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5/16/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: May 16, 2012

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Lance Armstrong is upset people still think
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By Bryan Le

sexual assault

5/15/12 5:52pm

Binge Drinking Hikes Sexual Assault Risk

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Silence is not a "yes." Photo via

Sadly, sexual assault happens often—and alcohol is frequently involved. But new research suggests that young women who binge drink are at a much higher risk for sexual assault—in the future. A study recently published in the magazine Violence and Victims found that female college freshman who consumed at least four alcoholic drinks in one day at the start of the study were 33% more likely to be victims of a sexual assault in the following months. Study co-authors Emily Mouilso and Sarah Fischer of the Psychology Dept. at UGA followed 200 female students over the course of a school year, monitoring their drinking and meeting one-on-one with each participant throughout the study. It was discovered that 17% of those who binge drank early on experienced a sexual assault, compared to 6% of the non-binge-drinkers. "It's not just the amount you're drinking—it's the pattern," said Mouilso, "even if the volume of alcohol is the same, when you drink it all at once, you are putting yourself at the highest risk." Both researchers stressed that these results should not condone "victim blaming;" alcohol intake (by the victim or the aggressor) is never an excuse for sexual assault. "The main take-home point is that binge drinking at the start of the year increases risk for freshmen college women for later sexual assault during their first year of college," says Fischer. "Now future studies can test hypotheses to find out why drinking leads to risk with sexual assault."

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By May Wilkerson

Pill Mill

5/15/12 5:01pm

Major Oxy Distributor Forced to Shutter Florida Pill Mill

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Shut down (for two years) Thinkstock

It’s getting increasingly hard to keep track of where prescription drugs end up in America. Of course, when one of the country’s largest pill suppliers turns a blind eye to suspicious shipments of painkillers from its own warehouse, it’s downright impossible. The federal government’s war on illegal prescription drugs turned tangible today when Cardinal Health, the country’s second-largest “pill mill,” agreed to suspend shipments of controlled drugs from one of its Florida facilities. There were no fines or arrests, and Cardinal Health wasn’t required to admit any actual wrongdoing, but it did agree to a two-year ban on shipments of prescription drugs from the facility after the DEA alleged that the company—along with two CVS Caremark pharmacies in Orlando—was distributing Oxycodone, the active ingredient in Oxycontin and Percocet, “far in excess of legitimate medical needs,” according to the Washington Post.

Cardinal Health is a major player in America’s health care supply chain, and the company has been in the DEA’s sights since February, when the agency shuttered the Lakeland, Florida, warehouse. Officials had uncovered a suspicious history of large-scale pill shipments to a small number of nearby pharmacies. The DEA pulled Cardinal’s license to ship drugs from the warehouse, alleging that a large quantity of the prescription painkiller Vicodin had been shipped to pharmacies from that location. Cardinal Health went to court over the closure, and lost. It wasn't the first time the DEA had cited the same Florida facility for “failing to prevent illegal distribution of pharmaceuticals.” In 2008, Cardinal Health paid a fine of $34 million for failing to inform the DEA of suspicious orders for hydrocodone, the primary ingredient in Vicodin.

The settlement caps months of negotiations and hearings over “anti-diversion procedures,” and apparently clears Cardinal Health of any further administrative sanctions. According to the DEA complaint, Cardinal Health didn't take adequate precautions to make sure all that Vicodin was going where it was supposed to go—into the hands of legitimate patients.

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By Dirk Hanson

booze for elephants

5/15/12 4:02pm

The Great "Booze-for-Elephants" Zoo Ruse

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This shouldn't happen, according to
veterinary experts. Photo via

Pakistani zookeepers ordered booze "for their elephants," telling management that it helped soothe randy and aggressive elephants during mating season. If you just thought “Really???” then you already asked more questions than the management at Islamabad's Marghazar Zoo, who regularly paid for huge amounts of locally-made liquor (up to $880 USD, which isn't exactly peanuts) as part of the food supply for the peppy pachyderms. And this went on for 20 years. The keepers even claimed that the elephants could go buck wild, destroying property and killing people, if management didn't keep a steady stream of alcohol coming. Of course, the keepers were just taking the booze for themselves and drinking on the zoo's dime. Veterinary experts say that elephants actually shouldn't drink alcohol, as it probably wouldn't calm them down at all—in fact, drunk elephants have been known to embark on murderous rampages. The same keepers were also responsible for 22-year-old Saheli, an elephant gifted from Sri Lanka, dying a premature death. They have since been suspended.

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By Bryan Le

On-Screen Smoking

5/15/12 3:03pm

India Fights Smoking With In-Movie PSAs

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How can it be bad when it looks this good?
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Next time you check out a Bollywood flick, you might notice a slightly invasive anti-smoking message: at the beginning of the movie, actors will tell you about the dangers of smoking for at least 20 seconds, and again somewhere in the middle of the movie. Also, every time a cigarette touches someone's lips on screen, a warning ticker will scroll across the bottom, also espousing the ills of tobacco use; in the case of older films, a voice-over may be used. India is taking these drastic measures to curb its immensely high smoking rate (52% of Indians are exposed to smoking at home) and to quell the curiosity of Indian children who might want to do puff like silver screen superstars. Though many filmmakers were opposed to them, believing the new rules infringed on their “creative independence,” the rules have been approved by the ministry of law. There are still some practical problems that remain to be smoothed out: “For better implementation, the [information & broadcasting ministry] has also asked the health ministry to define the actor—whether it should be a lead actor or the one who is smoking in the film,” says a health ministry official. They hope to expand the PSAs to foreign films as well, added the official, because "the young audience that we are trying to target through this notification get swayed much more by foreign films.”

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By Bryan Le

big tobacco

5/15/12 2:11pm

Bloomberg Takes on Big Tobacco

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Bloomberg says Prop 29 will save lives.
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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is apparently passionate about fighting tobacco companies: he's contributed $500,000 to support Proposition 29 on California's upcoming June 1 ballot, and challenges supporters to match his amount. The measure, which is set to appear on the June 5 ballot in California, aims to reduce smoking especially among youth, and would add an additional $1 per pack cigarette tax—money that will be used for research on smoking-related diseases. "Every day, tobacco kills. Right now, big tobacco is pouring tens of millions into California to defeat a common-sense measure that would help reduce tobacco use, and something has to be done about it," Bloomberg said in a statement. The mayor decided to put forward his own money to counter the $40 million that tobacco companies have kicked up to fight Prop 29. “It’s time to level the playing field,” he added, urging potential backers to "do everything we can to help make Proposition 29 become a reality, because it will save lives." Those in favor of Prop 29 say it would generate around $735 million a year for cancer research and illnesses related to smoking.

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By Valerie Tejeda

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