• Senate blasts Medicaid expansion bill to floor for debate

    Updated: 26 min ago

    HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Senators have voted to blast a Republican lawmaker's Medicaid expansion bill out of committee and to the floor for debate. The motion passed by a 28-22 vote on Thursday. Sen. Ed Buttrey of Great Falls introduced Senate Bill 405 last week, touting it as a compromise bill. The measure would accept money from the federal government for expanding Medicaid eligibility to low-income Montanans, but requires them to pay premiums each month as well as co-payments for certain services. Those who enroll would also be asked to participate in a workplace assessment survey designed to help people obtain higher-paying jobs. Buttrey estimates about 45,000 Montanans would enroll in the program in the n

  • McAuliffe signs state budget with raises for state workers

    Updated: 27 min ago

    RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed a new state budget that includes pay increases for state employees, boosts cash benefits for welfare recipients and has more money for the governor to spend on economic development. The Democratic governor signed the budget Thursday at the Capitol while touting his good working relationship with Republican leaders on the state's spending plan. McAuliffe did not try to amend the mid-course correction to the state's roughly $95 billion biennial spending plan that state lawmakers approved last month, as past governors have regularly done.

  • Answers to common questions about HIV, needles and drug use

    Updated: 29 min ago

    Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has authorized a short-term needle-exchange program and other steps to help contain the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users in one county. Some answers to common questions about needles, drug abuse and the virus that causes AIDS: ___ WHAT ROLE DO DIRTY NEEDLES PLAY IN HIV? HIV is a blood-borne infection. Intravenous drug users, who sometimes share dirty syringes, account for 8 percent of new HIV infections and 16 percent of people currently living with HIV in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The good news is there's been progress in curbing infections, largely because of needle-exchange and drug-treatment programs.

  • Cancer hospital company fails to get OK to expand in Georgia

    Updated: 34 min ago

    ATLANTA (AP) — An Illinois-based cancer hospital company has lost a last-ditch effort to get permission from the Georgia Legislature to expand in the state. An amendment was tacked onto a bill in the Senate regulating private home care providers for the elderly. But it was ruled "not germane" to the home care bill and discarded without a vote after vigorous debate. Senators said it was wrong to add it to the bill Rep. Greg Kirk, R-American, which passed 51-3. He said the Cancer Treatment Centers of America amendment had nothing to do with his bill. Recently, the company tried and failed to go back on parts of a deal it made to gain entry into the state in 2008.

  • Ohio firefighter dies from injuries during rescue effort

    Updated: 39 min ago

    CINCINNATI (AP) — A 29-year veteran firefighter died "a hero" Thursday from injuries he suffered while searching for people to rescue from a burning Cincinnati apartment building, authorities said. Daryl Gordon, 54, was removed from the building by stretcher after falling down an elevator shaft and died at a hospital, officials said. "It is with a heavy heart that we announce the death of one of our city's protectors," Mayor John Cranley said at a news conference. "He put himself in harm's way to help residents in the building." Flags were lowered to half-staff across the city, and fire-rescue workers put black strips over their badges. "We lost a hero today, and we are all mourning," fire Chief Richard Braun sa

  • Maker of tainted medical scopes issues new cleaning guide

    Updated: 41 min ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The maker of medical scopes that have been linked to two recent "superbug" outbreaks at California hospitals has issued new cleaning instructions for the devices, amid scrutiny from regulators, lawmakers and medical professionals. Olympus America sent the new guidelines to U.S. hospitals on Thursday, recommending that its customers begin using them as soon as possible. The updated guidelines call for using a smaller cleaning brush and additional flushing steps to remove debris and disinfect the scope's cervices and joints. Olympus plans to send the new brush to hospital customers by May 8.

  • Easter — believing in the impossible

    Updated: 44 min ago

    Easter. As a kid, I imagined a wooden cross and golden sunlight piercing through purple clouds. I grew up jaded on words like “resurrection” and “redemption,” which felt as distant as lavender skies. Now I feel differently. The good news of Easter is that nothing is impossible with God. For Christians, Jesus Christ’s resurrection is proof of God’s power even over the permanency of death. Soon many churches will reflect on a scripture from John 11:25, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” This may be hard if not impossible for many to grasp, but what is easy to understand is the concept of rebirth. I let go of things that don’t

  • Arkansas Senate rejects Medicaid plan freeze proposal

    Updated: 46 min ago

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An effort to stop signing people up for Arkansas' compromise Medicaid expansion has failed in the state Senate. The Senate voted 15-13 Thursday against the bill to require the state to seek approval from the federal government to freeze enrollment in the "private option," which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor. The program was crafted as an alternative to the Medicaid expansion envisioned under the federal health law. State officials have said the federal government has told them they won't approve an enrollment freeze. Lawmakers last month voted to continue the private option another year while a task force looks at alternatives for covering the thousands of peopl

  • House OKs bipartisan Medicare doctor bill; fate up to Senate

    Updated: 53 min ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — In uncommon bipartisan harmony, the House approved a $214 billion bill on Thursday permanently blocking physician Medicare cuts, moving Congress closer to resolving a problem that has plagued it for years. The lopsided 392-37 vote shifted pressure onto the Senate, where its prospects have brightened as Democrats have muffled their criticism and President Barack Obama has embraced the bill. But with some conservatives also balking at the legislation, its fate there remained murky. Thursday's House vote came on a package that bore victories for Republicans and Democrats alike and was negotiated by the chamber's two chief antagonists, Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

  • Watchdog says senior Homeland official broke no laws

    Updated: 59 min ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior Obama administration official violated agency ethics policies but did not break any laws when he intervened in three visa cases involving foreign investors with ties to prominent Democrats, a government watchdog told Congress Thursday. The Homeland Security Department's now deputy secretary used his post as head of the department's immigration benefits-processing agency to expedite the paperwork in a program long riddled with problems and backlogs, the department's inspector general, John Roth, said. Alejandro Mayorkas' interventions in the three cases helped key Democrats whose states and clients stood to benefit from these permits to live and work in the U.S., which pave the way for job creation

  • Medical marijuana bill moves ahead in Iowa Senate

    Updated: 59 min ago

    DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An effort to expand access to medical marijuana in Iowa is moving forward in the Democratic-majority Iowa Senate, though it is unlikely the bill will find favor in the Republican-controlled House. The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would make medical marijuana available to people with a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Those approved by a doctor could then purchase marijuana products produced in Iowa at state-run dispensaries. Last year, the Legislature approved a law that allows some residents with epilepsy to use oil with an ingredient derived from marijuana for treatment.

  • Billion-dollar verdict rests on disputed missed deadline

    Updated: 1 hr ago

    FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A missed court deadline could result in a billion-dollar windfall for Kentucky taxpayers from the manufacturer of Oxycontin. The state is suing Purdue Pharma for misrepresenting its prescription painkiller that resulted in a wave of addiction and increased medical costs across the state. The company had 45 days to respond to the state's claims. But in the middle of that window, the case was moved to federal court, and the deadline vanished. More than five years later, the federal court sent the case back to Kentucky. State officials say that restarted the clock to respond. The deadline passed, and a judge ruled in the state's favor. But attorneys for Purdue Pharma argue the old deadline was not valid.

  • US, Iran nuke talks enter critical round ahead of deadline

    Updated: 1 hr ago

    LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran entered a critical phase on Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meeting his Iranian counterpart less than a week away from a deadline to secure the outline of a deal. With the clock ticking, Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and their teams huddled Thursday in the Swiss resort town of Lausanne on Lake Geneva trying to overcome still significant gaps after nearly two years of negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. The top diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia are expected to join the talks if the U.S. and Iran are close to an agreemen

  • Watchdog report faults DEA handling of sex party allegations

    Updated: 1 hr ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal watchdog on Thursday faulted the Drug Enforcement Administration over allegations that agents attended sex parties with prostitutes on government-leased property while stationed overseas. The sex parties are just one example of questionable behavior highlighted in a report by the Justice Department inspector general that examines the department's handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations from 2009 to 2012. It said some allegations were not fully investigated or went unreported to headquarters. It also criticized poor communication among internal affairs investigators assigned to look into the bad behavior and security officers responsible for the security clearance process.

  • 5 people watched for Ebola in Nebraska still healthy

    Updated: 1 hr ago

    OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The American aid workers brought to Nebraska who were exposed to Ebola in Sierra Leone continue to show no symptoms of the deadly virus. Nebraska Medical Center spokesman Taylor Wilson said Thursday that all five of the individuals who were brought to Omaha earlier this month for monitoring continue to do well. Wilson said local health officials will determine when the individuals can be released from monitoring. Ebola has a 21-day incubation period. The health care workers were exposed to Ebola in Sierra Leone when one of their colleagues became ill with the deadly virus. They are all staying on the Nebraska Medical Center's campus while they are being monitored.

  • VA officials say they will work to end overprescribing

    Updated: 1 hr ago

    MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Department of Veterans Affairs officials are trying to put solutions in place to limit narcotic overprescribing practices in VA hospitals, they said Thursday, but lapses still happen. At a U.S. Senate hearing in Washington, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called the VA system of prescribing narcotics "abysmally inaccurate" and prodded VA officials on how they would fix programs used to monitor such prescriptions. Interim VA Undersecretary for Health Carolyn Clancy said the agency is launching computer programs aimed at tracking opioid prescriptions across the VA system, but that software in 29 states doesn't work with similar state-run programs. As a result, she said, some patients can get prescriptio

  • AP Exclusive: Special ops troops using flawed intel software

    Updated: 1 hr ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Special operations troops heading to war zones are asking for commercial intelligence analysis software they say will help their missions. But their requests are languishing, and they are being ordered to use a flawed, in-house system preferred by the Pentagon, according to government records and interviews. Over the last four months, six Army special operations units about to be deployed into Afghanistan, Iraq and other hostile environments have requested intelligence software made by Palantir, a Silicon Valley company that has synthesized data for the CIA, the Navy SEALs and the country's largest banks, among other government and private entities.

  • Oklahoma Senate panel approves proton therapy treatment bill

    Updated: 1 hr ago

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A state Senate committee has approved legislation to prohibit health insurers from holding proton radiation cancer therapy to a higher standard of clinical effectiveness than other cancer-related radiation therapies. The Senate Committee on Insurance voted 6-0 Thursday for the bill and sent it to the full Senate for a vote. The Oklahoma House passed the bill 97-0 earlier this month. The therapy uses a beam of protons to irradiate diseased tissue. It was approved for cancer treatment by the Food and Drug Administration in 1988. It can more precisely localize a radiation dose than traditional therapies and reduce side effects to surrounding tissue.

  • Md. Senate votes unanimously for $40B budget

    Updated: 1 hr ago

    ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland Senate voted unanimously Thursday for the state's $40 billion budget. Democrats and Republicans spoke positively about the bipartisanship that went into the Senate's budget work, which hasn't resulted in a unanimous vote in years. "This is the 33rd budget I've worked on here, and I have to say this is probably the smoothest process since I've been here. The cooperation has been outstanding," Sen. George Edwards, R-Garrett, said. Lawmakers made extra cuts to restore scaled-back education funding initially proposed in Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's budget to help fill a $750 million shortfall. A 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees also has been restored.

  • US general: Iran-backed Shiite militias not in Tikrit fight

    Updated: 1 hr ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Iranian-backed Shiite militias have left the northern Iraq city of Tikrit, a key condition the U.S. demanded before it agreed to begin launching airstrikes Wednesday to support Iraqi forces and try to retake the city from the Islamic State group, the top U.S. general for the Middle East said Thursday. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin appeared to stun Senate Armed Services Committee members with that development during a morning hearing, telling the panel that the ground offensive in Tikrit led by Shiite militias, with help from Iran, had stalled. Austin said he witnessed brutality by Shiite militias during his extensive experience leading U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.