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I see via the Washington Post that the Census Bureau has released its latest estimate of the uninsured population in the United States through 2019. Here it is:

The number of uninsured dropped steadily through 2016 but has risen slowly ever since Donald Trump took office. Let’s compare this to the CDC’s survey, which has always been my go-to source for the most accurate numbers.

I haven’t checked in with them for a while, so here’s the latest, including the first quarter of 2020:

This tells roughly the same story. The data is a little bit noisier since the CDC reports quarterly, and it shows that the increase started around 2018. Either way, it appears that Trump’s effort to seed chaos in the Obamacare signup process had a modest success. The net increase in the uninsured comes to a little more than 1 percent, which represents about 3 million fewer people with health coverage. Nice work, Donald.

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Enjoy a homespun Halloween holiday

Halloween is a day many people, including adults and children, eagerly anticipate. Steeped in tradition, Halloween is a day that’s always good for a scare and, of course, some candy.

Many Halloween traditions are rooted in customs from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Samhain marked the end of the summer harvest and the beginning of the cold winter. Celts believed that the boundary between the world of the living and the dead was permeable on the night before the new year when it was possible for ghosts to return and wreak havoc.

Halloween 2020 will likely feel a little different than it’s been in years past, as a global pandemic has forced people to limit their interactions with those who live outside their homes. But even if trick-or-treating or other social gatherings are not possible, there are many ways to enjoy the Halloween festivities.

Build a Samhain bonfire

Gather the supplies for a bonfire Ñ albeit on a smaller scale. Light a fire in a fire pit or outdoor fireplace. While ancient Celts burned crops and other things as sacrifices to Celtic deities, your bonfire can be what you make of it. If you want some dramatic effect, the science resource ScienceStruck notes the addition of metal salts can change the color of flames in the fire. For example, iron fillings produce gold sparks and copper sulfate will make green flames. Wear costumes and make s’mores while around the Samhain fire.

Make a witch’s brew

Images of witches stirring a bubbling cauldron are ubiquitous on Halloween. Families can create their own Halloween “spells” and mix up a batch of potion over a campfire or on the stove. It can be a favorite soup or stew recipe, or cocktails and mocktails for the kids. Here’s a recipe for ÒWitchÕs Brew,’ courtesy of the Food Network¨ and Sandra Lee.

Pour one 6-ounce package of lime gelatin into a large bowl. Slowly stir in 2 cups boiling water. Stir for at least 2 minutes until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in 3 cups chilled pineapple juice. Let cool to room temperature.

Purchase a plastic cauldron from a party supply store and one block of dry ice. Break up the dry ice and place (using tongs or heavy-duty gloves) into the bottom of the cauldron. Pour a little water on top just to cover to get the ice to start smoking. Place a punch bowl that fits inside the cauldron on top of the dry ice.

Pour the drink mixture in the punch bowl. Slowly add a two-liter bottle of chilled lemon lime soda or ginger ale. If desired, add two cups chilled vodka. Stir gently to mix. Enjoy.

Organize a community

jack-oÕ-lantern carving contest

Large turnips and potatoes were once reserved as canvases for Halloween jack-oÕ-lanterns, but pumpkins now are the gourd of choice. Ask neighbors if they would like to participate in the festivities and contribute toward supplies for a Halloween gift basket as a prize. Each household then carves a pumpkin and places it on their doorstep Halloween night. One person can serve as judge and choose the winner. Whoever is chosen gets the basket, which can be filled with treats and trinkets.

Everyone can enjoy some Halloween fun even if they have to stay closer to home this year.

Halloween 2020 will likely feel a little different than it’s been in years past, as a global pandemic has forced people to limit their interactions with those who live outside their homes.

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