Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Two Friends in Texas Were Tested for Coronavirus. One Bill Was $199. The Other? $6,408.


By Sarah Kliff
June 29, 2020


The two got drive-through tests at Austin Emergency Center in Austin. The center advertises a “minimally invasive” testing experience in a state now battling one of the country’s worst coronavirus outbreaks. Texas recorded 5,799 new cases Sunday, and recently reversed some if its reopening policies.


The emergency room charged Mr. Harvey $199 in cash. Ms. LeBlanc, who paid with insurance, was charged $6,408.

“I assumed, like an idiot, it would be cheaper to use my insurance than pay cash right there,” Ms. LeBlanc said. “This is 32 times the cost of what my friend paid for the exact same thing.”

Ms. LeBlanc’s health insurer negotiated the total bill down to $1,128. The plan said she was responsible for $928 of that.

During the pandemic, there has been wide variation between what providers bill for the same basic diagnostic test, with some charging $27, others $2,315. It turns out there is also significant variation in how much a test can cost two patients at the same location.


Some academic research confirms that prices can vary within the same hospital. One 2015 paper found substantial within-hospital price differences for basic procedures, such as M.R.I. scans, depending on the health insurer.

The researchers say these differences aren’t about quality. In all likelihood, the expensive M.R.I.s and the cheap M.R.I.s are done on the same machine. Instead, they reflect different insurers’ market clout. A large insurer with many members can demand lower prices, while small insurers have less negotiating leverage.


The Trump administration has taken steps to limit patients’ out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus testing and treatment, using relief funds to reimburse providers for uninsured patients’ bills. Insurers are required to cover patients’ coronavirus tests with no cost-sharing or co-payments. Alex Azar, the health and human services secretary, reiterated that commitment in a Sunday interview on CNN, saying, “If you are uninsured, it will be covered by us.”

The testing experience of the Texas group suggests that it doesn’t always work out that way. Some emergency rooms charge cash prices and tack on testing fees that insurers are not required to cover. In this case, the patient who paid cash actually got the best deal. Mr. Harvey has health insurance but felt it would be a “hassle” to use it for the coronavirus test. So he paid for his test with two $100 bills after receiving the nasal swab, and was on his way.


Jay Lenner, who also got a drive-through test from the same provider, used his insurance and received a similarly long list of charges. He recalls a provider saying he’d be tested only for coronavirus, but bill records show he was also screened for Legionnaires’ disease, herpes and enterovirus, among other things.


She used the information about what her friend had paid to negotiate her charges down to $199 as well. And after she reached out to a local television station, which devoted a segment to her charges, her health plan began investigating the bill.

Last Thursday, after returning from another camping trip, Ms. LeBlanc learned the bill would be dropped entirely.

McConnell makes strong call for masks, saying there should be no stigma


By Jordain Carney - 06/29/20 03:49 PM EDT

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that wearing a mask cannot be stigmatized, calling wearing one in public part of the country's new routine amid the coronavirus pandemic.

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor, said until there was a vaccine Americans needed to find a "middle ground" between widespread lockdowns and life pre-coronavirus.

"We need new routines, new rhythms and new strategies for this new middle ground in between. It's the task of each family, each small business, each employer and all levels of government to apply common sense and make this happen. To name just on example, we must have no stigma — none — about wearing masks when we leave our homes and come near other people," he said.

"Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves. It is about protecting everyone we encounter," he added.

McConnell has encouraged mask wearing amid the coronavirus, including saying in Kentucky on Friday that they were a "way to indicate that you want to protect others."

His latest comments come as President Trump has come under scrutiny for routinely not wearing a mask and not encouraging Americans to wear a mask.


Working from home is costing Americans more than working from the office

By Jesse Gary
June 25, 2020

In March, the prospect of working from home due to shelter-in-place restrictions offered the allure of saving time and money. Three months later and only half that equation turned true. New research finds Americans are spending more, not less, each month.

“The average person working from home during the pandemic is spending an average of $108 more per month,” said Ted Rossman, an analyst for CreditCards.com, which commissioned the study.


San Jose State University economist Dr. Colleen Haight said economic theory can explain some of this behavior. She said shelter-in-place orders disproportionately affect lower-wage earners. The more affluent can afford not to spend.

“Our low income households are still spending more. Because now they’re eating at home. they’re leaving the lights on. They may need a more robust internet connection for their children to access school work. And this is going to raise their bills. whereas the higher income households are generally going to save money because they’re not spending on the things they used to like to do, the extra things,” said Dr. Haight.


South pole warming three times faster than rest of the world


Kyle Clem
Mon 29 Jun 2020 20.21 EDT
Last modified on Mon 29 Jun 2020 22.20 EDT

Climate scientists long thought Antarctica’s interior may not be very sensitive to warming, but our research, published this week, shows a dramatic change.

Over the past 30 years, the south pole has been one of the fastest-changing places on Earth, warming more than three times more rapidly than the rest of the world.


The temperature variability at the south pole is so extreme it currently masks human-caused effects. The Antarctic interior is one of the few places left on Earth where human-caused warming cannot be precisely determined, which means it is a challenge to say whether, or for how long, the warming will continue.

But our study reveals extreme and abrupt climate shifts are part of the climate of Antarctica’s interior. These will likely continue into the future, working to either hide human-induced warming or intensify it when natural warming processes and the human greenhouse effect work in tandem.

Distorted Chinese, Russian virus news takes root in West: study


Jitendra JOSHI
,AFP•June 29, 2020

Coronavirus misinformation spread by Russian and Chinese journalists is finding a bigger audience on social media in France and Germany than content from the European nations' own premier news outlets, according to new research.

Whether it is distorted coverage or outright conspiracy theories, articles written in French and German by foreign state media are resonating widely on Facebook and Twitter, often with their origins unclear, the Oxford Internet Institute said in a report published on Monday.

The institute, which is part of Oxford University, looked at content generated by leading media outlets from Russia and China, as well as from Iran and Turkey -- all of which are state-controlled or closely aligned to regimes in power.


In their French, German as well as Spanish output, state media groups have "politicised the coronavirus by criticising Western democracies, praising their home countries, and promoting conspiracy theories about the origins of the virus," the institute said.

"A majority of the content in these outlets is factually based. But what they have, especially if you look at the Russian outlets, is an agenda to discredit democratic countries," Oxford researcher Jonathan Bright told AFP.

"The subtle weave in the overarching narrative is that democracy is on the verge of collapse."


The institute's previous study in April found that in English, heavily politicised news stories from the same state media groups could achieve as much as 10 times the level of user engagement as more sober sources such as the BBC.

Bright added: "A significant portion of social media is people consuming content that is directly funded by foreign governments, and it's not very clear to the reader that that's the case."


it said that Russian, Chinese and Iranian media all promoted baseless theories, including that the US military unleashed the coronavirus, which originated late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan.


A woman pregnant with twins has 2 wombs and a baby growing in each one


Julia Naftulin
,INSIDER•June 29, 2020

Finding out that she was pregnant with twins was big enough news for Kelly Fairhurst. Then, at her 12-week checkup, the UK mother was in for an even bigger shock: She learned that she has two separate wombs, The Sun reported.

The condition is called uterus didelphys, or double uterus, and Fairhurst has one twin growing in each of her wombs. There was a one in 50 million chance of that occurring.


Monday, June 29, 2020

Israel orders evangelical Christian media network God TV to take channel off air


Paul Goldman and Saphora Smith and Associated Press
,NBC News•June 29, 2020

Israel's regulator has ordered an evangelical Christian broadcaster's new channel off the air, saying it applied to serve a Christian audience but instead has sought to persuade Jews with the gospel of Jesus.


Health officials link surge in coronavirus cases in Pittsburgh area to bars, not protests


By Aris Folley - 06/29/20 07:31 PM EDT

Health officials in Allegheny County, Penn., say a surge in novel coronavirus cases recently reported around Pittsburgh has been tied to bars, not protests, local media report.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (D) told CBS Pittsburgh the area has seen “some alarming spikes” in cases in recent weeks, adding, “We have seen more cases in the last two days than in the previous two weeks.”


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Grand Canyon heat so intense it’s capable of melting shoes


By Storm Gifford
New York Daily News |
Jun 24, 2020 at 11:37 PM

Dangerously high temperatures in the Grand Canyon this week have prompted the National Park Service to warn visitors that the stifling heat is capable of melting shoes.

In a Monday tweet, the park service showed how extreme heat can break down the glue in hiking boots, causing them to crumble.

“Grand Canyon is an unforgiving environment. The heat inside the canyon can cause shoes to come apart, and heavy hiking boots can trap sweat and lead to painful blisters,” reads the tweet. “Before setting off on a hike, understand the limitations of yourself and your gear.”



California Woman Dies In Triple-Digit Heat At Grand Canyon
By NPT Staff - June 26th, 2020 11:59am

Triple-digit heat in the Inner Gorge of Grand Canyon National Park is believed to have played a role in the death of a California woman planning to spend the night at Phantom Ranch along the Colorado River.

Catherine Houe, 49, of Daly City, had hiked about 4 miles down the South Kaibab Trail with her husband and a friend when she became "dizzy, disoriented, and then stopped breathing," a park release said Friday morning.

The trio was about two-thirds of the way down the trail to Phantom Ranch when Houe collapsed around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday not far above the Tip Off resthouse, the release said.

Rangers flew down from the South Rim via helicopter while CPR was being administered to the woman.


The high temperature at Phantom Ranch on Wednesday was 114 degrees Fahrenheit.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Two Louisiana Activists Charged with "Terrorizing" a Lobbyist for the Oil and Gas Industry


By James Bruggers
Jun 26, 2020

Two Louisiana environmental activists face up to 15 years in prison after they were arrested Thursday for terrorizing an oil and gas lobbyist by leaving a box of plastic "nurdles" on his front porch.

Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade turned themselves in at 8:30 a.m. and were held for nearly nine hours by Baton Rouge police, their attorney, Pam Spees, said Thursday evening.

"These charges have zero legal merit," Spees said in a written statement earlier. "They do not even pass the laugh test."


olfes and McIntosh are part of a broad coalition fighting to stop the Taiwanese Formosa Petrochemical Corp. and its subsidiary, FG LA LLC, from constructing a massive, $9.6 billion plastics and petrochemical complex, proposed on 2,400 acres in a predominantly Black portion of St. James Parish.

The plant is part of a planned plastics expansion in the United States that's facing fierce opposition from grassroots activists, environmentalists and members of Congress.

An analysis by ProPublica found the complex could more than triple the level of cancer-causing chemicals that residents of St. James are exposed to. It also found that the area around the site is already more saturated with those toxins than more than 99 percent of industrialized areas in the country.


In 2018, the state enacted a law that made trespassing on pipelines or industry sites a felony, punishable with up to five years in prison. This year, Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a bill that would have imposed a mandatory minimum three-year sentence if the trespassing occurred when the state is under a state of emergency.


A press release from the newly formed Alliance to Defend Democracy said the plastic nurdles had come from a Formosa plant in Port Comfort, Texas, which had, according to a federal lawsuit, spilled massive amounts of the pellets into Lavaca Bay.

"The sealed package was labeled with a written disclaimer," explaining what was in it, and advocating that Formosa's air permit be denied, the alliance said.

In early January, the plant was granted the air quality permits it needed by the state of Louisiana.

In December, a federal judge in Texas approved a $50 million settlement in a citizen-lawsuit over the spilled nurdles and other pollution.


The women were not booked under the law that made trespassing on oil and gas facilities illegal, but a different statute that prohibits "terrorizing," according to the new alliance's press release. Spees said both face a punishment of up to 15 years in prison.


Spied on. Fired. Publicly shamed. China's crackdown on professors reminds many of Mao era

China has to steal technology from other countries instead of doing its own innovation because they squelch their own citizens thinking.

Alice Su
,LA Times•June 27, 2020


Sun is among a growing number of university professors who have been targeted and punished for “improper speech” in recent years, part of a Chinese Communist Party drive to tighten ideological control.

Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, the party banned discussion in 2013 of "Western concepts" such as universal values, a free press, civil society and the party's historical errors. In 2018, teachers from kindergarten through university were ordered to adhere to "Xi Jinping thought" and defend the party.

Those guidelines have hardened during a nationalist surge around the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to public shaming of intellectuals that remind many of the Mao Zedong era.

Professors have been betrayed by their own students or attacked online, then formally punished: In February, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences fired Zhou Peiyi, a visiting lecturer from Hong Kong, after she criticized China’s coronavirus response on social media.


Critics accuse Fang Fang of "handing a knife" to Western countries to smear China. They have sent her death threats and condemned her supporters, digging through their old social media posts to find anything that deviates from the party line.
Sounds a lot like both liberals and conservatives in this country.


Southern states report record coronavirus surges

Probably not news to anybody who reads my blog, and not unexpected to anybody who is reality-oriented.


06/27/2020 06:18 PM EDT

Southern states reported a surge in coronavirus cases Saturday, setting records across the board just days after the U.S. as a whole saw its most cases ever in a 24-hour period.

Florida on Saturday reported a record 9,585 new cases. Arizona reported 3,591 new cases, appearing to match a single-day record set earlier this week. Nevada, Georgia, and South Carolina also reported record numbers of cases on Saturday.

Texas reported 5,747 new cases as of Saturday afternoon, nearing Thursday’s record 5,996 new cases. Saturday marked the fifth consecutive day new coronavirus cases in Texas topped 5,000.

Florida, Arizona and Texas are among a handful of states halting reopening plans amid the recent coronavirus surge. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reimposed some restrictions on Friday, including shuttering bars. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey stopped short of ordering new restrictions but said the state would slow plans to reopen.

All three states were among the first to lift the orders even as cases continued to climb nationwide.


SNAP work requirements put low-income Americans at risk


News Release 26-Jun-2020
George Washington University

When work requirements for a federal food safety-net program start again, many low-income Americans will lose benefits - and Black adults will be hardest hit, according to a study published today. In addition, some disabled people will lose these crucial food assistance benefits.

The authors point out that the loss of food assistance would damage the health of low-income people, who suffer from high rates of COVID-19 and other serious health conditions.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in record rates of unemployment. SNAP benefits are critical to help people who have lost work get the food they need," said lead author Erin Brantley, PhD, MPH, a senior research associate at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH). "When work requirements for SNAP start again, history shows we can expect to see a disproportionate impact on black families."

Work requirements for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called the food stamp program, are temporarily paused under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act but are set to resume when the federal public health emergency ends. Separate from this action, the Trump administration issued a new rule to limit the ability that states traditionally have had to waive SNAP work requirements when unemployment is high, although a federal court has temporarily stopped implementation.


Repeated head impacts associated with later-life depression symptoms, worse cognitive function


News Release 26-Jun-2020
Boston University School of Medicine

Scientists have long believed that a single traumatic brain injury (TBI) earlier in life may contribute to problems with memory, thinking and depression later in life. In most previous studies, however, research failed to examine the possible role of having a history of exposure to repetitive head impacts, including those leading to "subconcussive" injuries, in these later-life problems. In the largest study of its kind, an association has been found in living patients exposed to repetitive head impacts and difficulties with cognitive functioning and depression years or decades later.


Study finds strong evidence for a causal link between long-term exposure to fine air particles and greater mortality in elderly Americans


News Release 26-Jun-2020
American Association for the Advancement of Science

A new analysis of 16 years of publicly accessible health data on 68.5 million Medicare enrollees provides broad evidence that long-term exposure to fine particles in the air - even at levels below current EPA standards - leads to increased mortality rates among the elderly. Based on the results of five complementary statistical models, including three causal inference methods, the researchers estimate that if the EPA had lowered the air quality standard for fine particle concentration from 12 μg/m3 down to the WHO guideline of 10 μg/m3, more than 140,000 lives might have been saved within one decade. "Our findings provide the strongest evidence to date that current national air quality standards aren't sufficiently protective of Americans' health," said corresponding author Francesca Dominici. "Now, in the middle of a pandemic that attacks our lungs and makes us unable to breathe, it is irresponsible to roll back environmental policies," she added. The new study is likely to inform national discussions around updating air quality standards, for example, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards by the EPA.


Supreme Court rejects mail-in voting for all in Texas during pandemic


June 26, 2020, 6:06 PM EDT
By The Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected a request by Texas Democrats to allow all of the state’s 16 million registered voters to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.

The denial is not the end of the ongoing battle over mail-in voting in Texas, but it remains a loss for Democrats who made the emergency ruling request while the original case is tied up at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


For months, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has fought expanding mail-in balloting during the pandemic, saying fear of contracting the virus is an insufficient reason. A federal judge in Texas sided with Democrats in May, but that decision is on hold pending appeal.

Shortly after the ruling, President Donald Trump, who has railed against mail-in voting, tweeted, "Big WIN in Texas on Mail-In Ballots!"

Early voting in Texas begins Monday for primary runoff elections that had been postponed to July over coronavirus fears, but Texas is now one of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots as confirmed cases reach record levels and Gov. Greg Abbott reimposes restrictions.

In Tulsa, Trump Campaign Subverted Social Distancing One Sticker at a Time


6/26/2020 by Dave Brooks

Hours before President Donald Trump took the stage last Saturday at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for his first rally in the COVID-19 era, arena workers were busy labeling thousands of seats with “Do Not Sit Here Please!” stickers to promote social distancing, part of a new safety protocol at the arena known as VenueShield.

Campaign staff quickly radioed over to an executive at ASM Global and asked the arena to stop labeling the seats. In fact, "they also told us that they didn't want any signs posted saying we should social distance in the venue," says Doug Thornton, executive vp for ASM Global, who oversees nearly 100 arenas across five continents for the venue management company created by the 2019 merger of AEG and SMG.


While the Trump campaign undermined arena mitigation efforts to protect attendees from the coronavirus, it did take steps to limit its own liability by requiring rally attendees to sign away their rights to sue if they contracted COVID-19.

"We know that eight Trump campaign staff members that were here tested positive for the coronavirus and we know that two of them were intermingling with the people in the arena," said Tulsa Police Department corporal David Crow during a Tulsa Public Facilities Authority meeting Tuesday. "Obviously, we know that that event probably triggered some type of broader infection."


While organizers faced criticism for staging a rally during a pandemic, Thornton says ASM had no legal basis to stop the event. The state’s Republican governor, its nine state supreme court justices and Tulsa’s Republican mayor signed off on the event and said it had a legal right to move forward -- although mayor G.T. Bynum later said he would have supported ASM Global if it had canceled the rally, prompting mayoral aide Jack Graham to resign in protest.

“The mayor’s lack of leadership could have killed someone, that’s a redline for me,” Graham tells Billboard.


Friday, June 26, 2020

Any smoking and vaping technique may increase risk of COVID-19 infection and death


News Release 25-Jun-2020
European Society of Cardiology

Smoking and vaping, whether by means of tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes or waterpipes, stiffens the arteries, causes inflammation and damages DNA, leading to a variety of health problems, according to a study published today (Friday) in the European Heart Journal [1].

In addition, smoking and vaping may increase the risk of people being infected by COVID-19, suffering worse symptoms and dying from it, say the researchers. They join the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the European Society of Cardiology in urging smokers to try to give up the habit, regardless of which smoking method they use.


The researchers found there were multiple good studies showing that, overall, tobacco cigarettes were more harmful than e-cigarettes. However, there were few good, large studies about the adverse effects of waterpipes (often referred to as hookahs, shisha or narghile) and e-cigarettes on endothelial dysfunction and so the evidence was more variable. The researchers say the long-term effects of water pipes and e-cigarettes need to be investigated more thoroughly. In the meantime, they write, "waterpipe smoking is not less harmful than tobacco smoking and thus cannot be considered a healthy alternative".

The researchers reviewed a range of studies, which they graded as providing strong, good or medium levels of evidence on the harmfulness of the three types of smoking and vaping [2]. Compared to non-smokers, tobacco cigarettes increased the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by 704% (good level of evidence), waterpipes by 218% (strong) and e-cigarettes by 194% (good); tobacco cigarettes and waterpipes increased the risk of lung cancer by 1210% (strong) and 122% (strong) respectively, while the level of evidence for e-cigarettes was not sufficient to draw reliable conclusions.

They also looked at how much the three smoking techniques stiffened the arteries, an important prognostic indicator for the risk of heart problems and stroke. Compared to non-smokers, tobacco cigarettes increased arterial stiffness by 10%, waterpipes by 9% and e-cigarettes by 7% (medium level of evidence for all three).


Uganda's Ik are not unbelievably selfish and mean

We often judge people, w/o considering that we don't know what they have gone thru and are going thru that affects their behaviour.


News Release 25-Jun-2020
Rutgers University

The Ik, a small ethnic group in Uganda, are not incredibly selfish and mean as portrayed in a 1972 book by a prominent anthropologist, according to a Rutgers-led study.

Instead, the Ik are quite cooperative and generous with one another, and their culture features many traits that encourage generosity, according to the study in the journal Evolutionary Human Sciences.


Why, then, did Turnbull observe so much selfishness among the Ik? Although Turnbull was aware that they experienced a severe famine while he was there, he failed to appreciate the impact starvation has on human behavior. Instead, he followed a common tendency among cultural anthropologists to attribute all human behavior to culture.

"One implication of Townsend's work is that we must always consider the possibility that factors other than culture, including but not limited to starvation, can also shape human behavior," said senior author Lee Cronk, a professor in the Department of Anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.


Research shows COVID-19 is an independent risk factor for acute ischemic stroke


News Release 25-Jun-2020
The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine


Bottom Line: COVID-19 infection is significantly associated with strokes, and patients with COVID-19 should undergo more aggressive monitoring for stroke.


Countries with early adoption of face masks showed modest COVID-19 infection rates

It seems weird to me that protecting ourselves and others from disease is considered political by some people.


News Release 24-Jun-2020
American Thoracic Society

June 24, 2020 - Regions with an early interest in face masks had milder COVID-19 epidemics, according to a new letter-to-the-editor published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.


The authors noted that "In many Asian countries like China and Japan, the use of face masks in this pandemic is ubiquitous and is considered as a hygiene etiquette, whereas in many western countries, its use in the public is less common."

There was a clear negative correlation between the awareness or general acceptance of wearing a face mask and its infection rates.


While, the authors acknowledge that face masks are seen as important in slowing the rise of COVID-19 infections, it is difficult to assess whether it is more effective than handwashing or social distancing alone.

As cities in the U.S. and elsewhere put re-opening plans into effect, Dr. Wong said the use of face masks should be encouraged: "Face masks can help slow the spread of COVID-19, and have a relatively low cost compared to the health resources and death toll associated with the pandemic".

He added, "We believe that face mask use, hand washing and social distancing are all important components of the non-pharmaceutical measures against COVID-19."

CDC head warns pregnant women with COVID-19 face greater risks


Reuters•June 25, 2020

Pregnant women have increased risk of severe COVID-19 compared to women who are not pregnant, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention Robert Redfield told reporters on Thursday, warning that states with rising coronavirus cases need to take action.

The CDC has found that pregnant women are more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit and to be put on mechanical ventilators than non-pregnant women, he said.

The agency said that pregnant women did not have a higher risk of death. The added it does not have data yet on how COVID-19 affects the outcomes of those pregnancies.


The CDC said that people with serious cardiovascular and kidney conditions, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity, sickle cell disease, immunocompromised state from organ transplant and Type 2 diabetes are most at risk. Also at risk, but less so, are people with high blood pressure.

To beat the heat, Vietnam rice farmers resort to planting at night


Minh Nguyen
,Reuters•June 25, 2020

The farmers of the Tam Thanh commune say they have been forced to work at night in the fields to avoid searing temperatures that they say have got worse over the years.

"Temperature are rising one or two degrees (Celsius) every year," said Le Van Ha, 40, who blames the felling of trees in the area for making temperatures more extreme.

Ha, who doesn't want his children to follow his path into agriculture, said he now gets up at 2 a.m. to avoid having to cope with stifling daytime conditions.

Even though working at night has slashed productivity, he says they can keep working much longer by avoiding the heat.

Vietnam reportedly experienced its highest temperature on record last year at 43.4 degrees Celsius (110 Fahrenheit) in Ha Tinh province in central Vietnam.


Another farmer, Thai Hong Ngoc, 50, said planting at night meant that far fewer rice plants wither due to the extreme heat and is grateful that they now have machinery to use for harvesting.

"If I had to manually harvest crops like before, surely I would just leave it. It's just too hot," said Ngoc.

CDC adds 3 new coronavirus symptoms to list


By Madeline Farber
June 25, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) appears to have recently added three new symptoms of the novel coronavirus to its ongoing list.

Congestion or runny nose, nausea, and diarrhea were added, joining the federal agency's list that already included fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell and sore throat.

“This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19,” per the CDC.

The new symptoms were quietly added, with one news outlet reporting that the changes were made on May 13.

The CDC made a similar change in April when officials added six additional symptoms to the list. At the time, these new changes included chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell.

When the pandemic first began, fever, cough, and shortness of breath were reported to be the most common signs of a COVID-19 infection.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe, with most people beginning to experience them two to 14 days following exposure to the novel virus, or SARS-CoV-2.


Texas Gov. Abbott pauses reopening, suspends elective surgeries amid surge in COVID-19 cases


Nicole Cobler
Austin (Texas) American-Statesman
June 25, 2020

Amid rising hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases, Gov. Greg Abbott hit pause on plans to continue to reopen Texas on Thursday and suspended elective surgeries in the state’s largest counties.

The surgery order, which goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, halts all elective surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary in Travis, Bexar, Harris and Dallas counties.

“These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and today’s action is a precautionary step to help ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients,” Abbott said in a statement Thursday morning.

Roughly one hour later, Abbott announced that he would temporarily pause the state’s additional reopening phases, declining to roll back previous orders that allowed businesses to expand their occupancy levels.


Short term health plans leave consumers on the hook for massive medical costs, investigation finds


By Nathaniel Weixel - 06/25/20 05:55 PM EDT

Short-term health plans routinely refuse to pay the costs of treating beneficiaries, but have seen a surge in enrollment as a result of Trump administration policies, according to a new report released Thursday from House Democrats.

Short-term plans don't have to comply with ObamaCare's coverage rules. The Energy and Commerce Committee investigation found that most plans will deny coverage or charge more for people with pre-existing conditions.

The plans will also charge women more than men, and deny women basic health services, like preventive screening procedures and routine tests, including pelvic exams.


The House Democratic investigation into 14 companies that sell, or help people buy the plans, found “deceptive” and “misleading” marketing tactics used to attract customers who might not know their plans don’t cover all of the same benefits ObamaCare does, like prescription drugs or mental health care.

In a few cases, the plans exclude coverage of routine care such as basic preventive care, wellness exams, pelvic exams, pap smears and birth control.


"Consumers who fall sick while enrolled in one of these plans may incur huge, potentially ruinous medical costs," the report said.


Trump administration asks Supreme Court to overturn Obamacare


06/25/2020 10:59 PM EDT

The Trump administration on Thursday night urged the Supreme Court to strike down Obamacare, pushing forward with its attack on the health care law as millions of newly jobless Americans may come to depend on its coverage.


Trump has insisted that his predecessor's signature legislative achievement must be overturned, despite the public health emergency. Shortly after Covid-19 emerged, Trump refused to reopen the law's health insurance marketplaces to make it easier for uninsured people to get coverage, despite pleas from Democrats and some moderate Republicans.

"What we want to do is terminate it and give health care," Trump said in the Oval Office last month when he announced his administration would continue battling Obamacare in court. "We'll have great health care, including preexisting conditions."

However, Republicans haven't agreed on a replacement since the repeal effort fell short, and previous GOP plans would have weakened robust Obamacare protections barring insurers from charging more or denying coverage based on a patient's medical history.


The Trump-backed lawsuit, brought by a group of Republican-led states, puts at risk health insurance for more than 20 million people covered by Obamacare, as well as insurance protections for people with preexisting medical conditions. Biden during a Thursday campaign event attacked Trump for seeking to upend those protections when a growing number of coronavirus survivors are developing potentially long-term health complications.

"They would live their lives caught in a vise between Donald Trump’s twin legacies: his failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus, and his heartless crusade to take health care protections away from American families," Biden said.


The Supreme Court, which upheld the health care law in the two previous major challenges, will hear the lawsuit this fall but is unlikely to issue a decision before the Nov. 3 election.


Trump's Fireworks Show at Mt. Rushmore Is a Dangerous Idea, Fire and Public Health Experts Say


Jordan Davidson
Jun. 25, 2020 08:43AM EST

For the last decade, fireworks have been banned at Mt. Rushmore due to environmental concerns and public health concerns. President Trump, however, is not somebody who seems to care about either, so he's planning on going ahead with his fireworks show on July 3 at the iconic site.


Due to climate crisis shifts in precipitation, the conditions are ripe for a catastrophe. The Black Hills moisture level in April and May was 30 to 50 percent below its long-term average, the Rapid City Journal reported. June has been hotter and drier than normal and the long-range forecasts suggest those conditions will continue until July, as The Associated Press reported.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Drought Monitor recently labeled nearly all of southwestern South Dakota, including most of the Black Hills, as "abnormally dry," according to South Dakota News Watch.


Bill Gabbert, the former fire management officer for Mount Rushmore and six other national parks in the region, told The Associated Press that shooting fireworks over the extremely flammable ponderosa pine forest should not be done.

"Burning debris, the burning embers and unexploded shells fall into a ponderosa pine forest and ponderosa pine is extremely flammable," said Gabbert.

He also told South Dakota News Watch that "shooting fireworks over a ponderosa pine forest, or any flammable vegetation, is ill advised and should not be done. Period."


Trump has wanted to have a fireworks show at Mt. Rushmore since 2018, but advisers had successfully steered him away from that idea, according to The Washington Post.

And yet, when he was asked about the risk of wildfire earlier this year, Trump failed to see the large picture of the surrounding forest.

"What can burn? It's stone," he said in January, as Popular Mechanics reported.


White House ordered NIH to cancel coronavirus research funding, Fauci says


Beth Mole - 6/24/2020, 7:16 PM

The National Institutes of Health abruptly cut off funding to a long-standing, well-regarded research project on bat coronaviruses only after the White House specifically told it to do so, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.


After the hearing, Fauci clarified to Politico that it was the White House that told the NIH to cancel the funding. An unnamed White House official told Politico that the White House did encourage the funding cut, but ultimately it was the Department of Health and Human Services—of which the NIH is a part—that made the final decision. An HHS spokesperson said only that the funding was cut because "the grantee was not in compliance with NIH's grant policy."


The involvement of the White House is a new wrinkle in a story that has appalled and angered scientists. Since the grant was nixed in late April, scientists had speculated that politics and a conspiracy theory played a role in canceling funding for the research, which was in good scientific standing and seen as critical work. The grant, titled “Understanding the risk of bat coronavirus emergence,” was originally funded by the NIH in 2014 and renewed for another five years in 2019 after receiving an outstanding peer-review score.


Normal Irrationality

I saw this in Parade, the Sunday newspaper supplement


By Marilyn vos Savant
January 5, 2020 – 5:00 AM

Is there a word for a person who does not accept facts that challenge his or her beliefs?

—Stephen Gibbs, Colton, California

Yes, and it’s “normal.” The great majority of people share this trait, especially: (1) those who were taught the beliefs by parents or teachers; and (2) those who want very much for their beliefs to be true, no matter what. The more these beliefs define your life, the more you will spin everything your way. Prime examples are politicians. Yet, in their defense, I feel confident they don’t realize it! To become a thinker instead of a believer, a fundamental step is to disassociate yourself from any political party.

Some private schools getting more virus relief funding than public schools, under DeVos formula


Jun 25, 2020 3:04 PM EDT

The Trump administration on Thursday moved forward with a policy ordering public schools across the U.S. to share coronavirus relief funding with private schools at a higher rate than federal law typically requires.

Under a new rule issued by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, school districts are ordered to set aside a portion of their aid for private schools using a formula based on the total number of private school students in the district.

The policy has been contested by public school officials who say the funding should be shared based on the number of low-income students at local private schools rather than their total enrollments. That’s how funding is shared with private schools under other federal rules that Congress referenced in the legislation creating the relief aid.

But DeVos on Thursday said the funding is separate from other federal aid and was meant to support all students.


The difference between the two formulas amounts to tens of millions of dollars. In Louisiana, for example, private schools are estimated to get at least 267% more under DeVos’ formula. In the state’s Orleans Parish, at least 77% of its relief allotment would end up going to private schools.


DeVos previously vowed to pursue a federal rule on the issue after some states said they would ignore her guidance. Indiana’s education chief said the guidance was no more than a recommendation and decided to divide the funding “according to Congressional intent and a plain reading of the law.”


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Rise of measles linked with emergence of large cities 2500 years ago


18 June 2020
By Clare Wilson

The measles virus crossed over to people from cattle around 500 BC, supporting the idea that it could only get established as a human disease once large enough cities had developed. “It’s not proof, but it’s compatible with the notion that large cities might have provided the opportunity for it to emerge,” says Sébastien Calvignac-Spencer at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, Germany.

The measles virus evolved from the virus that causes rinderpest, a disease that used to be common in cattle and led to famines in Africa in the 20th century, until vaccination eradicated it by 2011.

Measles used to infect nearly all children until vaccination began. It is still a major public health problem in developing countries – and as a result of vaccine scepticism, there have been outbreaks in some Western countries too.


The analysis cannot tell us where in the world the crossover happened. But this earlier date roughly coincides with the emergence of cities of several hundred thousand people in China, India, North Africa and Europe.

From looking at the circulation of measles within island communities, we know it can’t survive for long in places with fewer than about half a million people. This is because it causes lifelong immunity, so once everyone has had it, there are no more hosts to keep it going. Only in larger communities would there be enough new, and therefore susceptible, babies being born for the virus to survive.

Microbes jumping from one species to another are a common cause of pandemics – as happened with coronavirus.

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.aba9411

'Free' DNA Testing Used to Scam Medicare Recipients


by Katherine Skiba, AARP, April 19, 2019

States sound alarm about fraudsters urging cancer screenings


In Kentucky, Attorney General Andy Beshear has launched an investigation after Louisville residents reported a suspicious van driving around and its occupants paying Medicaid participants $20 in exchange for a DNA sample and health insurance information, according to his spokeswoman Crystal Staley.

In a warning, Beshear said scammers were trying to steal victims’ insurance and personal information in order to be reimbursed for services that either were not provided or medically necessary.

“Kentuckians should rely on the advice of their primary care physicians — not someone who is calling them by phone or driving by in an unmarked vehicle,” he said.

In Nebraska, state officials have received multiple reports of groups going to senior centers and residential communities and assisted living facilities offering to swab people's cheeks for genetic material for purported DNA cancer checks, according to the Nebraska Department of Insurance. That occurred in multiple locations statewide, according to Peg Jasa, a spokeswoman for the department, which is alerting all other states and working with federal officials on the reports.

Bruce Ramge, department director, told the Omaha World-Herald that calls show that older people are under the impression that the cost of testing will be covered by Medicare. Department officials have heard that testing organizations are charging up to $1,000, Jasa says.


An uptick in complaints about the so-called buccal swab tests, which involve collecting DNA from cells inside a person's cheek to screen for cancer, began after Medicare issued guidance on March 16, saying it would cover, on a national basis, a Food and Drug Administration–approved genetic test for patients with advanced cancer, Nofziger says.

Eligible patients are those with recurrent, relapsed, drug-resistant, metastatic, or stage III or IV cancer, and they must be seeking further cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says.

CMS officials urge Medicare recipients to report concerns about suspicious activity to its toll-free number, 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227).

In California, Armstrong is grateful that his skeptical wife stepped in and put the brakes on a probable scam. “In this day and age,” he says, “if someone offers you something for free, it's too good to be true."

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Nevada to join other states in adopting California zero emission vehicle rules


David Shepardson
June 22, 2020 / 8:07 PM

Nevada’s governor said on Monday his state plans to adopt California’s zero emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate and tailpipe emissions rules even as the Trump administration has moved to strip states of the right to implement such requirements.

Nevada will be the latest state to adopt California’s low-and zero-emission vehicle rules following similar announcements by Washington in March and Minnesota and New Mexico in September.


California’s vehicle emissions rules, which are more stringent than rules advocated by the Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump, are currently followed by states accounting for more than 40% of U.S. vehicle sales.

In September, a group of 23 states sued to block the Trump administration from undoing California’s authority to set strict car pollution rules and require more electric cars.


US moves to exempt companies from reporting harmful chemical releases


Emily Holden in Washington
Wed 24 Jun 2020 06.30 EDT

Federal regulators are crafting an exemption for polluters releasing harmful perfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) into the environment in a way that environmental advocates say circumvents a new law meant to address widespread contamination.


Dubbed ‘forever chemicals,’ PFAS have been found in drinking water around the country. They are used in weatherproof fabrics, nonstick cookware and firefighting foam, and they are linked with cancer, low infant birth weights, immune issues and thyroid disruptions.


Specifically, lawmakers said manufacturers should be required to report to the government if they release 100 pounds or more of the chemicals annually into a waterway. But EPA’s new regulation would allow them to bypass that requirement, as long as no single PFAS chemical in a mixture released exceeded 1% of the total.

EPA is also skipping the usual step of allowing the public to comment before finalizing the rule, arguing that because the rule is needed to comply with an act of Congress, EPA “has no discretion as to the outcome”.


“Because these are forever chemicals … we’re living with what grandma’s generation used and we just keep adding to it,” Donovan said. “We have been overexposed for so many decades that we can’t afford another drop.”

Atheists and humanists facing discrimination across the world, report finds


Harriet Sherwood
Wed 24 Jun 2020 22.00 EDT
Last modified on Wed 24 Jun 2020 22.54 EDT

Atheists and humanists are facing discrimination and persecution in some countries because of their beliefs and values, according to a new report.

Non-religious people in Colombia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka are often ostracised, and some women are forced into marriages, says Humanists At Risk: Action Report 2020, published on Thursday by Humanists International.

Evidence is growing that humanist and atheist activists are being targeted on the basis of their rejection of a majority religion or their promotion of human rights, democratic values and critical thinking, it says.

Mubarak Bala, president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was last month arrested after being accused of blasphemy, which carries the death penalty. Bala, the son of a widely regarded Islamic scholar, has been an outspoken religious critic in a staunchly conservative region of the country.


A range of tactics is used against humanists, atheists and non-religious people, says the report, which was funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They include the criminalisation of blasphemy and apostasy, impunity for attacks, social isolation and discrimination.


US records highest one-day total in coronavirus cases since April


Amanda Holpuch in New York, Maanvi Singh in Oakland and agencies
Wed 24 Jun 2020 18.17 EDT

The US has recorded a one-day total of 34,700 new Covid-19 cases, the highest level since late April, when the number peaked at 36,400, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

A coronavirus resurgence is wiping out two months of progress in the US and sending infections to dire new levels in southern and western states.


While newly-confirmed infections have been declining steadily in early hot spots such as New York and New Jersey, several other states set single-day records this week, including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma.

North Carolina and South Carolina joined some other states in breaking hospitalization records.


The record-high hospitalizations indicate the rise in cases is not simply because of increased testing, a point confirmed by the leading public health expert on the White House coronavirus task force, Anthony Fauci, and in sharp contrast to views put forward by Donald Trump.


Texas governor Greg Abbott urged people to stay at home, as a children’s hospital in Houston was forced to admit adults because of increasing coronavirus cases.


Amid the increase in cases, the Trump administration is ending funding and support for 13 testing sites in states including Texas this month, local officials told Talking Points Memo.

Rocky Vaz, the director of emergency management for the city of Dallas, told the website that the city had asked the federal government to extend the testing program but it refused.


Olympus quits camera business after 84 years


BBC•June 24, 2020

Olympus, once one of the world's biggest camera brands, is selling off that part of its business after 84 years.

The firm said that despite its best efforts, the "extremely severe digital camera market" was no longer profitable.

The arrival of smartphones, which had shrunk the market for separate cameras, was one major factor, it said.

It had recorded losses for the last three years.


WHO warns of oxygen shortage as COVID cases set to top 10 million


The world faces a shortage of oxygen concentrators as the number of worldwide cases of coronavirus infection nears the 10 million mark, the World Health Organization head said on Wednesday.

"Many countries are now experiencing difficulties obtaining oxygen concentrators," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference. "Demand is currently outstripping supply."


The health agency has purchased 14,000 oxygen concentrators from manufacturers and plans to send them to 120 countries in coming weeks, Tedros said.


Nigeria police rescue workers 'locked in rice factory'


BBC•June 24, 2020

Police in Nigeria have rescued more than 100 people they say were locked in a rice-processing factory and forced to work throughout a coronavirus lockdown.

From the end of March the men were allegedly not allowed to leave the mill in the northern city of Kano.

The workers were promised an additional $13 (£10) a month on top of their $72 monthly salary - those who did not accept were threatened with the sack.

Five managers at the Indian-owned mill have been arrested.


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Inflammatory bowel disease linked to doubling in dementia risk


News Release 23-Jun-2020

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, is linked to a more than doubling in the risk of developing dementia, finds research published online in the journal Gut.

What's more, dementia was diagnosed around 7 years earlier in people with IBD than it was in those without this gut condition, the findings of this large population-based study show.

Mounting evidence suggests that communication between the gut, its resident bacteria (microbiome), and the central nervous system, known as the 'gut-brain axis,' is implicated in various aspects of health and disease.


Cyberbullying linked to post traumatic stress for victims and perpetrators


News Release 23-Jun-2020

Cyberbullying--bullying online rather than face to face--is linked to various types of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, both for victims and perpetrators, suggests the first study of its kind, published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.


Further analysis indicated that cyber victims displayed significantly more PTSD symptoms than did cyberbullies, and they experienced more intrusive thoughts and avoidance behaviours.

Cyberbullies also had significantly more PTSD symptoms than teens who weren't involved in any form of bullying.

This is an observational study, so can't establish cause and effect. It also relied on subjective reports, and it didn't include a full clinical assessment of suspected PTSD symptoms.


Obesity linked to higher dementia risk


News Release 23-Jun-2020
University College London

Obesity is associated with a higher risk of dementia up to 15 years later, finds a new UCL study suggesting that weight management could play a significant role in reducing risk.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, suggest that people who are obese in late adulthood face a 31% increased risk of dementia than those whose body mass index (BMI) is within the 'normal' range. The risk may be particularly high for women.


Nearly 70% of patients make personal or financial sacrifices to afford medications


News Release 23-Jun-2020

Nearly 70 percent of patients have made personal or financial sacrifices to afford prescribed medications1 according to new research released by CoverMyMeds, highlighting the impact of one of the most common medication access challenges.


When asked what medication barriers their patients are experiencing due to COVID-19, 30 percent of providers said their patients are unable to pay for prescriptions.


When patients cannot afford their prescriptions, 29 percent admit to abandoning their medications while 52 percent seek affordability options through their physician, a labor-intensive process which creates additional work for the provider and can delay the patient's time to therapy.


To view the full 2020 Medication Access Report, click here.

Vets walking pets: Strolls with shelter dogs may reduce PTSD symptoms in military veterans


News Release 23-Jun-2020
Florida Atlantic University


researchers enlisted the help of two no-kill shelters for a study evaluating the effects of walking with a shelter dog on psychological and physiological stress indicators in military veterans.


Results, published in the journal Anthrozoös, provide evidence that walking with a shelter dog may affect psychological and physiological stress indicators in veterans - with particular potential benefits for veterans with an increase in PTSD symptom severity.


This unique pairing has the potential to be mutually beneficial for veterans and humankind's "best friend" alike. The researchers emphasize the obvious benefits of human-animal interaction for shelter dogs. They need to be walked and socialized on a consistent basis to develop a positive relationship with humans, maintain a good quality of life, reduce their stress, expand the boundaries of a mundane kennel cage, and improve the likelihood that they will be successfully adopted. The dogs involved in the study resided in the two shelters and were awaiting adoption.


75% of US workers can't work exclusively from home, face greater risks during pandemic


News Release 23-Jun-2020
University of Washington

About three-quarters of U.S. workers, or 108 million people, are in jobs that cannot be done from home during a pandemic, putting these workers at increased risk of exposure to disease. This majority of workers are also at higher risk for other job disruptions such as layoffs, furloughs or hours reductions, a University of Washington study shows.

Such job disruptions can cause stress, anxiety and other mental health outcomes that could persist even as the United States reopens its economic and social life, said author Marissa Baker, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences.

These workers also represent some of the lowest paid workers in the U.S. workforce, Baker emphasized.

The remaining 25% of U.S. workers, or 35.6 million people, are in jobs that can be done at home. These jobs are typically in highly-paid occupational sectors such as finance, administration, computer, engineering and technology. Even as the economy begins to reopen, these workers will continue to be better shielded from exposure to the virus, reduced hours, furloughs or joblessness and have an increased ability to care for a child at home -- further growing the disparity between the top quarter of the workforce and the rest, the study found.


Study: Air pollution major risk for cardiovascular disease regardless of country income


News Release 23-Jun-2020
Oregon State University

From low-income countries to high-income countries, long-term exposure to fine particulate outdoor air pollution is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease and death, a new Oregon State University study found.

But even small reductions in air pollution levels can result in a reduction of disease risk.

The study shows that countries don't have to immediately eradicate all air pollution to make a difference for people's health


"If you reduce the concentration of outdoor air pollution, you're going to see benefits for cardiovascular disease," Hystad said.


Overall, the study found a 5% increase in all cardiovascular events for every 10 microgram-per-cubic-meter increase in concentration of air pollutant particles under 2.5 microns in size (PM2.5). Factoring in the vast range of concentrations in PM2.5 recorded across the globe, that means 14% of all cardiovascular events documented in the study can be attributed to PM2.5 exposure.


The strongest association between air pollution exposure and health outcomes was for strokes. Hystad says a growing body of research finds that the risk of stroke is strongly impacted by exposure to PM2.5, especially at high concentrations.


Study links increased exercise with lower sleep apnea risk


News Release 23-Jun-2020
American Academy of Sleep Medicine

A study published online as an accepted paper in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that increased physical activity is associated with a lower risk of obstructive sleep apnea, a common sleep-related breathing disorder. The study is the largest to date focused on the relationship between sleep apnea and levels of physical activity in the general community.

Researchers reviewed lifestyle, medical, socio-demographic and sleep health data collected from more than 155,000 adults participating in the Ontario Health Study. Based on the physical activity of participants with and without sleep apnea, the investigators determined that a modest increase in physical activity, including walking, is associated with a 10 percent reduction in the risk of developing sleep apnea.


Life Care fired staffer who revealed nursing home nightmare to Reuters


Chris Kirkham
,Reuters•June 22, 2020

A nursing home owned by Life Care Centers of America Inc has fired one nurse and banned another from the premises after the two were quoted in a Reuters investigation detailing horrific conditions, a staff exodus and a botched management response to the facility’s deadly COVID-19 outbreak.


Women denied abortions are more likely to suffer poor health and stay in abusive relationships, says the researcher behind a landmark 10-year study on 'turnaways'

I've met several women who had abortions because they pregnancy was killing them. Eg, hemorrhaging from a burst Fallopian tube from a tubal pregnancy.

Birth control needs to be available to all, regardless of ability to pay.

There have been several cases of an embryo being carried to term and delivered by Caesarean after implanting the abdominal wall. So with hormone treatment, it should be possible for a man to carry the fetus to term. I have never met a man who would be willing to do so.



Shira Feder
,INSIDER•June 22, 2020


Foster wants people to know that abortion is incredibly common, to the point where one in four women in the United States will have an abortion over their lifetime. She wants people to know that a large proportion of the women who get abortions do not regret it, while the ripple effect of being denied an abortion lasts a lifetime.

Women denied abortions will likely have health issues that might last for years post-pregnancy, says Foster. They have four times greater odds of living below the poverty level and three times greater odds of being unemployed.

They are likely to stay with abusive partners, have anxiety and eroded self-esteem, and not have aspirational life plans for the coming year. They will likely reduce the scale of what they want to accomplish in life.

Women denied abortions are also more likely to experience serious end-of-pregnancy complications. Two women in the study died from childbirth-related causes.


Ex-Roger Stone Prosecutor: DOJ Under ‘Heavy Pressure’ to Spare Trump’s Friend


Spencer Ackerman
,The Daily Beast•June 23, 2020

One of the prosecutors who quit the Roger Stone case in disgust over interference from Attorney General Bill Barr will tell the House Judiciary Committee that the “highest levels of the Department” wanted to spare Stone, a friend of the president’s, years of prison time.

“What I heard—repeatedly—was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the President,” according to a statement from Aaron Zelinsky, one of ex-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors.


Segway will stop making its iconic self-balancing scooter


Jon Fingas
June 23, 2020

It’s the end of an unusual era in transportation. Fast Company has learned that the Segway brand will stop producing the Segway PT (Personal Transporter) at its Bedford, New Hampshire plant, where most production has taken place, on July 15th. The move will result in 25 people being laid off, and reflects the long-term struggles of a product that was supposed to revolutionize transportation, but never really took off.


And as Segway president Judie Cai added, the PT’s design may have been too durable for its own good. Its highly redundant nature may have been great for reliability and safety, but it also meant that a customer might not have to replace their transporter for decades.


UBC study identifies social and behavioral factors most closely associated with dying


News Release 22-Jun-2020
University of British Columbia

Smoking, divorce and alcohol abuse have the closest connection to death out of 57 social and behavioural factors analyzed in research published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Of the 57 factors analyzed, the 10 most closely associated with death, in order of significance, were:

1. Current smoker

2. History of divorce

3. History of alcohol abuse

4. Recent financial difficulties

5. History of unemployment

6. Previous history as a smoker

7. Lower life satisfaction

8. Never married

9. History of food stamps

10. Negative affectivity


Human-derived mercury shown to pollute the world's deepest ocean trenches


News Release 22-Jun-2020
Goldschmidt Conference

Scientists have found that man-made mercury pollution has reached the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean - the Marianas Trench. This has significant implications for how mercury affects the marine environment, and how it may be concentrated in the food chain. The findings, which come from two independent research groups, are presented at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference.

Mercury is toxic to humans and other animals, and has been implicated in environmental disasters in the past, most famously at Minamata in Japan in the 1950's where it led to birth defects and severe neurological symptoms. It tends to be concentrated in marine organisms, where small amounts are ingested by some species which are in turn eaten by larger species, meaning that harmful levels of mercury can be concentrated in animals that sit higher up in natural food webs through the process of bioaccumulation. As an example, this leads to mercury concentrations in swordfish being x40 that of salmon. Mercury is generally poisonous at high levels and can be especially dangerous to the developing foetus.

Now two groups of scientists are independently reporting that both manmade and natural methylmercury, a toxic form of mercury easily accumulated by animals, has been found in fish and crustaceans in the 11,000m deep Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean. This work is being reported at the Goldschmidt Geochemistry conference.


A second COVID-19 wave could be avoided if social distancing and the use of face masks are maintained


News Release 22-Jun-2020
Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)

Individual behaviour has a significant effect on preventing a large second wave of COVID-19 infections. In fact, maintaining social distancing and other interventions such as the use of face masks and hand hygiene could remove the need for future lockdowns, according to a modelling study performed by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by the "la Caixa" Foundation. The findings, published in Nature Human Behaviour, also show that, in countries that have not yet reached the peak of active cases, lockdowns must remain in place for at least 60 days and deconfinement must be gradual in order to decrease the risk of second waves.


Southwestern correctional facilities' drinking water puts inmate health at risk


News Release 22-Jun-2020
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

The first nationwide analysis of drinking water quality in United States correctional facilities found average arsenic concentrations in drinking water in Southwestern United States correctional facilities were twice as high as average arsenic concentrations in other Southwest community drinking water systems. More than a quarter of correctional facilities in the Southwest reported average arsenic levels exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 10 μg/L maximum contaminant level.


Disparities and injustices in water quality may contribute to the excess burden of disease experienced by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. Approximately 2.2 million people, disproportionately Black and low-income men, are incarcerated in the U.S. Incarcerated populations are at elevated risk for several chronic diseases that are associated with chronic low-to moderate-arsenic exposure, including hypertension and diabetes.


Influenza-like illness surveillance reveals spike in undetected COVID-19 cases in March


News Release 22-Jun-2020
American Association for the Advancement of Science

A surge in flu-like infections in the U.S. in March of 2020 suggests that the likely number of COVID-19 cases was far larger than official estimates, according to a new study of existing surveillance networks for influenza-like infections (ILIs). The findings support a scenario where more than 8.7 million new SARS-CoV-2 infections appeared in the U.S. during March, and estimate that more than 80% of these cases remained unidentified as the outbreak rapidly spread.


In March of 2020, they observed a huge spike in ILIs exceeding normal seasonal numbers in various states - New York, for example, showed twice its previous record for ILIs in the fourth week of March. The authors also saw that the dynamics of non-influenza ILIs closely matched patterns of confirmed COVID-19 cases.


Companies spent more than $1 billion in ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks in 2018


News Release 23-Jun-2020
UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

Beverage companies spent $1.04 billion to advertise sugary drinks and energy drinks in 2018, a 26% increase compared to 2013, according to Sugary Drinks FACTS 2020, a new report from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut. The report documents continued extensive targeted advertising of sugary drinks by beverage companies directed to Black and Hispanic youth, which contributes to health disparities affecting communities of color--the same communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.


Reusable containers safe during Covid-19 pandemic, say experts


Sandra Laville
Published on Mon 22 Jun 2020 01.00 EDT

More than 100 scientists will publish a signed statement on Monday to reassure the public that reusable containers are safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amid fears that the environmental battle to reduce single-use plastic waste is losing ground over fears of virus contamination, the 119 scientists from 18 countries say reuseable containers do not increase the chance of virus transmission.

Some cafes have stopped accepting reusable cups during the pandemic, raising fears that the push for sustainable and reusable packaging is being set back. Campaigners have also recently accused the plastic industry of exploiting the crisis to lobby against bans on single-use plastics.

The statement by the scientists, who include epidemiologists, virologists, biologists, chemists and doctors, says that based on the best available science and guidance from public health professionals, reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene.


Scientists’ advice for consumers is to wash reusable containers thoroughly with hot water and detergent or soap.


Monday, June 22, 2020

'This is a war': Republicans ramp up bid to control election maps for next decade


Shilpa Jindia
Mon 22 Jun 2020 06.00 EDT
Last modified on Mon 22 Jun 2020 13.28 EDT

A little-known Republican group is ramping up millions of dollars in funding from major US corporations such as CitiGroup and Chevron to protect the conservative stronghold on the country.

The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) – which held the key to the GOP’s political takeover a decade ago – launched the Right Lines 2020 campaign last September, taglined: “Socialism starts in the states. Let’s stop it there, too.” It’s hoping to meet a $125m investment goal in an effort to retain 42 state legislature seats that the group says are key to holding power in the House of Representatives in battleground states including Wisconsin, Texas, Florida and New York.
By "socialism", they mean workers rights.


The RSLC has gone to extreme lengths to undertake its mission, changing the political landscape in the process. In the run-up to the 2010 midterms, it led an unprecedented strategy, the Redistricting Majority Project, or Redmap, to flip legislatures in competitive states. Once in charge, Republicans manipulated district maps to their advantage, a tactic known as gerrymandering. “He who controls redistricting can control Congress,” Rove famously said in 2010.

In 2012, Democrats won 1.4m more votes than Republicans, yet Republicans maintained a 33-seat margin in the House. A 2019 USC study found that 59 million Americans now live under minority rule, where the party that receives the minority share of the vote in a state election controls the majority of seats in the subsequent state legislature. While both Democrats and Republicans gerrymander, Redmap changed the game.


These 9 hand sanitizers may contain a potentially fatal ingredient, FDA warns


By Allen Kim, CNN
Updated 6:53 PM ET, Mon June 22, 2020

The US Food and Drug Administration is advising consumers not to use hand sanitizer products manufactured by Eskbiochem SA due to the potential presence of a toxic chemical.
The FDA has discovered methanol, a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through skin or ingested, in samples of Lavar Gel and CleanCare No Germ hand sanitizers, both produced by the Mexican company.


Sunday, June 21, 2020

The majority of Americans say this is the lowest point in US history since they can remember, according to new survey

Of course, there have been worse times before the memory of most of us. But with our choice not to deal much with various problems, esp. those involving environmental degradation, fear for the future of not only the nation, but the world, is very rational.


Sophia Ankel
,Business Insider•June 20, 2020

As the US continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic while also seeing a period of civil unrest, a majority of Americans think the country is at its lower point in history in living memory, according to new research.

According to two nationally-representative surveys cited in a report called "Stress in America" by the American Psychological Association, as many as 83% of the respondents say that the future of the nation is a significant source of stress.



June 15, 2020
U.S. National Pride Falls to Record Low
by Megan Brenan

American pride has continued its downward trajectory reaching the lowest point in the two decades of Gallup measurement. The new low comes at a time when the U.S. faces public health and economic crises brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest following the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Although a majority of adults in the U.S. still say they are "extremely proud" (42%) or "very proud" (21%) to be American, both readings are the lowest they have been since Gallup's initial measurement in 2001.

IMO: Being proud of "being" something like a citizen of a particular country is unwarranted. I am grateful I am an American, rather than one of the countries where conditions are so bad. But I am proud because of actions I choose to take, like working at the polls, and trying to be open to truth, etc.


These latest data are from a May 28-June 4 poll, which also found 20% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S., and presidential approval fell back to 39%.


Saturday was the solstice, the official start of summer


Doyle Rice
,USA TODAY•June 20, 2020

Summer is here at last.

The summer solstice – the exact moment when the sun is at its highest point in the sky each year – is at 5:44 p.m. EDT June 20. This marks the beginning of astronomical summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

In reality, in many parts of the country, it's felt like summer for at least three weeks, which is why meteorologists call summer the hottest three months of the year (June, July and August).

But the real heat is still to come: On average, there is a one-month lag between the solstice and peak summer temperatures, according to climatologist Brian Brettschneider. That's why July is almost always the hottest month of the year in most locations.

And it's likely to be a hot one: The Climate Prediction Center's latest forecast through August is for warmer-than-average temperatures for most of the U.S.


And while Saturday is the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, it's the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, as folks down there are bundling up for winter.

The reason we have solstices, equinoxes and seasons is because the Earth is tilted on its axis, thanks to a random collision with another object untold billions of years ago.

Trump Defunding WHO Could Cost Us the Chance to Eradicate Polio Forever


,The Daily Beast•June 20, 2020

This article was published originally by PassBlue, a partner of The Daily Beast, which provides independent coverage of the United Nations. It was written by Fiona Shukri.

United Nations health agencies already struggling with a surging COVID-19 pandemic must now face the possibility the United States will abdicate its leading role fighting polio—just as the world gets tantalizingly close to eradicating it for good.


After Nigeria was declared free of wild poliovirus in 2016, Pakistan and Afghanistan became the globe’s only countries with recorded wild polio cases, with 12 and 49 cases, respectively. (Wild polio is different from the rare, more easily controlled “circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus,” of which there are 134 known cases worldwide. Communitywide vaccinations prevent the spread of both types of polio.)

But despite the success of polio vaccination efforts, the WHO is warning that failure to eradicate it from these last remaining areas could produce a resurgence worldwide, with as many as 200,000 new cases annually over 10 years. A mutated strain of poliovirus has been reported in more than 30 countries, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic slowing or stopping vaccination campaigns has been particularly dire for polio eradication—around 85,000 Congolese children have not received that vaccine.

President Trump’s withdrawal from the WHO on May 29 now threatens these polio-control efforts already complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Polio vaccination campaigns have been put on hold,” WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at a media briefing during World Immunization Week in April. Poor countries are reporting shortages of vaccines due to border closures to contain the spread of COVID-19—and children, while at relatively low risk for severe illness and death from the novel coronavirus, remain at high risk for life-threatening infectious diseases like measles and polio, Ghebreyesus said.