TIME senior citizens

Seniors Could Soon Use Food Stamps for Grocery Delivery

About 9.3 million seniors lack reliable access to nutritious food

Senior citizens could start using food stamps to pay for groceries to be delivered to their homes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently proposed allowing homebound seniors and disabled persons touse benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to cover the cost of food delivery from government and non-profit agencies. The Department is currently seeking 20 programs to host the one-year pilot program.

In a conversation with TIME, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the programs could help more seniors live as independently as his wife’s aunt. He recalled that the 93-year-old did not like the idea of living in a nursing home, but wasn’t able to go to the grocery store on her own because of a broken hip.

“Having services delivered to her enabled her to stay in that home with greater dignity for a longer period of time,” says Vilsack. “I’m sure that there are a lot of Aunt Jessie’s out there that will benefit from this program for a multitude of reasons.”

Seniors have long been able to use services such as Meals on Wheels to have food delivered to their homes, paid on a sliding scale based on their income. But allowing food stamps to be used would open up the program to a lot more seniors. Some experts think it might encourage more seniors to sign up for food stamps as well.

About 9.3 million American seniors are “food insecure,” meaning they don’t have consistent access to nutritious, affordable food, but only about four million of those seniors are on food stamps.

Still, getting seniors enrolled in SNAP can be a challenge. The application process can be cumbersome and many seniors think the benefits aren’t worth the effort—in 2013, the average elderly SNAP recipient received $113 a month in benefits. Katie Jantzi, program manager of the Central Virginia hunger-relief organization FeedMore, says elderly clients—who are already able to use their SNAP benefits to pay for meals if they choose to and fill out the paperwork—face particular challenges when it comes to enrolling in the program.

As an example, she cited an isolated, elderly man living on a fixed income in a rural area with shaky vision and hearing who’s easily confused would likely benefit from having the extra resources that SNAP provides, but getting him through the application process would be difficult.

“He can’t hear on the phone to answer questions, can’t see the application and he can’t drive to the local services department to fill it out in person,” Jantzi explains.

And some seniors are simply too proud to take what they consider to be a government handout, says National Foundation to End Senior Hunger president Enid Borden.

“This is a generation that says, ‘I don’t want a handout,’” says Borden, who is supportive of the USDA’s new plan. “They don’t understand it’s not a handout, it’s a helping hand.”

The pilot program USDA is proposing wouldn’t directly tackle the issue of getting seniors enrolled, though there are existing programs to increase enrollment. Yet those who work in the space, like Ellie Hollander, the national president and CEO of Meals on Wheels, say that addressing senior hunger in every way possible is important.

“Here we have the opportunity to do not what’s socially and morally right, but what’s economically brilliant,” says Hollande. “We can feed a senior meals on wheels for less than the cost of that same senior being in hospital one day, or in a senior center one week.”

Adds Vilsack, “If you want to reduce health care costs, if you want to avoid unnecessary health care expense, one way to do that is to make sure that senior citizens get adequately nourished.”

TIME White House

President Obama Dines With Relatives in Kenya

KENYA-US-OBAMA
Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images US President Barack Obama sits alongside his step-grandmother, Mama Sarah, left, and half-sister Auma Obama, right, during a gathering of family at his hotel in Nairobi on July 24, 2015.

Obama is in Kenya for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, but made time for family on Friday

President Obama made time to meet with family on the first night of his four-day trip to Kenya and Ethiopia. About three dozen of the President’s relatives joined him for dinner on Friday, including his half sister Auma and his step-grandmother Mama Sarah.

Obama is in Kenya for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, of which he is co-chair. His trip marks the first time a sitting U.S. president has traveled to both Kenya and Ethiopia, but the trip also has historical significance given Obama’s personal connection to the East African nation. Obama’s father, Barack Obama, Sr., was born in Kenya and later died there. Obama was born in Hawaii.

Per the White House pool report on Friday’s dinner:

Potus, still in suit and tie, was seated in the middle of two long tables filled with relatives, about three dozen in all. Seated to his right was his step-grandmother, Mama Sarah, whom he calls Granny, wearing a [gold]-colored head scarf. To his left was his half-sister, Auma Obama, wearing a white jacket and black blouse. The other relatives were all wearing suits or other appropriately dress clothes. There were a lot of smiles all around.

 

TIME Iowa

This Video of Shadflies Taking Over a Bridge Will Make Your Skin Crawl

You've been warned

The brave souls at the Iowa Department of Transportation battled thousands of shadflies and lived to tell the tale.

It’s hatching season for shadflies, also known as Mayflies, which are aquatic, dragonfly-like insects that hatch in huge swarms, typically in May. They dwell near fresh water, which likely explains why they were drawn to the Savanna/Sabula bridge in Eastern Iowa.

Last weekend, officials were called to the bridge over the Mississippi River to literally plow the massive swarm of flies off, the Iowa DOT explained in a Facebook post. According to one official, the flies were piled as high as their ankles. The swarms of flies also made the road slick, leading to dangerous conditions for drivers.

Watch the video of the ordeal at your own risk.

TIME Florida

Woman’s Body Found in Pond 25 Years After She Disappeared

"It's good for us to be able to provide that type of closure for them. It's been a long time coming"

A vehicle pulled from a pond near North Fort Myers, Fla. solved a 25-year-old mystery, according to a local NBC affiliate.

Officials in Florida identified the body of Rita Sue Zul after pulling a barely recognizable red Datsun from the pond on Monday. Zul had reportedly gone missing on Jan. 15, 1990 after failing to return home from the restaurant where she worked.

A man looking for metal objects using a fishing pole with a magnet attached to the end found the car. When a tow truck pulled it to the surface, human remains were found inside. The medical examiner’s office identified the body using dental records.

“It’s good for us to be able to provide that type of closure for them. It’s been a long time coming,”Sergeant John Desrosier of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office told the NBC affiliate.

 

 

TIME weird

New York Pays Family $115,000 Settlement After Accidentally Donating Grandma’s Body to Science

The woman's body was barely recognizable by the time her family found out what happened

A New York family has received a $115,000 settlement from the city after a Bronx morgue accidentally donated their mother’s corpse to a medical school.

The New York Daily News reported Thursday that 85-year-old Aura Ballesteros died in May 2014, but instead of holding her body while her children arranged a funeral, the morgue sent her body off to be used for research.

According to the Daily News, the state of New York has the right to either bury or donate a body that hasn’t been claimed after 14 days. When Ballesteros family discovered what had happened, too, her body had already been embalmed. Her son testified that she was nearly unrecognizable.

A new law would prevent this kind of incident from occurring in the future by requiring family consent before donating a body for research.

 

TIME

President Obama Heads to Kenya and Ethiopia for Trip Filled with Firsts

President Barack Obama is heading back to his ancestral homeland.

A couple of decades ago, Obama traveled to Kenya, the birthplace of his estranged father, to learn about his heritage. On Thursday evening, he left Washington to make the trip again. And when he arrives on Friday, he’ll become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the East African nation.

Over the course of four days, Obama will travel both to Kenya and Ethiopia, starting in Nairobi for the annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit and ending in Addis Ababa, where the African Union is headquartered. The trip is peppered with firsts: the first time Obama has traveled to Kenya as commander-in-chief and the first time a sitting president has visited Ethiopia. His speech before the African Union will also be the first time a sitting American president addresses the body.

The explicit purpose of the trip is for Obama to participate in the annual gathering of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and government officials, of which he is co-chair, and to engage with African leaders. Throughout the trip he will participate in a number of bilateral meetings and press conferences. He will participate in a civil society event, meet with government officials, and address the Kenyan people directly.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Wednesday he will not have time to visit the village where his family is rooted, but will make time to meet with family members while he’s in Kenya. Rice also said the trip will offer President Obama an opportunity to advance the U.S.’s trade and investment relationship with Africa, call for greater human rights protections and transparency in government, and highlight American efforts to increase opportunities for the next generation of Africans.

“This is an opportunity not only to support that Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which is something the president is deeply committed to,” Rice said. “But, it’s also an opportunity to strengthen and deepen our relationship to Africa.”

But for many in Kenya, the historic trip feels like an opportunity to welcome home their American brother, a man whose face has been painted on the sides of buildings and whose name resonates from villages to city centers. “They take it really personally,” a café owner told the Associated Press.

While Obama’s will largely focus on economic issues like trade and investments while he’s in Kenya, human rights activists are urging the president to address some serious concerns raised by those on the ground. Jedidah Waruhiu, of Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights said on a conference call Wednesday she hopes that Obama uses his voice to “speak truth to human rights.”

Obama is also expected to address the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in Kenya. Earlier this week, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called LGBT rights a “non-issue” that’s “not on our agenda at all” ahead of the visit by Obama.

“We as a country, as a continent, are faced with much more issues which we would want to engage the U.S. and all our partners with,” Kenyatta said.

If pressed, however, Obama isn’t likely to shy away from the topic. When Obama traveled to Senegal in 2013, he advocated for universal rights for LGBT folks to the dismay of his host. Ambassador Rice hinted Wednesday that if asked to address the in Kenya, Obama will speak openly. “This is not something that we think is a topic we reserve for certain parts of the world and not others,” she said.

“We always—not just in Africa, but around the world—when we are traveling to countries where we have concerns about the rule of law, human rights, corruption, whatever…we make those concerns known publicly and privately,” Rice said later on Wednesday.

The issue, Waruhiu said, is “emotive” in Kenya and activists worry about potential backlash if Obama goes too far on LGBT rights.

“However much he feels strongly about this issue—this is an issue that will cloud other important issues like security and trade any the country, because any other good thing he says or does in the country will be whitewashed with the whole issue of LGBTI issues,” she said.

The trip to Kenya and Ethiopia will also provide an opportunity for President Obama to discuss countering terror groups like al Shabaab, which has a stronghold in the region, and the ongoing crisis in South Sudan. Both activists and government leaders are looking forward to the pending discussions on counterterror strategies, promoting trade, and providing opportunity during Obama’s visit, though the president’s tone throughout his time in Kenya will be closely monitored.

“He needs to earn the Obama mania a little,” said Brian Dooley, Human Rights First’s Director of Human Rights Defenders on a conference call. “He can’t just turn up and expect to be welcomed as a prodigal son.”

“Some people are not happy he’s taken so long as president to visit Kenya,” he added Wednesday. “He needs to, I think, earn a bit of popularity and not take it for granted.”

TIME Cancer

Top Cancer Doctors Call for Lower Drug Costs

Stethoscope checking hand holding dollar coins
Getty Images

“It’s time for patients and their physicians to call for change"

A group of cancer doctors are joining grassroots organizers and politicians in pleading with pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of cancer treatments.

In an editorial that ran Thursday in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal, 118 cancer experts produced a series of recommendations they say would lead to a reduction in treatment expenses. The doctors say that one in three individuals will be burdened with cancer in their lifetime, but out-of-pocket drug costs could easily exceed the average household income of an insured patient.

Four doses of one particular cancer drug, according to a report published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2012, costs a staggering $120,000.

“It’s time for patients and their physicians to call for change,” said Dr. Ayalew Tefferi, a Mayo Clinic hematologist in a press release.

Among the recommendations are allowing Medicare to negotiate prices, permitting cancer drug imports for individual patients, and passing laws to keep drug companies from delaying access to generic drugs.

The physician’s recommendations come on the heels of a change.org petition led by patients that calls for a reduction in drug costs, particularly for cancer patients.

TIME Video Games

Professional Video Gamers to Be Tested for Doping

Games League of Legends
Mark J. Terrill—AP The team of SK Telecom T1 competes in the second round at the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship Final on Oct. 4, 2013, in Los Angeles.

The Electronic Sports League will begin testing gamers for performance enhancing drugs from August

Professional video gamers will soon be subjected to the same scrutiny as professional athletes.

The largest and oldest professional video game organization, the Electronic Sports League (ESL), announced in a statement Thursday that starting in August they’ll begin testing gamers for performance enhancing drugs.

“As the world’s largest and oldest esports organization, ESL has an ongoing commitment to safeguarding both the integrity of our competitions and that of esports as a whole – we wish to ensure we can provide a fair playing field for all participating players,”a post on ESL’s website reads.

The first tests will be administered at the ESL One Cologne event in August, according to the statement.

Sports Illustrated reports the announcement comes in the wake of a scandal surrounding a team that admitted to taking the anti hyperactivity and attention deficit correction drug Adderall during a recent competition.

TIME White House

President Obama Uses Small Business Owners to Argue for Export-Import Bank

US President Barack Obama speaks to small business owners on the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 22, 2015 in Washington, DC.
MANDEL NGAN—AFP/Getty Images US President Barack Obama speaks to small business owners on the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 22, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Congress allowed the bank's charter to expire earlier this month

President Obama said the renewing the Export-Import Bank’s charter should be a “no-brainer” during a meeting with business owners at the White House.

On Wednesday, Obama called on Congress reauthorize the bank, which Congress allowed to expire in late June, by using small- and medium-sized business owners to debunk the Congressional argument that it provides government handouts to big businesses.

“This should be a no-brainer,” Obama said Wednesday. “The Export-Import Bank makes money for the U.S. government. I just want to be clear about this: This is not a situation in which taxpayers are subsidizing these companies.”

The 81-year-old bank, which helps finance foreign purchases of U.S. products such as Boeing planes, saw its charter lapse on July 1 when Congress failed to act. Conservative activists had increasingly targeted the bank as a form of corporate welfare in recent years, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called it “crony capitalism,” although it retains some support among Republican lawmakers.

But while activists focus on the bank’s bigger clients, the White House has focused on the ways it helps smaller businesses.

“Ex-Im equips companies with financing they need to go toe-to-toe with foreign rivals, resulting in more exports and more well-paying jobs in cities and towns here in America, rather than overseas,” a White House official said recently.

Senators have signaled interest in renewing the bank through an amendment to a bill that funds a critical infrastructure program that could suffer a lapse in funding if its not renewed by the end of July. The Senate, however, is struggling to pass its version of the bill, which failed to clear a procedural hurdle on Tuesday.

TIME National Security

Plan to Close Guantanamo Bay Prison in the Works

Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed White House plan to close the prison is being drafted

The Obama Administration is drafting a plan to finally close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, officials said Wednesday, racing against the clock to fulfill a long-delayed promise by President Obama before his time in office runs out.

“The Administration is in the final stages of drafting a plan to safely and responsibly close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and to present that plan to Congress,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday.

Earnest said closing the prison is in the national security interest of the United States.

One of Obama’s first moves as President was to pledge that the prison would close within his first year in office. But he has repeatedly been stymied by opposition from congressional Republicans to transferring or releasing prisoners from the site, which Obama has decried as a propaganda tool for terrorists because of the years suspected militants have spent there without trial.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a longtime proponent of closing the prison, wants to give the Obama Administration an opportunity to potentially do so through the National Defense Authorization Act. Under his plan, Congress would have the ability to review the White House’s plan for closing the prison. In the House, however, Republicans still angry about the exchange of American service member Bowe Bergdahl for Taliban detainees are pushing a plan that would make any attempts to transfer prisoners and close the prison more difficult. The White House, however, has threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization act and says Congress is still impeding efforts to close the prison.

Daphne Eviatar, senior counsel of national security at Human Rights First, said the fact that the White House is working plan could be a good first step, but questions still remain as to whether or not Congress will be able to approve any plan given many members’ opposition to closing the prison. “It’s still within the Administration’s power to do a lot to close the prison,” she said. “[The White House] can’t keep blaming Congress, but Congress also needs to do more. It shouldn’t be this political football anymore.”

There are currently 116 prisoners left in Guantanamo Bay prison, and about 800 men have been detained there since it began holding prisoners more than a decade ago. The American Civil Liberties Union says 51 of those men are still being imprisoned even though the government has cleared them for release.

Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel at ACLU, said the plan being sent to Congress will constitute no more than an “irrelevant checking of the box.” He added that the president already has the executive authority to make detainee transfers happen without Congress.

“It’s not much different than plans that have already been sent and it’s not going to convince Congress to change its mind,” Anders said. “’Obama should tell the Secretary of Defense to approve the transfer of cleared detainees.”

Anders said the lack of transfers is the “number one obstacle” facing the president and that the Department of Defense is “digging in its heels” on closing the prison.

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