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New, Major Evidence That Fracking Harms Human Health

A child born very close to a well is likely to be smaller and less healthy than a child born farther away.

The First Major Evidence That Fracking Harms Human Health

A child born very close to a well is likely to be smaller and less healthy than a child born farther away.

The First Major Evidence That Fracking Harms Human Health

A child born very close to a well is likely to be smaller and less healthy than a child born farther away.

Health is a fundamental human right

Human Rights Day 2017

Statement by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

10 December 2017

“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”.

Almost 70 years after these words were adopted in the Constitution of the World Health Organization, they are more powerful and relevant than ever.

Since day one, the right to health has been central to WHO’s identity and mandate. It is at the heart of my top priority: universal health coverage.

The right to health for all people means that everyone should have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardship.

No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health services they need.

Good health is also clearly determined by other basic human rights including access to safe drinking water and sanitation, nutritious foods, adequate housing, education and safe working conditions.

The right to health also means that everyone should be entitled to control their own health and body, including having access to sexual and reproductive information and services, free from violence and discrimination.

Everyone has the right to privacy and to be treated with respect and dignity. Nobody should be subjected to medical experimentation, forced medical examination, or given treatment without informed consent.

That’s why WHO promotes the idea of people-centred care; it is the embodiment of human rights in the practice of care.

When people are marginalized or face stigma or discrimination, their physical and mental health suffers. Discrimination in health care is unacceptable and is a major barrier to development.

But when people are given the opportunity to be active participants in their own care, instead of passive recipients, their human rights respected, the outcomes are better and health systems become more efficient.

We have a long way to go until everyone – no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have – has access to these basic human rights.

The central principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure that no one is left behind.

I call on all countries to respect and protect human rights in health – in their laws, their health policies and programmes. We must all work together to combat inequalities and discriminatory practices so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of good health, no matter their age, sex, race, religion, health status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or migration status.

    Health is a fundamental human right

    Human Rights Day 2017

    Statement by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

    10 December 2017

    “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”.

    Almost 70 years after these words were adopted in the Constitution of the World Health Organization, they are more powerful and relevant than ever.

    Since day one, the right to health has been central to WHO’s identity and mandate. It is at the heart of my top priority: universal health coverage.

    The right to health for all people means that everyone should have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardship.

    No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health services they need.

    Good health is also clearly determined by other basic human rights including access to safe drinking water and sanitation, nutritious foods, adequate housing, education and safe working conditions.

    The right to health also means that everyone should be entitled to control their own health and body, including having access to sexual and reproductive information and services, free from violence and discrimination.

    Everyone has the right to privacy and to be treated with respect and dignity. Nobody should be subjected to medical experimentation, forced medical examination, or given treatment without informed consent.

    That’s why WHO promotes the idea of people-centred care; it is the embodiment of human rights in the practice of care.

    When people are marginalized or face stigma or discrimination, their physical and mental health suffers. Discrimination in health care is unacceptable and is a major barrier to development.

    But when people are given the opportunity to be active participants in their own care, instead of passive recipients, their human rights respected, the outcomes are better and health systems become more efficient.

    We have a long way to go until everyone – no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have – has access to these basic human rights.

    The central principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure that no one is left behind.

    I call on all countries to respect and protect human rights in health – in their laws, their health policies and programmes. We must all work together to combat inequalities and discriminatory practices so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of good health, no matter their age, sex, race, religion, health status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or migration status.

      USC researchers develop method to ensure human rights in public health services

      When measuring the success of public health work — from immunizations to family planning services — experts rely on sets of standardized indicators. But these indicators often neglect the voices and human rights of people who use the services, according to USC researchers.

      The USC Program on Global Health Human Rights and the World Health Organization (WHO) developed a new methodology, published by PLOS ONE, to determine the extent to which commonly used public health indicators capture human rights concerns.

      “Health practitioners, researchers and policymakers are looking for ways to ensure their work is sensitive to inequalities and that they are truly serving the people the intend to reach, and this is one of those ways,” said Sofia Gruskin, director of the Program on Global Health and Human Rights, and lead author of the study.

      Indicators are considered a vital component of any public health initiative — they provide guideposts to steer research and evaluate a program’s performance and impact in relation to its goals.

      “This is the first effort to identify indicators, select the ones that reflect people’s experiences and provide a rigorous method of analysis to ensure that human rights are considered and people’s voices are heard when decisions are made regarding what services will be strengthened or prioritized,” said study co-author Laura Ferguson, assistant professor of preventive medicine.

      Key test case

      The researchers used contraceptive services and programs as a test case for creating the methodology. In November, they launched a tool based on their findings with the WHO. The document guides countries looking to strengthen human rights efforts in their contraceptive services and programming.

      With support from WHO and an expert advisory group, the researchers created an analytic framework that helps sift through — and evaluate — indicators, from the quantitative (e.g. contraceptive prevalence rate) to the qualitative (e.g. contraceptive user satisfaction with services) to the political (e.g. whether the government ensures access to contraceptive information and services).

      From the hundreds of commonly used indicators, they identified approximately 40 that could be used to monitor human rights concerns in public health work. They also pinpointed gaps where additional indictors are needed to capture certain human rights dimensions and ensure people’s voices will be heard in determining if services are effective.

      Shubha Kumar, assistant professor of clinical preventive medicine, and Alexandra Nicholson, program administrator for the Program on Global Health and Human Rights, also contributed to the study.

      ###

      Rise of the BIOHYBRID MACHINES: Robots part HUMAN part ANDROID on the way

      Lead author Leonardo Ricotti, of the BioRobotics Institute at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, in Pisa, Italy, told Live Science: “You can consider this the counterpart of cyborg-related concepts.

      “In this view, we exploit the functions of living cells in artificial robots to optimise their performances.”

      If robots on a microscopic scale – nanobots – can be fine tuned using muscle cells or carrying beneficial, they will be able to explore the human body and help to cure ailments in a specific part of the body, such as cancerous cells.

      Podcast: How space travel affects human health

      Have you ever wondered what it would be like to leave Earth?

      Floating around the International Space Station and exploring new worlds may sound exciting, but space travel also poses a unique set of pretty intense health effects. Changes in gravitational force and radiation can cause physical harm to the body, while being in a small, isolated environment can take a toll on mental wellbeing. And that’s just the start of it!

      Since the inception of our national and international space programs, researchers have been studying the myriad effects of spaceflight on health in hopes of developing better countermeasures as we venture farther into space.

      In this episode of our podcast, we talked with Dr. Allie Anderson at the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. Anderson describes “puffy face bird leg” syndrome (yes, that’s a thing) among other health impacts of space travel and what hot topics are keeping folks in space medicine busy.

      Want more? Subscribe and listen on iTunes or Google Play, or check out Podbean to listen via desktop!

      New research creates a computer chip that emulates human cognition

      This article originally appeared in Yale Engineering magazine.

      Imagine working in an office where, once you’ve finished one task, you had to wait until everyone in all the other cubicles completed the tasks they were working on before you could move on to your next assignment.

      That’s how most digital devices that rely on synchronous circuits work. Built-in clocks allow the same amount of time for the completion of each computational function. Based on a binary system of ones and zeros, it’s reliable, but it also means that the system can run only as fast as the slowest function in the chain.

      In a clocked implementation, everything has to fit into a time budget, so unless you make everything faster, your chip doesn’t run faster — and ‘everything’ includes things you don’t always need,” said Rajit Manohar, the John C. Malone Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

      Even before Siri and Google Home became our household companions, we’ve had a tendency to anthropomorphize computers. It’s long been common for people to speak of computers in terms of “thinking” and to ascribe them brain-related traits. In truth, though, conventional computers really don’t function like brains at all. But computer science is getting closer.

      One sign of this is TrueNorth, a 4-square-centimeter chip that possesses some 5.4 billion transistors, and 1 million “neurons” that communicate via 256 million “synapses.” Starting while he was a faculty member at Cornell, Manohar came to work on the chip with a team of IBM researchers in a years-long collaboration that resulted in TrueNorth. Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of its Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) program, TrueNorth is a pioneering example of the neuromorphic chip — a new breed of computer circuitry modeled after the brain. It’s the size of a postage stamp and it could be the start of a revolution in how we make and use computers.

      Manohar, who started at Yale in January, came to the project through his work with asynchronous systems, one of his research specialties. In devices with these types of circuits, each function is allowed as little or as much time as needed to complete its task. “It’s like a relay race — you hand the baton to the next person when you’re there,” he said. To allow for greater complexity and use much less energy, all of these functions work asynchronously and in parallel — similar to how neuroscientists believe the brain operates.

      There’s clearly not a single, carefully synchronized signal that goes to every single neuron in your brain, so it seems that asynchrony is a natural way to think about how computation there occurs,” Manohar said.

      87c77_yse_truenorth_rajit_manohar-portrait New research creates a computer chip that emulates human cognition
      “The brain is an asynchronous system that we don’t really understand very well, and it can do certain things that we don’t know how to get computers to do today — and that’s interesting,” says Rajit Manohar.

      Although asynchronous systems are often thought of as a new branch of study within computer science, their roots go back to the earliest versions of the modern computer. Manohar notes that even the blueprint of the modern computer (the “Von Neumann” machine) from the 1940s explains that asynchronous computation is advantageous. Many early machines were built this way, but computer architecture soon grew in complexity and included a lot more wires. Ensuring that a signal was sent and received correctly within the machine got trickier. An internal timekeeper was needed to make sure that things ran properly, and synchronous circuits became the law of the land.

      What the machines gained in orderliness, though, they lost in speed. Take for instance, the computer in your phone. It’s running at 1 GHz — a billion steps per second — so every step has to fit in one nanosecond. Whatever you’re calculating has to be subdivided into equal blocks of time. If one step finishes early, you have to wait. That can add up to a lot of wasted time.

      Frankly, it’s rare that you have computation where individual things all take the same amount of time,” he said. “Not all computations are equally difficult.”

      If one step takes too long, an error occurs. In that case, the process has to be broken into smaller steps, or the step size has to be bigger — and that slows everything else down.

      Nonetheless, this didn’t pose much concern until the 1980s, when chips started getting bigger and more complicated and the clocks used to keep up with the computing power got more and more expensive to run — taking up as much as 20 percent of a chip’s power consumption.

      So people started looking at asynchronous circuits again in the early ‘80s.”

      The neurons of TrueNorth work in parallel with each other, each doing what it needs to do to complete a task. They communicate via bursts of electric current, known as spikes. One of the most remarkable things about TrueNorth is how power-efficient it is. Drawing 70 milliwatts of power — equal to that of a hearing aid — its consumption is miniscule compared to conventional computers performing similar tasks.

      Dharmendra Modha, lead researcher of the Cognitive Computing group at IBM Almaden Research Center and principal investigator of the DARPA SyNAPSE project, said he recruited Manohar because he’s a “world leader” in the technology required for the project and he had developed “powerful and proven tools.”

      Neurons in the brain are event-driven and operate without any synchronizing clock,” Modha said. “To achieve the ambitious metrics of DARPA SyNAPSE, a key element was to design and implement event-driven circuits for which asynchronous circuits are natural.”

      87c77_yse_truenorth_rajit_manohar-portrait New research creates a computer chip that emulates human cognition
      The TrueNorth chip in detail.

      Neuroscience has given us a much better understanding of what’s happening in the brain, and that information inspired the architecture of the TrueNorth chip. But it’s a stretch to call TrueNorth a copy of the brain’s functions since we still don’t know exactly how the brain works. That’s one of the things that fascinates Manohar about his work.

      The brain is an asynchronous system that we don’t really understand very well, and it can do certain things that we don’t know how to get computers to do today — and that’s interesting,” he said. Also, there’s evidence that the brain has a “massively powerful asynchronous computational substrate” that can learn how to do a lot of different applications.

      And it can execute those applications at an efficiency that we don’t know how to do on a computer. That’s also interesting.”

      Many other efforts in neuromorphic computing start with the aim of better understanding how the brain works. The makers of TrueNorth approached their project from the other direction; how can the processes of the brain make for better computing? That also suits Manohar’s interests.

      I’m not in it to understand the biology. I’m in it to understand how it does this computation.”

      To see what kind of real-world applications TrueNorth might have, the research team developed a multi-object detection and classification application and tested it with two challenges: one was to detect people, bicyclists, cars, trucks, and buses that appear periodically on a video; the other was to correctly identify each object. TrueNorth proved adept at both tasks.

      Even if it captures just a fraction of the human brain’s complexity — according to its makers, the chip has the brain power of a bumblebee — that’s enough to accomplish some remarkable tasks. For instance, it allows users to change the channel without touching the TV or a remote control. Samsung, which has evaluated the TrueNorth chip, announced that it is developing a system in which TV users can control their sets simply by gesturing. Officials at the Los Alamos National Lab have also discussed using it for some supercomputing calculations.

      Manohar is also the founder of Achronix Semiconductor, a company that specializes in high-performance asynchronous field programmable gate arrays (FPGA) chips. MIT Technology Review listed him as one of “35 Innovators Under 35” for his work on low-power microprocessor design. His other specialties include low-power embedded systems, concurrent systems, and formal methods for circuit design.

      Manohar says he came to computer science by way of mathematics.

      At some point, I wanted to use mathematics for something more applied,” he said. “I thought computer science was interesting from an applied math perspective — a lot of the techniques and some of the foundations are very mathematical.”

      The unprecedented nature of TrueNorth meant a huge amount of resources were put into it. Not only did the research team invent the chip, they needed to invent the tools used to build it, since existing current computer-assisted design (CAD) software wasn’t adequate.

      One of the things that prevents people from working on asynchronous circuits are the lack of tools to design them,” he said. “There’s a huge industry that spends billions of dollars each year improving these CAD tools, but they aren’t tailored to the work we’re doing on asynchronous design, so we have to write our own CAD tools.”

      Since the unveiling of TrueNorth, the number of researchers working on asynchronous circuits has increased significantly, but it’s still a small community. The CAD software that Manohar’s team used was designed specifically for the team’s use. But if they can modify them to be more universal, Manohar believes the field will break out, and the technology will advance even more rapidly.

      One of the things we want to do is to have a complete set of tools that we could put in open source and let other researchers use. Often I hear from people in industry say ‘Hey I’d like to try this, but I don’t know how to start because I don’t have the tools.’”

      The benefits of thinking like a brain

      The architecture of today’s conventional computers still derive from the Von Neumann model of the 1940s. We don’t use the cardboard punch cards, but the basic idea is still the same. Advances have lessened how long it takes for the memory to transfer data to the processor. But the data still needs to shuttle back and forth, and that requires time and power. For decades, computers have steadily shrunk in size but grown in power. Computer scientists, though, say we’re getting close to the limit of how much we can keep souping up processors. Neuromorphic chips could break open a whole new field that will allow the trend to continue, quite possibly at an even quicker pace.

      One of the radical departures from conventional systems is that the storage of data on TrueNorth and the calculation of it aren’t separated. Its neural network can work multiple tasks without the timekeeping mechanism, breaking free of the linear operation that bogs down conventional operations.

      Then there’s the matter of what these chips can allow computers to do. Conventional computers are great at brute force calculations. They’re less adept at recognizing faces or picking out specific voices and tasks that involve pattern recognition. That’s why those CAPTCHA functions that instruct you to pick out Einstein’s face or copy a short alphanumeric pattern to prove you’re human are so effective at keeping out bots.

      While neuromorphic computing has advanced greatly since computer scientists first began seriously discussing it in the 1980s, the field is still in the early stage, and many in the field are excited about what can be done with the chips as the technology becomes more sophisticated. As with any potentially game-changing technology, it’s impossible to imagine all possible commercial applications, but many in the field say neuromorphic chips could be key to realizing ready-for-primetime self-driving cars, more human-like robots, and devices to help people with visual impairments.

      Of course, getting to that point is no small task. Manohar is currently working with a team of researchers from the University of Waterloo and Stanford University on a multichip system that Manohar says would be the next step forward in neuromorphics.

      We’d like to demonstrate significantly higher efficiency compared to all the existing platforms — that’s always the goal,” he said. “We think we know how to do that.”

      He predicts it won’t be long before this kind of technology ends up in everyday devices.

      These neurocomputing algorithms currently provide state-of-the-art performance for tasks like object detection and recognizing faces — tasks that a lot of companies care about today,” he said. “Imagine having photos or videos that you search for in the same way that you search for text today; these types of chips are way more efficient at that kind of computation.”

      LSU Health Shreveport: probing a special group of human viruses

       LSU Health Shreveport: probing a special group of human virusesx

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      CLOSELSU HEALTH RESEARCH
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      •  LSU Health Shreveport: probing a special group of human viruses
      •  LSU Health Shreveport: probing a special group of human viruses
      •  LSU Health Shreveport: probing a special group of human viruses

      Research Notebook is a recurring series highlighting research activities at LSU Health Shreveport. Today’s notebook looks at a recent grant focusing on human cytomegalovirus.

      An LSU Health Shreveport professor is among a group of human cytomegalovirus researchers across the nation awarded a five-year, $8.9 million collaborative grant to investigate how the virus hides in dormancy until it’s ready to activate and pose life-threatening disease risk.

      Andrew Yurochko, a professor of microbiology and immunology at LSU Health, will work with other researchers from the University of Arizona Health Sciences and Oregon Health and Science University to investigate different aspects of the virus-host interaction of the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), one of nine human herpesviruses.

      The grant is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

      Yurochko’s research will receive $746,715 over the five-year project. 

      Unlike many virus infections, HCMV infections are forever — they are never cleared by the host, hiding in dormancy. More than half of adults by age 40 have been infected with HCMV, and most people infected show no signs or symptoms. 

      When HCMV is reactivated from dormancy, it poses life-threatening disease risks in immunocompromised individuals, including transplant, AIDS and cancer patients. HCMV infection also is the leading cause of infectious disease-related birth defects, affecting one in 150 live births in the United States.

      Each of the research teams will look at a different aspect of the virus-host interaction, working to understand how the virus manipulates signaling pathways within its host, regulating how a host cell receives and transmits information from the extracellular environment to sense and respond to infection. Their aim is to understand how HCMV can hijack its host’s biology, allowing it to control its entry into and exit from dormant and active cycles, a key to its ability to exist in the human host. 

      “This grant shows the importance of collaborative research as the NIH’s Program Project Grant involves virologists in Oregon, Arizona and Louisiana,” said Dennis O’Callaghan, chairman of microbiology and immunology at LSU Health Shreveport. “Virtually all faculty within the department have ongoing collaborations with scientists not only within the same department but with faculty in other departments, such as physiology, pediatrics, pathology, ENT, and with faculty at other universities such as LSU-S, ULM, University of Berlin, Tulane University, Yale University, University of North Carolina, Michigan State University, Iowa State University, and others.”

      Project leaders at Oregon Health Science are Jay Nelson, Dan Streblow and Patrizia Caposio. Felicia Goodrum is the project leader for University of Arizona. 

      Research Notebook is prepared by LSU Health Shreveport. Questions? Send them to shvresearchinfo@lsuhsc.edu.

      More Research Notebooks

      Research Notebook: LSU Health focuses on neurological conditions

      Research Notebook: Possible new prostate cancer therapy

      Research Notebook: Sickle cell disease research

      LSU Health Shreveport Research Notebook: Cardiovascular disease

      LSU Health Shreveport Research Notebook: Stopping sudden epilepsy deaths

      Research Notebook: 200-plus researchers, more than $10M in grants at LSU Health Shreveport

      Human Brains Have Evolved Unique ‘Feel-Good’ Circuits

      062a7_gettyimages-117452647_custom-8ba777a5de9231259bb67f75b7bd0a7769faed39-s1100-c15 Human Brains Have Evolved Unique 'Feel-Good' Circuits

      A chimpanzee skull, at left, and a human skull. Scientists are probing why our brains evolved so differently despite many similarities.

      D. Roberts/Getty Images/Science Photo Libra


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      D. Roberts/Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

      A chimpanzee skull, at left, and a human skull. Scientists are probing why our brains evolved so differently despite many similarities.

      D. Roberts/Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

      A brain system involved in everything from addiction to autism appears to have evolved differently in people than in great apes, a team reports Thursday in the journal Science.

      The system controls the production of dopamine, a chemical messenger that plays a major role in pleasure and rewards.

      “Humans have evolved a dopamine system that is different than the one in chimpanzees,” says Nenad Sestan, an author of the study and a professor of neuroscience at Yale.

      That could help explain why human behavior is so different from our nearest relatives even though our brains are remarkably similar, he says. It might also shed light on why people are vulnerable to mental disorders such as autism.

      The finding came from a massive, multicenter effort to compare the brains of several species. Researchers looked at 247 samples of brain tissue from five macaque monkeys, five chimpanzees and six people. They looked at which genes were turned on or off in 16 regions of the brain.

      And in most places, the differences among species were subtle. But there was a striking difference in the neocortex, an area of the brain that is much more developed in people than in chimpanzees.

      The team found that a gene called TH, which is involved in the production of dopamine, was expressed in the neocortex of people, but not chimpanzees. “That caught our attention,” says Andre Miguel Sousa, another author of the study who works in Sestan’s lab at Yale.

      Dopamine is best known for its role in the brain’s reward system, which responds to everything from sex and food to addictive drugs. But dopamine also helps regulate emotional responses, memory and movement. And abnormal dopamine levels have been linked to disorders including Parkinson’s, schizophrenia and autism.

      It’s still not clear how differences in the dopamine system affect the human brain, Sestan says. “But we know where to look to try to find out why we have this and chimpanzees don’t,” he says.

      One tantalizing possibility is that dopamine plays a role in humans’ unique ability to pursue rewards that are months or even years away. That idea has been suggested by Robert Sapolsky, a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University.

      062a7_gettyimages-117452647_custom-8ba777a5de9231259bb67f75b7bd0a7769faed39-s1100-c15 Human Brains Have Evolved Unique 'Feel-Good' Circuits

      Sapolsky cites evidence that in humans, dopamine levels rise dramatically when we anticipate rewards that are uncertain and far in the future, like retirement or even the afterlife. That could explain what motivates people to work for things that have no obvious short-term benefit, he says.

      The new study doesn’t confirm Sapolsky’s hypothesis, Sestan says. But the findings do “lead in that direction.”

      The neocortex wasn’t the only area of the brain to show differences in gene expression among species.

      The team also found differences in much older areas, including an ancient structure called the cerebellum.”A very old part of the human brain seems to have very recent changes,” Sestan says.

      It will take years to fully understand what all the changes mean, he says. But the finding could eventually help explain what makes the human brain unique, and what goes wrong in a range of brain diseases.

      Oppose Alex Azar, President Trump’s Pick for Health and Human Services Secretary

      EDITOR’S NOTE:nbspThis article is part of The Nation’s Take Action program, which we use to point our readers toward actions they can take on the issues we cover. To get actions like this in your inbox every Tuesday, sign up for Take Action Now.

      What’s Going On?

      President Donald Trump has said that large pharmaceutical companies are “getting away with murder” by charging astronomical prices for vital medications. But his nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, was CEO of pharma giant Eli Lilly when the company more than tripled the price of insulin that people with diabetes need to stay alive.

      According to a study by T1International, people with type 1 diabetes in the United States already spend more on insulin than people in any other country. As James Elliott wrote at The Nation, Eli Lilly’s prices have had deadly consequences because people ration their insulin when they are unable to afford enough of it.

      Meanwhile, Eli Lilly is currently under investigation for price fixing and has been accused of colluding with other manufacturers to raise the price of insulin. The lawsuit states that in the last five years alone Sanofi, Novo Nordisk, and Eli Lilly have raised the prices on their drugs by more than 150 percent. Despite the fact that the medication has been around for decades, the cost continues to skyrocket.

      What Can I Do?

      With Azar’s Senate hearing coming up on November 29, we need urgent action if we’re going to stop him. The Nation has joined with T1International, a charity that advocates for people with type 1 diabetes and that does not accept money from pharmaceutical companies, to call on the Senate to reject Azar’s nomination as Health and Human Services Secretary. Here are three ways you can join us:

      1. Write to your senators to demand that they reject Azar’s nomination. We list some suggested language but you can also edit the letter to make it your own.

      2. Call your senators at 202-224-3121. Demand that they reject Azar’s nomination.

      3. Read James Elliott’s article at The Nation and spread the word about Azar’s history by sharing it on Facebook and Twitter.

      Jodi Forlizzi named director of Human-Computer Interaction Institute

      Jodi Forlizzi, a professor in Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), was recently appointed the Charles M. Geschke Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute.

      Forlizzi earned a bachelor’s degree in illustration from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and a master’s degree in interaction design at Carnegie Mellon before earning her Ph.D. in human-computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon. She has served as a faculty member at HCII, where she specializes in interaction design, since 2000. Her work has focused on designing engaging and effective educational games, designing for health care, and doing research and design work on social and assistive robots.

      Additionally, Forlizzi is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Computer-Human Interaction Academy, a group of researchers honored by the Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction for significant contributions to the field of human-computer interaction. “Members are selected based on cumulative contributions to the HCI field, impact on the field through development of new research directions and/or innovations, influence on the work of others, and participation in the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group in Computer-Human Interaction,” explains a university press release from the School of Computer Science. She was also honored by the Walter Reed Army Medical Center for excellence in human-robot interaction design research.

      The Human-Computer Interaction Institute “is a living laboratory” that investigates relationships between computer technology, human activity, and society states the institute’s website.

      “Founded in 1993, the HCII is a place where we work to understand and create technology that harmonizes with and improves human capabilities, goals, and social environments through interdisciplinary research and education in design, computer science, and behavioral and social sciences… We research how people work, play, and communicate within groups, organizations, and social structures, then we design, create, and evaluate technologies and tools to support human and social activities.”

      Carnegie Mellon faculty members like Forlizzi continue to be among the most influential researchers in the field of human-computer interaction since the 1960s.
      Forlizzi was appointed her new position by Andrew Moore, Dean of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science.

      Brainstorm Health: Smartphone Addiction, Human Head Transplant, J&J Cancer Verdict

      It was a twitch. I reached for my inside jacket pocket but my phone wasn’t there. And then my hand twitched—sort of. A flinch, kind of—but hard to describe. Moments later, I reached for my back pants pocket. No phone. I must have reached for an empty pocket a dozen more times—walking out of my home this morning, en route to the subway, on the subway platform, on the subway, on the walk to the office. But the strangest part is, I knew my phone wasn’t in any of these pockets. It was in my brother-in-law’s car.

      Last night, I discovered I am addicted to my smartphone. I mean, really addicted.

      After gathering in Queens, New York, for a birthday celebration, my brother-in-law dropped me off at the subway. It was late. The second I walked through the turnstile I realized I’d left my phone charging in his car. There was no way to reach him.

      I can’t remember the last time I rode the subway without reading news, or emails, or grazing through Twitter on my phone. Last night, for close to 90 minutes on two subway trains, I found myself feeling rudderless. Sitting on the train, I discovered I no longer knew where to look. Without a phone in my hand, I read every subway ad, stared at the floor, the ceiling, the opening and shutting doors.

      When I finally got home, I couldn’t sleep. Not without the last glance at email and Twitter before bedtime. I tossed and turned. It was like going through the DTs. My phone had become an extension of me, and now it was a phantom limb.

      I had no idea until last night how much I’d relied on this limb. As I waited on the subway platform, I reached for my phantom appendage to call an Uber. (No phone, no Uber.) I couldn’t text my wife and let her know where I was. I couldn’t listen to music or a podcast. No phone. When I opened my laptop to check my email, I realized only then that I didn’t have the randomly generated 6-digit password I needed to access the network. The app is on my phone.­ I suspected I had a conference call scheduled early this morning—or was I supposed to be somewhere for a meeting? I couldn’t check my calendar. Again—it was on my phone.

      This morning, at the office, when I thought to call my brother-in-law and arrange to retrieve my phone, I couldn’t. His phone number is on my phone. I don’t think I’ve remembered a phone number in years. I haven’t had to.

      The magnitude of my phone’s apparent power over me is a startling revelation. I tell myself now that I have do something about it—to wean myself off of this insidious addiction. And I will. As soon as I get my phone back.

      Does anyone know my brother-in-law’s number?

      Happy Friday, all.

      New Health and Human Services Secretary Would Inherit Troubled Agency

      The next head of the Department of Health and Human Services will be handed an agency facing criticism from state officials and internal strife.

      HHS, which employs about 80,000 people, oversees Medicaid, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and such agencies as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has been caught up in the fallout over the Republicans’ failure to repeal the health law legislatively and an ethics scandal over government-funded travel that led to the resignation of Secretary Tom Price in September.

      Health And Human Services Department Grappling With How Doctors Should Be Paid

      The Trump administration has begun to roll back Obama-era changes in how doctors are paid. NPR’s Robert Siegel talks with New York Times health care reporter Abby Goodnough about physician payment models.

      Trump Picks Alex Azar To Lead Health And Human Services

      31ba4_alex_azar-1-7d9abcd976386f725c7b02d6e064f744db36afdb-s1100-c15 Trump Picks Alex Azar To Lead Health And Human Services

      Alex Azar, who was deputy secretary for Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush administration, is President Trump’s pick to replace Dr. Tom Price as head of the department.

      Evan Vucci/AP


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      Evan Vucci/AP

      Alex Azar, who was deputy secretary for Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush administration, is President Trump’s pick to replace Dr. Tom Price as head of the department.

      Evan Vucci/AP

      Updated at 1:48 p.m. ET

      President Trump is nominating a former pharmaceutical executive to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that, among other things, regulates prescription drugs.

      The nomination comes at a time when rising drug prices have become a hot political issue.

      On Twitter on Monday, Trump announced the nomination of Alex Azar, who until January had served as president of the U.S. arm of Eli Lilly Co., based in Indianapolis. He said Azar, whose own Twitter feed is private, would be “a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices.”

      Azar, who served as deputy HHS secretary under President George W. Bush, is known as a detail-oriented bureaucrat who understands how to work the regulatory system to get things done.

      “He’s precise, highly motivated, he has high standards for performance for himself and for other people,” said Mike Leavitt, who was HHS secretary when Azar was deputy. “He had full responsibility as deputy secretary for the regulatory processes at HHS.”

      Leavitt says Azar is likely to use that knowledge to alter the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, to make it more friendly to Republican ideals. Azar, he says, can work to “change the ideology under which the existing law is implemented.”

      “That’s the place where they have essential unilateral authority, if they follow the administrative rules act,” Leavitt told Shots. “Alex understands that process better than almost anybody and that undoubtedly had some bearing on the president’s decision to appoint him.”

      Azar also favors moving authority to the states over Medicaid, the program that provides health care to the poor, elderly and disabled. That means turning over the program to the states to make them “better stewards of the money,” he said in an interview at a February conference on YouTube. “It turns these sovereign states and governors from supplicants to the HHS secretary into people running their own health insurance system for the poor.”

      He said at the time that HHS could use its regulatory powers to allow states to customize the rules around Medicaid. Seema Verma, who runs the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services and would work for Azar if he’s confirmed, has said she, too, favors giving states waivers to create their own Medicaid systems.

      Where Azar stands on drug prices is less clear. President Trump said after his election and before his inauguration that he wants the government to work to lower drug prices and that he wants the Medicare program to use its buying power to negotiate better prices.

      Since then, the president hasn’t said much specifically on the subject. But he did mention it when he announced his intention to nominate Azar on Twitter.

      Azar spent five years at Lilly, which makes several blockbuster medications, including Cialis, which treats erectile dysfunction; the antidepressant Cymbalta; and several forms of insulin. Insulin prices have drawn particular fire because they keep spiraling higher, even though insulin has been around almost a century.

      The prices of Lilly’s insulin drugs Humalog and Humulin, for instance, have both risen about 225 percent since 2011, according to data from the investment research firm Bernstein.

      “Drug corporations have undue influence over health policy in America, and they use it to make money on the backs of patients and taxpayers,” said Ben Wakana, executive director of Patients For Affordable Drugs, an advocacy group.

      Still, Wakana says Azar has a good track record. “Mr. Azar is well-qualified and has the chance to stand up for patients because he knows exactly how our drug pricing system is broken. If he wants to take meaningful action to lower drug prices, we want to help him.”

      While Azar was at Lilly, he also sat on the board of directors of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a trade group for biotech companies. Previously, Azar served as general counsel and later as deputy secretary of Health and Human Services during the George W. Bush administration.

      If he’s confirmed, Azar would replace Dr. Tom Price, who resigned from HHS in September after a Politico investigation found that he had taken private charter aircraft on work-related trips at times when cheaper commercial flights were available.

      Azar, a lawyer, would take over one of the largest federal agencies with an annual budget of more than $1 trillion. The department runs the Medicare and Medicaid programs, is responsible for implementation of the Affordable Care Act and oversees the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

      Trump announces ex-Big Pharma exec Alex Azar as Tom Price’s replacement at Health and Human Services

      President Donald Trump today announced he’s nominating Alex Azar to be Department of Health and Human Services secretary, replacing Tom Price.

      Azar is a former pharmaceutical executive for Eli Lilly and Co., and worked as a deputy secretary at HHS under President George W. Bush.

      Price resigned Sep. 29 amid investigations into his use of charter jets at the expense of taxpayers.

      This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

      Trump announces ex-Big Pharma exec Alex Azar as Tom Price’s replacement at Health and Human Services

      President Donald Trump today announced he’s nominating Alex Azar to be Department of Health and Human Services secretary, replacing Tom Price.

      Azar is a former pharmaceutical executive for Eli Lilly and Co., and worked as a deputy secretary at HHS under President George W. Bush.

      Price resigned Sep. 29 amid investigations into his use of charter jets at the expense of taxpayers.

      This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

      Trump picks Alex Azar to lead the Health and Human Services Department

      President Trump has tapped Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive and a top health official during the George W. Bush administration, to lead the Health and Human Services Department.

      The decision to enlist the 50-year-old Azar — who served as president of Lilly USA, the biggest affiliate of Eli Lilly and Co., before stepping down in January to work as a health-care consultant — represents a pragmatic pick. An establishment figure with a reputation as a conservative thinker and methodical lawyer, Azar would be expected to use his experience as HHS general counsel and deputy secretary to pursue Trump’s goals through executive action.

      In nominating him Monday morning, Trump tweeted, Azar “will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!” He has a close rapport with the department’s top political appointees as well as Vice President Pence.

      Azar has been highly critical of the Affordable Care Act, telling Fox Business in May that the law was “certainly circling the drain” and saying in a speech two months ago that many of its problems “were entirely predictable as a matter of economic and individual behavior.”

      In a June interview on Bloomberg Television, Azar made it clear he thought the administration could shift the ACA in a more conservative direction even if congressional Republicans failed to repeal much of it. “I’m not one to say many good things about Obamacare, but one of the nice things in it is it does give tremendous amount of authority to the secretary of HHS,” he said.

      2300-appointeeTracker0717-promo Trump picks Alex Azar to lead the Health and Human Services Department View Graphic Tracking how many key positions Trump has filled so far

      He also supports converting Medicaid from an entitlement program covering everyone who is eligible into block grants, a long-standing GOP goal that has sparked opposition from Democrats as well as some centrist Republicans. He has opposed expanding the program under the ACA to people with slightly higher incomes.

      The nominee boasts sterling conservative credentials, clerking for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia before working under special counsel Kenneth Starr to investigate Bill Clinton’s failed Whitewater real estate investments. Still, administration officials think he could work more deftly with competing health-care interests and politicians than his predecessor, Tom Price.

      Anticipating his selection, Senate Democrats had already begun preparing for his confirmation hearings. They intend to focus on his ties to the pharmaceutical industry, his position on high drug prices and the way he would continue implementing the ACA.

      Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the senior Democrat on the panel that will hold a confirmation hearing on the nomination, issued a statement Monday about the issues likely to come up when the Senate Finance Committee meets. “I will closely scrutinize Mr. Azar’s record and ask for his commitment to faithfully implement the Affordable Care Act and take decisive, meaningful action to curtail the runaway train of prescription drug costs,” Wyden said.

      He added: “The Trump administration’s track record on health care to date is objectively abysmal . . . Price abused the public trust on multiple occasions, led efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, and enabled congressional Republicans’ disastrous attempts to pass Trumpcare.”

      The former secretary did little to foster better relations between the administration and Capitol Hill despite his dozen years as a Georgia congressman. He stepped down in September after revelations that he had racked up more than $1 million in expenses this year by making official trips on noncommercial aircraft.

      Tevi Troy, who succeeded Azar as HHS deputy secretary under Bush, recalled in an interview that the two of them were part of a small group who gathered on the campus of Cornell University for a Federalist Society meeting in the fall of 1988. It was a freezing weekend in Ithaca, N.Y., and the fact that Azar drove up from Yale Law School was a testament to his conservative ideals, Troy quipped. “There were probably only about 30 people there,” he said.

      Azar’s ties to Pence date to his days at Lilly, an Indiana-based pharmaceutical firm, when Pence was the state’s governor.

      While Azar initially backed Jeb Bush for president in 2016 and served on his Indiana steering committee, he later donated $2,700 to a “Trump Victory” committee. Since 2008, records show, he has donated more than $96,000 to GOP candidates.

      In an undated Yale Law School alumni profile, Azar said that he “wrestled with the question” as to whether he should take his first job at HHS but that it set him on the career path he has followed ever since.

      “I realized I had found my life’s calling: to help people around the world live longer, healthier, and happier lives,” he said.

      As HHS general counsel, Azar worked on the administration’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the ensuing anthrax attacks, stem-cell policy and the advent of the Medicare prescription drug benefits. He then served two years as deputy secretary, during which he pushed for greater disclosure of prices associated with medical services to help foster competition and contain costs. He also backed converting medical records to electronic form.

      “It is absurd to me that one of the largest sectors of the economy is run in a way where consumers don’t have a way to find out about price or quality,” Azar said at an event in Providence, R.I., in 2007. “We will not continue to be the dominant power in the world if we continue to spend so much more on health care than other economies.”

      In recent weeks, Azar was seen as the only likely choice to be nominated to become the next secretary of HHS, the government’s largest civilian agency, encompassing the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, among other branches.

      His selection comes even as Trump has repeatedly attacked U.S. drug companies for profiting too much, suggesting the federal government should negotiate with them to get lower prices.

      “The drug companies, frankly, are getting away with murder, and we want to bring our prices down to what other countries are paying, or at least close and let the other countries pay more,” the president told reporters in October. “Because they’re setting such low prices that we’re actually subsidizing other countries, and that’s just not going to happen anymore.”

      Azar has opposed such price controls, but he has found other ways to address concerns about drug countries’ hard-charging tactics.

      Recruited for a lobbying and communications position at Eli Lilly at a time when it was facing multiple lawsuits and some negative publicity, Azar championed a soft-sell approach in which company officials found the kinds of pharmaceuticals doctors wanted, even if they came from another firm.

      “It’s a bet we’re making,” he told the Indianapolis Star in 2014.

      Alice Crites contributed to this report.