Hot! Horny! Wasted! Teens!

New research about young military recruits who smoke, drink, and screw too much.

I have seen the future, and she is a tripping, horny teen. The vision arrived last Monday, which happened to be around the same time Village Voice Media, the chain of 15 weekly newspapers that includes SF Weekly, announced companywide layoffs and a strategic refocus on the Web. In this spirit, I found a recent UCSF study, wrapped it in hyperbole, and posted an item on the Weekly's news blog, The Snitch, adding the headline "U.S. Marine Corps an Orgy Palace of Stoned, Drunk, Horny Teens, New UCSF Study Suggests." In so doing I became dazzled by the future of journalism.

The story summarized a November 2008 UCSF paper titled "Relationships Among Sociodemographic Markers, Behavioral Risk, and Sexually Transmitted Infections in U.S. Female Marine Corps Recruits." The researchers determined that new soldiers were at higher risk than civilians for sexually transmitted diseases, and that the most sexually promiscuous female recruits "perceived that sex is more likely and enjoyable under the influence of alcohol, and were heavy alcohol and drug users before recruit training entry."

Thanks to my Internet-friendly spin, the item became something of a phenomenon. By Tuesday morning, it had generated 50,000 unique viewers, more traffic overnight than our news blog usually gets in two weeks. For a while that day, it became the seventh most popular news story in the world as gauged by Digg.com, a 22-million-reader news-rating Web site Slate columnist Jack Shafer labeled "a Billboard Top Million, only for Web pages." By midweek, it had earned 63 comments on our Web site — about what I get for a couple of years' worth of my usual fare of investigative exposés about local public policy.

This week, after spending a few days conducting interviews and reading reports for possible columns about local regulation of gasoline stations, the implosion in California of the Service Employees International Union, and regulatory malfeasance at the California Department of Insurance, I came up with the following result: Feh!

If Gawker, Gizmodo, Daily Kos, and the Internet porn industry are any guide, staying alive in the new age of Web-based news means thrashing around for a niche until you hit a winner, then flogging it to death to generate hits. In the current issue of The Atlantic, Michael Hirschorn suggests the transition of the news business from print to Web-based publications might even improve journalism, in a scenario where "actual reportage could make the case for why it matters."

Assuming Hirschorn wasn't drunk or sex-addled — hear that, Googlers? I just typed "sex" — he's assuredly ignorant. Or nuts.

Print newspapers have thrived so far as a high-minded con. They used enticing, hyperbolic headlines; beautiful graphics, illustration, and photography; dreamy lifestyle sections; useful movie, music, and art reviews; and zesty opinion columns as a sugar coating to shove civic and international news down readers' otherwise-unwilling throats. When the print news business is finally dead, and unmonitored politicians and tycoons turn this country into a corrupt banana republic, America will be surprised to realize that a healthy, free society depended on forcing people to consume information they otherwise would have had no interest in.

Screw it, I say. I'm aboard the bandwagon. This space is now your go-to place for breaking news about degenerate, horny military teens.

Seriously.

For today's dose, two strands of academic research — one produced by a UCSF researcher, another building upon the pioneering work of an Oakland psychologist —beg the conclusion that America could create a more effective fighting force if military commissaries sold Ecstasy instead of cigarettes. The result would be healthier, more aerobically fit, and physiologically resilient soldiers.

As a side effect, we'll have a new super race of sex-starved young soldiers.

UCSF researcher Ruth Malone has made a specialty of showing how the tobacco industry uses its political clout in Congress and its ties to the military supply system to undermine efforts to end the sale of subsidized cigarettes in commissaries. According to a recent military study, soldiers deployed with a combat unit in Iraq were more than three times as likely to use tobacco than the national U.S. average. The result is wheezing, coughing warriors deployed in sometimes-exhausting combat situations. Studies have long shown that tobacco use decreases troop readiness.

The U.S. Surgeon General, meanwhile, has found that tobacco use cost the military eight times in health-care expenses what it earned on commissary sales. The U.S. armed forces have long been aware of the problem, and have attempted to change the discount cigarette prices charged in Military PX stores. Malone examined UCSF's vast trove of documents produced during various lawsuits against the tobacco industry, and interviewed sources in the armed forces to show that cigarette companies hired lobbyists with high-level military contacts to keep pushing their product on the troops.

The tobacco industry's accomplishment is extraordinary, given that military bases could produce a fitter, more efficient fighting force by simply removing smokes from on-base stores.

America could move further toward ultimate combat readiness by filling the empty shelf space with bottles of little white inhibition-shattering tablets, new research suggests.

A different study, emanating from the research of legendary Oakland psychologist Leo Zeff (also known as the Johnny Appleseed of MDMA), points toward Ecstasy as an effective treatment for the military plague known as post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2005, 72,000 American veterans were receiving disability payments for PTSD, with platoons more in the pipeline. A 2007 study estimated that 12 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from the ailment, in which battlefield trauma is relived endlessly in nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, anger, and inability to concentrate. Sufferers don't necessarily respond to ordinary talk therapy, because it can be hard to consciously revisit a terrifying wartime event.

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