 homes, leaving little more than ashes, chimneys and memories. Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated through smoke and ash that turned daytime into choking night skies. Four people died. A 1994 fire near Glenwood Springs, CO burned 14 young firefighters to death.

These are not “natural” fires of environmentalist lore, or “ordinary” fires like those that occur in state and privately owned and managed forests. Endless layers of laws, regulations, judicial decrees and guidelines for Interior and Forest Service lands have meant that most western forests have been managed like our 109 million acres of designated wilderness: they are hardly managed at all.

Environmentalists abhor timber cutting on federal lands, especially if trees might feed profit-making sawmills. They would rather see trees burn, than let someone cut them. They constantly file lawsuits to block any cutting, and too many judges are all too happy to support their radical ideas and policies.

Thus, even selective cutting to thin dense stands of timber, or remove trees killed by beetles or fires, is rarely permitted. Even fire fighting and suppression are often allowed only if a fire was clearly caused by arson, careless campers or other human action – but not if lightning ignited it. Then it’s allowed to burn, until a raging inferno is roaring over a ridge toward a rural or suburban community.

The result is easy to predict. Thousands of thin trees grow on acreage that should support just…