Articles on this Page
- 09/25/16--19:37: _Watch Live: The fir...
- 09/28/16--11:45: _After the recession...
- 09/28/16--12:20: _Two students and a ...
- 09/28/16--13:26: _Here’s who’s seen T...
- 09/28/16--13:57: _Where do the presid...
- 09/28/16--14:10: _7 things you didn’t...
- 09/28/16--14:17: _Air rage is taking ...
- 09/28/16--14:21: _How do the Affordab...
- 09/28/16--15:20: _Maureen Dowd on why...
- 09/28/16--15:25: _How and why we need...
- 09/28/16--15:25: _For African-America...
- 09/28/16--15:30: _Remembering Shimon ...
- 09/28/16--15:35: _Bombing onslaught i...
- 09/28/16--15:40: _Does the bill permi...
- 09/28/16--15:45: _News Wrap: Congress...
- 09/28/16--15:50: _With debate momentu...
- 09/29/16--10:50: _Shake shake shake. ...
- 09/29/16--12:11: _Column: The psychol...
- 09/29/16--12:50: _Obama signs bill to...
- 09/29/16--13:32: _If DEA blocks krato...
- Who is Hillary Clinton?
- What President Hillary Clinton would do on day 1
- What does Hillary Clinton believe?
- 09/28/16--11:45: After the recession, entrepreneurs are on the rebound, study says
- 09/28/16--12:20: Two students and a teacher wounded in South Carolina school shooting
- 09/28/16--13:57: Where do the presidential candidates stand on guns?
- 09/28/16--14:10: 7 things you didn’t know about lead
- 09/28/16--14:17: Air rage is taking off around the world, say airlines
- 09/28/16--14:21: How do the Affordable Care Act and Medicare interact?
- 09/28/16--15:25: How and why we need to get the lead out of our lives
- 09/28/16--15:30: Remembering Shimon Peres, a founding father of Israel
- 09/28/16--15:50: With debate momentum, Clinton works to win over young voters
- 09/29/16--10:50: Shake shake shake. Planet Mercury may have earthquakes
- 09/29/16--12:11: Column: The psychology behind why clowns creep us out
- 09/29/16--12:50: Obama signs bill to fund government until December
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off at Hofstra University in New York for the first of three 2016 presidential debates. Who will win the night? Watch PBS NewsHour live here or on you local PBS station. After the debate, stay tuned for analysis from Mark Sheilds, David Brooks and the PBS NewsHour politics team.
While you’re gearing up to watch the debate, thumb through PBS Newshour’s coverage of the issues, the candidates and the state of the race.
The post Watch Live: The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
On Wednesday, PBS NewsHour special correspondent April Brown explored issues that African-American entrepreneurs face.
Nearly a decade after the Great Recession, entrepreneurship in industrialized countries shows small but promising signs of recovery.
In the United States, the number of businesses created this year is still down 15 percent compared to 2007, according to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But when researchers looked at the first six months of this year, they noticed 12 nations with new business growth, including 0.6 percent in the United States.
Economist Mariarosa Lunati has studied entrepreneurship within these nations for more than a decade for the organization, and she said that’s a “very positive sign.”
It took a long time to build up investor and consumer confidence after the economic crisis swept the globe, she said, which accounts for the slow rebirth of new businesses. Among the countries studied, Finland was the worst hit and is halfway to the 2007 rate, while France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden are better off today than they were before the recession.
To gauge the health of entrepreneurship, Lunati and a team of researchers analyzed 27 indicators, such as business openings, closure, size and owner diversity, across 37 industrialized nations.
Positive New Business Growth in Industrialized Nations
Among entrepreneurs in industrialized nations, one out of 10 are women, and men were more likely than women to say they could access the money and training to start a business, the report said. But once women overcome those barriers and start their businesses, they are just as confident about their work as their male counterparts.
“It confirms that it makes sense to support women entrepreneurship,” Lunati said.
To “level the playing field” and encourage more women to spearhead their own ventures, Congress approved funding for a network of women’s business centers through the Small Business Administration in 1988.
Today, there are nearly 100 centers scattered across the United States. Since the late 1980s, businesses owned by women have grown nearly sixfold nationwide — from 5 percent to 29 percent, said Kiesha Haughton, the managing director for the Maryland Women’s Business Center.
Each year, about 1,600 women come to her center to build networks, share tips and introduce each other to new opportunities, Haughton said.
But challenges still emerge, especially for women who want work in fields dominated by men, Haughton said. Less than a decade ago, she met a woman who owned a construction company near Baltimore and reported problems securing bids for contracts on new projects.
“What she found out was they were putting solicitations in the men’s bathroom, and she’d have to go into the men’s bathroom to find solicitations,” Haughton said.
When Jaimie Mertz decided three years ago to start her own business, the 27-year-old gluten-free baker from Bethesda, Maryland, said the hardest part of running a business was just “getting it started.”
She built a website and bakes banana-chocolate vegan muffins, kale-turmeric loaf and custom birthday and wedding cakes for up to 10 hours a day to sell online and at local farmers’ markets. She loves talking about oat flour and toys with paleo recipes. And that’s not counting her other full-time job working with accounting software clients.
“I’m suppose to be answering to my day job from 8-to-5 like a normal person,” she said. “I’m usually baking at the same time.”
Mertz turned to the local economic development centers and the Maryland Women’s Business Center for advice on securing finance, insurance (she needed 17 different kinds) and licenses as she developed her business.
But she said she hopes her efforts will soon pay off. With a $181,000 small business loan and $30,000 of her personal savings, she said she plans to open a brick-and-mortar bakery in November. She purchased a 60-quart standing mixer along with a pair of refrigerators and freezers and wants to hire staff.
Mertz said she knows the first year can be tough for any new restaurant and business, but she’s ready.
“You’re figuring out the whole thing as you go along,” she said.
The post After the recession, entrepreneurs are on the rebound, study says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Town officials and law enforcement spoke at a news conference Wednesday, providing preliminary details on a shooting at Townville Elementary School in South Carolina, where two children and a teacher were injured. Video by PBS NewsHour
A teenager opened fire at an elementary school in Anderson County, South Carolina, on Wednesday, wounding two students and a teacher, authorities said.
Two children and one teacher were injured in the shooting at Townville Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon, town officials told reporters this afternoon.
Capt. Garland Major of the Anderson County sheriff’s office told reporters that the shooter, armed with a handgun, was taken into custody within minutes of officers arriving at the scene.
The captain said one student was shot in the leg, while another was shot in the foot. The third victim, a female teacher, was wounded in the shoulder. The injuries do not appear to be life-threatening
A body found nearly two miles from school is believed to be the shooter’s father, police said. The teen, who police has in custody and has yet to identify, apparently shot and killed his 47-year-old father around 1:45 p.m. today before descending on the school to continue the carnage.
Shortly after the shooting, students and teachers were evacuated by bus to a nearby church. All three people injured in the shooter were transported to a nearby trauma center, WYFF TV reported
“My heart is sick for Anderson & South Carolina. Praying initial reports of no loss of life remain true & for those injured and their families,” Sen. Tim Scott tweeted.
My heart is sick for Anderson&South Carolina.Praying initial reports of no loss of life remain true & for those injured and their families
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) September 28, 2016
Gov. Nikki Haley released a statement following the shooting.
“As we work together with law enforcement to make sure they have the support they need to investigate what happened in Townville, Michael and I ask that everyone across South Carolina join us in praying for the entire Townville Elementary School family and those touched by today’s tragedy,” the governor said.
The school is located in a small hamlet nearby the Georgia state line. It houses nearly 280 students in pre-kindergarten to sixth-grade classes.
The post Two students and a teacher wounded in South Carolina school shooting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — While Donald Trump won’t publicly release his income tax returns, the New York businessman has turned them over when it suited his needs — if he stood to make a profit, needed a loan or when a judge forced him.
Pennsylvania gaming regulators were given at least five years’ worth and eight boxes full of Trump’s tax documents. Nevada, Michigan, Missouri, Indiana and other state gaming officials also had access to multiple years of his returns. Large banks that lent Trump money over the years have also obtained Trump’s returns.
One common thread ties all those who have seen the documents: They can’t talk about them.
In all cases reviewed by The Associated Press, each person, organization, company or government office that has seen Trump’s tax returns is barred from discussing their full contents by professional or legal restrictions.
For example, employees of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board could face criminal penalties if they leaked information from Trump’s tax returns maintained in the board’s electronic files. Missouri officials are similarly barred from discussing the returns by state law.
That leaves the public knowing little about Trump’s more recent finances beyond the few details that have trickled out in public documents unearthed by reporters, Trump’s own self-reported estimations of his wealth and statements like the one he made in Monday’s debate.
While Democrat Hillary Clinton questioned whether Trump’s tax returns might reveal that he has paid little or no taxes, Trump said he was “smart” for not paying federal income taxes in some years.
Trump referred to public documents unearthed by Politico showing he didn’t pay any federal income tax during at least two years in the early 1990s because he lost more money than he earned. Other documents show he also didn’t pay any federal income taxes in 1978, 1979 and 1984, but the documents provided only limited information about other aspects of Trump’s finances that could be settled by him releasing his tax returns.
Trump has repeatedly refused to release his tax returns citing an IRS audit, but the IRS and tax experts have said an audit doesn’t bar Trump from making the documents public. Since 1976, every major party nominee has released the returns and Clinton has publicly released nearly 40 years’ worth. Even Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, released 10 years of his tax returns.
Trump’s tax returns would reveal his charitable contributions. Despite boasting of sweeping generosity, the AP reported more than a year ago that there is little record of substantial personal philanthropy from Trump. Trump has been dogged by questions about his personal giving and how his namesake foundation operates. The Washington Post has reported that Trump used donations given by others to pay for legal settlements, political contributions and even purchase portraits of himself.
The returns would also reveal how much Trump earned from his assets, helping someone work back to an approximation of his net worth to compare to his own estimation. Though the returns wouldn’t give an exact measure.
Trump’s own estimates of his income and net worth have previously been scrutinized by those who had access to his taxes.[Watch Video]
Donald Trump stands alone as a presidential candidate who refuses to release his tax returns. The GOP nominee says he is waiting until the Internal Revenue Service finishes its audit, a process that could last as long as seven years. Hillary Clinton and her supporters say he must be hiding something. Lisa Desjardins offers some context behind the headlines.
For a decade, Trump tangled with New York City authorities over his city tax bill, a battle first reported in June by journalist David Cay Johnston in The Daily Beast.
In Trump’s 1984 tax filings, he said he had lost money during a time in which he had just completed Trump Tower and regularly boasted about the success of his business deals. Trump also declared that he was primarily a consultant that year, and that his consulting business had $684,000 in business expenses and no income. He provided no receipts to justify the claimed expenses.
City tax authorities didn’t buy it — and after Trump appealed his tax bill, they fought with him for the next ten years. Trump lost and was ordered to pay the taxes on more than $1 million in income.
Trump’s multibillion-dollar fortune has also been questioned by banks that demanded his tax returns before lending him money. Commercial lenders generally require both personal and business tax returns as part of a loan application, and Trump provided such information to North Fork Bank in 2004 and 2005.
According to a deposition of Trump taken in a defamation lawsuit he filed against journalist Tim O’Brien, North Fork concluded that Trump’s net worth was $1.2 billion and not the $3.5 billion he had said. Deutsche Bank also reviewed Trump’s finances as of 2004, deeming him to be worth “give or take $788 million,” according to the deposition.
Trump, who disputed the findings in the deposition, lost the defamation suit.
AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson contributed to this report.
The post Here’s who’s seen Trump’s tax returns (and it’s not just his accountant) appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
ATLANTA — The right to bear arms is fundamental to the U.S., carved into the Constitution and seemingly embedded in the national DNA. But after a seemingly endless stretch of violence, Americans are confronting how far those rights extend, propelling gun issues to the forefront of this year’s elections.
Do Americans have the right to have AR-style firearms, the long guns with a military look used in the past year in several mass shootings? Should they be able to buy magazines that hold 10 or more bullets? Can those on a terrorist watchlist, but not charged with a crime, be allowed to buy a gun? Should every gun buyer have to pass a background check?
WHERE THEY STAND
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are like bookends marking the divide that exists in the U.S. today on gun issues.
Trump casts himself as an ardent protector of the Second Amendment and proclaims that if more “good guys” were armed with firearms there would be fewer gun tragedies. He even went a step further than the National Rifle Association after the Orlando nightclub shooting, suggesting that if it weren’t a gun-free zone, a patron would have been able to stop the bloodshed. (The NRA, while supporting Trump, said it’s not a good idea to allow firearms where alcohol is being served.)
Trump also has vowed that on his first day as president he would end gun-free zones at schools and on military bases. He also supports reciprocity among all 50 states for concealed-carry permits.
Clinton, whose husband as president successfully pushed for a 10-year ban on assault-type weapons, has advocated renewing that ban. She’s also called for measures to ensure background checks are completed before a gun sale goes forward, mandating such checks for gun-show sales and repealing a law that shields gun manufacturers from liability.
WHY IT MATTERS
The next president will get to nominate at least one member of a Supreme Court that’s closely divided on how to read the Second Amendment, and the next Congress will continue to confront gun-rights issues.
Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February and will be replaced by a nominee from the next president, was the decisive vote in a Washington, D.C., case in which the court on a 5-4 vote affirmed the right of individuals to own handguns for self-defense.
Whatever gun policies a Clinton or Trump administration were to pursue would probably be challenged, and Scalia’s replacement could be the pivotal vote. This year alone, for example, the court sided with gun control advocates to rule that people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes can be barred from owning weapons, and also rejected challenges to assault weapon bans in Connecticut and New York.
A recent AP-GfK Poll found the highest levels of support for restrictions on guns since the question was first asked in 2013. That’s a sharp departure from the past two presidential election years, when gun issues were largely absent from the campaigns.
Much has happened to bring guns to the forefront again: Charleston. Orlando. Oregon. San Bernardino. There’s even been a protest staged by members of Congress on the floor of the House.
There are roughly 300 million firearms in the United States and tens of thousands of shootings each year.
In a world that feels increasingly violent, whether at home or across the globe, America’s cowboy culture and the Second Amendment are under the microscope. Voters are asking what will make them safer, more guns or fewer?
The post Where do the presidential candidates stand on guns? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Tonight on the PBS NewsHour, Miles O’Brien takes a deep dive into the hazards and history of lead. Here are seven facts to get you started.
1. Before it was banned from gasoline in the 1990s, three common environmental sources of lead were pipes, paint and fuel.
2. Lead melts at 621 degrees Farenheit, a relatively low temperature for metals. The malleable metal used to be a popular choice for plumbers.
3. An estimated 10 million U.S. homes still connect to water mains with lead pipes.
4. The Romans knew lead was dangerous. The physician Dioscorides wrote, “Lead makes the mind give way.”
5. Lead is an impostor. It is so similar to calcium that human cells take on lead instead.
6. Higher lead levels in teeth are tied to lower IQs, behavior problems and language delays.
7. Have lead pipes? Over time, other metals in water actually interact with lead to create a protective barrier.
But what happens when this barrier goes away? For that and more on lead, tune in to Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour for Miles O’Brien’s in-depth report on the toxin. And check out digital science producer Nsikan Akpan’s story on an unexpected new tool for removing lead from water.
WASHINGTON — Incidents of unruly passengers on planes are increasing, and more effective deterrents are needed to tackle the problem, a global airline trade group said Wednesday.
There were 10,854 air rage incidents reported by airlines worldwide last year, up from 9,316 incidents in 2014, according to the International Air Transport Association. That equates to one incident for every 1,205 flights, an increase from one incident per 1,282 flights the previous year.
Incidents have been rising almost consistently since 2007, when the association began tracking the issue. That year airlines reported 339 incidents to the association.
A majority of incidents involved verbal abuse, failure to follow crew instructions and other anti-social behavior. Eleven percent included physical aggression toward passengers or crew or damage to the plane. Alcohol or drugs were a factor in 23 percent of the cases. In the vast majority of incidents involving drugs or alcohol, the substances were consumed before boarding or imbibed secretly on board, the association said.
Training staff in airport bars and duty-free shops to sell alcohol responsibly, including avoiding offers that encourage binge drinking, can cut incidents by half, the association said, citing an initiative by Monarch Airlines at London’s Gatwick Airport.
Airlines already have strong guidelines and crew training on “the responsible provision of alcohol,” the association said.
A woman in England pleaded guilty in June to assaulting an easyJet pilot. Prosecutors said she punched the pilot in the face after he deemed her too intoxicated to fly. In another case, a male passenger allegedly urinated on fellow easyJet passengers as they were waiting to deplane after landing at Edinburgh.
Six men involved in a drunken brawl during a Jetstar flight from Sydney to Thailand in July were ordered off the plane after it diverted to Indonesia.
An American Airlines pilot tackled one passenger to the floor after he tried to force his way off the plane as it taxied to the gate in Charlotte, North Carolina. “You don’t put your hands on my flight attendant!” the pilot can be heard yelling on a video taken by another passenger. The unruly passenger was arrested and charged with being intoxicated and disruptive.
Charlie Leocha, president of Travelers United, an advocacy group for airline passengers in Washington, said he knows of no changes in the way alcohol is sold in airports or on planes that would account for the increase in the rate of incidents. But he noted that the increases correspond with efforts by airlines to squeeze more passenger seats onto planes by shrinking legroom and seat width.
“We’ve always had alcohol sold at airports, we have always had alcohol served on aircraft,” he said. “The only difference today is that people now have less space and they are required to interact more intimately with other passengers.”
Other recent incidents include a Los Angeles-bound Delta Air Lines flight diverted to Tucson, Arizona, escorted by two Air Force fighter jets, after a passenger refused to return his seat. The following month, the FBI and Hawaii state sheriffs arrested a 35-year-old man who allegedly bit a flight attendant on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Pago Pago in American Samoa to Honolulu.
Airlines also want more countries to ratify a 2014 treaty that closes gaps in laws for dealing with unruly passengers. So far, only six countries — Bahrain, Congo, Dominican Republic, Gabon, Guyana and Jordan — have ratified the pact.
“More are needed in order to have a consistent global approach to this issue,” said Alexandre de Juniac, the association’s director general.
The post Air rage is taking off around the world, say airlines appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on aging and retirement, is here to provide the answers you need in “Ask Phil.” Send your questions to Phil.
Check out his new Recommended Reading section with links to notable stories and reports at the end of today’s post.
Stuart – Texas: I am unable to work and have been receiving disability since 2006. I am not yet 60 years old. When the Affordable Care Act began in 2014, I enrolled in an individual plan through the marketplace and was granted a subsidy because of my income. When I re-enrolled in 2015, the folks at Healthcare.gov refused to give me the subsidy, because I was technically on the Medicare roll (Part A only because of my disability). Now, in 2016, Social Security has added me to Part B, costing me even more. I now am paying a full individual premium through the marketplace plus the Medicare payment of $158 per month. I am not benefiting whatsoever from the Medicare plan. What options do I have?
Phil Moeller: Readers dying to know about the interactions of Medicare and the Affordable Care Act have struck gold today. Of course, I grant you that this might not be an enormous group, but I shall press on nonetheless. Unfortunately, the facts aren’t so favorable for Stuart. I have been in touch with both Medicare and Social Security about this. I have not shared Stuart’s name, so their responses are necessarily general. But I think the situation is clear, especially where it concerns Medicare.
By design, state health exchanges and Medicare are not supposed to work together. Most people signing up for health insurance on a state exchange qualify for subsidies that are often substantial. Given this federal support, providing such subsidies to Medicare beneficiaries would amount to a double subsidy. While Part A of Medicare, which covers hospital expenses, is fully funded by worker payroll taxes, the other parts of Medicare are not fully covered. In fact, taxpayers foot the bill for about 75 percent of Part B expenses and a hefty share of Part D drug expenses and Medicare Advantage plans as well. While Medicare premiums can be expensive for many older and disabled Americans, they would be unaffordable for most of us if we had to pay the full cost of the programs.
A person on Medicare is not entitled to also receive subsidies when they buy an ACA policy on a state exchange. And a person age 65 or older is not even permitted to buy an ACA policy in most situations. The exception is for older persons who do not qualify for premium-free Part A coverage. To qualify, they need to have worked at least 40 quarters (10 years) at jobs where they paid Social Security payroll taxes. Or they need to be married or have been married to someone who worked that many quarters. If not, they will have to pay steep Part A premiums that can exceed $400 a month. This small group of people may continue to purchase ACA policies.
However, ACA subsidies are not available to Medicare beneficiaries who qualify for premium-free Part A coverage. This includes Stuart. Now, I do not know whether Stuart was covered by Medicare at any period from the time of his disability until he signed up on a state exchange in 2015. But he was still on Medicare. How can this be? Because anyone receiving Social Security benefits must, by law, also receive Part A. And anyone receiving Part A is considered to be a Medicare beneficiary. This fact alone — which I grant may appear unfair in some circumstances — is a disqualifying factor when it comes to ACA subsidies, according to Medicare. Someone having either Part A or Part C of Medicare (Part C is the formal name of Medicare Advantage plans) is deemed by the agency to have what’s called Minimum Essential Coverage, or MEC, and having MEC disallows them from receiving any ACA financial support.
My guess is that while Stuart thinks he is getting a bad deal by losing his subsidy this year, the fact is that he never should have been entitled to a subsidy in 2015. The fact that he was is a not uncommon oversight; its one that Medicare has been working to correct. Here’s a statement to that effect from the agency:
CMS is reaching out to the small number of consumers enrolled in both Medicare and Health Insurance Marketplace coverage with financial assistance. We are doing this to make sure they take action to end their Marketplace coverage with advance payments of the premium tax credit because they are receiving Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) Medicare, and thus are not eligible for this financial assistance. It’s important that such consumers do this in a timely manner, to help reduce the amount of advance payments of the premium tax credit the tax filer(s) may have to pay back when they file their federal income tax return. We’re committed to helping consumers with Marketplace coverage and will continue to work with them to understand their options.
So Stuart is 0-for-1 so far. In terms of being signed up by Social Security for Part B of Medicare, it seems to me he is correct that this is inappropriate. However, as I’ll explain, it could be that he winds up needing Part B.
A Social Security spokeswoman said she knows of no reason why Stuart would have been enrolled in Part B. Going back to 2006, when he qualified for disability payments, it’s quite possible that Social Security automatically signed him up for Part B when he became eligible for Medicare. This normally takes at least two years after disability payments have begun. And being entitled to Medicare at any age because of a disability is normally a helpful benefit.
However, Stuart did not have to accept Part B, and it appears he did not. He may have had other private health insurance himself or been insured on his spouse’s health policy. I don’t know. But it’s pretty clear he did not have Part B until Social Security enrolled him in it earlier this year.
“Based on the facts presented in this case,” the Social Security spokeswoman said, “I can’t think of any reason Social Security would have automatically enrolled this disability beneficiary into Medicare Part B 10 years after entitlement to disability benefits.”
If Stuart wants to pursue this matter and avoid paying Part B premiums, I’d suggest he call a local office of the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and ask a Medicare counselor to help him. SHIP deals more with Medicare than Social Security, so he may have to contact Social Security directly, which is what the agency suggested.
However, having lost his ACA income subsidy, there’s a good chance that Stuart’s best insurance deal would actually be to drop his ACA policy, purchase Part B and move onto Medicare. He can do this during the Medicare open enrollment period that begins Oct. 15 and extends through Dec. 7, and his new coverage would take effect next January. This decision means some more homework for Stuart to determine the mix of Medicare policies that make the most sense for him and to then shop for the best available policies. Future installments of Ask Phil will be dealing with open enrollment and can help guide Stuart and others in deciding whether what Medicare coverage they should have in 2017.
David – Calif.: Are there Medicare Advantage plans with a “Passport” feature that provide coverage benefits in two different states? I spend about seven months in California and five months in Washington state each year. Can I just enroll in a new Medicare Advantage plan when I move back and forth?
Phil Moeller: Passport is a trade name used by UnitedHealthcare and describes the portability feature offered by some of its Medicare Advantage plans. While UnitedHealthcare does offer the Passport feature on some Washington plans, a spokeswoman says, it is not available in California. So you are out of luck regarding this particular feature. I have not heard if other insurers offer similar Medicare Advantage plans, but perhaps some readers have. If so, please let me know, and I’ll pass the information on to David.
The idea of enrolling in a new Medicare Advantage plan every time you move back to one of these states is possible in theory, but challenging in practice. According to UnitedHealthcare, you would need to change your legal address every time you move, and make sure the new address has been registered with the Social Security Administration. It is the official arbiter of Medicare enrollments. Even if you do this, enrolling in a new plan every five or seven months would play havoc with your plan deductibles, which would need to be reset every time you switch to a new plan.
If a Medicare Advantage plan does not seem feasible given these constraints, you also could use the upcoming Medicare annual open enrollment period to switch to original Medicare (Parts A and B) plus a stand-alone Part D drug plan. You also should explore whether you can get a Medigap plan to close any coverage gaps in original Medicare. If you’re interested in Medigap, you should use Medicare’s Medigap tool to identify the best policies for you available at your current legal address. Then contact the insurers to see if they will sell to you and what their terms would be. Newcomers to Medicare have guaranteed access rights to Medigap policies on favorable terms. But people already on Medicare may not have these right, so you should check first. Open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Good luck!
Older and disabled Americans have a lot at stake in the upcoming Presidential election. Trying to get an impartial assessment of the issues is hard. The Kaiser Family Foundation certainly is biased to the extent it generally supports more health benefits for people. But its arguments are fact-based and very useful. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation.)
When Larry Kotlikoff, Paul Solman and I wrote our Social Security book last year, we often felt we had walked out onto a very long pier. Readers kept telling us about all the problems and mistakes they were encountering in their efforts to get the Social Security benefits to which they were entitled. But the Social Security Administration kept saying that it was doing a wonderful job, that its websites were winning awards for transparency and effective consumer communications and that its approval ratings were off the charts. Now, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, it turns out that we have a whole lot of company on that pier. The Social Security Administration and its employees are not doing a particularly good job of helping people or of telling them about their benefit choices, the Government Accountability Office found. (Source: Mark Miller for Reuters.)
Rising numbers of older Americans are “aging in place” — staying in their homes well into their later years. People always have preferred to stay in their homes as they age, and advances in “telehealth” and related technologies promise to deliver good and cost-effective care in the home. The trend is also being supported by the rise of age-friendly home design and retrofits, such as safer bathrooms and wheelchair accessible homes and rooms. Now, the push is on for Medicare to ease its restrictions and expand its coverage of in-home care. (Source: John Wasik for The New York Times.)
The post How do the Affordable Care Act and Medicare interact? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The post Maureen Dowd on why politics in 2016 sounds like a ‘primal scream and death rattle’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The post How and why we need to get the lead out of our lives appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The post For African-American female entrepreneurs, funding challenges call for creative bootstrapping appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The post Remembering Shimon Peres, a founding father of Israel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The post Bombing onslaught in Syria triggers condemnation, threatens U.S.-Russia cooperation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The post Does the bill permitting lawsuits against governments set dangerous precedent? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The post News Wrap: Congress ends stalemate over funding bill, averting crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The post With debate momentum, Clinton works to win over young voters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The hills of Mercury are alive with earthquakes, according to a study published Monday in Nature Geoscience. The diminutive planet joins Earth as the only other known tectonically active planet in the Solar System.
“We have to take another look at how rocky planets are evolving,” said Thomas Watters, Smithsonian planetary scientist and study co-author.
The discovery was made thanks to NASA’s MESSENGER probe, which orbited the closest planet to the sun from 2011 to 2015. MESSENGER spotted fault scarps, which are cliff-like features that indicate a history of contractions in the planet’s crust. These scarps are huge, with the largest up to 1,000 kilometers — 621 miles — long.
The smoking gun came when Messenger spotted the presence of small scarps, measuring less than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). “Small landforms are not going to survive for terribly long” due to the asteroid bombardment on Mercury, Watters said, meaning the tectonic activity responsible for them must have occurred recently.
Large fault scarps had been discovered previously by Mariner 10, a NASA probe sent to Mercury in the 1970s, but small scarps had never been observed in the past.
Another cool finding: The tiniest planet in our celestial neighborhood is shrinking. Watters and his colleagues found the planet is becoming smaller due to a cooling core.
Early signs suggest Mercury harbors a single tectonic plate across the entire planet, unlike Earth which sports a mosaic of plates. And this uniform shell appears to be contracting.
“As the interior of the planet cools, it contracts and shrinks,” said Watters. But even though the core is cooling, he added, Mercury’s core remains warm enough to drive movement of these plates. This feature contrasts with Mars, which is tectonically dead.
Mercury’s cooling core is likely accompanied by seismic activity. After detecting evidence of recent slip events on the rocky planet’s large faults, Watters believes Mercury might boast stronger earthquakes than the magnitude-5 events found on our moon.
To confirm “Mercuryquakes,” scientists will need readings from seismic stations on the surface, Watters said.
The post Shake shake shake. Planet Mercury may have earthquakes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
For the past several months, creepy clowns have been terrorizing America, with sightings of actual clowns in at least 10 different states.
These fiendish clowns have reportedly tried to lure women and children into the woods, chased people with knives and machetes, and yelled at people from cars. They’ve been spotted hanging out in cemeteries and they have been caught in the headlights of cars as they appear alongside desolate country roads in the dead of night.
This isn’t the first time there has been a wave of clown sightings in the United States. After eerily similar events occurred in the Boston area in the 1980s, Loren Coleman, a cryptozoologist who studies the folklore behind mythical beasts such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, came up with something called “The Phantom Clown Theory,” which attributes the proliferation of clown sightings to mass hysteria (usually sparked by incidents witnessed only by children).
It’s impossible to determine which of these incidents are hoaxes and which are bona fide tales of clowning around taken to the extreme. Nonetheless, the perpetrators seem to be capitalizing on our longstanding love-hate relationship with clowns, tapping into the primal dread that so many children (and more than a few adults) experience in their presence.
In fact, a 2008 study conducted in England revealed that very few children actually like clowns. It also concluded that the common practice of decorating children’s wards in hospitals with pictures of clowns may create the exact opposite of a nurturing environment. It’s no wonder so many people hate Ronald McDonald.
But as a psychologist, I’m not just interested in pointing out that clowns give us the creeps; I’m also interested in why we find them so disturbing. Earlier this year I published a study entitled “On the Nature of Creepiness” with one of my students, Sara Koehnke, in the journal New Ideas in Psychology. While the study was not specifically looking at the creepiness of clowns, much of what we discovered can help explain this intriguing phenomenon.
The march of the clowns
Clown-like characters have been around for thousands of years. Historically, jesters and clowns have been a vehicle for satire and for poking fun at powerful people. They provided a safety valve for letting off steam and they were granted unique freedom of expression – as long as their value as entertainers outweighed the discomfort they caused the higher-ups.
Jesters and others persons of ridicule go back at least to ancient Egypt, and the English word “clown” first appeared sometime in the 1500s, when Shakespeare used the term to describe foolish characters in several of his plays. The now familiar circus clown – with its painted face, wig and oversized clothing – arose in the 19th century and has changed only slightly over the past 150 years.
Nor is the trope of the evil clown anything new. Earlier this year, writer Benjamin Radford published “Bad Clowns,” in which he traces the historical evolution of clowns into unpredictable, menacing creatures.
The persona of the creepy clown really came into its own after serial killer John Wayne Gacy was captured. In the 1970s, Gacy appeared at children’s birthday parties as “Pogo the Clown” and also regularly painted pictures of clowns. When the authorities discovered that he had killed at least 33 people, burying most of them in the crawl space of his suburban Chicago home, the connection between clowns and dangerous psychopathic behavior became forever fixed in the collective unconscious of Americans.
Following the notoriety of Gacy, Hollywood exploited our deep ambivalence about clowns via a terror-by-clown campaign that shows no signs of going out of fashion. Pennywise, the clown from Stephen King’s 1990 movie “It,” may be the scariest movie clown. But there are also the “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (1988), the scary clown doll under the bed in “Poltergeist” (1982), the zombie clown in “Zombieland” (2009) and, most recently, the murderous clown in “All Hallow’s Eve” (2013).
The nature of creepiness
Psychology, however, can help explain why clowns – the supposed purveyors of jokes and pranks – often end up sending chills down our spines.
My research was the first empirical study of creepiness, and I had a hunch that feeling creeped out might have something to do with ambiguity – about not really being sure how to react to a person or situation.
We recruited 1,341 volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 77 to fill out an online survey. In the first section of the survey, our participants rated the likelihood that a hypothetical “creepy person” would exhibit 44 different behaviors, such as unusual patterns of eye contact or physical characteristics like visible tattoos. In the second section of the survey, participants rated the creepiness of 21 different occupations, and in the third section they simply listed two hobbies that they thought were creepy. In the final section, participants noted how much they agreed with 15 statements about the nature of creepy people.
The results indicated that people we perceive as creepy are much more likely to be males than females (as are most clowns), that unpredictability is an important component of creepiness and that unusual patterns of eye contact and other nonverbal behaviors set off our creepiness detectors big time.
Unusual or strange physical characteristics such as bulging eyes, a peculiar smile or inordinately long fingers did not, in and of themselves, cause us to perceive someone as creepy. But the presence of weird physical traits can amplify any other creepy tendencies that the person might be exhibiting, such as persistently steering conversations toward peculiar sexual topics or failing to understand the policy about bringing reptiles into the office.
When we asked people to rate the creepiness of different occupations, the one that rose to the top of the creep list was – you guessed it – clowns.
The results were consistent with my theory that getting “creeped out” is a response to the ambiguity of threat and that it is only when we are confronted with uncertainty about threat that we get the chills.
For example, it would be considered rude and strange to run away in the middle of a conversation with someone who is sending out a creepy vibe but is actually harmless; at the same time, it could be perilous to ignore your intuition and engage with that individual if he is, in fact, a threat. The ambivalence leaves you frozen in place, wallowing in discomfort.
This reaction could be adaptive, something humans have evolved to feel, with being “creeped out” a way to maintain vigilance during a situation that could be dangerous.
Why clowns set off our creep alert
In light of our study’s results, it is not at all surprising that we find them to be creepy.
Rami Nader is a Canadian psychologist who studies coulrophobia, the irrational fear of clowns. Nader believes that clown phobias are fueled by the fact that clowns wear makeup and disguises that hide their true identities and feelings.
This is perfectly consistent with my hypothesis that it is the inherent ambiguity surrounding clowns that make them creepy. They seem to be happy, but are they really? And they’re mischievous, which puts people constantly on guard. People interacting with a clown during one of his routines never know if they are about to get a pie in the face or be the victim of some other humiliating prank. The highly unusual physical characteristics of the clown (the wig, the big red nose, the makeup, the odd clothing) only magnify the uncertainty of what the clown might do next.
There are certainly other types of people who creep us out (taxidermists and undertakers made a good showing on the creepy occupation spectrum). But they have their work cut out for them if they aspire to the level of creepiness that we automatically attribute to clowns.
In other words, they have big shoes to fill.
The post Column: The psychology behind why clowns creep us out appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has signed a short-term funding bill to keep the government from shutting down at the end of the week.
Lawmakers eager to leave town to campaign for re-election gave themselves breathing room by voting to continue existing spending levels for another 10 weeks, beyond the Nov. 8 election.
Members of Congress will have to reach agreement on funding for the rest of the budget year when they meet in a lame-duck session after the election.
The bill Obama signed Thursday also provides $1.1 billion to address the Zika crisis. And it has $500 million to help Louisiana flood victims.
This post will be updated.
The post Obama signs bill to fund government until December appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Your body would never get used to the perfect painkiller, says Susruta Majumdar, a chemist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. So unlike the case with common opioids such as morphine or Oxycontin, you would not need to take ever-increasing doses to relieve the same amount of pain. The ideal analgesic would not have the high risk of addiction, withdrawal or fatal respiratory slowdowns that have turned opioid abuse into a massive epidemic. The holy grail of painkillers would not induce the seductive euphoria of common opioids or their less-pleasant side effects like itching or constipation.
A painkiller with just one of these properties would be great, but Majumdar thinks he has stumbled onto a class of chemicals that might have them all. They are found in kratom, a plant that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration intends to effectively ban from the U.S. in an emergency move as early as September 30. Without legal access to it, research on some of the most promising leads for a better painkiller may grind to a crawl.
Kratom comes from the Mitragyna speciosa tree native to parts of Southeast Asia, where people chew the leaves for a light, caffeine-like jolt of energy or as a traditional medicine for ailments ranging from diarrhea to pain. Kratom has been illegal since 1943 in Thailand, where it is believed to be addictive. Case studies have suggested that suddenly stopping regular kratom use may lead to withdrawal symptoms—but they are widely considered milder than those associated with opioids.
Majumdar first learned about kratom via a Web search a couple of years ago. By then there were stories in the West about how kratom tea could be used to manage pain—and to mitigate brutal opioid withdrawal. That caught Majmundar’s attention, and he found research from the 1970s that described some of the basic biochemistry of kratom’s two primary psychoactive compounds, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, as well as one more molecule called mitragynine pseudoindoxyl, which is produced when kratom ferments.
“We got excited because the chemical structure is almost completely unrelated to that of commonly used opioids,” says Andras Varadi, a colleague of Majumdar who is a medicinal chemist at Columbia University and Sloan Kettering.
When Majumdar and his team started studying the compounds in the laboratory, they realized all three molecules were binding to the mu-opioid receptor—one of three known kinds of opioid receptors in the brain—in an unconventional way. Think of this receptor as the ignition to a “hybrid car,” Varadi explains, and the opioids that bind to it as keys.
A typical opioid such as morphine turns on the “electric engine,” and that leads to a desired effect like pain relief. But it also starts up the “gas engine,” causing negative side effects. The mitragynine molecules from kratom seem to activate mostly the “good” systems, leaving behind the unwanted effects yet keeping pain relief.
Scientists have been trying to develop next-generation drugs with this property. There is one candidate, pharmaceutical company Trevena’s TRV130, in clinical trials now. That’s part of what makes kratom exciting to researchers, says Laura Bohn, a biochemist at the Scripps Research Institute who was not involved with this work. “The more chemical structures you have [with this property] the more you can say, ‘here’s the right features of these, and let’s impart that into our drug development.’”
Majumdar noticed that the fermented-kratom compound mitragynine pseudoindoxyl—unlike most other drugs in development—also blocks off another opioid receptor, the delta receptor. “That’s when we got excited,” Majumdar says. Past experiments have shown that delta receptor blockers could reduce morphine tolerance and withdrawal symptoms in mice. “There were signs that delta antagonism is good,” Majumdar says. And if mitragynine pseudoindoxyl could both block the delta receptor and produce favorable behavior on the mu receptor, Majumdar says it might be better than any other pain drug science is currently investigating.
In an attempt to find out about these blocking capabilities Varadi injected mice with mitragynine pseudoindoxyl twice a day for a month. Then he checked if they could feel pain, using techniques such as putting them on a hot plate. In such experiments morphine usually loses its painkilling effects after five days. But after 30 days on a consistent dose of mitragynine pseudoindoxyl, the mice still showed numbness to pain.
“It was the most exciting experiment I’ve ever done,” Varadi says. In other experiments Varadi and Majumdar reported that the mice exhibited few withdrawal symptoms from mitragynine pseudoindoxyl—and they displayed no indication that they actually enjoyed taking the drug. “[This is] early promise it’s nonaddictive,” Majumdar says. His team reported its findings in The Journal of Medicinal Chemistry last month.
Varadi says his results indicate that mitragynine pseudoindoxyl may have the peculiar ability to both activate the mu receptor—possibly making it a powerful painkiller that also reduces addictive and potentially deadly side effects—as well as lower withdrawal and tolerance. “It’s a double whammy,” Varadi says.
Although the kratom compounds have yet to be clinically studied in humans, Andrew Kruegel, a pharmacologist at Columbia who was not involved in Varadi’s study, says the results hold promise for better designer painkillers.
“Those compounds alone may already be superior to codeine and oxycodone. At a minimum, if you can get rid of respiratory [problems] then you can save thousands of lives,” Kruegel says. “But we can tweak their properties to make them even better than the natural starting point.” Or they would do so if the research were able to legally continue, he adds.
The DEA plans to place kratom and its psychoactive ingredients in the agency’s most restricted controlled substance category, Schedule I, on September 30 at the earliest. That would place it in the same group as heroin, ecstasy and marijuana. All Schedule I drugs are supposed to have a high potential for abuse and harm, and to have no medical use.
Scientists can obtain a license to study Schedule I drugs but they are hard to acquire and significantly slow down research, says Chris McCurdy, a kratom researcher at the University of Mississippi. “I don’t oppose it being regulated, I just oppose Schedule I,” he says. “That’s where the frustration comes in, realizing you have to shut everything down because we don’t have a Schedule I license.”
At the moment, neither do several other kratom researchers, including Majumdar. “We’ll have to destroy all our samples in the lab,” Kruegel says.
The DEA’s emergency scheduling of kratom will expire after two years if the agency does not move to make the scheduling permanent. But for that to happen, Kruegel thinks scientists will likely need to show further proof that kratom is medically useful. “That we’ll have any progress in the next two years is very unlikely,” he says.
Russ Baer, a spokesperson for the DEA, says the reason for putting kratom and its psychoactive ingredients in the most restrictive drug category is to protect public safety and stop misuse. “Independent of the DEA, the Food and Drug Administration has issued a number of public health warnings and import alerts, most recently about July 2016, and concerns they have about kratom representing a health risk,” he says. “And it’s been on our radar for awhile as a drug of concern.”
A DEA announcement cited 15 kratom-related deaths between 2014 and 2016, and there have also been accounts of kratom being misused.
“One of my [research] partners has treated people in the emergency room who would dissolve and then inject kratom extract,” says Ed Boyer, a professor of emergency medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical School and a kratom researcher. Most of these incidences of abuse probably involved other substances as well, he adds.
Some Kratom purchased in the U.S. has been found to be adulterated with other compounds, including common opioids like hydrocodone.
“People think they’re getting kratom; they could be getting anything,” says Kavita Babu, a toxicologist at UMass Memorial Medical Center who was not involved with Majumdar’s study. “In terms of death, we really only get into that issue when it’s combined with other substances,” says Alicia Lydecker, also a toxicologist at UMass. She was not involved in the study.
Mitragynine seems to be a fairly weak drug on its own, Majumdar says. It is about 55 times less potent than morphine in terms of pain relief. “I did drink kratom tea,” he says, “and I felt nothing.” Another compound, 7-hydroxymitragynine, is about six times more potent than morphine—but Majumdar says it occurs in such small amounts in the plant that it is probably not responsible for most effects experienced by consumers of unaltered, natural kratom.
The DEA’s decision on kratom has even begun to draw critical attention from U.S. lawmakers. Rep. Mark Pocan (D–Wis.) has urged Congress to sign a letter asking the DEA to delay making it a controlled substance. But the impending ban has left an especially bitter taste with many researchers who feel there is already ample evidence the plant has clear medical potential.
“It is frustrating,” Bohn says. “I totally empathize with trying to prevent misuse, but it has to be thoughtful and protective. For us, [kratom] is a valuable, valuable research tool.”
This article is reproduced with permission from Scientific American. It was first published on Sept. 27, 2016. Find the original story here.
The post If DEA blocks kratom, promising research on opioid alternative may suffer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.