Category Archives: Huffington Post

Stephen Colbert Mocks The Soap Opera That Is Sean Spicer’s Press Briefings

Life is just an endless soap opera episode for White House press secretary Sean Spicer. At least that’s how President Donald Trump reportedly imagines it.
According to the Washington Post, Trump won’t fire Spicer…

New Version Of Obamacare Repeal Would Gut Pre-Existing Condition Guarantee

Apparently yanking away the funds that allow millions of people to get health insurance isn’t enough for some House Republicans.

Now they also want to gut the Affordable Care Act’s protection for people with pre-existing conditions.

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) on Tuesday formally unveiled an amendment to the American Health Care Act, the bill to repeal Obamacare that Republicans tried to get through the House last month. The amendment, which HuffPost’s Matt Fuller first reported last week, is the product of negotiations among key Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence.

A main goal of the proposal is to win over conservative House members who last month opposed the GOP repeal bill because, in their view, it still left too much of the 2010 health care law in place. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-S.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, helped to craft the amendment. And although he has not yet declared support for it publicly, a few other conservatives have signaled they may be ready to switch from no to yes.

It’s easy enough to see why. If enacted, it would allow states to re-create the conditions that existed before the Affordable Care Act took effect ― a time when insurance premiums were cheaper, chiefly because insurers didn’t have to pay the big medical bills of people with serious conditions.

At the same time, the new proposal leaves intact most of the initial bill’s big financial changes. Those include shifting the law’s health insurance subsidies, which would offer less help to poor people, and dramatically cutting funds for Medicaid, which would free up money for tax cuts for the wealthy.

But conservative dissension wasn’t the only obstacle to passage last time around.

Moderate Republicans also objected to the bill, citing, among other things, the huge loss of insurance coverage it would cause. The Congressional Budget Office predicted that the number of uninsured Americans would climb by 24 million if the law took effect ― partly because people would lose financial assistance they need to pay for health insurance, and partly because people depending on Medicaid would no longer be eligible for it.

Instead of addressing those concerns ― say, by pulling back on the huge Medicaid cut ― this proposal seems to make repeal even less palatable to moderates. By gutting the protection for people with pre-existing conditions, the proposal attacks a feature of the health care law that has been wildly popular, even with Republicans. It also violates a key promise that virtually every Republican, including President Donald Trump, has made repeatedly.

How The Proposal Guts Pre-Existing Condition Protections

The measure’s supporters insist that their proposal would not harm people with serious medical problems. In fact, a clause states explicitly: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting health insurance issuers to limit access to health coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions.”

But that is exactly what it would do.

By now, most people know that the Affordable Care Act protects people with pre-existing conditions. But not everybody realizes that the law accomplishes this through several mechanisms that interact.

The law doesn’t simply prohibit insurers from denying coverage outright to people with medical problems, it also prohibits insurers from charging those people more ― or from selling policies that skimp on or leave out key benefits, rendering insurance useless to people who depend on those benefits.

Under the new proposal, insurers still couldn’t reject people who have pre-existing conditions. But states could allow insurers to charge those people higher premiums ― and to sell policies without Obamacare’s essential benefits.

This approach provides access to people with pre-existing conditions in theory but not in practice.
Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Conservatives have long objected to these features of the Affordable Care Act, because they drive up premiums for younger and healthier people. What conservatives fail to mention is that, without these provisions, people with medical problems end up paying a great deal more for their health care, because they face much higher premiums or can’t find policies to cover their medical needs. Ultimately, many end up with no insurance at all.

A recent analysis by researchers at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress examined the likely effects of such a proposal on premiums for people with medical conditions. For conditions like asthma or diabetes without complications, the researchers predicted, insurers would seek premiums more than twice as high as the standard rates. For people with metastatic cancer, the researchers concluded, insurers would ask for premiums 35 times higher than usual ― pushing premiums well beyond $100,000 a year. Needless to say, that’s more than virtually anybody could or would pay for insurance.

“This approach provides access to people with pre-existing conditions in theory but not in practice, since they’d be charged astronomical premiums if states allow it,” Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, said Tuesday evening.

The proposal comes with plenty of caveats, like requiring states to seek waivers from the Department of Health and Human Services before eliminating those rules on insurance. These protections don’t appear to mean a whole lot, however, because the conditions for getting the waivers are broad and easy to satisfy.

“Essentially, any state that wanted a waiver would get one,” Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University, wrote in a blog posted Tuesday evening for the journal Health Affairs. And even states that wanted to keep the existing consumer protections in place could be under enormous pressure from insurers to change them.

Defenders of the Republican proposal are likely to insist, as they always do, that so-called high-risk pools can take of people with pre-existing conditions. But few experts familiar with the history of health policy take this vow seriously because such high-risk pools existed before and rarely worked well.

And, of course, the high-risk pools wouldn’t do much good for the millions who now depend on either Obamacare’s financial assistance or its expansions of Medicaid for coverage ― and would lose it once the money for those programs was taken away from them.

Curiously, the bill would leave the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections in place for members of Congress and their staffs, as Sarah Kliff of Vox reported.

It’s Hard To Know How Serious This Is

Exactly how House Republicans will react to this proposal remains to be seen. In the last few weeks, moderates within the GOP caucus have become, if anything, more outspoken about their determination to keep some of the law’s consumer protections in place. And House leadership has been relatively quiet about the negotiations, which have apparently been driven by the White House.

Meanwhile, polling has detected a clear shift in public opinion away from repeal. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll that came out Tuesday, 61 percent of Americans said they prefer Congress “keep and try to improve” the 2010 health care law, while 37 percent say they want Congress to “repeal and replace it.”

The same poll found that 70 percent of Americans favor requiring all states to prohibit higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, while 62 percent favor requiring all states to make plans cover essential benefits including “preventive services, maternity and pediatric care, hospitalization and prescription drugs.”

In other words, strong majorities oppose both of the key provisions in this new plan. That doesn’t mean it can’t pass. But it means that Republicans voting for it would be risking a pretty big political backlash ― while making insurance less accessible for some of the people who need it most.

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Pope Francis Calls For ‘Revolution Of Tenderness’ In Surprise TED Talk

Pope Francis delivered a stern warning to the world’s powerful, saying they need to be more humble or face ruin, and he called on the masses to join him in a “revolution of tenderness.” 
In a surprise appearance via video…

White House: Trump’s Trade Call With Trudeau ‘Amicable.’ Canada: Not So Much.

Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump spoke on Tuesday amid increased trade tensions, but summaries of both sides of the conversation could make one wonder if the two world leaders were on the same phone call. 

Earlier this week, the U.S. announced that it would impose a tariff of about 20 percent on softwood lumber imported from Canada, a move Trump characterized as his “tough on trade” presidential style.

Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2017

“We don’t want to be taken advantage of by other countries, and that’s stopping and that’s stopping fast,” Trump said Monday before signing an executive order on an agriculture task force. 

On Tuesday, Trudeau and Trump spoke on the phone about the lumber disagreement as well as complaints over dairy trade. Trudeau’s office released a 213-word statement after the call, saying the prime minister “refuted baseless claims” about Canada’s softwood lumber industry and rejected the decision to impose “unfair duties.”

The White House described the call as “amicable.”

A side-by-side comparison of the drastically different summaries made the rounds on Twitter. 

Left: Prime Minister’s office readout of Trudeau’s phone call with Trump

Right: White House readout of the very same call


— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) April 26, 2017

ME: The date went well, I think

YOU: He set fire to the table and then disappeared with my dog

— Mark Berman (@markberman) April 26, 2017

According to the Canadian Press, disputes over lumber pricing between the two countries typically come up once every 10 years and usually result in negotiated settlements.

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Rabbit In Running To Be World’s Largest Dies On United Flight

All eyes are on United Airlines again after a giant bunny died while “flying the friendly skies.”
Annette Edwards, a giant-rabbit breeder, told TMZ that her 3-foot bunny, Simon, was found dead in the plane’s cargo after a United fligh…

Fox News Anchor Among Group Alleging Racial Discrimination In Class-Action Suit

A group of 11 current and former Fox News employees filed a class-action lawsuit against the television network on Tuesday, claiming years of “abhorrent, intolerable” racial discrimination.

The suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx, amends an earlier complaint filed in March by two women who, at the time, cited “top-down racial harassment,” The New York Times notes. The suit now includes Kelly Wright, who is co-anchor of “America’s News Headquarters” on Fox News, and eight others. It specifically targets the company’s lawyer, Dianne Brandi, and then-comptroller Judith Slater, and cites the behavior of former network superstar Bill O’Reilly.

“The only consistency at Fox is the abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination … more akin to plantation-style management than a modern-day work environment,” the suit reads.

The complaint says O’Reilly refused to allow Wright to discuss growing racial tension in the U.S. on “The O’Reilly Factor,” instead saying the host should call up network executives and “offer to sing the national anthem at the Fox News Town Halls.”

“Despite his outstanding performance, and because he is black, Mr. Wright has been effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a ‘Jim Crow’ ― the racist caricature of a black entertainer,” the suit continues. “Rather than viewing Mr. Wright as the two time Emmy Award recipient that he is, O’Reilly saw Mr. Wright as an entertainer and utility player.”

In a statement, a Fox News spokesperson rejected the allegations in the complaint, saying the network would “vigorously defend these cases.”

“Fox News and Dianne Brandi vehemently deny the race discrimination claims in both lawsuits. They are copycat complaints of the original one filed last month,” the spokesperson said in an email.

The amended complaint also says that Slater, Fox News’ comptroller, mocked and berated employees over their pronunciation of certain words, such as “mother,” “father” and “month.” When employees tried to address the behavior with company lawyers, the suit says, they were told “nothing could be done because Slater knew too much about senior executives.”

Lawyers for Slater told the Times that the lawsuit was “meritless and frivolous” and that claims against her were “completely false.”

Fox News has faced a litany of legal action over the past year, including a lawsuit by former host Gretchen Carlson that led to the ouster of Chairman Roger Ailes. A separate complaint was filed against the former executive this month by a current Fox contributor, Julie Roginsky, who accused Ailes of harassing her and the network of retaliating against her for rebuffing him.

Similar complaints led to the shocking downfall of O’Reilly earlier this month, prompting the network to make stark changes to its lineup. Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of parent company 21st Century Fox, sent a memo to Fox News employees this week addressing the turmoil:

“I know the last few weeks have been tough for everyone here, but our passion for news and commitment to our viewers continue to lead us through. Congratulations and thank you for all your hard work.”

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The Pink Pegasus Is Disneyland’s Spin On The Unicorn Frappuccino

It’s only been a few days since Starbucks closed the curtain on its made-for-Instagram Unicorn Frappuccino, but the follow-up flavors are flowing. One Starbucks in California conjured up the Dragon Frappuccino, while another location is mixing up Unicorn Lemonades.

But perhaps the most magically inspired drink has come from Disneyland.

The Starbucks located at Downtown Disney, adjacent to the Disneyland theme park, in Anaheim, California, blended together the Pink Pegasus and served it as a store exclusive.

Named after the winged horse from Disney’s “Hercules,” this pink drink was created after the store ran out of ingredients for the Unicorn Frappuccino, according to E! News. Flavors in the Pink Pegasus included white mocha and raspberry.

It may have been missing the swirl of sour blue from the Unicorn Frapp, but it still looked just as pretty.

The Downtown Disney Starbucks doled out the Pink Pegasus over the weekend, but like all mythical creatures, it remains elusive as ever. An employee at the California coffee shop told HuffPost that the Pink Pegasus was no longer being served. 

If you missed the window of opportunity to try the magical blended drink, indulge in the FOMO below.

I just had a #PinkPegasus your unicorn is inferior to this. #DowntownDisney

— Kiniro (@KiniroTonada) April 23, 2017

#DowntownDisney #Starbucks didn’t have a #UnicornFrapuccino but they did have a #PinkPegasus… which apparently is exclusive to this store.

— releasethedogs (@releasethedogs) April 21, 2017

Forget the @Starbucks #unicornfrappuccino Downtown Disney store has #PinkPegasus !! Raspberry yummyness!!

— Christi Pedigo (@christipedigo) April 21, 2017

#pinkpegasus #starbucks #basicbutnotbasic

A post shared by @asapsur on Apr 22, 2017 at 6:04pm PDT

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Canada And The U.S. Face Off As Trade War Heats Up

OTTAWA, April 25 (Reuters) – The United States and Canada faced off on Tuesday in a renewed battle over softwood lumber that threatened to spill over into multiple other sectors, though President Donald Trump said he did not fear a trade war.

Canada vowed to resist Washington’s move on Monday to impose tariffs on lumber that mostly feeds U.S. homebuilding, noting trade authorities have consistently sided with Ottawa in the long-standing dispute.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Trump on Tuesday to reject “the baseless allegations” against Canada’s industry and the “unfair decision” to impose tariffs, said a statement from Trudeau’s office.

“The Prime Minister stressed the government of Canada will vigorously defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry,” said the statement, which nevertheless added both men agreed that a negotiated settlement was important.

The heated rhetoric came amid fresh attacks from the U.S. president against Canada’s dairy industry, and just two months after the two leaders held a warm meeting where Trump said the bilateral trade relationship only needed “tweaking.”

“People don’t realize Canada’s been very rough on the United States … They’ve outsmarted our politicians for years,” Trump said during a meeting with agricultural leaders.

“We don’t want to be taken advantage of by other countries, and that’s stopping and that’s stopping fast,” he added.

Washington said Monday it will impose preliminary anti-subsidy duties averaging 20 percent on imports of Canadian softwood lumber, a move that affects some $5.66 billion worth of imports.

The affected Canadian firms are West Fraser Timber Co Ltd , Canfor Corp, Conifex Timber Inc, Western Forest Products Inc, Interfor Corp and Resolute FP Canada Ltd.

Shares in Canadian lumber companies rose as the level of the new tariffs came in at the low end of what investors were expecting. Canada’s main stock index notched a two-month high.

The two countries found themselves on a collision course over lumber ― a subject that has irritated bilateral relations for decades ― after a previous agreement had expired.

In a telephone call earlier in the day with the premiers of Canada’s 10 provinces, Trudeau said Ottawa would use litigation to press its case, a separate statement from his office said.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said Canada was mulling options such as a World Trade Organization or NAFTA challenge, and would help companies and workers who lose their jobs because of the tariff.


The tensions, which follow comments by Trump about Canada’s “unfair” dairy system, sent the Canadian dollar to a 14-month low as investors braced for tense negotiations with Canada’s largest market.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday called Canada a close ally, but said that did not mean Canadians do not have to play by the rules. Ross said that while no immediate further actions were being contemplated, the disputes point to the need to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement sooner rather than later.

Canada’s Carr rejected any suggestion that Canada was not playing by the rules.

“Independent trade panels have repeatedly found these (U.S. lumber) claims to be baseless. We have prevailed in the past, and we will do so again,” he told a news conference.

The two countries and Mexico are preparing to renegotiate the 23-year-old NAFTA.

Canada’s share of the U.S. lumber market has ranged from 26 percent to 31.5 percent since 2006, when the countries signed an agreement, down from 34 percent, before that, said Duncan Davies of lumber producer Interfor Corp.

“For us, (U.S. tariffs are) a negative effect on our Canadian business, but the real loser in all of this is the U.S. homebuilder and U.S. consumer … That’s why we think this is such a misguided effort,” Davies said.

A U.S. homebuilder group called the ruling “shortsighted.”

Canadian Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, in China to boost sales of softwood lumber, said there had never been a better time to diversify exports.

“There is enormous potential,” he said from Beijing, citing heavy Chinese demand.

(Additional reporting by Leah Schnurr in Ottawa, Alastair Sharp and Fergal Smith in Toronto, Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Allison Lampert in Montreal and Eric Walsh in Washington; Writing by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler)

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Fired Surgeon General Leaves Behind A Mixed Record On Gun Violence

President Donald Trump’s administration relieved Vivek Murthy of his surgeon general post Friday, cutting his four-year term in half. However, it’s not Murthy’s firing but his silence on gun violence that may tarnish his legacy. 

In an April 21 Facebook post about his departure, Murthy highlighted his report on alcohol, drugs and health, as well as the millions of letters he mailed to doctors imploring them to join him in fighting the opioid crisis, as among his accomplishments. 

“While I had hoped to do more to help our nation tackle its biggest health challenges, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have served,” Murthy wrote. “Thank you, America, for the privilege of a lifetime.”

While Murthy will be remembered for shining a light on addiction in America, the way his predecessors highlighted AIDS and smoking as public health problems, he’ll also be remembered for his views on guns, which nearly kept him from being confirmed as surgeon general.

As co-founder of Doctors for America, initially named Doctors for Obama, Murthy had been outspoken about addressing gun violence as a public health problem. (His wife, Dr. Alice Chen, whom he married in 2015, is executive director of Doctors for America and a vocal advocate for gun violence research.) 

After his 2013 nomination by President Barack Obama, Murthy quickly found himself in the crosshairs of the National Rifle Association, and his confirmation took a year. Tweets like the one below from 2012 likely contributed to the impression that he would advocate for gun control. 

Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c they’re scared of NRA. Guns are a health care issue. #debatehealth

— Vivek Murthy (@vivek_murthy) October 17, 2012

The NRA, in its effort to block Murthy, lobbied Senate leaders, alerting them to his views on ammunition limits, gun buyback programs and federally funded gun violence research.  

“Murthy’s record of political activism in support of radical gun control measures raises significant concerns about the likelihood he would use the office of Surgeon General to further his preexisting campaign against gun ownership,” the NRA wrote on its website in 2014.

Murthy’s silence creates mixed legacy on gun violence   

In December 2014, Murthy gained confirmation after promising senators he wouldn’t advocate for gun control as surgeon general. 

“I do not intend to use my office as surgeon general as a bully pulpit on gun control,” he said. 

True to his word, Murthy rarely mentioned firearms or gun violence during his time as surgeon general.

“He has been rather mum on the issue, as has everybody in his administration,” Dr. Sandro Galea, an epidemiologist and a dean at the Boston University School of Public Health, told HuffPost. 

Dr. Mark Rosenberg, the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, sees that as a missed opportunity. 

“He was a person who was brilliant,” Rosenberg told HuffPost. “He knew about the public health approach. He knew about the cost, the consequences and prevention of gun violence. And yet he made a deal to be silent about this.

“Someone that we needed more than ever made a deal to be silent. I think that was a huge mistake.”

Why calling gun violence a public health problem is controversial 

Referring to gun violence as a public health concern, rather than solely a criminal justice issue, is controversial in Congress. In public health circles, it’s common sense.

“The statements I’ve made in the past about gun violence being a public health issue, I stand by those comments because they’re a fact,” Murthy told The Washington Post in 2015.

“They’re a fact that nearly every medical professional who’s ever cared for a patient can attest to.” 

More than 30,000 Americans die by firearms every year, according to the CDC. That puts doctors who treat gun-related injuries on the front lines of an issue that lacks comprehensive research and data.

And although suicides make up the bulk of these deaths, gun homicides are a significant problem in the United States and far outstrip the gun violence levels in other developed nations.

The NRA spent more than $36 million toward electing Trump and Republican Congress members during the 2016 election, more money than on any election in history, according to The Trace. Trump is scheduled to speak at the NRA’s leadership forum on April 28, making him the first president in 34 years to do so.

Trump has yet to nominate a replacement for Murthy, whose deputy, Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams, is now acting surgeon general.

It’s not unprecedented for an incoming administration to appoint a surgeon general whose views line up with its own. In 1961, Dr. Leroy E. Burney stepped down to allow the Kennedy administration to nominate a surgeon general. (Burney had served a full four-year term.)    

It remains to be seen whether Murthy will address gun violence now that he’s no longer surgeon general.

“I got into some trouble for saying gun violence is a public health issue,” Murthy told Stat last year. “I was stating what I think is the obvious, and I think most people in the country understand, which is that far too many people die from gun violence. And in my book, every single death from gun violence is a tragedy because it was preventable.”

This reporting is brought to you by HuffPost’s health and science platform, The Scope. Like us on Facebook and Twitter and tell us your story:

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Children In Poorest Neighborhoods Most Vulnerable To Fatal Child Abuse

(Reuters Health) – Children in America’s poorest communities have three times the risk of dying from child abuse before age 5 as children in the wealthiest neighborhoods, a new study finds.

“We think our study should inform public health leaders and local clinicians to be aware that children living in high-poverty communities are really a vulnerable group at increased risk of death due to child abuse,” lead author Dr. Caitlin Farrell, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, said in a phone interview.

Farrell and her team analyzed death certificates for young children and U.S. Census poverty data from 1999 through 2014. For children ages 4 and under, counties with the highest concentrations of poverty had more than triple the rate of child-abuse fatalities compared to counties with the lowest concentrations of poverty, the study reported in Pediatrics found.

Nearly 10 out of every 100,000 children died as a result of child abuse in the most impoverished counties, the study found.

African-American children were the most vulnerable regardless of where they lived.

Among every 100,000 young children, eight African-Americans died from assault, shaken-baby syndrome, abusive head trauma, suffocation, strangulation or another form of child abuse, compared to three white children, the study found.

The fatality rate for African-American children in the richest counties was higher than the fatality rate for white children in the poorest.

Farrell can’t explain why African-American infants and toddlers were most at risk of dying from abuse. She called for more research and for the development of policies and plans aimed specifically at protecting poor children and African-American children.

During the 15 years covered by the study, 11,149 children died of child abuse before turning 5 years old. Children under the age of 3 comprised the vast majority, or 71 percent, of the deaths, the authors wrote.

African-American children represented a disproportionate 37 percent of the nationwide child-abuse deaths.

“We hope our study can serve as a catalyst for researchers to further explore the complex relationship between community poverty and child abuse,” Farrell said. “Ultimately, this information is needed for policymakers, public health officials and clinicians to enact effective prevention strategies.”

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Robert Block said the study’s findings should come as no surprise.

“What may be surprising is that although this fact is both intuitive and now statistically proven, given the significant percentage of children living in poverty, the United States has yet to develop a comprehensive plan to address the issue,” he wrote. Block, who was not involved with the study, is a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and emeritus professor at the University of Oklahoma – Tulsa University School of Community Medicine in Tulsa.

Poverty-related factors – such as food insecurity, unemployment and living in unsafe neighborhoods with a high prevalence of gun violence – can lead to frustrations and consequent stressors that can lead to child abuse, Block wrote.

Parenting education could help, as could educating community leaders to address the challenges of poverty in an effort to reduce frustration, drug addiction, family violence and other stresses, he wrote.

“To change the influence of poverty and race on the incidence of child-abuse deaths will not be easy,” Block said in an email. “Early identification of troubled parents as part of comprehensive pediatric evaluations might be a beginning.”

Farrell also called for more preventive measures during children’s wellness checks in pediatric clinics.

One limitation of the study is that it could not tease out pockets of poverty within affluent counties or pockets of wealth within poor counties. The study also could not detect possible bias on the part of the medical examiner in determining the cause of death.


SOURCE: and Pediatrics, online April 24, 2017.

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