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Sikh actor asked to remove turban to meet security demands

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New Delhi: Waris Ahluwalia, American Sikh actor and designer, was barred from boarding a flight home to New York from Mexico on refusing to remove his turban during a security check.

According to the New York Times, Ahluwalia on Monday checked in at the Aeromexico counter at Mexico City’s international airport about 5:30 AM and was given his first-class boarding pass with a code that meant he needed secondary security screening.

He was told to step aside and wait while boarding the flight 408 to New York City, said Ahluwalia.

Following that, his feet and bag were searched and swabbed. He was then ordered to remove his sweatshirt and was patted down. Then, he said, was asked to remove his turban.

“I responded matter-of-factly that I won’t be taking off my turban,” he was quoted as saying in an interview from the airport in Mexico City. “And then they talked among themselves and they said, ‘OK, then you are not getting on the flight.”

He was refused to board any other Aeromexico flight by airline security official until he met their security demands.

“It is a symbol of my faith,” Ahluwalia said, explaining why he would not remove the turban. “It is something that I wear whenever I am in public.”

A statement released by the airline on Monday said that Ahluwalia’s screening was in compliance with Transportation Security Administration protocol and the airline had offered him alternatives to “reach his destination as soon as possible.”

Ahluwalia, 41, who grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is an actor and a designer based in Manhattan known for his House of Waris jewellery line and other design work.(IANS)(Image courtesy: citizencouture.com)

NewsGram View-In recent time Sikhs have been the victim of racial discrimination in US and other countries, the reason being the ignorance about their religion. Sikhs have been treated like terrorists. This is also a form of racism which should be avoided.

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NY to make Medication-Assisted Treatment Available to all Jail Inmates Struggling with Opioid Addiction

Laura Levine says she never smoked a cigarette or touched a drink until age 35. Then the mother of five tried heroin, and she was hooked

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Laura Levine prepares to dispense drugs at Vocal NY, an organization that works with addicts, where she is the health educator and coordinator for the opioid reversal drug Narcan, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, March 15, 2019. VOA

Laura Levine says she never smoked a cigarette or touched a drink until age 35. Then the mother of five tried heroin, and she was hooked.

After some brushes with the law — petty larceny to support her habit — she was booked into Nassau County jail and withdrawal started kicking in. As the nausea, shaking and sweating grew worse, she began pleading with guards for help.

“They kind of laughed and said, ‘You’ll be fine. Nobody dies from heroin withdrawal,’” said Levine, who is in recovery and now works to help others struggling with opioids. “I would rather give birth to all five of my children again without medication than go through withdrawal again.”

More help for people like Levine could be on the way, as lawmakers in New York are considering a measure to make medication-assisted treatment such as methadone or suboxone available to all prison and jail inmates struggling with opioid addiction.

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FILE – Family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses leave pill bottles in protest outside the headquarters of Purdue Pharma, which is owned by the Sackler family, in Stamford, Conn., Aug. 17, 2018. VOA

States across the country are considering similar approaches amid research that shows that the drugs along with behavior therapy can help addicts reduce the withdrawal symptoms and cravings that drive many addicts to relapse.

Federal statistics suggest more than half of all inmates in state prisons nationwide have a substance- abuse problem. New York officials say that percentage could be as high as 80 percent in state and local lockups, which at any given time have about 77,000 inmates.

Drug policy experts point to the success of a similar program in Rhode Island, which has seen a sharp drop in the number of former inmates who died of overdoses, from 26 in 2016 to nine last year.

Other successes have been reported in local jails in Louisville, Kentucky; Sacramento, California and in Massachusetts.

“It makes no sense that people who have a public health issue don’t have access to medicine,” said Jasmine Budnella, drug policy coordinator at VOCAL-NY, a group that advocates on behalf of low-income New Yorkers on such issues as criminal justice, drug policy and homelessness. “In the U.S., we talk about human rights but we are literally torturing these people.”

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FILE – Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks at a news conference in Oklahoma City, April 26, 2017. Oklahoma is one of at least 13 states that have filed lawsuits against drugmakers, alleging fraudulent marketing of drugs that fueled the opioid epidemic. VOA

Two years ago, 24-year-old Matt Herring died of a drug overdose after years of struggling with addiction and bouncing in and out of correctional facilities. His mother, Patricia Herring, said Matt once tried to smuggle suboxone into jail in order to avoid the horrors of withdrawal. Guards found the medication and took it away.

Patricia Herring has now become a self-described “mom on a mission” to push for greater resources for addiction treatment in correctional facilities.

“If he had been given medication-assisted treatment when he entered, I don’t know, maybe things would have been different,” she said.

With no organized opposition, the debate over supporting medication-assisted treatment in correctional settings comes down to dollars and cents. Some counties have paid for programs in their jails; others have not. A total of six state and local lockups in the New York City area, for example, have limited drug-assistance programs for opioid addicts.

Albany County became the first county in the state outside of New York City to offer medication-assisted treatment. Sheriff Craig Apple said he’s become a believer.

“It took me a while to get on board with this, but we’re already seeing early success,” he said.

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Drug policy experts point to the success of a similar program in Rhode Island, which has seen a sharp drop in the number of former inmates who died of overdoses, from 26 in 2016 to nine last year. VOA

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A state budget proposal from Democratic Gov. Andrew would spend $3.75 million to expand access in county jails, and use more than $1 million to expand its use in state prisons. Democratic leaders of the state Legislature have called for more, and advocates say they want to see at least $7 million in the annual budget.

A decision is expected before April 1, when the new budget is due.

“Addiction is a disease,” said New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat who is sponsoring the drug-treatment legislation. “We should treat it like a disease.” (VOA)