After the DSK Affair, France Discovers Sex Addiction

This post is in partnership with Worldcrunch, a new global-news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. The article below was originally published in Le Figaro.

(PARIS) — Since the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York City last May, psychoanalyst Jean-Benoît Dumonteix’s practice is always packed. “The DSK affair was revelatory,” says this sex-addiction specialist. “Male patients tell me that when they saw DSK hauled into court, they had the impression they were being judged instead of him.”

Dumonteix says the tribulations of the former International Monetary Fund managing director, who was charged with sexual assault after an encounter with a hotel maid and later released, has been cathartic for many of his patients. “They assumed that [Strauss-Kahn] had the same kind of pathology they did, and that broke through the denial.”

Until recently in France, sex addiction was considered more of a pseudo pathology, reserved for American stars like Tiger Woods, David Duchovny and Michael Douglas, who made bizarrely public apologies and went to special centers for treatment. “There’s greater awareness of the problem now,” says Dumonteix, “but the phenomenon is not on the increase.” (See photos of the case of Domique Strauss-Kahn.)

Sexual dependence is classified as a dysfunction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. The concept made its first appearance in the 1970s, prior to becoming the subject of a book, Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, by Patrick Carnes. American psychiatrist Aviel Goodman also produced breakthrough research on sexual dependence. “And we mustn’t forget Freud,” says psychiatrist Marc Valleur. “He described masturbation as the original addiction.”

Between 3% and 6% of the sexually active population, mainly men, suffers from sex addiction, according to a 2011 study by Professor Florence Thibaut of the psychiatric service of Rouen’s CHU hospital and France’s national health-and-medical-research institute Inserm. “There is relatively little interest in sex addiction in France because there are still a lot of taboos about it,” says Thibaut.

In life, sex addiction can play out in various ways — multiple conquests or partners, regular visits to prostitutes, or compulsively visiting sex websites or watching pornographic movies. (See what makes powerful men behave so badly.)

Just Can’t Stop
But how can we distinguish between an active sex life and frenetic need for seduction, and pathological dependence? “This addiction means that the addict will prefer sexual behavior to any other form of social behavior or other activity. As with addictions to alcohol or cigarettes, an addict can’t stop,” Thibaut explains.

Every time the addict is overcome with anxiety or stress, he or she will try to escape the feeling by engaging in a sexual act. After the initial relief, the addict suffers feelings of negative self-esteem — which start the cycle over again. It’s a vicious circle, and behavior usually intensifies into frenetic attempts to find ever more elusive relief.

Sex addicts end up cutting themselves off from the world. “Some of them can spend the day masturbating as they watch movies, or get fired because they couldn’t help checking out sex sites while they were at work. Others go broke paying for call girls, their wives leave them …,” says Dumonteix.

What do the different types of addicts have in common? Progressive isolation, depression and a very low sense of self-worth. In the view of French sexologist Dr. Catherine Solano, “emotionless sex produces addiction.” (See if sex addiction is a disease or convenient excuse.)

According to Dumonteix, whose patients are 95% male, “the behavior is almost always due to some childhood trauma.” This may have been rape or groping, but it is often some kind of intrusion into the child’s intimate sphere. The child may also have been subjected to inappropriate behavior or images.

Dumonteix says most of his patients are ages between 25 and 35, discovered porn on the Internet and cannot stay away from it. “Some of them got addicted at age 15 and have at least 10 years of addiction behind them,” he says.

“Some of my clients are lawyers, surgeons and businessmen who become addicted because of the huge stress they are under. But they too mainly suffer from some kind of trauma,” says Dumonteix.

“The corridors of power are propitious terrain for hypersexuality because they make seduction and conquest much easier,” Solano says. According to Thibaut, celebrity is not a determining factor. “Sex addiction among celebrities is played up by the media, but you don’t have to be famous to go through exactly the same thing. Like drug addiction, it’s the same, famous or not famous.”

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See if the DSK affair has changed the French workplace forever.

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Confessions of a Plagiarist

Confessions of a Plagiarist

The “fake” spy novelist behind the biggest episode of plagiarism in our time was addicted to stealing from other writers. Three weeks after confessing his crimes, he opens up for the first time about what really happened—and how he stayed sober.

Just over three weeks ago, I was publicly exposed as a thief—someone who stole other people’s words and tried to pass them off as his own. I copied and pasted passages  from some of my favorite authors of spy and thriller fiction—Charles McCarry, Robert Ludlum, John Gardner, Adam Hall—and made a kind of collage out of them that was published under the title Assassin of Secrets by Little, Brown. I used a pseudonym, Q.R. Markham, that was itself borrowed in part from Kingsley Amis. The book remained on the shelves for just five days before hundreds of thousands of copies were recalled and pulped. It received some good reviews, was picked up by the Book-of-the-Month Club, and even made a best-of-2011 list. It was a dream come true.

Then on Monday, November 7, members of a James Bond web forum discovered that sections of my book had been lifted verbatim from a John Gardner James Bond novel called Licence Renewed. The following day, a prominent spy novelist, Jeremy Duns, who had actually been kind enough to blurb Assassin, read the forum and contacted my publisher. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story detailing my crimes. My bright new life as a writer of espionage thrillers suffered a sudden, violent death.

They call a person like me a Plagiarist. It’s one of the harsher words we have in our language. Perhaps not up there with Pedophile or Rapist, but not as far behind as you’d think either. For years, I’d been dreading being called that word, and marveled all the while that I’d somehow avoided being caught. I associated its three syllables strongly with public humiliation and shame. And though that’s exactly what I’ve received, the fact is I’m still here, still standing, and still sober for 15 straight years.

But in a very short period of time—we’re talking hours—the revelation of my crimes turned my life upside-down. I lost my job in the Brooklyn bookstore where I was a part owner, my beautiful girlfriend left me (and the apartment we were going to share), and my future in the only field I know anything about, books, came to ignominious end. Many of my friends and associates turned their backs on me right away. Others stepped forward to provide comfort and solace. Some felt like they had probably never truly known me and it made them uncomfortable. Others didn’t need an explanation at all. One thing, I believe, they all felt was confusion. Why does a person do something like this?

I was trying to write a short story for the first time when I came upon a paragraph I liked in a story by B.S. Johnson called “What did you say the Name of the Place was?” I suddenly realized it fit my narrative perfectly. It was so easy to do, as easy as picking up a drink.

It’s a fair question. And since I’m only three weeks removed from the implosion, I can only really speculate on the answer. Why did I do it? I think the truth goes back to the late ’90s, when I was newly sober (counting days, actually) in a small, mid-western liberal arts college with an astonishing library. That’s where I became a word thief: skimming through collected issues of old magazines like The Transatlantic Review and New World Writing and Eugene Jolas’ Transition, bound in crimson hardcover. I was 20 years old, and trying to write a short story for the first or second time when I came upon a paragraph I liked from a short story by B.S. Johnson called What did you say the Name of the Place was? It was so easy to do, as easy as picking up a drink, if you think about it. The lifted paragraph perfectly fit my narrative. And it temporarily assuaged the awful feeling I had in my head that I was no good as a writer. In retrospect, maybe that’s when I transferred my obsession from drinking and drugs to plagiarism. My addiction didn’t disappear; it simply morphed into something else.

I first tried to get sober when I was eighteen. I’d smelled up my mother’s house with Pernod Anis after a nasty break-up, been caught, sent back to school, got drunk on the plane, and spent the week in a black-out. When I came to, another student took me to my first AA meeting. I remember vividly that I didn’t want to drink afterwards.

Have you ever heard someone at an AA meeting say that you’ll lose anything you put before your sobriety? Well this is a story about precisely that.  Some months after my first meeting a poem I’d written in high school was picked for the Best American Poetry anthology. I was nineteen. My ego had already left the building. I should have been at my happiest, getting into my studies and rejoicing at the blowjob heaven of youth and possibility in those playground groves of academe. Instead, I spent sleepless nights trying to recapture whatever oddball inspiration I’d had that landed me in the Anthology. I manically tried to publish more poems, and eventually picked up a drink again. That run lasted several months, and it was not fun. I tried to keep my drinking secret from friends who’d seen me get sober, but I was a violent, fall down drunk. Suddenly I was back to paying people off for having broken their windows the night before, or their dishes, and generally making apologies for things I didn’t remember doing.

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Proposed Bethlehem drug rehabilitation center would have extra security, official says

former calvary baptist church Testimony continued tonight on a proposed 70-bed drug rehabilitation facility at the former Calvary Baptist Church on Dewberry Avenue in Bethlehem.

A sister facility of the drug rehabilitation center proposed to be built next to Bethlehem Catholic High School operates effectively with far less security than the one in Bethlehem would have, an official told city zoning officials tonight.

Operator Malvern Institute would staff a security guard 24 hours a day at its proposed facility off Dewberry Avenue but posts a guard only four to seven hours a day at its home facility in Chester County, Chief of Security Tim Hubbard told the zoning hearing board.

Hubbard said there have been few problems at the facility during his four years as security chief or the 15 years in total he’s been a local police officer. There have been “rare occasions” when drugs have been smuggled in and only two incidents in four years where the police were called, he said.

The two incidents were a minor physical altercation between a resident and a staff member, and a case in which one resident stole another resident’s portable music player, Hubbard said.

Tonight’s hearing was the third for a proposal to open a 70-bed inpatient drug rehabilitation facility at the former Calvary Baptist Church at 111 Dewberry Ave. Several dozen residents again attended tonight’s hearing to object to the facility’s proposed location next to Bethlehem Catholic High School and in a residential neighborhood.

Blake Marles, the attorney for developer Abraham Atiyeh, pointed out that Bethlehem only allows inpatient drug rehabilitation facilities in residential neighborhoods. Malvern CEO Joseph Curran said he believes drug detoxification and rehabilitation works best within communities.

Bethlehem Catholic High School, Bethlehem City Council and a group of local residents all have hired separate attorneys to fight the proposed center. Residents’ attorney Steven Goudsouzian asked Hubbard if he knew the intent of drug-free school zones and if he agreed students are a susceptible population.

“High school students are susceptible to people with malicious intent,” Goudsouzian said.

Hubbard said he agreed that students are more easily influenced but that Malvern patients have to stop their drug use when they are admitted.

“They are not actively engaging in illegal activity while at Malvern,” he said.

Hubbard said he would have no problem with his children attending a high school next to a drug rehabilitation facility.

Becahi attorney Joseph Leeson Jr. twice brought up state department of health violations against Malvern’s inpatient facility in Chester County. Leeson pointed out that the facility’s violations have tripled from six in 2008 to 18 in 2011.

“The violations cover a variety of areas,” Curran responded.

Curran didn’t go into detail, but department of health records search showed the violations varied greatly.

Most were record keeping violations such as failing to conduct some employee evaluations or filing proper paperwork. Several in 2011 concerned an ongoing bedbug problem. One recent violation dealt with a patient using heroin within a facility bathroom.

Curran testified that because Malvern only accepts insured patients or those who can pay out of pocket, most of its patients are fairly high functioning, mostly still employed and with intact families.

“It’s not likely our person would be different than the person that is next door in the community,” Curran said.

Tonight’s hearing went for more than four hours without a vote. Testimony will be continued at 4 p.m. Dec. 19 with one more developer’s witness. Objectors will get to testify in January, officials said.

Atiyeh also has proposed a 60-bed drug rehabilitation center for juveniles within the 3400 block of Linden Street in the city. That proposal has yet to be considered by the zoning hearing board.

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T.I. Says Eminem Helped Him Beat Drug Addiction

Eminem‘s very public struggle with — and victory over — drug addiction has inspired millions of people, to the tune of 5.7 million copies of his fittingly titled 2010 album Recovery sold worldwide. Count T.I. as one of them. He recently credited Slim Shady with helping him to overcome his own addiction to painkillers.

After being released from his first prison stay in 2010, T.I. underwent several oral surgeries, and was prescribed oxycontin and hydrocodone to deal with the resulting pain. Unfortunately, as happens all too often with those drugs (ask Rush Limbaugh), a medical necessity quickly spiraled into addiction. Confronting the problem head on, T.I. reached out to Eminem for advice. “I asked him how he knew he was an addict,” Tip told VIBE in 2010. “[He said] basically, if you put yourself in harm’s way … if you risk that, you’ve got to assume that there is something fundamentally wrong with your thought process.”


T.I. again saluted his friendship with Eminem in a recent interview with, calling him an “enormous supporter” and citing him as a major inspiration as Tip struggles with addiction, legal troubles and public scrutiny. “I haven’t had a chance to speak to Em since I’ve been home,” T.I. said. “I heard that while I was down, he was trying to get in touch with me, but I don’t know if the dots just didn’t connect. [Eminem] overcoming his own adversities, winning the battle against his own demons within himself and continuing to break the mold and re-set the standard of what it means to be the most successful hip hop artist in the game … I salute that to no end.”


T.I. also gave major props to Em’s work with his label, Shady Records. “I love what he’s doing with Slaughterhouse,” he said. “I love the move that he made to sign Yelawolf. And the record with him and Royce da 5’9″ … that record is going H.A.M. He killed that BET Hip Hop Awards cypher. I’ve been peeping the move.”


With a new, sober outlook on life after completing his recent prison sentence earlier this year, T.I. also had advice for others facing similar troubles — whether it be with drugs or the law.


“It starts with you on the inside,” he said. “I can give all the advice in the world, but at the end of the day you just got to make that decision internally with yourself. You have to see that you are ready to make a change. Until that moment comes, all advice in the world is going to be in vain ’cause I’m going to be talking to a brick wall.”


“Everybody can tell you what you need to do, how to do it, when you need to do it, how bad you need to do it,” he continued. “But until you get that right ass-whipping, as they say, and until you have hit rock bottom or have seen something in yourself that is so out of character and it displeases you so much that you just have no choice but to change it … then you ain’t going to see it.”

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George Harrison Remembered, Ten Years On

George Harrison Remembered, Ten Years On

The much-missed Beatle was perfectly honest about the addiction that killed him: smoking.

George Harrison, the “quiet Beatle” known as the soul of the band, died 10 years ago today, aged 58. Among the tributes to his brilliant career, it’s worth noting that while the cause of his death is generally reported as cancer, what really killed the Beatles’ lead guitarist—as he freely admitted—was nicotine addiction. He smoked an average of three packs a day for three decades, starting when he was in his teens.

“I got it purely from smoking,” he said when he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997. “I gave up cigarettes many years ago, but had started again for a while and then stopped this year.” In 2001 he had surgery for lung cancer, but within months the tumors had metastasized in his brain. Told he might only have weeks to live, he desperately underwent a controversial—and very costly—experimental treatment to bombard the brain tumor with radiation. (The doctor involved, Gilbert Lederman, spent the next ten years promoting himself as “George Harrison’s doctor” and was eventually found guilty of malpractice in a sweeping lawsuit covering 20 wrongful death claims.) Harrison died a few months later. 

In the decade since Harrison’s death, tobacco control and bans have cut US rates of cigarette smoking and lung cancer—but only by 2 or 3 percent, according to the CDC. Not surprisingly, the incidence of the disease mirrors rates of smoking state-by-state—which in turn closely shadow anti-smoking regs. Since the recession, however, funding to implement these laws has fallen to near zero in many states. The biggest change may be measured less in terms of public health than public attitudes. When George Harrison was dying of lung cancer, it was his smoking “habit” that was blamed. Now we understand smoking as an addiction—and nicotine as the hardest substance of all to quit.

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‘War Of The Worldviews: Science vs. Spirituality’

If you receive the local HD channels on Cox Cable without the use of a Cox Cable box you will need to rescan (AutoProgram) your TV on November 29, 2011. If you use a Cox Set top box, Cox Cable will make these changes remotely. KPBS TV has moved from 711 to 1011. V-me has moved from channel 111 to 811.

Evening Edition

Amita Sharma interviews renowned author and speaker Deepak Chopra. Evening Edition airs weekdays at 6:30 PM on KPBS TV

‘War Of The Worldviews: Science vs. Spirituality’

Discussion on science vs. spirituality.

Aired 11/29/11


Deepak Chopra, renowned spiritual leader and best-selling author.

Leonard Mlodinow, esteemed Caltech physicist and best-selling author.

‘War Of The Worldviews: Science vs. Spirituality’

Above: Book: War of the Worldviews: Science vs. Spirituality

Acclaimed Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow and spiritual leader Deepak Chopra are both bestselling authors.

Now they’re exchanging ideas in their new book, “War of the Worldviews: Science vs. Spirituality.”

On Midday Edition (audio on left), Chopra and Mlodinow discuss some of their thoughts about what they deem are the most important questions humans can possibly answer. Among them: How did the universe emerge? What is life? What makes us human? Is God an illusion?

All of these questions are discussed and dissected from the often opposing viewpoints of science and spirituality in their book.

We’ll have more with them on KPBS Evening Edition on Tuesday. You can watch it here after Tuesday evening.

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Conrad Murray Gets Four Years

Conrad Murray Gets Four Years

Michael Jackson’s doctor receives the maximum sentence for the involuntary manslaughter of the superstar.

Conrad Murray, most famously Michael Jackson’s “Dr. Feelgood,” was sentenced today to four years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter of the late King of Pop. The four-year term is the maximum allowed under state law and could be seen as a warning shot to scrip-happy docs. But some speculate the term may be cut in half due to California’s prison overcrowding. Murray’s lawyers requested a probationary sentence, but were denied by the judge. The disgraced doctor said he prescribed Michael Jackson the powerful anesthetic Propofol to help him sleep, and was charged with causing his death. Defense attorneys were unable to convince jurors of their client’s innocence in the six-week trial. “The defendant has displayed a complete lack of remorse for causing Michael Jackson’s death,” prosecutors stated. Murray’s lawyers countered, “There is no question that the death of his patient, Mr. Jackson, was unintentional and an enormous tragedy for everyone affected.” Jackson family members, who claimed Michael was not an addict and pressed for the maximum sentence, wrote, “We are not here to seek revenge. There is nothing you can do today that will bring Michael back.”

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Ecstasy Claims More Young Lives

Ecstasy Claims More Young Lives

The other chemicals frequently found in what’s sold as ecstasy or MDMA cloud the issue of how dangerous X really is (or isn’t).

Ecstasy—or something posing as it—has been blamed for the deaths of two young British club-goers, with at least 20 more party-goers hospitalized after an all-night dance marathon in London. The exact cause isn’t yet established, and reports are vague: the British press variously blames heat stroke, dehydration, and heart failure. “Death by Ecstasy” has been tabloid fodder for so long now that we tend to either take it for granted, or assume they got it wrong: the UK’s most famous example was in 1995 with the hugely publicized case of Leah Betts, an 18-year old who fell into a coma and died after taking Ecstasy. X was also blamed for 6 deaths due to excessive body temperature in Florida recently. The Florida X turned out to be PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine) or a similar derivative. Some of these knock-off drugs mimic the chemical composition of X, but the effects can be vastly different. Science has claimed both that X harms your brain—and that those tests were wrong, and it’s relatively harmless. Then there’s the question of what’s really in the stuff sold. All kinds of alternative chemicals show up in studies of purported MDMA. Professor David Nutt, a former UK drug policy adviser who was fired for his controversial views, calls for a program allowing club-goers to test their ecstasy without fear of arrest. Predictably, this is yet to be adopted. Drug policy experts tell Addiction Inbox that surveys show young club drug users to be remarkably undeterred by this chemical lottery—even given prior knowledge that what they’re taking isn’t MDMA. And if you don’t care what drug you take, then all the educational campaigns in the world won’t save your heedless butt.

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Two N.J. pilot programs to ease reentry for nonviolent drug offenders

Gov. Christie said Monday that he wants to divert nonviolent drug offenders from prison and into rehabilitative programs, a move expected to save money and help lower the recidivism rate.

During a visit to Camden, the governor signed an executive order to expand the state’s drug-court program and to create a task force to centralize the state’s prisoner-reentry efforts and determine what barriers exist for inmates upon release.

The governor also wants to create a recidivism database that tracks the success of reentry programs.

As a former U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, Christie said, he was in a good position to call for prison reform. Nobody, he said, can call him soft on crime.

“I’ve been called a lot of things,” he said. “Soft isn’t one of them.”

Christie made the announcement at the Cathedral Kitchen on Federal Street, a community group that has offered free meals to the poor for more than 30 years.

Since 2008, the organization has run a culinary-arts program for ex-inmates and others who need job skills.

During his tour, Christie navigated the busy kitchen, where five men crowded around a table chopping green peppers and celery for chili that would be served to the nearly 400 people expected to show up for dinner Monday night. Farther down the kitchen assembly line, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies sat cooling on white parchment paper.

Christie said his wife, Mary Pat, wanted him to focus on giving former inmates a legitimate second chance. Drug addiction often thwarts a former inmate’s return to society, along with the difficulty in finding employment because of a criminal record.

“We’re missing the boat in terms of how we can help these people turn their lives around,” Christie said as his wife stood by his side.

Christie called for expanding the state’s drug-court program, which has operated in all 21 counties since 2004 and diverts nonviolent drug offenders from jail to treatment programs.

The two pilot programs will allow judges to sentence drug offenders directly to the program, rather than requiring offenders to seek enrollment in the program, said Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts.

Christie said he was still working with the judiciary to determine the best location for the two pilot programs.

Graduates of the drug-court program are less likely to return to crime, according to an October 2010 study by the state judiciary.

Only 16 percent of drug-court graduates are rearrested, compared with 54 percent of nonviolent drug offenders who enter the prison system. And only 8 percent of those who go through drug court are convicted of another crime, compared with 43 percent of nonviolent drug offenders who are imprisoned.

The country’s prison population escalated sharply in the 1980s and 1990s when mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders put more nonviolent offenders behind bars.

As prison budgets have grown, state officials have looked to alternative sentencing to ease the burden. It costs about $39,000 a year to incarcerate a person in New Jersey. It costs $11,300 to put that same person through the drug-court program, which includes frequent drug testing and intensive supervision.

The “War on Drugs” – an effort that began under President Richard M. Nixon to reduce drug sales and use in the United States – was well-intentioned, Christie said. But it isn’t working as officials had hoped.

“Just putting people in prison for nonviolent drug offenses makes no sense for our society in the long haul,” he said.

Christie appointed Lisa Puglisi as his coordinator for prisoner reentry. Puglisi, a lawyer who represented the Department of Corrections and later the state Parole Board, will serve as the governor’s main adviser on prisoner-reentry policy.

Puglisi, with James Plousis, chairman of the Parole Board, will cochair the Task Force for Recidivism Reduction.

The task force will include representatives of various agencies that can help, and sometimes hinder, an ex-convict’s reentry into society.

Obtaining a license or official ID, managing child-support payments, even getting a job in a restaurant where liquor is served can, without the right assistance, be difficult or impossible for an inmate, Plousis said. The task force aims to find the problems and help ex-inmates overcome them.

Although New Jersey, like Pennsylvania, has a recidivism rate of at least 40 percent, according to a recent study by the Pew Center on the States, New Jersey has decreased its rate 11 percent since 1999. It has also reduced its prison population 11 percent to 21,182 inmates since its peak in 1999.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s prison population continues to increase. It’s up 41 percent since 1999, and the state now holds more than 51,000 people.

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Sarawak tribes struggle with modern problems

Alcoholism, drug use, and crime among the indigenous people in Sarawak on the increase and anger is rising over continuing encroachment on native lands.

Tribal chief Danny Ibang lived most of his life in the pristine jungles of the Malaysian portion of Borneo island until he was pushed into a modern world he was told would be better.

And in many ways, it is.

His Kenyah community of 2,000 enjoys electricity, running water, health and educational facilities previously undreamed-of since being moved out of the jungles to a new village to make way for the huge Bakun hydroelectric dam.

But as expanding dams, oil-palm plantations and other development force thousands off ancestral lands in the state of Sarawak, a host of modern new problems threaten to break down once tight-knit tribal communities.

Village elders and activists say alcoholism, drug use, and crime are on the increase and anger is rising over continuing encroachment on native lands.

“There have been a lot of social changes after the Bakun dam,” said Ibang, 66, whose people were among the first moved to the relocation village of Sungai Asap 14 years ago.

“Some teens who go to school learn to rebel against their parents, and boys and girls now mingle freely as they see it on the television,” he said. There were 10 recent teen pregnancies – something unheard-of in the old days.

The state government is pushing to develop the economy of Sarawak, which is blessed by rich natural resources yet remains one of Malaysia’s poorest states.

‘We are really angry’

But critics say the effort, while necessary, is plagued by graft and harms tribes that are ethnically distinct from the nation’s majority Malays.

Tribal lands make up about 80 percent of Sarawak and “nearly all has been taken for logging and plantations”, said Mark Bujang, head of Borneo Resources Institute, a body working in defence of native land rights.

In October, Penan tribespeople blocked roads into their lands for a week to protest logging and alleged river pollution by Malaysian firm Interhill until the blockade was dismantled by authorities.

At a forum on native concerns in the town of Bintulu in October organised by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, about 150 Iban tribespeople alleged a palm oil company illegally seized their land for a plantation and disturbed ancestral graves, said Joseph Laja, an Iban.

“We are really angry,” Laja told commission members.

“If they move into another part of our land, there could be violence.”

About four million of Malaysia’s 28 million people belong to indigenous tribes, most of which are native to Malaysian Borneo where some retain diminishing traditional rainforest hunting and farming ways.

Officially, they enjoy the same preferential treatment in business, education and other areas accorded to Malays – a controversial policy meant to lift Malay socio-economic standing.

But natives and activists say this has meant little to tribes, who remain among the country’s poorest groups.

As a result, many youths welcome their new life and opportunities in Sungai Asap, which now has 11,600 people from a range of tribes living in traditionally inspired longhouses.

White elephant

Sarawak tribes struggle with modern problems Roads linking the village to coastal cities have, along with modern telecommunications, opened new employment vistas for tribal youths.

“I love living in Sungai Asap,” said Lenny Prescially, 18, as she tapped out messages to friends on Facebook in a local community centre.

Her family moved here from the jungles when she was four and she knows little of the old ways.

“Only the elders want to continue the old lifestyle. They don’t know anything,” she said dismissively of the older men who still hunt wild boar in forests and nearby palm plantations, machetes strapped to their waists.

The Bakun dam has been widely criticised as a white elephant, disastrous for uprooted tribes and pristine jungles that are now inundated by a reservoir the size of Singapore, its projected power output exceeding Sarawak’s needs.

Transparency International has called the dam, which began generating electricity in August, a “monument to graft”.

Much of the anger in Sarawak is directed at Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud – himself from the Melanau tribe – who has governed the state since 1981 and is widely accused of corruption, cronyism, and plundering the state’s resources, which he denies.

But Sarawak Land Development Minister James Masing said the state must develop the economy and give youths new opportunities.

“I have to support (the state’s youths). We need to develop Sarawak,” he told AFP.

But there is a palpable sense of rootlessness today for communities whose identity was long linked to ancestral lands passed down through generations.

“When our land is taken away, there is no longer any blood in our body,” said Sungai Asap resident Stem Liau, 48.

Ibang, the Kenyah headman, said his people were promised eight hectares (20 acres) of farmland per family at Sungai Asap but only received a little more than one hectare of poor-quality land.

“Promises have been broken,” said Ibang, who has struggled to grow pepper, cocoa and rubber.

Hasmy Agam, chairman of the rights commission, said it had received nearly 2,000 complaints over native land rights infringement in Malaysia over the past decade. Many of those complaining have threatened violence.

“We sense that. We hope that is not the solution,” Hasmy said.

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