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Voters skeptical of UK promises of Brexit upside

LONDON — Theresa May has a problem: Half of Britain still doesnt believe her government on Brexit.

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LONDON — Theresa May has a problem: Half of Britain still doesnt believe her government on Brexit.

The U.K. chancellor called time on austerity Monday with the biggest giveaway budget since the 2008 financial crash, splurging £100 billion more over the next six years than previously planned — and with almost all of it going on the National Health Service.

With an eye to the upcoming vote on the Brexit divorce deal with Brussels, Philip Hammond also held out the prospect of even more spending to come if the country secures an orderly exit from the EU, promising MPs a “double deal dividend” for the economy and public spending if they back a deal and avoid crashing out of the European Union in March 2019.

The twin-pronged message — of an end to austerity and an extra Brexit deal bonus for voters — in the governments last annual budget before the U.K. quits the bloc comes at a time of maximum danger for May. As well as seeking a deal with Brussels that is acceptable both in the U.K. parliament and to the country more widely, the prime minister must also neutralize the threat from Jeremy Corbyns Labour Party, which continues to sit within touching distance of the government in most polls.

However, according to an exclusive snap poll carried out for POLITICO by Hanbury Strategy, the government only successfully landed one of these two core budget messages. While there is overwhelming public support for the governments decision to end the public spending squeeze, which has been in place since 2010, the poll showed continued skepticism about warnings of the risks of a no-deal Brexit.

The POLITICO/Hanbury poll shows the country remains as divided as ever over Brexit.

In an apparent vindication of Mays decision to draw a line under the post-crash era of austerity, 57 percent said the government should spend more money rather than balance the books, with just 12 percent saying the priority should be getting back into the black. By almost four to one — 57 percent to 14 percent — voters also support the governments decision to spend almost all the extra cash from an unexpected boost in tax receipts on health care rather than other public services.

However, according to the poll of 500 adults carried out between 6.30 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Monday, the public is still split on the chancellors warning that a failure to reach a Brexit agreement with Brussels could jeopardize future spending increases on public services.

Nothing has changed

The POLITICO/Hanbury poll shows the country remains as divided as ever over Brexit, with 52 percent either not buying the warning that leaving the EU without a deal would negatively impact spending on public services or saying reduced public spending would be a price worth paying.

In an echo of the 2016 EU referendum, 48 percent say they agree with the government that no deal will mean less money for public services and this is not a price worth paying.

The findings are a blow to the chancellor, who told MPs that securing a Brexit deal with the EU would deliver a “double deal dividend” to the U.K. economy.

With the chances of no-deal rising, Hammond has kept aside £15 billion of “firepower” to spend in case the U.K. crashes out of the EU. In the event that May can broker a deal with Brussels, Treasury officials said this money would be freed up to be spent on public services.

“Were at a pivotal moment in our EU negotiations and the stakes could not be higher,” Hammond said. “Get it right and we will not only protect Britains jobs, businesses and prosperity but we will also harvest a double deal dividend: a boost from the end of uncertainty and a boost from releasing some of the fiscal headroom that I am holding in reserve at the moment.”

Conservative Brexiteer MPs concerned that the prime ministers Brexit plan will bind the U.K. too closely to EU rules will likely jump on the findings to argue that the fallout from a no deal can be contained.

Buying time

The immediate effect of Mondays budget, however, is that it has bought the prime minister more time.

There had been reports that Northern Irelands Democratic Unionists, who prop up Mays government in Westminster, were willing to vote down the budget if the prime minister agreed Brexit withdrawal terms with the EU that created an economic border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This threat evaporated.

Hammond singled out Northern Ireland for investment, with £350 million set aside for the Belfast region, among other measures. The partys Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds, tweeted that the DUPs confidence and supply agreement with the government was “delivering again.”

One minister said the giveaway budget revealed just how precarious the governments position now was.

“It just shows where we are,” he said. “This was all about soft-soaping the parliamentary party and the DUP. The truth is now, we are only able to get something through parliament now if we throw cash at it.

While the public remains skeptical of continued warnings about the economic cost of a disorderly Brexit, there was widespread support for the tax and spending measures in the budget.

“The whole budget was designed to avoid a parliamentary vote which we might lose. It means you cant raise taxes or cut spending. It highlights the weakness of the government. We could have said, OK, lets raise taxes for some of the spending, but no. Nothing that involves a tax rise or a spending cut is possible. This is the new reality — all the power is with parliament.”

Another senior Tory MP said Hammond had been left with little choice but to turn on the spending taps, insisting he needed to “fight the austerity label” that was killing the Tories. “Have you seen the Labour ads?” he said.

A third senior Tory — another minister — said it was a “one-nation budget at a time of uncertainty” but admitted it did not leave much room to absorb an economic downturn. “This is why as smooth a Brexit as possible is what we need.”

In analysis released alongside Mondays budget, the governments independent economic forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, warned a “disorderly [Brexit] could have severe short-term implications for the economy.” However, it said: “The scale would be very hard to predict, given the lack of precedent,” the OBRs accompanying forecast document said.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond poses for pictures with the Budget Box as he leaves 11 Downing Street | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

The OBR called a no-deal Brexit “the most immediate and significant” downside risk currently affecting the British economy.

While the public remains skeptical of continued warnings about the economic cost of a disorderly Brexit, there was widespread support for the tax and spending measures in the budget.

The proposed new “Google tax” on giant U.S. tech companies is extremely popular with the country, according to the POLITICO/Hanbury Strategy poll, with over nine in 10 supporting it. One third of those polled said it does not go far enough.

Overall, the majority of the country — 56 percent — said Mondays budget will be neither good nor bad for their family. However, in a boost for the government, the number of people who think it will be good is almost three times as many as those who think it will be bad — 33 percent to 11 percent.

Hanbury Strategy — a member of the British Polling Council — polls people on their smartphones by advertising on up to 60,000 apps and targeting different types of handsets.

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The organization helping to bring new drugs for rare diseases to market

A research team has reason to celebrate after the Food and Drug Administration granted it approval o..

A research team has reason to celebrate after the Food and Drug Administration granted it approval on Friday to begin a clinical trial for a new pediatric brain cancer drug, one that might have ended up overlooked by pharmaceutical companies.

The lead researcher on the team, Dr. Teresa Purzner has already beat impossible odds. The neurosurgeon and mom of three managed to get the approval in record time and with little money thanks to the help of a team of scientific altruists called SPARK.

The development of new medications in the United States is driven by pharmaceutical companies; researchers at universities rarely bring their discoveries to the bedside. For every 10,000 potential new medicines sitting on laboratory shelves around the country, only one will ever reach patients in need, according to the National Institutes of Health. Why? Because the process can take 10 to 15 years, costing upwards of a billion dollars per drug.

As a result, the number of new medications approved by the FDA has remained stagnant at about 31 per year over the past 10 years. The majority of these medications are similar to already existing ones, and many target diseases for which there are large markets — like hypertension and high cholesterol — and therefore, a return on investment.

Enter SPARK, a non-profit program created in partnership between Stanford University and volunteers from the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and investment industries, which helps academic researchers bring their discoveries to patients. Since its founding, SPARK has given special consideration to projects typically neglected by pharmaceutical companies, including rare diseases and diseases affecting children.

Purzner put her neurosurgery practice on pause to study medulloblastoma, a type of childhood brain cancer. Compared to diseases like hypertension and high cholesterol, which affect millions of Americans, medulloblastoma is rare, affecting only 250 to 500 children every year.

“Theres something especially poignant about seeing children —beautiful, wonderful, innocent things — and seeing the impact of the therapies we are giving them. The medications, the radiation therapies impact their cognition, their quality of life and their ability to function as independent adults in the future,” Purzner said in an interview with ABC News.

Purzner had a clear goal: to find a targeted therapy that could shut down the basic biochemical pathway responsible for the development of this cancer, and she did. She tested the potential drug in mice with good results, and she just received FDA approval to test it in clinical trials, which she will do through the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium. She did it all in five years and for a price tag of $500,000.

“To get from my initial findings in the lab to the point where the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium picked it up for clinical trials would have never happened without the help of SPARK… they gave me a clear pathway and made me believe it was possible,” said Purzner.

Every year, SPARK provides 10 teams with funding and expert mentorship to promote efficient and cost-effective drug development. (more…)

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Widowed father works with congresswoman on legislation to prevent maternal deaths

Sitting in the hospital room, mother and newborn baby were sound asleep.

“I was overjoyed. I reme..

Sitting in the hospital room, mother and newborn baby were sound asleep.

"I was overjoyed. I remember thinking my family is complete," Charles Johnson told ABC News.

But then he looked down and saw his wife Kiras catheter turn pink and then red with blood.

April 12, 2016 was supposed to be a joyous day for the Johnson family, but it turned into a "nightmare."

Ten hours later, Kira Johnson died as a result of internal bleeding following a cesarean section.

Now, two years later, Johnson is raising two children on his own and advocating to rectify the country's maternal health policies and regulations to prevent anyone else from sharing the same tragedy. Johnson took to Capitol Hill to share his wife's story before members of Congress, working alongside a congresswoman who experienced her own personal difficulties during pregnancy.

Charles and Kira Johnson welcomed their first son Charles V. in 2014. He was delivered via C-section. Two years later, the Johnson family relocated from Atlanta to Los Angeles and learned they were expecting their second baby boy.

"Kira and I had always wanted two boys," Johnson said. "I was excited."

The Johnsons decided to have Langston delivered at Cedars Sinai medical center, a non-profit hospital that is currently ranked as the eighth best hospital in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

Charles Johnson said his wife was in exceptional health and that she took all the necessary prenatal measures to ensure their second child would be born healthy. Since their first son was born via C-section, the doctor suggested the same for their second. (more…)

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States look to breathalyze convicted drunk drivers to reduce fatalities

This story is from Kaiser Health News

On Jan. 1, California joined the majority of states that ha..

This story is from Kaiser Health News

On Jan. 1, California joined the majority of states that have laws requiring drivers with drunken-driving convictions to install breathalyzers in vehicles they own or operate.

Researchers, public health advocates and political leaders believe these laws are helping reduce alcohol-related road deaths.

The gadgets, known as ignition interlock devices, are mounted on the steering wheel of a vehicle and prevent it from starting if the drivers blood-alcohol reading is above a predetermined level.

In California, the breathalyzers are mandatory only for repeat offenders. Five other states — Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Montana and Ohio — have similar laws. Thirty-two states and D.C. require the devices even for first-time offenders.

The advent of such laws across the United States in the past 15 years has been accompanied by some good news: Deaths involving drunken driving are only about half of what they were in the early 1980s, though they have ticked back up in recent years. The long-term decline is largely attributable to greater public awareness, stricter seat belt enforcement and the establishment in 2000 of a nationwide legal blood-alcohol threshold of 0.08 percent — far below the 0.15 percent standard commonly used before then.

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), the author of the California law, said breathalyzers in cars will make roads safer than under the current law, which generally relies on license restrictions and suspensions.

“Weve seen people on a suspended license continue to drive and continue to cause destruction,” said Hill, who lost his best friend to drunken driving in the 1980s.

There is some evidence that the breathalyzers have an impact. Nationally, from 2006 to 2016, ignition-locking breathalyzers prevented 2.3 million attempts to drive by people with a blood-alcohol level at or above 0.08 percent — the legal threshold for driving under the influence — according to a 2017 report by the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Emma McGinty, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that laws requiring interlocks for all DUI offenders were associated with a 7 percent drop in the rate of fatal crashes caused by drunken drivers. Another study found that laws covering all offenders were associated with 15 percent fewer alcohol-related fatalities compared with states that have less stringent laws. (more…)

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