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Preview: Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Science Health & Science News From the Associated Press


Q&A: New sign-up season; new woes for Obama health law

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 07:58:06 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is leaving the White House in a few months, but the troubles of his signature health care law continue to make headlines. With premiums rising by double digits and many consumers scrambling to replace coverage because their insurer bailed out, the 2017 sign-up season that starts Nov. 1 looks challenging. Obama says it's just "growing pains" but critics see the threat of market collapse, a death spiral. The 2010 health care law aimed to create a single market in each state for health insurance purchased by individuals. [...] consumers who bypass the public insurance exchanges and buy individual policies from an insurer are not insulated from premium increases. The administration estimates that 6.9 million people currently buy coverage outside the marketplaces, and of those, nearly two-thirds would not be eligible for subsidies if they looked within the exchanges. [...] switching to reduce your premiums may mean having to accept higher out-of-pocket costs, or a different network of doctors, or a new list of preferred medications. While there's strong evidence that competition among insurers helps to keep premiums in check, it's not clear that insurers bailing out is the main reason driving double-digit increases. Administration officials say a smoother website should make it easier to compare plans on features that consumers care about, such as which doctors participate. The so-called "cost sharing reductions" are keyed to a consumer's income and are available for people making up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $50,400 for a family of three. If you're unfamiliar with health insurance jargon, seek out an enrollment counselor in your community.

The Trump-Clinton Twitter war: Bludgeon vs. stiletto

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 07:05:44 UT

NEW YORK (AP) — Back in June, when Donald Trump slammed President Barack Obama's endorsement of Hillary Clinton on Twitter, the Democrat's campaign was quick to tweet back a chilly three-word response: "Delete your account ." "People are using Twitter to connect more directly to the live events, moments and candidates of this campaign in a way that voters have never been able to do before," says Adam Sharp, Twitter's head of news, government and elections. The former reality-TV star and GOP presidential nominee draws outsized attention for what he's tweeting and retweeting on a near-daily basis, most recently for his attacks on fellow Republicans and unsupported claims that the Nov. 8 election will be "rigged." During his primary campaign, Trump drew regular news coverage for Twitter assaults that bludgeoned opponents with insults and sometimes baseless charges. While he constantly refers to Clinton as "Crooked Hillary" and has continued to criticize the media for reporting that he is falling behind in the polls, he's also launched long, and sometimes late-night, Twitter broadsides on a beauty queen, the Muslim family of a slain U.S. soldier and a federal judge. Trump, who joined Twitter in 2009, has long used the medium as a direct channel to the public for promoting himself and testing the political waters — for instance, by fueling the lie that Obama wasn't born in the U.S. Trump's campaign staffers do sometimes seize the wheel, as when the account tweeted "thoughts and prayers " for NBA star Dwayne Wade following the shooting death of his cousin in August. (Rare tweets directly from the candidate are signed "-H.") Many of the campaign's tweets are the typical boilerplate of politics — thanks to supporters, reiterations of the candidate's positions, forwarding news of endorsements and other developments. Clinton's digital team offered Snapchat filters during the GOP convention that let people paste o

Rehabilitated orangutans freed in Borneo as species dwindles

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 06:12:56 UT

The long-limbed hirsute primates were the ninth set of Bornean orangutans to be released into natural habitat by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation after years-long rehabilitation from trauma often inflicted by people. Taken from their sanctuary, Samboja Lestari, to an even remoter spot on the island of Borneo, a journey by road, boat and foot that takes nearly 24 hours, the orangutans bolted from their holding boxes and scaled the nearest trees with astonishing speed and agility. "Because we love them, we have to let them go, to be free in their habitat," said Jamartin Sihite, chief executive of the foundation, after all five orangutans had climbed into the tropical forest canopy. Bornean orangutans were this year declared critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to hunting for their meat, which kills 2,000 to 3,000 a year, and destruction of tropical forests for plantation agriculture. The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, one of several groups focused on oranguatan conservation, has 60-year concession rights to about 86,000 hectares (212,000 acres) of forest in Borneo that it bought from the government in 2011 for 12.9 billion Indonesian rupiah ($1.5 million at the time), though it says only about 20 to 25 percent of it is suitable orangutan habitat.

Man accused in hospital computer hack wages hunger strike

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 04:44:44 UT

BOSTON (AP) — The man who acknowledges he attacked the computer network at world-renowned Boston children's hospital two years ago, costing it hundreds of thousands of dollars, is unapologetic and now waging a hunger strike in prison as he awaits trial. Gottesfeld wants the presidential candidates to pledge to protect children who've been sent to residential treatment centers, psychiatric hospitals and other institutions. After the girl's parents rejected that diagnosis and tried to take her back to Tufts, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families took custody of her, touching off a bitter dispute. The case drew national media attention, and various groups cited it as an example of governmental interference with parental rights. Prosecutors allege he posted a YouTube video on behalf of the hacking group Anonymous that included a computer-generated voice stating, "To the Boston Children's Hospital — why do you employee people that clearly do not put patients first?" The video called for the firing of a physician who treated Pelletier and said, "Test us, and you shall fail."

Justin Timberlake's ballot selfie highlights mixed laws

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 04:08:45 UT

While secrecy in the voting booth has become a thing of the past for those ready to share their views and daily lives on social media, laws nationwide are mixed on whether voters are allowed to take pictures of themselves voting and their ballots. Federal courts have struck down bans in New Hampshire and Indiana, and on Monday, a judge in Michigan blocked enforcement of a ban on ballot selfies, saying it violates free speech. Tennessee Secretary of State spokesman Adam Ghassemi said officials are "thrilled Justin can't stop the feeling" but reminded voters to use their phones inside polling locations only to help them vote. [...] election moderators have discretion to prohibit activity "that threatens the orderly process of voting or the privacy of another voter's ballot." Election officials discourage people from taking pictures but won't do anything to stop them, said Tamara Robinson, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Board of Elections. Secretary of State spokesman Bradford Queen says state law does not allow people to record the likeness of a voter, but the law does not say whether voters can record their own likeness. [...] the secretary of state's office routinely tells county clerks the law does not prohibit ballot selfies. The secretary of state discourages ballot selfies because there's a ban on making unauthorized ballot copies, but there's no law against voters posting photos of their marked ballot. Lawyers for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson predicted "chaos" at polling places and asked the judge to consider freezing her order while they pursue an appeal in a higher court. Law does not specifically prohibit the use of cameras at polling places, but election administrators and judges have broad authority to limit disruptive activity, according to Emily Dean, spokeswoman for the secretary of state. The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston last month upheld a decision that a ban was unconstitutional, s

Chinese firm says it did all it could ahead of cyberattack

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 03:32:03 UT

Liu Yuexin, Xiongmai's marketing director, told The Associated Press that Xiongmai and other companies across the home surveillance equipment industry were made aware of the vulnerability in April 2015. The hack has heightened long-standing fears among security experts that the rising number of interconnected home gadgets, appliances and even automobiles represent a cybersecurity nightmare. Unidentified hackers seized control of gadgets including Xiongmai's on Friday and directed them to launch an attack that temporarily disrupted access to a host of sites, ranging from Twitter and Netflix to Amazon and Spotify, according to U.S. web security researchers. "The issue with the consumer-connected device is that there is nearly no firewall between devices and the public internet," said Tracy Tsai, an analyst at Gartner, adding that many consumers leave the default setting on devices for ease of use without knowing the dangers. Xiongmai and Dahua, a video surveillance manufacturer also based in the eastern Chinese tech hub of Hangzhou, first came under scrutiny several weeks ago after Flashpoint assessed that hackers had controlled their devices to attack the website of cybersecurity writer Brian Krebs, among other targets.