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6/10/13 5:00am

Morning Roundup: June 10, 2013

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Was Erin Brockovich drunk boating?
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By Victoria Kim

harm reduction

6/07/13 5:42pm

Elton John Advocates Harm Reduction

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"None of us is perfect" Photo via

Elton John says "stigma and criminalization" surrounding drug use has led to an increase in addiction and disease. The iconic singer advocates "compassion" for drug users and says treatment and harm reduction-based solutions—such as needle exchanges, opiate substitution therapy and "sound advice"—can help reduce the risk of overdose and HIV. "In the 1980s and 1990s, we saw HIV cut down hundreds of thousands of people while governments did nothing," the British rocker tells AFP. "It was clear then, and is still clear, that many governments don't value the lives of their own citizens because of needless stigma and criminalisation of drugs and sex." John says the US is a good example of how, despite resistance on the federal level, reform was possible. Although "conservative politicians have banned the use of national government funding for syringe exchange," state and city governments are reforming their policies to promote harm reduction, such as reducing restrictions on pharmacy sales of syringes and allowing people to legally carry them. His Elton John AIDS Foundation spent about $1 million a year on harm reduction in the US, mainly for syringe access. The foundation is a sponsor for the upcoming International Harm Reduction Conference, which will gather hundreds of scientists, politicians, researchers, doctors, and activists from about 70 countries in Vilnius, Lithuania on Sunday.  

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By Victoria Kim

companion health

6/07/13 4:30pm

Secondhand Smoke Affects Pets, Too

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Humans aren't the only ones who can get
cancer. Photo via

Most everyone knows that secondhand smoke comes with a slew of health risks, but sometimes it's easy to forget our furry friends are just as susceptible to the same smoky dangers. Val Mills of the Buckinghamshire SmokeFree Support Service wants to make sure people don't forget that. “As a pet owner I know how important pets can be to people,” she says. “Some people may not realise that smoking around their pets will affect the health of their animals.” Dogs that breathe in smoke are twice as likely to develop nose and lung cancers, and smaller pets like birds and mice are also heavily affected. But the effects on cats are especially devastating: When they lick and clean themselves, they ingest the chemicals and ash burned off from the cigarette, leading to feline lymphoma. And it's not just the smoke to be worried about—if pets manage to eat a cigarette or butt, Mills warns, it could be fatal.

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By Bryan Le

eating disorders

6/07/13 3:30pm

DoSomething.org Protests Abercrombie & Fitch

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Dosomething.org activists pose with an A&F
model Photo via DoSomething.org

Activists rallied at Abercrombie & Fitch's flagship store in New York yesterday to protest the brand's exclusionary policy of not stocking clothing above a size 10. They were organized by DoSomething.org, a non-profit that provides young people with the resources to campaign for change on a broad range of social issues, and were reacting to comments from Abercrombie's CEO Mike Jeffries, who stated in 2006 that the chain's target audience are the "attractive, cool and popular kids" as opposed to the "not-so-cool kids." Yesterday dozens of activists wore XL and XXL t-shirts that read: "We may not wear this size, but 15,000 of us respect people who do."

"A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong," Jeffries is reported to have said of his company. "Are we exclusionary? Absolutely." Backlash to his remarks recently surfaced in the media, when teen activist Ben O'Keefe, an eating disorder survivor, accused the store of bullying and promoting negative body image among teens. O'Keefe, with support from the National Eating Disorder Associationpetitioned the store to expand their size offerings, gaining nearly 76,000 signatures so far. An estimated 8 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, with the problem setting in at increasingly younger ages.

Now Do Something has joined the fight—petitioning the company to offer clothing for "people of all body types" with almost 17,000 people now signed on to the cause. "We've gotten some moving testimonials from people who have struggled with eating disorders," Naomi Hirabayashi, director of marketing at Do Something, tells The Fix. "Their responses are of anger and frustration. They're saying 'We have it hard enough trying to overcome some of these challenges, and we're going to speak out and fight against the people who are making this even harder on us.'" Abercrombie has since issued a public apology—without offering concrete change. "Despite A&F's rhetoric of apologizing and back-pedaling, regardless of how genuine you think it is, they have yet to make the kind of changes that we want to see," Hirabayashi tells us. "We've also yet to hear the CEO himself make any apologies for his comments."

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By Victoria Kim

drunk driving

6/07/13 2:09pm

Video: Anti-DUI Ad Makes a Shocking Impact

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Would you drink and drive after this?
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Some campaigns against drunk driving use positive reinforcement—such as rewarding sober drivers with free pancakes or a parade. But this guerrilla-style PSA uses blunt force to drive its message across. In the graphic reminder not to drink and drive, pub patrons are freshening up in the bathroom when a bloodied (fake) head suddenly crashes through the mirror, as if flying through the windshield of a crashed vehicle. After showing the understandably startled reactions of the unsuspecting hand-washers, the video asks: "What impact could a drink have on your night out?" See for yourself below:

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By Bryan Le

liberace

6/07/13 1:01pm

Liberace's Ex-Lover Says He's Finally Sober

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Thorson and Liberace in 1982 Photo via

Liberace's former lover Scott Thorson is finally sober after a tumultuous battle with addiction and crime that started during his five-year romance with the world famous pianist, he tells The Sun. Thorson, 54, was just 17 when he first met the then 58-year-old world famous pianist, who built him a 70,000 square foot Vegas mansion and showered him with lavish gifts. But Liberace also hired a plastic surgeon to make his lover "look more like his son," and had a doctor put him on a cocktail of diet pills that contained "pharmaceutical cocaine" and Demerol. After Thorson became addicted to the drugs, he says his former lover threw him out. "In the movie it says he offered me rehab, but he didn't," says Thorson. "When I became addicted and he was worried I was out of control and would tarnish his image, he threw me out like I was a piece of trash. I was living in the penthouse in LA and they hired guards to throw all my personal belongings off the balcony and discard me.” His addiction continued to spiral after a 1982 "palimony" suit against Liberace was settled, leading to several overdoses, a suicide attempt and being shot five times during a 1991 robbery in Florida. Now battling colon cancer, he says he is clean and sober for more than three months. In a bizarre twist to the story, Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof bailed him out of a recent prison stint and has since put him up at the brothel. "I've survived to tell my story. They have built a great team around me and I am drug free for the first time in many years. It’s been about 110 days," he says. "I haven't lived the dream like this since I lived with Liberace." The biopic, Behind the Candelabra, in which Liberace and Thorson are played by Matt Damon and Michael Douglas, drew 2.4 million viewers when it aired in the US on HBO last month.

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