Tag Archives: expanding

There is huge potential between Azerbaijan and Croatia for expanding cooperation – Ex-president of Croatia

BAKU, Azerbaijan, July 19

By Zeyni Jafarov – Trend:

There is a huge potential between Azerbaijan and Croatia for expanding cooperation in all spheres, Ex-President of Croatia, member of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center Stjepan Mesic told Trend.

“Azerbaijan and Croatia have the political will and it is demonstrated at the level of the presidents of the two countries,” Mesic added.

“Azerbaijan and Croatia are strategic partners, which allows building reliable and long-term relations between peoples,” the ex-president said.

“Azerbaijan has restored its territorial integrity,” Mesic added. “The most important issue after the war is the elimination of the factor of hatred of peoples.”

“The policy of countries must be structured in such a way to eliminate this factor,” the ex-president said. “Historically, there may be disagreements between certain countries, but the correct state policy can lead to peace.”

“Each country has the right to liberate its territories,” he said. “The Azerbaijani president is pursuing the fair and peaceful policy.”

——

Follow the author on Twitter:@jafarov_zeyni

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This post originally posted here Trend – News from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Turkey.

Travel list expanding ‘soon’ – but what countries will move from red to amber?

Travel abroad is now allowed across Britain and many are looking forward to the next few weeks hoping to take a trip abroad. Only green list countries can be visited for leisure travel without quarantine rules. Several countries on the banned red list could soon become amber nations.

International travel for leisure opened up to Britons on May 17 – however, only a select number of countries are on the permitted list.

From 4am on Wednesday, June 30, more countries joined the UK’s green travel list.

Green list locations do not require Britons to quarantine upon their return to the UK.

The green list countries include Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Balearic Islands, Barbados, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Madeira, Malta, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands.

READ MORE: Green list update: The countries added to travel green list TODAY

Countries unlikely to be moved from the red list include Egypt which has thus far only vaccinated 1.15 percent second doses.

This is despite a seven-day case rate of just 2.46 per 100,000 people.

The Maldives is also unlikely to be moved from the red list because it has a case rate of 246.21 per 100,000.

The country has undertaken 44.5 percent of second doses so far.

South Africa is in the midst of a significant third wave of coronavirus and therefore will likely remain on the red list.

The UK Government will likely keep the nation as a red list country, particularly in light of the high case rate and slow vaccination rate.

The death rate in South Africa also remains very high with 112,907 cases in the past seven days, there were 1,389 deaths.

The Seychelles and India will also likely remain on the red travel list.

The country has a seven-day case rate of 978.6 per 100,000, while India is the origin of the rapidly spreading Delta variant.

Author: Kaisha Langton
This post originally appeared on Daily Express

Expanding Designed for Xbox Mobile Accessories to iOS Devices

At Xbox, providing choice to our fans so they can play the games they want, with the people they want, anywhere they want is what we’re all about. Last September, we expanded our Designed for Xbox licensed accessories into mobile gaming alongside the launch of Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) on Android with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. This was an epic achievement across many teams, and we could not be prouder to see our community playing their most beloved titles on the go with their favorite mobile accessories.

Today we’re announcing the expansion of our Designed for Xbox mobile gaming accessories to iOS devices. And with Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) becoming available today to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members on Windows 10 PCs and Apple phones and tablets via web browsers, we’re making it easier to play the deepest, most immersive games whenever and wherever you choose.

With launch products from leading mobile accessories partners and more on the way, we can’t wait to see where fans will take their gaming next.

Designed for Xbox Backbone One

Backbone

The fan favorite Backbone mobile controller joins the Designed for Xbox family with the Backbone One for Xbox, compatible with all iPhone models with iOS 13 or later. Backbone One transforms your iPhone to make gaming even more enjoyable and effortless.

Just connect the controller to your iPhone, press the Backbone Button to open the app, and instantly start playing your favorite Xbox games anywhere. With internals that reflect a breakthrough in connectivity and performance, Backbone One was designed to preserve battery life and reduce input latency by harnessing iPhone-exclusive technology, requiring no charging while enabling incredibly responsive gaming.

Clip Editor

Like the new Xbox Wireless Controllers, Backbone One lets players capture gameplay with a simple press of the Capture Button. The Backbone app now supports tagging gameplay from Xbox Cloud Gaming and sharing your favorite gaming moments with your friends as a link. Alongside several new Xbox integrations, the app offers a dynamic Xbox Game Pass feed within its reimagined user interface, and an easier way to move between your favorite iOS games and services, from Minecraft to Xbox remote play—all made possible through Backbone’s biggest update yet.

Game Pass Row

Gamers who purchase the Backbone One for Xbox will receive access to 3 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (for new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members at PlayBackbone.com only) and is available for purchase today for $ 99 USD in select Microsoft Store markets.

Razer Kishi Universal Gaming Controller for iOS

Razer Kishi

You know it, you love it. Razer is releasing the new Razer Kishi Universal Gaming Controller for iOS, letting you bring your A-game to Xbox titles anytime, anywhere. This controller fits most iPhone devices and is designed to bring console-level control to mobile gaming. Like the Universal Gaming Controller for Android, the Razer Kishi for iOS offers ergonomic design, clickable analog thumbsticks, ultra-low latency gameplay and a lightning port to charge your phone while in you play. With the Razer Kishi, wherever you go, victory in your favorite games will follow. It also offers a free 3-month trial to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (for new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members at Razer.com only), so players experiencing Xbox Game Pass for the first time can game to their hearts content. The Razer Kishi Universal Gaming Controller for iOS is available for pre-order today for $ 99 USD from Razer and other select retailers worldwide.

OtterBox Power Swap Controller Batteries

OtterBox

Keep your Xbox Wireless Controller in the game longer with the OtterBox Power Swap Controller Batteries, compatible with Xbox consoles, Android and iPhone devices. This battery pack provides an easy-to-use, wireless experience, and delivers uninterrupted gameplay with zero controller downtime. The quick-release batteries can swap on-the-fly with one hand during gameplay – no pause needed – and the reserve energy cell preserves power while you swap. The backlit LEDs let you know when the battery is low and it’s time to change it out. The included dock charges both batteries simultaneously and keeps the backup battery fully charged until you need it. You can also take both on the go for lasting mobile gaming power. This swappable battery pack duo is compatible with Xbox Wireless Controllers designed for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. The OtterBox Power Swap Controller Batteries are available for purchase for $ 59.95 USD from Microsoft Store in select markets worldwide.

Gaming on the go with Xbox has never been easier. With many accessory options for Android and iOS, our Designed for Xbox partners are leading the charge to untether gamers from their home and enable a quality gaming experience from wherever you want to play! We can’t wait to see you play on the new Designed for Xbox iOS mobile accessories with Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta).

Author: Scott Weber, Designed for Xbox
This post originally appeared on Xbox Wire

How Republican States Are Expanding Their Power Over Elections

LaGRANGE, Ga. — Lonnie Hollis has been a member of the Troup County election board in West Georgia since 2013. A Democrat and one of two Black women on the board, she has advocated Sunday voting, helped voters on Election Days and pushed for a new precinct location at a Black church in a nearby town.

But this year, Ms. Hollis will be removed from the board, the result of a local election law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican. Previously, election board members were selected by both political parties, county commissioners and the three biggest municipalities in Troup County. Now, the G.O.P.-controlled county commission has the sole authority to restructure the board and appoint all the new members.

“I speak out and I know the laws,” Ms. Hollis said in an interview. “The bottom line is they don’t like people that have some type of intelligence and know what they’re doing, because they know they can’t influence them.”

Ms. Hollis is not alone. Across Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature. At least five are people of color and most are Democrats — though some are Republicans — and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans.

Ms. Hollis and local officials like her have been some of the earliest casualties as Republican-led legislatures mount an expansive takeover of election administration in a raft of new voting bills this year.

G.O.P. lawmakers have also stripped secretaries of state of their power, asserted more control over state election boards, made it easier to overturn election results, and pursued several partisan audits and inspections of 2020 results.

Republican state lawmakers have introduced at least 216 bills in 41 states to give legislatures more power over elections officials, according to the States United Democracy Center, a new bipartisan organization that aims to protect democratic norms. Of those, 24 have been enacted into law across 14 states.

G.O.P. lawmakers in Georgia say the new measures are meant to improve the performance of local boards, and reduce the influence of the political parties. But the laws allow Republicans to remove local officials they don’t like, and because several of them have been Black Democrats, voting rights groups fear that these are further attempts to disenfranchise voters of color.

The maneuvers risk eroding some of the core checks that stood as a bulwark against former President Donald J. Trump as he sought to subvert the 2020 election results. Had these bills been in place during the aftermath of the election, Democrats say, they would have significantly added to the turmoil Mr. Trump and his allies wrought by trying to overturn the outcome. They worry that proponents of Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theories will soon have much greater control over the levers of the American elections system.

“It’s a thinly veiled attempt to wrest control from officials who oversaw one of the most secure elections in our history and put it in the hands of bad actors,” said Jena Griswold, the chairwoman of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State and the current Colorado secretary of state. “The risk is the destruction of democracy.”

Officials like Ms. Hollis are responsible for decisions like selecting drop box and precinct locations, sending out voter notices, establishing early voting hours and certifying elections. But the new laws are targeting high-level state officials as well, in particular secretaries of state — both Republican and Democratic — who stood up to Mr. Trump and his allies last year.

Republicans in Arizona have introduced a bill that would largely strip Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state, of her authority over election lawsuits, and then expire when she leaves office. And they have introduced another bill that would give the Legislature more power over setting the guidelines for election administration, a major task currently carried out by the secretary of state.

Under Georgia’s new voting law, Republicans significantly weakened the secretary of state’s office after Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who is the current secretary, rebuffed Mr. Trump’s demands to “find” votes. They removed the secretary of state as the chair of the state election board and relieved the office of its voting authority on the board.

Kansas Republicans in May overrode a veto from Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, to enact laws stripping the governor of the power to modify election laws and prohibiting the secretary of state, a Republican who repeatedly vouched for the security of voting by mail, from settling election-related lawsuits without the Legislature’s consent.

And more Republicans who cling to Mr. Trump’s election lies are running for secretary of state, putting a critical office within reach of conspiracy theorists. In Georgia, Representative Jody Hice, a Republican who voted against certifying President Biden’s victory, is running against Mr. Raffensperger. Republican candidates with similar views are running for secretary of state in Nevada, Arizona and Michigan.

“In virtually every state, every election administrator is going to feel like they’re under the magnifying glass,” said Victoria Bassetti, a senior adviser to the States United Democracy Center.

More immediately, it is local election officials at the county and municipal level who are being either removed or stripped of their power.

In Arkansas, Republicans were stung last year when Jim Sorvillo, a three-term state representative from Little Rock, lost re-election by 24 votes to Ashley Hudson, a Democrat and local lawyer. Elections officials in Pulaski County, which includes Little Rock, were later found to have accidentally tabulated 327 absentee ballots during the vote-counting process, 27 of which came from the district.

Mr. Sorvillo filed multiple lawsuits aiming to stop Ms. Hudson from being seated, and all were rejected. The Republican caucus considered refusing to seat Ms. Hudson, then ultimately voted to accept her.

But last month, Arkansas Republicans wrote new legislation that allows a state board of election commissioners — composed of six Republicans and one Democrat — to investigate and “institute corrective action” on a wide variety of issues at every stage of the voting process, from registration to the casting and counting of ballots to the certification of elections. The law applies to all counties, but it is widely believed to be aimed at Pulaski, one of the few in the state that favor Democrats.

The author of the legislation, State Representative Mark Lowery, a Republican from a suburb of Little Rock, said it was necessary to remove election power from the local authorities, who in Pulaski County are Democrats, because otherwise Republicans could not get a fair shake.

“Without this legislation, the only entity you could have referred impropriety to is the prosecuting attorney, who is a Democrat, and possibly not had anything done,” Mr. Lowery said in an interview. “This gives another level of investigative authority to a board that is commissioned by the state to oversee elections.”

Asked about last year’s election, Mr. Lowery said, “I do believe Donald Trump was elected president.”

A separate new Arkansas law allows a state board to “take over and conduct elections” in a county if a committee of the legislature determines that there are questions about the “appearance of an equal, free and impartial election.”

In Georgia, the legislature passed a unique law for some counties. For Troup County, State Representative Randy Nix, a Republican, said he had introduced the bill that restructured the county election board — and will remove Ms. Hollis — only after it was requested by county commissioners. He said he was not worried that the commission, a partisan body with four Republicans and one Democrat, could exert influence over elections.

“The commissioners are all elected officials and will face the voters to answer for their actions,” Mr. Nix said in an email.

Eric Mosley, the county manager for Troup County, which Mr. Trump carried by 22 points, said that the decision to ask Mr. Nix for the bill was meant to make the board more bipartisan. It was unanimously supported by the commission.

“We felt that removing both the Republican and Democratic representation and just truly choose members of the community that invest hard to serve those community members was the true intent of the board,” Mr. Mosley said. “Our goal is to create both political and racial diversity on the board.”

In Morgan County, east of Atlanta, Helen Butler has been one of the state’s most prominent Democratic voices on voting rights and election administration. A member of the county board of elections in a rural, Republican county, she also runs the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, a group dedicated to protecting the voting rights of Black Americans and increasing their civic engagement.

But Ms. Butler will be removed from the county board at the end of the month, after Mr. Kemp signed a local bill that ended the ability of political parties to appoint members.

“I think it’s all a part of the ploy for the takeover of local boards of elections that the state legislature has put in place,” Ms. Butler said. “It is them saying that they have the right to say whether an election official is doing it right, when in fact they don’t work in the day to day and don’t understand the process themselves.”

It’s not just Democrats who are being removed. In DeKalb County, the state’s fourth-largest, Republicans chose not to renominate Baoky Vu to the election board after more than 12 years in the position. Mr. Vu, a Republican, had joined with Democrats in a letter opposing an election-related bill that eventually failed to pass.

To replace Mr. Vu, Republicans nominated Paul Maner, a well-known local conservative with a history of false statements, including an insinuation that the son of a Georgia congresswoman was killed in “a drug deal gone bad.”

Back in LaGrange, Ms. Hollis is trying to do as much as she can in the time she has left on the board. The extra precinct in nearby Hogansville, where the population is roughly 50 percent Black, is a top priority. While its population is only about 3,000, the town is bifurcated by a rail line, and Ms. Hollis said that sometimes it can take an exceedingly long time for a line of freight cars to clear, which is problematic on Election Days.

“We’ve been working on this for over a year,” Ms. Hollis said, saying Republicans had thrown up procedural hurdles to block the process. But she was undeterred.

“I’m not going to sit there and wait for you to tell me what it is that I should do for the voters there,” she said. “I’m going to do the right thing.”

Rachel Shorey contributed research.

Author: Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

College Football Playoff considers expanding from four to 12 teams

The proposed 12-team playoff would not limit how many teams can come from any one conference.

Editor’s note: The attached video is from Jan. 2021

The College Football Playoff announced Thursday it will consider expanding from four to 12 teams to settle the national championship, with six spots reserved for the highest-ranked conference champions and the other six going to at-large selections.

The CFP’s surprising announcement outlined a plan that would triple the number teams that enter the postseason with a chance to win it all.

Even if the format is adopted — no earlier than this fall — there was no indication in the proposal about when an expanded playoff could be in place. The soonest would seem to be for the 2023 season, but it is probably more likely to be after the 2026 season.

A selection committee would still be involved, and the proposed 12-team playoff would not limit how many teams can come from any one conference. The four highest-ranked conference champions would receive first-round byes and teams 5-12 would face each other in four games played on campus sometime during the two-week period following conference championship weekend, typically early December.

The plan calls for no re-seeding of the bracket as teams advance. Quarterfinals would be hosted by bowl games on New Year’s Day —- unless that falls on a Sunday, in which case those games will be played Jan. 2 — and an adjacent day.

The semifinals would also be hosted by bowl games, as is the case now.

The proposal includes no dates for semifinals and the championship game to be played, but did indicate the semifinals would not be played as a doubleheader on a single day.

Currently six bowl games have a three-year rotation for hosting the semifinals and the championship game site is open to bidders, similar to the what the NFL does with the Super Bowl. The current semifinal bowl rotation includes the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Peach bowls, not they are not guaranteed to be hosts in the proposed expansion plan.

“The process for selecting the six bowls that would rotate as hosts of the quarterfinals and semifinals (is) still to be determined,” the CFP plan said.

The proposal will be considered by the full CFP management committee in Chicago on June 17-18.

On Thursday, a subcommittee comprised of Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbick presented the proposal to the rest of conference commissioners in a Zoom meeting.

The group has been working on an expansion plan for almost two years and it might have been put forth sooner if not for the pandemic.

“The four-team format has been very popular and is a big success,” the members of the four-person working group said in a statement. “But it’s important that we consider the opportunity for more teams and more student-athletes to participate in the playoff. After reviewing numerous options, we believe this proposal is the best option to increase participation, enhance the regular season and grow the national excitement of college football.”

The full management committee will determine next week whether it will recommend expansion to university presidents who make up the CFP oversight committee. The presidents are scheduled to meet with the management committee in Dallas on June 22.

If the presidents sign off, the next step is determining over the summer whether the plan can be implemented and when. The final approval would likely come in September.

The College Football Playoff is entering year eight of a 12-year agreement with ESPN. The deal doesn’t lock in a format but an assumption has been that any changes would come after that deal expires following the 2025 season.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock has said no changes to the CFP format could be made this season or in 2022.

The four-team playoff was implemented in 2014, a natural progression from the Bowl Championship Series, which matched No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the title game from 1998-2013.

The playoff’s popularity seems to have waned as only a few teams have grabbed the majority of the spots since 2014. Alabama and Clemson have each made the playoff six times in seven years. Ohio State and Oklahoma have each been selected four times. That’s 71% of the playoff spots to just four of the 130 teams that play major college football.

A 12-team field with six spots reserved for conference champions would guarantee at least one team from outside the Power Five conferences would be in the playoff each season. The Group of Five has never had a team crack the field of four or been particularly close.

Author:
This post originally appeared on CBS8 – Sports

Green list expanding 'soon' – but what countries will be on the new green travel list?

Travel abroad is now permitted across the UK, but travellers were left bewildered after a series of mixed messages this week. After the confused communications, several Government officials have now stressed people should only visit green list countries. Those hoping to go on holiday are now anxiously awaiting the next travel update to see if their favourite destinations will be moved to the green list. But what countries will be on the new green list?
Holidaymakers have been able to travel abroad since Monday, May 17.

As international travel opened up, a traffic light system came into force, ranking each country according to its risk level.

Green countries are those deemed safest and do not require passengers to quarantine upon their return.

Instead, they must only take a pre-departure test and PCR test on day two after their return.

Amber list countries are discouraged for leisure travellers and arrivals must quarantine at hoe for 10 days.

These travellers must also take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on days two and day eight after arrival – although an additional test can be taken on day five to end isolation early.

For red list countries, travel is discouraged and arrivals must pay for a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel, as well as pre-departure and PCR tests.

There is no test to release early with red list countries.

READ MORE: York hotel ranked in ‘Hottest New Hotels in the World’

The Government is set to review its traffic light system for foreign travel on June 7.

Some of the amber list countries are likely to move to the green list, however, a deluge of new countries is not expected.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson privately told MPs “quite a few” countries are on the cusp of joining the green list for quarantine-free holidays at the beginning of next month.

The frontrunners are likely to be destinations that were “near misses” in the current green list.

These countries were Malta, Grenada, Cayman Islands, Fiji, British Virgin Islands, Finland and Caribbean islands thought to include Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos and Anguilla.

Decisions will be based on countries’ prevalence of Covid and its variants, their genome sequencing and testing capability, and their vaccination rates.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland today said it looks increasingly unlikely the top European tourist spots for British holidaymakers will make the green list in the next update.

Mr Buckland told Sky News: “It means more opportunities for holidaymakers, and the ease of transport that clearly makes a holiday a much more pleasant experience, so we’ll continue, where we see the evidence, to add countries.”

Author:
This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Travel Feed

Russian internet giant Yandex mulls expanding food delivery service to TWO European capitals as Covid-19 pandemic boosts demand

Russian internet giant Yandex says it will start delivering groceries across Paris and London by the end of the year, after the service gained massive popularity in Russia during lockdowns imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The grocery delivery in the French and British capitals will be run by Yango, an international arm of Yandex Go, which is in cha   rge of the company’s taxi aggregator and food tech business. Last year, the subsidiary launched the grocery service in Israel under the Yango Deli brand.

“In France, Yandex’s Yango Deli will use the company’s tried-and-tested model of hyperlocal delivery in 10 to 15 minutes from dark stores, supported by its proprietary technologies and know-how. It will take orders via its own app,” the company said in a statement.
Also on rt.com Russian internet giant Yandex launches food delivery service in Israel
Dark stores are warehouses catering only for online clients, allowing faster delivery and lower rental costs.
The NASDAQ-listed firm has reportedly registered a French company and started hiring staff for the new venture, and has plans to launch in London in the third quarter of 2021.

Online retail in Russia boomed last year, as shoppers were stuck at home for months due to lockdown restrictions, making food and grocery delivery services such as Yandex Lavka one of the major beneficiaries.

The service, launched in 2019, currently operates in several Russian cities, processing nearly two million orders every month, with more than 300 dark stores in operation.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

RT

This article originally appeared on RT Business News

Republican state House speaker backs expanding Medicaid to cover mothers for a year after they give birth

The Republican House Speaker threw his weight Wednesday behind a bill that would extend Medicaid coverage to mothers for a year postpartum, as part of a broad package of proposals meant to increase access to affordable healthcare in Texas.

The number of reported maternal deaths has increased nationwide in recent decades[2], and Texas data shows Black women in the state die disproportionately while pregnant or after delivery, from causes like infections, heart problems and mental disorders.

But health experts and advocates point to a fix they say would avert some postpartum deaths: Give low-income moms government-sponsored insurance for a year after delivery. They are kicked off after two months in Texas — though about a third of deaths[3] happen 43 days or more postpartum.

“Childbirth, while a wonderful and almost magical milestone in a woman’s life, can lead to postpartum depression. It can lead to medical crises, premature death, including suicide,” said state Rep. Toni Rose[4], D-Dallas. “While access to medical resources and counseling can save the lives of mothers, the safety net for those needing assistance disappears 60 days after delivery.”

Rose has proposed a bill, included in the House healthcare package unveiled Wednesday, that would extend Medicaid to a year postpartum. Lawmakers failed to pass a similar measure in 2019, when the cost of extending coverage was estimated to cost more than $ 70 million a year.

The announcement comes after Congress passed a pandemic relief bill that incentivizes states to extend it by waiving a lengthy and cumbersome process they would normally have to go through. The federal government has also sweetened the pot for the dozen states, including Texas, that have not more broadly expanded Medicaid to adults who can’t afford insurance but don’t currently qualify for the public program.

Legislation to do that is pending in both chambers, though it was left out of the House’s plan.

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the country with nearly one in five Texans lacking health coverage. While women can qualify for Medicaid if they are pregnant, a mother with one child would have to make less than $ 196 a month[5] to be eligible as a parent in Texas, which has the strictest income limits of any state, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Medicaid pays for about half of births in Texas.

Texas’ maternal mortality rate is slightly higher[6] than the national average, though that’s based on deaths that happen during pregnancy or within 42 days of delivery. More than 600 women died nationwide in that time frame in 2018 and 277 died 43 days to a year after the end of their pregnancy, according to federal statistics. More than 90 women died in Texas that year — 22 after the 42 day marker used by the government.

Dr. Lisa Hollier, chair of the state’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review committee, said there are complications like heart disease and mental health conditions that are more likely to happen two months or more after delivery.

“It’s really important that women have access to the full range of services… like emergency room visits, like hospitalizations, that can really help them recover from their heart conditions, for example, or recover from their postpartum depression,” Hollier said.

There is a Texas program that gives mothers one year of coverage for mood or substance use disorders, diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease. Hollier said it is a “package of outpatient services” that are helpful but limited; Medicaid provides the same services and additional medications, testing and hospitalizations not covered by the state program, she said.

Advocates have said the state program has almost no network of specialty or mental health providers to deliver those services right now.

The rate of maternal deaths has gained attention nationwide. Experts and studies have found many of the deaths are preventable and that the maternal mortality rate is higher in the U.S. than other high-income countries. The risk is particularly acute for Black and indigenous women, who are two to three times[7] as likely to die than white women.

The past year has been something of an experiment in extending Medicaid coverage for new moms. Because of the pandemic, the federal government temporarily stopped states from kicking new moms off Medicaid — women like Claudia Nungaray.

Nungaray, 30, had used a state women’s health program for her annual checkups, but tried to avoid hospitals or doctors’ visits whenever possible because of the potential cost. When she did need to get glasses or go to the dentist, she paid out of pocket.

“Insurance is very expensive and I couldn’t really afford it,” said Nungaray, who lives in El Paso.

It was a “big relief” to learn Medicaid would cover her prenatal appointments, she said, where her doctors tested her for gestational diabetes and monitored her blood sugar. She was also able to see a counselor and get medication for anxiety and depression that she was diagnosed with during her pregnancy.

In November, she gave birth to a boy she named Kael and spent the next few months in the sleepless haze of new parenthood. She worried what she would do when she lost insurance and is grateful she hasn’t. She’s been able to keep seeing her counselor and going to doctor’s appointments to check on her elevated blood pressure levels.

“I don’t know what I would have done without that help,” she said.

Through a separate Nurse-Family Partnership program, Nungaray was paired with a nurse who checked on her regularly during her pregnancy and will continue to work with her and Kael for two years.

Doctors and advocates told lawmakers at a March hearing that losing insurance two months after delivery can affect new moms, especially those with limited means. Uninsured women who forego healthcare because of the high costs might find out they have underlying health problems at their prenatal appointments but can’t address them before their insurance coverage ends, doctors said.

Dr. Amelia Averyt, a primary care physician at a Houston health center, said she cared for a young mother who had pregnancy-related cardiomyopathy — a heart muscle disease. She was unable to follow up with cardiologists after her Medicaid expired, Averyt said, and instead visited emergency rooms with severe shortness of breath and hypertension.

“Continued care with specialist services could have helped preserve her heart’s functioning. But instead interrupted care contributed to a slow decline to the point where she could not keep up with her baby,” she said.

Adriana Kohler, policy director for Texans Care for Children, said at a legislative hearing this spring that there is a “human toll” if the state does not extend Medicaid coverage to a year postpartum.

Texas moms face complications like cardiac arrest, infection, postpartum depression and extreme blood loss in the year after pregnancy. That can lead to “scary and expensive hospital stays,” more procedures, and long-term health issues. Left unaddressed, they can affect an entire family, she said.

“There’s a greater risk of babies dying of SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome. If postpartum depression is untreated, kids are more likely to have ADHD, develop depression or anxiety in themselves, or have behavioral or conduct disorders,” Kohler said.

References

  1. ^ Sign up for The Brief (www.texastribune.org)
  2. ^ recent decades (www.cdc.gov)
  3. ^ third of deaths (www.dshs.texas.gov)
  4. ^ Toni Rose (www.texastribune.org)
  5. ^ 196 a month (hhs.texas.gov)
  6. ^ slightly higher (www.cdc.gov)
  7. ^ two to three times (www.cdc.gov)

Shannon Najmabadi

Biden administration expanding pause on student loan interest, collections

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is expanding the pause on student loan interest and collections to the more than a million borrowers who are in default on loans made by private lenders, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.”This step particularly protects 800,000 borrowers who are at risk of having their tax refunds seized,” Psaki said at a White House briefing.

The pause on collections covers loans made as part of the Federal Family Education Loan Program. It does not apply to borrowers who are not in default.

Biden has resisted calls from top congressional Democrats — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — to use his executive authority to forgive $ 50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

But Biden, who has said he would support canceling $ 10,000 per borrower, has repeatedly argued that the government shouldn’t forgive debt for people who went to “Harvard and Yale and Penn.” He’s also indicated that he believes Congress should make changes through legislation, which would make them harder to undo, though Psaki said Tuesday that the White House is “still taking a closer look at our options on student loans.”

“This includes examining the authorities we have, the existing loan forgiveness programs that are clearly not working as well as they should,” Psaki said.

Psaki continued: “This includes borrower defense, total and permanent disability charges, there’s a lot of steps we’re looking at and we’ll continue to review those and be in touch of course with Leader Schumer about our process.”

A broad cancellation of federal student loan debt would be unprecedented. But a memo from lawyers at Harvard’s Legal Services Center and its Project on Predatory Student Lending says the Department of Education has the power to do so.

The department already has some more targeted debt cancellation policies in place. It wipes away debt for defrauded students as well as disabled veterans. Biden could provide relief for hundreds of thousands of more borrowers just by expanding those programs, according to the National Student Legal Defense Network.In one of his first acts in office, Biden extended the pause on student loan payments and interest, a Covid relief benefit put in place by Congress last year that had already been renewed by the Trump administration. Federal student loan borrowers won’t have to make payments until October 1 at the earliest.

And the administration earlier this month reversed a controversial Trump-era policy that will lead to the cancellation of roughly $ 1 billion in student debt for borrowers who were defrauded by their colleges.

The change will deliver full loan forgiveness to 73,000 people who were deemed eligible for the relief under former Education Secretary Betsy Devos but received only partial loan forgiveness after she changed the cancellation calculation.

Last week, the administration waived a paperwork requirement during the pandemic for disabled borrowers to receive approval for loan forgiveness. But advocates say much more could be done to help these borrowers, like automatically discharging their debt.

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