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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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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Write to Sean Gregory at sean.gregory@time.com.

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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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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

This content was originally published here.

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.

This content was originally published here.

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.

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.

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.”

This content was originally published here.

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.

Don’t miss The Dan Bongino Show

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Aung San Suu Kyi in good health under house arrest, says NLD, as teachers join civil disobedience – CNA

YANGON: Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi is in good health under house arrest after being detained in Monday’s military coup, her National League for Democracy (NLD) press officer said on Friday (Feb 5). 

“We have learnt that State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is in good health (in Naypyidaw),” press officer Kyi Toe said on his official Facebook page.

“As far as I know, she’s under house arrest,” he told AFP.

Aung San Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since Monday. Police have filed charges against her for illegally importing and using six walkie-talkie radios found at her home.

The NLD on Friday also threw its support behind a civil disobedience campaign and said it would help people who are arrested or sacked for opposing this week’s coup.

In a statement on an official NLD Facebook page, the party denounced the coup and Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention as “unacceptable” and said it had a duty to provide help to those penalised for opposing the military takeover.

TEACHERS JOIN PROTEST

Teachers on Friday became the latest group to join a civil disobedience campaign, with some lecturers refusing to work or cooperate with authorities in protest against the military’s seizure of power.

The civil disobedience campaign started among medical workers soon after Monday’s coup but has since spread to include students, youth groups and some workers in both the state and private sectors.

Wearing red ribbons and holding up protest signs, scores of lecturers and teachers gathered in front of campus buildings at the Yangon University of Education.

Teachers from Yangon University of Education take part in demonstration against the military coup i

Teachers from Yangon University of Education react with a three-finger salute while holding signs as they take part in demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 5, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

“We don’t want this military coup which unlawfully seized power from our elected government,” said lecturer Nwe Thazin Hlaing.

“We are no longer going to work with them. We want the military coup to fail,” she added, surrounded by other staff who held up held up three-finger salutes, now used by many protesters in Myanmar.

The salute – three fingers pointing up with palm away from the body – stems from the Hunger Games movies, but in recent years, it has been adopted by anti-government protesters in Asia.

One member of staff estimated that 200 of the 246 staff at the university joined the protest.

“We aim to halt the administration system. We are now holding a peaceful strike,” said another lecturer, Honey Lwin.

Teachers from Yangon University of Education take part in a demonstration against the military coup

A teacher from Yangon University of Education participating in a demonstration against the military coup looks at red ribbons in Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 5, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

There were also reports of a similar protest at Dagon University in Yangon.

“As a citizen, I cannot accept this military coup at all,” lecturer Win Win Maw told AFP. “We have to resist this dictatorship.”

Marching around the university’s compound, students chanted “Long live Mother Suu” and carried red flags, the colour of the NLD.

“We will not let our generation suffer under this kind of military dictatorship,” said Min Sithu, a student.

Dozens of employees from several government ministries in Naypyidaw also posed for group photographs wearing red ribbons and flashing the democracy symbol.

Hours before Friday’s university protest, Win Htein, a key aide to Aung Sang Suu Kyi, was arrested at his daughter’s house, said Kyi Toe, the NLD press officer.

Win Htein

Win Htein, one of the leaders of National League for Democracy party, arrives at the opening ceremony of the 21st Century Panglong conference in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on May 24, 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

The 79-year-old NLD stalwart, considered Suu Kyi’s right-hand man, has spent long stretches in detention for campaigning against military rule.

Ahead of his arrest, Win Htein told local media the military putsch was “not wise”, and called on people in the country to “oppose as much as they can”.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Yangon-based group that monitors political arrests in Myanmar, more than 130 officials and lawmakers have been detained in relation to the coup.

Telecom providers in the country have been ordered to cut access to Facebook, the main means of communication and accessing the Internet for millions of people in Myanmar.

“HOPE BROKEN”

With Facebook stifled, more Myanmar people have moved to Twitter in recent days or started using VPN services to bypass the blockade.

A so-called Civil Disobedience Movement has gathered steam online, calling on the public to voice opposition every night by banging pots and clanging cymbals to show their anger.

People hit pots during a night protest against the military coup in Yangon

People hit pots during a night protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 4, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

“I feel our hope is broken by the military after they seized power,” said food vendor Thazin Oo, whose mobile phone case has a photo of Suu Kyi.

So far, at least 14 activists and prominent pro-democracy figures have been arrested, according to AAPP.

The nephew of filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi – who has previously been jailed for criticising the military – confirmed on Friday his outspoken uncle had been picked up on the morning of the coup.

“I think they arrested all dissidents who could share the right information to the public,” said Kaung Satt Naing.

People make noise during a night protest against the military coup in Yangon

People make noise during a night protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 4, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

Police in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, detained more than 20 people for banging pots and pans. They were sentenced on Friday to seven days in prison for violating a public disorder law.

Another four university students from Mandalay, arrested at a small rally were charged on Friday for protesting without permission and breaking coronavirus rules.

As they were escorted out of court in chains, they flashed a defiant three-finger salute to the waiting media.

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.

The NFL Honored Health Care Workers by Throwing a Superspreader Super Bowl

If you took a look at the pictures coming out of the Super Bowl last night, you’d never know that the U.S. was in the middle of a global pandemic. 

After nearly a year of public health experts stressing the need for social distancing, the National Football League held an in-person Super Bowl game for around 22,000 people, and the host city was poppin’.   

Fans pass by a protest against Covid-19 vaccine outside the Raymond James Stadium ahead of the Super Bowl LV game between Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs in Tampa, Florida, United States on February 07, 2021.

Fans pass by a protest against Covid-19 vaccine outside the Raymond James Stadium ahead of the Super Bowl LV game between Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs in Tampa, Florida, United States on February 07, 2021. (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui Trinkl/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Outside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, thousands more swarmed the streets to cheer on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, often standing shoulder to shoulder without masks, in videos posted on social media. 

Fans packed the stadium to watch the Bucs and the Chiefs fight it out in Super Bowl LV, in a state that’s continuously been in the news for opposing coronavirus restrictions.

The NFL gave special tribute to health care workers during the game by, among other things, naming one as an honorary captain. The league gave free tickets to about 7,500 Florida health care workers to attend. Another 14,500 sometimes-maskless fans were also in the stadium.

In an attempt to create social distancing within the venue, officials placed cardboard cutouts of celebrities and common folk in between seats, including the rapper YG, the iconic Bernie Sanders mittens photo, and Guy Fieri. Still, about one-third of the stadium was occupied by living, breathing humans—some of whom took to the streets before and after the big game to celebrate. 

Fans sit among cardboard cutouts before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla.

Fans sit among cardboard cutouts before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Videos shared on social media captured thousands of football fans parading around the streets of Tampa, cheering on their teams. 

Hours after the game on Sunday, the #SuperSpreaderBowl hashtag started trending on Twitter, with many slamming Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been exceptionally heedless of COVID restrictions throughout the pandemic.  

The big game took place only days after experts warned that more contagious variants of COVID-19 have been detected and were spreading in the U.S. A strain that medical officials say originated in the U.K. was found just last week in Kansas, which sent a team, and lots of fans, to the Super Bowl in Tampa, the AP reported. 

Health officials are also worried about at-home Super Bowl parties, saying they very well may contribute to a country-wide spike of COVID-19 as well. 

“If you have 10 or 20 people you are meeting with, there is a very good likelihood that one or two of those people will have COVID-19,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson, director of infection control for the University of Kansas Health System, told the AP. “If you are in a small enclosed space, then three or four of those people will get it.”

Health officials are also worried about at-home Super Bowl parties, saying they very well may contribute to a country-wide spike of COVID-19 as well. 

“If you have 10 or 20 people you are meeting with, there is a very good likelihood that one or two of those people will have COVID-19,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson, director of infection control for the University of Kansas Health System, told the AP. “If you are in a small enclosed space, then three or four of those people will get it.”

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.

A GOP Senator Just Compared Trans Health Care to ‘Genital Mutilation’

She’s set to be the highest-profile trans government official in U.S. history. So Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul used the Senate confirmation hearing for Dr. Rachel Levine to falsely compare gender-affirming health care to genital mutilation.

“Most genital mutilation is not typically performed by force but, as WHO notes, that by social convention, social norm, the social pressure to conform, to do what others do and have been doing as well as the need to be accepted socially and the fear of being rejected by the community,”  Paul told Levine, a Pennsylvania pediatrician and health official who has been nominated to become President Joe Biden’s assistant health secretary. 

“American culture is now normalizing the idea that minors could be given hormones to prevent their biological development of their secondary sexual characteristics,” he said. “Dr. Levine, do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?”

He didn’t ask a single question about the pandemic that’s claimed more than 500,000 Americans’ lives. Instead, he mischaracterized how gender-affirming care works and downplayed the discrimination facing trans and nonbinary people in favor of amplifying an effort, currently popular among state-level conservatives, that would deprive trans kids of health care.

Levine didn’t react to the provocation. If confirmed, she would be the first openly trans person to be confirmed by the Senate. 

“Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed,” she told the Republican senator. She said that she’d be happy to work with Rand and discuss the issue. 

Rand accused her of evading the question. He later thundered, “We should be outraged that someone’s talking to a three-year-old about changing their sex.”

Beyond his apparent assumption that the words “sex” and “gender” are synonymous—they are not—Rand’s suggestion that Americans are now “normalizing” gender-affirming care ignored the reality that trans and nonbinary children face high levels of discrimination. About 78 percent of trans students report being discriminated against at school, according to a 2017 survey of more than 23,000 students by GLSEN; about 70 percent of gender-queer and non-binary students said the same. In that same survey, almost half of all trans kids said that they’d missed or changed schools because of fears for their safety.

This demographic also faces devastatingly high rates of suicide attempts. More than half of trans male and 30 percent of trans female teenagers said that they’d tried to end their lives, according to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2018. More than 40 percent of nonbinary teens also said they’d attempted suicide.

Puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormone therapy may be able to save these kids’ lives: Research indicates that they improve trans and nonbinary kids’ mental health. The average risk of suicide for trans children fell by about 75 percent after spending a year on gender-affirming hormone therapy, according to a Trevor Project research brief.

Medical professionals are, for the record, not performing surgery or giving hormones to three-year-olds. But major medical organizations do support trans kids’ rights to gender-affirming, inclusive health care and have done so for years. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that trans and gender-diverse kids have “access to comprehensive, gender-affirming, and developmentally appropriate health care that is provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space.” 

Rand’s focus on trans children’s bodies echoed an ongoing, nationwide conservative attempt to restrict trans’ kids lives by blocking them from gender-affirming care and participating in sports that match their gender identity. So far this year, legislators in 16 states have introduced 19 bills that would block trans kids from receiving gender-affirming care, according to a tally by the ACLU.

Biden has promised to make his cabinet the most diverse in U.S. history, but many of his nominees—and particularly the women of color—are now facing pushback in the Senate. 

Rep. Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico who would be the first Native American to lead the Department of the Interior, has been attacked for being too “radical.” Neera Tanden would be the first Indian American to head the Office of Management and Budget, but she’s run into trouble due to her history of attacking prominent officials on Twitter.

This content was originally published here.

This new study shows listening to heavy metal is good for your health

heavy metal health study-min

It’s no secret most of us often turn to music to relieve stress, reduce anxiety and escape life’s demands. For all of you metalheads out there, that means rocking out to bands such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, Black Sabbath and Pantera.

However, a new study has reportedly found that blasting heavy metal music may be better for your health than you realize. According to a study conducted by the Vera Clinic, listening to heavy metal music can reportedly lower blood pressure and heart rate and reduce anxiety.

Read more: You can spend the night in the ‘Silence Of The Lambs’ house—here’s how

For the study, Vera Clinic, a Turkish hair transplant and rhinoplasty practice, had 1,540 volunteers between the ages of 18-65 take part in non-verbal reasoning tests designed to produce lower stress levels. Participants listened to a specific soundtrack that was made up of various Spotify playlists. Then, they were fitted with heart rate and blood pressure monitors and recorded their health stats throughout the study.

Researchers found that heavy metal was the second most effective genre at reducing anxiety. In fact, 89 percent of participants reported a decrease in their blood pressure levels. As well, their heart rates dropped by an average of 18 percent.

It turns out, the ’80s pop music playlisthad the greatest impact on participants. According to the study, participants saw a 36 percent decrease in heart rate. Meanwhile, 96 percent of individuals reported a drop in blood pressure while listening to this playlist.

Read more: This MGK and YUNGBLUD collab gets 11 pop-punk renditions in new cover

For Doctor Avlanmış, who led the study, they noted a key observation about heavy metal music.

“In terms of heavy metal, I’d observe that angry music can help listeners process their feelings. And as a result lead to greater well-being.”

All of the findings from the recent heavy metal study can be viewed via MetalSucks here.

Over the years, various music studies have been conducted. As it turns out, researchers have found out just how much heavy metal music can impact listeners. Back in 2015, one study suggested that metal music can actually make people calmer. Meanwhile, in 2018, another study reportedly found that metal music can be good for listeners’ brains.

Read more: grandson gives “Dirty” a vibrant new spin in this live performance—watch

More recently, a 2019 study found that listening to heavy metal music while in the car can apparently make you a bad driver. As well, another 2019 study concluded that listening to heavy metal music doesn’t really cause violent behavior or lack of empathy.

What are your reactions to the study’s findings of heavy metal music’s impact on health? Let us know in the comments below.

The post This new study shows listening to heavy metal is good for your health appeared first on Alternative Press.

This content was originally published here.

New Report From Rep. Katie Porter Reveals How Big Pharma Pursues ‘Killer Profits’ at the Expense of Americans’ Health

Rep. Katie Porter on Friday published a damning report revealing the devastating effects of Big Pharma mergers and acquisitions on U.S. healthcare, and recommending steps Congress should take to enact “comprehensive, urgent reform” of an integral part of a broken healthcare system. 

“In 2018, the year that Donald Trump’s tax giveaway to the wealthy went into effect, 12 of the biggest pharmaceutical companies spent more money on stock buybacks than on research and development.”
—Report

The report, entitled Killer Profits: How Big Pharma Takeovers Destroy Innovation and Harm Patients, begins by noting that “in just 10 years, the number of large, international pharmaceutical companies decreased six-fold, from 60 to only 10.”

While pharmaceutical executives often attempt to portray such consolidation as a means to increase operational efficiency, the report states that “digging a level deeper ‘exposes a troubling industry-wide trend of billions of dollars of corporate resources going toward acquiring other pharmaceutical corporations with patent-protected blockbuster drugs instead of putting those resources toward’ discovery of new drugs.”

Merger and acquisition (M&A) deals are often executed to “boost stock prices,” to “stop competitors,” and to “acquire an innovative blockbuster drug with an enormous prospective revenue stream.” 

“Instead of spending on innovation, Big Pharma is hoarding its money for salaries and dividends,” the report says, “all while swallowing smaller companies, thus making the marketplace far less competitive.” 

Today, our office released a bombshell report exposing the devastating effects of Big Pharma’s mergers and acquisitions. Featuring exclusive interviews with former Immunex, and later Amgen employees, our report shows how consolidation curbs innovation at the expense of patients.

— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) January 29, 2021

Our report is clear: Consolidation destroys scientific cultures that once celebrated creativity and transforms them into places that cater to the whims of shortsighted shareholders.

But our investigation also shows how we can chart a new path forward https://t.co/1jxtK9J6rh

— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) January 29, 2021

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The report calls M&As “just the tip of the iceberg of pharmaceutical companies’ anti-competitive, profit-driven behaviors”:

Pharmaceutical companies often claim that lowering the prices of prescription drugs in the United States would devastate innovation. Yet, as prices have skyrocketed over the last few decades, these same companies’ investment in research and development have failed to match this same pace. Instead, they’ve dedicated more and more of their funds to enrich shareholders or to purchase other companies to eliminate competition.

“In 2018, the year that [former President] Donald Trump’s tax giveaway to the wealthy went into effect, 12 of the biggest pharmaceutical companies spent more money on stock buybacks than on research and development,” the report notes.

Some key findings from the report:

“Competition is central to capitalism,” Porter said in a press release introducing the report. “As our report shows, Big Pharma has little incentive to invest in new, critically needed drugs. Instead, pharmaceutical giants are free to devote their resources to acquiring smaller companies that might otherwise force them to compete.”

“Lives are on the line; it’s clear the federal government needs to reform how it evaluates healthcare mergers and patent abuses,” Porter added. 

To that end, Porter’s report recommends the following actions:

“It’s time we reevaluate the standards for approving these mergers,” the report concludes. “It’s time we pass legislation to lower drug prices. And it’s time we rethink the structure of leadership at big pharmaceutical companies. Together, these strategies can help us bring more innovative, and critically needed, cures and treatments to market.”

This content was originally published here.

Legislator who questioned Black hygiene to lead health panel

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A Republican lawmaker and doctor who questioned whether members of “the colored population” were disproportionately contracting the coronavirus because of their hygiene is drawing new criticism from Black lawmakers after his appointment to lead the state Senate Health Committee.

“Could it just be that African Americans – or the colored population — do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear masks? Or do not socially distance themselves?” state Sen. Stephen Huffman asked a Black health expert in June 11 testimony. “Could that just be the explanation of why there’s a higher incidence?”

The comments resulted in calls from Democrats and the ACLU of Ohio for him to resign from the GOP-controlled Senate.

Huffman, of Tipp City, was appointed last week by Senate President Matt Huffman, his cousin, to chair the committee even after he was fired from his job as a Dayton-area emergency room physician for his comments.

In a letter Wednesday, the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus demanded a health committee leader who understands and can respond to the inequities of healthcare in Ohio “without political influence.”

“If the Senate leadership will not replace Sen. Huffman as Chair, then we will expect Sen. Huffman to use his position to improve the health of Ohio’s African-American population by working with OLBC to pass legislation that effectively addresses health disparities in the state of Ohio,” director Tony Bishop said in a news release.

Huffman remains a licensed medical doctor in Ohio.

“Senator Huffman is a medical doctor and highly qualified to chair the Health Committee,” spokesperson John Fortney said Friday in a written statement. “He has a long record of providing healthcare to minority neighborhoods and has joined multiple mission trips at his own expense to treat those from disadvantaged countries.

Fortney added that Huffman apologized at the time “for asking a clumsy and awkwardly worded question.”

“Sincere apologies deserve sincere forgiveness, and not the perpetual politically weaponized judgement of the cancel culture,” he said.”

Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

This content was originally published here.

Health care worker taken to ER just a few hours after getting second COVID-19 vaccine shot. Four days later he was dead.

An X-ray technologist from Orange, California, fell ill and was taken to an emergency room just a few hours after receiving his second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month — and four days later he was dead, the Orange County Register reported.

What are the details?

Tim Zook, 60, seemed quite hopeful in a Jan. 5 Facebook post, the Register said.

“Never been so excited to get a shot before,” Zook wrote above a photo of a Band-Aid on his arm and his COVID-19 vaccination card, the paper reported. “I am now fully vaccinated after receiving my 2nd Pfizer dose.”

It would turn out to be his final Facebook post.

Just a few hours later, Zook — an X-ray technologist at South Coast Global Medical Center in Santa Ana — had an upset stomach and trouble breathing, the Register said. By 3:30 p.m. his condition worsened so much that his co-workers walked him to the emergency room, the paper added.

“Should I be worried?” his wife, Rochelle, texted him when after receiving the news, the Register said.

“No, absolutely not,” Zook texted back, the paper noted.

“Do you think this is a direct result of the vaccine?” she texted, the Register noted.

“No, no,” he replied, according to the paper. “I’m not sure what. But don’t worry.”

The Register said Zook “passionately urged folks to embrace COVID precautions such as masking up and staying home as ICUs were inundated in December.”

Rapid decline

But Zook’s condition quickly worsened.

There were suspicions of COVID and a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Zook was put on oxygen, then — just four hours later — a BiPAP machine to help push air into the lungs. Multiple tests came back negative for COVID.

Shortly after midnight on Jan. 7, the hospital called. Zook was in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator to help him breathe. But his blood pressure soon dropped and he was transferred to UC Irvine Medical Center. “On Friday I get a call, ‘His kidneys are failing. He needs to be on dialysis. If not, he could die — but there’s also a chance he might have a heart attack or stroke on dialysis because his blood pressure is so low,’ ” Rochelle Zook said.

By 4 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, Zook had gone “code blue” twice and was snatched back from the brink of death. There was a third code blue in the afternoon. “They said if he went code blue a fourth time, he’d have brain damage and be a vegetable if he survives,” Rochelle Zook said.

Zook died later that day, the paper said.

‘We are not blaming any pharmaceutical company’

“We are not blaming any pharmaceutical company,” Rochelle Zook told the Register. “My husband loved what he did. He worked in hospitals for 36 1/2 years. He believed in vaccines. I’m sure he would take that vaccine again, and he’d want the public to take it. But when someone gets symptoms 2 1/2 hours after a vaccine, that’s a reaction. What else could have happened? We would like the public to know what happened to Tim, so he didn’t die in vain. Severe reactions are rare. In reality, COVID is a much more deadly force than reactions from the potential vaccine itself. The message is, be safe, take the vaccine — but the officials need to do more research. We need to know the cause. The vaccines need to be as safe as possible. Every life matters.”

Zook’s widow also told the paper he had high blood pressure, but that for years it had been controlled with medication. Zook was slightly overweight but healthy, the Register added.

“He had never been hospitalized,” Rochelle Zook told the paper. “He’d get a cold and be over it two days later. The flu, and be over it three days later.”

His death has been reported to the national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, run by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control. The Orange County coroner has said the cause of death is inconclusive for now, and further toxicology testing will take months.

“The family just wants closure,” said Zook’s cousin, Ken Polanco of Los Angeles. ” ‘Inconclusive’ is not closure. The family wants the pharmaceutical companies to do more research — if there’s some sort of DNA that doesn’t work with this vaccine, if episodes like this can be prevented, they need to do what they can to pin that down.” […]

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System — which officials caution is a “passive surveillance system” and represents unverified reports of health events that occur after vaccination — has gathered more than 130 reports of death after vaccine administration thus far in 2021. A total of 1,330 adverse reactions have been reported, while more than 23.5 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been administered.

Experts caution that drawing a causal line between vaccination and death is often very difficult to do. When millions of people are being vaccinated — more than 13 million have gotten the Pfizer vaccine as of Jan. 26, and more than 10.5 million have received the Moderna vaccine — some would die for any number of unrelated reasons, as a matter of pure statistics.

What did Pfizer have to say?

A Pfizer-BioNTech spokesman told the paper that pharmaceutical company is aware of Zook’s death and is thoroughly reviewing the matter.

“Our immediate thoughts are with the bereaved family,” the company said in an emailed statement, the Register reported. “We closely monitor all such events and collect relevant information to share with global regulatory authorities. Based on ongoing safety reviews performed by Pfizer, BioNTech and health authorities, [the vaccine] retains a positive benefit-risk profile for the prevention of COVID-19 infections. Serious adverse events, including deaths that are unrelated to the vaccine, are unfortunately likely to occur at a similar rate as they would in the general population.”

The Orange County coroner said it has an open death investigation for Zook and will be conducting more tests as part of its autopsy protocol, spokeswoman Carrie Braun told the paper, adding that the coroner’s office will use its findings to issue a final determination concerning the cause and manner of death.

“If it’s determined there may be a correlation to the vaccine, we will immediately notify the OC Health Care Agency,” Braun added to the Register.

This content was originally published here.

Lawyer for ‘QAnon shaman’ claims client’s health deteriorating in jail without organic food – POLITICO

Last week, Chansley filed a request for organic food, which he said is all he has eaten for the past eight years, according to court documents. He said the last time he ate was the morning of Jan. 25 and asked for some canned vegetables, canned wild-caught tuna or organic canned soup.

“I will continue to pray thru the pain and do my best not to complain,” Chansley wrote in the request. “I have strayed from my spiritual diet only a few times over the last 8 years with detrimental physical effects. As a spiritual man I am willing to suffer for my beliefs, hold to my convictions, and the weight of their consequences.”

Eric Glover, general counsel for Washington, D.C.,’s Department of Corrections, disputed that Chansley hasn’t eaten in a Tuesday email to Watkins filed in court documents.

At a hearing Friday, a judge urged Chansley’s lawyer to try to work out the issues related to his diet with Glover. Chansley’s request for organic food was denied on Monday, according to the documents, which said his claims had no “religious merit.”

In the filing Wednesday, Watkins called for Chansley to be released before his trial, saying he doesn’t have a criminal history, wasn’t “part of a grand scheme to … overthrow the Government” and that it would remove any issues with Chansley’s “worsening health situation.” Watkins wrote Wednesday that Chansley has also been compliant with the FBI. The judge in the case has said he’d be open to considering bail for him in early March.

The Phoenix man was among the first people indicted by federal prosecutors in wake of the Capitol insurrection that left five people dead. Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, was charged with violating the Federal Anti-Riot Act and obstructing Congress, among other charges. Former President Donald Trump was subsequently impeached for inciting an insurrection. Chansley would also be willing to testify at Trump’s Senate trial next week, Watkins has previously said.

Prosecutors have argued Chansley was “an active participant in” the “violent insurrection,” suggesting charges of sedition or insurrection could be in the works for people involved.

The horns and fur Chansley wore Jan. 6 that made him one of the most recognizable faces of the riots were all part of his “Shaman beliefs,” Watkins wrote in the filing Wednesday.

Watkins also argued in his Wednesday filing that Trump incited the riot by saying “‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore” at a rally before the riot. In an interview on CNN in wake of the riots, Watkins said Chansley “felt like he was answering” Trump’s call and called on Trump to give him a pardon.

“He felt like his voice was, for the first time, being heard,” Watkins said of Chansley. “And what ended up happening, over the course of the lead-up to the election, over the course of the period from the election to Jan. 6 — it was a driving force by a man he hung his hat on, he hitched his wagon to. He loved Trump. Every word, he listens to him.”

This content was originally published here.

The year global health went local

We are writing this letter after a year unlike any other in our lifetimes.

Two decades ago, we created a foundation focused on global health because we wanted to use the returns from Microsoft to improve as many lives as possible. Health is the bedrock of any thriving society. If your health is compromised—or if you’re worried about catching a deadly disease—it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Staying alive and well becomes your priority to the necessary detriment of everything else.

Over the last year, many of us have experienced that reality ourselves for the first time. Almost every decision now comes with a new calculus: How do you minimize your risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19? There are probably some epidemiologists reading this letter, but for most people, we’re guessing that the past year has forced you to reorient your lives around an entirely new vocabulary—one that includes terms like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” and the “R0” of a virus. (And for the epidemiologists reading this, we bet no one is more surprised than you that we now live in a world where your colleague Anthony Fauci has graced the cover of InStyle magazine.)

Bill:
Fans of the movie Contagion might have already known this.

When we wrote our last Annual Letter, the world was just starting to understand how serious a novel coronavirus pandemic could get. Even though our foundation had been concerned about a pandemic scenario for a long time—especially after the Ebola epidemic in West Africa—we were shocked by how drastically COVID-19 has disrupted economies, jobs, education, and well-being around the world.

Only a few weeks after we first heard the word “COVID-19,” we were closing our foundation’s offices and joining billions of people worldwide in adjusting to radically different ways of living. For us, the days became a blur of video meetings, troubling news alerts, and microwaved meals.

Melinda:
Neither of us are decent cooks.
I miss him every day.

But the adjustments the two of us have made are nothing compared to the impact the pandemic has had on others. COVID-19 has cost lives, sickened millions, and thrust the global economy into a devastating recession. One and a half billion children lost time in the classroom, and some may never return. Essential workers are doing impossible jobs at tremendous risk to themselves and their families. Stress and isolation have triggered far-reaching impacts on mental health. And families in every country have had to miss out on so many of life’s most important moments—graduations, weddings, even funerals. (When Bill Sr. died last September, it was made even more painful by the fact we couldn’t all come together to mourn.)

History will probably remember these last couple of months as the most painful point of the entire pandemic. But hope is on the horizon. Although we have a long recovery in front of us, the world has achieved some significant victories against the virus in the form of new tests, treatments, and vaccines. We believe these new tools will soon begin bending the curve in a big way.

The moment we now find ourselves in calls to mind a quote from Winston Churchill. In the fall of 1942, he gave a famous speech marking a military victory that he believed would be a turning point in the war against Nazi Germany. “This is not the end,” he warned. “It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

When it comes to COVID-19, we are optimistic that the end of the beginning is near. We are also realistic about what it’s taken to get here: the largest public health effort in the history of the world—one involving policymakers, researchers, healthcare workers, business leaders, grassroots organizers, religious communities, and so many others working together in new ways.

Melinda:
Many of the parents who took on added caregiving responsibilities when schools closed last March.

That kind of shared effort is important, because in a global crisis like this one, you don’t want companies making decisions driven by a profit motive or governments acting with the narrow goal of protecting only their own citizens. You need a lot of different people and interests coming together in goodwill to benefit all of humanity.

Philanthropy can help facilitate that cooperation. Because our foundation has been working on infectious diseases for decades, we have strong, long-standing relationships with the World Health Organization, experts, governments, and the private sector. And because our foundation is specifically focused on the challenges facing the world’s poorest people, we also understand the importance of ensuring that the world is considering the unique needs of low-income countries, too.

To date, our foundation has invested $1.75 billion in the fight against COVID-19. Most of that funding has gone toward producing and procuring crucial medical supplies. For example, we backed researchers developing new COVID-19 treatments including monoclonal antibodies, and we worked with partners to ensure that these drugs are formulated in a way that’s easy to transport and use in the poorest parts of the world so they benefit people everywhere.

Bill:
These are manufactured antibodies that grab onto a virus and disable it, just as the naturally occurring antibodies in your immune system do.

We’ve also supported efforts to find and distribute safe and effective vaccines against the virus. Over the last two decades, our resources backed the development of 11 vaccines that have been certified as safe and effective, and our partners have been applying the lessons we learned along the way to the development of vaccines against COVID-19.

Melinda:
These include vaccines for pneumonia, cholera, meningitis, rotavirus, typhoid, and Japanese encephalitis—which together have saved millions of lives.

It’s possible that by the time you read this, you or someone you know may have already received a COVID-19 vaccine. The fact that these vaccines are already becoming available is, we think, pretty remarkable—especially considering that COVID-19 was a virtually unknown pathogen at the beginning of 2020 and how rigorous the process is for proving a vaccine’s safety and efficacy. (It’s important that people understand that even though these vaccines were developed on an expedited timeline, they still had to meet strict guidelines before being approved.)

No one country or company could have achieved this alone. Funders around the world pooled resources, competitors shared research findings, and everyone involved had a head start thanks to many years of global investment in technologies that have helped unlock a new era in vaccine development. If the novel coronavirus had emerged in 2009 instead of 2019, the road to a vaccine would have been much longer.

Of course, creating safe and effective vaccines in a laboratory is only the beginning of the story. Because the world needs billions of doses in order to protect everyone threatened by this disease, we helped partners figure out how to manufacture vaccines at the same time as they were being developed (a process that usually happens sequentially).

Bill:
This is why some people were able to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it received FDA approval.

Now, the world has to get those doses out to everyone who needs them—starting with frontline health workers and other high-risk groups. Our foundation has worked with manufacturers and partners to deliver other vaccines cheaply and on a very large scale in the past (including to 822 million kids in low-income countries through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance), and we’re doing the same with COVID-19.

Melinda:
And that women who don’t want to get pregnant continue to have access to contraceptives.

Our foundation and its partners have pivoted to meet the challenges of COVID-19 in other ways as well. When our friend Warren Buffett donated the bulk of his fortune to double our foundation’s resources in 2006, he urged us to stay focused on the issues that have always been central to our mission. Tackling COVID-19 was an essential part of any global health work in 2020, but it hasn’t been our sole focus over the last year. Our colleagues continue to make progress across all of our program areas.

The malaria team has had to rethink how to distribute bed nets in a time when it’s no longer safe to hold an event to give them to a lot of people at once. We’re helping partners understand COVID-19’s impact on pregnant women and babies and making sure that they continue to receive essential health services. Our education partners are helping teachers adjust to a world where their laptop is their classroom. In other words, we remain trained on the same goal we’ve had since our foundation opened its doors: making sure every single person on the planet has the chance to live a healthy and productive life.

A high school teacher in Seoul, Korea, works with her students remotely. (Chung Sung-Jung/Getty Images)
Health workers deliver mosquito nets in Benin. (Yanick Folly/Getty Images)
A high school teacher in Seoul, Korea, works with her students remotely. (Chung Sung-Jung/Getty Images)
Health workers deliver mosquito nets in Benin. (Yanick Folly/Getty Images)
A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment helps a pregnant woman in labor in Ankara, Turkey. (Ozge Elif Kizil/Getty Images)
A young woman talks about contraception at a community center in Nairobi, Kenya. (Alissa Everett/Getty Images)
A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment helps a pregnant woman in labor in Ankara, Turkey. (Ozge Elif Kizil/Getty Images)
A young woman talks about contraception at a community center in Nairobi, Kenya. (Alissa Everett/Getty Images)

If there’s a reason we’re optimistic about life on the other side of the pandemic, it’s this: While the pandemic has forced many people to learn a new vocabulary, it’s also brought new meaning to old terms like “global health.”

In the past, “global health” was rarely used to mean the health of everyone, everywhere. In practice, people in rich countries used this term to refer to the health of people in non-rich countries. A more accurate term probably would have been “developing country health.”

This past year, though, that changed. In 2020, global health went local. The artificial distinctions between rich countries and poor countries collapsed in the face of a virus that had no regard for borders or geography.

We all saw firsthand how quickly a disease you’ve never heard of in a place you may have never been can become a public health emergency right in your own backyard. Viruses like COVID-19 remind us that, for all our differences, everyone in this world is connected biologically by a microscopic network of germs and particles—and that, like it or not, we’re all in this together.

Melinda:
Growing up, I heard a lot about how WWII had changed my family’s life—especially my maternal grandmother’s. She’s one of the many women who entered the workforce to fill roles left open by men fighting overseas.

We hope the experience we’ve all lived through over the last year will lead to a long-term change in the way people think about global health—and help people in rich countries see that investments in global health benefit not only low-income countries but everyone. We were thrilled to see the United States include $4 billion for Gavi in its latest COVID-19 relief package. Investments like these will put all of us in a better position to defeat the next set of global challenges.

Just as World War II was the defining event for our parents’ generation, the coronavirus pandemic we are living through right now will define ours. And just as World War II led to greater cooperation between countries to protect the peace and prioritize the common good, we think that the world has an important opportunity to turn the hard-won lessons of this pandemic into a healthier, more equal future for all.

In the rest of this letter, we write about two areas we see as essential to building that better future: prioritizing equity and getting ready for the next pandemic.

This content was originally published here.

Health care worker dies after second dose of COVID vaccine, investigations underway

Tim Zook’s last post on Facebook brimmed with optimism. “Never been so excited to get a shot before,” he wrote on Jan. 5, above a photo of the Band-Aid on his arm and his COVID-19 vaccination card. “I am now fully vaccinated after receiving my 2nd Pfizer dose.”

Zook, 60, was an X-ray technologist at South Coast Global Medical Center in Santa Ana. A couple of hours later, he had an upset stomach and trouble breathing. By 3:30 p.m. it was so bad his colleagues at work walked him to the emergency room. “Should I be worried?” his wife, Rochelle, texted when she got the news. “No, absolutely not,” he texted back. “Do you think this is a direct result of the vaccine?” she typed. “No, no,” he said. “I’m not sure what. But don’t worry.”

There were suspicions of COVID and a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Zook was put on oxygen, then — just four hours later — a BiPAP machine to help push air into the lungs. Multiple tests came back negative for COVID.

Tim Zook’s last Facebook post.

Shortly after midnight on Jan. 7, the hospital called. Zook was in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator to help him breathe. But his blood pressure soon dropped and he was transferred to UC Irvine. “On Friday I get a call, ‘His kidneys are failing. He needs to be on dialysis. If not, he could die — but there’s also a chance he might have a heart attack or stroke on dialysis because his blood pressure is so low,’ ” Rochelle Zook said.

By 4 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, Zook had gone “code blue” twice and was snatched back from the brink of death. There was a third code blue in the afternoon. “They said if he went code blue a fourth time, he’d have brain damage and be a vegetable if he survives,” Rochelle Zook said.

Later that day, Tim Zook died.

Reaction? But no blame

“We are not blaming any pharmaceutical company,” said Rochelle Zook, a resident of Orange. “My husband loved what he did. He worked in hospitals for 36 1/2 years. He believed in vaccines. I’m sure he would take that vaccine again, and he’d want the public to take it.

“But when someone gets symptoms 2 1/2 hours after a vaccine, that’s a reaction. What else could have happened? We would like the public to know what happened to Tim, so he didn’t die in vain. Severe reactions are rare. In reality, COVID is a much more deadly force than reactions from the potential vaccine itself.

“The message is, be safe, take the vaccine — but the officials need to do more research. We need to know the cause. The vaccines need to be as safe as possible. Every life matters.”

Zook had high blood pressure, but that had been controlled with medication for years, she said. He was slightly overweight, but quite healthy. “He had never been hospitalized. He’d get a cold and be over it two days later. The flu, and be over it three days later,” she said.

His death has been reported to the national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, run by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control. The Orange County coroner has labeled the cause of death “inconclusive” for now, and further toxicology testing will take months.

“The family just wants closure,” said Zook’s cousin, Ken Polanco of Los Angeles. ” ‘Inconclusive’ is not closure. The family wants the pharmaceutical companies to do more research — if there’s some sort of DNA that doesn’t work with this vaccine, if episodes like this can be prevented, they need to do what they can to pin that down.”

Other deaths post-vaccine

Zook’s death comes on the heels of a Florida doctor who died on Jan. 3, weeks after getting his first Pfizer shot. Gregory Michael, a 56-year-old obstetrician and gynecologist in Miami Beach, suffered idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a rare immune disorder in which the blood doesn’t clot normally. His death is under investigation.

In California, Placer County officials said a man died shortly after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 21. They did not identify the vaccine or the person, but said he had tested positive for COVID in late December and that the vaccine was not given by the Placer County Public Health Department. Facebook posts say the man was a 56-year-old aide in a senior living facility. That death is under investigation as well.

Tim Zook had to work with COVID patients, and posted this selfie in full gear, urging people to be safe.

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System — which officials caution is a “passive surveillance system” and represents unverified reports of health events that occur after vaccination — has gathered more than 130 reports of death after vaccine administration thus far in 2021. A total of 1,330 adverse reactions have been reported, while more than 23.5 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been administered.

Experts caution that drawing a causal line between vaccination and death is often very difficult to do. When millions of people are being vaccinated — more than 13 million have gotten the Pfizer vaccine as of Jan. 26, and more than 10.5 million have received the Moderna vaccine — some would die for any number of unrelated reasons, as a matter of pure statistics.

Every year in the United States, more than 2.8 million people die. That averages out to more than 7,800 deaths per day, according to CDC data.

“No prescription drug or biological product, such as a vaccine, is completely free from side effects. Vaccines protect many people from dangerous illnesses, but vaccines, like drugs, can cause side effects, a small percentage of which may be serious,” says the Department of Health and Human Services in its primer on the VAERS data. “About 85-90% of vaccine adverse event reports concern relatively minor events, such as fevers or redness and swelling at the injection site. The remaining reports (less than 15%) describe serious events, such as hospitalizations, life-threatening illnesses, or deaths. The reports of serious events are of greatest concern and receive the most careful scrutiny by VAERS staff.

“It is important to note that for any reported event, no cause and effect relationship has been established. The event may have been related to an underlying disease or condition, to medications being taken concurrently, or may have occurred by chance.”

Pfizer-BioNTech probe

A spokesman for Pfizer-BioNTech said the company is aware of Zook’s death and is thoroughly reviewing the matter.

“Our immediate thoughts are with the bereaved family,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We closely monitor all such events and collect relevant information to share with global regulatory authorities. Based on ongoing safety reviews performed by Pfizer, BioNTech and health authorities, (the vaccine) retains a positive benefit-risk profile for the prevention of COVID-19 infections. Serious adverse events, including deaths that are unrelated to the vaccine, are unfortunately likely to occur at a similar rate as they would in the general population.”

The Orange County Coroner has an open death investigation into Zook’s death and will be conducting additional tests within its autopsy protocol, spokeswoman Carrie Braun said. It will use those findings, along with autopsy findings, to make a final determination into the cause and manner of death. “If it’s determined there may be a correlation to the vaccine, we will immediately notify the OC Health Care Agency,” she said.

The FDA said it takes all reports of adverse events related to vaccines seriously, and, along with CDC, “is actively engaged in safety surveillance” of the COVID-19 vaccines that are being administered under emergency use authorizations.

“Any reports of death following the administration of vaccines are promptly and rigorously investigated jointly by FDA and CDC,” it said in an emailed statement. “Such an investigation includes working with health care providers to obtain medical histories and clinical follow-up information.”

Mark Ghaly, secretary of health and human services in California, said the state is looking into these incidents as well. He sends condolences to those who’ve lost loved ones, but stands by the scientific conclusion that the vaccines are safe.

“The details are complex and worthy of further investigation, and that’s what we’re doing now,” Ghaly said on Monday, Jan. 25, on the heels of the Placer death. “Overwhelmingly, though, we’ve seen so many individuals successfully, and without any significant reactions, receive both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.”

Results of the state’s probes will be shared publicly, Ghaly said, along with “lessons learned.” That’s key to continuing the development of confidence in the vaccines “and getting us on the other side of this pandemic,” he said.

This photo of Rochelle and Tim Zook was Zook’s Facebook profile picture.

Caring, generous man

Zook was a man who passionately urged folks to embrace COVID precautions such as masking up and staying home as ICUs were inundated in December. He loved food, posting photos of home-grown zucchinis, thick steaks, sumptuous Sunday breakfasts, wine tasting in Sonoma.

He shared memes urging calm on Election Day, quoting Lincoln saying “We are not enemies, but friends,” and was moved to share the speech President John F. Kennedy never got to deliver: “Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause — united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future — and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.”

Zook was a caring, generous man with deep love for his family, an always-open door and a gift for making others feel comfortable and welcome, friends and family say. Sympathies for his passing have poured in.

“Our deepest condolences are with Tim Zook’s family and loved ones,” said Matt Whaley, CEO of South Coast Global Medical Center, by email. “Tim was a part of our family, too, and we are all grieving his loss.”

Zook and his wife have three grown sons — Aaron, 30, Jared, 26, and Kyle, 24. Zook took a day off work on Monday, Jan. 4 — his last healthy day — to spend with Kyle, who’s fascinated by trains. They went train-spotting.

“They had the most beautiful day together,” Rochelle Zook said.

This content was originally published here.

Concerns grow that the loss of sports is taking a toll on young athletes’ mental health – Portland Press Herald

Portland High senior Danny Tocci is a co-captain on the Deering/Portland ice hockey team, which is unable to gather in-person because Cumberland County has been designated as “yellow.” “I do definitely worry about some of my teammates’ mental health because (playing sports) is all we’ve known,” he says. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Portland High School senior Danny Tocci considers himself a “glass half full person.” So he sees the benefits of virtual meetings with his Portland/Deering ice hockey teammates and coaches as he hopes for some form of a season this winter.

HOW TO GET HELP

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health crisis, call the Maine Crisis Line 24 hours a day at 1-888-568-1112. For more information about mental health services in Maine, visit the website for the state’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

But Tocci said it is getting tougher and tougher to maintain a healthy outlook as the coronavirus pandemic grinds on and he and his teammates are not allowed to gather for any type of in-person athletic activities because they are in one of Maine’s four “yellow” counties.

“It’s saddening in a way and I do definitely worry about some of my teammates’ mental health because (playing sports) is all we’ve known,” said Tocci, a co-captain. “It means so much. It’s a way to release energy, see people and converse. It’s just having something to belong to and a place where you feel comfortable and you can go there and express yourself.”

With high school teams in yellow counties unable to meet for practices or even socially distanced workouts after school, educators and medical professionals are sounding the alarm that, in the effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, the mental well-being of student-athletes is increasingly at risk.

“I think for a good percentage of the kids, yes, it is affecting their mental health,” said John Ryan, the certified athletic trainer at South Portland High and president of the Maine Athletic Trainers’ Association. “And for me, it’s not so much being able to play games, it’s being able to get together with their buddies and do something. … For a lot of these kids, being involved in athletics is a driving force for them to go to school. So now you’ve taken that away and they’re sitting at home thinking, ‘Why bother to go to school?’”

On Dec. 18 Cumberland County became the fourth county to be designated yellow in the Maine Department of Education’s color-coded health advisory for schools. Cumberland, along with Androscoggin, Oxford and York counties, will remain yellow at least until Jan. 29, the DOE announced on Friday. And when a county is deemed “yellow” for academic purposes, it means a full-stop “red” for athletics, according to pandemic guidelines set by the Maine Principals’ Association and key state health and education agencies. More than one-third of the state’s high schools – including 17 of the 20 largest schools – are located in those four counties.

Across the state, people like Ryan and Greely Athletic Director David Shapiro have raised concerns. They point to data collected in Wisconsin, Maine and across the country that show high school athletes have become more depressed and anxious, particularly when they are unable to participate in sports. The research also indicates a significant increase in thoughts of self-harm or suicide and an overall decline in quality of life measures.

“I think it’s my job that people have studies of that nature in their hands whenever they make a decision,” Shapiro said. “I’m trying to send it to whomever I can, the Department of Health and Human Services, the governor’s office, Dr. (Nirav) Shah (at the Maine CDC) to make sure information about the mental health of kids is in the forefront.

“I’m deeply concerned about the lasting effects of their current inactivity,” Shapiro added. “We know in a good year, a regular year, there are significant health benefits of just being active. Now you figure all the other stressors that our kids have right now are further compounded by not being able to be active.”

Dean Plante, the athletic director and girls’ basketball coach at Old Orchard Beach High, says “athletics should not be shut down” at schools in counties designated as yellow by the state. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Shapiro and Ryan are not suggesting that schools ignore the recent spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths and return to a pre-pandemic approach. What they and many others want is for the 51 high school programs affected by yellow status to at least be allowed to have small groups gather for simple and physically distanced conditioning.

“Those schools that are yellow and in-person should be able to do skills and drills in my opinion; athletics should not be shut down,” said Dean Plante, the athletic director and girls’ basketball coach at Old Orchard Beach, where students are attending in-person learning four days a week. “Yellow should not be red in that instance. It makes no sense. It’s contradictory to what we’re doing during the school day.”

In-person physical education classes are being held during the school day. Meanwhile, club and youth sports teams in yellow counties have been given the go-ahead to practice and play games. And even though daily case counts have steadily increased across the state, more than 90 schools in green counties began interscholastic competitions on Jan. 11.

So while athletes at Mt. Ararat in Topsham, in Sagadahoc County are able to run, shoot, skate, ski and ride the bus to away games, just across the Androscoggin River in Cumberland County, coaches and players on Brunswick High’s teams are only able to connect via virtual conferences.

“We’re worried all the time about kids being on screens too much and now we’re pushing them there,” said Sam Farrell, the girls’ basketball coach at Brunswick. Farrell contends the pandemic’s effects are discouraging participation. “I’ve seen it with my own program. We have 18 signed up and last year we had 29.”

DATA SHOW RISE IN ANXIETY, DEPRESSION

Since the onset of the pandemic, mental health professionals have warned about the dangers of isolation and loneliness in the general population. As Maine’s daily case rate of COVID-19 started to spike in November, crisis and wellness call centers experienced an increase in service requests.

For many high school athletes, much of their self-worth is tied to their association with sports, said Rob Smith, a clinical sports psychologist in Waltham, Massachusetts.

“It’s an identity. That’s what’s on the line for kids and why it’s so stressful, is that (being an athlete) is how they define themselves,” Smith said, noting that “if you think about what the pandemic has done, it’s created this giant series of losses.”

Isolation and time away from friends and sports were key contributing factors to the Dec. 4 suicide death of Brunswick High sophomore Spencer Smith, 16, his family said.

“The worst thing for kids is to be sitting in their room ruminating about what they lost,” said Dan Gould, the director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University.

High school athletes reported increased feelings of depression and anxiety as early as May, when spring sports were shut down across the country. In a solicited survey of over 3,200 Wisconsin high school athletes, conducted by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, researchers found 62 percent of both females and males reported mild or moderate/severe depression symptoms.

In previous studies of Wisconsin high school athletes, 35 percent of females and only 21 percent of males reported any depression symptoms. The increase in the moderate/severe category was more than three times greater for girls and more than four times greater for boys.

The survey was then expanded to high school athletes across the country, drawing over 13,000 responses, including 102 from Maine (62 girls, 40 boys). While 102 represents a far smaller sample size, the Maine students reported greater levels of depression, including moderate to severe depression, than their peers in Wisconsin. In a separate measure for anxiety, 50 percent of the female respondents from Maine reported moderate to severe anxiety, compared to 43.7 percent in the overall national survey.

“The research is very consistent with what is being seen across the country,” said Ryan, the athletic trainer at South Portland High. “The problem is getting state policy leaders to fully understand that decisions they are making are adversely affecting the kids.”

The researchers repeated the survey in September to compare Wisconsin students playing a fall sport to those who had their fall sport canceled because of the pandemic.

“We found they were twice as likely to be mildly or moderately depressed if they were not playing their fall sport,” said Tim McGuine, a co-author of the original study.

VIRTUAL MEETINGS ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PRACTICES

Virtual team meetings serve one primary purpose, said Eric Curtis, the athletic director at Bonny Eagle High in Standish.

“What I’m trying to get across to my coaches is, honestly, just to make connections with the kids and keep their spirits up,” Curtis said.

Rachel Wall, a senior co-captain of the Freeport High girls’ basketball team, said she and her teammates are working hard to make sure they maintain a positive connection. Freeport girls’ basketball coach Seth Farrington asked Wall and her fellow captains Hannah Groves and Mason Baker-Schlendering to become active leaders in the virtual team meetings. Each captain has a cohort of teammates whom they direct in daily individual workouts.

Rachel Wall, one of the captains of the Freeport High girls’ basketball team, says she and her teammates are working hard to make sure they maintain a positive connection while they are unable to practice. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

“With my group I’ve been trying to make sure they stay active and doing their workouts,” Wall said. “If we do get to have a season and can practice again, it’s super important that we can just start right back. And, I’m also trying to encourage them because just being a student now is really hard.

“We are separated so much of the time. You want them to stay connected and encourage them throughout the week so they don’t feel alone. And a lot do feel that way right now,” Wall added.

Kennebunk girls’ basketball coach Rob Sullivan said virtual meetings shouldn’t be considered a substitute for practices. Rather, they can be effective for team bonding. He tries to meet with his team three or four times a week for 30- to 45-minute sessions broken into several segments. There is some coaching and drill demonstration but there are also trivia contests or word games to lighten the mood.

Like many other coaches, Sullivan wonders why, when it comes to high school sports, “yellow means red.” He’s not advocating a full start-up of cross-town games. Rather, Sullivan says there is great value with relatively little risk for teams in yellow counties to get in the gym.

“I can put 10, 12 kids in a gym with six hoops and they can stay pretty far apart,” Sullivan said. “Part of me would like to do that but there’s another part that would like to wait longer knowing that, when we do start (practicing), we’ll be able to finish a season.”

Others are more adamant that practices need to be allowed – and soon. Plante says he’s already sensed waning interest in virtual meetings, particularly among students drawn to a sport primarily for its social engagement.

“You always have those fringe kids that (play sports) to be part of something and that’s the beauty of education-based sports. It gives kids that sense of belonging,” Plante said. “Now, those on-the-cusp kids are looking around, and if they have the opportunity to bag groceries and make $12 an hour or stare at me on the computer, it’s a tough sell for a lot of kids. And a lot of families.”

“I’m hoping there’s some movement on the yellow designation,” said Farrington, the Freeport girls’ basketball coach. “The only thing it affects is co-curricular” activities because almost all schools are already operating in a hybrid model.

“If our county goes yellow, we should be yellow in sports. Not red. Yellow. Which means we socially distance, wear a mask,” Farrington said. “And I’m not worried about games. I just want to be in the gym, practicing with those kids that wear Freeport jerseys. I think they need each other, they need the coaches. And the coaches need them, too.”

“There’s some things that don’t make sense to us,” Shapiro said. “We can have in-person learning and we’re an education-based activity, why can’t we extend that learning to the gym, or the rink? For that matter, why can’t we do alpine skiing? Or be in a pool, where chlorine kills (the virus)?

“Everything still centers on their mental health and the long-term effects that this may have and we know the antidote: let them play. At the very least practice.”

For that to happen, the Maine Principals’ Association’s guidance, developed in conjunction with officials across the state, would need to be modified. Executive Director Mike Burnham said he has shared a presentation made by McGuine about the Wisconsin research to some of the key agencies in the state.

“All the state agencies are meeting (this) week to talk about winter sports and what’s transpiring now,” Burnham said.

Until changes are made, though, online practice workouts and attempts at team bonding through virtual meetings are likely to continue.

“As for our team, a lot of girls are trying to make the most of the situation we can,” said Freeport’s Wall.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 case numbers remain high in Maine. With the winter high school sports schedule slated to end in late February, time is running out for some teams to have a meaningful season.

“I try to keep positive,” said Tocci, the hockey player at Portland High, “but some kids in our grade, some of the basketball players especially, are saying, ‘We’re never going to get out of it. We’re never going to have a season.’ I try to tell them to stay positive, but there’s no real evidence that everything is going to get better.”

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With COVID-19 at record levels, reopening schools is unwise, say health experts | The Star

Epidemiologists are warning that reopening elementary schools on Monday as planned, at a time when COVID-19 transmissions are at record-high levels in Ontario, would be unwise.

“One of the real challenges that this virus presents is that you have transmission that can occur before people are symptomatic, and the additional challenge is that many kids show very few symptoms if any,” said epidemiologist Amy Greer, a Canada research chair in population disease modelling at the University of Guelph.

In a long Twitter thread posted on Sunday, she characterized the decision to let children back into school as “reckless and dangerous.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce reassured parents on the weekend that elementary school classrooms will reopen on Jan. 11 and high school students will return to classrooms Jan. 25, two days after the current provincial lockdown is scheduled to end.

In the face of soaring COVID-19 cases, Quebec is considering keeping schools closed for at least another week. Schools in the U.K. are closed until Jan.18, and possibly longer in areas hardest hit by the pandemic.

It made sense to let students back into classrooms in September when community transmission rates were low, said Greer. But with the positivity rate approaching 10 per cent, the number of daily cases in Toronto often approaching 1,000 and Ontario surpassing 3,000 new cases a day, the level of community transmission is so high it will mean more children infected with the virus showing up for class and infecting their classmates, who will bring the virus home to their families.

Screening tools don’t work on children who are asymptomatic, Greer pointed out. If they don’t have a fever; if they’re not coughing or sneezing or fatigued, checklists and thermometers won’t catch the illness and won’t prevent infected students from taking a seat beside a classmate.

If other measures are in place to prevent transmission, the impact of the asymptomatic cases can be attenuated — for example if classes are smaller and children are seated far apart, if ventilation has been optimized — students without symptoms are less likely to pass along the virus. But Greer said classrooms have not been sufficiently modified to prevent that kind of transmission.

“I feel frustrated that we don’t appear to have a plan for how we’re going to compensate to keep schools open in the context of high community transmission,” said Greer, in an interview with the Star.

Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Sinai Health System-University Health Network Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, said the role schools play in transmission of COVID-19 remains unclear — although they are a contributing factor.

He said the COVID-19 numbers are so bad now it’s hard to imagine keeping anything open beyond what is absolutely essential.

“I think that opening schools up now as we have an up going trajectory and when we really have a fair amount of uncertainty about the role of schools in transmission, is not wise,” Morris said.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, has said in the past that schools are critically important and provide an important conduit for social services and even food, through school nutrition programs, for children who need support.

She echoed those concerns at the first COVID-19 update from city hall on Monday, adding on Tuesday that the subject is under active consideration and discussion.

“What we are trying to do is balance control of COVID-19 along with ensuring that we’re meeting the health needs of children and their families, and we know that there is a specific benefit, a clear benefit to having children attend school in person … but it is a very delicate balancing act, and one that may seem like a relatively straightforward decision, but actually has much more complexity underneath it,” she told CBC’s “Metro Morning.”

The decision to open or close schools is a provincial one. Students are currently receiving virtual instruction.

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The Ministry of Education did not respond to questions from the Star in time for this story’s deadline.

Lecce told parents in a letter sent out over the weekend that “schools are not a source of rising community transmission.”

Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city hall and municipal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF

Do you think it’s too soon to send kids back to school in Ontario?

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Fauci assures World Health Org. Biden regime is committed to funding abortions

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WASHINGTON, D.C., January 21, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – In comments made to the World Health Organization (WHO) today, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced the Biden regime’s commitment to the promotion of abortion, as well as a new relationship between the United States and the WHO.

Fauci has been named as Chief Medical Adviser to Joe Biden, who was sworn in as president yesterday, and became Biden’s de facto spokesman to the WHO at the 148th session of the Executive Board of the organization which is currently taking place. Fauci is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who became famous for his constant media appearances during the coronavirus outbreak.

He made clear that the Biden regime would be very closely aligned with the WHO, noting that Biden had already “signed letters retracting the previous Administration’s announcement to withdraw from the organization.”

“I am honored to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization,” Fauci declared.

Under Biden’s authority, the U.S will be “fully engaged in advancing global health,” he added, and would “work constructively with partners to strengthen and importantly reform the WHO.”

However, the newly appointed Chief Medical Adviser also highlighted Biden’s commitment to the promotion of “sexual and reproductive health,” and “reproductive rights,” both of which are common euphemisms for abortion and contraception.

“And it will be our policy to support women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in the United States, as well as globally. To that end, President Biden will be revoking the Mexico City Policy in the coming days, as part of his broader commitment to protect women’s health and advance gender equality at home and around the world.”

The Mexico City Policy prohibits federal funding of abortion abroad. Under former President Donald Trump, it was expanded into a policy called Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.

Biden is very public about his claims of being Catholic, even attending Mass shortly before his inauguration, yet has been very open about his strong support for abortion as well as LGBT ideology. He has called abortion an “essential health service” and wishes to enshrine abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy into federal law.

Pope Francis extended his congratulations to Biden yesterday, yet did not call mention the issue of abortion in his message.

In the flurry of executive orders which Biden signed by yesterday evening, he gave permission for gender-confused soldiers to serve openly in the military.

Aside from committing the U.S. to assist the WHO in funding, and promoting abortion, Fauci repeatedly mentioned the close relationship which would exist between the two going forward. He thanked the WHO for its “role in leading the global public health response to this pandemic,” and assured the organization that that U.S. “intends to fulfill its financial obligations.”

Trump had defunded the WHO for its botching of the coronavirus response and its close ties to Communist China.

In a “directive” to be signed by Biden today, Fauci related that the U.S. would “join COVAX and support the ACT-Accelerator to advance multilateral efforts for COVID-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development.”

“We will commit to building global health security capacity, expanding pandemic preparedness, and supporting efforts to strengthen health systems around the world and to advance the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added, referring to the U.N.’s 2030 pro-abortion goals.

Despite advocating for a renewed focus on promoting abortion and contraception, Fauci closed his speech by claiming that the U.S. would work to “improve the health and wellbeing of all people throughout the world.”

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Unarmed Black Pastor Having Mental Health Episode Is Killed By ‘Aggressive’ Texas Police Officer After Family Called for Wellness Check

A wellness check for Patrick Warren Sr., a Black pastor, turned fatal Sunday, Jan. 10, when an officer in Killeen, Texas, shot Warren after his family had called 911 to request assistance from a mental health professional. The family was concerned that 52-year-old Warren, who lives with mental health issues, was having an episode, according to civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the family.

“They noticed their loved one deteriorating, undergoing some sort of psychosis it appeared,” Merritt said in an exclusive interview with ABC25. “They spoke with medical professionals. They wanted to get him some help.”

According to Merritt, the family was told a mental health deputy was not available so the police department dispatched an officer who has been identified as Reynaldo Contreras instead.

Merritt said the family described Contreras as “an aggressive officer who’s speaking in an abrasive tone who clearly had an attitude.” Merritt also said Contreras slammed the door on the way out of the family’s home before killing Warren, which is corroborated by video footage from the family’s ring camera.

The video footage shows Warren, who also was a veteran, coming out of the door with his hands up. Then his behavior seems to become increasingly more erratic. At that point Warren goes offscreen and the family can be seen in distress asking Warren to sit down and begging the officer not to shoot. However, a taser can be heard being deployed off-camera followed by three shots. “No, no I told you don’t use a gun,” a family member screams over and over on the video.

“When Patrick’s family protested, ‘Don’t shoot,’ an officer fired his first shot into Patrick and redirected his weapon toward Patrick’s wife, Barbara, telling her to get back from Patrick. The officer again trains his weapon on Patrick’s body and continues to fire his weapon, killing him,” a press release from Merritt’s firm states.

Warren was taken to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center where he later died. Merritt said the family is calling for “the immediate firing and arrest of the officer.” Warren’s son, Patrick Warren Jr., said Warren was “tragically killed by Killeen Police … in front of his family in a nonviolent encounter.”

Warren Jr. created a GoFundMe campaign to assist with funeral expenses. On it, he noted his father was the “sole provider” for their family and had lost his job due to the coronavirus pandemic. He added his father’s life insurance policy had expired three months prior and that the family would be grateful for any contribution. The campaign had raised over $34,000 at time of publication.

Warren Jr. also created an Instagram account, Justice For Patrick Warren. It had over 3,000 followers at time of publication.

Patrick Warren,sr Husband Father and Pastor Was shot and killed by local police in his front yard he was unarmed #BLM #BlackTwitter pic.twitter.com/HhOjzOXuNV

— Ananda Robinson (@AnandaRobinson3)

The Killeen Police Department released a statement that said Contreras was dispatched “in reference to a psychiatric call” and when he arrived “he encountered an emotionally distressed man.” They added Contreras initially used his taser but it didn’t work so he “then discharged his duty weapon during the encounter, striking the subject.”

Dr. Jeremy Berry, professor of Counseling and Psychology and a mental health crisis advocate, said there was a way to deescalate the situation without killing Warren.

“I’ve been on calls that looked exactly like that, hundreds of them, and I know that there’s a way that that plays out better. I know there is. I’ve seen it. I’ve been involved in it,” Berry told ABC25. “There are other methods to address that situation that might not require someone to lose their life.”

Activist Shaun King, who said he has gotten involved with helping the Warren family, shared video footage of the encounter on Instagram. He described Warren as “a pastor … beloved father” and “cherished husband.”

On Twitter, Merritt said Warren Sr. was “killed in his front lawn during a wellness check. Shot 3 times in his chest for being ill.” He also listed eight other Black men who were killed by police for similar reasons.

Everyone must say #PatrickWarrensr’s name. He was killed in his front lawn during a wellness check. Shot 3 times in his chest for being ill. Just like #DariusTarver#StephenTaylor #DamianDaniels🇺🇸 #EverettPalmerJr🇺🇸#BrandonRoberts #DewayneBowman#AdrianRoberts🇺🇸#toomany pic.twitter.com/Z2pAautKWS

— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw)

Many on social media said Warren’s death was another painful reminder that Black and white Americans face two justice systems.

“Wow all that restraint the police had with thousands of aggressors in my city but this officer couldn’t handle one man coming towards him,” Instagram user @mealnin_monroe wrote.

“We saw last week it’s possible for police to not kill aggressive people. Even actually attacking people. But a family calls for HELP for a mental episode and this unarmed man is shot in the chest and dies. Like…..I OBVIOUSLY get it, but I don’t f—ing get it,” user @Nikkilooovesit wrote on Twitter.

The Killeen Police Department said there is an ongoing investigation being conducted by their Criminal Investigation Division and the Texas Rangers.

For Merritt, the evidence is clear. “A mental health call should not be a death sentence,” he said.

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Vaccine rollout hits snag as health workers balk at shots

The desperately awaited vaccination drive against the coronavirus in the U.S. is running into resistance from an unlikely quarter: Surprising numbers of health care workers who have seen firsthand the death and misery inflicted by COVID-19 are refusing shots.

It is happening in nursing homes and, to a lesser degree, in hospitals, with employees expressing what experts say are unfounded fears of side effects from vaccines that were developed at record speed. More than three weeks into the campaign, some places are seeing as much as 80% of the staff holding back.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be a guinea pig,” said Dr. Stephen Noble, a 42-year-old cardiothoracic surgeon in Portland, Oregon, who is postponing getting vaccinated. “At the end of the day, as a man of science, I just want to see what the data show. And give me the full data.”

“It’s far too low. It’s alarmingly low,” said Neil Pruitt, CEO of PruittHealth, which runs about 100 long-term care homes in the South, where fewer than 3 in 10 workers offered the vaccine so far have accepted it.

Many medical facilities from Florida to Washington state have boasted of near-universal acceptance of the shots, and workers have proudly plastered pictures of themselves on social media receiving the vaccine. Elsewhere, though, the drive has stumbled.

While the federal government has released no data on how many people offered the vaccines have taken them, glimpses of resistance have emerged around the country.

In Illinois, a big divide has opened at state-run veterans homes between residents and staff. The discrepancy was worst at the veterans home in Manteno, where 90% of residents were vaccinated but only 18% of the staff members.

In rural Ashland, Alabama, about 90 of some 200 workers at Clay County Hospital have yet to agree to get vaccinated, even with the place so overrun with COVID-19 patients that oxygen is running low and beds have been added to the intensive care unit, divided by plastic sheeting.

The pushback comes amid the most lethal phase in the outbreak yet, with the death toll at more than 350,000, and it could hinder the government’s effort to vaccinate somewhere between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population to achieve “herd immunity.”

Administrators and public health officials have expressed hope that more health workers will opt to be vaccinated as they see their colleagues take the shots without problems.

Oregon doctor Noble said he will wait until April or May to get the shots. He said it is vital for public health authorities not to overstate what they know about the vaccines. That is particularly important, he said, for Black people like him who are distrustful of government medical guidance because of past failures and abuses, such as the infamous Tuskegee experiment.

Medical journals have published extensive data on the vaccines, and the Food and Drug Administration has made its analysis public. But misinformation about the shots has spread wildly online, including falsehoods that they cause fertility problems.

Stormy Tatom, 30, a hospital ICU nurse in Beaumont, Texas, said she decided against getting vaccinated for now “because of the unknown long-term side effects.”

“I would say at least half of my coworkers feel the same way,” Tatom said.

There have been no signs of widespread severe side effects from the vaccines, and scientists say the drugs have been rigorously tested on tens of thousands and vetted by independent experts.

States have begun turning up the pressure. South Carolina’s governor gave health care workers until Jan. 15 to get a shot or “move to the back of the line.” Georgia’s top health official has allowed some vaccines to be diverted to other front-line workers, including firefighters and police, out of frustration with the slow uptake.

“There’s vaccine available but it’s literally sitting in freezers,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey. “That’s unacceptable. We have lives to save.”

Nursing homes were among the institutions given priority for the shots because the virus has cut a terrible swath through them. Long-term care residents and staff account for about 38% of the nation’s COVID-19 fatalities.

In West Virginia, only about 55% of nursing home workers agreed to the shots when they were first offered last month, according to Martin Wright, who leads the West Virginia Health Care Association.

“It’s a race against social media,” Wright said of battling falsehoods about the vaccines.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said only 40% of the state’s nursing home workers have gotten shots. North Carolina’s top public health official estimated more than half were refusing the vaccine there.

SavaSeniorCare has offered cash to the 169 long-term care homes in its 20-state network to pay for gift cards, socially distanced parties or other incentives. But so far, data from about a third of its homes shows that 55% of workers have refused the vaccine.

CVS and Walgreens, which have been contracted by a majority of U.S. nursing homes to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, have not released specifics on the acceptance rate. CVS said that residents have agreed to be immunized at an “encouragingly high” rate but that “initial uptake among staff is low,” partly because of efforts to stagger when employees receive their shots.

Some facilities have vaccinated workers in stages so that the staff is not sidelined all at once if they suffer minor side effects, which can include fever and aches.

The hesitation isn’t surprising, given the mixed message from political leaders and misinformation online, said Dr. Wilbur Chen, a professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in the science of vaccines.

He noted that health care workers represent a broad range of jobs and backgrounds and said they are not necessarily more informed than the general public.

“They don’t know what to believe either,” Chen said. But he said he expects the hesitancy to subside as more people are vaccinated and public health officials get their message across.

Some places have already seen turnarounds, such as Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“The biggest thing that helped us to gain confidence in our staff was watching other staff members get vaccinated, be OK, walk out of the room, you know, not grow a third ear, and so that really is like an avalanche,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer. “The first few hundred that we had created another 300 that wanted the vaccine.”

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg in Dallas; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans; Candice Choi in New York; Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland; Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Bryan Anderson in Raleigh, North Carolina.

This content was originally published here.

Joe Biden picks transgender woman for assistant health secretary / LGBTQ Nation

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

If both are confirmed, Levine will serve under California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra, who has been nominated to the position of secretary of HHS.

Nominating Levine signals the importance of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for the Biden administration. As surgeon general of the state of Pennsylvania, she has led the state’s response to the pandemic, at times facing heavy criticism – and straight-up transphobia – from conservatives in her state.

“Dr. Rachel Levine is a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people,” said Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in a statement. “President-elect Biden and I look forward to working with her to meet the unprecedented challenges facing Americans and rebuild our country in a way that lifts everyone up.”

Her appointment also signals the incoming Biden administration’s commitment to end attacks on LGBTQ health. HHS was at the center of numerous attacks on LGBTQ people during the Trump administration.

HHS spent the last four years attempting to roll back LGBTQ protections based on Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act so that health care providers could more easily discriminate; rolling back anti-LGBTQ discrimination protections for the recipients of HHS grant money, funds that often go to adoption and fostering agencies as well as health care and homelessness programs; redefining “gender” to mean “sex assigned at birth” in order to legally erase transgender identity; scrubbed LGBTQ health care information from its website; and stopped funding HIV/AIDS research that involves fetal tissue, which is necessary for many aspects of HIV/AIDS research.

While she has been confirmed three times by the GOP-controlled state senate during her tenure at Pennsylvania’s Department of Health, she faced an unprecedented deluge of transphobic attacks this past year as she tried to get Pennsylvanians to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Last year, an evangelical minister exhorted his followers to “rise up” and “chase” the doctor out of the state. He repeatedly referred to her as “it,” “a man,” and a “freak transvestite.”

“You are absolutely insane if you let that transvestite freak rule your life,” pastor Rick Wiles screamed. “You’re going to that transvestite freak? Seriously?”

In July, a Pennsylvania tavern apologized for a transphobic menu item designed to taunt Dr. Levine. And around the same time, a popular Pennsylvania fair, the Bloomsburg Fair, used a Dr. Levine “impersonator” (which was a man in a wig and a dress) in their dunk tank and published a mocking Facebook post about it.

Leaders of both the fair and tavern apologized, but Dr. Levine still felt it was important to address the transphobia directly at one of her daily briefings.

“I want to emphasize that while these individuals may think that they are only expressing their displeasure with me, they are in fact hurting the thousands of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians who suffered directly from these current demonstrations of harassment,” she said during her July 28 briefing. “Your actions perpetuate the spirit of intolerance and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and specifically transgender individuals.”

This content was originally published here.

New York State Democrat Lawmaker Proposes Bill to Detain “Disease Carriers” the Governor Deems “Dangerous to the Public Health”

The New York State Assembly proposed a bill to detain “disease carriers” the Governor deems “dangerous to the public health.”

The bill was authored by N. Nick Perry, a Democrat member of the New York State Assembly.

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Bill A416 relates to “the removal of cases, contacts and carriers of communicable diseases that are potentially dangerous to the public health.”

The Governor would have sweeping powers to indefinitely detain American citizens and put them in internment camps.

According to the proposed bill, the Governor will also be able to detain people who have come in contact with the “carrier.”

The only way an individual would be released from detainment is if the “department” determines the person is no longer contagious.

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Read the text from the proposed bill:

Section 1. The public health law is amended by adding a new section 2120-a to read as follows:

§ 2120-A. REMOVAL AND DETENTION OF CASES, CONTACTS AND CARRIERS WHO ARE OR MAY BE A DANGER TO PUBLIC HEALTH; OTHER ORDERS.

1. THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION SHALL BE UTILIZED IN THE EVENT THAT THE GOVERNOR DECLARES A STATE OF HEALTH EMERGENCY DUE TO AN EPIDEMIC OF ANY COMMUNICABLE DISEASE.

2. UPON DETERMINING BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE THAT THE HEALTH OF OTHERS IS OR MAY BE ENDANGERED BY A CASE, CONTACT OR CARRIER, OR SUSPECTED CASE, CONTACT OR CARRIER OF CONTAGIOUS DISEASE THAT, IN THE OPINION OF THE GOVERNOR, AFTER CONSULTATION WITH THE COMMISSIONER, MAY POSE AN IMMINENT AND SIGNIFICANT THREAT TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH RESULTING IN SEVERE MORBIDITY OR HIGH MORTALITY, THE GOVERNOR OR HIS OR HER DELEGEE, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE COMMISSIONER OR THE HEADS OF LOCAL HEALTH DEPARTMENTS, MAY ORDER THE REMOVAL AND/OR
DETENTION OF SUCH A PERSON OR OF A GROUP OF SUCH PERSONS BY ISSUING A SINGLE ORDER, IDENTIFYING SUCH PERSONS EITHER BY NAME OR BY A REASONABLY SPECIFIC DESCRIPTION OF THE INDIVIDUALS OR GROUP BEING DETAINED. SUCH PERSON OR GROUP OF PERSONS SHALL BE DETAINED IN A MEDICAL FACILITY OR OTHER APPROPRIATE FACILITY OR PREMISES DESIGNATED BY THE GOVERNOR OR HIS OR HER DELEGEE AND COMPLYING WITH SUBDIVISION FIVE OF THIS SECTION.

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3. A PERSON OR GROUP REMOVED OR DETAINED BY ORDER OF THE GOVERNOR OR HIS OR HER DELEGEE PURSUANT TO SUBDIVISION TWO OF THIS SECTION SHALL BE DETAINED FOR SUCH PERIOD AND IN SUCH MANNER AS THE DEPARTMENT MAY DIRECT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THIS SECTION.

Click here to read to entire bill proposed by Democrats in New York.

This content was originally published here.

PA Health Department Offers COVID Advice… For Orgies

That old expression, “Ya can’t make this stuff up,” comes to mind.

Under the command of transgender Health Secretary Rachel Levine (aka Richard Levine), The Pennsylvania Department of Health just burned tax cash issuing new COVID19 guidelines forrrr…

…People attending orgies.

Thanks to talk radio host and writer Rose Unplugged Tweeting the pertinent section, we who, like her, still cling to vestiges of sanity, get to see the Kafkaesque display of a state government forbidding people from attending church or choir, but offering tips to those who insist on participating in orgiastic hedonism.

WTH: From PA’s oh so smart Sec of Health:
Where to Start??

– IF you attend a Large Gathering where you might end up having sex
* ORGY??

– If you USUALLY meet sex partners online – consider;
*PORN?? pic.twitter.com/S6TK3p8OYm

— Rose Unplugged (@rose_unplugged)

The actual government document has been around for weeks, but it took Rose to dig in and find the pertinent section, which reads:

Large gatherings are not safe during COVID19, but if you attend a large gathering where you might end up having sex, below are tips to reduce your risk of spreading or getting COVID-19 through sex:

Limit the number of partners.

Try to identify a consistent sex partner.

Wear a face covering, avoid kissing, and do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

Wash your hands with soap and water often, and especially before and after sex.  If soap and water are not available use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

If you usually meet your sex partners online, consider taking a break from in-person dates. Video dates, sexting, subscription-based fan platforms, or chat rooms may be options for you.

Isn’t that awesome…?

It’s all so sanitary and sane.

Heck, why not spend other people’s money writing some “health advice”? Then, to pile on more insults, don’t tell people that sexual intercourse naturally can lead to the creation of new human life, that it creates physical, emotional, and spiritual complications for participants with or without conception, that sexual relations outside marriage make these factors even more complex and difficult, and that they raise health risks… Instead, offer a perfunctory “warning” about the virus, then give folks tips, assuming they’ll engage in unbridled “relations”, anyway.

This is a state where Democrat Governor Tom Wolf has childishly refused to acknowledge the US Bill of Rights and the Contract Clause of the US Constitution, even as he turned a blind eye to a September court ruling smacking down his lockdowns of businesses and churches, and he continued to target and fine restaurateurs for trying to welcome customers.

This is a state where said Governor, Tom Wolf, was caught laughing with leftist State Rep Wendy Ullman (D) as she joked that she would keep on her mask… for the cameras, for, as she put it, “political theatre.”

And this is a state where said Governor issued a November statement ORDERING people to wear masks in their homes (the policing of which would require warrants, according to the Fourth Amendment, which also appears to be something Wolf doesn’t bother to respect).

At what point do these people ever feel shame?

The entire exercise of lockdowns is not only toweringly immoral and unconstitutional, it is based on fraudulent “statistics” for “cases” and “COVID19 deaths”, and, even more generally, on a revised use of the term “pandemic” that has lowered the threshold for its application such that it can be bandied about virtually any time, for anything. As Dr. Joseph Mercola wrote on December 10:

The WHO’s original definition of a pandemic specified simultaneous epidemics worldwide “with enormous numbers of deaths and illnesses”

This definition was changed in the month leading up to the 2009 swine flu pandemic. The WHO removed the severity and high mortality criteria, leaving the definition of a pandemic as “a worldwide epidemic of a disease”

This is how COVID-19 is still promoted as a pandemic even though it has caused no excess mortality in nine months

Does their continued consumption of other people’s money numb these PA tyrants to their own perfidy, or do they enjoy mass suffering as much as their public “health guidelines” seem to assume that people enjoy mass hook-ups?

It might be difficult to get any answers from said government agents. Rather than engage in debate and discussion, they seem to prefer issuing edicts and “advice” — neither of which are helpful.

This content was originally published here.

CDC issues new guidance about vaccinations for people with underlying health conditions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Saturday issued a new guidance stating that people with underlying health conditions can receive a coronavirus vaccine. 

The guidance explains that “adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19.”  

Thus, the CDC added that those vaccines that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “may be administered to people with underlying medical conditions provided they have not had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.” 

The CDC explained that people with weakened immune systems due to other illnesses or medication may also receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but they should be aware that limited safety data is available on the effects of the vaccines on these individuals. 

Additionally, while people living with HIV were included in clinical trials, safety data for this group is also not yet available. 

The CDC also stated in its Saturday guidance that individuals with autoimmune conditions may take the vaccine, although there is no data currently available for the safety of the vaccine in this demographic.  

Those who have experienced Guillain-Barre syndrome — a condition in which the body begins to attack parts of its own nervous system — may also receive the vaccine doses. The guidance adds that following vaccination during clinical trials, there have been no instances of the syndrome. 

People who have previously experienced Bell’s palsy — a condition that causes muscle weakness in one side of the face — may also receive a vaccine. Some participants during clinical trials did develop Bell’s palsy following vaccination, but it did not occur at a rate above that expected in the general population. 

Despite the start of distributions of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the CDC recommends that people who get vaccinated should continue to follow current coronavirus health and safety protocols, such as wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding crowds. 

According to the CDC, nearly 2 million people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Saturday. Both the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and the one from Moderna require two doses to be administered several weeks apart. 

Final trial data on both vaccines showed them to have a roughly 95 percent efficacy rate at preventing COVID-19, although Moderna’s vaccine has an 86 percent efficacy rate for those over the age of 65.

Health care workers have been prioritized in the initial distribution of the vaccine, and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted last week to advise the CDC to include those 75 and older and specific front-line essential workers, including emergency responders and teachers, in the next phase of coronavirus vaccinations.

This content was originally published here.

Large numbers of health care and frontline workers are refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine

Despite having been prioritized as the first recipients of the coronavirus vaccine, a large number of health care and frontline workers are passing on the vaccine. Early reports from across the country show that health care and frontline workers are refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In Ohio, 60% of nursing home employees decided not to take the coronavirus vaccine. Last week, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) reacted to the low participation numbers by
saying, “We aren’t going to make them but we wish they had a higher compliance.” He added that he was “troubled” by how many nursing home workers rejected the vaccine.

DeWine warned frontline workers that they soon would no longer be in front of the line, “Our message today is: The train may not be coming back for awhile. We’re going to make it available to everyone eventually, but this is the opportunity for you, and you should really think about getting it.”

Dr. Joseph Varon, chief of staff at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, is frustrated that over half of the nurses in his unit will refuse to get the vaccine.

“Yesterday I had a — not a fight, but I had a friendly argument with more than 50% of my nurses in my unit telling me that they would not get the vaccine,” he told
NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

“Some of those nurses have had family members admitted to the hospital, gravely ill with COVID-19,” NPR reported. “But he said some nurses and hospital staff members — many of whom are Latinx or Black — are skeptical it will work and are worried about unfounded side effects.”

In California, an estimated 50% of frontline workers in Riverside County turned down the COVID-19 vaccine, Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told
the Los Angeles Times.

“At St. Elizabeth Community Hospital in Tehama County, fewer than half of the 700 hospital workers eligible for the vaccine were willing to take the shot when it was first offered. At Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, one in five frontline nurses and doctors have declined the shot,” the LA Times reported. “Roughly 20% to 40% of L.A. County’s frontline workers who were offered the vaccine did the same, according to county public health officials.”

Dr. Nikhila Juvvadi, the chief clinical officer at Chicago’s Loretto Hospital, surveyed the hospital staff right before the coronavirus vaccine came out, and 40% of the employees said they would not get vaccinated, according to
NPR.

In an early December survey of New York Fire Department members, approximately 55% of uniformed firefighters said they would opt to not get the shot, according to
WNBC-TV.

A survey by the
Kaiser Family Foundation published on Dec. 15 found that 29% of those who work in a health care delivery setting probably would not or definitely would not get the shot. The poll also found that 33% of essential workers would pass. Overall, 27% of Americans are “vaccine-hesitant.”

There is a stark divide among Americans who are willing to get vaccinated depending on their political affiliation. According to the survey, 86% of Democrats say that they will definitely or probably get the coronavirus vaccine, compared to 56% of Republicans who said the same.

According to the
KFF, the top concerns about being reluctant to get the coronavirus vaccine are:

Sheena Bumpas, a certified nursing assistant at a home in Oklahoma, told
the New York Times that she was reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine because “I don’t want to be a guinea pig.”

April Lu, a 31-year-old nurse at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in California, refused to take the vaccine because she is concerned that it is might not be safe for pregnant women, and she is six months pregnant.

“I’m choosing the risk — the risk of having COVID, or the risk of the unknown of the vaccine,” Lu told
the Los Angeles Times. “I think I’m choosing the risk of COVID. I can control that and prevent it a little by wearing masks, although not 100% for sure.”

Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci noted that coronavirus vaccines could become mandatory in order to attend school or travel internationally.

This content was originally published here.

Health care worker without history of allergies hospitalized in ICU following severe allergic reaction after receiving COVID-19 vaccine

A health care worker in Alaska developed a severe allergic reaction after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, according to
NBC News.

At least one other health care worker at the same facility also experienced a less serious reaction following the injection.

What are the details?

The unnamed health care worker, an employee at the Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, Alaska, had to be hospitalized overnight for the severe reaction.

The worker, a middle-aged woman, reportedly had no history of allergies and never experienced anaphylaxis, according to the New York Times.

According to the outlet, all 96 workers at Bartlett Regional Hospital received the vaccine on Tuesday. Medical experts observed the workers for 30 minutes following the injection. The woman, however, began feeling flushed about 10 minutes after receiving the shot, and shortly began experiencing other symptoms such as shortness of breath and an elevated heart rate.

Dr. Lindy Jones, an emergency physician who treated the woman, said, “She had a red, flushed rash all over her face and torso. I was concerned about an anaphylactic reaction.”

The woman was initially treated with antihistamines, but later received an emergency injection of epinephrine.

The outlet reported that the worker’s symptoms abated, but returned, forcing physicians to place her on intravenous epinephrine and took her to the ICU for overnight observation.

The woman was taken off all medications as of Wednesday morning and was expected to be discharged. There is no further information available about the woman or her condition at the time of this reporting.

CNN reported on Thursday that a second health care worker also experienced a reaction. The second worker was reportedly treated for less severe symptoms and was ultimately released within an hour.

In a statement, Pfizer said that the biotechnology company is “working with local health authorities to assess” the reactions, and will “closely monitor all reports suggestive of serious allergic reactions following vaccination and update labeling language if needed.”

What else?

Last week, two health care workers in the United Kingdom
experienced allergic reactions following the COVID-19 vaccine, prompting the government to issue an allergy alert in connection with the vaccination.

U.K. regulators say that people with history of allergic reactions to medicine or food should avoid the COVID-19 vaccine following the reaction.

Both workers were expected to recover following the reaction.

This content was originally published here.

COVID-19 ‘super-spreader’ event feared in L.A. as Christian singer defies health order

A conservative evangelical Christian singer with a history of defying COVID-19 health mandates plans three days of New Year’s gatherings in the Los Angeles area, including stops on skid row and at a tent city in Echo Park, raising fears that the events will be viral “super-spreaders.”

Skid row activists plan a car blockade to stop Sean Feucht — a Redding, Calif., volunteer pastor and failed Republican congressional candidate — and his followers from staging what is billed as a “massive outreach” Wednesday evening on skid row, at the height of Los Angeles County’s pandemic crisis. Feucht’s plans come as California, facing record case counts and a severe shortage of intensive care hospital beds, has extended its stay-at-home order.

Feucht began hosting “Let Us Worship” open-air concerts nationwide to push back against government restrictions on religious gatherings, then broadened his focus to cities that erupted in protest after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry caused a super-spreader event in Redding.

Feucht’s events have featured hundreds of maskless worshipers tightly packed together and singing and dancing. He has another homeless outreach planned Thursday at Echo Park Lake, site of nearly 100 homeless tents, followed by a New Year’s Eve party and concert at a church parking lot in Valencia.

In a YouTube video —part of an extensive social media campaign to promote the L.A. dates — Feucht said a couple of thousand glow sticks had been ordered for a bash he predicted could rival his worship service this year on the National Mall, which drew hundreds of people.

Charles Karuku, a Feucht associate who travels with the singer, said they tell followers to heed government health guidelines, “but we are not law enforcement. It’s up to the people how they choose to come.”

But Stephen “Cue” Jn-Marie, pastor of Church Without Walls, a skid row congregation, said, “We know based on his track record whatever he’s going to do is going to be maskless.” Jn-Marie is organizing the car blockade with Los Angeles Community Action Network, a skid row anti-poverty activist group.

“The problem we’re facing is even prior to the stay-at-home order, people come into the community and say they’re bringing resources but what they’re bringing is the disease,” said Jn-Marie, adding that the outreach event could undo the self-help measures the skid row community took, including distributing masks and street wash stations and sponsoring testing events. “It doesn’t take thousands to start an outbreak.”

The homeless population in Los Angeles has generally avoided serious COVID outbreaks throughout most of the pandemic, although it has seen a significant uptick in recent weeks, in keeping with the wider surge in infections nationwide.

One reason L.A.’s homeless people have avoided a COVID disaster could be that they live outside

The California Poor People’s Campaign wrote a letter calling for city and county officials to quash Feucht’s events. The campaign offered a legal justification for enforcement of county health orders, but Los Angeles has not generally used police powers on individuals to back up pandemic restrictions, and homeless outreach events do not require permits.

“Police know how to show up and issue orders to disperse an illegal gathering,” said Nell Myhand, co-chair of the California Poor People’s Campaign.

Asked for a response to the enforcement question, mayoral spokesman Alex Comisar said Mayor Eric Garcetti implored everyone to wear masks and practice social distancing.

L.A. Councilman Kevin de León, who represents skid row, said his office and the mayor’s staff will be on skid row Wednesday morning distributing personal protective equipment and sanitation kits to homeless people, but did not comment on possible enforcement of county COVID-19 health orders.

Our expectation is that those attending the scheduled outreach event take steps to care for our community and protect vulnerable Angelenos on skid row by wearing masks and honoring social distancing guidelines,” de Leon said in a statement.

Feucht has upcoming events scheduled in Orange County and San Diego, according to his website. Tom Grode, a skid row resident and activist who began petitioning the city a month ago to stop the skid row event , called Feucht’s plan to come to Los Angeles “incredibly foolish … divisive and dangerous.”

“The problem is any of these events could get weird in different ways,” Grode said.

Cathy Callahan, who has been following Feucht’s career online with dismay, spent two hours Tuesday calling the Los Angeles Police Department, the mayor’s office, county health officials and the state attorney general, asking if they were going to shut the New Year’s events down. She said she was bounced from office to office without receiving an answer.

”If not, why is California issuing lockdowns or stay-at-home orders?” Callahan asked.

This content was originally published here.

‘Healing is coming’: US health workers start getting vaccine

Health care workers around the country rolled up their sleeves for the first COVID-19 shots Monday as hope that an all-out vaccination effort can defeat the coronavirus smacked up against the heartbreaking reality of 300,000 U.S. deaths.

“Relieved,” proclaimed critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay after becoming one of the first to be inoculated at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York. “I feel like healing is coming.”

With a countdown of “3-2-1,” workers at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center gave initial injections to applause.

And in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis personally opened a delivery door to the FedEx driver and signed for a package holding 975 precious frozen doses of vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech.

The shots kicked off what will become the largest vaccination effort in U.S. history, one that could finally conquer the outbreak.

Dr. Valerie Briones-Pryor, who has worked in a COVID-19 unit at University of Louisville Hospital since March and recently lost her 27th patient to the virus, was among the first recipients.

“I want to get back to seeing my family,” she said. “I want families to be able to get back to seeing their loved ones.”

Some 145 sites around the country, from Rhode Island to Alaska, received shipments, with more deliveries set for the coming days. High-risk health care workers were first in line.

“This is 20,000 doses of hope,” John Couris, president and chief executive of Tampa General Hospital said of the first delivery.

Nursing home residents also get priority, and a Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Massachusetts, announced via Twitter that its first dose went to a 96-year-old World War II veteran, Margaret Klessens. Other nursing homes around the U.S. expect inoculations in the coming days.

The campaign began the same day the U.S death toll from the surging outbreak crossed the 300,000 threshold, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The number of dead rivals the population of St. Louis or Pittsburgh. It is more than five times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It is equal to a 9/11 attack every day for more than 100 days.

“To think, now we can just absorb in our country 3,000 deaths a day as though it were just business as usual. It just represents a moral failing,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins.

Health experts know a wary public is watching the vaccination campaign, especially communities of color that have been hit hard by the pandemic but, because of the nation’s legacy of racial health disparities and research abuses against Black people, have doubts about the vaccine.

Getting vaccinated is “a privilege,” said Dr. Leonardo Seoane, chief academic officer at Ochsner Health in suburban New Orleans, after getting his dose. Seoane, who is Cuban American, urged “all of my Hispanic brothers and sisters to do it. It’s OK.”

The nearly 3 million doses now being shipped are just a down payment on the amount needed. More of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive each week. And later this week, the FDA will decide whether to greenlight the world’s second rigorously studied COVID-19 vaccine, made by Moderna Inc.

While the U.S. hopes for enough of both vaccines together to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the month, and 30 million more in January, there won’t be enough for the average person to get a shot until spring.

For now the hurdle is to rapidly get vaccine into the arms of millions, not just doctors and nurses but other at-risk health workers such as janitors and food handlers — and then deliver a second dose three weeks later.

“We’re also in the middle of a surge, and it’s the holidays, and our health care workers have been working at an extraordinary pace,” said Sue Mashni, chief pharmacy officer at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.

Plus, the shots can cause temporary fever, fatigue and aches as they rev up people’s immune systems, forcing hospitals to stagger employee vaccinations.

Just half of Americans say they want to get vaccinated, while about a quarter don’t and the rest are unsure, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Health Research.

“I know it’s going to be a big hurdle to convince people because it’s new, it’s uncertain,” said intensive care nurse Helen Cordova, who received a vaccination card after getting a shot at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. “This can be encouraging for others.”

The FDA, considered the world’s strictest medical regulator, said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was developed at breakneck speed less than a year after the virus was identified, appears safe and strongly protective, and the agency laid out the data in a daylong public meeting last week for scientists and consumers alike to see.

“We know it works well,” said Ochsner infectious-disease expert Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, who got her shot on Day 1. “As soon as you can get it, please do so.”

Still, the vaccine was cleared for emergency use before a final study in nearly 44,000 people was complete. That research is continuing to try to answer additional questions.

For example, while the vaccine is effective at preventing COVID-19 illness, it is not clear if it will stop the symptomless spread that accounts for half of all cases.

The shots still must be studied in children and during pregnancy. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said Sunday that vaccination should not be withheld from pregnant women who otherwise would qualify.

Also, regulators in Britain are investigating a few severe allergic reactions. The FDA instructed providers not to give the vaccine to those with a known history of severe allergic reactions to any of its ingredients.

Associated Press writers Marion Renault, Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Rebecca Santana, Dylan Lovan, Tamara Lush, Jeff Turner and Kathy Young contributed to this report.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Mental Health Improved for Only One Group During COVID: Those Who Attended Church Weekly | The Stream

Poll results show that mental health improved for only one group of people during the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s a group that Democratic lawmakers repeatedly restricted.

Gallup polled a little over a thousand Americans over the age of 18 from Nov. 5–19 and found that only those who attended religious services weekly saw a positive change between 2019 and 2020 in how they rated their mental health.

In 2019, 42% of Americans who attended religious services weekly rated their mental health as excellent, the poll showed. In 2020, 46% of Americans who attended religious services weekly rated their mental health as excellent — a percentage increase of four points.

No other Demographic group in the Gallup poll, which had a margin of error of ±4 percentage points and a confidence level of 95%, saw a percentage increase in rating their mental health as excellent.

34% of Americans say their mental health is excellent, down from 43% in 2019. https://t.co/kjobkuEEVD pic.twitter.com/U6mPW54ZSt

— GallupNews (@GallupNews) December 8, 2020

“Houses of worship and religious services provide so much more than just a weekly meeting place — they are where so many Americans find strength, community, and meaning,” the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s Director of Research Caleb Lyman told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Findings from this year’s Religious Freedom Index — that 62 percent of respondents said that faith had been important during the pandemic — align with Gallup’s findings on the importance of religious services to Americans’ mental health.”

The Gallup poll results are particularly striking in contrast to Democratic lawmakers’ restrictions on houses of worship. Governors and mayors across the United States have issued orders throughout the pandemic that restrict or prohibit religious services, and the Department of Justice has pushed back against such restrictions on multiple occasions.

Governors like Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam banned gatherings of 10 or more people through initial stay-at-home orders, restrictions which effectively banned church services. Authorities have arrested multiple religious leaders for defying coronavirus orders, such as Pastor Tony Spell of the Louisiana Life Tabernacle church and Florida megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne.

Religious organizations in New York most recently took Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the Supreme Court over his restrictions on houses of worship, accusing Cuomo of “targeting Orthodox practices.”

Conservative justices, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, sided with religious organizations in the 5-4 ruling the night before Thanksgiving, while Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices.

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The majority said that Cuomo’s coronavirus restrictions on religious communities are “far more restrictive than any Covid-related regulations that have previously come before the Court, much tighter than those adopted by many other jurisdictions hard hit by the pandemic, and far more severe than has been shown to be required to prevent the spread of the virus.”

“New York’s restrictions on houses of worship not only are severe, but also are discriminatory,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in his concurring opinion.

“In light of the devastating pandemic, I do not doubt the State’s authority to impose tailored restrictions — even very strict restrictions — on attendance at religious services and secular gatherings alike,” Kavanaugh continued. “But the New York restrictions on houses of worship are not tailored to the circumstances given the First Amendment interests at stake.”

Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

Earlier this year, the court sided 5-4 in favor of the liberal justices on COVID-19 religious restrictions in California and Nevada, according to CNN.

The DOJ has fought back against many of these restrictions. Attorney General William Barr set the tone for the DOJ’s attitude towards religious freedom during the pandemic by warning in an early April statement that “even in times of emergency,” federal law prohibits religious discrimination.

“Religion and religious worship continue to be central to the lives of millions of Americans,” Barr said. “This is true more so than ever during this difficult time.”

“Government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity,” the attorney general added. “For example, if a government allows movie theaters, restaurants, concert halls, and other comparable places of assembly to remain open and unrestricted, it may not order houses of worship to close, limit their congregation size, or otherwise impede religious gatherings.”

Barr also promised that the DOJ would be watching for any state or local government that “singles out, targets, or discriminates against any house of worship for special restrictions.”

Since this statement was issued, the DOJ has intervened in multiple cases of government crackdowns on churches and pastors, specifically in Nevada, California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Virginia and Mississippi.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation for this story.

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