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Vox Sentences: Fentanyl’s impact on overdose deaths is stunning

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Spain asks Catalonia whether it actually plans to secede; the synthetic opioid fentanyl is now killing more people than any other drug; LSU is the setting of the latest suspected death from fraternity hazing.

Catalonia pumps the brakes on secession

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  • It’s tough to tell exactly what’s going on in Catalonia right now, after separatists held a vote to secede from Spain, declared their right to independence, and then seemingly backed off. [Vox / Sarah Wildman]
  • On Tuesday, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont reaffirmed that his autonomous region had the right to secede, but stopped short of actually doing so in favor of more “dialogue” with the Spanish government. [NYT / Raphael Minder and Patrick Kingsley]
  • Spain seems to be as confused as everyone else about what’s going on. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has asked Puigdemont to clarify whether Catalonia plans to secede or not, and has accused him of deliberately trying to mislead people. [Washington Post / Pamela Rolfe and James McAuley]
  • Rajoy has also given Catalonia a hard deadline to give up its mission for independence, after which he has threatened to pull the region’s current autonomous status and bring it under Madrid’s full authority. [Reuters / Blanca Rodríguez and Sonya Dowsett]
  • Spain is a decentralized country made up of 17 autonomous regions, each with its own government. But all are under Spain’s broad authority. [Wikipedia]
  • Catalonia, the northern region where Barcelona is located, is a very wealthy area, which was a big reason separatists wanted it to become independent. [Deutsche Welle]
  • The October 1 referendum itself has also been called into question, because fewer than half of Catalonia’s residents actually cast ballots. [The Guardian / Sam Jones]
  • That divide was evident in the hundreds of thousands of pro-Spanish unity protesters that turned out in Barcelona this past weekend. Likewise, the European Union is very anti-secession, as one autonomous region breaking away could prompt even more to try the same thing. [Vox / Sarah Wildman]

Fentanyl’s impact on overdose deaths is stunning

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  • Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, is now the deadliest drug in the United States, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [BuzzFeed / Dan Vergano]
  • That drug and related synthetic opioids like carfentanil were responsible for about 21,000 deaths out of 65,000 total deaths from heroin, cocaine, and prescription painkillers. This is notable, given that fentanyl has only been around for about five years. [BuzzFeed / Dan Vergano]
  • It's already well-known in some states, having caused rashes of overdoses in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio. New Hampshire, which has one of the highest per capita drug overdose death rates in the nation, saw a full two-thirds of its drug deaths come from fentanyl in 2016. [Concord Monitor / Ella Nilsen]
  • The drug is so deadly because of its potency; it's anywhere from 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. [Centers for Disease Control]
  • And it can easily be slipped into a batch of heroin, so sometimes drug users don’t know what they're taking. Often, drug dealers try to cut their batches of heroin with fentanyl to increase the potency of the drug and their profits. [STAT / Allison Bond]
  • Fentanyl's strength has also made it much more difficult for emergency responders and police to do their jobs, for fear of inadvertently overdosing by touching trace amounts of the drug. [The Atlantic / Sarah Zhang]

Fraternity hazing turns deadly, again

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  • Ten people have been arrested in connection to the recent hazing death of a fraternity pledge at Louisiana State University’s Phi Delta Theta chapter. [NBC News / Corky Siemaszko]
  • Freshman pledge Maxwell Gruver died last month in an incident police say is related to fraternity hazing and binge drinking. [ / Emily Lane]
  • Gruver, 19, allegedly died after participating in a drinking game fraternity members called “Bible Study,” in which pledges had to answer questions about the frat and chug hard liquor if they got a question wrong. Gruver reportedly was singled out to drink more, became unconscious after the game, and later died. [The Advocate / Grace Toohey and Emma Discher]
  • Eight of the 10 charged are brothers in the Phi Delta Theta fraternity at LSU. Most of them have been slapped with a misdemeanor hazing charge, but one is facing a more serious felony charge of negligent homicide. [NPR / Bill Chappell]
  • This is the latest in a long string of fraternity hazing deaths over the years; the other prominent case in 2017 occurred at Penn State University, where a freshman pledge named Tim Piazza fell down a flight of stairs when he became too intoxicated to stand after a night of hazing. [Vanity Fair / Benjamin Wallace]
  • In Piazza’s case, there was security camera footage that documented the entire ordeal, showing that members of the fraternity waited far too long before bringing the teenager to the hospital. Still, the fraternity brothers in that case have already been cleared of the most serious charges. [BuzzFeed / Tasneem Nashrulla]
  • Even though schools like Penn State have promised reforms, investigations show that regulation checks put in place to make sure frats obeyed safety regulations were carried out by students rather than independent checkers. [The Atlantic / Caitlin Flanagan]
  • After Gruver’s death, LSU recently lifted a ban on Greek life meetings and activities, but said it will investigate hazing and try to eradicate it before more new members are initiated into fraternities and sororities. [The Daily Reveille / Evan Saacks]


  • It pays to grow gargantuan pumpkins: Washington pumpkin grower Joel Holland won more than $16,000 in prize money for a record-breaking 2,363-pound gourd. [Associated Press]
  • In hot and humid regions of the United States, some prisoners are baking to death in their cells, where temperatures can soar over 100 degrees without air conditioning. [The Marshall Project / Maurice Chammah]
  • Eminem recently reemerged from a hiatus with a blistering, politically charged freestyle rap dissing President Trump and his supporters. [Pitchfork / Evan Minsker and Braudie Blais-Billie]
  • Hollywood isn’t the only place with a sexual harassment problem. A high-profile sexual harassment case is playing out in academia as well, after two female researchers accused Antarctic geologist David Marchant of behavior including physical assault and verbal abuse. [Science / Meredith Wadman]
  • In Mexico, people who have been deported under Trump have formed a collective to sell activist T-shirts and other products. The group came about as a necessity; out-of-work deportees needed a way to make money. [Racked / Anna-Cat Brigida]


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