Gretchen Whitmer Mandates Implicit Bias Training for Health Professionals in Michigan

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs on Tuesday announced health care workers will be required to complete implicit bias training in an effort to curb racial disparities in the medical community.

Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist announced the implicit bias training requirement, which is set to go into effect on June 1, 2022. The move make racial awareness training part of the knowledge and skills necessary to remain licensed to practice health care anywhere in the state of Michigan.

“Today’s new training guidelines will help us mitigate the impacts of implicit bias and ensure every patient in Michigan receives the best possible care,” Whitmer said in a Tuesday statement. “These rules will save lives and improve health outcomes for generations of Michiganders, especially those who have been historically and systemically discriminated against. They will make Michigan safer, healthier, and more just.”

New health care licensees must complete two hours of implicit bias training and the 400,000 current state health care professionals must complete at least one hour of implicit bias training to remain licensed. The governor’s office said the training itself will include a variety of topics that look to reduce racial disparities and will include a self-assessment of one’s racial bias awareness at the end.

The implicit training courses aren’t set to go into effect for one year in an effort to give trainers time to develop courses best suited for health care professionals.

“Implicit, unconscious bias exists within each of us, and as public servants we have a duty to understand and address how our biases can impact the lives of others,” said Lt. Governor Gilchrist said at Tuesday’s announcement. “The health disparities highlighted during the pandemic made it clear that there is more work to do to ensure that bias does not prevent people of color from experiencing the same access to quality, equitable of health care as everyone else.”

Last June, less than one week after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the Michigan Senate unanimously approved S.B. 945, a requirement for incoming law enforcement officers to complete training on implicit bias. The bill also required training aimed at de-escalation techniques and mental health screening.

Despite the Democratic governor’s push, Republican state lawmakers are still pushing forward with their effort to recall Whitmer. On Tuesday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers are set to consider a petition to recall her from office over COVID-19 small business concerns from over the past 15 months.

Newsweek reached out to Whitmer’s Lansing offices Tuesday afternoon for any additional remarks about the new implicit bias requirement.

Gretchen Whitmer

This content was originally published here.

Timeline: How top health experts colluded to bury the COVID-19 lab-leak theory

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and his colleagues both within the federal government and in the broader scientific community appear to have coordinated their response to public reporting of the hypothesis that the SARS-CoV-2 virus did not originate naturally, discrediting the suggestion that it was engineered in a laboratory and accidentally leaked.

An examination of over 3,200 pages of Dr. Fauci’s emails,
made public by a Freedom of Information Act request from BuzzFeed News, shows how on the weekend of Jan. 31, 2020, Fauci and his associates engaged in discussions on the scientific evidence related to the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and on reports that the virus was possibly leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China.

In the months following these discussions, Fauci, other public officials, members of the scientific community, and their media echo chamber would strongly push back against the lab-leak hypothesis, and would successfully prevail upon major media outlets and social media companies to silence anyone who asked questions about the hypothesis.

Perhaps most troubling about this episode is that there is no obvious, science-based reason for any of the people involved in the coordinated messaging effort to shut down public discussion of the lab leak theory. Public discussion of the lab leak theory, after all, would have had no scientific bearing on how the pandemic should be treated or managed from a public health perspective. Even if the lab leak theory was completely wrong or contrary to the best scientific evidence, what scientific, non-nefarious reason could there possibly have been to prevent public discussion of the theory? None springs readily to mind.

The consensus narrative that emerged was that
scientific evidence supported an alternative theory — that the virus began in bats and evolved naturally to be transmissible among humans. Researchers traced the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic to a so-called “wet market” in Wuhan, China, where live wild animals were sold for human consumption. From there, they said, the virus spread globally, infecting more than 172,903,158 people and leading to as many as 3,717,197 deaths worldwide.

There were those
who questioned the prevailing narrative, who wondered if it was more than coincidence this novel coronavirus emerged in a city located near the Wuhan Institute of Virology. That premier research institution is one of only three laboratories in the world that performs “gain-of-function” research — altering virus strains to be more transmissible to humans in order to study how they may evolve naturally and create more effective vaccines — on bat-related coronaviruses.

Many virologists, including Dr. Fauci and several of his colleagues, believe such research is necessary to understand how viral pandemics could strike and needed to develop preventative countermeasures to mitigate the loss of human life. Others say the work to make viruses deadlier is dangerous and, if an accident happens, could cause a pandemic not unlike the ongoing one.

What if, some wondered, Chinese scientists in a lab
known to have security issues had fiddled with a bat coronavirus, made it transmissible to humans, and accidentally released it upon an unsuspecting world?

But the people asking such questions were viciously attacked. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), for instance, was denigrated as a conspiracy theorist. As were countless others. For more than a year, the mainstream media left the authoritative consensus view unchallenged, defending it against all dissent. The expert opinions of Fauci, WIV lead researcher and “bat woman” Shi Zhengli, zoologist and EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak, and others in government and respected positions of academia were accepted as scientific law by social media companies, which proceeded to deplatform dissenting voices in the name of combatting “misinformation.”

But now the “fringe” lab-leak theory is
getting a second look. Those that insist SARS-CoV-2 is a naturally occurring virus have failed to produce a bat or other animal that carries a virus with a matching genetic signature. Fauci and others involved in last year’s discussions are walking back their assurances that SARS-CoV-2 was not engineered in a lab and somehow released. The White House’s top health adviser now says he’s keeping an “open mind” about the lab-leak theory and that a “fair, open investigation” is needed to determine the source of the pandemic.

In the interest of a “fair, open” inquiry, it is worth reviewing media reports, public statements by prominent scientists, and private email communications disclosed by records requests made in the course of the last year that raise questions about the campaign against the lab-leak hypothesis and the possible motivations interested parties had in protecting “gain-of-function” research from public outrage by stamping out discussions linking it to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key figures

Dr. Anthony Fauci: a NIAID bureaucrat approaching 40 years of service who was the federal government’s most visible spokesman for all things coronavirus-related throughout last year. His agency is responsible for approving research grants to EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based nonprofit research organization, as well as virtually every similar organization in the United States.

Peter Daszak: a fierce opponent of the lab-leak theory and president of EcoHealth Alliance. Between 2014 and 2019, his organization funneled $3.4 million in National Institutes of Health grants provided by Fauci’s subagency to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to study bat coronaviruses. He was also the only American on a 10-member team that the World Health Organization sent to China last winter to investigate the origins of the virus. At least one major virologist has claimed that Daszack’s nonprofit helped fund risky “gain-of-function” research.

Dr. Ralph S. Baric: the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina. He is a world leader in the study of the coronaviruses. He has conducted gain-of-function research at his institution and in 2015 he began collaborating with Shi Zhengli, the lead Chinese researcher at WIV, nicknamed China’s “bat woman.” Shi is a virologist who has identified dozens of deadly coronaviruses by exploring bat caves and collecting samples. Her coronavirus research is funded in part by the NIH grants provided by EcoHealth Alliance.

Timeline of events

  • Feb. 1, 2020 8:19 AM: Fauci emailed the 2015 study to NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak with the subject line “IMPORTANT.” “Here it is,” Fauci wrote.
  • Feb. 1, 2020 10:34 AM: Farrar sent an email blast announcing a 2 p.m. conference call. In bold lettering, his email declared “information and discussion is shared in total confidence and not to be shared until agreement on next steps.” The email also included an agenda for the call, with Farrar presenting “Introduction, focus and desired outcomes”, Andersen giving a “summary,” “comments” from Edward Holmes, an evolutionary biologist and virologist at the University of Sydney, a “Q&A” session for everyone, and “summary and next steps” presented by Farrar again to conclude the call. There were 13 people, including Fauci and Andersen, listed on the agenda.
  • Feb. 1, 2020 2:00 PM: The conference call organized by Farrar is presumably held on time. Emails recapping what was discussed are redacted, including notes from Ron Fouchier, the Dutch scientist who in 2011 authored the controversial gain-of-function study that inspired a campaign to ban that research. But following this discussion, the public campaign against the lab-leak theory intensified.
  • March 6, 2020: Andersen writes an email to Fauci, Farrar, and Collins announcing that a paper he authored on the origins of SARS-CoV-2 was just accepted by the journal Nature Medicine and would be published shortly. He encourages Fauci and the others to provide comments or suggestions about the paper or its press release if they have them. Two days later, Fauci replies, “Nice job on the paper.”
  • March 15, 2020: Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, reaches out to Fauci about the possibility of collaborating with Fauci regarding what constitutes “authoritative information” about COVID-19. Part of this communication remains redacted.
  • May 5, 2020: Fauci receives a forwarded email from Ian W. Lipkin, a virologist at Columbia University and one of the five co-authors of Andersen’s “proximal origin” paper. Lipkin shared an email communication he had with former Chinese minister of health Chen Zhu about COVID-19’s origins. The redacted message reads in part, “Uncertainty about the origin of COVID-19 pandemic is causing friction worldwide, particularly between China and the United States. There is agreement that the causative agent, SARS-CoV-2 originated in a bat. There is also a high level of confidence that the virus was not deliberately modified in any laboratory.”

    Lipkin tells Fauci, “We deeply appreciate your efforts in steering and messaging.”

There are
several fascinating articles detailing how after America’s top health experts spent the last year discrediting the lab-leak hypothesis, their failure to produce a sufficient explanation for COVID-19’s natural origins has brought alternative views back into the mainstream. But what is astounding is that after repeated assurances that there was nothing worth investigating, after a year of messaging to the contrary, Fauci and other proponents of the natural-origin theory are now hedging their bets.
The question should be asked, were those discrediting the lab-leak hypothesis working to find the truth about COVID-19’s origins in order to best inform and protect the public? Or were they defending millions of dollars of funding for experimental research, lifetimes of work, their jobs, and their credibility against a hypothesis that put it all at risk?

This content was originally published here.

UK: Over Half of Pakistani Women in Cousin Marriages, Damaging Health

A majority of marriages in Britain’s Pakistani community being between first cousins is wreaking a terrible toll on public health, with stillbirths, birth defects, and disabilities far higher than they would otherwise be.

In an article published by the Daily Mail, journalist Sue Reid described how an estimated 55 per cent of Pakistani-heritage couples are first cousins in so-called consanguineous marriages.

Not coincidentally, British Pakistanis account for an astonishing 33 per cent of birth defects in the country — far, far in excess of the proportion of births they account for overall, according to Reid.

Indeed, places in England with very large South Asian heritage populations, such as multicultural Bradford, appear to be paying a heavy price for the practice, with doctors in one study identifying some 140 different gene disorders among local youngsters, against only 20-30 among the general population.

Reid also highlighted the fact that stillbirths and infant deaths in the city are approaching double the national average, and many case studies of people with debilitating — and presumably costly, for Britain’s taxpayer-funded National Health Service — illnesses resulting from their parentage.

Breitbart London reported back in 2017 that in Redbridge, a multicultural borough in Britain’s hyper-diverse capital, almost one-in-five child deaths since 2008 were attributable to their parents being close relatives, with “chromosomal, genetic or congenital abnormalities” being a leading cause of death.

Saaba Mahmood Spared Jail Despite Claiming £100,000 in Welfare for Relatives in Pakistan https://t.co/EgjiSeOiwJ

— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 23, 2020

“The first duty of a Government is to protect its citizens from harm. There is a strong argument, down the road, for it to consider whether first-cousin unions should be outlawed in the same way as incest is,” suggested Nazir Afzal, a prosecutor turned pundit who the media has often turned to for comment on the topic of now-rarely covered majority-Muslim rape gangs in the past.

“We are tired of burying our babies,” suggested Afzal, whose own parents hail from Pakistan, adding that it is time “to follow the science and act to save lives” — although in truth it appears as though the problem is one of the Pakistani community’s own making, with the British government only culpable insofar as it has done nothing to prevent the Pakistani community from indulging its collective penchant for first cousin marriages, which are in modern times well outside the norm for the native population and socially discouraged.

Afzal, a practising Muslim, said that in his view the popularity of first cousin marriages among Pakistanis in Britain is down to greed, not religion.

‘They are arranged for material reasons, not because of religion. Families don’t want to risk their gold by allowing their child to marry an outsider,” he said.

“Some brothers betroth their boy or girl at birth to each other. Where is the choice of partner for their adult child?” he demanded.

UK: Huge Crowds Ignore Lockdowns to Celebrate Pakistan Independence Day, Attack Police https://t.co/ERFWlJ9hNP

— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 17, 2020

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery

This content was originally published here.

Bruce Arthur: Ontario is replacing Dr. David Williams, its chief medical officer of health. Meet Dr. Kieran Moore

More than 15 months into the pandemic, Ontario is getting a new chief medical officer of health, the Star has learned.

According to multiple sources with knowledge of the move, but who are not authorized to speak publicly, Dr. Kieran Moore, the much-respected medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, will replace the much-criticized Dr. David Williams, who has been Ontario’s top doctor since 2016.

The move is expected to be announced Monday, with Moore not expected to officially take the job full-time for several weeks. Williams, who was appointed by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government, was due to retire in February, but the Ford government extended that term to September during the second wave of COVID-19.

Neither Moore nor the Ministry of Health responded to requests for comment. The move comes as the pandemic has finally started to recede in earnest, and after the province unveiled a reopening plan which was praised as responsible by prominent medical figures.

The appointment of the medical officer of health is made by the premier.

Moore has been one of Ontario’s most celebrated public health officials during the pandemic. He serves on the province’s vaccine task force, and was part of a panel that recently issued recommendations to the federal government on a more robust border control system.

And Kingston has been a notable COVID-19 success story. As reported by the Star’s Omar Mosleh earlier this year, in the first wave Moore was quick to co-ordinate a plan with local health partners, including long-term care homes; he restricted visitors and closed non-essential services a week before the province’s first lockdown on March 24; he made masks in workplaces mandatory on June 26, more than three months before the province did. And all along, he has used his public health authority to close a high number of local businesses where the virus had been traced.

There are 19 Ontario health units with smaller populations than Kingston, and as of Friday, the region of more than 208,000 had the second-lowest rate of new cases in the entire province. Of Ontario’s 34 public health units, only Algoma, North Bay Parry Sound, and Renfrew have recorded a lower peak weekly rate than Kingston’s, and over the entire pandemic, Kingston’s total case rate is the sixth-best in the province.

Williams has attracted criticism for his unclear style of communication, and his endorsement of some controversial aspects of the province’s strategy. When it was announced in late November that Williams’s contract would be extended, Premier Doug Ford said, “He’s brought us all the way through this, along with Dr. (Barbara) Yaffe and their whole team, so I want to thank all of them. I don’t ever believe in changing a dance partner in the middle of a dance, especially when he’s an incredible dancer, like Dr. Williams. He’s a great doctor.”

“This is nothing to brag about, because we’re in a serious situation. But when I compare this spread that’s going on across our country and to the exclusion of the small Maritime provinces, we have the lowest cases. Then I look at the United States. Again, outside of a few small states, we have lower cases per hundred thousand than any other jurisdiction.”

Ontario would eventually go on to record some of the highest case rates in North America in its third wave, along with Alberta.

Williams was previously the medical officer of health for Thunder Bay from 1991 to 2005 and again from 2011 to 2015, worked in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care from 2005 to 2011. He also served as Ontario’s acting CMOH from 2007 to 2009 and again from 2015 to 2016.

Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @bruce_arthur

This content was originally published here.

Bellerin turned to drink during Arsenal injury nightmare as defender admits to mental health issues | Goal.com

Hector Bellerin has admitted to experiencing mental health issues during his time stuck on the sidelines at Arsenal, with an injury nightmare in north London seeing the Spaniard turn to drink.

The 26-year-old right-back spent much of 2019 nursing various ailments, with knee ligament damage followed by niggling hamstring problems.

He was, having burst onto the scene as a teenager, unaccustomed to facing such torment and concedes that there were dark days in which he struggled to cope with being denied the opportunity to do his day job.

What has been said?

Bellerin, who is seeing a summer move away from Arsenal mooted, has told the Timbsy YouTube channel of the demons he encountered during fitness setbacks: “It was the first time that I had got injured like that, and I had friends and teammates that had gone through it before, I had my family next to me, but I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen to me.

“I talk about an experience when I came back and I wasn’t really training, and I started going out a lot, I started drinking and all this stuff and you know for a footballer that’s not what you’re supposed to say but it’s the truth.

“We have our issues, we have our mental health problems. And when football, which is basically your identity, gets taken out of you, we find it difficult.

“Obviously London is a town that offers a lot of distractions and it’s really easy when you don’t feel you have a responsibility – obviously I knew I had to recover, but I didn’t have to train or play – my mind kind of just went elsewhere.”

He added: “I was lucky enough to have players and coaches who knew what I was doing, and they said ‘look Hector, that’s not the right way to do it’, and I felt so lucky about that.

“But also I’m not ashamed of it, I feel like it’s what happened to me and it’s just the way I was feeling and for me that was the best way of coping with my feelings, which is obviously not the best anyway, you don’t help anything, you just delay it.

“But that’s how I felt like doing then, and I thought I could get away with it and I learned so much from it. Now the last thing I do when I have an injury is drink because I know how bad that is. Sometimes you just don’t care or it’s difficult.”

The bigger picture

Bellerin took in only 19 appearances in 2018-19, having ruptured knee ligaments on January 9 of that campaign, and saw just 23 outings the following season.

He has returned to full fitness in 2020-21, but is no longer guaranteed a place in Mikel Arteta’s plans.

Article continues below

Calum Chambers has been used in a right-back berth on a regular basis, with Bellerin seeing 24 starts in the Premier League.

He is tied to a contract with the Gunners through to 2023, but it remains to be seen whether that agreement will be honoured as various landing spots on speculated on for the next transfer window.

This content was originally published here.

Brave Woman Ends Abusive Relationship and Reclaims Her Health

Alyssa, a 23-year-old who lost 150 pounds after ending an abusive relationship, is inspiring thousands of women on the Internet. She shows people that no matter how far they have to climb, taking that first step will get them there. Being in a toxic relationship can definitely hold you back from your goals. Once you remove them from your life, you can start to heal and reclaim your power.

“I started my weight loss journey in January 2019 after leaving an abusive relationship. I finally decided to take my weight loss seriously.”

Alyssa said, “I started with a ‘calories in, calories out’ kind of diet. I focused on eating foods that were lower in calories. Later on in my journey, I kind of learned how to eat those foods in moderation and still lose weight.”

When you’re just starting on a weight loss journey, tracking calories is important. It helps you learn proper portions and keep tabs on how much you eat. However, as you start memorizing the calories in your meals and snacks, you can give yourself more slack.

Alyssa lost all the weight completely naturally, going from 375 lbs to her current weight of 201 lbs. Actually, she lost 174 pounds total so far! She’s made huge strides toward better health, but it certainly wasn’t a piece of cake to get there.

“It was really hard, in the beginning, to fight those cravings because I was so used to eating sweets and eating out. But after the first 30 days, I saw about 30 pounds lost, and I was really motivated to continue going.”

In addition to eating healthier, Alyssa began working out as well. She says she does whatever exercise she’s in the mood for that day. Her favorites are the elliptical, strength training, and swimming. However, she switches it up often to keep things interesting.

How exercise can help rebuild your life after an abusive relationship

When you leave an abusive relationship, you often don’t remember who you are. You’ve lost your identity because of months or even years of trauma. As a result, you may not even know the first step to take when you’re single again.

However, exercise is a great outlet and a way to release pent-up stress or tension. It also can help you rebuild your confidence and perhaps make new connections at your local gym. Not to mention, working out doesn’t just increase your physical strength. It also makes you more mentally and emotionally resilient.

Exercise releases tons of endorphins, which will help boost your brain health and promote happiness. Sure, working out won’t erase the abusive relationship from your memory, but it can certainly help you move on. Many women find that having an outlet such as exercise helps them stay productive. It’s a positive way to release anger and will give you something to look forward to each day.

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One woman found that after leaving an emotionally abusive relationship, group classes helped her heal. She went to a spin class with a friend at her local gym, and she became hooked in just one session. She loved the choreography, the beats from the music, and the instructor’s uplifting personality.

The group setting helped as well because she made friends with a few cyclists after a while. She even opened up to some of them about her abusive relationship, and they, in turn, shared their struggles. She found it very therapeutic, and it also provided her a way to stay fit. Plus, it cost $32 a class, so she wanted to get her money’s worth.

Her friends helped her stay accountable as well since they would know if she missed a class. If you’re just getting out of an abusive relationship, consider group classes at your gym or yoga studio! It’s a great way to meet people and stay healthy at the same time.

How losing weight helped Alyssa become a new person

Alyssa struggled just like anyone trying to lose weight, but she stayed persistent. Following others on the same journey on social media helped her stick to it. Plus, she kept her eye on the prize, dreaming about how much better she’d feel at a lower weight.

“Throughout this journey, what kept me motivated is watching other Instagrammers who’ve lost a lot of weight. After losing weight, there are so many things that changed. Being able to fit in a rollercoaster, ride on a plane and not buy two seats, being able to hike, to be way more active than I ever was before.”

We’ll leave you with some motivating words and advice from Alyssa herself.

“I didn’t think that life was this enjoyable at all before I lost weight, and I’m still not done yet. You don’t have to wait for a new year, Monday, a new month. If you mess up, if you have one bad meal or a bad snack, it’s not the end of the world, and you can hop back on there,” Alyssa said.

“There’s been countless times where I have messed up and eaten out, but I still stay consistent, and that’s what helped me the most. I feel like when I first started, I had no idea what I was capable of. I’m just so proud of the person that I was, that I stepped forward and made that change, and you can be that proud too.”

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Final thoughts about a woman who lost 150 pounds after leaving an abusive relationship

Abusive relationships take their toll, especially if you’ve been in one for years. They can leave you with lasting emotional, mental and physical trauma, and it can take a long time to heal. However, once you finally say enough’s enough and put an end to the abuse, you can get your life back.

Many women find that therapy helps give them the support and understanding they need. Some people, like Alyssa, have discovered that exercise is a positive outlet for them. No matter what, never stay in a relationship where you’re not valued or loved. If you need support but want to stay anonymous, call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 800-799-SAFE.

The post Brave Woman Ends Abusive Relationship and Reclaims Her Health appeared first on Power of Positivity: Positive Thinking & Attitude.

This content was originally published here.

Suicide Among Black Girls Is a Hidden Mental Health Crisis | Time

When Dionne Monsanto was pregnant, she decided that she wanted to find a name that means “blessing” for her daughter. Though Monsanto—a Black American—has no specific ties to South Africa, she chose the name Siwe, an adaptation of the Zulu name Busisiwe.

Siwe grew to be a talented artist. “She was brilliant. She was beautiful. She was a writer. She was a guitar player. She was a dancer,” her mother says. Siwe was such a gifted dancer that, at age 10, she received a scholarship to the extracurricular program at the prestigious Ailey School in her hometown of New York City. But Siwe was also often troubled. From early on, Siwe “was very emotional, and would tend to cry a lot,” Monsanto says in the quiet of the Harlem studio where she used to teach yoga and West African dance before the studio closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Siwe was diagnosed with anxiety and depression at the age of 9. Schoolwork worsened her anxiety. But, Monsanto says, most adults and peers in her daughter’s life didn’t have much awareness of mental-health issues, and were ill-equipped to help.

“What I would get from doctors was like, ‘Well, she’s a girl, you know, her period is starting’—dismiss,” says Monsanto. But she knew there had to be something more going on. “I couldn’t identify it,” Monsanto says, “but I felt it.” Then, in the summer of 2011, at the age of 15, Siwe took her own life.

Dionne Monsanto holds a portrait of her daughter, Siwe, in the girl’s bedroom in New York City, on Sept. 9, 2020. Siwe, 15, died by suicide in 2011.
Elias Williams for TIME

In the 10 years since Siwe died, stories like hers have become all too common. Across the board, suicide rates among young Americans have risen; from 2007 to 2018, suicide rates for Americans ages 10 to 24 rose by 57%, and the increase was particularly significant among young girls, contributing to a narrowing of the persistent suicide gender gap. Rates plateaued from 2018 to 2019—the most recent year with available federal data—but they stood far higher than those of decades past. A multinational study published in the Lancet Psychiatry in April found that U.S. suicide rates actually decreased somewhat during the early months of the pandemic, compared to the year before it—but given spiking anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic, which studies suggest took a particularly harsh toll on young people, there’s good reason for continuing concern.

Girls of color are increasingly accounting for this trend. According to one 2019 Pediatrics study, the number of white children attempting suicide in the U.S. decreased from 1991 to 2017, while the number of Black children attempting suicide went up. All told, about 15% of Black female high school students attempted suicide in the year leading up to the CDC’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, compared to about 9% of white female students and about 12% of Hispanic female students. Actual suicide death rates for Black American girls ages 13 to 19 increased by 182% from 2001 to 2017, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Community Health.

“Black youths are two times more likely to die by suicide compared to their white counterparts,” says Arielle Sheftall, a researcher at the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and one of the authors of the 2019 Pediatrics study. Now, she says, “we’re trying to figure this out.” There’s rarely a single thing that drives someone to attempt suicide, and similarly there are many factors—from bullying to stigma to childhood trauma and racism—but no one cause that could help to explain the increase in suicides among Black youth. “We want to intervene, but we don’t know what the best intervention is yet,” Sheftall says. “It’s going to take a village, to be honest, to uncover what” could help reverse the trend, particularly when no two suicide deaths are exactly alike.

In Siwe’s case, there may have been a devastating trigger. When she was 11, she was sexually assaulted by her father, from whom Monsanto had separated eight years earlier but was co-parenting with at the time. Monsanto says she learned about the incident directly through Siwe’s father; he was arrested shortly after for his crimes and ended up being incarcerated for five years. The impact on Siwe was cataclysmic. “A piece of my daughter died that day,” she said in a 2019 talk for Dadasphere, an organization that aims at giving a voice and a platform to women of color, primarily from Africa, but also around the world. Sexual violence often has a long-term effect on victims. They are more prone to depression and having suicidal thoughts than the general population; a 2014 Bureau of Justice Statistics study found that 75% of victims of sexual assault experience “socioemotional problems,” a number that is higher than for almost every other crime. “It was the trigger that took her over the edge,” says Monsanto. Indeed, Siwe attempted suicide for the first time when she was 12 years old.

Over the next three years, Siwe continued to struggle, feeling pressure to succeed at school, in her extracurricular life and socially. On June 29, 2011, Monsanto woke her daughter before leaving their home, but Siwe crawled back under the covers in protest. Monsanto left for an appointment with the heads of Robert Louis Stevenson School, which she was considering as a possible transfer destination for Siwe; her daughter’s mental health had been declining, and she thought a change of environment could help. In the middle of the meeting, Monsanto’s Blackberry started ringing. She ignored it. The phone rang again. Her neighbor was trying to reach her. She ignored the call a second time, but the third time it rang, Monsanto picked up.

“It’s Siwe,” her neighbor said.

A small portrait of Siwe in her mother’s home.
Elias Williams for TIME

Monsanto ran out to the street, and hailed a taxi to NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. When she arrived, she was stopped at the front desk, where she was told that a child without identification had been admitted for attempted suicide. Monsanto was led to a back room, where she showed pictures of Siwe and herself to a detective and a social worker to verify her relationship with her daughter. They led her through what seemed like endless hallways and turns. As she neared Siwe’s room, Monsanto saw a doctor standing outside the door who seemed visibly distressed.

“We’re too late. She’s already dead,” she murmured to herself. She was right.

It’s not clear whether Black girls are dying by suicide in larger proportions than they were in the past, or if those deaths are simply more likely to be counted now. Indeed, a general lack of data is one of the key reasons why so much remains unknown: people of color, women and adolescents are all underrepresented in many types of medical research, with Black girls at the center of that Venn diagram.

For a long time, Rheeda Walker says she assumed, “like a lot of other African Americans do, that Black people don’t kill themselves.” Growing up in the 1980s and ’90s, she rarely heard suicide discussed, not in the classroom and certainly not socially. It was only when she started a graduate program in clinical psychology at Florida State University in 1995 that she learned what she had been overlooking. At that time, Walker says, the suicide rate among Black boys was rising concerningly fast. The rate was trending back downward again by the time she graduated in 2002, but her earlier discovery was enough to make Walker realize that her long-held assumptions about Black suicide weren’t true—and to pique her academic interests when Black youth suicide rates began to rise again through the mid-2000s.

Now, Walker researches African-American mental health and suicide trends at the University of Houston. Some of her most recent research confirms that racial discrimination can increase a person of color’s risk for suicide, but finds that if the individual can find a way to mentally reframe experiences of racism—viewing them as something that can be overcome, rather than ruminated upon—it can help protect their mental health. That doesn’t mean people should accept racism, Walker says, but it does suggest that the way painful events are internalized matters. “The alternative is to hope racism goes away,” Walker says. “That would be perfect and wonderful, but I try to deal with the reality.”

Given that reality, and the mental-health problems it breeds, many researchers are joining Walker in grappling with why suicide attempts among Black people, and in particular Black girls, are increasing at such concerning frequency. One potential factor that keeps coming up, Walker says, is that fears of being seen as “weak” or “crazy” can keep Black Americans from seeking help, even though they’re precisely the people who need it most. “People who feel marginalized, who don’t feel like their lives are of value, who don’t feel like they are connected in the ways others are connected, are going to be more at risk of suicide,” she says. “It seems to me, inherently, that when you’re a member of a racial minority group you will, almost, by default, end up in those groups.” Add the many stresses of being a teenage girl, from social media to sexism, and you get a potent mixture of risk factors for self-harm.

Siwe attended Midtown West Elementary School in Manhattan, where she experienced bullying. About 15% of Black female high school students in the U.S. attempted suicide in the year leading up to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Elias Williams for TIME

Stormiyah Denson-Jackson dreamed of becoming a model when, at 12 years old, she was found unconscious in her dormitory room at the SEED School of Washington, D.C., in January 2018. William J. Lightfoot, her mother’s attorney, says Stormiyah had reported being bullied to teachers and administrators, but no one listened. Her parents filed a lawsuit against the SEED charter school, charging that the school did nothing to prevent the constant bullying. Lightfoot says his client is happy with the settlement agreement reached in December 2020, though would not comment any further on the case. (The SEED School of Washington, D.C., did not respond to TIME’s multiple requests for comment.)

Other experts in the field, however, say that bullying seems to be one of the causes of the increase in suicide attempts among Black youths. “Being bullied can definitely have an adverse impact on depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and attempt,” says Amanda Nickerson, the director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University at Buffalo. And in the case of Black youths, that bullying is often racist. Meanwhile, a 2020 study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology found a strong correlation between experiences of racial discrimination and signs of depression among Black teens. According to the study, Black teenagers face an average of five racially discriminatory experiences every day.

The research also suggests that most of the discriminatory incidents occur online. That’s especially problematic during the pandemic, when many people—particularly young people—are effectively living their lives behind screens, with little reprieve available for those facing cyberbullying. Research has shown that girls are more susceptible than boys to mental-health issues related to social media use and cyberbullying, and for children of color, the Internet can be a particularly traumatic place. Online, images of lynching and the use of slurs are posted frequently. Videos of Black people being brutalized have been widespread in the last decade.

Nickerson says that authority figures like parents and teachers are less likely to notice cyberbullying than offline bullying. That, in turn, could foster more systematic bullying. All of that combines to make policing social media platforms and ensuring safety for the young Black people on them even more critical. “App and social media administrators have an ethical and moral obligation to explicitly practice antiracism, to not tolerate racist rhetoric to be on their platforms,” says Devin English, one of the authors of the 2020 Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology study. “When they don’t address racism, they are implicitly validating and accepting its expression.”

Experts agree that suicide can be avoided, through a combination of regular social, emotional and psychological support. But preventing suicide among Black women and girls necessitates a better understanding of the risk factors that precede it. Some research suggests that teaching kids skills like resilience and emotional regulation—equipping them with the tools required to understand, vocalize and manage their feelings—could help promote healthy coping strategies for life. And many experts say schools should play a primary role in not only monitoring a child’s mental health but teaching them these sorts of skills. In some parts of the U.S., these tactics are being tested in the real world. Since 2012, the South Capitol Street Memorial Amendment Act in Washington, D.C., requires teachers to undertake behavioral health training through Kognito, an online platform designed to prepare teachers to identify signs of distress among students and direct them to appropriate support if needed. Other states, like New York, New Mexico and Maine, require mental-health instruction to be given to children in all grade levels.

But for Stormiyah Denson-Jackson, that training came too late. Personnel at her D.C. public charter school had their first mental-health training in July 2018, over five months after her death, says Lightfoot, the family’s lawyer. He also says the school should be held accountable for failing to correctly assess Stormiyah’s mental health prior to her death. She was marked as low risk for ​suicide in a December 2017 school assessment. A month later, Stormiyah was gone.

A guitar amongst trophies and books on a shelf in Siwe’s bedroom. “She was brilliant,” her mother said. “She was beautiful. She was a writer. She was a guitar player. She was a dancer.”
Elias Williams for TIME

Lillian Polanco-Roman, an assistant professor of psychology at the New School for Social Research in New York City, says there’s a fundamental lack of data about the risk factors for youth suicide. Clinicians know the signs to look for in adults—but many children never exhibit these same red flags before attempting suicide, Polanco-Roman says. Among Black youth, depression can manifest as interpersonal or behavioral problems, low self-esteem or pessimism, rather than the low mood and lethargy typically associated with adult depression. “If these kids are not being flagged for depression,” and are instead punished or marked as “problem” children, Polanco-Roman says, “they’re overlooked.”

The entrenched consequences of systemic racism mean Black children also are more likely to experience “adverse childhood events” at disproportionate rates, says Polanco-Roman. These could include traumas like the death or incarceration of a parent, poverty, community violence or neglect. If these issues aren’t rightfully treated as potential precursors to a mental-health issue, kids may slip through the cracks.

One way to address this is to hold schools accountable for combatting bullying and harassment against minorities—and one of the best approaches to do that is to ensure they are teaching tolerance, says Nickerson. Schools need to make certain students “learn about the injustices that have been done in the past and that will continue to happen,” she says, if they want to prevent ethnic-based harassment. Discussion and dialogue about historical events such as the civil rights movement or the Holocaust is key; so is making a greater effort to present minority figures as role models and giving positive examples of diversity. “When you encounter someone who is different than you, it’s a pretty normal reaction to have stereotypical thoughts,” Nickerson says. “But how can you consciously think about that and get to know people as individuals and recognize their strengths?”

The majority of U.S. primary-school teachers in the country are white and female, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, and this lack of diversity presents a barrier to preventing bullying directed toward minorities, says Francis Huang, an associate professor of educational, school and counseling psychology at the University of Missouri. For these teachers, understanding the challenges minorities are faced with may be difficult as they are outsiders to that community, says Huang. Further, these teachers don’t have access to the resources they need to better understand the challenges of their students of color, because there is no national antibullying organization that focuses on children of color, Nickerson notes.

Another significant challenge is the stigmatization of mental health in Black communities, says Sheftall, which leads to a crucial lack of information regarding mental illness or emotional distress. Many Black children struggle to find adults in their lives who are willing to take their mental-health concerns seriously. “There’s stigma in the generation they’re supposed to be getting help from,” Walker says. “Adults are asleep at the wheel, and I think adults are asleep at the wheel because of [their own] undiagnosed depression and anxiety.” That makes it difficult to know when a child is at risk. “Because of that, we’re reaching out to kids when it’s too late,” says Sheftall, when they “already are in a really unsafe space.” Helping Black youth may require untangling generations-old ideas of what it means to seek mental-health care, and what it can do for the person who seeks it.

Dionne Monsanto holds a bracelet that Siwe made. “With a name like Busisiwe Ayo Monsanto…she could never buy anything pre-made with her name. So it was a big deal that there was a place that she could do that,” Monsanto says.
Elias Williams for TIME

There are reasonable explanations for the existence of these stigmas, given the fraught history Black Americans have with the U.S. health care system. Perhaps the most well-known example is the Tuskegee syphilis study, a series of experiments conducted on Black American men by the U.S. Public Health Service between 1932 and 1972. Hundreds of men with syphilis infections were told they had “bad blood” and were promised medical care. It was a lie.

Mistrust in the health care system remains an ongoing concern in the Black community. A 2020 study conducted by The Undefeated and the Kaiser Family Foundation, for example, found that 70% of Black adults surveyed agreed that the U.S. health care system treats people differently based on their race or ethnicity. Maternal mortality is one particularly glaring example. A Black woman in the U.S. is more than three times more likely than a white woman to die from pregnancy-related causes, according to CDC data. All told, about a fifth of Black U.S. adults are in fair or poor health, in part because of strained relationships with the health care system. “They might not be willing to actually go and see a physician, or see a psychologist, or see a therapist, because they don’t feel like they’re going to get the help that they need,” says Sheftall. Compounding that issue, Sheftall says, is the lack of diversity among psychiatrists and psychologists, particularly in rural areas.

Because some Black Americans turn away from specialized mental-health centers, they may be more likely to seek help at community gathering places like churches or barbershops, says Dr. William Lawson, the former head of psychiatry at Howard University and a board member of the Health Ministry at Zion Baptist Church in Washington. Sheftall says this could be a good thing. “If we are able to do some prevention in places where people feel safe, it would make it more palatable,” says Sheftall. Barbershops and salons, Sheftall notes, could open up “gatekeeper training” to their clients—educating them on how to recognize the signs of mental-health distress and what puts individuals at risk, and offering practical solutions in case a child needs help.

Social support is a well-established predictor of mental well-being. One 2010 study published in the Social Service Review even found that support from one’s community could sometimes moderate the negative effects of trauma. For people of color, community identity may be particularly important: Studies dating back decades have shown that people who view their racial or ethnic identity positively also tend to have higher self-esteem and better mental health.

Community-based mental-health programs could help, but such initiatives are scarce, because they rely on personal initiative from members of the community. Most nationwide mental-health organizations do not create programs specifically targeted to children of color. Some parents affected by their children’s mental-health issues have tried to fill in those gaps. Dionne Monsanto, for example, started volunteering at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) even before her daughter’s death. Today, Monsanto is one of the board members of AFSP’s Chapter Leadership Council, which oversees all chapters across the country.

The day Siwe died is still fresh in her memory, and Monsanto replays it regularly, in search of answers. On her first Christmas without Siwe, Monsanto posted a video to a Facebook page memorializing her daughter. In it, Siwe sits on a couch, her eyes focused on a tablet she holds on her lap, reading the lyrics to “Santa Baby.” She’s singing along merrily. Across the page, Monsanto writes “#loveNEVERdies.”

With reporting by Leslie Dickstein, Jamie Ducharme, and Julia Zorthian

If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.

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How Naomi Osaka Is Destigmatizing Mental Health in Sports | Time

After Michael Phelps heard on Monday that Naomi Osaka had pulled out of the French Open, and he read her Instagram message explaining why—Osaka cited “feeling vulnerable and anxious” in Paris, and revealed that she has suffered from “long bouts” of depression since defeating Serena Williams at the 2018 U.S. Open—a bunch of thoughts rushed into his head. Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all-time, winner of 23 Olympic gold medals. But no amount of winning staved off his depression and contemplation of suicide.

Phelps, who has gone public with his struggles and emerged as one of the foremost mental health advocates in sports, could sense that Osaka’s revelations, and decision to forgo a shot at another Grand Slam title to take a mental health break, were a big deal. Osaka is a certified global superstar, the highest-paid female athlete on the planet with a huge social media imprint and endorsements from brands like Nike, Nissan and Louis Vuitton. “I felt very happy after reading her message because she’s showing that vulnerability, she’s showing a side of her that we haven’t seen before, and that’s so powerful,” Phelps tells TIME. “It’s definitely going to be a game-changer in mental health moving forward.”

Former U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, pictured in in January 2020, has gone public with his struggles and emerged as one of the foremost mental health advocates in sports.
Olivier Douliery–AFP/Getty Images

He read some of backlash against Osaka, who had announced she was declining to participate in post-match press conferences at Roland Garros, mentioning the potential mental harm of these exchanges with reporters. “I was almost shocked in a way,” says Phelps, “especially with everything I feel like the world has learned about mental health over the last year.” But the next day, Phelps started seeing more articles sympathetic to Osaka. “That does bring a smile to my face,” he says. “Because yes, then we are understanding that this is something that, it doesn’t matter if you’re number one in the world or the average Joe, anybody can go through this. It is real. I hope this is the breaking point of really being able to open up and save more lives.”

That hope isn’t all that outlandish. In recent years, professional athletes like Phelps have helped de-stigmatize conversations surrounding mental health, having shared their struggles with the public and defying shopworn sports conventions to show no signs of vulnerability, to just power through. Phelps was an executive producer on 2020 HBO documentary, Weight of Gold, which explored the mental health struggles that often befall Olympic athletes after the Games. In the NBA, Kevin Love revealed he suffered a panic attack during a game; DeMar DeRozan, another NBA All-Star, shared his battles with depression. In baseball, Zack Greinke spoke up about his social anxiety; NHL player Robin Lehner opened up about his bipolar disorder; gymnast Aly Raisman has been candid about her anxiety.

Through the size of her platform, however, and her decision to choose well-being over pursuit of a Grand Slam title, Osaka offers the promise of bringing mental health awareness—both inside and outside of sports—to an entirely new level. “It’s groundbreaking,” says Lisa Bonta Sumii, a therapist with Galea Health, a company that connects athletes with mental health providers. “She has prioritized mental health, and has said so. And that’s a great example.”

Osaka’s move also marks the latest step in her stunning personal evolution. Few could have imagined that in less than three years, the shy then-20-year-old who apologized to Serena Williams, through tears, after beating her at the 2018 U.S. Open, would find her voice as both a social activist—at last year’s U.S. Open, which she won, Osaka wore masks honoring seven Black Americans killed in recent years—and proponent of mental health. “It goes to show that you don’t have to be this charismatic really extroverted person to be an advocate,” says Bonta Sumii. “She’s said minimal things here. It’s the act. Our behavior can be a form of advocacy.”

‘We’re human beings’

Many experts say that when Osaka announced she would not participate in French Open press conferences, she was by no means being “petulant” or a “diva,” as some critics chirped. “To me, this looked like a woman who was setting a boundary and saying I’m not going to put myself in those situations where I’m likely to experience increased risk of harm for my mental health,” says Katherine Tamminen, associate professor of sport psychology at the University of Toronto. In taking this stance, Osaka offers a valuable lesson for anyone experiencing anxiety. “For all of us, it’s important to take a look at these different things going on in our lives and say, you know, here are the things I’m willing to work with, and here’s where I’m not,” says Tamminen.

A common reaction to stories of athlete mental health struggles is puzzlement. How can someone with a career most people envy possible be so stressed? But athlete anxiety is more common than many people realize. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the reported prevalence of mental health symptoms and disorders in elite male athletes in team sports varies from 5% for burnout and alcohol use to 45% for anxiety and depression. Alexi Pappas grew up in the United States and ran for Greece in the 2016 Rio Olympics, setting a national record in the 10K. After achieving her Olympic dream, she fell into a debilitating funk. “I felt that the way the world saw me didn’t match the way that I felt,” says Pappas. “And that’s the most scary feeling in the world.”

Anxiety caused Mardy Fish, a former top-10 U.S. tennis player, to drop out of a U.S. Open match against Roger Federer in 2012. “It’s incredibly naive to think that that someone that just makes a lot of money or is very successful at their career, doesn’t have stress,” says Fish. “Everyone is entitled to their own stresses.”

Phelps, who has had more success than nearly any athlete in history, says winning cannot erase your emotions. “We might be number one in the world and we might be one of the greatest of all time, but we’re human beings,” he says. “We deal and we feel with emotions just like you do. And we go through depression or anxiety or struggle with other things, just like everybody else does. Just because we’re number one in the world doesn’t make us invincible.”

Pappas, who is now partnering with the online therapist directory Monarch, sees Osaka as someone who can help us move away from the win-at-all-costs ethos in sports. “This could be epiphanal,” says Pappas. “It takes a certain type of person, a certain type of energy to be like ‘Oh wow, let’s never go back.’ And we’ve seen that in other things over time, when we’ve never gone back to this, we’ve never gone back to that. And perhaps this is one of those turning points where we only go forward and forgive ourselves.”

Phelps is retired from the pool. But as the Tokyo Olympics approach, with Osaka still the face of the Games for the host country, he’ll be watching from a new perspective. He predicts that Osaka, having spoken her truth, will feel a great sense of relief. And she’ll help others find their truths too. “I know how I struggled, for years, of not wanting to dive into the stuff I was holding onto,” says Phelps. “When I opened up and really started talking about it, I felt freer. This will 100% save somebody’s life. That’s something that’s bigger than we can ever imagine.”

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Paul McCartney is Helping People Grow Their Own Fruits and Vegetables in the UK for Better Health and Wellbeing

After a year in lockdown, growing fruits and vegetables at home has officially taken root—with more than half of adults cultivating their own produce during the past 12 months.

The trend is particularly popular among younger adults, with six in ten 18-to-34 year-olds growing their own—and now a former Beatle and his family are spearheading an effort to increase the number even more, on behalf of the late Linda McCartney.

Saving money (32 percent), helping the environment (23 percent), being more sustainable (28 percent), and eating more fruit and veg (15 percent) are some of the reasons people are picking up trowels.

The poll, by Linda McCartney Foods, found 70 percent of adults want to grow even more produce at home but are unable to do so.

The biggest barrier is lack of space said 27 percent of those surveyed, with half of adults—including 66 percent of 18-to-34 year-olds—wishing they had a bigger garden area.

Another 13 percent simply wish they had a garden.

In order to help people like these, the vegetarian food company has announced its ‘Grow Your Own with Linda’s’ initiative.

The initiative is building ‘growing spaces’ in urban areas throughout Britain, the company told SWNS news, while a Grow Your Own Guide will soon be available on their website.

The wife of Beatle Paul McCartney for 29 years, until her death from cancer, Linda was a vegetarian and started Linda McCartney Foods almost three decades ago.

Paul said, “We’re so pleased to bring this initiative to people across the UK and continue the legacy of kindness that Linda set out with for her veggie food company 30 years ago.

“Linda aimed to show that being kind didn’t mean having to compromise on eating delicious food.

“Through this project, we hope we can empower more people across the UK to try growing, and eating their own. Dig in and have fun.”

Two thirds of survey participants enjoy growing so much that they would happily live off their own home-grown foods if they could.

Home growers already enjoy an average of three meals a week containing produce they’ve cultivated themselves.

It also emerged 72 percent believe growing your own food produce is good for mental health, and 68 percent agree it also encourages you to have a better diet.

Other benefits to home-grown food include giving you a reason to get outside (52 percent) and being more ethical than some mass-produced foods (29 percent).

And notably, 48 percent think home-grown tastes better than items purchased from shops.

However, the survey, carried out through OnePoll, found two thirds (66 percent) would like to have greater knowledge about growing the crops—with those aged 18 to 34 especially keen (77 percent).

Grower and gardener, Diarmuid Gavin, who is offering his expertise on the project, said, “This has been such a great initiative to be involved with especially at a moment when the outdoors and nature has become even more precious in lockdown.

“I hope the Grow Your Own Guide can be an inspiration for people in flats, tower blocks, and without much outdoor space to see just how much they can grow with their own hands and a few recycled containers.”

TOP 10 MOST POPULAR FOOD PRODUCE GROWN AT HOME

1. Tomatoes
2. Herbs
3. Strawberries
4. Carrots
5. Runner beans
6. Onions
7. Apples
8. Green beans
9. Raspberries
10. Cucumbers

WATCH their video teasing their new initiative…

PLANT Some Beatles in Your Pals’ Social Media Gardens—Share This Story…

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The director of Prince Harry’s mental-health series says she feels protective of the royal after seeing the ‘mean-spirited’ criticism he’s faced

Summary List Placement

Prince Harry and Oprah’s mental-health docuseries, “The Me You Can’t See,” was directed and executive produced by award-winning filmmaker and mental-health advocate Dawn Porter.

Porter worked closely with Harry, Oprah, co-director Asif Kapadia, and a team of mental health professionals to bring to life the experiences of people who are exploring their own mental health. 

She spoke to Insider about working with Harry on the series, and what it was like to witness the “mean-spirited” criticism he has faced after speaking about his struggles.

The criticism didn’t affect Prince Harry’s determination to open up about his own mental health, according to Porter

The five-part series, which premiered on Apple TV+ on May 21, aims to encourage viewers to be able to speak about mental health.

Prince Harry was filmed receiving EMDR trauma therapy, which is designed to help patients work through traumatic memories associated with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as to help those who have experienced anxiety orders.

Harry has made mental health a priority during his recent engagements, and spoke about the subject on Dax Shepard’s “Armchair Expert” podcast on May 13 ahead of the docuseries premiere.

Harry told Shepard that he wanted to “break the cycle” of pain and suffering that both himself and his parents experienced.

The interview received criticism from some of the British press, with the Daily Mail and The Sun publishing headlines which suggested the royal may have received “too much therapy.”

“It’s hard for Americans to understand the vitriol that’s directed at him and Meghan,” Porter told Insider.

“So just getting a little taste of it, I guess, in some ways I feel protective of him because I didn’t really see that coming. I thought, ‘Who could be unhappy with somebody saying, here’s help if you need it?'” she said. “It does seem really mean-spirited, but, you know, I guess some people will do anything to sell papers.”

Porter said seeing the criticism makes her “admire” Harry even more, “because he certainly understands how he’s going to be treated in some parts of the public.”

“And knowing that was an eventuality — not just a possibility — he still really opened up,” Porter said of Harry’s involvement in the series. “He still worked really hard, and I think what he’s done is really brave and he’s going to help a lot of people.”

Representatives for the Duke of Sussex did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Porter said Harry helped to ease her nerves during their first meeting

Porter met the Duke of Sussex for the first time during what she described as a “long, intense meeting” at Oprah’s house in 2019, where they spoke about their personal experiences.

“I was nervous,” Porter said. “Oprah has us all over to her place, and he was already there when I arrived. And I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to be this ugly American who doesn’t quite know what to do.'”

“He had clearly been in this position before, because before I could even start to stutter or say anything wrong, he just put his hand out and said, ‘Harry. Nice to meet you,’ which I really appreciated because I was like, ‘What do I call him? What do I say?” she added.

Porter said she is “heartened” by the viewers’ emotional responses to the series, saying: “I’ve had so many people saying how meaningful it is for them.”

“I think some of my favorite things have been people who are watching with their families, parents saying they didn’t understand what depression was like for their kid — so people who weren’t able to talk about mental-health issues before are really having a good experience,” she added.

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Biden admin diverts over $2B from health initiatives to illegal migrants

WASHINGTON, DC – The Biden administration has reportedly diverted over $2 billion that was originally intended for various health initiatives to behoove American citizens over to helping unaccompanied migrant children that have managed to cross into the country.

The Department of Health and Human Services has diverted more than $2 billion meant for other health initiatives toward covering the cost of caring for unaccompanied immigrant children https://t.co/8qWdVMBy0i

The rerouting of funds came via the Department of Health and Human Services, which is a move acting under the authority of the Biden administration that is trying to navigate the crisis impacting the southern border.

According to a report from Politico, $850 million that Congress had originally earmarked to restore the country’s Strategic National Stockpile is among some of the polled funding being redirected toward unaccompanied migrant children.

Said Strategic National Stockpile was the emergency medical reserve that was grievously strained in the response to the pandemic back in 2020.

Another $850 million that was originally allocated for a fund meant to expand coronavirus testing was also redirected to address the issues related to unaccompanied migrant children coming into the country.

Biden has taken $2 billion from Americans’ healthcare programs to help deliver migrant youths and children to their illegal-migrant parents throughout the United States, press reports say. https://t.co/ltEx3JS4K4

— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) May 17, 2021

From what Politico reports, an additional $436 million have been pulled “from a range of existing health initiatives across the Department.”

The Department of Health and Human Services had been issuing notices to congressional appropriators over the last couple of months that detailed this swapping of dedicated funds.

The fact that these measures are being taken helps illustrate the severity of the financial impact that the administration is forced to address after having intercepted over 20,000 unaccompanied children so far in 2021.

Mark Greenberg, who led HHS’s Administration for Children and Families between 2013 and 2015 and now serves as a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, mentioned the following about the matter:

“They’ve been in a situation of needing to very rapidly expand capacity, and emergency capacity is much more expensive. You can’t just say there’s going to be a waiting list or we’re going to shut off intake. There’s literally not a choice.”

A spokesperson for HHS, Mark Weber, stated that the department is actively collaborating with the Office of Management and Budget to make sure that operations meant to tend to unaccompanied minor migrants is adequately funded while this crisis is ongoing:

“All options are on the table… This program has relied, year after year, on the transfer of funds.”

Yet the troubling element tying this all together is that while HHS has pulled money from the Strategic National Stockpile and funds set aside for COVID-19 testing to put toward caring for unaccompanied minor migrants, the department has also been seeking additional funding to address the pandemic.

As recent as May 12th, Health Secretary Xavier Becerra testified before a House panel defending a budget request seeking the allocation of $905 million for the Strategic National Stockpile:

“The fight against Covid-19 is not yet over. Even as HHS works to beat this pandemic, we are also preparing for the next public health crisis.”

Ironically, the Trump administration faced some pretty intense scrutiny back in 2018 after diverting millions of dollars that was intended for the likes of HIV and AIDS services and biomedical research to cover the expenses associated with the issues revolving around unaccompanied migrants that HHS had to tend to at the time – which didn’t even quite reach 14,000 that year.

NEW: We’ve only been here about an hour and already a large group of 46 migrants just crossed the Rio and presented themselves to local deputies here in Del Rio, TX. Several of the migrants I asked said they are coming from Venezuela, just like yesterday. @FoxNews pic.twitter.com/yGy0wc5kvf

— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) May 9, 2021

The executive director of the Coalition for Health Funding, Erin Morton, noted that it is “concerning” whenever any sort of funding has to be pulled from its original intent to be redirected toward something unrelated:

“It is concerning any time funds need to be diverted from their originally intended purpose because of limited resources.”

“We have consistently asked our public health system to do more with less and we have underfunded essential programs that today are critical to addressing the multitude of challenges facing the country.”

And the monetary issues are just beginning, as a recent report from the New York Times alleged that the “administration estimated that it would need another $4 billion before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30,” according to a leaked document obtained by the outlet.

In other recent reports regarding issues impacting the southern border, we at Law Enforcement Today shared a report about Texas Governor Greg Abbott addressing the other part of the border crisis: the flow of fentanyl into the country. 

Here’s that previous report. 

TEXAS – During a recent appearance on “Fox & Friends”, Texas Governor Greg Abbott claimed that there has been nearly an “800% increase April over April,” with respect to the amount of fentanyl that has been caught at the southern border by authorities.

To illustrate the severity of the amount of fentanyl apprehended along the southern border, the Texas governor stated that there has been enough fentanyl seized by authorities “to kill every single person in the state of New York.”

This drug is coming at us and really doing damage. https://t.co/8OA6UDQpKN

— The Hoffman’s (@goldrushtodd) May 14, 2021

During the May 14th broadcast of “Fox & Friends”, Governor Abbott first levied criticism toward DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the Biden administration for either being woefully inept regarding the crisis at the southern border – or they are simply gaslighting Americans into believing things aren’t that big of a deal:

“I don’t know if Secretary Mayorkas and the Biden administration either don’t have a clue what’s going on or they are purposefully misleading their fellow Americans because here are the numbers.”

“On the national level with regard to the Border Patrol, they apprehended last month—in the month of April, more than 170,000 people. That is a tenfold increase over the prior April where they apprehended about 17,000 people.”

Tx Governor Abbott.. Amount of Deady Drug Fentanyl Caught at Border Increase Nearly 800% April over April__ Enough To Kill ‘Everyone’ In New York State… DoG https://t.co/WiaaOsXCq4

— Dog (@u2biker) May 15, 2021

Governor Abbott then shifted focus from the issues pertaining to unlawful entries into the country to that of another matter transpiring in tandem, which is the fentanyl that authorities have encountered and seized at the border as well:

“But I gotta tell you there’s a new dynamic about what’s going on at the border that Americans need to know about and that is increased apprehension of fentanyl coming across the border. Yes, there may be people coming across but there are dangerous drugs coming across the border.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, fentanyl is one of the most potent synthetic opioids, which also has given the drug the reputation of becoming one of the most associated with overdose deaths:

“Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is a prescription drug that is also made and used illegally.”

“Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States. In 2017, 59.8 percent of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl compared to 14.3 percent in 2010.”

According to Governor Abbott, the Department of Public Safety have intercepted enough fentanyl along the southern border to kill every single person in New York by way of an overdose:

“We had almost an 800% increase April over April of the amount of fentanyl that has been apprehended by the Texas Department of Public Safety. We have obtained enough fentanyl coming across the border to kill every single person in the state of New York.”

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Make sure you click “following” and then click “see first” so you don’t miss a thing!  (See image below.)  Thanks for being a part of the LET family!

This content was originally published here.

Former Google Employee Develops Technology for Drivers With Health Issues

A personal health challenge motivated Megan Gray to develop health technology, instead of rendering her helpless. Gray founded the company, Moment AI, after doctors said that she would never drive again at 23 years old, after an epilepsy diagnosis. Since 2019, Moment AI has evolved into a company focused on using deep tech to solve the toughest driver’s problems. The technology leverages physiological data with traffic data to form the safest software for drivers, according to its website.

“There was no technology that would allow her to drive safely again. So she decided to build her own,” reads the website. “Megan believes that no one should be inhibited in travel due to any health or environmental event. No one’s life should be at the risk of someone having a stressful day behind the wheels. The more people who can drive and live independent lives—like going to work, the more people can contribute to society.”

AfroTech reported that Moment AI is a respected name in the (artificial intelligence) AI startup world. Gray’s team includes her co-founder, Jacob Sutton, scientists, and engineers.

“Gray and the Moment AI team are on a mission to integrate health monitoring into the driving experience so that drivers can be alerted to potential deadly health episodes even before they begin to feel ill,”  AfroTech reported.

On Instagram, womenh2h said that Gray is driven to use technology to better others’ lives.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by WomenH2H 💞 (@womenh2h)

‘Megan started her company, Moment AI, using poker winnings to create a solution to a problem afflicting more than 3 million people in the United States, Epilepsy. Megan was motivated to develop an AI software solution that uses facial recognition to monitor driver safety because of her epilepsy. Her goal was to be allowed to drive herself to work,” womenh2h posted.

Additionally, the Instagram post mentioned that Gray is currently focused on growing Moment AI and continuing to develop products and services for autonomous vehicles.

Gray’s LinkedIn page stated that she worked as a Product Manager for Google and interned for other IT and technology-focused companies. In the summer of 2019, Gray was reportedly part of accelerators and women founders events for Moment AI. According to additional information on Gray’s LinkedIn, Gray has built technology that minimizes bias in AI and has multiple AI software patents pending.

This content was originally published here.

California Democrats Lobby to Give Health Insurance to All Illegal Aliens

Democrats in California are lobbying Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to expand the state’s health insurance program to all illegal alien residents.

Newsom introduced as part of his budget plan an expansion of the state’s health insurance program that would allow elderly illegal aliens 60 or older to become eligible for coverage. The cost to taxpayers is estimated at nearly $860 million.

Democrats, though, said Newsom’s plan does not go far enough and that the state should make all illegal alien residents eligible for coverage. California is home to at least three million illegal aliens.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

“Our ultimate goal is everyone,” state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) said of pushing for more coverage. “I think we are in the best position than we have ever been to make more significant process than we ever have. We are going to keep on pushing to include more uninsured.” [Emphasis added]

California’s Medi-Cal system already covers young immigrants until they turn 26. The state first offered Medi-Cal coverage to children living in the country illegally through the age of 18 in 2016. Last year, young adults were eligible for coverage after California expanded the age cut-off so that it mirrored that of the Affordable Care Act, which allows a person to remain on a parent’s health insurance plan until turning 26. At the time, Newsom called the expanded eligibility the “right thing to do.” [Emphasis added]

“Everyone has been talking for the past year or more about how certain communities were disproportionally impacted by the pandemic, such as undocumented and low-income Californians,” said Sarah Dar, the director of health and public benefits policy at the California Immigrant Policy Center. “Now, with the $75 billion, we have to fix those structural issues and ensure the safety net programs help all communities. Now is the time to do as much as we can.” [Emphasis added]

Earlier this month, State Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D) introduced legislation to effectively drive healthcare migration to the state of California with a plan that would allow adults to add their elderly illegal alien parents as dependents to their health insurance coverage.

The California Health Benefits Review Program admitted that the plan would likely ensure that foreign nationals in Mexico and Central America with health problems would migrate to California to secure coverage.

“Although there are administrative hurdles relating to receiving care in the United States for a dependent parent residing in Mexico or Canada, the opportunity to receive care in the United States would be very attractive, especially for those with high-risk conditions,” the analysis notes.

Today, Americans are forced to subsidize about $18.5 billion of yearly medical costs for illegal aliens living in the U.S., according to estimates by Chris Conover, formerly of the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research at Duke University.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at jbinder@breitbart.com. Follow him on Twitter here.

This content was originally published here.

New York State Could Finally Get Single-Payer Health Care

If you’re reading Jacobin, you’re probably impatient to pass Medicare for All — and rightly so. But Medicare for All can’t pass the current Congress. Even if Bernie Sanders had been elected president last year, he wouldn’t have had the votes, certainly not in his first term.

It’s one of many reasons we urgently need more socialists in Congress, especially in that undemocratic cesspit of reaction that is the US Senate. But that’s no reason to give up on the dream of enacting socialized medicine for millions of Americans this year.

In New York, it won’t be easy, but with enough organizing, we now have a shot at single-payer health care. The New York Health Act, which would create a single-payer system, was first introduced by Democratic Assembly member Richard Gottfried in 1992. Today, Gottfried, chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee, may finally have a chance to see his bill succeed.

That’s because, for the first time in its history, the New York Health Act has the votes to pass — at least on paper. In fact, the legislation’s cosponsors exceed (by one) the number of votes it needs. And the bill’s supporters are confident that, with a Democratic supermajority in the legislature, there are more lawmakers who could be persuaded to support it.

But that doesn’t mean the New York Health Act is a done deal — far from it.

It was safe for liberal legislators to support this overwhelmingly popular measure when it didn’t have the votes. They could get moral credit from progressives without having to face the political consequences of enacting genuinely redistributive policy. Now that it has a fighting chance, will the Senate and Assembly leadership actually introduce the bill?

Of course, many legislators may fear the inevitable ferocious backlash from the insurance and hospital industries, and from wealthy New Yorkers who don’t want to pay more in capital gains taxes (a key aspect of the bill’s proposed financing). Amplifying the uncertainty, some union members are vulnerable to scaremongering about losing their relatively decent health insurance, while their unions, which have whole benefits departments that are essentially health insurance companies, fear disruption and job loss to those operations.

Large municipal unions like DC 37 and the United Federation of Teachers have been especially slow to get on board. Fortunately, many unions do support the New York Health Act. It was the New York State Nurses Association that originally convinced Gottfried single-payer was needed. Now, New York State AFL-CIO, 1199SEIU, 32BJ SEIU, United Auto Workers Region 9 and Region 9A (my own union), and many others have also endorsed it.

The New York Health Act can pass, but our state leaders — especially Senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly majority leader Carl Heastie — will need popular pressure to get it done.

NYC-DSA (New York City Democratic Socialists of America) and its Campaign for New York Health partners are launching a campaign to do just that, starting by pressuring the leadership to introduce the bill. Coming off New York City’s successful “Tax the Rich” campaign (which we wrote about a couple weeks ago), NYC-DSA’s campaign for single-payer health care will follow a similar model (in fact, the “Tax the Rich” field organizers will be training the health care campaigners): mobilize people to knock on doors, make phone calls, and hang flyers to call their legislators and create politically significant pressure. Meanwhile, the socialist elected officials will work to persuade their colleagues and negotiate, making sure the bill remains a good one.

The campaign is reaching across the state, as DSA chapters in Buffalo and Rochester, as well as in New York City, have been working to pressure their representatives. There’s room for the campaign to grow in rural areas upstate, where the for-profit system has left many without access to hospitals or even ambulance service.

We surely do need it. Surveys show that 50 percent of New Yorkers avoid or put off seeking needed care because of the cost (whether because they lack health insurance or because their insurance might not cover care they need). Single-payer health care would vastly reduce our economic stresses and leave us healthier and happier.

In Canada, single-payer began as a provincial program. This happened not in French-speaking Quebec, and nowhere near cosmopolitan Toronto, but in Saskatchewan, where in 1944 the first socialist-led government anywhere in North America was elected, led by the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). (My Jacobin colleague Luke Savage wrote about this history last year.)

In 1962, it was a CCF-led government that enacted socialized health care in the province, despite bruising resistance from private health care interests, which used all the same talking points and red-baiting falsehoods that Medicare for All opponents deploy in the United States to this day. Four years later, federal legislation laid the foundation for the single-payer program that Canadians continue to enjoy today.

As in Saskatchewan almost sixty years ago, if the New York Health Act passes this year, socialists will deserve credit. The six socialists in the state legislature all campaigned on the bill and bring new momentum and commitment to the fight. Their supporters in NYC-DSA, if they can mobilize, can bring the public pressure.

In an online town hall meeting on the bill late last year, with newly elected socialist legislators Phara Souffrant Forrest and Jabari Brisport, Gottfried thanked everyone who had supported the socialists’ election campaigns, pointing out that it was only because of such efforts that the New York Health Act was finally on the horizon of real possibility. If the New York Health Act passes, he said, addressing Forrest’s and Brisport’s voters and volunteers, “It will be because of you.”

This content was originally published here.

Big Sean And His Mother Release Mental Health Digital Series

Rapper Big Sean teamed up with the woman who knows him best to release a free and low-cost digital series honoring Mental Health Awareness Month.

The Detroit native and his mother Myra Anderson developed a wellness video series as part of the rapper’s Sean Anderson Foundation, Page Six reports. The series will release a new episode every Saturday during Mental Health Awareness Month offering insight on sleep, meditation, diet, exercise, and a practice called “the emotional freedom technique.”

“Sean and I wanted to share some of the no- or low-cost techniques that we have used over the years to help us attain and maintain emotional balance,” Anderson said in a statement. “In the future, we may do a deeper dive into some of these techniques and other tools that we use.”

The “Bounce Back” rapper praised his mom for teaching him about the importance of mental health early on.  “I feel that Mental Health Awareness Month is the perfect time to talk with my mom about some of the things I have learned from her that have helped me along the way, and I hope will help others,” he said.

Big Sean
Big Sean (Image: Instagram)

Each episode runs for about 10 to 15 minutes with the mother-and-son duo helping their audience to “attain and maintain emotional balance,” AfroTech reports.

In the past, Big Sean has opened up about his struggle with depression and how it led him to cancel his 2018 tour with Playboi Carti, Complex reports. “I never really took the time out to nurture myself, to take care of myself. It took me a lot of depression [and] having a lot of anxiety to realize something was off,” he told Billboard at the time.

Sean’s most recent philanthropic endeavors include a mental health awareness panel his foundation hosted and COVID-19 fundraisers to aid in relief efforts. Alongside his mother, Sean and Anderson launched their Mogul Prep educational program that guides students in obtaining careers in music and other industries.

This content was originally published here.

Australian government considering sending oxygen, ventilators to help India as its health system is overwhelemed by second wave – ABC News

The federal government is considering rushing ventilators stockpiled at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to India, as the country grapples with consecutive days of record-breaking COVID-19 infections.

Key points:

The Indian health system is at breaking point from the country’s second wave, with hospitals running out of oxygen supplies and beds.

For the fifth straight day, India set a global record for a rise in daily coronavirus cases — with 352,991 cases in the last 24 hours.

The number of people who have died also jumped by an all-time high of 2,812, reaching a total of 195,123.

So far, more than 17 million people in India have contracted the virus.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government was in the process of considering what it could send to help.

“And while we can assist with the national medical stockpile, their particular request is for assistance with regards to the physical supply of oxygen.”

Mr Hunt said the government would reach out to the states to see if any of the oxygen supplies could be donated.

But he said the government could donate non-invasive ventilators that are currently in the national stockpile.

The Commonwealth ramped up purchases of ventilators in preparation for a worst-case COVID-19 scenario last year, and they are now sitting unused across the country.

“We are in a strong position on that front because we don’t need them at this point in time,” Mr Hunt said.

“We will still keep a reserve.”

The National Security Committee of Cabinet is meeting tomorrow to discuss any assistance for India, as well as any extra steps that may need to be taken to minimise the risk of infections spreading to Australia.

COVID fears making life a ‘nightmare’

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Play Video. Duration: 22 seconds

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Last week, National Cabinet announced there would be a 30 per cent reduction in flights from India — both commercial and government-organised repatriation flights — after a spike in cases in returned travellers.

Mr Hunt would not pre-empt whether NSC would make recommendations for further travel restrictions, saying it would make decisions based on medical advice.

“We’ve made the heartrending decision to have to reduce flights, at the same time we want to bring Australians home,” he said.

“If we [cut flights further], we will do it with a heavy heart – but without hesitation.”

Joh Gwynn, who runs a Facebook group for Australians in India with some 17,000 members, said life in the capital was a “nightmare”.

“We’re hearing that COVID is more or less in in every household we hear our members are too fearful to leave their houses even to get food and essential items because of fear of getting COVID,” she said.

“And then if they do get COVID they can’t get on a flight even if they are lucky enough to have a ticket.”

An elderly man in a turban receives oxygen support in the back of a car

Reuters: Danish Siddiqui

Several countries have already pledged assistance to India.

The United States has promised to allow more raw ingredients to be exported to India to help it ramp up COVID-19 vaccine production.

The United Kingdom, Germany and France have also promised to send desperately needed medical equipment to India, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators.

One federal government source told the ABC that India was facing “truly daunting” challenges and Australia faced a “difficult balancing act” as it weighed both diplomatic and public health imperatives.

The Indian Government is already bracing for new flight restrictions as cases continue to climb, with several European nations announcing new bans and quarantine measures for travellers coming from India.

Hunt defends hotel quarantine

The Health Minister was also asked about recent criticism of the hotel quarantine model.

WA president of the Australian Medical Association, Andrew Miller, today described it as “an abuse of human rights” and that “it doesn’t work”.

“We’ve infected innocent people, we’ve infected a pregnant woman and her four-year-old child in there, and we’ve got a lockdown in the community despite the governments — both governments — having been warned for some time this is an airborne disease,” he said.

Read more about Australia’s vaccine rollout:

He said alternatives, like using old workers and mining camps, should be considered.

Mr Hunt said that while the system would never be perfect, it had proved successful the majority of the time.

“My view is we have the best quarantine system, or at the very least the equal of the best, of any in the world,” he said.

“This has been the front-line in our protection and half a million Australians have come home since mid-March of last year when the restrictions were put in place. 

“Unless you were to absolutely cut Australia off from the rest of the world — no medical returns, no compassionate returns, no trade in or out … then you cannot prevent contact.”

He pointed to a recent case of a border worker in New Zealand who, despite being fully vaccinated and wearing PPE, still contracted the virus.

Mr Hunt said other options were still be considered but that hotel quarantine was working well as Australia’s “first ring of containment” to stop the virus entering the community.

This content was originally published here.

Cori Bush Pushes Back After Using Gender-Inclusive Language During Powerful Testimony On Black Maternal Health

100 Women For 100 Women Rally

Source: Paul Morigi / Getty

Rep. Cori Bush is not here for your racism or transphobia. The Missouri legislator pushed back on false outrage at her use of gender-inclusive language in a Capitol Hill testimony about her birthing experiences.

Bush pointed out that people were more hyped up over gender-inclusive language than her account of near-death experience and mistreatment during childbirth.

Bush testified Thursday before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Birthing While Black: Examining America’s Black Maternal Health Crisis. Occurring a few weeks after Black Maternal Health Week, the hearing brought forth testimony about the maternal mortality and morbidity crisis.

By using the phrase “Black birthing people,” Bush followed an emerging norm within birth justice spaces. Black Women Birthing Justice defines birth justice as part of the broader movement to dismantle reproductive oppression. The organization also recognizes the varying experiences and needs of various groups, including queer and transfolks.

Recently named vice-chair on Children, Families, and Communities for the Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity for the 117th Congress, Bush recalled her experience as an unhoused mother of two.

“It is our duty as representatives in Congress to do the most for everyone we represent, beginning with those who have the least,” Bush said in a statement. “Poverty is a policy choice, and together we will fight for a future where our families and children have what they need to live a good and joyous life.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who also testified alongside her colleague, used the phrase in a tweet announcing the reintroduction of the MOMMIES Act with Sen. Cory Booker.

Hearing co-chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s opening statement also contained gender-inclusive language. Dr. Joia Crear-Perry also used the phrase Black birthing people in her testimony.

As an OB-GYN and founder of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, Crear-Perry laid out the stark realities of Black maternal health. She also pointed to issues that can increase birthing complications, including police violence and climate change. One example was Black birthing people having greater exposure to extreme heat than their white counterparts, increasing the likelihood of hospitalization in the third trimester.

Crear, along with Monica R. McLemore Ph.D., and Jamie Hart, Ph.D., MPH, wrote an op-ed challenging the White House to adopt a reproductive justice approach to healthcare. President Biden announced the creation of the White House Gender Policy Council in early March. Crear, McLemore, and Hart want Biden to establish the White House Office of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Wellbeing under the Domestic Policy Council.

“By reframing policy design to start with sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing, we can integrate health equity and the social supports that ensure good public health, such as housing, employment, and educational attainment,” wrote the trio. “Reproductive Justice is the foundation of wellbeing in all aspects of individuals’ lives.”

The Office of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Wellbeing would provide the infrastructure to promote and ensure fair health services for all.

By her testimony and adjusting for inclusive language, Bush showed her continued commitment to ensuring children and families get the help they need and deserve. Better to upset social media trolls than continue to disregard all those who give birth.

SEE ALSO:

Movement To Expel Marjorie Taylor Greene From Congress Gains Steam As Rep. Cori Bush Moves Her Office Farther Away

Cori Bush To Rely On Her Powerful ‘Lived Experiences’ After Being Nominated To House Judiciary Committee

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This content was originally published here.

Washington state vaccine provider denies white people access. The state health department says it’s for equity.

A health provider in Washington state is denying white people access to the coronavirus vaccine and the state’s health department is reportedly allowing it to happen.

What are the details?

The African American Reach and Teach Health Ministry is currently prioritizing only “Black, Indigenous & People of Color” for vaccination appointments at four sites across King County, Washington, an area which includes the state’s most populous city, Seattle.

On its website, AARTH states that “the COVID-19 vaccine is available to all people 16 years and older who live or work in Washington state.” However, white people are not eligible to receive the vaccine through the provider, but instead are encouraged to join a waiting list.

Individuals interested in receiving a vaccination through the provider are required to fill out an online form specifying whether or not they identify as BIPOC. If not, they are prompted to join the “standby list” with the promise that they will be contacted should appointments become available.

On a separate webpage for the standby list, AARTH states, “We will notify you if we have vaccine surplus available for a clinic regardless of our focus or your eligibility.”

AARTH — a nonprofit group that describes itself as a “non-religious … faith-based” organization that aims to respond to major health issues affecting people of African descent” — did not deny its race-exclusionary program when questioned by Jason Rantz of KTTH-AM.

“Part of the reason we ask that is because of the funding that we receive,” AARTH consultant Twanda Hill told Rantz. “We have funding because we are able to reach people of color. Federal funding, state funding, county funding. They want to know who are we serving.”

What else?

Rantz also reportedly reached out to the Washington Department of Health regarding “whether or not vaccine providers may discriminate on the basis of race.” But in response, the health department reportedly dodged the question with various explanations regarding equity.

One department spokesperson, Kristen Maki, explained the “prioritization is designed to address current inequities and barriers to accessing vaccine, and get the people who are at highest risk vaccinated first while federal vaccine supply remains limited.”

Another spokesperson, Franji Mayes, said that the department is coordinating with communities of color because of “systemic inequities” in health care. She added that “dealing with racism is a stressor that is bad for health and life expectancy.”

Anything else?

On AARTH’s website, the group points out that the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected the black community in America. And that trauma, it says, has only been further exacerbated by police brutality.

“The deaths of Brenna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony Mcdade and countless other murders demonstrates multiple examples of the sad truth: that America is far from that shinning city on a hill that offers liberty and justice for all,” the group states. “Their murders at the hands of police officers represents endemic social injustice, deep seeded hatred and hardness of hearts. This truth has been laid bare for the world to see.”

This content was originally published here.

Public Health Experts Have Lost the Benefit of the Doubt

Public health bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have brought Johnson & Johnson’s vaccination efforts to a screeching halt pending an investigation into six confirmed cases of blood clotting among the nearly 7 million people to become inoculated. This decision will inadvertently get people killed, but if you dare to question it, you will be branded an enemy of science by the “trust the experts” mafia.

Make no mistake, the pause represents lethal risk aversion. There is no real question that many, many more people will contract COVID-19 because they did not receive a vaccine quickly enough—suffering hospitalization or even death as a result—than will have an adverse health outcome from the vaccine.

“This decision was made by the CDC and FDA,” said Jeff Zients, a White House coronavirus response coordinator. “We’re ruled by the science, not any other consideration.”

Since the decision to pause the J&J vaccine cannot be defended on any sort of basic life-saving calculus—oral contraceptives carry a greater risk of blood clotting, and the FDA hasn’t prohibited them—government health experts and their media mouthpieces are instead arguing that the pause is necessary to stave off a surge in vaccine hesitancy. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, opined that the pause would reassure vaccine skeptics that the government takes their concerns seriously and has made safety the top priority.

“One of the most important reasons why people have hesitancy is they’re concerned about the safety,” said Fauci. “The very fact you have two organizations—the CDC and the FDA—looking so carefully at this, making safety the primary concern, in my mind confirms or underscores the situation that we take safety very seriously. I would think at the end of the day it could actually diminish hesitancy by saying, ‘Boy those people there are looking at that very carefully and when they say something is safe you can believe it’s safe.'”

Fauci has no idea what he’s talking about. In fact, there’s good evidence that governments damage public confidence in vaccines when they do things like this. The European Union’s dubious decision to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a time when the pandemic was raging across Europe (and many countries had pitifully low vaccination rates) substantially undermined public trust in the vaccine.

And even if halting the J&J vaccine did result in some slight gain in terms of public approval, this would need to be weighed against the fact that any delay in vaccination causes death. (Several friends of mine were slated to receive the J&J vaccine yesterday; they showed up to their appointments only to discover that they could no longer get vaccinated.)

Yet anyone who dares criticize Fauci, the CDC, the FDA, or the experts more generally, has been warned to stay in their lane. The best recent example of this is when statistician Nate Silver, a polling guru and editor of FiveThirtyEight, took to Twitter to lambast the vaccine halt on many of the same grounds I laid out here. Silver pointed out that even if the FDA did want to tackle the blood-clotting issue, it did not need to order to a full stop: The agency could have quietly investigated the matter first, or it could have even ordered a pause just for women under the age of 49 (the group affected by the blood clots).

“Even if blood clot deaths were 10-fold higher than observed so far, which is certainly possible, it wouldn’t be a close decision,” said Silver. “And that’s before considering the knock-off (sic) effects on contributing to vaccine hesitancy.”

For raising these issues, Silver was sharply criticized by public health experts and those who apparently believe we should never question them.

With all due respect to @NateSilver538, he is not an expert on the psychology of vaccine confidence. He is a poll aggregator and political pundit. He is not an infectious disease specialist, epidemiologist, vaccinologist, virologist, immunologist, or behavioral scientist. pic.twitter.com/HBrI6zj9aa

— Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA (@celinegounder) April 14, 2021

Hi, my name is Nate Silver. I’ve been fucking up with my usual game of political polling, so I’ve decided to assert my great flawless mind into the world of infectious disease, because the pandemic needs another loud voice contradicting experts and condemning each move they make.

— Ethan Embry (@EmbryEthan) April 14, 2021

Nate Silver is what happens when white men

— andi zeisler (@andizeisler) April 14, 2021

The key problem with @NateSilver538 tweets about J&J withdrawal is that it ignores the requirements of clinical trials and the potential impact of ignoring them, and instead relies on raw statistical analysis. The consequences of doing so could prove disastrous to the entire…1

— Kurt “Masks Save Lives” Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) April 14, 2021

It is Gounder’s perspective that really encapsulates the entire view of Team Trust the Experts. In their thinking, whatever the CDC says must be accurate, because it represents the collective wisdom of people in the know. And the only people in the know are epidemiologists.

Note that this stay-in-your-lane mentality runs in only one direction. Public health officials had no problem staking out strong positions on, say, the prevalence of racism in society and which activist strategies might be necessary in order to counteract it. They don’t seem to understand that a data and polling expert like Silver might have more expertise than Fauci on what sort of advocacy messages could move the needle on public opinion. Indeed, several non-epidemiologists whose pandemic-related predictions were the most accurate—Zeynep Tufekci and Alex Tabarrok come to mind—were unafraid of contradicting CDC’s guidance, and have been proven right time and time again.

Experts are not infallible. The judgment of the CDC should never be beyond questioning. The FDA’s very existence has largely proven a barrier to getting people the medicine they need to prevent thousands of deaths: For all of the government’s stated concerns about vaccine hesitancy, no entity has done more to prevent people from receiving the shot than the government’s own health authorities. If there’s one lesson to take away from this pandemic, it’s that we should sometimes Listen to the Experts—but also ignore them when they’re full of it.

This content was originally published here.

Cannabis ‘gravest threat’ to mental health of young people

Cannabis is the “gravest threat” to the mental health of young people in Ireland, a psychiatrists’ group has warned, with an estimated 45,000 15-34 year olds now meeting the criteria for cannabis dependence.

A combination of increasingly potent strains of the drug and a “widespread conception” among the public that it is generally harmless has had “devastating effects”, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland said.

While calling on the Government to conduct an urgent review of cannabis use and related harms, the college has begun its own information campaign amid concerns that psychiatric services could be “overrun” by a surge in young people needing treatment of mental issues linked to the drug.

The college says there were 877 admissions in 2019 to medical hospitals in Ireland with a cannabis-related diagnosis, four times the figure for 2005.

‘Perfect storm’

“When you consider how potent the drug has become in recent years, it is obvious we are facing a perfect storm which has the potential to overrun our psychiatric services.”

The average age at which children start to try cannabis is 12-14, with many going on to “almost daily” use, and those requiring referral to mental health services aged 15-16 on average, Dr McCarney said.

However, some children as young as seven to eight were “dabbling” in the drug, he added, while 11 year olds have required treatment.

Psychosis and depression

“The earlier you start, the greater the potential risk,” he said. “This is a critical phase of young people’s lives, a time of learning and the opening of career opportunities. You don’t get that time back again if it’s lost to cannabis misuse.”

Mental health issues associated with cannabis use include psychosis, depression, anxiety disorders and suicidal behaviour. These have been exacerbated by rising levels of THC, the psychoactive part of the drug, in cannabis in recent years.

College president Dr William Flannery said cannabis use was increasing but “there is still a general feeling among the public that the drug is mostly harmless”.

“This conception needs to be challenged at every turn because psychiatric services are under huge pressure due to this problem.”

The college is the professional and training body for psychiatrists in Ireland and represents 1,000 specialists and trainees across the country. 

This content was originally published here.

Texas Cops Kill Black Man ‘Not Armed With A Gun Or Deadly Weapon’ During Mental Health Crisis: Lawyer

Ashton Pinke

Ashton Pinke | Source: Dallas County Sheriff’s Department

Police in Texas shot and killed a Black man early Monday morning while responding to a 911 call intended to seek a mental health wellness check for the victim, according to the lawyer representing his family.

Ashton Pinke, 27, was shot by two officers with the Mesquite Police Department after they arrived to a home from where a 911 call was made before the caller hung up as it was answered by authorities, according to local law enforcement. The call was linked to an address at an apartment complex, where the officers found Pinke and claimed he “charged” at them while “armed with a knife and a club,” prompting them both to open fire, the Mesquite Police Department said on Facebook. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Police said they were able to locate the address because they had been previously been contacted from the same phone number. It was not immediately clear when and how many times. Police also said they were able to identify a “victim,” presumably the person who placed the 911 call.

However, that police narrative has been challenged by the lawyer retained by Pinke’s family. Attorney Justin Moore said that eyewitnesses gave him a different account of the police encounter. NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported that Moore described the situation as an “alleged domestic disturbance” that “should have been a mental health welfare check.”

Moore continued: “Unfortunately, the lack of a proper response by the Mesquite Police department ended in Asthon being shot and killed. By all accounts, Ashton was not armed with a gun or deadly weapon to justify the use of lethal force by officers on the scene.”

An eyewitness told local news outlet WFAA that they saw Pinke with a walking stick that he typically uses moments before he was shot. It was unclear if that walking stick is what police referred to as a “club.”

Moore called for full police transparency.

The Mesquite Police Department said the officers involved were wearing bodycams and that the footage was under review and would be “released to the public later this week.”

Police said the officers who killed Pinke were identified as a 25-year-old woman and a 21-year-old man. They have been placed on administrative leave with pay.

The shooting in Mesquite came amid heightened scrutiny over police shootings of Black people, a trend that has shown no signs of letting up in the immediate aftermath of a former cop being found guilty of murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis just two weeks ago.

On the same day Derek Chauvin was convicted, a police officer in Columbus, Ohio, gunned down a 16-year-old accused of holding a knife in a stabbing motion. The case, along with too many other police killings, has renewed calls for law enforcement to reexamine how quickly they resort to using lethal force.

Monday was far from the first time the police have ever shot and killed a Black person following a 911 call during a mental health crisis. In Texas last September, Damian Daniels, a military veteran, was shot twice in the chest in front of his newly purchased home after cops were dispatched there to perform a wellness check.

Pinke is now among those on a growing list of Black men suffering from mental illness and killed by police who failed to employ de-escalation techniques.

SEE ALSO:

Derek Chauvin Juror Defends Attending March On Washington After Conservatives Argue Grounds For An Appeal

Andrew Brown Jr.’s Funeral Held As Questions Go Unanswered In North Carolina Police Shooting

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This content was originally published here.

SOS messages, panic as virus breaks India’s health system

NEW DELHI (AP) — Dr. Gautam Singh dreads the daily advent of the ventilator beeps, signaling that oxygen levels are critically low, and hearing his critically ill patients start gasping for air in the New Delhi emergency ward where he works.

Like other doctors across the country, which on Monday set another record for new coronavirus infections for a fifth day in a row at more than 350,000, the cardiologist has taken to begging and borrowing cylinders of oxygen just to keep his most critical patients alive for one more day.

On Sunday evening, when the oxygen supplies of other nearby hospitals were also near empty, the desperate 43-year-old took to social media, posting an impassioned video plea on Twitter.

“Please send oxygen to us,” he said with folded hands and a choked voice. “My patients are dying.”

India was initially seen as a success story in weathering the pandemic, but the virus is now racing through its massive population of nearly 1.4 billion, and systems are beginning to collapse.

SOS messages like the one Singh sent reveal the extent of panic in a country where infections are hitting new peaks daily.

In addition to oxygen supplies running out, intensive care units are operating at full capacity and nearly all ventilators are in use. As the death toll mounts, the night skies in some Indian cities glow from the funeral pyres, as crematoria are overwhelmed and bodies are burned outside in the open air.

On Monday, the country reported another 2,812 deaths, with roughly 117 Indians succumbing to the disease every hour — and experts say even those figures are likely an undercount. The new infections brought India’s total to more than 17.3 million, behind only the United States.

Doctors like Singh are on the front lines, trying to get the supplies they need to keep their patients alive.

Singh received 20 oxygen cylinders on Monday, only enough to limp the hospital through the day until the ventilators start sending out their warning beeps again.

“I feel helpless because my patients are surviving hour to hour,” Singh said in a telephone interview. “I will beg again and hope someone sends oxygen that will keep my patients alive for just another day.”

As bad as the situation is, experts warn it is likely to get worse.

Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University, said it would be impossible for the country to keep up with needs over the coming days as things stand.

“The situation in India is tragic and likely to get worse for some weeks to months,” he said, adding that a “concerted, global effort to help India at this time of crisis” is desperately needed.

The White House said the U.S. is “working around the clock” to deploy testing kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment, and it would seek to provide oxygen supplies as well. It said it would also make available sources of raw material urgently needed to manufacture Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India.

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need,” President Joe Biden said in a tweet.

Help and support were also offered from archrival Pakistan, which said it could provide relief including ventilators, oxygen supply kits, digital X-ray machines, protective equipment and related items.

Germany’s Health Ministry said it was “urgently working to put together an aid package” for India consisting of ventilators, monoclonal antibodies, the drug Remdesivir, as well as surgical and N95 protective masks.

Stung by criticism of its lack of preparation ahead of the wave of infections, the federal government has asked industrialists to increase the production of oxygen and life-saving drugs in short supply.

But many say it is too late — the breakdown a stark failure for a country that boasted of being a model for other developing nations.

Only three months ago, the country’s leaders were boisterous, delivering messages that the worse was over.

In January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared victory over the coronavirus, telling the virtual gathering of the World Economic Forum that India’s success couldn’t be compared with anywhere else.

A little less than a month later, his Bharatiya Janata Party passed a resolution hailing Modi as a “visionary leader” who had already “defeated” the virus.

By the second week of March, India’s health minister declared that the country was “in the endgame” of the pandemic.

At the same time, the patients arriving at India’s hospitals were far sicker and younger than previously seen, prompting warnings by health experts that India was sitting on a ticking timebomb, which went either unnoticed or ignored.

Millions of Hindu devotees celebrated the festival of Holi across the country at the end of March, foregoing social distancing guidelines and masks. Politicians, including Modi, spearheaded mammoth election rallies where tens of thousands participated without masks. And millions more gathered by the Ganges River for special Hindu prayers as recently as last week.

Now it’s suspected all these events might have accelerated the unprecedented surge India is seeing now.

“Many people across India are paying with their lives for that shameful behavior by political leaders,” Udayakumar said.

In a radio address on Sunday, Modi sought to deflect the criticism and said the “storm” of infections had left the country “shaken.”

“It is true that many people are getting infected with corona,” he said. “But the number of people recovering from corona is equally high.”

India’s government said last week it would expand its vaccination program to make all adults eligible, something long urged by health experts.

But vaccinations take time to show their effect on the numbers of new infections, and there are questions of whether manufacturers will be able to keep up with the demand. The pace of vaccination across the country also appears to be struggling.

Meantime, ordinary citizens are taking matters into their own hands, doing what they say the government should have done a long time ago.

Volunteers, from students to technology professionals, non-profit organizations and journalists, are rallying to circulate information on the availability of hospital beds, critical drugs and oxygen cylinders.

Like Dr. Singh, many have taken to social media, particularly Twitter, to crowdsource lists of plasma donors and oxygen cylinder supplies.

The system’s imperfect, but some are getting badly needed help.

Rashmi Kumar, a New Delhi homemaker, spent her Sunday scouring Twitter, posting desperate pleas for an oxygen cylinder for her critically ill father.

At the same time, she made countless calls to hospitals and government helpline numbers, to no avail.

By evening her 63-year-old father was gasping for breath.

“I was prepared for the worst,” Kumar said.

But out of nowhere, a fellow Twitter user reported an available oxygen cylinder some 60 kilometers (37 miles) away. Kumar drove to the person’s house where she was handed over the oxygen cylinder by a man.

“I was helped by a stranger when my own government continues to fail thousands like me,” she said. “Unfortunately, everyone is on their own now.”

This content was originally published here.

SOS messages, panic as virus breaks India’s health system

NEW DELHI (AP) — Dr. Gautam Singh dreads the daily advent of the ventilator beeps, signaling that oxygen levels are critically low, and hearing his desperately ill patients start gasping for air in the New Delhi emergency ward where he works.

Like other doctors across India, which on Monday set another record for new coronavirus infections for a fifth day in a row at more than 350,000, the cardiologist has taken to begging and borrowing cylinders of oxygen just to keep patients alive for one more day.

On Sunday evening, when the oxygen supplies of other nearby hospitals were also near empty, the desperate 43-year-old took to social media, posting an impassioned video plea on Twitter.

“Please send oxygen to us,” he said in a choked voice. “My patients are dying.”

India was initially seen as a success story in weathering the pandemic, but the virus is now racing through its population of nearly 1.4 billion, and systems are beginning to collapse.

SOS messages like the one Singh sent reveal the extent of the panic.

In addition to oxygen running out, intensive care units are operating at full capacity and nearly all ventilators are in use. As the death toll mounts, the night skies in some Indian cities glow from the funeral pyres, as crematories are overwhelmed and bodies are burned in the open air.

On Monday, the country reported 2,812 more deaths, with roughly 117 Indians succumbing to the disease every hour — and experts say even those figures are probably an undercount. The new infections brought India’s total to more than 17.3 million, behind only the United States.

The deepening crisis stands in contrast to the improving picture in wealthier nations like the U.S., Britain and Israel, which have vaccinated relatively large shares of their population and have seen deaths and infections plummet since winter. India has four times the population of the U.S. but on Monday had 11 times as many new infections.

Doctors like Singh are on the front lines, trying to get the supplies they need to keep their patients alive.

Singh received 20 oxygen cylinders on Monday, only enough to enable the hospital to limp through the day until the ventilators start sending out their warning beeps again.

“I feel helpless because my patients are surviving hour to hour,” Singh said in a telephone interview. “I will beg again and hope someone sends oxygen that will keep my patients alive for just another day.”

As bad as the situation is, experts warn it is likely to get worse.

Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University, said it would be impossible for the country to keep up over the coming days as things stand.

“The situation in India is tragic and likely to get worse for some weeks to months,” he said, adding that a “concerted, global effort to help India at this time of crisis” is desperately needed.

The U.S. said Monday that is working to relieve the suffering in India by supplying oxygen, diagnostic tests, treatments, ventilators and protective gear.

The White House has also said it would make available sources of raw materials urgently needed for India to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need,” President Joe Biden tweeted on Sunday.

Help and support were also offered from archrival Pakistan, which said it could provide relief including ventilators, oxygen supply kits, digital X-ray machines, protective equipment and related items.

Germany’s Health Ministry said it is urgently working to put together an aid package for India consisting of ventilators, monoclonal antibodies, the drug remdesivir, as well as surgical and N95 protective masks.

But many say the aid is too late — the breakdown a stark failure for a country that boasted of being a model for other developing nations.

Only three months ago, India’s leaders were boisterous, delivering messages that the worst was over.

In January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared victory over the coronavirus, telling a virtual gathering of the World Economic Forum that India’s success couldn’t be compared with that of anywhere else.

A little less than a month later, his Bharatiya Janata Party passed a resolution hailing Modi as a “visionary leader” who had already “defeated” the virus.

By the second week of March, India’s health minister declared that the country was “in the endgame” of the pandemic.

At the same time, the patients arriving at India’s hospitals were far sicker and younger than previously seen, prompting warnings by health experts that India was sitting on a ticking time bomb.

Millions of Hindu devotees celebrated the festival of Holi across the country at the end of March, disregarding social distancing guidelines and masks. Modi and other politicians spearheaded mammoth election rallies where tens of thousands participated without masks. And millions more gathered by the Ganges River for special Hindu prayers as recently as last week.

Now it’s suspected all these events might have accelerated the unprecedented surge India is seeing now.

“Many people across India are paying with their lives for that shameful behavior by political leaders,” Udayakumar said.

In a radio address on Sunday, Modi sought to deflect the criticism over what he called a “storm” of infections that had left the country “shaken.”

“It is true that many people are getting infected with corona,” he said. “But the number of people recovering from corona is equally high.”

India’s government said last week it would expand its vaccination program to make all adults eligible, something long urged by health experts.

But vaccinations take time to show their effect on the numbers of new infections, and there are questions of whether manufacturers will be able to keep up with the demand. The pace of vaccination across the country also appears to be struggling.

Ordinary citizens are taking matters into their own hands, doing what they say the government should have done a long time ago.

Volunteers, from students to technology professionals, nonprofit organizations and journalists, are circulating information on the availability of hospital beds, critical drugs and oxygen cylinders.

Like Dr. Singh, many have taken to social media, particularly Twitter, to crowdsource lists of plasma donors and oxygen supplies.

The system is imperfect, but some are getting badly needed help.

Rashmi Kumar, a New Delhi homemaker, spent her Sunday scouring Twitter, posting desperate pleas for an oxygen cylinder for her critically ill father. At the same time, she made countless calls to hospitals and government help line numbers, to no avail.

By evening her 63-year-old father was gasping for breath.

“I was prepared for the worst,” Kumar said.

But out of nowhere, a fellow Twitter user reported an available oxygen cylinder some 60 kilometers (37 miles) away. Kumar drove to the person’s house, where a man handed over the cylinder.

“I was helped by a stranger when my own government continues to fail thousands like me,” she said. “Unfortunately, everyone is on their own now.”

This content was originally published here.

SOS messages, panic as virus breaks India’s health system

NEW DELHI (AP) — Dr. Gautam Singh dreads the daily advent of the ventilator beeps, signaling that oxygen levels are critically low, and hearing his critically ill patients start gasping for air in the New Delhi emergency ward where he works.

Like other doctors across the country, which on Monday set another record for new coronavirus infections for a fifth day in a row at more than 350,000, the cardiologist has taken to begging and borrowing cylinders of oxygen just to keep his most critical patients alive for one more day.

On Sunday evening, when the oxygen supplies of other nearby hospitals were also near empty, the desperate 43-year-old took to social media, posting an impassioned video plea on Twitter.

“Please send oxygen to us,” he said with folded hands and a choked voice. “My patients are dying.”

India was initially seen as a success story in weathering the pandemic, but the virus is now racing through its massive population of nearly 1.4 billion, and systems are beginning to collapse.

SOS messages like the one Singh sent reveal the extent of panic in a country where infections are hitting new peaks daily.

In addition to oxygen supplies running out, intensive care units are operating at full capacity and nearly all ventilators are in use. As the death toll mounts, the night skies in some Indian cities glow from the funeral pyres, as crematoria are overwhelmed and bodies are burned outside in the open air.

On Monday, the country reported another 2,812 deaths, with roughly 117 Indians succumbing to the disease every hour — and experts say even those figures are likely an undercount. The new infections brought India’s total to more than 17.3 million, behind only the United States.

Doctors like Singh are on the front lines, trying to get the supplies they need to keep their patients alive.

Singh received 20 oxygen cylinders on Monday, only enough to limp the hospital through the day until the ventilators start sending out their warning beeps again.

“I feel helpless because my patients are surviving hour to hour,” Singh said in a telephone interview. “I will beg again and hope someone sends oxygen that will keep my patients alive for just another day.”

As bad as the situation is, experts warn it is likely to get worse.

Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University, said it would be impossible for the country to keep up with needs over the coming days as things stand.

“The situation in India is tragic and likely to get worse for some weeks to months,” he said, adding that a “concerted, global effort to help India at this time of crisis” is desperately needed.

The White House said the U.S. is “working around the clock” to deploy testing kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment, and it would seek to provide oxygen supplies as well. It said it would also make available sources of raw material urgently needed to manufacture Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India.

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need,” President Joe Biden said in a tweet.

Help and support were also offered from archrival Pakistan, which said it could provide relief including ventilators, oxygen supply kits, digital X-ray machines, protective equipment and related items.

Germany’s Health Ministry said it was “urgently working to put together an aid package” for India consisting of ventilators, monoclonal antibodies, the drug Remdesivir, as well as surgical and N95 protective masks.

Stung by criticism of its lack of preparation ahead of the wave of infections, the federal government has asked industrialists to increase the production of oxygen and life-saving drugs in short supply.

But many say it is too late — the breakdown a stark failure for a country that boasted of being a model for other developing nations.

Only three months ago, the country’s leaders were boisterous, delivering messages that the worse was over.

In January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared victory over the coronavirus, telling the virtual gathering of the World Economic Forum that India’s success couldn’t be compared with anywhere else.

A little less than a month later, his Bharatiya Janata Party passed a resolution hailing Modi as a “visionary leader” who had already “defeated” the virus.

By the second week of March, India’s health minister declared that the country was “in the endgame” of the pandemic.

At the same time, the patients arriving at India’s hospitals were far sicker and younger than previously seen, prompting warnings by health experts that India was sitting on a ticking timebomb, which went either unnoticed or ignored.

Millions of Hindu devotees celebrated the festival of Holi across the country at the end of March, foregoing social distancing guidelines and masks. Politicians, including Modi, spearheaded mammoth election rallies where tens of thousands participated without masks. And millions more gathered by the Ganges River for special Hindu prayers as recently as last week.

Now it’s suspected all these events might have accelerated the unprecedented surge India is seeing now.

“Many people across India are paying with their lives for that shameful behavior by political leaders,” Udayakumar said.

In a radio address on Sunday, Modi sought to deflect the criticism and said the “storm” of infections had left the country “shaken.”

“It is true that many people are getting infected with corona,” he said. “But the number of people recovering from corona is equally high.”

India’s government said last week it would expand its vaccination program to make all adults eligible, something long urged by health experts.

But vaccinations take time to show their effect on the numbers of new infections, and there are questions of whether manufacturers will be able to keep up with the demand. The pace of vaccination across the country also appears to be struggling.

Meantime, ordinary citizens are taking matters into their own hands, doing what they say the government should have done a long time ago.

Volunteers, from students to technology professionals, non-profit organizations and journalists, are rallying to circulate information on the availability of hospital beds, critical drugs and oxygen cylinders.

Like Dr. Singh, many have taken to social media, particularly Twitter, to crowdsource lists of plasma donors and oxygen cylinder supplies.

The system’s imperfect, but some are getting badly needed help.

Rashmi Kumar, a New Delhi homemaker, spent her Sunday scouring Twitter, posting desperate pleas for an oxygen cylinder for her critically ill father.

At the same time, she made countless calls to hospitals and government helpline numbers, to no avail.

By evening her 63-year-old father was gasping for breath.

“I was prepared for the worst,” Kumar said.

But out of nowhere, a fellow Twitter user reported an available oxygen cylinder some 60 kilometers (37 miles) away. Kumar drove to the person’s house where she was handed over the oxygen cylinder by a man.

“I was helped by a stranger when my own government continues to fail thousands like me,” she said. “Unfortunately, everyone is on their own now.”

This content was originally published here.

Face masks are polluting the world’s beaches and oceans, pose potential health risks to humans: ‘Really concerning’

This month marks the anniversary of San Francisco implementing the first face mask mandate in the United States. Since then, nearly all states have implemented mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. By October, 93% of Americans said they sometimes, often, or always wear a mask or face covering when they leave their home and are unable to socially distance.

“Humanity is going through 129 billion face masks a month, which works out to three million a minute,” according to Big Think.

With large populations of the world using masks regularly as a health precaution against coronavirus, it has had an unintended consequence – pollution.

The Ocean Conservancy released new data detailing how personal protective equipment has polluted beaches and oceans all over the planet. Volunteers who were cleaning beaches all over the world tracked the number of PPE they found on the shore. From late July until December 2020, volunteers collected 107,219 items of personal protective equipment from beaches and waterways worldwide.

The Ocean Conservancy notes that the number is “likely a vast undercount of what was and remains out there” because many volunteers recorded discarded PPE as “Personal Hygiene” or “Other Trash.”

“The amount of personal hygiene litter recorded in the app between January and July 2020 was three times higher than what was recorded in that same time period for each of the previous three years despite significantly lower participation levels due to the pandemic lockdowns.”

The report found that 94% of the volunteers encountered PPE pollution during their cleanup efforts, and over 80% of respondents identified face masks as the most common waste PPE. There were 37% of cleanup participants who reported PPE in waterways.

“This is the first time we have some very hard evidence to shed a spotlight on the magnitude of the PPE component of the plastic pollution issue, and really underscores how this is a new additive component to our existing global crisis,” Nick Mallos, senior director for the group’s Trash Free Seas program, told KING-TV.

“This was not a typical type of litter that we saw more than a year ago,” said Amber Smith, litter prevention coordinator for the Washington Department of Ecology. “This is a brand-new thing related to COVID, and it’s really concerning.”

Volunteers with New Jersey’s Clean Ocean Action environmental group removed 1,113 masks and other pieces of coronavirus-related protective gear from New Jersey beaches last fall.

A report from OceansAsia from last year estimated nearly 1.6 billion face masks flooded the oceans in 2020. The group suspects that discarded face masks would result in an additional 4,680 to 6,240 metric tons of marine plastic pollution. The Hong Kong-based marine conservation organization claims that the face masks would take as long as 450 years to break down.

“Most of these face mask wastes contains either polypropylene and/or polyethylene, polyurethane, polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyacrylonitrile, which add plastic or microplastic pollution to the environment,” ScienceDirect reports.

Single-use face masks are believed to be a source of microplastic pollution, which could pose health risks to humans.

“A newer and bigger concern is that the masks are directly made from microsized plastic fibers (thickness of ~1 to 10 micrometers),” according to a study by doctors Elvis Genbo Xu of the University of Southern Denmark and Zhiyong Jason Ren of Princeton. “When breaking down in the environment, the mask may release more micro-sized plastics, easier and faster than bulk plastics like plastic bags. Such impacts can be worsened by a new-generation mask, nanomasks, which directly use nano-sized plastic fibers (with a diameter smaller than 1 micrometer) and add a new source of nanoplastic pollution.”

“Single-use polymeric materials have been identified as a significant source of plastics and plastic particle pollution in the environment,” another study claimed. “Disposable face masks (single use) that get to the environment (disposal in landfill, dumpsites, freshwater, oceans or littering at public spaces) could be emerging new source of microplastic fibers, as they can degrade/fragment or break down into smaller size/pieces of particles under 5 mm known as microplastics under environmental conditions.”

“Obviously, PPE is critical right now, but we know that with increased amounts of plastic and a lot of this stuff getting out into the ocean, it can be a really big threat to marine mammals and all marine life,” said Adam Ratner, an educator at the Marine Mammal Center, a conservation group that rescues and rehabilitates mammals.

“It is noted that face masks are easily ingested by higher organisms, such as fishes, and microorganisms in the aquatic life which will affect the food chain and finally chronic health problems to humans,” one study noted.

“Researchers believe masks could compound that issue, as the spun plastic fibers break down into smaller and smaller particles that evade filters,” KING-TV reported. “Small fibers and particles are widely found in drinking water, and such contamination can bio-accumulate in marine life, causing problems for the creatures themselves, and those higher up the food chain that consume them.”

A 2019 report by Australia’s University of Newcastle found that the largest source of plastic ingestion by humans were drinking water and eating shellfish.

“Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card,” Reuters reported.

“Because research into microplastics is so new, there’s not yet enough data to say exactly how they’re affecting human health, says Jodi Flaws, a professor of comparative biosciences and associate director of the Interdisciplinary Environmental Toxicology Program at the University of Illinois,” a 2019 report from the Washington Post. “Flaws says microplastic particles can also accumulate polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), other chemicals that are linked to harmful health effects, including various cancers, a weakened immune system, reproductive problems and more.”

The article warns that microplastics can disrupt hormones and reduce fertility.

Another issue is that disposable masks can’t be recycled with typical recyclables, which makes disposing of PPE even more challenging.

“Used correctly PPE saves lives; disposed of incorrectly it kills marine life,” said Cindy Zipf, the executive director of New Jersey’s Clean Ocean Action. “PPE litter is a gross result of the pandemic, and 100% avoidable. Use PPE properly, then dispose of it properly in a trash can. It’s not hard and it’s the least we can do for this marvel of a planet we all live on, not to mention ourselves.”

This content was originally published here.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency, calls for end to mask mandates

The state of Tennessee is ending its coronavirus pandemic public health orders and lifting its mask mandates, moving toward a full return to the pre-pandemic normal as state residents are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Gov. Bill Lee (R) announced the return to normal Tuesday, signing an executive order that removes the local authority for county mayors in 85 of the state’s 95 counties to require face coverings. The governor has requested that the remaining counties with independent health departments lift their business restrictions and mask requirements by no later than May 30.

“COVID-19 is now a managed public health issue in Tennessee and no longer a statewide public health emergency,” Lee said in a statement. “As Tennesseans continue to get vaccinated, it’s time to lift remaining local restrictions, focus on economic recovery and get back to business in Tennessee.”

In an interview on Fox News Wednesday, the governor said the availability of COVID-19 vaccines means people are protected from the virus and should start living like it.

“It’s time for us to move on. I think we don’t have a crisis anymore. It’s a new season and we need to make steps toward that new season. We need to actually start living in that new season,” Lee said.

“If you have a vaccine or you’ve had access to a vaccine and you’ve had the opportunity to be vaccinated then we should not be requiring people to wear masks anymore. If you’ve been vaccinated you’re safe, you’re protected,” he added.

According to the New York Times’ vaccine tracker, more than 3.8 million vaccine shots have been delivered in Tennessee. About 23% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated with both doses and 34% have received their first shot. The state has used up about 72% of its supply of vaccines received from the federal government.

Lee acknowledged that the state has seen some hesitancy among its residents to receive the vaccine but emphasized that availability of the vaccine means people are protected from the virus if they want to be and should be encouraged to return to normal.

“We’ve had a slowdown as most states have seen. But for a month now every Tennessean 16 and over has been eligible, and we have walk-up vaccine availability everywhere. So where we are is that people have had access to this protection — you know that’s what masks are, they’re protection — but now we have vaccine as protection, vaccine changes everything,” Lee told Fox News.

“So we need to change everything as well,” he continued. “We need to move forward, so I’ve asked our city mayors in the remaining places in Tennessee that have a mask mandate and any limited business restrictions to remove those restrictions by Memorial Day.”

“We need to have concerts and conventions and parties and proms,” said Lee.

“Tennessee is wide open. We’re open for moving forward and open for business. What we need to do now is just finish the mask mandates and we think that’s coming off soon.”

This content was originally published here.

Pastor confronted by health inspector again, kicks out ‘Gestapo’ Calagary police from Canadian church

Pastor Artur Pawlowski went viral earlier this month for kicking a health inspector and police out of his church in Alberta, Canada. He infamously screaming at them, “Out of this property you Nazis! Gestapo is not allowed here! Out, Nazi! Out! Nazis are not welcome here! Do not come back here you Nazi psychopaths!” Pawlowski, who became known worldwide as the “Polish pastor,” kicked out a health inspector and a group of Calgary police officers again when they came to his church on Saturday to confront him over COVID-19 restrictions.

“And they did it again! Today, the Gestapo Attacked our Church Again,” Pawlowski wrote on Twitter about the latest harassment by Canadian authorities. “History is being repeated in front of our eyes! Another sad day for Freedom and democracy!”

Pawlowski shared a video of the tense confrontation with law enforcement in Canada where he stood his ground once again. The public health inspector hands Pawlowski a court order that she claims grants them access into the church, but he immediately responds, “I’m not really interested in what you have to say.”

“I do not cooperate with Gestapo,” Pawlowski tells the health inspector. “I do not talk to the Nazis. You came in your uniforms like thugs. That’s what you are. Brownshirts of Adolf Hitler. You are Nazi Gestapo, communist, fascists. I do not cooperate with Nazis. Talk to my lawyer. You are not allowed here, you are not welcomed here, and I’m not going to cooperate with Gestapo like you, okay? So is that fair enough for you?”

“You see, this is what the Gestapo is doing,” the Polish pastor says. “You’re coming to the place of worship to intimidate and to harass.”

Then Pawlowski informs the health inspector that they can make an appointment for another day when there are no church services.

The Polish pastor then launches into a loud rant, and labels the police as “Gestapo” again as he did in the first incident that was recorded on video and garnered millions of views on social media websites.

“You are sick, that’s what you are!” Pawlowski screamed at the police, who he described as “wicked evil people.” “And rightfully so you change your uniforms to black, because you are exactly acting like the Gestapo of old.”

“If Canadians will not rise up and stand up, if they will not come to their senses while there is still time, while there is a time to wake up and push this evil, there will be absolutely no, no rights whatsoever,” Pawlowski continued. “If they can get away with this, they’re going to come anywhere else.”

“And, you know, that’s what people do not understand,” Pawlowski, who was originally from Poland and is determined to warn the world about the dangers of authoritarian governments, said “They think that this is some kind of a game. Do you think they are here for your health, seriously?”

“They could come any day of the week,” he continued after the police departed. “No, they want to do it during the church service because they have a purpose, they have an agenda. If you’re not seeing it then you’re plain either stupid, blind, and deaf.”

“Either you’re going to keep pushing as hard as you can or you’ll be swallowed by those people,” Pawlowski said. “They’re going to keep coming, keep taking your rights, one after another. Destroying you by thousands of cuts. One cut at a time.”

Pawlowski, who has refused to stop church services during the pandemic, called the second visit by Canadian authorities “sickening.”


The Gestapo came again attacking the Church!

www.youtube.com

This content was originally published here.

Businesses, health experts join ranks of ‘vaccine passport’ opponents

WASHINGTON — When it comes to decrying the concept of “vaccine passports,” conservatives have company. The idea’s detractors now include certain business owners, who fear customer backlash and the hassle or danger of enforcing the policy, and even prominent public health advocates, too.

The proof-of-vaccine concept is gaining traction in some circles globally and within the U.S., including among some professional sports teams, a major university, and highly vaccinated countries like Israel. In New York and Hawaii, among other states, governors have pitched the idea as a means of returning to normal life.

But the concept represents a “slippery slope,” said Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association — one that could politicize the vaccine rollout, make health inequities worse, and even lull vaccinated people into a false sense of security.

“It’s impractical,” Benjamin said in an interview. “This is a nation that does not allow a national identity card. Getting compliance is going to be hard, and I think it leads to politicization. I would like to avoid that.”

The widespread resistance could doom the concept of a vaccine pass before there’s any real attempt to implement it. Already, several business coalitions have expressed relief that the federal government won’t attempt any national system, and suggested most of the companies they represent won’t pursue the idea either.

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“We’re grateful to learn that there will not be a national mandated verification program,” Audrey Schaefer, the head of communications at the National Independent Venues Association, which represents local performance spaces across the country, said in an email. “While vaccine verification is the hot topic, we have questions and concerns surrounding the effectiveness of only implementing verification at live events and not other businesses where people gather; the cost implications for small businesses; and equitable access and ethical issues surrounding such programs.”

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The opposition to a proof-of-vaccination system, even if it’s not run by any government and is only for voluntary activities like sports games or dining out, is reminiscent of one of the country’s largest pandemic failures: The politicization of wearing masks. The early resistance to a vaccine-passport scheme, though, appears even more intense, and its sources more diverse. According to public health and ethics experts, the morality of requiring vaccination to enter a concert hall or stadium is also significantly more fraught.

The pushback also illustrates the unlikelihood of a quick transition to post-pandemic life. Given the outcry, the concept of widespread “vaccinated-only” policies at movie theaters or restaurants seems increasingly far-fetched, even in cities and states where most adults are vaccinated. Many local governments haven’t taken a stance or have indicated they’ll leave the decision to businesses — and in many cases, businesses have expressed little interest in becoming vaccine enforcers.

Resistance to the concept of vaccine passports is nothing new. But it quickly intensified this week after the Washington Post reported the federal government was working on a program to set standards for potential proof-of-vaccine programs around the country (but, the story stressed, not pursuing a federal vaccine passport program).

The report nonetheless caused anger on Capitol Hill and among Republican governors, who have long cast the idea as a threat to freedom, regardless of whether it’s implemented by a government or by a business.

Businesses and public health advocates writing off the idea, however, may be more telling than any individual lawmaker’s objection.

Many businesses are worried about the impracticality of enforcing a vaccination requirement, particularly at theaters, concert halls, restaurants, hair salons, and any other business that relies on indoor gatherings. Doing so, some said, could alienate some customers, hurt revenue, and even lead to safety concerns.

“With some of the mask mandates, businesses had to increase security,” said Xiomara Peña, the vice president for engagement at Small Business Majority, a nonpartisan, business-focused advocacy group. “That was a little bit easier to enforce. But how could this impact the bottom line of businesses, ultimately, I think it’s still to be determined.”

Many public health experts have also expressed ambivalence or outright opposition, though their reasoning is usually different.

Asking for proof of vaccination could politicize the immunization effort more broadly, Benjamin said, even if the people requiring it aren’t government officials. He and others have also argued the system could also worsen racial and economic gaps in who has received shots so far, further punishing people for being unable to access vaccines.

Benjamin’s chief worry, however, was neither ethical nor political.

“The biggest concern I have is a false sense of security,” Benjamin said. Given the fragmented vaccination rollout, remaining unknowns about real-world vaccine efficacy, and their protectiveness against new viral variants, he argued that allowing vaccinated people to gather without distancing or masks could backfire.

While public health experts and business owners’ response has been tepid, most Republicans’ has been incandescent, even for proposals limited to individual businesses.

In Washington, lawmakers including Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) have cast the idea as a basic threat to liberty, and described the idea, among other terms, as “Orwellian.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.), a known conspiracist who has referred to vaccine passports as “the mark of the beast,” introduced legislation this week banning passports and prohibiting any school or business that requires a vaccine, or even a mask, from receiving federal funds.

With a Democratic president and Democrat-controlled Congress, individual GOP lawmakers have little power to prevent vaccine-passport systems from being implemented. But the same might not be true for Republican governors.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said this week that he would soon attempt to issue an emergency ban on businesses requiring proof of vaccination, and that he would urge the GOP-controlled legislature to enact a more permanent prohibition. Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota called the proposals “un-American.”

Taken together, resistance from state governments and from the businesses who’d have to enforce the requirements present a major obstacle to the proposal, which has generated enthusiasm in other countries even amid American opposition.

The most-cited international success story is Israel, where 58% of citizens have gotten at least one vaccine dose. There, a “green pass” system allows people the chance to use public swimming pools and enter concert venues once they show proof of vaccination, or that they’ve recovered from Covid-19.

Comparable efforts in the U.S., though, have been rare. New York’s “Excelsior Pass,” a voluntary phone-based program developed with IBM, has allowed some venues to request proof of immunization or a recent negative Covid-19 test.

A handful of baseball teams, including the New York Mets, New York Yankees, and San Francisco Giants, will require proof of vaccination or proof of a recent negative coronavirus test to enter their stadiums, which are operating at sharply limited capacities. Other teams, like the NBA’s Miami Heat, now sell tickets to voluntary vaccinated-only sections, where mask use is still required but social distancing rules are relaxed.

Rutgers University, the largest public college in New Jersey, also recently announced it would require all its students to be vaccinated as a condition of enrollment beginning in September.

Those examples, though, are the exception, not the rule. Rutgers stands alone among universities in its future vaccine requirement, and large majorities of professional basketball and baseball teams have no restrictions in place beyond requiring masks and limiting capacity.

Most sports leagues’ lack of interest in a testing or vaccine requirement mirrors the broader tone throughout the U.S., where polling shows the public is almost evenly split on the issue.

President Biden has not spoken to the issue publicly. Nor has the White House, with one exception: A rush to distance itself from any vaccine-passport campaign, and stress that any federal effort would focus only on creating guidelines for businesses and localities, not actually implementing a vaccine-passport system.

“We expect …. a vaccine passport, or whatever you want to call it, will be driven by the private sector,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said at a recent briefing. “There will be no centralized, universal federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

This content was originally published here.

No wonder patients detest our health care system, and doctors are leaving medicine in droves

My patient is a brilliant, 30-something-year-old highly educated woman with type 1 diabetes. I’ve known her for many years, since she was a teenager.  She is sweet and fun, even though she can be fierce and fiery at times. She has type 1 diabetes.

She has been living with this life-altering, life-threatening disease for many years. Even as a child, she always took charge of her life and consistently maintained her blood sugar at an excellent level. Things weren’t as complicated ten years ago: there were a few kinds of insulin, but mostly what she needed were two types of insulin, long-acting and short-acting, and there were the blood sugar testing devices. They were either on the “approved” list or on the “not-approved” list by insurers (based on the deals various insurers have with drug manufacturers). We mostly complied and got her the supplies she needed from the “approved list,” which was the end of the story.

As medical technology grew more and more advanced and complex, my patient’s needs also changed. It turned out that she didn’t have to live with the inconvenience of four or more insulin shots a day- she learned that there were insulin pumps.  Then, she learned that instead of checking her blood sugar ten to twenty times a day, she could use a sensor.

Now, the insurance companies did not take it kindly to the technological progress. It was already expensive for them to have a type 1 diabetic on their roster to start with, but with all the devices that would make a diabetic’s life easier and more pleasant, the cost of care would turn literally astronomical.

The insurers couldn’t prevent people with diabetes from joining their programs (it became illegal to discriminate patient enrollment based on pre-existing conditions), and they also couldn’t prevent patients from asking for the latest technology and the latest and best kind of insulin in caring for their condition.  So the solution was beyond clever: make it difficult for the physicians to prescribe it. Put up barriers every time a prescription for anything that was on the “non-approved” list showed up. Make the doctor get a “pre-authorization.”

What I am trying to say here, is that, for the patient to have their ever-increasing needs met, the doctor has to jump through innumerable hoops, spending hours literally filling out forms and fielding phone calls, often on hold for tens of minutes, if not full hours, at a time.

There are two possibilities here: either the doctor has office staff, in which case, well-trained staff can take care of most steps (but please, since we live in a capitalist society where nothing is free, keep in mind who the bearer of the cost of the office staff is), or, like in my case, the doctor has no office staff (by choice) and she/he has to do everything herself.

I know how much I want my patient to have the latest and the best of everything- but how do I justify to myself the tremendous burden that her needs are imposing on my time? This most valuable resource, time- that once gone, nothing will ever replace. Time spent on administrative tasks means time away from my family, from my writing, from my other patients who need me.

What is the way out of this mystery? We, the empaths, have been put in the middle of the war happening between patients and their insurers. We have agreed to take on this burden, which ended up with us burned out, dehumanized, and often vilified by the public, precisely because we want to help and want to be everything to everybody.

Why did we agree to this? I guess we were never explicitly asked.

Slowly, insidiously, the curse and obscenity of “cost-saving” has infiltrated our professional lives and has turned us into the “bad guys.”

How do I stop myself from feeling resentment at the demands placed on me by the system?

I thought I found a solution (at the advice of one of my mentor, Pamela Wible) in asking patients to be temporary, honorary office staff members and make all the calls and take care of all the paperwork, be in charge again of their own care, be involved, and see first hand the price that had to be paid for their ever-increasing needs.

This worked for a while until the patient said she was “fed up” with the system and asked me to go on with the next steps.

When I told her that there’s a price for my administrative time, it turned out she didn’t want to pay and went back to doing everything herself, irritated and disappointed.

I do have a lot of compassion for people who are not well, and I am particularly familiar with type 1 diabetes, who have a chronic condition. The way I see it, that a system’s problem has been dumped on individuals. The patient has to bear the burden of their condition alone, in isolation, from a very unresourced place. The doctor must bear the burden of all the administrative, time-consuming, meaningless tasks that will save the insurance company a buck or two. When doctors revolt and refuses to give their time and energy for free, they are accused of being money-hungry, greedy or plain heartless.

A huge societal flaw has been perversely turned into emotionally manipulating the people with the biggest hearts into giving away their resources for free. In staying silent, in continuing to buy into the corrupt, rotten, nefarious “medical insurance” system, we all approve of the ways the people with the biggest medical needs (that they did not inflict upon themselves) and the kindest and brightest of us are treated.

No wonder patients detest our health care system, and doctors are leaving medicine in droves.

Corina Fratila is an endocrinologist.

This content was originally published here.

Vatican Invites Abortion Advocate Chelsea Clinton To Talk About ‘Health’ And The ‘Soul’

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture is set to host Chelsea Clinton, Anthony Fauci, Deepak Chopra, and others for a May conference to explore the “mind, body, and soul” and its role in health care.

The Vatican Council for Culture and the Cura Foundation and the Science and Faith (STOQ) Foundation are partnering together to host “the world’s leading physicians, scientists, leaders of faith, ethicists, patient advocates, policymakers, philanthropists and influencers to engage in powerful conversations on the latest breakthroughs in medicine, health care delivery and prevention.”

Speakers for the virtual conference are the world’s elites. Those picked to lecture on health and the soul include CEOs of large pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna and Pfizer, and former supermodel Cindy Crawford, English primatologist Jane Goodall, Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry, and CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Speaker Chelsea Clinton is a high-profile abortion advocate, like her mother and father, Hillary and Bill Clinton. Chelsea labels the pro-life movement as an “anti-choice movement,” and is an outspoken supporter of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S.

In 2018, Chelsea spoke at a “Rise up for Roe” event in New York City, a meeting organized by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood to oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. During her address, she glowingly credited legal abortion for adding trillions of dollars to the U.S. economy.

“American women entering the labor force from 1973 to 2009 added three and a half trillion dollars to our economy,” Clinton stated. “The net, new entrance of women — that is not disconnected from the fact that Roe became the law of the land in January of 1973.”

Chelsea is also Vice President of the Clinton Foundation, an organization riddled with controversy and corruption, and a supporter of global pro-abortion initiatives.

The Catholic Church publicly professes that life begins at conception and abortion is a case of direct killing of an innocent human being — a violation of the rights of the youngest members of our society and the human family.”

In fact, the Catholic Church has been a leading advocate for the right to life for hundreds of years. “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law,” reads the Catholic Catechism.

There is no mention of Clinton’s anti-life stance on the Vatican’s website, she is simply identified as “vice chair, Clinton Foundation.” The Church is actively elevating Clinton, who vocally advocates for a practice that harms mothers and kills innocent children, as an authority on the “mind, body, and soul.”

The conference will take place May 6-8, and “will be moderated by renowned journalists, who will explore the role of religion, faith and spirituality, and the interplay of the mind, body, and soul – and, ultimately, search for areas of convergence between the humanities and the natural sciences.”

The “renowned” journalists include Katie Couric, Richard Lui, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Amy Robach, Robin Roberts, and Meredith Vieira.

“Together we will focus on advances in medical innovation and the creation of healthier communities and seek to catalyze new, interdisciplinary approaches and partnerships to improve health and wellbeing, as well as understand human uniqueness,” the Vatican said.

This content was originally published here.

Senate Confirms Dr. Levine, a Transgender, as Assistant Health Secretary in 52-48 Vote – Collins and Murkowski Join Democrats in Supporting Levine

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Dr. “Rachel” Levine, a transgender, as Assistant Health Secretary in a 52-48 vote.

RINO Senators Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) joined the Democrats and supported Levine.

Levine has a horrible track record as Pennsylvania’s secretary of health.

The Coronavirus ravaged nursing homes across the US because of deadly Democrat policies of forcing people infected with COVID-19 back into the long-term care facilities.

Dr. Levine however made sure his 95-year-old mother was removed from the death box and transported safely to a hotel.

When confronted by a reporter for moving his mother out of the elderly care facility while allowing others to die, Levine answered by reading prepared notes and talking points.

“Well my mother is actually a resident of a personal care home — not a nursing home and that is regulated by the Department of Human Services, not the Department of Health,” Levine said. “My mother requested — and my sister and I as her children complied to move her to another location during the COVID-19 outbreak. My mother is 95 years old. She is very intelligent and more than competent to make her own decisions.”

Levine also believes minors can make their own decision to receive puberty blockers.

Dr. Levine refused to answer Dr. Rand Paul’s questions about hormone therapy to 3-year-olds.

Rand Paul RIPPED Dr. Levine during the confirmation hearing last month.

Sen. Rand Paul to Dr. Rachel Levine:

“You’re willing to let a minor take things to prevent their puberty, and you think they get back?… You have permanently changed them… There’s no long term studies. We don’t know what happens to them.”pic.twitter.com/a7AJkInfPG

— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 25, 2021

“Rachel” Levine has a work history of failure and illegal practices so it makes sense that he would be promoted into the Biden Administration.

The post Senate Confirms Dr. Levine, a Transgender, as Assistant Health Secretary in 52-48 Vote – Collins and Murkowski Join Democrats in Supporting Levine appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

This content was originally published here.

Why Joe Biden’s Economic Plan Includes Home Health Care, Not Just Roads And Bridges | HuffPost

Those are supports and services for elderly and disabled people who need help with daily living to stay out of nursing homes or other types of congregant care settings. In practical terms, that means everything from personal attendants who help seniors with bathing to counselors who help people with intellectual impairments find jobs so they can live on their own. 

More proposals are on the way. The second half of the Build Back Better agenda, which Biden plans to introduce later this month, is likely to include major new initiatives to make child care and preschool more widely available, as well as some kind of paid leave program. 

And these do not appear to be token gestures. Wednesday’s home care proposals envision $400 billion in new federal spending, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the $2 trillion package Biden unveiled. A meaningful initiative on child care and preschool would likely require hundreds of billions of dollars more.

Medicaid, the government health insurance program that states operate using federal funds and under federal guidelines, already pays for nursing homes and other forms of institutional care. And there’s no pre-set limit on that spending. The more people who need the help, the more funding Medicaid provides.

The lack of open-ended funding forces states to cut off enrollment and put everybody else on waiting lists. Nationwide, about 800,000 people are now on those lists, and some have been for years. It’s a well-known fact that deters many others from even trying. Most experts think the actual unmet demand for home- and community-based services is closer to 1.5 million.

For decades, advocates have proposed putting home-based care on an equal footing with institutional care. That way, the choice between whether to stay at home or to go into a congregant living setting would be about the preferences and needs of individual people and their families ― not because of a financial disparity rooted in a decision lawmakers made half a century ago. 

Biden’s caregiving proposals, by contrast, would likely become ongoing expenditures. His proposal for home- and community-based services doesn’t formally call for any new spending beyond the 10-year budget window, but as a practical matter, it would be difficult to end funding and cut off services once people and families are using them. The same would be true for a new child care initiative. 

But the economic benefits of caregiving initiatives are real. For one thing, caregiving is literally an investment in making individual human beings more productive. This is most obviously the case when it comes to early childhood programs. Research has shown repeatedly that, when infants and toddlers get good care, they are more likely to stay in school, remain employed and stay physically healthier as adults.

Doing this all at once ― helping more people to pay for caregivers while simultaneously requiring that caregivers get higher pay ― makes the project a lot more expensive. The price tag for the full care agenda is likely to be in the high hundreds of billions of dollars, at least, and could be even bigger depending on how ambitious Biden gets with the elements he has yet to unveil.

That’s bound to be a hard sell politically among Republicans, and perhaps even among some conservative Democrats wary of big government and the spending that goes with it. That is undoubtedly one reason why Biden and his allies are talking about these proposals in the context of their potential to create a more dynamic economy.

This content was originally published here.

Xavier Becerra Receives Just 1 GOP Vote on His Way to Confirmation as Health Secretary

The Senate on Thursday narrowly confirmed Xavier Becerra as President Joe Biden’s health secretary.

The 50-49 vote puts the 63-year-old Becerra in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The $1.4 trillion agency encompasses health insurance programs, drug safety and approvals, medical research, and the welfare of children, including hundreds of Central American migrants flooding the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Religious and social conservatives opposed Becerra’s confirmation over his support for abortion — including partial-birth abortion.

During his confirmation hearings, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota called Becerra an “extremist who has used the offices he has held to advance an aggressively pro-abortion agenda.”

On the Senate floor on Thursday, Republicans mostly closed ranks against Becerra. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the sole Republican who voted for him.

“Although there are issues where I strongly disagree with Mr. Becerra, I believe he merits confirmation as HHS secretary,” she said. “I look forward to working with the department to achieve bipartisan results on behalf of the American people.”

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Becerra has been California’s attorney general since 2017. He sued the Trump administration 124 times on a range of policy issues. Before that he represented a Los Angeles-area district in the U.S. House for 24 years.

A lawyer, not a doctor, his primary experience with the health care system has come through helping to pass the Obama-era Affordable Care Act and defending it when Donald Trump was president.

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“I understand the enormous challenges before us and our solemn responsibility to be faithful stewards of an agency that touches almost every aspect of our lives,” Becerra said at his hearing. “I’m humbled by the task, and I’m ready for it.”

The American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association supported his nomination.

A powerful drug industry lobby, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, congratulated Becerra on his confirmation and said it looks forward to a collaborative working relationship.

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But to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, “the distinguishing feature of this nominee’s resume is not his expertise in health, medicine or administration — that part of the resume is very brief. What stands out are Mr. Becerra’s commitment to partisan warfare and his far-left ideology.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said GOP arguments against Becerra “almost verge on the ridiculous.”

Several agencies under the umbrella of HHS have played a part in the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Don’t Forget Media Speculated About Trump’s Health Following Ramp Slow Walk, While Biden Mocked Him

President Joe Biden’s multiple stumbles walking up the steps to Air Force One on Friday drew comparisons to the coverage former President Donald Trump received when he walked slowly down a ramp at West Point’s graduation last summer.

NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck shared a video of Biden himself making fun of Trump at the time.

“Look at how he steps and look at how I step. Watch how I run up ramps and he stumbles down ramps. Come on,” Biden said.

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FLASHBACK -> Biden mocks Trump’s ramp walk at West Point and claims he’s stronger: “Look at how he steps and look at how I step. Watch how I run up ramps and he stumbles down ramps. Come on.” pic.twitter.com/U7CL0dBSQA

— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) March 19, 2021

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Three trips in a row. Wow.

Here is Trump walking down the ramp at West Point on June 13. The former president explained afterward that he struggled with it because the ramp was metal and his shoes were leather.

The 45th president tweeted later that day, “The ramp that I descended after my West Point Commencement speech was very long & steep, had no handrail and, most importantly, was very slippery.”

“The last thing I was going to do is ‘fall’ for the Fake News to have fun with. Final ten feet I ran down to level ground. Momentum!”

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Radio talk show host Jason Rantz shared some of the establishment media headlines from that day from outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Hill and CNN — with some speculating what Trump’s slow walk down the ramp meant in terms of his health.

Reminder:

NYT: “Trump’s Halting Walk Down Ramp Raises New Health Questions”

WaPo: “Trump tries to explain his slow and unsteady walk down a ramp at West Point”

The Hill: “Trump defends slow walk down ‘very slippery’ West Point ramp” https://t.co/0F9rN6jSaF

— (((Jason Rantz))) on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) March 19, 2021

The Times‘ piece by Maggie Haberman noted in its sub-headline that Trump at 74 was “the oldest a president has been in his first term.”

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By the way, Biden — the then-presumptive Democratic nominee — was 77 at the time and is now 78 years old.

CNN headlined, “Why the Donald Trump-West Point ramp story actually matters,” highlighting that the former president was in his mid-70s and also that his medical past was a “total mystery.”

Following all the media coverage and speculation about his health that the ramp walk generated, Trump offered a detailed response at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, five days later.

He recounted that when he reached the top of the ramp to get off the stage, Trump turned to West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams saying he had a problem.

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“I’m wearing leather-bottom shoes,” Trump said he told Williams. “There is no way I can make it down that ramp without falling on my a**, general.”

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“So I said, ‘General, get ready ’cause I may grab you so fast, because I can’t fall with the fake news watching,’” Trump continued.

He told the Tulsa crowd, “I would have been better off if I fell and slid down the d*** ramp,” given the media coverage he received.

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Trump further recalled he was surprised the West Point speech was trending on social media afterward, but learned on a phone call with first lady Melania Trump that it was because people were speculating whether he had Parkinson’s disease.

“I’ll let you know if there’s something wrong,” Trump reassured those at the rally.

“I tell you what — there’s something wrong with Biden, that I can tell you.”

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The difference in media coverage between Biden’s trips walking up to Air Force One and Trump’s West Point slow ramp walk was perfectly typified by The Times‘ headline Friday: “Biden is ‘doing 100 percent fine’ after tripping while boarding Air Force One.”

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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High-level health officials told to prioritize COVID-19 testing for Cuomo’s relatives, associates

The medical officials enlisted to do the testing, which often took place at private residences, included Dr. Eleanor Adams, an epidemiologist who graduated from Harvard Medical School and in August became a special adviser to Zucker. Adams conducted testing on Cuomo’s brother Chris at his residence in Long Island, according to the two people.

“If their job was to go test an old lady down in New Rochelle, that’s one thing — that’s actually good,” one of the people with knowledge of the matter said. “This was not that.”

Others who were give priority testing include Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and his wife, as well as members of the media, state legislators and their staff. Cotton and his wife were also tested by a high-level physician in the health department in early March 2020. Another high-ranking person to receive priority testing was Patrick J. Foye, head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and his wife.

Officials in the Cuomo administration said the testing in those early days of the pandemic in March 2020 was not preferential and they noted public nurses were being driven to private residences in New Rochelle, the site of the state’s first outbreak, to test people who were symptomatic or who had been exposed to the virus. During that period, State Police troopers were largely being tasked with driving those samples to the Wadsworth Center laboratory in Albany, which was initially the primary testing spot for coronavirus.

“It’s being a little bit distorted with like a devious intent. … We made sure to test people they believed were exposed,” according to an administration official in Cuomo’s office who spoke on background. “All of this was being done in good faith in an effort to trace the virus. … Early on testing was very very limited there was also a heavy emphasis on contact tracing.”

Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, characterized the allegations of preferential treatment as “insincere efforts to rewrite the past.”

“In the early days of this pandemic, when there was a heavy emphasis on contact tracing, we were absolutely going above and beyond to get people testing — including in some instances going to people’s homes, and door-to-door in places like New Rochelle — to take samples from those believed to have been exposed to COVID in order to identify cases and prevent additional ones,” he said. “Among those we assisted were members of the general public, including legislators, reporters, state workers and their families who feared they had contracted the virus and had the capability to further spread it.”

Still, one of the people familiar with the matter said that the people with close ties to the governor, including his relatives, would have their samples moved to the front of the line at Wadsworth and be given a priority. They were referred to as “critical samples.”

Another person familiar with the matter said the “sampling missions” had unsettled some of the high-level health department officials tasked with collecting the samples at private residences, including Adams, who had previously worked in the health department’s New York City regional office for the Healthcare Epidemiology & Infection Control Program.

“To be doing sort of direct clinical work was a complete time suck away from their other duties,” the person said. “It was like wartime.”

Adams was instrumental in the efforts to control the state’s first outbreak last year in New Rochelle, where she previously had a private medical practice. But she was often pulled from those duties to conduct the individual testing that could have been done by a registered nurse, a person said.

The state Department of Health declined requests this week to make Zucker or Adams available for interviews. The Times Union told officials it wanted to question Adams about how she felt about being directed to conduct priority testing on people with close ties to the governor, including his brother.

“You’re asking professionals who took an oath to protect a patient’s privacy to violate that oath and compromise their integrity,” said Gary Holmes, a health department spokesman. “More than 43 million New Yorkers have been tested, and commenting on any of them would be a serious violation of medical ethics. We’ve built a nation-leading testing infrastructure to ensure that anybody who needs a test could get one. That work continues today.”

Chris Cuomo, an anchor for CNN, announced March 31 that he had tested positive for coronavirus and would be quarantining in his Long Island residence in South Hampton, where he continued doing his nightly show despite being ill.

“My brother Chris is positive for coronavirus — found out this morning. Now, he is going to be fine. He’s young, in good shape, strong, not as strong as he thinks, but he will be fine,” the governor said during his daily briefing on March 31. “But there’s a lesson in this. He’s an essential worker. … He’s just worried about his daughter and his kids. He hopes he didn’t get them infected.”

The testing of Chris Cuomo took place in the early stages of the pandemic, at a time when many members of the public struggled to obtain coronavirus tests.

While it was not unusual for those with symptoms to be tested in their residences at that time, much of the work was done by public health nurses, and they were often being transported by law enforcement officers, including parole officers.

National Guard troops also had assisted in those early stages of testing, including ensuring that people who had been quarantined remained in their residences — and delivering food to those who had been asked to stay home.

blyons@timesunion.com

This content was originally published here.

Top 10 Health Benefits of Ballroom Dancing

There are plenty of keys to happiness, and dancing is definitely one of them! The art of ballroom dancing has been alive since the 16th century- peaking in the 19th and 20th century after the incorporation of the two-step, tango, and waltz. Thanks to tv shows such as Dancing With The Stars, this elegant art form is back and in the spotlight of the dance world.

Ballroom dancing is a wonderful way for people from all walks of life to get in shape while also releasing their creative juices. This goes past merely benefiting your body- to also benefiting your state of mind and social connections. Dancing is a great social activity, and it has been proving that socializing regularly can have vast health benefits on self-esteem, stress, and even your BMI. Here are the Top 10 from Health Fitness Revolution and author of the book ReSYNC Your Life Samir Becic:

Don’t just dance, ballroom dance!

Uplifting and Fun

Not many activities are as joyful as these artistic dance moves. Low energy, gloominess, and negativity are not allowed on this fun-filled dance floor. Concentrating on moving your body to the beat of the music instantaneously puts you in a positive headspace. While newcomers may spend extra time concentrating on getting their moves right, the instruction is always given in a lively and upbeat manner. Not to mention, you will be surrounded by joyful individuals and uplifting melodies. After you get the moves down, it’ll be pure fun and laughs.

Muscle Toning

You will most definitely develop more strength and muscle definition as you dance along to Mozart. Ballroom dancing contributes to muscle toning by forcing the dancers to resist their partner’s’ body strength. The fast turns, spinning and two-stepping all contribute to muscle building. Men, in particular, have instances of lifting their lady partners- which requires a great deal of strength! If you plan on joining in on these highly intensive dance moves, be prepared for sexy and toned legs!

Bones and Joints

Since dancing is a weight-resisting activity, it can help protect bone density and prevent osteoporosis. It can also help speed up knee recovery after surgery since it’s a lower impact exercise than jogging or biking. If you have weak knees or are gradually introducing your body to exercise, ballroom dancing is a great low-impact activity that can promote a fit lifestyle while also decreasing your chances of an exercise-related injury.

Flexibility

Flexibility is a major benefit of ballroom dancing. Women may already be a bit more flexible than their male partners- but both parties cash in on this appealing health benefit. Most ballroom classes start by stretching and warming up. This is important because stretching can protect against dance-related injuries and allow your body to dance at ease. Ballroom dancing itself contains plenty of stretching and bending. Therefore the more you dance, the more flexible you will become.

Brain Food

In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, it was concluded that ballroom dancing, as well as other forms of social dancing, can help prevent the onset of dementia in elderly patients. It was revealed that “dance improved one of the cognitive domains (spatial memory),” which is vital for learning dance (Dafna Merom, et al., 2016). A lifestyle highly infused with partnered dancing can produce even stronger mental health benefits. The partnered benefits can also decrease loneliness for the elderly.

Burns Fat

Dancing is a low-impact aerobic activity that can boost your metabolism. In just thirty minutes of dancing, you can burn anywhere between 200-400 calories. That’s roughly the same amount burned by running or cycling. Burning an extra 300 calories a day can help you lose between 0.5-1 pound a week. While that may not sound too drastic, 1 pound a week adds up pretty quick!

Creative Outlet

Ballroom dancing is an amazing creative outlet! Not only does it allow you to move your hips at ease to the beat of the music- but it also allows you to release your emotions and thoughts through those artistic moves. The art of dancing is something that comes naturally to people. This makes it an easy activity for anyone to partake in. After a little bit of practice, you will easily find yourself getting lost in the music. You will also unlock a beautiful rhythm your body may have been hiding.

Image result for flexibility

Conditioning

Engaging in just about any cardiovascular or aerobic activity can help improve your heart health, lower obesity and type 2 diabetes risk, and also promote lung capacity. These full body-conditioning benefits can be elevated by engaging in dance for at least half an hour, four days a week. While that may sound like a big commitment to make, it’s one that your body will thank you for it in the long run!

Endurance

Dancing an effective way to improve general endurance. As the dance sessions get longer and longer, your muscles will be working harder and for a longer period of time. In turn, you will find yourself being able to go on with little to no fatigue. Every time you brush up on your moves dance to improve your two-steps, lifts or speedy turns, you are also training your body to go on for longer periods of time with less succumbing.

Social Connectivity

Joining a ballroom dance class will expose you to a sea of new people who may potentially share common interests with you. Instead of spending your evenings glued to your television screen, you can engage in uplifting conversations and strengthen your social connections by trying this partnered activity. It’s been proven that being more social can help improve self-esteem, lower stress levels, increase sense of purpose, and promote a positive outlook on life.

This content was originally published here.

COVID bill to deliver big health insurance savings for many

WASHINGTON (AP) — Several million people stand to save hundreds of dollars in health insurance costs, or more, under the Democratic coronavirus relief legislation on track to pass Congress.

Winners include those covered by “Obamacare” or just now signing up, self-employed people who buy their own insurance and don’t currently get federal help, laid-off workers struggling to retain employer coverage, and most anyone collecting unemployment. Also, potentially many more could benefit if about a dozen states accept a Medicaid deal in the legislation.

Taken together, the components of the coronavirus bill represent the biggest expansion of federal help for health insurance since the Obama-era Affordable Care Act more than 10 years ago. “Obamacare” not only survived former President Donald Trump’s repeated attempts to tear it down but will now get a shot of new life.

Consider a couple of examples: A hypothetical 45-year-old making $58,000 now gets no aid under the ACA. With the bill, they’d be entitled to a $1,250 tax credit, or 20% off their premiums, according to the Congressional Budget Office. A 64-year-old making $19,300 already gets generous subsidies that reduce premiums to $800 a year. But with the bill, that person would pay no premiums for a standard plan.

Because health insurance is so complicated, consumers are going to have to do their homework to figure out if there’s something in the bill for them. And health care benefits are not like stimulus checks that can be blasted out. There will be a lag as government agencies, insurers and employers unpack the bill’s provisions.

There’s also a political twist. Since most of the health care aid is keyed to the pandemic and expires by the end of 2022, that will let Democrats set up election-year votes to make new benefits permanent, or build them out even more.

“There was always a hope that we were going to be able to return and build on where we started in 2009-2010, and we finally got to a place where it was possible,” said Judy Solomon of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which advocates for low-income people and supported the Obama law.

“We had this massive fight that went on for 10 years,” said blogger Robert Laszewski, who followed “Obamacare” for an industry audience. “Over the weekend, it’s like it’s been erased.”

The COVID-19 bill follows President Joe Biden’s strategy of building on the ACA health law to move the U.S. toward coverage for all. It’s still unclear how big a dent the legislation will make in the number of uninsured people, which has risen to an estimated 33 million or more.

A major health care item in the bill will depend on some Republican-led states going along. States mainly in the South have refused to expand Medicaid to low-income adults under the ACA. The legislation offers them a temporary infusion of billions of dollars to reconsider. If those states, including Texas, Florida and Georgia, were to do that, Biden would be closer to his coverage goal.

Even if the hold-outs spurn the offer, the legislation provides plenty of other benefits.

The biggest winners will be the more than 11 million people already enrolled in “Obamacare” as well as those who are now shopping for HealthCare.gov coverage. Biden has opened up a special sign-up period through May 15.

The bill would change the formulas for health insurance tax credits to make them more generous for most people, and also allow a wider number of individuals to qualify. That makes coverage more attractive for people who are considering whether to buy and more affordable for those who already have it, mainly low-to-moderate income working people.

Insurers are hoping that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will be able to quickly update HealthCare.gov software, allowing the companies to promote lower premiums and attract more consumers while the current sign-up window remains open. Industry also wants the agency to automatically adjust what existing customers are paying, sparing millions the headache of having to go back and reapply.

In a politically significant change, the bill would provide health insurance tax credits to people with solid middle-class incomes who don’t now qualify for help with their premiums. That’s a demographic that includes many self-employed people and business owners who were hit with higher premiums as a result of the ACA, but cut out of the benefits. Their complaints fueled Republican opposition to the health law. “These are the people Trump was responding to,” said Laszewski.

Another inducement is aimed at people who have lost jobs. Those who collect unemployment this year, if even for one week, would qualify for the most generous ACA tax credits as well as its biggest reductions in copays and deductibles.

Other people who lose their jobs may want to keep their employer coverage. A federal law known as COBRA allows that, but the employee has to pay the full premium, often a prohibitive expense. The bill would provide a temporary 100% subsidy.

Republicans cite the health insurance provisions as an example of coronavirus overreach by Democrats. Policy consultant Brian Blase, a former health care adviser in the Trump White House, says most of the additional subsidies for coverage will merely substitute for what private households would have otherwise paid. If made permanent, he predicts that over time the sweeter tax credits will have the unintended consequence of enticing small businesses to stop offering coverage to their workers.

“This subsidy expansion largely replaces private spending with government spending.” said Blase.

This content was originally published here.

Being ‘godless’ might be good for your health, new study finds

(RNS) — In recent decades, a number of studies have found that being religious can be good for your health.

People who regularly attend services are less likely to smoke, may be less likely to use drugs or be obese and may live longer than those who don’t attend services. Those findings have led some to conclude that, if religion is good for you, being an atheist will be bad for your health.

That’s not exactly the case, said David Speed, professor of psychology at the University of New Brunswick in St. John, Canada.

In a new study called “Godless in the Great White North,” published in the Journal of Religion and Health, Speed looked at data from a

and found that atheists may be just as healthy as devoted believers.

“If you compare the health outcomes for those two groups, they are really similar to each other,” said Speed.

Speed is one of a number of social scientists who are rethinking the connection between religion and health. Past studies, they say, have focused heavily on the health of very religious people while treating atheists and other nonbelievers as an afterthought.

David Speed. Photo via Twitter

That’s a mistake, Speed argues, in part because nonreligious people are not all the same.

Atheists, he said, are different from agnostics, who are different from the religiously unaffiliated, or so-called nones. And some of the benefits of being a part of a church or other faith group — including social support and behavioral rules that can be beneficial — aren’t exclusively religious.

Religious people, for example, are less likely to drink heavily or use drugs, because their religious beliefs discourage those activities. But other groups also discourage drug and alcohol use, he said, pointing to the so-called Straight Edge movement that began among punk rockers in the 1980s.

Some people — include Speed himself — simply aren’t interested in using those substances. Whatever the motivation, these groups see abstaining from alcohol and drugs as important.

“The religious framing is irrelevant,” he said.

Many of the benefits of religion are also linked to stronger social support networks. That is one area where religiously active people do have an advantage over atheists.

“One thing that religion does really well is facilitating social networks,” he said. “If you go to services, you are building a social support network.”

By contrast, he added, “there isn’t the same support structure for atheists.”

Still, it’s important to be clear that the health and well-being benefits are linked to faith groups’ social support, not spiritual belief, said Speed.

In some cases, belief in God might actually be bad for your health, particularly when that belief is shaky. A 2020 study on published in the Review of Religious Research found that “doubting theists” — those who believe in God but are less certain about those beliefs — reported poorer health outcomes.

Because of the growth of the nones in the United States, researchers on that study wanted to look more closely at subgroups in that population. They separated out self-identified atheists and then divided the remaining unaffiliated theists into two groups: “theistic nones,” who had a strong belief in God, and “doubting theists,” who were less certain in their beliefs. Then they looked at health outcomes for the latter two groups.

“The results suggest that the level of certainty in beliefs about God or a higher power are an important factor among religious nones for predicting health outcomes,” according to the study.

Joseph Baker, a sociologist of religion at East Tennessee State University who worked on the study, argues that nonreligious Americans should not be treated as a monolith. He said atheists, agnostics and the nones should be treated as separate groups by researchers.

Baker, who studies secular Americans, also said that atheism can give people a strong sense of identity and a clear set of values, which may help with their well-being, even if they don’t have the same kind of built-in social support that religious people do.

America’s changing religious landscape — in which about 1 in 4 Americans identify as nones — will present challenges in the future. As organized religion declines, researchers are asking what will fill that social void.

“The challenge for secular individuals is to think consciously and seriously about where they will find community — and organize accordingly,” said Baker.

Speed hopes that more research will be done about the question of religion and health. And he hopes that more researchers will spend time studying atheists and other nonreligious people.

“Atheists, in general, are understudied,” he said. “And when they are studied, they are not studied well.”

Ahead of the Trend is a collaborative effort between Religion News Service and the Association of Religion Data Archives made possible through the support of the John Templeton Foundation. See other Ahead of the Trend articles here.

This content was originally published here.

Burroughs High Varsity Baseball Team Suspended for Health Order Violations – NBC Los Angeles

The varsity baseball team at John Burroughs High School in Burbank has been suspended after pictures of the team’s seniors posing on school grounds not following coronavirus protocols and in violation of state and county health orders surfaced on a team social media site, it was reported Tuesday.

Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Matt Hill told the Daily News in an email the seniors in the photos were suspended for two weeks and could rejoin the team March 15. The rest of the team can begin conditioning March 8, one week later than originally planned.

“We had a group of players and families dress up in uniform and take pictures on campus in violation of health orders (no masks, no social distancing, and mixing of families),” Hill told the Daily News via email.

“They then posted the picture on a JBHS baseball social media site. No player or family from the team notified the coach, school or district of this health order violation.”

Hill said the team would use the one week delay of athletic conditioning to “review health guidelines and safety protocols.”

Parent Jo Dee Freck, whose son Rory plays on the team, took the pictures.

“Our boys have been teammates and friends for years prior to Burroughs, which has brought the families so close,” Freck told the newspaper, adding the players have lost nearly a year together.

“This photo was taken with the idea to commemorate and remember their senior season,” she said. “The boys were just trying to make their moms happy.”

Another parent of a player bristled at the superintendent’s decision to suspend the team.

“For Matt Hill to discipline a team of players based on an individual offense, separate from any team activity, is unprecedented and an egregious abuse of the district’s power in order to prove a point,” Brian Nichols told the Daily News.

“For a district that claims to care about the mental health of its students, this decision is in direct opposition of that claim.”

The suspension does not apply to the school’s freshman and junior varsity teams, which began conditioning Monday.

This content was originally published here.

Many QAnon followers report having mental health diagnoses

Data indicates QAnon believers may be more likely to be mentally ill. AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma

QAnon is often viewed as a group associated with conspiracy, terrorism and radical action, such as the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. But radical extremism and terror may not be the real concern from this group.

QAnon followers, who may number in the millions, appear to believe a baseless and debunked conspiracy theory claiming that a satanic cabal of pedophiles and cannibals controls world governments and the media. They also subscribe to many other outlandish and improbable ideas, such as that the Earth is flat, that the coronavirus is a biological weapon used to gain control over the world’s population, that Bill Gates is somehow trying to use coronavirus vaccinations to implant microchips into people and more.

As a social psychologist, I normally study terrorists. During research for “Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon,” a forthcoming book I co-authored with security scholar Mia Bloom, I noticed that QAnon followers are different from the radicals I usually study in one key way: They are far more likely to have serious mental illnesses.

Significant conditions

I found that many QAnon followers revealed – in their own words on social media or in interviews – a wide range of mental health diagnoses, including bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and addiction.

In court records of people arrested in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, 68% reported they had received mental health diagnoses. The conditions they revealed included post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia and Munchausen syndrome by proxy – a psychological disorder that causes one to invent or inflict health problems on a loved one, usually a child, in order to gain attention for themselves. By contrast, 19% of all Americans have a mental health diagnosis.

Among QAnon insurrectionists with criminal records, 44% experienced a serious psychological trauma that preceded their radicalization, such as physical or sexual abuse of them or of their children.

The psychology of conspiracy

Research has long revealed connections between psychological problems and beliefs in conspiracy theories. For example, anxiety increases conspiratorial thinking, as do social isolation and loneliness.

Depressed, narcissistic and emotionally detached people are also prone to have a conspiratorial mindset. Likewise, people who exhibit odd, eccentric, suspicious and paranoid behavior – and who are manipulative, irresponsible and low on empathy – are more likely to believe conspiracy theories.

QAnon’s rise has coincided with an unfolding mental health crisis in the United States. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of diagnoses of mental illness was growing, with 1.5 million more people diagnosed in 2019 than in 2018.

The isolation of the lockdowns, compounded by the anxiety related to COVID and the economic uncertainty, made a bad situation worse. Self-reported anxiety and depression quadrupled during the quarantine and now affects as much as 40% of the U.S. population.

Supporters of President Donald Trump hold up their phones with messages referring to the QAnon conspiracy theory at a campaign rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Feb. 21, 2020.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

A more serious problem

It’s possible that people who embrace QAnon ideas may be inadvertently or indirectly expressing deeper psychological problems. This could be similar to when people exhibit self-harming behavior or psychosomatic complaints that are in fact signals of serious psychological issues.

It could be that QAnon is less a problem of terrorism and extremism than it is one of poor mental health.

Only a few dozen QAnon followers are accused of having done anything illegal or violent – which means that for millions of QAnon believers, their radicalization may be of their opinions, but not their actions.

In my view, the solution to this aspect of the QAnon problem is to address the mental health needs of all Americans – including those whose problems manifest as QAnon beliefs. Many of them – and many others who are not QAnon followers – could clearly benefit from counseling and therapy.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]

The Conversation

Sophia Moskalenko receives funding from Office of Naval Research (grant N000 14-21-275485). Any opinions, findings, or recommendations expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research, the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense.

This content was originally published here.

Senate confirms transgender Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant health secretary

The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm Dr. Rachel Levine as the nation’s assistant secretary of health, making the former Pennsylvania health secretary the first openly transgender official ever confirmed by the upper chamber.

What are the details?

Two Republicans, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) joined all Democrats in approving Levine’s confirmation, with a final vote tally of 52-48. She is expected to oversee Health and Human Services offices and programs across the U.S.

LGBTQ advocates hailed the news, with Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, issuing a statement saying, “With the confirmation of Dr. Rachel Levine, we are one step closer to a government that mirrors the beautiful diversity of its people.”

In a statement to The New York Times, Levine said after the vote:

“As Vice President Harris has said, I recognize that I may be the first, but am heartened by the knowledge that I will not be the last. When I assume this position, I will stand on the shoulders of those who came before — people we know throughout history and those whose names we will never know because they were forced to live and work in the shadows.”

Levine went on to address transgender youth in particular, writing:

“I know that each and every day you confront many difficult challenges. Sadly, some of the challenges you face are from people who would seek to use your identity and circumstance as a weapon. It hurts. I know. I cannot promise you that these attacks will immediately cease, but I will do everything I can to support you and advocate for you.”

Levine, 63, is a pediatrician who served in senior medical positions at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center before being appointed to serve as Pennsylvania’s physician general in 2015, The Washington Post reported. In 2017, Levine became the state’s health secretary.

Levine’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in her most recent role fell under scrutiny from Republicans, most notably for Pennsylvania’s controversial policy of placing elderly COVID-19 patients into nursing homes in order to keep hospital beds free.

Levine has defended that decision, along with her decision to move her own 95-year-old mother out of a personal care facility due to the pandemic, TheBlaze previously reported.

How did one senator react?

Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey explained his “no” vote on Levine’s confirmation to the Associated Press, saying, “In Pennsylvania, the pandemic struck seniors in nursing homes disproportionately hard compared to other states. This was due in part to poor decisions and oversight by Dr. Levine and the Wolf administration.”

He added that an extended lockdown pushed by Levine “was excessive, arbitrary in nature, and has led to a slower recovery.”

This content was originally published here.

Stanford Doctor Calls Lockdowns the ‘Biggest Public Health Mistake We’ve Ever Made’

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor at Stanford University Medical School, recently said that COVID-19 lockdowns are the “biggest public health mistake we’ve ever made…The harm to people is catastrophic.”

Several U.S. states have started to ease their COVID-19 restrictions over the past few weeks.

Bhattacharya, who made the comments during an interview with the Daily Clout, co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration, a petition that calls for the end of COVID-19 lockdowns, claiming that they are “producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.”

As of Monday, the Great Barrington Declaration has received signatures from over 13,000 medical and public health scientists, more than 41,000 medical practitioners and at least 754,399 “concerned citizens.”

During the interview last month, Bhattacharya said that the declaration comes from “two basic facts.”

“One is that people who are older have a much higher risk from dying from COVID than people who are younger…and that’s a really important fact because we know who his most vulnerable, it’s people that are older. So the first plank of the Great Barrington Declaration: let’s protect the vulnerable,” Bhattacharya said. “The other idea is that the lockdowns themselves impose great harm on people. Lockdowns are not a natural normal way to live.”

Coronavirus in U.S.

He continued, “it’s also not very equal. People who are poor face much more hardship from the lockdowns than people who are rich.”

In an email sent to Newsweek, Bhattacharya wrote:

I stand behind my comment that the lockdowns are the single worst public health mistake in the last 100 years. We will be counting the catastrophic health and psychological harms, imposed on nearly every poor person on the face of the earth, for a generation.

At the same time, they have not served to control the epidemic in the places where they have been most vigorously imposed. In the US, they have – at best – protected the “non-essential” class from COVID, while exposing the essential working class to the disease. The lockdowns are trickle down epidemiology.

Last week, Republican Governors in Texas and Mississippi announced the end to their statewide mask mandates, as well as allowing a majority of businesses to reopen.

“Starting tomorrow, we are lifting all of our county mask mandates and businesses will be able to operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules. Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed. It is time!” Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves tweeted last week.

Similarly, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said during a press conference that “It is now time to open Texas 100 percent.”

This content was originally published here.

Biden to direct $2.5 billion in funds to address mental health and addiction crisis

President Biden is directing $2.5 billion in funding to address the nation’s worsening mental illness and addiction crisis, an official from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tells Axios.

Why it matters: Confronting the mounting mental health and substance abuse crisis will be an imperative for the Biden administration, even as its primary focus is on combating the broader COVID-19 pandemic.


  • The funding announced today is designed to increase access to services for individual Americans.
  • His pick to lead HHS, Xavier Becerra, is expected to be confirmed by a close vote.

Between the lines: The funds will be broken down into two components by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

  • $1.65 billion will go toward the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, which gives the receiving states and territories money to improve already-existing treatment infrastructure and create or better prevention and treatment programs.
  • $825 million will be allocated through a Community Mental Health Services Block Grant program, which will be used by the states to deal specifically with mental health treatment services.

By the numbers: A survey conducted last year published in August 2020 by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 41% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse related to the pandemic or its solutions, like social distancing.

  • Before the pandemic, over 118,000 people died by suicide and overdose in 2019. An HHS official says the administration is expecting that number to increase because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Preliminary data out of the CDC indicates that the number of drug overdoses through July 2020 increased by 24% from the year prior.

Flashback: On the campaign trail, then-candidate Biden often spoke about the need to address the mounting mental health and substance abuse crisis in America, an issue that hits close to home. His son, Hunter, has openly discussed his own struggles with addiction.

This content was originally published here.

In an Astounding New Book, a Neuroscientist Reveals the Profound Benefits Art Has on Our Health

What can art do to help us? In the midst of a global health crisis, this question becomes even more urgent. While museums remain shuttered in many nations, there is science-backed evidence that seeing or making art can play a crucial role in healing our bodies and minds.

French neuroscientist, musician, and author Pierre Lemarquis has recently published a book on this fascinating subject. L’art Qui Guérit (translated: Art That Heals) takes the readers on an art tour through the centuries, spanning the Paleolithic period until the end of the 20th century, interpreting works through the lens of their healing powers—both for the viewer and the maker. The author weaves together art history, philosophy, and psychology while citing astounding current findings from his field of neuroscience about the healing power of art.

Research on the subject has been accumulating for some years. A 2019 World Health Organization report, based on evidence from over 3000 studies, “identified a major role for the arts” prevention of illnesses. And in 2018, doctors in Montreal, Canada, made headlines when they started prescribing patients who suffer from certain diseases with museum visits to visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

“A current is making its way in this direction,” says Lemarquis on a video call with Artnet News. He divides his time between actively “bringing back” the arts to the medical profession, working as a clinical neurologist, and teaching brain function at the University of Toulon in southern France.

Lemarquis is also president of a new French association called L’invitation à la Beauté (An Invitation to Beauty), which offers “cultural prescriptions” to patients, including artwork viewings. The UNESCO-supported organization has created an art collection of original works to loan to patients for their rooms at France’s Lyon Sud Hospital, and this program is set to expand.

But how, exactly, can experiencing art make a person healthier? How can it help treat illness?

A terminally ill patient visits “Late Rembrandt” at the Rijksmuseum in 2015. Photo courtesy of the Ambulance Wish Foundation.

When We See Art, We ‘Participate’ In Its Creation

In the last couple decades, neurological findings have shed light on what happens to the brain when it experiences art. Lemarquis’s book details this new sub-field of “neuroaesthetics” uses technologies like functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to examine which brain pathways are engaged by either making or contemplating an artwork, and to what extent they are stimulated.

Analyzing symbolism and subject matter, Lemarquis also writes that feelings of “rebirth” are made possible. He cities visits to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, as well as Niki de Saint Phalle’s giant 1966 sculpture, the HON – en katedral, where visitors could enter the sculpture’s vaginal opening. 

What may seem intuitive, but is scientifically demonstrated in Art That Heals, is that art of all kinds acts on our brains in a multi-faceted, dynamic way. Neural networks are formed to achieve heightened, complex states of connectivity. In other words, art can “sculpt” and even “caress” our brains. So when we say a work of art moves us, that is physically the case.

Sculptor Niki de Saint-Phalle (C) with fellow artists Jean Tinguely (L) and Per Olof Ultvedt (R) during the construction of their giant sculpture <i>She-a cathedral</i> at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. Photo: Hans Erixon/Scanpix Sweden/AFP Photo via Getty Images.

Sculptor Niki de Saint-Phalle (C) with fellow artists Jean Tinguely (L) and Per Olof Ultvedt (R) during the construction of their giant sculpture She-a cathedral at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. Photo: Hans Erixon/Scanpix Sweden/AFP Photo via Getty Images.

Lemarquis explains that, in a process helped by mirror neurons, activated both when observing art, we can get the feeling that we are participating in art’s creation, or putting ourselves in the artist’s shoes. Our brains even have a tendency to “think” they are interacting with a biological entity when perceiving a figurative painting of a person, for instance.

“The beneficial effects of the arts were noted as far back as Classical antiquity,” writes Lemarquis, referring to Aristotle, who described the sensation of catharsis when observing a theatrical production, or emotions incarnated by the actors, which helped viewers better understand their own thoughts and sensations.

Later in history, Stendhal, the 19th century French author, wrote of nearly fainting upon seeing frescoes in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, where he felt, “a kind of ecstasy” from being “absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty.” It made his heart beat so fast, he thought he’d collapse. Lemarquis attributes this reaction to his “brain invaded by emotions stimulated by the rise of adrenaline [on] his autonomous nervous system.”

But it can be hard to pinpoint what we feel about an art piece. That is in part because our reaction is the dynamic result of neural stimulation that combines areas of the brain that normally don’t operate together: the deeper recesses of our minds, which govern the pleasure and reward system, as well as other systems dealing with knowledge, perceptual, and motor circuits. Lemarquis writes that, as a result of these processes, we start to experience “aesthetic empathy,” or the impression that an artwork is part of us—that we’ve embodied its “spirit.” 

“This constant back-and-forth, this empty space between the two, is the source of everything— the meaning of life,” adds Lemarquis in the interview.

A visit to the Sistine Chapel is just one of many virtual art experiences you can have from home. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The Sistine Chapel. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

How Art Can Help Cure

As Lemarquis explains, the art-activated areas of our brains that light up when both making or contemplating art, release hormones and neurotransmitters when stimulated, which are beneficial to our health and make us feel good.

These include dopamine (lacking among Parkinson’s patients), serotonin (found in antidepressants) as well as endorphins and oxytocin, which both can support pain management and reduction. Adrenaline and cortisone can be activated so as to have an invigorating effect on the body, or on the contrary, they can be blocked for a relaxing effect, depending on the artwork. All of these hormones can help treat mental illness, memory loss, or illnesses associated with stress, among other health concerns.

In one example from the book, a hospitalized patient in France suffering from chronic wounds on her legs finds motivation to become more active after a painting of a dancer was hung at her request in her room. It distracted her from her illness and “via mimicry, she started trying to move her legs, while simultaneously asking for fewer doses of painkillers. Little by little, she extended her walking ability, so much so, that her muscle-loss slowed, improving blood circulation, and aiding in the healing of wounds.”

In addition, some artists have been known to consciously compose their works to help heal viewers, such as the German Renaissance painter, Matthias Grünewald, whose famous Isenheim Altarpiece commissioned for a hospital was meant to inspire a sense of “inner balance” among the sick patients there. Similarly, Navajos Indians in North America have long-used healing rituals that involve art and beauty, to help “restore interior harmony” to the sick.

Interestingly, this interaction seems to work best with art that “is not a photocopy,” according to the neurologist. Lemarquis says an “unfinished” aspect of the work—the touch of its creator—helps the observer gain a sense of their own participation. Similarly, science has shown we feel a “distance” from artwork reproduced on a screen, compared to being in its physical presence.

“Our brains capture a lot more information than we are conscious of,” he says. When perceiving an artwork in-person, for instance, the brain is “lit up, by something akin to beams from a lamp.” But when the level of exposure to the work is “weakened,” as it is with a screen image, he says “quantities of information, and consequently, possible (neurological) interactions” are lost.

The 50 years of the cave Lascaux in Montignac, France in June, 1990. Photo: Jerome CHATIChatin/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

The 50 years of the cave Lascaux in Montignac, France in June, 1990. Photo: Jerome CHATIChatin/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

Healing the Heart and the Head

Lemarquis has seen first-hand the positive impact of the arts on patients. “Will it cure them?” he says in our interview. “Maybe not, but it will allow them to better manage their illness, and once they can manage it better, they’re on the road to recovery.”

Responses have been overwhelmingly positive from patients who say they feel “less alone” at the Lyon hospital, where Lemarquis has helped set up an art and poetry collection for their “cultural prescriptions.” Caregivers reported patients became more mobile when exposed to their chosen artwork, which leads to improved healing in those cases. Most were noticeably more relaxed, and cheerful. The group L’invitation à la Beauté is now set to expand its art collection to the gastro-pediatric service at a children’s hospital in Lyon.

Similar initiatives are sprouting around the world. In the US, the NeuroArts Blueprint from the Aspen Institute and the International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab) at John Hopkins University, launched in September 2020. The organization says it aims to “advance the science of arts, health, and well-being” by helping “build the emerging field of neuro/arts—the storehouse of robust scientific evidence that tells us art can change the brain and the body and advance well-being in ways that can be measured, mapped, and put into practice.”

“You don’t treat an illness, you treat a person,” says Lemarquis. “You need medicine that’s purely scientific to address the illness, and medicine that’s a little artistic, to address the person, their humanity. The two are complementary. People need to dream. They need imagination.”

L’art qui guérit by Pierre Lemarquis is out now with Hazan.

The post In an Astounding New Book, a Neuroscientist Reveals the Profound Benefits Art Has on Our Health appeared first on Artnet News.

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Abbott accuses Biden admin of ‘not being transparent’ about health of unaccompanied minors at border

Texas governor slams Biden administration’s lack of transparency on ‘Hannity’

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott demanded Wednesday that the Biden administration allow state and local authorities access to unaccompanied migrant children in federal facilities to monitor COVID transmission and investigate human trafficking concerns.

Abbott told “Hannity” on Wednesday that his request to access critical data pertaining to unaccompanied monirs was denied despite the White House’s repeated pledge of “transparency.”

“The Biden administration is not being transparent with either the governor of Texas or the Texas Department of State Health Services,” the Republican said. “We need to know what the health situation of these kids are. We need to know if they’ve been exposed to variants of COVID.”

The governor added that the administration has not only denied access to data pertaining to the health of migrants in his state, but has also refused to share information that will aide law enforcement in arresting and prosecuting migrants that “are still involved with coyotes and smugglers.”

“Our law enforcement … they need to do their job,” Abbott said. “Part of their job is making sure they track down and prosecute anybody involved in smuggling. Once they get over to Texas, they are still involved with coyotes and smugglers. We do have the ability to put them behind bars … [but] the Biden administration is not letting us gain access to that information so that we can arrest and prosecute those that are assisting this immigration process.”

On Tuesday, Abbott publically called on Biden to allow the state to speak with migrants in federal facilities as part of Operation Lone Star, a state anti-human and drug trafficking initiative launched this month.

“We have sought access to these shelters, and we’ve been denied access to those shelters, whether it be involving health care purposes or talking to these children about human trafficking,” Abbott said.

“You got some young children who have been trafficked across Mexico and maybe some other countries and who knows what horrific things may have happened to them … we want to be involved and learn information so we can crack down on this human trafficking mission,” he explained.

Abbott said the crisis at the border should be “exposed for what it is” and blamed Biden for continuing to invite “in young children with the promise of them being able to stay here.

“These children make a very dangerous treks where they have to encounter cartels, drug dealers, gang members, MS-13 gang members, and there could be horrific things happening to them. We know the legacy of human trafficking that happens to these children,” Abbott said. “It must be stopped.”

Migrant children have been arriving at the southern border faster than they can be processed and transferred to sponsor homes, while the Biden administration has repeatedly denied that there is a “crisis” at the border, a senior Customs and Border Protection official recently told Fox News.

“Americans need to know this,” Abbott warned. “This is just the very beginning of what’s going to be a massive expansion of the number of people coming across the board. It will grow tenfold and a hundredfold, especially because of the way the Biden administration has handled this.”

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Teen Mental Health Has Suffered During the COVID-19 Pandemic | Time

As early as last spring, psychologists were warning that even as children and teens were spared most of the physical impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shuttering of schools, the lack of contact with friends and the loss of milestones like birthday parties, graduations and more would exact a heavy emotional and developmental price. Now, a year on, the numbers are in—and they’re in some ways worse than the experts feared.

In a new study by the nonprofit FAIR Health, investigators combed through a database of 32 billion U.S. health insurance claims—focusing on the two billion or so from 2019 to 2020—to calculate the numbers filed for health services in the pediatric age group, which they defined as ages 0 to 22. The researchers focused particularly on the emotionally turbulent years from 13 to 18, and to a somewhat lesser extent on claims filed by those ages 19 to 22. In both groups they found sharp spikes from pre-pandemic 2019 to 2020 in a range of psychological conditions including major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder, self-harm, substance abuse, overdoses, OCD, ADHD and tic disorders.

Some of the numbers are startling: the 334% spike in intentional self-harm among 13- to 18-year-olds in the Northeast in August of 2020 compared to the same month the year before. Some were smaller but still significant: the 49.6% increase in depression and 67.5% increase in generalized anxiety disorder among 19- to 22-year-olds across the U.S. in April of 2020 compared to April of 2019. All were in some ways predictable—and all deeply concerning.

“We absolutely foresaw this last year,” says Mary Alvord, a psychologist in private practice in the Washington, D.C., metro area and the co-author of two books, including Conquering Negative Thinking for Teens. “Kids feel like they don’t have much control over their lives and now there’s even more uncertainty, with schools closed and peer groups—who play such a big role in the sense of self—unavailable. Their developmental process has been interfered with. Their trajectory has been interrupted.”

Overall, the FAIR Health researchers found, some of the worst spikes occurred in March and April of 2020, during the first phase of the pandemic in the U.S. In those months, claims for any mental health disorder increased by about 100% for the 13-18 group. The number was down to 50% in May, 30% throughout the summer and has settled in at about 20% from then until the survey ended in November—still a significant increase from the previous year. The 19-22 age group saw a similar pattern, hitting highs of 70% in March and April and settling out at under just 20% in November. American girls, in general, have suffered more than boys, accounting for 66% of all mental health claims in both age groups pre-pandemic and 71% since.

The big three conditions affecting the 13 to 22 group in both years were anxiety, depression and adjustment disorders—and they all exploded in the spring of 2020, increasing 80% to 90% year over year for the 13-18 group, and 45% to 65% for the 19-22 cohort. All three conditions have receded some in both groups, but still remain up to 25% more common than they were at the end of 2019.

“We see [increased] depression and anxiety in all age groups, but in adolescence it’s on steroids,” says Robin Gurwitch, psychologist and professor at Duke University Medical Center. “When kids look into the future now, they’re looking at one that wasn’t what they envisioned before. ‘I used to be able to hang with my friends, and now that’s gone. I was looking forward to going to college, but my dad just got laid off and can’t afford it.’”

That kind of pain is too easy to self-medicate with chemical substances—and kids did just that. In the 13- to 18-year-old group, claims for drug overdoses increased 95% in March and 119% in April. For substance abuse that stopped short of overdosing, the numbers were 65% and 63% in those months, respectively. In the 19-22 group, the peak increase for overdoses was a 65% jump in May; substance abuse in general topped out at a 27% increase in April. On this score, the FAIR Health findings are mirrored by those of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported the highest annual number of U.S. overdose deaths ever in the year ending May 2020.

Unlike COVID-19 itself, the emotional blowback of the pandemic can’t be vaccinated away. Just as there are long-haulers requiring treatment for the physical symptoms of the disease months after being infected, so too will there be kids needing care for psychic pain well into the future. The pandemic that began a year ago will not be leaving us anytime soon.

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Write to Jeffrey Kluger at jeffrey.kluger@time.com.

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Rand Paul Slams Dr. Fauci’s Public Health Recommendations: “He Tells You Noble Lies” | Dan Bongino

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul took aim at Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying the famed TV scientist has framed himself as a “Greek philosopher” who has been forced to feed the public “noble lies.”

“But you have to remember that his lies are noble lies, Laura. He’s not telling you this because he’s a mean man,” Paul said when asked by Fox News Laura Ingraham why he is one of the few politicians willing to call out Fauci for lying. “He’s telling you this because he feels sorry for you because you don’t understand, and Americans aren’t smart enough to make informed decisions. So, he fashions himself some sort of Greek philosopher. He tells you these noble lies.”

Paul cited Fauci’s ever changing recommendations on masks over the last year as an example of his “noble lies.”

“So, at first, he told you that all the masks don’t work. But he told you that because he wanted to protect the N-95 masks, which actually in a health setting do work,” Paul said. “But then, later on, he said, all masks do work. But that’s also a lie also because, really only the N-95 masks work.”

“It’s a compilation of lies,” the Kentucky Republican continued. “But they’re all done to protect you because he doesn’t think you’re smart enough to make any of these decisions on your own.”

Paul also slammed President Biden’s latest COVID-19 speech, which featured Biden hinting that Americans might be able to hold gatherings on Independence Day.

“Well to show you so far out of touch President Biden is, he said he’s going to let us get together with two or three people from our family July 4th,” Paul said. “Has he not met anybody? Everybody is making their own decisions now. Where we are forced to comply with Dr. Fauci and his Faucisms, we do. But in private, most of us are doing what we want, when we want, and have been for a long, long time. We do try to take precautions.”

Paul also expressed doubt that lockdowns could be credited for stopping the spread of the virus.

“You can sequentially look at the date when each mandate was passed and when it got ratcheted up,” Paul said. “You can look at the incidence of the disease, and what you find is they were proportional, meaning the more mandates we got, the more disease we got.”

“The mandates did not cause the disease but there is no evidence the mandate slowed down the disease at all,” Paul continued.

Paul then turned his attention to former President Donald Trump, who he said deserves a lot of credit for the pace of the vaccine rollout.

“President Trump was criticized for a lot of things, but one thing he did do was shake things up in the bureaucracy. He didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Paul said. “I think President Trump’s personality actually did force the issue on the vaccine and probably helped it to get done in record time.”

Paul’s dust ups with Fauci over the summer became the stuff of legend, with Paul constantly grilling the nation’s top infectious disease expert during Senate testimony.

“I think we ought to have a little bit of humility in our belief that we know what’s best for the economy, and as much as I respect you, Dr. Fauci, I don’t think you’re the end-all,” Paul said last May. “I don’t think you’re the one person that gets to make the decision. We can listen to your advice, but there are people on the other side saying there’s not going to be a surge and that we can safely open the economy and the facts will bear this out.”

Last June, Paul accused Dr. Fauci of politicizing the coronavirus pandemic.

“All of this body of evidence about schools around the world shows there’s no surge,” Paul slammed Fauci. “All of the evidence shows it’s rare. I mean, we’re so politicized this and made it politically correct.”

Fauci has remained in the public eye even as a new administration entered the White House, making multiple media appearances which he has used to warn that the pandemic is far from over and that Americans could have to continue wearing masks into 2022.

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Keep wearing your mask, health officials say after Gov. Greg Abbott lifts mask mandate

Austin residents take photos on Congress Avenue bridge in Austin on May 13, 2020.

Austin residents take photos on Congress Avenue bridge in Austin on May 13, 2020.

Credit: Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

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Keep wearing your mask and taking COVID-19 safety precautions, local health experts said Tuesday, after Gov. Greg Abbott announced he was lifting the statewide mask mandate and restrictions on businesses.

“Despite the impending removal of the state mask mandate, we must continue our vigilance with masking, distancing, and hand washing,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Travis County Interim Health Authority. “These remain critical in our ongoing fight against COVID-19.”

Expressing concerns about highly contagious variants of the virus and the need for local health officials to maintain some authority over their local situations — which vary widely from county to county — doctors and health officials cautioned that Texans should not take Abbott’s announcement as a signal to relax the behavior that has lead to a recent decrease in coronavirus case rates and hospitalizations.

That means continuing to stay home when possible, avoid large gatherings, stay separate from vulnerable family members, wash hands frequently, and wear masks in public or around others who don’t live in the same household.

Their advice mirrors that of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which still recommends that people wear masks, even as more people get vaccinated. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease, has also recently said that double-masking makes sense in light of highly contagious variants.

In a jubilant press conference, Abbott said the mask mandate and any business restrictions that limited customers would sunset next Wednesday. He added that people should still take the same precautions they have been taking for the past year.

“Removing state mandates does not end personal responsibility, or the importance of caring for your family members and caring for your friends and caring for others in your community,” he said. “Personal vigilance to follow the same standards is still needed to contain COVID. It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed to stay safe.”

Dr. Ivan Melendez, Hidalgo County Health Authority, said it’s premature to abandon safety precautions and hopes Texans can stay patient even in the absence of statewide rules.

“I think that people have a lot more common sense than we give them credit for, but … it’s very hard for human beings not to start socializing and to stop wearing masks,” he said.”I understand they are looking for any sign they can go back to the old ways, but I would just remind them that we’re in the bottom of the ninth, two runs out, and we’re almost there. This isn’t the time to put the bench in. This is the time to continue with the A-Team. Very soon, we’ll be there.”

Dr. John Carlo, CEO of Prism Health North Texas and a member of the state medical association’s COVID-19 task force, agreed it was too soon for Texans to relax their safety practices, adding he is especially concerned about the increasing spread of the U.K. variant of COVID-19, which is thought to be more contagious and perhaps more deadly.

Researchers also say it’s possible that people who already got COVID-19 could be reinfected, and that while the vaccines appear to be effective enough against the variants, new ones that show up as the pandemic stretches on could be more resistant.

Carlo said allowing the variants to spread could undo all the progress that has been made by Texans’ careful behavior in recent months.

A recent study showed that all the variants that have been identified have been recorded in , the first city in the nation where that has happened.

Although the effects of the vaccination effort on COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations vary in different regions of the state and in different populations, only about 6% of Texans have been fully vaccinated against the disease. Experts have said that between 70% and 90% of the community should be vaccinated before the state achieves herd immunity.

Health experts say that continued caution is vital, particularly at a critical time when Texas is still vaccinating its most vulnerable residents first.

“Whatever the governor has recommended, it should not change what people do in terms of wearing masks or not,” Carlo said. “It’s very clear that we need to continue to wear masks in public places, period. Regardless of whether there’s an order from the governor or not. The bottom line is the individual decision making that has to take place that ultimately makes the outcomes.”

This content was originally published here.

Study Reveals More People are Using Psychedelics to Self-Treat Mental Health

The use of psychedelic drugs as an underground self-treatment for mental health conditions is on the rise, according to the world’s largest drug survey, with thousands of people turning to substances like LSD, MDMA, psilocybin and ketamine to treat psychiatric illnesses and emotional distress.

Of the 110,000 worldwide respondents to the 2020 Global Drug Survey, 6,500 (just under six percent) reported using recreational drugs as a DIY mental health treatment. These included cases of people microdosing alone with LSD or magic mushrooms, as well as cases where people took psychedelics under the supervision of another person in an unregulated setting. While these supervisors were most commonly reported as being friends and partners, the unregulated settings also included psychedelic retreats and so-called “traditional healing groups”.

The findings show that while health regulators around the world debate whether or not to legalise the therapeutic use of drugs like LSD, MDMA and psilocybin, demand among users is increasing. And according to Dr Monica Barratt, a professor at Australia’s RMIT University and a co-author of the study, it “may end up being filled outside of the medical setting”.

Depression, anxiety and relationship problems were the most common underlying factors leading people to self-medicate with illicit substances—but others included PTSD, bereavement and problems related to substance use. As the authors note, “people are thus using psychedelics to treat the most common mental health problems that people currently seek help for from traditional medical services.”

“The findings suggest there are many people with common preexisting conditions for whom existing treatment modalities are either insufficient or unattractive to engage with,” they add.

The most common reported reason for taking LSD was to enhance wellbeing (about 52 percent) followed by use to deal with a specific emotional worry or concern. The most common primary reason given by respondents who used magic mushrooms was to enhance general wellbeing, followed by use to cope with worries and to get relief from a psychiatric condition.

Just over 4 percent of respondents who used psychedelics as self-treatment reported visits to the emergency department.

The authors of the study urged caution for anyone thinking of self-treating with illicit substances, and Dr Barratt pointed out that mental health professionals have an important role to play in supporting such people—as long as they’re appropriately trained.

“Accredited training for psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to do preparatory and integration sessions to help support people who take underground psychedelics for self-treatment may help bridge the gap,” she said in a statement.

Overall, the authors noted that conversations around the regulation and use of certain drugs in clinical settings need to develop as quickly as possible, in order to meet the rising demand from people who are evidently not able to access more traditional mental health treatments.

“The longer the delay in rolling out these treatments through clinical services the greater the risk that vulnerable people will be tempted to access these drugs in situations that carry potential greater risk of harm,” they state. “More scientific data is needed of course, but our data suggest that should these new treatments become available there will be a large group of people keen to engage with them.”

They further note: “despite their potential utility as treatments for several mental health conditions, unplanned attempts to use these substances to deal with serious mental illness are not recommended. Positive outcomes and healing can only occur with the holistic preparation and integration of psychedelic experiences in a supportive environment with access to additional resources if needed.”

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer threatened with subpoena over secret payout to health director

Michigan Republican Sen. Jim Runestad, joined by daughter of nursing home victim Jamie Nicholson, discuss why the Democratic governor should be held accountable for her COVID-19 directive.

Michigan Republicans threatened Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with a subpoena Tuesday amid news that Whitmer’s former health department director is set to receive a $155,506 payout after his unexplained resignation in January.

News of the so-called golden parachute for former state health department Director Robert Gordon comes as state Republicans question the Whitmer administration’s numbers about coronavirus deaths in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

“We want to know if what happened in New York, did that happen here? Can you show us that data? They refused to show us the data,” state Rep. Steve Johnson, chair of the Michigan House Oversight Committee, said at a press conference on Tuesday. “Now, last night we find out that our governor has bought the silence of former Director Gordon with $150,000 of taxpayer money.”

Gordon signed a confidentiality agreement and is set to receive nine months’ worth of salary after his sudden resignation in late January, The Detroit News first reported.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wears a mask with the word “vote” displayed on the front during a roundtable discussion on healthcare, Wednesday Oct. 7, 2020, in Kalamazoo, Mich. (Nicole Hester/Ann Arbor News via AP)/

“What I want to know is, what are they hiding?” Johnson said. “We are going to begin an investigation. … It came to light that it’s not just Director Gordon but his aide as well has one of these agreements. Our office has issued a request for a copy of each agreement.”

“The Oversight Committee will be doing hearings on this matter. We are reaching out to the department, asking them to come forward testify on this matter,” Johnson said. “If we have to do a subpoena, we will.”

Whitmer previously dodged a question about whether she was behind Gordon’s departure, which was so abrupt it came just eight hours after he had issued an order allowing indoor dining to resume.

“To lead this department in unimaginable circumstances, it has been grueling,” Whitmer said at a Jan. 25 press conference according to The Detroit News. “On behalf of all of the people of Michigan, I want to thank him for his service to our state. He worked hard to protect our public health.”

Fox News’ Houston Keene contributed to this report.

This content was originally published here.

Michigan Gov. Whitmer paid top health official massive sum in secret deal after his abrupt resignation: report

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has found herself in hot water after her administration agreed to pay former state Health Department Director Robert Gordon more than $150,000 in taxpayer money after he abruptly resigned his position in January.

The deal, which was first reported by the Detroit News, was made with the requirement that it remain confidential.

What are the details?

According to the Detroit News, Gordon was paid $155,506, a total of nine months salary and health benefits, in agreement for releasing the state “from any potential legal claims.”

“The agreement is the clearest evidence yet that the split between Gordon … and Whitmer was not amicable, and it shows the Democratic administration used taxpayer funds to ease his departure,” the Detroit News reported.

The deal was inked on Feb. 22, one month after Gordon, who helped coordinate Michigan’s COVID-19 pandemic response, abruptly left his job.

The separation agreement stipulates that, out of the interest of confidentiality, the state would tell Gordon’s future employers that he voluntarily resigned.

Why did Gordon resign?

The actual reason remains unknown.

Interestingly, Gordon resigned just hours after signing a pandemic-related order allowing restaurants to begin offering indoor dining at reduced capacity. Gordon was not present at the press conference that announced the resumption of indoor dining.

Whitmer’s administration had been using Gordon to issue its pandemic-related emergency orders because the Michigan Supreme Court ruled last October that Whitmer had violated the Michigan state constitution by continuing to issue highly restrictive COVID orders without approval from state lawmakers.

What was the reaction to the deal?

Republicans are using news of the secret deal to draw more attention to Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic.

Rep. Steve Johnson (R), chairman of the Michigan House Oversight Committee, told Fox News:

We’re still investigating the things the Whitmer Administration has done during COVID in plain sight, when we find out about a secret payoff behind closed doors. While it doesn’t surprise me, the deception is shocking and shows how badly this Administration needs oversight so they can be held to account.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Republican Party wants to know what Whitmer is trying to hide by keeping the deal secret.

“Mr. Robert Gordon was the state’s health director and played an instrumental role in the state’s COVID-19 response. Michigan taxpayers deserve to know the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Mr. Gordon in the middle of a public health crisis,” Ted Goodman, spokesman for the Michigan GOP, said.

“Why is Gov. Whitmer refusing to explain this secret deal?” Goodman added.

“What is @GovWhitmer trying to hide?” the Michigan GOP tweeted.

Anything else?

News of the deal comes as Republicans demand an investigation into Whitmer’s pandemic response, particularly as it relates to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

This content was originally published here.

Bubba Watson opens up about mental health struggles

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” – Dr Seuss Bubba Watson stood on the first tee at Torrey Pines last month doing socially distant interviews about Linksoul, the lifestyle clothing brand. He had just become a major investor, and now he shuffled back and forth and spoke quickly, and with limited eye contact. Then his energy lifted to almost comic proportions, words spilling from his mouth with fervor as – even if only briefly – he looked you in the eye with vitality. To the casual observer, the shifting, twitchy Watson could have come off as dismissive or even arrogant. His excitement could have been just PR spin. Both assumptions would have been wrong. Being misunderstood has plagued Watson his entire life, and this scene provided clues as to why. His exhibited behavior was not new for the three-time Genesis Invitational winner – in fact it was textbook for someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and/or anxiety issues. Watson has both. To try to understand Watson is to try to understand both conditions. “In the past there were times I’ve slipped up and people have blasted me… people have made fun of me,” says Watson, who will play in a threesome with Dustin Johnson and defending champion Adam Scott at Riviera Country Club on Thursday and Friday. “And it definitely is hurtful. The big thing for me now is I’m accepting it more. One of the many problems was I held things in for so long that it hurt me. It hurt when people would write things about me without knowing me. “Now I’m at a point where I can say let’s just talk about it,” he continues. “I don’t need to hide that I’m a man who sometimes cries. I’m a man with issues just like everybody else. There’s ups and downs to life, no matter if you’re a TOUR golfer or a person that nobody ever sees. “It’s OK to not be OK sometimes.” Mental health has often taken a back seat in life, but those who suffer from anxiety disorders can tell you it’s always front-of-mind. Watson suffers from social and generalized anxiety – he has trouble in large crowds and feels self-conscious and judged in social settings. The condition has proven especially challenging for an elite athlete who performs in front of the world. Remember when Watson won the 2012 Masters by hooking a wedge shot out of the trees at the 10th hole? As he ventured outside the gallery ropes his main stressor was not how he would win the playoff but his close proximity to the patrons. The shot – which seemingly hooked at a right angle to the green, setting up his eventual victory – didn’t bother him. Self-taught, highly visual, and unusually adept at working the ball both ways, Watson was used to making such magic. Anxiety has been a part of his life for some time, but roughly two years ago it started getting worse. He couldn’t sleep, lost weight and even feared for his life. Sometimes he thought of his former Green Beret father, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder before dying of cancer in 2010. A few times Watson thought he was having a heart attack and was hospitalized. All along he was also letting the negative opinions of others seep into his soul, and his game suffered. Although he won three times in 2018, it is perhaps no surprise that he hasn’t won since. “I thought I was going to die, and my mental issues had a good hold on me for a while,” Watson says. “I went down to 162 pounds” – he is 6 feet, 3 inches tall – “and then I quit checking my weight because it was also stressing me out. But I fought out of it and came back from it.” These days Watson says he is also more accepting of the good he’s done in his life. He knows he’s trying to be a good father and husband and is keenly focused on charitable undertakings. His deal with Linksoul is as much to do with continued growth as a person as it is with his bottom line. Watson expects to personally evolve from it in ways he might not even be able to predict. “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Unknown. Thousands of critics, be they viewers, keyboard warriors (this correspondent included) or even his peers, have fallen into the trap of passing judgement on Watson without the full story. We’ve judged the 12-time PGA TOUR winner not just on his ability to curve the ball in all manner of self-taught and head scratching ways (genius), but also by some isolated behaviors. “Absolutely he’s misunderstood as any person that’s on TV for brief moments can be,” says his caddie Ted Scott. “Sometimes the world demands perfection and that’s not something that exists. I don’t want to tell somebody what they should or should not think about Bubba Watson. “But I’d suggest,” he continues, “trying to get to know him. Look at his character off the course before making snap judgements. With minimal digging you’ll see that he’s a man of faith. He’s adopted two kids. He’s happily married. He’s very involved in charity. The man has a massive heart.” Fellow Scottsdale resident Aaron Baddeley insists Watson is one of the TOUR’s nice guys. “At the 2011 Presidents Cup I hit a bad tee shot that caused us to lose the last hole to halve our match,” Baddeley says. “I was pretty gutted. The first guy who came up to me with kind words was Bubba from the opposite team. Not many people would do that. Sometimes people don’t see his true self or just don’t want to see it. For whatever reason they’ve made their mind up ahead of time. But I know he’s someone I can always trust because his heart is always in the right place.” Despite the lavish praise from friends, Watson is the first to admit he hasn’t always exhibited his best self in public. He doesn’t look to offer up excuses, but the fact is he has some. While some would claim ADHD isn’t a real medical condition and those who have it are just lazy attention seekers who need to try harder, in reality ADHD can manifest differently in individuals. Firstly, it’s not about a want for attention at all. It is a disorder that brings heightened levels of hyperactive or impulsive behaviors and makes focus on single tasks difficult. Yet it is important to note that ADHD does not mean an inability to focus completely. Quite the opposite, those with the condition often exhibit hyper focus in areas where their passions lie. Swimmer Michael Phelps and musician Adam Levine are part of the hyper-focused ADHD crew. It has been said that golf – in which players can intermittently let their attention wander and then laser in on a shot when necessary – is in fact the perfect ADHD sport. This would explain why Watson is great at his sport, and also why his list of investments, plus his varied off-course endeavors, read very different to many TOUR pros. Watson has put his money behind a candy shop, a car dealership, a driving range, a minor league baseball team and now Linksoul – all places where he finds joy. He knows that if he invests outside his passions, even if they may be prudent investments, he won’t make the connections that help him grow. Linksoul brands itself as a lifestyle rather than an apparel company, and while its roots are in golf it doesn’t follow the traditional golf-attire rout. Instead, it embraces itself as a philosophy. Co-founded by John Ashworth, the company has distanced itself from corporate rigidity and operates under the assumption that if one enjoys their life, they’ll in turn enjoy their work. “I just love what their spirit is and what they’re trying to create,” Watson says of the partnership. “I feel what their energy is, and the fact it is a mesh between the business world and the play world speaks to me and the phase of life I’m moving into now. “I want to continue to learn about business,” he adds, “and people will see that I’m actually intelligent and understand business and how things work and how things can go forward.” “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison. Watson doesn’t mention intelligence by accident. He knows there are people who think he lacks it, and he admits he may have deliberately, and unwittingly at times, fueled those misperceptions. It was the easier role to play. Even his infamous Golf Boys character fit that bill. “I portrayed a story for a while,” he says. “When I first came out on TOUR, I was hard-headed and it takes me a while to learn things, to see things in certain ways, to act in certain ways. I wasn’t prepared for it. Intelligent might not be the right word, but I hope people see that I’m actually smarter than I portray sometimes. I want the world to see that I actually am smart, and the things I try to do have thought behind them and are about connecting with my passions. “I try to do things in a way I find fun and engaging – it might be different to what people see as normal but I’m finding out it speaks to others who might sit outside the traditional golf bubble.” It certainly does. Watson has always used social media, and these days TikTok is falling in love with his antics. At the Waste Management Phoenix Open two weeks ago, during a practice round, Watson hit a bunker shot at the famed 16th hole before being joined by influencers Joey Reed and Tosha to do their viral dance to the song “Wrap Me In Plastic.” Traditional golf fans weren’t all that impressed, but the video has over 1.5 million views and is crossing over well beyond “the traditional golf bubble.” “To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting,” – E.E. Cummings Watson is putting his new personal growth to the test by trying to ignore the haters and take the road Cummings described. He is buoyed by the progress of society, which increasingly doesn’t see “different” as such a bad word. He says he’s up for the fight on the course, too, as he looks to make the TOUR Championship for the first time since 2018. He sits 76th in the FedExCup heading to Los Angeles’ storied Riviera Country Club, one of his happy places after winning there in 2012, 2014 and 2018. With two Masters titles among his 12 TOUR wins, he has given some thought to the World Golf Hall of Fame. He needn’t worry – he is almost certainly heading for St. Augustine at some point. Watson also hopes his evolution as a person can also help him open the door to another goal. “I’d really like to be considered as a Presidents Cup and or Ryder Cup captain and I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to be in that space,” he says. He certainly knows the terrain, having played on two winning Presidents Cup teams (2011, 2015). On the four occasions he played in the Ryder Cup (2010, 2012, 2014 and 2018) the U.S. was defeated by Europe. In 2016, he acted as an assistant to captain Davis Love III as the U.S. won at Hazeltine. Watson calls it “the most fun and the most thrilling moment” he’s had in golf. Steve Stricker will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team later this year at Whistling Straits, with Love III recently announced as the 2022 Presidents Cup captain. Watson sent a congratulatory text that also included a reminder of his skills as an assistant should he not make the team. Golfer, candy man, car salesman, captain, voluntary assistant captain, Linksoul ambassador. Why fit in when you were born to stand out? Why, indeed.

This content was originally published here.