If DxOMark made the review more than a month ago, there might be chance that the Galaxy Note 8 would score high but not the highest. It was only last month that DxOMark updated its system to account for now desired features like bokeh and zoom, the very two things where the iPhone 8 and Galaxy Note 8 performed the best.The Galaxy Note 8 is the first in DxOMark’s new system that scores the 100 in the still photos sub-category, but you might be surprised why. The smartphone does very well in both bright light as well as low, with good detail preservation and reliable exposure. In some trying situations, however, the Galaxy Note 8 sometimes overexposes, even with its HDR capabilities.Where the phablet shines is in its Zoom capabilities and bokeh effect. Under bright light, a magnification of x8 still produces usable details, though naturally less than under a simple x2. Under low light, it’s best to stay away from x8 and only use x4 zoom when really necessary. Unsurprisingly, the Galaxy Note 8 is excellent at blurring backgrounds, which is, after all, one of the selling points Samsung loves talking about.Sadly, the Galaxy Note 8 lags a bit behind when it comes to video, doing a good but not excellent job at it. Overall, however, it is definitely impressive that Samsung would jump to the top with its first ever dual camera. But with the Google Pixel 2 due in less than 24 hours, it remains to be seen how long it, and Apple, will be able to hold on to their crowns. It wasn’t too long ago, in fact just last week, when Apple reclaimed its throne in the smartphone camera kingdom. But while the iPhone 8 Plus still sits at the top of DxOMark’s list, it now has to share that spot with the Galaxy Note 8. That said, while Samsung’s latest and greatest scores the highest in still photos, DxOmark was more impressed by its zooming capabilities than by any other feature. SOURCE: DxOMark Story TimelineDxOMark updates its tests to catch up with the timesiPhone 8 Plus is now DxOMark’s highest rated phone cameraSony Xperia XZ Premium DxOMark score fails to impress
Instagram is adding a new mute feature to its feed, a more discreet way to oust bragging friends from your timeline without prompting unfollow arguments. It’s being billed as a useful option to curate your timeline, and there’ll still be ways to see content that muted friends share – or that you’re tagged in. To actually mute an account, you first have to hit the “…” menu button in the upper right corner of a post from the person you want to silence from your feed. Tapping the “Mute” option brings up two choices. You can either mute posts alone, but still see that user’s Instagram Stories in the thumbnail gallery that runs along the top of the timeline, or mute both posts and Stories. If you’re looking at a profile, meanwhile, you can mute the account from there, too. Finally, you can press and hold on a Story thumbnail and get to the mute option that way. There are a few important things to know before you mute someone or a company. You’ll still be able to access their profile page, for instance, and see their latest photos and videos there. You’ll also still get notified if you’re tagged in a comment or post of theirs. Mute has become one of the more useful features on social networks like Twitter and Facebook in the past few years, as a way to avoid seeing content shared from others but without having to go all the way to unfollowing or unfriending them. As with those other networks, if you mute someone on Instagram they won’t know about it – like bookmarking an Instagram post, there’s no notification that you’ve done so to the user themselves. As you’d expect, you can also un-mute someone if you later decide they’re worthy of your feed. That’s done through their profile: tap the menu button, and you’ll get an option to restore them to the timeline. It’s the latest in Instagram’s attempts to pacify users frustrated by the switch to the algorithmic timeline. Whereas originally the company sorted the photos and videos it would show each user chronologically, it later switched to a more complex system that takes into account the calculated likelihood that you’ll be interested in seeing each piece of content. Instagram also uses your track record of interactions with the person posting, too: if you’ve liked some of their other photos recently, for example, you might see more of them higher in the timeline, even if there’s newer content from other people. Story TimelineInstagram Stories gets support for sharing ten images or videos at onceInstagram bully filter automatically blocks toxic commentsInstagram update adds post resharing to Stories
The BlackBerry KEY2 is an brand new phone trying to coexist with an old-school form-factor, and struggling all the way. When it comes to capturing nostalgia, TCL – which has been licensing the BlackBerry brand for smartphones since 2016 – has done an excellent job. Problem is, there hasn’t been quite as much success in making a must-have smartphone. Indeed, the KEY2 reviews are in – ours included – and the general consensus is that, while physical keyboards have a certain charm, that doesn’t really mesh with 2018’s priorities. Like the KEYone last year, there are some inherent compromises you simply have to accept when you decide to squeeze a full set of QWERTY keys onto the fascia of your candy bar phone. In the case of the BlackBerry KEY2, handing over the bottom quarter of the handset to the keyboard means there’s only enough space left over for TCL to fit a 4.5-inch touchscreen. Contrast that with the LG G7 ThinQ, which is about the same height and width, and yet accommodates a 6.1-inch display. There are clearly some significant advantages to only showing a keyboard when you require it. TCL’s designers have done a pretty darn impressive job of remaking the classic BlackBerry keyboard for a modern Android device. They apparently took inspiration from the BlackBerry Bold 9900, a seven year old phone that still has its fans by virtue of its deeply tactile keys. If you’re looking at keyboard performance alone, it’s certainly not a bad place to start. If you’re hoping to get ideas to make a full smartphone, though, the Bold 9900 would be a terrible model. The way we rely on our smartphones has changed considerably since 2011: screens have grown larger and larger, because we’re consuming more content. Not just photos and videos, but apps, full productivity suites, and more. In that respect the KEY2 feels like a retro throwback a lot of the time, and not in a good way. When you’re messaging, or replying to emails, there’s a lot to like about its keys. The rest of the time, they’re just taking up the space that a bigger screen could’ve made better use of. TCL compounds that by dedicating a big chunk of space between the bottom edge of the touchscreen and the top of the keyboard, just for the touch-sensitive back, home, and app switcher buttons. Look, I’m perfectly happy with onscreen keyboards at this point. The flexibility of having a QWERTY keyboard show up when I need it, then disappear when I don’t is, personally speaking, far preferable to having a setup of physical keys that permanently take up space. The fact that onscreen keyboards can switch layout to suit different languages, or show emojis, or all of the various symbols we require, make them – again, speaking personally – much more useful. Nonetheless I concede that some people still like a physical keyboard. There’s a lot to be said for muscle memory, and your fingers ability to home in on the right button without you necessarily needing to look down at where they’re tapping. What I’d like to see is TCL look to a different part of the BlackBerry back catalog for 2019’s KEY3 (or whatever it ends up being called). That’s the BlackBerry Priv. I’ll forgive you if you wiped the Priv from your memory. Released in late 2015, it was the last gasp of BlackBerry Limited’s hardware aspirations, and the first to run Android. Combining a full-touch design with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, it promised the best of both worlds. It’s hard to describe the Priv as a success, exactly. Reviews were fairly average, with praise for the form-factor tempered by its subpar specifications and stupidly high price. Sales, meanwhile, struggled. Despite company execs trying to put a positive spin on the situation, the $699 unlocked price tag left only the most dedicated BlackBerry fans willing to jump onboard. By the time it reached end of life in December 2017, you couldn’t exactly say anybody would miss it. That might not seem like much of a grounding to build a new BlackBerry slider from, but TCL has shown that it can surprise us. What the KEY2 gets right – and what the KEYone got right before it – is the fundamentals. TCL opted for a midrange Snapdragon processor rather than a flagship chipset, because it’s both cheaper and more frugal. It paired that with a huge battery, and together they deliver ridiculously solid battery life. Two days of regular use is eminently achievable. You still get a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot. Plus TCL doesn’t cut corners when it comes to build quality. The BlackBerry KEY2 feels, with its machined aluminum, textured rubber, and toughened glass, like you could hurl it to the floor in a fit of pique, and still be able to sheepishly pick it up again and carry on replying to emails. What I’d like to see, then, are the lessons of the KEY2 applied to the Priv, for a thoroughly modern BlackBerry. Metal, not plastic, for the chassis. The clever physical keyboard that doubles as a fingerprint sensor and as a trackpad. Battery life measured in days, not hours, and a focus on Getting Things Done with shortcut keys and practical apps. I don’t mind a more humble processor, if it’s done in the name of extending usable battery life. The KEY2’s dual rear camera array can stay, too, though I think TCL could do with getting some fresh blood in to rework its image processing algorithms: low light performance in particular is pretty woeful on the new BlackBerry, though even well lit shots can show an off-putting amount of grain. All that, though, combined with a full-sized screen that reflects the reality of today’s mobile web and app environment. I don’t believe physical keyboard fans should be left without an option, but I also don’t believe they should be left behind when it comes to experiencing the same rich software environment that mainstream phones offer. I can’t, honestly, say that the KEY2 achieves on that front.It’s not a small challenge for TCL, I realize. The KEY2 has already crept up the pricing scale compared to its predecessor: whereas $550 would’ve got you a KEYone at its launch last year, you’re looking at $650 for an unlocked KEY2 when it begins shipping around the end of the month. Anything that adds physical complexity, like a slider mechanism, comes with the risk that it’ll compound that escalating bill of materials and make for a more expensive phone. If the company is serious about bringing the BlackBerry – kicking and screaming – into the modern era, however, it needs to do it properly. That means, if you’re committed yourself to a physical keyboard, then choosing the form-factor which delivers that in the most flexible, practical way. I don’t know if TCL sees things the same way I do, of course. However, if it does, we may not even have to wait until 2019 in order to find out. Back at the top of the year, we were promised not one but two new BlackBerry handsets in 2018. Here’s hoping that the second time is the charm. Story TimelineBlackBerry KEY2 gets dual cameras and smarter QWERTYBlackBerry KEY2 US launch: all the details available here
Skype 8.0 is a major update, adding numerous features with more promised to arrive in the near future. Upon updating, Skype users will have drag-and-drop file sharing functionality within the conversation window; up to 300MB of videos, photos, and other types can be shared simultaneously. As well, the latest version adds a chat media gallery that contains shared content from conversations, making it easier to find items without scrolling back through chat history.Skype 8.0 likewise offers what Microsoft calls “more productive messaging,” that thanks to new reactions within conversations. Users can “@” mention others within a chat, resulting in an alert delivered to that person so they can see the message. Users are able to find their @mentions within the notification center.The new update brings 1080p HD video chatting and screen sharing with other users across all the platforms that Skype is available on. Microsoft is also promising additional features set to rollout some time later this summer, including new additions for the iPad: personalized themes, mentions, quoted message, and chat list, among other unspecified things.iPad aside, the upcoming features will include read receipts, which recently arrived in the Skype Preview, as well as the ability to record calls, which alerts everyone on the call that it is being recorded. Version 8.0 will soon have group links and profile invites for people who don’t yet have a Skype account. Microsoft also says it will introduce private conversations, which are end-to-end encrypted with Signal Protocol.SOURCE: Skype Blog Microsoft has launched Skype 8.0, the latest desktop version set to replace Skype 7.0, also known as “Classic.” The company is encouraging users to update to the newest version, warning that they have only until September 1 to make the transition. Once that date arrives, Skype Classic will stop working, forcing any remaining users to install version 8.0. The update is worth the effort, though, thanks to the numerous new features the latest version offers.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will be the first Samsung phone with 5G connectivity onboard, and today its launch details were revealed. The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will be released with no pre-order program, instead relying heavily on the already strong launch sales numbers and excitement about being first in line to work and play with 5G. The 5G network this phone will come to first is in South Korea, where the phone will cost 1.5 million won. According to Samsung, purchases that register their phone with a carrier between April 5th and April 16th will be given a pair of headphones and a discount on further services. The headphones will be the official Samsung Galaxy Buds, and the discount is half-off the price of display replacement, good for one year past purchase date. The deal will include a “wireless charging package” as well. The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G has the largest display in the Galaxy S10 bunch. In fact this panel is the largest-ever Galaxy S series display ever made at 6.7-inches diagonally. It’s an Infinity-O Display, too, which means it has a hole in its corner to make room for camera lenses. Pricing on the standard model Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will be approximately 1.5 million won, which converted directly equals just over $1,300.00 USD. This is not the best way to guess at the final official price in the USA, but it’s an OK way to take a stab at the general ballpark. If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t be opposed to guessing that the Galaxy S10 5G was going to cost around $1,249 USD in the USA, right out the gate. That’s a price right on the doorstep of the Galaxy S10 Plus’s 512GB edition, mind you. This is apparently what phones will cost now, if we’re OK with it. Story TimelineWhat you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S10 5GThese clever Galaxy S10 wallpapers embrace the hole-punch cameraGalaxy S10 ultrasonic fingerprint scanner to get software fixes The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G release date is April 5th, 2019, and that’s no April Fool’s joke. This launch date announcement comes not long after the South Korean government-run National Radio Research Agency announced passage of the Galaxy S10 5G through its signal verification tests. The tests run for this device included those run on the standard Galaxy S10, as well as those in place specifically for 5G connectivity.
Toyota will bring its all-new 2019 RAV4 to the New York Auto Show 2018, the automaker has confirmed today. The fifth generation of the compact crossover SUV, the new RAV4 will be Toyota’s most significant change to the vehicle since the 2013 model year. It’ll also be an opportunity to set out its stall against arch nemesis Honda. Honda has had much of the attention in the compact crossover segment to itself of late, courtesy of the CR-V. Revamped for the 2017 model year, it promptly left the RAV4 looking fairly passé. Honda took extra pains to highlight the areas where its SUV pulled ahead, including the economy from its new 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, and its more flexible cabin.Now, it’s Toyota’s chance to turn the tables. Details on the 2019 RAV4 are still in short supply, with only the above image supplied to whet our appetite around aesthetic changes. The overall silhouette for the RAV4 looks fairly unchanged, though we’d not be surprised if the SUV gained some sharper edges inspired by the chunky little C-HR. Inside meanwhile, we’re expecting to see a more upscale cabin with a greater focus on usable stowage space. Modern crossovers are tripping over themselves to add family-friendly features like iPad-scale cubbies and plentiful USB ports for charging. If we’re lucky, Toyota will also deem the 2019 RAV4 as worthy of an infotainment upgrade. The automaker has finally joined the Apple CarPlay movement, having obstinately refused – and pushed its own app-based system – for several years. That changed with an announcement back in January that, with the 2019 Avalon, CarPlay would finally be arriving in Toyota dashboards. We can only assume that a mass-market car like the RAV4 will also benefit.Whether the crossover will also get Alexa integration remains to be seen. That was part of the automaker’s big announcement at CES 2018, with Amazon’s virtual assistant being included in Entune 3.0, the newest version of Toyota’s infotainment system. Again, given the automaker will be under pressure to differentiate the new RAV4 from its segment rivals, we wouldn’t be surprised if it was at least on the options list. Meanwhile, engine choices are likely to include gas-only and hybrid variants, another area where Toyota could get a jump on its CR-V nemesis. Although the CR-V Hybrid has been made official, with Honda unveiling it last year at the Shanghai Auto Show, it’s still not available in the US. For drivers on a fuel efficiency crusade, that could make all the difference.
Could the 2019 Toyota RAV4 be the most important car of the New York International Auto Show this year? A heavy responsibility resting on the shoulders of Toyota’s best-selling small SUV, but something that the car – now in its fifth generation – is probably up to handling. It’s the most in-demand model in the automaker’s line-up, after all. 2019 Toyota RAV4 Gallery Toyota will have a number of configurations of the new SUV. There’s the 2019 RAV4 Adventure, which has standard high-rise roof rails and beefier over-fenders, together with a more aggressive grille, fog lamp surrounds, and new wheels. Like all AWD gas RAV4 models, it has Multi-Terrain Select with settings for snow, mud, sand, and rocks. Toyota is offering a contrast roof option, too, and optional orange interior trim. The 2019 RAV4 Limited, meanwhile, gets 19-inch alloy wheels and chrome accents on the exterior to give it a more upscale look. It gets a digital rearview mirror inside, along with a 7-inch Multi-Information Display, moonroof, and power-adjusted driver’s seat. Ventilated and heated seats are options, as is a panoramic moonroof and a hands-free power liftgate. AdChoices广告The 2019 RAV4 XSE Hybrid, finally, gets a two-tone exterior with a contrast roof. Inside, there’s Softex fabric seats with blue highlights. Every RAV4 gets Toyota’s latest Entune 3.0 infotainment system, with Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa integration, and 4G LTE WiFi hotspot support on Verizon’s network. As standard it has a 7-inch touchscreen; an 8-inch touchscreen is an option on Entune 3.0 Audio Plus.Under the hood, there’s a choice of two engines. On the one hand there’s a 2.5-liter inline-four gas engine with VVT-iE, paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Those embracing electrification can opt for the hybrid, which pairs a Dynamic Force 2.5-liter inline-four engine with electric drive and a CVT. Toyota’s new Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive with Rear Driveline Disconnect is standard on the AWD-spec’d Limited gas and Adventure grade 2019 RAV4 models. That can push up to half off the engine torque to the rear wheels, as well as shift it left or right depending on traction needs. When AWD isn’t required, the RAV4 can disconnect the rear driveshaft altogether, making for more economical driving along with a quieter and smoother ride. Somewhat confusingly, though, it’s not the only AWD system Toyota is offering on the new SUV. There’s also AWD-i on the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid, which uses electric motors on the rear wheels. Compared to the current car, the 2019 model can push 30-percent more torque to the back when needed. Finally, there’s the regular AWD system – which lacks Dynamic Torque Vectoring – which will be on the entry-spec gas models. In the cabin, there’s more new tech than just CarPlay. Up to five USB ports have been included, spread between the front and rear of the car, and there’s an optional Qi wireless charging tray. An 800 watt JBL audio system is available, with eleven speakers and Clari-Fi tuning technology. Opt for the Entune upgrade and you get navigation, too. Toyota Safety Sense, its suite of active safety tech, gets an upgrade for the new SUV too. As standard there’s pre-collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, dynamic cruise control (0-110 mph), lane departure alert with steering assistance, and auto high-beams. New for the 2019 RAV4 is Lane Tracing Assist, which helps keep the car in the center of the lane on highways, and Road Sign Assist, which can spot Stop, Yield, Do Not Enter, and Speed Limit signs and then give a dashboard warning. Blind-spot monitoring, a 360-degree surround view camera, parking sensors, and rear cross traffic braking are options. A reversing camera is standard-fit. What Toyota is yet to confirm is just how much the new 2019 RAV4 will cost. We’ll find that out when it arrives in dealerships later this year. For the 2019 model year, Toyota switches to the TNGA K platform, which comes with a number of benefits. For a start it gives the small SUV a bigger-than-the-sheet-metal appearance, with a longer wheelbase and wider front and rear tracks. However, at just shy of 181-inches long overall, it’s actually a little shorter than the outgoing 2018 RAV4. It’s also slightly wider, and slightly lower. Shorter front and rear overhangs add up to better performance off-road, and there’s over half an inch more ground clearance, should the RAV4 ever make it there. Road and mud use should benefit from the 57-percent increase in chassis rigidity, though, and new multi-link rear suspension. Forward visibility has been improved by lowering the side mirrors on the doors; the belt line has been lowered as well, along with bigger rear-quarter glass windows.
The gigantic opening in the front of the car is presumably to allow the supercharged engine to slurp in more cooling air. Power robbing heat soak is always a concern with supercharged cars and high-performance use. There is no word on when the car will launch, but it has been rumored for some time next year.SOURCE: Mustang6g We are very excited at the prospect of a new GT500 around here. There have been several rumors about the car, with one hinting the Mustang would have a 200mph top speed. The new leaked images are claimed to come from a dealer meeting where the car was introduced and the ride in the pictures certainly looks like what Ford has been teasing. The leaks claim that details offered up at the Las Vegas dealer meeting indicate power in the 780 to 790hp range. The 10-speed automatic transmission that has been rumored is said to be an option. Some feared that the GT500 would be offered with an automatic only.The 6-speed manual is tipped to be the base transmission offering and the one purists are most likely to want. The car is said to wear lots of carbon fiber tidbits and to have lots of aerodynamic elements fitted. Aero and carbon fiber might mean the car will have a road course focus along the lines of the Ford Shelby GT350.Traditionally the GT500 Mustang has been more of a straight-line car meant for the drag strip and rarely seen on a road course. Obviously, Ford isn’t talking about the car right now. Word is that cell phones were checked at the door of this event, but clearly at least one got through.
Wide-angle lenses are becoming more and more popular on smartphones these days. They’re great for taking photos of sweeping landscapes, allowing you to take in as much of the scene as you can. But wide-angle lenses come with a cost that is made all apparent when people are part of the scene.The lens often distorts objects and faces that are at the sides and corners, making them look squished and stretched. There are various methods to correct these ranging from manual editing to automated procedures. The latter often corrects faces but then distorts the rest of the photo instead.Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory or CSAIL have developed an algorithm that prevents that from happening. Instead of applying the stereographic projection only to faces while using perspective projection to the background.AdChoices广告What makes the research algorithm quite ideal is that it’s fully automatic and interactive. In other words, it’s the type of software fix you can use on smartphones to immediately correct distorted wide-angle photos. When it comes to mobile photography, Google proved two important things. First, megapixel count isn’t the end all and be all of quality. The second is that software can sometimes achieve what sometimes requires additional or more advanced software. Since then, it has become en vogue among smartphone makers to use AI, machine learning, and algorithms to produce certain effects using smartphone cameras. Now a group of MIT Researchers has come up with an algorithm to fix yet another common complaint about smartphone cameras: distorted wide-angle photos.
Upon landing the Eagle during the moon landing mission, Apollo 11, the team selected a silver Hasselblad Data Camera (HDC) with Réseau plate, fitted with a Zeiss Biogon 60mm ƒ/5.6 lens to photograph the surface. This camera was attached to Neil Armstrong’s space suit. A black Hasselblad Electric Camera (HEC) with a Zeiss Planar 80mm ƒ/2,8 lens was used to photograph images from within the Eagle lunar module. The HDC was amongst several pieces of hardware left on the moon’s surface. After removing film magazines from the camera body, the body and the lens were left on the surface so that the mission could make sure as possible their take off and safe return to the surface of the Earth. UPDATE: The second camera and lens were also left behind, putting the number of cameras with lenses left on the surface of the moon at two. By the time Apollo 17 left the surface, there’d be twelve camera bodies on the surface of the moon. They’re still up there now, as far as we’re aware.AdChoices广告 A third black Hasselblad Electric Camera (HEC) was used on the Command Module Columbia in lunar orbit during this same mission. That camera, handled by astronaut Michael Collins, was safely returned to the Earth’s surface. Each of the photos included in this article (save those of the cameras) were captured during the Apollo 11 mission on our Earth’s moon. This week Hasselblad released a 907X Special Edition in concert with the 50th anniversary of humanity’s first successful human landing on the moon. This special edition includes a 907X camera body and CFV II 50C digital back, both in “matte black, just as the HEC that made it back to Earth.”Because Hasselblad cameras were used in the Apollo 11 mission on the moons surface, and (in a sort of cheeky way) because Hasselblad cameras have likely sat on the surface of the moon ever since, the following message is included on the new special edition camera: “On the Moon Since 1969.”FUN FACT: The font used on the panel with this text is reminiscent of the FUTURA used on the original Apollo 11 plaque left on the moon during this mission. Back on July 20, 1969, when the Eagle landed on our moon, it was a Hasselblad camera that was chosen to take photographs. Now that we’re here 50 years later, Hasselblad isn’t about to let that fact be forgotten. As such, they’ve delivered all the important facts on their participation with the mission, including a full gear readout for the cameras used on each major photograph. ALSO there’s a newly-minted special edition moon landing camera ready to roll for consumers this week. This new special edition camera can be had for approximately (MSRP) €6500 / $7499 / £5825 excl. VA. More information on the release of this special edition camera will be revealed soon. Technical specifications for this camera (as they arrive) can be found at Hasselblad and here on SlashGear when the actual final launch is near! Story TimelineDJI and Hasselblad team for a 100-megapixel camera droneHasselblad H6D-400c MS camera produces 400MP 2.3GB imagesHasselblad X1D II delivers cheaper, faster 50MP medium format camera
Roundup: Sole Abortion Clinic In Miss. Sues Over New Law; Kansas Awards Medicaid Managed Care Contracts This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. A selection of health policy stories from Mississippi, Kansas, California, Missouri, Massachusetts and North Carolina.Reuters: Mississippi’s Sole Abortion Clinic Sues Over New LawThe lone abortion facility in Mississippi asked a federal court on Wednesday to block a new state law that will require doctors who perform the controversial procedure to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The law, set to take effect on Sunday, threatens to make Mississippi the only U.S. state without an abortion clinic. Some anti-abortion state lawmakers say they hope that would mean an end to abortions there (Le Coz, 6/27). The Associated Press: Lone Miss. Abortion Clinic Fights Limiting LawMississippi’s only abortion clinic sued Wednesday to stop a law that it says will effectively ban abortion in the state and endanger women’s health by limiting access to the procedure. Jackson Women’s Health Organization said in the federal lawsuit that the measure would close the clinic, is unconstitutional and would ban abortion in Mississippi “by imposing medically unjustified requirements on physicians who perform abortions” (Wagster Pettus, 6/27).Kansas Health Institute: KanCare Contracts AwardedAs part of the push by Gov. Sam Brownback to remake the state Medicaid program, Kansas officials today announced contract awards to three Medicaid managed care companies. Kansas Medicaid serves about 350,000 Kansans at an annual cost of about $2.8 billion. The program, if implemented as proposed, would be divided equally among the three companies, each of which will be expected to provide services statewide. Brownback has said the chief aims of his proposed reforms, called KanCare, are to curb growth in state Medicaid spending while improving health outcomes for the people who rely on the program’s coverage (Shields, 6/27).Los Angeles Times: CalPERS Considers Revamping Health Plans To Lower Its Medical TabCalifornia’s biggest health care buyer isn’t happy about its $7-billion annual medical bill climbing almost 10 percent next year, and the state’s big insurers may be feeling the heat. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is preparing to rebid its health insurance business this fall for 1.3 million members, and two of its current plans, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California, are likely to face intense competition as the giant pension fund considers its options (Terhune, 6/28).St. Louis Beacon: Advocates For Disabled Sue State To Thwart Medicaid Policy ChangeJune is turning out to be a bittersweet month for some disabled Missourians. The good news is that more of them will be allowed to remain in their homes rather than move into nursing homes, thanks to $100.9 million made available under the Affordable Care Act if the law is upheld by the Supreme Court. The bad news is that, beginning July 1, Missouri is headed for a Medicaid spend-down showdown unrelated to the ACA. That’s the day when some chronically ill and disabled dialysis patients may end up having to move into nursing homes anyway as Missouri corrects what it says was an error in state Medicaid policy (Joiner, 6/27).Boston Globe: Aetna, Massachusetts Settle Insurance Dispute For More Than $1MAetna Life Insurance Co. has agreed to pay more than $1 million in civil penalties and restitution to settle charges that it failed to cover health insurance benefits mandated by Massachusetts law and deceptively marketed health care coverage to college students in the state. The deal was spelled out in a consent judgment filed Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, along with a complaint by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, outlining the scope of alleged consumer violations by the national insurance giant (Weisman, 6/28). North Carolina Health News: NCHN Exclusive: Don Berwick InterviewFormer Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Dr. Don Berwick was in Charlotte this week to speak to a conference of public health experts. NCHN editor Rose Hoban sat down with him to get his thoughts on changes in the health care system in the U.S. and in North Carolina (6/27).
48 People Charged In Black Market Medicaid Drug Scheme New York authorities say those charged sold more than $100 million of HIV medications and other drugs obtained from Medicaid patients.The Associated Press/Washington Post: Authorities In NY Charge 48 People In Massive Medicaid Fraud Case Costing Millions Of DollarsA nationwide prescription drug ring bought mountains of HIV medications and other drugs from down-and-out Medicaid recipients in New York City, then marketed the pills to pharmacies that dispensed them to unsuspecting consumers, authorities said Tuesday (7/17).Reuters: U.S. Busts $108 Million Black Market In Medicaid DrugsOperators of a nationwide black market have illegally sold more than $100 million of expensive HIV medications and other drugs obtained from patients on the government-run Medicaid health insurance plan, U.S. authorities said on Tuesday. Four dozen people were charged in documents unsealed in Manhattan federal court with running a scheme to repackage and sell medication bought on the street from recipients of Medicaid, the medical insurance program for the poor and disabled (Katz, 7/17).The Wall Street Journal: Widespread Drugs Fraud Is AllegedFederal prosecutors in Manhattan said the people involved in the alleged scheme obtained the drugs from low-income and other Medicaid recipients—who would get them at a steep discount or for free—and then resold the drugs through a network of corrupt wholesale distribution companies (Bray, 7/17). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
States Continue Sorting Out Choices About Health Exchanges, Medicaid Expansion Kansas, South Dakota and Texas are among the states still making decisions — or reconsidering old ones — about the health law’s insurance exchanges and the Medicaid expansion.Kansas Health Institute News: ACA Opponent Says Brownback Should Reconsider Stand On Insurance ExchangeLike Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Bob Laszewski is a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act. Despite that, the Washington, D.C. consultant said at a meeting here today that Brownback is making a mistake by refusing to partner with the federal government to run the Kansas health insurance purchasing exchange that the law requires to be operational by 2014. … Brownback last year blocked Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger’s attempts to establish a state-operated exchange, returning a $31.5 million federal grant in the process. Last month, the governor told Praeger, who also is a Republican, that he would not support her efforts to partner with the federal government to operate and fund the Kansas exchange (McLean, 12/4).Politico Pro: South Dakota Governor: ‘No’ On Expansion For NowSouth Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard says the state won’t expand Medicaid for now — but he’s not ruling it out for the long term. Daugaard, a Republican, included no funding for the optional expansion in his proposed budget for fiscal year 2014, which he released Tuesday. But he said in an address to the state Legislature that expansion is not “a now-or-never decision” — and left the door open for an expansion or partial expansion in the future (Smith, 12/4).The Texas Tribune: Interactive: Comparing State Medicaid ExpansionsIf Texas lawmakers decide to expand Medicaid, as called for in the federal Affordable Care Act, the spending, savings, enrollment growth and reduction in the number of uninsured residents are poised to be greater in Texas than in most other states. This interactive compares the expansion of Medicaid in each state using data from a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care think tank (Aaronson, 12/5).In the meantime, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will meet with state lawmakers on health law implementation Wednesday –Politico Pro: Sebelius To Meet With State Lawmakers On ACAState legislators are scheduled to meet with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the department headquarters Wednesday to discuss implementation of the health care law. Sebelius asked for the meeting with the members of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Federal Health Reform Implementation Task Force, who are in town for the group’s fall forum. She is scheduled to meet with the legislators for 30 minutes Wednesday afternoon. Joy Johnson Wilson, who directs health policy for NCSL, said she wants to hear Sebelius talk about state flexibility. That’s a message that governors stressed during a White House meeting with President Barack Obama on Tuesday (Millman, 12/4). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
Also in the news, the vice president of a popular restaurant chain discusses how his business might respond to the health law’s coverage mandates.National Journal: Poll: Even Supporters Of Obamacare Are Ambivalent About The LawOpponents of President Obama’s health care law overwhelmingly believe the Affordable Care Act will worsen the quality of their care, and even a plurality of the law’s supporters don’t think it will improve their health care, though they think it will benefit the poor and uninsured. These findings from this week’s United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll underscore why the law has become so politically precarious for the White House (Shepard, 7/25).Los Angeles Times: White Castle VP Talks Part-Time Workers In Response To Health Care LawAs President Obama’s health care law rolls out in the coming years, business owners are figuring out how they will comply with coverage mandates. One popular restaurant chain, White Castle, may in the future hire only part-time workers once the law is fully implemented, according to Vice President Jamie Richardson. Richardson told NPR in an interview that the company is trying to figure out how to keep costs down (Lopez, 7/25).And on the topic of alternative medicine — Kaiser Health News: Health Law Boosts Status Of Alternative Medicine — At Least On PaperComplementary and alternative medicine — a term that encompasses meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic care and homeopathic treatment, among other things — has become increasingly popular. About four in 10 adults (and one in nine children) in the U.S. are using some form of alternative medicine, according to the National Institutes of Health. And with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the field could make even more headway in the mainstream health care system. That is, unless the fine print — in state legislation and insurance plans — falls short because of unclear language and insufficient oversight (Rao, 7/26). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. New Poll Gauges ‘Politically Precarious’ Status Of Health Law
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Consumer Group Presses Hospitals To Stop ‘Unethical’ Screenings Public Citizen called on 20 hospitals to stop partnering with companies that promote low-cost medical screenings, which it says can lead to unneeded, expensive and even risky follow-up exams.Kaiser Health News: Consumer Group Urges Hospitals To Stop Questionable ScreeningsConsumer advocacy group Public Citizen on Thursday called on 20 hospital systems to stop partnering with companies that offer low-cost screenings for heart disease and stroke risk, saying the promotions are ‘unethical’ and the exams are more likely to do harm than good (Appleby, 6/19).Los Angeles Times: Consumer Group Urges Hospitals To Stop ‘Unethical’ Health Screenings A prominent consumer group is calling on 20 hospitals, including three in Southern California, to stop marketing medical tests to patients that the group considers unnecessary and unethical. Public Citizen said it sent letters to hospitals in eight states Thursday asking the institutions to cut ties with HealthFair Health Screening of Winter Park, Fla., because its heavily advertised testing program is likely to do more harm than good for consumers (Terhune, 6/19). USA Today: Consumer Group Urges Hospitals To End Mass Screenings A consumer group called on hospitals across the USA to stop “fear mongering” by marketing health screenings directly to patients. Public Citizen says the low-cost tests — advertised for what appear to be “bargain basement” prices — often lead to expensive and even risky follow-up exams (Szabo, 6/19).
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. In other hospital news — In Search Of The Next Bill Gates: Hospitals Gamble On Health-Tech Startups In Hopes Of Striking Big “We view this as a strategic investment. It will be important to the care of patients and we also can presumably make money,” says Thomas Thornton, senior vice president of Northwell Ventures, the for-profit arm of a health system in New York. The Wall Street Journal: Hospitals Fund Potential Game-Changers In Health Tech Luis F. Romo is chasing the startup dream, developing a device that disinfects operating rooms and stretchers by zapping them with ultraviolet rays. The 30-year-old Mr. Romo has a catchy name for his invention, “PurpleSun,” and a solid but untraditional backer: a hospital. Northwell Health, of New Hyde Park, N.Y., has put about $3 million into Mr. Romo’s idea and may invest more in coming years. As hospital-acquired infections have become the scourge of modern institutions, Northwell officials are eager to put the germ-fighting device to work in their 23 hospitals. They also hope to make back their investment—and more—if other hospitals want to use PurpleSun. (Lagnado, 3/7) The ratio of not-for-profit hospital and health system credit downgrades to upgrades rose in 2017 to levels that were even higher than during the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, according to a new report from Moody’s Investors Service. There were 41 downgrades and 12 upgrades in 2017, a ratio of 3.4-to-1. That’s compared with 2.8-to-1 and 2-to-1 in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Last year’s ratio was also higher than in 2016, a year that saw 32 downgrades and 21 upgrades, or a 1.5-to-1 ratio, according to Moody’s. (Bannow, 3/6) Modern Healthcare: Not-For-Profit Hospital Downgrades Surged In 2017