Inslee directs Washington state health board to ban flavored vape products | The Seattle Times

Gov. Jay Inslee directed state officials Friday to impose an emergency ban on flavored vaping products, one of several measures he announced in response to the mysterious, sometimes fatal lung illness linked to e-cigarettes that have rippled across the nation.

In an executive order, Inslee —noting the flavors’ particular appeal to children — directed the state Board of Health to use its emergency authority to ban all flavored vaping products, including those containing THC, when it next meets on Oct. 9. The ban would take place only after board action.

“These kids get hooked,” Inslee said at an appearance in Seattle morning. The governor and other state and King County officials took turns at the microphone lambasting an unregulated industry that draws in children as customers with flavors such as bubblegum and cinnamon.

“Look, when you addict a 12-year-old kid to nicotine, you’re just wrong,” Inslee said.

Washington joins at least two other states — Michigan and New York — to ban flavored vape products in response to the illnesses.

In his order, Inslee also called on the state Department of Health and the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board to ban the sale of any specific vaping products, if and when they are identified as the cause of the lung injuries.

The governor also directed those two agencies to develop warning signs to post in e-cigarette retail stores and require vaping manufacturers to begin disclosing ingredients involved in the making and processing of their products.

“Everyone deserves to know what’s in these vaping liquids,” Inslee said.

Among other things, Inslee directed the two agencies to develop proposals for the upcoming legislative session to better regulate vaping, including a permanent ban on flavors.

Friday’s executive order comes as health officials have struggled to pinpoint the exact cause of the illnesses, which have been linked to the use of e-cigarettes.

No link has yet been shown between a specific e-cigarette ingredient and the illnesses; all that is known is that the patients used vaping devices.

Given the lack of regulation and understanding of what is causing the illnesses, Inslee said, “If I had a loved one, I would just tell them you’re playing dice with your lungs.”

Inslee said he wished he could have come down harder on vaping — which has been “wrongfully seen as some safer alternative” to smoking — but was limited by statutory authority in Washington.

“I wanted to do more by this executive order,” Inslee said. Friday’s announcement, he added, should be considered the start of an ongoing process. “This is a floor not a ceiling.”

Some initial data has shown that most cases involved people who have used vaping products with THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In other cases, people have reported using both nicotine and THC products, and some have said they only used nicotine.

E-cigarettes — like those produced by the company Juul — heat a liquid that creates an aerosol often containing nicotine, according to the CDC. Vaping devices can also be used to inhale THC or other cannabis products.

The devices have long been hailed as a healthier alternative by tobacco smokers trying to quit, since the products contain fewer toxic chemicals than conventional cigarettes.

Authorized flavored cartridges are sold for the devices. But people can buy unauthorized products off the street — or make their own.

The illnesses have now sickened at least 805 people across the nation and killed at least 13.

No deaths have been reported in Washington. Both King and Spokane counties have reported two cases each of the illness, according to the state Department of Health. Mason, Pierce and Snohomish counties have each confirmed one case.

Some GOP state lawmakers have expressed concern about the illnesses, but also urged restraint by officials until the exact cause of the problem has been determined.

“It’s my hope that we can find the culprit, what the ingredient is, sooner rather than later, and get the industry back up on decent footing,” said Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, ranking Republican on the House Commerce and Gaming Committee.

But several Democratic state lawmakers — who have long sought greater restrictions and oversight on vaping — renewed their call for a ban on flavors, as well as stronger disclosure requirements for ingredients.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Bob Ferguson has said he’s been in touch with his peers in other states who have sued e-cigarette companies they see as targeting minors.

Meanwhile this week, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, wrote the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requesting information and suggesting those officials have failed to enforce a law passed by Congress in 2015 that requires liquid nicotine to be sold in child-resistant packaging.

“In the wake of a national health crisis involving vaping-related illnesses and deaths, the Commission’s failure to enforce a law to keep these substances from poisoning small children is deeply troubling,” Cantwell wrote in the letter.

This content was originally published here.

Aaron Carter Gets New Face Tattoo On Instagram Live Amid Mental Health Concerns | toofab.com

Aaron Carter has made quite a noticeable addition to his appearance.

The singer, 31, revealed a new face tattoo on social media Friday night and documented the experience of getting his fresh ink on Instagram Live.

Aaron shared multiple posts — including one photo where he showed off his six-pack — and reassured his followers he’s “doing just fine” amid the ongoing concerns about his mental health.

“@johnnydangandco you’re the greatest in the game everyone needs to know and they will after THIS PIECE,” Aaron captioned a mirror selfie of his new ink.

“I’M THE BIGGEST THING IN MUSIC RIGHT NOW,” he added in another pic. “I CANT BE DENIED. FACT CHECK ME.”

The “I Want Candy” singer’s tattoo appears to be of a woman who looks similar to the Greek goddess Medusa.

A post shared by 𝐿Ø𝒱Ë 𝑀𝑜𝓃ë𝓎 𝒢𝒶𝓃𝑔 (@aaroncarter) on

Aaron seemingly received backlash over the tattoo as he took to Twitter to defend his mental state. The tweets come after fans and family alike have voiced their concerns over Aaron’s health as of late.

“I’m doing just fine,” he tweeted. “I ask you repent my and leave me alone. I already have to move and I don’t need to be under scrutiny with every decision I make. I will take the necessary precautions to protect myself, and when I move no one will know where I live! #MissingMyMom right now.”

The pop star also filmed the police coming to his house again for a welfare check on Instagram Live. Aaron seemed to allude to the situation when he called out a fan on Twitter.

“Bruh stfu all y’all bully’s [sic] cyber bullying me,” he wrote. “All my fans #LMG #AcArmy look T my teeets [sic] and report these people #CyberBullying is against the law. So is the constant harassment calling the police on me ten times a f–king day!!”

Aaron’s social media posts come just a couple weeks after his brother, “Backstreet Boys” singer Nick Carter and their sister, Angel, both filed restraining orders against him.

“In light of Aaron’s increasingly alarming behavior and his recent confession that he harbors thoughts and intentions of killing my pregnant wife and unborn child, we were left with no choice but to take every measure possible to protect ourselves and our family,” Nick tweeted. The singer also claimed Aaron hears “voices in his head.”

Aaron denied those claims, with his rep telling TMZ, “I am astounded at the accusations being made against me and I do not wish harm to anyone, especially my family.”

As part of the restraining order, Nick said Aaron told their sister Angel, “I have thoughts of killing babies,” and that he has also considered “killing Nick’s pregnant wife, Lauren Kitt.” The order further claimed that Aaron told Angel, “I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar 2 years ago.”

I’m doing just fine. I ask you repent my and leave me alone. I already have to move and I don’t need to be under scrutiny with every decision I make. I will take the necessary precautions to protect myself, and when I move no one will know where I live! #MissingMyMom right now.

— Aaroncarter (@aaroncarter)

Bruh stfu all y’all bully’s cyber bullying me. All my fans #LMG #AcArmy look T my teeets and report these people #CyberBullying is against the law. So is the constant harassment calling the police on me ten times a fucking day!! https://t.co/93pEv2iA1I

— Aaroncarter (@aaroncarter)

Aaron also recently accused his late sister Leslie Carter of sexually abusing him as a child over a span of three years, and that Nick abused him as well.

Earlier this month, Aaron was on an episode of “The Doctors” where he said, “The official diagnosis is that I suffer from multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia, acute anxiety; I’m manic depressive.”

The star also spoke about the ongoing beef with his brother and accused Backstreet Boys fans of cyberbullying.

Got a story or a tip for us? Email TooFab editors at tips@toofab.com.

This content was originally published here.

Joe Biden Doesn’t Seem to Understand Health Care

If we are going to keep having these grim circuses that we call debates, and begin each one with an extended segment about health care, it would be nice if we could stop asking the same questions again and again—but what about taxes?—and try to pin the leading candidates down on the specifics of their plans. They could ask Kamala Harris why anyone would keep their employer insurance if her Medicare plan would limit out-of-pocket spending to $200, or ask Bernie Sanders how a Medicare For All system would decide what to cover. But it’s the frontrunner who is most in need of a grilling, because lately he has seemed incapable of discussing any health care plan, including his own, with any accuracy.

Joe Biden says his plan will “guarantee that everyone will be able to have affordable insurance.” It is impossible to say that his plan will accomplish this. Biden’s plan would increase subsidies on the Affordable Care Act marketplace and lower the premium limit on marketplace plans from 9.86 to 8.5 percent of annual income. As Julián Castro noted, to Biden’s head-shaking, Biden’s own website says it would leave three percent of Americans uninsured, or more than 10 million people. It’s also pretty laughable to assert that lowering the premium limit to 8.5 percent and pegging subsidies to Gold instead of Silver priced-plans will “guarantee” that everyone’s coverage will be affordable, particularly when this only applies to marketplace plans that cover just 11 million people.

Biden’s plan would limit deductibles to $1,000—which, while better than the astronomical deductibles millions have today, would certainly not be affordable for many families to pay in one go—but doesn’t appear to have any mechanism to lower employer-based plan premiums, which continue to rise. (Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that insurers wouldn’t dramatically raise premiums if deductibles were limited; another great reason to get rid of insurers entirely.) And merely promising “affordable insurance” is not enough, of course, when so many expenses are incurred even with affordable insurance, such drug costs and out-of-network bills.

Some health care concepts seem to escape him entirely. When pressing Sanders on the cost of his plan, Biden said that Sanders’ plan promised “a deductible in your paycheck.” This does not make sense. Clearly, he means a tax or a premium, but this is at least the second time he’s said this, and his team pushed the line out on Twitter as well. It is troubling that his proficiency with the jargon of health care financing is so loose after many months of campaigning, let alone after eight years of being vice president in the administration that passed the Affordable Care Act.

The oddest moment arose during a discussion as to whether Biden’s plan would “automatically” cover people. Sanders insisted that his plan was the “only one” that would prevent people going into “financial ruin because they suffered with a diagnosis of cancer.” Biden, as is his wont, said cancer was “personal” to him, and objected to Sanders’ contention: “Every single person who is diagnosed with cancer or any other disease can automatically become part of this plan. They will not go bankrupt because of that. They will not go bankrupt because of that. They can join immediately.”

But it is not true that a person facing such a diagnosis would “automatically” get Biden’s public option, because access to that public option will still be determined by a complicated system of premiums and subsidies—in other words, means testing. We don’t know how much the premiums under Biden’s public option would cost, but it seems clear that his understanding of health care access is very simplistic. To Biden’s mind, if you’re poor enough to have free or subsidized access to the public option, you should be able to afford all associated health care costs. And if you’re not poor enough, it means you’re sufficiently well-off to bear the costs.

This was also clear in his much-noted spat with Castro. Castro mentioned his grandmother, who had Type 2 diabetes but also had access to Medicare, and noted that Biden’s plan would require people to opt in, without being automatically covered. Biden took great issue with the assertion that people would have to “buy in,” leading to the dramatic moment that grabbed everyone’s attention—Castro poking fun at Biden’s memory, asking if he already forgot what he said. Castro was right: Biden did say that people could “automatically” get his “Medicare for choice” plan. But Biden said “buy in”, not “opt in”—so how could people “buy” in automatically? Very few American social programs are automatic, including Medicaid, which is often incredibly complicated to sign up for. Biden then clarified that he meant people like Castro’s mother wouldn’t have to buy in “if they can’t afford it.”

Biden is putting a hell of a lot of faith in his plan’s ability to fairly and accurately determine who can “afford” paying for the public option. His health care plan also does not include any kind of reforms for how seniors pay their Medicare drug costs, which can cost them thousands of dollars per year. (Although he would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and peg drug price increases to inflation, Biden’s plan says nothing about lowering the cost of drugs that are already too high and costing seniors thousands.) Without reforming Medicare, it’s impossible to say that no one’s cancer will send them into bankruptcy. His plans for long-term care are laughably weak, as well: A $5,000 tax credit for informal caregivers is like second prize in the Third Way holiday raffle.

However, the most important moment happened so quickly that it was easy to miss. When Sanders noted that the United States spends twice as much per capita on health care as other countries do, Biden replied: “This is America.” Presumably, the implication was that America should spend twice what other countries do, because we do everything bigger, better, bolder, with more flavor and half the fat. (It would have been better if Sanders had finished his thought by noting that America spends twice as much as other countries for worse health care outcomes, but no matter.) This is the essence of Biden’s defense of the broad status quo: a patriotic bumper sticker, felt with such keenness it’s hardly surprising that he doesn’t seem to understand anything else about the issue.

What is usually a dark joke—We’re Number One (In Gun Deaths and Obesity)!—was trotted out as an earnest defense of America’s absurd health care spending. American health care spending is high because we’re America, baby: we’ve got those big-ass trucks, Doritos Locos Tacos, and a healthcare system chock full of with profiteering and blood-sucking greed. If you don’t like it, leave—for a country with single-payer.

This content was originally published here.

Cutting health benefits of 1,900 Whole Food workers saved world’s richest man Jeff Bezos what he makes in less than six hours

When billionaire Jeff Bezos cut health benefits on September 13 for part-time workers at his grocery store Whole Foods the richest man in the world saved the equivalent of what he makes from his vast fortune in just a few hours.

That’s according to an analysis from Decision Data’s “Data in the News” series, which found that Bezos could cover the entirety of annual benefits for part-time employees who work less than 30 hours a week with what he makes from stocks and investments in just a fraction of a day.

“Doing a quick calculation with existing publicly available numbers shows that Bezos makes more money than the cost of an entire year of benefits for these 1,900 employees in somewhere between 2-6 hours,” the study says.

The analysis used an estimate that Whole Foods would contribute between $5,000 and $15,000 annually per employee for benefits. At the middle of that range, $10,000, that comes to $19 million a year.

Bezos makes just under $9 million an hour, according to a 2019 Business Insider analysis, which would mean he makes enough money in a little over two hours to cover the benefits he cut. Decision Data used an earlier study which found Bezos makes $4.5 million an hour to conclude he would need approximately four and a half hours to cover the cost.

“CEO worth more than $110 billion cuts health care for 2,000 workers after raking in $9 million an hour,” tweeted economist Robert Reich, citing the 2019 Business Insider figure.

The disconnect between Bezos’ wealth and the cost of the benefits was remarked on by a number of observers.

“Jeff Bezos makes $3,182 a second,” said Jacobin writer Luke Savage.

Presidential candidate and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro called the move “shameful” and noted that Bezos’ crown jewel, online retailer Amazon, pays nothing in taxes.

“Amazon pays zero dollars in federal income taxes,” Castro tweeted. “Jeff Bezos is the richest man in modern history, and yet they continue to degrade the rights of their workers.”

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Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from billionaires and corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we’ve expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

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Nancy Pelosi: No need to reinvent health care — improve Obamacare

Democrats should focus on making improvements to Obamacare instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with “Medicare for All,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday.

“God bless” 2020 Democratic presidential candidates putting forth Medicare for All proposals, Pelosi said in an interview with “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer. “But know what that entails.”

Pelosi’s thoughts on how to improve the nation’s health-care laws appear to align with those of former Vice President Joe Biden, who in his 2020 presidential bid is calling for building on provisions of Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act.

“I believe the path to ‘health care for all’ is a path following the lead of the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi told Cramer. “Let’s use our energy to have health care for all Americans, and that involves over 150 million families that have it through the private sector.”

Several 2020 candidates are advocating for some version of Medicare for All. Arguably the most drastic proposal is from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is calling for eliminating private health insurance and replacing it with a universal Medicare plan. Proponents say it would help reduce administrative inefficiencies and costs in the U.S. health-care system. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has backed Sanders’ proposal.

However, policy analysts say actually implementing such a law would be tough even if a candidate such as Sanders won the presidency. Democrats would need to hold on to their edge in the House and win the Senate in the 2020 election to regain control of Congress. Then they would likely need 60 votes in the Senate and two-thirds of the House to overcome any potential filibusters. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate.

Pelosi’s comments also come as lawmakers and the Trump administration are both trying to pass legislation sometime this year that would bring more transparency to health-care costs and, ultimately, lower costs for consumers.

Pelosi and House Democratic leaders are expected to unveil as soon as this week a long-anticipated plan to reduce U.S. drug prices.

The main thrust of the plan, which is still in flux, would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices on the 250 most expensive drugs and apply those discounts to private health plans across the U.S., according to a document that surfaced on Capitol Hill on Sept. 10.

The Department of Health and Human Services is prohibited from negotiating drug prices on behalf of Medicare — the federal government’s health insurance plan for the elderly. Private insurers use pharmacy benefit managers to negotiate drug rebates from pharmaceutical manufacturers in exchange for better coverage.

Pelosi has been working for months on a plan that would give HHS that power. House Democratic leaders went on a “listening tour” around the party earlier this year to discuss details of Pelosi’s plan but haven’t yet distributed it across the caucus, a Democratic aide said in an interview.

This content was originally published here.

Avoiding red or processed meat doesn’t seem to give health benefits | New Scientist

Many health bodies have said in the past that people should limit their red meat intake

Owen Franken/Corbis Documentary/Getty

Owen Franken/Corbis Documentary/Getty

There are no health reasons to cut down on eating red or processed meat, according to a new review of the evidence. The claims, which contradict most existing dietary advice, come from a review of existing studies led by the Spanish and Polish Cochrane Centers, part of a global collaboration for assessing medical research.

Numerous health bodies have said for decades that we should limit our intake of red meat because it is high in saturated fat, thought to raise cholesterol levels and cause heart attacks. More recently, both red and processed meat have been linked with cancer.

In the latest review, though, the authors came to a different conclusion because they considered separately the two main kinds of research. The best evidence comes from randomised trials. In these, some participants are helped to change their diet in a certain way, such as eating less meat, and the rest aren’t. At the end, the health of the people in the two groups is compared.

But such trials are costly and hard to do. According to one estimate, only about 5 per cent of nutrition studies are large, good-quality randomised trials. It is much more common to do research that just observes what people choose to eat undirected. Known as observational studies, these are notoriously open to bias and can give misleading results.

Bradley Johnston of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, and his colleagues first reviewed all previous observational studies looking at the health impact of eating red or processed meat. These pointed to a “very small” adverse effect on deaths, heart disease and cancer.

Then they separately reviewed the 12 randomised trials that have been done in this area, and found that there was little or no health benefit for people who cut down on eating these meats. Based on these findings, the authors conclude that people should “continue to eat their current levels of red and processed meat unless they felt inclined to change them themselves”. However, they added that some might want to change their diet because of animal welfare or environmental reasons.

“It may be time to stop producing observational research in this area,” Tiffany Doherty from Indiana University’s Pediatric and Adolescent Comparative Effectiveness Research team wrote in an accompanying editorial.

Duane Mellor, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, says people shouldn’t take the advice as a green light to eat more red meat. “What it doesn’t say is that we can tear up the guidelines and start eating twice as much meat. But red meat three times a week is not a problem.”

Journal reference: Annals of Internal Medicine, DOI:

More on these topics:

This content was originally published here.

Americans Spent More on Taxes in 2018 Than on Food, Clothing and Health Care Combined

A grocery shopper in Los Angeles on July 24, 2019. (Photo by Mark RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Americans on average spent more on taxes in 2018 than they did on the basic necessities of food, clothing and health care combined, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey.

The survey’s recently published Table R-1 for 2018 lists the average “detailed expenditures” of what the BLS calls “consumer units.”

“Consumer units,” says BLS, “include families, single persons living alone or sharing a household with others but who are financially independent, or two or more persons living together who share major expenses.”

In 2018, according to Table R-1, American consumer units spent an average of $9,031.93 on federal income taxes; $5,023.73 on Social Security taxes (which the table calls “deductions”); $2,284.62 on state and local income taxes; $2,199.80 on property taxes; and $77.85 on what BLS calls “other taxes.”

The combined payments the average American consumer unit made for these five categories of taxes was $18,617.93.

At the same time the average American consumer unit was paying these taxes, it was spending $7,923.19 on food; $4,968.44 on health care; and $1,866.48 on “apparel and services.”

These combined expenditures equaled $14,758.11.

So, the $14,758.11 that the average American consumer unit paid for food, clothing and health care was $3,859.82 less than the $18,617.93 it paid in federal, state and local income taxes, property taxes, Social Security taxes and “other taxes.”

I asked the BLS to confirm these numbers, which it did while noting that the “Pensions and Social Security” section of its Table R-1 included four other types of payments (that many people are not required to make or that do not go to the government) in addition to the average of $5,023.73 in Social Security taxes that 77.21% of respondents reported paying.

“You asked us to verify the amounts for the total taxes and expenditures on food, apparel/services, and healthcare,” said BLS. “Based on table R-1 for 2018, your definition for food, apparel, and healthcare matches the BLS definition and the total dollars. Your dollar amounts for federal, state, and local income taxes and for property taxes are correct, as is the amount for Social Security deductions. For the combined pension amount [$6,830.71] that we publish however, in addition to the $5,023.73 for Social Security, there is an additional amount for government retirement deductions [$135.11], railroad retirement deductions [$2.85], private pension deductions [$608.22], and non-payroll deposits for pensions [$1,060.79].”

That Americans are forced to pay more for government than they pay for food, clothing and health care combined has become an enduring fact of life.

A review of the BLS Table R-1s for the last six years on record shows that in every one of those years, the average American consumer unit paid more in taxes than it paid for food, clothing and health care combined.

In 2013, the average American consumer unit paid a combined $13,327.22 for the same five categories of taxes cited above for 2018, while paying a combined $11,836.80 for food, clothing and health care.

In 2014, the average American consumer unit paid $14,664.13 for those same taxes and $12,834.34 for those same necessities.

In 2015, it was $15,548.36 versus $13,210.83. In 2016, it was $17,153.30 versus $13,617.60. And, in 2017, it was $16,750.20 versus $14,489.54.

Even when all the numbers for the last six years are converted into constant December 2018 dollars (using the BLS inflation calculator), the largest annual margin between the amount paid in taxes and the amount paid for food, clothing and health care was last year’s $3,859.82.

The margin was so great last year that you can add the $3,225.55 Table R-1 says the average consumer unit paid for entertainment to the $14,758.11 it paid for food, clothing and health care, and the combined $17,983.66 is still less than the $18,617.93 it paid for the five categories of taxes.

You get a similar result if you add the combined $2,903.50 that the average consumer unit paid in 2018 for electricity ($1,496.14) and telephone services ($1,407.36).

Yes, Americans on average paid more in taxes last year than they paid for food, clothing, health care, electricity and telephone services combined.

Was the government you got worth it?

(Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of CNSNews.com.)

This content was originally published here.

Veterans Affairs To Share Veterans’ Health Information Without Consent

Thousands of veterans were alarmed to learn VA is quietly rolling out is plan to automatically share veterans’ health information with third parties without written consent.

You got that right. Thanks to the VA MISSION Act, VA will now automatically enroll, or opt-in, all veterans into a health information sharing system with numerous government agencies and private organizations after September 30, 2019, unless you object in writing on a paper form.

Veterans must submit the VA Form 10-0484 in person or by mail to their local VA Release of Information office by of September 30, 2019, if they do not want to be “automatically enrolled” into the eHealth Exchange managed by The Sequoia Project.

Sound absurd? Here is what VA wrote in its Virtual Lifetime Electronic
Record (VLER) FAQ:

All Veterans who have not previously signed form 10-0484 as of September 30, 2019 will be automatically enrolled, but have the option to opt out.

Let me say that a third way in case I have not been clear.

VA will automatically share your health information with third parties without your written consent unless you opt-out in writing or submit a revocation in writing submitted in person or by US mail. You cannot submit your opt-out or revocation electronically.

How ironic, right?

In the name of technology, VA is about to force veterans into an electronic data sharing system without consent. The only way to prevent this violation is to present your objection on an agency mandated form ON PAPER by hand or snail mail by Monday. How old school.

And we are just learning about the deadline now.

In order to opt-out or revoke consent, there are a couple of forms you need to consider, noted above… but you only have until Monday to figure it out.

Curiously, the VA Form 10-10164 opt-out that is not technically an official form until October 2019 based on the available form.

One could argue that submitting the 10-10164 before September 30 may still result in a veteran’s automatic opt-in and then opt-out since the form may lack legal effect until October 2019.

So, the forms you can use to opt-out or revoke consent:

How do you get the form to VA? Can I send it on eBenefits or
fax it to Janesville Evidence Intake Center?

No. The agency requires that you either hand deliver the
signed form or mail it to the local Release of Information office at your VA Medical
Center by Monday.

No revocations will be processed after September 30, 2019. I
hope VA will not auto-opt-in veterans who submit the new form before the
deadline.

Either way, if you fail to take action by September 30, your
health information will be shared with the eHealth Exchange managed by The Sequoia
Project.

Good luck.

Once health information is shared, it cannot be unshared as
best I can tell from the information available including the old form.

This means meaning you lose control of your data. While you can possibly opt-out at a later date, whatever is shared is out there in the great and mysterious cloud for whatever hacker to access however and whenever they choose.

Who may get access?

The eHealth Exchange is a massive data-sharing system between federal agencies and private organizations in all 50 states that was originally controlled by the Department of Health and Human Services.

A nonprofit called The Sequoia Project took over management of the eHealth Exchange for “maintenance.” Many VA contractors and vendors are on the Board of Sequoia including Cerner and Mitre Corporation.

VA reassures us everything is safe. Right. Kind of like all
the times our data was illegally shared or hacked within the existing system?

“Rest assured. Your health information is safe and secure as it moves from VA to participating community care providers,” promises VA.

Believe them? We don’t, either.

We Drove To Minneapolis VA To Investigate

On Thursday, colleague Brian Lewis and I went to Minneapolis VA Medical Center immediately after reviewing what I describe below to confront agency officials about the highly questionable timing of the notice.

The Facebook Live video contains our initial impressions, which later evolved after we spoke with local officials and conducted an additional deep dive. Veterans who do not revoke consent/opt-out by September 30 will be enrolled automatically per the VLER FAQ.

We learned some inside baseball by asking around about it
and inspecting the facility. But, many of the VA officials we spoke with were
generally unaware of what VA Central Office was rolling out.

Our local Release of Information booth at Minneapolis VA did not have any of the forms available for veterans seeking to opt-out or revoke their previous consent. The attendant seemed to think her boss might bring some forms up sometime Friday or Monday since a few veterans were asking about it.

Fantastic.

Btw, you may have noticed my reference to “booth” about our ROI. In order to speak with someone at ROI, Minneapolis VA leadership decided to move the ROI intake to the open lobby area where anyone and everyone can hear about what you are asking about regarding your private health information.

So much for privacy when trying to get your private health
records.

For newbies reading this, Brian and I are veterans rights attorneys in the Minneapolis Metro who are well-known, but not well-loved, by VA officials locally and nationally.

I will explain the forms in a bit.

Back In The Day When Consent Was In Writing… And It Mattered

For years, VA was required secure informed consent from veterans prior to the sharing of health information. Whether you were a veteran trying to get care in the community or allow your attorney access to a claims file, you were required to provide VA with a release of information granting consent to share the date.

If you wanted to give VA your genomic information so they
could share it with private researching organizations for God knows whatever
reason, specifically the Million Veteran Program, you had to sign a form
granting permission.

If you wanted to opt in to allow your community care provider to use the health exchange to access your electronic health records, you need to sign the VA Form 10-0485. If you wanted to revoke that access, you needed to sign and submit the VA Form 10-0484.

There’s Gold In Those Records, Boys And Girls

To me, and millions of other veterans, this process seems
straightforward, but VA officials, university researchers, and private industry
really wanted more access to more veteran data since our electronic health records
comprise one of the most valuable datasets in the history of the world to date.

Yes, there is an incredible monetary value within the database containing all of our electronic health information, and private industry would profit handsomely from various marketing, advertising, and health solutions that could be developed by simply accessing our records.

Now, that access to our records comes at a cost. For at
least the past eight years, standard HIPAA requirements to de-identify records
no longer provide the security previously believed. Companies like Facebook
readily work to hack HIPAA protections using algorithms to connect HIPAA de-identified
data with a person’s Facebook profile using various markers including data like
that given by veterans to the Million Veteran Program, for example.

That data can then provide the backbone of entirely new research and advertising arm of companies like Facebook and Google to connect pharmaceutical ads with individuals who may be interested in the newest and greatest pill for anxiety or erectile dysfunction.

VA Throws Off The Heavy Yoke Of Privacy

Fortunately for business partners, researchers, and anyone
else who wants to access our data but not be troubled with difficult privacy
laws, VA will no longer have its research potential hamstrung by sentimental
laws like the Privacy Act or HIPAA.

Veterans can thank Congress and its passage of the VA MISSION
Act for allowing automatic access to all veterans’ health information by third
party community care providers and “partners.”

One of my readers alerted me to a change in protocol yesterday
starting with a PDF flyer circulating at VA.

That flyer, called the Veteran Notification Flyer, informs veterans of the five things we “need to know” about the VA’s new implementation of the health information mandate. I included this below in italics verbatim from the agency’s flyer.

You may be thinking, ‘Well, at least VA thought to give you
notice.’

Not exactly. I have not received any notice yet. However,
many veterans are writing in starting yesterday with notice letters that VA was
transitioning veterans into a new and brave system of data sharing.

The flyer was created September 11, 2019, informing veterans that in 20 days the process was flipping on its head where we need to opt-out after automatically being opted-in.

5 Things You Need To Know About Health Information
Sharing

If you are a little unclear about how to be sure no one
receives the health information, you are in good company. A lot of readers and
agency officials were unclear of exactly what is going on, and multiple dates
are floating around within VA’s own notices.

One page reads, “VA will begin opting all Veterans into
health information sharing, beginning January 2010.” Another page
reads, “VA Systems will begin opting all Veterans into health information
sharing, beginning January 2020.”

So, when did or will VA start the sharing of our health information
without consent?

An intranet notice to VA employees indicated the actual
process of sharing will start on or about November 18, 2019.

The VLER FAQ sheet probably provides the best advice
specific to veterans who do not want their data shared in the electronic system:

All Veterans who have not previously signed form 10-0484 as of September 30, 2019 will be automatically enrolled, but have the option to opt out. Beginning late 2019, a VA patient’s information will be shared with any community providers that also provide health care services for the shared patient.

“Revocation forms will not be processed after September 30,
2019. However, if you submit VA Form 10-0484, before September 30, your
preference will remain honored and no further action is needed by you.”

This language suggests the form must be submitted before
September 30, because the agency will stop processing them after September 30.

But how to do you revoke the consent that you never granted?

What is also important is the language difference between
the two forms.

Old VA Form 10-0484 vs New VA Form 10-10164

Let’s start with the new form, VA Form 10-10164. Basically,
the form says the agency cannot share your health information unless treatment
is required for an emergency:

So, the opt-out is not absolute. The form also indicates the
opt-in means all your health information can be shared for treatment.

What about your mental health records? How will VA protect
that data? Could that data also be shared with DHS or other organizations for
their own purposes?

The VA Form 10-0484 handles the issues differently.

First, it addresses that the signer revokes their previous
consent. Obviously, most of us never consented to this program. So, by signing
this 0484, can you preemptively revoke?

That is a question for your local Release of Information
Official.

The old form provides the following list about revocation
that I think is far clearer about what is at stake. Here is the list from VA in
italics:

One of the differences that jumped out at me in the old form was the promise that VA “will no longer share any of my individually-identifiable health information”. It did not qualify that revocation by stating the information will be shared in an emergency.

However, the revocation qualifies the health information by calling it “individually-identifiable health information” demonstrating the agency will share your information so long is it is de-identified. As noted above, merely adhering to HIPAA is no longer sufficient to protect your identity or other information that can be traced right back to you with today’s computing power.

What About Health Information Already Shared

The old 10-0484 says the information “already exchanged”
will continue to the used despite revocation meaning once the information is
out there, it is out there.

The health information being passed between VA and its
community care providers is supposedly shared in “guidance” with the Health
Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

Do we have enough information to make informed decisions?
Does VA seem to give a rip about our informed consent?

I plan to update this post as more information comes out. You may want to check back from time to time.

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This content was originally published here.

Suggested move to plant-based diets risks worsening brain health nutrient deficiency: And UK failing to recommend or monitor dietary levels of choline, warns nutritionist — ScienceDaily

To make matters worse, the UK government has failed to recommend or monitor dietary levels of this nutrient — choline — found predominantly in animal foods, says Dr Emma Derbyshire, of Nutritional Insight, a consultancy specialising in nutrition and biomedical science.

Choline is an essential dietary nutrient, but the amount produced by the liver is not enough to meet the requirements of the human body.

Choline is critical to brain health, particularly during fetal development. It also influences liver function, with shortfalls linked to irregularities in blood fat metabolism as well as excess free radical cellular damage, writes Dr Derbyshire.

The primary sources of dietary choline are found in beef, eggs, dairy products, fish, and chicken, with much lower levels found in nuts, beans, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli.

In 1998, recognising the importance of choline, the US Institute of Medicine recommended minimum daily intakes. These range from 425 mg/day for women to 550 mg/day for men, and 450 mg/day and 550 mg/day for pregnant and breastfeeding women, respectively, because of the critical role the nutrient has in fetal development.

In 2016, the European Food Safety Authority published similar daily requirements. Yet national dietary surveys in North America, Australia, and Europe show that habitual choline intake, on average, falls short of these recommendations.

“This is….concerning given that current trends appear to be towards meat reduction and plant-based diets,” says Dr Derbyshire.

She commends the first report (EAT-Lancet) to compile a healthy food plan based on promoting environmental sustainability, but suggests that the restricted intakes of whole milk, eggs and animal protein it recommends could affect choline intake.

And she is at a loss to understand why choline does not feature in UK dietary guidance or national population monitoring data.

“Given the important physiological roles of choline and authorisation of certain health claims, it is questionable why choline has been overlooked for so long in the UK,” she writes. “Choline is presently excluded from UK food composition databases, major dietary surveys, and dietary guidelines,” she adds.

It may be time for the UK government’s independent Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to reverse this, she suggests, particularly given the mounting evidence on the importance of choline to human health and growing concerns about the sustainability of the planet’s food production.

“More needs to be done to educate healthcare professionals and consumers about the importance of a choline-rich diet, and how to achieve this,” she writes.

“If choline is not obtained in the levels needed from dietary sources per se then supplementation strategies will be required, especially in relation to key stages of the life cycle, such as pregnancy, when choline intakes are critical to infant development,” she concludes.

This content was originally published here.

Trump’s Ban on E-Cigarette Flavors Endangers Public Health

Today President Donald Trump announced that his administration plans to ban the sale of e-cigarettes in flavors other than tobacco, a move that will undermine public health in the name of promoting it. The ban, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will impose through regulatory “guidance” it plans to issue soon, will dramatically reduce the harm-reducing alternatives available to smokers who are interested in quitting and is likely to drive many people who have already made that switch back to a much more dangerous source of nicotine.

The flavor ban is aimed at preventing underage vaping, which increased sharply last year. “We are going to have to do something about it,” Trump told reporters, describing vaping by teenagers as “a new problem in the country.”

Yet in terms of numbers and health consequences, the main impact of the ban will be felt by the millions of adults who have used e-cigarettes to quit smoking. Those adult vapers overwhelmingly prefer the flavors that the FDA plans to ban, and many of them, deprived of the products they are now using, are apt to start smoking again, dramatically increasing the health risks they face. The upshot will be more smoking-related disease and death.

Since selling e-cigarettes to minors is already illegal, a more reasonable approach would have been to improve enforcement of age restrictions. Companies such as Juul, the leading e-cigarette maker, have already taken steps in that direction through robust age verification. If some retailers are still selling e-cigarettes to minors, a logical response would have been to crack down on them. Instead the Trump administration is depriving adults of potentially lifesaving products that seem to be nearly twice as effective in facilitating smoking cessation as alternatives such as nicotine gum and patches.

Trump seems to have been influenced by his wife, Melania, who recently tweeted that “we need to do all we can to protect the public from tobacco-related disease and death, and prevent e-cigarettes from becoming an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.” Yet the flavor ban will undermine that first goal by eliminating the vast majority of the vaping products that provide nicotine without tobacco or combustion. Since the availability of e-cigarettes seems to have accelerated the long-term decline in smoking, the flavor ban can be expected to slow that trend or even reverse it.

The FDA has repeatedly acknowledged the enormous harm-reducing potential of e-cigarettes. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb openly agonized about the tradeoff between broad restrictions aimed at preventing underage consumption and the interests of smokers who want to quit or have already done so with the help of e-cigarettes. This decision gives no weight to those interests. The only consolation is that Trump’s announcement takes the shine off Michael Bloomberg’s latest crusade.

This content was originally published here.