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2/18/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: February 18, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

science

2/17/14 7:30pm

Have a Hangover? Maybe It's Just Allergies

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Take a Sudafed instead? Shutterstock

While common knowledge may dictate that hangovers are caused by alcohol itself—usually by dehydration or overworking the body's ability to purge toxins—your morning headache and nausea might actually be an allergic reaction.

"It is usually not the alcohol itself that produces the reaction. It is most likely ingredients, such as sulfur dioxide [metabisulfite], yeast and additives. Common allergic reactions include hives, skin rashes, flushing and warmth of the skin, bronchospasm or shortness of breath, especially in those with asthma," says Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, chairman of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's Public Education Committee.

Alcohols are made with such a wide spectrum of ingredients, it can be difficult to track down exactly what's causing that pounding next-morning headache. Sulfur Dioxide and sulfites, substances naturally created when producing alcohol that can set off anaphylactic shock in athsmatics, are prime candidates. Other common ingredients that also happen to be known allergens are gluten, wheat, histamine, yeast, tree nuts, and even grapes.

If a person experiences hives, anaphylaxis, nasal swelling and congestion, headache, nausea, heartburn or rapid heartbeat after drinking alcohol they may want to see a doctor and get tested. Alternatively, switching to potato vodka—the most hypoallergenic alcohol—might help, too.

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By Bryan Le

rough waters

2/17/14 5:30pm

Darker, Drunker Noah Stirs Christian Controversy

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Paramount Pictures, the film studio behind the upcoming blockbuster Noah, has been attempting to make alternate versions of the movie in order to appease Christian audiences. At the test screenings - overly long cuts with almost no music, much to Aronofsky's chagrin - audiences were decidedly not pleased with the darker, drunker Noah as portrayed by Oscar winner Russell Crowe, because he seems to deviate far from the average American's perception of the biblical character.

"From a storytelling perspective, the main points are that Noah is a man of faith who is picked by God, told to build an ark, builds the ark and survives," said Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore. "Most people do not remember or were never taught the fact that after Noah's off the ark, there is a moment in the story where he is drunk."

As the studio has noted, there is a part of the bible where Noah gets drunk right after the flood. Genesis, Chapter 9 reads in part: "20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: 21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent."

But that didn't stop the studio from attempting to make its own cuts to appease the vocal Christian minority who are upset with Noah's depiction. "I was upset—of course," says Aronofsky, believing that the movie could not be cut without creating plot holes or inconsistencies. "No one's ever done that to me."

"[I wanted to create] this fantastical world a la Middle-earth that they wouldn't expect from their grandmother's Bible school," Aronofsky said, but acknowledged that he was also making the movie for people "who take this very, very seriously as gospel."

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By Bryan Le

commies on drugs

2/17/14 3:30pm

New Book Alleges CIA Used Nazis to Conduct LSD Experiments

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The Central Intelligence Agency’s use of psychotropic drugs in clandestine experiments has been a matter of record for years, but a new book now alleges that the agency employed former Nazi scientists to use LSD as a form of interrogation on suspected Soviet spies during the height of the Cold War.

In the recently published Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America, Los Angeles Times writer Annie Jacobsen says that the CIA, in collaboration with the Army, Air Force, and Naval Intelligence, conducted Operation Artichoke, a series of clandestine experiments on Soviet prisoners suspected of being spies.

A 1952 report issued by CIA operative Dr. Frank Olson details a scenario in which two individuals were given light dosages of LSD to induce a “complete hypnotic trance,” after which they were subjected to an hour and forty minutes of interrogation before their memories were wiped clean by “total amnesia.” The experiments took place at Camp King, a notorious Cold War “black site” located outside of Frankfurt, Germany, which housed numerous Soviets accused of espionage. Jacobsen states in her book that the facility’s medical directors were Dr. Walter Schreiber and Dr. Kurt Blome, the former Surgeon General and Deputy Surgeon General of the Third Reich, respectively – both of whom had been employed by Operation Paperclip, a top secret program launched in 1945 by the Joint Chiefs of Staff which rounded up and then hired Nazi scientists to aid their Cold War efforts.

More than 1,500 former Nazis were granted citizenship by the United States between 1945 and 1955, and worked for various military and government agencies, including rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, a key figure in America’s space program. The CIA’s use of LSD continued in the wake of the Operation Artichoke experiments as part of MK-ULTRA, a wide-ranging covert program that conducted tests on American citizens without their knowledge. The results of the tests were later dismissed by its head scientist, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, which he described as “useless.”

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By Paul Gaita

cokehead

2/17/14 1:00pm

Dutch Artist Sculpts Human Skull Out of Cocaine

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The Dutch conceptual artist Diddo has sculpted a life-sized human skull out of none other than street cocaine. In a new project called Ecce Animal, Diddo intended to ignite a viewer’s thoughts about the strange nature of human behavior; without glamorizing drug addiction or preaching against it, the 36-year-old artist wanted to incite a strong reaction from his audience by using the illegal drug as his material.

Diddo explained that he was not trying to make a bold declaration about drug use, but rather he was conducting a deeper examination of the human condition. “I don’t feel obliged to educate people on the potential dangers of drugs. In Ecce Animal, the cocaine is used in combination with a symbol of mortality, and, therefore, quite directly related to danger," he said. "I don't want to over-intellectualize, but it's the fusion of two icons (skull and cocaine) that provokes thought and discussion on the nature of man. Specifically, about his creation of, and participation in, a society which echoes his own tendency to lose control.”

Purchased from a street dealer in mysterious circumstances that have not been illuminated, Diddo has made clear that he never tried the drug or tested it on his own. Instead, he had the substance tested in a laboratory, confirming the drug was 15 to 20 percent pure. The lab findings also revealed “further constituent components identified included phenacetin, caffeine, paracetamol and a relative large percentage of sugars.” Meticulously sculpted out of the illegal powder, the sculpture is an exact replica of a human skull.

Diddo delved deeper into the direction of his art and the cocaine skull in particular when he said, “To me, human behavior is enigmatic and ever-changing. We cannot live together and we cannot live apart. Ecce Animal attempts to crystallize the true ‘human’ energy generated by this collision.”

With new commissions from Kanye West, Lady Gaga, and Sacha Baron Cohen, Diddo believes that he can break new ground in the art world while assuming a public platform. With sculptures like the cocaine skull, he certainly will be in the discussion of cutting edge artists walking the line of expression and extremity.

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By John Lavitt

international injustice

2/17/14 10:30am

Human Rights Groups Protest Sentencing 30 Drug Traffickers To Death in Vietnam

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After Vietnam sentenced 30 people to death last month for heroin trafficking, human rights groups are calling for the United Nations to strip the southeast Asian country of their anti-drug funding.The ruling was the largest number of defendants ever sentenced to death in a single trial in the country’s history, but many of the 700 people currently on death row in Vietnam are there for drug-related offenses. Reports from within Vietnam stated that the trial for each defendant took approximately one day each.

Harm Reduction International, Reprieve, and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty are the three groups calling for the more than $5 million in aid to Vietnam aid during the 2012-17 period to be pulled. They have cited specific policies from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's internal human rights guidance, which call for funding to be pulled if it’s believed that the financial assistance will lead to people being executed. The United Nations has yet to publicly comment on the 30 death sentences, but drug control is the largest component of their financial aid program to Vietnam that also includes technical assistance, equipment, and training.

Despite “decriminalizing” drug use a few years ago, Vietnam remains one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to possession and trafficking. Users are often forcibly sent to “rehabilitation” for up to four years that includes near starvation and back-breaking manual labor.

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By McCarton Ackerman

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