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Sober Stars

8/13/12 11:28am

Fatboy Slim: From Alcoholism to the Olympics

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Fatboy Slim's partying is now confined to during
the show. Photo via

Remember Fatboy Slim? His notoriously low-budget dance troupe video for "Praise You" ruled MTV in 1999, but he struggled with alcoholism in subsequent years. However, the British DJ—aka Norman Cook—has been sober for the last three years and has just marked his recovery in the best way possible: by performing at last night's closing ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics on top of a giant, glowing octopus. "I gave up drinking three years ago and I've run the Brighton Marathon," he says. "Everything you do is a lot easier to deal with when you go to bed after a show rather than party for two days"—and that includes performing in front of the whole world. Although he still continues to make music and tour, he's no longer actively on a record label, which gives him complete creative control over his work—and he seems to prefer it that way. "As you get older, you realize you don't have to do any of that stuff," he says. "My career now is buoyant, but manageable. Basically, I do what I want."

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By McCarton Ackerman

Phone Addiction

8/13/12 10:34am

Should Teachers Cave to Students' Cell Phone Habits?

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Should teachers allow phone breaks?
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Most schools have rules about cell phone use, but that hardly stops students from going to the bathroom to send texts, or checking Facebook under their desks. Teachers often try to combat this by taking away phones during class time. But Dr. Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills, has a different and startling suggestion: give in. Rosen—the author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us—thinks teachers should let kids use their phones for one minute, every 15 minutes—like a nicotine patch for people trying to quit smoking cigarettes. He claims that banning phones in class will just make kids focus on all the texts and posts they could be missing, but that letting them check periodically will help keep them calm. “They’re building up a bunch of chemicals in the brain that cause anxiety, and the act of looking at their phone is totally designed to reduce that anxiety,’” he tells The Fix. “It’s a stimulus to your brain saying, ‘Don’t worry. Don’t get anxious. You’ll get to check in shortly.’” He worked with a French teacher to test out the program, and found it to be a great success. “[The teacher] said the students were magically way more productive and they felt like they were being respected,” he says.

Not everyone buys Rosen’s theory, of course. Shawn Cerra, a principal in Coral Springs, Florida, is completely against the idea of cell phone breaks for his students. “If they see something that’s upsetting or disturbing or something of interest, it would be hard pressed for them to put the phone down and listen to World War II,” he argues. And many online commenters agree that educators shouldn't cave to students’ obsessions. “School needs to be serious and focused," writes one. "There's time for entertainment and socializing during lunch and recess breaks, after school, and on weekends...after homework and chores are finished!”

But Rosen accepts that learning to focus is essential: “You know that’s absolutely true, we are catering to our students' obsessions,” he admits when we ask him. “However, what I would say is that the goal here is learning. Do you want to have a group of distracted students or do you want to try to optimize the learning environment?” Studies have shown that students generally only focus for about five to ten minutes at a time before taking a mental break anyway; so Rosen says allowing them all to break at the same time would mean they can pay more attention later. “We have created this bitchin’ technology that’s so exciting and so interesting that we’re compelled to use it,” he says. “Now we’ve got to make sure these kids are given the best learning environment, not what we as old adults think is the best learning environment.”

 

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By Chrisanne Grise

Headlines

8/13/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: August 13, 2012

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Solo wins gold, passes on booze. Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

Drug War

8/10/12 4:42pm

"Caravan For Peace" Sets Out to End Drug War

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"Giving a voice to the families of victims." Photo via

With death toll of the bloody Mexican drug war rising as high as 71,000, dozens of Mexican and American organizations will embark on a month-long “Caravan for Peace” on Sunday, August 12. Its aim is to spread awareness and open dialog about non-violent solutions with citizens and leaders in both countries. Ideally, the caravan—which is purposely timed between the two nations' presidential elections—will revise their relationship, promoting a view of Mexico as a neighbor, not a threat.

“We are dedicated to giving voice to the families of victims of this violence and to publicizing the real costs of this war,” says Javier Sicilia, a poet who was named one of Time’s 2012 “Person of the Year” activists; cartel members murdered his son in 2010. He's joining the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) to lead the caravan. “We have made it clear that the Mexican state must stop denying its responsibilities, which it does by criminalizing the victims of violence,” he says. “Instead, it must accept that there are victims, and that it is the Mexican government’s responsibility to provide justice and reparations to them. With this in mind, we have asked for a change from the current security strategy to one focused on human security.” That said, the goal is also to influence American drug-war strategy; Sicilia says he hopes to promote discussion about US policies in areas such as gun trafficking, alternatives to drug prohibition, combating money laundering and bilateral cooperation over human rights and security.

The trek will cover 6,000 miles and stop in 20 US cities, starting in San Diego on Sunday and arriving in Washington, DC, on September 10. Each stop along the way will feature rallies and debate. Other organizations involved in the initiative include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). A similar caravan crossed Mexico last year, and is credited with pushing the drug war up the country’s political agenda. Anyone interested can join the caravan as a volunteer, track the route online, or register to ride on one of the caravan buses or to follow along in your own car.

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By Chrisanne Grise

alcohol and gender

8/10/12 3:30pm

Women Recover From Alcohol Abuse Faster

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Women's brains recover at a quicker pace.
Photo via

Whatever your gender, sustained, heavy drinking can cause you to lose your marbles—and abstinence can provide a way to get them back, as science (and experience) have proved. But a new study suggests women's brains actually recover much more quickly from long-term alcohol abuse than men's. Previous research has linked heavy alcohol consumption to loss of "white matter"—the thing that allows communication between different parts of your brain. A recent study by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine used MRI technology to examine the brains of 42 alcoholic men and women who were abstinent from alcohol after five or more years of heavy drinking. They found that with abstinence from alcohol, women recover their white matter brain volume more quickly than men—within the first year. Men showed little brain recovery in the first year, but they began to recover their white brain matter after that—whereas for women, recovery tapered off at this point. "These findings preliminarily suggest that restoration and recovery of the brain's white matter among alcoholics occurs later in abstinence for men than for women," says study lead Dr. Susan Mosher Ruiz. "We hope that additional research in this area can help lead to improved treatment methods that include educating both alcoholic men and women about the harmful effects of excessive drinking and the potential for recovery with sustained abstinence."

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By May Wilkerson

Mexican drug war

8/10/12 2:24pm

Cartel Leaders Adopt Bestial Nicknames

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"The Dog Killer" after his January capture.
Photo via

Mexico's drug traffickers are adopting grittier nicknames in a reflection of the bloody, inhumane nature of the war they're fighting. Until recently, many high-ranking drug traffickers possessed such regal-sounding monikers as "The King" (Jesus Zambada Garcia), "The Lord of the Skies" (Amado Carrillo Fuentes) and "The Boss of Bosses" (Arturo Beltran Leyva). But these days gang leaders are go by such nicknames as "The Rat," "The Dog Killer," "The Worm Eater" and "Garbage," among others—in a symbolic shift that reflects the ruthless, animalistic style of violence prevalent today. Experts say the killings and arrests of top cartel capos have left lowlier figures in charge of drug-running, kidnapping and extortion business—which has led to a less skilled approach with more gruesome killings. "[The nicknames show] a trace of cynicism, of mockery," says Pedro de la Cruz, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, who specializes in security issues. "These nicknames reflect the fact that even they do not take themselves seriously as cartel leaders of the past did." Nicknames aside, the violence in Mexico remains every bit as severe. Just yesterday, another 14 bodies were found in an abandoned van.

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By McCarton Ackerman

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