Green heating system accused of causing ‘fuel poverty’ – BBC News

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Image caption District heating is seen as a new cleaner, cheaper way to keep homes warm, but some residents say its not working as well as it should.

A heating system meant to reduce bills is leaving people in fuel poverty, according to campaigners and residents.

The government wants millions of us to get heat and hot water from “district heating networks” to help meet carbon reduction targets.

But residents on some networks say they are more expensive than traditional heating and have been beset with problems.

Providers are working to tackle issues and say some schemes work brilliantly.

Instead of having a gas boiler in every home, heat networks send heat and hot water to numerous properties along a system of underground pipes from one central communal heat source.

This could be a mini-power station in the middle of a housing estate, or waste heat from a recycling plant or a factory.

Image caption Uzoamaka Okafor says the heating provided by the submarine power station has been beset with problems.

Those living on the Myatt’s Field North Oval Quarter estate get heat from a small power station in a building known as the submarine. The system, run by E.on, was installed when the estate was redeveloped.

Uzoamaka Okafor, chair of the residents’ association, said the problems were causing a lot of distress, particularly to elderly and vulnerable residents.

She said some smart meters did not work, which meant people were being sent high estimated bills, including some who were being asked for hundreds of pounds a month.

She said: “It’s been riddled with issues, from intermittent hot water and heating, a number of outages, to concerns around high estimates bills, customer service and technical faults.

“There are lots of residents that do not put their heating on at all; they go to bed early. I’ve bought one resident blankets, because she’s so distressed about bills she doesn’t want to put the heating on.”

Residents said some people were having to choose between heating and eating.

No food

A report about the problems on the estate, written by Ruth London from Fuel Poverty Action and Stuart Hodkinson from the University of Leeds, said there had been heat outages on 48 days in four years.

It detailed individual cases of vulnerable people left without heat for weeks and months on end.

It also details the case of Edward Connell, an elderly man thought to have been suffering with a form of dementia who told people he was struggling with high bills. He died of heart failure in October. The report said there was no food in his flat when he died.

In February, after a meeting with E.on about problems on the estate, residents were sent a letter of apology by the head of the company’s heat division, Jeremy Bungey.

A spokesman told the BBC E.on did not agree with all of the points raised in the report, but acknowledged there had been issues.

He said many had been resolved some time ago. He urged anyone with problems with their smart meter to get in touch.

In relation to Mr Connell, he said: “This is clearly a very sad case, but we have no insight into the wider circumstances of his death and the factors which may have led to it.”

He said the company had spoken to Mr Connell a number of times when he moved into the property in 2015 and that in June, after providing a manual meter reading, he was found to be in credit.

‘Potential to reduce costs’

At the moment, 200,000 people rely on district heating, but the government is championing the system and has put up 320m in seed funding to encourage more heat networks to be built in towns and cities across England and Wales.

It wants 18-20% of heat to come from district heating by 2050, in a bid to help meet carbon reduction targets.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy website, heat networks “have the potential to reduce heating costs, in some cases by more than 30%“.

But some customers say they have not seen the promised savings, and a traditional gas boiler would be much cheaper for them.

Charles Montlake, who lives in New Capital Quay, Greenwich, has district heating in his flat which is also provided by E.on.

He was given 669 in an out-of-court settlement with the energy giant after he lodged papers with the small claims court saying he had been overcharged for his heating for a year.

E.on says it believes it offers Mr Montlake value for money.

80-year contracts

Unlike traditional energy customers, people like Mr Montlake on district heating cannot go to Ofgem to complain about bills, because district heating is currently largely unregulated.

Customers can go to the energy ombudsman and a body set up by a number of providers called the Heat Trust, but their powers are limited.

And while traditional power users can switch suppliers if they are not happy with pricing or customer service, those on district heating are locked into long contracts.

Mr Montlake told 5 live Investigates: “Our contract is for 25 years, so our current alternatives are move or don’t use heat.”

Ms London said she had come across contracts locking customers in for 40 and even 80 years, and estates where those who owned their own homes were moving house because they could not afford the mortgage and the heat bills.

She said the problem was particularly acute for people on low incomes, like some of those living on the Myatt’s Field North Oval Quarter estate.

She said: “It’s some of the worst fuel poverty we’ve seen.

“We’re afraid the same thing is going to happen to heating systems all over the UK, where people are actually not able to cover their heating costs and they’re going cold and potentially even losing their lives, as well as their health, as a result.

“The industry has to be regulated, it is absolutely not acceptable that it should be a wild-west situation where companies can do what they like.”

‘Tackled these issues’

Tim Rotheray, director of the Association of Decentralised Energy, said: “Across the country, these schemes have been lifting people out of fuel poverty and making cold homes warm.

“But any evidence of unhappy customers is a serious concern.

“A good experience for customers is not only vital for them, but also for the future of the industry.

“We recognise the new and changing nature of this industry means that sometimes quality and customer service standards are not good enough. The industry has tackled these issues head on.

“In March we launched a new task force, attended by consumer groups, investors, developers and observed by government and Ofgem.

“The group is examining both industry and regulatory options to ensure all aspects of consumer protection can be an integral part of enabling new investment.”

To hear more about this story, tune into 5 live Investigates on Sunday April 30 at 11am or listen to the podcast.

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Tapper: These Americans have had a rougher 100 days than Trump

(CNN)“Many Americans” had a tougher past 100 days — coinciding with the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency — than the President himself, CNN’s Jake Tapper said on “The Lead” Friday.

Tapper responded: “The notion that President Trump thought the job of President of the United States of America would be easier than hosting ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and running the Trump business empire is pretty stunning.”
Tapper then went on to name a handful of Americans who have had a difficult past few months — many of them as a result of Trump’s policies.
    “There’s Kraig Moss, who lost his son Rob in the opioid crisis in 2014 and believed Trump when he said he would do something about the crisis. In fact, Kraig supported Trump so strongly he traveled the country to Trump rallies singing the candidate’s praises. After the health care bill, Moss says he will never vote for Trump again,” Tapper said.
    The White House attempted to revive a health care reform package ahead of the President’s 100 days in office, but that has not come into fruition.
    Tapper then mentioned Emmanuel Ayala Frutos, one of the so-called DREAMers — people brought to this country illegally by their parents. The President has said he feels sympathy for DREAMers in the past.
    “Frutos was brought here when he was 6. Recently, he was held in detention for 18 days. He and other DREAMers live in constant fear as the President cracks down on illegal immigration and they don’t know what’s going to happen to them,” Tapper continued.
    Then there’s cancer patient Melissa Nance, who’s worried about losing her health insurance.
    “She’s covered by Obamacare now, but insurers are pulling out of her state of Tennessee. Trump said he would take care of this, he said he would fix it, he said it would be easy. but Congress has passed nothing,” Tapper said.
    “I could go on and on,” Tapper continued, “The factory workers who were told by the President that he would bring their jobs back though he has not introduced a jobs bill yet. The troops in harms way wondering if the President has any actual foreign policy strategy or if he’s just winging it with them on the front lines.”
    “These Americans are depending on you, Mr. President,” Tapper said, “These are the people who have had a rough 100 days.”

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    GOP’s health care push tests Democratic resistance

    Washington (CNN)The most conservative congressmen in the country were a major roadblock in President Donald Trump’s first push to replace Obamacare. Now, a second attempt’s fate is in the hands of a moderate Republican faction — putting to the test the power of Democratic resistance.

    If they’ve convinced those lawmakers in swing districts their passion is real — and could cost them their seats in the 2018 midterms — it could translate into a long-term Democratic victory over conservatives in setting the nation’s health care policy.
    As President Donald Trump makes another push to repeal Obamacare around the 100-day mark of his tenure in office, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republicans appear to have solved their problems with hardline conservatives but haven’t yet rounded up enough support from moderates to give Trump the 216 votes he needs.
      Already, the White House’s hopes of a vote this week were dashed, with mostly moderate Republicans either opposing the measure or refusing to take a public position and Ryan saying he won’t move forward with a bill that’s at risk of being defeated on the House floor.
      “What we’re seeing is that the famed negotiator can’t deliver,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley of New York said at an event hosted by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. “And the consequences are no longer limited to shareholders or investors. It’s the American people who suffer.”
      While Trump and Ryan have the most on the line, the strategies and tactics that have driven the Democratic resistance to Trump — particularly on health care — in recent months also face a stress test.
      A deal that got hardline conservatives on board with Obamacare repeal-and-replace legislation they’d previously opposed has left the bill’s fate solely in the hands of more moderate Republicans.
      Those Republicans are the lawmakers who typically face the toughest re-election fights — and are the ones progressives have targeted most heavily through town hall protests and more.
      “I spent the whole work period hearing from people pissed about pre-existing conditions,” one moderate lawmaker told CNN on Wednesday.
      The progressive groups leading these protests — Indivisible chapters, and others — say they’ve seen signs of turning enough moderates to block Trump and Ryan from ever moving an Obamacare repeal.
      “You have anonymous Republicans walking around the Capitol and telling reporters they’re scared to vote for Trumpcare because they’ll lose their job,” said Indivisible chief communications officer Sarah Dohl.
      Pointing to moderate Republicans from Colorado and Pennsylvania who have recently announced they oppose the new legislation, Dohl said: “Just look at Mike Coffman, Pat Meehan, who were previously ‘yes’ or undecided on Trumpcare last time around and have now announced they’re opposed — these are two men who have been endlessly pressured by local groups of constituents at home. The pressure is working.”
      Two moderate lawmakers who had supported an earlier version of the bill say a new one with tweaks to appease the Freedom Caucus could cost the GOP their support.
      Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, said he is trying to understand how changes — in the form of a Rep. Tom MacArthur amendment — makes things better, but has some concerns.
      “There are a lot of red flags,” he said.
      Another moderate House Republican, Brian Mast of Florida, told CNN he’s undecided on the latest health care tweak, saying he still needed to read it. He was a “yes” on the last version of the bill.
      The MacArthur amendment gives states broader ability to opt out of Obamacare regulations and roll back protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
      Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, called it “an exercise in blame shifting.”
      To be sure, the left isn’t casting a potential vote on health care as a do-or-die moment — saying they’ll have an opportunity to force moderate Republicans to pay a price in the 2018 midterms if they do repeal Obamacare and replace it with a law that removes cost protections for those with pre-existing conditions, among other changes.
      “You will see the impact of the resistance in one of two ways: either this bill will fail, or voters will send many of the Republicans who voted for this bill packing in 2018,” said Anna Galland, the executive director of
      “We hope it’s the first,” Galland said, “but the second is possible too.”

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      Manhattan man pleads guilty to ‘Producers’ scheme

      New York (CNN)A Manhattan resident on Wednesday pleaded guilty to conning several investors into giving him money intended to fund the production of a fake Broadway play, according to Manhattan district attorney spokesman Justin Henry.

      Roland Scahill pleaded guilty to three counts of grand larceny in the third degree and one count of scheme to defraud in the first degree, according to court documents. The former talent agent owes $189,885 to the various investors he was accused of taking money from.
      “Through his elaborate overtures to investors, Roland Scahill scammed patrons of the arts to the tune of more than $200,000. We are pleased to have brought his larcenous scheme to a grand finale,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus B. Vance said in a statement.
        Scahill’s scheme bears a striking resemblance to Mel Brooks’ Broadway musical, “The Producers” in which a producer and his accountant try to bilk victims by getting them to invest in a musical that is intended to fail.
        But Scahill didn’t have plans for his musical to fail, because he didn’t have plans to make the show happen at all, authorities claimed.
        He allegedly told investors he was creating a Broadway play about the life of Kathleen Battle, a famous opera singer, called “The KB Project.”
        Scahill allegedly created an elaborate storyline for his investors, telling them he had secured the life rights to Battle’s story, Lupita Nyongo’o had agreed to play the leading role and the show would play at the famed Booth Theater.
        In his plea statement, Schahill wrote, “All of these representations were false.”
        Over a nine-month long period, Scahill convinced 10 sets of investors to donate money to his project, according to court documents. All of those investments were deposited into two bank accounts. Scahill was the sole signatory on both of those accounts, according to his plea statement.
        In the plea, Scahill writes that he used the investors’ money for “personal expenditures” and “to purchase and trade securities.”
        Scahill paid $100,000 of his debts when he pleaded guilty. He must pay the remaining $89,885 within the next six months. If he does so, he will receive a six-month prison sentence followed by five years’ probation with ongoing mental health treatment, according to a spokesman for the prosecutor. If he fails to pay, he could face additional jail time, according to court documents.
        CNN has reached out to Scahill’s attorney for comment.

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        FDA cracks down on ‘illegal’ cancer treatments

        (CNN)The US Food and Drug Administration calls it “cruel deception”: companies promising desperate consumers that their products can cure cancer.

        On Tuesday, the agency responsible for policing the American food and drug market issued warning letters to 14 companies that it says are “illegally selling more than 65 products that fraudulently claim to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure cancer.”
        “There’s a couple of issues here,” Jason Humbert, a regulatory operations officer in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, told CNN. “The FDA’s role is to review and evaluate products for safety and effectiveness, particularly products that are intended for the treatment of a disease like cancer. Cancer requires the supervision of a licensed health care provider.”
          The companies that received the warning letters are required by law to respond in a timely fashion, indicating whether they intend to pull the products under scrutiny from the market or alter the advertising and packaging to comply with the agency’s rules and regulations.
          “Failure to correct the violations promptly may result in legal action, including product seizure, injunction and/or criminal prosecution,” the FDA said in a statement.

          What products were targeted?

          Products included in this crackdown include pills, creams, ointments, oils, drops, syrups and teas. The FDA says they are most commonly marketed and sold online, especially on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
          The companies that received warning letters from the FDA are AIE Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Amazing Sour Sop Inc.; BioStar Technology International LLC; Caudill Seed & Warehouse Inc.;; Everything Herbs; Hawk Dok Natural Salve LLC; Healing Within Products & Services Inc.; LifeVantage Corp.; Nature’s Treasure Inc.; Oxygen Health Systems LLC; Sunstone Inc.; The Vibrant Health Store LLC dba Dr. Christopher’s Herbs; and The Vitamin C Foundation. The entire list of product names (as well as the letters that were sent to each of the companies) can be found on the FDA’s website.
          Amazing Sour Sop said it is working to address the issues. said it is updating product descriptions. In its statement to the FDA, AIE Pharmaceuticals, Inc. enumerated all the changes and deletions to its website and added that its Facebook pages “have been deleted which include all products.” Darren Jensen, CEO of LifeVantage replied that “We will respond to the FDA in a timely fashion and make any changes needed to further ensure our compliance.”
          Hawk Dok Natural Salve said it is changing its labels and maintains that it “has found the natural way to fight off cancer and the HPV virus.”
          A statement from The Vitamin C Foundation founder Owen Fonorow read, in part, “This is not the first time the FDA has attacked vitamin C trying to create the impression that vitamin C is an illegal drug. In my opinion, these attacks by the Government on vitamin C have little or nothing to do with the public interest or public health.”
          Nature’s Treasure declined to comment. The other companies have yet to respond to a request for comment.
          “Consumers should not use these or similar unproven products because they may be unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate and potentially life-saving cancer diagnosis or treatment,” said Douglas W. Stearn, director of the FDA’s Office of Enforcement and Import Operations, in a written statement. “We encourage people to remain vigilant whether online or in a store, and avoid purchasing products marketed to treat cancer without any proof they will work. Patients should consult a health care professional about proper prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.”
          Humbert said that beyond postponing vital treatment, some of the products targeted in this crackdown contain ingredients that themselves could cause consumer harm. “There’s also concern that some of the products could interact with any medications or any other underlying conditions that consumers may have.”

          What should consumers look out for?

          “I think the biggest red flag would be that any product that hasn’t undergone FDA review is making a claim that it can treat or cure cancer,” Humbert said. “Only products that have been evaluated — approved FDA drugs — can make those claims. So if a consumer happens upon a website or a social media site and they see that this product is marketed as a natural cure for cancer or a natural treatment for cancer, they should be very skeptical, because unless that product has been evaluated by FDA, there’s no reason to believe it’s safe or effective for that use.”
          Although claims vary from product to product, the FDA says fraudulent cancer products “often use a particular vocabulary.” The agency identified these phrases as the most common red flags:
          • Treats all forms of cancer
          • Miraculously kills cancer cells and tumors
          • Shrinks malignant tumors
          • Selectively kills cancer cells
          • More effective than chemotherapy
          • Attacks cancer cells, leaving healthy cells intact
          • Cures cancer
          “The overarching point is that these products are untested, and some of the ingredients may present direct risk to the consumer’s health or interact with any medications they might be taking,” Humbert said. “They’re not a substitute for appropriate treatment, and using these products can not only endanger consumers’ health but waste their money and waste their time, as well.”

          See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

          Nicole Kornspan, a consumer safety officer at the FDA, said in a written statement that “Anyone who suffers from cancer, or knows someone who does, understands the fear and desperation that can set in. There can be a great temptation to jump at anything that appears to offer a chance for a cure.”
          Just remember the old saying: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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          Steve Jobs Fast Facts

          (CNN)Here is a look at the life of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc., maker of the Macintosh computer, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

          Death date: October 5, 2011
          Birth place: San Francisco, California
            Birth name: Steven Paul Jobs
            Father: Paul Jobs, machinist
            Mother: Clara (Hagopian) Jobs, accountant
            Marriage: Laurene (Powell) Jobs (March 18, 1991-October 5, 2011, his death)
            Children: with Laurene Jobs: Reed Jobs, Erin Jobs, and Eve Jobs; with Chris-Ann Brennan: Lisa Brennan-Jobs
            Education: Attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, 1972
            Religion: Zen Buddhism
            Other Facts:
            At about age 12, Jobs asked William Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard for some parts to complete a school project. Hewlett offered Jobs an internship at his company.
            Met Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in high school when Jobs was 13 and Wozniak was 18.
            Dropped out of Reed College after one semester, but audited classes including calligraphy and modern dance
            Rejoining Apple in 1997, Jobs received an annual salary of $1.00.
            Jobs tracked down his biological parents Joanne Schieble and Abdulfattah Jandali and discovered that his younger sister is novelist Mona Simpson.
            1972 –
            Graduates high school and enters Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Jobs drops out after one semester.
            1974 – Takes a job with Atari designing video games, then leaves that same year to travel through India.
            1976 – Co-founds Apple in his family’s garage with Steve Wozniak and introduces the Apple I computer.
            1977 – Along with Wozniak, produces the Apple II.
            1980 – Apple comes out with the Apple III.
            1983 – The Apple Lisa is introduced which is purportedly named for his daughter, Lisa.
            1984 – Apple introduces the Macintosh.
            1985 – Leaves Apple due to disagreements with management. Launches the computer company NeXT.
            1986 – Purchases Pixar Animation Studios from George Lucas.
            1996 – Sells NeXT to Apple and rejoins Apple as a consultant.
            1997 – Is named interim CEO of Apple.
            1998 – Apple introduces the iMac.
            2000 – Becomes permanent CEO of Apple.
            2001 – Apple introduces the iPod, a portable mp3 player.
            April 28, 2003 – Apple launches the iTunes store, a download music service.
            July 2003 – Apple Corps, Ltd., the record company owned by the Beatles, sues Apple, Inc., for trademark violation over the apple logo used on the iTunes website. The suit is settled in 2007.
            2003 – Jobs is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
            July 31, 2004 – Undergoes surgery to remove a tumor related to the cancer.
            2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 – Jobs is named to the Time 100, the magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
            2006 – Pixar merges with The Walt Disney Company and Jobs takes a position on Disney’s board of directors.
            April 1, 2006 – Apple celebrates its 30th birthday.
            January 9, 2007 – Jobs unveils the iPhone at the Macworld conference.
            2008 – Introduces the MacBook Air.
            June 27, 2008 – A class action suit is filed against Jobs and several members of the Apple’s board of directors, claiming that they had participated in the backdating of stock option grants. In 2006, Apple was forced to restate its financial results after acknowledging that an internal investigation had revealed irregularities in its stock option grants between 1997 and 2001.
            January 5, 2009 – Writes an open letter to the public dismissing rumors about his health, claiming that his weight loss in the past year is due to a “hormone imbalance.”
            January 14, 2009 – Announces he will take a medical leave of absence until the end of June 2009. Jobs gives no details on his health issues other than that they are “more complex” than originally thought.
            June 20, 2009 – The Wall Street Journal reports that Jobs underwent a liver transplant in April 2009. The surgery is confirmed by the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in Memphis, Tennessee, on June 23, 2009.
            June 29, 2009 – Apple spokesman Steve Dowling announces that Jobs has returned to work.
            January 27, 2010 – Jobs introduces the iPad. The half-inch-thick, 1.5 pound, 9.7 inch iPad allows users to read books, play games or watch video.
            January 2011 – Takes another medical leave of absence.
            March 2, 2011 – Jobs receives a standing ovation when he takes the stage to unveil the iPad 2.
            June 6, 2011 – At the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) Jobs introduces iCloud the new online media storage system. Other Apple officials demo the new operating systems OS-X Lion and iOS-5.
            August 2011 – Apple Inc. and oil company Exxon Mobil jockey for position as the most valuable company in the United States, with market capitalizations between $345 billion and $350 billion.
            August 24, 2011 – Resigns as CEO of Apple, but announces he will stay on as chairman. Tim Cook is promoted to CEO.
            October 4, 2011 – Apple announces their latest updated smartphone – the iPhone 4S.
            October 5, 2011 – Steve Jobs dies at the age of 56.

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            GOP Rep Tells Mom Her Son On Medicaid Should Just Get A Better Job If He Wants Health Care

            Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) told the mother of a service industry worker who has benefitted from the Affordable Care Acts Medicaid expansion that her son should get a better job if he wants decent insurance when Obamacare is repealed.

            The woman, a constituent of Davidsons in former House Speaker John Boehners old district, explained to Davidson at a town hall in Enon, Ohio on Tuesday night first covered by ShareBlue that her grown son lacked health insurance for four years, because his job in the service industry did not provide it. He received coverage through Medicaid when Obamacare expanded the program by offering to pick up almost all of the costs for states that lowered their eligibility thresholds.

            She is now worried about President Donald Trumps plan to rollback the landmark laws Medicaid expansion, fearing it will leave her son with the bare-bones catastrophic health insurance, which, she said, is basically no insurance at all.

            Can you explain why my son and millions of others in his situation are not deserving of affordable, decent health care that has essential benefits so that he can stay healthy and continue working? she asked.

            Her sons best route to getting decent insurance without Medicaid is to find work in an industry where employers provide it, according to Davidson.

            OK, I dont know anything about your son, but as you described him, his skills are focused in an industry that doesnt have the kind of options that you want him to have for health care. So, I dont believe that these taxpayers here are entitled to give that to him. I believe hes got the opportunity to go earn those health benefits, he responded, eliciting boos from the crowd.

            You can watch their full exchange at the 37-minute mark in the video above.

            The womans reference to essential benefits alludes to the fact that House Republican leaders at one point tried to win over hardline conservatives by removing federal regulations requiring insurance plans to cover 10 basic benefits, including trips to the emergency room, as well as maternity and newborn care. In lieu of these benefits, low-premium, high-deductible catastrophic plans could cover even fewer procedures than they do now.

            But Davidson implied that finding a better plan was as simple as shopping for a higher-quality consumer product like a cellphone.

            If he doesnt want a catastrophic care plan, dont buy a catastrophic care plan. If you dont want a flip-phone, dont buy a flip-phone, Davidson said, eliciting loud groans from the audience.

            Im sorry, health care is much different than a cell phone and Im tired of people using cell phone analogies with health care, the woman responded, before walking away from the microphone.

            Bill Clark/Getty Images
            Rep. Warren Davidson represents former House Speaker John Boehner’s old district. He had a gruff response to a constituent’s question about Obamacare repeal.

            Davidsons metaphor resembled remarks by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who suggested in March that people should not buy iPhones if they wanted the money to pay for health insurance.

            But as Davidsons constituent noted at the town hall and many observers pointed out when Chaffetz said it buying health insurance is completely different than shopping for everyday consumer products.

            Consumers do not have the same power to command lower prices for health care, since it is not a product they can choose to not have. People also often lack the information and resources to choose a health care provider based on its cost value.

            Those are just a couple reasons why health insurance is wildly more expensive than paying for a phone bill and obtaining coverage would remain perilously out of reach for millions of Americans without help from the government.

            Thats a big deal, because unlike phones, Americans lives would be at risk if they did not have health care.

            Although President Trump and House Republicans have already failed to negotiate an Obamacare replacement bill at least twice, the White House is dead-set on trying again as part of negotiations to continue funding the government. The latest idea floated by budget director Mick Mulvaney would involve trading Democrats a dollar in Obamacare funding for every dollar they approve for construction of the wall.

            [H/T ShareBlue]

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            Using wearable technology to detect conflict in couples before it occurs

            Several teams of researchers at USC have joined forces for a study aimed at detecting vital signs to help stem conflicts in couples before they occur. Couples were brought into the lab, equipped with wearable sensors, given smartphones for recording data and sent out on their way.

            The study largely took place outside of the lab, with participants filling out an hourly survey to offer insight into their feelings toward their significant others. The team opted not to go out of its way to introduce arguments through external means or touch subject matter, and while not every participant reported an issue during the trial, plenty of issues arose. Because, you know, couples and stuff.

            The fact that we are capturing bio-signals from wearables this is a source of information we can get from people that we cannot see with the naked eye, study co-author Theodora Chaspari tells TechCrunch. It was a pretty useful source of information.

            The wearables, which captured body temperature, heart activity and sweat, were coupled with assessments of audio recordings, used to detect the content and intensity of speech. A machine learning developed by the team was apparently able to capture episodes of conflict with an accuracy rate of up to 86-percent.

            We have a longstanding collaboration between the family studies project in psychology and the SAIL project in engineering, says lead author Adela C. Timmons. We were working together a lot to try to process and analyze the large amount of data that we were collecting, and we had this idea of applying machine learning technology to our data set to see if we could detect if conflict was occurring between couples and levels greater than chance.

            The next step in the process is using that machine learning algorithm to help create a model that could help predict conflicts up to five minutes before they occur, using physiological and speech reading. Given the relative level of sophistication in mainstream wearables, the software could potentially be applied to commercial devices to help trackers move beyond fitness to emotional health.

            Its definitely a harder task to do, says Chaspari. Its something that builds up, physiologically or behaviorally that can lead to a potential conflict.

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            6 reasons you need to watch this British dating show immediately

            Looking for love is far from easy. Sometimes it can feel like you’re doing it all wrong. But one British reality dating show is bringing joy, laughter, and even the odd tear, to viewers by showing the more human side to first dates.

            Set in a restaurant in the heart of London, Channel 4’s First Dates allows viewers to eavesdrop on real-life blind dates.

            Of course, there’s crippling nerves, wardrobe malfunctions, excruciating silences and table manner slip-ups. But, it’s so much more than just a spectacle of hilarious encounters.

            With each date featured on the show (now in its eighth season) you hear people’s backstories, and you find out why, for some people, going on a date is a huge milestone.

            If you’re a dater who’s had more than your fair share of bad dates, First Dates will reassure you that you’re far from alone. If you’re coupled up, First Dates will give you a cheeky glimpse into other people’s love lives. And, if you’re a sucker for romantic stories, this show will undoubtedly move you to tears.

            Here are just a few of the reasons you need to watch this cult hit immediately.

            1. You’ll see that first-date nerves are very common

            Not a single episode of First Dates goes by without someone admitting that they feel very, very nervous. One recurring dater on the show was named “Nervous Louis” because his first date was derailed by his crippling nerves. But, Louis persevered and he came back on the show for a date with someone new, and spoiler alert it went really well! The pair agreed to see each other again. Hurrah!

            2. You’ll see proof that first dates can lead to very happy endings

            When a date goes really well on First Dates, it’s truly a pleasure to watch. From the moment they connect, you’re rooting for them. You want them to go out again and maybe, just maybe stay together forever.

            And, the wonderful thing is: that actually happens on the show. When Ibiba and Aarron share a lovely date together on the show, they talk about some very real feelings about their pasts. And, they later return to announce that they’re having their first baby together!

            When Scott and Victoria met on the show, they hit it off straight away. After 3 weeks they moved in together. They returned to First Dates for another special moment.


            3. You’ll hear people’s life stories and it will probably make you cry

            First Dates is a show about dating at all stages of life. Some daters have tragically lost their previous partners, and many share their stories and their reasons for re-entering the world of dating. These stories are profoundly touching, and a reminder that dating is far from easy at any stage in life.

            Octogenarians Patricia and Alan shared the many troubles they had faced during their lifetimes, adding that they want to live life to the full. Widower Alan talked about losing his wife and his son, and it’s safe to say his story had people reaching for their tissues.

            “Life is so bloody short and so many people don’t realise that. I don’t want to die with any regrets,” said Alan. “I love life.”

            Some people on the show talk about the impact of past heartbreaks. On one very emotional date, Damian opened up to his date Kai about developing Tourettes after a very bad breakup, which impacted on his mental health. Kai then revealed that he has been living with depression for much of his adult life.

            “I was in love and I took that breakup really hard. I just didn’t think that I could cope. It was at that time that the tics started,” he said.

            4. You’ll see that other people get stood up too

            The course of true love doesn’t always run smoothly. And sometimes people don’t show up to dates. First Dates has had its fair share of no-shows over the seasons. But, every single deserted dater has had another bite at the cherry. As they say, second time’s a charm.

            5. You’ll see that it really is a very small world

            For many of us, the idea of going on a date with an ex-partner is not entirely our idea of a good time. But, a couple of times on the show, daters have been accidentally reunited with blasts from their past. In one episode, Vince and Anna shared a date and both mention that they feel like they’ve met before. Turns out they dated when they were teenagers…

            6. You’ll see that embarrassing moments are all part of the charm of dating

            There are heaps of awkward moments on the show, and they only serve to make the daters even more endearing to their dates.

            First Dates is a lesson to us all: even when we’re making fools of ourselves, we’re still lovable. Most importantly of all, the show teaches us that dating can be hard for just about everyone.

            But, just like the First Dates daters, there could be a happy ending right around the corner.

            WATCH: 20 British sex terms to you can totally use in America

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            Stroke and dementia risk linked to low-sugar drinks, study finds

            Drinking a can of diet soft drink a day associated with almost three times higher risk, say researchers but critics warn against causal connection

            Consuming a can a day of low- or no-sugar soft drink is associated with a much higher risk of having a stroke or developing dementia, researchers claim.

            Their findings have prompted renewed questions about whether drinks flavoured with artificial sweeteners can increase the risk of serious illness, as heavily sugared drinks have already been shown to do.

            Drinking at least one artificially sweetened beverage daily was associated with almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia compared to those who drank artificially sweetened beverages less than once a week, according to the American researchers who carried out a study published in Stroke, the journal of the American Heart Association.

            After adjustments for age, sex, education (for analysis of dementia), calorific intake, diet quality, physical activity and smoking, higher recent and higher cumulative intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks were associated with an increased risk of ischaemic stroke, all-cause dementia and Alzheimers disease dementia, the co-authors write.

            Those consuming at least a can of so-called diet drinks every day were 2.96 times more likely to suffer an ischaemic stroke and 2.89 times more likely to develop Alzheimers disease than those who drank them less than once a week, they found.

            Ischaemic strokes occur when blood cannot get to the brain because of a blockage, often one caused by a blood clot forming in either an artery leading to the brain or inside a vein in the brain itself. They comprise the large majority of the 152,0000 strokes a year which occur.

            Surprisingly, though, the research also contradicted previous studies by finding that sugared drinks did not raise the risk of either serious outcome. It is based on data for more than 4,300 participants in the Framingham Heart Study, a long-term medical research project in the United States.

            To our knowledge, our study is the first to report an association between daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drink and increased risk of both all-cause dementia and dementia because of Alzheimers disease, the co-authors added.

            However, they admitted that they could not prove a causal link between intake of diet drinks and development of either medical condition because their study was merely observational and based on details people provided in questionnaires logging their food and drink habits.

            Matthew Pase, a senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston Universitys school of medicine who was one of the co-authors, said that despite no evidence of a causal link, the apparent connection between sweetened drinks and the two conditions does identify an intriguing trend that will need to be explored in other studies.

            This is not the first time that sweetened drinks have been implicated in the development of serious ill-health. The paper quotes the Northern Manhattan study as having found that daily consumption of artificially sweetened soft drink was associated with a higher risk of combined vascular events but not stroke. It also cites the conclusion of the Nurses Health study and Health Professionals follow-up study that greater consumption of sugar and artificially sweetened soft drinks was each independently associated with a higher risk of incident stroke over 28 years of follow-up for women and 22 years of follow-up for men.

            Sales of diet versions of soft drinks have boomed in recent years as sales of fully sugared ones have declined sharply.

            Defras Family Food Survey, published last month, found that sales of regular soft drinks fell by 34.6% between 2010 and 2014, while low-calorie drinks purchases increased by 35.8%. Now just 38% of all soft drinks consumed are fully sugared, it said.

            However, experts and health charities warned against reading too much into the findings reported in Stroke.

            This research does not show that artificially sweetened drinks cause dementia. But it does highlight a worrying association that requires further investigation, said Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimers Society.

            Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at Glasgow University, said: This is an interesting paper, but I would strongly caution against the conclusion that artificially sweetened drinks may increase the risk of stroke and Alzheimers. There is little other strong evidence to support a link between artificially sweetened drinks and adverse health outcomes.

            The results could have been skewed by people who had already become ill before switching to low- or no-sugar drinks, Sattar added.

            Dr Mary Hannon-Fletcher, head of health sciences at Ulster University, said: These data are sound as far as they go. However, it is important to note the associations between recent and higher cumulative intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks and dementia were no longer significant after additional adjustment for vascular risk factors and diabetes mellitus as the editor also pointed out. So are the conclusions sound? Perhaps not.

            Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: Despite their claims, the authors of this observational study admit they found no cause and effect and provide no science-based evidence whatsoever to support their theories.

            In fact, based on the evidence, Public Health England is actively encouraging food and drink companies to use low-calorie sweeteners as an alternative to sugar and help people manage their weight.

            However, Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, warned consumers not to see low- or no-sugar drinks as healthy. Dont be fooled by the use of the word diet. Diet drinks were dreamed up as a description by an industry wanting to lull you into believing that it was a healthy thirst-quencher. Whether youre thin or fat and thirsty, and not near a good old-fashioned tap, buy yourself bottled water, Fry said.

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