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Eye health officials share tips for safely viewing eclipse in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — Those wanting to view the 91 percent eclipse in Utah on Monday should do so with caution, said Dr. Jeff Pettey, Moran Eye Center ophthalmologist.

Looking directly at the sun without proper eye protection can cause permanent vision damage, Pettey said. He compared the potential damage to the blurry vision caused by looking at a flash when a photo is taken — only permanent.

Pettey suggested thinking about the eye as a magnifying glass.

“All the light coming into the pupil is going to focus on one point in the back of the eye, and that’s the point where you see this damage,” he said. “The intensity of all the light’s rays (is) focused on that one spot, and that’s where the tissue damage occurs.”

But there are precautions Utahns can take to avoid that potential damage without buying special glasses, Pettey and Clark Planetarium Director Seth Jarvis told reporters Tuesday at the planetarium.

The easiest and most affordable option, Jarvis said, is called a “pinhole projection,” which lets sunlight pass through a small opening — like a hole punched in a piece of cardboard or an index card — and projects an image of the sun onto a flat, blank surface.

Eclipse watchers also can use tree leaves, crackers or other objects with small holes in them to project sunlight onto a surface, he said.

“There’s suddenly a million pinhole projectors through nature,” Jarvis said.

Utahns who want to look directly at the sun to view the eclipse should use ISO-certified glasses, Jarvis and Pettey said.

Unfortunately, Jarvis said, counterfeit glasses are being sold on the internet without actually being ISO certified.

“Anybody that knows how to run a printing press … can print whatever they want,” he said, which is why it’s important for those buying glasses to look for more than the ISO logo.

The best way to make sure glasses are safe for the eclipse is to look for the manufacturer’s name and contact information on the glasses or packaging material, Jarvis said.

“There’s no way of knowing whether these glasses are passing through harmful levels of infrared radiation, which is going to bake your eye,” he said. “If the glasses are anonymous, I would chuck them.”

The Moran Eye Center this week issued a recall on glasses it was originally selling. Now, the University of Utah eye clinic is carrying glasses manufactured by Lunt Solar Systems, emblazoned with the Clark Planetarium logo.

“What we’re asking of people is to not use any pair of glasses that they have received from Moran Eye Center unless they have the Clark Planetarium label,” said Elizabeth Neff, spokeswoman for the center. “Your vision is precious, and it’s just not something to take a risk with.”

Jarvis said he encourages everyone to take advantage of the near total eclipse on the Wasatch Front, an event he said will not occur again until 2045.

“We want you to pay attention to this wonder of nature, this celestial show of the moon passing in front of the sun,” he said. “It’s pretty cool stuff.”

In addition to Lunt Solar Systems, reputable companies selling eclipse glasses include American Paper Optics, Celestron, DayStar, Explore Scientific, Halo Solar Eclipse Spectacles, Meade Instruments, Rainbow Symphony, Seymour Solar and Thousand Oaks Optical, Jarvis said.

Clark Planetarium is selling the glasses for $2, though Jarvis expects to be sold out by Thursday.

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Follow these health, travel tips for safe Haj

International SOS and Control Risks has issued travel, health and safety tips for Haj travellers. And paying heed to them will really help.

Around 2 million foreign and domestic pilgrims are expected to perform their religious duties in Mecca between August 30 and September 4. Many of them will also be travelling to Medina in the weeks before and after the pilgrimage.

Local authorities have been bracing for the busy period. Transportation and other facilities have been put in place for the pilgrims.

James Bird, regional security manager at International SOS and Control Risks in Dubai, says: “Every year, we help members from around the world to prepare for Haj. We remind those familiar with travel to Saudi Arabia that this will be an unusually busy period with potential travel delays, and we advise them to anticipate heightened security at transport hubs and increased congestion on certain overland travel routes.”

He adds, “We also reassure first-time travellers that the local authorities are very well prepared to manage the influx of pilgrims – mainly through the designated Haj terminal at King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) – and that they should always comply with legal, religious and cultural conventions throughout their time in the Kingdom.”

International SOS and Control Risks advises travellers to reconfirm appointments, accommodation and travel arrangements during the busy Hajj and Eid Al Adha period, to minimise any inconvenience due to increased demand. The official Eid Al Adha holiday is expected to take place between August 31 and September 3, during which government offices, banks and other businesses will be closed, the release says.

International SOS also issues health tips each year, to help travellers during their stay in the holy city.

Dr Issam Badaoui, medical director of assistance at International SOS in Dubai, says,”Over the past few weeks, we have been helping members preparing for Haj to stay on top of all vaccination requirements and health tips.”

All pilgrims have to present proof of the quadrivalent meningitis vaccination, and those from exposed countries should show proof of yellow fever and polio vaccinations. It is also highly recommended that travellers get a seasonal flu shot and ensure all other routine vaccinations are up to date before travelling for Haj.

Pilgrims should seek medical attention if they develop moderate-to-severe respiratory issues within two weeks of leaving the Kingdom, preferably by contacting medical institutions before visiting them in person, the International SOS points out.

Dr Badaoui adds: “To avoid the spread of bacteria or infections, pilgrims are advised to keep some distance from sick people and maintain a high degree of personal hygiene. Remember to choose clean, well-cooked food and safe beverages, including bottled water and pasteurised milk. Also, take measures to stay hydrated and cool to avoid heat-related illnesses.”

Pilgrims have also been advised to avoid contact with animals, especially camels and their products, and to protect against mosquito bites by using effective repellent and wearing protective clothing.

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How Donald Trump Is Driving Up Health Insurance Premiums

Of that, just 8 percentage points will result from medical inflation, and 2 percentage points will stem from the reinstatement of an Obamacare health insurance tax; the balance will be related to the uncertainty that Mr. Trump has created around key pieces of Obamacare.


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The largest portion of the total — about 15 percentage points — is connected to the potential demise of the cost-sharing reductions (known as C.S.R.s), payments made by the government to insurers to help cover out-of-pocket costs like co-pays and deductibles that lower-income Americans can’t afford.

(The Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday that premiums for the most popular health insurance plans would rise by 20 percent next year, and federal budget deficits would increase by $194 billion in the coming decade, if Mr. Trump ends the subsidies.)

Those subsidies, which were created by the Obama health care legislation and which benefit seven million Americans, have been in limbo since House Republicans sued in 2014, contending that they needed to be appropriated by Congress, which wasn’t going to happen as long as Republicans controlled each chamber.

How Cost-Sharing Subsidies Reduce Deductibles …

Figures for silver plans.

… And Out-of-Pocket Costs


Conservatives won the first round in court, but that decision was stayed pending appeal, allowing both the Obama and Trump administrations to continue to make the monthly payments.

President Trump has threatened to end the subsidies but has yet to take definitive action. A decision was promised by Aug. 4, but Mr. Trump decamped to his New Jersey golf resort with nary a word about C.S.R.s.

As a result, many of the insurance companies that have already announced their increases have either baked in increases assuming loss of the subsidies or say that they will impose further hikes if the subsidies are not continued.

The silence around the C.S.R.s is consistent with the new administration’s overall approach to the A.C.A.: continually badmouthing it and taking small steps to undermine it without unleashing a full-force assault.

Even without “repeal and replace” legislation emerging from Congress — an unlikely event at this point — the administration has enormous authority to shape the functioning of the A.C.A.


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As Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, has said repeatedly, there are 1,442 places in the existing law that provide him with some measure of discretion in how the act is implemented.

For example, the Internal Revenue Service said this year that it would start accepting tax returns even if the filer has not confirmed having insurance or submitting the penalty.

Around the same time, the new team pulled advertising designed to encourage enrollments, causing sign-ups for 2017 to fall modestly short of expectations, especially among younger and healthier Americans, who are much more likely to wait until the last minute to enroll.

More recently, the administration canceled contracts with two companies that helped Americans in 18 cities find plans.

All of these actions — and more — could amount to undermining the individual mandate, a step that Mr. Gaba says would add another 4 percentage points to 2018 premium increases.

Trump Policies Raising Health Premiums

Breakdown of reasons for 2018 rate hike requests.

At the same time, some steps toward preparing for the next enrollment period are proceeding normally, such as an annual meeting in June with “navigators” who guide consumers in their choices of plans.

In addition, the Trump team has been allocating funds to states with weak exchange markets to encourage insurers to continue to provide coverage.

But what else the administration will or won’t do as the November opening of the enrollment period approaches remains a mystery.


Continue reading the main story

Asked last week by The Washington Post to clarify, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would say only, “As open enrollment approaches, we are evaluating how to best serve the American people who access coverage on”

An hour later, the spokeswoman, Jane Norris, tried to withdraw the statement and refused to comment further. Ms. Norris’s office did not respond at all to my inquiry.

A bipartisan group of senators is trying to draft legislation to stabilize Obamacare. But with Congress gone, any new laws will come too late for the Sept. 5 deadline for setting 2018 premiums.

So it well may be up to Mr. Trump to decide, in effect, the fate of the exchanges, which supply about 12 million Americans with their coverage. With final premium increase decisions due soon, even inaction could be devastating.

As the president has acknowledged on occasion and as public opinion polls confirm, the failure of Congress to pass any legislation means that the new administration “owns” the health care issue politically. Continuing to let it flounder in the twilight zone will be damaging not only to Mr. Trump’s political health but more important, to the health of millions of Americans who deserve better.

Continue reading the main story

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Charlottesville, hate crimes are public health issue, experts say

Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what’s happening in the world as it unfolds.

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Trump shows he hasn’t forgotten McCain’s health care vote

Think North Korea and Charlottesville have made President Trump forget about that “no” vote Sen. John McCain cast July 28 on the ObamaCare “skinny repeal” amendment?

Think again.

From all indications at Trump’s Tuesday press conference at Trump Tower in New York City, the Arizona Republican’s vote remains very much on the president’s mind.

In fact, it came up when a reporter asked Trump about McCain’s defense of H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser who has been targeted with criticism from alt-right activists, the Arizona Republic reported.

“Senator McCain? You mean the one who voted against ObamaCare?” the president responded. “You mean Senator McCain who voted against us getting good health care?”

Trump even brought up McCain’s name a second time, the newspaper reported, when the president was asked if his infrastructure plan would advance — unlike stalled agenda items such as health care reform.

“We came very close with health care,” the president said. “Unfortunately, John McCain decided to vote against it at the last minute. You’ll have to ask John McCain why he did that. But we came very close to health care. We will end up getting health care, but we’ll get the infrastructure. And actually, infrastructure is something that I think we’ll have bipartisan support on.”

“We came very close with health care. Unfortunately, John McCain decided to vote against it at the last minute.”

- President Donald Trump

McCain had urged Trump to defend McMaster from alt-right criticism, the Republic noted.

“Since this fringe movement cannot attract the support of decent Americans, it resorts to impugning the character of a good man and outstanding soldier who has served honorably in uniform and sacrificed more for our country than any of his detractors ever have,” McCain said in a statement. “Such smear tactics should not be tolerated and deserve an emphatic response. I hope the president will once again stand up for his national security adviser and denounce these repugnant attacks.”

Trump and McCain have been at odds since at least June 2015, when McCain said he didn’t approve of Trump’s comments about Mexicans when Trump launched his presidential campaign.

That sparked some back-and-forth between the two men, including Trump’s notorious “I like people that weren’t captured” remark the following month, referring to McCain, a former prisoner of war.

Following Trump’s Tuesday press conference, McCain issued a tweet, criticizing Trump for not more forcefully distinguishing between the groups that participated in the Charlottesville rally over the weekend.

“There’s no moral equivalency between racists Americans standing up to defy hate bigotry,” McCain tweeted. “The President of the United States should say so.”

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Plague In Arizona, Amazon’s Pharmacy Ambitions, Drinking Health Effects

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End of US payments to health insurers would cause premiums to rise: CBO

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Health insurance premiums for many customers on the Obamacare individual insurance markets would be 20 percent higher in 2018 if U.S. President Donald Trump follows through on a threat to stop billions of dollars of payments to health insurers, a nonpartisan congressional office said on Tuesday.

The Congressional Budget Office also found that terminating the payments would mean that 5 percent of Americans would live in areas that do not have an insurer in the individual market in 2018. However, the agency estimated that more insurers would participate by 2020 because they will have observed how the markets work without the payments and most people would be able to purchase insurance.

The CBO’s assessment echoes concerns raised by insurers over the past several months, who have said that terminating the payments would cause premiums to rise.

Trump has repeatedly threatened to withhold the payments, called cost-sharing reductions, which amount to about $7 billion in 2017 and help cover out-of-pocket medical expenses for low-income Americans. Trump has derided the payments as a “bailout” for insurance companies.

The CBO found that the number of uninsured would be slightly higher in 2018 but slightly lower in 2020 as more insurers joined the market. It also found that premiums would be 25 percent higher by 2020, which would increase the amount of government-provided tax credits to help shield low-income people from premium increases.

Several insurers have cited the uncertainty over the payments in raising insurance premiums by double digits for 2018 or in exiting some individual insurance markets.

Anthem Inc, one of the largest remaining Obamacare insurers, earlier this month scaled back its offerings in Nevada and Georgia and blamed the moves in part on uncertainty over the payments. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina earlier this year raised premiums by more than 20 percent, but said it would have only raised premiums by about 9 percent if Trump agreed to fund the payments.

The payments are the subject of a lawsuit brought by House Republicans against the Obama administration that alleged they were unlawful because they needed to be appropriated by Congress. A judge for the federal district court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Republicans, and the Obama administration appealed the ruling.

The Trump administration took over the lawsuit and has so far delayed deciding whether to continue the Obama administration’s appeal or terminate the subsidies. That case became more complicated earlier this month when a U.S. appeals court allowed Democratic state attorneys general to defend the payments and have a say in the legal fight.

The administration has decided month-to-month whether to continue the payments. Its next installment is due Aug. 21.

Trump has grown increasingly frustrated as Republicans, who control the White House, Senate and House, have been unable to pass a repeal or replacement of the Affordable Care Act, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. After the Senate effort failed in July, Trump tweeted days later threatening to stop the payments.

The CBO estimated the federal deficit would increase by $194 billion from 2017 through 2026 if the payments are terminated.

Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Chris Reese

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The collapse of Community Health Systems

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, announced on Twitter that he is resigning from Trump’s Manufacturing Council. He follows the CEOs of Merck, Under Armour and Intel, all of whom stepped down yesterday.

Minutes before Paul’s announcement, Trump responded to the wave of CEO resignations on Twitter, saying he has “many” replacements for those who have left. “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!”

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To Your Good Health: Thigh muscle pain not necessarily due to statin use

DEAR DR. ROACH: I think I may have polymyositis. My thigh muscles (specifically, the lateral muscles) are weak and achy. I take a statin, and I don’t like what I read about them. — L.P.

ANSWER: Statins indeed can cause muscle aches in some people who take them. In clinical trials, about 5 percent of people will develop some aches, but significant damage to the muscles occurs in less than 1 percent of people who take statins. About two-thirds of the time, symptoms begin within six weeks of starting the statin.

People with weakness should stop taking the statin and see their doctor, who will do an exam and look for evidence of muscle breakdown using a blood test. If the blood level (especially for CPK, or creatine phosphokinase, released into the blood with muscle breakdown) is high and the problems go away when you stop taking the statin, then the diagnosis is straightforward. However, some people can have muscle symptoms without an elevated CPK.

Many people can tolerate a different statin if they develop muscle aches on one: Pravastatin and fluvastatin, in particular, are metabolized differently and may not cause symptoms. It requires judgment to evaluate the severity of the symptoms and the muscle damage versus the potential benefit of taking a statin.

There are many causes of muscle aches. Some people have subtle genetic differences that predispose them to muscle problems, which never come out unless they are stressed by severe exercise or a statin. People with low thyroid levels are more likely to develop problems from statins.

Polymyositis is an inflammatory muscle disease that may have nothing to do with statins. It would be unusual to be so localized to only the lateral thigh, however.

DEAR DR. ROACH: My 42-year-old son has had a few calcium readings that are high, but his endocrinologist doesn’t seem to be seeing the forest for the trees. He thinks all is fine, even though the last reading was 10.2 and previously had been 10.5. Perhaps my son hasn’t shared the information from his other doctors about what else is happening, things like low vitamin D, gout and calcium oxalate kidney stones. Isn’t it likely he has a parathyroid problem? — F.G.

ANSWER: There are several causes for elevated calcium levels. In people with repeatedly abnormal calcium levels, the most likely cause indeed is elevated parathyroid hormone levels. The level of blood calcium typically is lower in those with high PTH than in people with cancer, which is the other concern in people with high calcium levels.

I certainly would recommend that he get his PTH level checked. Not everyone with high PTH needs to be treated, but a history of kidney stones makes treatment a more desired option, since treatment can reduce frequency of stones.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I am now living in Arizona and am aware of rattlesnakes when hiking. I have seen articles on the exorbitant cost of anti-venom in case of a bite. Is this fact or urban legend? — L.M.

ANSWER: Unfortunately, this is fact. The cost of anti-venom in the U.S. is indeed exorbitant, with a well-publicized case in 2015 resulting in a charge of $153,000 for a single rattlesnake bite (the victim was posing for a selfie with the snake; please don’t do that). This is another example of how the market in the U.S. drives prices very high: The same anti-venom that costs $14,000 a vial in the U.S. runs $100 to $200 in Mexico.

The charge from the hospital is very different from what gets paid, due to negotiations between the hospital, the insurer and the manufacturers. However, if you have no insurance, then you may be asked to pay the entire charge.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to or request an order form of available health newsletters at 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. Health newsletters may be ordered from

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Sleep: Nature’s Elixir for Sustaining Good Health

News Report,

D. Kevin McNeir ,

Posted: Aug 15, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO–How many hours per night do you sleep? Do you ever feel the need to take a catnap in order to make it through the day? What are the benefits of a sufficient amount of sleep? And why does it seem that both infants and children, as well as elders, require more sleep than others?

These are the kinds of questions that sleep researchers, psychiatrists and behavioral scientists explore in this new millennium where the average life expectancy continues to rise and where more medical breakthroughs provide ways to overcome illnesses once considered to be death sentences.

During an interactive session recently led by Sonia Ancoli-Israel, PhD, during the 21st World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in San Francisco, a standing-room only crowd listened to her and several others as they shared their latest findings on the importance of getting adequate quality sleep. They stressed that it is associated with healthy aging, as well as how to better manage sleep disorders, particularly in older patients.

Caffeine, Alcohol and Insomnia

One thing on which medical experts agree: Sleep can start to deteriorate in late middle age and steadily erode from that point on. Also, poor sleep, counter to commonly accepted theories, does not occur because of aging, but rather because of illnesses or the medications one uses to treat them.

“The more disorders older adults have, the worse they sleep,” said Ancoli-Israel, who directs the Gillin Sleep and Chronomedicine Research Center at the University of California San Diego School (UCSD) of Medicine. “If you look at older adults who are very healthy, they rarely have sleep disorders,” she said.

What about those who say they suffer from insomnia? Ancoli-Israel, a professor of psychiatry and also director of education at UCSD’s Sleep Medicine Center at UCSD, said there are a few changes one can make.

First, she advised, avoid caffeine after lunch. Also, avoid alcohol, which although it makes one sleepy, may actually increase the risk of insomnia. If one can’t get to sleep, get up and do something active for a while. Then return to bed. Most important, Ancoli-Israel said, remember that the bed is meant for sleep — not for texting or returning e-mails — or for tossing and turning.

For the record, given the healing benefits associated with sleep, it may be wise to consider a few reasons why we should remember that adequate sleep remains a key part of a healthy lifestyle, impacting the heart, one’s weight and the mind in positive ways. In addition, adequate sleep not only makes us feel better, experts say, but has benefits way beyond keeping those bothersome bags under our eyes from developing or making us grouchy.

5 Tips for Sleep Health

One sleep research report conducted by the New York University Sleep Disorders Program made the following observations:

* Memory improves after a good night’s sleep, so don’t fight the need to rest.

* Too much or too little sleep, for reasons still unknown, can be connected to shorter lifespans.

* Sleep not only can reduce levels of stress but helps people maintain greater control of their blood pressure and cholesterol levels — both of which play a significant role in heart disease.

* Sleepiness, often underrated, affects both reaction time and decision making and costs society more than we can imagine

* And if you’re trying to handle depression, make sure you’re sleeping well as a lack of adequate sleep can result in a lot more than just a few moments of irritability.

D. Kevin McNeir, editor of the Washington Informer, wrote with support of a journalism fellowship from New America Media, the Gerontological Society of America and AARP.

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