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Health Headlines

    The British government is facing rising calls to liberalize abortion laws in Northern Ireland. More than 170 politicians called Sunday for action to be taken. The group included legislators from political parties in Britain, Ireland and Northern Ireland. They sent a letter to the Sunday Times to urge Britain to repeal the 19th- century laws that make it a crime to seek an abortion in Northern Ireland. They say nearly 1,000 women and girls from Northern Ireland traveled to the British mainland last year to get abortions while others took illegal abortion drugs at home. The Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in May to ease its abortion laws, but that vote does not affect Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland's power-sharing assembly is not operating, leaving the British government in control.
  • U.S. regulators Friday approved a simpler, one-dose treatment to prevent relapses of malaria. Standard treatment now takes two weeks and studies show many patients don't finish taking every dose. Malaria is caused by parasites that are spread to people through mosquito bites. Antimalarial drugs can cure the initial infection but parasites can get into the liver, hide in a dormant form, and cause recurrences months or years later. A second drug is used to stop relapses. The new drug, GlaxoSmithKline's Krintafel (KRIN'-tah-fell), only targets the kind of malaria that mainly occurs in South America and Southeast Asia. Most malaria cases and deaths are in Africa, and they involve another species. In testing, one dose of Krintafel worked about the same as two weeks of the standard treatment, preventing relapses in about three-quarters of patients over six months, the company said. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for patients 16 and older, according to GlaxoSmithKline. The company said it's the first new treatment in six decades for preventing relapses. GlaxoSmithKline plans to apply soon for approval in Brazil, then other countries where the malaria type is common. It says it will sell the pills at low cost in poor countries. Worldwide, malaria infects more than 200 million people a year and kills about half a million, most of them children in Africa. It causes fever, headache, chills and other flu-like symptoms. The malaria type Krintafel targets causes about 8.5 million infections annually. The British drugmaker, working with the World Health Organization, is also developing what could be the world's first malaria vaccine, but early testing indicates it's not very effective. Prevention now focuses on using insecticides and bed nets. ___ Follow Linda A. Johnson at https://twitter.com/LindaJ_onPharma ___ The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • The maker of a permanent contraceptive implant subject to thousands of injury reports and repeated safety restrictions by regulators said Friday that it will stop selling the device in the U.S., the only country where it remains available. Bayer said the safety of its Essure implant has not changed, but it will stop selling the device at the end of the year due to weak sales. The German company had billed the device as the only non-surgery sterilization method for women. As complaints mounted and demand slipped, it stopped Essure sales in Canada, Europe, South America, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has placed multiple restrictions on the device following patient reports of pain, bleeding, allergic reactions and cases where the implant punctured the uterus or shifted out of place. In May, the FDA said doctors must show women a checklist of the device's risks before implanting it. More than 16,000 U.S. women are suing Bayer over Essure. One of them, Amanda Rusmisell, of Charlotte, North Carolina, said she's 'immensely thrilled' by Bayer's action. Rusmisell said she got the device in 2008 and developed severe pain and bleeding. She took part in patient-organized rallies accusing Bayer for not disclosing potential risks and said, choking back tears, 'Our very grassroots effort has worked.' Bayer received FDA approval to sell Essure in 2002 and promoted it as a quick and easy permanent solution to unplanned pregnancies. Essure consists of two thin-as-spaghetti nickel-titanium coils inserted into the fallopian tubes, where they spur the growth of scar tissue that blocks sperm from fertilizing a woman's eggs. Because of the reported complaints, the FDA added its most serious warning to the device in 2016 and ordered the company to conduct a 2,000-patient study. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Friday the agency would work with Bayer to continue the study, but noted 'Bayer will not be able to meet its expected enrollment numbers' for new patients. The study was designed to follow patients for three years to better assess complications. More than 750,000 women worldwide have received Essure. Demand has declined in recent years and plunged 70 percent after the 2016 boxed warning, the FDA said. Gottlieb said the FDA will continue to monitor adverse events reported to its database after Essure is removed from the market. 'I also want to reassure women who've been using Essure successfully to prevent pregnancy that they can continue to do so,' he said. Those who think it's causing problems, such as persistent pain, should consult with their doctors, Gottlieb added. Essure's original label warned that the device's nickel can result in allergic reactions. Its current labeling lists hives, rash, swelling and itching as possible reactions. But many women have attributed other problems to the implant, including mood disorders, weight gain, hair loss and headaches. Those problems are listed in the current FDA labeling for the device, with the qualifier: 'It is unknown if these symptoms are related to Essure or other causes.' Informational material Bayer supplied to doctors and patients lists potential problems and says the devices are meant to be permanent. It also says removal may require complicated surgery, including a hysterectomy, that might not be covered by insurance. Gottlieb noted that device removal 'has its own risks.' Diana Zuckerman, president of the nonprofit National Center for Health Research, said Essure is among medical devices approved without 'clear evidence of safety or effectiveness.' 'As a result, when thousands of women reported serious complications from Essure, there was no unbiased long-term research to refute or confirm those reports,' Zuckerman said. 'If patients had been listened to when the first clinical trials were conducted on Essure, better research would have been conducted to determine exactly how safe and effective Essure is.' Dr. Kristyn Brandi, a Los Angeles family planning specialist, called Bayer's move disappointing. She says most of her Essure patients have been satisfied. 'I would hope Bayer would use this opportunity to think about future research and product development,' Brandi said. 'Being able to offer women contraception that's permanent without surgery is a really great option.' Bayer spokeswoman Courtney Mallon said the company had no plans to re-design the device. Kate Nicholson, of Dallas, got an Essure implant last year after she and her husband decided not to have children. She said she sympathizes with women who have had problems but said ending Essure sales is the wrong move. 'Pulling it from the market is yet another way to limit our choices about our own bodies,' Nicholson said. 'I personally always had horrible experiences with different versions of 'the pill,' but it's still on the market and many women swear by it.' ___ Tanner reported from Michigan. Follow Matthew Perrone at @AP_FDAwriter and Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner. ___ The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • A 10-year-old girl has bled to death after undergoing female genital mutilation in Somalia, an activist said, a rare confirmed death in the country with the world's highest rate of the practice. The girl died in a hospital on Monday, two days after her mother took her to a traditional circumciser in a remote village outside Dhusamareb town in central Galmudug state, Hawa Aden Mohamed with the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development said in a statement. 'The circumciser is suspected to cut an important vein in the course of the operation,' Mohamed said. About 98 percent of women and girls in the Horn of Africa nation undergo female genital mutilation, according to the United Nations. While Somalia's constitution prohibits the practice, Mohamed said no laws have been enacted to ensure that those who perform the circumcisions are punished. Lawmakers are 'afraid of losing their political clout among the all-powerful conservative traditional and religious groups bent at retaining the practice,' she said. Health workers have warned against the risks of the practice which in most cases the external genitalia is removed and the vagina is sewn almost closed. Despite campaigns in Somalia against the practice it is 'clouded in secrecy, so reducing it has been a massive challenge,' said Brendan Wynne with the New York-based Donor Direct Action, which connects women's activists worldwide. Over 200 million women and girls in 30 countries across three continents have experienced genital mutilation, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said earlier this year, calling it a 'gross violation of the human rights of women and girls.' The U.N. Population Fund projects that the estimated 3.9 million girls subjected to genital cutting every year will rise to 4.6 million by 2030 due to expected population growth unless urgent action is taken. ___ Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa
  • A cyberattack on Singapore's public health system breached records on 1.5 million people and targeted the prime minister, a two-time cancer survivor, officials said Friday. 'The attackers specifically and repeatedly targeted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's personal particulars and information on his outpatient dispensed medicines,' the Ministry of Communications and Information and the Ministry of Health said in a joint statement. They said the cyberattack on July 4 was 'deliberate, targeted and well-planned' and not the work of casual hackers or criminal gangs. Police investigations were ongoing, and a review of the SingHealth system will be conducted and affected patients will be informed. Channel NewsAsia reported that investigators had already determined who was behind the attack. But in a news conference with local media, David Koh, chief executive of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, declined to discuss the perpetrators for security reasons. The attack on the SingHealth database is believed to be the most serious breach of personal data in Singapore's history. Around 1.5 million people who visited outpatient clinics from May, 1, 2015, to July 4 this year had their personal data accessed and copied, including names, identification card numbers, addresses, race, gender and dates of birth. Of that total, 160,000 also had their records of dispensed medicines copied too. Officials said the patients' information was not amended or deleted. And the hackers did not have access to other records, such as diagnosis documents, test results or doctors' notes, the statement said. Lee, who has been Singapore's prime minister since 2004, has been treated for intermediate-grade malignant lymphoma and prostate cancer. He underwent surgery to remove his prostate gland in 2015 and was subsequently given the all-clear by doctors. 'I don't know what the attackers were hoping to find. Perhaps they were hunting for some dark state secret, or at least something to embarrass me. If so, they would have been disappointed,' Lee said in a Facebook post on Friday. 'My medication data is not something I would ordinarily tell people about, but there is nothing alarming in it,' he said.
  • An independent panel of experts on sexual harassment is being set up at UNAIDS after calls for the organization's head to resign over his handling of harassment allegations. The Geneva-based agency overseeing the fight against HIV/AIDS said Friday that its oversight body — representing governments, donors and interest groups — is setting up a five-member panel chaired by Gillian Triggs, an Australian professor. It is tasked with reviewing the situation at UNAIDS over the past seven years, evaluating the effectiveness of existing policies to prevent harassment and other problems, and recommending measures to improve matters. UNAIDS chief Michel Sidibe has denied claims he tried to force a lower-level employee to drop allegations she was sexually assaulted by his former deputy. But he has acknowledged he likely made errors.
  • Dental and vision care benefits will be restored for hundreds of thousands of Medicaid recipients in a sudden reversal by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's administration following an outcry over the recent cuts. The coverage had been abruptly cut at the start of July after a federal judge rejected the Republican governor's plan to overhaul Kentucky's Medicaid program. The cuts triggered stinging criticism from Democrats and public health advocates. The sudden about-face was announced late Thursday by the state's Cabinet for Health and Family Services and was welcomed by the administration's critics. 'This was poor policy from the very beginning,' said Sheila Schuster, a longtime Kentucky advocate for the disabled and people without health coverage. The judge's ruling also marked a setback for President Donald Trump's administration, which has encouraged states to impose work requirements and other changes on Medicaid — the joint state and federal health insurance program for poor and disabled people. U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg's recent ruling blocks those requirements for now in Kentucky. The cuts in dental and vision benefits had affected nearly 400,000 Kentuckians. Public health advocates said the action caused widespread disruptions in health services. 'This is not just an inconvenience or a delay, this has absolutely caused pain and suffering for people,' Schuster said Thursday. While public health advocates had denounced all the cuts, their harshest criticism was aimed at cuts in dental services. They noted that dental abscesses and infection can be life-threatening, and said untreated dental pain can lead to addiction to painkillers, worsening the state's drug addiction woes. The state's Cabinet for Health and Family Services said Thursday the dental and vision coverage is being restored to 'mitigate the consequences' of the judge's ruling. The state also reinstated non-emergency transportation services for those recipients. The reinstatement of benefits will be retroactive to the first of July, state officials said. Bevin's administration has said its Medicaid overhaul had offered 'a sustainable path' to provide the dental and vision benefits, but noted the judge's ruling meant there was 'no longer a viable method' to provide the services. The federal health care law championed by former President Barack Obama gave states the option of expanding Medicaid coverage to able-bodied adults. Kentucky, under former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, was among states that did so, and nearly 500,000 Kentuckians received Medicaid coverage as a result. But Bevin, elected in 2015, said the program was too expensive to continue. He sought permission to impose new rules, including charging monthly premiums and requiring at least 80 hours of 'community engagement' per month, which could include working, volunteering or going to school. His administration has said Kentucky faces a $300 million shortfall in Medicaid over the next two years, and the new rules would have helped the state save money. But a leading Democrat in Kentucky's legislature, House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, said the benefit cuts were a 'cruel action' that caused 'an immediate hardship' for Medicaid recipients and 'needless headaches' for many health care providers. 'I'm hopeful that our citizens will not be faced with the devastation of losing these benefits again,' Adkins said in a statement Thursday. But advocates warned that the reversal could be short lived, noting that federal officials will open a new comment period on proposed changes to the Medicaid program in Kentucky. Following the judge's ruling, state officials had hoped for quick federal action that they said would have triggered a program that Medicaid recipients could access to pay for routine vision and dental services. The cabinet said Thursday the benefits were reinstated to 'avoid a prolonged coverage gap' while the program is being reviewed. 'Unfortunately, changing benefits and coverage is not as easy as flipping a single switch,' the cabinet said in its statement.
  • A federal watchdog is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen its oversight of state drinking water systems nationally and respond more quickly to public health emergencies such as the lead-in-the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. In a 74-page report released Thursday, the EPA's inspector general report pointed to 'oversight lapses' at the federal, state and local levels in the response to Flint's contaminated drinking water. 'While oversight authority is vital, its absence can contribute to a catastrophic situation,' the inspector general, Arthur A. Elkins, said in a statement. His office has concluded the EPA was too slow and passive in responding to the Flint crisis. The finding comes as the Trump administration seeks to cut the EPA's budget, including some drinking-water programs. The administration also has called for reining back federal environmental regulation overall and transferring more oversight authority of some programs to the states. The EPA said in a statement it agrees with the inspector general's recommendations and is adopting them 'expeditiously.' 'The agency is actively engaging with states to improve communications and compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to safeguard human health,' the statement said. But the internal watchdog said the agency's proposal for stepping up oversight falls short. Flint's tap water became contaminated in 2014 after officials switched from the Detroit system to the Flint River to save money, exposing many residents to lead, a potent neurotoxin. Children are particularly vulnerable, and the EPA says there is no safe level of lead. EPA officials had stressed they had wanted to foster a collaborative partnership with Michigan, the report said. In Flint, the quest for 'partnership limited effective EPA oversight.' Rep. Dan Kildee, who was traveling to Flint on Thursday to inspect work done on the city's water system, said the state bore most of the blame for the slow response to the health crisis, but also said 'the EPA should have been more aggressive.' 'EPA should not have taken the state of Michigan at its word' that everything was fine with Flint's water, said Kildee, D-Mich. 'Water quality is too serious a question ... without doing more to assure the rule is being properly enforced.' The switch to the Flint River was to be temporary, until the city could connect to a planned regional pipeline from Lake Huron. At that time, the impoverished majority-black city of nearly 100,000 residents was under control of an emergency financial manager appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. Residents complained the river water smelled and tasted bad and was causing skin rashes and other health problems. Local officials insisted it was safe. After tests showed high levels of lead in a home in April 2015, Miguel Del Toral, a water regulations official in EPA's Chicago office, contacted officials with Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality. Del Toral also alerted superiors at EPA who decided not to make the information public, instead prodding the state agency to act behind the scenes. After a draft of Del Toral's report was leaked, EPA's regional administrator apologized to the city. In emails later released through public-records requests, Del Toral voiced frustration over EPA's slow pace and described the agency as a 'cesspool.' State officials finally acknowledged the lead contamination in September 2015 after doctors reported high levels of lead in Flint children's blood and Virginia Tech University researchers said their testing of Flint water samples found some with lead levels meeting EPA's definition of 'toxic waste.' Snyder ordered the National Guard to distribute bottled water and filters, requested federal aid and eventually accepted the resignation of his top environmental official. Flint returned to the Detroit water system. In January 2016, the EPA notified Michigan that its actions were inadequate and ordered stronger intervention. The agency's regional administrator in Chicago, Susan Hedman, resigned the next month. The preliminary inspector general's review later that year found that the regional EPA office should have had 'a greater sense of urgency' and was too deferential to the state. Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy acknowledged during congressional hearings that her agency should have been more aggressive in testing the water and requiring changes but said the federal agency 'couldn't get a straight answer' from Michigan officials about what was being done in Flint. 'We were strong-armed. We were misled,' McCarthy said. 'We were kept at arm's length. We could not do our jobs effectively.' Republican lawmakers accused McCarthy and the Obama EPA of incompetence and neglect. Snyder ended water distribution in Flint last April, saying water quality had improved significantly. The state environmental agency this week said tests during the latest six-month monitoring showed lead levels were beneath the action threshold and better than those of some other Michigan cities. The Michigan attorney general's office has filed criminal charges against 15 state and local officials in the Flint matter, which also has spawned numerous lawsuits. ___ Flesher reported from Traverse City, Michigan. ___ This story has been corrected to reflect that the inspector general's last name is Elkins, rather than Elkin.
  • Nevada twice has come close to carrying out its first execution in 12 years. And twice it failed. Condemned killer Scott Raymond Dozier says he wants to die, but the state has no clear path forward after courts blocked it from using a never-tried combination of drugs that it created after struggling to get lethal injection supplies. The delays are raising questions about whether Nevada can overcome legal hurdles to execute its first inmate since 2006 and whether the political will exists to find a way to carry out capital punishment at all. States, including Nevada, have increasingly run up against pharmaceutical companies who don't want their products used in executions, with states like Texas, Georgia and Virginia changing laws to shield information about the drugs they use and others coming up with backup methods such as gas chambers and firing squads. In an election year, few Nevada politicians are talking about possible changes to keep the death penalty viable while the state faces a court battle that's expected to be lengthy. 'It will be quite a while before Scott Dozier is going to face an execution day,' said Deborah Denno, an expert in capital punishment law at Fordham University in New York. Hours before Dozier was to die July 11, a judge blocked use of the sedative midazolam until at least September after drugmaker Alvogen sued. The state was expected to appeal the postponement to the Nevada Supreme Court. Nevada's three-drug plan would follow the sedative with fentanyl, the potent synthetic opioid that's fueling overdose deaths nationwide, and a muscle paralytic called cisatracurium. Neither has been used in an execution, and critics have raised concerns Dozier could be conscious, unable to move and suffocating. Dozier, a 47-year-old twice-convicted murderer who insists he doesn't care if his death is painful, had his execution previously delayed in November. If the courts block it again, Nevada could try to get drugs from a made-to-order compounding pharmacy. Texas and Georgia both use such pharmacies and have passed laws shielding the facilities' identities. Nevada could try to obtain a compounded drug from Texas, like Virginia did in 2015 before passing a law allowing prisons to use a secret compounding pharmacy. But the made-to-order drugs can be expensive, and 'Nevada may not want to make that kind of investment,' Denno said. Dr. Jonathan Groner, a lethal injection expert and surgeon who teaches at Ohio State University, said there is no shortage of drugs that can kill people, 'but each has problems and will cause endless litigation.' 'My guess is that most of the 79 death row inmates in Nevada will die of old age and not at the state's hands,' Groner said. Nevada law calls for capital punishment by lethal injection, so state officials would have to approve changes — and perhaps build new facilities — to switch to a different method. It might consider joining Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio, and Oklahoma in a yet-to-be-employed method using nitrogen gas, Denno said. It asphyxiates a person in an airtight chamber through a lack of oxygen. Nevada's new death chamber is not airtight, prisons spokeswoman Brooke Santina said. There also are firing squads, the method Utah decided in 2015 to use as a backup if lethal injection drugs can't be found. Nevada lawmakers and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval have not called for changes to ensure executions can be carried out. Sandoval is term-limited, and his spokeswoman, Mary-Sarah Kinner, said he believes any change should come from the Legislature and next governor, who will be elected in four months. Key candidates who could influence executions spoke in generalities or not at all about the future of the death penalty. State Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Republican running for governor who supports capital punishment, declined to comment. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak supports the death penalty 'in extreme cases' and has not called for laws to be changed. The top two contenders for attorney general, Republican Wes Duncan and Democrat Aaron Ford, support the death penalty. Duncan said he couldn't comment on Dozier's case because he may handle it if elected. He said he would be open to 'alternate constitutional means of execution, including different drug cocktails.' Democratic state lawmaker James Ohrenschall has called in the past for ending the death penalty as 'costly, unfair and ineffective.' He said he hasn't decided if he will try again when the Legislature meets next year. Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the death penalty is a question the state faces about links between its past and future. 'Is the death penalty a remnant of our 'Old West' past? Or is it something that a more modern Nevada should keep or get rid of?' Green said. Kent Scheidegger at the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a California-based pro-death penalty group, blamed the Dozier delays on a public pressure campaign to starve states of the ability to enforce a punishment that many Americans favor for the worst murderers. Dozier's case 'exposes Nevada's death penalty as a costly exercise in futility,' said Scott Coffee, a deputy public defender in Las Vegas who has lobbied the Legislature for years to get rid of the death penalty. 'Even when someone is begging to be executed,' Coffee said, 'we don't really have means to carry it out.' ___ Associated Press writer Scott Sonner in Reno contributed to this report.
  • Would you want to know if you harbor a gene linked to Alzheimer's or another incurable disease? A new poll finds most Americans would. Some 17 percent of Americans already have undergone at least one kind of DNA test, and 52 percent of the remainder say they'd like to, according to the poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Thursday. Curiosity about ancestry is the main reason. But large segments of the public also want to know if they're at risk for various medical conditions — even if they can't do anything about it. In fact, 60 percent of people say they'd want to know if they carried a gene associated with a disease that's currently incurable, the AP-NORC poll found. The question is how they'd handle that information. For most diseases, whether you get sick depends on a mix of genetics, lifestyle and other factors. 'It's really important for people to understand that it is a risk, not a destiny,' said Erica Ramos, president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors. LOTS OF TESTS TO CHOOSE FROM Genealogy buffs can get clues about ancestry. DNA testing can help diagnose symptoms, predict risk of later health problems, or tell if prospective parents might pass on diseases such as cystic fibrosis. Doctors can tell if certain medicines are more or less likely to work based on genetics, what's called precision medicine. Some gene tests require just a credit card and mailing in a saliva sample, while others need a doctor's order — and there are important differences. WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW Younger adults especially want to know what health conditions might lie ahead. Among those under 30, more than two-thirds are interested in genetic testing and of those, 65 percent say one reason is to learn if they might pass a disease to their children. If they're at risk for an incurable disease, 78 percent of the younger crowd would want to know. And if they got that bad news, 8 in 10 people of all ages would tell siblings and children, family members who might harbor the same gene. WHO GETS TESTED Those living in households making $100,000 a year or more are most likely to have had a gene test. Direct-to-consumer tests are paid for out-of-pocket, but insurance may cover DNA tests deemed medically necessary. TRUSTING THE RESULTS Most people think genetic testing is at least somewhat reliable, but less than half call it very or extremely reliable, the poll found. DNA testing isn't foolproof, said Ramos, the genetic counselor. There can be false alarms, the reason medical labs and the most popular direct-to-consumer companies must meet strict testing rules. But there are loopholes: Say after ancestry testing, you download the 'raw' genetic data generated to analyze your heritage and send the file to a second company to interpret whatever health information is inside. Those companies may not be certified for medical diagnosis — meaning it's important for a doctor to verify any scary result. The flip side: False reassurance. Direct-to-consumer tests for breast cancer risk, for example, only look for a few mutations. If cancer runs in the family, you may need a doctor-ordered test that examines a variety of genes and mutations, Ramos said. A genetic counselor can help explain the different tests and what results mean. PRIVACY IS COMPLICATED, TOO Half of Americans are very or extremely concerned about companies sharing their genetic data without their knowledge, and roughly a third have the same concerns about medical researchers and doctors, the poll found. Remember how investigators used a free genealogy website to track down a suspected California serial killer ? Half of people think genetic data should be used to help solve crimes only with the consent of the person tested, a third think it's OK without that consent — and 13 percent don't think law enforcement should use it at all. Crime aside, federal law offers some privacy protections for DNA testing in medical settings — but check privacy policies on direct-to-consumer websites. ___ The AP-NORC poll of 1,109 adults was conducted June 13-18 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone. ___ Online: AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org/

Local News

  • Stormy weather is on its way to the entire eastern United States, but Friday will be the last day of refuge before these thunderstorms hit, Channel 2 Action News Chief meteorologist Glenn Burns said. Friday has a mere 20 percent chance of rain, and Burns said metro Atlanta will mostly see partly cloudy skies throughout Friday, which is good news for the morning and evening commutes. The temperature will remain quite steamy because of the rain the past few days. The predicted high is 90 degrees, and the heat index should reach the low to mid 90s. After midnight on Friday, storms could take a turn for the worst, Burns said. Far northeast Georgia has the risk of scattered severe storms overnight, and the eastern and northern metro Atlanta areas have the threat of isolated severe storms. '(This storm system) is going to provide much of the eastern half of the country with some very stormy times,” Burns said. It only gets worse Saturday, as most of the state is under the risk of severe thunderstorms — Dade and Walker counties have a few lucky spots.  Because of pockets of cool air within the storm, Georgia is under a moderate risk for hail that could damage car roofs, Burns said. The chance of rain is 60 percent, and heavy downpours, frequent lightning and strong winds are expected as well. Temperatures will drop slightly to the upper 80s during the storm system, which is expected to last through the middle of next week. Sunday is a brief reprieve from storms with a 30 percent chance of rain, but Monday and Tuesday both have 70 percent chances of storms.
  • A man got away with a stolen car in Covington Tuesday night, and the thief used an unusual method to escape: a forklift. Covington police are searching for the man who hopped on a forklift and used it to break through a metal fence at Ginn Chevrolet, Channel 2 Action News reported. “First time that I can recall where somebody used a forklift to basically knock a hole and an escape route,” Covington police Capt. Ken Malcolm told Channel 2. Police said he spent nearly an hour walking through the parking lot to pick out the right vehicle to steal, Channel 2 reported. “He just was basically shopping for a vehicle,” Malcolm told the news station. He settled on a 2017 Ford Mustang that had been brought in for repairs, Channel 2 reported. Then he broke into the shop and found the keys for the forklift. “This is obviously someone who had some knowledge on how to operate a forklift and was able to utilize it to gain his escape,” Malcolm told the news station. Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact Covington police at 770-786-7605.
  • From the University of Georgia comes a campus construction advisory: UGA says a stretch of Cedar Street will be closing Saturday.  The work that began this week continues through this week and until August 2, with single-lane closures on Highway 316 in Barrow County: Georgia DOT crews are working on a new interchange for 316 at Carl-Bethlehem Road. It’s a $26 million project due for completion by November of 2020.
  • A judge rules in a Jackson County election case, dismissing a claim from Jackson County School Board member Steve Bryant. Bryant lost his reelection bid in May, defeated by challenger Don Clerici. Bryant wanted the election results overturned, saying his name should have been first on the ballot based on being first in alphabetical order. Judge David Sweat didn’t buy it. 
  • It has happened yet again: another big drug bust on I-85 in Franklin County. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office says three suspects were arrested; methamphetamine and firearms were confiscated after the driver of an F-150 was pulled over for a traffic violation. The three people in the truck were all from South Carolina; all were booked into the Franklin County jail.  Authorities in Hall County have identified the latest Lake Lanier drowning victim: they say Teresa Graham was 51 years old, from Hall County. She apparently fell off a dock and into the Lake. Investigators in the Hall County Sheriff’s Office say there is no sign of foul play. 

Bulldog News

  • ATLANTA — Georgia football sits No. 8 in the current 2019 team recruiting rankings, though this hardly appears to be an off year. The Bulldogs lead the nation with three 5-star commits. Their ranking is more a byproduct of having just 12 players in the class (as of July 21) while temporary No. 1 Alabama has used up 20 commits. Georgia, clearly, is a safe bet for another top 5 signing.  Coach Kirby Smart’s first three classes ranked at No. 6, No. 3 and No. 1 per the 247Sports composite. Bulldogs defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter, a 4-star, top 100 prospect out of Tucker, Ga.,  shared how quickly Smart won him over. RELATED: Georgia football dissed with no first-team All-SEC picks “ He’s a great guy, really good people person, he’ll talk to   you, and he’s really personable,” Ledbetter said. “He wants to know the real you, he can see through a lot of stuff. He just wants to know deep down what you’re made of, and what kind of character you have.” It takes an entire staff to recruit to a program effectively, and Georgia has three of the top assistant coaches in that respect. Georgia football assistant head coach/running backs coach Dell McGee, co-offensive coordinator/ quarterbacks coach James Coley and offensive line coach Sam Pittman are regarded among the most effective recruiters in collegiate football. Jeff Sentell, the top authority on Georgia football recruiting, said two things have separated Smart from the previous staff. RELATED: Jeff Sentell reports elite Juco prospect nearing decision “Whenever there is anyone Georgia wants, anywhere, you always hear the recruits say ‘Georgia is recruiting me as hard as anyone,’ “ Sentell said. “So, number one, Georgia doesn’t get out-recruited any more.” The second thing, which should become even more evident on the field this season, is the priority the Bulldogs have placed on the offensive line. “They get the type of elite talent for the line of scrimmage that they used to get at running back spot and quarterback spot,” Sentell said.”Guys like Knowshon Moreno used to be running behind a bunch of 3-star guys and maybe one 4-star.” RELATED: Georgia football favorite to win East Division at SEC Media Days Georgia has 18 players on its roster that were rated a 5-star prospect by one recruiting service or another, and that sort of depth has propelled the program into championship contention. “Everywhere you look, when Georgia gets an injury or has someone out, it’s an opportunity to see the next big thing,” Sentell said. “It’s not necessarily going to be a drop off.” Mike Griffith covers Georgia football for DawgNation. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32 Georgia football Jonathan Ledbetter   The post WATCH: Jonathan Ledbetter explains how Kirby Smart makes Georgia football recruiting special appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATLANTA — Georgia football is back to being the hunter, after all. The Bulldogs were a distant second to Alabama in the preseason SEC Championship voting from the media contingent attending the league’s media days at the College Football Hall of Fame this week. RELATED: Georgia fails to land first-team All-SEC preseason pick The Crimson Tide garnered two-thirds of the first-place votes available — 193 of the 284 (.679), while Georgia received less than one-fourth (69. .242) despite its status as defending league champion. Bulldogs defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter said the Bulldogs don’t concern themselves with perception. “You always have your doubters and naysayers, but you have to keep the main thing the main thing,” Ledbetter said at SEC Media Days. “There’s a lot of outside noise in college football, but you just worry about your team and how you can get better rather than what everyone is saying, because they’re not in there doing it with you.” The Bulldogs were a heavy favorite to win the SEC Eastern Division, however, receiving 271 of 285 first-place votes. Preseason SEC Predicted Order Of Finish The post Georgia football picked in East, but Alabama heavy favorite for SEC title appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATLANTA — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart said his Bulldogs have “dormant ability” that has yet to be proven, and the media voting on preseason All-SEC honors appear to agree. Defending SEC Champion Georgia returns seven starters on offense, but none of them were deemed worthy of first-team recognition by the select panel. Quarterback Jake Fromm, who finished second in the SEC and ninth in the nation in passing efficiency last season, settled for splitting third-team honors with Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald. Bulldogs kicker Rodrigo Blankenship and defensive backs Deandre Baker and J.R. Reed were the only Georgia players to earn first-team honors released Friday. Alabama, which did not play in the SEC Championship Game but won the national title as the No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoffs, had six first-team selections. The Bulldogs did have several players selected to second-team preseason All-SEC honors. On offense, tailback D’Andre Swift, receiver Terry Godwin, tight end Isaac Nauta, offensive tackle Andrew Thomas and center Lamont Gaillard were chosen. Defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter and linebacker D’Andre Walker were second-team picks on defense, while return specialist Mecole Hardman was also recognized. Georgia’s only third-team pick was Fromm. Smart might have sensed that his Bulldogs had something left to prove despite their magic run to the SEC title and national championship game. “It’s what is our potential, which is dormant ability, or our effectiveness, which is what we get out of our players?” Smart said during his presentation to the Georgia media contingent at the Omni Hotel prior to his SEC Media Days appearance. “We’re constantly trying to get the most out of them, and this year will be measured by how effective we are tactically, mentally (and) physically. We have to do the best job we’ve ever done preparing this group for that.” Indeed, because if Georgia lacks any first-team All-SEC selections at the end of the season, there’s a good chance it would mean the Bulldogs failed to defend their SEC crown. Preseason All-SEC First Team Selections The post Georgia football preseason snub: Bulldogs void of first-team All-SEC offense selections appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATLANTA — The narrative heading into the 2018 season is it’s the year of the quarterback in the SEC. After a couple of years of unspectacular overall play at the position, the league is stocked with exceptional signal-callers this season. And Georgia’s Jake Fromm is expected to be at the top of the class. That’s according to the SEC Network’s Greg McElroy. A former quarterback himself — he led Alabama to a 14-0 season and national championship in 2009 — McElroy makes it his personal business to evaluate the position in the league to an extensive degree. He dives deep into statistical analytics provided by ESPN and studies game and practice video until he’s left cross-eyed. McElroy loves what he sees and has seen in the Bulldogs’ sophomore quarterback. “From an efficiency standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find a guy better than Jake Fromm,” said McElroy, asked to handicap the best quarterbacks said during SEC Football Media Days on Thursday. “I think Fromm’s a surgeon. He just kills you with execution. I don’t think there’s anything more demoralizing than a quarterback that can defeat a defense with his brain.” Aside from the pass efficiency numbers that McElroy alluded to — Fromm was ninth in the nation (160.1) in that category — there’s not a lot about Fromm’s game beyond that attracts national attention. Fromm’s 174.3 yards passing a game didn’t crack the Top 10 even in the SEC and he attempted 15 or fewer passes in seven. Therefore, Fromm’s is 24 TD passes (versus 7 interceptions) pale in comparison to the 44 of league-leader Drew Lock of Missouri, who got them in two fewer games. But while Fromm’s primary task was to get the play call in from the sideline and to distribute the ball to the Bulldogs’ bevy of backs, he was given an increasing level of autonomy to audible at the line of scrimmage. He had pass-run options, could switch a play from left to right based on defensive alignment, could switch protections and check to a hot read. McElroy says Fromm scores particularly high in this department. He compared the Georgia quarterback to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “Marcus Spears said playing against Aaron Rodgers was the worst experience he’s ever had in his life,” McElroy said. “It’s because he just kills you with completions and positive plays. There’s never any negative plays, so you can never steal momentum. Even if it’s a 3-yard completion, you’re moving in the right direction. Right? “That’s what I see in Fromm. He has very few negative plays. He’s great on third down, so he keeps drives alive. He’s efficient in the passing game. And he doesn’t have a big ego. He’s not trying to do too much. He stays within the system. He’s an extension of what Jim Chaney wants him to be and that’s a great place for Georgia to be in. If you’re trying to win a championship, knowing the great personnel that Georgia has, he’s the perfect fit.” McElroy had similar traits when he led Alabama to the SEC championship in 2009. He credits Fromm for helping Georgia land the title last year. He argues that Georgia doesn’t make it to the playoffs and the national championship game if Jacob Eason had remained. Fromm replaced the sophomore quarterback when he suffered a knee injury in the first quarter of the first game last season. “The biggest difference from 2016 to ’17 was quarterback,” McElroy said. “I said it going into last year — and Georgia fans killed me for it — there were things about Eason that bothered me. I didn’t feel like he approached the game with a level of professionalism that you have to win a championship or contend for a championship. He was a little statuesque in the pocket. Fromm is the antithesis of all that. Ultimate leader, consummate pro, great weekly preparation, and he could move around when things broke down around him a little bit. So I love Fromm.” That said, McElroy wasn’t ready to tab Fromm as the best quarterback in a league with a lot of good ones. Lock was named preseason All-SEC Thursday and is generally seen as the best pro prospect in the SEC this season. The Eastern Division also features South Carolina’s Jake Bentley and Vanderbilt’s Kyle Shurmur. Whomever Alabama chooses between Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts should be good. Felipe Franks could make a major jump at Florida under the direction of Dan Mullen, who of six offensive-minded head coaches hired in the league this year. “If I had to start a team based on what we know, I like (Auburn’s) Jarrett Stidham,” McElroy said. “I love Tua, too. But Fromm definitely has a chance to be one of the best ones out there.” The Bulldogs plan to throw the ball more in 2018, so Fromm’s passing numbers should improve just due to more opportunities. As for the competition with highly-touted freshman Justin Fields, McElroy said he expects it will be a factor this season. But he also believes it will ultimately make Fromm that much better. “With Fields behind him, I’m really fascinated to see how much he’s elevates his play,” McElroy said. “He’s obviously had to do that. I’m just fascinated to see how big that bump is.”   The post SEC QB expert: Georgia’s Jake Fromm ‘a surgeon that kills you with execution’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATLANTA — Georgia didn’t get Auburn’s best shot in the SEC Championship Game last season, and the Tigers know it. Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis said he gives the Bulldogs’ credit for making plays, but the Tigers’ team they beat by a 28-7 count in Mercedes Benz Stadium “simply wasn’t us.” “I don’t think we played our best the second game, and I don’t know if it was because they made us not play our best, or if we weren’t locked in or focused,” Davis said at SEC Media Days on Thursday at the College Football Hall of Fame. “If you watch the tape from the first game to the second game, it was two different teams, and not just because we won’t the first time,” Davis said, referencing the Tigers’ convincing 40-17 win at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 11. “You pop in any other time we actually played Auburn football, and you match it with the SEC Championship Game, it simply wasn’t us … “ Tigers coach Gus Malzahn pointed to Auburn’s difficult November schedule when asked about the difference between the teams’ two meetings. “T he regular season, we played extremely well at home,” Malzahn said Thursday. “You know, then the next, I guess, two weeks later we had to play Alabama, another No. 1 team at home, and then a week later we had to turn around and play Georgia again. “So I believe we played champions and defending champions three out of four weeks. That’s a tough challenge, there’s no doubt.” Auburn defensive lineman Dontavius Russell was more vague, though he did reference the rib injury that some felt slowed Tigers’ running back Kerryon Johnson in the second meeting. “I feel like the way we can improve as a defense and as a team is handling adverse situations,” said Russell, a one-time 2013 Georgia commit from Carrollton who flipped to Auburn in the 2014 signing class. “Toward the end of the Georgia game, we faced adverse situations, being that Kerryon was out, it was something we didn’t respond as well to.” Johnson rushed for 167 yards and caught a 55-yard touchdown pass in Auburn’s win over the Bulldogs in the regular-season, a victory that knocked Georgia out of the No. 1 spot. But in the second meeting, Johnson couldn’t get on track (13 carries, 44 yards), and the Georgia defense forced two turnovers and blocked a field goal attempt. Malzahn said Georgia’s defense adjusted by bringing an extra player into the box and playing more with one deep safety, as well as getting more aggressive with run fits. “ We felt like that would happen — we started out, tried to get the ball on the perimeter, throw some short passes to get us on pace to throw the football,” Malzahn said after the defeat. “We also tried big set runs because of the odd front.” Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham, recently named to the Davey O’Brien Award Watch List, said the Bulldogs also mixed up their coverage and blitz packages effectively. Smart, while proud of how Georgia controlled the line of scrimmage, said after the SEC title game that he recognized it wasn’t the same Auburn as the first meeting. “Just be honest, Kerryon was not 100 percent; he wasn’t the same guy he was last game, so that probably helped some as well,” Smart said. “We felt getting after the quarterback was the way to beat them, and we did that much better this game than we did the last game. “The big difference was, number one, the back wasn’t running as hard and as much, but I thought we kept our edges, and there weren’t those 15, 20 yard runs. There were the three, four kind. And we kept them behind the sticks.” Auburn and Georgia meet this season on Nov. 10 at Sanford Stadium in a game most expect will carry SEC Championship Game implications. Auburn DT Dontavius Russell Auburn LB Deshaun Davis The post Auburn: Georgia football didn’t get Tigers’ best shot in SEC title game appeared first on DawgNation.