Blue-checkmark brigade falls for Reddit post claiming McCain killed reconciliation for health care bills

This post from Reddit has gone viral and was trending in D.C. last night claiming that Sen. John McCain was playing some sort of 4-D chess with everyone and that his “yes” vote to proceed to debate coupled with his “no” vote on the bill killed any chance that reconciliation could be used in the future to pass a different health-care bill:

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Tomi Lahren, who hates Obamacare, is still on her parents insurance planthanks to Obamacare

Tomi Lahren said Saturday that she hates Obamacare. The popular conservative commentator thinks the healthcare law should be repealed, and shes clearly angry that GOP Sen. John McCain cast one of the deciding votesagainst the effort.

So, theres no way that Lahren would ever actually take advantage of one of Obamacares most popular provisions that allows children up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents healthcare plan, right?

Well, actually

During a debate with comedian Chelsea Handler on Saturday at Politicon, this is what Lahren said.

Luckily, I am 24, so I am still on my parents plan, Lahren said.

Naturally, Twitter loved the contradiction of Lahren taking advantage of a Democratic program that she rails against whenever she can.

In short, Lahren believes Obamacare is terrible for this country. But apparently for her, its actually a pretty great perk of the current healthcare system.

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SHAMELESS: Even as Charlie Gard passes, NYT looks to protect single-payer health care that killed him

Pretty blatant there, New York Times. Gotta protect the single-payer for America agenda, right?

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The FDA just gave a huge gift to e-cigarette makers

Nobody seems to know for sure if e-cigarettes are healthier for tobacco enthusiasts than actual cigarettes. According to a long-term study released in February, researchers concluded that vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes. But in April, another study showed that the DNA damaged caused by e-cigarettes was just as harmfulas regular cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration, though, weighed in Friday, and it seems that its leaning toward the idea that if people are using tobacco, it should be in the form of vaping.

According to the FDA in a newly released planthat it will use to help reduce tobacco-related disease and death, the agency said a key piece of its plan is recognizing that nicotine is most harmful when delivered via combustible cigarettes.

The good news for vapers is that the FDA is extending a deadline that would force e-cigarette products to be regulated in the same way as combustible tobacco products.

As Engadgetnotes, the FDA last year ruled that any e-cigarette or vaping product released after Feb. 15, 2007 would be subject to the same rules as other tobacco products in order to get FDA approval, which could be a long and time-consuming process. Wrote Engadget: That was significant as that would include pretty much every vape liquid on the market today, most of which are made by small independent businesses (and not Big Tobacco).

But Fridays announcement said that applications for non-combustible tobacco products, including electronic nicotine delivery systems and e-cigarettes, dont have to be submitted until 2022. That means the vaping industry has about five years before itll be fully regulated by the FDA.

Wrote the FDA:

These revised timelines will afford the agency time to explore clear and meaningful measures to make tobacco products less toxic, appealing, and addictive, such as:

  • FDA intends to develop product standards to protect against known public health risks such as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) battery issues.

  • FDA intends to develop product standards around concerns about children’s exposure to liquid nicotine.

The FDAs goal is to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes so it wont create or sustain an addiction but still allow adults who want the nicotine to get it from alternative and less harmful sources.

Its a real bombshell, Oliver Kershaw, the co-founder of told Engadget. On a pragmatic level, it just makes sense, it appears to be a joined-up strategy for moving people away from cigarettes to healthier alternatives.

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5 of the most interesting things we saw at Politicon, the Comic-Con of politics

Pasadena (CNN)Politicon has lived up to its reputation as the “Comic-Con of politics.”

The third annual event, held in Pasadena, California, drew in thousands of political commentators, journalists, celebrities and politics nerds from across the US.
Here are five of the most interesting things we spotted at the two-day conference.
    1. Tomi Lahren mania
    Lahren knows how to stir up a crowd.
    The conservative firebrand, who made a name for herself speaking sharp and fast about conservative politics, told an audience at Politicon that she wants to repeal and replace Obamacare — but then casually added later she’s still on her parents’ health care plan.
    “Luckily I’m 24 and I’m still on my parents’ health care plan,” she told comedian Chelsea Handler, who conducted the Q&A.
    Some people in the crowd booed, seeing it as a contradiction because former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law and frequent Lahren target — the Affordable Care Act — is the reason why she can still be on her parents’ health insurance plan. The ability to stay on your parents’ plan until you turn 26 is a popular feature of Obamacare.
    But Lahren has as many fans as she does haters.
    Devin Dudley, 18, trekked from Michigan sporting a T-shirt with a collage of Lahren’s face.
    “I got if off a website because I heard she was going to be here,” he told CNN. “I was looking for different types of merch, and I found this and said ‘I have to have this.’ I like that she’s very outgoing, she doesn’t hold back. She loves to talk about politics, just like I do. I might not agree with her about everything, but we do agree a lot.”
    2. Creative outfits
    Alex Ishkov, Brandon Firla and Richard Kenyon (above) came dressed as George Washington, Abe Lincoln and founding father Alexander Hamilton.
    But they weren’t the only people at Politicon who got creative with their attire.
    Artist Ricky Rebel came clad in an America jumpsuit.
    “Make America glam again,” he said while posing in front of a giant American flag during the event.
    3. Fun activities on the con floor
    Anthony Scaramucci, the newly appointed White House communications director, bailed on Politicon after The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza published a piece last week detailing a phone conversation he had with President Donald Trump’s new hire.
    But just because he wasn’t there doesn’t mean he was forgotten. Politicon had a photobooth set up where attendees could get GIFs of themselves in front of a White House-esque podium. Cut-outs of ‘the Mooch,’ now ex-White House press secretary Sean Spicer and his successor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, were available for people to pose with.
    Also on the floor: A booth where attendees could make their own “pussyhats,” the pink, handmade, cat-eared knit hats created to show solidarity and support for women’s rights.
    “Politicon reached out to us they wanted to be be part of it,” Kat Coyle, who helped design the hat for Pussyhat Project co-founders Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, told CNN.
    4. Politically inspired art and merch
    Organizations handed out everything from pins to comics, showcasing their various politically inspired products.
    One company, The Tea Book, put up a large poster showcasing the cover art for its latest tea-storage devices, which are made to look like books on the oustide: “poli-tea-cal,” and “ImPeachMint.”
    “We create teas that tell stories. Every tea has a character that talks about different issues,” Noah Bleich, who owns the Tea Book, told CNN.
    5. Lots and lots of Trump swag or impersonations
    Many attendees sported the Trump campaign’s signature red “Make America Great Again” hats. Others took their passion for the President further by dressing up as him — and a few wouldn’t break character.
    Even outside the event on Saturday, a person dressed as Trump danced on the street.
    Some of the cars that drove by honked.

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    Trump Hits Reset Button by Ousting Priebus After Rough Week

    Donald Trump endured in a single week the kind of policy disarray, legislative failure and vulgar White House staff infighting that might take a full term for any other president to accumulate.

    His manic, seven-day stretch was capped Friday afternoon by Trump’s announcement — on Twitter — that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus was exiting the administration. He’ll be replaced by Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who has delighted Trump by executing with vigor the president’s promised crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

    Reince Priebus

    Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

    Many weeks have been bad weeks for the president, who has yet to sign a major piece of legislation and is dogged by an investigation into possible ties between his campaign and the Russian government. But after the Senate’s failure to pass legislation to repeal Obamacare, resistance from the military on Trump’s attempt to rewrite transgender policy via Twitter and even the Boy Scouts distancing themselves from the president, he finds his administration in a spiral.

    Kelly represents a course correction at a time when lawmakers, the bureaucracy and the business community are increasingly less fearful of Trump’s wrath. Disenchantment is setting in with voters wooed by his promises to bring a businessman’s outlook to Washington — and above all, to get things done.

    Each new administration has little more than a year to achieve its biggest goals before political campaigning and Washington inertia overtake policy making. For Trump, isolated and depleted of political capital, that window is rapidly closing. He still wants a tax code overhaul, a border wall, and an infrastructure program. But those grand ambitions feel ever more out of sync with reality after the week that was.

    Fifty-five percent of Americans view Trump unfavorably, according to a Bloomberg poll published this month. While he still enjoys strong support among Republicans, 40 percent of the broader population described their opinion of the president as “very unfavorable.”

    McCain’s Revenge

    Obamacare repeal was felled by Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican whom the president knocked as "not a war hero" almost exactly two years ago. Congress rubbed in the failure by instead passing by veto-proof margins legislation to ratchet up sanctions on Russia, against Trump’s wishes.

    The votes came just hours after Priebus submitted his resignation to Trump, according to White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. While she said the president and his chief of staff had discussed a possible departure for two weeks, the issue appeared forced when the New Yorker published communication director Anthony Scaramucci’s profane tirade against Priebus and Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

    Several aides were reluctant to discuss their observations or personal feelings about the matter, fearing Scaramucci’s threats that he would “fire everybody” that he suspects of leaking to reporters.

    Priebus and Scaramucci both traveled with Trump to Long Island on Friday for a speech on crime. The two men were not seen speaking, or even in close proximity, by reporters aboard Air Force One.

    But Priebus’s ouster may portend a further White House shakeup. The former Republican National Committee chairman hired many staffers to bolster Trump’s shoestring campaign operation, and his loyalists now worry their time in the West Wing may also be short.

    Constant Controversy

    As if the infighting and Obamacare struggles weren’t enough, Trump at every turn this week seemed to generate fresh controversy.

    A Cabinet official in the doghouse, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, suffered through a week of belittling tweets and other slights from his boss.

    Trump’s hastily tweeted ban on transgender service members on Wednesday caught the Pentagon and Congress by surprise and earned the White House a rebuke by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which said the military would not implement the policy until the White House provides further details.

    Even a simple address to the Boy Scouts of America’s annual jamboree on Monday devolved into a political screed that prompted the head of the organization to apologize.

    And on Friday, in his speech to law enforcement officers in Long Island, Trump suggested they shouldn’t be afraid to be rougher with suspects — “please don’t be too nice,” he said — and suggested that human trafficking is “worse now than maybe it has been in the history of this world.” The millions of Americans born of the trans-Atlantic slave trade are evidence otherwise.

    To top it all off, North Korea tested another intercontinental ballistic missile on Friday.

    No Fear

    Early in the congressional debate over repealing and modifying Obamacare, it appeared that despite his historically low approval rating Trump’s support among Republicans would be enough to scare intransigent lawmakers into line. But the Senate vote in Friday’s early hours demonstrated that the threat of a Twitter scolding by the president isn’t enough to get hard things done.

    The departure of veteran Republican hands from the West Wing served as a clear signal to the Washington establishment that the president isn’t learning on the job. Washington neophyte Scaramucci’s appointment as communications director — a traditionally behind-the-scenes job focused on long-term message strategy — was an indication Trump is not serious about the detailed and often boring work required to achieve policy victories.

    ‘Fresh Air’

    Trump’s allies argue that the president’s actual policies resonate outside the bubble of the Beltway, and say that his supporters not only aren’t concerned about staff infighting, but are excited by characters like Scaramucci who vocally defend the president.

    “I think Anthony is a breath of fresh air coming into the White House," Jason Miller, a veteran of Trump’s campaign, said Friday on CNN. "I love his focus on the leaks and I think he’s going to be a great teammate.”

    They point to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Trump’s focus on deregulation as promises kept to his base. A booming stock market and steady growth in employment help cushion the impact of his legislative and personnel troubles.

    Trump’s allies expect Kelly’s appointment to restore a rudder to the West Wing. The retired Marine Corps general is respected within the administration for his initial success reducing undocumented immigration and his commitment to Trump’s campaign promise of a wall on the southern border. He’ll start his job on Monday, convening a Cabinet meeting shortly after his swearing-in.

    "The entire administration loves him and no one is comparable," Sanders told reporters on Friday.

    But even Trump’s signature assurances of future victories rang hollow in the aftermath of his disastrous week. 

    On the airport tarmac in New York, reporters shouted questions about the defeat of the health care bill. The president at first offered only a wave. After a moment, he added, "It’s going to be fine," before ducking into his armored limousine.

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      The White House wants the Senate to halt everything else until a health care bill is passed

      It appears as if Donald Trump‘s administration isnt ready to give up on healthcare just yet.

      On Sunday, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Senate Republicans should not move forward with any new votes until a healthcare repeal or replacement bill is passed, insisting it wouldnt be acceptable for the GOP to fail to follow through on such a longstanding promise to its base.

      In the White House’s view, they can’t move on in the Senate, Mulvaney told CNNs Jake Tapper on Sunday morning. In the peoples view, they shouldnt move on in the Senate. They should stay and work and figure out a way to solve this problem. Keep in mind, youre talking about something theyve promised to do for seven years. You can’t promise folks you’re going to do something for seven years, and then not do it.

      Contrary to Mulvaney’s remark that “the people” want action on healthcare, all the proposals that congressional Republicans have put forward so far have been massively unpopular, with some polling below 20 percent approval, an almost unheard-of figure in themodern age of hyper-polarized politics.

      Thecomments also echoed those of Trump, albeit in a more diplomatic tone. On Saturday afternoon, less than 48 hours after the GOP Senates skinny repeal bill failed in a dramatic floor vote, Trump tweeted that Republicans would be total quitters to give up on health care now.

      Trump continued the pep talk on Sunday morning.

      Mulvaney also confirmed that the White Houses official position is that no other votes should occur before healthcare, even if a bill isnt passed by the time the debt ceiling needs to be raised. In other words, the administration is arguing that the U.S. should go into default rather than move on from healthcare. After the Obamacare repeal failed early Friday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was time for his party to move on from trying to reform healthcare.

      White House counselor Kellyanne Conway also weighed in on the healthcare process on Sunday, tellingFox News Sundaythat Trump is currently considering whether to halt crucialpayments to insurance companies that have been integral to Obamacare. Known as Cost Sharing Reduction payments, or CSRs for short, the federal government halting such payouts would have a damaging effect on the overall health of the law, as well as the ability of low-income Americans to receive care.

      Many Democrats and progressives fear such a move, insisting that Trump and the GOP might try to deliberately sabotage Obamacare, forcing its failure in order to reap political advantage. For Trump’s part, at least, he hasn’t been particularly shy about wanting to see the American healthcare system fail; he’s repeatedlysaidthat the best political strategy would be to “let Obamacare implode,”as recently as Friday.

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      Gender identity: What do legal changes have to do with women’s rights? – BBC News

      Image copyright EPA

      Trans activists have welcomed moves from the government to “streamline and de-medicalise the process” of changing legal gender. But some women are worried about the potential impact on their own legal rights.

      Today, anyone who wants to legally change their gender in the UK has to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). Many don’t though, because they feel the lengthy process is invasive and demeaning.

      In order to qualify, trans people do not need to have had surgery but must have lived for two years in their preferred gender and have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria – distress caused by a mismatch between biological sex and gender identity.

      One way to simplify things for trans men and women would be to allow individuals to self-declare the gender in which they choose to live, without the need for medical evidence or proof. That’s what the government has now put out to consultation.

      But the idea has been met with anger and shock in some forums including parenting website Mumsnet, where the latest in a series of threads attracted more than 1,000 comments in two days.

      Image copyright Getty Images
      Image caption Former boxing manager Kellie Maloney says her application was twice rejected before her gender recognition certificate was granted

      At present, the guidance issued to service providers – women’s refuges, for example – by the Equality and Human Rights Commission states: “Where a transsexual person is visually and for all practical purposes indistinguishable from someone of their preferred gender, they should normally be treated according to their acquired gender unless there are strong reasons not to do so.”

      Those with a GRC “should be treated in their acquired gender for all purposes”.

      That means that anyone who identifies themselves as a woman – whether that is their legal status or not – can already use separate-sex facilities such as changing rooms, toilets or single-sex gyms.

      The proposed changes to the gender recognition act does not change that.

      The concern is that the greater ease with which gender could be legally changed would give a tiny minority with nefarious motives greater opportunity.

      The Equality Act 2010 also permits service providers – including hospitals and prisons – to use their discretion to refuse a trans person access to single-sex services on a case-by-case basis.

      This legislation however, could also change.

      A report on transgender equality published in January 2016 by Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee recommended discretion should not apply where a trans person had been recognised as their acquired gender “for all legal purposes” under the Gender Recognition Act – in other words, obtained a GRC.

      And it’s that which could get much easier in future.

      Image copyright Getty Images
      Image caption Under current law, any person who self-identifies as a woman can use female-only services like toilets and changing rooms

      A lot of the discussion online is around women-only spaces.

      Refuges and rape centres, even changing rooms are places viewed as “safe” by women, some of them fleeing violence, because they typically exclude men.

      Many of those commenting on Mumsnet fear that simply by choosing to call themselves women, “predatory males” – a minority who may want to abuse the system – could get access to those places and put women at risk.

      Prisons are another area of concern, with warnings that biological males, some potentially dangerous, could be placed in facilities with vulnerable women.

      In the world of sport, the users also fear women could find themselves at risk or unable to compete as they could be taking part alongside biological males.

      GRCs do not however, affect the categorisation of people for sporting purposes. Sports authorities have their own rules. UK Athletics for example, says trans women can compete in their affirmed gender on providing hormonal evidence.

      Image copyright Reuters

      One Mumsnet commentator, BahHumbygge, described “biological sex” as “vitally important”, adding: “The idea that a predatory male can just decree by personal fiat he is now female and can now access any female-only space is simply horrifying.”

      “I fully support the right of people to dress how they like, call themselves what they like, and 99% of the time do whatever job they like or live wherever they like… But 1% of the time – women’s prisons, women’s spaces where they are naked and vulnerable, women’s shelters and rape crisis centres – people with penises should not be in these spaces or taking jobs in those places,” M0stlyBowlingHedgehog writes.

      Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts said the site’s users were “deeply divided”.

      “It’s a hugely complex and emotive issue that, sadly, seems to pit two vulnerable groups against each other,” she added.

      The fears expressed echo those raised by some in the feminist movement, including writer Sarah Ditum, who argues the move could create a system “vulnerable to exploitation and open to abuse”.

      “We have female-only spaces to protect women and help them participate in public life. It’s taken a long time to establish women-only services,” Sarah said.

      “Discretion must be protected,” she said, so that facilities such as prisons can continue to use their judgement on a case-by-case basis.

      ‘Long overdue’

      Set against these complaints are other voices, who stress the value of a law change to trans people.

      “This gender bill would be an amazing step forward for trans rights. You are indeed on the wrong side of history,” writes BuffyChiro.

      Campaign group Stonewall called the current system “demeaning and broken”.

      Writer and broadcaster Paris Lees transitioned when she was a teenager. She has not applied for a GRC but her passport says she’s female. She told the BBC anything to make the transitioning process “just a little bit easier” was “long overdue and great news”.

      She rejects the fears raised on Mumsnet and elsewhere as “absurd”.

      Reality Check: What does legally changing gender involve?

      • It can take more than five years for trans men and women in England and Wales to legally change their gender under the current system
      • To change gender in the eyes of the law, individuals have to apply for a certificate under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act
      • They must be aged 18 or older and must live for two years in their preferred gender
      • They need to have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a psychiatrist – a condition where a person experiences distress because of a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity
      • Once someone has this diagnosis, they can apply to a gender recognition panel – a legal tribunal which will look at the evidence submitted before deciding whether to issue a certificate
      • People can change the gender on documentation including passports and driving licences without a gender recognition certificate

      Read more

      Gender vs sex

      Critics of a change also warn about possible implications for data gathering.

      If official information no longer distinguishes between natal sex and identified sex, statistics would inevitably be affected.

      “This would obscure important trends in society,” Sarah said, “like the gender pay gap, crime and male violence – especially with regard to who is committing crimes against who”.

      Trans people currently have explicit protection under the Equality Act if they’ve undergone “gender reassignment”, be it medical or non-medical. Other so-called protected characteristics include race, religion, sex and disability.

      But the term “gender reassignment” has been deemed outdated and a bill to change the protected characteristic to “gender identity”, is awaiting its second reading in the House of Commons.

      “Gender identity legislation makes it appear that sex discrimination doesn’t exist anymore. But it does,” said Sarah.

      Image caption Broadcaster Dame Jenni Murray came under criticism in March after suggesting men who have had sex-change operations should not claim to be “real women”

      Stephanie Davies-Arai founded the Transgender Trend website – a group for parents to discuss transgender issues.

      “Men could in effect identify their way into the protected category for women,” she said.

      What this means for women, Stephanie argues, is that the female sex would no longer have a protected category or political representation.

      “‘Women are oppressed on the basis of their biological sex, not their gender identity,” she added. “There has to be a place for the female sex as a distinct group.”

      This argument – the distinction between sex and gender – is refuted by some, including trans activist and feminist author Julia Serano, who argues there are more than two discrete mutually exclusive sexes.

      Instead, she argues sex is made up of a number of variable dimorphic traits – like chromosomes and reproductive organs – that sometimes align in a person, and sometimes don’t.

      Both Sarah and Stephanie have stressed their support for trans rights, but that hasn’t stopped criticism being directed at them.

      “There’s a climate that if you challenge this – you are a trans-phobic, bigoted hater,” Stephanie says.

      The government’s consultation is due to be published in the autumn, but until then the debate for all women’s rights continues.

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      How A Dog Helped Me Manage My Anxiety And Depression

      Andy Omvik

      I first began experiencing anxiety and depression at the age of 14 after being bullied at school for years. While at first it would come and go, anxiety and depression eventually became a constant presence in my life. It was like a perpetual cough that eventually starts to get better, only to come back worse than before.

      Only unlike a cough, where usually I am still able to function, anxiety and depression hits like a ton of bricks and even the idea of getting out of bed seems to be a goal that gets to be less and less attainable. As time passed, more and more of my days started to be spent paralyzed by endless thoughts of regrets of the past and worries for the future.

      I was so intent on finding the solution to overcoming my anxiety and depression that I studied mental health in school, from college to grad school for 7 years, and yet still felt I hadnt even come close to grasping how to manage my own anxiety and depression.

      I felt very confident about helping others; yet, horribly useless at helping myself. Something was missing; a piece to my puzzle that I had yet to discover.

      I tried everything; anti-depressants, special teas, yoga, vitamins and anything I read about in books and advice given by doctors. I bought a membership to the gym because of how beneficial exercise is for mental health. But every day, I would drag my feet to the gym, hating every moment of it from beginning to end. Oh, how I loathe the gym. I even moved 8 hours away from home in the hopes of having a new beginning, a new me, but that just seemed to make things worse. I felt isolated and lost in an unknown city.

      This was my life for over ten years; getting better, to just fall again and start over. It felt like a constant uphill battle, swimming against the current, and I started to feel like nothing was going to work. I started to believe that Id have to live the rest of my life with this dark cloud constantly hanging over me, rearing its ugly head just when things are starting to look up.

      Until one day, I fell upon an article that talked about how dogs were able to help people with their mental health, like anxiety and depression. I had always loved dogs; my family had many growing up and they had always been wonderful companions. So I decided I was going to get a dog. I settled on the idea of getting a Pembroke Welsh Corgi because if they were good enough for the Queen, they were good enough for me; not to mention they are hilarious and cute.

      When I brought my little corgi, Buddy, home in November of 2014, I didnt realize at the time how much he would truly change my life. But it didnt happen right away. Once the new puppy excitement went away, the anxiety and depression crept back as it always had. I woke up one morning and felt those familiar feelings again; the weight on my shoulders, the nausea in my stomach, the feelings of hopelessness and worry.

      I knew that the anxiety and depression had come back hard and felt depleted. I didnt want to get out of bed. It felt impossible. I turned to pull the covers back over my head and give up for the day. What I always did. Thats when I came face to face with Buddy.

      Buddy started jumping all over me, kissing my face, letting me know that it was time to go outside. It was as if he was saying, Its no time to be sad, the world is awesome! And for the first time in my life, on a day when my anxiety and depression was present full force, I got out of bed. I put on my winter boots, snow pants, gloves, hat, scarf, coat, and went for a walk in the snow with my new best friend. I realized at that moment, walking down the street in minus 30 degree weather, that my life was changing. I really was a new person. This was my new beginning, my missing puzzle piece.

      It has been over a year and a half since that day and I have never spent another day unable to get out of bed. I have not cried myself to sleep or spent my days paralyzed by fear and regret. Sure, I still have days when I feel sad or anxious, but with my best Buddy by my side, I have finally learned how to manage these feelings and emotions.

      I finally realized the answer to my decade long question of how to manage anxiety and depression – , and – all things that were unattainable for me before, were achieved by getting a dog. The reason these three things are so key is they all trigger the release of the chemical serotonin – the feel-good chemical in our brains. By having increased levels of serotonin every day, symptoms of anxiety and depression can dramatically decrease.

      Before Buddy came into my life, I was not able to get enough exercise because there was nothing truly motivating me to exercise, which made my attempts at changing my life to be more active short lived. I wasnt getting enough laughter because as an introverted person, socializing is not my forte, so I dont spend a lot of time with friends or doing activities that promote laughter. And I had a lot of love in my life from my friends and family, but not the kind of unconditional love you get from a dog. The kind of love that greets you at the door every day after a long day of work and just turns everything around.

      A dog motivates you to get out the door for fresh air and exercise, even when its the last thing you feel like doing. A dog brings you so much laughter and joy, unlike anything Ive experienced before, with their unique personalities and hilarious quirks (search funny dog videos and youll know exactly what I am talking about).

      And lastly, a dog brings you unconditional love, the kind of love that never stops. With these three things in your life, anxiety and depression can be part of your past as it has become a part of mine.

      Getting a dog can dramatically change the way you are able to manage your anxiety, depression, or simply your overall mental health; however, its important to consider many things before getting a dog. Thousands of dogs are abandoned at shelters every year, especially during the first year of their lives, because owners were unaware of how much time and money a dog requires. If you are considering getting a dog to help improve your mental health, here are some things to consider:

      1. Do I have time for a dog?

      A dog requires a minimum of 2 hours a day of your time and attention. A puppy requires even more, around 4 hours a day. Not ready to commit to raising a puppy? Consider rescuing a dog in need of a home. Thousands of dogs are in need of homes.

      2. What breed do I want?

      If you want a dog that will motivate you to exercise, pick a dog breed that requires the level of exercise you want to partake in. Dog breeds range from low to very high exercise requirements. Also, dog breeds are known for different personalities, pick one that suits you. I picked a Pembroke Welsh Corgi because they are known to be very funny and loving.

      3. Do I have the money?

      While dogs do not need to be expensive, its important to make sure that you have enough money to support their needs. This includes all of their accessories, training tools, food, treats, and vet bills.

      Getting a dog was the missing piece in my puzzle in helping me learn to manage my anxiety and depression and could be the piece that changes your life. But no matter what your missing piece may be, whether you know what it is or not, never lose hope that things will get better.

      – Victor Hugo, Les Misrables.

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      HIV tests for new GP patients ‘can aid early diagnosis’ – BBC News

      Image copyright Getty Images

      Offering HIV testing when people register with a new GP in areas of high prevalence is cost-effective and could prolong lives, a new study says.

      Patients at 40 GP surgeries in the London borough of Hackney were given finger-prick HIV testing when registering.

      The study, in the Lancet, found this raised the rate of diagnosis four-fold.

      The Terrence Higgins Trust welcomed the findings and called on healthcare commissioners to act on them.

      Public Health England already recommends that all GPs in areas where HIV prevalence is high, or extremely high, should offer testing to everyone who registers with the practice and has not previously been diagnosed with the virus.

      Around 86,000 patients in Hackney, which has a high HIV prevalence rate – eight in 1,000 people – were tested as part of the research.

      ‘Exhausted and skinny’

      Alex Causton-Ronaldson, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2014, says more accessible testing in GP surgeries would have greatly benefited him.

      He learned of his diagnosis at the age of 24 and said: “I lost loads of weight really rapidly. I started getting this rash all over my body and I didn’t know what it was,” he said.

      “I was exhausted and skinny.”

      At the time, he was living with his parents in Norwich, which has a relatively low prevalence of HIV, and had to get a test elsewhere.

      Image copyright Alex Causton-Ronaldson

      A positive result came through a week later.

      Alex said: “I cried like I’ve never cried before.”

      The late diagnosis meant he was taken to hospital affected by a condition called thrombocytopenia, where his body would not clot blood.

      “I got put in a wheelchair because I couldn’t get knocked or bruised, or even a paper cut,” he explained.

      “If the test was more accessible, I could have been diagnosed earlier and kept out of hospital.”

      Investment call

      In the UK around 13,500 people do not know that they have HIV, meaning they miss out on treatment, remain infectious to others and are more expensive to treat.

      Dr Werner Leber, from Queen Mary University of London, one of the study’s authors, said: “We’ve shown that HIV screening in UK primary care is cost-effective and potentially cost-saving, which is contrary to widespread belief.

      “This is an important finding, given today’s austerity.”

      The researchers called on healthcare commissioners to invest in rolling out HIV screening to all 74 local authorities in England with high HIV prevalence.

      They said testing had fallen in some areas because of financial pressures on local-authority budgets.

      Early treatment benefits

      Their work shows costs are high at first – because more people will be diagnosed and need anti-retroviral treatment – but these programmes become cost-effective in the longer-term.

      This is because onward transmission of the virus is brought under control, and people who start treatment sooner stand the best chance of staying healthy.

      Dr Michael Brady, from the Terrence Higgins Trust, called on healthcare commissioners to act on the findings.

      “One in seven people living with HIV do not know that they have it. Undiagnosed HIV infection puts individuals at risk of preventable illness and death,” he said.

      Alex Causton-Ronaldson now lives a healthy life in London with HIV. He would love to see testing be more accessible across the country.

      He said: “If everyone was tested and on drugs, so it’s undetectable and can’t be passed on, we could stop the spread of HIV in our lifetime.”

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