Your coworkers may be ruining your sleep, but here's how you can fix it


If you find yourself awake in bed at night reliving a bad interaction with a coworker or a different stressful work experience, a simple trick could be the key to getting a good night’s sleep.

Just spending some amount of time each night doing something that completely detaches you from work is beneficial for sleep, according to new research.

PHOTO: A young woman sleeps with an alarm clock next to her bed in this undated stock photo.STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
A young woman sleeps with an alarm clock next to her bed in this undated stock photo.

Even better is that it doesn’t matter how you relax or for how long, just as long as you take time for yourself every day, the research found.

“If it’s something that allows you to detach from work, to forget about it, and if it’s something that allows you to relax, that’s what is really important,” Caitlin Demsky, PhD, the lead author of the new research, told “GMA.”

Demsky’s research found that negative behavior at work — like being verbally abused or judged by colleagues — was linked to symptoms of insomnia, including not being able to fall asleep, waking up at night and waking up not feeling refreshed.

Employees who were able to spend time after work doing something they enjoyed – being with family and friends, reading, exercising, meditating, listening to music – reported better sleep.

PHOTO: A woman works out on a treadmill.Getty Images
A woman works out on a treadmill.

Going out after work with your coworkers can even be an option, as long as it is relaxing for you, according to Demsky, a professor at Oakland University in Michigan.

“If going out with a drink for your coworker is something you find engaging and relaxing, maybe you’re an extrovert, then great,” she said. “But if you’re introverted and it’s going to be a drain, then you don’t have to do it, maybe reading a book is a better option for you.”

PHOTO: Businesswoman leading a meeting in a conference room.Getty Images
Businesswoman leading a meeting in a conference room.

Nearly 700 employees of the U.S. Forest Service were surveyed for the research, published this week in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

The research findings also indicate that as important as it is for employees to relax post-work, it’s also critical that workplaces create a culture that supports employees, noted Demsky.

“My biggest takeaway would be, especially on workdays when it’s hard, to focus on taking time for yourself and recovering,” she said. “Detach from work and get some relaxing in, even on days when it’s really hard.”

Why the majority of romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak cases have been in women


You likely know by now that romaine lettuce is not the best thing to put in your salad bowl at the moment, thanks to an outbreak of E. coli affecting the lettuce from a region in Arizona.

What may be surprising to learn is that this outbreak, like a few E. coli outbreaks in the recent past, is affecting women more than men.

Romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, area is responsible for at least 84 illnesses, including 42 hospitalizations, in 19 states, according to data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Seventy percent of the victims of this most recent outbreak are female, according to the CDC’s data.

PHOTO: Rows of lettuce plants are pictured in this undated photo in Yuma, Ariz.Timothy Hearsum/Getty Images
Rows of lettuce plants are pictured in this undated photo in Yuma, Ariz.

Moreover, an E. coli outbreak associated with leafy greens in November 2017 predominately affected women, according to CDC data.

In fact, 50 to 60 percent of those impacted by past E. Coli outbreaks were women.

Why is that the case?

Medical experts, so far, do not have an exact answer, according to Daniel Eiras, MD, assistant professor of infectious diseases and immunology at New York University Langone Health.

“It’s not a subtle difference,” Eiras told “GMA” of the large percentage gap between women and men. “The short answer is we don’t really know why we see this ratio being more predominantly women, we don’t exactly know the mechanism.”

One theory proposed by some medical experts is that women eat more romaine lettuce than men. Eiras, however, does not believe that is the “driving factor” behind the difference.

“This outbreak with romaine lettuce is not different from other outbreaks with spinach and beef,” he said, referring to previous E. coli outbreaks that have also disproportionately affected women. “I don’t think we can say that women eat that much healthier than men across the nation, especially to account for a 30 to 70 percent difference.”

PHOTO: In this undated stock photo, a woman cuts up romaine lettuce on a cutting board for a salad.STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
In this undated stock photo, a woman cuts up romaine lettuce on a cutting board for a salad.

One of the more likely factors at play is presentation bias, according to Eiras, meaning that women are more symptomatic and they seek medical care at earlier stages.

Symptoms of E. coli bacteria include stomach pain or non-bloody diarrhea that worsens over several days, according to the CDC. People can also have no symptoms and still carry the disease.

“Women seek out medical care more frequently and earlier than men, this is clearly shown,” Eiras said. “It is also possible that women are more symptomatic than men. That is less known.”

The strain of E. coli in this particular outbreak, O157:H7, is particularly strong, according to Eiras.

“Even with most other E. coli you need quite a bit of bacteria to cause disease, like one million to 10 million,” he said. “With this strain of E. coli you need as little as 10.”

The incubation period for E. coli can be as long as 10 days, meaning you may not feel symptoms until more than one week after you eat infected romaine lettuce.

PHOTO: A woman is pictured holding romaine lettuce at a store.STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
A woman is pictured holding romaine lettuce at a store.

“You don’t need to eat a lot of the lettuce to get the disease,” Eiras said of this outbreak. “All it takes is one leaf, one bite and if that’s where the bacteria is surviving then that’s enough to cause this disease.”

Another factor that could play a role in the high percentage of women hit by E. coli comes straight from the gut.

“It’s not fully proven but there does seem to be differences in the makeup of the gut in men and women,” Eiras explained. “It’s not known how or why that’s the case but it has sort of been seen before.”

E. coli is an infection that affects the gut.

In addition to the probable gut differences between the two sexes, women are also more susceptible to gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the lining of the intestines.

Women also on average take more medication than men and many medications can affect the gut flora, the microbiome of the gut, according to Eiras.

“Having a weakened immune system could also lead to more disease,” he said. “And pregnancy in particular is a kind of immune-suppressing condition.”

What’s a woman to do?

Research into what people can do to prevent contracting E. coli is still an “area of active research,” according to Eiras.

In other words, there is no clear answer, yet.

“You can prevent eating the item,” Eiras said, which in this case would be romaine lettuce from the Yuma region. “That’s the single best thing you can do.”

PHOTO: Romaine lettuce is displayed on a shelf at a supermarket on April 23, 2018, in San Rafael, Calif.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Romaine lettuce is displayed on a shelf at a supermarket on April 23, 2018, in San Rafael, Calif.

Another proactive step is to maintain your overall gut health.

Eiras suggested limiting the amount of medications, particularly antibiotics, one takes as they play a role in gut health.

“Antibiotics for anything in your body will affect your gut in some way,” he said.

If you do contract E. coli, the treatment does not involve antibiotics.

Since E. coli is a self-limited illness — most symptoms go away with time and good hydration — antibiotics increase the risk of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially life-threatening complication.

Symptoms of HUS include decreased frequency of urination, fatigue, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelid, according to the CDC.

Laura Shopp, a resident in the ABC News Medical Unit, contributed to this report.

Dark chocolate may give your brain a boost, studies suggest


Here’s a reason not to feel so guilty about indulging in your afternoon chocolate fix.

Dark chocolate may be giving your brain, immune system and eyes a real boost. This week, researchers brought out three new studies singing the praises of this delectable treat.

Scientists in one study allowed lucky volunteers to eat one dark chocolate bar, about 1.5 ounces, and then studied their brain waves with a machine called an E.E.G. Researchers found an increase in gamma waves 30 minutes after eating the chocolate.

“Gamma frequency is associated with neurosynchronization, in other words neuroplasticity…. It is the highest level of cognitive processing,” Dr. Lee Burk, the principal investigator of this study, explained. Neuroplasticity describes the brain’s ability to efficiently connect thoughts and ideas.

Scientists believe that gamma waves are a sign that your nerve cells are firing on all cylinders. They are able to talk to each other in a manner that leads to optimum learning and memory formation.

Immunity booster

In another study, Burk looked at how dark chocolate affects the immune system. Again, participants ate a dark chocolate bar, and scientists studied their blood work for the following week. They found an increase in anti-inflammatory markers as well as an increase in T cells, infection-fighting cells. These findings are overall “great for immunity,” according to Burk.

It’s important to know that both of these studies were very small, with only 10 blessed participants. Not to mention, these results were presented at a scientific meeting, not published in a journal, which means they were not highly scrutinized, or “peer-reviewed,” before they were revealed.

PHOTO: Dark chocolate bar.Getty Images
Dark chocolate bar.

A dark chocolate vision boost

But another study was published in JAMA Ophthalmology, a journal produced by the American Medical Association. In two different tests, they gave 30 participants two chocolate bars, both dark and milk chocolate, and conducted vision tests about two hours later. After eating dark chocolate, the participants had small improvements in their vision.

The most significant: improvement in contrast sensitivity, meaning your ability to tell the difference between objects in a low light or high-glare setting. In real life, contrast sensitivity comes into play when driving at night, for example.

It is unclear why dark chocolate affects vision; however, the authors think it has to do with the blood vessels in the eye. Cacao, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, has been shown to positively affect blood pressure and blood vessel function. This new research suggests that dark chocolate allows for more blood flow to back of the eye, therefore improving vision.

PHOTO: Dark chocolate.UIG via Getty Images
Dark chocolate.

But make sure it’s really dark — 70 percent cacao

Before you gorge yourself on brownies and hot fudge sundaes in the name of science, all of these studies are very specific to dark chocolate.

Researchers used dark chocolate with 70 percent cacao, a recipe reserved for the darkest of dark chocolate. This usually means the chocolate tastes more bitter than sweet because only 30 percent of the candy bar is sugar and milk.

“It’s really not a candy,” Burk said of the chocolate used in his study. “It’s the sugar that’s a candy, not the cacao.”

If your favorite chocolate bar only has 11 percent cacao, that means that 89 percent is likely sugar and fat. So read the label before you claim to eat chocolate in the name of your health.

Burk believes that dark chocolate has serious potential from a health perspective. In his future research, he wants to see if cacao’s effects on the brain could help treat diseases like dementia and autism.

“Chocolate may be a medicinal product if appropriately studied,” he added.

Laura Shopp, M.D. is a third-year pediatrics resident affiliated with Indiana University who works in the ABC News Medical Unit.

Live Briefing: Scott Pruitt, Under an Ethics Cloud, Faces Lawmakers


Mr. Pruitt said he had delegated the authority to grant such approvals, or as he put it, “There was delegation given in my authority.” He said, “I was not aware of the amount, and I was not aware of the bypassing that was going on.” Mr. Tonko said the answer suggests “you have no idea what is going on” under Mr. Pruitt’s name at the agency.

Representative Frank Pallone Jr., a New Jersey Democrat, was even more direct in his opening remarks. “You are unfit to hold public office and undeserving of the public trust,” he told Mr. Pruitt. “Every indication we have is you really should resign.”

He followed up by asking Mr. Pruitt whether he had sidelined or demoted at least five employees who disagreed with him, demanding a “yes or no” answer as to whether he had called for these changes.

“I don’t ever recall a conversation about that,” Mr. Pruitt said.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Mr. Pallone responded.

“You shouldn’t take that as a yes,” the administrator pushed back.

Mr. Pallone continued to press. “Has it always been your practice to fire people who disagree with you?”

He then moved on to talk about a toxic chemical that was on track to be banned when action was delayed by the agency under Mr. Pruitt.

Mr. Pruitt responded that the review had not been closed. Mr. Pallone responded that the lack of action on that chemical and others “makes a mockery of the E.P.A.”

A more cordial welcome from Republicans

Republicans also chastised Mr. Pruitt in opening remarks, but their questions tended to be much more gentle.

Representative Joe Barton of Texas, who has long denied the overwhelming evidence of human effects on climate change, offered sympathy. “Mr. Pruitt, you’re not the first victim of Washington politics,” he said.

As to Mr. Pruitt’s penchant for first-class travel, Mr. Barton said: “You’ve been attacked for flying first class. Was that illegal? It may look bad, but it’s not illegal.”

Representative David B. McKinley, Republican of West Virginia, told Mr. Pruitt sympathetically that the attacks on him “have an echo of McCarthyism.”

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The Behavior That Put Scott Pruitt at the Center of Federal Inquiries

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency faces nearly a dozen federal inquiries into his practices. We break down the accusations by category.



OPEN Graphic


The phone booth

Representative Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, drilled down on some of the ethics questions concerning Mr. Pruitt’s expenses in office and his past financial dealings.

She first asked about Mr. Pruitt’s famous soundproof booth, installed in his E.P.A. office at a cost of $43,000. The Government Accountability Office has ruled that the expenditure broke the law.

Mr. Pruitt had previously testified that the expense was appropriate. In light of the recent ruling, Ms. DeGette asked whether Mr. Pruitt knew that the purchase had violated the law and whether anyone would be penalized.

“We are investigating this internally,” he said.

“Would you agree that public officials should be held to the highest standards of ethical conduct?” she asked. He responded that he did.

Representative Tony Cárdenas, a California Democrat, also brought up the phone booth.

“I was not aware of the approval of the $43,000,” Mr. Pruitt told him, “and if I had known about it, congressman, I would not have approved it.”

Mr. Cárdenas responded that “if someone was spending $43,000 in my office, I would know about it.”

Travel expenses

Photo

Mr. Pruitt on Capitol Hill on Capitol Hill. He was not summoned for questioning on his alleged misconduct. Both appearances Thursday are routine budget hearings.

Credit
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

Representative Anna G. Eshoo, a California Democrat, had scathing criticism for Mr. Pruitt when her turn for questioning came. “You have a solid record of violating ethics rules from the state level to the federal government,” she told him. “I think it’s an embarrassment.”

Then she asked: “Do you have any remorse? Yes or no?”

Mr. Pruitt responded: “I think there are changes I’ve made already. I’ve made a change from first class to coach travel.”

She returned to her call for a yes-or-no answer, and asked Mr. Pruitt whether he would reimburse the government. He launched into a long response, but she cut him off.

“With all due respect, I may be elected, but I’m not a fool,” she said. “This is not ‘dodge-question’ day.”

Oklahoma real estate

Ms. DeGette also questioned Mr. Pruitt about his involvement in real estate deals in Oklahoma, referring to the purchaser of his home as a “shell company.”

“It’s not a shell company,” he said quickly, and said that such financial structures were commonly used to purchase real estate in Oklahoma.

She then asked Mr. Pruitt whether he had paid taxes on rent he received. He said such issues had been handed over to an accountant.

“I’m not doing this to hassle you. I’m doing this as an elected official,” Ms. DeGette said as she ended her questions. “Everything we do has to be to the highest ethical standards.”

Research ‘transparency’

When asked about his announcement this week that the E.P.A. would restrict the kinds of scientific studies that it would use in forming policy, Mr. Pruitt responded: “It seems to me that it’s common sense that as we do rule-making, we base it on scientific conclusions that we should be able to see the data and methodology that causes those conclusions. That makes sense to me.”

Tensions with California

Mr. Pruitt said that the agency was “not at present” planning any efforts to revoke a decades-old waiver that allows California to enforce its own emissions standards on automobiles.

But he would not say definitively whether that was a final position. The E.P.A. is “working very diligently and diplomatically with California to find answers on this issue,” Mr. Pruitt said, in response to questions from Representative Doris Matsui, a California Democrat who has sought to protect her state’s ability to regulate emissions.

Air pollution

Mr. Pruitt tried to explain major shifts the E.P.A. has made during his tenure in an air pollution program that governs electric power plants and other factories.

He said the changes, made under a program called New Source Review, were meant to simplify the steps companies have to go through to renovate to their plants, which sometimes require them to enhance pollution controls.

“What we want to do is to provide clarity,” Mr. Pruitt said. “As they make investments to improve outcomes as far as emission reductions they are not going to face new permitting requirements.”

Environmentalists have accused Mr. Pruitt of taking these steps to help the coal industry at the expense of air quality.

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  • Mexican Election Could End the Welcome for U.S. Oil Giants


    Such positions hark back to the 1930s, when Mexico nationalized its oil industry. Under the current government, a constitutional change enacted in 2014 let foreign companies invest in exploration, drilling, pipelines and even gas stations, and to team up on projects with the state oil company, Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex. The move allowed companies like Exxon Mobil to invest billions of dollars to develop vast fields offshore.

    Mr. López Obrador’s nationalistic policies are resonating in Mexico as the Trump administration vows to curtail Mexican immigration into the United States and threatens to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    The election outlook has caused concern among American oil executives.

    “Mexico is very critical as an energy partner of the United States, so a retreat from current policies would be a tragedy for both countries,” said Scott D. Sheffield, chairman of Pioneer Natural Resources, a major Texas oil and gas producer. “It’s going to hurt Mexico long term and the United States long term.”

    Mr. Sheffield and other Texas oil executives are particularly worried that Mexico could slow its importing of American gas.

    In recent years, Mexico has replaced coal and diesel with cleaner American natural gas to produce about 30 percent of the nation’s electricity. The shale-drilling revolution north of the Rio Grande has yielded an abundance of cheap natural gas for American and Mexican consumers, and Mexico announced a five-year plan in 2015 to increase imports.

    About 20 pipelines carry 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day to Mexico, and more are being built or planned.

    The gas sales to Mexico are an important source of revenue for American oil and pipeline companies, and they relieve a bulge of gas that is bubbling up with oil from the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, the nation’s most prolific shale field. California is switching from natural gas to renewable energy sources, while a shortage of pipelines and export terminals for liquefied natural gas means that if sales to Mexico dwindle, there will be excess gas with nowhere to go.

    That gas will have to be flared, or oil drilling and production will need to decrease, a choice between increasing climate-warming carbon-dioxide emissions or decreasing profits.

    American refineries also face problems. Before the boom in shale oil production, refineries along the Gulf of Mexico were designed to process heavy oil grades from Canada, Mexico and Venezuela. Imports from Canada continue to increase, but they are limited by scarce pipeline capacity. Production in Venezuela is plummeting, and an expected ratcheting up of sanctions by the Trump administration could further hamper imports.

    Photo

    The presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador at a rally near Monterrey. He wants to reverse policies that have tied a knot between Mexico and the United States in energy production and consumption.

    Credit
    Daniel Becerril/Reuters

    That makes Mexico, which accounts for about 8 percent of American crude-oil imports, an even more critical source. American refineries can process lighter grades of oil but much less efficiently, or they can undertake expensive overhauls of their equipment. Either way, profits would slump.

    Mexico, for its part, has been importing higher-quality transportation fuels from the United States, in an effort to clean up its cities’ air. Last year, Mexico bought more than one million barrels of American petroleum products a day, providing $23 billion in revenue to American energy companies.

    Ms. Nahle, Mr. López Obrador’s energy adviser, has said Mexico’s own refineries can be retooled to handle a changeover from American gasoline and diesel.

    Mexican oil officials, expecting at least a slowdown of their policies, are holding offshore auctions as fast as they can to lure investment before President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is barred by law from seeking a second term, leaves office in December. More than 100 development contracts have already been awarded. The nation’s oil production remains in decline, but officials hope they can reverse the trend as international companies begin to produce large amounts of oil in the Gulf of Mexico over the next two years.

    Independent energy analysts have viewed Mexico’s moves as a model for economic development, and some worry about a reversal. “To make a U-turn from the current reforms would be detrimental to the Mexican economy,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.

    Some oil executives and energy experts say they are not overly worried that the new contracts will be overturned. They note that Mr. López Obrador will almost certainly not have the congressional support to entirely rescind the constitutional energy change. Campaign oratory could give way to the realities of governing, especially when the oil industry offers financing for more social services. The government has earned signing bonuses of $525 million from investors so far this year as a result of its efforts.

    “Mexico needs this change more than anybody else,” said Ali Moshiri, who retired last year as Chevron’s top executive in Latin America and is forming his own oil company to seek international opportunities. “Pemex has been a disaster, so they have to continue with the reform, though they could slow things down.”

    If necessary, international companies could focus less on Mexico and more on other Latin American countries, like Brazil, which also has huge offshore potential, or Colombia, which has significant potential for shale drilling. Both countries also have elections this year in which major candidates have expressed either opposition to giving foreign companies control over natural resources or environmental concerns about developing fossil fuels at all.

    “That creates a lot of uncertainties for energy policy,” said Lisa Viscidi, an energy expert at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank. “Around Latin America, there are serious contenders who want to make big changes in the oil sector and want to reverse previous reforms. López Obrador particularly represents a lot of direct threats.”

    Continue reading the main story

    Terminally-ill British boy becomes rallying point for US conservatives


    A British toddler on the brink of death has become a rallying point for U.S. conservatives.

    Alfie Evans, who is 23 months old, suffers from a neurodegenerative disease that has ravaged his brain. Since December 2016, he’s been hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit in Liverpool.

    This week, over the objections of Alfie’s parents, doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital removed life support. For now, the boy has continued to breathe on his own, but his parents and their many supporters worry the decision will end his life.

    The case has attracted the attention of the Roman Catholic Church and the Italian government, which granted the boy citizenship and put together a flight plan in place to transport him quickly to a Vatican hospital for palliative care.

    PHOTO: This file photo taken on April 5, 2018, shows seriously ill British toddler Alfie Evans at Alder Hey Childrens Hospital in Liverpool.Action4Alfie Handout/AFP via Getty Images
    This file photo taken on April 5, 2018, shows seriously ill British toddler Alfie Evans at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

    But Alfie’s doctors believe there’s no hope of recovery. A British judge, asked to rule on the case, agreed, refusing a last ditch plan to relocate him.

    Pope Francis, who met last week with the boy’s father, tweeted Monday: “Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”

    PHOTO: Tom Evans speaks to the media outside Alder Hey Childrens Hospital where his 23-month-old son Alfie has been at the center of a life-support treatment dispute, in Liverpool, England, April 26, 2018.Peter Byrne/PA via AP
    Tom Evans speaks to the media outside Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where his 23-month-old son Alfie has been at the center of a life-support treatment dispute, in Liverpool, England, April 26, 2018.

    Here in the U.S., American conservatives have joined a growing movement that calls itself Alfie’s Army, and the group’s Facebook page has attracted more than 380,000 followers.

    Conservative journals in the U.S. have linked Alfie’s case to the debate here over abortion.

    The American Spectator denounced the U.K. government’s stance as “brutal and ruthless.”

    The National Review warned that this is what happens “when our culture of death embraces the idea that human life, most especially the lives of suffering children, has no intrinsic value.”

    Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has used the case to argue against the perils of “socialized medicine.”

    “It is a sad irony,” Cruz tweeted, “that while the people of the UK are busy celebrating a royal birth, its government is brushing off a commoner’s right to life.”

    Former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh goes so far as to connect Alfie’s right to life with the gun control debate here in the U.S.

    “Why does an American need an AR-15? To make sure what’s happening to #AlfieEvans never happens here. That’s why,” he tweeted.

    Passions about this case run so strong that the hospital staff in Liverpool has endured a “barrage” of abuse, according to hospital administrators. Alder Hey is now urging nurses to hide their uniforms when coming and going to work for their own protection.

    White House Withdraws Jackson Nomination for V.A. Chief Amid Criticism


    “These are all false accusations,” Mr. Trump said. “These are false. They’re trying to destroy a man.”

    The president said he had already selected a new nominee but would not reveal the name. It will be “somebody with political capability,” he said.

    But even as Dr. Jackson and the president were denying the accusations, new ones were coming in. The question on Thursday was whether Dr. Jackson could continue in his role as the president’s physician, one he has filled since 2013.

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement only that Dr. Jackson “is a doctor in the United States Navy assigned to the White House and is here at work today.”

    The New York Times spoke with two former members of the White House medical office staff on Wednesday, both of whom described a culture under Dr. Jackson where medications were freely distributed and lightly accounted for. They both said they had witnessed Dr. Jackson intoxicated during White House travel, and said it was a regular occurrence while overseas.

    Graphic

    Who is Ronny Jackson, and What Are the Allegations Against Him?

    The questions surrounding President Trump’s former nominee to lead the Veterans Affairs Department.



    OPEN Graphic


    Both of the former officials separately told of a standing order to leave a bottle of rum and Diet Coke in Dr. Jackson’s hotel room on official travel.

    And both said they had been uncomfortable enough with Dr. Jackson’s behavior to file complaints at the time with the White House Military Office. Records of such complaints were not immediately verifiable. They requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

    Such reports have cast a negative light not only on the current White House vetting process but on the Obama White House, which repeatedly promoted Dr. Jackson and recommended his advancement through the Navy’s highest ranks.

    The White House did not immediately announce a nominee to replace Dr. Jackson. His withdrawal ensures that the department, which employs more than 370,000 people and includes vast health and benefits systems, will remain without a permanent leader for at least weeks to come.

    Senator Tester did not respond to the president’s threat but did praise the people — mostly past and current members of the military — who came forward to discuss Dr. Jackson’s issues. He did nod to the bipartisan nature of the vetting process at the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the close work he has done with its chairman, Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

    “I want to thank the servicemembers who bravely spoke out over the past week,” he said in a statement. “It is my Constitutional responsibility to make sure the veterans of this nation get a strong, thoroughly vetted leader who will fight for them. The next Secretary must have a commitment to reform a strained health care system and a willingness to stand up to special interests who want to privatize the VA. My sleeves are rolled up and ready to work with Chairman Isakson to vet and confirm a Secretary who is fit to run the VA.”

    The concerns raised on Capitol Hill over Dr. Jackson’s nomination were bipartisan and emerged after the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee interviewed more than 23 people, including current and former military personnel, who had worked alongside him. The accusations included a hostile work environment, the improper dispensing of prescription drugs to White House staff and reporters during official travel, and intoxication while traveling with the president.

    The White House had initially moved to defend Dr. Jackson against what officials there called “ugly” abuse and false accusations. And he indicated repeatedly in interactions with reporters that he intended to stay the course.

    But the nomination was clearly in peril when the top senators on the committee announced on Tuesday that they would postpone a confirmation hearing for Dr. Jackson scheduled for the next day, pending further investigation.

    On Wednesday, the committee’s Democratic staff released a two-page document fleshing out the accusations. They were explosive.

    In one instance, Dr. Jackson stood accused of providing such “a large supply” of Percocet, a prescription opioid, to a White House Military Office staff member that he threw his own medical staff “into a panic” when it could not account for the missing drugs, the document said.

    In another case, at a Secret Service goodbye party, the doctor got intoxicated and “wrecked a government vehicle.”

    And a nurse on his staff said that Dr. Jackson had written himself prescriptions, and when caught, had simply asked a physician assistant to provide him with the medication.

    An aide to Mr. Tester said each of the allegations included in the document was based on information provided by two or more individuals.

    President Trump nominated Dr. Jackson to the position in March after firing his first Veterans Affairs secretary, David J. Shulkin, an experienced hospital administrator and veteran of the department’s medical system. The decision was largely made out of a personal affinity for Dr. Jackson, who did not undergo the kind of policy vetting that usually accompanies a nomination to a cabinet post.

    Mr. Trump had strongly defended Dr. Jackson on Tuesday as “one of the finest people that I have met,” but he also suggested that Dr. Jackson might soon withdraw from consideration, amid what the president characterized as partisan attacks from Capitol Hill.

    “I don’t want to put a man through a process like this,” Mr. Trump said. “The fact is, I wouldn’t do it. What does he need it for?”

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday that Dr. Jackson had been through at four background checks, including by the F.B.I., during his time at the White House. She said that none had turned up areas for concern.

    But even before the accusations about his conduct became public, Dr. Jackson was expected to face tough questioning from senators from both parties skeptical of his inexperience managing a large bureaucracy and of his views on key policy debates gripping the department. The Veterans Affairs Department is the federal government’s second largest and Dr. Jackson had little to no experience with policy or leading a large staff.

    Mr. Isakson, who had backed Mr. Tester’s decision to investigate, said Thursday morning that it was the White House’s decision to make, and that he would work to confirm a new secretary once nominated.

    “I respect his decision, and I thank Admiral Jackson for his service to the country,” Mr. Isakson said. “I will work with the administration to see to it we get a V.A. secretary for our veterans and their families.”

    Continue reading the main story

    West and Trump rekindle bromance in Twitter love-in



    Now that Emmanuel Macron has flown home, Donald Trump may have found another unlikely friendship in the form of rapper Kanye West.

    The US President and his French counterpart had hailed their “beautiful friendship” during this week’s state visit, which they said had been “forged in revolution” and “changed the shape of history”.

    But it is apparently “dragon energy” fuelling the relationship between Mr Trump and West, who posted a series of complimentary messages on Twitter on Wednesday night.

    Mr Trump – who met West when he was President-elect in December 2016 – was keen to share the praise with his own followers, telling the star the comments were “very cool”.

    Following his exchange with Mr Trump, West went on to address a range of topics; from the amount of money he makes from shoes compared with basketball legend Michael Jordan, to his ping pong skills.

    “I’m nice at ping pong,” he claimed.

    He also fuelled speculation that he had split with his manager Scooter Braun, tweeting, “I can’t be managed”.

    West’s wife – Kim Kardashian West, with whom he has three children – later defended her husband on Twitter, who was criticised by fans for praising Mr Trump.

    She wrote: “Kanye will never run in the race of popular opinion and we know that and that’s why I love him and respect him and in a few years when someone else says the same exact thing but they aren’t labelled the way he is and you will all praise them! Kanye is years ahead of his time.”

    The rapper has “always been expressive”, she added, but went on to suggest she may not be a fan of the President, writing “most people (including myself) have very different feelings & opinions about this”.

    California Today: California Today: After Three Decades, Finally, an Arrest


    • And you may recall this newsletter linking to a story about “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” a chilling true crime book about the Golden State Killer. The writer Michelle McNamara spent the final years of her life chasing him. (And she wrote about it in this Los Angeles Magazine story in 2013.) She died in April 2016, before she could see the killer brought to justice, or her book published. Now her husband, the comedian Patton Oswalt, has a lot of questions for Mr. DeAngelo.

    Read our article about Ms. McNamara and Mr. Oswalt here.

    California Online

    (Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)

    Photo

    Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program demonstrated outside the Capitol last month.

    Credit
    Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Moveon.org

    • In a huge setback for the Trump administration, a federal judge ruled that DACA protections must stay in place and that the government must resume accepting new applications. [The New York Times]

    • For many young undocumented immigrants, the ruling provided an unusual amount of hope. But it has been a wild ride. We lay out all of their highs and lows. [The New York Times]

    • An audit released this week found that the California State University system exposes students and employees to many on-campus hazards like faulty laboratory equipment, unsafe drinking water, asbestos and chemical spills. [Capital Public Radio]

    • Republican activists say they have enough signatures to start an initiative that would repeal recent increases in California’s gas tax and vehicle fees. The initiative would go on the November ballot. [The Los Angeles Times]

    • A new poll shows that Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa lead the race for governor. But the top Republican in the field, John Cox, is within striking distance of finishing in the top two. [The Orange County Register]

    Photo

    Bogus accounts bearing the likenesses of the Facebook executives have frequently been used to scam users.

    Credit
    Illustration by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg photographs by Getty Images

    • An examination by The New York Times found 205 accounts that impersonate Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg on Facebook and Instagram. At least 51 of them were lottery scams that sought to swindle users out of their money. [The New York Times]

    • A contract employee has filed a lawsuit alleging that Tesla and a contracting company failed to fully pay workers like her for overtime and denied them legally mandated meal and rest breaks. [The Mercury News]

    • More than 20,000 Californians were sterilized to prevent them from having babies under the state’s eugenics law. The state abolished the law in 1979, and now lawmakers are considering paying reparations. [The Washington Post]

    • Many of the state’s sober-living homes are rife with the very drug and alcohol use the homes are supposed to prevent. Some are privately owned and hard to regulate. But there are five proposals on the table that would try. [CALmatters]

    Gun deaths fell in California over a 16-year period ending in 2015, according to a recent study of firearm violence. There’s been a decline in gang violence and homicide rates are falling among black and Hispanic male victims, the study found. [The Associated Press]

    • A lawsuit accusing the music mogul Russell Simmons of raping a woman at his home in Los Angeles has been dropped. [The New York Times]

    Photo

    Students in the Technology and Applied Composition program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

    Credit
    Sewon Barrera

    • The San Francisco Conservatory of Music has received a $46.4 million donation that will help fund construction of a new building. [The New York Times]

    Soon-Tek Oh, who worked to broaden the types of roles available to Asian-American actors through East West Players and other theater troupes, died this month in Los Angeles. He was 85. [The New York Times]

    And Finally …

    Photo

    Crates of avocados at a market.

    Credit
    Nick Wagner/Associated Press

    We know, we know. We’ve written about weird museums a lot in this space. So we’ll keep this brief.

    There’s a “pop-up experience” coming to San Diego in June called “The CADO” meant to celebrate California’s favorite fruit.

    Yes, the website says, there will be food. Yes, you can take photos. And yes, it’s pretty expensive — $27 to be exact.

    No, it is not clear if any toast is included.

    California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.

    California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

    Continue reading the main story