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Hoffman among thousands of addiction victims
Written by SANDY COHEN, AP Entertainment Writer   
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 07:08

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Philip Seymour Hoffman suffered from a chronic medical condition that required ongoing treatment. An admitted drug addict who first sought professional help more than two decades ago, Hoffman apparently succumbed to his illness with an overdose despite a return to rehab last March.

A father of three with a thriving career, the Oscar winner died Sunday with a needle in his arm and baggies of what appeared to be heroin nearby. New York City medical examiners were conducting an autopsy on Hoffman's body Monday as investigators scrutinize evidence found in his apartment, including at least four dozen plastic packets, some confirmed to have contained heroin.

His death, which came after a long period of sobriety that ended last year, "epitomizes the tragedy of drug addiction in our society," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"Here you have an extraordinarily talented actor who had the resources, who had been in treatment, who obviously realized the problem of drugs and had been able to stay clean," she said, adding that Hoffman's case shows how devastating addiction can be.

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Prosecutors help set record number of exonerations
Written by ALAN SCHER ZAGIER, Associated Press   
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 07:07

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A nationwide push by prosecutors and police to re-examine possible wrongful convictions contributed to a record number of exonerations in 2013, according to a report released Tuesday.

The National Registry of Exonerations says 87 people falsely convicted of crimes were exonerated last year, four more than in 2009, the year with the next highest total. The joint effort by the Northwestern University and University of Michigan law schools has documented more than 1,300 such cases in the U.S. since 1989 while also identifying another 1,100 "group exonerations" involving widespread police misconduct, primarily related to planted drug and gun evidence.

The new report shows that nearly 40 percent of exonerations recorded in 2013 were either initiated by law enforcement or included police and prosecutors' cooperation. One year earlier, nearly half of the exonerations involved such reviews.

"Police and prosecutors have become more attentive and concerned about the danger of false conviction," said registry editor Samuel Gross, a Michigan law professor. "We are working harder to identify the mistakes we made years ago, and we are catching more of them."

Texas topped the state-by-state breakdown with 13 exonerations in 2013, followed by Illinois, New York, Washington, California, Michigan and Missouri.

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Winter storm hits East, disrupts Super Bowl travel
Written by KATHY MATHESON, Associated Press   
Monday, 03 February 2014 15:38
WinterWeatherNewJe_Pool_rotator
A snowplow moves snow off taxiways at Newark Liberty International Airport, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Another round of winter weather followed a day of unseasonable temperatures in the eastern United States on Monday, with several inches of snow closing schools, disrupting air traffic and snarling travel for people trying to return home from the Super Bowl.

Fat, wet flakes were falling Monday afternoon and could total 8 inches in Philadelphia and New York, according to the National Weather Service. Parts of Maryland, West Virginia and southern Ohio expected as much as 10 inches of snow. The mercury had soared into the 50s in the region on Sunday but was back down in the 30s a day later.

By midday, the flight-tracking website FlightAware reported nearly 2,000 delayed flights and 1,500 canceled flights nationwide in cities including Philadelphia, Newark, N.J., and New York. Inbound flights to Newark, LaGuardia and Kennedy airports were delayed two to three hours because of snow and ice.

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Changes sought for Endangered Species Act
Written by MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press   
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 07:05

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Republicans in Congress are calling for an overhaul to the Endangered Species Act, but experts say broad changes to one of the nation's cornerstone environmental laws are unlikely given the pervasive partisan divide in Washington, D.C.

A group of 13 GOP lawmakers representing states across the U.S. planned to release a report Tuesday proposing alterations to the 40-year-old law, which protects imperiled plants and animals.

Proponents of the federal law credit it with staving off extinction for hundreds of species — from the bald eagle and American alligator to the gray whale.

But Republicans want to curtail litigation from wildlife advocates that has resulted in protections for some species, and to give states more authority over imperiled species that fall within their borders. Also among the recommendations are increased scientific transparency, more accurate economic impact studies and safeguards for private landowners.

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FDA approves pill camera to screen colon
Written by MATTHEW PERRONE, AP Health Writer   
Monday, 03 February 2014 15:07

WASHINGTON (AP) — A kinder, gentler approach to one of the most dreaded exams in medicine is on the way: U.S. regulators have cleared a bite-size camera to help screen the large intestine of patients who have trouble with colonoscopies.

The ingestible pill camera from Given Imaging is designed to help doctors spot polyps and other early signs of colon cancer. The Food and Drug Administration cleared the device for patients who have had trouble with the cringe-inducing procedure, which involves probing the colon using a tiny camera on a four-foot long, flexible tube.

The Israeli company's technology, developed from missile defense systems, uses a battery-powered camera to take high-speed photos as it slowly winds its way through the intestinal tract over eight hours. The images are transmitted to a recording device worn around the patient's waist and later reviewed by a doctor.

While Given's wireless, image-beaming system may sound like science fiction, it's actually more than a decade old. In 2001, the company received FDA approval for a similar device used to get a close-up view of the small intestine.

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