Day: March 7, 2017

Oops! Google caught spreading fake news over the weekend


Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Google acknowledged Monday reports that it inadvertently allowed false information to spread over the weekend.

“Unfortunately, there are instances when we feature a site with inappropriate or misleading content,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.

On Sunday, chatter about the tech giant spreading inaccurate information and conspiracy theories through a search function called “Featured Snippets” bubbled up on social media, highlighting reports from and Searchengineland.

You may have seen the Featured Snippets displayed in a box at the top of Google search results or heard them parroted by your Google Home device when you input a query.

Over the weekend, Featured Snippets was giving a rather funky answer to the question: “Is Obama planning a coup?” The Obama is, of course, former President Barack Obama.

“According to details exposed in Western Centre for Journalism’s exclusive video, not only could Obama be in bed with the communist Chinese, but Obama may in fact be planning a communist coup d’état at the end of his term in 2016,” Google would reply.

And here’s what happens if you ask Google Home “is Obama planning a coup?”

The spread of false information — aka fake news — has been attracting attention recently though it’s a problem as old as the internet itself. Still, it was the 2016 US presidential campaign that transformed “fake news” into a hot-button topic, with claims that fake news reports influenced the outcome of the election. Since the election, President Donald Trump has used the phrase in attacks on mainstream media.

At the center of the storm last year was Facebook, a network where people can easily share fake news. The company has since promised to crack down on the problem.

But it’s not just Facebook. In this specific instance, Google fixed the problem as soon as it was alerted to the result. But people are actively trying to find other examples. If you do happen across what you believe to be a Featured Snippet containing false information, you can click on the feedback link directly underneath to flag the problem to Google.

Spreading false information is not Google’s intention. The company has been trying to crack down on it. Last month, Google teamed up with Facebook to combat the problem in France and Germany, both of which face upcoming elections.

So what went wrong over the weekend? According to Google, the Featured Snippets search function relies on algorithms to automatically provide a match to a search query, pulling in text from third-party sites. Most of the time this provides people with a helpful summary or answer to their question. But the algorithm doesn’t always discriminate between reputable and disreputable sources.

“When we are alerted to a Featured Snippet that violates our policies, we work quickly to remove them, which we have done in this instance,” Google said. “We apologize for any offense this may have caused.”


For the 2nd year in a row, the healthiest, happiest city in the US is…


Pack a swimsuit and head south to reach the nation’s healthiest and happiest city.

For the second year in a row, Naples, Florida, and the nearby communities of Immokalee and Marco Island take the No. 1 spot in the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being 2016 Community Rankings, released on Tuesday. The report measures how residents of 189 U.S. cities feel about their physical health, social ties, financial security, community and sense of purpose.

Boulder, Colorado, and Provo-Orem, Utah, are the only other communities that have reached the top spot more than once since the rankings began in 2008.

Naples has “muscled its way past” the other top-ranked metropolitan areas by getting high scores across the board, said Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

“Naples does a lot of things right,” Witters told TODAY. “[People in] Naples really take care of themselves well.”

Residents there report having good physical health, feeling proud about their community, enjoying good relationships and liking what they do each day.

RELATED: The happiest, healthiest state in the US is…

You may think that has a lot to do with living in a scenic, affluent beach community, but those factors don’t influence the score as much as you’d expect. Income matters, but it doesn’t ensure high well-being, Witters said. Plus, the median household income of respondents in the Naples metropolitan statistical area wasn’t “off the charts.”

As far as the beachy location, researchers have previously looked at the relationship between living near the coast and well-being, and found it’s not nearly as strong as you might think, he added.

Angeliki Jackson / TODAY

The top 10 U.S. communities with the highest well-being are:

1. Naples–Immokalee–Marco Island, Florida

2. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts

3. Santa Cruz–Watsonville, California

4. Honolulu, Hawaii

5. Charlottesville, Virginia

6. North Port–Sarasota–Bradenton, Florida

7. San Luis Obispo–Paso Robles, California

8. Lynchburg, Virginia

9. Hilton Head Island–Bluffton-Beaufort, South Carolina

10. Boulder, Colorado

At the other end of the spectrum, Fort Smith — located on the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma — was ranked last. The metropolitan area is a “mainstay” in the bottom ten, Witters said.

“Fort Smith, Charleston (West Virginia) and Huntington (West Virginia) are probably your big three as far as jostling for that unhappy spot at the very lowest rung on that ladder,” he noted.

Charleston did not make the rankings this year because Gallup-Healthways wasn’t able to obtain enough interviews from residents, so the city wasn’t eligible to be included.

Meanwhile, Fort Smith has a very high smoking rate and an obesity rate that’s “through the roof” at almost 40 percent, Witters said. The area gets some of the lowest marks in the nation for the number of residents who report they have someone in their life who encourages them to be healthy, or who say they do something interesting every day.

“That’s a really big missed opportunity,” Witters said. “Learning and growing is a very important psychological need.”

RELATED: Death rate grows, life expectancy shrinks for Americans

Angeliki Jackson / TODAY

The 10 communities at the bottom of the list are:

180. Montgomery, Alabama

181. Erie, Pennsylvania

182. Beaumont–Port Arthur, Texas

183. Chico, California

184. Flint, Michigan

185. Canton–Massillon, Ohio

186. Topeka, Kansas

187. Huntington–Ashland, West Virginia–Kentucky–Ohio

188. Hickory–Lenoir–Morganton, North Carolina

189. Fort Smith, Arkansas–Oklahoma


The most and least stressed cities

Naples had the most mellow, relaxed residents in the nation, while Chico, California, was home to the most worried, anxious and tense population.

But stress can be a “tricky” measure, Witters said.

“In places that have high percentages of professionals, you’ll have a lot more of what’s sometimes called productive stress, where people will carry out otherwise high well-being lives, but will feel the stress most days,” he noted.

So Provo-Orem Utah, and Boulder, Colorado, which are perennial high well-being places, also had the second- and third-highest stress levels in the nation, the report found.

RELATED: 5 surprising (and really easy!) ways to relax

The city where people feel safest is…

That’s Boulder, Colorado, where 90 percent of residents say that they always feel safe and secure.

At the other end of the spectrum, Rockford, Illinois, is the city whose residents feel the least safe. Among the big cities, New Orleans and Las Vegas were also ranked low for safety.

Communities big on exercise

Boulder takes the top spot here, too, with 70 percent of its residents getting least 30 minutes of exercise three days a week.

Anchorage, Alaska, also ranked high in this category, which just goes to show you don’t need to have year-round outdoor weather to be able to stay fit, Witters noted.

Follow A. Pawlowski on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

As obesity keeps rising, more Americans are just giving up

Melissa Healy

It stands to reason that if you know you’re overweight or obese, and you know your extra pounds are unhealthy, that you’ve made a stab at losing weight. Right?

Not so much anymore, new research shows.

The proportion of American adults who were either overweight or obese has been growing steadily for decades, rising from about 53% a generation ago to roughly 66% more recently.

But the share of these adults who had gone on a diet dropped during the same period, researchers reported Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

The study relied on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an ongoing project of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the first survey period, between 1988 and 1994, about 56% of overweight or obese adults reported they had tried to lose weight in the last year. By the last survey period, between 2009 and 2014, the proportion of overweight or obese respondents reporting recent weight-loss attempts had declined to about 49%.

That trend was considered statistically significant in white women and white men. But it was most pronounced among African American women, 55% of whom were overweight or obese in the final years of the study.

In the first survey period, about 66% of black women who were overweight or obese said they had tried to lose weight in the last 12 months. By the last period, 55% of overweight or obese black women said they had made weight-loss efforts.

The authors of the new report, a team from Georgia Southern University’s College of Public Health, offered a relatively simple explanation for this phenomenon, writing that “socially acceptable body weight is increasing.”

They pointed to a 2010 study in the journal Obesity that chronicled “a generational shift in social norms related to body weight” in which, effectively, fat has become the new normal. Between 1998 and 2004, that study showed, both men and women became less likely to classify themselves as overweight, even when their body mass index indicated that they were.

That shift, said the authors of the Obesity study, may make people less likely “to desire weight loss than previously, limiting the effectiveness of public health campaigns aimed at weight reduction.” (On the other hand, those authors suggested, “there may be health benefits associated with improved body image.”)

But the researchers who produced the new report in JAMA acknowledged that there may be other faults in the chain of reasoning that goes, “if fat, then diet.”

Certainly, they wrote, it’s possible that “body weight misperception” may be reducing people’s motivation to engage in weight-loss efforts. And it may be that primary-care physicians, who are supposed to counsel obese patients to lose weight, are failing to do so.

But the authors also acknowledged another possibility: that many people have been overweight or obese for so long — and tried dieting so many times — that they have simply given up.

“The longer adults live with obesity, the less they may be willing to attempt weight loss, in particular if they had attempted weight loss multiple times without success,” they wrote.

That wearying pattern is very real: A 2011 study in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that the post-diet body undergoes a host of changes designed to ensure that lost weight is regained.

Metabolic rate drops, allowing the post-diet body to do more with fewer calories. Myriad hormonal signals shift in ways that boost appetite. Those changes endure for at least a year after weight is lost, the study found. Even after weight is regained, many of those changes persist, leading to further weight gain.

Replicated by other studies, that research helps explain the discouraging finding that within five years of having lost weight, 95% of dieters will regain all the weight they lost. And most will gain a few extra pounds as well.

It is likely that many Americans are just “letting themselves go.” But it’s also possible that some of the overweight and obese people who haven’t tried losing weight in the last year have heard from a growing chorus of experts — or discovered for themselves — that dieting may not be the most sustainable way to improve their health. While weight loss would be ideal, regular exercise can mitigate some of the effects of carrying excess weight.

And for public health officials, laying off the fat-shaming might not be such a bad idea either. A study published this year in Obesity found that for some obese people, weight bias and discrimination raise the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Nearly 90% of the study’s participants were women, and two-thirds were African American.

Obese people who tended to “internalize” weight discrimination and fat-shaming were less healthy, the study found. The author, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Rebecca L. Pearl, said that absorbing messages of weight bias “can negatively affect … mental health and lead to unhealthy behaviors like overeating.”

Bacon, soda, and too few nuts tied to a big portion of US deaths

CHICAGO — Gorging on bacon, skimping on nuts? These are among food habits that new research links with deaths from heart disease, strokes, and diabetes.

Overeating or not eating enough of healthful foods and nutrients contributes to about 45 percent of US deaths from these causes, the study suggests.

‘‘Good’’ foods that were under-eaten include: nuts and seeds, seafood rich in omega-3 fats including salmon and sardines; fruits and vegetables; and whole grains.

‘‘Bad’’ foods or nutrients that were over-eaten include salt and salty foods; processed meats including bacon, bologna, and hot dogs; red meat including steaks and hamburgers; and sugary drinks.

The research is based on US government data showing there were about 700,000 deaths in 2012 from heart disease, strokes, and diabetes and on an analysis of national health surveys that asked participants about their eating habits. Most didn’t eat the recommended amounts of the foods studied.

It may sound like a familiar attack on the typical American diet, and the research echoes previous studies on the benefits of heart-healthy eating. But the study goes into more detail on specific foods and their risks or benefits, said lead author Renata Micha, a public health researcher and nutritionist at Tufts University.

The results were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Micha said 10 foods and nutrients were singled out because of research linking them with the causes of death studied. For example, studies have shown that excess salt can increase blood pressure, putting stress on arteries and the heart. Nuts contain healthful fats that can improve cholesterol levels, while bacon and other processed meats contain saturated fats that can raise levels of unhealthful LDL cholesterol.

In the study, too much salt was the biggest problem, linked with nearly 10 percent of the deaths. Overeating processed meats and undereating nuts and seeds and seafood each were linked with about 8 percent of the deaths.

The Food and Drug Administration’s recent voluntary sodium reduction guidelines for makers of processed foods and taxes that some US cities have imposed on sugar-sweetened beverages are steps in the right direction, Micha said.

A journal editorial said public health policies targeting unhealthful eating could help prevent some deaths, while noting that the study isn’t solid proof that ‘‘suboptimal’’ diets were deadly.

The study’s recommended amounts, based on US government guidelines, nutrition experts’ advice, and amounts found to be beneficial or harmful in previous research:

‘‘Good’’ ingredients

 Fruits: three average-sized fruits daily

 Vegetables: 2 cups cooked or 4 cups raw vegetables daily

 Nuts/seeds: 5 1-ounce servings per week — about 20 nuts per serving

 Whole grains: 2 ½ daily servings

 Polyunsaturated fats, found in many vegetable oils: 11 percent of daily calories

 Seafood: about 8 ounces weekly

‘‘Bad’’ ingredients

 Red meat: 1 serving weekly — 1 medium steak or the equivalent

 Processed meat: None recommended

 Sugary drinks: None recommended

 Salt: 2,000 milligrams daily — just under a teaspoon.

Trump set to roll back federal fuel-economy requirements

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is moving to roll back federal fuel-economy requirements that would have forced automakers to increase significantly the efficiency of new cars and trucks, a key part of former President Barack Obama’s strategy to combat global warming.

The Environmental Protection Agency is close to an announcement reversing a decision made in the waning days of the Obama administration to lock in strict gas mileage requirements for cars and light trucks through 2025.

Automakers asked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to discard a Jan. 13 decision that requires the fleet of new cars to average a real-world figure of 36 miles per gallon.

The automakers said the Obama rules could add thousands of dollars to the price of new cars and cost more than a million jobs.

Lawmakers, industry groups and environmentalists say the administration has signaled it plans to take this step. An announcement could come as early as this week, although changes in the standards could take years to fully implement.

A decision to review the Obama rule sets up a potential legal battle with California and other states that have adopted tough tailpipe standards for drivers. California has received a waiver allowing the state to enforce its standards, which have also been adopted by 12 other states, including New York and Massachusetts.

The White House and the EPA declined to comment.

“Attacking the California waiver is a recipe for chaos,” said Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who has pushed for higher fuel standards. California and other states that have adopted its standard will almost certainly file a legal challenge if pushed by the EPA, Markey and other lawmakers said.

“The auto companies don’t want 50 state standards,” he said.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., called her state “a model for the country” on environmental standards and said she strongly opposes any attempt to “roll back the progress we’ve made. That’s counterproductive and could absolutely be harmful to the health and well-being of the residents of our state and the people of our nation.”

Factory of the future
The factory is getting a facelift, thanks to a raft of new technologies designed to make manufacturing more efficient, flexible and connected.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents a dozen major car manufacturers, including General Motors, Ford and Toyota, declined to comment.

But in a Feb. 21 letter to Pruitt, the group said the EPA’s Jan. 13 decision on fuel economy “may be the single most important decision that EPA has made in recent history.” The alliance urged Pruitt to reconsider the plan, which it said could “depress an industry that can ill-afford spiraling regulatory costs.”

The automakers estimated they would have to spend a “staggering” $200 billion between 2012 and 2025 to comply with the tailpipe emissions rule — far more than industry would spend under the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s signature effort to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. Trump is also expected to roll back the power-plant rule in coming days.

Markey and other Democratic senators criticized the EPA emissions review before it has even been issued.

“President Trump is waging a war on the environment, and he wants EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to make our strong fuel economy emissions standards his latest victim,” Markey said at a news conference Tuesday.

Trump and Pruitt “want to pump the brakes on fuel efficiency standards, throw us into reverse and recklessly roll back down the road we just came from,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. “It’s bad for our economy, it’s bad for the environment and it’s bad for middle-class families.”

The fuel-economy regulations for model years 2017-2025 were imposed in 2012 as one of Obama’s major initiatives to reduce global warming.

Seven days before Obama left office, the EPA decided to keep the requirements for model years 2022 to 2025 after completing a legally required review. The standards are flexible and automakers can meet them with existing technology, the agency said, adding that its review was thorough.

But the industry contends the decision was rushed to beat the change in administrations, noting that the original timeline called for a review by early 2018. Trump, a billionaire businessman who has vowed to roll back a host of regulations, is considered to be more favorable to the industry than Obama.

The trade groups said the January rule did not account for cheaper gasoline that has helped fuel consumers’ love for gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs over more efficient cars. When the standards were conceived in 2012, gas was $3.60 per gallon, compared with around $2.30 currently. In 2012, more than half the new vehicles sold in the U.S. were cars. Now, six of every 10 are trucks or SUVs, making the average fuel-economy figure more difficult to achieve.

The industry contends the Obama standards will drive up new car prices, while the EPA under Obama said gasoline cost savings will offset nominally higher vehicle prices.

As a practical matter, experts on both sides say it could take years for the Trump administration to change the standards, if it decides to. The EPA would have to produce data showing the change was justified and overcome an almost certain legal challenge from states and environmental groups.

GOP Hill leaders back away from Trump on wiretap allegations

(CNN)The top Republicans investigating Russia’s interference in the US election declined Tuesday to back up President Donald Trump’s claims that then-President Barack Obama wiretapped his Manhattan headquarters last year — leaving the White House on its own to explain the stunning allegation.

When pressed on whether he believed Trump’s allegations, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes — one of Trump’s strongest supporters in the House and a member of his transition team — brushed aside the President’s allegations.
Republicans leery of Trump wiretapping claims

Republicans leery of Trump wiretapping claims 00:51
“A lot of the things he says, you guys take literally,” Nunes told reporters Tuesday. Nunes later hedged his comments and said that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may have been wiretapped and that Trump had raised “valid questions” about how his aides were listened in on.
Across the Capitol, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, who is leading a concurrent investigation into Russia’s interference, said he had not seen any evidence of Trump’s claims.
“We’re going to go anywhere there is intelligence or facts that send us,” Burr told CNN. “So I’m not going to limit it one way or the other. But we don’t have anything today that would send us in that direction, but that’s not to say that we might not find something.”
When asked by CNN if he believed Trump’s allegations, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn, responded: “I don’t know what the basis of his statement is.”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked repeatedly about Trump’s allegation during the White House briefing Tuesday.
“Nothing has changed,” Spicer told CNN’s Jim Acosta when asked whether there was new evidence to support the claims. “It’s not a question of new proof or less proof or whatever, the answer is the same, which is that … there was a concern about what happened in the 2016 election. The House and Senate Intelligence Committee have the staff and the capabilities and the processes in place to look at this in a way that’s objective and that’s where it should be done.”
White House defends unfounded wiretap claim

White House defends unfounded wiretap claim 02:55
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House’s committee, said he accepts the responsibility of looking into Trump’s claims.
“The President has asked our committee to investigate this,” Schiff told reporters Tuesday evening. “Mr. President, we accept.”
Schiff added later, “It is also a scandal if those allegations prove to be false”
Trump’s own selection for deputy attorney general, who would oversee an investigation into Russia’s connections to Trump’s presidential campaign following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal, sidestepped the issue during his confirmation hearing Tuesday morning.
“If the President is exercising his First Amendment rights, that’s not my issue,” Rosenstein, a veteran federal prosecutor with bipartisan backing, said when asked about Trump’s claims by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Throughout the Capitol it has been almost impossible to find any lawmakers who either take the President literally or seriously about his blockbuster claim, laid out in an early morning tweet last Saturday.
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, laughed for a few seconds when asked by a CNN reporter if the committee would expand its investigation to check out Trump’s allegations.
“We’ll follow the facts wherever they may lead, but he’s not shown us any evidence,” Warner said.
And top Republicans, already hard at work trying to corral votes for the Obamacare replacement, dismissed with questions about Trump’s tweet Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “No I have not,” when asked if he has seen any evidence of wiretapping.
The President’s allegations add the latest wrinkle to a story which has consumed Washington and the new administration with a seemingly endless stream of revelations about the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian officials.
Sessions said last Thursday he would recuse himself from any investigation out of the Justice Department a little less than 24 hours after it was reported he met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The White House then quickly alerted reporters to other meetings top advisers had with Kislyak before that information could be leaked out.
The House Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, has set an aggressive schedule for investigating claims that Russia engaged in widespread interference in the US elections — requesting the delivery of intelligence documents by March 17 and scheduling its first public hearing in the investigation for March 20.

Hawaii plans to sue to block new Trump travel ban

March 7 at 10:05 PM
The state of Hawaii will ask a federal judge to block President Trump’s revised executive order barring the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries, according to a court filing.

The action — which lawyers for the state hope to file Wednesday in Hawaii — would mark the first formal legal challenge to the order, which the president signed Monday. Hawaii also sued over Trump’s first travel ban, and lawyers for the state told a judge in a court filing that they want to resume that litigation to ask for a temporary restraining order on the new directive.

Democrats and civil liberties groups had asserted soon after Trump signed a revised executive order that more litigation was all but certain because — in their view — the measure was still a thinly veiled Muslim ban. But the new order was substantially different from the first, and there were no immediate new legal challenges.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who had successfully sued to freeze the first ban, said Monday that he needed more time to study the new one before deciding what to do next.

“We’re reviewing it carefully, and still have concerns with the new order,” Ferguson said.

The new order reduces the list of affected countries from seven to six — removing Iraq while keeping Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Syria. It explicitly exempts legal permanent residents and current visa holders, blocking only the issuance of new visas for citizens of the affected countries for 90 days. It also spells out a lengthy list of people who may be eligible for exceptions, including those previously admitted to the United States for “a continuous period of work, study, or other long-term activity”; those with “significant business or professional obligations”; and those seeking to visit or live with family.

The new order keeps intact a 120-day suspension of the refu­gee program, and it declares the United States will not accept more than 50,000 refugees in a year, down from the 110,000 cap set by the Obama administration.

The new order is scheduled to take effect March 16, which would be March 15 in Hawaii. Justice Department lawyers have indicated that the administration intends to enforce the measure on that date, as they consider the court-ordered freeze on the previous ban no longer applicable.

Hawaii, in a motion joined by Justice Department lawyers, asked to present arguments on its legal challenge to the new order on the morning of March 15 and to file briefs before that.

The Justice Department has asserted that there is “no imminent harm” from the imposition of the new ban, as visa applicants typically have to wait months. To win a temporary restraining order, Hawaii would have to prove there was an immediate need for it.

In the long run, the state probably would try to prove that the executive order violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment in that it intentionally discriminates against Muslims.

On the campaign trail, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” After the election, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani said: “So when [Trump] first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’ ” Those statements could be used as evidence against the administration.

The White House and U. S. officials have insisted that the executive order is necessary for national security reasons, and it is meant to target countries with terrorism problems — not a particular religious group.

Millions Risk Losing Health Insurance in Republican Plan, Analysts Say

WASHINGTON — Millions of people who get private health coverage through the Affordable Care Act would be at risk of losing it under the replacement legislation proposed by House Republicans, analysts said Tuesday, with Americans in their 50s and 60s especially likely to find coverage unaffordable.

Starting in 2020, the plan would do away with the current system of providing premium subsidies based on people’s income and the cost of insurance where they live. Instead, it would provide tax credits of $2,000 to $4,000 per year based on their age.

But the credits would not cover nearly as much of the cost of premiums as the current subsidies do, at least for the type of comprehensive coverage that the Affordable Care Act requires, analysts said. For many people, that could mean the difference between keeping coverage under the new system and having to give it up.

“The central issue is the tax credits are not going to be sufficient,” said Dr. J. Mario Molina, the chief executive of Molina Healthcare, an insurer that offers coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces in California, Florida and several other states.

Martha Brawley of Monroe, N.C., said she voted for President Trump in the hope he could make insurance more affordable. But on Tuesday, Ms. Brawley, 55, was feeling increasingly nervous based on what she had heard about the new plan from television news reports. She pays about $260 per month for a Blue Cross plan and receives a subsidy of $724 per month to cover the rest of her premium. Under the House plan, she would receive $3,500 a year in tax credits — $5,188 less than she gets under the Affordable Care Act.

“I’m scared, I’ll tell you that right now, to think about not having insurance at my age,” said Ms. Brawley, who underwent a liver biopsy on Monday after her doctor found that she has an autoimmune liver disease. “If I didn’t have insurance, these doctors wouldn’t see me.”

The Congressional Budget Office has yet to release its official estimates of how many people would lose coverage under the proposal, but a report from Standard & Poor’s estimated that two million to four million people would drop out of the individual insurance market, largely because people in their 50s and early 60s — those too young to qualify for Medicare — would face higher costs. Other analysts, including those at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, have estimated larger coverage losses.


Alan Lipsky and his wife, A. J. Rhodes, of Arden, N.C., would see their family’s annual tax credit of $25,164 reduced to $11,500 under the new plan, covering less than half of the total cost of their coverage.CreditMike Belleme for The New York Times

While the tax credits in the Republican proposal are the most generous for older people — $4,000 for a 60-year-old compared with $2,000 for a 25-year-old — they end up covering less of an older person’s costs. As soon as next year, the Republican plan would allow insurers to begin charging older individuals much more than younger individuals. Insurers are prohibited today from charging the older person more than three times as much as the youngest, but the Republican plan would allow them to charge five times as much. A 64-year-old could see annual premiums increase by almost 30 percent to $13,100 on average, according to the S.&P. analysis.

For people like Alan Lipsky, a self-employed consultant in Arden, N.C., the Republican plan could have a huge financial impact. Mr. Lipsky, who is 60 and whose wife is in her 50s, receives a tax credit of $2,097 a month for his family of four and pays $66 a month out of his own pocket. His family’s total annual tax credit of $25,164 would be reduced to $11,500 under the new plan, covering less than half of the total cost of his current coverage.

“I don’t think the Affordable Care Act is perfect,” said Mr. Lipsky, whose family deductible is $12,000 per year, “but at least for people like me it gives a baseline, and I’m worried I won’t have that baseline anymore. What they’re talking about is unaffordable for me.”

Not everyone would lose out. Some younger adults would probably benefit the most from age-based tax credits and proposed changes that would allow insurers to offer them less expensive policies, such as those with less generous coverage.

Joshua Yospyn, 40, a freelance photographer in Washington, earns slightly too much to receive a tax credit under the Affordable Care Act and pays about $374 a month for his BlueChoice H.M.O. plan. The Republican proposal would provide him with an age-based tax credit of $3,000 a year, which would cut his current premium costs by two-thirds, to $1,488 from $4,488.

Mr. Yospyn said he would love cheaper premiums but did not want to give up comprehensive coverage, his low deductible of $500 a year or the doctors he now sees. A physical this month, his first in several years, revealed that his cholesterol had risen sharply, leaving him “freaked out,” he said.

“I just want protection across the board,” he said, referring to the kind of policy he preferred. “It’s what I’m used to.”

Other people likely to be hurt under the new plan are those in areas where the cost of coverage is high. Subsidies are now pegged to the cost of a plan within a specific market, but the tax credits in the Republican plan are the same whether you live in Alaska or Minnesota. Coverage tends to be most expensive in parts of the country where there are few hospitals or few insurers. “When it comes to health insurance, high-cost areas tend to be rural areas,” said Cynthia Cox, a researcher at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which recently did an analysis of how the tax credits compared with the subsidies now available.


Some people would benefit under the Republican plan, like Joshua Yospyn, 40, a freelance photographer in Washington. He would get an age-based tax credit of $3,000 a year, which would cut his current premium costs by two-thirds, to $1,488 from $4,488. CreditT.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

The proposal would also eliminate another important element of the subsidies, the financial assistance available for low-income people with their out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles and co-payments. While many of the plans now sold through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces have large deductibles, the cost-sharing reductions available protect lower-income people from medical bills that could otherwise run into the thousands of dollars. Analysts say the lack of out-of-pocket assistance is likely to make any plan much less attractive to low-income people.

Legislation could also fundamentally weaken the insurance market by doing away with the so-called individual mandate, which requires people to have coverage or pay a tax penalty. While it would be replaced by a 30 percent surcharge when someone buys a policy after dropping coverage, the surcharge could be weaker than the current mandate, and younger people might continue to gamble on not having coverage until they get sick.

The result, said Donald H. Taylor Jr., a health policy professor at Duke University, is that people who buy coverage are sicker, causing the cost of premiums to soar. “This looks like to me adverse selection on steroids,” he said. “I don’t see how it doesn’t crater the individual market.”

Dr. Molina, the Molina Healthcare chief executive, said insurers are likely to increase their premiums significantly because they will worry about enrolling more high-cost patients as healthier people opt to go without coverage.

“Insurance companies are going to jack up the rates,” predicted Dr. Molina, who said premiums might increase even more than they did last year when some companies raised the rates by 25 percent or more.

Ms. Brawley in Monroe, N.C., said she and her husband could barely afford their current premiums, and her deductible of $3,500 a year is far too high. Still, she added, “it’s better than owing $20,000 or $30,000.”

“This is my second year with the Obama insurance,” she continued, “but before then, I didn’t have any and didn’t go to the doctor.”

She and her husband voted for Mr. Trump — the first time she had voted in her life — she said, because “I thought he would make it better.”

White House condemns new bomb threats against Jewish sites

Sean Spicer

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaking at a White House daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2017. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(JTA) — White House press secretary Sean Spicer condemned a new wave of bomb threats against Jewish sites, including Jewish community centers and Anti-Defamation League offices.

“I want to acknowledge that there’s been an additional wave of threats to Jewish community centers and Anti-Defamation League offices,” Spicer told reporters at a press briefing on Tuesday.

“I share the president’s thoughts that he vehemently hopes that we don’t continue to have to share these reports with you. But as long as they do continue, we’ll continue to condemn them and look at ways in which we can stop them,” he said.

As of midday Tuesday, at least a dozen Jewish institutions across North America had received threats of lethal attack, the sixth such wave since the beginning of the year. Among those targeted were at least 10 community centers, a pair of Jewish day schools and four regional offices of the Anti-Defamation League. More than 100 Jewish institutions, most of them community centers, have been targeted since the beginning of the year.

Trump, who has come under fire for delayed responses to the threats, noted them during his address to a joint session of Congress last week.

“Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains,” Trump said at the opening of his speech. “Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

Poll: Majority of Israelis believe Trump will not oppose settlement construction

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A majority of Israelis believe that President Donald Trump will not oppose settlement construction in the West Bank, a poll new found.

Some 55 percent of Jewish Israelis told the monthly Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University Peace Index they do not believe Trump will oppose settlement construction. Some 77 percent of Arab Israelis believe likewise.

In addition, 61 percent of Jewish Israelis and 87 percent of Arab Israelis said they do not think the Trump administration will force an unwanted peace solution on Israel.

The findings, released on Tuesday, come less than a month after Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the latter’s visit to Washington that he is not specifically attached to the two-state solution, but rather is happy to find a solution that is satisfactory to both sides.

Earlier in February, Trump said building new settlements or expanding existing ones “may not be helpful” in reaching a peace deal. At a press conference with Netanyahu in Washington, Trump told the prime minister he would like to see Israel “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

Some 62 percent of Jewish Israelis called the meeting between Trump and Netanyahu successful. Among right-wing voters the figure was 72 percent, among centrists 58 percent and among left-wing voters 38 percent. Some 64 percent of Arab Israelis deemed the meeting a success.

Meanwhile, some 54 percent of all Israelis ranked Netanyahu’s performance as prime minister as either “not very good” or “not good at all.” But the work of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, a member of the ruling government coalition, was viewed positively by 51 percent of Israelis. IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot was viewed favorably by 64 percent of Israelis.

On the sentencing of Elor Azaria for shooting a downed Palestinian assailant in Hebron, 26 percent said they considered the 18-month jail sentence fitting, 33.5 percent felt it was too heavy and 15 percent thought it was too light. Some 18 percent thought that the trial should not have been held at all, while 68 percent of Jewish Israelis believe Azaria should be pardoned.

The Midgam Research Institute conducted the survey on Feb. 26 and Feb. 27 among 600 respondents, with a margin of error of 4.1 percent.