Herbal Viagra actually contains the real thing



































IF IT looks too good to be true, it probably is. Several "herbal remedies" for erectile dysfunction sold online actually contain the active ingredient from Viagra.












Michael Lamb at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and colleagues purchased 10 popular "natural" uplifting remedies on the internet and tested them for the presence of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. They found the compound, or a similar synthetic drug, in seven of the 10 products – cause for concern because it can be dangerous for people with some medical conditions.












Lamb's work was presented last week at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting in Washington DC.












This article appeared in print under the headline "Herbal Viagra gets a synthetic boost"


















































If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.









































































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Romney says 2012 race was 'roller coaster'






WASHINGTON: In his first interview since losing his 2012 White House bid, Mitt Romney likened his experience as a presidential candidate to an unpredictable and bumpy roller coaster ride.

"We were on a roller coaster, exciting and thrilling, ups and downs. But the ride ends," Romney said, according to advance excerpts of the interview set to air on "Fox News Sunday."

"And then you get off. And it's not like, 'Oh, can't we be on a roller coaster the rest of our life?' It's like, no, the ride's over."

Romney appeared with his wife Ann for the interview, the first either has given since the November 6 election that granted President Barack Obama his second term.

Ann Romney acknowledged that the transition from being surrounded by huge crowds and Secret Service agents around the clock to a far lower profile has been an "adjustment."

"We came and stepped forward to serve," she added.

"It was really quite a lot of energy and a lot of passion and a lot of people around us and all of a sudden, it was nothing.

"But the good news is, fortunately we like each other."

Romney, who has not had any major public appearances since his election loss, is set to speak in two weeks at a key conservative gathering, the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The former Massachusetts governor has been laying low since his defeat, popping up occasionally in photographs on social media sites that apparently depict him shopping or filling up his tank at the gas station.

When Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts left Congress to become secretary of state earlier this year, it opened up a race in his home state to fill his seat. Speculation swirled that Romney's oldest son Tagg might throw his hat in the ring, but he quickly ruled it out.

Romney aides have also rebuffed suggestions that his wife might consider running for the post.

- AFP/jc



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Rescuers end effort to find body of man presumed dead in sinkhole









SEFFNER, Florida -- Florida rescue workers have ended their efforts to recover the body of a man who disappeared into a sinkhole that swallowed his bedroom while he slept in a suburban Tampa home, and the house will be demolished, a public safety official said on Saturday.


Jeff Bush, 36, who is presumed dead, was asleep when the other five members of the household who were getting ready for bed on Thursday night heard a loud crash and Jeff screaming.


Authorities have not detected any signs of life after lowering listening devices and cameras into the hole.








"Our data has come back, and there is absolutely no way we can do any kind of recovery without endangering lives of workers," said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Dam.


The sinkhole also has compromised the house next door, officials said Saturday.


Officials planned to let family members, accompanied by firefighters, into the threatened  home for about 20 minutes to gather some  belongings, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokesman Ronnie Rivera told reporters Saturday.


She said demolition of the home would begin early on Sunday.


Bush's body hadn’t been removed by Saturday afternoon and the ground near the home was still "very, very unsafe," Rivera said at a televised press conference Saturday.


"At this time we did some testing and we determined that the house right next to the house that’s actually damaged is also compromised by the sinkhole," Rivera said.


Jeff's brother, 35-year-old Jeremy Bush, jumped into the hole and furiously kept digging to find his brother.


"I really don't think they are going to be able to find him," Jeremy said on Saturday. He "will be there forever."


A small memorial of balloons and flowers for his brother had formed near the house on Saturday morning.


"I thank the Lord for not taking my daughter and the rest of my family," he said.


Jeremy himself had to be rescued from the sinkhole by the first responder to the emergency call, Douglas Duvall of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. When Duvall entered Jeff Bush's bedroom, all he saw was a widening chasm but no sign of Jeff.


"The hole took the entire bedroom," said Duvall. "You could see the bed frame, the dresser, everything was sinking," he said.


Norman Wicker, 48, the father of Jeremy's fiancee who also lived in the house, ran to get a flashlight and shovel.


"It sounded like a car ran into the back of the house," Wicker said.


"There is a very large, very fluid mass underneath this house rendering the entire house and the entire lot dangerous and unsafe," Bill Bracken, the head of an engineering company assisting fire and rescue officials, told the news conference late on Friday.


"We are still trying to determine the extent and nature of what's down there so we can best determine how to approach it and how to extricate," Bracken said.


After suspending the search overnight, it resumed at daylight on Saturday, with engineering consultants trying to determine the extent of the collapse so that a perimeter boundary can be established for setting up heavy equipment for future excavation.


Several nearby homes were evacuated in case the 30-foot wide sinkhole got larger but officials said Friday it only appeared to be getting deeper. Soil samples showed that the sinkhole has compromised the ground underneath a home next door, engineers said Saturday.


The residents of that house were allowed 20 minutes in their home on Saturday to gather belongings. Firefighters and residents formed an assembly line to move items out of the house into SUVs and trucks.


Rescue officials said that in addition to soil samples, they were focusing on engineering analysis, ground penetration radar and other techniques to determine the extent of the ongoing collapse. Listening devices were being used to detect any evidence of life although Bush was presumed dead.


The Bush brothers worked together as landscapers, according to Leland Wicker, 48, one of the other residents of the house.


The risk of sinkholes is common in Florida due to the state's porous geological bedrock, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. As rainwater filters down into the ground, it dissolves the rock, causing erosion that can lead to underground caverns, which cause sinkholes when they collapse.

Reuters





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We Didn’t Domesticate Dogs. They Domesticated Us.


In the story of how the dog came in from the cold and onto our sofas, we tend to give ourselves a little too much credit. The most common assumption is that some hunter-gatherer with a soft spot for cuteness found some wolf puppies and adopted them. Over time, these tamed wolves would have shown their prowess at hunting, so humans kept them around the campfire until they evolved into dogs. (See "How to Build a Dog.")

But when we look back at our relationship with wolves throughout history, this doesn't really make sense. For one thing, the wolf was domesticated at a time when modern humans were not very tolerant of carnivorous competitors. In fact, after modern humans arrived in Europe around 43,000 years ago, they pretty much wiped out every large carnivore that existed, including saber-toothed cats and giant hyenas. The fossil record doesn't reveal whether these large carnivores starved to death because modern humans took most of the meat or whether humans picked them off on purpose. Either way, most of the Ice Age bestiary went extinct.

The hunting hypothesis, that humans used wolves to hunt, doesn't hold up either. Humans were already successful hunters without wolves, more successful than every other large carnivore. Wolves eat a lot of meat, as much as one deer per ten wolves every day-a lot for humans to feed or compete against. And anyone who has seen wolves in a feeding frenzy knows that wolves don't like to share.

Humans have a long history of eradicating wolves, rather than trying to adopt them. Over the last few centuries, almost every culture has hunted wolves to extinction. The first written record of the wolf's persecution was in the sixth century B.C. when Solon of Athens offered a bounty for every wolf killed. The last wolf was killed in England in the 16th century under the order of Henry VII. In Scotland, the forested landscape made wolves more difficult to kill. In response, the Scots burned the forests. North American wolves were not much better off. By 1930, there was not a wolf left in the 48 contiguous states of America.  (See "Wolf Wars.")

If this is a snapshot of our behavior toward wolves over the centuries, it presents one of the most perplexing problems: How was this misunderstood creature tolerated by humans long enough to evolve into the domestic dog?

The short version is that we often think of evolution as being the survival of the fittest, where the strong and the dominant survive and the soft and weak perish. But essentially, far from the survival of the leanest and meanest, the success of dogs comes down to survival of the friendliest.

Most likely, it was wolves that approached us, not the other way around, probably while they were scavenging around garbage dumps on the edge of human settlements. The wolves that were bold but aggressive would have been killed by humans, and so only the ones that were bold and friendly would have been tolerated.

Friendliness caused strange things to happen in the wolves. They started to look different. Domestication gave them splotchy coats, floppy ears, wagging tails. In only several generations, these friendly wolves would have become very distinctive from their more aggressive relatives. But the changes did not just affect their looks. Changes also happened to their psychology. These protodogs evolved the ability to read human gestures.

As dog owners, we take for granted that we can point to a ball or toy and our dog will bound off to get it. But the ability of dogs to read human gestures is remarkable. Even our closest relatives-chimpanzees and bonobos-can't read our gestures as readily as dogs can. Dogs are remarkably similar to human infants in the way they pay attention to us. This ability accounts for the extraordinary communication we have with our dogs. Some dogs are so attuned to their owners that they can read a gesture as subtle as a change in eye direction.

With this new ability, these protodogs were worth knowing. People who had dogs during a hunt would likely have had an advantage over those who didn't. Even today, tribes in Nicaragua depend on dogs to detect prey. Moose hunters in alpine regions bring home 56 percent more prey when they are accompanied by dogs. In the Congo, hunters believe they would starve without their dogs.

Dogs would also have served as a warning system, barking at hostile strangers from neighboring tribes. They could have defended their humans from predators.

And finally, though this is not a pleasant thought, when times were tough, dogs could have served as an emergency food supply. Thousands of years before refrigeration and with no crops to store, hunter-gatherers had no food reserves until the domestication of dogs. In tough times, dogs that were the least efficient hunters might have been sacrificed to save the group or the best hunting dogs. Once humans realized the usefulness of keeping dogs as an emergency food supply, it was not a huge jump to realize plants could be used in a similar way.

So, far from a benign human adopting a wolf puppy, it is more likely that a population of wolves adopted us. As the advantages of dog ownership became clear, we were as strongly affected by our relationship with them as they have been by their relationship with us. Dogs may even have been the catalyst for our civilization.

Dr. Brian Hare is the director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center and Vanessa Woods is a research scientist at Duke University. This essay is adapted from their new book, The Genius of Dogs, published by Dutton. To play science-based games to find the genius in your dog, visit www.dognition.com.


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US Seeks to Confirm Report of Terror Leader's Death











American military and intelligence officials said today they are attempting to confirm a report from the Chadian military of the death of al Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the alleged mastermind of the deadly attack on an Algerian natural gas facility in January.


If the new report is confirmed, Belmokhtar's death would be a significant victory against a growing al Qaeda threat in northern Africa.


Belmokhtar's killing was announced on Chadian national television by armed forces spokesperson Gen. Zacharia Gobongue, who said Chadian troops "operating in northern Mali completely destroyed a terrorist base."


"The [death] toll included several dead terrorists, including their leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar," he said.


However, an unidentified elected official in Mali told The Associated Press he doubted Belmokhtar had actually been killed and said he suspected the Chadian government of pushing the story to ease the loss of dozens of Chadian troops in operations in northern Africa.






SITE Intel Group/AP Photo







Belmokhtar is known as Mr. Marlboro because of the millions he made smuggling cigarettes across the Sahara, but in the last few months the one-eyed terrorist leader has become one of the most sought after terrorists in the world. The attack on the plant near In Amenas in eastern Algeria left dozens of Westerns and at least three Americans dead.


Belmokhtar had formed his own al Qaeda splinter group and announced he would use his wealth to finance more attacks against American and Western interests in the region and beyond.


The U.S. has badly wanted Belmokhtar stopped and actively helped in the search by French and African military units to find him, as well as another top al Qaeda leader who was reported killed yesterday.


After the Chadian announcement, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said Belmokhtar's death, if confirmed, "would be a hard blow to the collection of jihadists operating across the region that are targeting American diplomats and energy workers."


Steve Wysocki, a plant worker who survived the attack in In Amenas thanked "military forces from around the world," especially the Chadian military, for bringing "this terrorist to an expedient justice."


"My family and I continue to mourn for our friends and colleagues who didn't make it home and pray for their families," Wysocki told ABC News.


The CIA has been after Belmokhtar since the early 1990s, Royce's statement said.


ABC News' Clayton Sandell contributed to this report.



Read More..

Herbal Viagra actually contains the real thing



































IF IT looks too good to be true, it probably is. Several "herbal remedies" for erectile dysfunction sold online actually contain the active ingredient from Viagra.












Michael Lamb at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and colleagues purchased 10 popular "natural" uplifting remedies on the internet and tested them for the presence of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. They found the compound, or a similar synthetic drug, in seven of the 10 products – cause for concern because it can be dangerous for people with some medical conditions.












Lamb's work was presented last week at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting in Washington DC.












This article appeared in print under the headline "Herbal Viagra gets a synthetic boost"


















































If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.




































All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the "Report" link in that comment to report it to us.


If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support.








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Obama to visit Russia in September






WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama will visit Saint Petersburg for September's G20 summit and will also hold a meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June.

The White House made the announcement Friday after the leaders spoke by phone to discuss the Syria crisis amid testy relations between Russia and the United States, which have deteriorated since Obama's first term.

Russia had hoped that Obama would pay an official visit to the country last year, his first since Putin returned to the presidency, but Washington's ties with Moscow have been uneasy, and the visit never took place.

Obama's announcement means that he will also not travel to Russia before the G20 summit, in another disappointment to the Kremlin.

Washington and Moscow have been especially at odds over Syria, and Russia's role in vetoing UN Security Council action to censure President Bashar al-Assad for his crackdown on an opposition revolt that has killed 70,000 people.

"The two presidents agreed on the need to advance a political transition to end the violence as soon as possible," said a White House statement, referring to Syria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will continue to work together on the issue following their meeting in Berlin on Tuesday, the White House said.

A statement issued earlier from the Kremlin said that Putin noted the need to end "military activities" in Syria as soon as possible.

Russia also denounced a new US pledge to provide direct aid, but no arms, to Syrian rebel fighters, saying it will fuel more violence in the nearly two-year war.

Despite the tensions, Obama vowed in his State of the Union address in February to work with the Kremlin to reduce both Russian and American stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have been especially harmed by the Obama administration's criticism of Moscow's deteriorating human rights record under Putin.

There has also been tension over adoptions of Russian orphans by US nationals in recent weeks.

The spat started after the US Congress passed a bill last year targeting Russian officials with sanctions over the prison death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Russia retaliated with a ban on all US adoptions, saying Russian children in the United States were abused and even murdered by their adoptive parents.

One of Obama's major foreign policy achievements of his first term was a "reset" of relations with Russia engineered with former president Dmitry Medvedev, but the return of Putin has soured the mood.

-AFP/ac



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New budget crisis begins after Washington fiscal talks fail









The U.S. government stumbled headlong on Friday toward wide-ranging spending cuts that threaten to hinder the economic recovery, after President Barack Obama and congressional leaders failed to find an alternative budget plan.


Put in place during a bout of deficit-reduction fever in 2011, the automatic cuts can only be halted by agreement between Congress and the White House


"This is not going to be an apocalypse,” Obama told reporters at the White House  Friday. "It's just dumb. And it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt individual people, and it's going to hurt the economy overall."








A deal proved elusive in talks at the White House on Friday as expected, meaning that government agencies will now begin to hack a total of $85 billion from their budgets between Saturday and October 1. Financial markets in New York shrugged off the stalemate in Washington.


Democrats predict the cuts, known as "sequestration," could soon cause air traffic delays, furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal employees and disruption to education.


While the International Monetary Fund warned that the belt tightening could slow U.S. economic growth by at least 0.5 of a percentage point this year, that is not a huge drag on an economy that is picking up steam.


Obama was resigned to government budgets shrinking.


"Even with these cuts in place, folks all across this country will work hard to make sure that we keep the recovery going, but Washington sure isn't making it easy," he said after meeting Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.


At the heart of Washington's persistent fiscal crises is disagreement over how to slash the budget deficit and the $16 trillion national debt, bloated over the years by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and government stimulus for the ailing economy.


Obama wants to close the fiscal gap with spending cuts and tax hikes, but Republicans don't want to concede again on taxes after doing so in negotiations over the "fiscal cliff" at the New Year.


"The discussion about revenue, in my view, is over. It's about taking on the spending problem," House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on leaving the meeting.


The billions of dollars in cuts that go into effect on Saturday will probably be phased in over the coming weeks and months. Agencies from the Pentagon to the Department of Education have begun making plans to notify employees who will have to take unpaid days off.


Administration officials say the cutbacks in staffing will affect everything from air-traffic control to border security, preventive health screenings and prosecution of criminal cases. The automatic cuts were harsh by design, meant to force Republicans and Democrats into a bigger budget deal that reduces deficit spending.


No matter how Obama and Congress resolve the 2013 battle, this round of automatic spending cuts is only one of a decade's worth of annual cuts totaling $1.2 trillion mandated by the sequestration law.


Given the current absence of a deal, Obama is required to issue an order to federal agencies by midnight to reduce their budgets. The White House budget office must send a report to Congress detailing the spending cuts.


The Justice Department has already sent notices of furloughs that will begin April 21 at the earliest to some 115,000 workers, including at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Unlike previous fiscal dramas, the sequestration fight is not rattling Wall Street.


U.S. stocks rose moderately on Friday, with the Dow Industrials closing up 35 points, as data showed manufacturing expanded at its fastest pace in 20 months in February. Despite being up more than 7 percent this year, and near a record high, the discord in Washington has not prompted traders to cash in gains.


"Most of us believe that sequestration is not something that will make us fall off the cliff, since the cuts will be worked in relatively slowly," said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia.


Poll shows GOP beraing blame





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Black Hole Spins at Nearly the Speed of Light


A superfast black hole nearly 60 million light-years away appears to be pushing the ultimate speed limit of the universe, a new study says.

For the first time, astronomers have managed to measure the rate of spin of a supermassive black hole—and it's been clocked at 84 percent of the speed of light, or the maximum allowed by the law of physics.

"The most exciting part of this finding is the ability to test the theory of general relativity in such an extreme regime, where the gravitational field is huge, and the properties of space-time around it are completely different from the standard Newtonian case," said lead author Guido Risaliti, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and INAF-Arcetri Observatory in Italy. (Related: "Speedy Star Found Near Black Hole May Test Einstein Theory.")

Notorious for ripping apart and swallowing stars, supermassive black holes live at the center of most galaxies, including our own Milky Way. (See black hole pictures.)

They can pack the gravitational punch of many million or even billions of suns—distorting space-time in the region around them, not even letting light to escape their clutches.

Galactic Monster

The predatory monster that lurks at the core of the relatively nearby spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is estimated to weigh in at about two million times the mass of the sun, and stretches some 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometers) across-more than eight times the distance between Earth and the moon, Risaliti said. (Also see "Black Hole Blast Biggest Ever Recorded.")

Risaliti and colleagues' unprecedented discovery was made possible thanks to the combined observations from NASA's high-energy x-ray detectors on its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) probe and the European Space Agency's low-energy, x-ray-detecting XMM-Newton space observatory.

Astronomers detected x-ray particle remnants of stars circling in a pancake-shaped accretion disk surrounding the black hole, and used this data to help determine its rate of spin.

By getting a fix on this spin speed, astronomers now hope to better understand what happens inside giant black holes as they gravitationally warp space-time around themselves.

Even more intriguing to the research team is that this discovery will shed clues to black hole's past, and the evolution of its surrounding galaxy.

Tracking the Universe's Evolution

Supermassive black holes have a large impact in the evolution of their host galaxy, where a self-regulating process occurs between the two structures.

"When more stars are formed, they throw gas into the black hole, increasing its mass, but the radiation produced by this accretion warms up the gas in the galaxy, preventing more star formation," said Risaliti.

"So the two events—black hole accretion and formation of new stars—interact with each other."

Knowing how fast black holes spin may also help shed light how the entire universe evolved. (Learn more about the origin of the universe.)

"With a knowledge of the average spin of galaxies at different ages of the universe," Risaliti said, "we could track their evolution much more precisely than we can do today."


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Sequester Could Cut Blue Angels, Medicare Payments


Mar 1, 2013 2:28pm


gty navy blue angels kb 130301 wblog Sequester at Home: Florida Could Lose Blue Angels Shows, Medicare Payments

(Image Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


Starting today, The Note will track how automatic budget cuts associated with the so-called sequester are hurting Americans at home. This story of the effects on one community is part of that series.


If nothing is done to avert “sequester” cuts, air-show fans can wave bye-bye to the Blue Angels.


The Navy’s demonstration air team plans to cancel the 28 performances it has scheduled between April 1 and Sept. 30 if the cuts go into effect as planned at midnight tonight and revenue is not somehow supplemented.


Read more: Sequester to Cut $85 Billion from Federal Agencies


It’s just one of the many sacrifices the Defense Department plans to make if its budget suffers the across-the-board cuts prescribed in the sequestration bill signed into law in August 2011.


Florida State Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the cancelled shows would mean the loss of what he called his constituents’ “civic religion.”


“If someone you don’t know gets furloughed from a job at a military base, that’s something you read about in the newspaper. But if the Blue Angels are grounded, that’s a highly visible symbol of government dysfunction,” Gaetz said today.


A performance in Indiana slated for June has already been cut, thanks to the sequester, but that was the choice of the organizers, not the Navy, according to Blue Angels Public Affairs Officer Lt. Kathryn Kelly.


The next show on the chopping block would be the April 6-7 Airfest performance at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.


Terry Montrose, deputy chief of public affairs for Macdill Air Force Base, said if that performance is cancelled, the whole air show will be shut down, a true disappointment for the Tampa community.


“I’m sure it would be a big blow to [Tampa residents], because it’s one of the largest events in Tampa every year or every other year,” Montrose said.


Read More: What Is Sequestration?


Montrose said the base is “hoping for a Hail Mary” to save the show.


But Kelly of the Blue Angels said the squadron’s fate is not sealed just yet. If Congress passes a full budget, another continuing resolution or an increase to the Navy’s transfer authority, more shows could be restored.


Sen. Gaetz pointed out that losing the Blue Angels wouldn’t be the worst of the sequester’s effects in the Sunshine State.


“As important as they are and as symbolic as they are, [the Blue Angels] aren’t as important as making sure that someone in a nursing home gets care or someone in aerospace gets a paycheck,” he said. “But, obviously, sometimes it’s the symbols that resonate with people and bring the issue home.”


The tourism, higher education, civilian defense contractor and hospital industries in Florida would all take hits as the cuts filter down, according to Chris McCarty, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida in Gainesville.


Read more: Government Shutdown Looks Unlikely


In 2011, 17.6 percent of Florida’s population was eligible for Medicare, 4.3 points higher than the national average. That means scaling back Medicare payments to hospitals will disproportionately affect the health care industry in that state, according to Gaetz.


“When Medicare catches a cold,” he said,  “Florida hospitals get pneumonia.”


Read More..