In Arizona, It’s No Longer A Felony To Own Nunchucks

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation on Friday to remove nunchucks from the state’s list of prohibited weapons.

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Rick Scuteri/AP

It’s officially legal to own nunchucks in Arizona.

On Friday, the state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey signed a bill removing nunchucks from a list of prohibited weapons that includes bombs, gun silencers and automatic firearms.

Until Friday, people who practiced martial arts faced the risk of a felony charge for possessing nunchucks in public. Arizona only allowed the weapons to be used in preparation for martial arts competitions.

“The average person can do far more damage using a baseball bat than nunchucks,” Arizona Rep. John Kavanaugh, a Republican, told the Associated Press before the legislation passed. “They’re not dangerous to anybody. And we really should let kids and adults who want to do martial arts activities legally possess them.”

Several states, including Arizona, adopted the ban in the 1970s as martial arts movies, like ones starring Bruce Lee, became popular, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Last year, a federal judge struck down a similar ban in New York ruling that nunchucks were protected under the Second Amendment, the Washington Post reported.

Supporters of the bill are celebrating, saying that the people who use the weapons for martial arts are unlikely to use them to commit a crime.

Phoenix karate instructor Shawn Sample told that he’s relieved nobody will get arrested for carrying nunchucks to their training. He said he never understood why they were illegal in Arizona.

“I find it interesting that a state that allows you to walk around with a gun on your hip worries about nunchucks being a problem,” Sample said, referring to the state’s open carry law.

But critics of decriminalizing nunchucks say the weapons are capable of causing a lot of harm.

Others have said that the time spent to decriminalize nunchucks could have been used on more pressing issues, like reducing gun violence.

“Instead of figuring out ways that we can save lives, we’re wasting time on nunchucks,” Arizona Rep. Athena Salman, a Democrat, told the AP.

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World War II Veteran and Navajo Code Talker Fleming Begaye Sr. Dies At 97

In 2017, President Trump honored Navajo Code Talker Fleming Begaye Sr. at the White House.

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Fleming Begaye Sr., one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers from World War II, has died at the age of 97.

Begaye died Friday in Chinle, Ariz., according to a statement from the Navajo Nation. The group’s president, Jonathan Nez, called him a “brave and selfless” warrior.

Begaye was born in Red Valley, Ariz., in 1921, according to the Navajo Nation. Years later, at a boarding school called Fort Wingate, he learned that the U.S. military was looking for Navajo speakers, according to The New York Times. He enlisted, and became one of the more than 400 code talkers in the Marines.

During the war, the code talkers helped the U.S. communicate securely during battles using a code based on the Navajo language. The code was made up of more than 600 words, sometimes using Navajo words for animals to substitute for names of military vehicles. The code was used in every major Marine operation in the Pacific theater, and could never be broken by the Japanese.

Begaye served as a code talker from 1943 to 1945, according to the Navajo Nation, and fought in the Battle of Tarawa and the Batter of Tinian. He would later go on to spend a year in a naval hospital for injuries and wounds he received during his service, according to the Navajo Nation.

After returning to the U.S., Begaye opened a trading post in Chinle, which grew to include a gas station, car repair shop, cafe and small grocery store. According to The New York Times Begaye later worked as a farmer, growing apple, cherry and plum trees, and raising cattle and sheep.

In 2017, Begaye was among a group of Navajo veterans honored by President Trump at the White House. “From the heart, from the absolute heart, we appreciate what you’ve done, how you’ve done it, the bravery that you displayed, and the love that you have for your country,” Trump said about the Code Talkers.

Speaking that day, Peter MacDonald, president of a group of the last surviving Navajo Code Talkers, recalled Begaye’s heroism at the battle of Tarawa.

“His landing craft was blown up and he literally had to swim to the beach to survive,” MacDonald said. At Tinian, MacDonald said, Begaye “got shot up real badly, survived one year in naval hospital.”

MacDonald said that Begaye wanted to create a museum to honor the service of the Navajo Code Talkers.

“What we did truly represents who we are as Americans,” said MacDonald. “America, we know, is composed of diverse community. We have different languages, different skills, different talents, and different religion. But when our way of life is threatened, like the freedom and liberty that we all cherish, we come together as one. And when we come together as one, we are invincible.”

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Transplants A Cheaper, Better Option For Undocumented Immigrants With Kidney Failure

In most states, undocumented immigrants with kidney failure have to receive dialysis as an emergency treatment in hospital emergency rooms. Some advocates say kidney transplants for undocumented immigrants would be a cheaper way to treat the problem.

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Uninsured, undocumented immigrants often go to the emergency room for treatment. Since 1986 the federal government has required that patients in the emergency room receive care, regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay.

But caring for chronic conditions such as kidney disease or cancer in the emergency room is expensive. So some states are quietly expanding access for undocumented immigrants to obtain medical treatment beyond the ER.

One of those states is Washington, where an undocumented immigrant named Gonzalo lives with his wife, Ricarda.

Gonzalo is really sick.

“I can’t enjoy the day — go out — because I’m always unwell,” he said in an interview in Spanish.

Gonzalo moved to the U.S. from Mexico about 30 years ago. He’s 60 years old. We’re not using his last name because of his immigration status.

Ten years ago, Gonzalo’s kidneys failed. Since then, he’s gotten sicker and sicker. Five years ago, he had to quit his job as a painter.

“I used to pay the rent. I paid for everything, and we didn’t lack anything,” he said. “But I got sick and everything changed.”

Now, Gonzalo and his wife live with one of their daughters in her apartment south of Seattle.

Across the country, there are about 6,500 undocumented immigrants with kidney failure, according to the National Institutes of Health. What kind of care they get depends on where they live.

In most states, they can only get dialysis in hospital emergency rooms.

That means, every couple of weeks, they go to the hospital when so many toxins have built up in their body it’s life-threatening. Usually, they have to stay overnight so they can be dialyzed twice. That costs nearly $300,000 per person every year.

So seven states, including Washington, have a different system.

“The state of Washington has something called AEM,” said Leah Haseley, a nephrologist — a kidney doctor — in Seattle. She’s talking about Alien Emergency Medical, part of Washington’s Medicaid.

“AEM pays for two things,” she explained. “They pay for dialysis for undocumented people, and they pay for chemotherapy for cancer treatment for undocumented people as well.”

Regular dialysis costs about a quarter of what emergency dialysis does — but it’s controversial.

“The first time that you show up at a hospital with kidney failure, that’s an emergency,” said Matthew O’Brien, with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws. “After that, it’s a chronic condition, and we don’t believe that it’s appropriate to reward lawbreakers with benefits at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.”

But there are others who say even regularly scheduled dialysis isn’t enough: undocumented immigrants who qualify should be given kidney transplants, because the cost of a transplant is less than the ongoing costs of regular or emergency dialysis. But, without health insurance, few undocumented immigrants can afford a transplant.

In 2015, Illinois became the first state with a system for paying for organ transplants for undocumented immigrants.

Dr. David Ansell was a prominent advocate for the change.

“In about a year and a half the cost for a transplant pays itself back,” he said, “but also people can go back to work and contribute to the state.”

So far, more than 200 undocumented immigrants in Illinois have been given access to organ transplants, with their insurance premiums paid for by a non-profit. Now, Dr. Ansell and other public health advocates hope to see a similar program at the national level.

Many who oppose this say, with limited organs available, they should be reserved for citizens and legal immigrants.

But Dr. Ansell says, in Illinois, 75 percent of kidney transplants for undocumented immigrants come from donations from their own family — a much higher rate than the rest of the population.

“If you’re undocumented in Illinois, you can get a driver’s license, and disproportionately the Latino community is signing up to donate their organs,” Dr. Ansell added. “It’s a simple matter of ethics and fairness.”

He said, since Illinois started paying for the transplants, the total number of organs available has increased, because so many more Latinos have signed up for organ donation.

Overall in the US, studies have found that undocumented immigrants donate 2 to 3% of all organs.

Back in the Seattle area, Gonzalo says all three of his daughters are willing to give him a kidney, but he has no way to pay for the transplant.

That’s why his wife, Ricarda, says she’s taken to buying lottery tickets.

She said in Spanish, “I’ve told my husband, ‘If I win the lottery, I won’t think twice. I’m going to get you a kidney.'”

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‘Bottle Of Lies’ Exposes The Dark Side Of The Generic Drug Boom

An FDA inspection of this Ranbaxy facility in Toansa, Punjab, India, in 2014, revealed drug quality testing violations, resulting in the FDA prohibiting Ranbaxy from marketing drugs in the U.S. that were manufactured at this plant.

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Generic drugs are supposed to work just as well as their name-brand counterparts.

Once a patent lifts, generic drug companies find alternative ways to manufacture a drug that should work indistinguishably from the name-brand version. In a world of skyrocketing prescription drug prices, cheaper generics have acted as a crucial counterweight.

But in Bottle of Lies, available Monday, investigative journalist and author Katherine Eban exposes the dangerous, dark side of some generics. Her propulsive narrative investigation traces the history of the generic drug boom, revealing how intense demand for cheaper drugs opened a dangerous chasm between what regulations required of drug companies and how some of those companies actually behaved. She also documents how the FDA struggled to address those safety gaps, and the challenges that still remain.

Interspersed between detailed histories of the evolution of the FDA and the rise of Indian pharmaceutical companies are astounding scenes of factory workers fleeing from FDA inspectors with garbage bags full of fraudulent records, and a company wiretapping the hotel rooms of regulators strategizing how to conduct a factory inspection. Eban paints a full and disturbing picture that anyone concerned with the pharmaceutical industry should read.

The generic drug boom began in the mid-1980s, when pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer dominated the market. In response to rising costs and complaints over the influence of “big Pharma,” Congress unanimously passed the Hatch-Waxman Act in 1984, which created a new regulatory track for generic drugs. As long as generic manufacturers could prove their drugs were bioequivalent to brand-name drugs, meaning they acted similarly in the body, they could get approved. It was a boon for generic drug makers, and in principle for the American public, allowing market competition to yield less expensive but equivalent drugs.

But according to Eban, parts of the law incentivized speed over quality. Its “first-to-file” rule granted whichever company filed its FDA application first exclusive rights to sell its version of the generic drug for six months, at near brand-level prices, before competitors could enter the market. According to Eban’s reporting, this created a “Wild West” environment where being first mattered more that getting it right.

“In theory, all the companies had to follow the same rigid set of good manufacturing practices,” she writes. “But for companies that were inclined to emphasize profits instead of quality, there were many avenues for improvisation, and shortcuts.”

The bulk of the book focuses on the Indian company Ranbaxy, the first overseas manufacturer to sell generic drugs in the U.S., and one of the largest generic drug suppliers globally. In 2013, Ranbaxy’s U.S. subsidiary, Ranbaxy USA, pled guilty — and paid $500 million in fines — to several counts related to selling adulterated drugs and lying to the FDA about it.

Eban’s account of Ranbaxy’s shady practices begins in the early 2000s, but it would take years for the FDA to learn about the malfeasance, and even longer for the regulatory body to take action. Eban’s reporting tells that story, drawing on interviews with over 240 people, including FDA inspectors and Dinesh Thakur, a former Ranbaxy chemical engineer and whistleblower.

Before working for Ranbaxy, Thakur spent about a decade at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he learned how a brand-name pharmaceutical company managed and documented the mass production of drugs in compliance with FDA regulations. When billions of pills get produced each year, maintaining and documenting good manufacturing practices is the only way to ensure — and demonstrate to regulators — the quality of the drugs.

But at Ranbaxy, Thakur encountered a web of systematic fraud. The company often used lower-quality ingredients to save money, manipulated quality control data, or just made up numbers out of thin air. (These details were cited in the 2013 court case that the Department of Justice ultimately brought against Ranbaxy USA.) As a result, as the case alleged, the company was selling drugs of dubious purity thus potentially endangering patient safety.

In court documents the Department of Justice alleged that Ranbaxy knew the extent of their problems but did nothing to improve their manufacturing processes, or come clean with the FDA.

Eban writes that, in response to this fraud, Thakur resigned, and in 2005 he contacted the FDA about Ranbaxy’s practices. But it would take nearly a decade for his concerns to result in any meaningful action. The prolonged ordeal illustrates just how ill-equipped the FDA was to regulate overseas manufacturers.

In the U.S., FDA inspectors can show up to a plant at any time, incentivizing companies to always be in compliance lest they be caught off guard by an inspection. But the globalization of the pharmaceutical industry complicated this practice. To minimize diplomatic tensions, the FDA notified plants months in advance of visits. Such lead time gave overseas companies ample time to prepare for inspections. Eban describes accounts of companies hurriedly cleaning workspaces, shredding records and fabricating documents, even destroying visibly contaminated drugs.

The evidence Thakur provided to the FDA did not result in immediate, sweeping action. Some Ranbaxy plants received minor restrictions from the FDA. Others squeaked through regulatory inspections entirely, like the plant that manufactured generic Lipitor, the blockbuster cholesterol drug. Less than a year after that plant passed an inspection in 2012, Ranbaxy admitted that some of the millions of generic Lipitor pills already dispensed in the U.S. were suffused with tiny shards of blue glass.

Internal divisions and pressure from Congress also limited the FDA’s response to overseas violations. The demand for cheaper generic drugs in the U.S. was enormous — delays in launching a generic version of Lipitor could cost Americans up to $18 million a day, according to a 2011 letter from a group of U.S. senators to the FDA commissioner. Eban reports that a number of FDA officials felt that “higher ups” were downplaying the extent of the problem.

A Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. facility in Toansa, Punjab, India.

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People outside the FDA began noticing problems with generic drugs too. Eban documents growing skepticism towards some generics among doctors in the U.S. and Africa. After numerous cases in which patients experienced problems after switching from brand-name drugs to generics, many medical professionals began avoiding prescribing certain generic drugs.

Some patients who switched to a generic version of Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, complained of headaches, nausea, irritability, and even suicidal thoughts. There were reports of pills that literally smelled “fishy”. It took the FDA five years to verify that the generic pills produced by the Israeli manufacturer Teva were not equivalent to brand-name Wellbutrin.

The situation was even worse in Africa, where many manufacturers shipped their lowest-quality drugs. Some were completely counterfeit, with independent lab analysis showing no active ingredients whatsoever. Those that had active ingredients often didn’t have enough, and doctors would need to prescribe anywhere from two to ten times the typical dose to achieve an effect, according to Eban.

Eventually, Ranbaxy, as a company, was brought to justice. But none of the individuals responsible were prosecuted. Many Ranbaxy executives simply brought their expertise to other major generic drug manufacturing companies, where fraud allegedly continues, as Eban documents further in her book.

Eban emphasizes that when generics work, and many do, they serve a vital role in public health. But her work has exposed the deep challenges of regulating a globalized pharmaceutical industry. She ends the book on a maddening note. Despite a brief stint of conducting unannounced overseas inspections from 2014 to 2016, the FDA currently notifies plants of routine inspections well in advance.

Jonathan Lambert is a freelance science journalist based in Washington, D.C. You can follow him on Twitter: @evolambert.

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Peggy Lipton, Star Of ‘The Mod Squad’ And ‘Twin Peaks’, Dies At 72

Peggy Lipton, star of the groundbreaking late 1960s show The Mod Squad and the 1990s show Twin Peaks, has died of cancer at age 72.

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Peggy Lipton, the actress and singer best known for her roles in The Mod Squad and Twin Peaks, has died at the age of 72.

Her death was announced on Saturday by her daughters Kidada and Rashida Jones. Lipton was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004.

“She made her journey peacefully with her daughters and nieces by her side,” Her daughters said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “We feel so lucky for every moment we spent with her.”

Born Margaret Ann Lipton in New York City on Aug. 30, 1946, she began modeling at 15 and started acting at 19, making appearances on The John Forsythe Show, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Bewitched.

Lipton became famous for playing Julie Barnes, one of three undercover cops in the show, The Mod Squad, which she starred in from 1968 to 1973.

The groundbreaking show depicted the growing counterculture movement of the time and was one of first to feature an interracial cast, according to the Los Angeles Times. It delved into topics like domestic violence, abortion, the Vietnam War and drugs.

The role earned her four Emmy and Golden Globe nominations respectively, winning the Golden Globe award in 1971 for best actress in a TV drama.

The Mod Squad made Lipton an “it girl” and fashion icon, but she told the LA Times in 1993 that she wasn’t a fan of the attention.

“Fame really drove me into my house. I was very paranoid. I didn’t like going out. I had no idea how to be comfortable with the press. I was very young. It was really hard for me,” Lipton said.

Michael Cole, Clarence Williams III and Peggy Lipton starred in the 1960s show ‘The Mod Squad’ which was considered groundbreaking for featuring an interracial cast.

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At the height of her fame, Lipton began her singing career. She released a self-titled album and went on to enjoy chart success for her covers of “Stoney End” by Laura Nyro and “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” by Donovan.

In 1974, Lipton married Quincy Jones, the renowned musician and producer, and aside from starring the 1979 TV movie The Return of Mod Squad, she took a break from acting to raise their two daughters.

In her 2005 memoir, Breathing Out, Lipton describes facing racist backlash for their interracial marriage, including from her own mother. Lipton and Jones later divorced, though remained close.

Peggy Lipton, pictured here with one of her daughters, actress Rashida Jones and ex-husband, musician and producer Quincy Jones, died on Saturday at the age of 72.

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Lipton returned to acting in 1990 to play Norma Jennings, the diner owner on the TV show Twin Peaks.

“It was very scary,” Lipton told the LA Times in 1993. “I had a push-pull thing inside me that I wanted to do it … I had become so insulated in my world as a mother, that I didn’t know how to pick up the phone and call anybody to put myself out there.”

The original Twin Peaks only aired for two seasons, but has since gained a cult following. Lipton recently reprised her role in a 2017 revival of the series.

Also in 2017, Lipton made an appearance in an episode of the show Angie Tribeca, as Peggy Tribeca, the mother of the main character played by her real life daughter, actress Rashida Jones.

“We can’t put all of our feelings into words right now but we will say: Peggy was, and will always be our beacon of light, both in this world and beyond.” Her daughters said in a statement. “She will always be a part of us.”

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