Federal Appeals Court Says Arkansas Can Block Medicaid Payments To Planned Parenthood

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, pictured here during an interview last month, ended the state’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood two years ago. He praised the circuit court’s decision.

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Stephan Savoia/AP

A federal appeals court has sided with the state of Arkansas against Planned Parenthood, saying it can block Medicaid payments to the medical provider. It reversed earlier injunctions that forbade the state from suspending the money in the wake of a controversial leaked video of Planned Parenthood staff.

That video, leaked by anti-abortion activists, purports to show Planned Parenthood staff outside Arkansas discussing fetal tissue sales. Planned Parenthood has said the tapes are fraudulent and multiple investigations have deemed the allegations as false.

In 2015, citing the video, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson terminated the state’s Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood’s local affiliate.

Then, three unnamed Planned Parenthood patients sued the director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, saying that it was violating their federal right to choose any qualified provider offering the services they were seeking.

A district court then blocked the state from cutting off payments to Planned Parenthood for these three patients. A second injunction expanded that to an entire class of Medicaid beneficiaries in Arkansas who used Planned Parenthood services.

Today, in a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit vacated those injunctions. U.S. Circuit Judge Steven Colloton wrote that in the provision of the Medicaid Act cited by the plaintiffs, it is not clear that Congress intended to create a judicially-enforceable right for individual patients to choose any qualified provider that offers the services they seek.

He said that it would create a “curious system” to review a provider’s qualifications. “Under the Jane Does’ vision, while the provider is litigating its qualifications in the state courts, or after the provider unsuccessfully appeals a determination that it is not qualified, individual patients separately could litigate or relitigate the qualifications of the provider in federal court,” Colloton wrote.

At the same time, Colloton says “the lack of a judicially enforceable federal right for Medicaid patients does not mean that state officials have unfettered authority to terminate providers,” and notes that providers whose contracts are cancelled have the right to appeal.

In a dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Michael Melloy notes that four other circuit courts and numerous district courts have ruled the opposite way, finding that there is a “private right of enforcement” to choose any qualified provider, such as Planned Parenthood.

The decision does not comment on the video as the rationale that Hutchinson provided for seeking to end the contract.

Planned Parenthood says it is “evaluating all options to ensure our patients receive uninterrupted care.”

“This is not over,” said Planned Parenthood Federation of America Chief Medical Officer Raegan McDonald-Mosley. “We will do everything in our power to protect our patients’ access to birth control, cancer screenings, and other lifesaving care. Extreme politicians are trying to defund and shut down Planned Parenthood — and this is not what Americans want.”

In a statement, Hutchinson described this as “a substantial legal victory for the right of the state to determine whether Medicaid providers are acting in accordance with best practices and affirms the prerogative of the state to make reasoned judgments on the Medicaid program.”

Jerry Cox, the executive director of the Family Council, an Arkansas-based conservative group, tells KUAR’s Michael Hibblen: “The videos aside, the question is should the state of Arkansas do business with an organization that aborts babies when they don’t need to.”

According to The Associated Press, “the state has said Planned Parenthood received $51,000 in Medicaid funds in the fiscal year before Hutchinson’s decision to terminate the contract,” and “none of the money paid for abortions.”

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Police believe thieves steal Venezuela zoo animals to eat them

MARACAIBO, Venezuela (Reuters) – Venezuela authorities are investigating the theft of animals from a zoo in western state of Zulia that were likely snatched to be eaten, a further sign of hunger in a country struggling with chronic food shortages.

A police official said two collared peccaries, which are similar in appearance to boars, were stolen over the weekend from the Zulia Metropolitan Zoological Park in the sweltering city of Maracaibo near the Colombian border.

“What we presume is that they (were taken) with the intention of eating them,” Luis Morales, an official for the Zulia division of the National Police, told reporters on Tuesday.

The chaotic collapse of the country’s socialist economic model has created chronic food shortages that have fueled malnutrition and left millions seeking food anywhere they can find it, including in trash cans and dumpsters.

President Nicolas Maduro blames food shortages on opposition protests that have blocked streets and highways and a broader “economic war” led by adversaries with the help of Washington.

A camel and a llama are seen at the Zulia’s Metropolitan Zoological Park in Maracaibo, Venezuela August 16, 2017.Isaac Urrutia

But zoo head Leonardo Nunez said a wave of thefts that in recent weeks had affected 10 species including a buffalo, which he said was cut into pieces, was orchestrated by “drug dealers” seeking to sell the animals.

Slideshow (4 Images)

“They take everything here! The animals weren’t stolen to be eaten,” Nunez said in an interview on Wednesday.

Mauricio Castillo, a former zoo director, said thieves had made off with two tapirs, a jungle animal that is also similar to a pig that is described as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Shortages have also left zoos without sufficient food to feed animals, with some 50 animals starving to death last year at a Caracas zoos, according to a union leader.

The government denied the animals had starved, insisting they had been treated “like family.”

Additional reporting by Isaac Urrutia in Maracaibo, Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Marguerita Choy

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Probiotic Bacteria Could Protect Newborns From Deadly Infection

Matt Twombly for NPR

Matt Twombly for NPR

If you’re in desperate need for some good news, look no further.

Scientists in the U.S. and India have found an inexpensive treatment that could possibly save hundreds of thousands of newborns each year.

And it turns out, the secret weapon was sitting in Asian kitchens all along: probiotic bacteria that are common in kimchi, pickles and other fermented vegetables.

Feeding babies the microbes dramatically reduces the risk newborns will develop sepsis, scientists report Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Sepsis is the top killer of newborns worldwide. Each year more than 600,000 babies die of the blood infections, which can strike very quickly.

“All the sudden the baby stops being active. It stops crying and breastfeeding,” says Dr. Pinaki Panigrahi, a pediatrician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, who led the study.

“By the time the mother has a chance to bring the baby to the hospital, the baby dies,” he says. “In hospitals in India, you see so many babies dying of sepsis, it breaks your heart.”

For the past 20 years, Panigrahi has been working on a way to prevent sepsis.

Early on he thought probiotic bacteria might be the answer because they work well on another infection that affects preemies, called necrotizing enterocolitis. It damages the intestines.

The tricky part, Panigrahi says, was figuring out the best strain of bacteria to protect against sepsis.

“We screened more than 280 strains in preliminary animal and human studies,” Panigrahi says. “So it was a very methodical process.”

In the end, the one that seemed the most promising was a strain of Lactobacillus plantarum isolated from the diaper of a healthy Indian baby. So Panigrahi and his team decided to move forward with a large-scale study on thousands of babies in rural India.

They were shocked by how well the bacteria worked.

Babies who ate the microbes for a week — along with some sugars to feed the microbes — had a dramatic reduction in their risk of death and sepsis. They dropped by 40 percent, from 9 percent to 5.4 percent.

But that’s not all. The probiotic also warded off several other types of infections, including those in the lungs. Respiratory infections dropped by about 30 percent.

“That was a big surprise, because we didn’t think gut bacteria were going to work in a distant organ like the lung,” Panigrahi says.

The treatment worked so well that the safety board for trial stopped the study early. “We were planning to enroll 8,000 babies, but stopped at just over 4,000 infants,” Panigrahi says.

The only significant side effect seen in the study was abdominal distension, which occurred in six babies. But there were more cases reported in the placebo group than in the group that got the probiotic.

Panigrahi estimates a course of the probiotic costs about $1 per baby. “It can be manufactured in a very simple setting,” Panigrahi says, “which makes it cheap.”

Now if you think about what’s going on here, it almost seems counterintuitive. Remember sepsis is a bacterial infection. So the researcher are preventing a bacterial infection with bacteria.

How is that possible? “Essentially these bacteria have a whole number of health benefits that we have just started to understand in the past couple of years, says Dr. Pascal Lavoie, a neonatologist at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia.

First off, these beneficial bacteria can push out harmful bacteria in the baby’s gut by changing the environment or simply using up resources, Lavoie says.

The probiotic bacteria also produces a compound that strengthens the wall of the intestine. “It acts as a barrier to prevent the bad bacteria from going through the wall into the blood,” he says.

And, the probiotic bacteria can jump-start a baby’s immune system.

“They can promote maturation of the immune system in a healthier way,” Lavoie says. “Probiotics can be much more powerful than drugs.”

But like drugs, they need to be fully tested before they become routine in maternity wards around the world, Lavoie says. That means testing the probiotic in more locations and on babies who have the highest risk for sepsis — those born prematurely or underweight.

“Sepsis is such a important problem around the world,” Lavoie says. “This study has huge potential.”

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Women Who Love Wine: Are You Binge Drinking Without Realizing It?

Binge drinking sounds like an all-night bender, but here’s a reality check: Many social drinkers may “binge” without knowing it. Women who drink four or more drinks on an occasion are binge drinking.

Ann Boyajian/Getty Images/Illustration Works

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If one glass of wine takes the edge off, why not drink a few more?

This thinking may help explain the findings of a new study that points to an increase in drinking among adults in the U.S., especially women.

“We found that both alcohol use and high-risk drinking, which is sometimes called binge drinking, increased over time,” says Deborah Hasin, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center and an author of the study.

To assess drinking trends, researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with thousands of adults. Researchers asked a series of questions, such as: Did you ever drink four or more drinks on an occasion, and if so, how often? The study compares the findings from two surveys. One was carried out in 2001-2002, the other was from 2012-2013.

So, what’s behind the increase? The study wasn’t designed to answer this question, but Hasin says there could be a combination of factors.

“Increasing numbers of people feel pessimistic about their economic chances,” she says. So this might help explain the increase in drinking among low-income Americans. As we’ve reported, economists have linked the economy to so-called ‘deaths of despair‘ from causes including opioid overdoses and alcohol abuse.

When it comes to explaining the increase found among women, the way alcohol is marketed may play a role, too. Hasin says she’s speculating here, “but just looking at display windows in liquor stores,” they seem designed to appeal to women. “Everything is pink, it’s all rose,” she says.

And beer makers have sharpened their pitch to female drinkers too, as this Advertising Age articles points out. A recent campaign for Coors Light features women competing in races and climbing mountains. “Every climb deserves a refreshing finish,” the ad’s narrator intones.

So, if the makers of wine, beer and spirits are enticing us to drink, are some of us ignoring the risks of excessive drinking? Or maybe many women don’t realize when they’re drinking too much?

Now, not all national surveys have pointed to an increase in drinking. In fact, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found a slight decline in alcohol use disorders between 2002 and 2013. But even if there’s been no increase, public health experts say excessive alcohol consumption has long been a problem in the U.S.

“Excessive alcohol use is a huge public health problem in the United States,” says Bob Brewer. He’s a physician who leads the alcohol program at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates that there are about 88,000 deaths due to excessive alcohol use in the U.S. each year.

“Ninety percent of people in the U.S. who drink to excess are binge drinking,” Brewer says.

Binge drinking, to me, always sounds like a term for an all-night bender. But here’s the reality check: It’s easier to “binge” than you might think.

The definition of binge drinking is “four or more drinks for a woman on an occasion, five or more for a man,” Brewer explains.

So, think of an evening out: Perhaps you start with a cocktail, then add beer or wine with dinner. The drinks can add up faster than you think.

“It can be tricky sometimes for people to really keep track of the number of drinks they’re consuming,” Brewer says.

A 5-ounce serving of wine counts as one drink. And a 1.5-ounce shot of spirits (such as vodka, gin, or bourbon) counts as a drink, too. But often, cocktails contain more than one shot. (Exactly what counts as “a drink” is detailed here.)

“A lot of beers now, particularly craft beers, may have higher alcohol content,” Brewer says. “So, if you have a 12-ounce beer that [contains] 9 percent alcohol, you’re really drinking the equivalent of close to two drinks,” Brewer says.

There are tips to help you guard against drinking too much, especially at a festive event or social gathering, such as an office party. One tip: Make a pact with yourself or with somebody else to take a break before each drink. And another: Alternate between glasses of water and alcohol.

Brewer says it’s worth reminding everyone that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that women limit alcohol to one drink per day, two for men.

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Episode 653: The Anti-Store

Customers browse a Costco store.

Anjuli Ayer/Flickr

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Anjuli Ayer/Flickr

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

It used to be that if you ran a store, you wanted to make it easy for your customers. But Price Club and Costco went in the opposite direction: They made shopping harder. And people loved it.

Today on the show: How Costco and its imitators changed the way we shop. And how a new company is taking what Costco started to new extremes.

Music: “Heatwave.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts or PocketCast.

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Charles Berry Jr. On World Cafe

Chuck Berry, the subject of discussion in this session with his son Charles Berry Jr.

Courtesy of the artist

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Courtesy of the artist

“Johnny B Goode” – Chuck Berry is on Top
“My Ding-A-Ling” – The London Chuck Berry Sessions
“Jaguar And Thunderbird” – Chuck berry on Stage
“Wonderful Woman” – Chuck

Most of us know Chuck Berry as a pioneer, if not the pioneer, who defined rock ‘n’ roll. My guest today knew him as dad.

Charles Berry Jr. is here to share memories of growing up watching the elder Berry on TV, joining him on tour in his later years and contributing to what would be his final record, an album called Chuck that was released in June.

Chuck was decades in the making. It’s Berry’s first collection of almost entirely new songs since 1979’s Rockit. Hear our conversation in the player above.

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Kenyan Opposition Leader Vows To Take Election Challenge To Supreme Court

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga addresses the media Wednesday at the offices of his National Super Alliance, or NASA, coalition in Nairobi. Odinga said he would take his allegations of electoral fraud to the country’s Supreme Court — after previously refusing to do so — and vowed to protest peacefully.

Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

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Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

Just over a week after Kenyans went to polls to decide their president, opposition leader Raila Odinga has vowed a legal challenge to the official results that re-elected his rival, incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta. At a news conference Wednesday, Odinga announced that he plans to take allegations of “computer-generated fraud” to the country’s Supreme Court.

“This is just the beginning,” he said. “We will not accept and move on.”

Odinga and his campaign have vehemently disputed the outcome of the election since provisional results began to dribble out to the public last week. By Friday night, when Kenya’s electoral commission released official tallies that showed Kenyatta winning by more than 1.4 million votes, Odinga had already made clear he believes those results were doctored by a logarithm introduced in the country’s electronic voting system.

He has not publicly provided evidence to support his claim or clarified where he obtained alternative tallies showing him leading by several hundred thousand votes.

Still, he kept up his objections in the days that followed, rejecting the assessments of international observers who initially largely approved the election and calling on his supporters to boycott the results. At least 24 people have been killed in the ensuing clashes between his supporters and Kenyan security forces.

But as Odinga declared Wednesday, he remains undeterred.

“No one should believe — and especially not those behind this election fraud — that Kenyans are sheep who will willingly go along with the democracy’s slaughter,” he told reporters. “This country is now divided between those prepared to live under autocracy and the forces of freedom and democracy.”


Despite their initial approval, some international observers have increasingly expressed reservations about how the election has been handled — particularly the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s delays in releasing results forms. Only today, after international pressure, did the commission release the 34B forms, which show the results found at regional tallying centers; as of this writing, the commission still has not released all of the 34A forms, which show individual polling station results.

“The availability of results forms at all levels enables trust by allowing all stakeholders to have confidence in and insight into the totals announced,” the European Union’s Election Observation Mission Kenya said in a statement Wednesday. The mission called on “the IEBC to continue to publish all results forms online promptly.”

Raila Odinga’s supporters in Nairobi gather at an electronics repair shop to watch his Wednesday news conference. Beside the television is a poster for Odinga’s political coalition, the National Super Alliance.

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Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

In the meantime, eyebrows were raised when the federal authorities moved Wednesday to suspend two non-governmental organizations that had been critical of the elections process and its aftermath. The Kenya Revenue Authority even attempted to raid one of those groups, the Africa Centre for Open Governance, prompting some popular backlash.

Shortly afterward, Kenyan Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i sent a letter scaling back the federal actions, citing “various concerns and petitions from a number of stakeholders.”

Despite “weighty legal non-compliance and regulatory issues on the said organisations, my view is that before conclusive and final action such as deregistration, comprehensive and exhaustive engagement needs to happen,” Matiang’i said in the letter seen by NPR.

To that end, he gave the groups 90 days “to meet the regulatory and compliance needs of the NGOs Coordination Board” before incurring suspension.

Added to these concerns was an episode Tuesday night at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, where a high-ranking IEBC official was delayed by security guards from boarding a plane to the U.S. The stop prompted speculation it had something do do with electoral concerns — though Roselyn Akombe, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Kenya, said this speculation was “completely false and unwarranted.”

“While it is unfortunate that my departure was delayed,” she said in a tweeted statement, “I at no time indicated that I am fleeing my beloved Kenya due to questions raised on the credibility of our electoral process.”

The statements attributed to me on social media following my delayed flight in Nairobi are false and unwarranted- Dr Akombe pic.twitter.com/co9PvxUdbT

— IEBC (@IEBCKenya) August 16, 2017

Nevertheless, some critics remain unconvinced that there’s nothing to all of these recent question marks. The government is acting “like people who have stolen” elections, Maina Kiai, a former U.N. expert on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, told The Associated Press.

As for Odinga, he declared Wednesday that his case will offer the Supreme Court a “second chance.” The opposition leader, who lost three presidential campaigns before this one, also took the 2013 election to the high court — only to be defeated in what he called a “travesty of justice.”

At the same time, he encouraged his followers to refrain from violence as they resist.

“Wage a peaceful campaign of civil disobedience,” he told them. “We shall hold vigils, moments of silence, beat drums and do everything else to peacefully draw attention to the gross election injustices being meted upon our country and demand redress.

“Kenyans have no need to use violence to achieve justice.”

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