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The government is sending out $505 million to payday lender customers
The government has obtained a record $1.3 billion civil court judgment against AMG Services, Inc. and Scott Tucker on charges they operated a massive payda..
How a faulty medical implant helped tear a family apart
Unable to work following the Essure procedure, Ana Fuentes lost her apartment and put her children in foster care
A new Netflix documentary investigating the medical device industry ends on a particularly devastating note for Ana Fuentes, a single mother in California who received a permanent birth control implant when she was still married.
The film shows her struggling to make ends meet and searching for cheap hotels with her daughters after she loses the apartment. She can’t hold a job because she is constantly in the emergency room, in so much pain that she can barely walk to the entrance. In her final scene, she is visiting her daughters in a stranger’s home; the children eventually were placed in foster care.
Director Kirby Dick said that it was clear through his reporting that Fuentes and her daughters were extremely close, even after they could no longer live together, and he wanted to be sure that message was conveyed in the film.
In an interview with ConsumerAffairs, Fuentes provided more details about the domino-effect that the botched procedure had on her family.
Though Fuentes is pleased with how her story is validated and portrayed in the film -- she says she watched it three or four times after it aired -- her sense of betrayal from the medical community is still raw.
“It was really hard for me to accept that he didn't care about me,” she says of her doctor. “Because he took care of me with my last pregnancy and my last baby. I trusted him so much when he told me about Essure."
Before the procedure
When Fuentes agreed to be implanted with Essure back in 2011, she was living in an apartment with her husband and their four daughters in southern California. She took care of the girls while he worked. She received health coverage through Medi-Cal, the Medicaid program offered in California.
Fuentes recently had a baby and did not want more children. She asked about getting her “tubes tied,” the more common and older sterilization procedure. Her doctor told her it wasn’t a good idea because she had a family history of ovarian cancer.
He said a permanent medical implant called Essure was the better option.
Like thousands of other patients who have filed complaints to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Fuentes says she suffered sharp pains and heavy bleeding immediately after the procedure. The symptoms persisted.
She went back to the same doctor who implanted her. “He kept telling me it was in my head,” Fuentes remembers.
She would learn much later that her doctor had admitted to accepting thousands of dollars from Bayer via government disclosure websites. The financial incentives that device companies provide doctors are well-documented in the film and in medical research, but it wasn’t the only factor hindering her care.
As Fuentes recounts in the film, her doctor also blamed the fact that she was a Latina woman for the bleeding, claiming that they simply have heavier periods than other woman.
In an interview, Fuentes says she also remembers her doctor telling her that it had to do with "you guys [having] so many kids,” referring to Latina women. Fuentes’ recollection comes at a time when researchers are increasingly calling attention to racism and sexism in medicine.
Struggling through it
Sometimes she felt a jolt travel through her body when she plugged electronics into the wall socket. It was a strange, unsettling sensation. Like everything else that was happening to her, she didn’t have an explanation.
She never told her husband why she could no longer be intimate with him. They simply stopped talking about it.
“He just looked at me and he would walk away,” Fuentes recalls. The next year, he left the family without saying goodbye. Fuentes learned from her landlord that he didn’t pay that month's rent before fleeing. The landlord gave the family 16 days to pack their bags.
Trying to work
Fuentes looked for work when her older daughters were in school and slept with them at a homeless shelter or in their car in the evenings. She found a daycare center for her youngest child, still a toddler at the time, and worked three different jobs when she could. She took 900 milligrams of ibuprofen each day, but on some days the symptoms were still too much to handle.
One afternoon, while crossing the street with her toddler, the pain suddenly flared up again. She could feel blood soaking through her pants. She could barely make it to the other side of the street.
“People were just honking, calling me crazy lady, what are you doing? But I couldn't move. I couldn't walk. The pain was so strong,” Fuentes says, crying at the memory.
“I just kept walking slowly. Nobody got out of the car to help out or anything.”
On another day, while carrying a tray of food during her shift at a restaurant, she suddenly passed out. She asked coworkers not to call anyone and drove herself to the hospital. The restaurant cut her hours.
In 2013, Fuentes found the E-sisters, the activists who have convinced regulators to scrutinize Essure and who share their stories on a popular Facebook page called Essure Problems. It was through the women that Fuentes learned how common her symptoms were.
She consulted with new doctors thanks to the Medi-Cal coverage and learned that tubal ligation surgery isn’t actually dangerous for women with a family history of ovarian cancer, as her implanting doctor had claimed.
"I already felt betrayed, and then hearing all these options from other doctors, ‘You could have done this,’" she says, trailing off.
Like other women in the group, Fuentes learned that removing Essure is difficult and she that she would need a hysterectomy, followed by weeks of recovery in which she would not be able to work. Still, she relented and agreed to undergo the procedure in 2014.
She was recovering in the hospital when a social worker showed up and told her to find a home for the children. "I think the hospital reported me, because they asked me where I live, and I gave them my brother's address,” Fuentes says.
The social worker warned her to "find a solution or we'll jump in. Because you need to take care of your health.”
Through her church, Fuentes found a nonprofit that allowed her to keep her children with other Christian families. As the film shows, the families often invited her to visit the girls, even though they were not required to do so.
“All of the families have been a blessing,” Fuentes says.
Participating in the documentary was an easy decision. The E-Sisters told her that sharing her story would help other women.
Though the film ends with Fuentes leaving her children in foster care, Fuentes says their situation has become more stable since then. She is now reunited with her daughters thanks to a nonprofit program that assists with partial rent each month.
A GoFundMe page that Fuentes set up following the film’s release in late July, asking for $5,000 to cover living expenses, has since raised nearly five times that amount from people all over the world.
Still, medical expenses could quickly eat those donations away. Even after the hysterectomy, her symptoms remained.
Fuentes began losing her back teeth several years ago, and Medi-Cal insurance doesn’t cover dental work beyond regular cleanings. On a new doctor's advice, she underwent another surgery in March, this time to have her ovaries removed. He told her to wait at least three months before trying to work again.
“One day you feel like superwoman and the next day you don't want to get out of bed,” Fuentes says of the symptoms she and other women still live with. She is only 36-years-old.
Shortly before the film aired, Bayer took Essure off the market in the United States, the one country where it was still for sale. But Bayer maintains that the implant is safe. As the documentary shows, Essure is only part of the problem. The medical device industry generally faces a low barrier to prove that its products are safe before they can be used on patients.
Conceptus, the company that originally developed Essure, was not required to conduct long-term studies on the device. Little is known about what will happen to women like Fuentes when they reach middle-age and beyond. Fuentes says that her legs are covered in small red dots that didn’t exist before the procedure. She is also starting to lose her hair.
Because Essure is made from nickel, other women who are experiencing similar symptoms suspect that they have a metal allergy. Numerous women say that they were never tested for metal allergies before receiving the device.
“I just wish they could have done more studies on this,” Fuentes adds.
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From making airline reservations to destination recommendations, the tech giant hopes to cover every facet of travel
It’s tough to find a nook or cranny where Google doesn’t have a presence. One of its more quiet in-roads has been the travel sector where it’s built a port..
Netflix says it won’t remove documentary about chronically ill that participants say led to cyber-bullying
Participants say that the Netflix series Afflicted is deceptively edited
Netflix says it will not remove a documentary series that participants say was edited to make them appear crazy. Afflicted, which began streaming in August, chronicles the lives of patients who suffer from rare chronic diseases. Interviews with relatives and psychiatrists in the film suggest that the patients are imagining their symptoms.
The filmmakers used manipulative editing and ignored medical research to push that narrative forward, according to an open letter signed by the film’s cast, several medical researchers, doctors and celebrities such has Monica Lewinsky, who is now an anti-bullying advocate. The group is asking Netflix to take the series offline.
The people featured in the film say they were misled about how they would be portrayed and say that they're now being bullied by strangers.
A Netflix source tells ConsumerAffairs that they have no plans to remove the documentary. In a prepared statement through the Netflix press team, the film’s producer Dan Partland says that the filmmakers were trying to evoke compassion for their subjects.
He did not address the specific claims that the cast made about manipulative editing. Participants claim, for instance, that they were instructed to repeat interviewers’ questions back to them before answering each question. They say footage was later edited to make it appear as though the words were their own. They also say that the filmmakers personally arranged visits with questionable doctors in some cases. Other doctors depicted speculating about the patients’ conditions never actually treated them, the participants say.
"Our intention was to give the world a compassionate window into the difficulties of patients and families suffering from elusive and misunderstood illnesses, to humanize their struggle and to show that struggle in all its complexity,” producer Dan Partland said in his statement responding to the controversy.
Participants said they were told the same thing before filming, but they disagree that the final result was sympathetic.
“Afflicted was introduced to participants as a series that would ‘compassionately’ represent their experiences with diseases that lack proper diagnostic tools and effective treatments,” the open letter from participants, doctors and celebrities says.
“But rather than authentically depict these participants’ experiences and the biomedical research that might explain their illnesses, Afflicted used every creative tool and untenable journalistic practice to advance a narrative that suggests these patients’ problems are primarily psychological, a theory that is not supported by the evidence.”
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Boy Scouts of America says a one-time mistake caused lead contamination in uniform accessory
The federal government found that Boy Scout neckerchiefs contain excessive lead levels
Even the Boy Scouts of America is outsourcing its production overseas. The organization says that China-based uniform and accessory manufacturer Strategic Orient Sourcing made an “isolated, one-time production error” when it accidentally sold thousands of lead-tainted neckerchief slides, the decorative pendants that help secure the Boy Scout uniform together.
“We have investigated the entire production process in cooperation with the manufacturer, and we have identified an isolated, one-time production error which we believe caused this problem," a Boy Scouts spokesman told NBC News.
The error, the spokesperson added, has been corrected.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission says that 110,000 of the slides contain level levels “that exceed the federal lead content ban.” Experts say that no level of lead is considered safe. Lead is known to cause neurotoxicity and other health problems if ingested.
Boy Scouts of America says people who purchased the contaminated pendants can receive a replacement free of charge.
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Last year saw record number of flu deaths, CDC says
The 2017-2018 flu season has become the first to be classified as 'high severity'
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this week that the 2017-2018 flu season set record numbers for flu-related deaths, with 80,000 people in the United States dying because of the flu.
With over 900,000 in the hospital due to the flu, the CDC marked this past flu season as one of the worst in decades.
“Last year it was just a horrible season,” Daniel Jernigan, head of the CDC’s influenza division, told the media. “It was just a tremendous amount of disease.”
Prior to last flu season -- which ran from October 1, 2017 - May 19, 2018 -- the CDC estimated that an average of 12,000 to 65,000 people die from the flu per year and between 250,000 and 700,000 people end up in the hospital. The numbers vary each year depending on how bad the flu season is.
According to the CDC, the 2017-2018 flu season was the first that the agency used a new methodology to evaluate the severity of flu season. Under the new methodology, the CDC went back and reclassified the flu seasons from 2003-2016. The 2017-2018 season was the first to be classified as “high severity.”
While less than fifty percent of people in the United States received the flu shot, the number of children under five -- who present the greatest risk for flu complications -- who got the flu vaccine went down this past year. Additionally, the CDC reported nearly 60 percent of kids under 17 weren’t vaccinated during the last flu season.
“Kids have a lot of snot,” said Dr. Wendy Swanson, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital during a news conference. “They have a lot of drool and they go to school. And when they go to school, they share those secretions.”
“One hundred and eighty families put a child in the grave last year because of a vaccine-preventable infection,” Dr. Swanson added.
Though the vaccine is updated every year to ensure protection against the most recent strains of the flu, the CDC reported that the vaccine was 40 percent effective -- meaning it reduced a person’s chance of needing to go to the doctor for flu-related symptoms by 40 percent.
The CDC encourages everyone to get vaccinated, as the agency touts the vaccine as the best way to prevent the flu and the accompanying complications that can arise.
According to the CDC, as of the last week of February, manufacturers reported having shipped 155.3 million does of the flu vaccine, which was a record number.
Experts note that the vaccine is particularly important for young children, pregnant women, and adults over 65.
The upcoming flu season
As early as a few weeks ago, the CDC was warning people of the upcoming flu season. The CDC was encouraging people to get vaccinated as early as possible, mainly considering the intensity of this most recent flu season.
This year’s flu vaccine has been improved to “better match circulating viruses,” and will be matched to four strains this year -- including H3N2, the dominant strain last year.
FluMist -- a nasal spray -- is an alternative to the flu vaccine for those over two years old and under 49 years old. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all eligible children receive the vaccine over the nasal spray.
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk faces fraud charges
SEC says Musk’s tweet about going private misled the market
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed a lawsuit against Elon Musk, charging the Tesla CEO with fraud.
The charges stem from Musk's August 7 tweet in which he said he was considering taking Tesla private and that the funding to carry out that deal was "secured." That statement sent Tesla's stock price soaring, only to fall again after it became clear Musk's statement was not accurate.
The complaint alleges that Musk had not discussed specific deal terms with any source of potential funding, meaning it could not have been "secured." Musk's statement that it had been, the SEC alleges, caused significant market disruption.
“Corporate officers hold positions of trust in our markets and have important responsibilities to shareholders,” said Steven Peikin, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division. “An officer’s celebrity status or reputation as a technological innovator does not give license to take those responsibilities lightly.”
The regulator charges Musk violated antifraud provisions of U.S. securities laws and seeks to ban him from serving as an officer or director of Tesla, or any other publicly traded company.
Musk issued a statement calling the SEC lawsuit "unjustified" and said he always acted in the best interest of shareholders.
Feud with short-sellers
In the months before Musk's August 7 tweet, he had been engaged in a public feud with investors who were "shorting" Tesla stock, meaning they were taking positions that rewarded them when the stock price fell and hurt them when the price went up.
Musk's tweet that funding was secured to purchase all outstanding Tesla shares at $420 sent the stock price sharply higher. It rose 6 percent before NASDAQ halted trading of Tesla shares for 90 minutes.
The stock price is considerably lower today. It plunged as much as 13 percent in after-hours trading when the SEC announced its lawsuit, perhaps giving the shorts the last laugh. Early Friday Citigroup downgraded Tesla stock to "sell," saying it is too risky to buy even on a pull-back.
One Tesla short, Citron Research's Andrew Left, told CNBC the lawsuit against Musk should not have been a surprise.
"If you lie, you get charged by the SEC," he told the network. "To me, that was obvious."
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Los Angeles man makes history getting drunk and running pedestrian over with e-scooter
The first conviction for riding an electric scooter while drunk has arrived
A man who was three times over the legal limit when he struck a pedestrian with a Bird electric scooter has a new claim to fame. According to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, 28-year-old Nicholas Kauffroath is the first person in the city to face charges for riding an electric scooter while under the influence. He pleaded no contest to the charges this week and faces 36 months of probation and a $550 fine.
Bird is one of several companies that is cashing in on the dockless electric scooter craze. The industry has introduced itself in major American cities this year and is similar to the dockless bikeshare industry, except that electric scooters can go much faster.
Experts warn that consumers who don’t take the same precautions that they would in a vehicle will pay the price. At least two deaths and more injuries are linked to the scooters.
"Drinking while operating a vehicle, a bike-or a scooter-is not only illegal, but can lead to serious injury or worse," the Los Angeles City Attorney's office said in a press release.
Kauffroath reportedly left the scene after knocking the pedestrian over, but authorities later caught up to him. The person he hit suffered knee injuries.
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Atmos Energy puts Texas residents in path of gas leaks and deadly explosions, report finds
One of the largest natural gas transmitters in the United States is letting dangerous, explosion-prone pipelines fall apart in its hometown
Atmos Energy workers found as many as 28 gas leaks in a single residential neighborhood in Dallas. The leaks potentially caused two small, separate house fires that residents reported, the company said in an email to Texas regulators.
Atmos assured Texas regulators it was sending workers to “monitor the surrounding area for potential leaks” and promised to “make repairs as needed.”
Twelve hours later, a house in the neighborhood exploded off its tracks, killing 12-year-old Linda “Michellita” Rogers. It took another three days for Atmos to evacuate the neighborhood’s 2,800 residents.
The deadly explosion back in February is part of a disturbing pattern in Texas. Following the girl's death, officials and residents who pressed Atmos Energy for answers were told that it will take years to replace aging pipes. The company also refused to disclose where aging pipes are located in the city.
A new analysis by the Dallas Morning News shows that over two dozen homes along Atmos’ path of pipelines have exploded in north and central Texas since 2006, leading to 9 deaths and 22 injuries.
Atmos Energy is one of the largest natural gas providers in the United States and is headquartered in Dallas, where it has taken a particularly lax approach to pipeline safety.
High risk for explosion
The federal government, since the 1970s, has warned that natural gas pipelines made from steel and cast iron pose an unacceptably high risk for explosion. Twenty states subsequently passed laws forcing natural gas operators to replace cast iron pipes.
But such laws don’t exist in Texas -- the only state where Atmos has yet to replace its cast iron pipes. As of last year, 500 miles of cast iron pipes remain. Atmos Energy also admitted last year that a third of its pipes in Texas were installed before 1940.
Atmos has repeatedly been cited in Texas for failing to protect its pipes from corrosion, failing to replace old parts, stalling on evacuations or taking other steps to keep residents out of harm’s way. Yet the company has also refused to admit fault in any of the explosions along its network of pipelines, according to government records reviewed by the News.
Consumers who suspect a gas leak are normally advised to leave the area immediately and call 911. But following that protocol didn’t help affected people in Texas.
On December 31 last year, one man called 911 to report a suspected gas leak in his home in Irving, a suburb of Dallas. Crews began repairing the leak and investigating the rest of the neighborhood. They told neighbor Magdalene Tijerina that it wasn’t necessary to evacuate. Early the next morning, she awoke to see her ceiling on fire and fled with her family. They escaped the explosion unharmed. Atmos was fined $16,000 by the state.
The company defended its safety record in statements to the News. But as the paper notes, Atmos is also raising its rates next year. Documents obtained by the paper show that Atmos is trying to recover $600,000 that its insurer is charging annually due to the previous explosions.
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Researchers recommend capping screen time at two hours per day
The amount of time children spend in front of screens can affect their cognitive functions and development, according to a new study published in The Lance..
Fall doesn't bring the expected drop in gas prices
Refinery issues a boost in prices in a handful of states
At a time when they should be falling, gasoline prices are on the rise. In a move that surprised many industry analysts, prices at the pump made significant moves in several states.
Normally at this time of year, gasoline prices begin falling because refineries have switched over the cheaper winter-grade fuel blends.
The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gasoline is $2.87, up two cents from last Friday. It's four cents higher than it was a month ago, at the tail end of the summer driving season.
The average price of premium gas is $3.41 a gallon, up two cents from last week. The average price of diesel fuel is $3.19, a penny more than last Friday.
AAA points out the surprising increase in the national average is largely due to sharp price moves in a handful of states. In California, for example, the average price is up five cents in the last week. Prices also shot higher in the Great Lakes region because refinery maintenance reduced available supplies.
Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, says refinery output is down five percent nationwide but has plunged 12.9 percent in the Midwest in the last week. Jeanette Casselano, a spokesperson for AAA, says rising crude oil prices have emerged as the wild card that could keep gasoline prices abnormally-high heading into the end of the year.
Fortunately for motorists, oil supplies have increased in the last week, which is putting downward pressure on crude prices. Even so, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported this week that oil inventories are about 75 million barrels less than a year ago. That's resulting in the highest gas prices heading into the fall since 2014.
The states with the most expensive regular gas
These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:
- Hawaii ($3.80)
- California ($3.68)
- Washington ($3.39)
- Alaska ($3.32)
- Oregon ($3.26)
- Idaho ($3.17)
- Nevada ($3.20)
- Utah ($3.08)
- Pennsylvania ($3.04)
- Connecticut ($3.02)
The states with the cheapest regular gas
These states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas, the survey found:
- Alabama ($2.54)
- Mississippi ($2.55)
- South Carolina ($2.57)
- Louisiana ($2.58)
- Virginia ($2.60)
- Arkansas ($2.61)
- Tennessee ($2.61)
- Texas ($2.62)
- Missouri ($2.63)
- North Carolina ($2.69)
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Mercedes Benz recalls S63 AMG 4MATICs and S65 AMGs
The Active Lane Keeping Assist may not function as expected
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 375 model year 2018 Mercedes Benz S63 AMG 4MATICs and S65 AMGs.
The software calibration for the Active Lane Keeping Assist may be incorrect, and as a result, the system may not intervene in the event of an unintended lane departure while traveling faster than 65 miles an hour. This could increase the risk of a crash.
What to do
MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will update the multipurpose camera software, free of charge.
The recall is expected to begin October 5, 2018.
Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.
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CFMOTO recalls ATVs
The fuel hose can crack and leak fuel from the vehicle
CFMOTO Powersports of Plymouth, Minn., is recalling about 5,300 CFORCE all-terrain off-highway vehicles (ATVs).
The fuel hose can crack and leak fuel from the vehicle, posing a fire hazard.
No incidents or injuries are reported.
This recall involves model year 2016-2018 CFORCE 400, model year 2017-2018 CFORCE 500S and model year 2017-2018 CFORCE 500HO ATVs with 400cc to 500cc, 4-cycle engines.
The “CFMOTO” logo is located on the front and rear grille, and a “CFORCE” decal is on each side of the fuel tank.
CFMOTO CFORCE vehicles were sold in orange, blue, red and gray.
The vehicle identification number (VIN) is located under the seat on the top of the right side, top frame rail.
The ATVs, manufactured in China, were sold at CFMOTO dealers nationwide from November 2015, through July 2018, for between $4,200 and $6,000.
What to do
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ATVs and contact a CFMOTO dealer to schedule a free repair. CFMOTO is contacting all registered owners directly.
Consumers may contact CFMOTO toll-free at (888) 823-6686 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.cfmotousa.com and click on “Customer Care” at the top of the page and then “Vehicle Recall” for more information.
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The people behind Oxycontin are developing a new substance to treat opioid addiction. Will this one make a difference?
The opioid industry appears to be betting that even legal headaches can go away with the right medication. Purdue Pharmaceuticals is reportedly offering fr..
Congress reaches bipartisan agreement to combat opioid crisis
The legislation would increase funding for treatment and research into non-addictive painkillers
Negotiators for the House and Senate have reached a compromise on legislation to tackle the growing opioid epidemic.
Lawmakers on the Conference Committee agreed on a package of legislation to increase enforcement efforts against illegal drugs, fast-track research into non-addictive painkillers, and make it easier for people with opioid addiction to get treatment.
Both chambers of Congress have approved similar legislation. The Congressional negotiators have worked over the last few weeks to resolve key differences and merge the two versions into a single bill.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, predicted the compromise would have no difficulty getting passed by both houses of Congress.
Rare show of bipartisanship
In a rare show of bipartisanship, all of the committee members attached their names to a statement, saying the compromise legislation is necessary to combat addiction to powerful painkillers.
"Once signed into law, this legislation sends help to our communities fighting on the front lines of the crisis and to the millions of families affected by opioid use disorders," the lawmakers said. "While there is more work to be done, this bipartisan legislation takes an important step forward and will save lives.”
The legislation contains money to help states increase monitoring of prescription drugs so that people addicted to the painkillers can't go "doctor shopping." The measure also establishes funds for opioid treatment centers and authorizes Medicaid to pay for up to 30 days of substance abuse treatment.
The next step is to submit the compromise legislation to both the House and Senate for final passage.
Opioids are a class of drugs that includes heroin. Synthetic versions include fentanyl. In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have used opioid substances to produce legal painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin, morphine, and others.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports opioid overdoses caused more than 42,000 deaths in 2016, a record number. The agency says about 40 percent of opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid.
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Researchers believe the actions aren’t intentional, but are still just as damaging
Researchers from the University of Buffalo recently published a study entitled “Does Rejection Still Hurt? Examining the Effects of Network Attention and E..
FDA may ban online e-cigarette sales
The agency is taking steps to crack down on underage use of e-cigarettes
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reportedly mulling a ban on online sales of e-cigarettes.
Gottlieb said easy access to vaping products has resulted in an “epidemic” of use among teens. The FDA says it will announce its next steps to combat underage use of e-cigarettes in November, when the agency will reveal data on teen vaping and invite public and corporate feedback.
Trend among youth
“E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous ‒ and dangerous ‒ trend among teens," Gottlieb said in a statement earlier this month. "The FDA won't tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products."
Gottlieb said the FDA is also weighing a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, which he says tend to entice youth.
"One factor we're closely evaluating is the availability of characterizing flavors. We know that the flavors play an important role in driving the youth appeal. And in view of the trends underway, we may take steps to curtail the marketing and selling of flavored products," he said.
In May, the FDA (joined by the FTC) sent 13 warning letters to companies that advertise e-cigarettes in a way that causes them to “resemble kid-friendly food products, such as juice boxes, candy or cookies."
This month, the agency sent more than 1,300 warning letters to retailers who were found to have illegally sold JUUL and other e-cigarette products to minors during “an undercover blitz" of both brick-and-mortar and online stores that occurred over the summer.
"We're in possession of data that shows a disturbingly sharp rise in the number of teens using e-cigarettes in just the last year," Gottlieb said in a statement last week.
“The numbers of kids now using these products is unacceptable,” he said. “We can’t allow these trends to continue.”
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Disney says yes to selling its stake in Sky to Comcast
Cable TV as we know it may have seen better days
It was only last week that Comcast landed UK TV magnate Sky. Now, the Walt Disney Company has agreed to permit 21st Century Fox to sell its stake in Sky -- 39 percent -- to Comcast for roughly $15 billion.
As ConsumerAffairs readers know, this mega-media wedding dance has been long and fraught with partnership proposals.
In the end, the bidding war for Sky came down to a fight-to-the-finish between Comcast and Fox. In Fox’s corner, the company had been angling to acquire the remainder of Sky, while Comcast was maneuvering the purchase of Fox. Eventually, Comcast gave up hope on its bid for Fox and redirected all its energies on acquiring Sky.
"Along with the net proceeds from the divestiture of the RSNs (regional sports networks), the sale of Fox's Sky holdings will substantially reduce the cost of our overall acquisition and allow us to aggressively invest in building and creating high-quality content for our direct-to-consumer platforms to meet the growing demands of viewers," said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company, in a statement.
Comcast says ‘bring it!’
Comcast comes into this deal loaded for bear. Over the last 10 years, the company’s stake in news and journalism has become significant.
It increased its investment in news production by 40 percent with more than $1 billion spent on news production in the last year alone. Its cable footprint covers 39 states and 29 million subscribers. And its content team has a very deep bench including NBC, Telemundo, NBC News, CNBC, MSNBC, NBC Sports, USA Network, E!, Bravo, and Syfy.
Having Sky on its squad makes Comcast a geographic double threat, allowing it to extend its reach into another 20 million homes in United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain, plus rights for 18 different professional sports from horse racing to soccer. It also lines the company’s pockets with nearly $17 billion in annual revenue.
The great cable channel bundle may have seen better days. It’s a new day, thanks in part to over-the-top media services (OTT) -- content providers that distribute streaming media as a standalone product directly to viewers over the Internet, bypassing traditional means like TV as a distributor of such content -- and broadcasters want their toes in as many content streams as possible.
Channel bundling was a cable TV darling for nearly 30 years, but cable providers are seeing subscribers drop like flies.
The reckoning is now officially here. Broadcasting companies know full well that they need to grow their content assortment and widen their global reach to compete with nouveau riche rivals like Netflix -- or sell.
“You’ve got high prices, big bundles, and broadband,” said Warren Schlichting, group president of Sling TV in comments to Bloomberg News. “At some stage, the consumer is going to revolt.”
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