Quick Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped (or 1t. ground dry sage)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 cups fat-free chicken broth

1 1/2 lbs butternut squash (peeled, seeded, cubed)

parmesan cheese (Garnish)

Directions:

1

Add oil, garlic and onion to large stockpot over medium heat.

2

Saute for 3-4 minutes.

3

Add sage, salt, pepper, broth and squash.

4

Bring to a boil.

5

Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes (or until squash has a tender consistency).

6

Use stick blender to lightly puree, leaving some chunks, or puree half of the soup in a food processor or blender and return to pot.

7

Garnish with parmesan cheese and more fresh sage (if desired).

Total Time:      35 mins

Prep Time:        10 mins

Cook Time:       25 mins

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Obama to call healthcare website glitches ‘unacceptable’

Washington DC – President Barack Obama will declare the glitches in a new healthcare website “unacceptable” on Monday and outline ways for consumers to sign up for insurance while his team scrambles to fix problems that have tainted the rollout of his signature healthcare law.

Fresh from two weeks of budget battles that have consumed Washington, Obama will hold an event at 11:25 a.m. (1525 GMT) in the White House Rose Garden with consumers, small business owners, and pharmacists who have been affected by the new law.

The move is the highest-profile step in a broad damage control effort that the administration has launched since technical problems with the website, healthcare.gov, have prevented Americans nationwide from signing up for a program that will largely define Obama’s domestic policy legacy.

“The president will directly address the technical problems with HealthCare.gov – troubles that he and his team find unacceptable – and discuss the actions he has pushed for to make it easier for consumers to comparison shop and enroll for insurance while work continues around the clock to improve the website,” a White House official said on Sunday.

The president will say the product itself and the goal behind it – insuring millions of uninsured Americans – are good despite the problems that have plagued its rollout.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a blog post it was bringing in a “tech surge” of people from inside and outside government to help iron out glitches in the online insurance exchanges that are a central part of the program known as “Obamacare,” which launched on October 1.

Obama’s event, the HHS blog, and comments from Democrats on Sunday television news shows demonstrated a full-on push to offset criticism from Republicans and opponents of the law who say its rollout is representative of wider issues.

Republicans in Congress have chastised Obama’s top health adviser, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, for declining their invitation to testify about the glitches to an oversight panel on October 24.

Officials stressed on Sunday that the problems were being addressed.

“I think that there’s no one more frustrated than the president at the difficulty in the website,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Obama told aides in a recent Oval Office meeting that the administration had to take responsibility for the fact that the website was not ready on time.

Administration officials are expected to travel the country in the coming weeks to encourage people to sign up on the exchanges, targeting areas where there are high percentages of uninsured, according to one official.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expected to provide private health coverage to an estimated 7 million uninsured Americans through the new online marketplaces that opened for enrollment in all 50 states on October 1.

But the website, the administration’s online portal for consumers in 36 states, was hobbled by problems including error messages, garbled text and delays loading pages.

Committed to doing better

Administration officials blame the problems partly on an unexpectedly high volume of visitors in its first 10 days. According to HHS, there were more than 19 million visits to the website.

“We are committed to doing better,” the department said in its blog post on Sunday.

Despite the problems, it said, other parts of the system were functioning well.

“Individuals have been able to verify their eligibility for credits, enabling them to shop for, and enroll in, low- or even no-cost health plans,” the department said.

“We have updated the site several times with new code that includes bug fixes. Our team has called in additional help to solve some of the more complex technical issues we are encountering.”

Late on Saturday the White House reported nearly half a million Americans had applied for health insurance through the federal and state exchanges provided by Obamacare.

Many Republicans were criticizing the program long before its rocky launch. A 16-day partial government shutdown that ended last week was precipitated by Republican demands to delay or defund Obamacare.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who led that campaign, vowed on Sunday to step-up his opposition, even though his tactics have been called a mistake by members of his own party.

“I would do anything, and will continue to do anything, to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare,”

Cruz said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Lew said the program’s test would be in January, when the actual coverage starts for people who have enrolled by December 15.

“I think that if we get that right, everyone will regret that the early weeks were choppy on the website. But the test is: are people getting coverage and are they getting the care that they need? And we’re confident we’re going to be on track to do that,” Lew said on NBC.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, acknowledged problems with the Obamacare launch, but said they should be understood in the context of the program’s size.

“Any system that deals with that many millions of people frequently does have a glitch,” Pelosi told ABC News’ “This Week.”

“It has to be fixed, but what doesn’t have to be fixed is the fact that tens of millions more people had access to affordable quality health care and no longer will have a pre-existing condition bar you from getting affordable health care.”

Obama said in an interview with National Public Radio on October 1 that he was prepared for some problems in the early months of Obamacare as healthcare exchanges were launched.

Obama calls 19 firefighters killed in Arizona ‘heroes’

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama hailed the 19 firefighters killed battling a wildfire in Arizona as “heroes,” in a statement early Monday.

The firefighters died late Sunday afternoon while racing to contain the Yarnell Hill wildfire north of Phoenix, in what is believed to be the deadliest incident of its kind in the United States in 80 years.

“They were heroes — highly-skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet,” Obama said.

Local media reported the fire was zero per cent contained early Monday, had forced the evacuations of hundreds of people and threatened some 250 homes.

“The federal government is already assisting, and we will remain in close contact with state and local officials to provide the support they need,” he said as he headed to Tanzania on the final leg of an official tour of Africa with his family.

“But today, Michelle and I join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of these brave firefighters and all whose lives have been upended by this terrible tragedy.

”Figures from the National Fire Protection Association, a non-profit organization, show that the Arizona deaths are the worst firefighter fatalities from a wildfire since 29 firefighters died fighting a blaze in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park in 1933.

Bill Gates offers to assist Pakistan in health sector

ISLAMABAD: Former CEO of Microsoft and famous philanthropist Bill Gates has offered to extend his support to the newly-elected government of Pakistan in the health sector.

In a letter delivered Tuesday to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by Dr. Waqar Ajmal Special Representative of Bill Gates and Melinda Foundation for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gates promised to extend financial and technical assistance to the Government of Pakistan as far as possible.

Gates congratulated Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on assumption of his office, and expressed the confidence that the new government in Pakistan special emphasis on the immunisation and eradication of fatal diseases including polio.

“The prime minister reiterated the resolve of his government to eradicate diseases from the country and welcomed the partners like Bill Gates and Melinda foundation in achieving this objective,” said a press release by the PM’s office.

The prime minister also welcomed Bill Gates’ offer to provide assistance to the government of Pakistan in controlling diseases, it said.

Imran to make video address today

LAHORE, May 8: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan may take three to four weeks for a complete recovery as he has suffered nine fractures in his backbone and chest.

Imran Khan is, however, in high spirits and has been instructing his party leaders to keep on campaigning for the general elections.

According to a report of his CT scan, T6 (fracture) is very complicated.

After examining the CT scan report of Mr Khan, a senior orthopaedic surgeon at the Jinnah Hospital told Dawn that Mr Khan should not move from his bed before three to four weeks because of compression fracture of T6 vertebral body with a 40 per cent loss of height. The other fractures were of minor nature, he said.

The CT scan report is available with Daily Sitara Sindh News.

A team of specialists at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (SKMCH&RC) advised Mr Khan on Wednesday to take a complete bed rest for two to three days.

The doctors have, however, declared that no neurological or spine-related major disorder was reported in the clinical investigations carried out so far.

The medical check-up of Mr Khan was largely based on the CT scan report which apparently showed no life-threatening fractures on any part of his body, including head and spinal cord.

“Imran has full control over all his body organs and he will be allowed to resume his political activities after more clinical investigations in a couple of days,” a doctor said.

According to the CT scan report, “No intra-axial haemorrhage, hydrocephalus or midline shift was found. No skull fracture was seen either.

“However, small scalp haematoma (collection of blood) was seen in the left frontal/parietal eminence and un-displaced spinous process fracture of T1 was noted. Minimally displaced fracture of the tip of C3 spinous process is also noted.”

The report found “small left sided pneumothorax with some surgical emphysema in supraclavicular recess. Tiny non-classified granuloma measuring 3mm is seen again in the right upper lobe”.

“Left third rib fracture is seen. Compression fracture of T6 vertebral body with 40 per cent height loss is also noted. There is some buckling of posterior vertebral haematoma seen anteriorly in ‘posterior mediastinum’ (an irregular triangular space running parallel with the vertebral column).”

The report, however, showed chronic bilateral pars fractures of L5 body. “No vascular or visceral injury was seen in the abdomen and pelvis, a ring-like structure of bones at the lower end of the trunk. The further review shows an un-displaced fracture of T5 vertebral body and spinous process as well. The neural canal, however, remains intact.”

Dr Faisal Sultan of the SKMCH&RC told newsmen on Wednesday that Mr Khan had suffered a hairline compression fracture on a vertebra on his back. “He has t6, c3 and t5 fractures, but his spinal bone is completely safe.”

He said Mr Khan had been advised complete bed rest for two to three days.

Dr Sultan said a team of medical experts from the Pakistan Army had also examined the PTI chairman.

He said the three injured guards were also brought to the Shaukat Khanum Hospital and one of them had been discharged.

VIDEO SPEECH

Imran Khan is likely to make a speech through video link at his party’s final election rally in Islamabad on Thursday.

Asad Umer, a leader of the PTI, told Dawn that if Mr Khan felt comfortable he would address live. Otherwise his recorded message would be played at the public meeting.

The party’s Vice Chairman, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, told a news conference on Wednesday that the party would take a decision about Mr Khan’s address at the Islamabad rally after consultation with the doctors treating him.

He said the party’s leaders met Mr Khan on Wednesday morning and felt relieved when “we were received by him with a broad smile on his face”.

In reply to a question, he said there was no need to send Mr Khan abroad for treatment.

Mr Qureshi said the nation had risen and they would go in the elections hand in hand with Imran Khan.“Now no campaign will be able to change people’s mind as Imran’s emotional message from the hospital bed has touched everybody,” he said.

He said the PTI would not win the elections on the basis of ‘electables’ but on party’s ideology. “Imran Khan has finally created a high tide of tsunami and it will not recede,” he added.

Mr Qureshi said the PPP went out of the game in a few overs and the PML-N was in low spirits because of the determination and conviction of Mr Khan. He said the PTI leader had provided the nation a third option and now it was their responsibility to avail the opportunity to create a ‘new Pakistan’.

Answering a question about the possibility of a coalition government after the elections, he said the ground realities showed that the PTI would be getting a clear mandate.

Jahangir Tareen, a PTI leader, said a huge number of silent voters would vote for the PTI. “This time Pakistan will witness a very high turnout,” he added.

The party’s President, Javed Hashmi, also spoke on the occasion.

Imran khan says feels better, would not be able to cast vote

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan who was injured in a stage fall on Tuesday evening told newsmen today that although he was feeling better, he would not be able to cast his vote in his hometown of Mianwali as he had previously planned.

Khan had sustained head and back injuries after he fell from a lifter during a public meeting  in Lahore. He received stitches on his head.

PTI spokesman Shafqat Mehmood told media on Tuesday night that Khan would not be able to continue his political campaign for the elections on the advice of the doctors and added that it was not a political decision. The campaign was scheduled to end on Thursday night prior to Saturday’s elections.

Lying on his bed at the Shaukat Khanum Hospital, which he had built and named after his mother, Khan urged his supporters to ensure voting in big numbers. “11th May is the day of change,” he told reporters.

Earlier in a video message to his supporters from his hospital, Khan had said that he had done what he could in the last several years. “Now it is your (people’s) turn to take charge and ensure the making of ‘naya’ Pakistan,” he said.

Katy Perry visits destroyed school

This gallery comprises photos released by Unicef, showing US singer Katy Perry on a visit to a primary school in Ampihaonana, Madagascar, that has been rebuilt by Unicef after it was destroyed by a cyclone on April 5, 2013.

Perry’s visit is intended to focus on the children’s situation in one of the poorest countries in the world that is still recovering from a political crisis and ensuing coup in 2009. Currently, some 82 per cent of Malagasies are unable to afford basic needs and services, including food and healthcare.