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Drunk Driving

7/26/12 4:00pm

Nepal's Drunk Drivers Face "Sniff Tests"

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The sniff test in action. Photo via

Police in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, are increasingly resorting to the “sniff test” to catch drivers who've been drinking. Breathalyzers are scarce and blood tests unavailable, so cops simply stop drivers and engage them in conversation. If they think they can smell alcohol on the driver's breath, they can decide whether or not to seize their license and issue a fine. Kathmandu has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to alcohol and driving—unlike most western countries, which allow up to a certain blood-alcohol maximum. Some feel this is unfair: “I would have left my [motorcycle] and taken a taxi if I was too drunk,” says Ram Thapa, who lost his license and was fined 1,000 rupees (about $12) after a sniff test. He says he only drank three small glasses of rice wine. “I think a limited amount of alcohol, as in other countries, must be permitted for the drivers.” Police did introduce 150 breathalyzers two months ago in the wake of the complains—but half the devices immediately malfunctioned.

The crackdown has particularly upset many in Kathmandu's indigenous Newar community, in which alcohol is an integral part of religious and social customs. “Every festival is celebrated by offering some alcohol to family and friends,” writes Arjun Bhandari, a leading wine importer, in the Republica newspaper. “Century-old traditions can't be wiped out overnight without any education or alternative solutions.” But law enforcement doesn't buy it: “The culture factor is just an excuse,” says Ganesh Rai, deputy inspector general of Kathmandu Traffic Police. “We haven't banned drinking. All we have done is ban the drink-driving.” Since police started enforcing the rule six months ago, the city has raised 30 million rupees in fines—and they say the number of accidents has plunged. “Earlier, accidents used to occur regularly, especially during the night,” Rai says. “In most cases, the cause was drink-driving. So, we realized that if we can stop that, we can significantly reduce the accidents.”

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By Chrisanne Grise

Hepatitis C

7/26/12 3:16pm

Rogue Medic Sparks Hep. C Alert

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Alleged painkiller addict David Kwiatkowski
Photo via

Thousands of patients across the country may have been exposed to hepatitis C from a traveling medical technician, who is now facing criminal charges in New Hampshire. Authorities say David Kwiatkowski injected himself with painkillers meant for patients at Exeter Hospital and then left the syringes for reuse. As of now, 30 people have been diagnosed with the same strain of hep. C that he carries. About 4,700 people in New Hampshire alone have been asked to get tested, and health officials are advising that anyone who was a patient of the hospital between April 2011 and May 25 of this year get checked out. “As health care providers, our focus is first and foremost on our patients’ care and safety,” says Nancy Baese, president of the hospital’s medical staff. “We would rather that thousands of our patients be tested by the state, even if they all turn up negative, than to miss one patient who might have been infected by this alleged criminal.” Kwiatkowski also held jobs in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.

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By Chrisanne Grise

Alcohol

7/26/12 2:55pm

Booze Is Next in Bloomberg's Sights

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Bloomberg wants to study alcohol usage in
NY. Photo via

Whatever you think of Michael Bloomberg's politics, he sure does care about public health. The NYC mayor has gone after cigarettes, trans fats and sugar-filled drinks—and now he's taking on booze. The city’s Health Department plans to gage the extent of alcohol abuse with the help of a mass 50-question telephone survey. "Issues to be explored include behavior patterns around unhealthy alcohol consumption and awareness of existing alcohol-related laws and standards,'' the department reportedly told bidders hoping to conduct the poll. To downplay the role of alcohol in the survey, health officials claim they "routinely conduct surveys about important health issues to learn more about them." But reports have surfaced saying that the survey "will put a heavy emphasis on booze, along with some questions on drug use, indicating the city is delving deeper into the drinking problem." Health officials reassure a nervous public that the survey won’t lead to a ban on alcohol, but rather a potential increase in public education over alcohol's dangers.

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By Valerie Tejeda

Celebrity Rehab

7/26/12 1:44pm

Is Rihanna "Addicted" to Chris Brown?

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Why can't she stay away? Photo via

Recent reports have surfaced, claiming that Rihanna and Chris Brown spent last night together aboard a yacht in St. Tropez, despite the fact that he famously, and brutally, assaulted her back in 2009. The pop star's alleged interactions with the her abusive ex have prompted some to speculate that they are back on—adding to the list of self-destructive behaviors that have caused the public to worry for Rihanna's health and well-being. In the past year, the "Umbrella" singer has been photographed smoking marijuana on multiple occasions, published a photo of herself where it appears she's doing drugs on the shoulder of her security guard, tweeted about rolling a "kush" for Coachella, been hospitalized for "exhaustion", and given an ultimatum by Jay-Z to clean up her act. As far as her relationship with the Brown, a source told The Sun: "They have this weird addiction to each other and can't stay away." The uproar of speculation led Brown's rep to release a statement that he was in France for business, not pleasure. "CB is in France to shoot a music video...[His girlfriend] Karrueche [Tran] is there with him...There is no Rihanna connection".

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By Gabrielle Wuhl

Narconon

7/26/12 11:37am

Scientology Rehab Deaths to Be Investigated

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A controversial connection Photo via

A sheriff's investigation has been launched into an Oklahama Narconon rehab center with ties to the Church of Scientology after a third patient within the last three months died. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Human Services and Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation are also involved in the case. Twenty-year-old Stacy Dawn Murphy was found dead in her room at Narconon Arrowhead last week; she didn't have any abrasions or prior medical conditions. Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns confirmed that Murphy had tested positive for drugs upon returning to the center from visiting family and investigators are exploring whether the death was an overdose. Gabriel Graves, 32, was found dead at the facility on October 26 last year, and his autopsy report was unable to reveal a cause of death. Although trace amounts of morphine were found in his system, the report said it's unlikely that was related to the death. Hillary Holten, 21, also died on April 11 last year, and didn't have an autopsy report completed. A fourth patient, 28-year-old Kaysie Dianne Werninck, died in March 2009 after being transferred to a Tulsa hospital—a wrongful death lawsuit was settled in that case. "For those of us who have committed their lives to saving people from drug and alcohol addiction, losing a young adult to drugs during their recovery process has taken an extreme emotional toll on us as well," says center director Gary Smith. "It is truly a sad day for everyone when something as unfortunate and devastating as this occurs." Narconon uses a highly unconventional regimen of saunas, vitamins, mild exercise and a special diet in its three-month drug treatment program, which the center's website says is designed to flush toxins from the body, including drug residue that the center says get lodged in "fatty tissues" and cause cravings.

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By McCarton Ackerman

drug arrests

7/26/12 10:30am

LA Parole Sweep Sends Dozens Back to Jail

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Cops swooped on 400 parolees.
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Seventy people were arrested, and seizures included 30 grams of cocaine and 156 grams of marijuana, as the largest surprise parole sweep in California's history took place in Los Angeles County yesterday morning. Around 700 federal, state and local law enforcement officers came to the homes of 400 parolees, who were cuffed while their homes were searched for potential violations. As well as drugs, officers confiscated five pitbulls—possibly used for dogfighting—and 20 fully grown marijuana plants. One child was taken into protective custody. An estimated 7,000 of LA County's 16,000 parolees are thought to have gang ties, and “Operation Guardian” was meant to counter a spike in gang-related crime. “It keeps them on their toes,” says parole agent Rick McKail. “They don’t know when we might come out.” Arthur Mosqueda, an assistant manager for the department’s Los Angeles division, adds “By doing these surprised or unannounced searches, you have the opportunity to take guns off the streets…then we’re all safer.” Parole officers say that they're often the only buffer that parolees who want a fresh start have against the ever-present gang life and violence—their job is to encourage them to seek rehabilitation programs and employment.

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By Valerie Tejeda

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