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Federal moves to help opioid crisis not enough, experts say

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It may sound like a lot is suddenly happening to fight the opioid crisis. But while each announcement is welcome, experts said, it will still be difficult to create action right away.

“We are hearing rhetoric,” said Lindsey Vuolo, associate director of health law and policy at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. “They are all important steps but none of them are sufficient to fully address the problem.”

Adams said he wanted to make it possible for just about everyone in some communities to be carrying naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose almost immediately.

“With over half of overdoses occurring at home and three quarters of overdoses occurring in a nonmedical setting, we know we can’t rely solely on first responders to save lives,” Adams told NBC News.

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“In some scenarios everyone in a community should have naloxone if there’s a high proportion of individuals who are at elevated risk.”

Adams said his office had helped negotiate some discounts with companies that make naloxone, including Kaleo, which makes an auto-injector for naloxone and Adapt, which makes Narcan, a nasal spray version of the drug.

“Kaleo has agreed to discount their price 90 percent to federal and state governments and to entities that have funding through federal and state government programs. And they also have a program to provide that medication for free to individuals who fall in the in the gap,” Adams said.

In six states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Missouri, Nevada and Ohio — people with commercial health insurance can call a pharmacy and get naloxone delivered at no cost, Kaleo said.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen said the plan is a good first step.

“Our problem isn’t the policies. It’s access to the medications,” Wen said. “We are being priced out of our ability to save lives.”

Wen said Baltimore needs $10 million a year from the federal government to fight the opioid epidemic.

“It cannot be one-time funding. It must be sustained,” she said. The discounted price offered by Kaleo is still too expensive,” she said.

“We are having to ration naloxone,” Wen added. “Between now and July I only have about 160 kits of naloxone left to give out, which means that every day, I have to make a decision about who is going to get this naloxone and who will have to go without.”

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There is no question that naloxone works, Wen said.

“I’m an emergency physician and in the ER,” she said. “I’ve used naloxone hundreds of times and I’ve seen how someone who is about to die from an opioid overdose, if they’re given naloxone, they’ll be walking and talking again in seconds.”

And there’s no question that the U.S. is suffering through a terrible epidemic of opioid abuse.

The CDC says synthetic opioid overdoses killed 20,000 people in 2016. Opioid overdose deaths are so bad they have helped drive down U.S. life expectancy.

The Kaiser Family Foundation said in a new report that the cost of treating opioid addiction and overdose has gone up eight-fold for private health insurance companies since 2004, from $300 million dollars in 2004 to $2.6 billion in 2016.

The federal government is under pressure to act.

The NIH said it was doubling its research budget for opioid abuse from $600 million to $1.1 billion and would focus on finding safer ways to treat pain and better ways to treat addiction and abuse disorders.

A bill in discussion in the Senate would provide grants for communities to operate opioid recovery centers and would give the FDA power to force companies to package opioids in blister packs to deter abuse.

FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said he would work to help better educate and guide doctors about the best ways to treat pain, including prescribing far lower doses of opioids.

Gottlieb said he was going to speak with internet companies to see if they could help stop illegal sales of opioids. “The easy availability and online purchase of these products from illegal drug peddlers is rampant and fuels the opioid crisis,” Gottlieb told the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, being held in Atlanta.

“We find offers to purchase opioids all over social media and the Internet, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Google, Yahoo, and Bing.”

These are all positive steps, said Vuolo.

“There are some efforts that are being made, but we are not seeing the wholesale, comprehensive approach that is needed,” she said.

“We have effective treatments for opioid addiction, but people aren’t getting them. The reality is the vast majority of people are unable to find care, they are unable to pay for it, or they’re not receiving care that’s effective,” she added.

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Evel Knievel’s son sues Disney over Toy Story 4 character | Ents & Arts News

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Evel Knievel’s son is suing Disney over a daredevil character in the animated film Toy Story 4.

Kelly Knievel has held the publicity rights to his father’s name since 1998, according to his US District Court filing in Las Vegas.

The federal trademark infringement lawsuit claims that Disney-owned Pixar did not ask permission to use his father’s likeness when creating the character Duke Caboom.

American daredevil Evel Knievel (1938 - 2007) makes a motorcycle jump over thirteen AEC Merlin buses at Wembley Stadium in London, 26th May 1975. The stunt ended in a crash in which Knievel broke his pelvis. (Photo by Kypros/Getty Images)
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One of Evel Knievel’s most famous stunts was at Wembley Stadium in London in 1975

Knievel is seeking damages of more than $300,000 (£235,000) over allegations including false endorsement and unjust enrichment.

The 60-year-old said: “Evel Knievel did not thrill millions around the world, break his bones and spill his blood just so Disney could make a bunch of money.”

Duke Caboom, voiced by Keanu Reeves in last year’s film, was a 1970s toy who rides a motorbike and is “Canada’s greatest stuntman”, the lawsuit said.

Knievel was famous for stunts such as a motorbike jump over a row of buses at Wembley Stadium.

He was seriously injured many times during 75 motorbike jumps, but died from lung disease in 2007.

An Evel Knievel toy was released in 1973 with a white helmet and jumpsuit, with a motorbike that could be propelled with a wind-up device.

Disney and Pixar released a similar Duke Caboom toy along with Toy Story 4.

The toy also featured in McDonald’s Happy Meals.

Evel Knievel was seriously injured many times during 75 motorbike jumps
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Evel Knievel was seriously injured many times during 75 motorbike jumps

The lawsuit claims consumers and film reviewers “universally caught on to the connection”, despite the film company and Reeves avoiding any comparison.

Jeffrey R Epstein, corporate spokesman for The Walt Disney Co, described Knievel’s claims as meritless, saying the film company will defend itself vigorously.

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North Korea troops shot dead South Korean official and burned his body, Seoul claims | UK News

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A South Korean government official was shot and killed by troops in North Korea who set his body on fire over fears he might be carrying coronavirus, officials in Seoul have claimed.

The South’s defence ministry said the 47-year-old government official had been killed and his corpse burned after disappearing from an inspection boat in waters off the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday.

South Korea‘s President Moon Jae-in called the killing a “shocking” and “unpardonable” act and demanded the North punish those responsible.

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South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in called the killing a ‘shocking’ and ‘unpardonable’ act

North Korea sent staff in gas masks aboard a boat near the man to find out why he was there on Tuesday afternoon, South Korea’s Defence Ministry said.

Later in the day, a North Korean navy boat arrived and opened fire at him, they added.

Sailors from the boat, wearing gas masks and protective suits, then poured petrol on his body and set it on fire, the ministry said, citing intelligence gathered by surveillance equipment and other assets.

It is unclear what caused the official’s death and whether he died after being shot.

Citing intelligence sources, the South’s military said the unidentified man appeared to have been questioned at sea – north of the border and around 24 miles from where he went missing – before he was executed on an “order from a superior authority”.

If confirmed by the North’s officials, it would be the first time that North Korea has killed a South Korean citizen in its territory since 2008.

The South Korean government did not know how he came to have crossed the border, but a defence official said the man may have been trying to defect to the North.

The demilitarised zone separating North and South Korea
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The demilitarised zone separating North and South Korea

The official said the man was wearing a life jacket on a small floating object and that the military had obtained information that he wanted to go to North Korea.

“Our military strongly condemns such an atrocity, and strongly demands North Korea provide explanations and punish those who are responsible,” General Ahn Young-ho, who is in charge of operations at the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

Officials believe that military in Pyongyang may have decided to kill the man in line with stringent anti-coronavirus rules that involve shooting anyone illegally crossing the border.

North-South relations are expected to sour further as a result of the killing.

In June, North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its territory in protest against South Korean civilians sending anti-North leaflets across the border.

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Trump booed and heckled by mourners while paying respects to Ruth Bader Ginsburg | US News

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Donald Trump has been booed and heckled while paying his respects to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose death has triggered a political row.

The president and wife Melania, both wearing masks, stood a few metres behind the late Supreme Court Justice’s coffin in Washington DC as her body lay in repose at the country’s highest court.

On Friday, she will be moved to lie in state at the US Capitol – the first woman to receive such an honour, before being buried next week in a private service at Arlington National Cemetery.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg honoured in Court ceremony
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A ceremony took place on Wednesday for Justice Ginsburg at the country’s highest court

Mr Trump has sparked controversy by planning to replace her on the court before November’s presidential election.

Moments after he arrived at the court, booing could be heard from some in the crowd who then briefly chanted: “Vote him out”.

He is set to announce on Saturday his nominee to fill the seat of the liberal-leaning justice and women’s rights champion.

The 87-year-old, also known as RBG, had sat on the Supreme Court since 1993 until her death on Friday due to complications from pancreatic cancer.

Her dying wish was reportedly that she would not be replaced until a new president was installed.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has accused Mr Trump of an “abuse of power” over his plans to replace her before the 3 November poll.

Mr Biden urged Senate Republicans to delay any vote on her replacement until after the election.

Democrats argue that voters should have their say first on election day and the winner of the White House battle should fill the post.

The procedure for appointing a Supreme Court justice allows the president to nominate a candidate and then requires the Senate to confirm them.

This would give Mr Trump the opportunity to expand the court’s conservative majority to 6-3, from 5-4.

It had previously been made up of an even balance of four liberal justices and four conservatives, with Anthony Kennedy considered a more neutral member of the court who would frequently become the swing vote in 5-4 decisions.

Mr Trump replaced him with conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh when he retired in 2018.

Democrats have pointed to the Republican Senate’s refusal in 2016 to act on then president Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Conservative Antonin Scalia had died 10 months before that year’s election, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell then said the Senate should not act on a nominee during an election year.

It was Justice Ginsburg's dying wish to not be replaced until a new president is in power
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Justice Ginsburg was a liberal and a women’s rights champion

But McConnell has reversed his stance this time and is pushing ahead with plans to begin the confirmation process, vowing to vote this year on Mr Trump’s nominee.

It would take four Republicans to break ranks to keep Mr Trump’s nominee off the court.

The president has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses November’s election and said he believes the Supreme Court could end up deciding the result.

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Announcing a nominee on Saturday would leave less than 40 days for the Senate to hold a confirmation vote before the election.

No nominee has won confirmation that quickly since Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court in 1981.

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