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EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Bottles of whisky on display in the Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection, the world's largest collection of Scottish Whisky on display at The Scotch Whisky Experience on September 3, 2015 in Edinburgh,Scotland.Plans to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol in Scotland risk infringing EU rules on free trade, according to an initial ruling by Europe's top court. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

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New Marine Corps fitness standards for combat weed out men, women alike - Marine Corps Times

In this Feb. 21, 2013, file photo, female recruits stand at the Marine Corps Training Depot on Parris Island, S.C.(Photo: Bruce Smith/AP)

New physical standards established so women can compete for combat posts in the Marine Corps have weeded out many of the female hopefuls. But they're also disqualifying some men, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.

In the last five months, sixout of seven female recruits and 40 out of about 1,500 male recruits failed to pass the new regimen of pullups, ammunition-can lifts, a 3-mile run and combat maneuvers required to move on in training for combat jobs, according to the data.

The tests, taken about 45 days into basic training, force recruits who fail into other, less physically demanding Marine jobs. And that, the Marine commandant says, is making the Corps stronger.

The high failure rate for women, however, raises questions about how well integration can work, including in Marine infantry units where troops routinely slog for miles carrying packs weighed down with artillery shells and ammunition, and at any moment must be able to scale walls, dig in and fight in close combat.

The new standards are a product of the Pentagon's decision to allow women to compete for front-line jobs, including infantry, artillery and other combat posts. But Marine leaders say they are having a broader impact by screening out less physically powerful Marines both men and women.



Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller says new physical fitness standards make the Corps stronger.(Photo: Cliff Owen/AP)

"I think that's made everybody better," Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the AP in his first in-depth interview on the subject. "We're trying to raise everybody's bar a little bit and we're trying to figure out how to get closer together, because at the end of the day we're all going to be on the battlefield and we all have to be able to do our job."

Marine Corps leaders initially balked at allowing women into certain infantry, reconnaissance and combat engineer jobs, pointing to studies that showed mixed gender units did not perform as well as male-only units. But Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered all combat jobs must be open to women.

The Marines developed a detailed progression of physical standards that recruits must meet to get into the combat jobs. And officials insist that standards will not be lowered to allow more women to pass.

The results underscore the difficulties for women. Nearly 86 percent of the women failed the tests, compared to less than 3 percent of the men.

Before the standards test existed, those 40 men would have moved on to combat jobs, where they would likely have been unproductive members of their units, a Marine Corps analysis said. So Neller said that as time goes on, the overall quality of the force will be better.

The tiny success rate for women presents additional challenges if only one or two qualify for a combat job in a previously male-only unit.

If two women qualify, they will be placed in a combat unit together. But, if only one qualifies, she'll be put in a unit with men she trained alongside in school. Those men, the Marine Corps said, will have seen her go through the training and know that she had done as well, or better, than they did.

The Marines will also put a female officer and a female senior enlisted leader in the combat units. Early on, those will likely be women doing a non-combat job such as an intelligence or logistics officer. And they will be required to pass a physical fitness test to qualify to serve in that combat unit.

Neller said it will be an adjustment for Marines with women in previously male-only units. "I think a lot of the talk is more just maybe they're nervous about the unknown," he said. "But there are some things we're going to have to work through."

Neller, a career infantryman, didn't see a lot of women Marines in his units as he rose through the ranks. He'd seen women as Army military police in Panama and female Marines in administrative or supply jobs in his early assignments. But he first saw female Marines on the battlefield when he was in Iraq.

While it will be difficult for some, "if you can carry the weight and you can do the job, and you're smart and you're a good leader, and you're a person of character and quality and set a good example, people will follow you," he said during an interview in his Pentagon office. "I don't think it really matters who you are."

The Marines' fitness tests get gradually more difficult. Recruits interested in combat arms jobs have to take a harder physical fitness test, comprising pullups, crunches, a 1.5-mile run and ammunition-can lifts, than those looking for other Marine posts. And as they move through training, the tests get harder and more complex, requiring them to qualify for specific infantry, artillery and other jobs.

"I have great respect for them being the pioneers in this area," Neller said of the women. "If they can compete and hang with everybody else, I think it will all just go away."

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Federal Officials May Loosen Marijuana Restrictions for Medical Research by 'the First Half of 2016' - Newsweek

Officials from several federal regulatory agencies announced this week plans to re-evaluate policies that restrict the availability of marijuana for medical research. The agencies will make a drug scheduling decision as early as June. In response to requests from members of Congress, the agencies vowed to draw up plans that may eventually expand the number of growers able to cultivate cannabis for medical and research purposes.

In the 25-page letter addressed to SenatorElizabeth Warrenof Massachusetts, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of National Drug Control Policy and Drug Enforcement Administration provided information regarding the supply, scheduling and surveillance of the drug. The letter also includes a list of the cannabis strains currently available through the National Institute of Drug Abuses contract with the University of Mississippi and laid out detailed information on the protocols in place for researchers looking to obtain marijuana for studies.

Yet Warren said the letter didnt provide all the requested information, specifically how the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will facilitate and encourage research on marijuana. I look forward to following up on those issues with the agencies and holding them to their deadline'the first half of 2016' for a scheduling decision," Warren said on Thursday in a press statement.

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In December, Warren and several other lawmakers sent a follow-up letter to request the agencies outline the plan. The request came after the group sent a similar letter in July.

Currently, cannabis (both marijuana and its non-psychoactive cousin, hemp) is designated a Schedule I substance, a label that defines it as a drug with currently no acceptable medical use and a high potential for abuse. This severely limits its access for cultivation, except in 23 states that have passed laws that make it legal for certain purposes.

The DEA manages licensing for scientists and clinicians who wish to obtain marijuana for research purposes. As of now, the agency has issued only a single license for the cultivation of marijuana for scientific research to the University of Mississippi. According to the response letter, the university currently has approximately 185 batches of marijuana that contain varying concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). But whether or not other institutions will be permitted to grow the plants for research remains to be seen. According to the letter, just one other researcher, Lyle Craker, a professor in the department of plant, soil and insect sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has ever applied for a research license to cultivate the plant.

Many researchers have pointed out that the U.S.s tight restrictions have vastly hindered the ability to conduct much-needed studies on the efficacy and benefits of marijuana for conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy and cancer. According to the letter, there are currently 265 researchers in the U.S. who are registered with the DEA to conduct clinical, preclinical or analytical research on marijuana.

In a statement, Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, praised the agencies response:"Rescheduling marijuana and allowing research into its potential medical benefits is plain old common sense and could bring us closer to scientific discoveries.

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Health department adding needle-exchange site - The Courier-Journal

Buy PhotoThe mobile unit for the needle exchange at the Department of Public Health & Wellness.(Photo: By Michael Clevenger/The Courier-Journal)Buy Photo

Louisville's health department is opening anothersite for intravenous drug users to access itsneedle-exchange programas it topped 2,000 participants.

The program is aimed at reducing the spread of blood-borne diseases such asHIV and hepatitis C, which have spreadamid the region's rising heroin epidemic.

Health officials say the new site will open Wednesday, Feb. 17 in a vacant lot owned by the Louisville Metro Housing Authority at 1455 Bicknell Avenue.It will be operated by Volunteers of America, which isunder a contract with the city,and open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.each Wednesday.

"We hope that the newest community outreach for the Louisville Metro Syringe Exchange Program will make services available to more people, particularly to those who do not have access to an automobile,"said Sarah Moyer, interim director of MetroPublic Health and Wellness.

The needle exchange opened itfirst community outreach site last Octoberat the Lake Dreamland Fire Station, 4603 Cane Run Road. That site is open from11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday.

Itsmain site is in a mobile unit adjacent to the health departmentheadquarters at 400 E. Gray St.That site is open from11 a.m. to 4 p.m.Monday; 1-6 p.m. Tuesday andWednesday; 3-6 p.m.Thursday;11 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday; and11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.

Moyer's department reports they havereferred106 participantsfor drug treatment.

Louisville'sneedle exchange has been under scrutiny from Republicanstate lawmakers who said they wereupset because the city was not giving out syringeson a one-for-one basis of those brought inby a participant. Former Attorney General Jack Conway said in a December opinion that local health departments may provide syringesregardless of whether a program participant has old needles to turn in.

GOP lawmakers had indicated they would file legislation this legislative session to curb the syringe distribution rate despitelocal health officials warning that is not the best practice.

Statistics provided by the health departmentshow the city has doled out about180,500 needles and received around 86,700. About 45 percent of participantsare returning clients and around76 percent report thatheroin is their drug of choice.

Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at (502) 582-4475 or pbailey@courier-journal.com

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A look at who uses the needle exchange program.(Photo: CJ)

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Who uses the needle-exchange program.(Photo: CJ)

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