Saturday December 7, 2019

U.S. Government Watchdog Harshly Criticizes Drug Enforcement Agency for its Response to Opioid Crisis

A U.S. government watchdog on Tuesday harshly criticized the Drug Enforcement Agency for its response to the opioid crisis

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In this Feb. 19, 2013 photo, OxyContin pills are arranged at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vermont. VOA

A U.S. government watchdog on Tuesday harshly criticized the Drug Enforcement Agency for its response to the opioid crisis, saying that amid a surge in opioid-related deaths the agency failed to use its most powerful deterrent and authorized an increase in pain pill output.

A report released by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, whose office is an internal government watchdog, found the DEA was “slow to respond to the dramatic increase in opioid abuse” since 2000.

The report criticized the DEA for cutting back on use of an enforcement tool known as “immediate suspension orders,” which allows it to halt pill shipments, between 2013 and 2017.

Horowitz’s report also found that between 2002 and 2013 the DEA authorized a 400% increase in production of the opioid oxycodone, and that the agency did not significantly reduce production of the pain pill until 2017.

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FILE – U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL MICHAEL HOROWITZ TESTIFIES BEFORE THE HOUSE OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE ON CAPITOL HILL IN WASHINGTON, SEPT. 18, 2019. VOA

Nearly 400,000 deaths in the United States have been linked to overdoses of opioids from 1990 to 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The DEA said in a statement that it appreciated Horowitz’s assessment and that it has made improvements intended to control the diversion of opioids.

“Working with United States Attorneys’ Offices across the country, an increasing number of individuals and corporations are facing civil and criminal charges for actions that have fueled the opioid crisis,” the DEA added.

Horowitz’s report said that the DEA, which is part of the Justice Department, had recently taken steps to address the opioid epidemic, including increasing its intelligence sharing with local law enforcement agencies and launching “community outreach efforts” to raise awareness of the dangers of opioids.

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Horowitz found that more progress was needed, however, and that the DEA should establish “measurable performance metrics” to determine if some of its efforts were working.

Companies like drug distributor McKesson Corp and Oxicontin maker Purdue Pharma, which have been accused of enabling opioid abuse in many pending lawsuits, have long argued that they abided by the DEA’s production quotas and that it was not their place to second-guess the agency’s determinations. (VOA)

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Google, YouTube Pull Over More Than 300 Trump Ads as US Prez Poll Nears

The main formats Google offers political advertisers are Search ads, YouTube ads and display ads. Under the new rules, political advertisers may target their ads only down to the postal code level

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A man walks past a Google sign outside with a span of the Bay Bridge at rear in San Francisco, May 1, 2019. VOA

More than 300 Donald Trump ads have been pulled by Google and its video-sharing platform YouTube for violating the companies’ policies. The campaign videos, notably, ran over the summer.

This comes at a time when handling political advertisements on social media has become a growing concern as the 2020 US presidential election approaches and tech giants are under fire over political ads.

Twitter has even decided to ban all kinds of political ads on its platform.

Over 300 video ads for President Trump were taken down, mostly over the summer, for violating the company policy. Compared to the TV, online ads can spread lies at an alarming rate — bolstered by machine-learning algorithms that can identify target audiences at enormous speed and scale, CBS News reported on Monday.

According to CBS News, even though the ads were taken down, the archive does not detail what policy was violated.

It was not clear if it was a copyright violation, a lie or extreme inaccuracy.

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FILE – Silhouettes are seen in front of a Youtube logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica, Oct. 29, 2014. VOA

The ads determined to be offending are not available to be screened. We found very little transparency in the transparency report, the report added.

It is pertinent to note that political ads on social media do not adhere to different rules than political ads on TV.

The political ads on social media fall under specific scrutiny because of their unique ability to disseminate bad information and their inability to properly tackle them.

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Meanwhile, earlier in November, Google announced new limits on political advertisers globally from micro-targeting users via election ads based on their political affiliation.

The main formats Google offers political advertisers are Search ads, YouTube ads and display ads. Under the new rules, political advertisers may target their ads only down to the postal code level. (IANS)