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Effects of Alcohol

7/02/12 11:05am

Social Drinking "Raises Smile Frequency"

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A "golden moment" in action. Photo via

Wondering why anyone would ever want to drink? Booze increases social bonding in groups, according to new research from the University of Pittsburgh—as well as centuries of research from people at cocktail parties, teens passing around 40s in basements and legions of college students. The new study claims that alcohol can increase the frequency and enhance the coordination of smiles. The effects of solo drinking have previously been examined in more detail, but this study—published online in Psychological Science—focuses on the effects of booze on groups. "[Past] studies may have failed to create realistic conditions for studying this highly social drug," says lead author Michael A. Sayette. "We felt that many of the most significant effects of alcohol would more likely be revealed in an experiment using a social setting." Over 700 male and female participants were assessed by Sayette and his colleagues, using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) and well as the Grouptalk model for speech behavior. Each group was instructed to drink a beverage—either alcohol or a placebo—and then assigned to different social scenarios. “Results showed that alcohol not only increased the frequency of ‘true’ smiles, but also enhanced the coordination of these smiles. In other words, alcohol enhanced the likelihood of ‘golden moments,’ with groups provided alcohol being more likely than those offered nonalcoholic beverages to have all three group members smile simultaneously,” a researcher says. “Participants in alcohol-drinking groups also likely reported greater social bonding than did the non-alcohol drinking groups and were more likely to have all three members stay involved in the discussion.” All the more reason to give time to your social life if you're sober.

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

7/02/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: July 2, 2012

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A citizen casts his vote in Atlacomulco.
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By The Fix staff

Mexican drug cartels

6/29/12 5:10pm

Mexican Drug Gangs Intervene in Elections

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Ramirez has his fair share of enemies.
Photo via

Mexico will elect a new president on Sunday—but the nation's drug cartels have more at stake in the country'slocal elections. The gangs rely heavily on local politicians—especially mayors—who control the police force and can often be made willing to turn a blind eye to drug-trafficking operations. In the lead-up to gubernatorial and mayoral elections in states across Mexico, there have been numerous reports of the notoriously violent cartels using bribery and scare tactics to back candidates who won't interfere with their activities—and sabotage those they see as a threat. Graco Ramirez, a gubernatorial candidate in the central state of Morelos, says armed gang members approached his campaign staffers, and warned him to stay home on election day. "Drug gangs don't want me to become governor," he says. "We would stop turning a blind eye to their activities." On April 30, members of La Familia drug cartel opened fire on the house of Saul Garcia—a candidate for mayor in a small Morelos town—and left a note threatening to kill him and his family if he didn't withdraw from the race. "I don't have enemies," says Garcia. "When I realized they were threatening me and saying I had to quit I thought, 'But wait, we are free to vote and to be elected.'" 

Drug gangs have reportedly been "influencing" local elections in such ways for decades. With six governors about to be elected, as well as hundreds of mayors and council members in states across Mexico, officials say violence and kidnappings have increased. "We've said for several months that we have to recognize the presence and action of criminal groups around the election, particularly in the local sphere," said Mexico's federal interior secretary, Alejandro Poire, on Thursday. "We are acting to contain it, to prevent it and to bring those responsible to justice." 

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By May Wilkerson

drunk driving

6/29/12 4:28pm

Talking Urinal Cakes Fight Drunk Driving

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Bathroom break? Urine for a lecture! Photo via

If you've ever thought, “Gee whiz, there should be more ways to deliver anti-drunk driving PSAs,” you're in luck. Michigan officials have come up with a radical idea to interact with drinkers: talking urinal cakes. Motion-activated, the talking cakes will shower captive audiences with some golden advice: shake off any notion of driving drunk. Authorities plan to deliver 400 of the devices to 200 locations in time for July 4. “Listen up. That’s right, I’m talking to you," the talking urinal cakes begin, in a warm, mellow woman's voice. "Had a few drinks? Maybe a few too many? Then do yourself and everyone else a favor: call a sober friend or a cab. Oh, and don’t forget to wash your hands.” The cakes are made by Wizmark, and the Maryland-based company claims to manufacture the first and only interactive items of their kind: some sing and flash lights, others help keep the streets clear of drunk drivers. Authorities aim to drive home their message by making it part of the inevitable final bathroom break that men take right before they leave the bar. The talking urinal cakes also take advantage of bathroom “guy rules,” as the Detroit News points out—by which it's socially mandated that men must only look straight forward or down while at the urinal, never talking or making eye-contact with neighbors. The only sound remaining—almost—will be the speaking urinal cakes. Listen up to a couple of the prototype messages:

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By Bryan Le

Jane Says

6/29/12 3:16pm

Video: Jane Velez-Mitchell Points the Finger on Rx Drugs

Q: Deaths from Rx drug ODs tripled between 2002 and 2008. But US companies still manufacture vastly more mood-altering painkillers than the population needs for medical reasons. What should the government do?

[Jane is now exclusively answering your questions about addiction, recovery and the like. Send your questions to janevelezmitchell@thefix.com.]

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By Jane Velez-Mitchell

Bad Sports

6/29/12 2:38pm

Pot Costs US Wrestler Her Olympic Dream

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Lee won't represent the US in London.
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American wrestler Stephany Lee has received a one-year suspension from the US Anti-Doping Agency and been forced to give up her spot on the team for next month's London Olympics after marijuana was found in her system. Just months after celebrating both her win at the Olympic trials and marriage to her longtime girlfriend, 27 year-old Lee tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol acid at the April trials. This isn't her first doping violation—weeks after she won the 2009 United States Open, it was announced that she tested positive for a marijuana metabolite she was stripped of her title. Lee, a native of Honolulu, will likely be replaced in the 158-pound class by Ali Bernard, a 2008 Olympian who came second to Lee at the trials in Iowa City; USA Wrestling has nominated her as Lee's replacement. "I apologize to USA Wrestling, my teammates, my coaches and everyone who supported me for my mistake," says Lee in a USA Wrestling news release. "I will continue to train, and hope to be able to represent my country at the 2016 Olympic Games." 

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By Gabrielle Wuhl

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