News Article | April 17, 2017
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing a future in which its hands will be tied on making many policies if a new bill becomes law. Last week the US House of Representatives passed a bill, the HONEST Act, that would prevent the EPA from basing any of its regulations on science that is not publicly accessible – not just journal articles themselves, but all of the underlying data, models and computer code. “The HONEST Act requires EPA to base new regulations on sound science that is publicly available, and not hidden from the American people,” said Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and chair of the House science committee, who sponsored the bill, in a statement. “The days of ‘trust me’ science are over.” “Allowing EPA’s data to be independently reviewed promotes sound science that will restore confidence in the EPA decision-making process,” said Smith. While this may sound like a laudable move towards increased transparency, it would actually hobble the agency’s ability to develop good, science-based public health regulations, says Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy. “It’s couched in terms of transparency, but is actually one of several actions intended to bring regulations to a halt,” he says. While the EPA does make background data available when possible, there are situations where it is impractical or impossible to release that information. Many epidemiological studies must remain confidential because of their use of human subjects, and computer models and code are often protected by intellectual property rules. The bill allows such data to be kept secret, but would also allow anyone who had signed a confidentiality agreement to access that data if protected information, such as subjects’ names, is redacted. Rosenberg says the amount of time and effort it would take to redact the information would be unnecessarily burdensome. Also, for research on humans it’s often not that difficult to reidentify people even after data has been anonymised. And in most cases, the EPA does not own the data, so it’s not theirs to give out. Many researchers and companies would likely refuse to hand it over if asked, so it becomes impossible for the EPA to use this data. In any case, the current system of peer-reviewed research should be sufficient to ensure that the agency is using sound science in its regulations, says Rosenberg. “I review around 30 studies a year for academic journals, and I never review the raw data,” he says. “That doesn’t tell you whether the study was well-conducted. What tells you that is the methodology, how it was applied, the sampling scheme – the things that reviewers look at on a regular basis.” The bill is the latest move in Smith’s long-running feud with the EPA. He previously sponsored a similar bill, the Secret Science Reform Act, which made many of the same demands. That fizzled out after President Obama threatened to veto it, but Rosenberg fears that with the Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, and with President Trump in the White House, there is now a danger that the HONEST Act could become law. Read more: US conservative bill aims to axe EPA – here’s why it won’t work
News Article | April 17, 2017
Federal tax reform briefly took center stage when US President Donald J. Trump said it would be emphasized after Speaker of the US House of Representatives Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) withdrew congressional Republicans' first health care reform bill of 2017 on Mar. 24.
News Article | April 25, 2017
Pete D’Alessandro, who helped guide Vermont senator to virtual tie in Iowa caucuses, will seek swing seat in third district in big test of progressive grassroots The grassroots movement that fueled Bernie Sanders’ rise to prominence in the 2016 Democratic primary has just produced one of its first congressional candidates. The Guardian has learned that Pete D’Alessandro, who helped guide the Vermont senator to a virtual tie with frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses, will announce he is exploring a bid for Congress in Iowa’s third congressional district on Tuesday. D’Alessandro is a veteran political operative who worked on campaigns for Paul Wellstone, Bill Bradley and a number of Iowa Democrats before becoming Bernie Sanders’ first campaign staffer in Iowa in the summer of 2015. The district is a swing seat comprising Des Moines, its suburbs and south-western Iowa. Obama won the district twice before Donald Trump edged out Hillary Clinton in 2016. D’Alessandro will seek to challenge Republican David Young in 2018. A two-term incumbent, Young was a longtime Republican aide on Capitol Hill before being elected to Congress. In a statement to the Guardian, D’Alessandro said: “For the past several months, progressives throughout Iowa’s third congressional district have contacted me and have asked me to consider running for the US House of Representatives. The many offers of support have been humbling. It is clear that a great many people believe it is not possible to change the clutter in Washington DC if we choose our candidates from the same failed pool that we have in the recent past.” D’Alessandro’s bid represents a key test for the electoral prospects of Sanders’ allies. The seat has long been a political battleground and is expected to be once again in 2018 as Democrats try to regain their majority in the House of Representatives. Although several candidates who tied themselves to Sanders ran in a special election in California’s 34th district in March, that district is safely Democratic. D’Alessandro’s race will mark a key measuring stick if the progressive message pushed by Sanders works in what is expected to be a competitive congressional primary and potentially in a swing district in November. Young already lost a major ally in March when a Super Pac tied to the House speaker, Paul Ryan, pulled out of his district after Young announced his opposition to the American Health Care Act, the ultimately unsuccessful Republican effort to repeal Obamacare. The group spent nearly $2m on Young’s behalf in 2016.
News Article | May 8, 2017
Barack Obama will be remembered for many things during his eight years as President and this will include injecting a newfangled dose of modern humour into the White House. From his quip-bursting White House Correspondents Dinner speeches to his mimicking of viral memes while navigating the late night TV circuit, the former President's wit was a defining feature of his tenure. Now in typical Obama fashion, the Chicago native has jokingly thanked Michelle Obama for sticking with him now they have left the White House. Accepting the John F Kennedy Library Foundation's "Profile in Courage" Award at a ceremony in Boston, he paid tribute to the former First Lady for staying with him in civilian life. "I also want to thank Michelle Obama for, after the presidency, sticking with me," he said prompting raucous laughter from the audience. "Because I think she felt an obligation to the country to stay on, but once her official duties were over, it wasn't clear." "I love my wife. And I'm grateful for her, and I do believe that it was America's great good fortune to have her as First Lady." The couple, both Chicago natives, met in the late 1980's at a local law firm called Sidley & Austin. At the age of just 25, Michelle was assigned as a mentor to an associate who was, you guessed it, Mr Obama. Michelle initially pushed back when he first asked her out, once saying in an interview that she felt it would be ”tacky“ if they started going out because they were ”the only two black people“ at the company. But she did not resist for long and they started dating later that summer and by 1991 they were engaged and 1992 married. Mr Obama also used his acceptance speech for the John F Kennedy Library Foundation’s award on Sunday to express his "fervent hope" Congress members would transcend party political lines when thinking about the imperative issue of healthcare in the US. Watch NBC Nightly News on Yahoo View, available on iOS and Android. His words came just days after the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives narrowly approved a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare on Thursday. This is a victory for President Donald Trump who has called the 2010 law, which enabled 20 million more Americans to get health insurance, a "disaster." During a reference to former President John F Kennedy's book on political courage, he said many Congress members risked and ultimately relinquished their seats when they cast a vote for the Affordable Care Act which was widely dubbed Obamacare. "As everyone here now knows, this great debate is not settled but continues. And it is my fervent hope, and the hope of millions that, regardless of party, such courage is still possible,” Mr Obama said. "That today's members of Congress, regardless of party, are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth even when it contradicts party positions." Mr Obama has adhered to the convention of giving new President's some leeway in the early period of the administration and ceased to mention his successor President Trump by name in the speech. He has also opted against directly remarking on the billionaire property developer in his three public appearances since leaving the White House in January.
News Article | May 5, 2017
Senator Bernie Sanders could hardly contain his laughter after Donald Trump admitted Australia’s universal healthcare was better than the US system. Speaking with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull the same day the US House of Representatives narrowly passed a healthcare bill aimed at undoing Obamacare, the US President claimed healthcare was failing and that Australia’s publicly-funded system was better. “Right now Obamacare is failing. We have a failing — I shouldn't say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia, because you have better healthcare than we do…” he said. The irony of his comments was not lost on Mr Sanders, who laughed before thanking the Republican leader for highlighting the need for universal healthcare coverage. The Democrat socialist, who lost out to Hillary Clinton in the party’s presidential nominations, encouraged the former real estate mogul to move to a universal healthcare system after it emerged the new GOP healthcare bill could leave millions of Americans without cover. "The President has just said it. That's great. Let's take a look at the Australian healthcare system, and maybe he wants to look at the Canadian healthcare system, or systems throughout Europe. Thank you Mr President, let us move to a Medicare for all system," Mr Sanders told MSNBC. Australia's Medicare system was introduced in the 1970s to work alongside the private system and ensure that all Australians were able to access healthcare coverage, irrespective of income. Thursday’s 217-213 vote was a significant triumph for Mr Trump, who repeatedly promised during his campaign to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's healthcare law. Mr Trump suffered a major setback in March after a vote on an earlier version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was dramatically cancelled at the last minute when it failed to gain enough Republican support. Twenty Republicans voted against the legislation, which was fully rejected by Democrats. The AHCA now faces an uphill battle in the Senate, but Mr Trump feels confident about the result. “It’s going to an unbelievable victory when we get it through the Senate,” he said.
News Article | May 5, 2017
Oil prices have fallen sharply along with other commodities as the prospect of slowing growth in the US and China blunts optimism about the global economy. Stocks fell across the Asia Pacific region for the third day running thanks to a 5% drop in the oil price on concerns of a supply glut. Analysts have forecast further losses amid signs that demand will not be strong enough to soak up the excess production. Iron ore and copper also fell sharply and analysts warned of a gathering commodities rout. “The falls in commodities prices definitely tell us there is some kind of a moderation under way in the global economy and I would advise taking some money off the table at these levels,” said Cliff Tan of Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ in Hong Kong. Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, said: “The commodity optimism of earlier this year looks to be in the process of being completely unwound. Last night’s sharp drop in the oil price and further weakness in metals prices will deliver another negative start for [resource stocks] today.” Oil prices plunged to five-month lows on Thursday amid record trading volume in Brent crude, as Opec and other producers appeared to rule out deeper supply cuts to reduce the world’s persistent glut of crude. The cartel agreed to cut production in December but the price bounce from the resulting reduction in supply has waned. Compounding the situation, US crude output has risen more than 10% since mid-2016 to 9.3 million barrels per day, Reuters said, levels not far off the biggest producers Russia and Saudi Arabia Brent, the global benchmark, settled at $48.38, or 4.75% lower, after tumbling as much as 5.17% during the session. US crude ended the session 4.81% lower at $45.52 per barrel after falling as much as 5.29% to an intraday low of $45.29, the lowest since 29 November. Copper prices slid to four-month lows, following their biggest one-day drop in 20 months while Chinese iron ore futures tumbled 8% on Thursday on concerns that global commodity demand are set to fall sharply. The weakness in commodities washed over to stocks, countering some fairly solid earnings reports and some cautious optimism about Donald Trump’s reform plans after the US House of Representatives passed a healthcare overhaul. Australia’s ASX200 share index was down 0.8%, weighed by the mining and resource sectors, while the Hang Seng was off 1.25%. Japan and South Korea remain closed for the spring holiday. The FTSE 100 was set to open slightly down on Friday morning, according to futures trading. In currencies, the Australian dollar has been hit hard, falling nearly 0.5% against the US dollar in the past 24 hours. It is currently buying US73.75c, down from US74.27c. Traders also remained cautious ahead of Friday’s US government payrolls report, following March’s underwhelming 98,000 figure. Economists on average expect 185,000 jobs were created in April. Commodity Trading Advisors were among those liquidating their oil contracts, traders said. “While Opec is expected to extend a self-imposed production cap by another six months, it will be a challenge to convince several non-Opec members to follow suit,” said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy. “Persistent growth in US oil production ... will also make extensions of the Opec cap beyond 2017 unlikely.” There was also a sign of slowing energy demand in China, the world’s second largest oil consumer, when a survey showed growth in that country’s services sector in April was at its slowest in almost a year. Late last year, Opec and other producing countries announced production cuts of 1.8 million barrels per day for the first six months of this year. Even so, Gene McGillian, manager of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut, said, “We still have a near record overhang and signs of increasing production in areas of the world outside the producers that agreed to the cuts.” “At some point, the market should recognize Opec isn’t the most important player in the market any more,” said Commerzbank’s Eugen Weinberg, “That is non-Opec, and, above all, US shale.”
News Article | May 22, 2017
The US Supreme Court rejects a North Carolina congressional redistricting scheme, ruling that race was used to dilute the strength of African-American voters (AFP Photo/MARK WILSON) Washington (AFP) - The US Supreme Court on Monday said Republican legislators in the state of North Carolina illegally used race to draw up congressional districts that would dilute the strength of African-American voters. In a 5-3 ruling, the top US court agreed with plaintiffs who said that the redrawn electoral boundaries deliberately targeted minority voters to diminish their political power. "A state may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines unless it has a compelling reason," Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion. The ruling is important because North Carolina is a "swing state," one that vacillated between voting for Republicans and Democrats. African-American voters traditionally support the Democratic Party, while Republicans have an advantage with whites voters. North Carolina redrew its congressional map in 2011, shortly after Democratic President Barack Obama, a target of the conservative Tea Party movement, lost his majority in the US House of Representatives. According to The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization that submitted a friend-of-the-court brief, the North Carolina state legislature intentionally packed thousands of black voters into two congressional districts where they already consistently elected Democratic candidates. By raising the populations of voting-age African-Americans in those districts to above 50 percent, "the General Assembly sought to diminish the impact of black voters in other parts of the state," the Center said. North Carolina insisted that it made good-faith efforts to abide by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlaws racial discrimination in the US electoral process. The law requires states to take into account their minority populations -- generally prohibiting reducing minority-voting power through redistricting -- but not make that the defining principle in drawing up electoral maps. Conservative justice Neil Gorsuch, recently appointed to the top US court by President Donald Trump, did not participate in the decision. Redrawing electoral maps to gain political advantage -- a practice known as gerrymandering -- is a long-used tool by US political parties. The term comes from the name of a 19th-century US vice president, Elbridge Gerry, who as governor of Massachusetts carved up electoral districts into what looked like a salamander. The press dubbed the map The Gerry-mander.
News Article | May 23, 2017
President Donald Trump’s Administration plans to gut funding to healthcare and medical research, according to a 2018 budget published online and rapidly withdrawn on Monday. Despite a campaign pledge not to touch Medicaid, which provides healthcare cover for millions of Americans on low incomes or with disability, Trump’s budget includes a $610 billion cut to the programme over 10 years. That’s on top of the more than $800 billion in cuts included in the American Health Care Act passed by the US House of Representatives. Food stamps are also on the chopping block. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps people on low incomes to buy food, is slated for a $193 billion funding cut over the next decade. Medical research could take a hit, too. The budget calls for slashing $5.8 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health and cutting $1 billion from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country’s health protection agency. It also includes deep cuts to programmes that aim to prevent substance abuse, while the US is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. If enacted, the proposed budget would withhold all federal funds from facilities that provide abortions. Other scientific organisations stand to lose out on funding, to varying degrees. The Department of Energy is facing a 16.6 per cent cut to the Office of Science, which oversees 10 national laboratories that investigate clean energy. The department’s advanced green energy programme ARPA-E is slated for termination. NASA is set to lose out on $200 million – just under 1 per cent of the organisation’s current budget. “The budget is really hostile to scientific innovation and technological innovation,” says Rob Cowin, the director of government affairs for the Climate & Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The Environmental Protection Agency is facing a suggested 31.4 per cent reduction in government funding. This will hit hardest for minority groups and people on low incomes, because these people tend to live in areas most affected by a lack of public health regulations, says Cowin. “I honestly believe that it’s going to be hard to get a lot of members of congress to support the kind of cuts that the president is proposing in most agencies, but especially in the EPA,” Cowin says. Brian Schatz, Hawaii state senator and Democrat, described the cuts as “cruel”. Early responses from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress suggest this budget is unlikely to pass in its current form, says Cowin. “It’s going to be hard for the president to get what he wants,” he says. “Certainly nothing this extreme will pass.” Read more: Obamacare’s replacement a giant step backwards for US healthcare; US healthcare still lags far behind other developed nations; What Trump’s US Supreme Court pick means for women’s health
News Article | May 10, 2017
Pro-Europe win raises scientists’ hopes Researchers in France reacted with relief and optimism to Emmanuel Macron’s sweeping victory in the country’s presidential elections on 7 May. Macron decisively defeated his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National party, who had threatened to take France out of the European Union. The pro-European president-elect promised in his campaign to save France’s research and higher-education budgets from cuts and to launch a science-driven innovation programme to create jobs. Cap on grants The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, will limit the amount of funding that scientists supported by the agency can hold at any one time. The policy, announced on 2 May, is intended to make it easier for early- and mid-career scientists to obtain NIH grants. The agency said it will not set a hard limit on the number of grants or the amount of funding that individual researchers can receive. Instead, it will introduce a grant-support index that assigns a point value to each type of grant on the basis of its complexity and size. Currently, just 10% of grant recipients win more than 40% of the NIH’s research money. Mixed societies A total of 36 women were inducted last week into the leading scientific societies of the United States and the United Kingdom. On 2 May, the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) announced 84 new members, 23 of whom (27%) are women. And on 5 May, the Royal Society, Britain’s oldest and most prestigious scientific society, named 13 women (26%) in its 2017 class of 50 fellows. In addition, NAS president Marcia McNutt, a geophysicist, was made a foreign member of the Royal Society. New shores David Lipman is stepping down as director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in Bethesda, Maryland, the institute announced on 3 May. Lipman, who has directed the NCBI since its creation in 1988, was responsible for launching the literature database PubMed and the DNA-sequence repository GenBank, along with other public bioinformatics databases. Lipman will now serve as chief science officer at a private food-science company, Impossible Foods in Redwood City, California. Failed deal Dutch universities have failed to reach a new agreement with Oxford University Press (OUP) over access to the publisher’s academic journals. On 1 May, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands, which led the negotiations, said that the country’s research universities were unable to agree to the British publisher’s latest licensing proposal, because it did not include an offer for affordable open access to research articles in OUP journals. The Netherlands aims to make the results of all publicly funded science freely accessible by 2020. Secret mission After nearly 718 days in space, the US Air Force’s unmanned X-37B spaceplane landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on 7 May. The reusable plane, which looks like a miniature space shuttle, was on an unspecified mission to carry out experiments in orbit. It was the fourth and longest flight yet for the military programme, and the first to land in Florida rather than at an Air Force base in California. DIY memo The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm has called on European Union member states to review their procedures for authorizing do-it-yourself gene-engineering kits produced in the United States. The kits, which are intended to contain a harmless strain of the common laboratory bacterium Escherichia coli, use CRISPR precision-editing technologies and are targeted at citizen scientists. The move followed the discovery in March by German authorities that some kits had been contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, including some multidrug-resistant strains. Germany has since banned their import. The ECDC’s assessment report concluded that the risk of infection to users is low. Dead flowers A paperwork blunder has led to the accidental destruction of a valuable botanical reference collection, according to media reports. In March, biosecurity officers with the Australian quarantine authorities destroyed allegedly mislabelled samples of rare nineteenth-century daisies, which the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris had sent on loan to Brisbane. Australian authorities have asked for a review of the incident, the BBC reports. Call for diversity Canadian universities must develop plans to diversify the composition of some of their most prestigious posts, according to a requirement announced on 4 May by a trio of science-funding agencies. The new rule applies to the Can$265-million (US$194-million) Canada Research Chairs Program, which funds an estimated 1,600 professorships at Canadian higher-education institutions. By December, universities with five or more research chairs must present a plan to increase the representation of women, indigenous peoples and other minority groups, as well as people with disabilities. Progress reports are required annually, and the agencies warned that failure to fulfil the requirements could result in the withholding of funds. Advisers axed The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has dismissed at least five academic researchers from a scientific advisory board. The scientists were notified on 5 May that their appointments to the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors had expired and would not be renewed, according to media reports. An EPA official said the agency would consider replacing them with representatives from EPA-regulated industries. The US House of Representatives has also passed a Republican-sponsored bill to restructure another EPA advisory board; critics say the legislation would make it easier for industry representatives to serve. Nazi review Germany’s Max Planck Society has launched a €1.5-million (US$1.6-million), three-year study to discover as much as possible about the victims of Nazi euthanasia programmes whose brains were acquired by scientists for neuroscience research. Around 200,000 physically or mentally disabled people were murdered during the programmes. On 2 May, the society named a four-member international team that will try to identify those victims whose remains are still in Max Planck institutes and those who were interred in a special ceremony in 1990. The team will also try to reconstruct exactly what happened to the brain preparations, and how they may have been used in research and research publications. Irrational doctrine Serbia’s evolutionary society has expressed concern over a renewed attack on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by some 170 Serbian academics, including engineers, physicians, artists, philosophers, journalists, teachers and clergy. On 3 May, the group signed a petition to include the teaching of creationist theory in schools and universities. The academics also claim in a letter to the education and science ministry, the parliament, Serbia’s Academy of Sciences and Arts and its leading universities that Darwin’s “dogmatic” theory lacks scientific confirmation. In response, scientists with the evolutionary society said that the signatories and their creationist reasoning lack understanding of simple biology. In 2004, the Serbian education ministry had attempted in vain to ban evolutionary theory from school curricula. Charitable donations to British universities surpassed the £1-billion (US$1.3-billion) milestone for the first time last year. The 110 universities that took part in the latest Ross–CASE survey of charitable giving secured a total of £1.06 billion in philanthropic income in the academic year 2015–16. Donations were up 23% on the previous year and have almost tripled over the past 12 years. Fifty-five per cent of this income came from organizations, and 45% from individual donors. 15–16 May A Royal Society meeting in Newport Pagnell, UK, addresses how long-term climate change has affected marine palaeolandscapes. 15–19 May The International Conference on Precision Physics and Fundamental Physical Constants takes place in Warsaw.
Stark P.,US House of Representatives
The American journal of managed care | Year: 2010
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which was enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, calls for an unprecedented federal investment in health information technology (IT). Incentive payments will be made available through the Medicare programs and Medicaid to doctors and hospitals that use health IT in a meaningful way (ie, to advance delivery of high-quality healthcare). These IT systems have to be certified as meeting certain technological standards. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that HITECH will reduce federal and private sector spending on health services during the next decade by tens of billions of dollars by increasing efficiency.