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A Democratic senator's simple request to restore order in chaotic times.

Sen. Brian Schatz needs three Republican senators to take a stand in the name of normalcy.

A Democratic senator's simple request to restore order in chaotic times.

Nobody really knows what's in the Senate's health care bill. It's a massive problem that needs to be addressed, so that's what Sen. Brian Schatz did.

Monday night, the Hawaii Democrat took to the Senate floor to criticize how his colleagues are handling their chamber's version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill, which is being written in secret by 13 Republican men, is expected to come up for a vote as early as next week. Understandably, that has some senators (and, you know, the American people) a bit stressed out by what has turned out to be a super-shady process.

In his floor speech, Schatz called on leadership to release the bill and let it "see the light of day."


All GIFs from Brian Schatz/YouTube.

A push for more transparency — especially when it comes to how our laws get made — isn't a Democratic or Republican issue. It's about accountability.

In 2010, now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (who was a member of Congress at the time) pushed for "a little sunlight."

Vice President Mike Pence, then governor of Indiana, spoke out against "legislation that'll affect 100% of the American people" being put together in secret.

And Sen. John Cornyn made a similar push to include "the rest of America that was excluded from secret talks" on health care reform.

Of course, in 2010, Price, Pence, and Cornyn were all talking about a different health care bill: the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare.

Back then, the argument that the ACA was being written in "secret" was mostly hyperbole. Today, what's happening with the AHCA is unprecedented.

Andy Slavitt worked closely with Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA's design and implementation during President Obama's term. On Twitter, he recently laid out the major differences between the Senate's process in 2009 and 2010, when it was considering the ACA, and what's happening in 2017 with the AHCA.

While the process for the ACA in 2010 certainly could have been more transparent, there's no denying the difference between 36 days of hearings and 18 days of markup then to absolutely nothing at all now — from 26 days of scheduled floor debate to as little as 20 hours. There's a big difference between the two processes, and whatever transparency problems existed back in 2010 have gotten much worse in 2017.

Like so much else in 2017, this secretive process is not normal.

Schatz's speech was a call to action for members of both parties to no longer let "not normal" be normal.

"This is the world's greatest deliberative body," said Schatz, referring to a sometimes tongue-in-cheek nickname for the Senate and its reputation for exhaustive debate on important pieces of legislation compared to the rapid-fire workings of the House of Representatives.

"Let the Senate be the Senate," he urged his Republican colleagues, hoping to find three who are willing to take a stand in the name of restoring order. If, after debating the bill on its merits in the light of day, the Senate passes it, at least it would be a return to how things are supposed to work.

It's easy to pin the breakdown of our political process on President Trump, but the truth is our legislators have the power to restore order — if they want to.

This isn't about Trump; it's about men and women, some of whom have been in Congress for decades, exploiting the new "everything goes" attitude in Washington where nothing seems to matter.

But this bill certainly does matter — to Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike. Wherever we stand with our own personal politics, we should all be able to agree these types of massive decisions shouldn't be made in secret and shouldn't be rushed.

We need to say "no" to "not normal," and that starts with calling our senators and asking them to take a principled stand on the process behind this bill.

Watch a portion of Schatz's speech below.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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The fasting period of Ramadan observed by Muslims around the world is a both an individual and communal observance. For the individual, it's a time to grow closer to God through sacrifice and detachment from physical desires. For the community, it's a time to gather in joy and fellowship at sunset, breaking bread together after abstaining from food and drink since sunrise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited group gatherings in many countries, putting a damper on the communal part of Ramadan. But for one community in Barcelona, Spain, a different faith has stepped up to make the after sunset meal, known as Iftar, as safe as possible for the Muslim community.

According to Reuters, Father Peio Sanchez, Santa Anna's rector, has opened the doors of the Catholic church's open-air cloisters to local Muslims to use for breaking the Ramadan fast. He sees the different faiths coming together as a symbol of civic coexistence.

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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