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still in mourning

8/14/14 3:30pm

Robin Williams Was In Early Stages of Parkinson's, Wife Says

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On Wednesday, the wife of Robin Williams, Susan Schneider, released a statement that said her husband was in the early stages of Parkinson's disease at the time of his death. He was struggling with depression and anxiety, but had maintained a hold on his sobriety.

Here is the statement in full:

“Robin spent so much of his life helping others. Whether he was entertaining millions on stage, film or television, our troops on the frontlines, or comforting a sick child — Robin wanted us to laugh and to feel less afraid.

Since his passing, all of us who loved Robin have found some solace in the tremendous outpouring of affection and admiration for him from the millions of people whose lives he touched. His greatest legacy, besides his three children, is the joy and happiness he offered to others, particularly to those fighting personal battles.

Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly.

It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”

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By Shawn Dwyer

depression & death

8/14/14 1:00pm

Did Robin Williams Show Signs of Depression?

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From the moment that the world learned about Robin Williams committing suicide, stories emerged almost immediately about his battles with depression and decades-long fight with substance abuse. But according to a report from the Los Angeles Times, Williams slipped deeper into the abyss in recent years following open heart surgery in 2009, mounting bills due to his divorce settlements, and the cancellation of his CBS sitcom, The Crazy Ones, this past May.

"He started to disconnect," said longtime friend and comedian Rick Overton. "He wasn't returning calls as much. He would send texts and things like that, but they would get shorter and shorter."

On Aug. 11, 2014, Williams was found dead by his personal assistant hanging by a belt attached to a closet door. He also had superficial cuts on his wrists, presumably made by a bloodied pocketknife found near his body.

Just a month before his death, Williams had checked into the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Minnesota to "fine-tune" his sobriety, which proved to be fragile after the cancellation of The Crazy Ones. The show marked the comedian's return to television after the mega-success of Mork & Mindy decades earlier, but failed to catch on with viewers and was cancelled by CBS.

"He took the cancellation of the show hard," Overton said. "It would hit any of us hard...the one-two punch of that can make all the difference in the world. He got real quiet."

Prior to the show's demise, Williams was already diminished as a box office draw. He no longer commanded the big paydays like he did in the 1980s and 1990s, leaving him consigned to smaller indie films or supporting roles in blockbusters like Night at the Museum. The change in star status—coupled with mounting financial pressures from two divorces—appeared to have a deeper effect on him than anyone could imagine.

"You could just tell something was off," said friend Steven Pearl, who saw Williams in San Francisco just weeks before his death. "He seemed detached. It's hard to explain. He didn't seem like his usual self...I didn't know it would get this dark."

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By Shawn Dwyer

outrageous

8/14/14 10:30am

Drug Addicted Mother to Get Compensation For Disabled Daughter's Death

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The current hot topic in New South Wales, Australia, is over a drug-addicted mother receiving victim’s compensation for her disabled daughter’s pending death, despite her absence resulting in the child being brutally beaten at the age of seven by the woman’s then-husband.

The woman, who can’t be named for legal reasons, has been awarded half of the $50,000 in victim's compensation paid to the child after the violent attack. She will be able to collect the money when the girl, now 13, passes away. She is reportedly “on the brink of death,” as her congenital condition has dramatically worsened, despite requiring life-saving surgery at the time of her severe beating. She has been left with no skull over the left side of her brain and has to wear a rigid head covering at all times.

The child was placed in foster care after the attack and her current foster parents will receive the other half of the money. The Department of Family and Community Services wanted to split money between the foster parents and two children’s hospitals that treated the girl for five months after the assault. They argued that the woman had an extended history of drug abuse and neglectful parenting, which was partially responsible for the child’s assault. She has also reportedly had minimal contact with her daughter over the last two years. She was entitled to weekly supervised visits with her daughter, but stopped using them in December 2011.

However, the NSW Supreme Court ruled last week that the hospitals were entitled to nothing. "Whatever her failings, [the mother] was not beyond the pity of a child such as [the daughter], with whom there was a family bond and a shared life of tragedy," noted Justice Geoff Lindsay. He also believed that the girl would not have left her mother out of the will if she had the capacity to make one.

The woman’s then-husband was convicted in September 2011 of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm.

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By McCarton Ackerman

drug testing

8/14/14 8:30am

Pennsylvania Parents Outraged Over School Drug Testing

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Students and parents of a Pennsylvania school district are outraged over mandatory drug testing being administered to pre-teens and have recently spoken out to stop it.

The Perry County school district has required drug testing for any student who either drives or participates in an extracurricular school activity. Natalie Cassell, 10, was drug tested three times this past year at Susquenita Middle School because she is part of a leadership club.

"It was just kind of annoying because it was like, 'I already told you I'm not taking drugs,'" she said. "Instead of saying, ‘These activities are fun, you should do them, we need people to join,’ it’s just making people not want to do them."

Her mother, Kristin, was among the parents who spoke out at a recent school board meeting. She said it was "ridiculous" for a 10-year-old to be drug tested and expressed outrage that she wasn't notified when one of the tests took place. School officials said that a nurse is required to inform parents that their child is being drug tested, but doesn't have to wait for them to respond back.

Superintendent Kent Smith justified the testing by saying that drug use increases during middle school years and that the problem is already "prevalent" within the county. A 7-2 vote rejected a proposal to suspend the policy, but the Susquehanna school board president has agreed to revise the policy. Two meetings need to take place before any proposed revisions can be implemented; the next one is scheduled for Sept. 9.

Like it or not, student drug testing is becoming increasingly common across the country. Three Catholic high schools in the Cleveland area announced in April that all students will be required to undergo drug testing starting this fall, while other schools across the state have already implemented similar programs. However, many of the programs have been a bust. Approximately 750 students were tested over the last year at the three public high schools in Edmond, OK, but only eight recorded positive tests.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

8/14/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Aug. 14, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

research study

8/13/14 7:30pm

Italian Research Team Develops New Method For Testing Meth

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Researchers in Italy have succeeded in creating an innovative way for authorities to identify the methamphetamine molecule and accurately detect the presence of the drug.

A team of chemists invented a system that has the capacity to analyze all varieties of methamphetamine formulations, as opposed to a single recipe by focusing on a universal element. Led by Enrico Dalcanale of the University of Parma and Paolo Bergese of the University of Brescia, the Italian research team developed a molecular sensor that responds to the part of the methamphetamine molecule that is common to virtually all formulations of the drug.

Researchers first published this innovative method in the Italian chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie. It was later reported on in Scientific American, where the Italian team explained how their concept ultimately has the ability to remove the difficulties associated with detecting the subtle changes dope cookers are making in methamphetamine formulations. The peculiar recognition ability of the artificial receptor works with precision when combined with suspected meth in water.

Dalcanale described the success of his research team’s discovery. “We have demonstrated that it is possible to build a device which is capable of detecting the entire class of methamphetamines with extremely high selectivity in water.” The core of the sensor consists of a bowl-shaped supramolecular structure that is capable of acting as a host to a variety of guest molecules. X-ray diffraction demonstrated how the new molecular sensor distinctly recognizes a common structure of methamphetamine salts.

Using samples of drugs seized by police on the streets, the system responded to a number of methamphetamine formulations and could respond potentially to cocaine as well. What proved intriguing was the sensor does not react to substances that the drugs are often ‘cut’ with, such as caffeine or sugars or baby laxative. If the new approach to identifying meth is effective, it could be employed to further identify a variety of new synthetic designer drugs where minor molecular modifications are constantly being made to derail police investigations.

Dermot Diamond, director of the National Centre for Sensor Research in Ireland, wondered how effective the Italian teams impressive breakthrough actually will turn out to be in practice. "Detecting illicit drugs and their residues in wastewater is a very challenging proposition for a sensing device of the type they have produced. This is because the complexity of the same, and the range of potential interferents, goes way beyond what the authors have tested."

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By John Lavitt

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