Artist Draws Wholesome Watercolor Comics Where A Cat Is Giving Out Mental Health Advice (20 Pics)

Artist Hector Janse van Rensburg aka ‘S**tty Watercolour’ aka ‘Swatercolour’ is making us happier and our lives more wholesome with his comics that feel like miniature hugs and feature a meowtivational cat. The UK-based painter has become a global phenomenon and is now known as the world’s favorite self-deprecating artist.

“The comics that came before this series were less optimistic, and this series is a bit like a response to that. They sometimes approach difficult issues like mental health, but the aim of the comics is not to solve the issues but to show a different perspective on them. That new perspective often comes from the cat, who is based on my cat Ona who passed away a few years ago,” Hector told Bored Panda about his newest work.

We’ve collected some of Hector’s best work featuring the lovely cat, so scroll down, upvote your fave comics, and read on for our full interview with the painter about his art, as well as for his advice when drawing “happy little wobbly blobs of color.”

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“Before I started painting online about 8 years ago, I had never had any interest in art and now it looks like that’s where my life is going,” Hector said. “Ostensibly, that just means I’m sitting at my desk with a brush more often than a keyboard, but it is a whole different type of challenge to think of things about human nature that I want to communicate in my paintings.”

He added: “One part of that is that it’s like I’m living through my art, which can be difficult.”

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We wanted to find out how the painter manages to stay passionate about art. However, Hector told us that passion might be the wrong thing to focus on. Instead, the key is discipline.

“I think if you rely on some feeling of passion to motivate you then you will have a hard time. I’ve been doing a comic every day recently and I tend to wake up, think of an idea, and then have it painted by lunchtime,” he revealed a bit about his disciplined schedule.

“The schedule around my painting process is quite robotic by now, and I think doing it that way opens up a clear space where you can be more creatively free. If I didn’t have a schedule and instead waited around for inspiration that was good enough to motivate me to paint, then I probably wouldn’t be as productive.”

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Hector said that the ideas for his comics come from negative thoughts that he can turn into more positive ones.

“So I think about the ways in which people can feel bad and how you might approach them as a friend would. I don’t think I find it too difficult to think of ideas which is probably a testament to how nice my cat was,” he complimented his cat Ona for being a fantastic feline.

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Bored Panda also wanted to hear what advice Hector would give other potential artists who are dabbling with watercolor paintings. He said that a lot depends on each individual artist’s end-goal: there are two paths that they can take.

“For me, it’s that the niceness and technical ability of a painting are different things and you can aim at either,” he said.

“It’s perfectly possible to make happy little wobbly blobs of color and people will enjoy them if the message is good and sincere. There’s probably a boundary of neatness that you should stay within but messiness is cool too. Also, most of my pictures look very bad at first, and then it’s only after a while that they come together. I think that’s because a few wobbly blobs on their own look like an accident, but a finished painting of wobbly blobs looks purposeful.”

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Hector, who has a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics degree from the University of York, has been experimenting with watercolors since December 2011. He revisited an old watercolor set when he felt bored and depressed. Originally, he started uploading his illustrations on Reddit in 2012, then he spread his gaze wider and moved on to Tumblr and Twitter.

The cartoonist admits that he’s inspired by Sir Quentin Blake who illustrated the children’s books written by beloved author Roald Dahl. So if you felt that you found his art style oddly familiar and felt nostalgia for your childhood when looking at Hector’s drawings, this is why!

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This content was originally published here.

Esper eyes $2.2 billion cut to military health care – POLITICO

Roughly 9.5 million active-duty personnel, military retirees and their dependents rely on the military health system, which is the military’s sprawling government-run health care framework that operates hundreds of facilities around the world. The military health system also provides care through TRICARE, which enables military personnel and their families to obtain civilian healthcare outside of military networks.

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Under the proposal in the latest version of Esper’s defense-wide review, the armed services, the defense health system and officials at the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness would be tasked to find savings in their budgets to the tune of $2.2 billion for military health. Officials arrived at that number recently after months of discussions with the impacted offices during the review, said a third defense official. A fourth added that the cuts will be “conditions-based and will only be implemented to the extent that the [military health system] can continue to maintain our beneficiaries access to quality care, be it through our military health care facilities or with our civilian health care provider partners.”

However, the first two senior defense officials said the cuts are not supported by program analysis nor by warfighter requirements.

DoD Unified Medical Budget vs Veteran Medical Care Costs (in Billions) | President’s Budget Historical Data

The department’s effort to overhaul the military health system have recently come under scrutiny, as lawmakers pressed the Pentagon on whether the pandemic would affect those plans.

“A lot of the decisions were made in dark, smoky rooms, and it was driven by arbitrary numbers of cuts,” said one senior defense official with knowledge of the process. “They wanted to book the savings to be able to report it.”

“It imperils the ability to support our combat forces overseas,” added a second senior official, who argued that Esper’s moves are weakening the ability to protect the health of active-duty troops in military theaters abroad. “They’re actively pushing very skilled medical people out the door.”

However, a Pentagon spokesperson said the system will “continually assesses how it can most effectively align its assets in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“The MHS will not waver from its mission to provide a ready medical force and a medically ready force,” said Pentagon spokesperson Lisa Lawrence. “Any potential changes to the health system will only be pursued in a manner that ensures its ability to continue to support the Department’s operational requirements and to maintain our beneficiaries access to quality health care.”

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Esper rolled out the results of the first iteration of the defense-wide review in February, revealing $5.7 billion in cost savings that he said would be put toward preparing the Pentagon to better compete with Russia and China, including research into hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, missile defense and more.

But the proposed health cuts, in the second iteration of the defense-wide review, would degrade military hospitals to the point that they will no longer be able to sustain the current training pipeline for the military’s medical force, potentially necessitating something akin to a draft of civilian medical workers into the military, the two defense officials said.

The second official noted the challenge in finding outside doctors given longstanding complaints from some U.S. hospitals and researchers that there aren’t enough physicians to serve civilians.

“How’s a ‘draft’ even going to work?” the official said “The U.S. is dealing with a doctor shortage.”

As a result, the proposed reductions would hurt combat medical capability without actually saving money, the officials argued. The Pentagon is already significantly overspending on private sector care and TRICARE because patients are being pushed out of undermanned military health facilities to the private health care network, they said. The cuts also would follow nearly a decade of the Pentagon holding military health spending flat, even as spending on care for veterans and civilians has ballooned.

The officials blamed the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, or CAPE, under the leadership of John Whitley, who has been acting director since August 2019, for the cuts. CAPE conducts analysis and provides advice to the secretary of defense on potential cuts to the defense budget.

During Whitley’s confirmation hearing to be the permanent CAPE director last week, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) pressed him on the health cuts.

“Folks in my state have expressed some concern and opposition to some of the policies, which allow only active-duty service members to visit military treatment facilities,” Jones said. “What do I tell those folks?”

“The department does have work to do on expanding choice and access to beneficiaries,” Whitley responded. “Sometimes that’s in an MTF, sometimes that’s in the civilian health care setting.”

Whitley has specifically tried to eliminate the Murtha Cancer Center as an unnecessary expense, said one senior official.

Last fall, Whitley and CAPE also sought to close the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, which prepares graduates for the medical corps, as part of the defense-wide review, the people said. Although at the time Esper denied the proposal, CAPE is now seeking major cuts to USU as part of the $2.2 billion. The reductions include eliminating all basic research dollars for combat casualty care, infectious disease and military medicine for USU, as well as slicing operational funds.

“What’s been proposed would be devastating, and it’s coming right out of Whitley’s shop,” said the senior official. “Instead of a clean execution, USU would be bled to death.”

The officials pointed out that USU has contributed to the Covid-19 response in recent months by graduating 230 medical officers and Nurse Corps officers early from the class of 2020 School of Medicine, leading and participating in research clinical trials for virus countermeasures and contributing to the Operation Warp Speed effort to develop a vaccine.

This content was originally published here.

Europe’s Top Health Officials Say Masks Aren’t Helpful in Beating COVID-19 – Foundation for Economic Education

That’s less than one-third of the number of Danes who die from pneumonia or influenza in a given year.

Despite this success, Danish leaders recently found themselves on the defensive. The reason is that Danes aren’t wearing face masks, and local authorities for the most part aren’t even recommending them.

This prompted Berlingske, the country’s oldest newspaper, to complain that Danes had positioned themselves “to the right of Trump.”

“The whole world is wearing face masks, even Donald Trump,” Berlingske pointed out.

This apparently did not sit well with Danish health officials. They responded by noting there is little conclusive evidence that face masks are an effective way to limit the spread of respiratory viruses.

“All these countries recommending face masks haven’t made their decisions based on new studies,” said Henning Bundgaard, chief physician at Denmark’s Rigshospitale, according to Bloomberg News. (Denmark has since updated its guidelines to encourage, but not require, the use of masks on public transit where social distancing may not be possible.)  

Denmark is not alone.

Despite a global stampede of mask-wearing, data show that 80-90 percent of people in Finland and Holland say they “never” wear masks when they go out, a sharp contrast to the 80-90 percent of people in Spain and Italy who say they “always” wear masks when they go out.

Dutch public health officials recently explained why they’re not recommending masks.

“From a medical point of view, there is no evidence of a medical effect of wearing face masks, so we decided not to impose a national obligation,” said Medical Care Minister Tamara van Ark.

Others, echoing statements similar to the US Surgeon General from early March, said masks could make individuals sicker and exacerbate the spread of the virus.

“Face masks in public places are not necessary, based on all the current evidence,” said Coen Berends, spokesman for the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. “There is no benefit and there may even be negative impact.”

In Sweden, where COVID-19 deaths have slowed to a crawl, public health officials say they see “no point” in requiring individuals to wear masks.

“With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top infectious disease expert.

What’s Going on With Masks?

The top immunologists and epidemiologists in the world can’t decide if masks are helpful in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Indeed, we’ve seen organizations like the World Health Organization and the CDC go back and forth in their recommendations.

CDC does not currently recommend the use of facemasks to help prevent novel #coronavirus. Take everyday preventive actions, like staying home when you are sick and washing hands with soap and water, to help slow the spread of respiratory illness. #COVID19 https://t.co/uArGZTJhXj pic.twitter.com/yzWTSgt2IV

— CDC (@CDCgov)

For the average person, it’s confusing and frustrating. It’s also a bit frightening, considering that we’ve seen people denounced in public for not wearing a mask while picking up a bag of groceries.

Opening day at Trader Joe’s in North Hollywood, Ca.

Karen is mad she was mask shamed… pic.twitter.com/pF3Zgj3w2E

— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman)

The truth is masks have become the new wedge issue, the latest phase of the culture war. Mask opponents tend to see mask wearers as “fraidy cats” or virtue-signalling “sheeple” who willfully ignore basic science. Mask supporters, on the other hand, often see people who refuse to wear masks as selfish Trumpkins … who willfully ignore basic science.

There’s not a lot of middle ground to be found and there’s no easy way to sit this one out. We all have to go outside, so at some point we all are required to don the mask or not.

It’s clear from the data that despite the impression of Americans as selfish rebel cowboys who won’t wear a mask to protect others, Americans are wearing masks far more than many people in European countries.

Polls show Americans are wearing masks at record levels, though a political divide remains: 98 percent of Democrats report wearing masks in public compared to 66 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Independents. (These numbers, no doubt, are to some extent the product of mask requirements in cities and states.)

Whether one is pro-mask or anti-mask, the fact of the matter is that face coverings have become politicized to an unhealthy degree, which stands to only further pollute the science.

Last month, for example, researchers at Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy responded to demands they remove an article that found mask requirements were “not based on sound data.”

The school, to its credit, did not remove the article, but instead opted to address the objections critics of their research had raised.

First, Do No Harm

The ethics of medicine go back millennia. 

The Hippocratic Oath famously calls on medical practitioners to “first, do no harm.” (Those words didn’t actually appear in the original oath; they developed as a form of shorthand.)

There is a similar principle in the realm of public health: the Principle of Effectiveness.

Public health officials say the idea makes it clear that public health organizations have a responsibility to not harm the people they are assigned to protect.

“If a community is at risk, the government may have a duty to recommend interventions, as long as those interventions will cause no harm, or are the least harmful option,” wrote Claire J. Horwell Professor of Geohealth at Durham University and Fiona McDonald, Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at Queensland University of Technology. “If an agency follows the principle of effectiveness, it will only recommend an intervention that they know to be effective.”

The problem with mask mandates is that public health officials are not merely recommending a precaution that may or may not be effective.

They are using force to make people submit to a state order that could ultimately make individuals or entire populations sicker, according to world-leading public health officials.

That is not just a violation of the Effectiveness Principle. It’s a violation of a basic personal freedom.

Mask advocates might mean well, but they overlook a basic reality: humans spontaneously alter behavior during pandemics. Scientific evidence shows that American workplaces and consumers changed the patterns of their travel before lockdown orders were issued.

As I’ve previously noted, this should come as no surprise: Humans are intelligent, instinctive, and self-preserving mammals who generally seek to avoid high-risk behavior. The natural law of spontaneous order shows that people naturally take actions of self-protection by constantly analyzing risk.

Instead of ordering people to “mask-up” under penalty of fines or jail time, scientists and public health officials should get back to playing their most important role: developing sound research on which people can freely make informed decisions.

See the World Health Organization’s Latest Guidelines on Masks and COVID-19

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect Denmark’s recent update on mask guidelines. 

This content was originally published here.

NM Restaurant Association ‘devastated’ by governor’s latest public health order

Under Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s new public health order, restaurants will have to stop indoor dining on Monday.

“Restaurants didn’t do this to New Mexicans. New Mexicans did this to restaurants,” she said when making the announcement during a virtual news conference on Thursday.

Outdoor and patio dining at 50% capacity, along with carry out are still allowed.

“Right now, it’s over 100 degrees outside so outdoor dining doesn’t really help us much,” said Wight.

Restaurants were closed for more than two months before being allowed to resume indoor dining at 50% capacity on June 1.

“It’s going to be harder to come back from this closure then it was the last closure,” said Wight. “Last time we had PPP money, we had ways to get open, we had some savings left. We have no more savings. Our inventory – we’ve got fresh inventory right now we’ve got to get through and three days is not enough. So what are we going to do, right? We’re all just throwing our hands up saying, ‘What can we do?’”

She doesn’t have the latest number but estimates New Mexico will lose 20% of its restaurants – or 700 restaurants – with the new regulations in place.

Wight says the association is also considering a legal challenge and is planning a protest on Monday.

KOB 4 reached out to the governor’s office for a response. Press Secretary Nora Meyers Sackett said in a statement: 

It’s not accurate to say the group was not consulted before the decision. The governor has been very clear that if New Mexico’s COVID-19 cases continued to trend upwards, the state would need to retract some of the reopening measures we had been able to enact, including indoor dining. As the governor and Dr. Scrase noted yesterday, a high percentage of the state’s workplace rapid responses have been to restaurants. The governor was also very clear yesterday that this is not meant to “punish” restaurants, but it is an unavoidable consequence of New Mexicans continuing to conduct themselves in a way that continues to spread COVID-19 throughout the state. Everyone is suffering the effects of this deadly virus, and we have to do everything we can to slow the spread of it. Restaurant owners are prominent members of their communities and must, like all of us, do everything they can to save lives.
 

This content was originally published here.

‘It’s absolutely horrifying’: Coronavirus expert warns of dire health crisis amid Texas surge – Houston Chronicle

Dr. Peter Hotez and his science partner, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, in their vaccine lab at Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development – Baylor College of Medicine, in February 2020.

Dr. Peter Hotez and his science partner, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, in their vaccine lab at Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development – Baylor College of Medicine, in February 2020.

Photo: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

Dr. Peter Hotez and his science partner, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, in their vaccine lab at Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development – Baylor College of Medicine, in February 2020.

Dr. Peter Hotez and his science partner, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, in their vaccine lab at Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development – Baylor College of Medicine, in February 2020.

Back to Gallery

Houston and Texas must take significant action before the weekend arrives to fight the spread of COVID-19, warns Houston’s internationally-renowned infectious disease expert, Dr. Peter Hotez.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Hotez has lent his expertise on Texas’ response to the deadly coronavirus. He serves as dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and is currently developing a vaccine for COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Texas saw 5,489 new confirmed cases of COVID-19. In an interview with Chron.com on Wednesday, Hotez called that uptick “horrifying.”

TRIPLING THE CASES: Houston Methodist hospitals see triple the number of COVID-19 patients in expanding pandemic

Question: Now that Texas has hit 5,489 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, what are your thoughts about Houston becoming the next epicenter of the pandemic?

Hotez:  “It’s absolutely horrifying. I’m terribly upset about what I see happening. There were some predictive models out of Pennsylvania that actually showed this. This is why I didn’t want Texas to open up as early it did. “

Question:  What are your thoughts about the possibility of a second shutdown? What do you think should be done?

Hotez: “We have to implement a significant level of social distancing. Now, we have no choice.  We have to take action before the weekend.  At the minimum, we must focus on the metropolitan areas–Houston, San Antonio and Austin.  We are already reaching a dire health crisis in Houston, and it will only get worse.”

NEW COVID-19 RULES: Abbott orders new COVID-19 rules for Texas child care centers after prior restrictions dropped

Question: Do you think after yesterday’s high numbers that Houston should actually be at a red alert on coronavirus threat level?

Hotez: “I think we should be red alert for coronavirus threat level. We need to head in that direction.  Six months into this epidemic, and we’re basically to square one.”

Question: During a U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee meeting yesterday,  Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) warned that the current trajectory in Houston has the city on pace to be one of the worst affected cities in the U.S. comparing it to Brazil. Olson even called it, “damn scary.” Thoughts on this?

Hotez:  “I think the congressman has been reading my social media page. That unfortunately is the situation we may be in, unless we do something. The default plan if we don’t do anything is that the cases rise until we reach herd immunity.  Those numbers would continue to rise vertically.”

Question: What is your message to Texans and all Americans about the COVID-19 surge?

Hotez: “Nationally, this is one of the biggest public health failings in the history of the U.S. We have a vaccine that we are hoping to advance this time next year.  This pandemic is not getting better on its own. This is a public health crisis that we share with Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. We need to make an urgent plan to take action before the weekend.”

alison.medley@chron.com

This content was originally published here.

How to Destroy a National Health Service | The Nation

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claps his hands outside 10 Downing Street during the weekly “Clap for our Carers” applause for the NHS and key workers on the front lines of the coronavirus. (Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

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Soon after Covid-19 started to sweep through the United Kingdom in March, thousands of residents began appearing at their windows every Thursday to applaud the National Health Service. While the pandemic has evidently caused a wave of renewed appreciation for the NHS, the universal health care system has been a source of immense British pride for over 70 years. What many Britons fail to realize, however, is that some of the past and present government officials clapping alongside them, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have had a hand in the decades-long efforts to privatize their beloved NHS.

Founded in 1948 by the Labour Health Minister Aneurin Bevan, the NHS rose from the ashes of World War II as part of a welfare state designed to slay the “five giant evils” outlined by the economist William Beveridge: want, disease, ignorance, squalor, and idleness. As Bevan envisioned the NHS, it would provide world-class medical care that was always “free at the point of delivery” for everyone, including nonresidents, overturning a system in which the majority, especially women and children, could not afford health care. With these principles at its core, the 1946 National Health Service Act lay the foundation for a radical redistribution of wealth by funding the service through a progressive tax on income.

In its original iteration, the government transferred ownership of all existing hospitals in Britain to the NHS, which then employed staff, using taxpayer money, to deliver services without charging out-of-pocket fees. Some charges were implemented soon after its founding, including fees for dentures and glasses, as well as prescription payments brought in by Winston Churchill. Although many conservatives, including Churchill, opposed the idea of a fully public service, the story of the private sector’s incursion into Britain’s health service started on Margaret Thatcher’s watch.

“The privatization of the NHS began in the 1980s,” says Professor Allyson Pollock, author of NHS plc: the Privatisation of Our Health Care, “and it’s been an incremental process over several decades where there’s been an ideological commitment to the private sector despite great opposition from the public.”

Although Thatcher promised Britons the NHS was “safe with us,” it has since been revealed that she commissioned an American right-wing think tank to draw up privatization plans, including a proposal that promised it “would, of course, mean the end of the National Health Service.” Thatcher, much like her American counterpart Ronald Reagan, was a staunch believer in free market principles and aimed to introduce them into everything from housing to hospitals. While she was ultimately prevented by its immense popularity from privatizing the NHS outright, her government began to chip away at the foundation of the public health service to create an opening for the private sector.

Low-wage services such as catering and cleaning were the first to be outsourced in 1983. These may seem irrelevant to health outcomes, but they serve as an example of the dangers outsourcing can represent to public health. In 2016, a University of Oxford study revealed that the deadly MRSA “superbug” was more than twice as prevalent in hospitals that had replaced in-house cleaning staff with low-cost contractors that were able to slash prices by underpaying staff and providing worse labor conditions.

“Our study finds that contracting out NHS services may save money, but this at the price of increasing risks to patients’ health,” said the study’s co-author David Stuckler. “When these full costs are taken into account, contracting may prove to be a false economy.”

Current Issue

Though Bevan’s design for universal health care began to erode under Thatcher, it was New Labour’s Tony Blair who swung the NHS’s doors wide open for private industry. When first elected in 1997, the Blair government promised to increase NHS spending to reach the EU average and initially seemed poised to reverse some of the previous governments’ privatization attempts. But in 2001, with another election on the horizon, Blair decided to finish what Thatcher started and turn the UK’s health sector into a competitive market.

New Labour brought in lucrative contracts with independent sector treatment centers (ISTCs) to perform “elective” procedures, paid for at inflated rates with taxpayer money, while leaving more expensive, complex surgeries to the NHS.

“Tony Blair dictated that 1 percent of the budget must be given to private contracts to support his experiment,” says Dr. Tony O’Sullivan, a retired pediatrician and cochair of the campaign group Keep Our NHS Public.

“He used the pressure of waiting lists at the time,” he adds. “Instead of investing even more in the health service, he insisted that ISTCs would be used to take people off waiting lists. That’s the way he forced the door open to allow more clinical services to be provided by the private sector.”

By 2006, Blair was openly boasting as he introduced partnerships with nearly a dozen private health care firms that 40 percent of the public health service would soon be privately run “under the NHS banner.” All of this was done under the guise of shorter waiting times and increased choice. Perhaps one of New Labour’s worst legacies, under both Blair and his successor Gordon Brown, was the expansion of public hospitals built using £11.4 billion ($14 billion) from private finance initiatives whose fees and borrowing costs will ultimately cost taxpayers more than eight times the initial outlay—and have already bankrupted several NHS hospitals.

As the NHS was grappling with the damage inflicted by Blair and the center-left Labour party, David Cameron and his coalition government arrived on the scene to fully dismantle NHS core principles and structures.

Eighty-four percent of us want the NHS to be in public hands, and yet it is being privatized as quietly as possible,” says Cat Hobbs, the founder of We Own It, an organization that campaigns for public ownership of services. “That’s been the case for some time, but it’s gotten much worse since 2012 with the Health and Social Care Act, which created new markets in the NHS and really ramped up the privatization.”

The legislation Hobbs mentions relieved the head of the Department of Health and Social Care of the legal duty to provide care for UK residents within its first two pages. The rest of the lengthy document is dedicated to creating an incredibly complex bureaucracy that not only delocalized funding decisions, but allowed larger portions of taxpayer funds designated for the NHS, which annually amount to roughly £112 billion ($137 billion), to be funneled toward the private sector. This takes numerous forms. One example is illustrated in John Pilger’s documentary The Dirty War on the NHS, which shows how private ambulances may carry the blue-and-white NHS logo, but often fail to meet the service’s necessarily stringent standards.

Other private companies that eat into NHS funds are consulting firms like Deloitte and PWC that slithered into the newly minted Clinical Commissioning Groups that decide how much funding health care providers receive. Providers include a slew of private hospitals and general practices run by, among others, Virgin Care, an arm of billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin empire, as well as over a hundred NHS Foundation Trusts that are also able to contract services from the for-profit sector.

The Health and Social Care Act ultimately paved the way for vulnerable members of British society, such as the homeless, elderly, and undocumented migrants, to fall through the cracks of health care coverage. Dr. Bob Gill, creator of “The Great NHS Heist,” believes there are two motives underpinning privatization efforts.

“There’s a belief amongst our ruling classes that health care should not be a right; it should not be available to everybody,” says Gill. “But there’s also the element of private gain.”

As the 2012 legislation was being debated in the halls of Parliament, a Mirror investigation revealed that at least 40 members of the House of Lords had financial ties to companies that stood to gain from the reforms. It’s not just British politicians and companies that have profited from changes to the health service, however. American think tanks, insurance companies and consulting firms, as well as pharmaceutical manufacturers, have also been present at every step Britain has taken towards privatization. US companies such as UnitedHealth, Hospital Corporation of America, and the Acadia Group have been operating within the NHS and profiting from British taxpayers for several decades now. But when British health care advocates warn about the “Americanization” of the NHS, they aren’t just concerned about an increased presence of companies from across the Atlantic. Many, such as Gill and Hobbs, are terrified that the UK’s National Health Service will be transformed into an American-style health insurance system where access to care is largely dependent on wealth.

Even a cursory comparison of the two systems reveals the very real basis for such fears. In 2018, the United States spent over 17 percent of its GDP—-about $10,000 per capita—on health care, making it the most expensive system in the world. Yet 27.5 million Americans remained uninsured as the coronavirus pandemic hit, a number that’s rising alongside record unemployment. In the same year, the UK’s health care costs amounted to $4,000 per person, and while even insured Americans still pay out-of-pocket fees, most of the British public receive care covered nearly in full by their taxes. Although some politicians have toyed with ideas like “top-up fees” and monthly “membership charges,” none have succeeded in changing the basic funding model. It is this fact that likely makes the piecemeal privatization of the NHS difficult to discern on a day-to-day basis.But what hasn’t escaped Britons’ notice is the underfunding that has led to hospital bed shortages and reduced staff and services, especially under post-2008 austerity measures.

While overall funding has increased every year since 1948, the rise in spending has slowed and varied depending on the party in power. Since the 1980s, Tories have increased annual health spending by less than the previous average of 4 percent, including a shocking low of less than 1 percent from 2010–15. Labour governments from 1997–2010, on the other hand, raised the yearly increase to 6 percent. The UK now spends nearly a 10th of its GDP on health care, but where that money is spent is part of the problem. When you factor in the hundreds of non-NHS, privately run services that operate under the logo, it turns out 18 percent of the NHS budget already goes to for-profit companies every year. There’s also a vicious cycle in which funding cuts lead to increased outsourcing, in turn creating the false economy Stuckler highlighted in his 2016 study. Additionally, administrative costs, which originally made up about 8 percent of NHS spending, are estimated to have more than doubled since privatization efforts began.

NHS funding is so important to Britons that during the 2016 referendum on EU membership, former mayor of London Boris Johnson successfully led the “Leave” campaign by coasting around the UK on a red bus with a misleading slogan emblazoned on its side: “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund the NHS instead.” Johnson, who became prime minister in 2019, seems to want to make good on his promise to increase NHS funding, pledging to raise spending by £34 billion ($42 billion) in the next four years. However, as news emerged in recent weeks that Johnson’s government was fast-tracking private contracts as part of the UK’s Covid-19 response, including with for-profit giants like Deloitte, SERCO, and the American company Palantir, it became apparent the latest prime minister is just as devoted to transferring public wealth to private pockets as his predecessors were.

During the December snap election that cemented Johnson’s rise to power, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn presented the public with leaked documents from US-UK trade talks that implied the NHS would be “on the table” in post-Brexit negotiations, as President Donald Trump once let slip. Johnson has continually declared that “the NHS is not for sale” and denied that American companies will be granted greater access. But the Mirror has once again exposed a number of ties between the private health care industry and Tory officials; meanwhile, several members of Johnson’s cabinet, including Secretary of State Dominic Raab, authored a manifesto that proposed increased privatization of the NHS. US companies, who have been greedily eyeing the NHS for decades, see a US-UK trade deal as a golden opportunity.

As the coronavirus pandemic claims more lives in Britain than anywhere else in Europe, and Brexit and a US-UK trade deal loom large, Britons need to think long and hard about what kind of NHS will protect them in a future that could be riddled with public health crises. Dr. John Lister, cofounder of the Health Campaigns Together initiative, believes that despite private companies’ shambolic involvement in the Covid-19 response, an opportunity is emerging amid the chaos as NHS debts are scrapped and Health and Social Care Act structures are suspended for the sake of efficiency.

“There’s going to be a good case after the pandemic to say, ‘Let’s not go back to December 2019,’” says Lister. “‘Let’s increase funding and put in some more sensible structures that are going to make the NHS a public service that we can all be even more proud of.’”

At least one thing should have been made abundantly clear since March: America’s entirely privately run, insurance-based health system, which has led to the worst coronavirus death rates in the world, is hardly a model to aspire to. In fact, it is Americans who should look to Bevan’s vision for a health care system that is up to the task.

“Society becomes more wholesome, more serene, and spiritually healthier,” the Labour health minister wrote in 1952, “if it knows that its citizens have at the back of their consciousness the knowledge that not only themselves, but all their fellows, have access, when ill, to the best that medical skill can provide.”

This content was originally published here.

Early findings grim on the health of Flint kids after water crisis – 60 Minutes – CBS News

You may remember the pictures from the water crisis six years ago in Flint, Michigan. Hundreds of angry residents holding up bottles of rust-colored water and demanding answers. Months of protests were waved off by officials who denied anything was wrong. The turning point came when a local pediatrician found conclusive proof that the children of Flint were being exposed to high levels of lead in their water and prompted the state to declare an emergency. Now, that same doctor is working to solve a mystery that still worries parents in Flint: what lasting damage did the water do to their kids? As we first reported in March, her initial findings were worse than she feared. But we begin with the legacy of Flint’s water crisis.

Once a week, hundreds of cars line up for bottled water at the Greater Holy Temple Church of God in Flint.

Sandra Jones is in command. She is a pastor’s wife with the voice of a four-star general. Jones keeps the cars moving and the water coming. Each family is allowed four cases of water. On this day, they gave away 36,000 bottles.

Sharyn Alfonsi: It just strikes me. It’s been five years and you’re still doing this.

Sandra Jones: Five years. And– and the thing about it is it’s not lightening up. I could see it if it was lightening up. But it isn’t.

It is not. The state stopped giving away bottled water two years ago because it said the water is safe. Sandra Jones relies on donations of water.

Sharyn Alfonsi: What’s it been like?

Larry Marshall: It’s been kinda hard…

Larry Marshall was second in line. The widowed father of four got here at 5 a.m. He’s been waiting five hours for water.

Larry Marshall: Water should be a basic necessity that — we shouldn’t have to wait or stand in line for, you know. This is not a third world country. But we’re living like one.

Marshall, like many in Flint, still refuses to drink tap water.

Sharyn Alfonsi: And if they come to you the city or the state and they say, “You’re drinking water’s safe. Are you gonna believe them?
Larry Marshall: No. They lie so much and we know they lie, and I– when they say something, it’s like– talking to the wind, you know. I don’t believe nothing they say. None of the politicians, none of them.

Flint, once a prosperous hub of the American auto industry was nearly bankrupt back in 2014. Officials hoped to save money by switching the city water source from the Great Lakes to the Flint River.

Almost immediately, residents began noticing something wasn’t right. The water was rust colored and many people had rashes.

But Michigan’s department of environmental quality and the city insisted the water in Flint is safe. Later, a state investigation found those officials hid the fact that the river water was not treated with chemicals that would prevent the pipes from corroding. So, for months the water ate away at Flint’s old pipes, releasing lead into residents’ tap water.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: They were poisoned. I mean they were poisoned by this water.  They were all exposed to toxic water.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician in Flint, who her patients call “Dr. Mona.”

Dr. Mona is a bit of a superhero herself here because she was the first to link the water to high levels of lead in the children of Flint.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: So within a few months of– of being on this water, General Motors, which was born in Flint, and still has plants in Flint, noticed that this water, our drinking water, was corroding their engine parts. Let’s pause. Like, the drinking (LAUGH) water was corroding engine parts. So they were allowed to go back to Great Lakes water.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Didn’t anybody at that point say, “If it’s corroding an engine, maybe this shouldn’t be going into our bodies, into our kids?”

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: I mean that should have been like fire alarm bells. Like, red flags.

Sharyn Alfonsi: So what did it take before your– it– your eyes opened about this?

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: Yeah. It– it– it was the word lead.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Because the word lead, when you’re a physician or a pediatrician signals what in your brain?

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: There is no safe level of lead. We’re never supposed to expose a population or a child to lead. Because we can’t do much about it. It is an irreversible neurotoxin. It attacks the core of what it means to be you, and impacts cognition– how children think. Actually drops IQ levels. It impacts behavior, leading to things like developmental delays. And it has these life-altering consequences.

In 2015, Dr. Mona and a colleague started digging through blood test records of 1,700 Flint children.   Including the kids she sees at the Hurley Children’s Clinic.

The non-profit clinic serves most of Flint’s kids. The city is 53% black and has one of the highest poverty rates in the country.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: So we looked at the children’s blood lead levels before the water switch. And we compared them to the children’s blood lead levels after the water switch. And in the areas where the water lead levels were the highest, in those parts of the city, we saw the greatest increase in children’s lead levels.

Armed with the first medical evidence that kids were being exposed to lead from the water, Dr. Mona did something controversial. She quickly held a press conference to share the blood test study, before other doctors reviewed her work.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha:  So it was a bit of an academic no-no. Kind of a form of academic disobedience. But I l–

Sharyn Alfonsi: And you knew that?

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: I– I knew that. But, like, but there was no choice– there was no way I was going to wait to have this this research vetted.

Two weeks later, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder ordered the water switched back to the Great Lakes and declared a state of emergency.

Rick Snyder at State of the State: I say tonight as I have before I am sorry and I will fix it.

But the damage was done. Dr. Mona estimates 14,000 kids in Flint under the age of six may have been exposed to lead in their water.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: I never should have had to do the research that literally used the blood of our children as detectors of environmental contamination.

Three years after the crisis began, the percentage of third graders in Flint who passed Michigan’s standardized literacy test dropped from 41% to 10%.

Kenyatta Dotson: I’m very concerned about my children. And not only my children, but I’m concerned about the children of Flint.

Kenyatta Dotson is still fearful of the water, even though the state is spending more than $300 million to fix the water system.

The city promised to replace all 12,000 supply lines that may have been contaminated with lead by last fall. Now, they say the work won’t be done until summer. 

Dotson says she and her daughters will continue to use bottled water for cooking and brushing their teeth.

Kenyatta Dotson: I need time to come back to a place where I feel whole again.

Sharyn Alfonsi: You don’t feel whole right now?

Kenyatta Dotson: Oh no.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Would this have happened in a rich, white suburb?

Kenyatta Dotson:  Maybe it would’ve happened in– in a rich, white suburb. Would it have continued for as long as it has? I don’t believe so.

We found many parents in Flint still bathe their young children with bottled water — first warmed on the stove then brought to the tub.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: When I’m in clinic– almost every day– a mom asks me, “Is my kid gonna be okay”? So that’s a number one kind of anxiety and– and concern right now–

Sharyn Alfonsi: How do you answer that?

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: Oh, I– I sit down. I sometimes hold their hand. And I reassure my patients and their parents just as I would before the crisis… to keep doing everything that you’re supposed to be doing to promote your children’s development.

In January of 2019, she launched the Flint registry, the first comprehensive look at the thousands of kids exposed to lead in Flint. The goal of the federal and state-funded program is to track the health of those kids and get them the help they need.

The registry refers hundreds of kids to specialists who conduct 8 hours of neuro-psychological assessments of their behavior and development.

Dr. Mona shared her preliminary findings with 60 Minutes.

Before the crisis, about 15% of the kids in Flint required special education services. But of the 174 children who went through the extensive neuro-exams, specialists determined that 80% will require help for a language, learning or intellectual disorder.

Sharyn Alfonsi: What are you gonna do?

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: So there’s not much we can do. So there’s no magic pill. There’s no antidote.  There’s no cure. We can’t take away this exposure. But incredible science has taught us that there’s a lot we can do to promote the health and development of children and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Through the registry, already 2,000 Flint children who were exposed to lead have been connected to services such as speech and occupational therapy, which some may need for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: But we also realized that our research, our science, this data and facts was also an underestimation of the exposure.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Why underestimated?

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: Because we were looking at blood lead data done as part of these surveillance programs, which are done at the ages of 1 and 2. Lead in water impacts a younger age group. It impacts the unborn.

To determine that impact, Dr. Mona turned to a novel technique developed by Dr. Manish Arora at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. He examines baby teeth. Baby teeth begin to grow in utero.
Dr. Manish Arora: And just like growth rings in trees, every day a tooth forms a ring. And anything that we’re exposed to in our diet, what we eat, what we breathe, what we drink gets trapped in those growth rings.

A laser cuts through the tooth to analyze whether lead is embedded in the growth rings of teeth. Dr. Mona has sent teeth from 49 Flint kids to be analyzed. This was a scan on the tooth of a child who was 6 months old when the water source switched in Flint.

Dr. Manish Arora: As we hit that six month mark where the–

Sharyn Alfonsi: Oh, my gosh–

Dr. Manish Arora: –water– the water supply was change, you can see how–

Sharyn Alfonsi: Look at that.

Dr. Manish Arora: You can see how the lead levels go up and then they just keep– keep going up as more and more lead’s entering the body.

Sharyn Alfonsi: It shoots straight up.

Dr. Manish Arora: Exactly.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Wow.

For the first time, researchers can pinpoint to the day, even before birth, when a child was exposed to lead from the water and at what levels. Those early years are a critical time for brain development.

As we were following Dr. Mona’s work in Flint, another American city was forced to hand out cases of water. Testing on the drinking water in Newark, New Jersey, found lead levels four times higher than the federal limit. In some places, higher than Flint. Newark officials were warned about it’s water more than two years ago.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: Newark, New Jersey is like living Flint all over again. If we cannot guarantee that all kids have access to safe drinking water, not just privileged kids, but all kids have access to safe drinking water. That’s just one issue. Like, who are we?

Sharyn Alfonsi: This is not isolated to Flint–

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: This is– this is an everywhere story. This is an America story.

Last month, we made another visit to Flint to check in with Sandra Jones.

She was still in command despite temperatures in the single digits. Hundreds in Flint are still coming to her church parking lot for their weekly supply of water, more than five years after the crisis began.

Produced by Guy Campanile and Lucy Hatcher. Broadcast associate, Cristina Gallotto. Edited by Matt Richman.

This content was originally published here.

China Never Reported Existence of Coronavirus to World Health Organization

Contrary to claims from both Chinese officials and the World Health Organization, China did not report the existence of the coronavirus in late 2019, according to a WHO timeline tracking the spread of the virus. Rather, international health officials discovered the virus through information posted to a U.S. website.

The quiet admission from the international health organization, which posted an “updated” timeline to its website this week, flies in the face of claims from some of its top officials, including WHO director general Tedros Adhanom, who maintained for months that China had informed his organization about the emerging sickness.

China and its allies at the WHO insisted in multiple interviews and press conferences that China came to the health organization with information about the virus. This is now known to be false. The WHO’s backtracking lends credibility to a recent congressional investigation that determined China concealed information about the virus and did not initially inform the WHO, as it was required to do.

The WHO’s updated timeline, posted online this week, now states that officials first learned about the virus on Dec. 31, 2019, through information posted on a U.S. website by doctors working in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged. This contradicts the agency’s initial timeline, which said that China first presented this information at that date.

That initial timeline stated that the “Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China, reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei Province” on Dec. 31.

These claims were carried in numerous American media outlets that relied on the WHO’s inaccurate timeline, including CNN and Axios.

Chinese officials and state-controlled media also claimed for months that the communist regime informed the WHO on or around Dec. 31. In recent days, however, Chinese officials have dropped that talking point.

Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a member of Congress’s China Task Force, was one of the first lawmakers to expose China’s lies about reporting the virus. An interim congressional report on the virus’s origins published last month first disclosed the fact that the WHO found out about the virus from online postings, not China.

“I’m glad to see the WHO and the Chinese Communist Party have both read my interim report on the origins of the pandemic and are finally admitting to the world the truth—the CCP never reported the virus outbreak to the WHO in violation of WHO regulation,” McCaul told the Washington Free Beacon in a statement. “The question now is whether the CCP will continue their false propaganda campaign that continues to claim they warned the world, or whether they will come clean and begin to work with the world health community to get to the bottom of this deadly pandemic.”

McCaul’s report makes clear that WHO director general Adhanom parroted China’s claim about self-reporting the virus.

“Director General Tedros actively engaged in an effort to defend the CCP’s leadership from criticism, negatively impacting the world’s understanding of the virus and hampering the global response effort,” the report concluded.

The WHO’s initial timeline “leaves out the fact that the WHO China Country Office was ‘informed’ by the WHO headquarters in Geneva—not PRC health authorities,” according to McCaul’s findings, which are now verified by the WHO’s revised timeline.

While initial reports of the virus did in fact originate in Wuhan, WHO officials in its headquarters found the information on an American early-warning site.

“Director General Tedros’s comments seem to suggest that Wuhan or the PRC informed the WHO of the outbreak, which is untrue,” according to the congressional report.

This content was originally published here.

Dr. Scott Atlas disputes COVID-19 fear mongering tactics from our health officials –

Dr. Scott Atlas disputes COVID-19 fear mongering tactics from our health officials

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – As coronavirus cases continue to increase across the United States, health officials and Democrat politicians seem to be using that statistic to fear monger and justify closure orders.

Dr. Scott Atlas of the Hoover Institute, discussed why we don’t need to be scared of the increase spread of coronavirus on Good Morning San Diego with KUSI’s Paul Rudy.

Atlas said that he has done more than a superficial analysis of the numbers, and after analyzing them, he doesn’t get scared.

Explaining, “When you look all over at the states who are seeing a lot of new cases, you have to look at who is getting infected because we should know by now, that the goal is not to eliminate all cases, that’s not rational, it’s not necessary, if we just protect the people who are going to have serious complications. We look at the cases, yes there’s a lot more cases, by the way they do not correlate in a time sense to any kind of reopening of states. If you look at the timing, that’s just a misstatement, a false narrative. The reality is they may correlate to the new protests and massive demonstrations, but it’s safe to say the majority of new cases are among younger, healthier people.”

Furthermore, Dr. Atlas emphasized the fact that the death rates are not going up, despite the increase in cases. “And that’s what really counts, are we getting people who are really sick and dying, and we’re not, and when we look at the hospitalizations, yes, hospitals are more crowded, but that’s mainly due to the re-installation of medical care for non COVID-19 patients.”

Dr. Atlas used Texas of an example saying, “90+% of ICU beds are occupied, but only 15% are COVID patients. 85% of the occupied beds are not COVID patients. I think we have to look at the data and be aware that it doesn’t matter if younger, healthier people get infected, I don’t know how often that has to be said, they have nearly zero risk of a problem from this. The only thing that counts are the older, more vulnerable people getting infected. And there’s no evidence that they really are.”

Dr. Atlas then pointed out the hospitalization length of stay is about half of what it once was.

This content was originally published here.

Health expert Zeke Emanuel says 250,000 Americans could die of COVID by end of year – CBS News

Bioethicist Dr. Zeke Emanuel is predicting that up to 250,000 Americans could die directly from the coronavirus by the end of the year. In an interview with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett, Emanuel, who is the vice provost for Global Initiatives and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, slammed the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic as “incompetent and pretty disastrous.”

“Before the year is out, we’ll probably have, I would think, between 220,000 and 250,000 Americans who died directly from COVID, not to mention those people who are dying indirectly,” Emanuel said in this week’s episode of “The Takeout” podcast. Emanuel singled out people with heart conditions or in need of cancer treatment who may not visit the doctor due to concerns about catching the virus as factors contributing to high indirect mortality rates.

“You’ll have a huge increase in mortality because of COVID, and that is, it seems to me, to be a failure,” Emanuel said. Emanuel is also a senior fellow for the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress, and he is also on former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign task force to address the coronavirus.

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Highlights from this week’s episode:

Emanuel noted that several states have seen an uptick in cases in recent weeks, and that the daily death tolls are comparable to what they were at the onset of the pandemic in the U.S. in March.

“That’s not progress, that’s regression. In some ways, you can say we’ve wasted four months,” Emanuel said. He also shot down President Trump’s claim that 40 million people had been tested. Forty million tests have been administered, with some people receiving multiple tests.

“We were extremely slow to develop good testing, and we still don’t have the best testing that we should,” Emanuel said.

However, Emanuel and the Trump administration do agree on one point: Schools should be reopened safely in the fall.

“We need to open up primary and secondary schools in the fall. I think it’s really important. I think you can do it safely. But whenever I say it, I don’t mean ‘no COVID,’ I mean ‘you will get COVID and kids will get COVID,’ but you can do it in a way that tries to minimize those cases,” Emanuel said. “It’s not risk-free. Life is not risk-free. But I think it’s probably worth it.”

Emanuel bemoaned how wearing a mask has become politicized, in part because the president has largely avoided wearing a mask in public.

“I heard someone saying, ‘Oh only sissies wear masks.’ Baloney! You wear a mask because you don’t want to spread it to someone else, and you don’t want to catch it from someone else,” Emanuel said. “Will it absolutely protect you? No. Will it decrease your chance of getting COVID? Yes.”

For more of Major’s conversation with Emanuel, download “The Takeout” podcast on Art19, iTunesGooglePlaySpotify and Stitcher. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch “The Takeout” on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of “The Takeout” episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to “The Takeout” on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).  

Producers: Arden Farhi, Jamie Benson, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson
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