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CORONAVIRUS FAILED TO PAUSE AMERICA’S OTHER NATIONAL EMERGENCY: While drug traffickers have lost substantial revenue, th...
05/05/2020

CORONAVIRUS FAILED TO PAUSE AMERICA’S OTHER NATIONAL EMERGENCY: While drug traffickers have lost substantial revenue, the opioid epidemic maintains its killing spree

nunyodemasio.com

Well before Americans started hoarding toilet paper upon learning the word “coronavirus,” the nation faced another health emergency: Drug overdoses — mostly opioids — had killed about a half-million people over the previous decade. But the pandemic that halted the world’s activities couldn’t pause America’s insatiable appetite for drugs — and likely exacerbated the country’s other health crisis.

As coronavirus dominates the nation’s conscience, the opioid crisis lurks amid a dangerous trend involving methamphetamines. Overdose fatalities spiked throughout communities in several states that include Florida, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) hasn’t provided precise data on overdoses during the pandemic. But studies indicate that in the aftermath of a national calamity, recovering addicts are more likely to relapse because of anxiety and fear. Catastrophes generally trigger an increase in substance abuse— one way that folks cope with uncertainty. So with a pandemic that’s upended the economy, any surge isn’t surprising even as drug traffickers have struggled to produce their usual supply.

In a normal year, Americans spend an estimated $110 billion on illegal drugs — by far more than any other nation. More than three million Americans are addicted to opioids, which include heroin, pain medication and synthetics like fentanyl. During the pandemic, recreational users may have prioritized expenses such as rent and food. Naturally, though, addicts seek their fix above all else. Some drug abusers panic bought their favorite narcotics as much as they did items such as hand sanitizers.

The global lockdown, which closed borders and restricted air travel, decimated both legal and criminal enterprises. Most illegal drugs enter the U.S. in vehicles through ports of entry and border patrol checkpoints. The overwhelming majority of hard drugs come from Mexico through ports of entry. Typically, more than one million people pass through the nation's borders daily. But reduced traffic substantially diminished the needle-in-a-haystack cover for vehicles smuggling drugs. (In March, Arizona border officers seized 690 pounds of methamphetamine hidden within the floor of a tractor trailer carrying tomatoes and bell peppers. The largest meth seizure in Arizona’s ports history, it was valued at close to $700,000.)

Since 2000, opioids have killed more than 300,000 Americans, including a record 47,600 in 2017. Most of those fatalities stem from fentanyl, the synthetic exponentially more potent than heroin. The deadliest opioid, it’s regularly mixed in a host of recreational drugs. Precursor chemicals are required to create fentanyl and methamphetamine. The essential ingredients largely come from underground factories in China, particularly Hubei, a landlocked province. Before the outbreak, Hubei’s capital, Wuhan — where the virus originated in late 2019— was a major source of precursors. But quarantines disrupted the supply chain that traffickers relied on before selling their wares in the U.S. Despite China ending Wuhan’s lockdown in early April, its factories aren’t quite back to normal.

B.P. (before the pandemic), precursors for fentanyl were both cheap and easily available. About $3,000 invested in fentanyl potentially reaped six figures in profits. Mexico’s two biggest cartels, the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation dominate the illegal drug trade in America. But hard-pressed to acquire precursors after COVID-19, the cartels have suffered substantial revenue losses. The new virus even created difficulties in importing cocaine — which has roared back in recent years — from South America. Narco-traffickers responded by jacking up prices on popular drugs. Compounded by stockpiling, illegal drugs have been selling at all-time highs, similar to virus-related items such as disinfectants.

The dark web — which facilitates anonymous drugs sales through the mail — remains open. And now its products include purported cures for COVID-19, including the blood of ostensibly recovered patients. But the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has observed a sizable drop in money laundering, which frequently occurs on the dark web. Regardless, the pandemic could benefit Mexican cartels in the long run: They’ve accelerated steps to recruit homegrown scientists to make their own precursors.

To the chagrin of Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, cartels have distributed aid packages throughout Mexico, often overshadowing its government. And El Chapo’s eldest daughter, Alejandrina Guzman Salazar, made news after a video surfaced showing her fashion company, El Chapo 701, providing boxed aid to the elderly and impoverished in Guadalajara — Mexico’s second-largest city. The packages included rice, sugar, toilet paper, disinfectants and face masks emblazoned with El Chapo’s likeness. (Btw: Kudos to Twitter’s chief, Jack Dorsey, who outshined his fellow billionaires by donating $1 billion largely toward coronavirus relief. The amount is nearly one third of Dorsey’s net worth!)

COVID-19 — the respiratory disease caused by the new virus — tends to victimize the elderly and immunocompromised: Drug addicts have higher rates of medical conditions, such as HIV and Hepatitis C; and they suffer more from chronic lung diseases. The new virus attacks the lungs, making drug abusers and smokers more vulnerable. Opioids slows breathing, decreasing lung capacity while increasing the risk of overdoses. Methamphetamine constricts blood vessels, contributing to pulmonary damage. Furthermore, drug addicts tend to live in congested settings; and scores of them are homeless or incarcerated.

Face-to-face meetings, highlighted by support groups, are considered key in combating addiction: And clinics play a pivotal role by providing prescriptions that help reduce cravings while preventing relapses. More than 1,700 clinics are certified to give medication such as methadone and buprenorphine. In normal circumstances, about 350,000 Americans who visit methadone clinics take their daily medication under strict supervision. However, social distancing guidelines have caused those highly-regulated facilities to either shut down, limit access or revamp operations by moving on line.

On March 16, the government issued emergency guidelines, relaxing rules for medication-assisted treatment: Instead of requiring inpatient visits, prescriptions can be approved after telemedical appointments. The government also authorized clinics to give stable patients take-home doses lasting as much as 28 days. Virtual counseling sessions have replaced inpatient visits. Prescription deliveries are being shipped to quarantined patients. And to try limiting opioid overdoses during the pandemic, officials have tried to distribute Naloxone (or Narcan), the lifesaving tool. Still, medical experts consider isolation as being antithetical to treatment. Loneliness increases the risk of depression — and an overdose with no one around.

While COVID-19 targets the infirm, drug addiction pervades all segments of America’s population. Last year, overdoses killed roughly 69,000. And it remains the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. The NUNYO & COMPANY podcast, featuring the real Ray Donovan, examined the worst overdose crisis in U.S. history. Donovan, the DEA honcho who oversaw the historic operation to recapture El Chapo, offered a master class while revealing the biggest trends in drug trafficking: methamphetamine and cocaine. Donovan also declared that despite marijuana’s legalization in much of America, demand for Mexico’s supply remains high.

nunyodemasio.com/podcast/elchapo

As the Sinaloa cartel’s leader, El Chapo received much blame for the opioid epidemic after popularizing fentanyl-laced heroin to increase potency. Nonetheless, the crisis began during the 1990s after pharmaceutical companies downplayed addiction risks while pushing painkillers, especially Oxycontin by the Sackler family. From 2006 to 2012, America’s largest drug companies unleashed 76 billion pain pills throughout the nation. That’s 230 pills for each American!

The crisis drew renewed attention — and compassion — in 2017 as it devastated rural communities and working-class families: More than 70,200 Americans died from overdoses — a record number with seemingly no end in sight. Thus, the federal government declared the problem a “public health emergency.”

Attention from the government, media and public health officials seemed to make a difference. The pandemic struck after a glimmer of hope: Entering 2019, overdose deaths had dropped for the first time in almost three decades. (And America’s life expectancy rose for the first time in four years.) But even with a 4 percent dip, overdose deaths remained high at 67,367, especially as it related to opioids.

The U.S. failed to maintain the downtick last year, with fatalities increasing slightly. Unfortunately, Americans will face their other health emergency long after COVID-19 subsides — with Mexican cartels more self-reliant than ever in feeding this nation’s voracious demand for drugs.

nunyodemasio.com/podcast

HOW THE 1918 PANDEMIC SPAWNED ‘PARCELLS’EXCERPT: On August 10, 1913, Charles O’Shea was born to an Irish couple in Cambr...
03/22/2020

HOW THE 1918 PANDEMIC SPAWNED ‘PARCELLS’

EXCERPT: On August 10, 1913, Charles O’Shea was born to an Irish couple in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Within a few years, the boy’s father died in his sleep and his mother succumbed to the influenza epidemic of 1918. The deadliest in history, the pandemic killed up to 50 million people worldwide, including an estimated 675,000 Americans. Orphaned at age five, Charles was adopted by his aunt, Esther St. George. When she married a man whose surname was Parcells, her nephew also took the last name. After purchasing two rooming houses in a downtown block, the family moved to Hackensack, New Jersey. Lucinda Whiting, a black cook and maid at the establishment, helped raise Esther’s quiet nephew, doting on him so much that he came to view her as a mother.

SOURCE: Page 1 of “Parcells: A Football Life

AUTHOR: Nunyo Demasio

TAKEAWAY: Charles Parcells was Bill Parcells’s father. Without the Spanish Flu — the pandemic’s moniker — one of the most famous last names in NFL history would be “O’Shea.” Thus, in an alternate universe, the 560-page biography -- released some years ago -- is titled “O’Shea: A Football Life.”
#book #football #history #pandemic #life #storytelling

parcellsbook.com

nunyodemasio.com

EDDIE MURPHY OR DAVE CHAPPELLE? Two greats: Who’s the funniest? With Murphy’s return, who’s the best comedian alive?nuny...
03/01/2020

EDDIE MURPHY OR DAVE CHAPPELLE? Two greats: Who’s the funniest? With Murphy’s return, who’s the best comedian alive?

nunyodemasio.com/podcast

After teasing a legion of admirers over the years, Eddie Murphy soon returns to standup comedy following a decades-long hiatus. As part of a multifaceted reboot, Murphy hosted “Saturday Night Live” late last year to terrific reviews and high ratings — his first such role since 1984. Murphy will star in upcoming sequels to movie classics “Coming to America” and “Beverly Hills Cop.” But the actor’s imminent return to standup has generated the most intrigue and excitement.

During Murphy’s 32-year absence, Dave Chappelle emerged as perhaps America’s premier comedian, who Eddie Murphy himself declared a “comic genius” Murphy, 58, and Chappelle, 46, both have earned a Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the nation’s highest honor for comedy.

In the latest episode of the NUNYO & COMPANY podcast, the real Ray Donovan named Chappelle as his favorite comedian while quickly adding that Eddie Murphy had held the personal title before abandoning the stage in the late ‘80s. Donovan’s reply to a staple of the show came just before Murphy confirmed his highly anticipated return to standup.

On NUNYO & COMPANY’s debut episode, David Stern — the late, great NBA commissioner — was torn between naming Jon Stewart and John Oliver as his favorite comedian. Pressed to choose a #1, Stern went with the elder statesman (Stewart) in a virtual tossup.

So in that vein, who gets the slight edge between Eddie Murphy and Dave Chappelle? Who’s funniest? Who’s America’s king of comedy in a golden age that gives us Amy Schumer, Bill Burr, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Katt Williams, Kevin Hart, Sarah Silverman and more?

As the first black superstar to portray unabashedly assertive, independent characters on the silver screen, Eddie Murphy influenced — and spawned — a generation of top comedians as well as actors. He remains the most successful comedian in film history.

Murphy’s latest, “Dolemite is My Name,” was based on the legendary yet overlooked life of blaxploitation hero Rudy Ray Moore: Murphy flourished in one of the most challenging roles of his singular career. His brilliant performance in the Netflix movie, released in October 2019, earned a Golden Globe nomination. although speculation of Murphy contending for the 2020 Best Actor Oscar didn’t pan out.

Dave Chappelle developed a terrific resume in films, after playing several supporting roles during the ‘90s, including a blustery insult comic in Eddie Murphy’s “The Nutty Professor.” Putting the supreme talents together in the 1996 film — at a standup show — produced a hilarious, memorable scene: Murphy’s character (Buddy Love) humiliates Chappelle’s (Reggie Warrington) by rattling off silly one-liners featuring your-mother-is-so-fat jokes. Of course, in real life, a snapping contest between the two titans would certainly be competitive.

After avoiding the big screen for some years, Chappelle appeared in 2018’s “A Star is Born, the enormously successful remake. However, comparing even Chappelle’s commendable filmography to an icon’s, whose movies have grossed close to $7 billion worldwide, proves futile. Murphy’s box-office hits easily eclipse a number of ill-conceived duds. “Beverly Hills Cop,” with its fourth iteration in production, remains one of the top grossing comedies in film history.

And few actors possess Murphy’s prodigious range in playing disparate characters. Thus, any poll would almost certainly give Murphy the nod in movies — and Chappelle for television skits: Cutting-edge and iconic, “Chappelle’s Show” aired on Comedy Central from 2003 to 2006 while setting viewership records that helped propel him to superstardom. Nonetheless, choosing Chappelle over Murphy at standup — or vice versa — would certainly stir a debate.

The middle-aged SNL veteran hasn’t done standup since he was twentysomething: Murphy’s two specials were instant classics: “Delirious” (1983) and “Raw” (1987). The latter became the most financially successful ever, grossing $50.5 million in the U.S. on a relatively small budget ($8 million). During the NUNYO & COMPANY podcast about the opioid crisis, DEA special agent Ray Donovan cited “Raw” and “Delirious” as the reason Murphy became his favorite comedian before Chappelle’s rise. The DEA honcho, who oversaw the historic capture of El Chapo, likely reflects the sentiments of many.

One of the best sketch artists in the storied history of “Saturday Night Live,” Murphy almost singled-handedly revived NBC’s iconic series during the ‘80s. But “Chapelle’s Show” — co-created by Neal Brennan — became among the greatest American comedy sketches ever by offering incisive and ingenious social commentary, particularly about race: The show’s auspicious debut featured Chappelle playing a blind KKK member (Clayton Bigsby) who’s clueless that he’s black. Just the concept itself was hilarious! The skit caused at least one viewer to rupture his hernia in laughter, prompting aid from paramedics (if actor Charlie Sheen’s wild story is to be believed).

Eddie Murphy’s late brother, Charlie, enhanced Chappelle’s variety show with unforgettable performances in “True Hollywood Stories” segments. He died of leukemia in 2017 at age 57. Dave Chappelle and Eddie Murphy share a deep, mutual admiration. Underscoring their genuine friendship, Chappelle and the great Chris Rock were among top comedians who took the stage with Murphy for his SNL return on December 21, 2019. The episode delivered the show’s best ratings in more than two years. Before that, Murphy and Chappelle made appearances in support of each other for their Mark Twain honors. (Chappelle became the 22nd recipient in October 2019, four years after Murphy’s achievement.)

And during a FaceTime chat some years ago, the legends professed their love for each other. Chappelle ended the call by declaring Murphy “the king.” Still, Chappelle’s deference to Murphy doesn’t prevent the rest of us from debating their current greatness.

Chapelle himself overcame an extended absence after famously (or infamously) bolting his hit show — and a $50 million contract with Comedy Central — in May 2005. He had grown uneasy about racial dynamics that steered him to sell his soul for mainstream’s laughs and big bucks. Stunning virtually everyone, Chappelle rebuffed the lucrative deal for two more seasons. But he explained to Oprah Winfrey in 2006: “I felt like [the show] got me in touch with my inner coon. They stirred him up.”

During his 12-year hiatus, Chappelle occasionally made surprise appearances at comedy clubs and other venues to test material. He even set an endurance record by performing for more than six consecutive hours. Officially returning to standup in 2013, Chappelle’s popularity remained buoyant. Three years later, he signed a reportedly $60 million contract with Netflix for a series of standup specials that would deliver multiple Grammy Awards. But Chappelle’s recent specials, specifically “Sticks & Stones” — released in late 2019 — generated negative reviews from pundits for who disliked his jokes about sexual assault victims, drug addicts, Asians, feminists and the LGBT — “the alphabet people.” During the act, Chappelle dismissed sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson.

Pundits, who had lauded Chappelle’s groundbreaking series, deemed him as being out of touch in the era of #MeToo and LBGTQ: On Rotten Tomatoes — the leading aggregator for TV and film reviews— Chappelle generated a critics score of 33%. Conversely, Chappelle earned an almost perfect score (99%) from the public. Whoops! Such a discrepancy indicated who was actually out of touch: Chappelle’s comedy specials on Netflix were the most watched in the company’s history.

A good chunk of that audience will almost certainly watch “Coming 2 America,” which is set for release in December. But Eddie Murphy’s return to the stage is what has turned many of his fans agog. His three-decades-long hiatus dwarfs even David Chappelle’s lengthy drought. Murphy plans to make up for lost time with multiple standup specials for Netflix in a deal reportedly worth $70 million.

Approaching senior citizenship, the father of 10 has pointed out a half-century of life experiences to draw from. After quietly recording standup material over the past three years, Murphy intends to formulate a polished 90-minute set to take on tour.

Reflecting on his standup heyday, Murphy admits that some material was over the top: “Delirious,” in particular elicited a backlash for skewering gay men — including by freely using the derogatory term — and making light of AIDS. Pressured by gay activists, Murphy belatedly apologized in 1996 for the homophobic material, blaming the ignorance of a 21-year-old bachelor.

Murphy considers himself to be a different person at this stage in life — much more sentimental and informed. He intends to avoid being offensive enough to trigger controversy. But the brilliance of “Raw” and “Delirious” stemmed partly from Murphy’s political incorrectness, youthful exuberance and even gratuitous vulgarity. Many fans loved his deliriously outrageous takes at a time when such jokes were tolerated.

Will the older/newer Murphy diminish the hilarity of his jokes? Will audiences be less impressed with a mellower Murphy, relinquishing the crown to the younger, unabashedly rawer Chappelle?

Murphy is purposely disconnected from the digital era: He proudly lives without a computer, and remains dismissive of social media. Murphy, who stays busy with his large brood, admits to avoiding newspapers and magazines. Instead, Murphy learns much about current events though the grapevine.

Of course, Eddie Murphy emerged as a once-in-a-generation comedian during a period without Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And his masterly, uncanny skills at impressions are timeless. As a regular TV viewer — especially of Netflix — Murphy considers himself in touch with the transformed comedy landscape.

One quality that the more circumspect comedian maintains is his supreme confidence. Murphy told the New York Times in 2019: “The way I look at things and paint pictures with words, I’m still that guy. I’m still going to be what I was. And then some.”

Eddie Murphy is certainly that guy, but with Dave Chappelle’s rise is he still THE guy? Perhaps a more fun question is: who’s the greatest standup comic of all time? This requires adding to the equation late greats such as George Carlin, Lenny Bruce and Robin Willams; other living legends such as Jerry Seinfeld; and even the jailed icon: Bill Cosby.

But none of them receive NUNYO & COMPANY’s nod for the best of the best. Here’s a hint: This person fittingly earned the inaugural Mark Twain prize in 1998. A better clue? He influenced Murphy and Chappelle more than any comedian: Good guess: the one and only Richard Pryor, who was as mesmerizing, ingenious and impactful as any standup comic.

But back to the living legends: There’s no wrong choice between Eddie Murphy and Dave Chappelle (or another giant you feel merits consideration). We’re fortunate to have these two great comedians in the spotlight simultaneously, providing us with life’s best balm— laughter — during these crazy times.

nunyodemasio.com/podcast/elchapo

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