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moldy pot

12/03/13 11:11am

University of New Haven Developing New Testing for Marijuana


The mask filters E. coli, right?
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Next time you decide to toke up, remember that the weed you’re smoking may contain mold, insect parts, salmonella, E. coli, and other harmful microscopic substances that you’d never know were there.

The existence of such contaminants has prompted Professor Heather Miller Coyle, a forensic botanist and associate professor at the University of New Haven, to begin developing a new process of detecting the harmful substances. Along with her students, Coyle plans on developing a new method for creating DNA profiles of such biological contaminants as mold, mildew, and bacteria in order to compare the profiles to organisms maintained in a database by the National Center for Biotechnology. "What we're trying to do is put the information together in a user-friendly format," Coyle said. "Having some better technology in place is a good thing." The ultimate goal is to make it faster and easier for lab-testing facilities across the country to identify potentially harmful microbes in pot.

With twenty states and Washington, D.C. allowing medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington legalizing recreational use in 2012, it makes sense for newer, more accessible testing to be developed, though the effects of marijuana tainted with mold and other contaminants remain unclear. "Although we have not seen significant problems with tainted marijuana in the past, we should certainly be taking steps to make sure it's not a problem in the future," said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Colorado-based lobby group Marijuana Policy Project. "We have never seen a death solely associated with marijuana use. The same certainly can't be said of alcohol and other drugs."

Still, the Food and Drug Administration has records that have shown marijuana as being a secondary cause of 279 deaths from 1997-2005. Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted in July 2013 that there is a rising tide in synthetic drug use that has led to a number of deaths.

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By Shawn Dwyer

celebrity drug scandal

12/03/13 8:00am

Nigella Lawson's Alleged Drug Use Front and Center in Fraud Trial


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Nigella Lawson is an unlikely candidate to be at the center of a major drug scandal, but that’s what's happening to the TV chef as a fraud case related to her two former assistants heats up. Ex-husband Charles Saatchi accused Lawson of giving drugs to their 19-year-old daughter, Cosimi, and claims she authorized her two assistants, Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, to swindle him out of $490,000. He also dubbed his ex-wife “Hi-gella” and claims that the sisters are innocent victims in the crime.

In their testimony, the Grillo sisters said that Lawson had a daily habit of using marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs, and had been taking “cocaine every day for a decade.” The former assistants also said their wild shopping sprees and first-class airfare on Saatchi’s credit card were authorized by Lawson in exchange for not revealing her drug use to him. A letter to Lawson released to the court also expresses Saatchi’s concern that she “has no credible recollection of events as a result of drug abuse.”

Judge Robin Johnson ruled last Tuesday that the trial should not be abandoned, which means that the popular TV chef will likely be questioned in the witness box about her alleged drug addiction. Lawson and Saatchi filed for divorce last June after he was photographed with his hand around her throat outside of a restaurant. Although he was cautioned by police after the incident, he was not charged with any crimes.

But just a few days after making the scathing accusations, Saatchi told the London court that he had no proof of Lawson actually using drugs. “I have never, never seen any evidence of Nigella taking any drug whatsoever,” he said. Meanwhile, Lawson is reportedly set for a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey.

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By McCarton Ackerman


12/03/13 7:00am

Morning Roundup: December 3, 2013


Miley corrupts another one...
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By Shawn Dwyer

no smoking anywhere

12/02/13 5:53pm

San Rafael Puts Nation’s Strictest Anti-Smoking Law Into Effect


Not in this town.
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According to a new law passed by city council,some residents of the idyllic San Francisco suburb of San Rafael, CA are no longer allowed to smoke in their own homes. The law only applies, however, to people whose homes share a common wall with a neighbor. 

San Rafael citizens who live in apartments, townhouses, and condominiums can no longer light up inside their own walls after the city council made active a law that passed unanimously last year. The smoking ban is intended to eliminate secondhand smoke creeping into neighboring units through air ducts, windows and cracks in the floorboard. Rebecca Woodbury, an analyst with the San Rafael Manager’s office, helped to craft the bill and was duly pleased with her work. "We based it on a county ordinance," she said. "But we modified it, and ended up making it the strictest. I'm not aware of any ordinance that's stronger." The American Lung Association praised San Rafael’s effort and called for further action statewide. “It is imperative that California enact a multi-unit housing smoking ban to protect all California families from deadly secondhand smoke in the places they should feel safest – their own homes,” said the association’s CEO Jane Wener.

But the action was not as well received by housing advocates and some residents. “[The] smoking ban actually intends to punish people for what they do in their own homes,” says San Rafael resident Thomas Ruppenthal. “I really feel this is tyranny.”  Meanwhile, the California Apartment Association stated earlier in the year that the bill would have a negative impact on people with disabilities unable to leave their homes to light up. "I'm not justifying the practice, but somebody in a wheelchair who smokes in the late evening, for example, is going to have to go in the dark to a place off-site," said spokeswoman Debra Carlton.

Advocates for the law, however, have maintained their enthusiasm and hope that the measure will save some of the 50,000 American lives that are lost to secondhand smoke each year.

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By Bryan Le


12/02/13 1:40pm

Can “Retraining” the Brain Help Addicts?


Ideally patients won't have their heads split open.
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Scientists at Cardiff University in Wales are leading a major four-year study to determine whether neurofeedback - a technique that "retrains" the brain using positive imagery - can help individuals  with post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, and addiction to drugs and alcohol.

A host of academic and industry figures from the Netherlands, France, Portugal, and the UK, among other countries, met in November as part of BRAINTRAIN, a £5.9 million consortium funded by the European Commission. As part of the study, scientists will use MRI scanners at Cardiff University's Brain Imaging Research Centre to monitor brain pattern activity of patients in real time, and then feed back the activity levels to the subjects in the form of a simple display onscreen. "Using the feedback, it allows patients to see and alter activity in specific parts of their brain," said Professor David Linden of the University's School of Psychology. "We will explore and refine real-time functional neuroimaging and find out whether they can be used to train patients to regulate their own brain activity." Previous studies have suggested that neurofeedback might help individuals with depression and symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Project members also suggested that the technique could be useful in addressing alcohol and substance addiction. Patients would be shown images of alcoholic beverages while researchers would explore which area of the brain was responsible for processing such pictures. From there, participants could receive the activity level feedback generated by the images and use the information as a sort of self-monitoring tool to restore brain function and promote resilience. "Ultimately, we hope to establish whether this new technique could become a part of comprehensive treatment programs for these conditions," Linden said.

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By Paul Gaita

the material girl

12/02/13 11:47am

Madonna Reunites With Now-Sober Brother


Maybe she has a heart after all...
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While Madonna has had public battles with her brothers in the past, she is reuniting with one of them as he celebrates his one-year sober anniversary. Now working at a rehab center in Hollywood for drug addicts, Martin Ciccone has confirmed that he and the Material Girl are on good terms again.

“She’s helping me out,” Ciccone told Daily Mail. “She’s getting me some new teeth. I’m hoping to start doing voiceover work again for cartoons and video games and get back on my feet.” He also endorsed Alcoholics Anonymous and said he uses it in his current work to help people get sober.

Ciccone struggled with alcohol addiction for decades and even repeatedly slammed his sister on his 1994 rap album, which was done under the name of MC Ciccone. Madonna later paid for him to enter rehab in 1999, but he ended up back in treatment in 2003.

Madonna has seven siblings, and her relationship with two of her other brothers has also been tumultuous. Anthony Ciccone has been homeless on the streets of Traverse City, MI, for the last three years, and was fired from the family vineyard after he repeatedly drank wine from the vats. “I never loved her in the first place. She never loved me,” said Anthony last March. “My father would be very happy if I died of hypothermia and then he wouldn’t have to worry about me anymore.” Martin called the interview “one-sided” and said he is reaching out to Anthony to help him get sober.

Madonna's other brother, Christopher Ciccone, released a scathing tell-all book about the singer in 2008; she cut ties with him afterwards, but he said last year that they are now communicating again.

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By McCarton Ackerman


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