The Ouija board’s mysterious origins: war, spirits, and a strange death

Historian Robert Murch has spent years studying the Ouija board. He explains how the civil war and the Sears catalogue fueled a phenomenon

If you grew up in the US, youre probably familiar with the Ouija board. Whether youve seen it used in movies like The Exorcist or huddled around it with some friends at a seance, the mysterious talking board has long captivated us with its promise to connect the living and the dead.

And though the board is a fixture in American pop culture, very little is known about where it came from. According to the historian Robert Murch, the history of the Ouija is as mysterious as the workings of the board itself. Murch has spent years tracing the history of Americas favorite seance tool and we asked him to tell us a little bit about what hes learned so far.

After the civil war, spiritualism exploded in America

The mass deaths in the civil war created a widespread desire to contact the dead, and mediums began marketing their services in major cities around the country. Everyone lost a father, a son, an uncle, a grandfather, a cousin, Murch said. Death touched everybody in a way that had never happened in the US. According to Murch, many families had to grapple with the bodies of their loved ones never being recovered and spiritual devices like the Ouija board answered questions that no one else could. They gave people peace of mind because they couldnt get answers any other way.

The name Ouija comes from a rooming house in Baltimore

Like Band-Aid or Kleenex, the trademarked name Ouija is now generally used for all talking boards. But the name was coined by Helen Peters, a medium who was using the board with her brother-in-law Elijah Bond one night 1890 in Baltimore. When she asked what they should call it, the planchette spelled out Ouija, which the board told her meant good luck.

The building where Peters named the board is now a 7-11 convenience store, which has a plaque commemorating the event on the wall.

Peters got the first patent on the Ouija board but the business was soon taken over by the American entrepreneur William Fuld, who began to market the board, especially in national catalogues like Sears.

Ouija The Magic Game. Remarkable, interesting, and mystifying game. Great mirth and making game for parties. Apparently answers questions concerning past, present, and future, reads one ad in the Sears catalogue.

We would not be talking about the Ouija Board today had it not been for the brilliant marketing of William Fuld. He just knew how to change the story, retell it, Murch said.

Helen Peters, the mystery lost to history

As the boards popularity, and profit, increased, most of the early investors sought to highlight their role in the creation of the Ouija board. But Helen Peters wanted nothing more to do with it after the board caused serious damage to her family.

When some civil war family heirlooms went missing from Peters home, Peters asked the Ouija board who had taken them. According to Peters grandson, the board indicated a member of the family. Half the family believed it and half the family said bullshit, including Helen, said Murch. The event created a conflict that was never resolved, and tore the family apart.

After the fight, Peters sold all of her stock in the company. Until her dying day, shes telling everyone: dont play the Ouija board because it lies, Murch said.

The mysterious death of William Fuld

William Fuld had his own Ouija-related family troubles. In 1919, he cut his brother out of the business and the two never spoke again. That year was a particularly good one for sales following a world war and a flu epidemic. In a 1920 article, the New York Times compared the popularity of the Ouija board to that of bubble gum, and in 1927 the Baltimore Sun reported that Fuld had personally made $1m from sales of the board.

He continued to open new factories, building the largest a 3-story building in Baltimore after the Ouija board itself told him to prepare for big business.

In early 1927, he went up to the roof of the building to supervise the replacement of a flag pole. According to the Baltimore Sun, he was standing near the edge of the roof, grasping an iron support of the pole to study himself, the workmen said, when the support suddenly pulled away and he toppled over backward.

As in a movie, Fuld initially grabbed hold of the sill of an open window, which suddenly closed, sending him crashing down to the sidewalk below. He broke several ribs, but was expected to survive, until a bump in the road on the way to the hospital sent one of the fractured bones through his heart and he died.

His family continued to run the business until 1966, when they sold it to Parker Brothers, which was later bought by Hasbro, whose website warns: Handle the Ouija board with respect and it wont disappoint you!

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World Series trumps presidential election in two title-starved midwest cities

In Cleveland and Chicago, a dream matchup between the Cubs and Indians has pushed the ugly Trump-Clinton battle off the front pages: Its a breath of fresh air

Frank Roddy supports the Cleveland Indians and Donald Trump. Matt Brenner supports the Chicago Cubs and Hillary Clinton. When Roddy had a pair of tickets for game 2 of the World Series in Cleveland, Ohio, he knew who to call.

I had 50 people I could invite to this game but I only have one friend whos a Cubs fan and I knew what it would mean to him, said Roddy, 28, sporting an Indians cap and shirt. I knew it would mean more to him than anyone else.

With flights in demand and prohibitively expensive, Brenner hired a car on Wednesday morning and drove for five and a half hours to be here; he drove back on Thursday, exultant after the Cubs 5-1 victory squared the series. This, after all, is history. The Cubs and Indians have the longest title droughts in baseball: 108 and 68 years without winning the World Series respectively. It is the resistible force against the movable object.

Cleveland, for a few golden hours, also felt like something of an antidote to, or at least a refuge from, arguably the most divisive and poisonous presidential election campaign ever. It is oddly reassuring to discover that there is still a place in the US not transfixed by Clintons reckless emails or Trumps 3am tweets. Here sports comes first, politics nowhere. A baseball cap is still a baseball cap, not a marketing prop for making America great again.

Thom Majka, a sales rep who keeps his Indians cap on through every game for good luck, said: These fans couldnt care less about the election. Every day it gets nastier and uglier, not even talking about the issues. Its a breath of fresh air to have something as easy as playing a baseball game. Its like taking a shower: youre all cleaned up.

The Democratic and Republican nominees have historically high unpopularity ratings. Their contest has been extraordinary rancorous, including a tense debate in which Clinton castigated Trump over allegations of sexual assault and Trump threatened to jail his opponent. The blowhard billionaires appeal to authoritarianism and cries of rigging have led some to fear an existential threat to the republic.

But baseball, as American as jazz, as regular as the seasons, goes on. It is the most storied and soulful of US sports. It survived the second world war when Franklin D Roosevelt declared: I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. After reaching the World Series at last, Cubs manager Joe Maddon watched the Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams and wept. While pro football is by far more popular, baseball is cultural bedrock, a social safety valve for a fractured nation.

Indians fans gather outside the gates before game 1 of the World Series. Photograph: John G Mabanglo/EPA

Cleveland feels this more acutely than most. Three months ago its basketball arena, cheek-by-jowl with the baseball park, hosted Trumps coronation and dark vision at the Republican national convention. Where in July the strongman claimed that only he can fix the system, and delegates chanted Lock her up!, this week the Cleveland Cavaliers led by the Hillary Clinton-endorsing superstar LeBron James received their championship rings after ending the citys 52-year sporting championship famine.

Where in July political hacks crowded bars and restaurants on nearby East 4th Street, this week sports fans erupted at every Indians run they saw on multiple TV screens.

Where in July street vendors sold hats and T-shirts with slogans such as Hillary for Prison and Lifes a bitch, dont vote for one, this week the merchandise says Hard working town Cleveland, Land of champions, C*town dont back down and I liked Cleveland before it was cool. And where in July party delegates walked behind high steel fences separating them from potential civil unrest and thousands of police, this week Clinton and Trump supporters rubbed shoulders, recalled learning the sport in corner parks and backyards, and went to the ballgame together.

Cubs fan Joe Wiegand, 51, from Maniton, Colorado, mused: Baseball is a wonderful distraction from the workaday world and the issues at hand. It brings people together. Its an important election and this is just a game but this is not only once in a lifetime, its once in three lifetimes. Therell be another election in four years.

Wiegand had come to add to the joviality of the proceedings outside the Indians Progressive Field (the name honours an insurance company, it has nothing to do with liberal politics). He bills himself as the worlds premiere Theodore Roosevelt reprisor and was dressed for the part, including a 1908 / Cubs sign attached to his top hat referring to a year when Roosevelt was in the White House and the Cubs last won the World Series (the Indians need only go back as far as Harry Truman).

We are long suffering but always hopeful, Wiegand said. That optimistic statement: Just wait till next year. We believe in the Cubs. Theres a great sense of relief and celebration just being in the World Series. And I think we will win the World Series.

As he spoke, Wiegand was greeted by old acquaintances: Cubs fan Wendy Menard, 56, and her partner Chris Frampton, 57, an Indians supporter. The couple, both financial advisers, recalled being nine or 10 years old when they attended their first baseball games. Frampton said: As much as following Cleveland has been difficult for a long time, Im an Indians fan and always have been.

Menard added: Its in your blood. Cut me and its blue.

And how about the election? What election? Frampton shot back.

The Indians comprehensive 6-0 victory in game 1 on Tuesday, with pitcher Corey Kluber dominant, was celebrated by fans driving the streets blasting horns and high-fiving each other. The mood was more subdued on Wednesday as Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta took control over four hours in a raw 43F (6C); a crowd watching the game on two giants screens outside the park ebbed away into the night. A small plane flew overhead trailing a banner that said: Trump tried to buy and move the Indians.

The Cubs, whose home, Wrigley Field, is one of the great cathedrals of American sport, seem to have most of the country rooting for them. They have been striving and falling short for more than a century. Author Rich Cohen wrote in the New York Times: For as long as anyone remembers, following the Cubs has meant embracing futility, choosing the losers over the winners, seeing the romance in failure.

The lovable losers have suffered a legendary curse ever since a tavern owner, barred from a World Series game in 1945 because he was trying to bring in a malodorous goat, proclaimed that they would never win the title again. But inspired by Cubs fan Bill Murrays film Ghostbusters, some fans have paraded the slogan I aint afraid of no goat and this year the team have carried all before them. Barack Obama has expressed hopes for a Cubs victory despite being a supporter of city rivals the Chicago White Sox.

Cleveland, meanwhile, is relishing its moment in the sun. It is one of Americas poorest and most racially segregated big cities; only Detroit fared worse from the trauma of industrial decline. It has had to live down nicknames such as the mistake on the lake while its river was so badly polluted that it caught fire in 1969. Progressive Field sits near steel bridges, smoking chimneys and slag heaps.

The idea was that in an industrial, smoky city you could get a ticket and walk through that gate into a green space. This is the pastoral aspect. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Todd Fisher, 45, district manager at PizzaFire restaurant, where The Chicago pizza has been crossed out and replaced with The Ohio, said: Its such a sense of pride and it brings the community together more than anything else. Were still considered a blue-collar town. Growing up in my neighbourhood, we played baseball in the spring and football in the fall and winter. When all the jobs left, thats what everyone clung to: our sports team.

Majka, 63, whose daughter Stephanie favours the Cubs, agreed. Cleveland is not a city people flock to as a major metropolitan area, he said. The 70s, 80s and 90s have been tough years and thats why people hold on to their sports teams. Things in Cleveland are consistent. They put up with tough winters and losing sports franchises. They keep on coming back, hoping tomorrow will be a better day.

People in Cleveland are hard-working and good-hearted and have their hearts broken thousands of times. To have the baseball after what happened in June with the basketball two tremendous events in one year was worth the wait. Thats the Cleveland mentality: the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Cleveland is a Democratic stronghold but Ohio remains a perpetual electoral battleground. Majka says he intends to vote for Trump because he wants change from the career politicians who run America. But if he was forced to choose between picking the winner of the election or the World Series? Its got to be the Indians.

Most fans would make the same decision in the view of John Grabowski, who teaches a sports history course at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The election has been a long, brutal process and people are much more interested in the World Series, he said. It is pushing the campaign off the front of the news locally.

Grabowski cautioned against notions of baseball as morally pure escapism, noting the sports own history of chicanery and trickery, but added: Nonetheless its linked to what America is supposed to be about the field of dreams. The idea was that in an industrial, smoky city you could get a ticket and walk through that gate into a green space. This is the pastoral aspect.

Although there has been concern about the drop in African American players across baseball as a whole, both the Cubs and Indians have increasingly racially diverse lineups, he added, reflecting the diversity of the US itself. You can see yourself on the field, no matter who you are.

Baseball has arguably been in decline since the 1980s, although the sport has long served as a metaphorical shorthand for an idealised America. Grabowski sees evidence of a revival in that rose-tinted view in the era of Ronald Reagan his celebrated Morning in America TV commercial was released in the same year, 1984, as the fond movie The Natural starring Robert Redford. Field of Dreams If you build it, they will come came out a few months after Reagan left office. Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore was conceived in the 1980s and completed in 1992, starting a trend for nostalgic retro ballparks.

Reagans promise to make America great again has been expropriated by Trump and sewn into baseball caps and other merchandise. Trumps repeated promise at rallies Were going to win so much, youre going to be so sick and tired of winning is probably unfathomable to success-starved Cubs and Indians fans.

The battle shifted on Friday to Chicago, where residents are no less sports mad: box seats for the first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years were selling on StubHub for $50,000 and more. But Grabowski, 68, whose father was a gifted amateur player, cannot bear to look. My wife watches but I cant, he admitted. I get too nervous. I judge whats happening from the shouts downstairs.

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Typhoo Tea: Cost of a cuppa to go up – BBC News

Image copyright PA

The cost of a cuppa will have to rise, according to the boss of Typhoo.

For chief executive Somnath Saha, the economics of tea are simple and brutal.

Typhoo Tea produces 125 million tea bags a week at its factory in Moreton, Wirral, which have just one ingredient – tea leaves, and they are imported.

Black tea is a global commodity, traded in dollars. Following the fall in sterling since the Brexit vote, costs have soared for this renowned brand as 95% of its sales are in the UK.

“This is an absolute disaster for a company the size of ours,” says Mr Saha.

“The very sharp fall in the pound means the impact is at least a quarter of a million pounds a month for us. This is having a very negative impact on our business and we are really suffering. It’s now come to a point where it’s not sustainable for us.”

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Typhoo imports most of its tea leaves from Kenya

The news comes amid warnings of rising prices in the grocery sector, and with supermarket chain Morrisons increasing the cost of a jar of Marmite by 12.5%.

High volume, low margin

There are plenty of winners from the fall in the value of sterling. But Typhoo Tea is a graphic illustration of what it’s like for a business with one raw imported material.

Typhoo has been trading for more than a century. These days, most of its black tea comes from Kenya. It’s then blended and packaged on site. The company also packages own-label tea for most of the major supermarkets.

In addition, it produces a range of herbal teas and those ingredients are sourced in euros.

It’s a high-volume, low-margin business.

Image copyright Typhoo Tea
Image caption The company pays for ingredients for its herbal teas in euros

The cost of the ingredient depends on the quality of the leaf. A typical 80kg bag of black tea could be bought for 90 to 100 at the beginning of the year. The company says that same bag now costs 120 to 150 at the weekly international auctions.

In other words, it is paying an awful lot more for the same amount of tea.

‘Serious situation’

“We don’t have big enough margins between us and retailers to absorb all these costs. We’re looking at how to mitigate some of them, from our labour, overheads and marketing costs, which will affect the growth of the business and employment in long run. But some of these currency costs will have to be passed on, as neither us nor the retailers can absorb any more cost increases,” Mr Saha says.

Like other suppliers, he is in discussions with the supermarkets about price rises. He denies posturing to try to secure a better deal.

“Absolutely not. This is a really serious situation for us. Nobody wants to do this, but ultimately some of the costs will go to the shoppers. There is no other option,” Mr Saha says.

“It’s one of the favourite drinks of this country. It’s very unfortunate. It’s nobody’s fault – it’s due to the economic conditions.”

Image caption Somnath Saha says the fall in the pound has been an ‘absolute disaster’ for Typhoo

Typhoo Tea is owned by the Indian conglomerate Apeejay Surrendra Group, which Mr Saha says has supported the UK business for the last few months.

But he warned that if the fall in the pound was sustained, his business would be set to lose 3m, all but wiping out its profits. The time has now come to do something about it, he says.

“For everybody, it’s been so difficult after June. We can’t plan anything. Every day, you don’t know what is going to happen next week. There is so much volatility.”

Typhoo employs some 300 workers in the UK.

Industry issue

Many suppliers are talking to the supermarkets about price rises. These negotiations are normally confidential but they spilled into the open when Tesco’s spat with Unilever became public.

Retailers and suppliers regularly discuss prices but, according to one industry expert, the current situation is different.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tesco and Unilever fell out over prices earlier this month; fellow supermarket Morrisons has now raised the price of Marmite

“This is no cat and mouse game. What we’ve been seeing here is unprecedented,” says David Sables from Sentinel Management Consultants, which advises suppliers on how to negotiate with supermarkets.

“The real change that’s happened here is that it’s happening at a time when the retailers’ margins have been squeezed by the battle with Aldi and Lidl. They can’t take any more pain. It comes with a price increase to them, they will have to pass it on.

“There needs to be a new approach, a getting together of everyone to sensibly sit down and see how they can protect the consumer against what is a real industry issue,” he says.

There are ways to absorb costs. For instance, Tesco and Morrisons are trying to make their businesses more simple and efficient which will save money in the long run. Packaging and product sizes can also be reviewed.

January rises

But after years of falling prices in the aisles, it seems inevitable that some prices will rise.

“I think there is a wave of price increases to come, as early as January. That’s when we’ll see the biggest impact,” says Mr Sables.

“The generally accepted view is 5% – that’s an understatement of what we’re seeing on the foreign exchange. The view is that the industry will absorb some of that difference.”

For Typhoo Tea, the time has come to pass on some of its costs.

In the longer term, its boss says he will be trying to boost exports and take advantage of any Brexit opportunities, but the focus now is dealing with the fallout.

Mr Saha adds: “This is a real loss, a real pain for this business and we cannot accept this loss any more.”

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Apprentice candidate quits show before task – BBC News

Warning – contains spoilers. Do not read any further if you do not want to know who has left.

Image caption Karren Brady and Claude Littner have returned to assist Lord Sugar in the latest series

A candidate in this year’s series of The Apprentice has quit the competition early, saying she was “just not enjoying” the process.

Aleksandra King was seen in Thursday evening’s episode telling her teammates during a planning meeting that she wanted exit the programme immediately.

The business consultancy owner said: “I’ve found the process overwhelming, stressful and really intense.”

It is the first time a business hopeful has walked before a task has begun.

King told her teammates: “I’m going to leave the process, I’m really sorry… I’m going to go.”

Digital marketing manager Mukai Noiri was seen telling King: “Aleks, we’re just starting a task, it’s not exactly the ideal moment.”

But King repeated her intention to leave before wishing her teammates luck and leaving the room.

Speaking outside the room, King said: “I just want to go home to my kids and my husband now.”

Her teammates expressed surprise at the decision, with Grainne McCoy describing it as “a bit of a shock for the system”.

King’s decision to exit left 15 candidates remaining to compete for a 250,000 investment from Lord Sugar.

Her team continued to work on the task without her, which saw them taking over a section of department store Liberty of London.

Digital marketing manager Mukai Noiri was fired by Lord Sugar at the end of the episode.

Follow us on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, on Instagram, or if you have a story suggestion email

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AirPods: Apple says it needs ‘more time’ before selling new wireless earbuds

Apple showed off what it calls AirPods last month during a launch event for the iPhone 7, but now the company isnt saying when theyll be released

Apple says it needs a little more time before it starts selling the new wireless ear buds that are designed to work with its newest iPhones the ones that dont come with a dedicated headphone jack.

The technology company showed off what it calls AirPods last month during a launch event for the iPhone 7 smartphones. The iPhones went on sale in late September, and Apple had said the AirPods would go on sale in late October. But now the Cupertino, California company isnt saying when theyll be released, or why it needs more time.

iPhone users can still listen to audio on the new iPhones by using other wireless headsets or plugging into the phones charging port, although older headsets may need a plug adapter.

At launch, Apples senior vice-president of marketing Phil Schiller declared the headphone jack to be ancient technology and promised that the earpods would deliver a magical experience.

It makes no sense to tether ourselves with cables to our mobile devices, he said, discretely acknowledging criticism at the removal of the headphone port by saying that it took courage for Apple to move on to do something that betters all of us.

Apples decision was widely debated by users, many of whom felt that wireless headphones were less convenient and practical than their wired counterparts. Wireless headphones need regular charging and the tiny AirPods could fall out and, without the wire as a lifeline, easily get lost.

At the same time, those wanting to continue to use their old headphones can do so using a free adapter that plugs into the iPhones Lightning port, although that does mean the user cant listen to music or podcasts while the device is charging.

Tech analyst Paul Erickson at IHS Technology suggested that the decision to remove the headphone jack was motivated by money. It should be noted that wireless models are the highest revenue-generating products within the headphone market, he told the Financial Times.

The decision to delay the launch of the magical $159 wireless headphones comes the day after Apple reported its first decline in annual sales and profit in 15 years.

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Women now drink as much alcohol as men, global study finds

Researchers believe the change is because drinks are cheaper, created for and marketed at women

Women have caught up with men in the amount of alcohol they drink and are doing increasing amounts of damage to their health as a result, according to a global study that looked at the consumption habits of four million people over a period of over a century.

The change is partly the result of successful marketing campaigns and the creation of sweeter products aimed at young women or girls, as well as cuts in price, say health campaigners. Some studies have even suggested that younger women may be out-drinking men, according to the studys authors.

The researchers from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre of the University of New South Wales, Australia, say the conclusion is that public health efforts need to focus more on women.

These results have implications for the framing and targeting of alcohol use prevention and intervention programmes. Alcohol use and alcohol-use disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon. The present study calls this assumption into question and suggests that young women in particular should be the target of concerted efforts to reduce the impact of substance use and related harms, they say.

Their analysis, published in the journal BMJ Open, looks at the convergence of drinking habits between men and women over time, from 1891 to 2014. It pools the results of 68 international studies, published since 1980, to look at the changing ratio of male to female drinking over the years.

Historically, far more men drank alcohol than women. Men born between 1891 and 1910 were twice as likely as their female peers to drink alcohol and more than three times as likely to be involved in problematic use or use leading to harms. But in all three respects, this had almost reached parity among those born between 1991 and 2000.

Womens drinking has increased for a number of reasons. Those who have succeeded in obtaining jobs that were once the preserve of men have joined or found it necessary to become part of the after-work drinking culture. Office for National Statistics figures from 2011 show that women in management and professional jobs drink more than the average woman and drink more on weekdays.

But drops in the price, which have led to wine and beer becoming regular items in the supermarket shopping trolley and part of everyday life at home, have also been a factor, alongside deliberate marketing targeted at women.

Since the 1950s weve seen womens drinking continue to rise, said Emily Robinson, director of campaigns at Alcohol Concern. Drinking at home has continued to increase and because alcohol is so cheap and easily available its become an everyday grocery item. Weve also seen a concerted effort from the alcohol industry to market products and brands specifically to women.

Some studies have even suggested that younger women may be out-drinking men, according to the studys authors. Photograph: OJO Images / Rex Features

We know from our annual Dry January campaign that people often dont realise that alcohol has become a habit rather than a pleasure, with women having wine oclock most nights of the week.

Drinking too much, too often, can store up future health problems, both mental and physical, with people not realising just how easy it is to go over recommended limits, Robinson added.

This is why we need mandatory health warnings on alcohol products and a mass media campaign to make sure the chief medical officers guidelines are widely known and understood.

Sally Davies, the chief medical officer (CMO), changed the alcohol guidance earlier this year, advising both men and women they risked harm if they drank more than 14 units a week previously the upper limit for men was 21 units. But she warned that there was no safe limit for anybody.

Katherine Brown, director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: Historically women did not drink that much. There has definitely been a proactive effort to entice women to drink more.

Some of the drinks now available have been targeted at young women who pre-load while getting together to dress and do their make-up before a night out. Three large glasses of wine can be the equivalent of nine units, she added.

Babycham was the first drink specifically designed with women in mind in post-war Britain. Today there are many others including Lambrini, which is aimed entirely at young women. Sweet or fruity? Lively, smooth or are you a classic kind of girl? With a Lambrini tailored to complement your own personal style and taste, youre going to love our new collection! says the advertising on its website.

Alcohol advertising and sponsorship is also noticeable in TV programmes aimed at women. For example, Baileys backed Desperate Housewives.

Womens bodies do not tolerate alcohol as well as mens, however, because they have a higher fat to water ratio. Because they have less water, the alcohol in their system remains more concentrated. They also have smaller livers than men, which makes it harder to process alcohol safely.

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At Least 13 People Killed In California Tour Bus, Semi-Truck Crash, Officials Say

A horrific crash Sunday morning in California left 13 people dead and dozens more injured after a tour bus collided with a semi-truck.

The accident occurred at 5:17 a.m. in the westbound lanes of the 10 Freeway at Indian Canyon in the Desert Hot Springs area. The big rig driver, hauling food products, had only moderate injuries and police said he reported feeling “a thump in the back, but that’s all he really knew.”

“The speed of the bus was so significant that when it hit the back of the big-rig trailer, the trailer itself entered about 15 feet into the bus,” California Highway Patrol Border Division Chief Jim Abele said during a Sunday afternoon news conference. “So you can see there was a substantial impact.”

All 44 people on board the bus were believed to be adults, said Abele, who wouldn’t say if officials expected the death toll to rise.

“By the grace of God nobody else will pass away,” he said.

The tour bus was identified as a 1996 USA Holiday bus. The Los Angeles-based company typically ferries people from LA to nearby casinos. The bus driver, who also owns the company and has not been identified, was killed in the crash.

Abele said the bus had been inspected in 2014, 2015 and April 2016 with no mechanical deficiencies reported. Records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration showed the bus had no prior crashes.

Authorities shut down the freeway in the aftermath of the incident. Police expected it to re-open at 4 p.m. local time.

Survivors told authorities that all passengers aboard the bus were believed to be asleep at the time of the crash. None of the passengers had been identified; however, Abele said police had been in contact with consulates from Mexico, Australia and Japan.

No cause of the crash was immediately identified, but Abele said many modern buses had “some kind of black box” that might aid authorities. Any influence of drugs, alcohol or driver fatigue had not been ruled out.

Firefighters on the scene had to use ladders placed near the bus’ windows to pull out victims. It took nearly two hours to separate the vehicles, Fox News reported.

The Palm Springs hospital treated 14 patients, five in critical condition, three in serious condition and six with minor injuries. Palm Springs houses the valley’s only trauma center, The Desert Sun Reported. All patients were adults.

Desert Regional director of marketing Rich Ramhoff said it was the most victims he’d seen from a single incident.

Eleven people with minor injuries were sent to Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, spokesperson Lee Rice said. JFK Medical Center received five patients, all with minor injuries, chief development officer Linda Evans said.

The NTSB launched a “go team” to assist with the investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Inside big pharma’s fight to block recreational marijuana

Pharma and alcohol companies have been quietly bankrolling the opposition to legal marijuana, raising questions about threats to market share

Marijuana legalization will unleash misery on Arizona, according to a wave of television ads that started rolling out across the state last month. Replete with ominous music, the advertisements feature lawmakers and teachers who paint a bleak future for Arizonas children if voters approve Proposition 205, a measure that would allow people aged 21 and over to possess an ounce of pot and grow up to six plants for recreational use.

Colorado schools were promised millions in new revenues when the state approved recreational pot use, says the voiceover in one ad. Instead, schoolchildren were plagued by marijuana edibles that look like candy.

As Election Day approaches, the ads will continue, but the surprise lies in who is backing them. In August, the pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics also cited concerns for child safety when, with a $500,000 contribution, it became the largest donor to Arizonas anti-legalization drive. But their stated concerns have raised a few eyebrows across the state. Insys manufactures Subsys, a prescription painkiller derived from fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

And although child safety is a legitimate concern as states legalize cannabis in Colorado, child emergency room visits for marijuana intoxication have increased to 2.3 per 100,000 kids aged 10 and under since legalization in 2014, up from from 1.2 per 100,000 kids before that accidental ingestion of pharmaceuticals sends about 318 per 100,000 kids aged five years and under to the emergency room, according to government figures. The frequency of hospital visits from kids accidentally taking narcotic painkillers have increased 225% between 2004 and 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services said.

Instead, critics say, the Insys contribution in Arizona is a ploy to protect market share. And it mirrors other large donations to anti-marijuana campaigns by pharmaceutical and alcohol companies that fear the growing clout of legal marijuana. In November, five states Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and California could join four others that have already legalized recreational cannabis. Currently, 25 states permit the plants medicinal use. They represent a national marijuana market that will top $6.7bn in sales this year, according to the research firm ArcView Group, and $20bn annually by 2020.

Weve definitely seen a more active opposition from the pharma industry, said Amanda Reiman, manager of marijuana law and policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group that promotes drug reform. Research conducted by myself and others shows that medical cannabis patients are substituting cannabis for pharmaceuticals at a very high rate, and for alcohol at a pretty high rate as well.

Indeed, alcohol and pharma groups have been quietly backing anti-marijuana efforts across the country. Besides Insys, the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association gave one of the largest donations to the states anti-legalization campaign when it paid $10,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy. And the Beer Distributors PAC recently donated $25,000 to the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, making it the states third-largest backer of the opposition to recreational cannabis.

Purdue Pharma and Abbott Laboratories, makers of the painkiller OxyContin and Vicodin, respectively, are among the largest contributors to the Anti-Drug Coalition of America, according to a report in the Nation. And the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, considered one of marijuanas biggest opponents, spent nearly $19m on lobbying in 2015.

The plants threat to the alcohol industry is difficult to chart. Some researchers claim consumers substitute alcohol with marijuana when the plant is legalized. But in Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, that scenario has not played out. Alcohol sales there have increased since cannabis legalization, according to state tax data. And despite the alcohol industrys opposition to cannabis in Massachusetts and Arizona, in neighboring Nevada the alcohol industry is among the biggest donors to the pro-legalization drive. It has given nearly $88,000 to the pro-legalization campaign, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Thats because approval of Nevadas initiative would hand alcohol distributors the sole right to sell cannabis for the first 18 months.

For big pharma, however, an expanding amount of data explains their fears. Opiate overdoses dropped by roughly 25% in states that have legalized medical marijuana compared to states that have prohibited sales of the plant, according to a 2014 study from the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study implies that people could be using medical marijuana to treat their pain rather than opioid painkillers, or theyre taking lower doses. And research published this year by the University of Georgia shows that Medicare prescriptions for drugs used to treat chronic pain and anxiety dropped in states that have legalized medical marijuana. Medicare saved roughly $165m in 2013, according to the study, which estimated that expenditures for Medicare Part D, the portion of the government-funded health insurance program that subsidizes prescription drug costs, would drop by $470m annually if medical marijuana were legalized nationally.

Combine this data with the growing cost of prescription drugs brand-name drug prices have increased 127% since 2008, according to the pharmacy benefit management company Express Scripts and an opioid epidemic that is the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US, and its easy to understand why pharmaceutical companies are closely monitoring cannabis legalization.

But they might be fighting a losing battle. In Colorado alone, marijuana sales reached $996m in 2015 and raked in $135m in tax revenue. Towns have earmarked the money for road improvements, recreation centers and scholarships for low-income students. With that much money in play, investors and special interest groups have begun to flex their muscles. Pro-pot lobbyists in Denver now battle on equal footing with their counterparts in the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries.

Their [marijuana] lobby has grown quite a bit, and they have become increasingly sophisticated, said Colorado state senator Pat Steadman, who was heavily involved in the implementation of Amendment 64, the measure that legalized recreational marijuana in 2014. Theyre investing more money in government relations, elections, marketing and public relations.

And pro-pot political action committees such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) PAC and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) PAC are putting these resources into action by supporting state and federal candidates who are committed to legalizing medical marijuana and regulating recreational cannabis like they do alcohol. That includes California, where the lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that works to change drug laws, has backed Novembers recreational legalization measure with $4.47m, according to government records.

Legalization proponents in California have raised nearly $18m, compared to the oppositions $250,000 in fundraising. In a sign of broad approval and likely passage, according to polls Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Democratic Party and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California all back the measure. If approved, Proposition 64 would result in $1.4bn in annual revenues within the first year alone, according to legislative analysts, which is expected to balloon to $6.5bn by 2020. In other words, legalization in the Golden State with its 39 million residents and the worlds sixth largest economy would triple the size of the countrys legal cannabis market.

Given Californias size, given its history as the source of legal and illegal marijuana for California and much of the nation, the fact that its coming online changes the equation significantly, said Sam Kamin, a professor of marijuana law and policy at the University of Denver.

It makes it harder for federal prohibition to continue, and I think it accelerates a push for legislative change at the federal level.

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How is life for self-employed workers? – BBC News

Being self-employed is a way of life for almost five million people in the UK now, with some deliberately opting for a life of working independence and others being forced to adopt it.

Figures released by the Resolution Foundation this week said average earnings for self-employed workers are now lower than in 1994-95 but that the UK’s self-employed workforce had grown by 45% in the past 15 years.

How has the life of a self-employed worker changed over the years – and what benefits or drawbacks does it bring? Some have shared their stories.

The session singer

Image copyright Janine Rasch
Image caption “Payments to session singers have increased little in real terms in the past 20 years”

Payments to sessions singers have changed very little in real terms over the past 20 years, according to Sam Blewitt.

The Twickenham-based singer has been self-employed for 30 years and has sung with Madness, The Streets, Dizzee Rascal and Ultravox, as well as on soundtracks for films, TV shows and commercials.

“There have been good times and bad, but generally, I am working for the same as I was 10 or even 15 years ago,” said Mr Blewitt. “I do believe I was earning more 20 years ago.

“Then the added impact of the change in people’s music-buying habits have really changed the way self-employed musicians and singers earn money. My publishing income from music sales is virtually non-existent these days.”

The cleaner

Image copyright Darren Smith

On his 40th birthday Darren Smith decided to make some major life changes including giving up his job in a large shop-fitting company to set up his own cleaning business.

“I was living my life out of a suitcase week in, week out, and though the money was good, when did I get the time to spend it?” said Mr Smith, from Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.

He got a part-time job packing computer components to ensure he had some money coming in while he worked on building up a client base, which involved designing leaflets and delivering them himself.

Nine years on Mr Smith – although earning less – says his decision to become a sole trader was the right one.

“I’ve taken a big drop in wages, but I have cut my cloth accordingly,” he added. “My partner and I live a frugal, but in my eyes, a very rich life. My work-life balance is much better, and yes, there are times when I’d pack it all in tomorrow, but doesn’t everyone have days like that?”

The homeopath

Image copyright Suzanne Wright
Image caption A patchwork career is a modern way of balancing motherhood with work

Suzanne Wright found that when she became a self-employed homeopath her hourly rate was actually higher than when she was employed as a part-time distribution manager. So while her income dropped, it was because she was working fewer hours.

The mum-of-two from Northampton decided to work for herself because she and her husband found it difficult to arrange flexible childcare for their primary school-aged children.

“A lot of people have started up as self-employed in recent years,” said Mrs Wright. “Many, like myself, are mums seeking to work for themselves so that they can manage their working hours around school times, so that they can be with their children.

“A patchwork career is a modern way of balancing motherhood with work – it generally means less income, but also more family time.”

Mrs Wright said she does have to spend additional time working on marketing and keeping her financial records up-to-date: “I get more career satisfaction now because I’m building something of my own. My husband is in full-time, permanent work, so I do know the mortgage will always be paid.”

The shop owner

Image copyright Chris Petterson

For the last decade Chris Petterson has owned and run three greeting card shops, but found he had to use his pension from a previous job to supplement his income.

Mr Petterson, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, has had to work full-time in one of the shops himself but has only been able to pay himself less than the minimum wage.

He said: “I have eight part-time staff but the costs with pay changes and pensions has gradually risen as have rates, rent, utilities, whereas business has plateaued over the same period.

“One of my big frustrations is the unfairness of business rates. I have two shops of similar retail space, but one shop has a rateable value of 6,000 whilst the other is 13,500.”

However, he said the positive side of being self-employed was being able to spend more time with his grandchildren.

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