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EU Agrees to Defense Cooperation, Little Progress on Migration, Brexit – Voice of America

LONDON

With snipers on the roof and armored vehicles surrounding the Council building, Europes leaders met in Brussels with security topping the summit agenda. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said leaders had agreed on greater cooperation in intelligence sharing and defense spending.

We are spending half of the military budget of the U.S. but our efficiency is 15 percent. So there is room for improvement and thats exactly what we decided today, Juncker said.

Migrants issue

Outside a band of refugees called Syrians Got Talent aimed to send a musical message to EU leaders that they should stand up for migrant rights.

Not all of Europe shares that sentiment. The EU is taking legal action against Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic for refusing to accept refugee quotas.

More than 81,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in 2017, and close to 2,000 have died so far.

French President Emmanuel Macron, attending his first EU summit, said Europe would look to address the causes of the crisis.

He said it is a long-term challenge whose long-term solution is to stabilize Africa, and the near and Middle East.

WATCH: EU agrees to defense cooperation

Optimism in the EU

Despite the challenges there is a renewed optimism in the bloc, says Professor Anand Menon of the U.K. in a Changing Europe program at Kings College London.

And the Eurozones growing again. So all that looks good, Menon said. But what I would say is the fundamental structural problems that confront the European Union, whether its the migration crisis, whether its the Eurozone crisis, whether its the problem of democratic backsliding in countries like Hungary and Poland, are no nearer being solved than they were last year. And they will come back again.

Britains exit from the bloc was also discussed. EU leaders described Prime Minister Theresa Mays offer on the future rights of European citizens living in Britain as below expectations, signaling tough negotiations ahead.

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EU Agrees to Defense Cooperation, Little Progress on Migration, Brexit - Voice of America

Coverage Losses Under the Senate Health Care Bill Could Result in 18100 to 27700 Additional Deaths in 2026 – Center For American Progress

One Republican member of Congress, defending the GOP health care planthe American Health Care Act (AHCA)suggested that concerns that the loss of health care coverage leads to death are overblown. However, the scientific literature on the effects of insurance coverage on mortality shows that the coverage losses from the AHCA would result in tens of thousands of deaths.

The secret Senate bill was finally released today, and it is broadly similar to what passed in the House: It ends Medicaid expansion and makes further deep cuts to the program; eliminates the individual mandate; and reduces funding that helps low-income Americans afford health coverage. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet released its score of the Senate bill, although it is expected to do so early next week.

The CBO, however, has released a score of the Houses version of the AHCA, which is largely similar to the Senate bill. The score projected that, by 2026, 23 million more Americans would be uninsured under the House bill compared to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Using estimates of mortality rates from Massachusetts experience with health reform, we estimate the number of additional deaths resulting from coverage losses from the Senate bill under three scenarios: one scenario in which coverage losses from the Senate bill are the same as under the House version, and two scenarios in which those coverage losses are modestly reduced by changes from the House bill.

Allocating these coverage losses among the states, this analysis also presents estimates of additional deaths by state.

A significant body of research has demonstrated the health benefits associated with health insurance expansion, including reducing the rate of death among the population. One study found that state Medicaid expansions that preceded the ACA were associated with a significant reduction in mortality. A recent analysis of these pre-ACA Medicaid expansions demonstrated a 6 percent decline in all-cause mortality due to Medicaid expansion. Another analysis showed that following implementation of the ACAs provision that allows young adults to remain on a parents health insurance until age 26, mortality rates decreased among Americans ages 19 to 25. In particular, mortality caused by diseases amenable to health care dropped among young adults, while trauma-related mortality did not. And a study of patients with cancer between the ages of 20 to 40 found a statistically significant association between insurance coverage and reduced mortality from any cause.

The result most relevant to the ACA and its repeal comes from a study examining the effects of the Massachusetts health care reform on all-cause mortality and on mortality due to causes amenable to health care. The study found that expanding insurance coverage was associated with a 2.9 percent decrease in all-cause mortality and a 4.5 percent reduction in deaths from causes amenable to health care. Because Massachusettss reform was used as the model for the ACA and included a coverage mandate, Medicaid expansion, and private insurance expansion through the individual market, the data is more representative of the effects of ACA insurance gains than studies looking solely at Medicaid expansion or narrow demographic groups. Furthermore, observers have noted that the studys quasi-experimental study design is of high quality and the next best thing to a randomized control study.

Other parts of the scientific literature have shown how having health insurance, unsurprisingly, results in better health. A recent study of three years of ACA data demonstrated that uninsured people who gained coverage through the ACA experienced a 23 percent increase in self-reported excellent health. One analysis found that the ACA coverage expansion was associated with reductions in self-reported fair or poor health and days with activity limitations due to ill health. Another analysis showed that ACA insurance gains were associated with an increased share of respondents reporting excellent health. And a recent study of ACA-facilitated Medicaid expansions found that they modestly improved self-reported health.

Other insurance expansions produced similar results. Massachusetts insurance expansion was associated with improvements in self-reported general, physical, and mental health. Data from the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment showed that expanding Medicaid was associated with improved self-reported physical and mental health and reduced depression.

Insurance coverage also improves childrens health and access to care. Research shows that when parents have insurance coverage, their children are more likely to be covered, maintain stable coverage, and receive needed care. According to the Institute of Medicines systematic review, insured children are more likely to gain access to well-child care and immunizations, appropriate care for asthma, and basic dental services, as well as have fewer avoidable hospitalizations, improved asthma outcomes, and fewer missed days of school.

Taken as a whole, the research strongly suggests that health coverage has a significant positive effect on health. However, a few studies have found more limited health impacts of insurance expansion. While the Oregon study found improvements in self-reported health, it did not detect clinical improvements other than depression reduction. Another study showed no changes in self-reported health resulting from the ACA, although a subgroup analysis did show improved self-assessed health among older nonelderly adults, especially in expansion states. And an early observational study of the ACAs Medicaid expansion comparing low-income adults in expansion and nonexpansion states found no differences in self-reported health between the groups.

There may be several reasons for these outlier results. The studies in question looked at time frames too short or sample sizes too small to capture more significant health impacts. In addition, insurance is a necessary but not sufficient factor to receive quality health care. Receiving high-quality health care requires access to providers, institutions, and services; access to consistent primary care and referral services; choice of providers and institutions; and the delivery of high-quality services. It also requires that insurance policies cover basic and vital services.

Drawing on the Massachusetts experience, we estimate that there would be one excess death for every 830 people who lose coverage as a result of the AHCA. The CBO projections of coverage reductions under the House version of the AHCA would equate to 217,000 additional deaths over the next decade, including 27,700 additional deaths in 2026. (see Table 1) To put this in perspective, that is approximately the number of people in the United States who died from opioid overdoses in 2014 and about twice the number of deaths by homicide that same year.

We also estimate the additional deaths in 2026 resulting from coverage losses from the Senate bill under three scenarios: one assuming coverage losses equivalent to the House bill and two scenarios that show modest reductions in coverage losses. If the Senate bill results in coverage losses of 19 million that would result in 22,900 additional deaths in 2026. If the Senate bill results in coverage losses of 15 million that would result in 18,100 additional deaths in 2026.

In addition, drawing on the Center for American Progress estimate of state-level coverage reductions in 2026 under the House version of the AHCA, we estimate additional deaths by state in 2026 as a result of coverage losses from the Senate bill under the three scenarios. Under the scenario assuming coverage losses of 23 million, annual additional deaths would range from 36 in North Dakota to 3,111 in California in 2026. Under the scenario assuming coverage losses of 19 million, annual additional deaths in 2026 would range from 30 in North Dakota to 2,570 in California. Finally, under the scenario assuming coverage losses of 15 million, annual additional deaths in 2026 would range from 24 in North Dakota to 2,029 in California.

Given the overwhelming weight of evidence, there should be no debate: Health care coverage has an impact on whether Americans live or die. Our data estimates show that under any of the scenarios we analyzed, a significant number of American lives are at stake in this debate. Legislators considering whether to support this bill should keep in mind and soberly consider the catastrophic effect the AHCA would have on so many Americans and their families.

We calculated national excess deaths per year by dividing the estimated coverage losses by the estimated numbers needed to treat (NNT) to prevent one death, based on analyses of the Massachusetts health care reform. Treatment in this instance refers to the number of individuals who would need to receive insurance coverage in order to prevent one extra death. The Massachusetts study found that there was one fewer death for every 830 people who gained coverage; that NNT was consistent with a 30 percent relative reduction in individual-level mortality for persons gaining insurance.

We estimate that there would be one excess death for every 830 people who lose insurance coverage, which assumes that the Massachusetts result would be symmetric for health insurance gains and losses. Of note, our approach is similar to that taken by the White House Council of Economic Advisers to calculate the mortality reductions from the ACA.

Our estimate of the national number of excess deaths each year under the AHCA is then equal to the CBO-projected coverage reduction under the House bill divided by 830. We calculated state level estimates by applying the same methodology to state-level health insurance losses from the Center for American Progress state-level analysis, which combines data from the CBO, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the American Community Survey to calculate anticipated insurance losses by coverage type.

We also included estimates of the number of excess deaths in 2026 if national coverage losses under the Senate bill were 15 million or 19 million that year. For our state-level estimates, we assume that each states coverage reductions and excess deaths are 65 percent and 83 percent of our estimates of the effects under the House-passed bill, respectively.

Recent debate sheds light on different approaches to estimate the mortality impacts of insurance loss. Bearing this debate in mind, we designed our approach using the most accurate, rigorous studies. We base our calculations on estimates of AHCA-related coverage losses from the CBO and the Center for American Progress, and on Benjamin D. Sommers, Sharon K. Long, and Katherine Baickers 2014 quasi-experimental study of the effects of Massachusetts Health Care Reform on mortality. We chose this study due to its sample size and power, and because Massachusetts health reform, which expanded both private and public coverage, was used as the model for the ACA.

One limitation of our analysis is that the same NNT was applied to all states, although the estimate was derived from the Massachusetts health care reform. There are demographic and health care infrastructure differences between Massachusetts and other states. The Massachusetts population has a higher per capita physician rate, lower baseline mortality rate, higher income and baseline insurance coverage rates, fewer racial and ethnic minorities, and more women, compared to national averages. Some of these factors suggest that Massachusetts may have a higher NNT than other states, meaning that our estimate of the number of excess deaths under the AHCA would be too low, while other factors suggest the state may have a lower NNT.

In addition, the NNT was calculated from mortality decreases associated with insurance expansion. There is uncertainty as to whether withdrawing insurance will cause the equal and opposite effect of providing insurance. Lastly, our estimates capture only the impact of increased uninsurance under the AHCA and do not take in to account possible mortality effects among people who would remain insured but lose certain benefits or encounter worse access to care due to the bill.

We calculated a 95 percent confidence interval around our estimates of excess mortality. The confidence interval contains the range of reasonable values that include our estimate of excess mortality, with 95 percent confidence. Within this range the best estimate for the actual number of excess deaths is the point estimate. The point estimate is the mean and represents our best prediction for annual excess mortality rates, given the current evidence and available data. For instance, in the year 2026 and assuming 23 million more people are uninsured, we estimate that 27,711 excess deaths will occur, and we are 95 percent confident that the true number of annual excess deaths will be between 9,583 and 46,000.

Ann Crawford-Roberts is a medical student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and a graduate of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Nichole Roxas is a medical student at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and a graduate of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Ichiro Kawachi is a professor of social epidemiology and the chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Sam Berger is the senior policy adviser at the Center for American Progress. Emily Gee is the health economist for the Health Policy team at the Center.

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Coverage Losses Under the Senate Health Care Bill Could Result in 18100 to 27700 Additional Deaths in 2026 - Center For American Progress

Watch: Paul Mason turns on the Blairites at Progress event ‘form your own party and get on with it!’ – Spectator.co.uk (blog)

Well, that didnt last long. The uneasy peace between the Blairites and the Corbynites since the snap election has come to an abrupt end. At todays Progress conference, Paul Mason sat on a panel chaired by Progresss Richard Angell, alongside fellow Corbynite Emily Thornberry and centrist MPs Wes Streeting and Liz Kendall. The guestsattempted to discuss in a comradely manner how best to build on Labours snap election result and win the next election.

However, things soon struck a sour note when an audience member challenged Mason over a tweet he had sent claiming Labour could have won if it wasnt for the moderates running a defensive campaign. Its fair to say that his comments went down like a lead balloon with guests at the Blairite think tank event:

The question for people in this room is: it is now a left-wing Labour party. It is a Labour party led by a man vilified in the Daily Mail and the Sun as a terrorist sympathiser and we got 13million votes. Do you want to be part of it or not?

Because there is an alternative. There could be a British Macron.

At which point, the crowd started to boo Mason.

PM: Yeah, go on, keep going. There could be a British Macron, you could have a British end Brexit second referendum party run with it. It could do much better than the Lib Dems did. Nows the time.

RA: But when you did your politics outside the Labour party, you got very small numbers of people voting for you. You did it by entering the Labour party and doing it behind Jeremy Corbyn.

PM: Why do you accuse me of entering the Labour party. I joined it at age 19, my grandfather was that generation which founded the Labour party. Im not a Marxist, but real Marxists have a place inside Labour and always did have.

RA: But so does everyone else in this room.

PM: Good. So, do you want to be part of this party or not?

Mason finished by telling the audience they should look elsewhere if they are intent of being a part of a party thats in favour of illegal war:

If you want a centrist party this is not going to be it for the next ten years. if its really important to you to have a pro-Remain party thats in favour of illegal war, in favour of privatisation, form your own party and get on with it!

So much for offering an olive branch to moderates

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Watch: Paul Mason turns on the Blairites at Progress event 'form your own party and get on with it!' - Spectator.co.uk (blog)

Portugal progress to Confederations Cup semi-finals after beating New Zealand – Eurosport.com

Portugal coasted to a 4-0 win over New Zealand in St Petersburg and secured their place in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup.

The win, however, came at a cost as Manchester City-bound midfielder Bernardo Silva substituted because of an ankle injury.

With hosts Russia losing against Mexico in Kazan, Portugal progressed as Group A winners, while the All Whites finished bottom following a third straight defeat.

Captain Cristiano Ronaldo put Portugal ahead from the penalty spot on 33 minutes.

Bernard Silva - set to leave Monaco in a 43million deal - swiftly doubled the lead with a close-range finish, but in doing so landed awkwardly on his ankle and was taken off at half-time.

Forward Andre Silva wrapped up the comfortable victory with a fierce angled finish on 80 minutes and Nani added a fourth in stoppage time.

New Zealand, the OFC Nations Cup winners, had made a positive opening with Leeds forward Chris Wood seeing his shot saved.

Ronaldo rattled the crossbar before Ipswich defender Tommy Smith bundled over Danilo Pereira following a corner and the Real Madrid forward scored the resulting penalty .

It was soon 2-0 when Bernardo Silva converted a low cross from Pereira Eliseu after 37 minutes.

However, the attacking midfielder turned his ankle as he landed ahead of a sliding challenge from Tom Doyle, which saw him replaced by Luis Pizzi after the break.

Just before half-time, Portugal forward Andre Silva lashed out at Michael Boxall after a tussle with the New Zealand defender, which left him with a torn shirt - but could easily have also resulted in a red card.

New Zealand almost pulled a goal back on the hour when Doyle's ball across the face of goal from the left found Wood at the far post, but Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio recovered to make a sliding block on the line.

Marinovic had produced a string of decent saves at the other end during the second half.

However, the All Whites keeper could do little when Silva, who cost AC Milan some 33million from Porto, darted into the right of the penalty area before crashing the ball into the top corner.

Nani drilled in a fourth goal for Portugal during stoppage time.

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Portugal progress to Confederations Cup semi-finals after beating New Zealand - Eurosport.com

High school boys basketball: Huntley makes progress, falls in Crystal Lake South Shootout semis – Northwest Herald

Huntley boys basketball coach Will Benson wants his players to understand that a lot can happen between now and the start of the high school season.

I always tell them, You may be somewhere now, but its June. You still have until November, Benson said. If you want to get better, you have plenty of time to get better.

That said, Benson likes what the Red Raiders have accomplished from the end of last season to this point in the summer. Huntley finished 5-1 in the Crystal Lake South-Gary Collins Shootout on Saturday, falling in the semifinals to Larkin, 57-29.

McHenry also made the semis, losing to Rockford East, 61-38. Larkin then beat East, 58-45, for the title.

Wins and losses dont really portray what a team does, no matter what, Raiders guard Cory Knipp said. We moved the ball well this weekend. Were at our best when we make the extra pass, and we did that for the most part. Were playing a lot better in terms of passing the ball and talking on defense.

Huntley finished 7-20 overall and 5-11 in the Fox Valley Conference last season for seventh place. With the bulk of their roster returning, the Raiders are determined to change that next season. The upcoming senior class, along with some juniors and sophomores, played AAU basketball this spring for LifeZone 360 in West Dundee, with Al Knipp (Corys father) doing the coaching.

In the morning, three times a week, we come [in before] school and get some shots up with (trainer) Zac Boster (of Pure Sweat Basketball), forward Zach Loveisky said. Its been paying off. In all five games here, we didnt really shoot the ball well, and that hurt. But our penetrating to the rim, getting fouls was good. We did a very good job passing the ball and finding the open man.

Cory Knipp agreed that the ball movement was key for the Raiders.

Weve been working hard all spring and summer on moving the ball, getting to know each other, Knipp said. Were playing a lot better together in terms of passing and talking on defense. The more you play together, the more you know your role.

The Raiders did not have any big scorers last season, as points were spread around. Knipp, Loveisky, Brett Bigden and Andrew Fulcer, who all played over the weekend, saw significant minutes last season. Senior Trevor Sloth, juniors Nate Draper and Nolan Engmann and sophomore Ryan Sroka also played through this spring and were at South.

Huntley won its pool Friday at South, then beat Prairie Ridge, 51-36, and Bartlett, 39-28, in Saturdays single-elimination bracket play. Although it may not be a harbinger for the regular season, it is progress.

Were starting to get some answers to some questions we had with guys coming back, Benson said. A lot of them have improved individually, for sure. Were definitely ahead of where we were a year ago. Its like we took another step forward, like you take a step from November to February, we took another step from February to June now.

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High school boys basketball: Huntley makes progress, falls in Crystal Lake South Shootout semis - Northwest Herald

Manchester United making progress in pursuit of Alvaro Morata – sources – ESPN FC

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has revealed there have been no offers from Man United for Alvaro Morata. Shaka Hislop breaks down the latest surrounding Alvaro Morata's potential move to Man United.

Manchester United are making progress in their pursuit of Alvaro Morata but have yet to agree a fee with Real Madrid, sources have told ESPN FC.

Manager Jose Mourinho has identified Morata as the striker he wants to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

There is still hope a deal could be secured before United head to the United States for their preseason tour on July 9.

Sources have told ESPN FC that agreeing personal terms should be straightforward because of Morata's willingness to move to Old Trafford.

There had been a fear that uncertainty surrounding the future of Cristiano Ronaldo could force Madrid to stall on any deal for the Spain international.

But reports in Spain suggest Ronaldo will now stay at the Bernabeu while Marca, which has close ties to president Florentino Perez, reported that the Spanish champions are set to push on with a bid for Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe.

French newspaper L'Equipe reported on Friday that Zinedine Zidane, once Mbappe's idol, called the striker to convince him to join Madrid said they were ready to sell one of their "BBC" stars to make room for him.

Mbappe's arrival would further limit opportunities for Morata, who made only 14 La Liga starts last season.

The striker, who returned to Real Madrid last summer after two seasons at Juventus, scored 20 goals in 43 appearances last term.

There has been no offer for him from Chelsea, who are also in the market for a striker with Diego Costa set to depart and have been linked with Everton's Romelu Lukaku.

United also have an interest in Andrea Belotti, although Torino have said a 100 million buyout clause in his contract -- only available to clubs outside Italy -- must be met before the 23-year-old is allowed to leave.

Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.

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Manchester United making progress in pursuit of Alvaro Morata - sources - ESPN FC

VA fails cyber audit for 18th straight year, but progress is evident – FederalNewsRadio.com

In the two years since the Veterans Affairs Department announced its goal of closing all cybersecurity material weaknesses, the effortsdetailed in the latest audit report from the agencys inspector general seem to be making a difference.

While VA fell short of its ultimate objective of cybersecurity not being a material weakness in 2017the 18th year in a row auditors rated it that way the Office of Information and Technology (OI&T) said in its response to the IGs Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) report to Congress that it has made significant progress across all 33 recommendations, and is asking the IG to close 18 of them.

For example, the IG says VA continued to struggle with ensuring systems had an up-to-date authority to operate (ATO).

Specifically, process deficiencies allowed certain system authorizations to operate to expire and allowed other systems to be reauthorized by an official without the proper authority, the IG stated.

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But VAs chief information officers office says its Enterprise Cybersecurity Strategy Team (ECST) has updated its processes and is nowusing the ongoing authorizations approach as required by the Office of Management and Budget in the Circular A-130 update issued last fall.

By the end of calendar year 2016, systems requiring an ATO were updated to reflect the new AO, OI&Ts response stated. Updated assessment and authorization (A&A) policy and process to redefine roles and responsibilities of VAs authorizing officials (AO), and AO procedures, which will allow for oversight of systems throughout their full lifecycle. Office of Cyber Security Policy and Compliance (OCSPC) conducts routine, regularly scheduled briefings with the AO prior to issuance of ATOs on systems within their purview.

The system authorization process has been a problem at VA for some time. Back in 2013, former VA chief information security officer Jerry Davis claimed VA was rubber stamping ATOs in order to get them completed before they expired.

After several congressional hearings and the turnover of the CIO, VAs new leadership promised to fix the long-standing cyber problems. Former VA CIO Laverne Council said when she took over the role in 2015 that her intention was to get rid of the more than two dozen cyber weaknesses over the next two years.

She created a cyber strategy, the ECST and eight domains to address the biggest problem areas.

The cyber team is playing a major role in nearly every initiative to close the IGs recommendations.

Know what to do with your Thrift Savings Plan the next time the stock market crashes? Senior Correspondent Mike Causey tells you how to avoid buying high and selling low.

Deputy Inspector General Linda Halliday said in an email to Federal News Radio that her office will continue to review VAs progress in improving its cyber posture.

When the OIG receives evidence of appropriate corrective action, we will generally close that recommendation, Halliday said. As VA provides documentation to support the corrective actions taken on any recommendation, we will review it and make the determination on whether we can close that recommendation. Further, we continue to assess VAs progress in implementing corrective actions and their ability to sustain improvements impacting VA information security posture during our annual FISMA review in the following year.

One area where VA says it has made progress has been a long-time challenge around password management.

Over the past two years, the ECST has implemented technology to enforce password policies, mandated the use of smart identity cards and initiated single sign-on capabilities.

VA has enhanced password monitoring policies via credentialed, predictive scans and remediation processes on OI&T systems. Routine system scans are completed by the Network and Security Operations Center (NSOC). Enterprise Discovery Scans (EDS) are conducted on a quarterly basis to detect password vulnerabilities across the enterprise, OI&T told auditors. In order to improve organizationwide availability of security data, VA has enhanced the reporting of scan results and has published results with historical data on the Nessus Enterprise Web Tool (NEWT). VA is using NEWT dashboards to monitor password vulnerabilities and show trends based on the results of EDS scans. Scan results are shared with users in the enterprise who have been granted access to NEWT.

Another major problem the IG pointed out was the lack of visibility into their networks and therefore failure to identify numerous high-risk security incidents, including malware infections that were not remediated in a timely manner. Specifically, we noted these issues at three major data centers and two VA medical centers.

The CIOs office said it expects to complete the national deployment of an enterprisewide security incident and event management toolby June 30.

VAs OI&T said it is currently receiving logs from across the enterprise to include centralized logging from devices owned and managed by field operations to include Windows and Linux servers, and network infrastructure devices (routers/switches). Other log sources such as domain controllers, Domain Name Services (DNS), and ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO) systems are now also included in the centralized logging repository, which helps to enrich the data lake and enhance data available for event monitoring, correlation processes and incident response. Currently, only failed logon events are being collected for infrastructure devices.

VA OI&T also expects to complete a related effort by June 30 to track and make sure patches and vulnerabilities are closed in a timely manner.

VA has an enterprise-wide scanning program performed by the NSOC on a scheduled and ad-hoc basis (when needed or requested). Results of the scans are rolled into NEWT for analysis and reporting. The analysis tool provides an enterprise view to the terminal device level (specific Internet Protocol), the offices response stated. NEWT coverage has been expanded to include Cisco and Red Hat Enterprise Linux scan results as well as trending and historical remediation efforts. VA implemented DbProtect, a database scanning tool, to gain enterprise level access and insight to the many databases that exist in the organization.

VA told the IG it expects to close eight of the remaining recommendations no later than Sept. 30 and then five more by Dec. 31.

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VA fails cyber audit for 18th straight year, but progress is evident - FederalNewsRadio.com

Eurozone economy celebrates growth, though progress not uniform – Christian Science Monitor

June 23, 2017 LondonEvidence built on Friday that the sturdy improvement in eurozone economic growth touted by the European Central Bank is in place albeit with some wobbles.

Cruising speed, not acceleration, Morgan Stanley economists said.

Surveys of purchasing managers' plans in the eurozone, Germany and France all indicated steady growth, if not perhaps as much as some economists had expected.

The broadest of the managers' surveys IHS Markit's June flash purchasing managers composite index for the eurozone dipped to 55.7 from 56.8 in May.

This was lower than anyone in a Reuters economists poll had predicted, but still way above 50, the level Markit says divides expansion from contraction.

"Businesses experienced the strongest quarter in six years," Bert Colijn, ING senior economist for the eurozone, said in a note. "With just a week to go in this quarter, all signs are pointing towards a strong (growth) reading."

At the country level, the most significant development may have been France's manufacturing PMI, which rose far more than expected to 55, rising back after a dip in May possibly because the political risks around the presidential and legislative have gone.

Companies also took on workers at the fastest pace in nearly 10 years, a sub-index showed, giving France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, an early economic present.

Overall, however, the PMIs showed something of a tailing off of activity primarily in services even if that was within the context of expansion.

Germany's composite index, for example, was down 1.3 points from a six-year high to a still solid 56.1.

Happy campers

The business data came on the heels of Thursday's buoyant eurozone consumer sentiment report.

Here again, the news was relative. The actual number was minus 1.3 points, meaning that sentiment is negative.

But that is usually the case with the eurozone. So the fact that there was a jump from -3.3 points in May to the highest level in 16 years was seen as a bullish sign.

"It all points to labor market wage growth and private consumption," Berenberg economist Florian Hense said.

Other data on Friday, however, showed that the eurozone economy is not without its risks.

Italy, the currency bloc's third largest economy, reported a sharp fall in industrial sales and orders in April.

The data, which matched industrial output figures released earlier in the month showing a surprise decline, suggests a poor start to the second quarter after 0.4 percent growth in the first.

Considered by many economists to be the weak link in the eurozone revival, Italy is facing an election next year at the latest, where the anti-euro, anti-establishment 5-Star Movement is currently seen making gains.

The International Monetary Fund projects Italy's economy to grow 1.3 percent this year because of the general eurozone growth picture, but to slow next year.

"Weak productivity and low aggregate investment remain key challenges for faster growth, held back by structural weaknesses, high public debt, and impaired bank balance sheets," the IMF said this month in its latest report.

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Eurozone economy celebrates growth, though progress not uniform - Christian Science Monitor

Complaints come with some progress on Ferguson consent decree – STLtoday.com

ST. LOUIS Lawyers involved in the 2016 consent decree between Ferguson and the Justice Department said at a quarterly status hearing in federal court Thursday that they were making progress toward a series of reforms of municipal court and police practices, but almost a dozen citizens who also spoke said they were frustrated and impatient with the extent of that progress.

Amy Senier, a Justice Department lawyer, told U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry, who is overseeing the consent decree, the team had been hard at work. Senier said lawyers were developing a framework for recruiting and retaining a diversified and well-trained police force, for ensuring police accountability and setting guidelines for police use of force. But she said the team still faces challenges, namely the transparency of the process, including a city website that needs improvement.

We believe we are all working together in good faith, she said.

Apollo Carey, Fergusons city attorney, told Perry that since August 2014, the city has waived $1.8 million in fines, dismissed or dropped about 39,000 municipal court cases and signed up 1,381 people to perform community service instead of paying fines.

Carey said the city was still trying to figure out how to reconcile the consent decrees requirements for body cameras and in-car cameras with a voter initiative on the same subject that differs in technical ways.

He said the civilian review board will be going on police ride-alongs and receive training on use of force simulators to aid it in reviewing complaints.

Half of the citizens who spoke at the hearing expressed their frustration with the Neighborhood Policing Steering Committee, established by the consent decree to provide input to police and the city on law enforcement issues.

Speakers said membership had dropped precipitously because of disputes over how the group is to be run. Others questioned the money being spent by the court-appointed monitor of the consent decree, complained of the lack of openness of the process, and bemoaned a series of deadlines that have been missed.

It doesnt sound like a very functional group, Perry said later to a Justice Department lawyer, who said that lawyers would work to make the process more efficient.

One Ferguson resident did praise the efforts.

The consent decree was prompted by protests following the 2014 death of Michael Brown, and a Justice Department investigation that harshly criticized Fergusons police and municipal court.

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Complaints come with some progress on Ferguson consent decree - STLtoday.com

Welcome to the ‘Second Tier’: US Failing Big League on Social Progress – Common Dreams


Common Dreams
Welcome to the 'Second Tier': US Failing Big League on Social Progress
Common Dreams
Released by the Social Progressive Imperative (SPI), the 2017 Global Social Progress Index reveals that the U.S. ranks 17th in the world when it comes to promoting the general welfare, coming in behind its Canadian neighbor to the north and far behind ...
The US is 'flatlining' in social progress compared to countries like Canada and GermanyBusiness Insider
2017 Social Progress Index Reveals Actionable Insights for Decision Makers, Social Entrepreneurs, and Engaged ...Skoll Foundation
Worldwide decline in personal rights hampers social progress, study showsHumanosphere
The NonProfit Times -IcelandReview -New Zealand Herald
all 24 news articles »

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Welcome to the 'Second Tier': US Failing Big League on Social Progress - Common Dreams

Prodigy’s death shines light on slow progress against sickle cell disease – PBS NewsHour

The death of the rap artist Prodigy (Albert Johnson, half of the duo Mobb Deep) at only 42 this week, after a lifetime of suffering from sickle cell disease, was a reminder of the devastating cost of the sometimes fatal genetic disorder and of the failure to cure it.

It has been 61 years since the discovery of the mutation responsible for sickle cell, which affects about 100,000 people in the U.S., and 30 years since scientists found a compensatory mutation one that keeps people from developing sickle cell despite inheriting the mutant genes.

Last year, when STAT examined the lack of progress, scientists and hospital officials were frank about one reason for it: Other genetic disorders, notably cystic fibrosis, attracted piles of money that led to cures, but sickle cell strikes the wrong kind of people, including African-Americans, and so has historically been starved for funds.

The genetic mutation that causes sickle cell allows red blood cells to cramp up in a way that impedes their flow through blood vessels. Those who have the condition can suffer anemia, infections, fatal organ failure, tissue damage, strokes, and intense pain.

In healthy people, blood cells are round and flexible. But in people with sickle cell disease, blood cells are deformed and cause a range of health problems. Video by Hyacinth Empinado/STAT

In the last 12 months, there have been glimmers of progress against the disease. There are huge numbers of drug companies finally putting money into this, said Dr. Mitchell Weiss, chairman of hematology at St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital, who is developing a genome-editing approach, using CRISPR-Cas9, to cure sickle cell. As for the National Institutes of Health, the chief funder of basic biomedical research, I wouldnt say NIH is showering [sickle cell research] with money, but theyre trying to help.

READ MORE: Weve known for 50 years what causes sickle cell disease. Wheres the cure?

CRISPR, by making genome-editing easier than ever, is responsible for much of the hope surrounding sickle cell.

On Friday, at a meeting of the European Hematology Association in Madrid, scientists at CRISPR Therapeutics and their academic collaborators will present preliminary results of a study using it to create the compensatory mechanism that protects some sickle cell patients. Basically, that mechanism keeps the body producing fetal hemoglobin, which ordinarily vanishes soon after birth. But even in sickle cell patients, fetal hemoglobin is normal rather than deformed like adult hemoglobin. Scientists have identified several genetic routes to keeping fetal hemoglobin turned on, and even to turning it on again after the body has turned it off in infancy.

CRISPR Therapeutics does not reveal which gene it targeted, but the results were promising. Starting with blood-forming cells from both healthy volunteers and sickle cell patients, it created CRISPR-Cas9 molecules targeting regions of DNA involved in the fetal-to-adult hemoglobin switch. An impressive 85 percent of cells were successfully edited, which kept fetal hemoglobin production humming. Result: Scientists re-created genetic variants linked to high [fetal hemoglobin] levels in blood-forming cells from both healthy donors and those with sickle cell, the company said in a summary of the study. It compared how well different DNA edits increased production of fetal hemoglobin in red blood cells in lab dishes, getting 25 percent to 45 percent in the cells taken from six sickle cell patients.

The scientists then put the edited cells into lab mice, finding that they homed in on the bone marrow, as they would have to do in a patient to effect a cure. They also measured what are called off-target effects, or edits of genes that werent intended, and found none at the more than 5,000 sites deemed most likely to have them.

CRISPR Therapeutics said it had used several editing strategies to turn on production of fetal hemoglobin, underlining the accelerating progress in taking that approach to develop a cure. Weiss, for instance, is trying to turn on fetal hemoglobin by tapping into the very complicated genetics of fetal hemoglobin.

Cells have molecules that act like Victorian lamplighters: They roam the genome, turning genes on and off. One such lamplighter (in biology-speak, a transcription factor) is called BCL11A; it turns off production of fetal hemoglobin. Weiss is not targeting BCL11A itself (other scientists are considering that); rather, he is using CRISPR to disrupt where BCL11A lands. Just as a lamplighter cant turn off a light he cant reach, so BCL11A cant turn off a gene it cant reach. Expected result: Fetal hemoglobin stays on and patients have enough healthy hemoglobin to compensate for the sickled kind.

READ MORE: One boys cure raises hopes and questions about gene therapy for sickle cell disease

After making progress with this approach editing cells in lab dishes, Weiss said, he and his colleagues hope to launch a clinical trial in three to four years, using money raised by St. Jude but, so far, they have no commercial partner. At Boston Childrens Hospital, Dr. David Williams said he hopes to open his clinical trial, also using gene therapy to target sickle cell, this summer, and is just waiting on final safety testing of the virus that will be used to deliver the therapy.

An even more basic approach to curing sickle cell targets the causative mutation directly. The most encouraging human data so far have come from a genetic therapy being tested by Cambridge, Mass.-based Bluebird Bio. In March, the company reported that a boy who received the gene therapy in October 2014, when he was 13, had been able to stop taking medication that helps alleviate symptoms and has not needed to be hospitalized with a sickle cell crisis (as Prodigy was in the days before he died). Nor has he suffered the crushing pain or bone and tissue damage that results from the inability of sickled blood cells to carry oxygen.

Bluebird uses viruses to carry the healthy hemoglobin gene into blood-making bone marrow cells taken from patients, which is the original form of gene therapy. If healthy genes insert into the DNA of enough cells, which are infused back into the patient, the marrow makes enough healthy blood cells to cure sickle cell.

With the sudden surge of activity, said Dr. Charles Abrams of the University of Pennsylvania and past president of the American Society of Hematology, people say were within 10 years of reaching the goal of a cure, and maybe less.

This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on June 21, 2017. Find the original story here.

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Prodigy's death shines light on slow progress against sickle cell disease - PBS NewsHour

Triangle power bills could go up $20 a month if Duke Energy Progress rate requests are approved – News & Observer


News & Observer
Triangle power bills could go up $20 a month if Duke Energy Progress rate requests are approved
News & Observer
Three weeks after Duke Energy Progress asked state officials for a 16.7 percent rate increase for residential customers, the power company is asking for an additional 2.3 percent rate hike to cover other expenses. If approved by the N.C. Utilities ...
Duke Energy Progress wants small increase ahead of big rate hikeCharlotte Business Journal

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Triangle power bills could go up $20 a month if Duke Energy Progress rate requests are approved - News & Observer

Auditor General’s review of Penn State says progress has been made, but there’s still work to do – FOX43.com

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale

HARRISBURG Penn State University has shown some progress since the Jerry Sandusky scandal, but the state-related institution needs to make improvements on campus security, prioritize Pennsylvania students, and be subject to open records laws, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said in announcing the results of his recent audit of the school.

Penn State has made a modicum of progress in restoring the reputation of the commonwealths flagship state university, DePasquale said, noting the 2011 arrest and subsequent conviction of former coach Jerry Sandusky. Penn State must first and foremost do more to improve campus security, particularly for children who participate in programs and events on its campuses.

Penn State also must do whatever is necessary to control tuition, which increased 535 percent in 30 years making the school increasingly unaffordable for middle-income Pennsylvanians and improve the universitys transparency and accountability to taxpayers.

DePasquale emphasized the audit did not include a review of grants to the former Second Mile charity, nor did it include the Freeh Report, an investigative document commissioned by Penn State after the Sandusky scandal.

I want to be clear: This was an audit of Penn State, not of the Second Mile, the Freeh Report or the Sandusky scandal, DePasquale said. I will review the Second Mile grants in a future capital budget audit. As for the Freeh Report, I believe that the review should have been conducted by the U.S. Department of Education or another independent body, not by someone who was hired by the Penn State board of trustees.

The 115-page audit report, which covers January 2013 through March 2017, has nine findings and 23 recommendations.

The Penn State University audit report is available online at: http://www.PaAuditor.gov.

Missing background checks

One of the more distressing findings in this audit is that years after Jerry Sanduskys conviction for sexually assaulting young boys, Penn State fails to ensure the university conducts 100 percent of mandated background checks, DePasquale said. In the post-Sandusky era, it would be expected that Penn State would be hyper-vigilant about completing all required background checks. Apparently that is not the case.

DePasquale said for academic and sports-related camps held on Penn State campuses that were specifically for children, his auditors found a nearly 8 percent error rate. With this error rate, potentially 57 of the 732 camps held during 2016 had at least one person missing one or more of the legally required clearances.

For other employment background checks, campuswide, auditors found a slightly better error rate of nearly 4 percent. Still, this error rate could mean that potentially 962 of the 24,382 employees hired in 2016 did not have their required pre-employment background check completed.

It is shocking and intolerable for any university to miss this many background checks, but it is appalling that, so soon after the Sandusky scandal, Penn State has an error rate this high, DePasquale said.

As we so tragically learned from Sandusky, it takes only one child predator to cause what could be lifetime trauma to a child. Penn State officials must end their long-running string of excuses and immediately correct this serious deficiency.

Skyrocketing tuition

Over the past 30 years, Penn States in-state tuition at $19,347 for the 2016-17 academic year has increased by a whopping 535 percent, DePasquale said. With the exception of 2015-16, resident tuition increased every year on average about 6.4 percent.

By comparison, over the past three decades, the price of a gallon of milk increased 48 percent and a new car increased in cost 163 percent. In fact, not even the rising cost of health care could keep pace with Penn States tuition growth.

In a March 2016 U.S News and World Report article, Penn State ranked third on the list of the most-expensive public colleges for in-state students.

My team found that Penn State is the most expensive public research university compared to its Big Ten Conference peers, and tuition increases continue to exceed the Consumer Price Index, DePasquale said, noting the University of Nebraskas in-state tuition is $8,618 a year.

Unless Penn State does something now to rein in attendance costs, even fewer middle-income students will be able to attend Pennsylvanias acclaimed land grant university, he said.

Worse yet, Penn State appears to be part of a growing national trend among public research institutions that give preference to no-resident students as a means of increasing tuition revenue, DePasquale continued. At Penn State, and at many other public research institutions, nonresidents pay nearly twice as much as residents in tuition yet it costs nothing more to educate these students.

In essence then, a university can get a better bang for the buck by increasing the number of its nonresident students, he said. Rather than increasing nonresident enrollments, another alternative is to better control tuition cost drivers. If these expenses are adequately controlled, it should then slow the growth of tuition.

Over the past four years, Penn States operating expenses have increased by nearly 10 percent but revenues have grown by just 6.7 percent. Instruction costs increased by 17 percent. Academic support including libraries, museums, galleries, information technology, academic administration and audio-visual services increased by 19 percent.

Simply put, expenses are out of control, DePasquale said. Penn State must create a tuition task force that includes board members with a focus on identifying and lowering costs that are driving tuition into the stratosphere.

Decreasing in-state enrollment

High tuition costs are not the only accessibility challenges for potential in-state students. From 1990 through 2016, at Penn States University Park campus, the number of in-state students decreased by 12 percent, while nonresident and international students increased by 95 percent and 310 percent, respectively.

In 1990-91, at the University Park campus Pennsylvania residents comprised 76.5 percent of the campus population. By 2015-16, just 56.2 percent of the campus population was from Pennsylvania. Similarly, when looking at acceptance rates, in 11 of the past 16 years, including the last seven consecutive years, nonresident acceptance rates were higher than that of Pennsylvania residents.

Penn States expansion of nonresident enrollment threatens accessibility for Pennsylvania residents, DePasquale said. Clearly, because Penn State has not adequately planned for expenses that are outpacing revenues, there is a financial appeal to accepting nonresident students who will pay nearly $15,000 more and be more likely to live on campus.

DePasquale said while Penn State officials remain adamant that the university never intentionally favored nonresident students, and his team found no evidence to suggest otherwise, he cautioned that such practices are in place at other universities similar to Penn State.

After the California state auditor raised concerns earlier this year about the growing number of non-resident students in the University of California system, the board of regents approved its first-ever enrollment cap on nonresident undergraduates, DePasquale said.

A nonresident undergraduate student enrollment cap may well be necessary to help ensure Pennsylvania residents can get into Penn State, or any other state-related university for that matter, he said. These institutions are called state-related for a reason: Pennsylvania taxpayers help fund their operations. Therefore, Pennsylvania students should always be at the top of the acceptance list.

Improving Clery Act compliance

The Clery Act requires all post-secondary institutions that receive funding from federal financial aid programs to prepare an annual report on campus crime, including sexual violence, assaults, hate crimes, weapons offenses, and alcohol and drug abuse.

In November 2016, Penn State was hit with a $2.4 million fine, the largest-ever, after the U.S. Department of Education issued a scathing report identifying 11 Clery Act violations.

Subsequent to the Sandusky scandal and the U.S Department of Educations investigation, Penn State:

While Penn State is continuing to improve its Clery Act-related practices and policies, more improvement is needed, DePasquale said. Penn State must dedicate the appropriate resources to ensure a uniform incident data system is deployed university-wide, and it must establish an improved training program that meets the needs of all employees responsible for Clery Act compliance.

Lacking transparency, accountability

Auditors reviewed the extent to which Penn State implemented recommendations from a November 2012 Department of the Auditor Generals special report on governance reform after the child sexual abuse scandal.

While Penn State has undertaken significant reforms since the Sandusky scandal, it is disappointing that some of the recommendations for improvement have been ignored or contrary action was taken, DePasquale said.

Specifically, the General Assembly should cut the size of the board of trustees not only for Penn State, but for all state-related institutions of higher education, he said, noting that since that recommendation was made in the special report, the board grew from 32 to 36 members, plus two nonvoting members.

Higher-education experts recommend no more than 12 to 15 members on a college board.

Additionally, as a recipient of a significant amount of taxpayer dollars, it is high time for the General Assembly to make Penn State subject to all the provisions of both the commonwealths Right-to-Know Law and the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, DePasquale said.

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Auditor General's review of Penn State says progress has been made, but there's still work to do - FOX43.com

Cheer the Exeter boys in skirts, but we’ll have real progress when it’s no longer news – New Statesman

When I first learned that the boys of Exeters ISCA Academy were arriving to school wearing skirts, I couldnt help wanting to cheer. Good for them! Its about time someone tackled the blatant sexism of gendered dress codes head on.

Theres no reason at all why boys shouldnt wear skirts, or dresses, or anything else arbitrarily coded as feminine. Make the most of it, lads! You have nothing to lose but your pockets!

And why stop there?If were serious about increasing equality between the sexes, its about time we challenged anything that needlessly exaggerates difference. Clothing might seem a trivial matter, but gendered dress codes reinforce much broader beliefs about how boys and girls should look, think, feel and behave.

The rule that states a boy should not wear a skirt sits alongside the one that states a boy must not be vulnerable, passive or weak.A boy must not, in other words, be like a girl, because girls are inferior (hence its not so controversial for a girl to wear trousers. For girls, wanting to be like a boy is seen as aspirational).

My delight at the Exeter schoolboys protest was of course tempered by the fact that theirs is not a protest in favour of gender neutrality per se. The boys arent actually fighting for the right to wear skirts, but wearing skirts in protest at not being permitted to wear shorts.

I have to admit to finding this a little disappointing. While I applaud their bravery in taking the teacher who told them to wear a skirt at her word, I do start to wonder whether this is a protest that still depends on the idea that girls less important and more trivial than boys. After all, the boys dont really want to dress like girls on a daily basis;on the contrary, theyre using the sheer ridiculous of such an idea as a means to an end. Its all a bit of a joke, but its one that risks coming at the expense of their female counterparts. Its like arriving at school in clown shoes or a Donald Trump mask; it makes the point precisely because thats not really the person youd want to be.

I had similar concerns on reading of the French bus drivers who launched a skirt-wearingr protest in Nantes. Cheering them on feels like the liberal thing to do, yet theres a problem with the idea that men who use skirt-wearing as a form of protest are courageously challenging gender norms on behalf of us all.

If we genuinely accept that there is nothing shameful, unnatural or undesirable about male people wanting to dress in a feminine manner, then surely we should encourage those who do so. But wearing a skirt to draw attention to yourself because you want something else in this case, to wear a different type of mens clothing reinforces the idea that there is something not quite right about the skirt-wearing man. Just let him wear shorts and normal service can resume.

One of my own sons has worn a dress to school on more than one occasion, not as a form of protest, but simply because he wanted to. Admittedly these have always been on non-uniform days; on an average day his main nod to femininity is wearing his long blonde hair in a French braid.

I used to have parents asking me why I allowed him to look the way he does or what I thought was really behind it; these days Im more likely to get people telling me how cool or brave he is (when theyre not telling me how good he is at football for a girl). I find this change in attitude reassuring, although I worry whether things will change again when his body starts to look more obviously male. Will people still find it courageous if its neither a protest nor a childish phase, but just a male person who doesnt consider girl stuff off-limits?

I wish the Exeter boys well in their protest. The head teacher at their school has said she would be happy to consider a change in the schools uniform policy. My guess is this may be to allow boys to wear shorts, but lets hope she goes a little further than that.

Theres nothing demeaning or ridiculous about being a boy who wears girls clothes; well know weve made real progress the day it doesnt make the news.

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Cheer the Exeter boys in skirts, but we'll have real progress when it's no longer news - New Statesman

Kankakee High School making progress with field turf installation – Kankakee Daily Journal

KANKAKEE - Kankakee High School's football program is back on the grind after putting together one of its best seasons in recent history.

The Kays finished last fall with a 6-4 overall record, including a first state playoff appearance since 2010. Kankakee's season ended with a 14-6 loss to Metamora in the first round and now, the Kays are looking to build on their success.

But while coaches and student-athletes are putting in work in the weight room and on the practice field, a construction crew is working just as hard to give the team a state of the art facility.

The school's district field turf project has reached a critical stage as Cosgrove Construction prepares the ground to be ready to absorb the installation.

"I can say we're on track with our deadline and we're hoping the weather continues to cooperate with us," Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Rob Grossi said. "What's happening now is Cosgrove is preparing the field. They're going to completely finish all of the drainage and leveling, before field turf is installed."

After Cosgrove finishes their duties, FieldTurf will begin the installation of artificial turf.

"The turf is going to be green and the two end zones are going to be maroon," Grossi said. "One is going to say 'Kankakee' and the other is going to say 'Kays.' Our target completion date is August 1. We want it to be ready before football practice can start."

The field turf project will also include a new resurfaced track, costing around $100,000.

"We're going to resurface the track and we're still working on what color it's going to be," Grossi said. "We're working with the details but we know we want to do it. The bids for our field turf came in under budget, and we included a resurfaced track as an alternative. We'll still be able to add a track surface and stay under budget."

The school district was given a budget of $1.5 million. Altogether, the football field's turf surface will cost around $1.3 million.

"This is a benefit for the community," Kankakee Superintendent Genevra Walters said. "We've had some community teams that have wanted to use our facilities. But we've had to be careful because you can't have too many activities on a grass field. This will solve that problem and it opens up the opportunity of more activities for our students and our community."

Walters also made mention of the band being able to practice on the field while noting the district's discussion of adding additional athletic programs such as lacrosse.

But she made sure not to leave out the district's students who may not be involved in athletics.

"I believe that we have several groups of students here," she said. "We have academic minded students, fine art students and athletically gifted students. We're focusing on the support of all three groups. The turf is more for our athletes and we're hoping we can start looking at other options for our softball and baseball fields as well."

Walters also spoke about how excited the district's athletes and coaches were when they learned of the field turf installation.

"They were extremely excited," she said. "Community members, board members and athletes, both past and present, have been talking about this for about 10 years now."

Walter said that the school district is planning on a ribbon cutting ceremony but the details have not yet been finalized.

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Kankakee High School making progress with field turf installation - Kankakee Daily Journal

California Court Dismisses 14 Criminal Charges against Center for Medical Progress – National Review

This afternoon, the San Francisco Superior Court tossed out 14 of the 15 criminal charges that had been brought by the state of Californiaagainst two journalists from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), after theyreleased a series of undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthoods possible involvement in illegal fetal-tissue trafficking.

In late March, California attorney general Xavier BecerrachargedDavid Daleiden and Sandra Merritt with 15felony charges for recording what hedeemed to be confidential communications. Today, a judge dismissed14 of thosecharges, but will still consider the remaining fifteenth charge, against Merritt alone, forconspiring to invade privacy.

In a statement today, an official withthe group representing Merritt said they are optimistic about having this charge dropped as well. He also pointed out that Becerra receivedthousands of dollarsin campaign donatins from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL during his time as a Democratic congressman.

More details from Life News:

The San Francisco Superior Court on Wednesday dismissed 14 of 15 criminal counts but the pair are still charged with one count of conspiracy to invade privacy. However the court dismissed the charges with leave to amend meaning Becerra could re-file the charges with additional supposed evidence against the pair.

The court ruled that counts 1-14 were legally insufficient. The state has the opportunity to amend if it can plead a more legally sufficient and specific complaint. The Californias Attorney General filed 15 criminal counts against Merritt, with counts 1-14 for each of the alleged interviews and count 15 for an alleged conspiracy. San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite gave the state attorney generals office until mid-July to file a revised complaint.

As from being a victory for the freedom of the press, this decision is another big win for the CMP journalists who were cleared of criminal charges last year in Texas, as well vindicating them against the frequent claim from pro-abortion activists that they engaged in illegal activity and duplicitous editing of footage to falsely incriminate Planned Parenthood.

There is still a civil lawsuit on this matter pending in California, brought against the CMP by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation. Unlike these criminal charges, however, that suit does not carry the threat of jail time.

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California Court Dismisses 14 Criminal Charges against Center for Medical Progress - National Review

Trump celebrates ‘the amazing progress that we have already made’ at Iowa rally – Washington Examiner

President Trump on Wednesday rallied supporters in Iowa by arguing his administration has already made "amazing progress" in the five months since the inauguration.

"While we are here tonight to celebrate the amazing progress that we have already made and we have made amazing progress we're also here to lay out the next steps in our incredible movement to make America great again," Trump said during a campaign-style rally at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The president celebrated Republican congressional wins in special elections on Tuesday. "I want to also extend our congratulations this evening to Karen Handel of Georgia," Trump said. "And we can't forget Ralph Norman in South Carolina."

He asked for prayers for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who is recovering after being shot on a baseball field last week.

"He was in my office the day before," Trump said of Scalise. "Incredible. We are praying for you. We are pulling for you. You have our absolute support and our deepest admiration."

Trump also referenced Otto Warmbier, the American student who died this week after being held in North Korea for more than a year.

"You look at North Korea, look at Otto," Trump said. "Beautiful Otto. Went over there as a healthy, wonderful boy. And you see how he came back. You see how he came back."

Talking up his administration, Trump said, "Jobs are just about the best they've ever been. We've created almost $4 trillion dollars in wealth. If you look at your stock values and you look at what's going on with our country, we've created tremendous wealth."

"The enthusiasm and spirit on every single index is higher than it's ever been before for our manufacturers and our companies," Trump argued. "After spending billions of dollars defending other people's borders, we are finally going to defend our borders. After decades of rebuilding foreign nations, all over the world, we are now rebuilding our nation."

Trump has not seen healthcare, tax reform or infrastructure legislation passed through both houses on Congress. But Trump talked of withdrawing from the "disastrous" Paris climate agreement and renegotiating trade deals.

Speaking of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Trump said he will either renegotiate or terminate it. He said he initially was going to "terminate" but the leaders of Mexico and Canada asked him to reconsider.

"And I am always willing to renegotiate," Trump said. "So we will see how it goes. But it's been very unfair to the United States.

Trump boasted of his energy policies. "We've approved the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline," he said. "38,000 jobs. And better for the environment, by the way. Better. Underground. Better for the environment and safer." Talking of the Second Amendment, Trump cited his Supreme Court pick and said "that looks like it's in good shape with judge Neil Gorsuch."

As he did during the campaign, Trump played media critic during the rally. He praised Fox News, saying they have "treated us well." The crowd booed when he brought up CNN. He also referred to the "phony, NBC television network."

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Trump celebrates 'the amazing progress that we have already made' at Iowa rally - Washington Examiner

With a rapper’s death, harsh spotlight falls on slow progress against sickle cell – STAT

T

he death of the rap artist Prodigy (Albert Johnson, half of the duo Mobb Deep) at only 42 this week, after a lifetime of suffering from sickle cell disease, was a reminder of the devastating cost of thesometimes fatal genetic disorder and of the failure to cure it.

It has been 61 years sincethe discovery of the mutation responsible for sickle cell, which affects about 100,000 people in the U.S., and 30 years since scientists found a compensatory mutation onethat keeps people from developing sickle cell despite inheriting the mutant genes. Last year, when STAT examined the lack of progress, scientists and hospital officials were frank about one reason for it: Other genetic disorders, notably cystic fibrosis, attracted piles of money that led to cures, but sickle cell strikes the wrong kind of people, including African-Americans, and so has historically been starved for funds.

The genetic mutation that causes sickle cell allowsred blood cells to cramp up in a way that impedestheir flow through blood vessels. Those who have the condition can suffer anemia, infections, fatal organ failure, tissue damage, strokes, and intense pain.

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In the last 12 months, there have been glimmers ofprogress against the disease. There are huge numbers of drug companies finally putting money into this, said Dr. Mitchell Weiss, chairman of hematology at St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital, who is developing a genome-editing approach, using CRISPR-Cas9, to cure sickle cell. As for the National Institutes of Health, the chief funder of basic biomedical research, I wouldnt say NIH is showering [sickle cell research] with money, but theyre trying to help.

Weve known for 50 years what causes sickle cell disease. Wheres the cure?

CRISPR, by making genome-editing easier than ever, is responsible for much of the hope surrounding sickle cell.

On Friday, at a meeting of the European Hematology Association in Madrid, scientists at CRISPR Therapeutics and their academic collaborators will present preliminary results of a study using it to create the compensatory mechanism that protects some sickle cell patients. Basically, that mechanism keeps the body producing fetal hemoglobin, which ordinarily vanishes soon after birth. But even in sickle cell patients, fetal hemoglobin is normal rather than deformed like adult hemoglobin. Scientists have identified several genetic routes to keeping fetal hemoglobin turned on, and even to turning it on again after the body has turned it off in infancy.

CRISPR Therapeutics does not reveal which gene it targeted, but the results were promising. Starting with blood-forming cells from both healthy volunteers and sickle cell patients, itcreated CRISPR-Cas9 molecules targeting regions of DNA involved in the fetal-to-adult hemoglobin switch. An impressive 85 percentof cellswere successfully edited, which kept fetal hemoglobin production humming. Result: Scientistsre-created genetic variants linked to high [fetal hemoglobin] levels in blood-forming cells from both healthy donors and those with sickle cell, the company said in a summary of the study. It compared how well different DNA edits increased production of fetal hemoglobin in red blood cells in lab dishes, getting 25 percent to 45 percent in the cells taken from six sickle cell patients.

The scientists then put the edited cells into lab mice, finding that they homed in on the bone marrow, as they would have to do in a patient to effect a cure. They also measured what are called off-target effects, or edits of genes that werent intended, and found none at the more than 5,000 sites deemed most likely to have them.

CRISPR Therapeutics said it had used several editing strategies to turn on production of fetal hemoglobin, underlining the accelerating progress in taking that approach to develop a cure. Weiss, for instance, is trying to turn on fetal hemoglobin by tapping into the very complicated genetics of fetal hemoglobin.

Cells have molecules that act like Victorian lamplighters: They roam the genome, turning genes on and off. One such lamplighter (in biology-speak, a transcription factor) is called BCL11A; it turns off production of fetal hemoglobin. Weiss is not targeting BCL11A itself (other scientists are considering that); rather, he is using CRISPR to disrupt where BCL11A lands. Just as a lamplighter cant turn off a light he cant reach, so BCL11A cant turn off a gene it cant reach. Expected result: Fetal hemoglobin stays on and patients have enough healthy hemoglobin to compensate for the sickled kind.

One boys cure raises hopes and questions about gene therapy for sickle cell disease

After making progress with this approach editing cells in lab dishes, Weiss said, he and his colleagueshope to launch a clinical trial in three to four years, using money raised by St. Jude but, so far, they have no commercial partner. At Boston Childrens Hospital, Dr. David Williams said he hopes to open his clinical trial, also using gene therapy to target sickle cell, this summer, and is just waiting on final safety testing of the virus that will be used to deliver the therapy.

An even more basic approach to curing sickle cell targets the causative mutation directly.The most encouraging human data so far have come from a genetic therapy being tested by Cambridge, Mass.-based Bluebird Bio. In March, the company reportedthat a boy who received the gene therapy in October 2014, when he was 13, had been able to stop taking medication that helps alleviate symptomsand has not needed to be hospitalized with a sickle cell crisis (as Prodigy was in the days before he died). Nor has hesuffered the crushing pain or bone and tissue damage that results from the inability of sickled blood cells to carry oxygen.

Bluebird uses viruses to carry the healthy hemoglobin gene into blood-making bone marrow cells taken from patients, which is the original form of gene therapy. If healthy genes insert into the DNA of enough cells, which are infused back intothe patient, the marrow makes enough healthy blood cells to cure sickle cell. With the sudden surge of activity, said Dr. Charles Abrams of the University of Pennsylvania and past president of the American Society of Hematology, people say were within 10 years of reaching the goal of a cure, and maybe less.

Sharon Begley can be reached at sharon.begley@statnews.com Follow Sharon on Twitter @sxbegle

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First Look at Proposed Rule Shows Progress in Easing Burdens – AAFP News

On June 20, CMS published a much-anticipated proposed rule that, according to a CMS press release,(www.cms.gov) aims to simplify the Quality Payment Program (QPP) in 2018.

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act requires that the program be updated annually.

The proposed rule, available now for public inspection(s3.amazonaws.com) and scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on June 30, devotes special attention to the hurdles faced by physicians in small, independent and rural practices who want to participate in the program.

At the same time, it addresses other CMS primary responsibilities: ensuring fiscal sustainability of the Medicare program and maintaining a high level of quality care for Medicare beneficiaries.

"We've heard the concerns that too many quality programs, technology requirements and measures get between the doctor and the patient," said CMS Administrator Seema Verma, M.P.H., in the release. "That's why we're taking a hard look at reducing burdens."

The proposal seeks to ease the onerous administrative tasks that bog physicians down and keep them from their clinical responsibilities, she noted.

"We aim to improve Medicare by helping doctors and clinicians concentrate on caring for their patients rather than filling out paperwork," said Verma.

"CMS will continue to listen and take actionable steps towards alleviating burdens and improving health outcomes for all Americans that we serve."

In response to the proposal's release, the AAFP published a statement, attributed to AAFP President John Meigs, M.D., of Centreville, Ala., expressing overall support.

"The proposed regulation will improve the ability of family physicians to participate successfully in payment reforms envisioned by the bipartisan Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act," said Meigs in the statement.

He noted that in addition to CMS' apparent effort to tame the administrative duties that plague physicians, an initial -- albeit brief -- review of the proposal revealed progress on other fronts.

For example, Meigs said the AAFP was pleased to see that the agency had incorporated some of the Academy's suggestions regarding medical homes, including a gradual rollout of the financial risk borne by these entities, as well as steps taken to reduce risk "for practices of all sizes" that are participating in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System.

The AAFP also praised CMS for addressing virtual groups.

"This is a solid step forward in leveling the playing field for small practices who -- without a mechanism by which they can join other practices for reporting purposes -- would be subject to a negative payment adjustment," said the statement.

As always, a dedicated team of AAFP staff members will now dive into the details of the proposal and conduct a thorough analysis before the Academy responds to CMS within the 60-day commenting period allowed.

Related AAFP News Coverage MACRA: The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act

More From AAFP MACRA Ready: The Shift to Value-Based Payment

Additional Resource CMS fact sheet(www.cms.gov)

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First Look at Proposed Rule Shows Progress in Easing Burdens - AAFP News

Zimmer Evaluates Progress of Revamped O-Line – Minnesota Vikings – Vikings.com

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is a defensive guru and a man who has built a reputation by being one of the leagues best coaches at shutting down opposing offenses.

But after Minnesotas offensive line struggled with injuries and execution in 2016, Zimmer has had more of a hand in helping the line get ready for the upcoming season.

Part of it is, I want them to know Ive got their back, Zimmer said. Im going to sit in there with them. Im listening to them and communicating with them. Im trying to tell them things, defensively.

I talk to Sam [Bradford] all the time about things that I think defensively and how other people might think. While Im sitting in there they might ask me, With this rotation, wheres the blitz coming from? Or, Hows the linebacker going to react to this kind of play and things like this. Ill tell them the things that I see thats really tough on a defensive end or whatever, Zimmer said. I think its been good and its not that Im overlooking any of those guys. I want them to know that theyre my guys.

The Vikings used eight different starting offensive line combinations in 2016, and started five different left tackles. Minnesota ranked last in the NFL with 1,205 rushing yards and was last with an average of 3.2 yards per carry.

The Vikings and General Manager Rick Spielman beefed up the line this offseason, adding a pair of tackles in Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. Both are expected to start this season.

Minnesota also added center/guard Pat Elflein and guard Danny Isidora in the draft, bringing young talent to the position group.

Veteran Joe Berger, who started 2016 at center and finished at right guard, worked at right guard with the first team during Organized Team Activity and minicamp practices beside center Nick Easton.

Add it all up, and left guard Alex Boone could be the only lineman who resumes the same starting spot he had at the start of the 2016 season.

With Reiff and Remmers on the outside, the interior of the line could see Boone at left guard, Easton at center and Berger at right guard.

Zimmer noted that Easton and Elflein will fight for playing time during training camp.

Theyre both doing good, Zimmer said. Again, its going to come down into training camp and things like that. We may look at some other scenarios as well.

With Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano back for his second season in Minnesota, players said they can sense a revamped attitude within the unit.

Ive got great teammates, great guys in the room, Reiff said earlier this spring. Were in the beginning steps right now. Were working. Its all we can do. Im not going to say much, but were out there working together, building camaraderie.

Added Remmers: Just from what Ive heard from the guys who have been here, going into this season has been a completely different change of pace and a different mindset. From what Ive seen, everyone works so hard here. Were going to do everything we possibly can to have the most success on the field.

At the end of spring practices, Zimmer noted the real test will come in pads whether thats at training camp or in the preseason.

But in the few weeks that Zimmer has spent with his new-look offensive line, he likes what he observed.

They seem pretty focused, Zimmer said. Theyre not a big joke-around room, they have their little fun here and there. I think they just want to get it right.

Like Reiff said to me, Ive made money in this game, I just want to win a Super Bowl. Thats kind of his mentality, Zimmer added. I think its good for the football team.

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Zimmer Evaluates Progress of Revamped O-Line - Minnesota Vikings - Vikings.com


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