Week In Review 9/23

by by Dan Stump, Jonah Kagan & Sam Levinson

Condoms for Convicts
Last week, the San Francisco County Jail’s San Bruno unit installed 16 condom dispensers for its 750 residents.  The machines, paid for by the University of California San Francisco and an anonymous Southern California non-profit, are the latest effort in a campaign for safe sex in prison. The campaign began in 1989 when health workers starting giving condoms to inmates during individual visits.
Although sex between inmates is illegal, everyone with cable knows it still happens.  Kate Monico Klein of the city’s Public Health Department said, “If [providing condoms] saves one or two lives, it’s worth it.”  It will likely do much more than that, as the rate of HIV infection among prisoners is 5 to 7 times that of the public.  In a 2001 study by the Department of Health and Human Services, the rate of syphilis in California prisons was nearly twice that of the general population.
Some critics, who appear to have obtained all of their knowledge about casual sex from John Hughes movies, are arguing that providing condoms will encourage inmates to have sex; however, numerous studies have shown that giving people condoms does not increase the chances of sex occurring. Were every prisoner given a Camaro and some Marvin Gaye albums, it might be a different story.  As it stands, the prison did an extensive study with just one condom machine in 2007 that revealed no statistically significant increase in sexual activity.
Though the San Bruno lockup is the first prison in the United States to provide inmates with condoms, many prisons abroad already do so.  “It may be controversial,” says Sheriff Michael Hennessey, “but I think the larger health education message is important.

Ridin’ Solo
An airline bigwig is now claiming that if he had his way, there would be no need for copilots. “Why does every plane have two pilots? Really, you only need one pilot,” says Michael O’Leary, CEO of budget Irish carrier Ryanair. “Let’s take out the second pilot. Let the bloody computer fly it.” Has he not seen 2001: A Space Odyssey?
Even if the evil flight computer does decide to spare the passengers, what if the pilot has some sort of emergency, or just gets a little lonely? Clearly O’Leary has thought this one through. In his vision, one flight attendant per flight is trained to land the plane. “If the pilot has an emergency, he rings the bell, he calls her in,” O’Leary says. “She could take over.” If O’Leary were willing to think outside the patriarchal gender roles in his plan, he could probably save money by having the co-pilots help serve drinks.
This is not the first time O’Leary announced controversial cost-cutting ideas. He once proposed replacing some seats with standing room and charging passengers to use the toilet. Luckily, these “upgrades,” along with his idea to instate a “fat tax” for overweight customers, never made it past the Irish Aviation Authority. Loyal passengers probably wouldn’t have been too fazed by these new inconveniences, however, since Ryanair’s Great Potato Famine-inspired “no frills” policy includes non-reclining seats and customer service by fax instead of email.
In O’Leary’s 19 years in the Ryanair cockpit, he has made it his mission to ensure that the Economy class deserves its name. Yet somehow, Ryanair still serves the 3rd most passengers in Europe. One can only expect this ranking to improve once those freeloading copilots are forced to ride with the common folk at the back of the Airbus.

Radiation,ChemO, Shrooms?
Doctors have promoted marijuana’s ability to compel even the most nauseous chemotherapy patients to eat the whole bag of Doritos for years, but recent UCLA research suggests that we may be able to add another illicit drug to the list of cancer therapies: magic mushrooms.         A group of researchers, headed by Dr. Charles Grob, conducted a groundbreaking study on the therapeutic effects of psilocybin (a psychoactive compound found in certain fungi) on the mental health of cancer patients. The profile of the study classifies psilocybin as “a mood-altering drug with effects similar to other hallucinogens like LSD and mescaline” which, in a “comfortable and supportive setting,” could improve one’s mood.
The study included male and female cancer patients between the ages of 21 and 70 whose “potentially life-threatening” diagnoses have brought on clinical anxiety or depression. The administration of psilocybin had a positive influence on the social lives of the subjects (after the four hours they spent watching the iTunes visualizer); patients previously inhibited by their anxiety began to communicate with their friends and family and feel less burdened by the mental stress of their condition. These improvements in mood were accompanied only by slight rise in blood pressure, increased heart rate, and a newfound appreciation for Phil Lesh & Friends.
Roland Griffiths, a psychiatry and neuroscience doctor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, thinks the study has the potential to reduce taboos surrounding medical use of psychedelics by “showing that you can administer these compounds safely to cancer patients with anxiety.” Thus, this successful experiment could open doors for similar research in the future, and one day the world may look upon psychedelics as more than just a way to “turn on, tune in, drop out” in the tradition of everyone’s favorite doctor, Timothy Leary.