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7/31/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: July 31, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

booze warning

7/30/14 7:30pm

15 Australians Die From Alcohol Every Day, Report Says

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A new report issued by the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE) has revealed stark numbers for Australians regarding alcohol abuse. In the last decade alone, the number of deaths caused by alcohol increased by 62%, or 15 people per day. Another 430 people are sent to the hospital every day for alcohol-related reasons.

Because of the startling increase, experts have declared that manufacturers should be required to carry warning labels on their products stating that alcohol causes cancer and heart disease, much in the same way as cigarettes.

“The alcohol industry, like the tobacco industry before it, has long shown itself unwilling to acknowledge the extent of the harms it causes,” said Michael Thorn, chief executive at FARE.

Likewise, Ian Oliver, clinical professor of oncology at Cancer Council Australia, concurs with the idea, stating that there is a strong case to be made for requiring labels. “Any potentially harmful product should carry a warning for the consumer," he said.

Previous studies have shown that the risks for over 200 diseases increase with the routine consumption of alcohol. Alcohol has been linked to everything from cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure and stroke to cancers of the liver, esophagus, and bowels.

The FARE study also broke down alcohol-related injuries by gender. Injuries accounted for one in three alcohol-related deaths for men, while for women heart disease was the cause for one in three alcohol-related deaths.

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By Shawn Dwyer

breaking guards

7/30/14 5:30pm

Riker's Island Officers Arraigned for Smuggling Drugs Into Prison

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After a five-month sting operation, city and federal agents have arrested two current and one former New York City correction officers for smuggling prescription drugs onto Riker's Island. The officers were part of an operation that ended in June and were arraigned in State Supreme Court this week.

More information about the sting operation emerged, which involved undercover agents, wiretaps, and fake drugs in order to catch the officers taking "courier fees" to smuggle contraband narcotics into the prison. “By smuggling drugs into a correctional institution, they undermined the security of everyone at Rikers Island — inmates, officers and staff,” said Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor and one of the case's lead investigators.

Between late February and June, the three now-arrested officers met with who they thought were friends and family of Riker's inmates but were actually undercover law enforcement. The officers and undercover officers came to an agreement to ship fake oxycodone for $500 to $900.

The officers—Steven Dominguez, 26, and Infinite Divine Rahming, 30—have been charged with conspiracy, bribery, and drug possession. The former officer, who resigned months ago for unrelated reasons, faces similar charges.

This is one of many recent scandals to hit Rikers Island. In February, a homeless veteran died after being left in an overheated cell. A few months before, another inmate was discovered dead, naked and covered in his own feces after being left neglected in a cell for several days. The guards have also been known to show brutality towards mentally ill inmates.

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By Bryan Le

celebrity deaths

7/30/14 3:30pm

Drew Barrymore's Half-Sister Found Dead of Apparent Overdose

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In what has been initially deemed an apparent suicide, Jessica Barrymore, the half-sister of actress and director Drew Barrymore, was found dead in National City, California early Tuesday morning. She was 47.

Barrymore was allegedly discovered in her car surrounded by unidentified drugs. According to witnesses, she had been parked on the street since around midnight, but roused no immediate suspicion. "I thought she was sleeping or waiting for someone," said Oscar Sandoval, who saw her vehicle the night before.

At 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, another neighbor, Marta Lopez, tried to leave her driveway to go to work and discovered Barrymore's car blocking her path. She went over to speak with the driver, but found her unresponsive. Lopez called the police, who found Barrymore reclined in her seat with an energy drink between her legs and dozens of white pills nearby.

Police determined that Barrymore was dead at the scene. While the results of an autopsy are still forthcoming, the initial determination is that she used the pills to take her own life.

Meanwhile, Drew Barrymore expressed her shock and disbelief despite not being close to her half-sister. "Although I only met her briefly, I wish her and her loved ones as much peace as possible and I'm so incredibly sorry for their loss," she told US Weekly magazine. The two share the same father, actor John Drew Barrymore.

Barrymore left a mysterious last Facebook message on July 28 that underscored the possibility that she committed suicide.  "Life doesn't always introduce you to the people you WANT to meet," the post read. "Sometimes, life puts you in touch with the people you need to meet to Help You, to Hurt You, to Guide You, to Leave You, to Love You, and to gradually Strengthen You into the Person You Were Meant to Become."

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By Shawn Dwyer

recovering celebs

7/30/14 1:30pm

Zac Efron Talks Addiction With...Bear Grylls?

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Zac Efron, who has recently gone public with his alcohol and drug addiction battles, recently appeared on the new NBC reality series, "Running Wild With Bear Grylls," which pits celebrities against nature in a two-day survival challenge in the wild.

"It got to the point where I was caring less about the work and waiting more for the weekend where I couldn't wait to go out and let loose and have fun. But when Monday and Tuesday were difficult to get through, I thought, 'This is bad,'" Efron told Grylls.

Last year, Efron entered drug treatment twice and even received intensive outpatient care for several weeks in order to overcome his addictions to booze and drugs, particularly cocaine. The actor told Grylls how easy it was to become an addict in Hollywood.

"It was just so quick. It was shocking. The challenging part was never the work, that was never it. It was sort of the in-between work—the social aspects outside of it," Efron said. "Everywhere you go [there are people watching] and it can be confusing, and pretty soon you need a social lubricant."

Notwithstanding a recent incident with a homeless man in downtown Los Angeles, Efron has since adopted a quiet life that consists of AA meetings, seeing a therapist, and going to bed by nine, something he reiterated with Grylls.

"I just really never again want to take anything from the outside in to feel comfortable in my present skin, and that takes a lot of work," Efron said. "It's just meditation and stopping and slowing down your brain."

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By Shawn Dwyer

checks and balances

7/30/14 11:30am

Nationwide Clearinghouse Proposed To Monitor Drug And Alcohol Offenses Of Truckers

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering holding truckers across the country accountable for their drug and alcohol offenses by implementing a nationwide clearinghouse to track them.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) currently has a system like this in place for commercial driver’s license holders, but only tracks the offenses within Texas. Although this is more than the bulk of states which don’t have any sort of system in place, it allows out-of-state drivers to move to Texas and not have their previous offenses discovered. Many trucking companies in the state don’t even check the DPS database when hiring since they aren’t legally required to do so.

This could lead to a major issue since more truckers than ever are making their way to Texas due to the Eagle Ford shale boom. Steve Blake, vice president and safety director of R. Wyatt Companies, said that a national clearinghouse would offer “a checks and balances in our industry, to make sure that we have drivers that are drug and alcohol free.”

If the clearinghouse is approved, companies would be required to screen potential employees through the system and check up on them annually. At a cost of $13 per driver per year to the company, it’s being estimated that the clearinghouse would result in $187 million in benefits through a drastic reduction in traffic crashes. The FMCSA is currently reviewing public feedback about the proposal.

Not every trucking company is on the best of terms with federal organizations, however. In July 2012, the owner of a fledgling Texas trucking company sued the Drug Enforcement Agency for $1.43 million in damages after claiming they used one of his drivers as an undercover agent, leading to huge damages to his truck and the eventual death of the driver after an unauthorized trip to the Rio Grande Valley.

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By McCarton Ackerman

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