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Shulkin urges emergency aid for VA private health care soon

In a fresh warning, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday there could potentially be delays in providing medical care to tens of thousands of veterans if lawmakers don’t act soon to approve billions in emergency funding for the ailing private-sector Choice program.

In a statement, Shulkin said he was heartened by several congressional bills that would provide longer-term fixes to the Department of Veterans Affairs program by giving veterans wider freedom to see private doctors at taxpayers’ expense. But pointing to the lack of a clear consensus so far, Shulkin made clear he would be “open” to emergency short-term funding from Congress for now “to ensure our veterans receive uninterrupted care.”

“As we have made clear for many months, Congress needs to pass a bill this year,” Shulkin said.

His statement comes as lawmakers wrestle over legislation that would overhaul Choice, amid the threat of a government shutdown over the federal budget and disagreements over cost and how much access veterans should have to private doctors.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee last week passed a $54 billion bipartisan plan over five years to revamp Choice, which provides $4 billion in emergency short-term funding for Choice and other VA programs for 2018 and also expands a popular caregivers program. But the measure faces some resistance from Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Jerry Moran of Kansas, who are co-sponsoring a separate bill intended to give added access to private care “rather than relying on the VA bureaucracy to determine eligibility criteria.”

The House Veterans Affairs Committee, led by Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., meanwhile, has yet to reach agreement on how to pay for the $39 billion cost of its long-term proposal to revamp Choice. Republicans have proposed $2.1 billion in emergency short-term funding for Choice in a separate bill that would also establish a presidential commission to review VA facilities for possible closure, which is opposed by Democrats.

“At this time, the committee is working with the department to review the Choice account and determine when that account will need additional funding,” said Tiffany Haverly, Roe’s spokeswoman.

In September, the VA warned that Choice could run out of money sooner than expected in late December or early January, even after Congress approved $2.1 billion in emergency funding in August that was intended to last until February. Earlier this year, it began limiting referrals to outside doctors in July when money first began to run low and veterans reported delays in care.

The Choice program currently allows veterans to see private doctors if they must wait more than 30 days for an appointment or travel more than 40 miles to a VA facility. President Donald Trump has pledged to triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice,” raising concerns among major veterans’ groups about “privatization” of VA care.

More than 30 percent of VA appointments are currently made in the private sector.

———

Follow Hope Yen on Twitter at https://twitter.com/hopeyen1

Can You Access Emergency Services by Pressing an iPhone’s Lock Button Five Times?

CLAIM

iPhone users can access emergency services simply by tapping the Lock button of their device five times.




MIXTURE

RATING

144a2_det-mixture Can You Access Emergency Services by Pressing an iPhone's Lock Button Five Times?MIXTURE

WHAT’S TRUE

Users running iOS 11 on iPhone devices can access an “Emergency SOS” option by pressing the Lock button five times.

WHAT’S FALSE

The Emergency SOS feature is only available to users running iOS 11, so those using iPhones older than a 5s, or who have not yet upgraded to iOS 11 cannot access it.

ORIGIN

In late 2017, a number of memes circulated on Facebook advising iPhone users of a purported new function allowing them to discreetly contact emergency services by pressing the Lock button five times and selecting Emergency SOS:

144a2_det-mixture Can You Access Emergency Services by Pressing an iPhone's Lock Button Five Times?

144a2_det-mixture Can You Access Emergency Services by Pressing an iPhone's Lock Button Five Times?

 Readers asked:

Can you really hit your lock screen button six times on an iPhone and get an SOS button? I saw a meme about it on Facebook, and wondered if it was true. I don’t have an iPhone, so I couldn’t test it! But I’m curious!


Is this true for some I-phone models?
“#shareable PSA: If you’re ever in an unsafe situation and need to discreetly call the police, hit your iPhone’s lock button (on the side) quickly 5 times and you’ll get this screen.”


Can you contact 911 by tapping the home screen on your iPhone 5 times? I saw this on a Facebook post.

This option is available to users of iPhones running the operating system iOS 11. An Apple Support page explaining the details and limitations of the feature began:

Use Emergency SOS on your iPhone

With Emergency SOS in iOS 11, you can quickly and easily call for help and alert your emergency contacts.

Here’s how it works

When you make a call with SOS, your iPhone automatically calls the local emergency number. In some countries and regions, you might need to choose the service that you need. For example, in China you can choose police, fire, or ambulance.

You can also add emergency contacts. After an emergency call ends, your iPhone alerts your emergency contacts with a text message, unless you choose to cancel. Your iPhone sends them your current location, and, for a period of time after you enter SOS mode, it sends updates to your emergency contacts when your location changes.

The feature is accessible by different methods, depending on the iPhone model and geographic location of the user: 

Call emergency services

Here’s how to make the call on iPhone X, iPhone 8, or iPhone 8 Plus:

1. Press and hold the side button and one of the Volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider appears.

2. Drag the Emergency SOS slider to call emergency services. If you continue to hold down the side button and Volume button, instead of dragging the slider, a countdown begins and an alert sounds. If you hold down the buttons until the countdown ends, your iPhone automatically calls emergency services.

Here’s how to make the call on iPhone 7 or earlier:

1. Rapidly press the side button five times. The Emergency SOS slider will appear. (In India, you only need to press the button three times, then your iPhone automatically calls emergency services.)

2. Drag the Emergency SOS slider to call emergency services.

After the call ends, your iPhone sends your Emergency contacts a text message with your current location, unless you choose to cancel. If Location Services is off, it will temporarily turn on.

If your location changes, your contacts will get an update, and you’ll get a notification about 10 minutes later. To stop the updates, tap the status bar and select “Stop Sharing Emergency Location.” If you keep sharing, you’ll get a reminder to stop every 4 hours for 24 hours.

If you use the Emergency SOS shortcut, you need to enter your passcode to re-enable Touch ID, even if you don’t complete a call to emergency services.

Because the feature depends iOS 11, users of iPhone models older than 5s cannot access it.

Users with newer iPhones must upgrade to iOS 11 in order to access the feature, and should read Apple’s documentation and test whether they can access the Emergency SOS option before they try to use it in an emergency. The service may depend on the reliability of local emergency services.

Travelers should also inform themselves about how to manually access emergency services in whatever location they are visiting, as it is entirely possible that they might not have access to their phone in an emergency. 

Skepticism about the claim wasn’t unwarranted. A similar rumor held that asking Siri (iPhone’s voice assistant) to “charge my phone to 100 percent” would trigger a police response, but that was mostly false. Rumors about ways to surreptitiously contact emergency services long predate the use of smart phones. Another false rumor purported that leaving a phone off the hook would eventually trigger a 911 call. The danger of these rumors is that they give potential crime victims a false sense of security, and could distract from other (real) ways to get help in an emergency. 

Got a tip or a rumor? Contact us here.

Sources:

Apple Support.   “Use Emergency SOS On Your iPhone.”
    29 November 2017.

San Diego County Extends Local Hepatitis A Health Emergency

San Diego County officials are expanding some efforts in certain communities to stop the current Hepatitis A outbreak from spreading into other populations.

The County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to extend the local health emergency for an additional two weeks. Officials first issued the local health emergency on Sept. 14 following an outbreak of Hepatitis A cases. 

Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer, told the board that her staff is seeing an overall downward trend in the number of cases.

Since the beginning of the outbreak in November 2016, there have been 20 deaths. More than 560 cases have been reported and 378 people have been hospitalized due to the outbreak. 

51aba_Symptoms-of-Hepatitis-A-Virus San Diego County Extends Local Hepatitis A Health Emergency

There have been 10 cases or fewer reported each week for the past eight weeks, county officials said.

In December, the county is issuing food safety guidelines to the faith-based community so as to not disrupt any holiday food distribution events. 

Health officials say men who have sex with men should get a Hepatitis A vaccine.

County health officials are also offering four mobile van clinics in Hillcrest during the first two weeks of December and four vaccination clinics at the LGBT Center. 

Other groups that should get vaccinated include illegal drug users, people with chronic liver disease, travelers to certain countries, people with clotting disorders, homeless people, people who work closely with the homeless and food handlers, according to the county.

San Diego County Health and Human Services officials said Hepatitis A is usually spread through the fecal-oral route from person to person. They said symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal park, dark urine and light-colored stools.

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How to reset the iPhone X (and activate the Emergency SOS alarm …

Last night, I was in the middle of a karaoke bar, with disco lights strobing and Taylor Swift blaring around me, and the screen on my new iPhone X froze.

On every iPhone released over the last 10 years, it’s been relatively easy to reset the phone when it crashed. You held down the home button and the power button, and eventually the screen will go black, and be replaced with Apple’s logo as it boots back up. But the iPhone X, as you may be aware, has no home button. I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do to bring it back to life.

My first thought was to keep holding down the power button. All that did was to activate Siri and have her record me getting increasingly frustrated at the phone that I couldn’t open. My next thought was reset it like some modern Android phones and hold down one of the volume buttons at the same time as the power button. This… was a bad idea.

It turns out, holding down the volume-down button and the power button activates an “Emergency SOS” function, emitting an alarming blare from the phone, which is probably quite useful if you’re in a dangerous situation. But I wasn’t: I was at karaoke.

I decided to keep holding down the buttons, as a timer counted down on the SOS function, thinking that maybe when it got to zero my phone would restart. Instead, it started calling 911. It took me a second to realize what was happening, but I think I hung up before wasting any of the New York City emergency services dispatchers’ time as the music blared at the bar.

I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do and I couldn’t Google it as the phone was still frozen. Eventually, I pulled one of my friends away from karaoke, borrowed their phone, and searched on how to reset an iPhone X, which is considerably more confusing than on any other iPhone.

So, to reset your iPhone in the likely event that it crashes at some point: Press the volume up button, then press the volume down button, then press and hold the power button.

If you’ve done this dance correctly, your phone should switch off and then back on, and hopefully you won’t mistakenly call the police.

How to setup the hidden iPhone feature that could literally save your life in an emergency

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Nog een half jaar om te voldoen aan de nieuwe privacyregels. Speciaal voor specialisten in Legal, IT, HR en risicomanagement organiseert Aon Nederland het seminar: ‘Praktische invulling van de GDPR.’ Aanmelden

This week in ID@Xbox: Emergency calls, android assaults, and lucky tales

1669f_Assault-Android-Cactus-Xbox-One-screenshot-07_0 This week in ID@Xbox: Emergency calls, android assaults, and lucky tales

Welcome to our column that looks back at the week’s ID@Xbox releases for Xbox One!

With the AAA release season in full swing, we’re bound to get a slow indie release week now and then. This week saw only six new ID@Xbox games, though they’re mostly quite interesting. Highlights include colorful 3D platforming, intense shooting, and even the chance to work as an emergency call dispatcher.

911 Operator

Games that simulate professions can be either fun or terrible, but it’s always nice to see one tackle unique subject matter. 911 Operator from Jutsu Games is just such a game, casting players as the telephone operator who answers emergency 911 phone calls.

1669f_Assault-Android-Cactus-Xbox-One-screenshot-07_0 This week in ID@Xbox: Emergency calls, android assaults, and lucky tales

As an emergency dispatcher, you must answer calls and then react appropriately to the situation. You might have to send out a police officer, the fire department, an ambulance, or simply provide advice to the caller. The career mode features more than 140 types of calls, 12 dispatchable vehicles, and six cities full of emergencies to handle. Are you ready to save some lives in this simulation game?

911 Operator sells for $14.99 on Xbox One and Steam.

See on the Xbox Store
See on Steam

ACA NeoGeo Street Hoop

1669f_Assault-Android-Cactus-Xbox-One-screenshot-07_0 This week in ID@Xbox: Emergency calls, android assaults, and lucky tales

Japanese publisher Hamster’s ACA series is a collection of emulated NeoGeo arcade classics – we reviewed one-on-one fighter ACA World Heroes 2 and found it pretty solid and well-emulated.

Street Hoop, also known as Street Slam and Dunk Dream, is an arcade-style basketball game from sorely missed developer Data East. It pits two teams of three players against each other in a game of street basketball. As the game progresses, your Super Shot meter fills up. A full meter allows you to pull off a flashy monster dunk or three-pointer.

With two-player local play and a fair number of fictional teams to choose from, this looks like a fun and simple alternative to NBA Jam. And hey, Xbox One isn’t exactly overflowing with arcade-style basketball games anyway (we’ll overlook NBA Playgrounds).

ACA NeoGeo Street Hoop costs $7.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch.

See on the Xbox Store

Assault Android Cactus

This week’s standout indie game for me is undoubtedly Assault Android Cactus, a twin-stick shooter from Witch Beam. It stars a female android named Cactus who discovers a massive spaceship has been overrun by its AI caretaker. Cactus must team up with a few friendly android ladies like herself in order to stop the evil machines and save the ship’s human population.

1669f_Assault-Android-Cactus-Xbox-One-screenshot-07_0 This week in ID@Xbox: Emergency calls, android assaults, and lucky tales

Each level takes place in a 3D arena, some of which change and expand as the level goes on. Playing as Cactus or one of her friends, you’ll blast waves of robotic enemies while collecting power-ups that boost firepower, increase movement speed, and more. Some enemies can only be hurt by your secondary weapon, so switching guns is important too. Each character has her own unique primary and secondary weapons, which adds replay value and variety when playing in local co-op.

1669f_Assault-Android-Cactus-Xbox-One-screenshot-07_0 This week in ID@Xbox: Emergency calls, android assaults, and lucky tales

The fully-voiced cut scenes and gorgeous cutesy art style are just part of what makes Assault Android Cactus a very impressive twin-stick shooter. Factor in native 4K support on Xbox One X and you have one of the best twin-stick shooters of the year.

1669f_Assault-Android-Cactus-Xbox-One-screenshot-07_0 This week in ID@Xbox: Emergency calls, android assaults, and lucky tales

Assault Android Cactus sells for $14.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam.

See on the Xbox Store
See on Steam

Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.

Skyforge

Skyforge is a premium early access massively multiplayer online game (MMO) from My.com. Premium early access means that you have to buy a founder’s pack to play it now, but it will eventually go free to play (just like Fortnite).

1669f_Assault-Android-Cactus-Xbox-One-screenshot-07_0 This week in ID@Xbox: Emergency calls, android assaults, and lucky tales

This game takes place in a sci-fi fantasy setting. Players start out as a regular human, but before long they will become powerful gods. Skyforge boasts a whopping 14 unlockable classes that players can swap between at will. The combat system is exceptionally fast-paced and deep for an MMO, which should really help take advantage of all those classes. Skyforge reportedly features a wealth of content already as well, so you shouldn’t run out of stuff to do too early on. If My.com announces some Xbox One X enhancements soon, this could become the indie MMO to beat on Xbox.

The SkyForge Standard Founder’s Pack sells for $14.99 and includes premium currency and a 7-day premium subscription. The Deluxe Founder’s Pack rings up at $29.99 and comes with double the bonuses of the regular pack, plus access to the Berserker class.

See SkyForge Standard Founder’s Pack on the Xbox Store
See SkyForge Deluxe Founder’s Pack on the Xbox Store

Super Lucky’s Tale

The reveal of Super Lucky’s Tale during Microsoft’s E3 Media Showcase irked fans hoping for a new Conker game. But Lucky is still an exciting game all on its own, an Xbox and Windows 10-exclusive sequel to the popular VR platformer Lucky’s Tale.

1669f_Assault-Android-Cactus-Xbox-One-screenshot-07_0 This week in ID@Xbox: Emergency calls, android assaults, and lucky tales

Super Lucky’s Tale plays like a 3D Super Mario game, with Lucky bounding across huge, vibrantly-colored environments while collecting coins and battling enemies with his tailspin move. Lucky can also burrow underground, allowing him to reach new areas. Breaking up the platforming and collectible hunting, Lucky will also solve simple puzzles as he journeys to save his kidnapped sister.

Reportedly, Super Lucky’s Tale plays very well but lacks much in the way of personality. It’s Xbox One X enhanced though, so get ready for some gorgeous 4K visuals. Will you still feel lucky to play it? We’ll let you know in our full review next week!

Super Lucky’s Tale costs $29.99 on Xbox One and Windows 10. It’s an Xbox Play Anywhere title, so progress and purchases on the Xbox and Windows 10 versions carry over between those two platforms.

See on the Xbox Store
See on Amazon

Wuppo

This curious game comes from a two-man development team and Dutch publisher SOEDESCO. It stars a cute little Wum named Wuppo who sadly loses his home after making a huge mess while eating ice cream. This forces our ice cream-loving hero to search the world over for a new place to stay.

1669f_Assault-Android-Cactus-Xbox-One-screenshot-07_0 This week in ID@Xbox: Emergency calls, android assaults, and lucky tales

Wuppo is a Metroidvania-style platformer featuring a number of distinct and fanciful locations to visit, including the metropolitan haven Popocity, the cavernous Bliekopolis, and much more. The characters you’ll meet are silly and interesting, and you’ll earn happiness points by completing tasks for them.

Like any good exploration-focused platformer, Wuppo also involves puzzles, combat, and platforming challenges galore. It also has a deceptively simple art style that overflows with cuteness and occasional gigantic boss monsters. Throw in an orchestral soundtrack, and you have an unusually cheerful and robust Metroidvania that stands out from the crowd.

Wuppo sells for $19.99 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam.

See on the Xbox Store
See on Steam

Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.

Over to you…

1669f_Assault-Android-Cactus-Xbox-One-screenshot-07_0 This week in ID@Xbox: Emergency calls, android assaults, and lucky tales

Which ID@Xbox games are you getting this week? Let us know in the comments!

Delhi pollution crisis prompts city-wide emergency measures

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India: Officials declare health emergency as dangerous smog persists across New Delhi

Thick smog and haze have caused poor visibility and resulted in a health emergency in New Delhi this week.

The Indian Medical Association declared a public health emergency on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

The public heath emergency advised citizens to stay indoors and for schools to be closed. In response, the government has announced schools in New Delhi will be closed for the rest of the week.

96727_international-weather India: Officials declare health emergency as dangerous smog persists across New Delhi

The Indian Medical Association also suggested canceling the Delhi Half Marathon which is scheduled for 19 November, due to the potential harm to participants.

The combination of smoke and pollution from crop burning, factories and automobiles leads to dangerous levels of pollution around this time each year throughout northern India.

While some restrictions have been put in place to lower vehicle and factory emissions in New Delhi, pollution from neighboring areas remains a concern.

The sale of firecrackers was banned prior to last month’s Diwali festival in an attempt to limit pollutant emissions; however, those efforts made little impact in the long-term air quality.

96727_international-weather India: Officials declare health emergency as dangerous smog persists across New Delhi

Motorists drive surrounded by smog in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Travel has also been impacted by the haze and smog across the National Capital Region.

Several cars were involved in accidents due to poor visibility on the Yamuna Expressway on Wednesday according to The Hindu.

Around 30 trains and 30 flights have been delayed due to the poor visibility in New Delhi.


RELATED:

India Weather Center

Detailed New Delhi weather forecast

Asia winter forecast: Life-threatening flooding may unfold in Southeast as snow buries northern areas


Conditions are unlikely to improve through this weekend as high pressure remains over the area resulting in light winds and no rainfall.

A storm system will approach northwestern India early next week and may bring some relief from the harsh conditions.

“The trough may scour out things enough for some relief around Tuesday or Wednesday,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.

“The relief will be short-lived as smog issues return by next weekend,” added Nicholls.

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Delhi urged to declare emergency after third day of heavy pollution

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Delhi’s Government Declares A Public Health Emergency As Air Pollution Chokes The City

Indian commuters drive amid heavy smog in New Delhi on November 7, 2017. Photo credit: AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH SINGH /Getty Images

India’s capital city New Delhi was enveloped by toxic smog on Tuesday, forcing the Indian Medical Association to declare a public health emergency, advising citizens to stay indoors, and for schools to be shut.

On the morning of November 7, the U.S. embassy air pollution tracker in New Delhi said levels of PM2.5 reached 703, which is over double the mark of 300 that authorities deem as hazardous. That afternoon, the tracker showed AQI (air quality index) at 728, a level that leaves even healthy people at risk of serious respiratory problems.

Off the scale, literally

PM 2.5 refers to fine particulate matter — microscopic particles that are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, minuscule enough to be absorbed right into the lungs and blood. Sustained exposure to high levels of PM 2.5 can cause respiratory diseases like bronchitis, asthma and inflammation of the lungs, and even heart attacks and strokes.

According to the WHO, PM 2.5 levels should not exceed 25 micrograms per cubic meter over a 24-hour period and 10 micrograms per cubic meter on average over a year. But in Delhi, PM 2.5 levels have repeatedly surged to almost 1000, which is so high that it’s literally off the charts of many pollution monitoring devices.

More on Forbes: The Asian Cities Battling The Worst Air Pollution Are Doing The Most To Combat It

Data: WHO. Graphic by Nick DeSantis, Forbes Staff.

Crop burning a major cause

“Delhi has become a gas chamber,” tweeted Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, pointing to the catastrophic smog caused annually by the burning of crop stubble in the India’s northern agricultural states.

Farmers in Delhi’s neighbouring states like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan burn millions of tonnes of agricultural waste around October every year to clear farmland before they sow the winter crop. Kejriwal also shared that he had requested the education minister to require schools to be shut till pollution levels subside.

An Indian farmer burns paddy stubble in a field on the outskirts of Jalandhar on October 22, 2017. Pollution levels in the capital New Delhi have soared in the past fornight as farmers in northern India began crop burning, a fast and cheap method of clearing land before the new harvest. (Photo credit: SHAMMI MEHRA/AFP/Getty Images)

A Public health emergency

“My 8 year old daughter woke up wheezing and complained that her eyes were stinging this morning,” said Manisha Singh, a Delhi resident. “The smog is so thick your nose and throat hurt if you’re walking outdoors,” agreed Anand Saxena, also from Delhi. 

Doctors at the IMA have also asked that the city’s biggest running event, the Delhi Half Marathon, scheduled on November 19 be cancelled.

More on Forbes: India And China Both Struggle With Deadly Pollution — But Only One Fights It

Even last month, ahead of the major Hindu festival, Diwali, India’s Supreme Court banned the sale of firecrackers in New Delhi and the surrounding National Capital Region as a precautionary measure against pollution.

But clearly this was not enough. 

In fact, as per a report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health released just a few weeks ago, India tops the world in pollution-related deaths, accounting for 2.5 million of the total 9 million deaths attributed to pollution worldwide in 2015, and very little is being done to combat it. According to analyses of NASA satellite data, the levels of fine particulate matter got worse across India by 13% between 2010 and 2015. Although many think of Beijing as one of the world’s most polluted cities, Delhi’s PM 2.5 tends to about three times the Beijing mean and 15 times the WHO guidelines.

Severe air pollution declared public health emergency in Delhi, India

The city of Delhi, India, is surrounded by a thickening blanket of smog that covers the city, making the sky less visible and the air less breathable.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) declared a public health emergency in the city on Tuesday — the city’s air quality rating is above the highest levels on the index. People have been advised to avoid any outdoors activity and to keep children indoors to avoid the risks of the “severely harmful” air quality.

The Education Minister confirmed elementary schools will be closed on Wednesday, saying an extension of the order is possible. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal published statements on Twitter today, including a request to Sh. Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister, to consider closing schools for a few days.

83e6d_india-pollution-worker-rt-171107_4x3_992 Severe air pollution declared public health emergency in Delhi, IndiaSaumya Khandelwal/Reuters
A man covers his face as he walks to work, in Delhi, India, Nov. 7, 2017.

The problem is expected to linger for some time.

The Doctors Association’s requested that Kejriwal cancel the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, according to local media reports, which is about two weeks from now, on November 19.

Flight schedules have also been changed due to low visibility today; more than 20 flights have been delayed and at least four have been rerouted.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi is currently 316, which is above the threshold for “severely polluted” and has health implications, according to officials. The AQI scores range from excellent and good at 0- 50 and 51-100, lightly polluted and moderately polluted at 101-150 and 151-200 and heavily and severely polluted are 201-300 and 300-plus.

83e6d_india-pollution-worker-rt-171107_4x3_992 Severe air pollution declared public health emergency in Delhi, IndiaSajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images
Cyclists ride in the early morning as smogs New Delhi, Nov. 6, 2017.

The air quality in the Punjab region is even worse than Delhi; the index is 462. Many believe stubble burning — setting fire to leftover straw after grain harvests — in the province has contributed to the extreme pollution there and elsewhere.

Despite restrictions on stubble burning in Punjab, many do not comply with the new regulations and the smoke is creating problems not only for that region, but also for adjacent provinces in both India and Pakistan.

Imran Hussain, who is in the Delhi cabinet as minister of food and civil supplies, environment, forests and election, said he has asked Punjab officials to curb burning of agricultural residue to control air pollution in Delhi. But no action has been taken.

Punjab officials deny the effect on Delhi’s air quality, saying stubble burning has been reduced by thirty percent since Punjab banned crop burning in 2013.

Severe air pollution declared public health emergency in Delhi, India

The city of Delhi, India, is surrounded by a thickening blanket of smog that covers the city, making the sky less visible and the air less breathable.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) declared a public health emergency in the city on Tuesday — the city’s air quality rating is above the highest levels on the index. People have been advised to avoid any outdoors activity and to keep children indoors to avoid the risks of the “severely harmful” air quality.

The Education Minister confirmed elementary schools will be closed on Wednesday, saying an extension of the order is possible. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal published statements on Twitter today, including a request to Sh. Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister, to consider closing schools for a few days.

83e6d_india-pollution-worker-rt-171107_4x3_992 Severe air pollution declared public health emergency in Delhi, IndiaSaumya Khandelwal/Reuters
A man covers his face as he walks to work, in Delhi, India, Nov. 7, 2017.

The problem is expected to linger for some time.

The Doctors Association’s requested that Kejriwal cancel the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, according to local media reports, which is about two weeks from now, on November 19.

Flight schedules have also been changed due to low visibility today; more than 20 flights have been delayed and at least four have been rerouted.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi is currently 316, which is above the threshold for “severely polluted” and has health implications, according to officials. The AQI scores range from excellent and good at 0- 50 and 51-100, lightly polluted and moderately polluted at 101-150 and 151-200 and heavily and severely polluted are 201-300 and 300-plus.

83e6d_india-pollution-worker-rt-171107_4x3_992 Severe air pollution declared public health emergency in Delhi, IndiaSajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images
Cyclists ride in the early morning as smogs New Delhi, Nov. 6, 2017.

The air quality in the Punjab region is even worse than Delhi; the index is 462. Many believe stubble burning — setting fire to leftover straw after grain harvests — in the province has contributed to the extreme pollution there and elsewhere.

Despite restrictions on stubble burning in Punjab, many do not comply with the new regulations and the smoke is creating problems not only for that region, but also for adjacent provinces in both India and Pakistan.

Imran Hussain, who is in the Delhi cabinet as minister of food and civil supplies, environment, forests and election, said he has asked Punjab officials to curb burning of agricultural residue to control air pollution in Delhi. But no action has been taken.

Punjab officials deny the effect on Delhi’s air quality, saying stubble burning has been reduced by thirty percent since Punjab banned crop burning in 2013.

Greene County emergency officials reviewing internet service after 911 outage – Observer


Regional Editor

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com.

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Michigan hepatitis A outbreak prompts Community Health Emergency Coordination Center activation

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services activated the Community Health Emergency Coordination Center to assist in responding to the growing hepatitis A outbreak.

In a statement released Tuesday, the health department said the center will provide education, medical resources and help develop guidelines to local health departments, hospitals, EMS, healthcare coalitions and other healthcare providers. 

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“To help coordinate Michigan’s response to the hepatitis A outbreak, we are opening the Community Health Emergency Coordination Center to assist the multiple local public health jurisdictions involved in the response and prevention of further cases,” MDHHS director Nick Lyon said.

MDHHS officials urge all health care providers to encourage vaccinations in an attempt to prevent the outbreak to spread outside of southeast Michigan. Officials said those at highest risk of infection are people with a history of substance abuse, men who have sex with men, incarcerated prisoners, food handlers, healthcare workers, people underlying liver disease and those who are in close contact with any of the other at-risk groups. 

“We know that the hepatitis A vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in protecting someone who may be exposed to hepatitis A,” MDHHS chief medical executive Dr. Eden Wells said. “Without a single source associated with these cases, the importance of vaccination and proper hygiene is vital to ensuring we stop the person-to-person spread of hepatitis A.” 

There have been 457 confirmed cases of hepatitis A in southeast Michigan since August 2016. 

More information about the hepatitis A outbreak in Michigan and current recommendations are available here

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Weekly News Quiz: Mueller Investigation, Catalonia, Public Health Emergency

, the New Orleans rhythm-and-blues singer whose two-fisted boogie-woogie piano and nonchalant vocals, heard on dozens of hits, made him one of the biggest stars of the early rock ’n’ roll era, died on Oct. 24 at his home in Harvey, La., across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. He was 89.

Director: Mental Health Center Will Be Like Emergency Room


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 Director: Mental Health Center Will Be Like Emergency Room

In order to stop pressure on police and supply a place for people in mental health crisis, Metro Health Department and Mental Health Cooperative announced plans to build a mental health “ER”.

 Director: Mental Health Center Will Be Like Emergency Room

In order to stop pressure on police and supply a place for people in mental health crisis, Metro Health Department and Mental Health Cooperative announced plans to build a mental health “ER”.

 Director: Mental Health Center Will Be Like Emergency Room

 Director: Mental Health Center Will Be Like Emergency Room

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In order to stop pressure on police and supply a place for people in mental health crisis, Metro Health Department and Mental Health Cooperative announced plans to build a mental health “ER”.

As the Nashville population grew, city officials looked for ways to help a new problem of Metro Police spending many hours on mental health patients. This new ‘psychiatric emergency room’ could be the answer they’re looking for.

The $3 million facility will be a place police can drop off patients dealing with mental health issues for immediate treatment.

“The problem is, the population has continued to grow, those resources haven’t grown to keep up with the demand,” said Senior Vice President of Clinical Affairs Amanda Bracht. “As our city continues to grow at an enormous rate, you’re going to have people with mental illness, who have substance abuse issues and they need to get rapid treatment, or they are going to end up in our jails, in our emergency rooms waiting for days on end for treatment.”

The mayor’s office signed off on plans to run the facility, which is meant to help battle a growing addiction problem as well.

The facility will cost about $5.3 million to operate annually. 

Their goal is to have police officers in and out in under 10 minutes. Currently, officers can spend their entire shift dealing with one mental health patient. Often times, patients with mental health needs are taken to jail rather than a facility to treat their problems.

“When somebody’s suffering from mental illness, and they’re in crisis, a lot of times families are frustrated, they don’t know what to do. Sometimes there is behavior that makes people really feel the need to call police for assistance. A lot of time, these people really need treatment. They don’t really need to be kept in jail,” said Metro Health Department Director Dr. William Paul.

The facility will be able to house 20 people, adding to the 23 current beds Mental Health Cooperative currently operates.

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Donald Trump declares public health emergency over opioid crisis. Here’s what that means

White House, Remarks by President Trump on Combatting Drug Demand and the Opioid Crisis, Oct. 26, 2017

White House, Presidential Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, Oct. 26, 2017

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Declaration of opioid crisis as a national public health emergency

Sen. Edward J. Markey, Senator Markey on Trump Opioid Announcement: A Vision Without Funding Is An Hallucination, Oct. 26, 2017

Sen. Edward J. Markey, Senators Unveil Legislation to Invest $45 Billion to Address Opioid Crisis, Oct. 25, 2017

New York Times, Trump Declares Opioid Crisis a ‘Health Emergency’ but Requests No Funds, Oct. 26, 2017

Legal Action Center, The Medicaid IMD Exclusion: An Overview and Opportunities for Reform

Federal Emergency Management Agency, The Stafford Act, as amended and Emergency Management-related Provisions of the Homeland Security Act, as amended, August 2016

House of Representatives, Office of the Legislative Counsel, Public Health Service Act

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Provisional counts of drug overdose deaths, as of 8/6/2017

National Institute on Drug Abuse, Opioid Crisis, Revised June 2017

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS Acting Secretary Declares Public Health Emergency to Address National Opioid Crisis, Oct. 26, 2017

Congressional Research Service, Medicaid’s Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) Exclusion, May 8, 2015

ABC News, Trump says he’s going to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. Here’s what that means, Oct. 23, 2017

American Action Forum, The Problems With The IMD Exclusion, Oct. 15, 2015

LBJ Presidential Library, The 1965 Medicare Amendment to the Social Security Act, Aug. 27, 2012

White House, President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, Interim report

Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, Interim report, July 31, 2017

U.S. Surgeon General, Facing addiction in America, 2016

CDC Morbidity and Mortality weekly report, “Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths — United States, 2000–2014,

National Conference of State Legislatures, “Preventing opioid misuse: legislative trends and predictions,” Jan. 31, 2017

White House, Press Briefing on the Opioid Crisis, Aug. 8, 2017

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, SAMHSA/CDC/CMS State Opioid Workshop Remarks, Aug. 8, 2017

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), 2016

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman press release, Portman Welcomes New Opioid Funding as President Signs 21st Century CURES  Dec. 13, 2016

Hartford Courant editorial, “Overdose Epidemic Demands More Than Federal Baby Steps,” April 13, 2016

Bradenton Herald, “Rubio calls on Senate to fund fight against drug epidemic,” Sept. 13, 2016

New York Times, “Call for Action, Not More Study, On Opioid Crisis,” June 17, 2017

New York Times, “Panel Wants Opioid Crisis Declared Emergency,” Aug. 1, 2017

Washington Post, FDA is targeting international mailings of opioids, Aug. 6, 2017

Washington Post Wonkblog, “White House opioid commission to Trump: ‘Declare a national emergency’ on drug overdoses,” July 31, 2017

PBS, “What It Would Mean To Declare the Opioid Crisis a National Emergency,” Aug. 1, 2017

The Hill, “Amid federal uncertainty, states confront opioid crisis,” March 8, 2017

Huffington Post, “Bush, Oz, Advocates To Trump: Declare Emergency On Opioid Crisis Now,” Aug. 7, 2017

Miami Herald, “Gov. Scott declares public health emergency over opioid crisis,” May 3, 2017

PolitiFact, “Claire McCaskill cites disproven figure on opioid use” May 10, 2017

PolitiFact, “HHS Secretary Tom Price says ‘hundreds of millions’ more already spent to fight opioid addiction,” May 26, 2017

PunditFact, “Newt Gingrich misleads with point that House health care bill grows Medicaid spending,” June 28, 2017

Interview, Dr. Mehmet Oz, host Dr. Oz show, Aug. 8, 2017

Interview, Robert I.L. Morrison, Executive Director/Director of Legislative Affairs National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Aug. 8, 2017

Interview, Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Aug. 8, 2017

Congress.gov, S.2004

Washington Post, Trump declares the opioid crisis a public health emergency, Oct. 26, 2017

CNN, What Trump’s opioid announcement means — and doesn’t mean, Oct. 26, 2017

Federal Emergency Management Agency, Disaster Relief Fund

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Opioid Prescribing, Page last updated Sept. 26, 2017

Donald Trump declares public health emergency over opioid crisis. Here’s what that means

White House, Remarks by President Trump on Combatting Drug Demand and the Opioid Crisis, Oct. 26, 2017

White House, Presidential Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, Oct. 26, 2017

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Declaration of opioid crisis as a national public health emergency

Sen. Edward J. Markey, Senator Markey on Trump Opioid Announcement: A Vision Without Funding Is An Hallucination, Oct. 26, 2017

Sen. Edward J. Markey, Senators Unveil Legislation to Invest $45 Billion to Address Opioid Crisis, Oct. 25, 2017

New York Times, Trump Declares Opioid Crisis a ‘Health Emergency’ but Requests No Funds, Oct. 26, 2017

Legal Action Center, The Medicaid IMD Exclusion: An Overview and Opportunities for Reform

Federal Emergency Management Agency, The Stafford Act, as amended and Emergency Management-related Provisions of the Homeland Security Act, as amended, August 2016

House of Representatives, Office of the Legislative Counsel, Public Health Service Act

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Provisional counts of drug overdose deaths, as of 8/6/2017

National Institute on Drug Abuse, Opioid Crisis, Revised June 2017

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS Acting Secretary Declares Public Health Emergency to Address National Opioid Crisis, Oct. 26, 2017

Congressional Research Service, Medicaid’s Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) Exclusion, May 8, 2015

ABC News, Trump says he’s going to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. Here’s what that means, Oct. 23, 2017

American Action Forum, The Problems With The IMD Exclusion, Oct. 15, 2015

LBJ Presidential Library, The 1965 Medicare Amendment to the Social Security Act, Aug. 27, 2012

White House, President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, Interim report

Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, Interim report, July 31, 2017

U.S. Surgeon General, Facing addiction in America, 2016

CDC Morbidity and Mortality weekly report, “Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths — United States, 2000–2014,

National Conference of State Legislatures, “Preventing opioid misuse: legislative trends and predictions,” Jan. 31, 2017

White House, Press Briefing on the Opioid Crisis, Aug. 8, 2017

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, SAMHSA/CDC/CMS State Opioid Workshop Remarks, Aug. 8, 2017

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), 2016

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman press release, Portman Welcomes New Opioid Funding as President Signs 21st Century CURES  Dec. 13, 2016

Hartford Courant editorial, “Overdose Epidemic Demands More Than Federal Baby Steps,” April 13, 2016

Bradenton Herald, “Rubio calls on Senate to fund fight against drug epidemic,” Sept. 13, 2016

New York Times, “Call for Action, Not More Study, On Opioid Crisis,” June 17, 2017

New York Times, “Panel Wants Opioid Crisis Declared Emergency,” Aug. 1, 2017

Washington Post, FDA is targeting international mailings of opioids, Aug. 6, 2017

Washington Post Wonkblog, “White House opioid commission to Trump: ‘Declare a national emergency’ on drug overdoses,” July 31, 2017

PBS, “What It Would Mean To Declare the Opioid Crisis a National Emergency,” Aug. 1, 2017

The Hill, “Amid federal uncertainty, states confront opioid crisis,” March 8, 2017

Huffington Post, “Bush, Oz, Advocates To Trump: Declare Emergency On Opioid Crisis Now,” Aug. 7, 2017

Miami Herald, “Gov. Scott declares public health emergency over opioid crisis,” May 3, 2017

PolitiFact, “Claire McCaskill cites disproven figure on opioid use” May 10, 2017

PolitiFact, “HHS Secretary Tom Price says ‘hundreds of millions’ more already spent to fight opioid addiction,” May 26, 2017

PunditFact, “Newt Gingrich misleads with point that House health care bill grows Medicaid spending,” June 28, 2017

Interview, Dr. Mehmet Oz, host Dr. Oz show, Aug. 8, 2017

Interview, Robert I.L. Morrison, Executive Director/Director of Legislative Affairs National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Aug. 8, 2017

Interview, Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Aug. 8, 2017

Congress.gov, S.2004

Washington Post, Trump declares the opioid crisis a public health emergency, Oct. 26, 2017

CNN, What Trump’s opioid announcement means — and doesn’t mean, Oct. 26, 2017

Federal Emergency Management Agency, Disaster Relief Fund

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Opioid Prescribing, Page last updated Sept. 26, 2017

Rep. Baker visits White House to hear national health emergency declaration

Most of the folks in the four-county region likely heard about President Donald Trump’s declaration of the opioid epidemic as a national health emergency on the internet, radio or TV.

But state Rep. Matt Baker, R-Wellsboro, who covers a small portion of Potter County, was much closer to the action. He joined Trump at the White House as the president made the announcement on Thursday.

“I was both honored and humbled to be invited to the East Wing of the White House for this very important announcement by the president to combat the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history,” Baker told The Era on Friday.

Baker said he was able to see Trump, and he sat in the third row next to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. He also met and spoke with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is the chairman of the Presidential Opioid Commission.

“Also in the room were many governors, a U.S. senator and some congressmen and many cabinet members of the president, including U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions and (Eric Hargan) Secretary of HHS (Health and Human Services),” he said. “I have been to the White House before many years ago as a tourist but this was my first invited visit for a presidential announcement to address a national issue of such great import.”

Baker found himself chosen for the White House visit because he wrote or co-wrote many laws and bills to combat drug abuse. He is also the chairman of the state House Health Committee.

“I have always been a strong advocate in the fight against drug abuse, so I was encouraged to hear the president agree that opioid abuse has become a national health issue,” Baker said. “With this declaration, more resources will be freed up from the federal government to fight the growing opioid epidemic in our country. Those resources, coupled with what we are doing at the state level, will enable us to better attack this problem.”

Baker said Trump’s declaration will assist in the expansion of access to medical services in rural areas, as well as increase telemedicine services.

“I am hopeful with the president’s backing, we can gain the momentum needed and drive the resources out that will be necessary to appropriately battle this healthcare crisis that is claiming lives of every race, gender, age and economic background across our country,” he said.

This week has been a busy one for Baker, who also co-hosted the 2017 Rural Pennsylvania Legislative Briefing on “Addressing the Challenges of Addiction in Rural Pennsylvania.”

During the meeting Wednesday, officials discussed the opioid epidemic and the effects on already overwhelmed and limited services available in rural areas of Pennsylvania.

“Anything we can do to help those in need who are dealing with limited access to health care and other services will be of benefit,” Baker said. “Our rural communities are stretched to the limit and need additional help to aid the growing list of opioid-addicted patients.”