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After years of copying the iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy S9 will finally copy Apple’s smartest strategy

Samsung wrote the book on copying Apple… literally. No, seriously — back when the company was still trying to break through in the smartphone market, Samsung actually created a 132-page internal document to help its designers and engineers copy the iPhone pixel by pixel. The South Korean conglomerate isn’t the only company that ripped off as much as it could from Apple and its iPhones, but Samsung was the first and clearly the most successful.

In recent years, Samsung has pumped the brakes a bit. The company’s flagship smartphone designs veered away from Apple’s iPhone lineup when the started to feature curved displays, and Samsung has become a bit more selective instead of ripping off every new iPhone feature and every strategic move Apple makes. There is one part of Apple’s smartphone strategy that Samsung has curiously never copied, but it looks like that will finally change with the upcoming Galaxy S9.

In doing some research for another article, I came across an old scoop from Venturebeat’s Evan Blass, who reported on the Galaxy S9 toward the end of November. Most of the details in the post were merely a reiteration of rumors that had already been swirling for weeks or even months, but confirmation from Blass always helps to firm things up.

There are plenty of interesting tidbits in the article, but one area is of particular interest to me. Here’s the excerpt:

Other than their screen sizes, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ were nearly identical in every way. Not so this time around, according to the briefed individual. Besides a bigger screen, the S9+ will reportedly offer more RAM (6GB versus 4GB) and a second rear camera, similar to the Note8. Both models pack 64GB of internal storage, supplemented by a microSD slot, and both leave the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack intact.

Blass is citing a single source here, which is never a good thing. That said, earlier reports had already made the same claims: Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ will not be the exact same phone in two different sizes. What’s so interesting about that? Well, it just so happens that avoiding feature parity on its iPhones is one of the smartest strategic moves Apple has ever made.

Apple is the most profitable consumer electronics company on the planet thanks to the iPhone. The company pockets billions and billions of dollars each quarter by selling pricey smartphones with sky-high margins. And generally speaking, more expensive iPhone models carry higher margins — do you really think a 256GB flash memory chip costs Apple $150 more than a 64GB chip? Of course it doesn’t.

Apart from the higher margins on models with more storage, Apple is also believed to enjoy higher margins on its “Plus” model iPhones. Apple charges an extra $100 for each Plus model compared to its smaller iPhones, but the difference in cost to Apple is much less. For example, market research firm IHS estimates that each 64GB iPhone 8 carries a BOM of $247.51 for Apple, while the 64GB iPhone 8 Plus costs Apple $288.08 to make. That’s a difference of $40.57, and yet Apple charges $100 more for the Plus model.

From a business standpoint, it’s brilliant. Consumers are clearly willing to pay a premium for the extra size and additional features, and Apple is cashing in. Well, beginning in 2018, it looks like Samsung will finally start to cash in, too.

What are the biggest differences between the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus aside from screen size? Apple includes a dual-lens camera with cool effects in the 8 Plus as opposed to the iPhone 8’s single-lens rear camera, and it includes extra RAM as well to help process all of those cool camera effects. Guess what Samsung will reportedly do in order to add some extra appeal to the Galaxy S9+ next year. Yup, it’s going to add a dual-lens rear camera and extra RAM.

Using unique features as a way to encourage customers to purchase pricier, higher-margin phones is a big part of Apple’s iPhone strategy. Like most other things that Samsung has copied from Apple, I expect this strategy to work wonders for Samsung as well.

British man becomes star in Dominican Republic after Internet girlfriend rejects him for being ‘too poor’

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Old Salem closed due to computer problem after winter weather …

WINSTON-SALEM, NC — A popular tourist destination in Winston-Salem that prides itself on showing visitors what like was like in the 18th century is closed because of a 21st century problem.

Old Salem has been closed since Friday night when the power went off in that part of town during the height of the winter weather.

But even with the nice weather in the following days it still can’t reopen after the weather-related power failure put the popular destination in an unexpected predicament.

“A little snow would have made it really, really special and we wanted that, we wanted just enough snow to make it nice but not too much snow,” said Franklin Vagnone, the Old Salem president and CEO.

It wasn’t the snow but the effect of a blown transformer during the storm and a subsequent power surge that fried Old Salem’s computer system and the server that contained all of its retail and membership information; a 21st century malfunction that puts the 18th century destination out of business until it’s fixed.

“We have all of this behind the scenes activity and much of it is technologically driven and it makes them feel a kind of domesticity, a kind of nostalgia, but in order to maintain that nostalgia takes a lot of behind the scenes effort,” Vagnone said.

As a result, Old Salem canceled several scheduled events over the weekend and a meet and greet with Santa Monday for kids with special needs. And people who didn’t get the word of the closing showed up to buy the sweets, only to be turned away.

“People are really disappointed, they’re coming here specifically for Winkler baked goods or to buy Christmas presents in the store or they have out of town guests and they want to come and show them Old Salem,” Vagnone said.

Old Salem hopes to reopen to the public by Wednesday.

Air quality health issues will linger long after SoCal wildfires get under control, experts say – KABC

When 70-year-old Donna Hovartos, of Glendale, walked into the Joslyn Senior Center in Burbank, she felt great relief since the smoky outdoors made her miserable.

“I started getting headaches and the sinuses started hurting and I could smell smoke. I could smell the burn,” Hovartos said.

She’s had a cough and sore throat for days.

At Adventist Health in Glendale and Simi Valley, emergency room visits were up and hospital beds full. Pulmonologist Zulfiqar Ahmed handled patient calls all weekend.

“It’s a more difficult time for these patients,” he said.

Amid the smoky conditions, there’s an increase in flu activity, and resources are stretched thin.

Ahmed advised all his lung patients to take precautions.

“Stay in. Turn the air conditioner on, and if you have any symptoms just call your doctors right away,” Ahmed said.

Doctors don’t expect the health problems to end anytime soon. Pulmonary experts said toxic fine particulate matter can linger in the air for weeks after the wildfires.

“We anticipate patients having a lot of problems, and we are prepared for that,” Ahmed said.

If you have to be outdoors, Ahmed advised wearing a NIOSH-rated mask labeled N95 or P95.

“The mask comes in different sizes. Small, medium and large. It has to be the proper size,” he said.

Hovartos said she is staying indoors and trying to stay as healthy as possible.

“You just do the best you can. Try to take care of yourself. Watch what you eat,” she said.

Experts said wash your hands since you’re going to spend more time indoors with lots of people.

Old Salem closed due to computer problem after winter weather power outage

WINSTON-SALEM, NC — A popular tourist destination in Winston-Salem that prides itself on showing visitors what like was like in the 18th century is closed because of a 21st century problem.

Old Salem has been closed since Friday night when the power went off in that part of town during the height of the winter weather.

But even with the nice weather in the following days it still can’t reopen after the weather-related power failure put the popular destination in an unexpected predicament.

“A little snow would have made it really, really special and we wanted that, we wanted just enough snow to make it nice but not too much snow,” said Franklin Vagnone, the Old Salem president and CEO.

It wasn’t the snow but the effect of a blown transformer during the storm and a subsequent power surge that fried Old Salem’s computer system and the server that contained all of its retail and membership information; a 21st century malfunction that puts the 18th century destination out of business until it’s fixed.

“We have all of this behind the scenes activity and much of it is technologically driven and it makes them feel a kind of domesticity, a kind of nostalgia, but in order to maintain that nostalgia takes a lot of behind the scenes effort,” Vagnone said.

As a result, Old Salem canceled several scheduled events over the weekend and a meet and greet with Santa Monday for kids with special needs. And people who didn’t get the word of the closing showed up to buy the sweets, only to be turned away.

“People are really disappointed, they’re coming here specifically for Winkler baked goods or to buy Christmas presents in the store or they have out of town guests and they want to come and show them Old Salem,” Vagnone said.

Old Salem hopes to reopen to the public by Wednesday.

Scam alert: Did a virus warning pop up after your computer locked … – Omaha World


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Computer Virus Pop Ups Could Be Scammers After Your Cash

Those pop-up virus warnings on your computer screen could actually be coming from imposters trying to scam you out of your time and money, according to consumer advocates and federal authorities.

The Federal Trade Commission said it has received more than 124,000 complaints about tech support scams with more than $36 million in losses since 2015. The FTC, FBI and Better Business Bureau said anyone who owns or uses a computer is a potential target.

Yona Klem of Naperville said after noticing a strange charge on one of her online accounts, she gave a so-called tech expert remote access to her computer and was told her device needed to be repaired. Turns out, Klem said she and her husband were scammed out of $1,000 in a fake tech support scam.

“We didn’t know if this was for honest or for cheating or what,” Klem said. “We’re both smart people and we got snookered.”

Steve Bernas of the BBB said a network of thieves can hold your computers, phones and bank accounts hostage.

“Sometimes you just don’t realize you’re a victim and all of a sudden your bank account might start getting depleted because they have access to your accounts, all of your information,” Bernas said. “They’re watching you as you do your keystrokes when they’re remotely in.”

Experts say consumers should never allow a stranger remote access to their computer. And if you receive a pop up warning that say your computer is at risk, experts say you should power down and reset your computer.

Consumers are also urged to change their passwords and report their encounters with a potential tech support scam to the FBI’s IC3.gov website and to the BBB’s ScamTracker.

The FTC said it is attacking tech support scams through law enforcement. The FTC has opened 17 cases since 2012 and has recovered millions of dollars for victims.

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Mum warns about dangerous internet craze after daughter, 10, was hospitalised with severe burn

A mum is warning about a dangerous internet craze that left her daughter in hospital with a horrific burn.

Ebony Worthington, 10, was horrifically burned after taking part in the ‘aerosol challenge’.

The ‘game’, which is the subject of several YouTube prank videos, involves children spraying deodorant on to their skin from close range for as long as they can.

After accepting the challenge Ebony almost needed a skin graft because the burn she suffered was so severe.

She will also have to stay indoors for a week to avoid infection.

Ebony almost needed a skin graft because the burn she suffered was so severe
(Image: Metro News and Features)

Mum Kirsty Heathcote, from Farnworth, Bolton, said: “It has all come from these Youtube videos – I have watched a few and there are some that really go wrong.

“After she had done it, Ebony came downstairs and put her hand on the freezer and said she had banged it.

“An hour later, she came back and showed me the mark on her hand – it was white and a perfect circle.

“The next day, her school phoned me to say that they were very concerned – the mark had started to swell and had gone numb.

“It looked infected and the hospital told us it was a bad burn, so they contacted the burns unit at Manchester Children’s Hospital. “

“At first they thought she might need a skin graft, which would have been awful. Fortunately, she just needed it bandaged, but she was very close to needing a graft. She was very lucky.”

YouTube videos of children completing the aerosol ‘challenge’ date back to 2014.

The ‘game’, which is the subject of several YouTube prank videos, involves children spraying deodorant on to their skin from close range
(Image: REX/Shutterstock)

Ms Heathcote said she keeps deodorant in the family bathroom and has ‘never thought’ of hiding it away.

“Unfortunately, some kids have seen this craze on Youtube and it has just spread from there,” she said.

“They don’t realise the seriousness of what it can do to you, and neither did I.

“Ebony has no feeling in the top of her hand at the moment, so we just have to hope that is not long-term.

“She does gymnastics and I don’t want this to jeopardise the things that she enjoys.”

Ebony’s friends and classmates have been warned not to try the dangerous challenge again, and doctors have said that the 10-year-old’s injury will heal in four to six weeks.

Ms Heathcote added: “I have been to the school and they told me that every teacher has spoken to their classes about it. Hopefully none of them will try it again.

“Parents need to be aware of what their children are watching on Youtube. Every child is seeing these kind of videos now, but they don’t understand the dangers.

“This has been awful for me, but my mum has been amazing and hasn’t left Ebony’s side.

“Ebony has been so brave and she has definitely realised how silly she was and the consequences of her actions.

“She is a very bright girl, so we are all surprised that she would do this. It just goes to show how easily influenced any child can be.

“I worry about what the next challenge will be. The next one could fatally harm someone.”

More Texans may be left without health insurance after end of open enrollment

Open enrollment for health care under former President Barack Obama’s health care law ends Dec. 15, and while current Texas enrollment numbers are up from this time last year, new restrictions under the Trump administration may mean more uninsured Texans.

Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals who are not insured through an employer can buy plans through the federal government during the open enrollment period. In 2016, that period ran from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31 — but this year, it’s been cut in half to end Friday, Dec. 15. 

While several states opted to extend the enrollment period, Texas, which runs its services through the federal healthcare.gov webpage, did not.

Texas has seen 437,919 enrollees for the 2018 plan year as of Dec. 2, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — a 38.8 percent increase in enrollment when compared to this time last year. But that’s not much of a comfort to organizations trying to get more people enrolled.

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“We only have half as much time to enroll people,” said Melissa McChesney, an outreach coordinator at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank. “So we would have to be doing significantly better than we are right now in order to avoid a dip enrollment numbers overall.”

“There is concern that we will see fewer Texans enroll in the marketplace, and that’s primarily because of the shortened enrollment period, and that does mean we are likely to see a higher number of uninsured Texans for 2018,” McChesney added.  

Last year, a total of 1.2 million Texans bought insurance during the enrollment period, about one-sixth of whom were automatically enrolled after not changing their coverage from the previous year, McChesney said.

Karen Pollitz,a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care nonprofit, said in previous years, enrollment has surged just before Dec. 15.

“Most people last year, in all the states, signed up by Dec. 15 even though open enrollment went all the way until the end of January because if you want coverage to begin on Jan. 1, that was the deadline,” Pollitz said.

However, shortening the window to enroll is not the only cut made by the Trump administration affecting Texans trying to buy health insurance.

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The administration cut the budget for outreach and advertising by 90 percent and slashed funding to the navigator program, in which someone walks potential buyers through the process, by 60 percent. Supporters of the Affordable Care Act said these cuts have led to a decrease in awareness about the enrollment period. 

Drew White, a health care policy expert at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, said these restrictions were the administration’s attempts to roll back aspects of the law within their power.

“We don’t believe there is a whole lot they can do,” While said referring to the president’s executive powers. “Congress is going to have to be one to repeal the statues when it comes to the regulations or to roll back the Medicaid expansion, that’s just going to be out of their purview.”

“Congress should have made good on its promise and repealed Obamacare this year as they have been promising for seven, eight years prior to that,” White said. “It’s just unfortunate because consumers are going to see their premiums and deductibles go up with fewer and fewer options as long as federal insurance regulations remain in statute.”

While it hasn’t been heavily publicized, Pollitz said there will be a special enrollment period through the end of December for people who are living in or have moved out of hurricane-affected areas. People wishing to enroll during this period will have to do so over the phone, she added.

“I think everybody, CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services], the navigators, the other people who help folks sign up really, really want the message to be, ‘Sign up by Dec. 15. That is the best way to do it,’” Pollitz said. “Some people will need more time, or miss it, and will have this opportunity.” 

In Congress, Republicans are promising to pass a new tax code by Christmas, and the current U.S. Senate plan includes a repeal of the portion of the ACA that requires all individuals to have health insurance.

The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan congressional analysis organization, estimates that if the individual mandate is repealed, 13 million Americans will lose their health insurance in the next 10 years and that plans will have higher premiums as younger, healthier individuals opt to go without coverage.

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McChesney said even if it’s repealed, the individual mandate would still be in effect until 2019. 

“It’s important that people understand, who are considering purchasing ACA insurance right now, that they are still subject to the mandate and could potentially face a tax penalty if they go uninsured in 2018,” she said.

Disclosure: The Center for Public Policy Priorities, Kaiser Family Foundation and Texas Public Policy Foundation have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Texas is pushing the federal government for temporary funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program while Congress fights over a permanent solution. [Full story]

  • Open enrollment for health insurance, which begins Nov. 1, will be shorter this year, and President Donald Trump has slashed funding for subsidies and outreach. [Full story]

  • Watch the video of our event in Houston on the health care landscape following Hurricane Harvey. Or check out our recap below. [Full story]

Blind paedophile jailed after saying “nude children” to voice-activated internet device in middle of Carphone …

A pensioner was caught with child abuse images on his mobile phone after taking it to a shop to complain it wasn’t working properly – then speaking the words ‘nude children’ into it in front of staff.

A shocked phone shop salesman alerted a manager after the “brazen” pensioner gave him the bizarre “demonstration” of what was wrong with the phone.

He repeated the spoken command “nude children” in front of the manager, a court heard.

Frederick Cunningham, 79, of Fieldside, Epworth, admitted three offences of making indecent photographs of children and another of possessing extreme pornography involving a horse.

Jeremy Evans, prosecuting, told Grimsby Crown Court that Cunningham went in to a Carphone Warehouse store in Scunthorpe on December 23 last year and reported a problem with his mobile phone.

He said it would not search for or access some websites, reports the Scunthorpe Telegraph .

He gave a demonstration to a “shocked” customer adviser and spoke the words “nude children” into the phone.

He showed the adviser the phone showing that no search results had been returned.

The member of staff alerted a manager and Cunningham repeated his demonstration of the problem. The phone was seized and the police were told.

Cunningham was arrested on Boxing Day and four other phones were seized.

A total of 261 images of children, including babies and toddlers , were found as well as 29 bestiality images.

Cunningham was jailed after appearing at Grimsby Crown Court
(Image: Grimsby Telegraph)

Mr Evans said that the reason the phone would not have carried out the search wanted by Cunningham was because the images would be on the “dark web” and not mainstream search engines.

“One would have to access the dark web, which is not covered by main servers,” said Mr Evans.

“If they are legitimate businesses, they don’t have, or shouldn’t have, such material.”

Cunningham had convictions for 73 previous offences, including 14 for sexual matters, and his convictions stretched back 60 years.

He had sexual convictions in 1957, 1960, 1962, 1995 and 1998.

Ashleigh Metcalfe, mitigating, said that Cunningham made admissions and had “kept himself out of bother” for some time.

He was in poor health, had extremely poor eyesight and was registered as half-blind.

He had undergone a cataracts operation and was due to have another operation in January to see if any of his sight could be recovered.

Judge Mark Bury said: “You took in a phone that was having problems and you, in front of a member of staff, used the words ‘nude children’ in a voice application.

“Hardly surprising that the police were called and you were arrested.

“Each image of child abuse represents an episode of vile abuse on a child.

“If it wasn’t for people such as yourself looking for and obtaining such images, the abuse of children would in no way be as common as it is.”

Cunningham was “brazen enough” to go into the store but later claimed that the images must already have been on the phone because he had a sideline buying and selling phones, said Judge Bury.

Cunningham was jailed for eight months and was ordered to register as a sex offender for 10 years. He was given a 10-year sexual harm prevention order.

Health concerns swirl in Texas months after floods from Harvey spread toxic waste

Three months after Hurricane Harvey struck the shores of Texas, some local environmental groups say they are in the dark about the safety of federal Superfund sites damaged during the storm.

In the days following the hurricane that made landfall there on August 25, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said at least 13 of the 34 of the state’s federal Superfund sites in the path of the storm had been affected by widespread flooding and heavy rains. By Sept. 8, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said only two of those sites had incurred damages.

Since the hurricane, the EPA mandated that two companies deemed responsible parties spend at least $115 million cleaning up one: the San Jacinto River Waste Pits. The site is located in the middle of the San Jacinto River about 20 miles east of Houston, where “highly toxic dioxin contamination,” known to cause host of health problems including cancer and developmental and reproductive issues, leaked out after flood waters tore through it.

But some residents are questioning the methods used to test that site and surrounding communities, as well as the EPA’s designation of at least 12 other federal Superfund sites “cleared” from damages since Hurricane Harvey. These concerns come as officials said that the amount of dioxin released into the San Jacinto River may never be known.

The lack of information about how the Superfund sites might influence the river’s overall water quality and surrounding communities worries Jackie Young, founder of the environmental group Texas Health Environment Alliance.

“My biggest issue with the response to Hurricane Harvey was that for a month after we were pressing the EPA, we were pressing our local and state government on the safety of the local environment and the safety of these sites, and we were repeatedly told that everything was okay,” Young told the NewsHour Weekend.

The San Jacinto River Waste Pits date back to the 1960s when toxic waste from paper mills was routinely dumped. The pits were designated a Superfund site in 2008. Since 2011, the waste, which is made up of dangerous dioxins and furans, has been temporarily held in place by an “armored cap.” The site is located in proximity to some of Harris County’s more than 4.5 million residents, including the city of Houston.

7095e_san_jac2_0 Health concerns swirl in Texas months after floods from Harvey spread toxic waste

Aerial view of San Jacinto cap. Photo from the EPA

Preliminary data from the EPA indicated that in sediment samples taken around the site, dioxins levels spiked 2,300 times above acceptable levels.

Part of the EPA’s recovery plan is to remove most of the nearly 212,000 cubic yards of toxic waste at the San Jacinto site in the coming years. But it’s difficult to establish how much of the waste escaped into the river and nearby bayou, Samuel Coleman, the EPA’s acting regional administrator, told NewsHour Weekend.

He told a Congressional subcommittee in November testimony that one of the tactics the EPA used in the aftermath was a mobile lab capable of evaluating water samples “that proved to be invaluable in an area this is devastated and lacking in basic infrastructure.”

But more than a week after Harvey bore down on Texas on Aug. 25, the flooded Superfund sites had received only aerial inspections, EPA officials said.

Federal and local officials contend that access to those sites in the wake of the late August storm was limited, and that they quickly determined some sites, including the San Jacinto River Waste Pits and another called the U.S. Oil Recovery, had released toxic waste into surrounding waterways.

Bob Allen, the director of the Harris County Pollution Control Services, cited the complications of observing possible breaches at Superfund sites as flooding continued to grip the Houston area.

“Yes, waste got out in the river but how much is difficult to determine,” Allen said. “I think that both the locals and the feds and the state, we’re doing as much as we can. It’s a difficult site. It’s probably the most challenging site I’ve ever seen and I’ve been here almost 40 years.”

What about the surrounding community?

Rosanne Barone, of the advocacy group Texas Campaign for the Environment, said she worries about the river and several downstream bays that are popular with fishermen and for recreational use, both of which help feed the local economy.

Barone added that while many of the Superfund sites have been deemed secure by federal officials, a dearth of public data also raises questions about the potential long-term health effects on residents of the community.
“As far as damage to the other sites and cleanup, still not much is known,” Barone said.

Young said in some cases it took the EPA, and companies responsible for overseeing some of the Superfund sites, weeks to begin conducting thorough inspections after the flooding.

A NewsHour Weekend analysis of EPA documents showed that some soil and water sampling from those two Superfund sites began on Sept. 4. Sampling at 11 other sites that were flooded during the storm did not begin until at least Sept. 10.

Since then, Young’s office has been inundated with calls from concerned residents who live near the San Jacinto River, and other areas, some who live near the San Jacinto River Waste Pits.

“These are people who can literally see the waste from their homes,” Young said.

7095e_san_jac2_0 Health concerns swirl in Texas months after floods from Harvey spread toxic waste

Greg Moss’s flooded home after Harvey. Photo Courtesy of Greg Moss

Greg Moss, 62, is a retired boat mechanic who lives just upriver from the San Jacinto River Waste Pits. His home and workshop are located adjacent to the river and two blocks from the Superfund site.

Moss said since the 1990s he has lived in the San Jacinto River Estates neighborhood known to locals as “River Bottom.” But he said he wasn’t aware of the toxic waste that was found nearby until 2011, long after he would ride his jet skis through the river’s murky waters or take joy-rides on his four-wheeler through the mud of the Superfund site.

7095e_san_jac2_0 Health concerns swirl in Texas months after floods from Harvey spread toxic waste

Greg Moss’s flooded home after Harvey. Photo Courtesy of Greg Moss

Moss said when the “tide surge” from Hurricane Harvey caused water to rise 113 inches into the shop he uses to fix motor boats, and 8 inches into his elevated home next door, he was trapped for days along with his dog until rescue workers took them out by boat.

A week later, when he returned home, the stench of mud and foul water was overwhelming and the months-long cleanup process was just beginning.

Moss cut out the damaged floor of his house and a portion of his wall, and used vinegar and peroxide to scour his shop. All the while, he said, he worried about how many toxins were now in his home.

“What else do you do with it?” he said. “You’ve got to have a place to live.”

‘Historic contamination’ predates Hurricane Harvey

Allen said he doesn’t necessarily agree that the federal government was slow to release information to the public, citing a confluence of data from various governmental agencies and private companies in the months following the storm.

“As soon as Harvey happened, as soon as it was safe enough to look at these sites the EPA was down here,” Allen said.

And Coleman said federal employees conducted a “detailed inspection” of the San Jacinto site, using boats to survey at least two areas that were breached and putting divers in the water amid zero visibility to collect water and sediment samples.

“Where the cap was breached, we did find some exposed dioxin and we collected samples, along with the responsible parties, who collected samples, to confirm that it was dioxin and it was dioxin waste that was placed in the waste pit,” Coleman said. “That was repaired immediately.”

But Coleman said “historic contamination” predating Hurricane Harvey has also created problems in the nearby Houston Ship Channel and other local waterways including the San Jacinto River.

“The San Jacinto Waste Pits was a contributor to that, not the only contributor,” he said.

7095e_san_jac2_0 Health concerns swirl in Texas months after floods from Harvey spread toxic waste

An aerial view of INEOS Phenol (L) and the Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge is seen in Pasadena, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017. Photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters

Coleman said after the hurricane, federal officials have left some of the testing and research on potential health effects up to state and county officials.

Scott Jones, of the Galveston Bay Foundation, said his group recently secured a $250,000 grant to test fish populations in the San Jacinto River and other nearby waterways after Harris County officials called for additional studies. But the results of those tests will be unavailable for at least a year.

“There’s just multiple sites unfortunately in this area with all of the petrochemical we’ve had in the past and we had a lot of you know past practices or lack of practices way back in the day,” Jones said. “So I hear from people mainly around the center of the waste pits that they’re definitely concerned about it.”

On Friday, the EPA announced it added the San Jacinto River Waste Pits to a list of 21 Superfund sites slated to receive “immediate and intense attention.” The list was created by the Superfund Task Force, formed in July by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who visited the site along the San Jacinto River in September.

But Coleman said the process to clean up the San Jacinto River Waste Pits would likely take more than four years. The first year or two would be spent in negotiations with the two companies — International Paper and McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corporation — which would be responsible for the cleanup.

And in a region known for storms and hurricanes, some advocates say that timeline could make the situation even more tenuous.

“The whole Superfund process is just so screwed up for a number of reasons that these sites just sit there with these highly toxic materials just sitting there right in the open, right in the middle of people’s areas where they live,” Barone said. “They were causing problems anyway and then when a hurricane hits it just makes it a million times worse.”

The $500 OnePlus 5T is my favorite Android phone of the year, and it’s even better after comparing its camera …

ade42_oneplus-5t The $500 OnePlus 5T is my favorite Android phone of the year, and it's even better after comparing its camera ...Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

I’m a big fan of the OnePlus 5T. 

It offers incredible performance, unbelievable value, an understated modern design, and now I truly know that it takes great photos after comparing its camera with the best camera on any smartphone, the Pixel 2 XL.

It’s true that the Pixel 2 XL takes slightly better shots than the OnePlus 5T, but the 5T isn’t far behind, which is an amazing feat when you consider its $500 price tag. 

You may notice that I compared it to the $850 Pixel 2 XL rather than the regular $650 Pixel 2, but both phones have exactly the same camera, and the XL model is more comparable in size to the OnePlus 5T. 

Check out the photos I took with the OnePlus 5T and the Pixel 2 XL to see for yourself:

Android creator Andy Rubin is back at his phone startup after allegations of an ‘inappropriate’ relationship at Google

  • Andy Rubin led the charge for Android within Google. He left Google in 2014, and founded a smartphone startup named Essential in 2015.
  • A report surfaced in late November on The Information, which uncovered a Google complaint from 2014 alleging Rubin had an “inappropriate” relationship with a colleague.
  • He subsequently took a leave of absence from his startup, but has since returned.

Andy Rubin is back at Essential, the smartphone startup he founded to take on his former employer, Google, and Apple.

The “father of Android” took a leave of absence from Essential in late November after a report in The Information was published that concerned his time at Google. The report unearthed a Google internal complaint from 2014 that accused Rubin of having an “inappropriate” relationship with a colleague in Google’s Android division.

Rubin denied the allegation of a non-consensual relationship at Google through his spokesperson at the time and said his leave was due to “personal matters” and had been requested before the report from his time at Google surfaced.

He also contested that he was even made aware of such a complaint. “Mr. Rubin was never told by Google that he engaged in any misconduct while at Google and he did not, either while at Google or since,” Rubin’s spokesperson Mike Sitrick told The Information.

Essential launched its first product, a high-end smartphone, earlier this year.

It’s not clear what the “personal matters” were that caused Rubin to the leave of absence, or whether the leave was for a specified period of time.

Recode first reported on Rubin’s return to Essential late on Friday, citing two people close to Rubin; Business Insider has confirmed his return independently. Representatives for Rubin declined to offer an official statement.

Android creator Andy Rubin is back at his phone startup after allegations of an ‘inappropriate’ relationship at Google

  • Andy Rubin led the charge for Android within Google. He left Google in 2014, and founded a smartphone startup named Essential in 2015.
  • A report surfaced in late November on The Information, which uncovered a Google complaint from 2014 alleging Rubin had an “inappropriate” relationship with a colleague.
  • He subsequently took a leave of absence from his startup, but has since returned.

Andy Rubin is back at Essential, the smartphone startup he founded to take on his former employer, Google, and Apple.

The “father of Android” took a leave of absence from Essential in late November after a report in The Information was published that concerned his time at Google. The report unearthed a Google internal complaint from 2014 that accused Rubin of having an “inappropriate” relationship with a colleague in Google’s Android division.

Rubin denied the allegation of a non-consensual relationship at Google through his spokesperson at the time and said his leave was due to “personal matters” and had been requested before the report from his time at Google surfaced.

He also contested that he was even made aware of such a complaint. “Mr. Rubin was never told by Google that he engaged in any misconduct while at Google and he did not, either while at Google or since,” Rubin’s spokesperson Mike Sitrick told The Information.

Essential launched its first product, a high-end smartphone, earlier this year.

It’s not clear what the “personal matters” were that caused Rubin to the leave of absence, or whether the leave was for a specified period of time.

Recode first reported on Rubin’s return to Essential late on Friday, citing two people close to Rubin; Business Insider has confirmed his return independently. Representatives for Rubin declined to offer an official statement.

After BPS Reschedules School Start Times By Computer, Parents Push Back

For the parents of Lucy Karp, next school year’s schedule dropped like a bomb Thursday night.

This year, the opening bell at the Henderson School in Dorchester – where Lucy is enrolled in pre-kindergarten — rings at 8:30 a.m. Next year, it will ring at 7:15. And that will make mornings tough on the Karp family.

As they have redrawn bus routes and now school schedules, BPS officials have called attention to the fact that every child’s trip to school involves a lot of variables. But Lucy’s case is even more complex than most.

“It takes us almost two hours to get out of the house,” says Lucy’s father, Roy. “We have all the typical things that a three-year-old needs to get out the door in the morning: potty time, getting dressed, waking up, having breakfast – all those things.”

Except that Lucy gets her breakfast through a feeding tube slowly overnight. She was born three months early, and has a history of chronic lung disease and acute respiratory distress. She travels to school with a walker and a pediatric nurse, the tube and other medical supplies in tow.

Lucy Karp, 3, during recess at the Henderson School. (Courtesy of Roy Karp)

The Henderson is Boston’s only K-through-12 “full-inclusion” school, meaning that students with special medical and behavioral needs are educated alongside ‘typical’ students. Some parents choose it for that model, even those living miles away in West Roxbury, Roslindale – where the Karps live – and beyond.

As it moved quickly to reconfigure start times this fall, Boston Public Schools officials insisted they were forced to balance priorities. They wanted high schools to start later, so teenagers could get extra sleep, and for elementary schools to dismiss earlier, so young children could get home before sunset.

But the Henderson School is a high school. And the district had also promised to make exceptions for schools like it — with “higher concentrations of medically fragile students or students with autism.”

So parents are asking: why will it open so much earlier?

“I really don’t get the logic,” Roy Karp says. His family won’t feel it as much, he concedes, since he’s a stay-at-home dad. But the Karps still have to facilitate Lucy’s afternoon feeding and to schedule Lucy’s nurse.

“It’s kind of unconscionable,” says Leslie Candy, another Henderson parent, “given our delicate population. We’re all confused as to why our times changed at all.”

BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang said in a statement that the district changed start times “due to an abundance of research that shows  student outcomes improve when secondary school students start later and elementary school students start earlier.”

Before announcing the changes, district operations chief John Hanlon noted that they are dealing with a system of many moving parts and “1.8 octodecillion” different possible arrangements.

The district also pointed out outreach opportunities they have offered since last fall, including a survey that got more than 10,000 responses, community meetings and a website. (It’s worth noting, though, that on the survey, members of the Henderson community, like the district at large, overwhelmingly preferred a start time between 8 and 8:30 a.m.)

In the background, the district is using an algorithm to trim its spending on transportation — a persistent driver of its budget deficit. Finding those efficiencies, and staggering start times, may have led that algorithm to flip certain schools into a much earlier time bracket.

But to Candy, including Henderson makes this look like a decision made on autopilot. “I question the human aspect of the algorithm. Did anybody stop to think, ‘Holy cow, this is a fully-inclusive school. Maybe we need to pull them out of the mix?'”

The Henderson community isn’t the only one greeting a much earlier start with frustration. Under the new schedule, 17 schools — mostly elementary and K-8 — will experience an even bigger swing, opening earlier by two hours or more. (Five more will open at least two hours later.)

A petition protesting the changes was posted Thursday night, and has more than 3,000 signatures at time of publication. Many aggrieved parents say they support the changes made for high school students, but don’t see why their own schools have to start so much earlier.

This year, the Mendell Elementary School in Jamaica Plain dismisses its students at 4:10 p.m. Next year, that’s back to 1:55 p.m.

That poses a problem for Mendell parent Patrick Banfield in picking up his son; both paernts work. Banfield says he occasionally does long days as an attorney, but “the thought of my five-year-old son having to be at school for 11 hours [every day] is insanity.”

Banfield says the new schedule may save the district money, but it will cost parents: thousands of dollars more to cover all the additional after-school care. Those added costs, he says, could end up driving middle-class families like his out of the district.

Some parents worried about coaches and trainers for student-athletes. They won’t be able to move practice earlier, since “they’re working people, too,” said Steve Sullivan, who has two kids at the Lyndon K-8 School.

Others are worried about the rhythm of their child’s day. Like Langdon White, another Henderson parent: “My kids already eat lunch — in heavy quotes — before 11 a.m. Does this mean they’re going to be eating lunch by ten?”

The changes do have their defenders. Many high schoolers and their parents, in particular, celebrated online as their start times got later. (94 percent of the district’s high schools will start after 8 a.m. next fall, as opposed to 27 percent this year.) Even Maggie Mancuso, who has three children at the Henderson School, said in an email she was “psyched they will be home earlier and I will have more time with them.”

Mancuso says she thinks parents are “freaking” out at the disruption but will find that things fall into place next year.

That’s small solace to Roy Karp. He’s a new parent, but he already feels wary of the the district’s “backwards” approach to thorny questions like this one.

“BPS does this a lot: announce major policy changes and then reacts” to family unhappiness, Karp said. “But it’s a fait accompli! You’ve already announced the policy, and now you’re just doing damage control!”

On its website, the district lists potential ways of coping with the new clock, including after-school programs, letters of explanation sent to employers and, finally, transfers to a new school.

But going back to the computer to readjust a single school’s schedule isn’t one of them.

After computer hack, Nashotah pays $2K ransom for residents’ personal information

VILLAGE OF NASHOTAH – The village recently paid an unidentified hacker a $2,000 ransom to decrypt its computer system after a hack in late November that left some residents’ personal information exposed.

Village President Richard Lartz said Thursday, Dec. 7, that the hack “totally encrypted” Nashotah’s computer files, making them inaccessible to staff. He said the only information that was exposed during the breach were citizens’ names and driver’s license numbers, and possibly their addresses.

Social Security numbers and other sensitive information was not compromised. 

“The only information that got out was voter rolls,” Lartz said, emphasizing that neither he nor village staff know whether that information was used or dispersed by the hacker.

TIP SHEET: How to defend against ransomware

In an email, Reid Magney, public information officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said because the village of Nashotah does not have access to Wisconsin’s statewide voter registration system, known as WisVote, the state’s system was not compromised. He said the village relies on the Waukesha County clerk’s staff to enter and maintain their records in the voter registration system. 

Nonetheless, in light of this incident, Magney sent out a message to all municipal and county clerks Dec. 8 detailing protections communities can take against cyber security threats.

Nashotah’s village board met in closed session Nov. 29 — and in open session Dec. 6 — to discuss the breach, which impacted only one municipal computer.

A letter describing the incident, and the village’s response to it, is being sent to residents, Lartz said, and will likely arrive in their mailboxes the week of Dec. 10.

The village board approved the content of that letter at the Dec. 6 meeting, and also approved the purchase of computer protection services and backup systems to prevent future incidents.

Lartz said the money for the ransom, which was sent to the hacker in the form of Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, was paid out of the village’s surplus fund.

‘Ransomware’ attack

The hack was an instance of “ransomware,” an increasingly common cyberattack in which a type of malicious software threatens to publish the victim’s data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid.

Ransom payments are frequently demanded in Bitcoin or some other anonymous payment method.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, ransomware often arrives through phishing email campaigns, which often look like routine messages from legitimate companies but contain malware, frequently embedded in a hyperlink.

The FTC does not recommend paying a ransom, but the agency specifies that it’s up to the ransomware victim to “determine whether the risks and costs of paying are worth the possibility of getting [their] files back.”

The Richmond School District was the victim of such an attack in 2014 and paid a $400 ransom to release more than 43,000 district files.

According to the Herjavec Group, a cybersecurity firm, ransomware attacks cost victims about $1 billion total in 2016. 

What to do as ransomware victim

According to the FTC, there are three steps victims of ransomware attacks should take:

  • Contain the attack. Disconnect infected devices from your network to keep ransomware from spreading.
  • Restore your computer. If you’ve backed up your files, and removed any malware, you may be able to restore your computer. Follow the instructions from your operating system to re-boot your computer, if possible.
  • Contact law enforcement. Report ransomware attacks to the Internet Crime Complaint Center or an FBI field office.

The FBI field office in St. Francis can be reached at 414-276-4684.

Top Headlines Around the Community:

Police investigating 2 deaths at Pewaukee condominium complex

Former Wauwatosa teacher suing, saying he wants same rights as employees with same-sex partners

Look beyond the sticker shock to see value of Kettle Moraine’s video board (and other athletics improvements)

Mitchell’s Fish Market shut down during dinner rush after health violations discovered


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 Mitchell's Fish Market shut down during dinner rush after health violations discovered

 Mitchell's Fish Market shut down during dinner rush after health violations discovered

NEWPORT, Ky. — An anonymous complaint to the Northern Kentucky Health Department led to the immediate closure of Mitchell’s Fish Market at Newport on the Levee in the middle of Friday dinner service.

Fort Thomas Matters reported the high-end seafood restaurant remained closed Saturday and Sunday before passing a subsequent inspection and reopening Monday. 

The complaint, which was confirmed by the health department, stated that the restaurant had been without hot water since Wednesday, November 29. The inspector, who was scheduled to visit Mitchell’s on December 4, visited early to investigate the complaint and found seven critical violations that yielded a food safety score of 54. 

Under Kentucky law, any food safety score under 60 merits an immediate suspension of the food service permit.

But the closure didn’t happen that night until the Campbell County Attorney’s Office intervened. According to Campbell County Attorney Steve Franzen, the general manager refused to comply with the health department’s order to close after revoking their food service permit. 

Franzen said the general manager’s refusal to close was a first in his time as county attorney and, had the manager not eventually complied with the closure, he could have been charged and arrested. Newport Police were standing by. 

“When the inspector’s order to close was refused, he posted a notice on the front doors stating that Mitchell’s was to close and why. When he came back to the restaurant he found that menus were taped up over his notice to obscure the view of that report to the public,” Franzen said. “They were in clear violation, and the law was pretty clear. I can understand the pressure to stay open on a weekend, but the public needed to be protected in this instance. They had to be shut down.”

After closing at around 7:30 p.m on Friday amid a scene that employees of the restaurant described as “chaotic,” the doors were locked and employees cleaned the kitchen area.

A sign posted at 9 p.m. read, “Unfortunately, Mitchell’s is temporarily CLOSED due to Hot Water Boiler issues. We apologize for the inconvenience and look forward to serving you soon.”

Dr. Lynne Saddler, district director of health, agreed with Franzen’s that the closure was about protecting the public. 

“At NKY Health, our mission is to prevent disease, promote wellness and protect against health threats,” she said. “One of the many ways that we do this is by working to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses and ensuring that local restaurants operate within the guidelines of Kentucky’s food code. When local food-service establishments are not complying with food guidelines, they are putting public health at risk.”

From the inspection report, dated December 1, seven critical violations were noted:

1) Open brick of cream cheese lacking date mark label expired manufacture use-by date — voluntarily discarded. Pre-made goat cheese balls lacking date mark label — voluntarily discarded. Crab meat in reach-in unit with date mark label exceeding 7 days — corrected. 

2) Tuna salad, sliced american cheese, sour cream, shredded cheddar, heavy cream on top rail of broiler station observed at 50 degrees F – quarantined. Raw salmon, shrimp, cream, cream cheese, white cheddar in bottom of broiler station observed at 64 degree F – quarantined. Smoked onion butter, parsley butter, garlic butter stored at room temperature – quarantined. 

3) Observed employee handle ready-to-eat food (slaw tacos) with bare hands. Handsink at bar area obstructed with drink dump strainer. 

4) Critical violations observed, lack of key critical food safety concepts among food handling employees, local requirement for compliance with Certified Food Manager (substitute certification). 

5) In use utensils on cook line not wash, rinse, sanitized every 4 hrs as required. High temp dish machine in use, not sanitizing dishwaters – no hot water available. Slicer for produce cheese observed heavily soiled with food residues. 

6) No hot water available at facility – mgmt has been working with maintenance all week on boiler parts (hot water Off/On/Off during week)

7) Multiple “Hot Shot” pest strips observed throughout facility – advised. Sanitizer buckets observed stored on food prep counters/surfaces. 

Before this inspection, Mitchell’s Fish Market at Newport on the Levee scored a food safety score of 81 on May 9 of this year. The follow-up inspection yielded a perfect 100. 

Local management declined to make a statement and directed comment to the corporate entity, Landry’s Inc., who acquired Mitchell’s Fish Market in 2014. 

“To ensure food safety, we ceased operations after learning that parts were unavailable for our rooftop water heater,” CEO Howard Cole said in a statement. “The Newport Health Department gave us clearance to reopen upon the repair of our water heater for lunch on Monday, December 4. We appreciate the patience of our customers and employees as we worked to get this issue resolved.”

Landry’s Inc. also owns Morton’s Steakhouse, McCormick Schmick’s, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Chart House. 

Fort Thomas Matters has learned that the general manager in charge that night no longer works at Mitchell’s Fish Market. 

Fort Thomas Matters is a news partner of WCPO.

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 Mitchell's Fish Market shut down during dinner rush after health violations discovered

 Mitchell's Fish Market shut down during dinner rush after health violations discovered

NEWPORT, Ky. — An anonymous complaint to the Northern Kentucky Health Department led to the immediate closure of Mitchell’s Fish Market at Newport on the Levee in the middle of Friday dinner service.

Fort Thomas Matters reported the high-end seafood restaurant remained closed Saturday and Sunday before passing a subsequent inspection and reopening Monday. 

The complaint, which was confirmed by the health department, stated that the restaurant had been without hot water since Wednesday, November 29. The inspector, who was scheduled to visit Mitchell’s on December 4, visited early to investigate the complaint and found seven critical violations that yielded a food safety score of 54. 

Under Kentucky law, any food safety score under 60 merits an immediate suspension of the food service permit.

But the closure didn’t happen that night until the Campbell County Attorney’s Office intervened. According to Campbell County Attorney Steve Franzen, the general manager refused to comply with the health department’s order to close after revoking their food service permit. 

Franzen said the general manager’s refusal to close was a first in his time as county attorney and, had the manager not eventually complied with the closure, he could have been charged and arrested. Newport Police were standing by. 

“When the inspector’s order to close was refused, he posted a notice on the front doors stating that Mitchell’s was to close and why. When he came back to the restaurant he found that menus were taped up over his notice to obscure the view of that report to the public,” Franzen said. “They were in clear violation, and the law was pretty clear. I can understand the pressure to stay open on a weekend, but the public needed to be protected in this instance. They had to be shut down.”

After closing at around 7:30 p.m on Friday amid a scene that employees of the restaurant described as “chaotic,” the doors were locked and employees cleaned the kitchen area.

A sign posted at 9 p.m. read, “Unfortunately, Mitchell’s is temporarily CLOSED due to Hot Water Boiler issues. We apologize for the inconvenience and look forward to serving you soon.”

Dr. Lynne Saddler, district director of health, agreed with Franzen’s that the closure was about protecting the public. 

“At NKY Health, our mission is to prevent disease, promote wellness and protect against health threats,” she said. “One of the many ways that we do this is by working to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses and ensuring that local restaurants operate within the guidelines of Kentucky’s food code. When local food-service establishments are not complying with food guidelines, they are putting public health at risk.”

From the inspection report, dated December 1, seven critical violations were noted:

1) Open brick of cream cheese lacking date mark label expired manufacture use-by date — voluntarily discarded. Pre-made goat cheese balls lacking date mark label — voluntarily discarded. Crab meat in reach-in unit with date mark label exceeding 7 days — corrected. 

2) Tuna salad, sliced american cheese, sour cream, shredded cheddar, heavy cream on top rail of broiler station observed at 50 degrees F – quarantined. Raw salmon, shrimp, cream, cream cheese, white cheddar in bottom of broiler station observed at 64 degree F – quarantined. Smoked onion butter, parsley butter, garlic butter stored at room temperature – quarantined. 

3) Observed employee handle ready-to-eat food (slaw tacos) with bare hands. Handsink at bar area obstructed with drink dump strainer. 

4) Critical violations observed, lack of key critical food safety concepts among food handling employees, local requirement for compliance with Certified Food Manager (substitute certification). 

5) In use utensils on cook line not wash, rinse, sanitized every 4 hrs as required. High temp dish machine in use, not sanitizing dishwaters – no hot water available. Slicer for produce cheese observed heavily soiled with food residues. 

6) No hot water available at facility – mgmt has been working with maintenance all week on boiler parts (hot water Off/On/Off during week)

7) Multiple “Hot Shot” pest strips observed throughout facility – advised. Sanitizer buckets observed stored on food prep counters/surfaces. 

Before this inspection, Mitchell’s Fish Market at Newport on the Levee scored a food safety score of 81 on May 9 of this year. The follow-up inspection yielded a perfect 100. 

Local management declined to make a statement and directed comment to the corporate entity, Landry’s Inc., who acquired Mitchell’s Fish Market in 2014. 

“To ensure food safety, we ceased operations after learning that parts were unavailable for our rooftop water heater,” CEO Howard Cole said in a statement. “The Newport Health Department gave us clearance to reopen upon the repair of our water heater for lunch on Monday, December 4. We appreciate the patience of our customers and employees as we worked to get this issue resolved.”

Landry’s Inc. also owns Morton’s Steakhouse, McCormick Schmick’s, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Chart House. 

Fort Thomas Matters has learned that the general manager in charge that night no longer works at Mitchell’s Fish Market. 

Fort Thomas Matters is a news partner of WCPO.

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 Mitchell's Fish Market shut down during dinner rush after health violations discovered

 Mitchell's Fish Market shut down during dinner rush after health violations discovered

NEWPORT, Ky. — An anonymous complaint to the Northern Kentucky Health Department led to the immediate closure of Mitchell’s Fish Market at Newport on the Levee in the middle of Friday dinner service.

Fort Thomas Matters reported the high-end seafood restaurant remained closed Saturday and Sunday before passing a subsequent inspection and reopening Monday. 

The complaint, which was confirmed by the health department, stated that the restaurant had been without hot water since Wednesday, November 29. The inspector, who was scheduled to visit Mitchell’s on December 4, visited early to investigate the complaint and found seven critical violations that yielded a food safety score of 54. 

Under Kentucky law, any food safety score under 60 merits an immediate suspension of the food service permit.

But the closure didn’t happen that night until the Campbell County Attorney’s Office intervened. According to Campbell County Attorney Steve Franzen, the general manager refused to comply with the health department’s order to close after revoking their food service permit. 

Franzen said the general manager’s refusal to close was a first in his time as county attorney and, had the manager not eventually complied with the closure, he could have been charged and arrested. Newport Police were standing by. 

“When the inspector’s order to close was refused, he posted a notice on the front doors stating that Mitchell’s was to close and why. When he came back to the restaurant he found that menus were taped up over his notice to obscure the view of that report to the public,” Franzen said. “They were in clear violation, and the law was pretty clear. I can understand the pressure to stay open on a weekend, but the public needed to be protected in this instance. They had to be shut down.”

After closing at around 7:30 p.m on Friday amid a scene that employees of the restaurant described as “chaotic,” the doors were locked and employees cleaned the kitchen area.

A sign posted at 9 p.m. read, “Unfortunately, Mitchell’s is temporarily CLOSED due to Hot Water Boiler issues. We apologize for the inconvenience and look forward to serving you soon.”

Dr. Lynne Saddler, district director of health, agreed with Franzen’s that the closure was about protecting the public. 

“At NKY Health, our mission is to prevent disease, promote wellness and protect against health threats,” she said. “One of the many ways that we do this is by working to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses and ensuring that local restaurants operate within the guidelines of Kentucky’s food code. When local food-service establishments are not complying with food guidelines, they are putting public health at risk.”

From the inspection report, dated December 1, seven critical violations were noted:

1) Open brick of cream cheese lacking date mark label expired manufacture use-by date — voluntarily discarded. Pre-made goat cheese balls lacking date mark label — voluntarily discarded. Crab meat in reach-in unit with date mark label exceeding 7 days — corrected. 

2) Tuna salad, sliced american cheese, sour cream, shredded cheddar, heavy cream on top rail of broiler station observed at 50 degrees F – quarantined. Raw salmon, shrimp, cream, cream cheese, white cheddar in bottom of broiler station observed at 64 degree F – quarantined. Smoked onion butter, parsley butter, garlic butter stored at room temperature – quarantined. 

3) Observed employee handle ready-to-eat food (slaw tacos) with bare hands. Handsink at bar area obstructed with drink dump strainer. 

4) Critical violations observed, lack of key critical food safety concepts among food handling employees, local requirement for compliance with Certified Food Manager (substitute certification). 

5) In use utensils on cook line not wash, rinse, sanitized every 4 hrs as required. High temp dish machine in use, not sanitizing dishwaters – no hot water available. Slicer for produce cheese observed heavily soiled with food residues. 

6) No hot water available at facility – mgmt has been working with maintenance all week on boiler parts (hot water Off/On/Off during week)

7) Multiple “Hot Shot” pest strips observed throughout facility – advised. Sanitizer buckets observed stored on food prep counters/surfaces. 

Before this inspection, Mitchell’s Fish Market at Newport on the Levee scored a food safety score of 81 on May 9 of this year. The follow-up inspection yielded a perfect 100. 

Local management declined to make a statement and directed comment to the corporate entity, Landry’s Inc., who acquired Mitchell’s Fish Market in 2014. 

“To ensure food safety, we ceased operations after learning that parts were unavailable for our rooftop water heater,” CEO Howard Cole said in a statement. “The Newport Health Department gave us clearance to reopen upon the repair of our water heater for lunch on Monday, December 4. We appreciate the patience of our customers and employees as we worked to get this issue resolved.”

Landry’s Inc. also owns Morton’s Steakhouse, McCormick Schmick’s, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Chart House. 

Fort Thomas Matters has learned that the general manager in charge that night no longer works at Mitchell’s Fish Market. 

Fort Thomas Matters is a news partner of WCPO.

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Opioid Reduction After Surgery At University Of Michigan : Shots …

02712_pills-32-0aa37f2904b91e3cab2a45707fd261de224336af-s1100-c15 Opioid Reduction After Surgery At University Of Michigan : Shots ...

Surgeons at the University of Michigan are prescribing fewer opioids to reduce the risk of addiction.

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Surgeons at the University of Michigan are prescribing fewer opioids to reduce the risk of addiction.

John Moore/Getty Images

It may not be rocket science, but a group of surgeons at the University of Michigan has devised an approach to help curb the nation’s opioid epidemic — starting at their own hospital.

Opioid addiction has been deemed a “public health emergency” by the White House. It’s estimated to have claimed 64,000 lives in 2016 alone. And research shows that post-surgical patients are at an increased risk of addiction because of the medicine they receive to help manage pain during recovery.

To lower the risk, there’s a simple remedy: Surgeons should give patients fewer pills after surgery — the time when many people are first introduced to what can be highly addictive painkillers. They should also talk to patients about the proper use of opioids and the associated risks.

That seemingly small intervention could lead to significant changes in how opioids are prescribed and make inroads against the current epidemic, said the researchers. Their findings were published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery.

“The way we’ve been prescribing opioids until this point is we’ve basically been taking a guess at how much patients would need,” said Jay Lee, a research fellow and general surgery resident at the University of Michigan, and one of the paper’s authors. “We’re trying to prevent addiction and misuse by making sure patients themselves who are receiving opioids know how to use them more safely — that they are getting a more consistent amount and one that will reduce the risk of them getting addicted.”

The researchers identified 170 patients who underwent gallbladder surgery and surveyed them within a year of the operation about how many pills they actually used, what pain they experienced after surgery and whether they had used other painkillers, such as ibuprofen.

They used the findings to create new hospital guidelines that cut back on the standard opioid prescription for gallbladder surgeries.

Then, they analyzed how patients fared under the new approach, tracking 200 surgery patients who received substantially fewer pills — an average of 75 milligrams of opioid painkillers, specifically oxycodone or hydrocodone/acetaminophen. Previously, the average dose was 250 milligrams.

Despite getting less medication, patients didn’t report higher levels of pain, and they were no more likely than the previously studied patients to ask for prescription refills. They were also likely to actually use fewer pills.

The takeaway: After surgery, patients are getting prescribed more opioids than necessary and doctors can reduce the amount without patients experiencing negative side effects.

Within five months of the new guidelines taking effect at Michigan’s University Hospital, surgeons reduced the volume of prescribed opioids by about 7,000 pills. It’s now been a year since the change took effect, and the researchers estimate they have curbed prescriptions by about 15,000 pills, said Ryan Howard, a general surgery resident and the paper’s lead author.

The reduction has real implications.

“This really shows in a very methodological way that we are dramatically over-prescribing,” said Michael Botticelli, who spearheaded drug control policy under the Obama White House, including the administration’s response to the opioid crisis.

“Not only do we have to reduce the supply to prevent future addiction, but we really have to minimize opportunities for diversion and misuse,” he said.

More hospitals are starting to turn in this direction, Botticelli said. He now runs the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center, which is also trying to systematically reduce opioid prescriptions after surgeries.

Meanwhile, 24 states have passed laws to limit how many pills a doctor prescribes at once, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The researchers also created “common sense” talking points for doctors and nurses to use with patients. They include:

  1. Encouraging patients to use lower-strength, non-addictive painkillers first;
  2. Warning them about the risks of addiction; and
  3. Reminding them that even a sufficient opioid prescription would leave them feeling some pain.

The talking points also offer tips for patients on safely storing and disposing of extra pills.

“So much of this problem can be addressed with solutions that are not complicated,” said Julie Gaither, an instructor at Yale School of Medicine. Gaither has researched the opioid epidemic’s consequences, though she was not involved with this study.

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.