Health

Burger King Is Building Artificial Limbs So That Disabled People Can Eat Their Unhealthy Burgers

Over the years fast-food outlets have employed a myriad of tactics to tempt new customers. There have been the classics like McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, or Subway’s Five Dollar Footlong(R.I.P.). That’s not to mention cholesterol-filled gimmicks like the chicken-on-chicken monstrosity that was the KFC Double Down burger and Taco Bell’s answer to breakfast food, the waffle taco. But all of these pale in comparison to the latest marketing shtick courtesy of Burger King Argentina: free prosthetic hands to disabled customers.

You read that correctly. As a way to promote its new Stacker Atomic 5.0 burger last month, branches of the popular fast-food chain across Argentina *cough* handed out 1,000 prosthetic limbs to customers lacking appendages who purchased the meals. For this promotion—which formed part of an annual event nicknamed Stacker Day—Burger King sold the meals at half-price, donating all of the money from the sales to Atomic Lab, the local startup responsible for producing the 3-D-printed prosthetics.

“Stacker Day is a big event in Argentina,” Ignacio Ferioli, a member of the agency responsible for the promotion, told AdWeek. “People queue for hours to get a burger. Sales keep growing year after year. We wondered if we could do something relevant that tied back to a huge burger that’s hard to handle,” Ferioli continued. Cue the clever promotional tie-in.

Ferioli doesn’t lie. The Stacker Atomic 5.0 is so named for the five beef patties interspersed with bacon and cheese that comprise its making. So yes, “hard to handle” is definitely one way to describe the burger. Another might be “nutritional nightmare.” Call it raining on their parade, but it’s hard not to find fault in a campaign that seeks to improve the lives of people living with a lost limb (in some cases likely due to type II diabetes), while pushing a mini mountain of meat and cheese. Irony much?

In Burger King’s defense, the promotion has had a notable impact. As AdWeek reports, thanks to the sales from Stacker Day, Atomic Lab was able to double the number of prosthetic limbs it had otherwise been able to donate for free over the past three years. This just goes to show the power of good branding, and the tempting prospect of devouring a burger the size of your head.

But here’s a thought. Burger King could simply stop selling the Stacker Atomic 5.0 and instead introduce a new, more health-conscious menu item that could perpetually provide a portion of the profits from its sales to Atomic Lab. Too idealistic? “People don’t go to Burger King for healthy food”; “It would cost too much to make.” Maybe these objections are true, but what if this suggestion actually brought a whole new customer base into the fold, and in fact didn’t cost as much as one might think?

What if instead of helping out a limited number of people with disabilities, the fast-food giant used its promotional power actually to create a product that not only paid lip service to its customer’s health needs, but actually put its money where our mouths are?

For a company that has built its empire on expanding waistlines and harming public health, that concept may really be “too hard to handle.”

Robin Scher is a freelance writer from South Africa currently based in New York. He tweets infrequently @RobScherHimself.

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Pediatricians say Florida hurt sick kids to help big GOP donors

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/18/health/florida-sick-kids-insurance-eprise/index.html

 

St. Augustine, Florida (CNN) When he was 11 years old, LJ Stroud of St. Augustine, Florida, had a tooth emerge in a place where no tooth belongs: the roof of his mouth.

LJ was born with severe cleft lip and palate, which explained the strange eruption, as well as the constant ear infections that no antibiotic could remedy.
With her son in terrible pain, Meredith Stroud arranged for surgeries to fix his problems.
But just days before the procedures were to take place, the surgeons’ office called to cancel them.
Like nearly half of all children in Florida, LJ is on Medicaid, which has several types of insurance plans. The state had switched LJ to a new plan, and his surgeons didn’t take it.
Doctors: 'Trick question' hurt sick kids

LJ wasn’t alone. In the spring and summer of 2015, the state switched more than 13,000 children out of a highly respected program called Children’s Medical Services, or CMS, a part of Florida Medicaid. Children on this plan have serious health problems including birth defects, heart disease, diabetes and blindness.
The state moved the children to other Medicaid insurance plans that don’t specialize in caring for very sick children.
Stroud says that for her son, the consequences were devastating. Despite hours of phone calls, she says, she couldn’t find surgeons on his new insurance plan willing to do the highly specialized procedures he needed. Over the next seven months, her son lost 10 pounds, quit the football team and often missed school.
“He was in pain every day,” Stroud said. “I just felt so helpless. It’s such a horrible feeling where you can’t help your kid.”
LJ filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida, and he was eventually placed back on Children’s Medical Services and received the care he needed. But some Florida pediatricians worry about other children with special health care needs who, two years later, are still off the program.
The doctors aren’t just worried; they’re angry.
First, the data analysis the state used to justify switching the children is “inaccurate” and “bizarre,” according to the researcher who wrote the software used in that analysis.
Second, the screening tool the state used to select which children would be kicked off the program has been called “completely invalid” and “a perversion of science” by top experts in children with special health care needs.
Third, in fall 2015, a state administrative law judge ruled that the Department of Health should stop using the screening tool because it was unlawful. However, even after the judge issued his decision, the department didn’t automatically re-enroll the children or even reach out to the families directly to let them know that re-enrollment was a possibility.
Finally, parents and Florida pediatricians raise questions about the true reasons why Florida’s Republican administration switched the children’s health plans. They question whether it was to financially reward insurance companies that had donated millions of dollars to the Republican Party of Florida.
“This was a way for the politicians to repay the entities that had contributed to their political campaigns and their political success, and it’s the children who suffered,” said Dr. Louis St. Petery, former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Experts outside Florida are also disturbed that the children were switched out of CMS, a program that’s served as a model for other states for more than 40 years.
“CMS is well-known and well-respected,” said Dr. James Perrin, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “It’s one of the earlier programs to build in assurances that these kids get the kind of care they need.”
“These are the sickest and most vulnerable kids, and (changing their insurance) can mean life or death for them,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. “This is really very troubling.”
Dr. Rishi Agrawal, an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, agreed, adding that Florida should have more carefully considered how the insurance switch would affect the children’s health care.
“The process in Florida was particularly abrupt and poorly executed,” he said.
Mara Gambineri, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health, said that “at no time (during the insurance switch) did children go without medically necessary services.”
State officials, including a spokesman for Governor Rick Scott’s office, initially declined to comment directly on the pediatricians’ and parents’ concerns that the children might have been switched to benefit contributors to the Republican Party of Florida. On Friday, after this story was published, the Florida Department of Health released a statement asserting that such a claim “is 100 percent false.”
“The department’s number one priority is protecting the health and well-being of all Florida residents, especially children with special health care needs,” Gambineri wrote in an earlier email. “The department remains committed to providing quality health care services to Florida’s children with special health care needs.”

A mother’s anguish

In spring 2015, LJ’s mother received a phone call from a nurse at the Florida Department of Health.
Stroud had no idea that one word she would say to that nurse — just one single word — would cause her son months of pain and suffering.
Meredith Stroud's son, LJ, was born with cleft lip and palate. He lost his Children's Medical Service coverage when he was 11.

The nurse asked Stroud a series of questions, including whether LJ was limited in his ability to do things other children could do.
Despite his birth defect, LJ goes to school and plays with friends, so she answered no.
Stroud says that because of that answer, LJ lost his insurance with CMS, the program that has cared for children with special health care needs in Florida for 40 years, and was put on a different Medicaid insurance plan.
LJ was one of 13,074 Florida children kicked off CMS — that’s about one in five children in the program — as a result of the telephone survey, according to a presentationtestimony and a letter from Florida’s top health officials.
Stroud thinks back to her answer to the nurse’s question about limitations.
“That question’s not fair,” Stroud said of the one that got her child kicked off CMS. “What [the Florida Department of Health] did was totally wrong.”
“It was a trick question,” she added.

Pediatrician: ‘A truly duplicitous question’

Experts agree with her.
“I personally find it pretty astonishing that they can take a survey question like that and use it to justify the de-enrolling of these kids,” said Dr. Jay Berry, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School who studies policies for children with special health care needs.
What Florida did was “completely invalid,” added Dr. John Neff, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Washington, another expert on children with special health care needs.
The pediatricians explained that many children with serious and chronic medical conditions — such as cleft lip and palate, HIV, diabetes and cystic fibrosis — are often able to do things other children can do. However, they still require extensive and highly specialized medical care.
The question the Florida Department of Health nurses asked — “Is your child limited or prevented in any way in his or her ability to do the things most children of the same age can do?” — would lead to disqualifying children who truly have special medical needs from a program designed for them, said Stephen Blumberg, associate director for science at the National Center for Health Statistics and one of the world’s leading experts on the epidemiology of children with special health care needs.
Question No. 3

“Is your child limited or prevented in any way in his or her ability to do the things most children of the same age can do?”

“You would get false negatives. Your conclusion would be that a child does not have special health care needs when, in fact, the child does,” he added.
Gambineri, the Department of Health spokeswoman, said it no longer uses the survey that resulted in 13,074 children being removed from CMS.
“It is unfortunate the negativity surrounding this issue is a continued topic of inquiry, as the department and our stakeholders have put in a significant amount of time and effort to move past this issue for the benefit of the children we serve,” she wrote.
Six pediatricians from across Florida gathered to tell CNN their concerns about children losing CMS coverage. They accuse the state of hurting sick kids to help big GOP donors.

But pediatricians in Florida point out that many children who were removed from Children’s Medical Services using the controversial questionnaire were never put back on.
“This was a truly duplicitous question,” said Dr. Philip Colaizzo, a pediatrician in Jupiter, Florida, who said that many of his patients with special health care needs were taken off CMS. “It was a trick question.”
“It’s a perversion of science,” said Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen, professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine and medical director of the Bower Lyman Center for Medically Complex Children at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
Goldhagen added that he was speaking for himself and not the institutions where he works.
“It was a scam job,” added Dr. Nancy Wright, a pediatric endocrinologist in Tallahassee who said that dozens of her patients with diabetes were removed from the program.
Dr. Nancy Wright, a pediatric endocrinologist, says dozens of her patients lost their coverage on Children's Medical Services. "For the children with diabetes that I work with, it was a disaster," she said.

“They really tried their darnedest to kick the kids out of CMS,” added Dr. Carrol Fenn, an orthodontist in West Palm Beach. “They’ve messed up kids’ lives.”
“They’re the most vulnerable of our population, and that they can be booted off the plan that was designed to help them is just amazing. How can someone in an office make a decision like that?” asked Dr. John Obi, an adjunct clinical professor in plastic surgery at the University of Florida, who operates on children with cleft lip and palate.
“I congratulate whoever came up with that question,” he added wryly. “If you want to exclude virtually anybody, that’s the way to do it.”

Johns Hopkins expert: ‘I’m speechless’

Christina Bethell’s team came up with that question — and she’s furious.
Bethell is a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She and her team spent many years and millions of dollars coming up with the right questions to accurately identify children across the United States who might have special health care needs.
The list of questions — known as the Children with Special Health Care Needs Screener — is publicly available on the Hopkins website. Many state and federal agencies use it to help decide which children might benefit from special health services.
The Florida Department of Health, however, used the questions to do something completely different: to kick children out of a program.
That’s scientifically invalid, Bethell said. Using the questions that way — especially the question about limitations — would lead to denying children with special health care needs the services they require.
“I’m speechless,” she said.
To make matters worse, Bethell said, Florida repeatedly and publicly cited research done by her group at Hopkins — the Children and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative — to support the children’s removal from CMS.
“I feel really manipulated,” she said.
She thinks of the children who were taken off CMS and fumes that the tool used to remove them was her own work.
“I’m angry,” she said. “And I’m crestfallen for these families.”

Grave consequences for Florida children

The Shabanehs in Tallahassee are one of those families.
Aref Shabaneh, 8, is blind, and his sister, Yasmeen, 11, is severely visually impaired. Their mother, Reema Shabaneh, says they were kicked off CMS in 2015.
Aref Shabaneh lost his Children's Medical Services coverage in 2015. He is blind and reads in Braille.

Shabaneh says she told the Florida Department of Health nurse that they didn’t have limitations.
“Aref wants to do everything by himself,” she said. “He can play ball with friends. The ball has a bell, so he can hear it coming.”
After they were kicked off CMS, Shabaneh said, she couldn’t find an ophthalmologist on the new insurance plan willing to care for her children.
“I was so scared,” she said.
When Jennifer Rodriguez received the phone call from the Department of Health nurse, she said, she told the nurse she didn’t know how to answer the question about limitations. Her son, Alejandro, suffers from a congenital heart defect, asthma and kidney problems. Sometimes, his heart races and he has trouble breathing, but other times, he feels up to playing soccer with his friends.
“When I tried to explain the answer, she cut me off and said she was just doing her job and needed a yes or a no,” she said.
Rodriguez says she answered that her son, who was 10 at the time, did not have limitations. He then lost his CMS coverage.
“It makes me angry, because you would think that since he’s seeing a cardiologist, a nephrologist, a urologist and an asthma doctor, they would see he’s not your average child,” she said.
LJ, Alejandro and the Shabaneh children filed lawsuits and were put back on CMS. They were represented by the Public Interest Law Center at Florida State University.
Alejandro Rodriguez wears a nebulizer mask to help him breathe. After he filed a lawsuit, the state put him back on Children's Medical Services.

Many Florida pediatricians say their patients also suffered when they were taken off CMS and put on other Medicaid plans. The doctors say those other plans typically have fewer pediatric specialists than CMS, which specializes in caring for very sick children.
Dr. Lisa Cosgrove, a pediatrician in Merritt Island, Florida, said she had a difficult time finding an orthopedist to treat a 6-year-old with a broken elbow who had been taken off CMS. The girl ended up having surgery later than she should have and now can’t extend her elbow all the way.
She said a baby born with a clubfoot also suffered because she couldn’t find an orthopedist willing to take the baby’s plan. The baby couldn’t have the necessary casts to twist the foot back into place and may need surgery, Cosgrove said.
Dr. Elizabeth Curry, a pediatrician in Port St. Joe, Florida, said that last year, she took care of a baby whose eye wiggled back and forth involuntarily, which can be a sign of a brain tumor.
Curry said it took her more than a month to find an ophthalmologist willing to take the baby’s Medicaid plan — and the doctor she finally found was three hours away, in Pensacola.
Fortunately, the baby turned out to be fine.
“This child could have had cancer. That’s a kid who should have seen a doctor right away,” Curry said. “I feel terrible for these children. It makes me so angry.”
Dr. Elizabeth Curry, a Florida pediatrician, says some of her patients didn't get the treatment they needed because the state had removed them from Children's Medical Services.

Because of problems like these, switching the children’s insurance “was a complete dereliction of Florida’s responsibility to children,” said Goldhagen, the professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
Gambineri, the spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health, said the children didn’t suffer as a result of the switch, because the insurance plans they were moved to were “more than capable” of caring for them. She added that even before the 13,074 children were switched, those plans cared for tens of thousands of children with special health needs.
Other pediatricians agree that plans besides CMS have done a good job of caring for these very sick children.
The other plans “do a pretty good job with our families,” said Dr. Karalee Kulek-Luzey, medical director of the Pediatric Health Care Alliance, a group practice with multiple locations in the Tampa area. “They’re working really hard.”
“For the most part, they do a good job,” said Dr. Michael Freimark, a pediatrician in Plantation, Florida.
“We have a good relationship with the plans,” said Dr. Michael Gervasi, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Community Health Centers, a large medical practice with offices in several counties. Most of the time, he said, the plans take care of the children’s needs, but if there’s ever a problem, his practice contacts the plan, and they fix it.
Aref's older sister, Yasmeen Shabaneh, was also was removed from Children's Medical Services. She has a vision condition so serious that even a minor bump could cause her retinas to detach.

Florida’s ‘outreach’ to experts

In January 2016, about eight months after the Florida Department of Health started to move the 13,074 children out of CMS, Jennifer Tschetter, then the department’s chief operating officer, testified before the state legislature. She said that the decision to use the Hopkins screening tool was made “in consultation with … national experts.”
But it remains unclear who those experts were.
Tschetter, who has since left state government, did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.
Gambineri, the Florida health department spokeswoman, said the department did “research” into what Louisiana, California, Texas and New York “were doing and experiences they had in regard to clinical eligibility for children with special health care needs.”
When asked for the names of individuals Florida consulted in those states, Gambineri didn’t respond.
Gambineri added that “outreach” was made to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.
An official at that agency said she spoke with a Florida health official.
Dr. Marie Mann, senior medical adviser in the Division of Services for Children with Special Health Needs at the federal agency’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau, said she spoke with Stannard, who works for the Florida Department of Health.
Mann says she told Stannard she couldn’t give her any guidance.
“I told her I was not in a position to provide advice,” Mann said.
Mann said she suggested that Florida health officials reach out to Daniel Armstrong and Dr. Jeffrey Brosco, director and associate director respectively of the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
“We will make sure they’re both involved in this review process,” Stannard wrote back to Mann in an email obtained by CNN under the Freedom of Information Act.
CNN asked Gambineri, the department spokeswoman, whether the department ever reached out to Armstrong to review and make recommendations on using the telephone survey to screen children out of CMS.
“Not to our knowledge,” Gambineri answered.
“I played no role in the decision-making process related to the use of the tool for the Children’s Medical Services program,” Armstrong wrote in an email to CNN.
Brosco said he told the Department of Health that in his opinion, a child should not be kicked off CMS based on a parent’s answer to the question about the child’s limitations.
“I gave them my feedback, and they said, ‘thank you for your work,’ ” Brosco said.
In July, Brosco was named the Florida Department of Health’s deputy secretary for CMS.

Christmas shopping at the Florida Mall

Despite the lack of support from the very experts they’d consulted, Florida health officials forged ahead with using the phone survey to disqualify children from CMS.
They had a schedule to stick to.
In November 2014, state officials set out to “go live” with the phone survey in six months, according to a timeline developed by the state and obtained by CNN under the Freedom of Information Act.
Before implementing the surveys, the officials gave themselves 21 days to “solicit feedback from the field” about the questions they would ask the parents.
One of the first things they did was to ask one of the state’s most experienced pediatricians to leave a meeting.
It was St. Petery, who at the time was the executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and who has an encyclopedic knowledge of Medicaid rules and regulations. He’d served as interim director of CMS for six months during the mid-1970s.
He’d also been a thorn in the side of the state Department of Health for years. He’d been instrumental in a lawsuit that accused the state of failing to reimburse doctors properly in the Medicaid program and to ensure that children receive adequate care.
His side eventually won that lawsuit, and the American Academy of Pediatrics gave him a prestigious award for being “a tireless advocate for children’s health and well-being.”
Dr. Louis St. Petery, a pediatric cardiologist and frequent critic of Florida's health policy, was asked to leave a state meeting where Children's Medical Services screening was discussed.

On December 13, 2014, St. Petery showed up at the Department of Health meeting. It was for the regional medical directors of CMS, the group of pediatricians who help run the program. St. Petery wasn’t one of the directors, but he’d been attending their meetings for many years in his role with the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
St. Petery said that just before the meeting started, Tschetter, then the department’s chief operating officer, approached him.
“She said, didn’t I want to go Christmas shopping at the Florida Mall?” St. Petery remembered. The mall was adjacent to the conference center in Orlando where the meeting was taking place.
St. Petery said he told Tschetter that he hates shopping, especially around the holidays, and wanted to stay at the meeting.
“I protested. I asked her, is this meeting not in the sunshine?” he said, referring to Florida’s Sunshine Law, which gives the public the right to access most government meetings.
“After she told me for the third time to leave, I decided not to create a scene,” he said.
St. Petery got up and left.
Other doctors watched the action, stunned.
“We were all kind of shaking,” said Dr. Barbara Rumberger, one of the CMS regional medical directors who attended the meeting.
After St. Petery departed, health officials explained that they would start screening children off of CMS. Their justification: a new analysis showing that half the children on CMS might not belong there.
There are no minutes for this meeting, according to Department of Health officials, but a year later, Tschetter presented similar data to the Florida Legislature.

A ‘totally inaccurate’ analysis

By Florida law, a child can be in CMS only if he or she has a “chronic and serious” condition requiring health care “of a type or amount beyond that which is generally required by children.”
The analysis Tschetter presented showed that about half of the children on CMS had lower than average risk scores, an assessment of how much a patient uses health care services.
Tschetter called these results “surprising.” By legislative mandate, children on CMS are supposed to have health needs greater those of other children.
“The analysis made clear, certainly to the department, that we were not meeting legislative direction: (that) the children in the plan have both chronic and serious health care conditions,” Tschetter told legislators. “It was clear to the department that something had to be done, because complying with legislative direction is certainly not optional.”
But an expert who developed the software Florida used to make that data analysis said the state did its calculations incorrectly.
“It’s totally inaccurate,” said Todd Gilmer, co-developer of the Chronic Illness and Disability Payment System and chief of the division of health policy at the University of California, San Diego.
Gilmer’s software, which is used by dozens of state Medicaid programs, tracks patients’ diagnoses and their prescription drug use to calculate risk scores for each individual.
After viewing Florida officials’ analysis of the data, he said they made two errors when they calculated that half the children on CMS had below-average risk scores.
First, he explained that his software relies on doctors’ diagnoses, and Florida failed to account for the fact that doctors frequently don’t document a child’s full diagnosis in the medical record. For example, if a quadriplegic child goes to the doctor because of bedsores, doctors often write down the reason the child came in — the bedsores — instead of the more serious diagnosis of quadriplegia.
Second, he said, Florida did the wrong calculation for disabled children, who represent 40% of the patients on CMS, according to Mallory McManus, a spokeswoman for Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration.
He said his software compares disabled children with each other. Even the ones who fall in the lower half of the risk-score spectrum still have serious and chronic illnesses, he said, such as HIV or heart failure.
He said that what Florida did was akin to assembling a group of people who are over 7 feet tall and calling the bottom half of that group short.
Gilmer called Florida’s analysis “kind of bizarre” and said he was disappointed to see his software “misapplied” by the Florida Department of Health.
Spokeswomen for the Florida Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration did not respond directly to Gilmer’s criticism.
Gambineri, the health department spokeswoman, said that the department no longer uses the screening method that it used in 2015 and that parents can ask to have their children re-screened at any time.
“Our mission is now and has always been to provide the best health care possible to the populations that we serve,” McManus wrote in an email.

Pediatrician: ‘We were just irrelevant’

Pediatricians say that by the time the Department of Health meeting was held at the Orlando conference center at the end of 2014, they felt like Florida was dead-set on screening a large number of children off CMS.
They said state officials didn’t listen to their concerns, even though they were stated repeatedly, both in person and in writing.
At the meeting, health officials asked the pediatricians to tell them what was on their minds, according to Rumberger, one of the doctors who was there.
She said she and her colleagues brought up concerns that children might be taken off CMS inappropriately.
The Department of Health official wrote down what the doctors said on pieces of paper taped to the wall, Rumberger said. The official then told the doctors that these were issues to discuss at another time.
“She said, ‘We’re going to park these. We’re putting these ideas in the parking lot for some time, and we’re not talking about these things today,’ ” Rumberger remembered, adding that she was speaking on behalf of herself and not in her role as a CMS regional medical director.
“We were all amazed at what they did,” she added.
A few months later, the state held a series of telephone conference calls with the same CMS regional medical directors.
“They didn’t ask us ‘What do you think?’ or ‘Do you have any suggestions?’ ” Rumberger said. “It was just ‘This is how we’re going to do it.’ It was clear they didn’t want to have a free discussion.”
“It appears to be a very conscious decision to not get input and not receive any dissension,” said Goldhagen, the professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida. “We were just irrelevant.”
Dr. Rex Northup, another CMS regional medical director and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine, agrees.
“It was like, ‘When we want your opinion on a given topic, we’ll let you know, and we’ll provide that opinion to you,’ ” Northup said, adding that he speaks for himself and not the university or any other institution.
Several doctors present on those conference calls said they voiced their concerns anyway.
There’s no record of these concerns. According to the Florida Department of Health, no minutes were taken of these phone conferences.
CNN asked the Florida Department of Health about the meeting where St. Petery was asked to leave and about doctors’ complaints that the state steamrolled through a screening tool that would harm sick children.
“When CMS began the process of implementing a new screening tool in 2014, the department may have underestimated the need for stakeholder input and the time required to obtain feedback and ensure our community was comfortable with the mechanisms for determining clinical eligibility,” responded Gambineri, the Department of Health spokeswoman.
She added that the department has “engaged our stakeholders using several methods” including public meetings to solicit input from patients, parents and providers and “remains open to feedback and input in order to best serve children with serious and chronic medical conditions.”
True to its schedule, the state started screening children off CMS in May 2015.
Florida pediatricians repeatedly told the state that it was hurting sick, vulnerable children.
In August 2015, Goldhagen, Rumberger, Northup and 11 other doctors with positions at CMS wrote a letter to a Department of Health official saying the screening process was “flawed” and was removing too many children.
The doctors did not receive a response, Goldhagen said.
Two months later, St. Petery wrote to Department of Health officials, sharply criticizing the use of the screening tool.
He said he never received a response, either.
Dr. Elizabeth Curry, examining Micah Creamer, says she wrote to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, expressing her concerns about patients being kicked off Children's Medical Services, but the agency didn't respond.

Curry, the Port Saint Joe pediatrician who practices in a rural area of the Florida Panhandle, said she also complained to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration about children being kicked off CMS, along with other issues affecting children on Medicaid.
She said the agency worked with her on some of the other issues but didn’t respond to her complaints about the children being taken off CMS.
“Our Agency has been in contact with the provider and is working with the health plan to resolve what issues might be resolved,” wrote McManus, the agency spokeswoman.
Curry said she took her complaints even higher.
“I even called the governor’s office once and left a message,” she said. “I admit that I finally gave up. I’m just trying to take care of my patients.”
Pediatricians interviewed for this story said they felt pressure from the state not to speak to the media about the removal of the children from CMS.
On November 15, 2016, Dr. John Curran, then the Florida Department of Health’s deputy secretary for CMS, said on a conference call that a CNN reporter was working on this story, according to several doctors on the call.
That evening, a department official wrote an email to the doctors who’d been on the call. It advised these pediatricians that prior to responding to media inquiries, they should contact the department’s communications director.
“I’m going to be so fired for saying all these things,” Rumberger said.
But she and other pediatricians say they’re speaking up because they feel that the Department of Health hurt children because they didn’t listen to their concerns.
They say it could be because pediatricians don’t tend to have millions of dollars to donate to political campaigns.
But insurance companies do.

‘Like a plot in a Carl Hiaasen novel’

All of this — the telephone survey, the question about limitations, the analysis that’s been called flawed — leaves many Florida parents and pediatricians suspicious about why the state wanted to take 13,074 children off CMS and why it worked so hard and so quickly to do it.
Switching the children from CMS to the other Medicaid plans didn’t save taxpayers money, according to McManus, the agency spokeswoman.
The doctors wonder, then, whether the inspiration for the change was political: to send taxpayers’ dollars to generous donors to the Florida Republican Party.
CMS is a public program; it’s not owned by a private insurance company.
When the children were taken off CMS, they were switched to 11 insurance plans that are owned by private companies. The parent companies of nine of those 11 plans donated a total of more than $8 million to Florida Republican Party committees in the five years before the children were switched.
“I knew it had to be about money,” said Wright, the pediatric endocrinologist in Tallahassee who said that dozens of her patients had their insurance switched. “This sounds very believable for Florida, and I’m from Florida.”
“When this was all unfolding, I told my office manager, ‘I feel like we’re in a plot in a Carl Hiaasen novel,’ ” she added, referring to the Miami Herald columnist who writes about politics and corruption in Florida.
Dr. Nancy Wright, a pediatric endocrinologist, says she thinks the state's motivation for taking patients off Children's Medical Services "appears to be about money. ... It's clearly not medical."

The companies that own the nine insurance plans contributed $8.6 million to Florida Republican Party committees from 2010 to 2014, according to an analysis done for CNN by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan nonprofit group.
Here’s a breakdown of how much money each insurance company with a Medicaid contract contributed to Florida Republican Party committees from 2010 to 2014:
  • $5.9 million from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. Florida True Health is an affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. At the time the money was contributed, Florida True Health owned 40% of Prestige Health Choice, which has a Medicaid contract with the state of Florida. In 2015, Florida True Health purchased Prestige outright.
  • $90,000 from Simply Health, which owns a Medicaid plan called Better Health.
  • $849,433 from Miguel Fernandez, the former chairman of Simply Health. In addition, Fernandez donated about $1.3 million to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political action committee from 2010 to 2014.

Insurance companies’ outsize contributions to Florida Republicans

Nearly all states pay insurance companies to insure some of their Medicaid patients; this is not unique to Florida.
And insurance companies often contribute money to state political parties. That’s not unique to Florida, either.
What is unusual is the size of the contributions, even for a large state.
Take UnitedHealthcare, an insurance giant with business in all 50 states. From 2010 to 2014, United contributed $442,500 to Florida Republican Party committees, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
The company’s next largest contribution to any other state political party was $145,000 to California Democrats — less than half the Florida amount.
Humana, another insurance company with a national reach, gave substantially more money to Florida Republican Party committees than to any other state political party committees.
From 2010 to 2014, Humana donated $482,815 to Florida Republican Party committees. Its next largest contribution was $213,823 to Florida Democrats. The next largest contribution after that was $22,000 to the Illinois GOP, less than one-20th the size of the contribution to Florida Republicans.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida gave Florida Republican Party committees $5.9 million from 2010 to 2014 and gave Florida Democrats $1.8 million. The next largest contribution after that from any other Blue Cross and Blue Shield company in the United States was $730,696 from Blue Shield of California to Democrats in that state — about one-eighth the size of the contribution to Florida Republicans.

Florida’s payments to the insurance companies

Nearly all states pay private insurance companies monthly premiums to insure Medicaid patients. It’s become big business.
The Florida Department of Health declined to say how much it paid the private insurance companies to insure the 13,074 children when they were switched out of CMS.
“If they got 13,000 new kids, (it’s) that times however many dollars per member per month,” St. Petery said. “I think that’s a lot of money when you start talking about that many kids.”
LJ Stroud sued the state of Florida to be put back on Children's Medical Services. He has now had the procedures that he needs.

These children came from CMS, a Medicaid program for sick children, and the state pays insurance companies more money to care for such children.
This is how it works, according to McManus, the spokeswoman for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.
Florida takes a look at all the people who’ve signed up with an insurance company and calculates a risk score for that group based on factors such as the age of the enrollees in the plan and their health conditions.
A plan with the lowest risk score has a “typical population” and might be paid a rate of, for example, $320 per person per month, McManus said. A plan with sicker enrollees might have a risk score that’s twice as high and so would be paid $640 per person per month, she added.
The numbers can get even higher from there.
“The state will pay a pretty good rate for these children,” said Agrawal, the pediatrician at Northwestern who studies health care systems for children with special medical needs.
“They could get paid thousands more per month for a child with serious medical needs,” said Steve Schramm, founder and managing director of Optumas, a health care consulting group.
“The enhanced reimbursement may be 10 times what the insurance companies get for a well child,” said Goldhagen, former director of Florida’s Duval County Health Department.
Yasmeen Shabaneh sued Florida and was placed back on Children's Medical Services.

Sick children are, of course, also costlier for insurance companies because they need more care. But insurance plans monitor that care to manage costs.
“Plans have gotten very sophisticated in their ability to manage very sick kids, so their willingness to take very sick kids is great,” said Jeff Myers, president and CEO of Medicaid Health Plans of America, an industry group representing insurance companies.
Pediatricians questioned whether such outsize political donations were an attempt to gain influence and favor with Florida’s Republican administration, which orchestrated the transfer of the children out of CMS and to the private companies.
“It certainly raises a lot of suspicion and concern,” said Northup, the associate professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
“Why would they make contributions in the hundreds of thousands and the millions to Florida Republicans? Why would they be so uniquely committed to Republicans in Florida? It gives one pause,” he added. “If you follow the money, at the very least, it’s worrisome.”
“It’s the left-hand-washing-the-right-hand kind of business,” said Dr. Joseph Chiaro, who was Florida’s deputy secretary of health from 2005 to 2011. “It breaks my heart.”
Six Florida pediatricians gathered in Orlando to tell CNN their concerns. They practice in rural, suburban and urban areas. Some of them are Republicans, and others are Democrats.
They said they feared that big donors had influence on the state’s decision-making process and that in many cases, the children suffered as a result.
“I don’t see this in writing anywhere, but my impression is, this was a way for political payback at the expense of the sickest of the Medicaid children,” St. Petery said.
“It just comes back to money or power. It’s not about health care for the children,” said Wright, the pediatric endocrinologist in Tallahassee.
“Just follow the money,” said Colaizzo, who runs a rural health care clinic in Pahokee, Florida.
State leaders “don’t give a damn about the kids. They don’t give a damn about the families,” said Dr. Marcy Howard, a pediatrician in Crystal River, Florida.

State officials and insurance companies respond

State health officials did not respond directly to the pediatricians’ concerns that campaign contributors had influence over Republican leadership’s decision to take the children off CMS.
“The Statewide Medicaid Managed Care program was designed to provide comprehensive care to recipients through high quality health plans with a payment structure designed to ensure that plans paid an appropriate rate based on the health conditions of those enrolled in their plan,” McManus, a spokeswoman for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, wrote in an email.
“The program currently covers more than 2 million of Florida’s children, offers the strongest provider network and access standards in program history, and provides families with a choice of high quality, nationally accredited plans so that they can choose the plan that best suits their needs, including specialty plans for those who qualify.”
Alejandro Rodriguez also sued the state of Florida and was placed back on Children's Medical Services.

CNN reached out to officials at all nine insurance companies. Two responded.
“WellCare contributes to a variety of organizations that shape health care policy, including the Florida Republican Party committees, the Democratic Party committees and those without political affiliation,” wrote Alissa Lawver, a spokeswoman for WellCare. “The company also discloses and publicly reports all political contributions on its website above and beyond the requirements of state and federal law. As a provider of managed care, WellCare is committed to partnering with the state of Florida to provide access to quality, affordable health care solutions for the state’s most vulnerable populations. We maintain a robust provider network and offer comprehensive care management services to create personalized, coordinated care plans to help improve and maintain the health of families and children across the state.”
She added that WellCare has accountability to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, “which provides careful oversight of the state’s Medicaid program to ensure all members, including children that transitioned from Children’s Medical Services, receive access to the right care, at the right time and in the most appropriate setting.”
Ethan Slavin, a spokesman for Aetna, said the company makes “donations to campaigns for both major political parties to support and address issues that impact our customers and members.”
He added that “we are required to meet state rules and regulations regarding our network of health care providers and are consistently compliant with those requirements” and that “we regularly work with our members, health care providers and the state of Florida to move children with special health care needs into the Children’s Medical Services program, when appropriate and in the best interest of our members. Our integrated care management program regularly identifies these children and assists in this process.”
Miguel “Mike” Fernandez, founder and former chairman of Better Health, said he had contributed several million dollars to both Republicans and Democrats. He added that states move Medicaid patients into the care of private companies so they can “move the risk off their financial books.”

A victory for Florida families

Many pediatricians use strong language to describe their anger and frustration with the Florida Department of Health and what it did in 2015 to the 13,074 children.
“This has just been a nightmare, and we’re still experiencing the fallout,” said Dr. Toni Richards-Rowley, treasurer of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“It’s disgusting,” said Cosgrove, the pediatrician in Merritt Island. “It’s all about money and not looking out for the children.”
“Honestly, it makes me want to puke,” said Lida Sarnecky, nurse manager of the team at the University of Florida that takes care of children with cleft lip and palate.
“In my heart, what I want to do is go down to Governor Scott’s office and ask him, ‘What if this were your child or grandchild who couldn’t receive the care they needed? How would you feel then?’ ” she said.
By June 2015, some Florida parents had had enough.
Five children, including Alejandro Rodriguez, and Yasmeen and Aref Shabaneh, sued the state Department of Health to get it to stop using the telephone questionnaire to take patients off CMS, claiming that the state Department of Health hadn’t gone through formal rulemaking procedures.
The children won.
The state didn’t fight the ruling. Instead, it came up with a new way to screen children for the program — one that doesn’t rely on a telephone survey and takes into consideration a child’s diagnosis.
Aref Shabaneh lost his Children's Medical Services coverage when his mother told the state he didn't have limitations. "Aref wants to do everything by himself," she said.

Many parents and pediatricians assumed the state would soon reach out directly to parents to let them know they could reapply to have their children put back on CMS.
They were very wrong.
Five months after the judge’s decision, St. Petery, the Tallahassee pediatric cardiologist, implored the secretary of the Department of Health to reach out to parents.
To St. Petery, the reasoning was obvious: A judge had said that the state had violated the law. Reaching out to the parents was a way of correcting wrongdoing.
The state had a notice on its website about the ability to be rescreened for CMS, and at a meeting with state legislators, a department official had given out a phone number parents could call. But St. Petery knew that busy parents of very sick children might not attend official state meetings or notice pages on government websites.
“I would hope that you would consider notifying each of the parents of those 13,074 children that the tool by which their child was screened out of CMS has been declared invalid, and that they have the right to appeal that decision,” St. Petery wrote to Dr. John Armstrong, then secretary of the Department of Health and the state surgeon general.
Armstrong wrote back that doing so would violate federal regulations, since the children had been switched to other Medicaid insurance plans.
“Federal regulations prohibit direct marketing to children currently being served by another managed care plan,” he wrote back to St. Petery.
CNN was unable to reach Armstrong for comment. Gambineri, the Florida Department of Health spokeswoman, said he “is no longer employed by DOH.”
Not satisfied with Armstrong’s response, St. Petery sought help from US Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Tampa. Castor took his concerns to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
On March 23, 2016, an official at that agency sent an email to Justin Senior, then the Medicaid director at Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. CNN obtained the email under the Freedom of Information Act.
In that email, the federal official explained to Senior that federal regulations do not prohibit Florida from reaching out directly to families.
“To clarify, 42 CFR 438.104 does not prohibit marketing,” wrote Jackie Glaze, associate regional administrator for the Division of Medicaid and Children’s Health at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, citing a federal regulation.
More than a year later, on July 24, 2017, the Florida Department of Health sent a letter to parents letting them know that their children could be screened to get back on CMS. The letter was sent to 6,081 parents whose children were removed from CMS and put on another Medicaid plan and were still on that plan and financially eligible for Medicaid, according to Gambineri, the Florida health department spokeswoman.
That letter was sent nearly two years after the judge’s decision. Pediatricians say they’re angry it took that long to directly let parents know about the possibility of getting back on CMS.
Gambineri said there was concern that parents might get confused.
“It was originally thought to be, and still is considered a risk, in terms of confusion and disruption to families, to send a letter because they have had rescreening available since 2015,” Gambineri said a few months before the letter was sent out.

Nelson Mandela and Mr. Rogers

Now that LJ Stroud is back on CMS, he’s a happy, strapping 13-year-old who loves to play football and horse around with his brother and sisters in the family’s backyard in St. Augustine.
But his mother looks back on the dark days in 2015, after her son was switched off CMS, when she says he would lie on the couch in pain, unable to get the surgeries he needed.
It’s not just her son’s physical pain that makes Stroud angry; it’s his emotional pain.
Since LJ Stroud was placed back on Children's Medical Services, he's been able to play football again.

When LJ was on CMS, Stroud says, he received excellent care and was a contented, well-adjusted child, never thinking of himself as different despite his birth defect.
But she says that when he was in pain because he couldn’t have surgery, he started to feel sorry for himself.
” ‘Why did God make me this way?’ ” she says he asked. ” ‘Why can’t I be like my brothers and sisters?’ “
When she hears about how top Florida officials have spoken with pride of what they did to her son and to more than 13,000 other children, she becomes livid.
Last year, Armstrong, then Florida’s surgeon general and secretary of health, made a presentation to the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, a panel created by the state Legislature to promote children’s welfare.
Declaring that the Department of Health “cares about every child in Florida,” Armstrong explained how the state removed the 13,074 children from CMS.
Armstrong’s presentation quoted two great advocates for children, Nelson Mandela and Fred Rogers.
First, he quoted Mandela: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
And he quoted Fred Rogers, the star of the children’s television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”: “Anyone who does anything to help a child in life is a hero to me.”
Stroud struggles for words to describe what she thinks of Armstrong quoting these two champions for child welfare.
“It’s just — it’s just disgusting,” she said. “I feel my blood boiling just thinking about it.”

Newport Introduces “Marijuana Cigarettes” That Will Go On Sale Worldwide Next Year

(Organic&Healthy) Newport Introduces “Marijuana Cigarettes” That Will Go On Sale Worldwide Next Year

Newport Cigarettes, one of the world’s most popular cigarette brands, announced today that they will join the marijuana legalization trend and start producing marijuana cigarettes. 

Marketed under the brand ‘Newport Nirvana’, the cigarettes will be made available for sale through marijuana-licensed outlets in the state of Colorado, and the state of Washington.

Reynolds American Inc. Chief Marketing Executive Lawrence Harrison, said in an interview that the company has been ecstatic on the idea of marketing cannabis, and has been monitoring the market for some time.

It was only when the recent legalization initiatives — winning in Colorado and Washington — that the company finally made the decision to take part in the cannabis market.

Harrison added that they have purchased thousands of acres of land to grow natural hemp.

The tobacco company has been setting up a distribution process across North and South American territories, to streamline the supply lines.

Since only tobacco products are currently banned in advertisements and promotions in the United States.

The company also has set aside an enormous $7 billion advertising budget to market the new “Newport Nirvana” brand and are now negotiating with major networks and publishers, to begin marketing the product to consumers in the second half of 2017.

The company has also begin to advertise the new brand in magazines and on billboards which can be seen in Colorado and Washington.

Harrison also revealed that the company has planned around January next year, to begin airing commercials with celebrity endorsements including Snoop Dogg, Seth Rogan and Bill Maher.

However, since marijuana is legal only in Colorado and Washington, the advertisements will only be aired in Colorado and Washington.

Originally appeared  on SuperHV

A New Therapy May Cure Kids of Peanut Allergy

In a long-term study of the latest treatment for peanut allergy, scientists in Australia report that an immune-based therapy helped children allergic to peanuts eat them without reactions for four years.

The study, published in the journal Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, follows up on children enrolled in an earlier study of an immunotherapy treatment, which combined probiotics with small doses of peanuts that were designed to gradually train the children’s immune systems to accept the peanut allergen rather than treat it as something foreign. Previous studies have suggested that methods like these could be effective in reducing youngsters’ allergic, sometimes dangerous anaphylactic shock reactions to peanuts. The Australian team added probiotics to further enhance the gut’s ability to accept the peanuts and not trigger an immune reaction. Compared to 4% of children who didn’t get any treatment, 82% of those receiving the combination therapy significantly reduced their allergic reactions to peanuts.

MORE: Babies Should Eat Eggs and Peanuts Early to Avoid Food Allergies

In the follow-up, which tracked the children for four years after they were treated with the combination therapy, 67% of those who got the combination probiotic and peanut therapy were comfortable eating peanuts, compared to only 4% of those who did not get the treatment. Fewer children in the treated group had an allergic reaction to the peanuts, and they also showed smaller reactions to skin prick tests with peanut allergen.

The results are encouraging, allowing the children who were treated to eate peanuts without fear of an allergic reaction. But it may be too early to call this a cure. The researchers believe that adding probiotics to the peanut allergens may be important in improving the children’s tolerance to the food, but Dr. Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, an associate professor of pediatrics at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital who was not involved in the study, notes that the researchers didn’t compare the effect of the probiotics themselves; they only compared children who received the probiotics along with immune therapy to those who didn’t get any treatment at all.

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It makes sense that the probiotics may enhance the immunotherapy’s effect, since probiotics are beneficial bacteria in the gut, where food allergens are processed. “I think there is certainly a suggestion, but not hard proof, that the probiotics make a difference,” says Nowak-Wegrzyn. “The question for me would be if there is a difference between patients who were treated with [both] immunotherapy [in the form of low doses of peanuts] and probiotics, and those who were treated with just immunotherapy.”

That may have to wait for another study. But the new findings provide even more evidence that using peanuts to treat peanut allergy, and to re-train the immune system to be less allergic, can be effective.

Pubic hair grooming results in surprising number of injuries

 

Adults are hurting themselves while shaving, applying lotion, waxing and even plucking their pubic hair — a practice that 76% admit to doing. But a quarter of them also said that their pruning practices resulted in an injury, according to a recent survey from JAMA Dermatology. A small number (1.5%) even went to the hospital.

The survey was conducted by a team of urologists at the University of California San Francisco after they noticed that about 3% of their emergency room patients were there because of pubic hair grooming-related injuries. The doctors were not surprised that their survey revealed that people who experienced these injuries also groom more frequently and extensively than their uninjured peers.

“One lesson to take from this is that if you have had significant grooming injuries, or keep getting injured, you should reconsider the areas you groom, how frequently you do it, and the extent to which you do it,” co-author of the survey Dr. Benjamin Breyer told Time.

Shaving pubic hair related to STIs: study

About 60% of the injuries reported on the survey were cuts, leading the researchers to determine that razors are probably the riskiest way of trimming down under. Other common injuries were rashes and burns.

Pubic area injuries could make people more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, but Breyer said that “infections from grooming injuries are rare.” He plans on studying the correlation between grooming nicks and cuts and sexually transmitted infections to see if there’s any real connection. In the meantime, a slower, more careful flick of the razor is advised.

New GM Crops Use RNA Interference Technology for Mass Sterilization

http://www.renegadetribune.com/new-gm-crops-use-rna-interference-technology-mass-sterilization/

 

By Christina Sarich

Gene silencing raised some eyebrows when it was first touted just over a year ago, as the next “miracle” gene alteration technology. It was developed with the ability to make “precise” insertions and deletions into a plant’s genome. This new technology has been developed to utilize RNA interference to block protein translation in a gene. It doesn’t sound so ubiquitously perilous until you realize that the specific target is an insect’s reproductive ability.

The technology, called RNAi for short, has been touted as a “therapy,” ideologically promoted as a mechanism to silence unwanted genes that can cause cancer and other diseases. This mechanistic scientific viewpoint is a common feature of reductionist views which see the human being, and all of nature as a machine which can be tampered with, without ever affecting its constituent, interrelated parts.

he true intention for the use of this technology seems to be quite different, though.

Genetic researchers are now weaponizing plants by engineering them to have specific RNA fragments that shut down a target gene sequence that allows insects to reproduce. All the insect has to do is eat the plant, and they are rendered sterile.

Sterilizing the insects may seem harmless until you realize that we are destined to eat those plants too, with the very same RNA insertions that block reproductive success.

Plants just like people, can “turn off” one or more of their genes by using a process called RNA interference to block protein translation. On the surface, the technology was meant to sexually castrate beetles, moths, worms, and other pests, the technology will also render beneficial insects sterile, and the implications are that they could cause mass sterilization of the human population as well.

This tactic is not outside the realm of previous genetic modifications, anyhow. To wit:

  • Genetically modified soy has been linked to the sterility of hamsters.
  • Drs. A. Velimirov, C. Binter, and University Prof. Dr. J. Zentek released results of a long term reproductive study on GMO fed mice. They examined the effects of a GMO corn crop on 4 generations of mice, and found that the reproductive viability of each generation fed GMOs worsened. There was a steady decline in the mice litter size over time.
  • GMOS have caused animal miscarriages in sheep, cows, pigs and other farm animals.
  • In humans, it is likely that GMOS cause significant changes in endocrine metabolism, and cause endometriosis, which leads to more miscarriages and birth defects.
  • Gender bending chemicals used heavily in GMO crops are also associated with reduced fertility.

As the evidence that chemical pesticides and herbicides used with GM crops causes major endocrine and reproductive damage, it seems the geneticists are bent on finding another way to sterilize the masses. As usual with this industry, there is little oversight and long-term testing to prove that RNA interference won’t cause long-term damage to the genetic building blocks of humans – or is that the entire point?

To understand more about how RNAi works, you can watch the following video (caution, the process is depicted as purely beneficial, without discussing any of the problems that can occur with RNAi, such as secondary gene silencing or multi-generational effects due to epigenetics, and methylate group/protein expression.)


About the Author

Christina Sarich is a staff writer for Waking Times. She is a writer, musician, yogi, and humanitarian with an expansive repertoire. Her thousands of articles can be found all over the Internet, and her insights also appear in magazines as diverse as Weston A. PriceNexusAtlantis Rising, and the Cuyamungue Institute, among others. She was recently a featured author in the Journal, “Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and Healing Arts,” and her commentary on healing, ascension, and human potential inform a large body of the alternative news lexicon. She has been invited to appear on numerous radio shows, including Health Conspiracy Radio, Dr. Gregory Smith’s Show, and dozens more. The second edition of her book, Pharma Sutra, will be released soon.

This article (New GM Crops Use RNA Interference Technology for Mass Sterilization) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Christina Sarich and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution and author bio.

Blood Test Finds Cancer Before Symptoms Start

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/blood-test-finds-cancer-symptoms-start-n793181

 

Researchers say they have taken a big step towards developing a test that can tell people if they have cancer long before the first symptoms show up.

The blood test detected the majority of cancers in people with four of the biggest cancer killers: breast, colon, lung and ovarian cancer, the team at Johns Hopkins University said.

Image: Illustration showing cell-free circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA)
Scientists have discovered that dying tumor cells release small pieces of their DNA into the bloodstream. These pieces are called cell-free circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). National cancer Institute

The test is a long way from being used to screen for cancer, but the study shows a way to get there, the team reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

“There is a lot of excitement about liquid biopsies, but most of that has been in late-stage cancer or in individuals where you already know what to look for,” said Dr. Victor Velculescu, professor of oncology and pathology at the Johns Hopkins University Kimmel Cancer Center.

“The surprising result is that we can find a high fraction of early-stage patients having alterations in their blood,” said Velculescu, who led the study team.

It was not a slam dunk, but the test found cancer in the blood of more than half the patients who had been diagnosed with stage 1 cancer. It was even more accurate in finding late-stage cancers, but the goal would be to catch cancer in its earliest, easiest-to-treat stage.

There were no false positives in 44 people who did not have cancer, they said.

Several different liquid biopsies are already on the market, used to help track whether cancer treatments are working. But there’s nothing yet that can detect cancer in someone who has not yet been diagnosed.

Related: Company Bets on Catching Early Cancer With Liquid Biopsy

It’s easy to find tumor mutations if you know what to look for. “The challenge was to develop a blood test that could predict the probable presence of cancer without knowing the genetic mutations present in a person’s tumor,” Velculescu said.

Velculescu’s team developed an approach called targeted error correction sequencing (TEC-Seq for short).

“We have used this approach to examine 58 cancer-related genes,” the team wrote in their report. The method involved deep sequencing – sequencing DNA 30,000 times over to look for mutations in DNA from tumor cells that floats in the blood.

Related: Liquid Biopsy Helps Doctors Pick the Best Cancer Drug

Cancer patients had more of this DNA in their blood, the team found.

They identified 62 percent of the patients with stage I cancer – four out of eight colon cancer patients, and 90 percent of colon cancer patients with stage II, III or IV disease.

They got a positive in 45 percent of the lung cancer patients with stage I disease, 67 percent of ovarian cancer patients with stage I disease and 67 percent of breast cancer patients with stage I disease.

While that’s good, it’s not a great result. The test still missed a large percentage of cancers and will need much improvement, Velculescu said.

It will also have to be tried in larger groups of patients, and patients with different cancers. The first goal would be to try it in people at high risk of cancer but no symptoms yet – such as smokers, or people with cancer-causing gene mutations like BRCA mutations, Velculescu said.

Catching cancer in its earliest stages could save many lives, he said. Cancer is the No. 2 killer overall in the United States.

”The survival difference between late stage and early stage disease in these cancers would account for more than a million lives each year worldwide,” Velculescu said.

The genetic sequencing is also expensive right now – on the order of several thousand dollars for the 30,000 repeats the team did. But costs are coming down steadily, he said.

Related: Can This Blood Test Detect Cancer?

Velculescu said Johns Hopkins had patented this test, and Velculescu is himself the founder of a company that does liquid biopsies for advanced cancer patients called Personal Genome Diagnostics.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been very skeptical of blood tests that claim to diagnose disease before people have symptoms.

The agency has chastised a company called Pathway Genomics over its “liquid biopsy” test , saying the company had not shown the $699 test worked as advertised.

It’s also warned other gene testing companies but finally gave 23andMe the go-ahead to market its home DNA test – which does not include any cancer screening – in April.

Currently, colon cancer can be detected very early with colonoscopies, and even stopped before pre-cancerous growths get out of control. But colonoscopies are uncomfortable and carry a small risk of injury.

Mammograms can detect early breast cancer, Pap smears can detect cervical cancer or pre-cancerous changes and a type of specialized chest x-ray called a spiral CT can detect lung cancer. There’s a debate over the usefulness ofscreening for prostate cancer but blood tests and physical exams can indicate some men at high risk.

Study Reveals Big Pharma Paid Doctors Millions of Dollars to Push Opioids

http://www.renegadetribune.com/study-reveals-big-pharma-paid-doctors-millions-dollars-push-opioids/
By Kalee Brown

It’s no secret that there’s an opium epidemic plaguing North America, and it’s been a growing issue for decades. Many people often picture drug dealers as these scary individuals selling pills on streets, when in reality, the drug pushers responsible for the abuse of opioids, opium, and heroin are largely the U.S. government and doctors.

That’s right: The U.S. government and physicians are deeply connected to the opium trade. You have physicians heavily pushing and marketing opioids, and then you have the U.S. government governing the opium trade.

recently published study in the American Journal of Public Health actually proved just how deep this problem runs in regards to the doctor-opioid relationship, proving that opioids represent a lucrative business for both physicians and Big Pharma.

Here’s How Much Doctors Were Paid to Push Opioids

It’s no secret that Big Pharma is a money-making machine. Many even suggest that they design drugs with negative side effects so you remain sick, thus growing their market of sick consumers — a view supported by the reality that doctors get compensated for selling you drugs, not for getting you off of them.

You can even figure out exactly how much your personal doctor gets paid to sell you drugs. You can read more about that in our CE article here and discover how much Big Pharma pays your doctor to prescribe you drugs.

According to this new study, 1 in 12 doctors has received money from drug companies marketing opioid pharmaceuticals. Between August 2013 and December 2015, researchers at Boston Medical Center found that 68,177 doctors were paid a combined amount of $46 million from drug companies marketing these drugs.

Within that timeframe, the total number of opioid-related non-research payments to physicians was 375, 266, and the top 1% of doctors (about 700) received 82.5% of the total amount paid. Family physicians were found to have been given the highest number of payments.

That’s a lot of money to be paying doctors to push drugs on you, which begs the question: How many people actually need the painkillers they’re being prescribed, and how many of these prescriptions are just a money grab?

Scott Hadland, a pediatrician and author of the study, explained that for those addicted to opioids, “It’s very common that the first opioid they’re ever exposed to is from a prescription.”

We see more and more overdoses and addictions related to these drugs occurring every year, and it all stems from a combination of the U.S. government controlling the opium drug trade, and Big Pharma and doctors overprescribing medication and understating their side effects and addictiveness. This issue isn’t new, however; it actually started decades ago.

Big Pharma, Doctors, and the U.S. Government Linked to Opioids

So, we’ve established doctors’ link to Big Pharma and their incentive to sell drugs, but how did this all start?

To clarify, heroin is made from opium. Opium is removed from the poppy plant, which is then refined into morphine, and can then be refined into heroin. So, if you’re an opium supplier, you could also be considered a heroin supplier. This is an important fact when it comes to the role the U.S. government has played in the opioid epidemic.

The term opioid refers to any substance that binds to our opioid receptor sites, and so both heroin and morphine qualify as opioids and opiates. Opiates are made from those same poppy plants as well, though not all opioids are; for example, some are entirely synthetic, and others are semi-synthetic (made from both chemicals and opium).

The U.S. government is actually heavily involved in the opium drug trade. In Southeast Asia (SEA) during the Vietnam War, the CIA worked alongside Laotian general Vang Pao in an effort to help make Laos the world’s largest exporter of heroin. In fact, the CIA owned and operated a covert drug smuggling airline, referred to as Air Americawhich was used to transport numerous goods, including heroin. The CIA then flew drugs all over SEA, allowing the Golden Triangle (parts of Burma, Thailand, and Laos) to become the world hub for heroin. You can read more about Air America in our CE article here.

According to a New York Times article written in 1993, the CIA’s involvement with the heroin industry actually began slightly before the Vietnam War. During the Korean War, in 1950, the CIA allegedly traded weapons and heroin in exchange for intelligence.

However, the CIA’s “heroin problem” didn’t start nor end in SEA.

Afghanistan is another country with a complicated history of involvement in the opium and heroin industries, much of which implicates the CIA. In the 1980s, CIA-supported Moujahedeen rebels were heavily involved in drug trafficking heroin. The CIA supplied trucks and mules, which were used to transport opium.

Despite the fact that Afghanistan supplied approximately 50% of the heroin used by Americans, the U.S. failed to intervene or investigate the Afghan drug industry for years. Instead, many of the individuals trafficking the drugs in Afghanistan were actually trained, armed, and funded by the CIA at the time.

Opium production came to a gradual halt thanks to Taliban rule. By 2000, the Taliban had completely banned opium production, practically eradicating 90% of the world’s heroin. The following UN diagram outlines the history of opium production in Afghanistan:

As you can see, after 9/11 occurred and the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, opium production suddenly skyrocketed. There have been tons of photos of U.S. soldiers guarding the opium fields, yet today, more than a decade later, they still have not destroyed them and the business is booming (view some of the photos here).

It’s no secret that 9/11 was an inside job, otherwise referred to as a false-flag terrorist attack. If you didn’t know that, please read this CE article. [Renegade Editor’s Note: Elements within the US government, many of whom are dual citizens, worked with Israel’s Mossad to carry out the 9/11 attacks.] Many have speculated that one of the main reasons the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 attack is so that they could gain full control over the opium trade in Afghanistan. You can read more about that in our CE article here.

The government is even using taxpayers’ dollars to create a heroin vaccine, which is relatively ironic given their relationship to the drug trade. You can read more about that in our CE article here.

Given all of this information, it’s clear to me that the U.S. government is knee deep in the opium/heroin drug trade, directly linking them to the opium epidemic we’re experiencing in North America.

So, how does Big Pharma relate to all of this?

When you think about it, Big Pharma companies are just like any other business: Their main goal is to provide consumers with products they want or need, and in turn make a profit. Well, how can Big Pharma companies ensure that their market grows and demand increases? By creating products that are not only addictive, but that have negative side effects as well, so they can keep people sick and encourage them to take more drugs.

How will these potential customers end up taking more drugs? They will get prescriptions from their doctors, and so Big Pharma pays doctors to prescribe medications to their customers, or patients. Then, if they become addicted or are told they need to continue to take these drugs to mask symptoms rather than treating the underlying issue, they’ll become repeat customers.

It’s a never-ending cycle of keeping people sick so they can profit. Doctors aren’t paid to cure you, they’re paid to get you to take drugs. Yes, that’s a generalization, but it’s also a key aspect of how our healthcare system works. It’s no different when it comes to opioids; Big Pharma heavily marketed these drugs, and they paid doctors to help distribute them.

“[The marketing effort for opioid sales] was a promotional campaign unlike we have ever really seen,” explains Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the Chief Medical Officer for the Phoenix House treatment centers and co-founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. “Drug reps were going to family care doctors, and insisting that OxyContin had no real risks—only benefits. What they were selling was the idea that pain was a disease, and not a symptom.”

This problem can be seen all over North America. In the U.S. and Canada, pharmaceutical giant Purdue has made over $30 billion USD from OxyContin alone since the mid-1990s. Purdue was actually largely responsible for the marketing campaign in support of these drugs, and in 2001, spent $4.6 million on OxyContin advertisements in medical journals.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that the relationship the U.S. government, doctors, and Big Pharma have to one another and with the opium trade runs deep. The best thing we can do is educate people on the matter so we can become more aware of what’s going on in the world!

I’m not saying that Big Pharma is the enemy, but I am suggesting that you take a deeper look at the drugs you’re prescribed rather than blindly following doctors’ orders. Yes, many physicians and drug researchers have your absolute best interests at heart, but others may not, and many of these people may not even understand the full scope of the issue at hand. Doctors aren’t always educated on the adverse side effects of these drugs, just as consumers aren’t either.

At the end of the day, the best we can do is to conduct our own research and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about more natural alternatives or about the potential negative side effects of specific pharmaceutical drugs.


This article originally appeared on Collective Evolution.

“What kind of society do you want to live in?”: Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing

With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland.

Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.

While the tests are optional, the government states that all expectant mothers must be informed about availability of screening tests, which reveal the likelihood of a child being born with Down syndrome. Around 80 to 85 percent of pregnant women choose to take the prenatal screening test, according to Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik.

“CBSN: On Assignment” headed to Iceland with CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano to investigate what’s factoring into the high termination rates.

Using an ultrasound, blood test and the mother’s age, the test, called the Combination Test, determines whether the fetus will have a chromosome abnormality,  the most common of which results in Down syndrome. Children born with this genetic disorder have distinctive facial issues and a range of developmental issues. Many people born with Down syndrome can live full, healthy lives, with an average lifespan of around 60 years.

Other countries aren’t lagging too far behind in Down syndrome termination rates. According to the most recent data available, the United States has an estimated termination rate for Down syndrome of 67 percent (1995-2011); in France it’s 77 percent (2015); and Denmark, 98 percent (2015). The law in Iceland permits abortion after 16 weeks if the fetus has a deformity — and Down syndrome is included in this category.

With a population of around 330,000, Iceland has on average just one or two children born with Down syndrome per year, sometimes after their parents received inaccurate test results. (In the U.S., according to the National Down Syndrome Society, about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born each year.)

“Babies with Down syndrome are still being born in Iceland,” said Hulda Hjartardottir, head of the Prenatal Diagnosis Unit at Landspitali University Hospital, where around 70 percent of Icelandic children are born. “Some of them were low risk in our screening test, so we didn’t find them in our screening.”

When Thordis Ingadottir was pregnant with her third child at the age of 40, she took the screening test. The results showed her chances of having a child with Down syndrome were very slim, odds of 1 in 1,600. However, the screening test is only 85 percent accurate. That year, 2009, three babies were born with Down syndrome in Iceland, including Ingadottir’s daughter Agusta, who is now 7.

According to Ingadottir, three babies born with Down syndrome is “quite more than usual. Normally there are two, in the last few years.” Since the birth of her daughter, Ingadottir has become an activist for the rights of people with Down syndrome.

As Agusta grows up, “I will hope that she will be fully integrated on her own terms in this society. That’s my dream,” Ingadottir said. “Isn’t that the basic needs of life? What kind of society do you want to live in?”

Geneticist Kari Stefansson is the founder of deCODE Genetics, a company that has studied nearly the entire Icelandic population’s genomes. He has a unique perspective on the advancement of medical technology. “My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society — that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore,” he said.

Quijano asked Stefansson, “What does the 100 percent termination rate, you think, reflect about Icelandic society?”

“It reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling,” he said. “And I don’t think that heavy-handed genetic counseling is desirable. … You’re having impact on decisions that are not medical, in a way.”

Stefansson noted, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with aspiring to have healthy children, but how far we should go in seeking those goals is a fairly complicated decision.”

According to Hjartardottir, “We try to do as neutral counseling as possible, but some people would say that just offering the test is pointing you towards a certain direction.” Indeed, more than 4 out of 5 pregnant women in Iceland opt for the prenatal screening test.

For expectant mother Bergthori Einarsdottir, who chose to have the test, knowing that most women did so helped steer her decision. “It was not pressure,  but they told me that most women did it,” she said. “It did affect me maybe a little bit.”

Over at Landspitali University Hospital, Helga Sol Olafsdottir counsels women who have a pregnancy with a chromosomal abnormality. They speak to her when deciding whether to continue or end their pregnancies. Olafsdottir tells women who are wrestling with the decision or feelings of guilt: “This is your life — you have the right to choose how your life will look like.”

She showed Quijano a prayer card inscribed with the date and tiny footprints of a fetus that was terminated.

Quijano noted, “In America, I think some people would be confused about people calling this ‘our child,’ saying a prayer or saying goodbye or having a priest come in — because to them abortion is murder.”

Olafsdottir responded, “We don’t look at abortion as a murder. We look at it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication… preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think that is more right than seeing it as a murder — that’s so black and white. Life isn’t black and white. Life is grey.”

Teen drug overdose death rate climbed 19% in one year

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/16/health/teen-overdose-death-rate/index.html

 

(CNN) The rate of teen drug overdose deaths in the United States climbed 19% from 2014 to 2015, from 3.1 deaths per 100,000 teens to 3.7 per 100,000, according to data released this week. The new numbers involve teens ages 15 to 19 and were released by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Most of the overdose deaths were unintentional and driven primarily by opioids, including both prescribed painkillers such as oxycodone and illicit drugs such as heroin and street fentanyl.

Heroin’s contribution to teen overdose deaths

Mirroring the larger population, there was a downward trend in overdose deaths from methadone and prescription opioids in recent years but an uptick in deaths involving heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The rate of teen overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids has increased sevenfold from 0.1 deaths per 100,000 15- to 19-year-olds in 2002 to 0.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2015.
The rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin for this age group in 2015 was one for every 100,000 teens. That’s three times what it was in 1999, when the rate was 0.3 overdose deaths for every 100,000.
The 2016 Monitoring the Future survey showed a continuing decline in the use of illicit substances — marijuana, alcohol and tobacco — and misuse of prescription drugs among teens. The annual survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The recent increases in teen overdose deaths come after a relatively stable period from 2007 to 2011 and then a slight decline from 2012 to 2014.

‘No good, really bad for you in every way’

President Donald Trump, who recently declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, has said that one of the keys to combating the epidemic is reaching out to younger people.
“The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” Trump said this month after a briefing with Cabinet members and advisers on the epidemic. “If they don’t start, they won’t have a problem. If they do start, it’s awfully tough to get off. So if we can keep them from going on and maybe by talking to youth and telling them ‘no good, really bad for you in every way.’ “
Although stories of teens using drugs and overdosing appear often in headlines, the number of teens dying from overdose is quite small. In 2015, 772 drug overdose deaths were reported for the 15- to 19-year-old age group. That represents just 1.4% of the 52,404 people who died of drug overdoses that same year. More than 33,000 of those deaths were from opioids.

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“The public and the media tend to think of our opioid addiction epidemic as having a greater impact on teens. But the reality is that older Americans, 20-year-olds to 80-year-olds, have been hit much harder,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University.