Vladivostok, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has treated Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russian pancakes in a show of warm personal ties between the two leaders.
The two leaders ate pancakes with caviar and had shots of vodka at an exhibition at the sidelines of an economic forum in the far eastern port of Vladivostok.
Beijing and Moscow have developed a "strategic partnership" reflecting their shared opposition to the "unipolar" world, the term they use to describe perceived U.S. global domination.
The rapprochement has been driven by a strong personal relationship between Putin and Xi, seen as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. The two have met nearly 30 times, and Putin said that the Chinese president is the only world leader whom he once invited to celebrate his birthday.
Tens of thousands of employees at more than 18,000 U.S. hotels will soon carry panic buttons to help protect them from harassment and assault in an era of heightened awareness around the #MeToo movement.
More than a dozen big hotel chains — including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and Wyndham — said Thursday that they will provide personal safety devices by 2020 to all employees who deal one-on-one with guests. The companies will also train staff to identify and report harassment and publish anti-sexual harassment policies in multiple languages.
The devices will vary by hotel. In a new, Wi-Fi enabled hotel, for example, companies may give out devices that automatically send the employee's location to security officers. In an older or smaller hotel, they might distribute devices that emit a loud shriek.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association, which is backing the effort, says around three-fourths of its 25,000 member hotels are participating right now. It is working with harassment and human trafficking organizations to develop training and testing devices to help hotels figure out what works best.
This isn't the first time hotels are giving panic buttons to staff. New York has required them since 2012, after a hotel maid there accused French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her in his suite. Chicago and Seattle began requiring them more recently.
But increasing public discussion about harassment and the #MeToo movement has given the effort a new sense of urgency. Red Roof Inn, Best Western, AccorHotels, Four Seasons and Caesar's are other participants in the rare display of unity from a fiercely competitive industry.
"The cultural conversations have changed, and we have gotten smarter," said Erika Alexander, Marriott's chief lodging officer for the Americas. Marriott plans to make the devices standard at all of its nearly 5,000 hotels in North America by 2020. Eventually it hopes to expand the devices globally.
Rani Accettola, a housekeeper at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Seattle's Pioneer Square, has a safety fob clipped to the front of her uniform at all times. If she presses a button, hotel managers and security are immediately notified of her location. Accettola said the system gives her an added feeling of security, especially when she works late.
"At any moment, help is there if you should need it," she said.
It's unclear how often the devices will be used, but harassment of hotel staff is an ongoing issue. In a 2016 survey of 500 housekeepers in Chicago, 49 percent said guests had flashed them, exposed themselves or opened the door naked.
The rollout of the devices will be messy. Hotel companies only manage some of their properties; others are managed by franchisees. Some companies may require franchisees to add the devices; others may not. Properties vary widely, from sprawling 2,500-room resorts to 65-room, cookie-cutter hotels by the highway.
Some hotels have already begun the process. Hyatt mandated electronic safety devices last fall and has already distributed them to 4,500 employees at 120 hotels in the Americas, Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian said. Hyatt has also strongly recommended the devices for franchisees, and expects to expand the program globally, Hoplamazian said.
He said the cost of the devices is easily absorbed by the company. Shrieking alarms — the kind most widely used at Hyatt right now — cost around $25 each. A React mobile device, like the one Accettola wears, retails for $70, but big hotel chains will likely be able to get bulk discounts.
Hoplamazian said there haven't been many reported usages. In one instance, a guest was acting strangely so a housekeeper summoned help. It turned out there was no threat, but Hoplamazian is glad the system worked.
"While the frequency may not by high, the importance of it is really, really high," he said.
Wyndham CEO Geoff Ballotti said his company expects to distribute safety devices by the end of next year to 5,000 employees in the 450 U.S. hotels it owns and manages. Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said "tens of thousands" of staff at 4,500 hotels will get the devices by 2020.
Nassetta said the rollout will take time because training staff members how to respond to the devices is as important as the devices themselves.
"We don't want to create the appearance of safety without the reality behind it," he said.
Kennebunkport, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — Three decades after it was ridiculed and became a punchline on late-night television, former President George H.W. Bush's Points of Light concept is still going strong to the surprise of some, including President Donald Trump.
The phrase, aimed at promoting the former president's vision of volunteerism, was transformed into Point of Light awards given to more than 6,000 individuals and the foundation Points of Light, which promotes volunteerism in 37 countries. This week, Bush, 94, hopes to greet board members and corporate partners during a three-day event that begins Tuesday in Kennebunkport, Maine.
"Points of light" originated in Bush's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in 1988. He later likened volunteerism to "a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky."
The media, including comedian Dana Carvey, lampooned the phrase. Bush was undeterred, repeating it in his inaugural and State of the Union addresses. He began a daily Point of Light award in 1990, and the foundation expanded the president's vision.
A decade ago, the Points of Light Foundation and HandsOn Network merged to strengthen efforts to encourage volunteerism at the corporate, nonprofit and individual level. Today, there are more than 5 million volunteers.
The phrase never sat well with Trump, apparently.
"Thousand Points of Light. I never quite got that one. What the hell is that? Has anyone ever figured that one out?" Trump asked a crowd this summer in Montana.
Neil Bush, son of former President George H.W. Bush and brother of former President George W. Bush, chose not to respond to Trump's biting remarks.
The chairman of the foundation's board, Neil Bush said he's glad his father's "vision" continues to grow and "will have an influence on many, many lives."
On Tuesday, the 6,341st "Daily Point of Light" will be presented by Neil Bush to Kathy Hecht, whose "Salute of Service" helps disabled veterans train their own dogs to become service animals to help themselves. If they don't have a dog, then the group will help them find one.
Hecht, of Searsport, Maine, said she was stunned by the recognition.
"We're such a small organization that was I surprised that we ended up on anyone's radar," she said, adding that "to end up getting this award is just wonderful beyond words."
The group has helped more than 150 veterans over the past four years.
The Points of Light Foundation's marching orders come from Bush's words.
"The solution to each problem that confronts us begins with an individual who steps forward and says, 'I can help,'" said Natalye Paquin, the foundation's chief executive officer.
Atlanta-based Points of Light bills itself as the world's largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. Much of its work focuses on working with corporations like Starbucks to encourage their employees to volunteer in local communities.
Last month, Starbucks announced a pilot program in which some employees will work 20 hours and perform community service for 20 hours each week in 13 cities.
As for the former president, Bush wrote in a letter that was later published in his 2014 book "All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings" that some of his happiness comes from being a point of light.
"I believe I was right when I said, as president, there can be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others," he wrote.
The daily Point of Light recipients get a certificate with Bush's signature, though Bush is no longer actively involved. He's spending this summer recovering from health problems and the loss of his wife, Barbara, who died in April. But he's still passionate about the cause.
"He's a frail, loving, thoughtful old man," Neil Bush said. "He clearly cares deeply for this mission. If you were to talk to him, he'd express that."
Chicago, Aug 30 (AP/UNB) — Learning disabilities and other special education needs are common in children born with opioid-related symptoms from their mother's drug use while pregnant, according to the first big U.S. study to examine potential long-term problems in these infants.
About 1 in 7 affected children required special classroom services for problems including developmental delays and speech or language difficulties, compared with about 1 in 10 children not exposed to opioids before birth, the study found.
The study highlights the "absolutely critical" importance of early detection and intervention, before these children reach school age, to give them a better chance of academic success, said Dr. Nathalie Maitre, a developmental specialist at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "It really confirms what those of us who do neurodevelopment follow-up of these children are seeing."
The study involved about 7,200 children aged 3 to 8 enrolled in Tennessee's Medicaid program. Nearly 2,000 of them were born with what's called newborn abstinence syndrome. It's a collection of symptoms caused by withdrawal from their pregnant mother's use of opioid drugs like prescription painkillers, heroin or fentanyl. The drugs can pass through the placenta into the developing nervous system.
Tremors, hard-to-soothe crying, diarrhea and difficulty feeding and sleeping are among signs that infants are going through withdrawal.
In Tennessee, hard hit by the nation's opioid epidemic, the rate of affected infants soared from less than one per 1,000 hospital births in 1999 to 13 per 1,000 births in 2015.
Whether the study results would apply elsewhere is uncertain but in Tennessee, most children born with withdrawal symptoms are enrolled in that state's Medicaid program. Also in Tennessee, a syndrome diagnosis qualifies kids to receive early intervention services.
Maitre, who wasn't involved in the study, said she suspects the research may underestimate the magnitude of the problem, because it only captures kids who haven't slipped through the cracks.
The only previous comparable study was in Australia, published last year, showing that affected children had worse academic test scores in seventh grade than other kids.
The new study looked at how many kids were referred for possible learning disabilities and received school-based services for related difficulties. It did not examine academic performance.
Results were released Thursday by the journal Pediatrics .
The researchers said taking into account other factors that could affect children's development — including birth weight and mothers' education and tobacco use — didn't change the results.
Study co-author Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University said it makes sense that opioid use in pregnancy could affect children's later development. Some studies have found brain differences in affected children including in a region involved in certain types of learning.
But Dr. Mary-Margaret Fill, the lead author and a researcher with Tennessee's health department, said these children "are definitely not doomed. There are great programs and services that exist to help these children and their families. We just have to make sure they get plugged in."
Dhaka, Aug 9 (AP/UNB)-Move over, Mother Nature. First-time moms at low risk of complications were less likely to need a cesarean delivery if labor was induced at 39 weeks instead of waiting for it to start on its own, a big study found. Their babies fared better, too.
The results overturn the longtime view that inducing labor raises the risk for a C-section, and prompted two leading OB-GYN doctor groups to say it's now reasonable to offer women like those in the study that option.
But only certain pregnant women qualify, and the study did not track how inducing labor affected breastfeeding or other mom-baby issues later. Some groups such as Lamaze International still advocate letting nature take its course rather than giving medicines to make the womb start contracting.
"Many women don't want all of the medical care that goes with induction" such as an IV and fetal monitoring, said Lisa Kane Low, past president of the American College of Nurse-Midwives and associate dean of the University of Michigan School of Nursing. "It can result in a very different type of experience."
Being induced doesn't mean moms can't have "natural childbirth" — they can forgo pain medicine or use a hospital's homelike birthing center rather than delivering in "an operating room in a sterile suite with a big light over your head," said the study leader, Dr. William Grobman, an OB-GYN specialist at Northwestern University in Chicago.
"Everyone has a different definition of what a natural birth is," said Dr. Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman of New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, which participated in the study.
"Some women feel that natural just means delivering vaginally" and more were able to do that when labor was induced, she said.
Results of the federally funded study were published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine.
ABOUT THE STUDY
About 40 percent of U.S. women giving birth are first-time moms, and at least half are low risk — no problems requiring early delivery or a cesarean. Many women ask to be induced now, to let them plan delivery and ensure their doctor is available, but the risks and benefits are unclear.
Previous studies suggesting that inducing labor raises the risk for a C-section were observational and compared different types of women giving birth under different types of circumstances. This was the first very big experiment to time labor induction for 39 weeks — when a pregnancy is considered full term and complication rates are lowest.
More than 6,100 women at 41 hospitals were randomly placed in two groups: one had labor induced at 39 weeks; the other waited for labor to start on its own and were induced only if a problem developed or they hadn't delivered by 42 weeks.
HOW MOMS AND BABIES FARED
Deaths and severe complications were fewer among babies of women who were induced — about 4 percent versus 5 percent in the other group — but the difference was so small it could have occurred by chance alone. Significantly fewer babies in the induced group needed breathing tubes or extra oxygen after birth, and they spent less time in the hospital.
Nineteen percent of induced moms had a cesarean versus 22 percent of the others. Doctors estimate that one C-section would be avoided for every 28 women induced.
Nine percent of induced women developed dangerous high blood pressure at the end of pregnancy versus 14 percent of the others. Study participants who were induced, such as Aleksa Owen, said they had less pain and felt more in control.
"I was pretty open to any kind of birth, whatever works to keep the baby safe and myself safe as well," said Owen, a 34-year-old graduate student from the Chicago suburb of Woodridge, Illinois. Her son was born in October 2016 and "I felt like I had a sense of control throughout the process."
It's not clear which option costs more; researchers plan to study that. Induced women spent more time in the labor and delivery unit but went home sooner after birth. Insurers often pay a fixed rate for births, complicating cost comparisons.
The labor and delivery suite is one of the most expensive places in a hospital, said Dr. Nanette Santoro, OB-GYN chief at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. If all eligible moms decided to be induced, "I do not believe we would have the resources to accommodate them," but may have to adapt based on this study, she said.
WHAT OTHERS THINK
Christen Sadler, a certified nurse-midwife and president-elect of Lamaze International, said other research suggests that "letting labor start on its own is almost always best for moms and babies" unless there's a problem that requires intervening.
Nan Strauss, policy chief for the advocacy group Every Mother Counts, agreed: "Inducing labor disrupts the complex hormonal processes that help labor progress, prepare the baby for birth, and promote successful breastfeeding and bonding."
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine says it's reasonable for doctors to offer labor induction "after discussing the options thoroughly" with first-time moms at low risk who had an ultrasound early in pregnancy to verify when they will reach 39 weeks.
Dr. Michael Greene of Massachusetts General Hospital noted that women in the study were younger than U.S. mothers on average and fewer were over 35, calling into question how generalizable the results are.
Still, the study "should reassure women that elective induction of labor at 39 weeks is a reasonable choice" that's unlikely to harm moms or babies, he wrote in a commentary in the journal.