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Georgia retirees file class-action lawsuit over health plan

A state board’s decision five years ago to change health insurance policies so that some recently retired educators would pay dramatically more for coverage is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit.

Some of the retirees — who have seen their rates about triple since they retired this year — argue in the lawsuit filed last week in Fulton County Superior Court that the Department of Community Health’s board broke a contract with them to provide the same state-subsidized insurance as other retirees.

“We just want to be treated fairly,” said Chuck Trader, a second-career Camden County teacher who retired over the summer and is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “They have taken away what we’ve earned. Had a I known, I would have maybe not chosen to become a teacher.”

The lawsuit was filed about three weeks after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported on the policy.

A Department of Community Health spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

The policy was approved through a resolution a few weeks before Christmas in 2011.



The resolution created a system that gave retirees — teachers, school staffers, state employees — insurance subsidies based on their years of service. Anyone with less than five years of service with the state or a school system on Jan. 1, 2012, would get relatively little subsidy after 10 years. But the subsidy would increase with more time working for the state or school system.

While DCH officials sent out a memo in February 2012 to districts and agencies informing them about the decision — aimed at saving the state plan money — retirees and teachers contacted by the AJC said they didn’t know about what they called the “retroactive effect.”

The issue came to a head this fall because teachers, school staffers and employees hired in the 2007-2008 school year became vested in the state retirement systems after 10 years over the summer.

They began retiring, expecting to continue receiving state health insurance for the same premiums they were paying while they were working.

They say they found out after they retired that they’d have to pay nearly the full freight on the health care plan because they didn’t have five full years in the system as of January 2012.

Trader had left a career in corporate finance to become a middle school math teacher. When he retired after 10 years, his family’s insurance went from $540 a month to $1,611. That’s almost double the $870 pension check he receives for his decade in the classroom

Last month DCH officials declined a request for an interview on the issue but said in written responses to questions that the policy was “a proactive step toward plan sustainability for current and future retirees.” The “plan” that the DCH statement refers to is the $3 billion-a-year State Health Benefit Plan, which covers about 650,000 teachers, state employees, retirees and their dependents.

DCH officials have often projected massive deficits in the program and have made several changes to it over the years to keep it solvent.

In its written response to the AJC, the agency said it didn’t know how many teachers and state employees would be affected, and it didn’t answer a question asking how much the plan is projected to save.

Besides the earlier memo, the DCH said the agency sent out a letter in December 2016 to State Health Benefit Plan members who had not been part of the plan as of Jan. 1, 2012, notifying them about the policy.

Teachers and employees who retired this year when they reached 10 years in the system said they weren’t told about the issue when they talked with benefits managers this spring prior to leaving.

Critics of the policy say it could put a damper on the plans of second-career teachers, those wanting to teach 10 to 12 years after successful careers in other fields with the incentive that they’ll be able to retire with affordable health insurance.

“This is going to affect the recruitment of teachers,” Trader said. “And who is going to go to work for people who break their promises?”

The lawsuit asks for damages and for the policy change to not affect those on the payroll when it was approved in 2011.

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3D sandbox action-RPG ‘Portal Knights’ has been ported to Android

Portal Knights is an adorable looking 3D sandbox action-RPG developed by Keen Games and published by 505 Games. It was initially released on PC and consoles back in May of this year and has only recently been ported to Android and published on the Play Store. Its design is obviously very reminiscent of Minecraft, but it differentiates itself by including a few RPG character classes, a wide range of random instanced events, and plenty of epic boss battles.

The first thing I would like to point out that Portal Knights is indeed a console experience on mobile. Better yet, this Android release is priced at $4.99. When compared to its console and PC counterparts that cost $19.99, it is apparent that the Android price is most definitely a steal for the amount of content you receive in return. And despite the fact that the Play Store listing shows that there are in-app purchases included in the game, there are in fact none to be found.

You will start out by choosing your character’s class, which range from warrior, ranger, to mage. After you customize your character and name your universe, you will be plunked down into a randomly generated world. From here you will make your way through the game’s tutorial, which shows you the basic controls and general real-time fighting mechanics.

As for the gameplay, well, it offers just about what you would expect of a 3D sandbox action-RPG. You get to traverse plenty of unique environments, meet tons of NPC characters, discover a whole range of creatures and resources for crafting. Plus there are plenty of caves, lakes, and dungeons to make your way through that are filled with quite a few surprises. All of the combat is action-based, and there are plenty of ways to go about building a ton of different structures. You will also be tasked with collecting dozens of materials to craft those structures as well as all of your supplies.

094ea_nexus2cee_Portal-Knights_Mobile_Pet-329x185 3D sandbox action-RPG 'Portal Knights' has been ported to Android 094ea_nexus2cee_Portal-Knights_Mobile_Pet-329x185 3D sandbox action-RPG 'Portal Knights' has been ported to Android

The controls work well enough on a touchscreen, though the camera often needs correcting. I found the default camera sensitivity to be a little too high, though it can be adjusted in the game’s settings. But even with a lowered sensitivity the camera still feels as though it is lagging behind where you are moving it. This can be disorienting and does not help when you are in the middle of a battle. I also noticed that there is no HID controller support, which seems odd for a game ported from consoles and PC. I would say the controls are where I struggled the most.

Loading times are also a real pain. It takes forever for Portal Knights to boot up, with it only displaying a black screen that makes you think your phone has turned off. Then you have to deal with even more loading when opening up your universe. I’d say in total it takes a good 3-4 minutes to get into the game.

It is also worth noting that Google Play Games Services are supported with an auto-sign in and an achievement system. Glaringly absent is a cloud save feature. Honestly, at this point, I find it pretty confounding that cloud saving is not a staple for such prominent releases.

Oh, and as of version 1.2.7, the game takes up 519 MB of storage. So it may not be the largest release on Android, but it will take a little while to download the game in full, so be prepared.

094ea_nexus2cee_Portal-Knights_Mobile_Pet-329x185 3D sandbox action-RPG 'Portal Knights' has been ported to Android 094ea_nexus2cee_Portal-Knights_Mobile_Pet-329x185 3D sandbox action-RPG 'Portal Knights' has been ported to Android 094ea_nexus2cee_Portal-Knights_Mobile_Pet-329x185 3D sandbox action-RPG 'Portal Knights' has been ported to Android

All in all, I would say Portal Knights is a quality port that could still use a little polishing. The gameplay can be pretty fun even though you will have to fight with the camera alittle too often. Also, the lack of cloud saving is a major sore spot for me. Luckily the price point is just right, so these quibbles can be easily ignored when you consider just how much content and replayability you receive for $4.99. While I can’t say this is the next Minecraft, the slight changes to the standard sandbox formula and the addition of instanced events and boss battles gives the player a lot more to explore and a sense of progression that is difficult to deny.

094ea_nexus2cee_Portal-Knights_Mobile_Pet-329x185 3D sandbox action-RPG 'Portal Knights' has been ported to Android

Community urges action on SLO County Jail, mental health improvements

A mental health treatment wing in the San Luis Obispo County Jail and an emergency detoxification center are two projects that grabbed the attention of the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday among a list of recommendations for improving local mental health treatment.

Supervisors received recommendations from two ad hoc committees tasked with identifying problems at the jail and County Health Agency and suggesting solutions for preventing people from cycling through the criminal justice system.

“These are things that are urgent — they’re needed right now,” Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley told the board during public comment.

Following a $5 million settlement the county said it would pay the family of a mentally ill jail inmate who died in custody in January, the county created a Sheriff’s Task Force on Mental Health to bring together stakeholders to prevent similar deaths. Officials have said that the jail is overburdened with inmates with serious chronic medical and mental health problems.

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In October, the supervisors voted to enroll the county in the Stepping Up Initiative, a national campaign in which local governments pledge to keep people with serious mental health needs out of the criminal justice system. Since then, the Mental Health Task Force was renamed the Stepping Up planning committee, which finalized a three-page list of recommendations to improve local treatment that included options for increasing mental health treatment at the jail, improving training for law enforcement and building detox and urgent care walk-in clinics.

A second executive committee made up of county officials prioritized those recommendations before the list went before the board Tuesday.

These are things that are urgent — they’re needed right now.

Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley

Separately, the county is also awaiting results of a review by a third-party consultant also tasked with providing recommended changes. Results of that review, requested by county administration, are expected within the first two months of 2018, County Counsel Rita Neal told the board.

A request for proposals to contract outside medical and mental health services at the jail is also expected to be released early next year.

Of the possible improvements already in motion, the Sheriff’s Office is expecting to open its newly constructed medical facility building at the jail in May 2018, Sheriff Ian Parkinson told the board Tuesday. The facility’s former building can be repurposed to provide an on-site mental health treatment and housing area.

“That process is moving forward in every which way we can,” Parkinson said.

Tuesday’s hearing was attended by the county’s seven police chiefs, officials from the jail and County Health, members of the county Grand Jury and several residents who say their families have been affected by a local lack of services.

Los Osos resident Linda Martin, who said her daughter injured herself after being denied medication and placed in a County Jail safety cell in 2016, said treatment of inmates at the jail now is a “crisis.”

Related stories from The Tribune

 Community urges action on SLO County Jail, mental health improvements

Long to-do list for SLO County Jail calls for a mental health facility, more staff

 Community urges action on SLO County Jail, mental health improvements

Locked away: SLO County residents say treatment worsened family members’ mental illness

“Competent psychiatrists need to be put in place right now,” Martin said.

That urgency was echoed by San Luis Obispo attorney Stew Jenkins, who urged the board to shore up funding for solutions that could be enacted quickly, such as hiring more staff at the jail.

“While (requests for proposals) are prepared, people are going to continue to die,” Jenkins said.

While (requests for proposals) are prepared, people are going to continue to die.

San Luis Obispo attorney Stew Jenkins

Aurora William, executive director of ECHO shelter in Atascadero, said the current system for people struggling with mental illness and substance abuse has “left us with a lot of families that are fragmented.” William told the board that a local detoxification facility is long overdue.

The board was set to simply receive and file the committee’s recommendations, but each supervisor added additional direction to staff about what they want to know next time the issue comes before the board, likely early next year.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson said that he wanted staff to select the top three to five recommendations or projects that make the most strategic sense to start first and come back with cost and time estimates.

Gibson also suggested shifting the leadership of the overall effort to the county’s administrative office, rather than the Sheriff’s Office, which he said would be better at engaging non-government stakeholders such as the faith and business communities. No other official backed Gibson’s recommendation.

Supervisor Adam Hill asked for staff to provide an update on the proposed 91-bed psychiatric hospital in Templeton approved by the county in March 2016. Behavioral Health Director Anne Robin said the county has not received an update from the developer on the private hospital in some time, but the most recent estimates have the facility completed in 2021, Robin said. An update on the project will come back before the board early next year.

While supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton said they wanted the Sheriff’s Office to continue moving forward with prioritizing the various improvements, Compton added that she wanted more information on mental health urgent care centers and identifying potential partners for such a facility.

Lastly, Supervisor John Peschong said he wanted staff to consult with the county’s lobbyist to see if there are legislative avenues to increase the number of beds in the county’s psychiatric facility, which is federally licensed for 16 beds.

Google faces class action over iPhone

Google is in the doghouse or, at least, in the courthouse. The search giant is facing a class action from a group calling itself Google You Owe US.

The legal action is specifically being taken by iPhone users based on the way that Google has dealt with the Apple devices. The group claims that Google bypass the privacy setting on iPhone’s Safari browser  and, by doing so, was able to track internet browsing history for the purpose of selling targeted ads.

Google You Owe Us calls this the Safari Workaround and says that “the Safari Workaround meant that Google knew which pages we visited and how often. Google used this data to sell a service to its advertising called the ‘DoubleClick Service’.  Using browsing data, the DoubleClick Service enables advertisers to target and tailor adverts according to the iPhone user’s preferences.”

The action has been prompted by an earlier case, Vidal Hall v Google in 2015. This was settled out of court but the issues raised by the trial are now being examined again.

Damages

Leading the class action is consumer rights expert, Richard Lloyd, former director the Consumers Association and Which? magazine. He’s being represented by leading law firm Mishcon De Reya.

Users are not likely to get wealthy from the case, Google You Owe Us says that damages are likely to less than £1000 but with more than five million iPhone users in the UK, that would represent a substantial payout for Google.

Google faces UK class action over iPhone data snooping – The Verge

Google may be forced to pay out compensation to more than 5 million Brits if a class action lawsuit in the UK is successful. A group, labeling itself “Google You Owe Us,” is taking Google to court, claiming it unlawfully collected personal information by bypassing privacy settings on Apple’s iPhone Safari browser. Google, Facebook, and several other online advertising networks were caught in 2012 using a workaround to bypass restrictions, allowing the companies to deposit cookies on an iPhone even if the device was set to block them.

While Google claimed at the time its practice was limited to the company’s failed Google+ initiative, the UK lawsuit alleges that Google used the workaround to track “internet browsing history, which Google then used to sell a targeted advertising service.” Google’s revenues rely on selling targeted ads, and obtaining as much personal information on its users to sell services and recommend products.

Richard Lloyd, former director of consumer body Which? In the UK, is taking Google to court alongside law firm Mischon de Reya. “I believe that what Google did was simply against the law. Their actions have affected millions, and we’ll be asking the courts to remedy this major breach of trust,” explains Lloyd in an interview with The Guardian. “Through this action, we will send a strong message to Google and other tech giants in Silicon Valley that we’re not afraid to fight back if our laws are broken.”

The case is rather unique in the UK against a giant tech company. While there have been numerous class action lawsuits in the US against big tech companies, the practice isn’t as widespread in the UK. Google was forced to pay a $22.5 million fine for the same Safari privacy breach back in 2012. At the time it was one of the highest fines the Federal Trade Commission had administered. Britain’s High Court will hear the case some time next year, and if the action is successful then iPhone users from 2011-2012 will be able to claim part of the damages. Google says it will defend the case. “This is not new,” says a Google spokesperson. “We have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it.”

How to get insane action shots on an iPhone X

5c5f4_snapseed-6 How to get insane action shots on an iPhone X


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Snagging great action photos doesn’t require a pro-level dSLR. Your iPhone camera is capable of capturing some brilliant moments, as long as you put in a bit of effort too.

I spent time with two pro skateboarders here in London and put together a set of tips to keep in mind — and some things to avoid — to help you get the best shots out of your new iPhone X.

While my tips are built around skateboarding, they can apply to most action sports, including BMX, inline skating or mountain biking. And while I used an iPhone X, most of these tips apply to any phone.

  • This article is part of my series on how to take better photos with your phone. Make sure to check out my best tips on taking great shots of cars.

Better light means better photos

5c5f4_snapseed-6 How to get insane action shots on an iPhone XEnlarge Image

I like the angle on this shot, but the dimly lit skate park we were in didn’t produce good results.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Light is crucial for photography, of course, but the small sensor on a phone’s camera makes finding good lighting even more important. When an iPhone detects a darker scene, for example, it will compensate by slowing the shutter speed to let in more light. That’s bad news for sports photography as any action in the scene may end up looking blurred.

My first photoshoot was with British skateboarder Helena Long at a skate park underneath a bridge in west London. Typically overcast, dreary weather made the skate spot dark and shadowy, so even though Helena was able to pull off some amazing tricks, my shots of her were consistently dark and blurred.

The one shot I was even remotely happy required a lot of brightening in the editing app Snapseed (see below), which reduces the quality of the picture by adding image noise. As such, the details are extremely mushy when viewed at full screen (click here for the full-size image).

To ensure better light for my second shoot, I met DC Shoes pro skateboarder Dave Snaddon on a sunny day in Stratford in east London. Under bright skies that filled the scene with light, my iPhone X was able to use fast shutter speeds, freezing Dave in action and delivering crisp shots.

Burst mode is your best friend

In skateboarding — as with most sports — the action happens fast. Taking just one photo when your subject tries a trick might not capture the best moment. Perhaps the feet aren’t in quite the right position, or the skateboard has rotated a bit too far. Or maybe you missed the moment altogether.

Using burst mode — by just holding your finger down on the shutter button — lets you continuously take shots throughout the duration of the action. Once it’s all over, you can flick back through every frame, selecting only the best ones and easily discarding the rest.

Emphasise the height by shooting down low

5c5f4_snapseed-6 How to get insane action shots on an iPhone X

By shooting at floor level, the height is emphasised on this neat kickflip.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Getting the right angle for a shot can make all the difference in creating maximum excitement in a photo. By getting down low (I laid down on the ground for many of my shots) you emphasise the distance between the ground and the skater. The result is that even a low jump off a small ledge can look much higher and more impressive.

If you’re particularly brave you can even shoot from directly below as they soar over you — just make sure they’re good enough to not land on you!

Get up close…

By getting closer to the action you’ll be able to see much more of the stunt they’re performing. By removing the distracting background, your eyes are drawn to the position of the feet, the motion of the board or the look of concentration on the face of the skater. All of these help to heighten the drama — and the danger — that action sports involve.

Again, make sure to stay safe when you do get in close. Confirm with the skater beforehand exactly where they’re going to land so that your face isn’t accidentally in the way. Always keep one eye on the skateboard itself. It’s all too easy for it to come flying towards your head if they land incorrectly.

5c5f4_snapseed-6 How to get insane action shots on an iPhone XEnlarge Image

By moving back I was able to show more of this street scene, including the concrete ledge, the steps and the interesting metalwork on the building.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

…then move further away

While it’s great to get right into the action, it’s also important to move back and capture the whole scene to put your subject in context of the location you’re shooting. For instance, don’t cut the interesting architecture in the background by zooming in too close.

That said, if your location isn’t particularly attractive, there may be certain elements (like a distracting sign, or a garbage bin) that you don’t want to include in your shot. In that case, try shooting from a different angle to remove them from the picture.

Tweak your photos in Snapseed

Even the most exciting shots of action sports can still benefit from being punched up a little in the edit. My editing app of choice is Snapseed — it’s quick, easy and has a wide range of tools to play around with. (Download here for iPhone or here for Android, both free.)

5c5f4_snapseed-6 How to get insane action shots on an iPhone XEnlarge Image

I went for a moody black and white edit for this shot, which I think nicely reflects the gritty urban environment we were in.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

There’s no right or wrong way to edit. For my shots with Snaddon, for example, I wanted to draw more attention to his tricks, so I used vignettes to darken the frame around him, helping him pop out of the scene a little more. I also used the brush tool to lighten him up a bit as the phone had underexposed him against the bright sky.

Protect your phone

This could not be more critical. Taking photos of sports often means you’ll be kneeling, crouching or suddenly diving out of the way to safety. In those situations, it’s all too easy for your phone to take a fall. You might not want a chunky case on your luscious iPhone X on a night out, but it’s certainly worth having on a photoshoot.

5c5f4_snapseed-6 How to get insane action shots on an iPhone X

Baaa-d moooo-ve: Debian Linux depicts intimate cow-sheep action in ASCII artwork

Linux distro Debian is under fire for distributing a software package containing an “ASCII representation of zoophilia.” Specifically, a sheep shagging a cow.

According to a bug report filed this month, Debian user Felicia Hummel installed a package called “cowsay”, which renders text in speech or thought balloons with ASCII art of cows and other animals. But with the default setting of “install suggests” enabled, a controversial second “recommends” package called “cowsay-off” is also installed when bringing in cowsay.

And, dear reader, cowsay-off contains the offending ASCII sex act.

The Debian package page for cowsay-off admits: “This package contains cows which some may consider to be offensive. Please do not install this package if you or your users are easily offended.”

The -off tag is also used in other Debian packages, such as fortunes-off.

Hummel complained specifically about a file called sodomized-sheep.cow, saying: “This is a legal issue in many countries. Even if it’s not well-defined by law if ASCII representations of zoophilia are legal or not, I’d rather prefer not to take a chance being involved in a lawsuit when such a file could be found on my computer.”

Someone called “Tehnic” then suggested that cowsay-off be changed to a suggested package and that it should also ask for confirmation on install, which Hummel accepted was reasonable.

Hummel did not respond to a request for comment from The Register.

The exact content of the image is unclear. While Hummel described a depiction of bestiality, Debian contributor Dominik George told The Reg he was “pretty certain” that “the being sodomising the sheep in the questionable artwork is *not* a human being, but Tux the penguin*.”

43ca5_debian_oracle_sheep_cow Baaa-d moooo-ve: Debian Linux depicts intimate cow-sheep action in ASCII artwork

Offensive … Screenshot of the silly utility in question running in a Docker container on an El Reg laptop (click to enlarge)

Regardless, several users took issue that the artwork existed in the first place. One Debian fan The Register approached suggested creating a third package for it, while others called for a more clear tag such as “-obscene” or “-offensive”.

Myles Jackman, a London lawyer specialising in obscenity cases, told El Reg that compositions or line drawings of bestiality are not illegal in the UK, as long as humans that appear under the age of 18 are not depicted. He said laws might vary from country to country.

Debian user Bosel Stefan told The Register: “I think this issue should not be blown out of proportion and I am confident the Debian team will find the right solution.”

The package maintainer, Tony Maillefaud, did not respond to a request for comment. It’s understood the package’s contents are a long-running joke in the Debian world. In a mailing list post, Mailefaud wrote on Monday: “I will use the Suggests field instead of the Recommends field. Unfortunately i’m really busy right now but be sure i will fix this as soon as i can.” ®

* It looks like a cow screwing a sheep to us – and the filename of the template /usr/share/cowsay/cows/sodomized-sheep.cow suggests as much.

Prince William Launches Action Plan to “Empower” Young Internet Users and Tackle Cyberbullying

Natasha Lubczenko

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Arena of Valor brings top-notch MOBA action to Android

From the company that now owns League of Legends comes a mobile MOBA that looks a lot like it.

Tencent isn’t a company that you may be too familiar with, but it’s a name is increasingly cropping up in the West. China’s largest internet company is a big deal and naturally has its fingers in many pies.

Though not currently (officially) available in North America, Arena of Valor is Tencent’s newest mobile hit. Despite over a million downloads in the Play Store I’d never heard of it until picking up a Razer Phone, on which it is preloaded.

It’s a mobile MOBA, it’s free to play and looks suspiciously like the most popular game on the planet: League of Legends. But that’s OK since Tencent owns that, too. It’s also a lot of fun.

A familiar formula

5f913_aov-2 Arena of Valor brings top-notch MOBA action to Android

From the makers of League of Legends comes a game that looks… a lot like LOL.

There is nothing groundbreaking about this game in the MOBA space. The formula is extremely familiar, following the tried and true pattern of a symmetrical map separated into lanes, teams of up to 5 players, towers, jungle, monsters and a large crystal type thing in each base that you need to destroy in order to emerge with the W.

Competitively, Arena of Valor is played entirely online, so sadly you won’t be ranking up on a plane or anything as you need a solid connection. You are able to practice or play matches against bots, but as you’d expect this is an entirely online affair.

Arena of Valor has a bunch of different heroes to unlock and play as you progress, each with their own unique style and abilities, a selection of unlockable skins, as well as having a pretty stellar ranked game mode with seasons long enough for you to actually make a good rank without having to grind away at it for hours every day.

Easy to play, a challenge to master

5f913_aov-2 Arena of Valor brings top-notch MOBA action to Android

Some good thought has gone into how you’re actually going to play Arena of Valor on a phone or tablet. The controls aren’t quite as touch-friendly as Vainglory, but they’re still very good. There’s no diving into menus or endless tiny icons on the screen, everything is perfectly placed for operation on a phone with a quick tap.

The left side of the screen is where you control your hero and spend gold to purchase upgrades throughout a battle. The right side is where you find your main ability, your talent, and your special abilities. The talent and specials all have a cooldown period, and the specials will get more powerful as you level up in the course of a battle. And at any point, if things get too much, you can recall to base and get a full heal.

Arena of Valor has a pretty comprehensive training scheme to teach you the mechanics of the game, and while leveling up and building out your Arcana to make you even better is a little confusing at first, it’s fairly simple to get a handle on what you need to do.

5f913_aov-2 Arena of Valor brings top-notch MOBA action to Android

Smart players will ultimately succeed more than brutes.

In battle, a MOBA is a MOBA is a MOBA, basically. The standard map for 5v5 (and the one you’ll be playing most, especially if you’re playing ranked) is split into three lanes with some hefty patches of jungle between them. You can use in-game chat to communicate with your teammates, either with your own messages or pre-produced ones, or if you’re brave jump into some voice chat.

The trick to being successful is a good strategy — not chasing kills as you’ll sadly find some players only seem interested in. It’s perfectly possible to be 20 or more points behind and still get the win since one team fight late on can change everything. Smart players will ultimately succeed more than brutes. Naturally, if you can find four buddies to team up with, you’ll be at an immediate advantage over playing with total strangers.

But, it’s slick, it looks really nice and it’s really simple to get the hang of. Arena of Valor has some settings to tweak graphics depending on how powerful your device is and an in-game frame rate counter to keep an eye on performance. The default mode is 30FPS but if your phone can play it at a steady 60FPS, enable high-frame rate mode and enjoy yourself. The difference is astonishing.

Not the IAP mess you may expect

5f913_aov-2 Arena of Valor brings top-notch MOBA action to Android

It’s easy to hear “free to play” and expect a mess of in-app purchases that will somehow tarnish the gameplay. Presumably. Tencent learned a lot from League of Legends, and while there are things you can spend real money on, it doesn’t feel like you have to. If you want that sexy new skin for your hero, you probably will, but in the two weeks I’ve been playing I’ve unlocked 10 heroes without spending a single penny on them.

You can spend a lot of money here, but you probably won’t feel like you have to. Which is good.

There are also great rewards for new players and for coming back and playing regularly, as well as hitting in-game achievements. Free gold, gems, heroes and such all await and they’re not difficult to get. If you keep your credibility at 100 (so no leaving games before the end or trash talking) you get 100 gold every single day for free.

I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but it’s fairly well-balanced so that folks who really don’t want to part with money can still have a good time. If you’re a serious player and you’re climbing through the global ranks, you’re probably the sort of player that will also throw in a few bucks from time to time.

I mean, League of Legends is free to play and it makes a ton of money every year. So there’s a model for it.

The bottom line

5f913_aov-2 Arena of Valor brings top-notch MOBA action to Android

If you’re a fan of MOBAs or even just mobile gaming, in general, I’d encourage you to check out Arena of Valor. I’m not really a fan of the genre but I’ve been enjoying the daylights out of this over the past couple of weeks.

It feels like a proper game designed for proper competitive play, not some freemium mess pushed out by a developer only interested in making a quick buck. Arena of Valor already has a growing esports program with backing from ESL in Europe, and its popularity will surely continue to grow.

Right now, you can’t officially play it in North America and the launch there has been pushed back now until 2018. There are of course ways to play if you’re there, but you’ll not get the best experience yet. I’ve been having a lot of fun with it and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

Download Arena of Valor from Google Play

Android Gaming

5f913_aov-2 Arena of Valor brings top-notch MOBA action to Android

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Google Contacts for Android updated with action buttons, large contact photos, more

89178_Google-Contacts Google Contacts for Android updated with action buttons, large contact photos, moreGoogle recently updated the Contacts app for Android devices with several improvements that are supposed to make it much easier to use.

There aren’t any new features added in the update except for the action buttons in the contacts, which will make it easier to call, text, and do other needed stuff.

The developers also announced that they have listened to user feedback and have decided to bring back the large contact photos. Furthermore, the latest version of Contacts will now allow users to merge all their duplicate contacts at once.

Also, you can now see G Suite Directory info to search and find your work colleagues. Another important improvement added is the option to get automatic suggestions to add contacts that you frequently communicate with across Google.

Last but not least, the new update brings the ability to customize the main Contacts view to show just the labels that you want. Although it’s not a major update, these small improvements add to the overall user experience, so they’re more than welcome.

Free health insurance? Trump action means you’ll get more subsidies on exchange

Thousands of people in Idaho could get health insurance for free next year on the state’s exchange, paid in full by the federal government.

Even some people in Boise who make $40,000 a year will qualify for health plans at a cost of $0 a month — for the kind of insurance that, this year, costs them $154.72 a month. The same phenomenon holds true if you’re in Twin Falls, Idaho Falls or Lewiston.

And some whose income was too high to qualify for premium assistance last year will qualify this year, getting federal aid to cover part of their insurance premiums.

The phenomenon is a ripple effect of a decision by the Trump administration last month to stop funding a special subsidy program created by the Affordable Care Act.

In a bizarre twist, Trump’s effort to yank a pillar from the health care law may end up making it more appealing.

“It’s a really hard concept to really explain, but we certainly have been encouraging people more than ever to use our website, even if it’s just for people to anonymously shop,” said Pat Kelly, executive director of Idaho’s insurance exchange, YourHealthIdaho.org. “You may be able to find more comprehensive coverage for the same cost [as a less-comprehensive plan in 2017] or you may be able to find a bronze plan for virtually nothing.”

Kelly said he recently heard of a person who will get 50 percent more federal assistance to pay for premiums next year. Even though the person’s insurance plan is going to be more expensive, their own share of the premium will be $42 cheaper.

The enrollment window for health insurance on the exchange is a lot tighter this year than it has been in the past. The kickoff was Nov. 1, and the deadline is Dec. 15 — less than six weeks from today.

Insurance agents and staffers from the exchange have been doing outreach, letting consumers know they should jump on the opportunity to get a better deal on health insurance for 2018.

“This year, more than any other year, it may be more affordable than ever,” Kelly said.

Kim Marques, with Compass Benefit Advisors in Meridian, said she is “definitely seeing some interesting situations this year” when she runs the numbers with her clients.

If someone qualifies for help paying their premiums and is making more than double the poverty level, “there are a lot of options with a $0 premium.” Those options “probably have a higher deductible but at least they don’t have a premium.”

How many people will this affect? Tens of thousands.

About 100,000 people get their health insurance from Your Health Idaho, the state’s virtual marketplace for plans under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The vast majority of those people are in low- or moderate-income households, which makes them eligible for federal aid to cover their premiums — and when they enroll this month for health insurance, they’ll see a bigger chunk of federal funds coming their way to help cover premiums.

How this happened

The Trump administration in October decided to cut off federal funding that paid for a special subsidy created by the Affordable Care Act.

The subsidy helps lower-income people with certain insurance plans more easily afford their deductibles, prescription drug copays and other out-of-pocket costs. It is totally separate from the premium assistance mentioned above.

But Trump’s action only ended federal funding for the out-of-pocket subsidy. It didn’t change the fact that health insurers are still legally required to offer it. And it costs billions of dollars a year across the U.S. So, without another funding source to pull from, insurers built the subsidy costs into their 2018 insurance premiums.

That was the trigger.

The federal aid for monthly premiums is based on the cost of health insurance. So, when insurance got a lot more expensive for the plans that include that special out-of-pocket subsidy, it lifted the premium assistance for every plan on the health exchange — even the plans whose premiums didn’t go up very much.

With the higher aid for premiums, the least-generous “bronze” plan suddenly becomes free, or at least a lot cheaper. And the most-generous “gold” plan becomes so heavily subsidized that it’s within reach for people who couldn’t afford it before.

“I think there’s a lot of general confusion in the marketplace right now, given all of the noise in Washington, D.C.,” Kelly said. “We’ve certainly been out around the state, in Southeast Idaho and North Idaho and the Treasure Valley, really educating consumers. The real challenge is that everybody’s situation is so different, it gets fairly difficult to pinpoint and say, ‘For families in the Treasure Valley, X would happen.’ And that’s why we’re saying the lack of [out-of-pocket subsidy] funding is reflected in our premiums, and because of that, premiums did increase, and so did tax credits.”

None of this does any good for a smaller group — still numbering in the thousands — of Idahoans whose incomes are too high or low to qualify for insurance subsidies. For those Idahoans, health insurance will just be more expensive next year, possibly by a lot.

Someone in Boise who makes $65,000 a year doesn’t qualify for any help. A 62-year-old Boisean with that income will pay about $650 a month next year for a plan with the skimpiest benefits — or $1,000 a month for anything better. His costs will increase anywhere from $30 to $250 a month depending on his level of coverage.

It also does nothing to change the cost of health insurance for the hundreds of thousands of Idahoans who get their coverage outside of the Your Health Idaho exchange.

Trump points to mental health after shootings, but action has been minimal

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump, asked about the deadly shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, labeled the incident a “mental health problem at the highest level,” not a “guns situation.”

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Day of Action in Naples tackles women’s rights, health care, gun control

64df0_4898530848001_5635407517001_5635393454001-vs Day of Action in Naples tackles women's rights, health care, gun controlx

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Demonstrators gather on a street corner for Day of Action, marking the one-year countdown to the mid-term election, before joining in on a rally at Cambier Park in downtown Naples on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017.
Ashley Collins

Small groups of people gathered with signs at street corners across Naples on Saturday afternoon to advocate for issues ranging from women’s rights to gun laws to health care. 

Almost 20 demonstrations were part of the first citywide Day of Action in Naples, which involved some 40 grass-roots organizations.

Demonstrators held signs between noon and 3 p.m. before joining a rally at 4 p.m. in Cambier Park.

Sepp Ronay was one of about 10 people advocating for health care at U.S. 41 and Central Avenue.

Ronay became a U.S. citizen two years ago after moving to Naples from the United Kingdom. 

“Having come from the U.K., where it’s universal health care, to here, I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t people want to have health care coverage for all?’ ” Ronay said.

“So we’re here today to tell people: Come on, guys, let’s fix this. Let’s find some common ground.”

$144 Million Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Shelby County Justice System’s Computer Problems




MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Shelby County has just been slapped with a $144 million class action lawsuit. This is the third lawsuit over the county’s problem plagued jail and courthouse computer system.

In this new lawsuit, 30 people say they were kept in jail for days and weeks longer than they should have, or literally got lost in the system. They blame the computer system that was installed more than a year ago.

“It doesn’t affect you until your baby is in jail,” said attorney Patrick Brooks. Brooks is one the attorney’s representing a long list of people who say the computer problems at the jail caused them big problems. 

Here are two examples from the recent lawsuit: 

After arresting a woman last fall for not paying City of Bartlett court costs, police tried arresting her three additional times the next month, after she had paid. The invalid arrest warrant stayed in the system for three months.

In another instance, a man landed in the Shelby County jail not once, but twice because of the computer problem. In April, he was arrested and spent more than a day in jail before jailers discovered there wasn’t a warrant for his arrest. The computer system “had mixed him up for someone else” with a similar name. Two months later, it happened again. This time it took three days to clear up the mistake because jailers couldn’t pull him up in the computer system.

Brooks says the problem isn’t limited to the jail. He says for the past year, it’s permeated the entire court system. “There have been problems, ever since the county installed a $10 million court computer system in October 2016, which is why there are now three lawsuits. “

Travis Boyd is part of the second lawsuit. He was arrested during a party at his house. Under the law, bond has to be set within 48 hours of your arrest. Boyd sat in jail a week before the computer system even showed he was there. He literally got lost in the system, and he lost his job and then charges were dropped during his first court appearance.

“It was like it was a waste of taxpayer money,” said Boyd.

The most recent lawsuit estimates there could be as many as 1000 people who were wrongfully detained an average of three days.

Given the computer problems are still happening, critics wonder if it will ever work properly. “They might need to scrap it and get a new system,” said Brooks.

A spokesperson for the county was unaware of this newest lawsuit. The county has not commented on any of the previous lawsuits saying it’s a legal matter.

 

Forget Trump’s ‘public health emergency.’ Real action on the opioid crisis is coming from the FDA.

06039446 Forget Trump's 'public health emergency.' Real action on the opioid crisis is coming from the FDA.
Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, appears before a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing on June 20. (Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency)

The Trump administration has so far completely botched the national response to the opioid epidemic. More than two months after President Trump described the epidemic to reporters as a “national emergency” and a week after Trump promised to declare it so, the White House stopped short of that designation. Instead, it opted to declare a “public health emergency,” waiving some health-care regulations for states and promising other initiatives in the weeks to come.

But forget for a moment all the silliness at the White House and the thoughtless, off-the-cuff promises from the president. If you want to see legitimate action that could make a significant difference in the crisis, look at the Food and Drug Administration.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb proposed Wednesday an expansion of long-term (and perhaps even lifetime) access to drugs that treat opioid addiction, such as methadone or buprenorphine. These drugs are opioids themselves, but they are designed to stave off withdrawal symptoms from other opioids — such as heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers.

These drugs aren’t perfect. Methadone, in particular, can lead to potentially fatal overdoses if patients take more than the dosage prescribed by doctors. As a result, the drugs have a persistently negative stigma. Critics of the treatment drugs often say that addicts are just substituting one opioid for another. For families and friends supporting addicts — as well as addicts trying to get clean — medicated treatment is just not as good as giving up drug use entirely.

This is why Gottlieb acknowledged that expanding access to non-abstinence-based treatments might make people “uncomfortable,” and why reducing stigma around them is necessary to address the opioid crisis.

But as a practical matter, these drugs are by far the best thing we have to treat opioid addiction. It’s essentially impossible for opioid addicts to walk away from drugs after becoming dependent on them. Detoxification programs almost always result in relapse. And now that highly dangerous synthetic drugs — especially fentanyl — have infiltrated the drug supply, relapse increasingly translates to death.

Study after study has shown that medication-assisted treatment works to substantially reduce opioid-related overdoses. That should be welcome news for American policymakers struggling with an estimated 142 opioid overdose deaths each day. Over the past two decades, in fact, some 500,000 people have died in the United States as a result of the opioid crisis.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the same access to this treatment. Not all insurance plans cover medication-assisted treatment. And regardless, most opioid addicts do not have health insurance, thanks in large part to states that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Gottlieb alone can’t get life-saving treatments into the hands of opioid addicts. But he’s right that this should be the center of the administration’s efforts to address the epidemic. At the very least, Gottlieb’s plan to convene experts in the health-care industry to discuss opioid treatment and to reduce stigma around the drugs is a solid step in the right direction.

Of course, medication-assisted treatment won’t solve the epidemic by itself. The Trump administration could help by sending federal public health money to states hit hardest by the drugs. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Congress and at the state level should be working to make sure the necessary funding is available and to expand coverage to addicts who have fallen through cracks in the health-care system.

But in any case, federal action in addressing the epidemic has stalled for far too many people. It’s relieving to see somebody in the Trump administration finally take the situation seriously.

Leaked iPhone X video shows a cool new gesture in action for the first time

The iPhone X design is like nothing we’ve ever seen before from Apple. Featuring an edgeless OLED display, the iPhone X completely does away with the home button, a cornerstone of the iOS user experience going all the way back to the original. With the home button being kicked to the curb, Apple has been forced to tweak the way certain features and functions are called into action. As an obvious example, the iPhone X’s Face ID feature is designed to replace Touch ID. Another example involves invoking Siri, which can be done on the iPhone X by long pressing on the side button for a few seconds.

Now that’s all well and good, but the biggest adjustment to the iPhone X’s missing home button will center on returning to the home screen and activating the multitasking pane. Without a home button to rely on anymore, iPhone X users can return to the home screen by swiping up from the bottom of the device. Calling the multitasking pane into action, meanwhile, can be achieved by swiping up from the bottom to the middle of the screen without removing your finger.

Sounds simple enough, but the iPhone X still has some UI magic we haven’t yet seen in vivid detail until now.

A new video which made its way onto Reddit and Twitter late last night showcases how buttery smooth it is to switch between apps on the iPhone X without having to activate the full multitasking pane. As the Twitter user who posted the video notes, the clip below shows a “gesture that’s in between swiping to home / swiping to switch apps.”

Also interesting is the revelation that users can switch between apps simply by swiping to the left or the right of the horizontal home bar. And in case you’re wondering, the traditional multitasking pane can be called into action by swiping up to the middle of the display, a gesture Apple demoed during its special media event last month.

iPhone X pre-orders open up this Friday ahead of a November 3 release date. Though the iPhone X will reportedly be in extremely limited supply at launch, Apple this week said that there will be iPhone X units in retail stores for walk-in customers.

And last but not least, some new iPhone X photos made their way online last night as well.

deb13_iphone-x-front-display Leaked iPhone X video shows a cool new gesture in action for the first time

deb13_iphone-x-front-display Leaked iPhone X video shows a cool new gesture in action for the first time

New video lets you actually see the iPhone X’s invisible Face ID camera in action

The iPhone X has two signature features: the all-screen design and the TrueDepth camera that powers the phone’s Face ID facial recognition system. Face ID is supposed to be more secure than any other facial recognition system out there, and it brings over to iOS a new way of interacting with the device for unlocks and transaction authentication.

We already know everything there is to know about Face ID functionality and security. Although everything the Face ID system does is invisible to the naked eye, a new video actually lets us see the magic happen.

The iPhone X’s notch houses a complex array of cameras and sensors that make Face ID possible, and Apple calls it the TrueDepth camera. It’s the advanced, depth-sensing facial recognition system Apple built for the iPhone, miniaturizing Kinect technology to fit inside a phone.

One of the components inside the TrueDepth array is a dot projector that shoots 30,000 infrared dots at your face to create a 3D depth map of it. Reddit user visss9 observed the dot projector in action in a hands-in iPhone X video from TechCrunch. Check out the following clip, recorded after Apple’s iPhone event in mid-February, and look for a flicker on top of the phone, near the right corner:

That’s the dot projector operates on the infrared wavelength, which is invisible to the human eye but visible to cameras. The user also compiled a list of everything that happens with the iPhone when dot projector activity is observed:

First instance: 0:10 – 0:18 What’s happening: Animojis
Second instance: 0:28 – 0:35 What’s happening: Portrait Mode on front camera being used
Third instance: 0:38 – 0:41 What’s happening: Face ID verification. The infrared camera on the left side of the notch also blinks momentarily.
Fourth instance: 0:42 – 0:45 What’s happening: Animojis
Fifth instance: 0:58 – 1:02 What’s happening: I have no idea, but both the infrared camera and the dot projector blink right before the screen switches off.

The TrueDepth camera is also the reason why the iPhone X won’t launch until early November, and why Apple has been dealing with production issues. A recent report from The Wall Street Journal identified manufacturing issues with the dot projector, calling it the main iPhone X component that’s keeping production behind.

VA vows changes on bad health care providers, lawmakers take action after USA TODAY investigation

8a1e4_29906170001_5605590675001_5605591832001-vs VA vows changes on bad health care providers, lawmakers take action after USA TODAY investigationx

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A months-long USA TODAY Network investigation reveals that for years, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs concealed mistakes and misdeeds by staff members entrusted with caring for veterans.
Walbert Castillo, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs is pledging to overhaul its reporting policies for bad medical workers and a group of lawmakers is introducing legislation following a USA TODAY investigation that found the VA has routinely concealed shoddy care and staff mistakes.

VA Secretary David Shulkin directed agency officials to expand a nearly 30-year-old policy that limited what medical providers the agency would report to a national database created by Congress to prevent problem medical workers from crossing state lines to escape their pasts and keep practicing.

The agency will report all clinicians going forward, VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said. Shulkin also asked staff to re-write 12-year-old guidelines for reporting them to state licensing boards in an effort to speed up the process.

“Under Secretary Shulkin, VA’s new direction is to hold employees accountable and to be transparent with our findings and actions,” Cashour said.

The legislation from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, would require VA doctors themselves to report directly to state licensing boards within five days of witnessing unacceptable behavior from fellow doctors.

“These newest reports out of the VA are deeply troubling,” McMorris Rodgers said. “This bill will help reform the culture at the VA by holding bad actors accountable and keeping them from continuing these mistakes at the VA or elsewhere.”

The USA TODAY investigation found the VA has frequently failed to ensure its hospitals reported problem health care providers to state licensing boards. Such reports can be delayed by years. The investigation also found the VA policy on reporting to the national database left out thousands of providers. The agency previously reported only physicians and dentists — no nurses, physicians’ assistants, or podiatrists.

The VA determined one podiatrist at its hospital in Maine harmed 88 veterans, including a woman who after two failed ankle surgeries chose to have her leg amputated rather than endure the pain. Still, the agency didn’t report the foot doctor to the database under its previous policy, and took two years to report him to state licensing boards.

More: VA conceals shoddy care and health workers’ mistakes

In other cases, USA TODAY found VA hospitals signed secret settlement deals with dozens of doctors, nurses and other health care workers that included promises to conceal serious mistakes — from inappropriate relationships and breakdowns in supervision to dangerous medical errors — even after forcing them out of the VA.

Roe, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the committee has “long been concerned about VA’s settlement agreements, and even held a hearing on the topic last year.”

“The findings of the USA TODAY investigation are intolerable,” he said. “Malfeasance within the department will not be ignored, and it certainly cannot be rewarded and hidden from state licensing boards. As a physician, I find this deeply troubling.”

In response to USA TODAY’s findings, Shulkin directed that any future settlement agreements worth more than $5,000 be approved by top VA officials in Washington. Previously, local and regional officials made decisions on the deals, which can cut short potentially costly employee challenges of VA disciplinary actions.

On Wednesday, the agency also said it planned to post publicly for the first time data on settlements that are approved. The first tranche of data shows that since President Trump took office in January, the VA has struck agreements with at least 160 employees involving payouts totaling $4.2 million.

Poliquin said Thursday that USA TODAY’s findings were “appalling” and singled out the revelations about the podiatrist at the Togus VA hospital on the outskirts of Augusta, Maine.

 “Our Maine veterans depend on their services at Togus and other VA facilities across our State for critical care, and it is absolutely unacceptable for them to ever be subjected to this kind of medical malpractice,” he said.

At least six patients of the podiatrist, Thomas Franchini, are suing the federal government over the care they received. Despite the VA taking years to tell patients about its findings on his surgeries, the government has argued their claims should be dismissed because they were filed after the three-year deadline for medical negligence claims in Maine.  Oral arguments in the case are scheduled October 25.