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Health secretary candidate Becerra vows to ‘find a common cause’ as Republicans seek to paint him as extreme.

President Biden’s candidate for health secretary Xavier Becerra pledged Tuesday morning to work to “restore confidence in public health institutions” and “seek to find a common cause” with his critics, as Republicans sought to portray him as an unqualified liberal extremist. For the job.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions, Mr. Becerra, the Attorney General of California, was toasted by Republicans who complained that they had no experience in the profession of health and targeted its support for the Affordable Care Act. and for abortion rights.

“Basically, you spoke out against pro-life,” Indiana Republican Senator Mike Braun told Becerra. He asked if Mr Becerra would pledge not to use taxpayer money for abortions, which is currently prohibited by federal law, except in cases where the mother’s life is at stake, or in the ‘incest or rape.

“I will commit to obeying the law,” replied Becerra, leaving himself some leeway should the law change.

Tuesday’s appearance was the first of two Senate confirmation hearings for Mr. Becerra; he is due to appear before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. Despite the tough questions, Mr Becerra appears to be heading for confirmation in a Senate equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, but with Vice President Kamala Harris on hand to break the tie.

If confirmed, Mr Becerra will immediately face the daunting task of leading the department at a critical time, during a pandemic that has claimed half a million lives and has taken particularly devastating havoc on people from color. He would be the first Latino to serve as secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Although Mr. Becerra, a former congressman, did not have direct experience as a medical professional, he took a keen interest in health policy in Washington and helped draft the Law on Health Care. affordable care. He has most recently been at the forefront of legal efforts to defend it, leading 20 states and the District of Columbia in a campaign to protect the law from dismantling Republicans.

Republicans and their allies in the conservative and anti-abortion movements have taken hold of the ACA’s defense of Becerra as well as his support for abortion rights.

The Conservative Action Project, an advocacy group, on Monday released a statement signed by dozens of Conservative leaders, including several former members of Congress, complaining that Mr Becerra had a “troubling record” on ” policies relating to the sanctity of life, human dignity and religious freedom. “

They specifically cited his vote against banning “late abortion” and accused him of using his role as attorney general “to tip the scales in favor of Planned Parenthood,” a group that advocates the law. to abortion. Asked by Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney about the late abortion vote, Becerra noted his wife is an obstetrician-gynecologist and said he would “work to find common ground ” On the question. Mr. Romney was not impressed. “It looks like we’re not going to find common ground there,” he replied.

Democrats point to Mr Becerra’s experience as the head of one of the country’s largest justice departments through a particularly trying time, and his up-from-the-bootstraps biography. The son of Mexican immigrants, he studied at Stanford University both undergraduate and in law. He served 12 terms in Congress, representing Los Angeles, before becoming attorney general of his home state in 2017.

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New Yorkers with multiple health conditions now eligible for vaccination

New Yorkers with chronic health conditions that made them eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine flooded a state website and call center on Sunday morning, leaving many unable to schedule appointments immediately in mass vaccination centers.

State officials said Sunday that 73,000 appointments had been scheduled for 11:30 am, while 500,000 people had gone through an online eligibility screening tool needed to make appointments. Thousands of people were in virtual waiting rooms that could accommodate up to 8,000 people per vaccination site. Once those waiting rooms are full, people attempting to make appointments should try again later.

Richard Azzopardi, senior adviser to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, said demand was high, but “our infrastructure has remained in place and intact.” He said the state’s ability to make appointments depends on the vaccine supply, which is steadily increasing.

Officials said the new criteria, which include chronic health conditions like obesity and hypertension, made four million more New Yorkers eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine. They are joining a growing number of people in the state who are eligible for the vaccine despite a supply shortage.

Those who are now eligible include adults who have certain health conditions that may increase their risk of serious illness or death from coronavirus. Besides obesity and high blood pressure, other conditions that would qualify New Yorkers for the vaccine include lung disease and cancer, Cuomo announced this month. It also made pregnancy a qualifying condition.

Appointments for people in this group can be scheduled as early as Monday, although most people will likely face a long wait as vaccine doses are now scarce. New Yorkers must provide proof of their condition with a doctor’s note, signed certification or medical documentation, Cuomo said.

“While this is a big step forward in ensuring that the most vulnerable among us have access to this life-saving vaccine, it’s no secret that whenever you come across such a scarce resource, there are will be attempted fraud and gambling systems, ”Cuomo said in a statement.

In New York state, about 10% of the population received their first dose, according to data collected by the New York Times. With the new criteria, around 11 million people are now eligible in the state, including people aged 65 and over, healthcare workers and teachers.

New York City recently opened mass vaccination sites at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and Citi Field in Queens to better reach communities hard hit by the virus. The state and federal government also announced last week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would open vaccination sites at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and York College in Queens.

To verify eligibility and schedule an appointment, New Yorkers can pre-screen on the state’s website. They can also call the state immunization hotline at 1-833-NYS-4VAX (1-833-697-4829) for more information on appointments for vaccines.

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Biden moves cautiously on health care

Biden begins to fend off Trump’s attacks on Obamacare and General Motors is making a big commitment. It’s Friday, and here is your political advice sheet. register here to get On Politics delivered to your inbox every day of the week.

Under the watchful eye of Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden yesterday signed executive orders and memoranda on health care.

Nearly 150 Republicans in Congress backed Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the election was stolen from him. But a handful of Republican members of the House had deeper ties to extremist groups pushing violent ideas and conspiracy theories, and whose members were among the rioters on Capitol Hill on January 6.

Like my colleague Matthew Rosenberg and I reported in a new article, their ranks include Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who met with far-right Oath Keepers and denigrated Muslim immigrants as a “bane”; Representative Andy Biggs, also from Arizona, chairman of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, who spoke at events organized by extremists, including one in which an Oath Keepers founder called for the senator’s hanging John McCain; Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who has ties to the Three Percent militia group, who shares her view that gun rights are under attack; and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who for years rigged conspiracy theories, including QAnon, who demonizes Democrats as Satanists, and who has made fanatical remarks about blacks, Jews and Muslims.

While the Republicans’ false statements about a stolen election played a role in inciting the attack on Capitol Hill, it is not clear whether elected officials played a direct role in facilitating the riot. All have denied such allegations. A spokesperson for Boebert wrote in an email: “Just because she takes a photo with someone who asks for one doesn’t mean that she approves of every belief they have or is of. agree with any other public statements or causes they support. ”

But by signaling open or tacit support for militias and other far-right groups, a small but vocal group of Republicans who now serve in the House have given extremist groups legitimacy and publicity as they back Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election result. and played a leading role in the attack on Congress.

Aitan D. Goelman, a former federal prosecutor who helped convict Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, said when elected officials – or even candidates for office – take actions like appearing with militias or others right-wing groups, that “provides them with an additional imprimatur of legitimacy.

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On yesterday’s episode of “DailyOur congressional editor Julie Davis explored the filibuster debate. Listen to learn more on the history and fate of tactics.

And on the last episode of “The Ezra Klein showColumnist Paul Krugman joined Ezra for an in-depth discussion of the current state of the US economy, why what’s happening is unique, and the different economic theories about how the government should respond. You can listen here.

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Biden sets out to expand health coverage in pandemic economy

Dr Natalia Kanem, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, said the move would greatly help the agency’s work not only in the area of ​​family planning, but in other health services for women. and girls in poor countries.

“We now have the support of a very important Member State,” Dr Kanem said in a telephone interview.

The rule has been riding a philosophical seesaw for decades – in place when a Republican occupies the White House and is overthrown when a Democrat moves in.

Mr Biden also ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to, “as soon as possible, consider suspending, revising or rescinding” the so-called house gag rule – a set of regulations imposed by the Trump administration that federally ban funded family planning clinics by counseling patients about abortion.

The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks access to abortion, wrote last year that the rules
halving the patient capacity of the national family planning network, jeopardizing the care of 1.6 million patients nationwide. The presidential directive virtually guarantees that the health ministry will overturn these rules, although that could take months.

The president’s order will also direct federal agencies to review policies, including state waivers, that discourage participation in Medicaid, the public health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Medicaid enrollments increased dramatically during the pandemic, in part because people who lost their jobs and health insurance turned to them.

The Trump administration has approved waivers in 12 states that would require some Medicaid recipients to work a minimum number of hours per week or risk losing their benefits. Four of those pilots have already been canceled by the courts and the Biden administration has the power to terminate them all, although the Trump administration in its final weeks has taken steps to make that process more difficult.

Another waiver, completed this month in Tennessee, would give that state fixed funding – or a block grant – to cover its Medicaid population while relaxing many rules on how the program is run. This waiver could also be canceled.

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Video: Health care orders reverse ‘Trump damage’, says Biden

new video loaded: Health care orders reverse ‘Trump damage’, says Biden



Health care orders overturn ‘Trump damage’, says Biden

President Biden has taken executive action to expand access to health care by strengthening the Affordable Care Act and reopening enrollment. He has also moved to protect reproductive rights and expand access to abortion.

Today, we are about to sign two decrees. Basically the best way to describe it is to right the damage Trump has done. There is nothing new that we are doing. The first one I’m going to sign here is to strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. And of all the times we need to restore access to affordability and the breadth of access to Medicaid, now is, in the midst of this Covid crisis. And the second order that I’m signing is for protecting women’s health at home and abroad, and it reinstates the changes that were made to Title X and other things, making it harder for women to have access to affordable reproductive health care. rights.

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Health unions find voice in pandemic

Despite the decline of the trade union movement for decades and the small number of unionized nurses, union officials have used the fallout from the pandemic to organize new chapters and continue contract negotiations for better terms and benefits. National nurses organized seven new bargaining units last year, up from four in 2019. The SEIU also says it has seen a surge in interest.

Nurses across the country from various unions participated in dozens of strikes and protests. National nurses staged a “day of action” Wednesday with protests in more than a dozen states and Washington, DC as she begins negotiations at hospitals owned by large systems like HCA, Sutter Health and CommonSpirit Health.

Hospitals claim unions are playing politics during a public health emergency and say they have no choice but to ask more of their workers. “We are in a time of crisis that we have never seen before, and we need flexibility to care for patients,” said Jan Emerson-Shea, spokesperson for the California Hospital Association.

At the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago, the deaths of two nurses from the virus prompted employees to go on strike for the first time last fall, said Paul Pater, emergency nurse and manager union member of the Illinois Nurses Association. “People really took this to heart, and it really sparked a lot of contempt for the current administration of the hospital.

In their most recent contract, the nurses secured provisions ensuring the hospital would hire more staff and keep sufficient supplies of protective equipment, Mr Pater said. “We have been able to make, honestly, tremendous strides in protecting our people.”

The hospital did not respond to requests for comment.

Some nurses remain very skeptical of union efforts, and even those in favor of organizing recognize that there are serious limits to what they can accomplish. “I’m not sure the union is enough because it can only take us very far” as staffing conditions remain overwhelming, said Ms. McIntosh, the Riverside nurse.

Many healthcare workers see vaccines as the beginning of the end of the pandemic. But many – especially those working in nursing homes and outside hospitals, who tend to have higher rates of vaccine hesitancy – refuse to be vaccinated. During a crisis that disproportionately threatens healthcare workers of color, recent analysis found they are getting vaccinated at rates far lower than their white colleagues.

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Health workers stuck in snow administer coronavirus vaccine to stranded drivers

Public health officials were returning from a vaccination site in rural Cave Junction, Oregon on Tuesday when they got stuck in a blizzard on the highway.

They knew they only had six hours to bring the remaining doses of the coronavirus vaccine back to people waiting for their vaccines at Grants Pass, about 30 miles away. Normally the journey takes about 45 minutes.

But with a jackknifed semi-trailer in front of them, the crew realized they could get stuck for hours and the doses would expire.

The workers therefore made the decision to walk from car to car, asking the stranded drivers if they wanted to be vaccinated, on the spot.

“We had one person who was so happy he took his shirt off and jumped out of the car,” said Michael Weber, public health director for Josephine County, Ore.

Another beneficiary, he said, was an employee of the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office who arrived too late for the Cave Junction clinic but got stuck with the others on the way back to Grants Pass.

Most drivers scoffed at the offer of a roadside coronavirus vaccine and politely declined, although Mr Weber said he had a doctor and an ambulance team on hand to help supervise the operation. He recognized that this was not the typical setting for a vaccination.

“It was a strange conversation,” Mr. Weber said. “Imagine being stuck on the side of the road in a snowstorm and someone coming up and saying, ‘Hey. Would you like a bullet in the arm? “

Still, Mr Weber said public health officials administered the six doses of the Moderna vaccine to six grateful drivers.

Mr Weber called it “one of the coolest operations” he’s ever been on and said administering the freeway shootings was an easy decision.

“Honestly, once we knew we weren’t going to get back to town in time to use the vaccine, it was just the obvious choice,” he said. “Our # 1 rule right now is that nothing is wasted.”

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Millions of people intended for public health threats have been diverted elsewhere, Watchdog says

WASHINGTON – A federal watchdog has found that the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which gained national attention last year when the Trump administration sacked its director, has been used for the past 10 years as a ” slush fund ”to cover expenses unrelated to its main mission of combating health threats such as Ebola, Zika and the coronavirus.

The 223-page report, released Wednesday by the Office of the Special Advisor, found that the Department of Health and Human Services embezzled millions of taxpayer dollars intended for BARDA to fund vaccine research and preparedness for an pandemic to other government activities, and failed to notify Congress – a potential violation of federal law.

Non-related activities included moving office furniture, administrative expenses, news subscriptions, legal services and salaries of other ministry employees. Investigators found that the practice of embezzlement was so common that the employees had a name: “BARDA Bank”.

The report focuses on the actions of the Deputy Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the head of the health department who oversees BARDA and is responsible for its budget. The Deputy Secretary is responsible for leading the federal response to pandemic threats like the novel coronavirus. Its last occupant was Dr Robert Kadlec; President Biden has not named a successor.

“I am deeply concerned by the apparent misuse by ASPR of millions of dollars in funding intended for public health emergencies like the one our country is currently facing with the Covid-19 pandemic,” wrote Henry J. Kerner, the special advisor, in a letter to Mr. Biden, using the acronym of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

“Equally concerning,” Kerner added, “is the spread and awareness of this practice for nearly a decade.”

The report does not specifically say how much money was embezzled. But about $ 25 million was taken from BARDA programs and provided to the deputy secretary’s office as recently as fiscal 2019, the office found. And between fiscal years 2007 to 2016, the assistant secretary did not record $ 517.8 million in administrative expenses, according to the report.

It also suggests that a senator, Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, who drafted the legislation that created BARDA and is considered its champion in Congress, got involved in internal funding disputes. The whistleblower told investigators that “restrictive wording” was added to the 2016 appropriation bill at the request of Mr Burr and his “pet project” – an apparent reference to BARDA.

A spokesperson for the senator made no comment.

BARDA was established by Congress in 2006. Its mission is to fund new research into vaccines, therapies, diagnostics and other “medical countermeasures” to combat natural and biodefense threats. It operated in relative obscurity until April, when Dr Kadlec sacked its director, Dr Rick Bright.

Dr Bright then said he was removed from his post and reassigned to a smaller post at the National Institutes of Health after pushing for stringent monitoring of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug adopted by President Donald J. Trump as a treatment for the coronavirus, and that the administration had put “politics and cronyism before science”.

Days later, he filed a whistleblower complaint with the Office of Special Advocates, an independent federal oversight agency. He has since left the federal government and recently advised Mr Biden on the coronavirus during the transition.

But the report released on Wednesday fails to respond to Dr Bright’s claims. Rather, it covers the Obama and Trump administrations, and grew out of an investigation into a 2018 complaint by an anonymous whistleblower whose allegations primarily concerned Dr. Kadlec’s predecessor, Dr. Nicole Lurie. The whistleblower accused Dr Lurie of “reporting false information to Congress” in his monthly reports to lawyers.

Dr Kadlec and Dr Lurie have denied any wrongdoing. In a brief interview on Wednesday, Dr Lurie said she had not been interviewed for the investigation. The results were reported earlier by the Washington Post.

“We left the country stronger than we found, including with a pandemic handbook,” Dr Lurie said of his time overseeing the agency. “All spending was routinely done and approved through multiple layers of rigorous budget processes. No expenses were incurred unilaterally. “

The Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement it would review how the assistant secretary allocated money from fiscal years 2015 to 2019 to determine whether a law had been broken.

A lawyer for Dr Bright, Debra S. Katz, called the findings “scandalous”. While the special advocate said last spring that he had “reasonable grounds” to believe Dr Bright’s impeachment was a return on his investment and called for his reinstatement, Ms Katz said the investigation into his complaint was progressing slowly because the Trump administration had not cooperated.

“These people used BARDA as their own piggy bank – both to run the contracts with their buddies and to do the special projects they wanted, to the detriment of American public health and safety,” she said. declared.

In a statement, Kerner urged Congress and the health department to “take immediate action to ensure that funding for public health emergencies can no longer be used as a slush fund for unrelated expenses.”

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Gladdie Fowler, educator and mental health advocate, dies at 69

When Gladdie Fowler was a young teacher in Beaumont, Texas, she once noticed that a student looked sick and insisted he go to the hospital, despite his desire to play a soccer game. that night. Doctors quickly discovered that he had an ulcerated colon that had turned cancerous.

“Each of her students was like a child to her,” recalls the young man, Johnny Roberts, adding that he thought he would have died without the intervention of Ms. Fowler, who visited him several times at the ‘hospital. “Everyone loved him.”

Ms. Fowler has become an expert school administrator. When poorly performing elementary schools in Port Arthur, Texas needed help, the principal knew who to call: Ms. Fowler, known as the “turnaround principal.”

She ran DeQueen Elementary School from 1999-2008, and what is now Port Acres Elementary School from 2012-2015. As Principal, she implemented compulsory morning classes for struggling students, professional development for staff and teachers; and a summer school called Camp Can Do to help students who are falling behind.

“If a school was in trouble, you could turn to Gladdie Fowler, put her in a position and she would make it work,” said Mark Porterie, principal of the Port Arthur Independent School District, said in an interview. “She had the knowledge. She had the reader. She wouldn’t stop until she succeeded.

Ms Fowler died on Dec. 4 in a Houston hospital. She was 69 years old. The cause was Covid-19, her daughter, Edreauanna Fowler said.

Ms. Fowler has also advocated for people facing mental health issues. She served on the board of directors of the Spindletop Center, a nonprofit organization that provides mental health services to four counties, for 35 years. She has also served on the board of directors of the Texas Council of Community Centers, which represents organizations across the state that care for people with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, and addictions.

Her mental health work extended beyond the boardroom. People often called or knocked on his door, asking for help for relatives. “It doesn’t matter what time of day or night,” her daughter said. “My mother would stop what she was doing.”

Gladdie Lee Plowden, one of 10 children, was born in Port Arthur on June 15, 1951 to Fannie Plowden, a housewife, and Willie Sostand, a worker at a petrochemical refinery.

Known to friends and family as Gigi, she graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1969 and received her undergraduate degree in 1973 from Prairie View A&M University in Professional Home Economics and Business Development. child. That same year she married Eddie R. Fowler, who was also an educator. Ms. Fowler subsequently obtained a Masters in Educational Administration from Lamar University in Beaumont.

After starting work at Beaumont in 1974, Ms. Fowler transferred to the Port Arthur Schools in 1986, as a teacher, program supervisor, vice-principal and principal. Known as engaged, passionate and resilient – she has lost her home twice to hurricanes in 12 years – she strolled around campus taking notes on a tablet with a leopard print case. She retired in 2015.

With her daughter, she is survived by her husband; one son, Eddie R. Fowler II; two grandchildren; and seven siblings.

“I love kids, I love education and my only goal in life was to change someone’s life,” Ms. Fowler told the Port Arthur News last year.

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Biden’s choice for the health and social services role would be the first transgender federal official confirmed by the Senate.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has hired Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine to become Assistant Secretary of Health in the Department of Health and Human Services. She would be the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate.

Mr. Biden pledged transgender and non-conformist people in the United States and around the world to fight for their safety and dignity. His promise stands in stark contrast to the efforts of the Trump administration, which over the past four years has reduced protections.

In his current role, Dr Levine has led Pennsylvania’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the continued leadership and essential expertise we need to help people navigate this pandemic – regardless of zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability – and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical situation. time and beyond, ”Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “She is a historic and highly qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

Under President Trump’s leadership, Admiral Brett P. Giroir served as Assistant Secretary of Health in the Department of Health and Human Services and led the country’s Covid-19 testing efforts. Ahead of the December break, Admiral Giroir urged people to avoid travel if possible and wear face masks – a position that has been ridiculed by Mr Trump.