Ted Kennedy's son blames his crash on Ambien.
Patrick Kennedy blamed his overnight car crash near the Capitol on Ambien. The congressman, son of Sen. Ted Kennedy, drove into a security barrier and appeared disoriented. Officers suspected he might be drunk, but their supervisors drove Kennedy home, avoiding a breathalyzer test. Kennedy's pleas: 1) "I consumed no alcohol prior to the incident." 2) I "took the prescribed amount" of Ambien and a second drug that's used sometimes for nausea but sometimes as a sleep aid. "Apparently, I was disoriented from the medication." 3) "At no time did I ask for any special consideration." Argument in his favor: He told the officers he was late for a vote, which sounds more like sleep-driving than intoxication. Argument against him: It took him 19 hours to issue an explanation; maybe the alcohol doesn't fall far from the tree. (For Human Nature's updates on Ambien and sleep-driving, click here, here and here.)
Soda companies agreed to remove their worst products from schools. The deal, negotiated under the auspices of Bill Clinton, aims for fewer calories, smaller bottles, more water and juice, and no sodas in elementary schools. Clinton's spin: It's courageous of these companies to do the right thing without having to be sued. Tort lawyers' spin: Those greedy bastards would never have done this if we hadn't sued them. Health activists' spin: It's only a voluntary deal, so keep an eye on them. Now let's ban them from advertising to kids, too. (For Human Nature's takes on Clinton and sodas in school, click here and here.)
Tattoos will finally become legal in all 50 states. South Carolina allowed its first legal tattoo in March; on May 3, Lawmakers in Oklahoma, the sole remaining holdout, voted to lift that state's ban. The Oklahoma governor's office says he's inclined to sign the bill. Anti-legalization argument: Tattoos are disgusting and possibly unsanitary. Pro-legalization argument: They're being done anyway, so the best way to make them sanitary is to permit and regulate them. Cynic's argument: If you liked the old tattoo bans, you'll love the new abortion bans. (For Human Nature's takes on present and future abortion bans, click here, here, and here.)
Mexico decided not to legalize PCP, heroin, cocaine, LSD, meth, or pot in small amounts. The president initially indicated he'd sign a drug reform bill passed by legislators, but he changed his mind after the U.S. objected and it became clear that the bill was being interpreted as decriminalization. Arguments for the bill: 1) It shifts police attention to big-time drug trafficking, which is causing cartel wars and more than a thousand deaths in the last 18 months. 2) It maintains laws against drug sales and public use, allows cops to detain users, and increases penalties for selling drugs near schools. U.S. officials' reaction: 1) Use, not trafficking, is the problem. 2) Legalization will worsen Mexico's abuse rate. 3) It will increase American "narco-tourism." Mexican legislators' apology: Sorry, we didn't realize the bill legalized use for everyone, not just addicts. (For Human Nature's previous updates on drug legalization, click here and here.)
The U.S. is developing a laser to knock out satellites. Critics' warnings: This will "weaponize space" and start an arms race. 2) We stand to lose the most, because we have the most satellites. Pentagon rebuttals: 1) Other nations are already aiming to weaponize space. 2) If we don't develop a weapon to knock out their space weapons, our satellites could suffer a Pearl Harbor.
Widowhood is shrinking. As men live longer, the female advantage in longevity is declining, so wives are spending more of their final years with husbands. Happy reactions: 1) Women won't be as lonely. 2) Women stay healthier and live longer if their husbands are still around. 3) Women also do better financially. Cynical reactions: 1) Keeping a husband only marginally improves a woman's longevity. 2) The only reason women with husbands do better financially is that men have more pensions and Social Security; these sexist advantages are eroding. 3) Men are lazy, thoughtless, burdensome slobs; a woman is better off with a real helper or companion. (For Human Nature's takes on the costs and benefits of improving longevity, click here and here.)
Connecticut will expel soda sales from all public schools. Kids can bring their own sodas, but the only drinks available for purchase will be water, milk, or pure vegetable or fruit juice. Three other states have restricted junk food in schools; more are expected to follow. The ban squeaked through the state House on a party-line vote, with Democrats for it and Republicans against. The governor has pledged to sign it. Democrats' argument: Save our kids from obesity. Republicans' argument: Leave the issue to local school boards. (For Human Nature's take on banning junk food from schools, click here.)
Rush Limbaugh will escape a permanent record for prescription-drug fraud. The facts: He got four doctors to prescribe a total of 2,000 pain-killing pills in six months. The plea deal: He'll be charged with fraud to conceal information to obtain a prescription, but the charge disappears in a year and a half if he sticks to treatment for his addiction. He'll also pay Florida $30,000 for the cost of having investigated him. Limbaugh 1995: "If people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up." Limbaugh 1998: If presidents violate the law by lying under oath about sex, they ought to be impeached. Limbaugh 2006: Just say not guilty.
Update on the world's first two face transplants: 1) Frenchwoman Isabelle Dinoire says she has "recovered total feeling" in her new face. However, she still has to get treatment every month to prevent her body from rejecting the tissue. 2) Chinese farmer Li Guoxing can now chew food but also faces the possibility of tissue rejection and "might still need one or two more surgeries before his new face will be complete," according to his chief surgeon. (For Human Nature's previous update on the Chinese face transplant, click here.)
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.