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New York Mayor Urges Support For Chinatowns Amid Racist Coronavirus Fears




New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Thursday encouraged the city’s residents and visitors to support Asian American businesses, declaring one of the city’s major Chinese neighborhoods “open for business” to counter racist fear-mongering about the new coronavirus that business owners say have caused a precipitous decline in sales.
“In hard times, New Yorkers know to stand by their neighbors,” he said while visiting Flushing in Queens, home to one of the largest Chinese populations outside of Asia. “We’re in Flushing today to embrace Asian American owned small businesses and say to all New Yorkers: New York City’s Chinatowns are open for business.”
It was my honor to spend time with our Asian-American owned small businesses in Flushing today. This vibrant community is standing strong but they need YOUR support.Our Chinatowns are open for business — make some dinner plans, do some shopping and stand with our neighbors! pic.twitter.com/3pJAzTPvPl— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) February 13, 2020

Business owners in the city’s three major Chinatowns — Flushing in Queens, Chinatown on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Sunset Park in Brooklyn — have experienced as much as a 40% drop in business in the weeks since the virus began to spread, according to city officials.
The virus, called COVID-19, originated over 7,000 miles away, in Wuhan, China. As of Thursday, 15 cases have been reported in the U.S., the majority of those involving people who recently traveled to Wuhan. So far, there have been no confirmed cases in New York.
Yet fears and misinformation about the outbreak have spread, often involving racist tropes about Chinese people as eaters of “weird” food and as filthy disease carriers. These xenophobic attacks have persisted since the 19th century, when Chinese immigrants to the U.S. were labeled as harbingers of the “yellow peril.”
In recent weeks, Chinese-owned businesses, especially restaurants, have reported precipitous declines in sales and patronage across the country — including in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Honolulu — and worldwide, such as in London and Paris.
Racist fears have kept visitors away from Chinatowns and, in late January, marred celebrations of the Lunar New Year in major U.S. cities.
“Attendance was depressed because of concern about coronavirus,” California state Sen. Scott Wiener (D), who represents parts of San Francisco, told HuffPost, before pointing out that the seasonal flu “is more of a threat than coronavirus.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, far more Americans are regularly affected by the flu. So far this winter, at least 22 million people have had the flu, 210,000 have been hospitalized and 12,000 have died from its complications.
Sarah Ruiz-Grossman contributed reporting.

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Evacuee Quarantined At Texas Air Base Tests Positive For Coronavirus




A person quarantined in Texas after being evacuated from China has tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. to 15.
The individual is among a group of people placed under a federal quarantine at the Air Force’s Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland following their U.S. arrival on Feb. 7 on a State Department-chartered flight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
None of the other people in the group have shown symptoms or tested positive for the virus, also known as COVID-19, though health officials aren’t ruling more cases out.

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A person quarantined at this Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas, after evacuated from China has tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials said.

“There may be additional cases we identify. I do want to prepare you for that,” said Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s division of high consequence pathogens and pathology, at a press conference.
The person with the confirmed case is isolated and receiving medical care at a local hospital, Texas health officials said.
Cases have been previously confirmed in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, and Wisconsin.
“There will likely be additional cases in the coming days and weeks, including among other people recently returned from Wuhan,” the CDC said in a statement. Wuhan is the capital city for the province where the virus was first detected, 
Globally, the World Health Organization has reported 46,997 laboratory-confirmed cases, while China’s National Health Commission said it has received 59,804 reports of confirmed cases and 1,367 deaths linked to the virus.

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Feds Investigating Yale, Harvard Over Unreported Foreign Funding




NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The U.S. Education Department is investigating foreign gifts made to Harvard and Yale as part of a broader review of international money flowing to American universities, officials said.
The department said Wednesday it is reviewing whether the Ivy League schools potentially failed to report hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts and donations from countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran and China.
The department previously opened investigations at Georgetown University and Texas A&M as part of a campaign to scrutinize foreign funding and to improve reporting by universities.
“Unfortunately, the more we dig, the more we find that too many are underreporting or not reporting at all. We will continue to hold colleges and universities accountable and work with them to ensure their reporting is full, accurate, and transparent, as required by the law,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said.
A Yale spokeswoman, Karen Peart, said the university was reviewing the department’s request for records of certain gifts and contracts and preparing to respond to it.
A Harvard spokesman, Jonathan Swain, said it is reviewing the notice and preparing a response.
Federal law requires U.S. colleges to report contracts and donations from foreign sources totaling $250,000 or more.
In Yale’s case, the department said it discovered in recent weeks that the university may have failed to report at least $375 million in foreign gifts and contracts. It said in a letter to Yale that the university appeared not to have reported a single foreign source gift or contract in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 despite having a significant presence abroad.
At Harvard, a professor was charged last month with lying about his ties to a Chinese-run recruitment program and concealing payments he received from the Chinese government for research. The Education Department noted the arrest in its announcement Wednesday and said it is concerned Harvard “may lack appropriate institutional controls over foreign money” and may have failed to report fully all foreign gifts and contracts.
The department said its enforcement efforts since July have prompted the reporting of approximately $6.5 billion in previously undisclosed foreign money. It said $3.6 billion of that was reported by 10 schools: Cornell University, Yale, the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, Texas A&M, and Carnegie Mellon University.

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Coronavirus Infections In China Surge As Officials Add New Testing Methods To Tally




Health officials in China’s Hubei Province — the epicenter of the outbreak of a new coronavirus — reported the largest single-day infection rate to date on Thursday, identifying 14,840 new cases in the region and 242 more deaths.
The figures, which are more than 10 times the previous day’s reported infections, come as Chinese health officials have expanded how they diagnose those who show symptoms associated with the virus, called COVID-19. Officials previously relied solely on specialized testing kits, but the new data includes those who have been screened by doctors, The New York Times reported. Hubei has also begun using CT scans to identify infected patients.
“From today on, we will include the number of clinically diagnosed cases into the number of confirmed cases so that patients could receive timely treatment,” Hubei’s health authority said in a statement, according to a translation from the South China Morning Post.
Reuters added that if cases identified using the new methods were excluded from the count, then there were only 1,508 new cases. More than 50,000 people have now been confirmed to have COVID-19 across China.
The new figures reflected a statistical whiplash and come just a day after Beijing reported the lowest daily number of new infections in two weeks. The government touted that decline in its attempt to champion its containment efforts that have effectively quarantined 60 million people in and around Hubei. Senior Chinese officials have also been urging workers to return to their jobs after extending the Lunar New Year holiday, although many have been staying home out of fear.
Experts have warned, however, that the number of people infected with the virus could be far higher than reported due to the complicated testing required, a shortage of medical supplies at some hospitals and recent observations that many people have mild cases that don’t require medical treatment.
Officials agree, however, that COVID-19 is highly transmissible and warned that infection rates could fall or skyrocket at any moment.
“Our greatest fear remains the damage this coronavirus could do in a country like [the Democratic Republic of Congo],” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, said during a WHO meeting on the Ebola crisis in West Africa on Wednesday. “Even as the flames of one outbreak begin to die down, we are fighting another fire-front.”
He added: “The number of newly confirmed cases reported from China has stabilized over the past week, but that must be interpreted with extreme caution. This outbreak could still go in any direction.”
The fallout from the spread of the coronavirus, which WHO dubbed COVID-19 on Tuesday, continues to spread.
Businesses have also taken steps to prevent the spread of the virus, including airlines that have canceled many of their flights into China. One of the world’s largest technology trade shows, set to be held in Barcelona, called off this year’s event because of the outbreak.
New cases have continued to pop up around the globe. The United States reported its 14th on Wednesday, saying a person evacuated from Wuhan to a military base near San Diego had tested positive for the virus.

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There’s So Much We Still Don’t Know About Pain




Illustration by Sara Andreasson for HuffPost
This story is part of Pain in America, a nine-part series looking at some of the underlying causes of the opioid addiction crisis and how we treat pain.
The story we’ve been telling about the opioid overdose crisis in the United States, says civil rights lawyer Kate Nicholson, is a tidy narrative: Big Pharma pushed potent narcotic painkillers, doctors overprescribed them, people got addicted, and many ended up dead in the street. 
“It’s a lovely story with an evil villain and duped doctors and innocent victims,” she says. But the truth isn’t so simple. 
Nicholson lived with chronic pain for a decade and a half after suffering nerve damage from surgery. It didn’t happen right away, but came on suddenly a year later. She was 30, sitting in her Washington, D.C., office, when a searing pain shot through her back. The pain spread, and it stayed. She spent three years in agony, unable to sit, barely able to stand, using a walker to get around. She was often bedridden. 
She resisted her doctors’ suggestions to take prescription narcotics. It was the late 1990s. OxyContin had recently come on the market, prescriptions were on the rise, and Nicholson worried about the risk of addiction. But after exhausting all other options, she started on methadone and oxycodone. They worked. 
Seventeen years later, when the opioid overdose crisis captured the nation’s attention, she found herself fighting to get the pills she needed to function. 

Rachel Woolf for HuffPost

Kate Nicholson, seen at her home in Boulder, Colorado, is a civil rights attorney and pain patient advocate who lived with chronic pain for nearly two decades after suffering nerve damage from surgery.

Since 2016, two-thirds of states have passed laws that limit how much of an opioid painkiller doctors can prescribe, and how many days they can prescribe them for. Hospitals, insurers and pharmacy chains imposed maximum dosage and duration rules, and drug enforcement has targeted doctors deemed as overprescribers, without a clear definition of what that actually constitutes. Doctors, often wary of oversight, are swiftly reining in prescriptions. 
“Suddenly everyone wanted to fix this problem,” says Nicholson. “There was just this rush of regulation and simplistic, one-size-fits-all approaches to a condition that’s so broad and so varied.” 
That approach has left many people who rely on opioids for pain management, and the people who treat them, with fewer options. It also ignores what drove so much prescribing in the first place, and why opioids are so widely used: They are the most effective drugs currently available for treating many kinds of pain. And the reason that’s true is because we still don’t truly understand the science of pain.
The Enduring Allure Of Opioids
People have treated pain with opioids for millennia. Scholars say 8,000-year-old Sumerian clay tablets may have been the first prescriptions for opium, from poppies. Its use has been documented all over the world, from ancient Greece to China and the New World. 
Opium was known for creating a feeling of euphoria, which made it an attractive sedative and pain reliever. In the early 1800s, a German scientist first isolated the active ingredient in opium to make morphine. By the turn of the century, addiction to morphine and opium reached epidemic levels in the United States. Meanwhile, back in Germany, the new pharmaceutical arm of the chemical company Bayer was developing an opioid drug that was believed to be more potent than morphine and less addictive. They named it heroin. 
Today there are around two dozen forms of opioid analgesics, also known as narcotic analgesics, including morphine, oxycodone (used in brand-name medications such as OxyContin, Percodan and Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin) and hydromorphone (Dilaudid).

The wide-ranging actions of opioids in the body are what make them so effective, so alluring and so dangerous. Opioids work as analgesics by binding to particular types of receptors in certain nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, interrupting pain signals. They also activate circuits in parts of the brain involved in pleasure and reward, which both elicits a high and gives them their addictive potential. Acting on parts of the brain stem and other areas involved in respiration, they can slow breathing, which is often the cause of fatal overdoses.

Opioids, including prescription painkillers, were involved in 46,802 overdose deaths in 2018 — more than two-thirds of all fatal drug overdoses in the U.S. that year. But most people who die from an overdose involving an opioid didn’t get the drug from a doctor. Opioid prescription rates fell 28% from their peak in 2012 to 2017 amid a push for policies to reduce use and doctors tapering patients off long-term regimens. Opioid overdose deaths more than doubled over that same period. 
The increase in deaths was propelled in large part by the proliferation of cheap, powerful, illegally produced synthetic opioids like fentanyl. And recent studies have found that cutting off prescriptions to opioids is one reason some people suffering with pain have sought to self-medicate with illicit drugs, putting them in danger of overdose. Fentanyl deaths doubled every year from 2013 to 2016, when it overtook heroin as the top drug involved in fatal overdoses. 
With all the risks that come with opioids, why do we keep using them? Because they work, and because science hasn’t found anything nearly as effective for so many different kinds of pain. 
Why Pain Is So Hard To Treat 
“We use ‘pain’ as one word, but I think it reflects a panoply of different disorders,” says David Julius, chair of physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, who has spent decades trying to understand how humans perceive pain.
Pain can be recovery from a broken ankle or a pulled wisdom tooth. It can be migraines, or backaches, or the burning of chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, or debilitating sickle cell episodes. Pain can be in muscles, bones, nerves. 
Pain has long been treated with a very limited arsenal of drugs that don’t precisely distinguish between one type of pain and another. The biggest reason is that scientists don’t yet understand all the mechanisms that cause pain, Julius says. “You got to understand how things work before you can fix them. Otherwise you’re taking potshots in the dark.”
The path of pain starts with sensory neurons that activate in response to a stimulus. From there, the neural signal travels to the spinal cord and up into the brain. It’s a chain that gets more complicated the further up you go, and there are mysteries at every step that scientists are still trying to unravel. 
Julius’ work focuses on the first step: what is happening on a cellular level when you feel pain. In the late 1990s, he figured out that the reason we get a burning sensation from chili peppers — or, more specifically, the capsaicin that gives them their kick — is that they activate receptors in nerve cells that also respond to painfully high heat. Julius’ lab also discovered the so-called wasabi receptor, which responds to both its pungent namesake and inflammation in the body. 
Researchers have since discovered dozens of these markers, but there could be hundreds more, each with the potential to help develop more targeted pain medications. 
And those are just the receptors involved in how sensory nerves at the periphery respond when you sprain your ankle or touch a hot stove. That kind of pain is protective; it’s what tells you to stop running or move your hand away. We understand even less about how or why pain can persist for months or years after injured tissue has healed. This chronic pain can limit a person’s ability to function, to work, to take care of their family. And because the neural pathways in the brain that process pain overlap with ones associated with mood and emotion, it can trigger anxiety and depression, which can in turn make chronic pain feel even worse.
“Those are the patients that are the most difficult to treat and the ones that really need to have new medicines discovered,” says Frank Porreca, a professor of pharmacology and anesthesiology at the University of Arizona who studies pain and the effects of opioids on the brain. 
For patients suffering acute and cancer pain, opioids have long been among “our most important drugs,” he says. A few decades ago, doctors started extending the same treatments to people with chronic pain, fueling the rise in opioid prescriptions. It’s a tricky proposition. While some people may get relief from the medications, there is no good data showing that they’re safe and effective when used long term. 

What is known, however, is that the longer a person is on opioids, the more likely they are to become addicted. Whether the benefits of opioids outweigh the risks for such patients is a murky question for doctors to answer.
“The choices physicians can make are limited,” Porreca says.
The Twisted Roots Of A Crisis 
In many ways, the opioid overdose epidemic is a story of good intentions gone wrong. There are bad guys, to be sure. Unscrupulous pharma execs spouting unfounded claims and paying doctors to push their drugs. Unethical doctors running pill mills and flooding the streets with prescription narcotics. Dealers distributing lethally strong fentanyl. But broad assumptions that paint opioids as bad and prescribers as shills obscure legitimate efforts to ease people’s suffering and ignore how hard that is to do. 
“There’s a constant blurring of Purdue products and opioids in general, including cheap generic oral morphine, which costs pennies and from which no one is making a fortune,” laments Daniel Wolfe, who directs harm reduction programming at Open Society Foundations. “We work in so many countries where there is no pain relief whatsoever, including oral morphine. A terrible thing about the Purdue scandal is that it casts a pall over an entire category of medications.”
The explosion in opioid prescriptions and the overdose epidemic that resulted came from a confluence of interwoven agendas, some more noble than others.
In the 1980s and ’90s, pain management specialists felt that many people were being undertreated for pain. “Unlike ‘vital signs,’ pain isn’t displayed in a prominent place on the chart or at the bedside or nursing station,” wrote Mitchell Max, then president of the American Pain Society, in a 1990 editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 
The APS began to encourage doctors and nurses to routinely monitor pain like they would the four vital signs — blood pressure, pulse, breathing rate and temperature — and not to be afraid to treat with opioids as well as nonopioid analgesics, a well established combination for patients with cancer or acute pain following injury or surgery. It also suggested that hospitals hold formal reviews to ensure that patients were satisfied with how well their doctors addressed their pain. 
Opioid prescriptions were already on the rise at that point. Doctors were giving them to patients with chronic, noncancer pain, propelled in part by the belief that they came with a low risk of addiction. That belief, which would persist for decades, was based largely on badly misinterpreted information, most notably a scant, one-paragraph letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980 reporting less than 1% addiction rates among patients with no history of addiction being treated with narcotic painkillers while hospitalized. 
“The acceleration in the use of opioids for chronic pain that happened in the ’80s and ’90s was not based on strong science,” says Rosemary Polomano, professor of pain practice at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. 
By the early 2000s, the notion of pain as “the fifth vital sign” caught on, as influential organizations like the Veterans Health Administration and The Joint Commission, which certifies and writes standards for health care practices, started using it. The Joint Commission’s standards encouraged hospitals to have patients rate their pain on a 10-point scale to give clinicians quantitative information on which to base treatment decisions.
But unlike blood pressure or temperature, pain is not an objective measure. “You can ask a patient, ‘How much pain do you have?’” says Porreca. “But there’s no blood test. You can’t measure pain.” 
Because pain is subjective (and subject to mood), such ratings aren’t totally reliable measurements. Still, doctors used the ratings to routinely assess their patients’ pain, and hospitals used them to routinely assess their doctors’ performances in pursuit of better marks for patient satisfaction. 
Worries started to grow in the medical community that the edict to treat pain more vigorously would lead to overuse of opioids. Concerned its message was being taken more literally and applied more broadly than intended, The Joint Commission removed references to the fifth vital sign from its standards within three years, but the notion had already taken hold. “Rather than seeing the phrase as an analogy to draw attention to the need for improved assessment … some organizations interpreted this to mean that pain needed to be assessed every time vital signs were taken,” one commission executive explained recently in a JAMA op-ed. “There were also signs that some clinicians had become overzealous in treating pain.”

The increased focus on treating pain came at a perfect time for Purdue, which had begun aggressively marketing its new long-acting opioid, OxyContin, in 1996. The company’s army of sales reps claimed it was effective for many types of non-cancer-related pain with a lower likelihood of abuse and addiction than similar drugs already on the market. Sales of OxyContin ballooned to $1.5 billion by 2002. Five years later, Purdue pleaded guilty to intentionally misbranding the drug as less addictive. The company paid $600 million in fines. 
Opioid sales overall had quadrupled between 1999 and 2010, as did the number of overdose deaths involving prescription opioids.
The Pendulum Swings Back 
Knee-jerk adherence to new standards inflated the use of opioid pain medicines that helped create the overdose crisis. Current attempts to solve the problem are repeating old mistakes in reverse. New regulations focus on limiting doctors’ ability to prescribe opioids, which can result in undertreatment of pain, the very thing clinicians were trying to avoid 30 years ago.    
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released opioid prescribing guidelines to help primary care doctors safely and effectively treat patients with chronic pain. The guidelines included a dozen detailed recommendations for assessing a patient’s needs and appropriate interventions to try. 

Practitioners, hospitals, insurers and state governments seized on the CDC guidelines, often interpreting dosage recommendations as hard and fast limits for prescribing, and working them into practice standards, reimbursement strategies and laws. That was not, the authors clarified last year, the agency’s intention. 
While these efforts were “laudable,” they wrote, “unfortunately, some policies and practices purportedly derived from the guideline have in fact been inconsistent with, and often go beyond, its recommendations.”
Doctors, fearing that prescribing above those thresholds could result in malpractice lawsuits, having their medical licenses revoked, or arrest, began reducing or stopping their patients’ opioid prescriptions, even for those who’d had long-term success on the medications and were not addicted. 
“Now the pendulum is swinging a little too far away from opioids for any circumstances, and that’s just not correct,” says Porreca. “There are patients that should be treated with opioids for their pain. That should not be overlooked.”
Kate Nicholson had tried everything her doctors could think of before she started taking opioid medications for her chronic pain: steroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, nerve blocks, infusions, catheters in her spine and surgery. Nothing helped.
“Once all of those things had been tried,” Nicholson tells HuffPost, “my doctors sat me down and said, ‘We are going to take a different approach. We have put you through painful procedure after painful procedure. We have an oath to do no harm — we want to put you on opioids.’”
She started a regimen of daily methadone, plus oxycodone for breakthrough pain, which she stayed on for 17 years.
The drugs allowed her to get back to work, though she was still limited in her ability to sit, stand or walk. She once argued a federal case while reclining in a folding lawn chair. 
In 2014, she moved from Washington, D.C., to Boulder, Colorado, for fresh air and a slower pace. There, she came face to face with the problem of doctors afraid to prescribe opioid pain medications. A well respected local physician had been arrested in a Drug Enforcement Administration sting for allegedly overprescribing oxycodone. The medical community was shaken.

“I was already going down [in dosage] on the opioids,” Nicholson recalls. “I went to the doctor and she said, ‘I won’t prescribe opioids to you anymore and you won’t find anyone in town who will either.’ And in fact, I couldn’t find anyone.” 
She flew back to D.C. and got her doctors there to put her on a plan to taper off the medications safely. Thanks to the careful long-term care of her treatment team at Johns Hopkins and new surgical techniques — accessible because she had good health insurance and the money to buy plane tickets — her pain ultimately subsided.   
Most don’t have the resources Nicholson did. That’s why, for the last few years, she has been working as an advocate, trying to ensure that people who need opioids to function don’t lose their medications in the response to the overdose crisis.
Some states have imposed limits on how much of an opioid medication will be covered under Medicaid, putting low-income Americans with chronic pain at risk of losing their medication. Last year, Oregon’s health authority was forced to walk back a controversially stringent policy requiring doctors to taper their Medicaid patients off opioids. The federal agency in charge of Medicare and Medicaid was also pressured to change a proposal that would have put a lock on prescriptions of 90 morphine milligram equivalents or above. 
“Marketing and overprescribing played a role in creating the crisis, but now that you have created tens of thousands of people who need this medication, you can’t just turn off the tap and say, ‘Sorry we made a mistake,’ and think people won’t suffer intensely or turn to illegal sources,” says Wolfe. “‘Do no harm’ seems to have been lost from the equation.”
The Quest For Better Science 
While the role opioids should play in pain management is still in question, it’s become clear that doctors need better science, smarter standards and new, less-addictive treatment options. 
There’s a strong effort to find alternatives. The National Institutes of Health’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term program, or HEAL, committed $945 million last year to 400 research projects aimed at reducing and treating opioid use disorder and improving pain management, particularly for chronic pain. That includes studies to identify the proper use of opioids for particular conditions and patient populations, as well as the work of researchers such as David Julius at UCSF to understand the underlying mechanisms of pain. 
But drug development takes time. In the meantime, policies — at hospitals, insurers, and at the state and federal levels — need to incentivize the use of alternative therapies, and treatments that employ multiple classes of pain medication to reduce reliance on opioid drugs. There are also efforts to improve how prescribing guidelines are written to help doctors — especially general practitioners, as well as pharmacists and nurse practitioners — make better-informed decisions based on the best available science when treating people with a range of medical needs and risk factors for addiction or substance use disorder.
“We don’t have all these other ways of treating pain that are accessible and evidence based,” said Nicholson. “We made a lot of mistakes that we need to correct. But we need to do it well.”
Need help with substance use disorder or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

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China’s Coronavirus Cases Fall Again, Deaths Now Exceed 1,100




BEIJING (AP) — China on Wednesday reported another drop in the number of new cases of a viral infection and 97 more deaths, pushing the total dead past 1,100 even as the country remains largely closed down to prevent the spread of the disease.
The National Health Commission on Wednesday said 2,015 new cases had been reported over the last 24 hours, declining for a second day. The total number of cases in mainland China is 44,653, although many experts say a large number of others infected have gone uncounted.
The 97 additional deaths from the virus raised the mainland toll to 1,113.
Despite the official end o the extended Lunar New Year holiday, China remained mostly closed for business as many remained at home, with some 60 million people under virtual quarantine.
The World Health Organization has named the disease caused by the virus as COVID-19, avoiding any animal or geographic designation to avoid stigmatization and to show the disease comes from a new coronavirus discovered in 2019.
The illness was first reported in December and connected to a food market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak has largely been concentrated.
China’s official media reported Tuesday that the top health officials in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, have been relieved of their duties. No reasons were given, although the province’s initial response was deemed slow and ineffective. Speculation that higher-level officials could be sacked has simmered, but doing so could spark political infighting and be a tacit admission of responsibility.
The virus outbreak has become the latest political challenge for the party and its leader, Xi Jinping, who despite accruing more political power than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has struggled to handle crises on multiple fronts. These include a sharply slowing domestic economy, the trade war with the U.S. and push-back on China’s increasingly aggressive foreign policies.
Zhong Nanshan, a leading Chinese epidemiologist, said that while the virus outbreak in China may peak this month, the situation at the center of the crisis remains more challenging.
“We still need more time of hard working in Wuhan,” he said, describing the isolation of infected patients there a priorityon.
“We have to stop more people from being infected,” he said. “The problem of human to human transmission has not yet been resolved.”
Without enough facilities to handle the number of cases, Wuhan has been building prefabricated hospitals and converting a gym and other large spaces to house patients and try to isolate them from others.
The restart of business poses a risk of further spreading the virus, but China has little recourse, said Cong Liang, secretary general of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s main economic planning body.
“Without the reopening of businesses, in the short term, it will affect the supply of medical material and … in the long run, it will affect the supply of all kinds of production and life materials and will make the control and prevention efforts on the front line unsustainable. The target of defeating the epidemic will not be reached,” Cong said at a news conference.
In Hong Kong, authorities evacuated part of an apartment block after cases among its residents raised suspicion the virus may be spreading through the building’s plumbing. Three residents in one apartment were confirmed to have the virus days after a resident who lives 10 floors above them.
During the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS, an illness caused by a related virus, a number of infections in Hong Kong were linked to one building’s sewage pipes.
Hong Kong has confirmed 49 cases in the current outbreak.
Postal operators in the United States, China, Singapore and elsewhere said the suspension of flights to slow the virus spread was having a major impact on the global flow of letters and parcels.
The United States Postal Service informed its counterparts around the world on Tuesday that it was “experiencing significant difficulties” in dispatching letters, parcels and express mail to China, including Hong Kong and Macau, because airlines have suspended flights to those destinations.
It said the USPS said can no longer accept items destined for China “until sufficient transport capacity becomes available.”
The Universal Postal Union, a U.N. agency for postal cooperation between its 192 member countries, said the flight suspensions would impact mail delivery “for the foreseeable future.”
The Chinese mail service, China Post, said it was disinfecting postal offices, processing centers and vehicles to ensure the virus doesn’t spread via the mail and to protect postal staff.
The virus does “not survive for long on objects. It is therefore safe to receive postal items from China,” China Post said.



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Trump’s Budget Would Gut Global Health Programs




President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for 2021 seeks deep and widespread cuts to global health, slashing over $3 billion in funding.
The proposed cuts include a 34% reduction to the State Department and USAID’s global health funding and a 7% cut to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trump’s budget wants to gut funding to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria with a 58% cut, and decrease U.S. funding for the World Health Organization by 50%.
Although there are some boosts in funding ― such as a $50 million increase for the CDC’s global health security activities and $15 million for a USAID Global Health Security programs to target the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak ― they are paltry in comparison with the billions of dollars the administration seeks to take away.
Like all presidential budgets, it’s a statement of priorities that’s unlikely to go into effect. But the statement made in this one is deeply troubling to lawmakers and public health experts, particularly given the current threat from the virus that has killed nearly a thousand people since it emerged in Wuhan, China, and spread to over 25 countries around the world in recent weeks. 
“I’ve been working to keep in close touch with our health officials as they need to respond to the novel coronavirus, and I can tell you no one has suggested the thing they really need right now is a budget cut,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told HuffPost.

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Warning sign with text reading “Novel Coronavirus Alert,” referring to quarantine and screening procedures for patients at a John Muir Health medical center in Walnut Creek, California, Feb. 9, 2020.

Cuts Come During Global Health Fears
The proposed budget cuts come as health officials and medical experts urge greater funding and cooperation to deal with emerging threats to global health, such as the recent coronavirus outbreak. Although international health authorities have rapidly mobilized to mitigate the damage from the Covid-19 outbreak, experts warn that pandemics and infectious disease outbreaks are a growing threat. They argue the only way to address these future diseases is through international cooperation rather than implementing nativist policies and turning away from global health.
“We can’t build a border wall that will prevent microbes from getting in. They’re going to travel the world as they always have,” said Dr. Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia Medical University and leading expert on emerging diseases. “We’re going to be living with this reality, and it’s only proof that we can’t isolate ourselves.”
Trump has been largely silent and vaguely dismissive of the virus.
“It will all work out well,” Trump tweeted in January, one of only a few mentions of the virus. Trump claimed on Monday that “a lot of people think” the virus “goes away in April with the heat,” and assured “we’re in great shape.”
But the extent to which the coronavirus outbreak will “work out” has very little to do with Trump, whose administration has made numerous attempts to slash health programs each year in office and forced out top experts in preparing for pandemics.

We can’t build a border wall that will prevent microbes from getting in.
Dr. Stephen Morse, professor of epidemiology

The White House has repeatedly tried to implement deep budget cuts to global health programs in the past, including those that specifically targeted programs on emerging and infectious diseases such as Ebola and coronaviruses. The Trump administration attempted to cut $2.5 billion overall for the 2020 fiscal year from the State Department and USAID’s global health programs, as well as $50 million from pandemic preparedness operations. These programs carry out a wide range of activities from research and monitoring of emerging diseases to immunization.
Trump’s apparent disengagement contrasts with his fervent criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, when he groundlessly accused Obama of not doing enough to prevent the virus from spreading to the United States and spouted conspiracy theories about the virus on Fox News. But as president, Trump worked to eliminate the emergency funds that Obama implemented for combating Ebola along with his other proposed cuts. 
Members of Congress came together to vote against budget proposals and instead managed to increase funding. But there’s still the question of who in the administration will coordinate a broad interagency response to an outbreak such as Covid-19 if it starts to spread rapidly in the United States. Right now, there is nobody who would be in an obvious position to do that after former national security adviser John Bolton disbanded the National Security Council team in charge of global health security and effectively pushed out its well-respected director Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer.
“We are losing some really good people in the U.S. government who are frustrated with some of [the administration’s actions],” said Dr. Paul Spiegel, director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at John Hopkins. “We’re losing some pretty important technical leaders in the field which will have a longer-term impact.”
Trump’s attempted cuts in global health programs have taken place as experts warn of a persistent threat from infectious diseases, as we’ve seen in recent decades from SARS, MERS, Ebola and other outbreaks. The Covid-19 virus is the latest of these to highlight why turning away from international health commitments is dangerous policy. 
“It’s a reminder yet again of the importance of strengthening public health capacities, nationally and globally,” said Dr. James M. Hughes, former chief of infectious diseases at the CDC and a professor emeritus of medicine at Emory University. “If we don’t do that, we’ll continue to see these kinds of tragic events occuring.”

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A patient solves a Rubik’s cube at a temporary hospital converted from “Wuhan Livingroom” in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province, Feb. 10, 2020.

Lawmakers Condemn Cuts

Lawmakers, political candidates and the public health community have spoken out against Trump’s attempts to cut funding for global health programs.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, now running for president, called Trump the “worst possible person to lead our country through a global health challenge” in an op-ed last month and fellow presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced a plan for combating infectious diseases that includes increasing funding for health agencies and developing vaccines. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) issued an open letter last week calling on the president to fully fund global health efforts. 
“In light of the current novel coronavirus outbreak and the persistent threat of global pandemics, we urge you to fully fund infectious disease and pandemic preparedness and response efforts in your fiscal year 2021 proposed budget,” the senators wrote. “A failure to do so would not only be a danger to the health and welfare of all Americans, but also a threat to our national security.”
The Trump administration’s proposed cuts have also frustrated staffers who work on health and aid policies, as the budget decisions appear to lack any rationale beyond blunt cost-cutting measures.
Trump’s proposed reductions in funding make little sense even as a means of saving money, health experts argue, since they act as a relatively low-cost insurance policy against diseases and outbreaks which can wreak economic havoc as they disrupt trade, tourism, and many other aspects of the global economy.
“We’ve come to expect that they cut programs that either they don’t know about and therefore wrongly assume are not important, or that they don’t care about,” said Tim Rieser, chief foreign policy aide to Leahy. “They don’t give us justifications, other than that the White House ordered it. Instead, they dress up the cuts with happy talk that everyone who works on these programs knows is meaningless.”
Jenavieve Hatch contributed reporting to this article.

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Official: Sudan To Hand Over Omar Al-Bashir To International Criminal Court For Genocide Trial




CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s transitional authorities have agreed to hand over ousted autocrat Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court to face trial on charges of war crimes and genocide, a top Sudanese official said Tuesday, in a deal with rebels to surrender all those wanted in connection with the Darfur conflict.
For a decade after his indictment, al-Bashir confounded the court based in The Hague, Netherlands. He not only was out of reach during his 30 years in power in Khartoum, but he also traveled abroad frequently to visit friendly leaders without fear of arrest. He even attended the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where he kicked a soccer ball playfully during an airport welcome ceremony and watched matches from luxury seating.
The military overthrew al-Bashir in April 2019 amid massive public protests of his rule, and he has been jailed in Khartoum since then. Military leaders initially ruled out surrendering him to The Hague, saying he would be tried at home.
But the joint military-civilian Sovereign Council that has ruled Sudan since last summer has agreed with rebel groups in Darfur to hand over those wanted by the ICC to face justice in The Hague, according to Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of the council and a government negotiator.
He didn’t mention al-Bashir by name, but said, “We agreed that everyone who had arrest warrants issued against them will appear before the ICC. I’m saying it very clearly.”
He did not say when they would be handed over.
“We can only achieve justice if we heal the wounds with justice itself,” he said. “We cannot escape from confronting that.”
He spoke at a news conference in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, where the government and multiple rebel groups are holding talks to end the country’s various civil wars, including Darfur.
In the Darfur conflict, rebels from the territory’s ethnic central and sub-Saharan African community launched an insurgency in 2003, complaining of oppression by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.
The government responded with a scorched-earth assault of aerial bombings and unleashed militias known as the Janjaweed, who are accused of mass killings and rapes. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were driven from their homes.
Al-Bashir, 76, faces three counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes for his alleged role in leading the deadly crackdown. The indictments were issued in 2009 and 2010, marking the first time the global court had charged a suspect with genocide.
The ICC has indicted two other senior figures in his regime: Abdel-Rahim Muhammad Hussein, interior and defense minister during much of the conflict, and Ahmed Haroun, a senior security chief at the time and later the leader of al-Bashir’s ruling party. Both have been under arrest in Khartoum since al-Bashir’s fall. Also indicted were Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb and a senior Darfur rebel leader, Abdullah Banda, whose whereabouts are not known.
Al-Taishi also said that the transitional authorities and the rebels agreed on establishing a special court for Darfur crimes that would include crimes investigated by the ICC.
ICC spokesman Fadi Al Abdallah said the court had no comment until it received confirmation from Sudanese authorities. However, he said the country would not have to ratify the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, before sending al-Bashir to The Hague.
“There is an obligation for Sudan to cooperate” with the court’s arrest warrants, he said. “The ratification of the Rome Statute itself is not a requirement for the surrender of suspects.”
Another member of the Sovereign Council said the government delegation to the Juba talks has a “green light” from military leaders in the council, including its head, Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, to announce that Sudan will hand over al-Bashir.
“We want to reassure the armed groups that we are serious and want to achieve peace as soon as possible,” he said.
The Sovereign Council member also said any extradition “might take months,” because he is wanted for other crimes in Sudan related to the “revolution” and the Islamist-backed military coup in 1989. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
The decision could face a backlash from within Sudan’s military, from which al-Bashir emerged, and also from Islamists in the country.
Al-Bashir’s lawyer, Mohammed al-Hassan, warned that handing him over would have “dire political and security repercussions” for Sudan. He said he hoped Burhan “keeps his obligation that al-Bashir or any Sudanese won’t be handed over to the International Criminal Court.”
“This matter will not happen easily,” he told the AP by phone.
Handing over al-Bashir is a sensitive issue in Sudan as the country tries to steer toward democratic and economic reforms. The deputy head of the Sovereign Council, Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, commands a paramilitary unit that was involved in crushing the Darfur insurgency. The transitional government is under pressure to end its wars with rebel groups as it seeks to rehabilitate the battered economy, attract much-needed foreign aid and deliver the democracy it promises.
“The fledgling post-Bashir Sudan government is demonstrating a serious commitment to human rights principles in its first months in office.” said John Prendergast, expert and co-founder of the Sentry watchdog group. “Finally seeing a small measure of justice done for the mass atrocity crimes in Darfur will hopefully breathe new life into global efforts in support of human rights and genocide prevention.”
If al-Bashir is handed over, it would be only the second time a country has surrendered a foreign leader to the ICC. Ivory Coast transferred former President Laurent Gbagbo in 2011 to The Hague, where he was acquitted last year of crimes against humanity charges linked to alleged involvement in post-election violence.
Al-Bashir would be the highest profile figure yet to appear before the ICC, which was founded in 2002 but has been unable to gain acceptance among major powers, including the United States, Russia and China.
“Although the ICC has generated important legal precedents, it has had few important cases brought to verdict,” said Jens David Ohlin, vice dean of Cornell Law School. “Al-Bashir is the ICC’s ‘white whale.’”
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted that handing al-Bashir over to the ICC is “potentially a huge and long-awaited step for justice for the people of Darfur.”

Associated Press writer Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, contributed.

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Prince Andrew Returns To Royal Life After Stepping Back In November




Prince Andrew is working his way back into royal life, despite announcing in November that he was stepping back from public duties “for the foreseeable future” amid renewed interest in his ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. 
The Duke of York stepped out for a private engagement with China’s ambassador to the U.K., Liu Xiaoming, and his wife last week. Andrew attended alongside his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson; his eldest daughter, Princess Beatrice; and Beatrice’s fiancé, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi. 
Liu Xiaoming later revealed why the families met on Twitter, alongside a photo from the gathering. 
“Her Majesty The Queen sent an encouraging message to President Xi and Chinese people: At the critical time of fighting #coronavirus, I express my sincere sympathy for Chinese people, and pray for the speedy control and victory over the virus,” he tweeted on Friday, saying that the message “was conveyed by Duke of York,” though the visit was not done under any official capacity.
Her Majesty The Queen sent an encouraging message to President Xi and Chinese people: At the critical time of fighting #coronavirus, I express my sincere sympathy for Chinese people, and pray for the speedy control and victory over the virus. It was conveyed by Duke of York. pic.twitter.com/RZItxQ26WS— Liu Xiaoming (@AmbLiuXiaoMing) February 8, 2020

“My wife and I invited Duke of York and his family to our residence and celebrated Chinese New Year,” he added. “Their enthusiasm for China and contribution to China-UK relation is highly appreciated.” 
My wife and I invited Duke of York and his family to our residence and celebrated Chinese New Year. Their enthusiasm for China and contribution to China-UK relation is highly appreciated. pic.twitter.com/RXw6Zumsnp— Liu Xiaoming (@AmbLiuXiaoMing) February 8, 2020

The prince stepped down from royal duties in November, following a disastrous BBC Newsnight interview where he failed to condemn the late Epstein or express sympathy for his victims. 

The prince has been accused of raping a minor who was allegedly trafficked by Epstein, though Andrew has repeatedly denied all allegations.  

In Andrew’s statement announcing his step back, he said he was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.” 

But in January, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a press conference outside of Epstein’s New York residence that the FBI and U.S. prosecutors were unsuccessful in getting an interview with the Duke of York. 
“To date, Prince Andrew has provided zero cooperation,” Berman said at the time. According to The Associated Press, this is the first time investigators have acknowledged that they sought and failed to obtain information from the Duke of York.

Despite Andrew stepping back from royal duties, he went horseback riding with Queen Elizabeth II shortly after the announcement in an apparent show of support.
He also stopped by the queen’s annual Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace, attended services at Sandringham with Prince Charles on Christmas Day, and recently stepped out alongside the queen for church services in January. 

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The Duke of York accompanies Queen Elizabeth II as she arrives for a church service at St Mary the Virgin Church in Norfolk, eastern England, on Jan. 19.

And when Beatrice marries Mapelli Mozzi on May 29, People reports that Andrew plans to walk his daughter down the aisle. 

If you have tips or comments regarding Prince Andrew, email carly.ledbetter@huffpost.com.

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The Coronavirus Now Has An Official Name




Say goodbye to “the coronavirus” and hello to Covid-19.
That’s the official name for the new flulike coronavirus disease first identified in Wuhan, China, announced by the World Health Organization Tuesday.
The “Co” stands for corona, “vi” for virus and “d” for disease. The WHO appended it with “-19” to demarcate 2019 as the year it was first recognized in humans.
“Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, told reporters at a press conference. “It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreak.”
WHO guidelines for naming diseases advise against including geographic locations; the names of people, animals or foods; and cultural, population, industry or occupational references.
The guidelines were agreed to in 2015 after names like “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome” in 2012 and “swine flu” in 2009 proved stigmatizing and problematic. In 2009, for instance, Egypt ordered 300,000 pigs slaughtered over fears of swine flu ― even though the virus wasn’t present in the country.
According to the WHO, the new naming rules “aim to minimize unnecessary negative impact of disease names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.”
As of Tuesday morning, there were 42,708 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in China and 1,017 fatalities. An additional 393 cases exist in 24 countries outside China, with one reported death in the Philippines.

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