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Health

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The top Air Force general in charge of the nation’s air- and ground-launched nuclear missiles has requested an official investigation into the number of airmen who are reporting blood cancer diagnoses after serving at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. The illnesses became publicly known this week after The Associated Press obtained a military brief that at least nine missileers were reporting diagnoses of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. One of the officers has died. Missileers are the officers who serve in underground bunkers near silo-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and are responsible for turning launch keys if ordered.

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The interim manager appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice to reform the troubled water system in Mississippi’s capital city has released a new financial plan to change Jackson’s billing system and spend hundreds of millions of federal relief funds paying down the system’s debt. The plan released Friday would relieve the water system of its debt and introduce a new way to charge for water. Repeated breakdowns have caused many in the city of about 150,000 to go days and weeks at a time without safe running water. But legislation moving through Mississippi's Republican-controlled legislature would ban parts of the plan from taking effect.

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The U.S. plans to make it easier for gay and bisexual men to give blood. The Food and Drug Administration proposed easing restrictions on groups that typically face higher risks of HIV. The agency wants to drop the three-month abstinence requirement for donations from men who have sex with men. Donors would instead be screened with a questionnaire that evaluates individual risks for HIV, including sexual behavior. As a result, gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships could soon be able to donate blood for the first time in decades. The U.S. and other countries began restricting blood donations during the AIDS crisis of the early 1980s.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government will allow Medicaid dollars to treat some people in prisons, jails or juvenile detention centers for the first time ever, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Thursday.

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Hong Kong will ban CBD starting Wednesday, labeling it a “dangerous drug.” Cannabidiol, derived from the cannabis plant, was previously legal in Hong Kong, where bars and shops sold products containing it. But last year, Hong Kong authorities decided to prohibit its use. Customs authorities announced Friday that the ban would go into effect starting Feb. 1. CBD is one of many chemicals found in cannabis, a plant known more commonly as marijuana. Unlike its cousin THC, CBD doesn’t get users high. Supporters say CBD can treat a range of ailments. Others, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, say there’s not enough evidence to confirm its safety as a supplement.

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A newly released report from the Mississippi State Department of Health finds that an increasing number of mothers in the state have died in recent years due to pregnancy complications. Racial disparities in health outcomes have also widened. The report shows that between 2017 and 2019, overall maternal mortality increased by 8.8% from the previous period researchers analyzed, 2013 to 2016. Black women had a rate four times higher than white women. The report arrives as the Republican-controlled state legislature debates whether to extend Medicaid coverage from 60 days to a full year after childbirth.

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A Democratic-led Virginia Senate panel has defeated several bills that would have restricted abortion access in the state. Among them was a measure that was a priority for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin. The Senate Committee on Education and Health voted the measures down without debate Thursday morning after a subcommittee had previously recommended that they be defeated. The votes were not a surprise. Democrats control the state Senate and have promised since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year to defeat any effort to curtail abortion access. That includes a push by Youngkin and Republican lawmakers for a 15-week ban with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

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A group of Texas death row inmates have filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s prison system over its policy of mandatory and indefinite solitary confinement for all prisoners who are awaiting execution. They say the policy causes severe physical and psychological harm and restricts their access to human interaction, medical care and legal representation. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Houston federal court. A state prison system spokeswoman says her agency does not comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit comes as a group of Texas prisoners have been on a hunger strike since Jan. 10 to protest the state’s use of solitary confinement.

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The U.S. is poised to make COVID-19 vaccinations more like a yearly flu shot. The Food and Drug Administration's scientific advisers are helping to decide if most Americans may need once-a-year boosters — and how and when to periodically update the shots’ recipe. COVID-19 vaccines have saved millions of lives and booster doses continue to help, but protection can wane and the virus still is rapidly mutating. FDA's advisers say vaccination should be made simpler. Next steps also will include a spring meeting on whether to update the vaccine recipe against new virus strains.

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The Food and Drug Administration says there are too many unknowns about CBD products to regulate them as foods or supplements. The FDA said Congress needs to create new rules for the massive and growing market. FDA officials said Thursday that the marijuana-derived compound poses risks to people and animals that can't be adequately addressed through the current system and a new regulations are needed to protect consumers. The agency also denied petitions from three advocacy groups to allow CBD products to be marketed as dietary supplements. Fans of the products claim benefits including relief for pain and anxiety.

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Attorney General Merrick Garland and other U.S. officials say the FBI and international partners have at least temporarily disrupted the network of a prolific ransomware gang they infiltrated last year. And as a result they have saved victims, including hospitals and school districts, a potential  $130 million in ransom payments. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco says that: “Simply put, using lawful means we hacked the hackers.” Officials say the gang known as Hive, operates one of the world’s top five ransomware networks. FBI Director Christopher Wray says the FBI quietly gained access to Hive's control panel in July and was able to obtain software keys to decrypt the network of some 1,300 victims globally.

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