Colorado abortion rates keep declining. Free IUDs and easier access to the pill are the reason.

Abortion rates have dropped again in Colorado, and health authorities are crediting increased access to birth control statewide.

Pharmacists have written thousands of prescriptions for the birth control pill since 2017, when Colorado became only the third state in the nation to allow women to get prescriptions for oral contraceptives at the pharmacy instead of only from a doctor. 

State and federal dollars are funding free and low-cost IUDs — intrauterine devices that prevent pregnancy for five years or more — for low-income women and teens who visit community health clinics across the state. 

Another contributing factor: the so-called morning-after pill has been available over the counter at Colorado pharmacies since 2013. 

“The goal has always been access,” said Gina Moore, assistant dean for clinical and professional affairs at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy. “We are just really pleased.” 

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Nationwide, the number and rate of abortions have declined to the lowest levels since abortion became legal in 1973, according to the latest report from the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion across the country. In Colorado, there were 12,390 abortions in 2017, the most recent year included in the report released this fall. That compares with 14,710 abortions in 2011. 

Not all of those abortions were for Colorado women. An unknown number of women traveled from other states to have abortions here. Regardless, there was a 10% drop in the abortion rate for Colorado from 2014 to 2017 — that is 12.1 abortions per 1,000 women in 2014, compared with 10.9 abortions per 1,000 women in 2017. 

It’s impossible to parse how much Colorado’s birth control protocol, which allows pharmacists to prescribe oral contraceptives, has affected abortion rates. But public health officials are thrilled with how pharmacies have put the 2016 state law to use

The state health department isn’t keeping a tally, but it’s clear pharmacists have written thousands of prescriptions for birth control pills. King Soopers pharmacists alone have written more than 1,500 prescriptions since 2017. The Wardenburg Health Center on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder has written close to 400. 

Albertsons and Safeway stores also allow their pharmacists to write the prescriptions, as do dozens of smaller pharmacies across Colorado, Moore said. (Walgreens does not participate.)

In Oregon, the first state to allow pharmacists to write birth control prescriptions, researchers found that the law averted more than 50 unintended pregnancies in its first two years and saved the state $1.6 million in public costs associated with medical care. 

To write birth-control prescriptions, Colorado pharmacists must complete a four-hour, online training program. Women can obtain the pills within 10 or 15 minutes after walking into a pharmacy and filling out a one-page questionnaire, which asks whether they could be pregnant and their history of migraine headaches, strokes or high blood pressure. 

A package of the birth control drug Microgestin. (The Colorado Sun)

For many college students, especially those who have moved away from home and their regular doctor, visiting a pharmacy to get the pill is far less daunting than making a doctor’s appointment for a pelvic exam. 

At the health clinic at CU Boulder, young women who come in for the morning-after pill or birth control are offered several options, including an IUD in the center’s clinic. The IUD can prevent pregnancy up to 10 years. The pill is less reliable, since a woman must take it daily for it to work effectively. 

The range of options has improved access for young women, said Sue Mead, pharmacy director at Wardenburg Health Center at the university. “It allows them more ease to obtain any birth control method,” she said. “There is no pressure.” 

The clinic’s pharmacy sells about 70 morning-after pill packets per year, or up to about 15 per month in some school months, Mead said. The busiest day of sale is Monday, she said. The pill — a popular brand name is Plan B — prevents ovulation or fertilization of an egg. It works best within 24 hours of unprotected sex.

Moore, the pharmacy school dean, for a few years picked up holiday shifts at a pharmacy chain and found New Year’s Day was by far the busiest day for morning-after pill sales. “New Year’s Day was a banner day,”  she said, recalling a line in the drive-thru first thing in the morning. “It would be crazy.”

Read more health stories from The Colorado Sun.

Perhaps even more than oral contraceptives, IUDs have contributed to the decline in abortions and unwanted pregnancies, public health officials said.

A landmark report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment two years ago credited IUDs, which are T-shaped pieces of plastic inserted into the uterus, for a major decrease in unwanted pregnancies among teenagers. 

The birth rate for girls ages 15 to 19 in Colorado dropped by more than half in an eight-year period, falling 59% from 2009 to 2017. The abortion rate among Colorado teens fell by 60% during those eight years.

Colorado spent $28 million in grant funds during those years to supply IUDs to 75 public health clinics in Colorado, including several inside high schools. Women and teens received 43,714 free IUDs from 2009 to 2016, thanks to a grant from billionaire Warren Buffett’s family. 

The grant ended, but the state has maintained the program through state and federal funds, as well as the expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. There are 29 contractors who work in 78 clinics throughout Colorado providing free and low-cost IUDs, said Jody Camp, manager of the family planning unit at the state health department. 

The Guttmacher Institute report counted 32 facilities in Colorado that provided abortions in 2017. That was a drop from 36 in 2014. 

Nationwide, 89% of counties had no clinics that provided abortions. In Colorado, 50 out of 64 counties do not have a facility that provides abortions, according to the institute.

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Update: We Found a “Staggering” 281 Lobbyists Who’ve Worked in the Trump Administration — ProPublica

The 45th President and His Administration

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published.

At the halfway mark of President Donald Trump’s first term, his administration has hired a lobbyist for every 14 political appointments made, welcoming a total of 281 lobbyists on board, a ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations analysis shows.

With a combination of weakened rules and loose enforcement easing the transition to government and back to K Street, Trump’s swamp is anything but drained. The number of lobbyists who have served in government jobs is four times more than the Obama administration had six years into office. And former lobbyists serving Trump are often involved in regulating the industries they worked for.

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Even government watchdogs who’ve long monitored the revolving door say that its current scale is a major shift from previous administrations. It’s a “staggering figure,” according to Virginia Canter, ethics chief counsel for the D.C.-based legal nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “It suggests that lobbyists see themselves as more effective in furthering their clients’ special interests from inside the government rather than from outside.”

We tracked the lobbyists as part of an update to Trump Town, our database of political appointees. We’ve added the names of 639 new staffers with the administration and the financial disclosures of 351 political appointees who have filled different positions over the past year, and we tracked the careers of 338 who departed government during the same period.

The full extent of the lobbying industry’s influence is hard to measure because federal agencies decline to share details of recusals granted to officials who disclose potential conflicts with their new government roles.

Consider Colin Roskey. Days after leaving a two-decade career as what one former employer called the “smartest” health care lobbyist, he joined the Department of Health and Human Services in January. As deputy secretary for legislation for mandatory health, he headed the portfolio that he tried to influence for most of his career.

HHS declined to reveal any recusals he signed while appointed. A spokesman said that “all employees are expected to abide by the ethics rules.”

Just days before joining HHS, Roskey listed among his clients major dialysis providers that receive federal payments through Medicare, including Fresenius Medical Care — an industry juggernaut, with more than 330,000 patients in thousands of dialysis clinics in the U.S. A third of the company’s billion-dollar revenue comes from Medicare. A recent revamp in the dialysis industry ordered by Trump, expected to shift millions of dollars from dialysis centers to cheaper home-based options, put Roskey’s office at the heart of regulating how much profit or loss some of his former clients will see in coming years. Roskey said in an interview that he recused himself from this matter.

Public records show that Roskey lobbied for at least 27 clients between January 2017 and December 2018 on an array of issues other than dialysis involving public health care programs, from prescription drugs to palliative care.

In early October, Roskey stepped out of government and went straight back to work for his old lobbying firm, Lincoln Policy Group, which specializes in health care policy. “Spending time at HHS will make [Roskey] even more valuable to our team — and we are so excited to have him back,” the lobbying firm announced in a statement.

Roskey said he had no knowledge of how the new kidney care regulations will be implemented.

After his monthslong stint with the Health Department, Roskey said he plans to lobby the legislative branch, which is not prohibited by the current ethics rules. “While working with the government I gained knowledge and background, intellectually and professionally, and I intend to unapologetically utilize those skills for my employer and clients,” he said.

The senior-level appointment of a key lobbyist raises concerns for ethics experts like Canter. “There’s no way [he would’ve been hired under Obama] because Trump dropped a key provision of the Obama ethics pledge,” she said.

Indeed, an Obama-era ethics pledge clause absent in Trump’s prevented registered lobbyists from seeking or accepting employment with any executive agency that they lobbied the two years prior.

Federal laws forbid government employees who have served as registered lobbyists in the two years prior to their appointment from handling the particular matters or the specific issue areas that they used to lobby. Similarly, after leaving the government, all appointees-turned-lobbyists are barred from seeking to influence their former agencies and engaging in behind-the-scenes work with other senior officials across the administration.

The revolving door, of course, has been spinning since well before the Trump administration. In 2009, after President Barack Obama took office, ProPublica built a smaller version of Trump Town. During his administration, government watchdog groups also decried the conflicts of interest brought by some political appointees, and The Washington Post tallied 65 lobbyists among Obama’s ranks in five years.

One Obama-era alum, for instance, has gone on to lobby for the nation’s largest pharmaceutical industry trade group, according to public records. Bridgett Taylor, who occupied Roskey’s position until Trump took office, left the government to lobby Congress and federal agencies on matters related to those she oversaw at HHS. Taylor declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Taylor’s employer, said that although Taylor was listed as a lobbyist and HHS as a contacted agency, “that does not mean that she lobbied them,” but that her colleagues did.

If it’s certainly not new, the enforcement of ethics provisions has lagged under Trump. In governmentwide surveys conducted by the Office of Government Ethics, federal agencies reported only 106 registered lobbyists who joined the administration. In their answers, ethics officers argued that they “don’t know” how many registered lobbyists had been hired or that they didn’t “track the number of individuals who fell into this category.” When asked about referrals for further enforcement of ethics violations, an officer admitted that they “don’t maintain a centralized database of the bases of proposed disciplinary actions.”

Jeff Hauser, who heads the Revolving Door Project at the nonpartisan Center for Economic and Policy Research, contends that “Trump has organized the executive branch as a mechanism to reward allies and their political power. Lobbyists are hired not because they’re great at the specific matter that they lobby for but because their specialty is delivering political results.”

Corporations also see value in hiring former government staffers, as they bring connections within the agencies and exceptional knowledge about regulation. Among the staffers who recently left their administration positions, 29 went to work for K Street firms — as registered lobbyist or not. At least 59 former employees have done so over the past three years.

One is Laura Kemper, a former HHS senior official who, within days of leaving her post in March, was hired by Fresenius. Now vice president for government affairs, Kemper heads the company’s policy group.

According to lobbying records, she is listed among the in-house lobbyists who have visited Congress, the White House and HHS since March, pushing everything from reimbursement for dialysis services to home dialysis. The records show Fresenius shelled out more than $2.2 million for lobbying activities during the first half of the year.

Kemper had also spent years lobbying Congress and federal agencies on behalf of health care companies before joining HHS in March 2017.

Her pass through the revolving door tests the boundaries of ethics rules. Indeed, Trump’s pledge prohibits staffers-turned-registered lobbyists from advocating for the special interests of their corporate bosses before the agencies where they used to work for at least five years. It also restricts former employees from behind-the-scenes lobbying with any senior federal official for the remainder of Trump’s presidency. Kemper signed that pledge.

Kemper declined to comment. In a statement, Fresenius said Kemper “has strictly followed her legal and ethical obligations and has not been involved in lobbying the administration or anything related to the Executive Order.” Disclosure forms filed by Fresenius “cite the general activity of a team and do not ascribe any particular lobbying activity,” according to its statement.

Recently, during an earnings call to investors, Fresenius CEO Rice Powell said that the company has talked to the “appropriate people in Washington,” without naming any particular Fresenius or government staffer. “We are in the midst of commenting and asking questions” with HHS officials, he added.

As ProPublica has reported, political appointees who return to lobbying have found ways to tiptoe around ethics rules. Some register as lobbyists but limit their interactions to Congress, leaving colleagues to lobby the executive branch. Ethics restrictions don’t apply to congressional lobbying.

One such case is Geoffrey Burr, a lobbyist who joined the Labor Department early in the Trump administration. More recently, he was chief of staff to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. He left the Transportation Department in January and soon became policy director at one of the nation’s largest lobbying firms.

According to records, Burr now lobbies for clients with a stake in transportation issues, including The Northeast MAGLEV, the company behind what would be the first high-speed train in the U.S. A January press release announcing his hiring praised Burr’s “high-level involvement with Transportation and Labor [that will] provide clients with the strategic guidance they need to navigate business issues with the administration.”

Burr signed the ethics pledge and, according to records, lobbies only Congress, abiding by the rule of not contacting the executive branch. Other partners at his firm lobby the Transportation Department and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

The Transportation Department didn’t respond to requests for comment, and Burr declined to talk.

There are also former Trump administration staffers who go back to K Street but don’t register as lobbyists — the Lobbying Disclosure Act only requires those who spend 20% or more of their time lobbying to register.

Rebecca Wood and Brooke Appleton held senior Trump administration positions for more than a year at the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department, respectively. Both left the administration and returned to their former employers — this time, in more senior positions.

Wood now leads the food and drug practice at Sidley Austin, a powerful law and lobbying firm in Washington, where her colleagues lobby the FDA for various clients. Appleton went from being director to vice president for public policy for the National Corn Growers Association; she leads at least six people lobbying the Agriculture Department and other federal agencies.

Tracking White House staffers, Cabinet members and political appointees across the government

Appleton declined to comment. Wood said she “advises clients on FDA-related issues and, in doing so, complies with all applicable ethics requirements.”

There is nothing illegal about returning to an old employer or being hired by a new one. Nor is there anything wrong with having colleagues who lobby the federal government. But the revolving door does present the possibility of conflicts of interests.

“The most important commodity in D.C. is information,” Hauser said. “Former insiders have rare access to strategic intelligence, which is of significant value to corporate entities, and they can do so without registering as a lobbyist.”

With the new data just released, Trump Town grew to include 3,859 names, 2,319 financial disclosures and hundreds of other records for Trump’s staffers. Our original goal remains intact: shining a light on the people in charge of running the government and how their career histories might influence their decisions.

David Mora is a reporting fellow for Columbia Journalism Investigations, a team of reporters, faculty and postgraduate fellows who examine issues of public interest. Funding for CJI’s work on this project is provided by the Investigative Reporting Resource, the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism and the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation at the Columbia Journalism School.

Michael Jordan tears up as he opens clinic for the uninsured in hometown of Charlotte | Daily Mail Online

Sports legend Michael Jordan gave an emotional speech and shed a tear as he opened a $7 million clinic that would guarantee health care for the uninsured in his hometown of Charlotte.   

The Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic held its ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, which was attended by the athlete turned business mogul.

‘This is a very emotional thing for me to be able to give back to a community that has supported me over the years,’ Jordan said during the ceremony.  

The Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic in Charlote held a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday attended by the athlete turned business mogul

‘This is a very emotional thing for me to be able to give back to a community that has supported me over the years,’ Jordan said during the ceremony

The center has been in operation about three weeks, and more than 300 people have already been seen by staff doctors, social workers and other health-care professionals.

‘It’s … from the heart,’ Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Hornets, told the crowd gathered at the grand opening about the gift.

‘I stand here before you as a proud parent, son, obviously a member of this community,’ Jordan, 56, said, adding his extended family deserves as much credit as he does for the clinic. .’..You see my name, but yet you see a lot of people behind me and the commitment, especially from my mom, about caring for other people and being a part of a community that matters.’

Two years ago, Jordan donated $7 million to get the center funded. 

Two years ago, Jordan donated $7 million to get the center funded

The center has been in operation about three weeks, and more than 300 people have already been seen by staff doctors, social workers and other health-care professionals

His donation was designed to benefit financially struggling residents of the Charlotte area and improve the community’s access to medical care. He is a longtime resident of the state and played college basketball at North Carolina before launching his Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bulls. 

‘Today we celebrated the grand opening of the Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic,’ the center said on social media. ‘With Michael’s generous $7 million donation, low-income Charlotte residents of all ages now have access to get the affordable medical care they need, with or without insurance.’

In a press release, the center shared that it ‘will also offer additional comprehensive care, including behavioral health and social support services, to more directly address health equity gaps and social determinants of health in our communities.’

In a press release , the center shared that it ‘will also offer additional comprehensive care, including behavioral health and social support services, to more directly address health equity gaps and social determinants of health in our communities’

Jordan walks through the halls of the new center that is named after him

‘At Novant Health, we are deeply committed to caring for patients beyond our walls,’ said Carl Armato, CEO and president of Novant Health, in the release. ‘This clinic will not only provide access to medical care for those who need it most, but it will connect them to resources to ensure their health extends beyond the doctor’s office. We are so grateful for Michael Jordan’s continued partnership and generous gift, which will transform thousands of lives in the west Charlotte community.’

The release further states that the clinic aims to improve access to care in ‘an area identified as having high priority public health concerns by a Health Needs Assessment’  

The release continues: ‘This assessment was conducted not long after Charlotte was ranked 50th out of 50 in economic mobility for children born into poverty by a 2014 Harvard University/UC Berkeley study.’ 

The center will be open Mondays through Fridays from 8am to 5pm. Walk-ins are accepted along with same day appointment scheduling. 

‘It’s from the heart,’ Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Hornets, told the crowd gathered at the grand opening about the gift

Michael Jordan tears up as he opens clinic for the uninsured in hometown of Charlotte

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The mental health benefits of exercise / The Body Coach

The mental health benefits of becoming more physically active are becoming more and more prevalent. In this post, Kieran Alger explores the mental health benefits of exercise.

How do you feel after a workout? Even when you’re purple faced and desperate for a lie-down, you feel pretty pleased with yourself for giving it a go, right? Once the initial breathlessness subsides after a workout, it’s common to feel like you have more energy and those troublesome problems might not seem quite so big as before. While they might seem intangible these benefits are as real as – and arguably more important than – the results you see around your waistline.

“A prescription of exercise can help you have a healthy mind,” says GP Dr Paul Stillman, from Media Medics. “Exercise stimulates positive endorphins, clears your head and lifts your mood. I think we’ll see more and more people prescribed exercise as a mood-booster.”

Healthy body = healthy mind

We’re starting to realise just how vital exercise is for our wellbeing, both mental and physical. New research from the Department of Health published in October 2017, reported 12 per cent of cases of depression could be prevented with an hour of exercise each week. Up your workouts to three a week and you could reduce your risk of depression by 30 per cent.

Can exercise help you handle stress?

Sure thing. A team of neurologists at Stanford Medical School, U.S., studied brain scans and found regular exercisers have more grey matter in the prefrontal cortex, which governs stress-management.

But when we feel down, everything can feel overwhelming. Time to crawl into a hole? In fact, the more stressed out you feel, the more you need to look after yourself – and a workout can be the happiest medicine. Research has shown that exercise is clinically proven to stimulate serotonin, your natural feel-good neurotransmitter.

Does exercise help anxiety?

“Running gives me the headspace to focus on what I’m feeling when my anxiety gets really bad,” says Cardiff student Seren Pritchard-Bland, 21, who ran the London Marathon for the mental health charity Heads Together. “I get panic attacks when I’m stressed out, but I find simply getting out of the house with my trainers on makes me feel like I’ve achieve something positive. Running is therapeutic – it’s so much healthier than being alone at home with thoughts spinning around my head.”

Why is exercise such a mood-booster?

“Exercise is fantastic for releasing tension, reducing stress and giving joy,” says Hayley Jarvis, programme manager for sport at the mental health charity Mind. “Being active is one of the best things you can do to help yourself bounce back in times of adversity. Getting out of your head and into your body can actually improve your ability to think clearly and break up your racing thoughts.”

Find your mood-boosting workout

If the thought of hauling yourself out of bed to jump around feels as impossible as climbing Everest, start slow. You can always stop if you’re not feeling it, but all it takes is a few minutes of low-intensity exercise – even just walking – to trigger the release of pain-relieving endorphins. Every stretch releases tension and every movement makes oxygen flow a little faster. Look out for your tipping point, because the more aware you are of the moment your mood warms up, the better it feels.

Which workout will make you happy?

To build friendships… try team sports like football and netball. “Social connectivity is incredibly important,” says Hayley. “When we’re struggling we tend to isolate ourselves, but being with other people can motivate you to get out there. Playing team sports is great if you feel lonely.”

To calm your mind… try yoga, pilates and t’ai chi. Hayley explains: “Exercise that works with your breath is particularly good for improving mindfulness, which can also calm a spinning head and improve your mood.”

To release tension… try boxing or HIIT. “Doing an intense exercise will completely absorb your attention – it’s impossible to think of anything but what your body is doing,” says Hayley. Click here to try one of Joe’s latest HIIT workout.

Ultimately, the key is to find a workout you enjoy, because then you’ll want to keep doing it. After exercise, take a moment to notice how your mood has lifted. The bright, calm satisfaction you get after your workout will keep you coming back for more. You’ll get hooked on the feel-good benefits of exercise, not just the physical results.

Ship transporting 12.3 million illegally caught seahorses worth more than $6million is intercepted | Daily Mail Online

A ship containing 12.3 million illegally caught seahorses that was bound for Asia has been seized by Peruvian authorities.

A Coast Guard ship detected the vessel ‘Adonay’ almost 200 miles off the seaside city of Callao on Monday before it was steered back to Perú’s main seafood port.

Officials said that the seahorses were illegally taken from the Pacific Ocean waters and packed into 55 boxes that weighed more than 2,300 pounds.

The small marine fish have a value of more than $6 million and were expected to be sold in the international market.

Authorities in Perú seized over 12.4 million seahorses on a fishing vessel on Monday that were being transported to Asia

Seahorses were hidden in 55 boxes and had a value of $6 million in the international market

Investigators said the seahorses were illegally extracted from the Pacific Ocean waters off the Peruvian coast

Investigators said seahorses are viewed as a prime source of traditional Chinese medicine and are thought to play a large role in curing infertility, baldness, asthma and arthritis.

The Peruvian National Police said it was closely monitoring the prohibited extraction of the seahorses for a couple of days before they closed it on vessel, which was manned by a crew of four people.

A member of the Peruvian National Police  inspects Monday’s shocking discovery of more than 12.3 million seahorses that were found aboard a fishing vessel

Fishing, transportation and commercialization of seahorses has been prohibited by the South American nation since August 2004

Authorities arrested the vessels crew which was made up of three Peruvian men and a Venezuelan male. Their identities were not publicly released

Authorities arrested three Peruvian men and a male Venezuelan national. Their identities were not publicly released.

The suspects face between three to five years in prison, if found guilty. 

Fishing, transportation and commercialization of seahorses has been prohibited in Peru since August 2004.

Seahorses that showed signs of dehydration and dryness were expected to be donated to local universities and research groups.

The fishing boat was intercepted about 200 miles off Perú on Monday following several days of investigation

Seahorses are viewed as a primary source of Chinese traditional medicine 

The confiscated seahorses that showed signs of dehydration and dryness will be donated to local universities and research groups 

Ship transporting 12.3 million illegally caught seahorses worth more than $6million is intercepted

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Some Dasani Bottled Water Contaminated by High Levels of Disinfectant Byproduct

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Some of Coca-Cola’s popular bottled water brand Dasani contains elevated levels of potentially dangerous chemical disinfectant byproducts, according to records obtained by Consumer Reports.

Tests of Dasani water packaged in half-liter bottles at a Florida plant in 2018 revealed levels of total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) that exceed a limit set by the state of California as well as a bottled water industry trade group, records show. TTHMs are produced when chlorination chemicals combine with organic matter in water. Some of the compounds are classified as potential carcinogens, and studies have linked them to liver and reproductive issues.

A Coca-Cola subsidiary submitted the Florida test report to New York regulators last year as part of the state’s annual permit process for bottled water manufacturers. Coca-Cola currently possesses active permits for several affiliated companies, according to the state health department website, including the Florida subsidiary. Consumer Reports obtained the records this week in response to a public records request filed with the New York health department, which regulates bottled water in the state and certifies more than 200 bottlers annually.  

The records underscore the occasional inconsistency of bottled water regulations in the U.S. The test of Dasani at the company’s Jacksonville plant in 2018 registered 12 parts per billion (ppb) of TTHMs, records show. That met New York’s limit for TTHMs in bottled water of 80 ppb, also the federal standard set by the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water in the U.S. (The federal limit in tap water is 80 ppb.)  

But the state of California’s standard for TTHMs in bottled water is more stringent, at 10 ppb. That’s also the limit set by the International Bottled Water Association, an industry trade group, for its members, including Nestlé and Cott Bottling. (Coca-Cola is not part of the group.) The IBWA has said it implemented the stronger TTHMs standard to “ensure the highest degree of public safety.” 

Coca-Cola is licensed to distribute Dasani made at the Jacksonville plant to 13 states, according to the records, but it’s unclear if the company ships it across the U.S. to California. A spokesperson for California’s bottled water regulator didn’t have a comment for CR at press time. Not all Dasani had this level of TTHMs, either; records for other Coca-Cola plants licensed to sell in New York showed levels below 0.5 ppb.

A spokesperson for Coca-Cola didn’t respond to a request for comment at press time. 

The records also highlight a pitfall in the voluntary system deployed by the industry to inform consumers about the quality of their favorite bottled water brand. Unlike tap water, there’s generally no requirement for bottlers to publish information on the quality of their brands, leaving consumers to voluntarily contact them for test results.

Some brands, like Dasani, post reports on their websites. The most recent Dasani report published online, however, is labeled as an “example” that reflects a “typical” analysis conducted of the water brand’s quality. For TTHMs, the example report shows non-detectable amounts of the compounds. 

“Bottled water companies often do not disclose information about contaminants in their products—and this specific example is an illustration of that lack of transparency,” says Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., vice president of science investigations at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit advocacy and research group that published a study on bottled water in 2008. 

The Unintended Consequence

Chlorination has long been heralded for its impact on the safety of drinking water. But the massive public health benefits it provided by dramatically reducing waterborne diseases also brought about an unintended consequence: disinfectant byproducts. In particular, four primary trihalomethanes—including chloroform and bromodichloromethane—created during the treatment process have been identifided by researchers as potentially dangerous. 

“It is kind of ironic that the act of treating water to make it safe actually introduces carcinogenic compounds into the water,” says Jeff Cunninghaman, Ph.D, an associate professor in the University of South Florida’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering who researches water treatment and contamination. “However, overall, it is a good strategy: even though we introduce a low risk of getting cancer, we greatly decrease the risk of serious, acute disease from microbial pathogens, like cholera or typhoid fever.”

The Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates tap water in the U.S., had a 100 ppb limit on the sum of TTHMs, before lowering it to 80 ppb in the early 2000s. (The FDA followed suit, and implemented an 80 ppb limit for bottled water shortly thereafter.)

The EPA notes that limits are set based on what’s “feasible” for water systems to achieve—not just what’s best for public health—and takes cost into consideration. California regulators previously estimated that corresponded to a risk of one cancer case in 10,000 people who were exposed to TTHMs for a lifetime. The state is currently proposing a voluntary Public Health Goal, the level at which adverse effects are not expected to occur from a lifetime of exposure, for each of the four trihalomethanes at levels of 0.5 ppb and below

Indeed, trace amounts of TTHMs are present in tens of thousands of regulated public water systems, according to a 2015 analysis of federal data by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. Nearly 800 water systems serving 1.7 million people that year violated the 80 ppb limit for TTHMs, the analysis shows. 

But studies have found low amounts could evem present a potential health risk. For example, a meta-analysis of TTHM research published in 2011 by Occuptational and Environmental Medicine, found that men exposed to averaged TTHM levels above 5 ppb throughout their lifetime had a significantly increased risk of bladder cancer than those exposed to less than that 5 ppb. And a study published this month by EWG estimated that an additional 8,000 lifetime cancer cases could be due to disinfection byproducts in water. 

EWG’s Naidenko says that consumers could be surprised to learn that some bottled water has contaminants found in tap water. 

“The problem with bottled water comes from the fact that the FDA allows bottled water to contain contaminants,” she says, “generally at levels close to what’s allowed for drinking water.”

Industry Standard Stricter

TK why the ibwa implemented a stronger standard

What Consumers Can Do

Cunningham says the only way to eliminate the cancer risk from TTHMs is to reverse course and stop chlorinating our water. But then, he says, “We are back to a severe risk for cholera or other water-borne disease. So we are pretty much stuck with some risk from THMs, any time we disinfect the water.”

Cunningham didn’t find the 12 ppb level in some Dasani concerning, as it meets the federal standard of 80 ppb, but he says that consumers should be notified about the presence of TTHMs in bottled water.

“Many people buy bottled water because they believe (rightly or wrongly) that bottled water is ‘safer’ than tap water,” he says. “Therefore it seems that they should be notified of the presence of very low levels of carcinogens in the water.”

“There is no reason to panic,” he adds, “because the risk is quite low—but it isn’t zero, and I think consumers should be informed of that fact.  Then they can decide if they still want to buy bottled water, or if tap water is acceptable to them.”

Consumers with concerns about water quality could review the annual water quality report for their local tap water supply. CR also recommends looking for brands who abide by the TTHM limits set by California and the industry. 

“Consumers should buy from brands that affirm compliance with the 10 ppb standard,” says Michael Hansen, Ph.D, a senior scientist at CR, “such as brands that are part of the IBWA.”

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2019, Consumer Reports, Inc.

Texas police officer shoots woman to death inside her home

A Fort Worth police officer checking out a residence with an open door opened fire on a woman inside her home, killing her, authorities said.

The shooting early Saturday occurred less than two weeks after a police officer in nearby Dallas was found guilty of murder for fatally shooting a man in his home in 2018. In both cases the officers are white and the victims were African American.

In the Fort Worth shooting at 2:25 a.m. Saturday, authorities have the officer’s body-camera footage.

Texas police officer fatally shoots woman inside her home

According to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth, the imagery shows the perspective of the officer outside a home, peering inside a window using a flashlight, spotting someone inside standing near a window and telling her, “Put your hands up — show me your hands,” before opening fire.

Fort Worth police say one shot was fired.

Officers entered the home and began providing emergency medical care to the woman but she was pronounced dead, police said.

The Tarrant County medical examiner identified her as Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, 28, according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.

A gun was found inside the home, police said, but it wasn’t clear if the woman was near it at the time of the shooting.

Neighbor James Smith said he called a police non-emergency number when he noticed the open door.

“If you don’t feel safe with the police department, then who do you feel safe with?” he said.

Amber Carr, Jefferson’s sister, questioned the officer’s training. “I just don’t understand,” she said.

The officer, who has been with the department since April 2018, was placed on administrative leave while the shooting is under investigation. The department’s major case and internal affairs units and the Tarrant County district attorney’s law-enforcement incident team will conduct the investigation.

Police said evidence would be forwarded to the district attorney “to determine the final outcome.”

The body-camera footage, with the exception of imagery of the interior of the home, would be released, police said.

The September 2018 killing of Botham Jean in Dallas sparked national headlines. The then-officer accused of murdering her neighbor said she had mistakenly entered the wrong apartment after a long shift on patrol when she believed someone was in her home and opened fire.

Amber Guyger was sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

Playing Mahjong May Reduce Depression, Study Finds

Mahjong is no longer just a means to teach crazy rich Asian mothers that prejudice can cost you your child’s happiness. As it turns out, the tile-based strategy game can also help adults struggling with symptoms of depression.

That’s according to a new study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, which shows that a regular game of Mahjong can help reduce rates of depression among middle-aged and older adults in China. Those who reside in urban areas particularly found it beneficial.


Originating from the Qing Dynasty, mahjong was originally called “máquè,” meaning “sparrow,” because the clacking of tiles in the shuffling process supposedly resembles the sound of chattering sparrows. The game began to spread across the world in the early 20th century, developing variations over time.

In essence, mahjong is a game of strategy that involves some chance. The goal is to get all of one’s 14 tiles into four sets (a set being three identical tiles or a run of three consecutive numbers in the same suit, which can be characters, bamboos or circles) and one pair (two identical tiles).

Image via Flickr / yui* (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Researchers of the study said that global economic and epidemiological changes have led to “significant increases” in the burden of mental health among older adults, particularly those who live in low- and middle-income countries. One basis of the study is the role of social participation in mental health.

“Our paper provides evidence on the association between social participation and mental health in the context of a developing country (China),” co-author Adam Chen, an associate professor of health policy and management from the University of Georgia, said in a press release. “We also examined the rural-urban difference, which has not been examined extensively in this line of literature.”

Image via Flickr / Audrey (CC BY 2.0)

Chen, along with collaborators from China’s Huazhong University of Science and Technology, analyzed data from about 11,000 residents aged 45 and above from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, a national survey. They reviewed symptoms of depression and compared it to the type and frequency of social participation, or activities such as visiting friends, joining a sports club, volunteering in the community, and playing mahjong.

They found out that more frequent participation in a wide variety of activities is linked to better mental health. Urban residents who played mahjong, in particular, were less likely to be depressed.

Image via

Interestingly, the researchers discovered that rural residents generally reported poor mental health. Chen believes that this is due to the trend of able-bodied adults moving to urban areas for work, weakening community structures at home.

“What is more surprising is that mahjong playing does not associate with better mental health among rural elderly respondents,” Chen added. “One hypothesis is that mahjong playing tends to be more competitive and at times become a means of gambling in rural China.”

The researchers believe their findings can help guide health practitioners in designing interventions to improve mental health among older Chinese people. They may also be of help to older Asian Americans, Chen said.

“Older Asian Americans have a much higher proportion of suicidal thoughts than whites and African Americans. Improving social participation among older Asian Americans may help to address this burden to the U.S. population health that has not received due attention.”

Image via Wikimedia Commons / Joe Mabel (CC BY-SA 3.0)

However, mahjong has become increasingly more popular not only among Asian Americans.

“My members, most of them are from Manhattan, and I’d say the majority of them are from the Upper East Side, but I’ve got West-siders, I have a few people from Brooklyn,” Linda Feinstein, organizer of the Manhattan Mah Jongg Club, told China Daily. “I have a group that comes in from Beverly Hills every single year for 10 days, and they play mahjong on one of the Mondays.”

Among other celebrities that play mahjong is actress Julia Roberts.

“I play mahjong with my girlfriends once a week,” she told Stephen Colbert last year.The concept of it is to create order out of chaos based on a random drawing of tiles.”

Featured Image via Pixabay

The post Playing Mahjong May Reduce Depression, Study Finds appeared first on NextShark.

9/11 survivors: We were saved by the man with the red bandanna

On Sept. 11, 2001, Welles Crowther sat at his desk on the 104th floor in the south tower of the World Trade Center and dialed his mother’s cellphone. His mother, Alison, never heard the call. Welles left a short message. “Mom . . . this is Welles. I . . . I want you to know that I’m OK.”

The time was 9:12 a.m. They were the last words his family would ever hear him speak.

Some details of what happened next remain a mystery. But through determination, careful questioning and a single clue, Welles’ parents uncovered a story of heroism that would touch a nation.

Welles was like a lot of us, if just a bit better — an honors student, but not the valedictorian; a Division I athlete, but not a star. From the time Welles was in preschool, when he was asked about his future, he had an immediate and confident answer: He would be a fireman. He grew up volunteering at the local fire department and loved the necessity and the camaraderie, the meaning of the role.

Twenty-four years old and fresh from college, Welles put his firefighting ambitions aside for a job with Sandler O’Neill, a small but powerful investment banking firm in the World Trade Center.

He may have looked the part of an investment banker, but there was one unorthodox piece to his personal dress code, not visible at first. It was a constant, tucked in the back right pocket of every set of trousers and every pair of suit pants.

It was a red bandanna his father had given him when he was a boy.

“You can always keep this back there,” his father, Jeff, told him then. “You’ll always have it if you need it.”

From that moment, he kept it in his back right pocket, every day.

Welles never came home after Sept. 11. The day after the towers fell, Jeff was the one who went to the city to search, to fill out the forms and answer the questions.

He was prepared for the worst, bringing copies of his son’s fingerprints and dental records.

The families of the missing arrived early. In lines snaking around the block, they carried evidence of their love and proofs of identity. There were pictures and letters, medical records and physical descriptions. The notices were everywhere: on telephone poles and mailboxes, on streetlamps and tree trunks. They formed a pleading and dense collage.

For many weeks, Alison couldn’t look at any pictures of her son. While others carried photos of their lost always at the ready, she found images of Welles too painful to see.

She and Jeff needed Welles to be found, and returned. They understood that this was a search that could end only in ritual, but the ritual mattered. He was not only gone. He was lost. There was a difference, a feeling that he’d been abandoned, by his family and the world, left in a place somehow colder than death.

Six months later, on March 19, 2002, Welles’ body was found.

Jeff and Alison met with a medical examiner and asked their first question: What condition was he in when recovered?

Part of his lower right jaw was missing. As was his right hand. Beyond that, the rest of the body was largely intact.

He was recovered in the debris of what had been the lobby of the south tower. Welles had somehow made it to the bottom of the building before it collapsed. Why didn’t he make it out?

They learned more. Welles’ body was found in an area of the pit where firefighters’ remains were recovered. Most specifically, he lay close to FDNY Assistant Chief Donald Burns, one of the most respected members of the entire department. Burns’ body was discovered in an area of rubble beside the remains of 10 other firefighters.

“People found in that area,” said John Ryan, the commander of the Port Authority Police Department’s rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero, “were seconds away from being clear.”

To be so close to an escape but to remain inside was not coincidence. Likely, it was a choice. Welles made it. He was helping. He was at work.

They needed to find out more.

On Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend 2002, Alison opened the New York Times and saw a feature piece on the front page with the large headline “Fighting to Live as the Towers Died.”

By the 128th paragraph of the story, Alison stopped, staring at the two sentences: A mysterious man appeared at one point, his mouth and nose covered with a red handkerchief. He was looking for a fire extinguisher.

She was gripped by the three simple words: A red handkerchief.

“Jeff! Jeff! Get in here!”

Alison had the paper open in front of her. “I found Welles,” she said.

From there, she tracked down one of the survivors featured in the story, a woman named Judy Wein.

When they spoke, Judy told Alison there was an email chain connecting a group of south-tower survivors, the few who’d made it out from the 78th-floor sky lobby or above. She and her husband, Gerry, would send the inquiry down the line, to see who might have seen the man, if anyone else spotted a red bandanna.

Then Alison asked a simple question: “Can I send you a picture of my son?”

When the picture reached her, Judy didn’t hesitate in her ­response. “Yes,” Judy said, “that was the man.”

To be certain, Judy and Gerry sent the photo of Welles out through the survivors’ email chain. Was there anyone else who escaped the building who ­remembered seeing this man?

A reply came quickly, not from a survivor but the child of one. Richard Young saw the email and wondered if this was the man his mother, Ling, had told him about from the beginning, the man who walked with her down the stairs from the wreckage of the sky lobby, on the 78th floor.

As the wing of Flight 175 burst through the wall, the sky lobby exploded. Whatever the dimensions of hell, Ling Young landed inside them. The impact had thrown her from one end of the elevator lobby to the other. She was surrounded by scores of the dead and dying. Next to her was a man whose facial features had been shorn off his skull.

She gazed down at her body. Her injuries and severe burns didn’t register; there was no pain, the hurt smothered by shock. She continued to sit where she was, on a portion of the floor still ­intact, uncertain what to do.

That’s when she heard the young man’s voice.

“I found the stairs,” the voice said. “Follow me. Only help the ones that you can help. And follow me.”

“It was a young man,” she recalled a decade later. “Not very husky. Very short hair.” She remembered he was wearing a white T-shirt and appeared to be uninjured. She thought she saw him with a red bandanna but wasn’t sure.

One image was clear: He was carrying a woman over his shoulder.

Young didn’t know who the woman was, only that the man had apparently been carrying her the entire way down since leaving the 78th floor.

At the 61st floor, he urged Young and the woman he was carrying to continue downward. But he wasn’t going with them.

“I’m going back up,” was all he said.

That was the last time Young saw him.

Alison sent Ling Young a picture of her son dressed formally, for his college graduation. Young couldn’t be sure, so Alison sent another, more casual photo.

Ling looked at the man she’d never seen before Sept. 11, whom she last saw turning to go back up the stairs to the blood and fire.

The face. She looked at nothing more than the face.

One word: Yes.

One thought: He saved my life.

The Crowthers were so grateful for the light that had been cast on Welles’ final hours. To be able to look into the faces of these two lives he saved, to know their names, to hear their voices. But there were still so many unanswered questions.

Namely, how many others on the 78th floor might never have seen the red bandanna but had heard a voice, or seen a hand, or followed a lead that came from Welles?

The FDNY credits Welles with saving at least five people. It is impossible to say for sure, but it could’ve been more.

The story of the man in the red bandanna, and those he saved, would spread.

In the spring of 2014, President Obama stood in the footprint of the fallen towers, to speak at the opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum.

Of the 2,977 who died in the attacks that day, the president chose to mention one by name: Welles Crowther — a man “who gave his life, so others might live.”

A replica red bandanna is on display at the museum today — in tribute to Welles.

In December 2006, Welles’ family gathered in Downtown Brooklyn for an event held just once before in the 141 years since the FDNY’s founding. It was only the second time the department would posthumously name someone an honorary member of its ranks.

Months before, Jeff had found an application to the FDNY in Welles’ apartment. Several of the lines were filled in, dated just a month before his death.

Now four years later, Jeff hoped Welles would know that although some of the lines would forever be blank, his application to the FDNY was received, his submission reviewed.

Yes, Welles. You were ­accepted.

Members of Congress observe Moment of Silence for 9/11 and sing God Bless America

Members of Congress observe Moment of Silence for 9/11 and sing God Bless America

EXCLUSIVE: Ottawa cuts reimbursements for military health care, hospitals on the hook for millions – National |

Global News has confirmed with sources within the military, provincial and federal governments that Ottawa made major changes this spring to the fees it reimburses to hospitals when they provide health care to military members – and that’s leading to fears some members could be denied health care services.

Under the Canada Health Act and provincial health acts, members of the military are not eligible for public health coverage under provincial plans.

Instead, the federal government is constitutionally responsible for providing comparable medical care to all members, although more advanced medical care like surgery or MRIs is provided at the same hospitals used by civilians.

The military then reimburses the cost of providing those services to the hospital.

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But sources tell Global News that the Department of National Defence ordered a cut to military healthcare spending earlier this year, and the fees reimbursed to hospitals for seeing military patients was one of the first items on the chopping block.

Set fees for services are laid out by provincial health plans.

For example, Ontario has one set of rates for services to provincial residents — those covered through OHIP — and uses a set of fees laid out by the Ontario Medical Association for services not covered by OHIP, which would apply to military members not covered by the provincial plan.

The federal government used to reimburse the cost of those at Ontario Medical Association rates, which can be roughly three times more expensive than OHIP rates.

Physicians could bill $105 for a psychiatric assessment under OHIP fees, for example — but under the OMA fees, they can charge $240 for providing that same service to those not insured through provincial health plans.

READ MORE: Changes to OHIP take effect — what you need to know

What those changes mean concretely is that the military will cover less of the fees physicians charge for services, leaving hospitals on the hook for millions of dollars.

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Documents obtained by Global News show many of those hospitals are already bracing for the hit.

Military sexual assault victims gain new rights

Military sexual assault victims gain new rights

Pembroke Regional Hospital, located near the Canadian Forces Base at Petawawa, projects a shortfall of $3.4 million as a result of the change.

Sources say at least one hospital is no longer accepting military patients for some specialized services.

The Kingston Health Services Centre, located near the base at Kingston as well as the Royal Military College of Canada, estimates a shortfall of $2.3 million.

In total, Ontario hospitals are estimated to take a hit of at least $10 million.

Calls for new primary health care model

Calls for new primary health care model

In August, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott wrote to her federal counterpart, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, as well as Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, to express her concerns.

“I am sure we can agree that our brave men and women of our Canadian Armed Forces and veterans make countless sacrifices to protect our country and uphold our democratic values. They deserve our respect and gratitude for keeping us safe,” Elliott writes in her letter, a copy of which was obtained by Global News.

“That’s why I was surprised and extremely disappointed to learn that the federal government, through the Canadian Armed Forces, is attempting to unilaterally impose a new fee schedule for the delivery of health care to serving members and veterans. These changes, which were communicated without consultation, could result in either undue burden on hospitals or, worse yet, military members and veterans being charged to access health care services. Neither of these options are acceptable.”

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A spokesperson for Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro also said that province had not been consulted and would be pushing the Department of National Defence to reconsider the change.

“We recently received new rates for payment by the Department of National Defense (DND) for hospital services provided to eligible Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members,” said Steve Buick, press secretary to the minister.

“The new rates do not accurately reflect the full cost of delivering health care to CAF members. We were not consulted about the change.”

He added the new rates “will likely lead to a shortfall of at least $2 million in revenue to Alberta Health Services versus their actual costs” and added they will also lead to an income reduction for physicians.

Buick also noted the change had been discussed among provincial and territorial deputy health ministers at a recent meeting, and there are plans for the provinces to issue a joint statement of concern.

A spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux said the province is currently in negotiations on the matter with the federal government, and declined to comment.

Why health care is a top election issue

Why health care is a top election issue

Daniel Lebouthiller, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence, said the military is engaging with the provinces and territories.

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“The Canadian Forces Health Services Group has been actively working with provincial and territorial governments, and civilian hospitals and institutions with respect to recent billing changes for Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members who receive health care from non-military facilities or providers,” he said.

“The CAF will continue to ensure that all its eligible members have access to appropriate health care, whether it is provided directly by the CAF or by non-military facilities or providers.”

Military sources say the health care budget has been ballooning for years and they are under pressure to bring down the costs.

The question being raised now by sources is whether those cuts could lead to military members being denied services or having to pay a greater amount to access the services they need.

“It all kind of depends on the way things get structured out,” said David Perry, vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a defence expert.

“Because we tend to locate military members in areas that are more rural, more remote, harder to get specialized talent, the end result in this could be that you do have some increases in the demand for service, folks that are outside of the major metropolitan areas having to move, to travel to seek specialized care.”

He added that he isn’t surprised to hear the change isn’t landing well.

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“For a Department of Defence that’s spent several years saying its people are its priority, it’s going to look bad if one of the areas where there is an effort to reduce spending is on the health side,” he said.

For more details, tune in to Global National at 6:30 p.m. ET.