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Bid to raise California tobacco tax nears November ballot

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Officials from a well-financed campaign whose backers include billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, medical groups and organized labor say it has collected enough signatures for a ballot measure to raise California’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack.

Sharapova’s peers stunned, but support doping system

By Mark Lamport-Stokes INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) – While Maria Sharapova's fellow players were shocked by the Russian's announcement that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open, most of them felt the “huge mistake” could have been avoided. World number three Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland described it as “a very sad day for tennis” but expressed the views of many by saying it was down to every player, via their doctor, to check whether prescribed medications were legal. Five-times grand slam champion Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, which some researchers have linked to increased athletic performance and endurance, after failing by her own admission to realise that it had been outlawed since Jan. 1.

U.S. pedestrian deaths from car crashes surge

By Lisa Rapaport (Reuters Health) – Pedestrian deaths from car crashes surged the most in at least four decades last year and now account for about 15% of fatalities from motor vehicle accidents, a U.S. report suggests. Nationally, pedestrian deaths rose 10% in 2015 from the previous year, researchers estimated based on data supplied by states for January through June. “We are projecting the largest year-to-year increase in pedestrian fatalities since national records have been kept, and therefore we are quite alarmed,” said study co-author Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting, referring to a fatality reporting system established in 1975.

More patients may be able to safely shower after surgery

By Lisa Rapaport (Reuters Health) – Many patients may be able to shower just two days after their operations without increasing their risk of infections around the incision site, a recent study suggests. The findings, along with results from other recent research, should help convince more doctors to let patients shower after surgery, said Dr. Paul Dayton, a researcher at Des Moines University and UnityPoint Health in Iowa who wasn’t involved in the study. “Traditions are sometimes long to fade away due to lack of good evidence to support change – this paper will certainly help to drive change,” Dayton said by email.

California sets path for inmates to get sex-reassignment surgery

By Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – Guidelines to decide whether transgender prison inmates in California can undergo sex reassignment surgery took effect Tuesday, making it the first U.S. state to offer a regular path to such treatment. California last summer agreed to regularly provide and pay for treatments including hormones as well as surgery to alter the biological sex of its prisoners. “California has set a model for the rest of the country and ensured transgender people in prison can access life-saving care when they need it,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center, which represents two inmates who sued the state after being denied the surgery.

High mental illness rates, little help for youth in detention

By Janice Neumann (Reuters Health) – Many youth caught up in the juvenile justice system are hospitalized for mental illness because they aren’t getting psychiatric help before they’re arrested or while they’re in detention centers, a study in California suggests. From 1997 to 2011, researchers found, 63 percent of detained youth who were hospitalized had a primary diagnosis of mental health disorder, compared to 20 percent of their counterparts in the community. The detained youth were also hospitalized a day or two longer than their peers outside the justice system.

Judge rules Alzheimer’s project belongs to UC San Diego

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge has ruled that control of a landmark project on Alzheimer’s disease belongs to the University of California, San Diego — handing the school a major victory in its lawsuit against the University of Southern California.

California judge indicates he will dismiss assisted suicide lawsuit

A San Diego judge said on Friday he would likely dismiss a lawsuit brought by three terminally ill patients seeking a right to assisted suicide, after a bill that would have allowed the practice stalled in the California legislature. The judge is presiding in a case brought in May by lawyers for three terminally ill California residents with the support of Compassion and Choices, a group that fights for legislation to allow assisted suicide. The legal challenge represented one front in an effort by some terminally ill patients and their supporters to win a right to assisted suicide in the nation’s most populous state.

For some elderly, unclogging leg arteries doesn’t improve mobility

By Andrew M. Seaman (Reuters Health) – For nursing home residents, surgery to improve blood flow to the legs yields only limited improvements in mobility, according to a new study. Knowing that so-called lower extremity revascularization may not improve mobility allows doctors, patients and families to have more realistic discussions about outcomes of the operation, said Dr. Emily Finlayson, the study’s senior author from the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco. The nearly 11,000 nursing home residents in the study had a problem called peripheral artery disease, which results when arteries in the legs are clogged and blood flow is reduced. To treat the condition, the residents underwent lower extremity revascularization between 2005 and 2009, at an average age of 82.

Justice Department sides with transgender inmate in Georgia lawsuit

The Obama administration on Friday weighed in on the side of a transgender Georgia prison inmate who is suing the state over prison officials’ refusal to provide treatment such as hormone therapy. On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that California must provide sex reassignment surgery to a transgender inmate.