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Health Highlights: June 23, 2014

Obama Wants American Women to Have Paid Maternity Leave Veterans Spent Years in VA Psychiatric Facility Without Receiving Care: Report Supreme Court Backs EPA's Move to Cut Power Plant Greenhouse Gases Weight Loss Capsule That Expands in Stomach Not a 'Game Changer' Public Comment Period on Proposed E-Cigarette Rules Extended by FDA

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Obama Wants American Women to Have Paid Maternity Leave

President Barack Obama hosted a daylong summit Monday to persuade more employers to adopt family friendly policies, but he said the federal government itself needs to do more in that regard.

For example, he'd like to change the fact that the United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn't mandate paid leave for new mothers, the Associated Press reported.

"Only three countries in the world report that they don't offer paid maternity leave -- three -- and the United States is one of them," Obama said in his weekly address. "It's time to change that. A few states have acted on their own to give workers paid family leave, but this should be available to everyone, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for a family member in need."

It's unclear how Obama would fund a national system of paid maternity leave. In a conference call with reporters Sunday, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett said the president wants to start a national conversation about the issue.

"Cost is an issue for any federal program and we need to make sure we do this in a way where we are not raising taxes on middle-class families," she said. "But we also know what a good investment in our workforce it would be if they had paid leave, and that investment will pay great returns."

California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have a system of paid maternity leave, the AP reported.


Veterans Spent Years in VA Psychiatric Facility Without Care: Report

Two U.S. veterans spent years in a Veterans Affairs psychiatric center without receiving proper treatment for their mental health problems, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) says.

One veteran spent eight years at the facility before he underwent a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation, while the other veteran only had one psychiatric note in his medical chart after spending seven years in the Brockton, Mass. facility, CNN reported.

The two veterans' situations were among the examples of problems outlined in an OSC report sent Monday to the White House. The independent government agency protects whistleblowers.

The OSC said more than 50 whistleblower allegations involving patient health or safety problems at the VA are still under investigation, and that "these cases represent more than a quarter of all matters referred by OSC for investigation government-wide," CNN reported.

In its report, the OSC also criticized the VA's medical review agency, the Office of the Medical Inspector, for refusing to admit that deficits in VA care have harmed veterans' health.

In response, VA Acting Director Sloan Gibson announced "comprehensive review of all aspects of the Office of Medical Inspector's operation, to be completed within 14 days," CNN reported.


Supreme Court Backs EPA's Move to Cut Power Plant Greenhouse Gases

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations meant to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other industrial sources received the Supreme Court's backing in a decision announced Monday.

"EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case," Justice Antonin Scalia said in summarizing the decision, The New York Times reported.

"It sought to regulate sources it said were responsible for 86 percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted from stationary sources nationwide. Under our holdings, EPA will be able to regulate sources responsible for 83 percent of those emissions," Scalia said.

The court's decision did not appear to have a direct impact on the Obama administration's recently announced plans to reduced greenhouse gas emissions under a different set of regulations, The Times reported.


Weight Loss Capsule That Expands in Stomach Not a 'Game Changer'

A capsule that's designed to help people lose weight by temporarily expanding in their stomach in order to make them feel full just before meals is not the breakthrough some anticipated, a new study suggests.

After 12 weeks, people who took the capsule -- called Gelesis100 -- lost 6.1 percent of their weight, compared with 4.1 percent for people who were given a placebo.

That difference is "very modest" Dr. Daniel Bessesen, an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado, told The New York Times. He was not involved in the study.

"It doesn't look like a game changer," Bessesen added.

However, the findings presented Sunday at an endocrinology meeting in Chicago were hailed by Boston-based Gelesis, which developed the capsule. The company said it will launch a larger study next year in effort to win regulatory approval for the capsule.

"I'm definitely impressed, absolutely," study lead investigator Dr. Arne Astrup, head of the department of nutrition, exercise and sports at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, told The Times.

Gelesis100 is safer than many existing weight loss drugs, which act chemically on the brain to influence appetite, Astrup said.


Public Comment Period on E-Cigarette Rules Extended by FDA

The period for public comment on a proposal to regulate electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products has been extended an additional 30 days, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The original deadline of July 9 was changed to Aug. 8 because the agency was receiving so many comments on how to regulate e-cigarettes. The FDA also wants to expand its powers to regulate hookahs, nicotine gels, cigars and pipe tobacco, the Associated Press reported.

The FDA seeks to ban sales of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18, add warning labels to the devices, and require its approval for new products. The agency also said it would be open to adding more restrictions.

Since it announced its proposal in April, the FDA has received more than 33,700 comments. It's not clear when the agency will issue its final rules, which many believe are likely to face legal challenges, the AP reported.

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