DRUG WAR BRIEFS:Another Day, Another Fraud

January 24 - The Associated Press reports: U.S. officials continued working closely with Peruvian spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos in the anti-drug fight despite an army officer's tip that he was involved with death squad killings, newly declassified documents show.

The latest declassified reports provide the clearest indication yet that U.S. officials were aware early on that Montesinos, a key American ally in the drug war, was involved with a death squad.

Montesinos was former President Alberto Fujimori's right-hand man for a decade, until a corruption scandal involving the spy chief ended Fujimori's 10 years in power in November 2000. Montesinos is now in a navy prison awaiting trial on dozens of charges involving corruption, arms smuggling, drug trafficking and directing a death squad.

January 27 - Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger reports: An Agricola woman who began a crusade against drugs in George County watched her husband plead guilty to four separate drug charges in circuit court on Friday.

Michael Touchard pleaded guilty to charges relating to methamphetamine possession and to possession of marijuana. Circuit Judge Dale Harkey sentenced Touchard to 10 years in prison, six of which were suspended.

He will have to serve two years in prison and two years under house arrest, according to court records.

Touchard's wife, Pam Touchard, said his sentence was fair.

Pam Touchard is the organizer of George County Families Against Drugs, an organization formed last year to combat drugs, primarily methamphetamine, in George County.

January 29 - The Detroit News reports: The effectiveness of the DARE program was recently questioned by a Howell High School senior who conducted a survey of fellow students.

T.J. Zawacki, a frequent contributor to the school's newspaper called the Main Four, surveyed 480 students, about 20 percent of the student body.

What Zawacki found disappointed him.

While more than 90 percent of the surveyed students went through the DARE program, 55 percent of them said they had experimented with drugs after completing DARE training. Of the students who had never participated in DARE, 50 percent said they had experimented with drugs.

Zawacki concluded that kids who want to experiment with drugs will do so, whether they participate in DARE or not.

January 29 -The Seattle Times reports: Most doctors, no matter where they stand on assisted suicide, aren't enthusiastic about the federal government second-guessing their prescribing practices.

As a result, many are looking warily at Oregon, where U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has threatened to slap federal penalties on doctors who prescribe any government-controlled medication that patients use to end their lives.

The issue has taken on broader, national implications because medications in this category also can be used by gravely ill patients to control their pain.

The question is this: Will federal intervention in Oregon make doctors everywhere more reluctant to prescribe strong pain medication?

What, some wonder, would happen to doctors intent on relieving pain in dying patients who prescribe so much medication that it hastens death?

Before the Ashcroft directive hit in November, it seemed Oregon was moving toward improving the shoddy state of pain management in terminally ill patients, a problem identified in scores of studies.

Pain experts who have filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the lawsuit say the intrusion of the Drug Enforcement Administration ( DEA ) into physicians' decision-making will create "panic and fear" among doctors.

"Faced with the threat of criminal investigation, revocation of their prescription licenses and even possible imprisonment, physicians are responding by undertreating those patients with the most severe pain," they wrote.

A federal judge has put Ashcroft's directive on hold while both sides make their case for a summary judgment.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson kcnelson@premier1.net.

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