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    A 93-year-old Las Vegas doctor faces up to 30 years in prison after he was convicted of illegally writing prescriptions for oxycodone and other painkillers that ended up in the hands of drug addicts and dealers. A federal court jury found Dr. Henri Wetselaar guilty Thursday of all 11 drug and money laundering-related counts contained in a 2011 indictment against him, his medical assistant and a local pharmacist. Wetselaar's medical assistant, David Litwin, was convicted of eight drug counts tied to the opioid conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson declared a mistrial in the case against the pharmacist, Jason Smith of Michigan, after jurors failed to return a verdict on a single count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone. The judge scheduled a new trial for Smith to begin May 22. Wetselaar, a pain management practitioner, was born in the Netherlands and served in World War II. His lawyers argued that his behavior reflected his age and outdated medical education, not a conspiracy to distribute painkiller pills. He was arrested in 2011 and accused of making 31 cash deposits with the proceeds totaling $263,000 over a 46-week period from the proceeds resulting from the sale of drugs including hydrocodone, the anxiety medication Xanax and the muscle relaxant Soma. The oxycodone prescriptions cost anywhere from $100 to $400 each, prosecutors said. Dawson ordered Wetselaar and Litwin remanded to custody until their sentencing on June 21.
  • Republican leaders have abruptly pulled their troubled health care overhaul bill off the House floor, short of votes and eager to avoid a humiliating defeat for President Donald Trump and GOP leaders. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., withdrew the legislation after Trump called him and asked him to halt debate without a vote, according to Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong. Just a day earlier, Trump had demanded a House vote and said if the measure lost, he would move on to other issues.
  • A federal judge has rejected requests by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and several state officials to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges the state has effectively segregated people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in institutions by failing to provide accessible community- or home-based services. Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. said Thursday that sovereign immunity granted to the Republican governor does not apply in the case and the lawsuit can proceed. He said the state waives its immunity in such cases by accepting federal funds. Disability Rights Ohio filed the complaint on behalf of six people the group says are, or are at risk of being, 'needlessly institutionalized' because of barriers to more integrated residential, employment or day services. The suit seeks class-action status for about 27,800 disabled people in similar situations. Sargus rejected all the agency directors' legal arguments for dismissing the case. However, he rejected claims against Kasich that involved the Americans with Disabilities and Social Security acts, agreeing that both are federal laws that the governor has a limited role in enforcing. Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said the state was disappointed with the judge's decision but was prepared to move forward to the next stage of litigation. The state estimates about 6,400 disabled Ohioans live in so-called intermediate care facilities, which have eight beds or more. Providers are responsible for all aspects of the person's care, including medical needs, transportation and habilitation. The suit alleges most have little to no contact with their nondisabled peers. 'Their lives are highly regimented and controlled, with little privacy, independence, or personal autonomy,' the suit says. The state contends the lawsuit is based on inaccurate information, and says people who want to leave institutionalized settings now have an opportunity to do so.
  • A federal inspector general has launched an inquiry into the Trump administration's decision to pull advertising for HealthCare.gov in the closing stretch of this year's sign-up season, according to a letter made public Friday. The unexpected ad pullback soon after President Donald Trump took office was termed 'sabotage' by Democrats and former Obama officials. The new administration said the ads were a waste of taxpayer dollars. In a letter to Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the Health and Human Services Department's inspector general's office said it has begun a 'fact-finding review.' Investigators will look at the Trump administration's actions to stop paid advertising and temporarily suspend other outreach. They'll also review the effect on enrollment, the letter said. Former Obama officials were outraged by the new administration's actions a few days before the Jan. 31 close of open enrollment. They said there's usually a surge at the end sign-up season, and the ad pullback discouraged prospective customers. Murray and Warren asked the inspector general to investigate. About 12.2 million people have signed up for coverage this year through HealthCare.gov and state insurance markets, short of earlier Obama administration projections. In a statement, Murray said HHS has 'a duty to provide the public with accurate and timely information so that they can make decisions about their health care.' There was no initial response from the Trump administration.
  • If you take your smartphone to the restroom with you, you might want to rethink that habit.  A 2011 study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found fecal matter on 1 out of every 6 smartphones. University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba went even further with his research, which found that cellphones carry 10 times the bacteria of most toilet seats. Part of the reason is that toilets get cleaned more frequently, Gerba said. People associate the bathroom with germs. Cellphones are often overlooked. >> Read more trending stories Here are five common items that are often left out of the cleaning routine: Electronic devices Cellphones are not the only electronic devices named as the dirtiest items in the home. Remote controls for televisions, DVD players and streaming devices are also overlooked during most cleanings.  Tablet devices like the iPad are also culprits, USA Today reported. If multiple people use the devices, it spreads the germs and the subsequent illness.  To clean: Electronic device surfaces can be wiped clean with disinfectant.  Kitchen sink A home’s kitchen sink carries more bacteria than both the toilet and the garbage can, Gerba’s research found.  “There’s more fecal bacteria in a sink than there is in a flushed toilet,” Gerba told “Today.” “That’s why dogs drink out of the toilet. They know better than to drink out of the kitchen sink,” he joked.  Even worse is a kitchen sponge, which Gerba found carries up to 200,000 times more bacteria than a toilet.  To clean: Gerba said kitchen sinks should be washed daily with hot, soapy water, particularly after contact with raw meat or poultry. Used sponges should be wet and popped into the microwave for a minute to sanitize them.  Playground equipment Those colorful playground sets that children love so much have proven to be magnets for bacteria.  “I won’t let my grandchildren go into playgrounds, though some of them do have hand sanitizing stations these days,” Gerba told “Good Housekeeping.” “Playgrounds are essentially public toilets for birds.” To clean: If you allow your children to play on public playgrounds, bring plenty of hand sanitizer, Gerba said.  Reusable shopping bags Reusable shopping bags are a great way to help the environment, but they can harbor health threats, including E. coli bacteria, Gerba found. The levels of bacteria found were significant enough to cause serious illness, or even death.  “Furthermore, consumers are alarmingly unaware of these risks and the critical need to sanitize their bags on a weekly basis,” Gerber said in a 2010 University of Arizona news release.  To clean: Thoroughly wash all reusable bags, including with bleach if desired.  Shoes Gerba found that it takes just two weeks for a brand new pair of shoes to collect as many as 421,000 of bacteria, according to a study of germs collected on footwear. “The common occurrence (96 percent) of coliform and E. coli bacteria on the outside of the shoes indicates frequent contact with fecal material, which most likely originates from floors in public restrooms or contact with animal fecal matter outdoors,” Gerba said.  To clean: Throwing machine washable shoes into the machine with detergent eliminates all fecal bacteria and reduces all bacteria by 90 percent or more, Gerba found.  
  • The old and the poor made out great when House Republicans failed Friday to dismantle Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. The rich and the almost rich didn't do so well. The measure would have repealed major parts of Obama's health law, capping future funding for Medicaid and cutting tax increases for high-income families, health insurance companies and drugmakers. The bill would have repealed tax credits that people can use to purchase health insurance and replace them with a new tax credit that would have been less generous for most. The winners, losers and a few in between: ___ WINNERS —Some 24 million additional people who would have been without health insurance by 2026. That's the tally according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. —Individuals ages 50 to 64. Under the plan, premiums would have gone up and tax credits for most of these people would have gone down. Premium costs for a 64-year-old making $26,500 a year would have increased by $12,900 for a single year, according to the CBO. —The poor. The bill would have limited future spending on Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, reducing their benefits. —The working poor. The bill would have raised taxes for some low-income families because the new tax credits for buying health insurance were smaller than the credits under Obama's health law. For example, families making between $20,000 and $30,000 would have received tax increases averaging $200, according to the Tax Policy Center. —Planned Parenthood. The bill would have eliminated all federal funds for the organization that provides health care to women. ___ LOSERS —The rich. The GOP health plan included nearly $1 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade, and much of that would have gone to the very wealthy. Families making more than $1 million a year would have received tax cuts averaging more than $51,000, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. —The well-off (but not quite rich). Families making more than $200,000 a year would have received tax cuts averaging $5,680. Also, people with higher incomes would have been eligible for tax credits under the GOP plan. These tax credits are used to help pay insurance premiums for people who don't have insurance at work or from federal programs like Medicare. —Medical device makers. The bill would have repealed a tax on medical devices, saving the industry $20 billion over the next decade. —Drugmakers. The bill would have repealed a tax on prescription drugs, saving the industry $29 billion over the next decade. —Young adults. The bill would have allowed insurers to charge higher premiums as people age and become more susceptible to health problems. Because of this provision, the CBO estimates that younger patients would have seen their premiums drop. —Healthy people who choose not to have health insurance. The bill would have repealed penalties for not having health insurance. —Large companies that don't provide health benefits for employees. The bill would have repealed penalties on these employers. ___ A BIT OF BOTH —Health insurance companies. The bill would have repealed a tax on health insurance companies, saving them $145 million over the next decade. However, these companies were projected to lose 24 million customers by 2026. —States. The bill would have limited the future growth of Medicaid spending, pushing the cost to the states. But the bill also would have provided much more flexibility to states on how they spend this money. ___ Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/stephenatap
  • In a humiliating failure, President Donald Trump and GOP leaders pulled their bill to repeal 'Obamacare' off the House floor Friday when it became clear it would fail badly — after seven years of nonstop railing against the law. Democrats said Americans can 'breathe a sigh of relief.' Trump said the current law was imploding 'and soon will explode.' Thwarted by two factions of fellow Republicans, from the center and far right, House Speaker Paul Ryan said President Barack Obama's health care law, the GOP's No. 1 target in the new Trump administration, will remain in place 'for the foreseeable future.' It was a stunning defeat for the new president after he had demanded House Republicans delay no longer and vote on the legislation Friday, pass or fail. His gamble failed. Instead Trump, who campaigned as a master deal-maker and claimed that he alone could fix the nation's health care system, saw his ultimatum rejected by Republican lawmakers who made clear they answer to their own voters, not to the president. He 'never said repeal and replace it in 64 days,' a dejected but still combative Trump said at the White House, though he repeatedly shouted during the presidential campaign that it was going down on Day One of his term. The bill was withdrawn just minutes before the House vote was to occur, and lawmaker said there were no plans to revisit the issue. Republicans will try to move ahead on other agenda items, including overhauling the tax code, though the failure on the health bill can only make whatever comes next immeasurably harder. Trump pinned the blame on Democrats. 'With no Democrat support we couldn't quite get there,' he told reporters in the Oval Office. 'We learned about loyalty, we learned a lot about the vote-getting process.' The Obama law was approved in 2010 with no Republican votes. Despite reports of backbiting from administration officials toward Ryan, Trump said: 'I like Speaker Ryan. ... I think Paul really worked hard.' For his part, Ryan told reporters: 'We came really close today but we came up short. ... This is a disappointing day for us.' He said the president has 'really been fantastic.' But when asked how Republicans could face voters after their failure to make good on years of promises, Ryan quietly said: 'It's a really good question. I wish I had a better answer for you.' Last fall, Republicans used the issue to gain and keep control of the White House, Senate and House. During the previous years, they had cast dozens of votes to repeal Obama's law in full or in part, but when they finally got the chance to pass a repeal version that actually had a chance to become law, they couldn't deliver. Democrats could hardly contain their satisfaction. 'Today is a great day for our country, what happened on the floor is a victory for the American people,' said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who as speaker herself helped Obama pass the Affordable Care Act in the first place. 'Let's just for a moment breathe a sigh of relief for the American people.' The outcome leaves both Ryan and Trump weakened politically. For the president, this piles a big early congressional defeat onto the continuing inquiries into his presidential campaign's Russia connections and his unfounded wiretapping allegations against Obama. Ryan was not able to corral the House Freedom Caucus, the restive band of conservatives that ousted the previous speaker. Those Republicans wanted the bill to go much further, while some GOP moderates felt it went too far. Instead of picking up support as Friday wore on, the bill went the other direction, with several key lawmakers coming out in opposition. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, chairman of a major committee, Appropriations, said the bill would raise costs unacceptably on his constituents. The defections raised the possibility that the bill would not only lose on the floor, but lose big. The GOP bill would have eliminated the Obama statute's unpopular fines on people who do not obtain coverage and would also have removed the often-generous subsidies for those who purchase insurance. Republican tax credits would have been based on age, not income like Obama's, and the tax boosts Obama imposed on higher-earning people and health care companies would have been repealed. The bill would have ended Obama's Medicaid expansion and trimmed future federal financing for the federal-state program, letting states impose work requirements on some of the 70 million beneficiaries. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the Republican bill would have resulted in 24 million additional uninsured people in a decade and lead to higher out-of-pocket medical costs for many lower-income and people just shy of age 65 when they would become eligible for Medicare. The bill would have blocked federal payments for a year to Planned Parenthood. Republicans had never built a constituency for the legislation, and in the end the nearly uniform opposition from hospitals, doctors, nurses, the AARP, consumer groups and others weighed heavily with many members. On the other side, conservative groups including the Koch outfit argued the legislation did not go far enough in uprooting Obamacare. Ryan made his announcement to lawmakers at a very brief meeting, he was greeted by a standing ovation in recognition of the support he still enjoys from many lawmakers. When the gathering broke up, Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee that helped write the bill, told reporters: 'We gave it our best shot. That's it. It's done. D-O-N-E done. This bill is dead.' ___ Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Kevin Freking, Mary Clare Jalonick, Richard Lardner, Stephen Ohlemacher, Vivian Salama, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Ken Thomas contributed to this report.
  • In a gamble with monumental political stakes, Republicans set course for a climactic House vote on their health care overhaul after President Donald Trump claimed he was finished negotiating with GOP holdouts and determined to pursue the rest of his agenda, win or lose. House Speaker Paul Ryan set the showdown for Friday, following a nighttime Capitol meeting at which top White House officials told GOP lawmakers that Trump had decided the time for talk was over. 'We have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it's collapsing and it's failing families. And tomorrow we're proceeding,' Ryan tersely told reporters after scheduling what loomed as the most momentous vote to date for Trump and for the Wisconsin Republican's own speakership. In an embarrassing and stinging setback hours earlier, leaders abruptly postponed the vote because a rebellion by conservatives and moderates would have doomed the measure. They'd hoped for a roll call Thursday, which marked the seventh anniversary of President Barack Obama's enactment of his landmark health care statute that Republicans have vowed ever since to annul. There was no evidence that leaders had nailed down sufficient support to prevail, nor that their decision to charge ahead was a feint and that they'd delay again if necessary. But they seemed to be calculating that at crunch time, enough dissidents would decide against sabotaging the bill, Trump's young presidency and the House GOP leadership's ability to set the agenda, with a single, crushing defeat. 'The president has said he wants the vote tomorrow,' White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney told the lawmakers, according to Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a Trump ally. 'If for any reason it goes down, we're just going to move forward with additional parts of his agenda. This is our moment in time.' Even if they prevail, Republicans face an uphill climb in the Senate, where conservatives and moderates are also threatening to sink it. The GOP bill eliminates the Obama statute's unpopular fines on those who do not obtain coverage and the often generous subsidies for those who purchase insurance. Instead, consumers would face a 30 percent premium penalty if they let coverage lapse. Republican tax credits would be based on age, not income. The bill would also end Obama's Medicaid expansion and trim future federal financing for the federal-state program and let states impose work requirements on some of its 70 million beneficiaries. In a bid to coax support from conservatives, House leaders proposed a fresh amendment — to be voted on Friday — repealing Obama's requirement that insurers cover 10 specified services like maternity and mental health care. Conservatives have demanded the removal of those and other conditions the law imposes on insurers, arguing they drive premiums skyward. Many moderates are opposed because they say the GOP bill would leave many voters uninsured. Medical associations, consumer groups and hospitals are opposed or voicing misgivings, and some Republican governors say the bill cuts Medicaid too deeply and would leave many low-income people uncovered. Republicans can lose only 22 votes in the face of united Democratic opposition. A tally by The Associated Press found at least 32 'no' votes, but the figure was subject to fluctuation amid frantic GOP lobbying. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, said he remained a 'no' but didn't answer when asked whether the group still had enough votes to kill the legislation. He'd long said caucus opposition alone would defeat it without changes. One member of that group, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., responded indirectly when asked if his opposition had changed. 'Everybody asked us to take a moment and reflect. Well, we'll reflect,' he said. Other foes said they'd not flipped. These included moderate Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Dan Donovan of New York and Leonard Lance of New Jersey, plus conservative Walter Jones of North Carolina, who had his own words of warning. 'He's there for three-and-a-half more years,' Jones said of Trump. 'He better be careful. He's got a lot of issues coming.' The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said changes Republican leaders had proposed before Thursday to win votes had cut the legislation's deficit reduction by more than half, to $150 billion over the next decade. But it would still result in 24 million more uninsured people in a decade. Obama's law increased coverage through subsidized private insurance for people who don't have access to workplace plans, and a state option to expand Medicaid for low-income residents. More than 20 million people gained coverage since the law was passed in 2010. Many who purchase individual health insurance and make too much to qualify for the law's tax credits have seen their premiums jump and their choices diminished. ___ Associated Press writers Matt Daly, Kevin Freking, Mary Clare Jalonick, Richard Lardner, Stephen Ohlemacher, Vivian Salama, Ken Thomas and Erica Werner contributed to this report.
  • Cancer patients often wonder 'why me?' Does their tumor run in the family? Did they try hard enough to avoid risks like smoking, too much sun or a bad diet? Lifestyle and heredity get the most blame but new research suggests random chance plays a bigger role than people realize: Healthy cells naturally make mistakes when they multiply, unavoidable typos in DNA that can leave new cells carrying cancer-prone genetic mutations. How big? About two-thirds of the mutations that occur in various forms of cancer are due to those random copying errors, researchers at Johns Hopkins University reported Thursday in the journal Science. Whoa: That doesn't mean most cases of cancer are due solely to 'bad luck.' It takes multiple mutations to turn cells into tumors — and a lot of cancer is preventable, the Hopkins team stressed, if people take proven protective steps. Thursday's report is an estimate, based on a math model, that is sure to be hotly debated by scientists who say those unavoidable mistakes of nature play a much smaller role. But whatever the ultimate number, the research offers a peek at how cancer may begin. And it should help with the 'why me' question from people who have 'done everything we know can be done to prevent cancer but they still get it,' said Hopkins' Dr. Bert Vogelstein, a pioneer in cancer genetics who co-authored the study. 'They need to understand that these cancers would have occurred no matter what they did.' GENE MUTATIONS CAUSE CANCER BUT WHAT CAUSES THE MUTATIONS? You might inherit some mutations, like flaws in BRCA genes that are infamous for causing aggressive breast and ovarian cancers in certain families. More commonly, damage is caused by what scientists call environmental factors — the assault on DNA from the world around us and how we live our lives. There's a long list of risks: Cigarette smoke, UV light from the sun, other forms of radiation, certain hormones or viruses, an unhealthy diet, obesity and lack of exercise. Then there are those random copy errors in cells — what Vogelstein calls our baseline rate of genetic mutations that will occur no matter how healthy we live. One way to think of it: If we all have some mutations lurking in our cells anyway, that's yet another reason to avoid known risks that could push us over the edge. HOW CELLS MAKE TYPOS New cells are formed when an existing cell divides and copies its DNA, one cell turning into two. Every time DNA is copied, about three random mutations occur, Vogelstein said. We all harbor these kinds of mutations and most don't hurt us because they're in genes that have nothing to do with cancer or the body's defense mechanisms spot and fix the damage, said Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society, who wasn't involved in the new research. But sometimes the errors hit the wrong spot and damage genes that can spur cancerous growth or genes that help the cell spot and fix problems. Then the damaged cells can survive to copy themselves, allowing important mutations to gradually build up over time. That's one reason the risk of cancer increases with age. THE STUDY FINDINGS Thursday's study follows 2015 research by Vogelstein and statistician Cristian Tomasetti that introduced the idea that a lot of cancer may be due to 'bad luck,' because those random DNA copying mistakes are more common in some kinds of cancer than others. Cancer prevention advocates worried the idea might sway people to give up on healthier lifestyles. This time around, the duo analyzed mutations involved in 32 types of cancer to estimate that 66 percent of the gene flaws are due to random copy errors. Environmental and lifestyle factors account for another 29 percent, while inherited genes made up just 5 percent of the mutations. DIFFERENT ORGANS, DIFFERENT RISKS The same person can harbor a mix of mutations sparked by random DNA mistakes, heredity or environmental factors. And which is the most common factor differs by cancer, the Hopkins team said. For example, they estimate that random cell errors account for 77 percent of critical mutations in pancreatic cancer — while still finding some caused by lifestyle risks like smoking. And the random DNA mistakes caused nearly all the mutations leading to childhood cancers, which is not surprising because youngsters have had little time to be exposed to environmental risks. In contrast, most lung cancer mutations were the result of lifestyle factors, mainly from smoking. And while lung tissue doesn't multiply frequently, the small number of mutations caused by chance DNA errors might explain rare cases of never-smokers who still get sick. 'This paper is a good paper,' said the cancer society's Brawley. 'It gives prevention its due respect.' OTHER SCIENTISTS SEE MORE TO THE STORY Estimates from Britain suggest 42 percent of cancers are potentially preventable with a healthy lifestyle, and the Hopkins team says their mutation research backs that idea. But Dr. Yusuf Hannun, Stony Brook University's cancer center director, contends that's just the number known to be preventable today — researchers may discover additional environmental risks we can guard against in the future. He said the Hopkins paper exaggerates the effect of the unavoidable DNA mistakes. His own 2015 research concluded they account for 10 to 30 percent of cancer cases.
  • The World Health Organization says it's aiming to vaccinate more than 115 million children against polio across Africa next week, in its continuing bid to wipe out the crippling disease. In a statement Thursday, the U.N. health agency said all children under five are being targeted by more than 190,000 vaccinators in 13 central and West African countries, including Nigeria, Congo and the Central African Republic. Eradicating polio requires reaching more than 90 percent of vulnerable children and rigorous surveillance, tasks that have proven nearly impossible in war-torn areas. Last year, WHO identified several polio cases in northern Nigeria despite previously declaring the country 'polio-free.' Nigeria is thought to be the only country in Africa where polio is spreading. Elsewhere, polio continues to sicken children in Pakistan and Afghanistan.