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May 30, 2018 (San Diego's East County) -- Our Health and Science Highlights provide cutting edge news that could impact your health and our future.



For excerpts and links to full stories, click “read more” and scroll down.


To Lower Your Medicare Drug Costs, Ask Your Pharmacist for the Cash Price  (NPR)

A simple question at the pharmacy could unlock savings for millions of Medicare beneficiaries.  Under a little-known Medicare rule, they can pay a lower cash price for prescriptions instead of using their insurance and doling out the amount the policy requires. But only if they ask.  That is because pharmacists say their contracts with drug plans often contain "gag orders" forbidding them from volunteering this information.

FDA warns that Benzocaine teething products aren’t safe for children (CNN)

The danger the products pose could come in the form of methemoglobinemia, a condition in which the oxygen level in blood dips dangerously low; it can be fatal. Symptoms include rapid heart rate, lightheadedness, difficulty breathing, sleepiness, headache, skin that is pale and nails that are blue or gray. The symptoms can start minutes after a product is used or up to one to two hours later. Babies who experience these problems should get medical attention immediately.

With compassionate outreach, a city cuts its drug overdose rate in half  (CS Monitor)

...a West Virginia city that has formally embraced that idea has seen its high overdose rates drop by more than half since last year. Since December, a Quick Response Team – composed of a paramedic, police officer, and mental health specialist – has been sent to the listed address of every individual who has overdosed. They visit within 72 hours, offering treatment options and support.

Trump’s ban on global abortion funding has led to more abortions (CNN)

…Ushered in by President Donald Trump's administration, the Mexico City policy, or global gag rule, was supposed to reduce the number of abortions, but healthcare workers in Kenya say it's doing the opposite. The cuts, which left thousands of women in Kenya without contraception, have forced many to resort to risky, backstreet abortions as a form of birth control.


FBI warns Russia hacked hundreds of thousands of routers (Yahoo News)

The FBI warned on Friday that Russian computer hackers had compromised hundreds of thousands of home and office routers and could collect user information or shut down network traffic. The U.S. law enforcement agency urged the owners of many brands of routers to turn them off and on again and download updates from the manufacturer to protect themselves.

Amazon Alexa heard and sent private chat (BBC)

A couple in Portland, Oregon joked that their Amazon Alexa might be listening in to their private conversations. The joke came to an abrupt end when they discovered a conversation was indeed recorded by Alexa - and then sent to an apparently random person in their contact list.

Amazon is selling facial recognition to law enforcement—for a fistful of dollars (Washington Post)

…Amazon is providing the technology, known as Rekognition, as well as consulting services, according to the documents, which the ACLU obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. A coalition of civil rights groups, in a letter released Tuesday, called on Amazon to stop selling the program to law enforcement because it could lead to the expansion of surveillance of vulnerable communities.

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, judge rules (Washington Post)

President Trump's decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump's effort to silence his critics is not permissible because the digital space in which he engages with constituents is a public forum.

Scientists See Promise in Resurrecting These Rhinos That Are Nearly Extinct (New York Times)

Several teams of scientists are working to flip the hourglass back over. One group, led by researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, hopes to revive the northern white rhino using preserved cells. In a study published Thursday in Genome Research, the scientists sequenced the DNA of these cells and concluded that they hold a promising amount of genetic diversity for re-establishing a viable population of northern whites.

How many people do volcanoes kill?  (BBC)

Since the year 1500, about 280,000 people have been killed by volcanoes - 170,000 of those by just six eruptions…. About 2,000 people have been killed since the year 2000. Most of these deaths were caused by volcanic mudflows in the Philippines, pyroclastic flows in Indonesia, lava flows in the Democratic Republic of Congo and volcanic projectiles in Japan….  At present, about 800 million people live within 100 km of an active volcano - a distance well within reach of potentially lethal volcanic hazards.

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