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8/13/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: August 13, 2012

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Solo wins gold, passes on booze. Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

Drug War

8/10/12 4:42pm

"Caravan For Peace" Sets Out to End Drug War

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"Giving a voice to the families of victims." Photo via

With death toll of the bloody Mexican drug war rising as high as 71,000, dozens of Mexican and American organizations will embark on a month-long “Caravan for Peace” on Sunday, August 12. Its aim is to spread awareness and open dialog about non-violent solutions with citizens and leaders in both countries. Ideally, the caravan—which is purposely timed between the two nations' presidential elections—will revise their relationship, promoting a view of Mexico as a neighbor, not a threat.

“We are dedicated to giving voice to the families of victims of this violence and to publicizing the real costs of this war,” says Javier Sicilia, a poet who was named one of Time’s 2012 “Person of the Year” activists; cartel members murdered his son in 2010. He's joining the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) to lead the caravan. “We have made it clear that the Mexican state must stop denying its responsibilities, which it does by criminalizing the victims of violence,” he says. “Instead, it must accept that there are victims, and that it is the Mexican government’s responsibility to provide justice and reparations to them. With this in mind, we have asked for a change from the current security strategy to one focused on human security.” That said, the goal is also to influence American drug-war strategy; Sicilia says he hopes to promote discussion about US policies in areas such as gun trafficking, alternatives to drug prohibition, combating money laundering and bilateral cooperation over human rights and security.

The trek will cover 6,000 miles and stop in 20 US cities, starting in San Diego on Sunday and arriving in Washington, DC, on September 10. Each stop along the way will feature rallies and debate. Other organizations involved in the initiative include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). A similar caravan crossed Mexico last year, and is credited with pushing the drug war up the country’s political agenda. Anyone interested can join the caravan as a volunteer, track the route online, or register to ride on one of the caravan buses or to follow along in your own car.

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By Chrisanne Grise

alcohol and gender

8/10/12 3:30pm

Women Recover From Alcohol Abuse Faster

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Women's brains recover at a quicker pace.
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Whatever your gender, sustained, heavy drinking can cause you to lose your marbles—and abstinence can provide a way to get them back, as science (and experience) have proved. But a new study suggests women's brains actually recover much more quickly from long-term alcohol abuse than men's. Previous research has linked heavy alcohol consumption to loss of "white matter"—the thing that allows communication between different parts of your brain. A recent study by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine used MRI technology to examine the brains of 42 alcoholic men and women who were abstinent from alcohol after five or more years of heavy drinking. They found that with abstinence from alcohol, women recover their white matter brain volume more quickly than men—within the first year. Men showed little brain recovery in the first year, but they began to recover their white brain matter after that—whereas for women, recovery tapered off at this point. "These findings preliminarily suggest that restoration and recovery of the brain's white matter among alcoholics occurs later in abstinence for men than for women," says study lead Dr. Susan Mosher Ruiz. "We hope that additional research in this area can help lead to improved treatment methods that include educating both alcoholic men and women about the harmful effects of excessive drinking and the potential for recovery with sustained abstinence."

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By May Wilkerson

Mexican drug war

8/10/12 2:24pm

Cartel Leaders Adopt Bestial Nicknames

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"The Dog Killer" after his January capture.
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Mexico's drug traffickers are adopting grittier nicknames in a reflection of the bloody, inhumane nature of the war they're fighting. Until recently, many high-ranking drug traffickers possessed such regal-sounding monikers as "The King" (Jesus Zambada Garcia), "The Lord of the Skies" (Amado Carrillo Fuentes) and "The Boss of Bosses" (Arturo Beltran Leyva). But these days gang leaders are go by such nicknames as "The Rat," "The Dog Killer," "The Worm Eater" and "Garbage," among others—in a symbolic shift that reflects the ruthless, animalistic style of violence prevalent today. Experts say the killings and arrests of top cartel capos have left lowlier figures in charge of drug-running, kidnapping and extortion business—which has led to a less skilled approach with more gruesome killings. "[The nicknames show] a trace of cynicism, of mockery," says Pedro de la Cruz, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, who specializes in security issues. "These nicknames reflect the fact that even they do not take themselves seriously as cartel leaders of the past did." Nicknames aside, the violence in Mexico remains every bit as severe. Just yesterday, another 14 bodies were found in an abandoned van.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Celebrity Roundup

8/10/12 1:10pm

Celebrity Roundup: August 10, 2012

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Mommy's little helpers? Photo via

Teen Mom is known for featuring more than its fair share of alcoholics and addicts—among them troubled stars Amber Portwood and Janelle Evans—but another alumna, Farrah Abraham, who claimed to have already come through the woods with her partying days is under fire, with a friend claiming that she’s abusing Adderall and Xanax as well as alcohol. "Farrah said she does Adderall before every event that she attends," the friend reported. Abraham denies the claims—although to be fair, she'd hardly be the only starlet attending high-profile events on Adderall.

Jessica Simpson may be better known now for her fluctuating weight and seemingly endless pregnancy than for her musical career, but the new mom—who gave birth to her first daughter, Maxwell Drew Johnson, three months ago—is sticking to water on Saturday nights. “Responsibility has changed my life!” she tweeted. Then again, this may also have something to do with the lucrative endorsement deal she signed with Weight Watchers to lose her baby weight by the end of August.

Jay Penske—the CEO of PMC (the parent company of Deadline Hollywood and MovieLine), and the son of well-known sports billionaire Roger Penske—was arrested alongside his brother outside a Nantucket yacht club at the end of a wild night of partying, which was punctuated by Jay Penske urinating on a woman in a parking lot. Somebody should have warned him that the “What happens in Vegas...” mentality doesn’t work quite as well in tony Nantucket.

Actress Kristen Bell and her fiancé, actor and comic Dax Shepard, have drastically different philosophies when it comes to drug use: In a new interview with Esquire (via Perez Hilton), Bell claimed that although she’s never even seen cocaine at a party, let alone used it, Shepard is a former drug addict who was once prone to “five- day benders where no one could find him.” Well, opposites attract!

Rocker Rick Springfield—best known for his super-hit “Jessie’s Girl”—managed to avoid serving jail time in the case stemming from his May 2011 DUI arrest, in which he threatened to kill the arresting officer after being pulled over. In exchange for Springfield’s no contest plea, he only has to attend a two-month traffic program, with three years of probation.

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By Sam Lansky

sleeping pills

8/10/12 12:03pm

Sleeping Pills Pose Addiction Threat

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Can't sleep? Count sheep. Photo via

If you can't sleep, you may want to try counting sheep. Sleeping pills are known to be effective for short-term insomnia relief, but may cause long-term dependency problems, according to research from Flinders University in Australia. "Sleeping tablets provide short-term relief but when people stop taking them they might have a few bad nights and think they can’t sleep without taking the drug," says lead study author Professor Leon Lack. Many who suffer from insomnia report a lower quality of life, and even depression, which can perpetuate a cycle of depending on sleeping pills. “But it’s important for people to realize that sleep isn’t just one long, homogenous period of unconsciousness—we go through different stages of sleep," explains Lack, "from a deep sleep which lasts 80 to 90 minutes into a lighter, dreaming sleep, and over the course of a night we experience this pattern three or four times." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25% of Americans are not getting enough sleep—and 10% of these suffer from chronic insomnia. In Australia, stats say about one-third of the country suffers from sleep-related issues. Lack suggests practicing good sleeping habits to prevent insomnia—such as going to bed when tired, using the bedroom only for sleep, getting up if you cannot sleep, and reducing the amount of time spent in bed while awake. “If you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes of going to bed then get up,” he says. “Don’t lie there awake because that associates the bedroom with frustration and anxiety.”

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By Valerie Tejeda

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