[Scales of Justice]

LA MOVIDA - 2005

Politics and Alcohol, a volatile mix

Last updated: 30 deciembre 2005

Our Top Story Tonight! (their news, our headlines)

Beer Preserves the Brain

November 5, 2005 (Reuters) - Austria - Older people with a history of moderate drinking may suffer less mental decline than those who do not drink, a new study suggests. The study, carried out by the Western Psychiatric Institute in the US, was based on data collected from more than a thousand people in Pennsylvania, aged 65 years and older, over a period of seven years. "Health professionals have generally paid more attention to alcohol abuse and dependence, and their adverse consequences," said the study's author, Dr Mary Ganguli. "Our study suggests we should also consider the potential benefits of more modest patterns of alcohol use." The study's participants, none of whom showed signs of dementia at the start of the study, were divided into three groups: one that did not drink; one that reported minimal drinking - once a month or less; and a third group that reported moderate drinking. The study participants' mental function was assessed at the start of the study, then with periodic assessments every two years. Overall, those classified as minimal and moderate drinkers exhibited less decline in their scores on tests that measured general mental status, executive functions and psychomotor speed, than non-drinkers. Minimal drinkers also showed less decline in their scores on tests of learning, including learning a word list, and naming, than non-drinkers. Potential reasons for the benefits of moderate drinking may be related to its cardiovascular effects, Dr Ganguli explained. It may also have a beneficial effect on the brain's neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers. Despite the findings, Dr Ganguli insists the study "should not be interpreted as recommending initiation … of alcohol consumption to preserve mental functioning in the elderly." She added: "What is needed now is not for people to run out and get drunk in the hope of preserving their brains, but for more studies to be conducted on the precise effects of alcohol on brain structure and function." Previous studies have pointed to the benefits of moderate drinking - for instance, the beneficial effects on the heart from drinking red wine.

Lao Bia Flowing

December 30, 2005 (Associated Press) - (Vientiane, Laos) -Inspired by Czech brews, propelled by patriotism, Beerlao has snapped up 99 percent of its domestic market and some international awards while forging a rarity in this impoverished remnant of the communist world -- a distinctive brand name. Probably the only Laotian product that rings bells in the region or beyond, Beerlao is also gearing up for an export drive and some international promotion, which, until now, has been largely word-of-mouth and Internet chat. At home, Beerlao (Bia Lao in the Lao language) goes unchallenged, its golden tiger head logo far more prominent than the red star of the ruling communist party. The state-owned Lao Brewery Co. supports schools, health facilities and sports competitions, paying an estimated $32.5 million into state coffers this year -- more than any other single enterprise. "National pride is a big part of our success," says marketing manager Bounkanh Kounlabouth, underlining the company message: Drinking Beerlao is good for the country. The growing number of foreign tourists, many of them young backpackers, likewise partake, especially since a can goes for the equivalent of 56 cents at many bars and restaurants. Watching the sun set over the Mekong River while sipping a cold Beerlao (side order of deep-fried crickets optional) has become a must-do for visitors. And travelers returning home post comments on Internet sites such as: "probably the best beer in the world," "decent beer but massively hyped up," and "when is it coming to Sydney?" So far only 1 percent of production is exported, mainly to Cambodia, Vietnam, France, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. It also is smuggled into neighboring Thailand, which puts onerous restrictions on its import. But Bounkanh said a factory to be built in southern Laos as an export base will double production capacity to some 63 million gallons a year. The enterprise, which traces its origins to French colonial times, added dark brew and a light beer to its regular lager this year and went into a 50-50 joint venture with Denmark's Carlsberg Breweries, the world's No. 5 beer-maker. "Laos is developing fast and many tourists are coming to it. The time has come to offer more choices to drinkers," Carlsberg Vice President Mogens Thomsen said when the deal was sealed in October. Smooth, golden-colored and with a bouquet of rice substituting for the more traditional barley, Beerlao has won awards in Europe, the United States and New Zealand and was voted Asia's best beer of 2004 by Time magazine. With only 2.3 million Laotian drinkers, the domestic market is limited but growing at about 10-15 percent a year. Consumption is estimated at just 4 gallons per Laotian, compared with 21 gallons for Americans. Czech brews, Bounkanh said, were Beerlao's prime inspiration, and he and several other executives spent years studying beer-making in the Czech Republic. Yeast and hops are imported from Germany and malt from Belgium and France, but the rice is Laotian. The company realizes that Beerlao's "full taste of happiness" and the nationalist factor are not the only reasons for its success -- a 40 percent tax on imported beer helps. This, however, will vanish in 2008 when Laos joins the Southeast Asian free trade zone. Bounkanh knows imports will weaken Beerlao's grip on the market, but he hopes exports will fill the shortfall. Meanwhile, the company's modern, computerized brewery on the outskirts of the capital, Vientiane, cannot work fast enough. "Sometimes in the peak season we cannot meet the demand," Bounkanh said while savoring a glass of Beerlao. "Why is it so good? It's fresh, fresh beer. It's off the shelves in two weeks."

Criminals Should Beware of Breweries

December 27, 2005 (Buenos Aires Herald) - (Berlin, Germany) - Police in Berlin made their easiest arrest of the year at their annual Christmas party, after spotting a man rummaging through the pockets of their coats in the cloakroom. Officers said the unlucky pickpocket had not known that the revellers in a Berlin brewery were law enforcers.

Wisconsin Craftbrewers Fare Well Against Beer Wholesalers Lobby

November 10, 2005 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) - (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) - Wisconsin's beer wholesalers and small brewers on Monday struck a compromise on legislation the brewers had initially opposed for fear that it could bring higher prices and fewer choices for specialty beer drinkers. The bill still would require brewers to grant exclusive distribution territories to wholesalers, something the wholesalers want. Wholesalers buy beer from brewers and then sell it to taverns, liquor stores and other retailers. Most wholesalers already have exclusive contracts with brewers. But the small brewers said a state mandate could hamper their ability to sell beer without using wholesalers, which they said could reduce competition, restrict their access to retailers, raise their costs and force price increases. The brewers bitterly fought the fast-moving bill (AB 787/SB 415), which gained Assembly approval one week after being introduced, and which was pushed by the politically powerful Wisconsin Wholesale Beer Distributors Association, a heavy source of campaign contributions for both Democrats and Republicans. Under the compromise, a small brewer could bypass wholesalers to make direct deliveries to retailers in certain situations. That provision would apply when a wholesaler faces a business interruption, such as bankruptcy, that breaks the distribution link between breweries and retailers. Also, brewers could make direct deliveries to festivals, as well as emergency shipments to retailers running short on beer. Finally, the compromise would ease proposed restrictions on other direct deliveries by brewers to retailers. "It's a good thing for us," said Russ Klisch, president of Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee. "It gives us a little more flexibility." Deb Carey, president of New Glarus Brewing Co., agreed.

The original proposal, she said, "was just killing us." enate could vote Wednesday The compromise, which the wholesalers association and the Wisconsin Brewers Guild supported, was reached with Sen. Ron Brown (R-Eau Claire) and Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), the bill's authors. Brown is chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, which approved the bill Friday. The compromise bill could go before the full Senate on Wednesday, and then it would need approval in its new form from the Assembly. Under the original proposal, brewers would have been forced to maintain separate warehouses if they ship beer directly to retailers. Brewers would have been exempt from that provision if they produce fewer than 100,000 barrels of beer yearly or sell fewer than 30,000 barrels directly to retailers. State law now allows in-state brewers to ship beer directly to retailers. But the law requires brewers outside Wisconsin to maintain a separate warehouse if they ship directly. That costly provision amounts to different treatment for out-of-state brewers and leaves the law vulnerable to a legal challenge, the distributors said. Most of Wisconsin's small brewers produce far less than 100,000 barrels, according to the distributors, which said the original proposal would not harm small brewers. But some small brewers are growing rapidly, and they feared that the original legislation would eventually apply to them. Under the compromise, any brewer with yearly production below 50,000 barrels may sell any amount of beer directly to retailers. Also, any brewer with yearly production above 50,000 barrels may sell up to 1,000 barrels directly to retailers yearly before the separate warehouse provision takes effect.

$6,000 in donations - The beer distributors said the bill is needed to preserve the state's regulations that govern beer sales. Wisconsin's system, similar to those in other states, promotes responsible marketing of beer, the wholesalers said. But some industry observers said there is no evidence to support those claims. Some large retailers have said they could sell beer at lower prices if they could buy directly from breweries. Overhanging the debate is the political clout of the wholesalers association. The association donated $6,000 to state legislative campaign committees during the first six months of 2005. The donations from the association's political action committee were split evenly between Democratic and Republican coffers. The association also provided $24,838 in state campaign donations in 2003 and 2004, including $3,000 to Gov. Jim Doyle's re-election committee and $4,188 to legislators who are sponsoring the bill, according to Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a government watchdog group. The legislation is the result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in May. The court ruled that state laws in New York and Michigan that banned direct interstate wine shipments to consumers were unconstitutional and anti-competitive. Although that decision applied just to wineries, it had strong similarities to a lawsuit challenging a Washington state law that bars retailers from buying beer, wine and spirits directly from breweries, wineries and distillers. Costco Wholesale Corp., which operates warehouse-style stores and plans to expand into the Milwaukee area, filed the Washington lawsuit. Costco said it could sell alcohol at much lower prices if it could buy the drinks directly from beverage producers and bypass wholesalers. After the ruling, beer distributors in Wisconsin and other states moved to shore up laws protecting their middleman roles. The bill being considered in Madison is a result.

Santa - 1, Connecticut Liquor Control Commission - 0

November 9, 2005 (Newsday.com) - (Hartford, Connecticut) - Connecticut residents will be able to toast to their health this holiday season with a bottle of Seriously Bad Elf. The state Department of Consumer Protection announced Tuesday it would approve the sale of Seriously Bad Elf ale in Connecticut despite earlier concerns that the beer's label might appeal to children. The department determined that although state regulations bar alcohol advertising with images that might entice kids, including images associated with Santa Claus, the regulations do not apply to beer labels. The state had notified Shelton Brothers, the beer's distributor in Belchertown, Mass., that it would reject the labels for Seriously Bad Elf and one for Warm Welcome ale based on the state regulation. The label for Seriously Bad Elf shows a malevolent elf with a slingshot firing Christmas ornaments at Santa's sleigh as it flies overhead. Warm Welcome's label depicts Santa coming down a chimney into a lit fireplace. On its Web site, Shelton Brothers took a whimsical view of its difficulty marketing the beer in Connecticut. "In the case of state of Connecticut vs. Santa Claus, the defendant pleads bewildered. 'I never meant to hurt anybody,' an obviously shaken Claus told reporters after posting bail at a Hartford-area police station," the Web site says. "Claus, also known to authorities as Kris Kringle and Father Christmas, was taken into custody after alert analysts at the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection noticed his likeness on the label for an imported English ale known as Seriously Bad Elf," Shelton Brothers said. At a compliance hearing before a state liquor commissioner last month, a lawyer for the distributor argued the state would be violating the distributor's free speech rights by banning the labels. Protecting Santa Claus also violates the Constitution's establishment clause, which prohibits government endorsement or disapproval of religion, she argued. The state Department of Consumer Protection ordered a formal hearing for Nov. 22 before the state Liquor Control Commission. The hearing was canceled on Tuesday and a ruling was issued in favor of Shelton Brothers. "The constitutional issue did not come into play here," said Edwin Rodriguez, the state's consumer protection commissioner. "The courts have given the states total jurisdiction on how it regulates liquor within its borders. But our regulation specifically exempts labels." Dan Shelton said he was almost disappointed by the ruling. "They took the easy way out," he said. "There is so much wrong with that regulation that (the lawyers) were looking forward to attacking the whole thing in court." Shelton said he is not sure when Seriously Bad Elf might make it to Connecticut store shelves.

Japanese Regulators Concede Defeat to Brewing Industry Tactics

November 9, 2005 (Distinguished Brands International) - Japan - A tax game between Japan's brewing industry and the Finance Ministry is heating up once again. The ministry wants to end the current cycle of raising taxes on products only to see the industry develop a new drink that is not covered by the higher rate. The liquor tax, now divided into 10 categories broken down by ingredients and production methods, would be scaled back into three or four with only small differences in the rates. In an effort to mitigate industry opposition, the proposal includes a reduction in the current beer tax rate which might serve as an incentive to consumers to buy more regular beer because of the smaller gap in price. The tax game began ten years ago when the first low-malt beer was put on the market and was taxed a much lower rate than regular beer. Lower prices made the drink, happoshu, an instant hit.

Colorado Voters Tell Eagle County to go Smokefree

November , 2005 (Vail Daily Online)- Eagle County - A group of residents will now get to work proposing ways to reform Eagle County's government. Potential changes include expanding the Board of County Commissioners from three to five members, removing political parties from county races and making positions like sheriff, coroner and county clerk appointed - rather than elected - posts. The vote was close, with 4,075 for the measure and 3,850 against. Nine residents were elected to the commission that will write a charter that includes these changes. Voters will have to approve the charter in a future election. Colleen McCarthy, Heather Lemon, John Horan-Kates, Kathy Chandler-Henry, Don Cohen, Charlie Wick, Tom Edwards, Jacque Whitsitt and Michael Bair won seats. Results are not yet available in the race for the final two at-large seats on the commission. Voters overwhelmingly endorsed having the commissioners ban smoking in public places, such as bars and restaurants, in Eagle-Vail, Beaver Creek, Edwards and other unincorporated parts of Eagle County. More than 6,000 voted for the ban and only about 2300 voted against it.

Coors Finds Profit in Sale of Otherwise Worthless Alcohol

October 27, 2005 (Knight Ritter) - Golden, Colorado - Two Colorado-based companies are finding that one answer to lessening the country's dependence on foreign fuel imports might be hiding in the six-pack that you carry home from the grocery store. Across a sliver of Clear Creek that cuts through the Coors brewery here, a maze of stainless steel pipes rises amid the sharp aroma of beer. On this site - roughly the size of a four-car garage - Coors Brewing Co. and Aurora-based Merrick & Company are using beer waste to process 1.5 million gallons of the gasoline substitute called ethanol. One 9-year-old plant distills residuals from beer making and has been such a success, officials from the brewer and engineering company said, that a second, $2.3 million plant will open later this month on the same site. The second plant will double ethanol production at the brewery, partly through inputting millions of gallons of spilled Coors, George Killian's Irish Red and other beers directly into the process via an underground pipeline. "With the demand high and the need even higher, it seemed like a great time to expand," said Steven Wagner, the Merrick vice president who helps lead the Coors ethanol project. Under a 15-year agreement, the company leases land from Coors, buys the residuals from the brewer and owns the plant. The ethanol - made in much the same way as moonshine - is sold under a contract with Valero Energy Corp., which distributes the fuel to Diamond Shamrock stations across the Front Range. "We've basically taken a waste stream and turned it into a revenue stream," Wagner said. Both plants combined will produce only a fraction of the expected four billion gallons of ethanol sold nationwide next year, but supporters say the plan illustrates the growing demand for gasoline substitutes as the country battles skyrocketing fuel costs and attempts to expand existing gasoline supplies.

The ethanol agreement, Coors officials said, is a perfect fit for the company. "We've always produced low-grade ethanol, so this was a logical step," said Rick Paine, the co-products process manager at the Coors facility, referring to the alcohol-heavy grains and yeast used in beer-making. "The fact that we can do it all here is just an added bonus." Alternative fuel sources are especially relevant in Colorado, where clean air laws mandate that ethanol be blended with gas during the winter to reduce vehicle emissions. The law also creates a built-in market for Colorado-based producers because about 100 million gallons of ethanol are used in the state each year. Ethanol demand - already at an all-time high nationwide - has increased threefold since 1996 and will expand further after federal energy laws that mandate more use of alternative fuels go into effect in the near future. At least 7.5 billion gallons must be used in the U.S. by 2012, fueling nationwide interest in ethanol production. Nationally, at least 83 plants are currently in operation, more than 20 are being built and dozens more are in the planning stages. That includes Colorado, where three ethanol plants are in development in Evans, Sterling and Windsor. The plants will push Colorado from having virtually no ethanol production to being one of the nation's top 10 producers by late next year. "We're at a time when we're dealing with guaranteed minimum markets, and that reduces risk," said Ron Lamberty, vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, a nonprofit group of producers based in South Dakota. "One more gallon (of ethanol) produced here means one less gallon of gas we get from outside the country." But ethanol is hardly free from criticism. Opponents of the fuel substitute say ethanol can be costly - its price has jumped 40 percent in two years - and the market could bottom out if oil prices decrease significantly.

Korean Regulators Cap Beer Price Increases

October 27, 2005 (Yonhap) - Seoul, Korea - Hite Brewery Co. and Jinro Ltd. will be barred from raising their beer and soju prices above the level of consumer price gains for the next five years, South Korea's antitrust regulator said Thursday. The measures by the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) are to prevent the market domination enjoyed by the two companies from hurting consumers and competitors. The watchdog had conditionally allowed Hite to take over the management of Jinro in July. Hite and Jinro are the number one manufacturers of beer and soju in South Korea. The beermaker holds a roughly 57 per cent market share, while Jinro's portion of the soju market stands at around 55 per cent. Soju is a popular distilled liquor that has an alcohol content level of 21-25 per cent, compared to 4-5 per cent for beer. "There were prolonged discussions on the merits of the government intervening in price setting, and it has been determined that such a move is needed to preempt any moves to raise prices," said Lee Byung-ju, the head of the FTC's antitrust bureau. He added that this price cap had already been announced in July when the two companies were allowed to merge and that the final guidelines will be sent to Hite within the month. The cap will go into effect from the date that the company receives the orders. Lee also said that if Hite and Jinro fail to follow the new rules, they could face fines and administrative actions. The official, however, said the ceiling does not apply to new brands of beer and soju that the companies may release, although once they are marketed the same rules will be applied so any price hikes will have to stay below the rise in consumer prices. He said the rules will not apply to wine or any other alcoholic beverage besides beer and soju produced by either company. In addition, Hite and Jinro will be required to submit a detailed plan to the FTC for approval, pledging they will not use their dominant market positions to hurt rivals, and adhere to it for the next five years. The two firms are also required to submit a report on their shipments to wholesalers every six months to the corporate regulatory authority so it can keep track of any sharp increases in sales that could be construed as distorting the market. Hite and its consortium partners signed a 3.42-trillion-won (US$3.27 billion) agreement with Jinro on June 3 after being selected as the primary negotiation partner for the takeover in early April.

Arkansas Burdens Keg Purchasers

October 26, 2005 (USA Today) - Little Rock, Arkansas - Liquor store owners say a new state law for buying a keg of beer has led more customers to buy cases instead. The law requires customers to pay an extra $75 deposit and sign a document stating they understand it's illegal to provide beer to underage drinkers.

Cruisn for a Brusin

October 25, 2005 (USA Today) - Presque Isle, Maine - Jeanine Williams, 44, a woman who allegedly stole an Aroostook County Sheriff's Department cruiser and struck an officer who had arrested her for operating under the influence faces a string of charges, Sheriff James Madore said.

Student Gets Firsthand Lesson in American Alcohol-related Censorship

October 25, 2005 (USA Today) - Montpelier, Vermont - The Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is planning to appeal a federal court ruling that banned images of drugs and alcohol on clothing worn by a Williamstown middle school student. The student was ordered to cover up images of drugs and alcohol on a T-shirt that was critical of President Bush. A federal judge rules last year the school could order the student to cover the images but not the words.

D.C. Council Moves to Stop District Police from Harassing Non-drunk Drivers

October 24, 2005 (USA Today) - Washington, DC - The D.C. Council began the process of making permanent changes to the city's DUI laws. An emergency measure passed last week stops police from arresting motorists solely on drunken driving charges unless their blood-alcohol level is above 0.08. At a hearing, officials from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and AAA Mid-Atlantic spoke in favor of the change, while Mothers Against Drunk Driving offers qualified support. Police Chief Charles Ramsey said many impaired drivers do not meet the limit of 0.08 because they are under the influence of other drugs.

Oklahoma Police Train Underage Drinkers in Alcohol Purchasing

October 23, 2005 (USA Today) - Tulsa, Oklahoma - Police are using about 30 students, some as young as 15, to buy alcohol from local stores as part of an undercover sting operation. The operation is aimed at curtailing underage drinking and alcohol sales to minors.

Nebraska Patrol Music Critics Diss Comstock Festival

September 9, 2005 (USA Today) - Lincoln, Nebraska - The Nebraska Liquor Control Commission is thinking about refusing promoters a liquor license for next summer's Comstock rock and country music festivals. A State Patrol report described one of this summer's festivals as "a three-ring circus of drunken debauchery, rather than a gathering to enjoy good music.:

Frederick, MD Set to Criminalize Beerdrinkers in County Park

August 31, 2005 (USA Today) - Frederick, Maryland - Sipping a beer in a Frederick County park could soon be against the law. The Frederick County Commissioners have voted to hold a public hearing on banning all alcoholic beverages from parks. Under the proposal, violators could be fined $50. Currently, alcohol may be consumed by groups that obtain a permit.

Test of Sunday Sales in Washington State

August 30, 2005 (USA Today) - Olympia, Washington - Twenty state-run liquor stores will be open on Sunday to see if it brings in significant revenue. The State started the test last month at some stores. The Legislature will decide whether to make Sunday liquor sales permanent.

Smoking Down, Tax Revenue Up

August 30, 2005 (USA Today) - Providence, Rhode Island - Tax revenues from bars and restaurants rose about 20% since a smoking ban was enacted March 1 in Rhode Island, according to the state Division of Taxation. The state collected $5.83 million in taxes from March through June, a significant jump from the $4.86 mission collected at the same time last year.

Driver Needs Professional Help

August 29, 2005 (Pitch Weekly - News of the Weird) - In July in Sparta, Wis., Darkalena Large, 43, insisted that she and her car were fine, but police arrested her anyway on suspicion of drunk driving after finding her in the car, which was stuck on a curb with one tire missing and the wheel's rim badly mangled (and recently on fire, according to a witness).

University Student Demonstrates Social Darwinism

August 23, 2005 (USA Today) - Lexington, Kentucky - A University of Kentucky student from Tennessee was struck and killed by a train outside a large party where he and another student appeared intoxicated, campus police said. Officials found the body of Thomas Byers, 19, of Germantown. Byers ran away from officers who had arrived at the party, Maj. Joe Monroe said.

To Serve and Protect - Police Train Bartenders

August 23, 2005 (USA Today) - Janesville, Wisconsin - Police are teaching bartenders how to deal with unruly patrons after problems at area taverns. The lessons include "How to Order a Drunken Subject Off the Premises" and "How to Help Police When Tehy Shoot Someone With a Taser." The programs are part of the department's increased enforcement.

Wisconsin May Outwit Federal Alcohol Extortion Laws

August 22, 2005 (Wall Street Journal) - Madison, Wisconsin - A legislator who introduced a bill to reduce the drinking age from 21 to 19 for Wisconsin soldiers is proposing an alternative measure that would make underage drinking fines just $5 for soldiers 19 and 20. Rep. Mark Pettis said he drafted the new bill because of concerns the federal government would withhold transportation money if the initial one passed.

Publicity Drys Up Trappist Beers

August 21, 2005 (Reuters) - The 30 or so Trappist and Cistercian monks at the Abbey of St. Sixtus of Westvleteren in Flanders have been forced to stop selling their revered beer after a Web site voted it the best beer in the world, and it promptly sold out. In June, a survey of thousands of beer enthusiasts from 65 countries by the Web site RateBeer.com rated the monk's dry, dark Westvleteren 12 as the world's best. But the abbey, with a limited brewing capacity, was not able to cope with the beer's sudden popularity. "Our shop is closed because all our beer has been sold out," a message on the abbey's answering machine says. The abbey has no intension of increasing its capacity to satisfy market demand. "We do not live "for" our brewery," the father abbot said on the abbey's Web site. "We are not brewers. We are monk's. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks."

Insurance Front Group Faults Lack of "Guilty Unless Proven Innocent" Law

August 20, 2005 (USA Today) - Providence, Rhode Island - Rhode Island was the only state to receive a "poor" rating in a survey of drunken driving laws, according to a national highway safety organization. Among the reasons cited by the Insurance Institute for Highway safety was the absence of a state law that provides for automatic license revocation for drivers who fail or refuse breath tests.

Florida County Considers Right to Buy Liquor

August 20, 2005 (USA Today) - Navaree, Florida - Ballots will be mailed today to about 103,000 voters who will decide whether drinks stronger that beer and wine coolers should be sold in Santa Rosa County, one of the last places in Florida that bans hard liquor sales. Ballots must be returned by Sept. 6. The pro-wet campaign has consisted of a direct-mail brochure, while opponents have held church rallies. Both sides also expect to advertise.

Review of Madison's Smoking Ban

August 19, 2005 (USA Today) - Madison, Wisconsin - A University of Wisconsin-Madison medical school researcher plans to study whether the city's smoking ban has hurt taverns and restaurant bars. Dozens of bar owners claim the ban has cost them customers since it took effect July 1. David Aherns said he plans to review sales tax receipts submitted to the state Department of Revenue to see what's really happening.

Sweden Bars go Breathing-Friendly

June 1, 2005 (The Local) - Sweden introduced a ban on smoking in all bars and restaurants at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, joining a growing band of European countries seeking to reduce the number of people who light up and limit the risks of second-hand smoke. The ban has been largely welcomed in the Scandinavian country, where a recent poll showed that 85 percent favour an end to smoking in restaurants and 77 percent support a ban in bars and clubs. Even two-thirds of smokers questioned said they agreed with the ban, according to the Temo poll conducted in early May. The Swedish law follows similar legislation already introduced in several other European countries, including neighbouring Norway and Ireland. As of June 1st Swedish patrons will have to go outside for a chilly puff. Establishments will only be allowed to permit smoking indoors if they build a separate, closed-off section with specially-designed ventilation, though no food or drinks can be consumed in the special area. But most small bars and restaurants will not be able to afford such renovations. The ban comes following intense lobbying from the National Board of Public Health, which has long argued that hotel, bar and restaurant staff are three times more likely to die of lung cancer than employees in other sectors due to their extensive exposure to smoke.

Despite the broad acceptance of the new law, some smokers said they were hesitant about its introduction. "I don't know what smokers are going to do," said Yvonne as she stubbed out her umpteenth cigarette in an ashtray at the Golden Hits restaurant and nightclub in central Stockholm. "They'll go smoke outside with their drink but some will probably leave without paying," she joked. Bar and restaurant owners have been gearing up ahead of the June 1st ban. Svat Ayranci, the owner of the small "Stil" nightclub, said he expected that he would have to remind his clients who light up to take their cigarettes outside. "It'll be hard at first," he admitted. But it should pay off. The Temo poll showed that 95 percent of 2,000 people surveyed said they expected to go out to eat as often or more often once the ban comes into effect. Only three percent said they would go out less often. Other studies have shown that the ban will have little impact on restaurants' and bars' sales, since those who have higher incomes go out more often and smoke the least.

Meanwhile, Sweden's centuries-old tradition of "snus", a form of moist snuff placed under the lip and used by more than a million Swedes, could see an upswing. Snus comes individually packaged in portion sizes, wrapped in a thin layer of paper which is placed under the lip and sucked on for several hours. A pack of 20 packets is sold in a round, plastic pillbox. The EU banned the sale of snus in 1992, citing research that said it causes cancer, but granted an exception to Sweden when it joined the bloc in 1995. Some Swedish bars and restaurants plan to place "snus-trays" - instead of ashtrays - in their establishments. The new anti-smoking legislation is the latest step in an ambitious Swedish plan adopted in 2002 to get people to kick the nicotine habit. Already one of the countries with the lowest share of smokers, having dropped from 31.4 percent in 1980 to 17.5 percent in 2003, the aim is to cut their number by half by 2014. In 1998, Sweden was the first country in the world to have fewer than 20 percent smokers, as recommended by the World Health Organisation. The plan is also aimed at reducing the number of youths under the age of 18 who smoke as well as the share of heavy smokers, and to ensure that no one is exposed to second-hand smoke against their will.

Eat More Kudzu, Drink Less?

August 2005 (Scientific American) - Beating binge drinking? a small study has found that ingesting kudzu extract can cut subsequent alcohol consumption by almost half, perhaps because the herb sensitized the body's response to alcohol. (May Alcoholism: Clinical Experimental research)

Wrong Time to Step out to take a Pee

August 4, 2005 (AP WorldStream via COMTEX) - Seattle, Washington - A woman was arrested in the U.S. for attempting to open an airplane exit door while the plane was still in the air, police said. The 52-year-old woman from Florida left her seat and tried to open the door as the United Airlines flight was descending into Seattle to land Wednesday, police said. The plane was at an altitude of about 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) at the time. She failed but "did manage to turn the handle far enough that a warning light went on in the cockpit," Seattle-Tacoma International Airport spokesman Bob Parker told KING-TV. A flight attendant persuaded the woman to sit back down, but nobody physically restrained her. Parker said the other passengers stayed belted in their seats in case she did manage to open the door. The woman was arrested for investigation of malicious mischief when the plane landed. Police were investigating whether alcohol and prescription medication were involved. A United spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment late Wednesday.

Enlightenment Strikes Court System, Maybe

August 3, 2005 (USA Today) - Fairbanks, Alaska - Judges in the Fairbanks area are considering a court system that would put drunken drivers into treatment rather than jail. The therapeutic court programs would gradually loosen restrictions if offenders stay sober and out of trouble. Critics say the courts should not be directly responsible for rehabilitating lawbreakers.

Town Just Says No, to Return of Smoking

August 2, 2005 (USA Today) - Steamboat Springs, Colorado - The city council has rejected a proposal to ease a smoking ban by allowing patrons to light up in outdoor areas of restaurants and bars. The ban, which took effect July 1, prohibits smoking in restaurants, bars, workplaces and outdoor amphitheaters, and within 10 feet of windows and doors of affected buildings.

Less Smoke Equals More Health

August 1, 2005 (USA Today) - Albany, New York - Restaurant and bar workers are suffering fewer runny noses and sore throats since the state's workplace smoking ban took effect two years ago, according to a study by state health officials. Researchers linked the reduction on symptoms to the decline in second-hand smoke exposure. The law prohibits smoking in most workplaces.

Kansas Town Hears 21st Century Calling

July 27, 2005 (USA Today) - Emporia, Kansas - City commissioners approved an ordinance allowing the sale of beer and liquor on Sunday, months after Emporia voters rejected a similar proposal. The ordinance takes effect Nov. 15 unless a petition protesting it is filed. One liquor store owner has been pushing for the change since January, saying Emporia needed Sunday sales to compete with nearby communities.

Human Rights Don't Apply to Arrested Drivers

July 20, 2005 (Joogang.co.kr) - Seoul, Korea - An official at the Seoul District Prosecutor's Office who arrested for drunken driving has complained about being unnecessarily handcuffed by police. The official, a junior prosecutor whose family name is Park, was stopped by the police on June 23 on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Mr. Park was given a breathalyzer test that indicated his blood-alcohol level was 0.137 percent, which is over the legal limit of 0.10. Questioning the accuracy of the test, Mr. Park requested a blood test at a hospital, which showed a level of 0.146 percent. Following the test, he was taken to the police station in handcuffs. The police officer who arrested Mr. Park said, "We had no choice but to use the handcuffs, since the suspect strongly resisted going to the police office." But Mr. Park said, "I was aware that were I to be uncooperative it could be considered an interference in the duties of the police so I was cooperative throughout. Despite this, I was handcuffed both before and after the blood test." The police subsequently confiscated Mr. Park's driving license. The prosecutor's office has meanwhile opened an investigation into the case. Under Korean law, a drunken driver can be handcuffed when arrested. But Mr. Park argued that he had cooperated by showing his driver's license and taking the test to check his alcohol level, and handcuffing was not necessary. "Handcuffing a drunken driver, even though he has cooperated with the police, could infringe on his human rights," said Han Mun-cheol, a lawyer. by Chung Kang-hyun

Sloshing no Excuse for Police Pat-down Search

July 16, 2005 (USA Today) - Bismarck, North Dakota - Students who were patted by police before a hockey game at the University of North Dakota two years ago were illegally searched, the state Supreme Court said. The ruling came from an appeal by Scott Seglem, who was carrying two cans of beer in his jacket into the game. At the time, Seglem was 20 and was cited for underage possession of alcohol.

Anti-alcohol Law Meets Law of Unintended Consequences

July 16, 2005 (USA Today) - Cheyenne, Wyoming - First lady Nancy Freudenthal is asking for repeal of a law allowing insurance companies to withhold coverage for injuries resulting from drug or alcohol use. Because of the law, she said, doctors and nurses are less likely to ask about or test for drug or alcohol use because it could cause then not to be paid for their services.

Special Chinese Beer Ingredient - Formaldehyde

July 15, 2005 (AFP) - Beijing, China - A Chinese woman drinks a bottle of beer during lunch at a foodstall in Beijing yesterday. China's beer industry, among the largest in the world, has defended itself against reports that 95 percent of its bottled beer contains formaldehyde, a cancer-causing agent, state media said yesterday. Industry officials said the chemical -- commonly used to preserve dead bodies or as a disinfectant -- plays a part in the brewing process but that the level in Chinese beer is within acceptable standards, the China Daily said. "Consumers need to know that the formaldehyde in beer is a different type from that in household chemicals, and this confusion has scared people greatly," Xiao Derun, director of the China Alcoholic Drinks Industry Association's beer branch, was quoted as saying. Trouble began brewing on July 5 when the Beijing-based newspaper the Global Times printed a letter claiming to be from a beer inspector saying many Chinese breweries were using formaldehyde as an additive. Accompanying the letter was an investigative report that quoted Du Lujun, secretary of the association's beer branch, as saying 95 percent of the country's beer contains the chemical. According to Du, breweries use formaldehyde because it is a cheap way of preventing sediment from forming during storage, the report said. The reports were circulated in many Chinese newspapers, alarming beer drinkers across the country. On Monday, the Korea Food and Drug Administration said it had decided to test Chinese beer imports for formaldehyde before allowing them to clear customs, China Daily said. Japan's health ministry has also asked importers of Chinese beers, which are increasingly popular in Japan, to check the ingredients with manufacturers to ensure they do not include formaldehyde, which Japan bans in food. Brewers usually use silica gel, which is not hazardous, to remove unwanted substances from beer but some Chinese brewers may be using cheaper formaldehyde to cut costs, Kyodo News agency quoted Japanese government sources as saying. Xiao said Chinese law does not ban beer from containing formaldehyde, but restricts the amount in common beer to no more than 2mg per liter, and in "organic" beer, to no more than 0.2mg per liter. The association's annual nationwide survey found no domestic beer that exceeded the limits, Xiao added. However, according to a China Business Times report, a 2002 survey of 19 domestic brands conducted by the National Food Quality Supervision and Inspection Center found the average formaldehyde content to be 0.31mg per liter, China Daily said. China's major beer companies, including Tsingtao and Yanjing which account for the majority of the Chinese market, have stopped using formaldehyde in favor of other additives, it said. Xiao added that a market survey has shown the formaldehyde content of imported beer to be similar to that of the domestically produced brew, the report said.

Bud Didn't Make Him Wiser

July 14, 2005 (MOS News) - Cherkassy, Ukraine - A drunk man who fought with a bear in a zoo in Ukraine has been seriously injured. The man and his friend, also drunk, went to the zoo in the Ukrainian city of Cherkassy. After attempting to tease some monkeys, they went to the bear’s open-air cage, the Newsru.Com web agency reported. One of the drunks, 22, decided to show his strength and jumped over the gate and pretended to be a trainer. In response, the bear weighing 270 kilograms struck the man. The drunk, however, started to kick the bear but the animal hit the man again and again. After a female bear appeared at the scene, a passing pedestrian managed to pull the drunk back to a safe spot, the agency reported. The attacker was rushed to hospital in a grave condition.

Belgians Stand Firm Against Religious Extremists

July 1, 2005 (Reuters) - Brussels, Belgium - A lunch meeting between a leading parliamentarian in Belgium and counterparts from Iran has been canceled because the beer-loving Belgian could not stomach a ban on alcohol. "Even for the tolerant Herman De Croo, that was a bridge too far," De Croo, a Dutch-speaking Liberal, told De Standaard daily Thursday. De Croo, president of parliament's lower house, had been due to entertain the speaker and members of the Iranian parliament Friday during their visit to Belgium -- famous for its diversity of beer brands. But he said lunch had been canceled because the Iranians, who as Muslims do not drink alcohol, wanted their hosts to do the same. "I did not receive such demands in writing. But ... I was indirectly asked not to serve alcohol," said De Croo. The visit ran into further trouble after Iran's parliament speaker Gholamali Haddadadel insisted he would not shake hands with the female president of Belgium's Senate. Anne-Marie Lizin, a Socialist, then canceled their meeting. She said in a statement that Iranians should respect local customs in Belgium, just as Belgians should in Iran.

Seek Medical Aid, Get Arrested and Die

May 26, 2005 (USA Today) - Louisville, Kentucky - A man taken into custody for public intoxication while at a Veterans Affairs hospital in March died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, an autopsy showed. Jefferson County deputy coroner Jim Wesley said that seven prescription drugs were found in the body of Timothy Chappell, 40. Wesley said that an enlarged heart may have been a factor in the death. Chappell had gone to the hospital for a dental appointment.

Just Say No Mom

April 14, 2005 (Express) - Smyrna, Georgia - Beverly Fisher, 48, was arrested in Smyrna, Ga, in February for allegedly throwing cans of beer at one son and beating another because he had refused her request to roll marijuana joints for her.

DMV Drive-Through Improvisation

April 8, 2005 (Washington Post) - Anchorage, Alaska - A man drove his car into a wall at the Division of Motor Vehicles building, then walked in and renewed his driver's license, police said. Police believe the man was driving while impaired on medication and charged him with driving under the influence. No one was injured.

2005 Beerdrinker of the Year Selected

February 26 - Denver, Colorado - In front of the cameras, crowd and row of black-robed, powdered white-wiged judges Tom Ciccater was selected as the 2005 Beerdrinker of the year. For press stories of the event follow the links: Real Beer results Real Beer announcement Post ceremony travel: White Beer Travels coverage Zythos Bierfestival coverage Washingtonian Magazine coverage On Tap Magazine coverage

Anti-DWI-Related Death

January 9 - (USA Today) - The family of David Scaringe, who was killed by a stray bullet fired by police chasing a drunk driver in 2003, will receive $1.3 million from the city, the mayor said. It's the largest settlement in Albany's history. Scaringe, 24, was shot on a busy Albany street on New Year's Eve 2003.

All Binge, no Purge

January 6 - (AP/Express) - Doctors said Tuesday they did four extra blood tests on a drunken man in Polvdiv, Bulgaria, to confirm initial test results indicating that he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.914, far above the life-threatening level of 0.55. The 67-year old man was hospitalized Dec. 20 after a car hit him. A breath test showed the high blood-alcohol level; police thought it was inaccurate.

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