It’s a family affairWe’re a long way from the screen size furore that marked the original Galaxy Note’s launch: now, big displays are commonplace. The Galaxy S8+ is, at 6.2-inches, just a fraction of an inch smaller than the Note 8’s 6.3-inch panel. Glance at the two side-by-side and it’s even more obvious that the new Note is a sibling of the Galaxy S flagships, not just a distant cousin. It could’ve been a gimmick, but I’ve been having more fun with Live Messages than I expected. The size limit forces not only brevity, but lifts some of the pressures of being A Good Artist from my inept shoulders. Samsung’s PEN.UP community still exists, with over a million pieces of often-impressive S Pen drawn art from Note owners through the generations, but Live Messages’ playfulness is far more to my tastes (and skill levels). Say cheese, it’s worth itSamsung isn’t the first smartphone company to use a dual-camera system, but the Note 8’s implementation is one of the best around. The two back cameras each shoot at 12-megapixels, one equipped with an f/1.7 wide-angle lens and the other an f/2.4 telephoto lens. Only the former gets Dual Pixel focusing, but both – unlike on an iPhone 7 Plus – have optical image stabilization. The result is the equivalent of a 2x optical zoom, with no loss of image quality. Alternatively, you can zoom in to a maximum 10x, though it’s a digital zoom at that point. You can tap to flick directly between 1x and 2x, or drag your finger on the shutter button for stages in-between; it can be a little jerky, mind. With two cameras comes Live Focus, Samsung’s version of Apple’s Portrait mode. Where the Note 8 distinguishes itself is by offering control over the degree of background blur, with a slider across the bottom of the preview. Most usefully, though, you can later re-adjust that level from the gallery; I got into the habit of ignoring the slider at the point of capture, and just relying on the fact that I’d be able to tweak the results later on when I had more time. Where Apple saves both a Portrait mode image and the un-blurred picture, Samsung’s Dual Capture system keeps the shots from both the wide-angle and the telephoto sensors. That way, not only can you later adjust the faux-bokeh, but flip between a close-up and a full shot too. That’s good news for the Note 8. Phablets once had a reputation of chunkiness to go with their expanded functionality, but the new Note benefits from Samsung’s latest design language. Like the S8 and S8+ it has an Infinity Display, a sheet of curved Super AMOLED that wraps smoothly around the left and right edges of the phone, leaving minimal bezels top and bottom. On the Note 8 that bend is a little less pronounced – Samsung wanted more flat space for S Pen use – which if anything makes it easier to hold without triggering the edges of the touchscreen. You can’t say Samsung’s Galaxy Note brand isn’t resilient: even explosions and costly recalls couldn’t dampen enthusiasm for the new Note 8. Phablet fans are dedicated, though, especially those who demand stylus support too, which means the Note 8 arrives with an audience of eager buyers waiting to open their wallets. Problem is, 2017 isn’t short on great phones: there’s a new iPhone waiting in the wings, strong competition from LG and HTC, and even Samsung’s own Galaxy S8+ is edging in on what would, traditionally, have been Note territory. It begs the question… did Samsung do the right thing, bringing the Note 8 back from the grave? Galaxy Note 8 Gallery As for video, the Note 8 will capture at up to Ultra HD 4K resolution. There are a few reasons why you might want to stick to Full HD, though. HDR, video effects, and tracking AF don’t work in the UHD, QHD (2560 x 1440), and FHD 60fps modes. Sadly, LG’s Point Zoom feature – which allows you to pre-select a region to zoom in on, rather than just the center of the screen – from the V30 doesn’t have an equivalent on Samsung’s phone. I’d like to think that, just as Samsung has a download store of add-on lenses for features like auto-generating GIFs, it could add something similar at a later date. Will it burn?Samsung has been the butt of “exploding phone” jokes for a year now, after the costly and embarrassing Note 7 battery fiasco. A not-unfair question about the Note 8, therefore, is whether the company has taken the relevant steps to make sure it doesn’t have a replay on its hands. It’s important to remember that nobody saw the Note 7 recall coming. The phone was widely praised by reviews as being among the best handsets of 2016: none were set up to look at the internal architecture and battery chemistry later blamed for the Note 7’s meltdowns. All we can go on is Samsung’s promises of much more stringent testing, and the fact that they’ve been less ambitious this time around with how much power they’ve attempted to squeeze in: 3,300 mAh in the Note 8, versus 3,500 mAh in its predecessor. An all-day companionWith a battery that is, ironically, slightly smaller than even that of the Galaxy S8+, I was curious whether Samsung’s caution with the Note 8 would impact its longevity. I needn’t have been concerned. The phablet had a baptism of fire, roped in as my primary device at IFA in Berlin. Settling on a “typical” pattern of use for any phone is effectively impossible: no one user is the same as anybody else. I’m pretty confident, though, that the trade show experience counts as a pretty intense challenge for any device: lots of messages and emails coming in; plenty of screen-on time for checking schedules and looking at maps; above-average use of the camera; plenty of social messaging; and more time on LTE than on WiFi. I resisted my over-cautious urge to top up whenever I had access to a power supply, and instead took the Note 8 off its charger at 6:30am and then watched the percentage drop.Drop, it did, but slowly. By the time I reached 15-percent it was almost 16 hours later, with Android predicting I had close to four hours juice remaining. That’s without resorting to either of the Note 8’s two power-saving modes, which suggested I could extend the final runtime for anything up to thirteen hours if I opted for the most aggressive settings.Like I said, this is with intensive, atypically-high use. Scale things back, and I’ve no doubt the Note 8 could sail through two days away from a charger. That, with the fast-charging support, certainly takes the edge off any lingering frustration about a non-removable battery. An age of thousand-dollar smartphonesIn many ways, the Galaxy Note 8 is incredibly easy to recommend. It has a beautiful screen, excellent camera, the S Pen is legitimately useful, battery life solid, and performance swift. Indeed, the biggest drawback is what it will cost you. Samsung’s $930 unlocked price – around which carrier pricing is settling, give or take – may well prove to be competitive with what we’re expecting Apple’s new flagship “iPhone 8” to cost, but that doesn’t make either of them any more palatable to your wallet. If you want the S Pen, you don’t have much choice in the matter: the Note 8 is your only real option. Sacrifice that, though, and there are significantly cheaper phones out there which provide compelling alternatives. Samsung’s own Galaxy S8+ is almost the same size, has a great camera (though no optical-equivalent zoom), and many of the software features of the Note 8, for several hundred dollars less. If dual-camera Android is your thing, the new LG V30 has its mighty impressive regular and ultra-wide setup. Huawei’s collaboration with Leica, meanwhile, has earned its recent models well-deserved praise. Wait just a little longer, and Google’s new Pixel phones are likely to build on the current models’ solid photographic capabilities. Wrap-UpThere’s nothing quite like a Galaxy Note. Samsung’s flagship may not stray wildly beyond the Galaxy S8 and S8+ we’ve already seen, but the changes it brings – S Pen, camera, and more RAM – pay dividends in all the right ways. Certainly it’s not a cheap device, but nobody said the cutting-edge would be easily attainable.For many, the Galaxy S8+ will be more than enough Android. Still, the excellent dual-camera functionality Samsung has developed, not to mention the S Pen which simply gets better generation after generation, mean the new Note still more than justifies its spot at the top of the phone-maker’s range. Right now, the Note 8 is as good as it gets. Performance is as smooth as an Olympic swim team. I’m loathe to rely on benchmark apps, since they rarely represent what you’ll experience in everyday use. Suffice to say, I’ve experienced no slow-down, no lag in opening or using apps, and none of the weird UI pauses that Android devices can occasionally suffer. On top of that, Samsung is promising monthly security updates for Android, and its own Knox 2.9 security suite. Enterprise users will probably be most impressed, though the ability to create a second install of an app in Knox’s Secure Folder, complete with a completely different account logged in, does make it easier to manage two Snapchat accounts, for instance. The last big customization – and maybe the most controversial – is Bixby. As with the Galaxy S8, Samsung’s virtual assistant gets a dedicated button on the side of the phone, which can’t be mapped to anything else. Bixby is actually a suite of services, not just a Siri or Google Assistant alternative: you can snap photos of landmarks and get travel information; products and get shopping listings; text and get translations; or just search for similar images online. Bixby works reasonably well, for the most part, though it’s still some ways from being a must-have service. Unsurprisingly it does better with simple instructions; many third-party apps don’t have support, so you can’t ask for a Spotify artist search, for instance. Still, it’s not like you miss out on having the Google Assistant as well, since both services co-exist on the Note 8. No, the main annoyance is that physical button that all too often accidentally summoned Bixby when I put the phone into my pocket or bag. Pen PowerTo say Samsung was mocked for including a stylus on the original Note would be an understatement. Several generations later, though, and it’s having the last laugh: the Note 8 has the pen-enabled phone market pretty much to itself, and there’s plenty to like about what you can do with the 108.3mm long stylus. It’s gained the sensitivity upgrade we saw earlier in the year on the Galaxy Tab S3, now capable of recognizing 4,096 levels of pressure. It’s battery-free, of course, and with a new texture to the 0.7mm tip that makes it more akin to writing on paper. Samsung has aced the friction balance, minimizing drag yet with sufficient grip still to avoid the nib skittering across the display. The biggest improvements are in the software tweaks. Some are new features, like the downloadable coloring books, while others are enhancements of existing ones, such as being able to write up to 100 page notes directly on the lock screen with Screen off memo. Translate and Convert have been supercharged with more languages that can be recognized when you hover the S Pen over individual words or, now, chunks of text. Pop the S Pen out of its silo and Air Command fans out, a radial menu of stylus-related shortcuts. From there you can create or read notes, select portions of the screen, or annotate whatever you’re looking at before saving or sending it. It’s also where the new Live Message feature can be accessed (though you can pull it up from the regular on-screen keyboard, too). From there, you get a black square on which you can draw or write a message that the Note 8 animates. It’s reminiscent of sending a sketch on the Apple Watch, only with a much larger canvas to draw on, and the S Pen’s accuracy rather than just your fingertip. You can choose between different ink colors and regular or sparkly pens, and whether to use a blank background or load a photo from your gallery to drawn on. Happily, the Note 8 saves Live Messages as a regular animated GIF, which means you’re not locked into a proprietary messaging service in order to send them. Unfortunately Instagram doesn’t support animated GIFs, though there are apps that will convert them into the short videos the photo-sharing service prefers. There’s a limit to the number of pen-strokes you can make per Live Message – a progress bar creeps across the screen to show how many you have left – which might limit just how complex you can be in your creativity. Whichever level of zoom you’re at, the Note 8’s camera is excellent. Just as the Galaxy S8 impressed us, so the new Note picks up that crown. Auto mode does a near-prescient job of picking the right settings, particularly if you take a second to use the touch-focus and drag the brightness slider. Alternatively there’s a Pro mode, with individual control over aperture, white balance, ISO, and more, along with center, spot, and matrix metering, center and multi autofocus, and a number of real-time filters. The results are full of detail, bright, and low on noise. Unsurprisingly it’s a stunning display. Maximum resolution is 2960 x 1440, though you can notch that down with little visible difference and save on some battery consumption. Colors are vivid, brightness levels impressive even in direct sunlight outdoors, and video looks great courtesy of Mobile HDR Premium certification. Otherwise it’s all smooth curves and high-gloss metal. Samsung still offers a 3.5mm headphone jack, along with USB Type-C for recharging as well as interfacing with its DeX docking station. There’s a silo for the S Pen on the bottom edge too, while buttons on the sides handle power, volume, and – still controversial – Bixby, the company’s own virtual assistant which launched on the S8. Courtesy of the fairly tall, narrow screen, it doesn’t feel unnaturally broad in your hand. Reaching top to bottom with a thumb is still tricky, but stretching across horizontally is fine. You of course get IP68 water and dust resistance. Brawn to go with beautyThe similarities between the S8 and the Note 8 continue inside. They share the same processor – either Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 or Samsung’s Exynos 8895, depending on region – but the Note 8 gets 6GB of speedy LPDDR4 RAM rather than 4GB. There’ll be 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB storage options, though in the US you’re likely to only find the smallest of the three on sale via carriers. No matter; it’s probably cheaper to drop a microSD card inside, instead. Connectivity reads like a Wikipedia entry of the latest standards. There’s LTE Cat.16, WiFi 802.11ac (2.4/5 GHz) with MU-MIMO and 1024QAM, Bluetooth 5.0, ANT+, and NFC, along with support for Samsung Pay’s credit card mimicking MST system. Along with wired fast charging there’s wireless fast charging, with support for both the major standards. As you might expect, the Note 8 doesn’t offer a user-removable battery. Rumors of an in-display fingerprint sensor failed to pan out – apparently the technology is giving everyone in the industry headaches – and so Samsung stuck with the same biometric options as on the Galaxy S8. The Note 8 can read your fingerprint, or use your face or iris recognition to unlock itself. Often frustrated by the location of the fingerprint scanner, awkwardly placed alongside the camera on the rear, I’ve instead been using iris recognition most often. For the most part it’s been swift, though there are the occasional times when I’ve been left gaping wide-eyed at the phone before resorting to punching in my PIN. If you’re considering using face recognition, don’t.Who ate my Oreo?Out of the box, the Galaxy Note 8 runs Android 7.1.1 with Samsung’s usual suite of customizations and apps. Android 8.0 Oreo is on the roadmap, but there’s no word on when, exactly, it will arrive. Nonetheless, there’s a lot to like even before that happens. We’re a long way from the gaudy days of TouchWiz, and Samsung’s current theme, though not the Android default, isn’t unpalatable. It’s also functional, especially with improvements to the “Edge” system of shortcuts that pull in from the edge of the phone. By default you get the People Edge and the Apps Edge, and the latter now supports not only folders but combining two apps together so that with a single tap they launch simultaneously. For example, I have Waze and Spotify set as an App Pair, so that when I get into the car I can quickly bring up both. You can choose which opens on the top and which is on the bottom, though there’s no way to predefine where on the screen the split is: each app always gets 50-percent to play with. Of course, as per any split-screen view, you can then press-and-drag the center line to adjust as you see fit. With Samsung DeX, the Note 8 promises to be even more productive. Drop the smartphone into the cradle, hook up an HDMI display and USB or Bluetooth peripherals, and – new with the Note 8 – any music controllers you might have, and you get a full desktop PC equivalent. There’s a new Game Center launcher that pulls together all the apps you might have loaded, plus support for multi-window apps like Samsung’s email client or its browser.
The bug fix was released quietly today, bringing the iOS version of the app update to 12.45. The update, which is available on iTunes now, is dedicated specifically to the bug, with its change log stating: “Fixed an issue with battery usage.” No details about the nature of that issue, though, were provided, making it unclear what exactly was causing the battery drain. The fix up until this point had required users to uninstall the YouTube iOS app and instead watch YouTube videos through the Safari browser. If you’re one of those users, re-downloading the app will get you the newest version with the bug fix. Everyone else likely received the update automatically, but if you didn’t, manually update to fix the bug. The issue doesn’t appear to have affected the Android version of the app at all; that app was last updated on November 15 with minor UI tweaks.SOURCE: iTunes In recent weeks, YouTube users on iOS began reporting an issue with the app that was causing it to drain their iPhone battery rapidly. Due to the rapid battery drain, these users reported that their device would get very warm to the touch, making it a frustrating issue all around. YouTube said earlier this month that it would investigate the matter, and now it is back with a fix.
Starting today, any Google Home device can be connected to Bluetooth speakers throughout a home (or office, or wherever the device is used). You can, for example, tell Google Home to play your favorite song to hear it in the bedroom, listen to a podcast in the kitchen, and similar things.Bluetooth pairing is performed within the Google Home app via the device settings menu. The app guides the speaker through the pairing process, after which point users will control the audio using natural commands: “Hey Google, turn up the volume” for example. You don’t have to state the speaker’s name specifically; the audio will play on it automatically as long as the speaker is paired. The support extends to multi-room audio experiences, as well. To get that, users need to add multiple speakers to a group within the mobile app. By setting up multi-room audio, users can, for example, have evening jazz play throughout the house so that they can listen to it during dinner in the dining room and evening activities in the family room. Of course, the voice command will need to be made in the room containing the Google Home device.SOURCE: Google Blog Google has added Bluetooth speaker support to Google Home, opening a new door for media streaming. Users have been heavily requesting this feature since the Google Home Mini’s launch, and Google says it added it due to that feedback. With the new support, Home owners can use voice commands to stream their favorite song on a connected Bluetooth speaker.
Smart speakers are designed to be at the logical and visual center of the smart homes of today but, ironically, they aren’t exactly designed to suit everyone’s aesthetic tastes. Companies seem to expect that all such rooms are going to complement smart speakers’ somber blacks, grays, or whites. That’s why when alternative colors come officially, they become quite the sensation. But the 2nd gen Amazon Echo isn’t going red just for appearances. It’s doing it for a worthy cause. Yep, this is the same Project (RED) that both Amazon and especially Apple are known for supporting. The two companies often hold special red-themed promos and donate proceeds of those sales to help Global Fund raise money to fight AIDS, especially in Africa. Amazon has done this regularly and even sold a RED Amazon Echo last year. The RED is back, but this time for the second gen smart speaker.It’s exactly the same new Amazon Echo, with absolutely nothing changed except the color. You might get better deals elsewhere but you won’t get officially RED versions elsewhere either. And while you are paying the full price, you will also have the satisfaction of knowing that $10 of that goes to a worthy cause.Do note that this is a pre-order that won’t ship until December 5. If you wait for Amazon’s Black Friday deal though, you might be able to grab the same Amazon Echo for $69 only, though it remains to be seen if the Product (RED) version will be included in that list.
The temptation must’ve been to play it safe: tweak a few things here and there, polish up the styling, and push out a “new” CX-5 that would coast by on the positive reputation of its predecessor. Instead, the company chose to make its most popular produce the next major step in an attempt to redefine the brand. Mazda is going upmarket. They’re calling it “Mazda Premium”, and it’s all about maximizing the emotional bond the automaker has with its customers. Less competition on price, and more rewarding of loyal repeat-buyers and “making people smile”. The cynics in the audience might argue it’s also what happens when you’re a niche, independent player in the automotive industry as a whole – Mazda has about 2-percent market share worldwide – and investing in electrification, autonomous driving, or anything too ambitious is pretty much out of reach for now. 2017 Mazda CX-5 Gallery Mazda finds itself in a tricky spot. The CX-5 is due for a refresh; however, it’s also the best-selling car in the company’s US line-up. Sales in 2016, in fact, accounted for a quarter of all Mazda purchases in the US. Get it wrong, and the 2017 CX-5 could end up doing more harm than good. It’s a process that started with the excellent CX-9, but which will really reach the mass market with the 2017 CX-5. Take what’s already a popular car and crank the obsession of the engineers up to 11: everything from noise while you’re driving through the perkiness of the engine, to how much the passengers move around while the driver is getting their zoom-zoom on. All while being incredibly careful not to screw it up. Here’s your spoiler: the result is a triumph. Mazda has taken what I loved about the CX-5 and nudged it in meaningful ways toward the class above. That starts with the design, which is sleeker and more purposeful, but more significantly it impacts key factors which you’ll live with every day. The SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter engine is broadly the same, but Mazda has fettled the software among other things. It makes for smoother pick-up from a standing start, with less jerkiness, as well as more meaningful grunt when you push a little harder to merge onto the freeway. Rather than throw out the old powertrain, Mazda’s engineers dug deep to smooth away the lingering rough edges. That includes removing scant-millimeters of metal around the pistons to cut friction and engine knock; make the oil rings and the piston skirts asymmetrical for smoother and more efficient operation; and finessing the software calibration to make everything feel more linear with the standard 6-speed auto transmission. On paper, you could argue that the changes are near-imperceptible. Horsepower rises just a few points to 187 HP; torque is now 185 lb-ft. Yet the combined efforts to cut lag from a standing start do leave the new CX-5 feeling friskier, just as burying your right foot for a sudden overtaking rouses everything that little bit quicker than before. It’s tough to enjoy your “Mazda Premium” if your passengers are complaining about being shaken around like balls in a pachinko machine, and that’s where G-Vectoring Control (GVC) steps in. Numerous aspects of the steering and suspension hardware have been polished – a solid-mount steering rack to cut vibrations; lower friction suspension struts for greater agility; and better balance to the springs that keep each strut in check – but at its heart, GVC is about making the dynamics of the car more consistent. Turns out, we’re a fickle bunch when we drive. We turn the wheel, and – in that split second before the car actually responds – we get antsy, and so we turn some more. Then we find we’ve over-compensated, and have to correct it, and meanwhile our loved-ones are getting thrown about in their seats and, eventually, lose affection for us altogether. GVC doesn’t make the turns any more smooth in and of itself, but it does make the 2017 CX-5 more predictable as you steer. It’s a mixture of technological know-how and simple materials-physics: the SUV trims engine torque ever so slightly – less, indeed, than you could actually notice – while the rubber of the tires stiffen as the load shifts to the front wheels, and the overall steering response improves. Because that all happens so quickly, Mazda says, you get used to it happening, and so you stop over-compensating. It’s designed so that you don’t notice it in action, but the result – less body movement when you’re not the person behind the steering wheel – is recognizable when you specifically look for it. Push the 2017 CX-5 hard, and it flatters the eager driver without prompting nausea in those you’re bringing along. Mazda’s SUV already had perky driving dynamics, but the CX-5 feels a tiny bit closer to Miata territory than it did before. If it feels like I’ve spent a not-inconsiderable amount of time discussing what turns out to be a near-imperceivable change, you’e not wrong. Really, though, that’s what the 2017 CX-5 is all about: lots and lots of little improvements rather than, say, a brand-new engine or entirely changed cabin. In aggregate, however, those near-imperceivable changes condense into one of the most rewarding, entertaining SUVs on the road today. So, the A-pillars have been drawn back: only by 35 millimeters, but enough to improve visibility into corners and, with an adjustment to the side mirror design, stand less chance of blocking your view of pedestrians. The rear doors now open to 80-degrees, rather than 74-degrees, and along with redesigned inner panels make for easier loading of passengers and child seats. The windshield wiper defrosters automatically switch on when the rear screen defroster is on; the headlights automatically come on when the auto-wipers are activated. You could fairly accuse Mazda of being obsessional. The shape of the door handles has been changed, so that there’s more space for your fingers to grasp, while the controls on the multifunction steering wheel have been condensed from four rows to two, allowing for a more usable cutaway grip. The shifter is 60 mm higher, balancing the center console with the door armrests, while what’s behind the exterior grilles has been repositioned or blacked-out so as not to detract from the SUV’s aesthetic. It’s not to say there aren’t noticeably improved features. Mazda’s optional head-up display no longer projects onto a pop-up secondary screen, but right onto the windshield, which the engineers claim is less distracting. The active cruise control can now bring the CX-5 to a complete stop, while a power lift gate is now available. Those in the rear seats not only get incline adjustment from 24- to 28-degrees, but their own HVAC vents, two 2A USB ports in the armrest, and optional heating for the outboard seats. There’s still room for improvement, mind. I’d like to see paddle-shifters on the steering wheel, and Mazda’s infotainment system – a 7-inch touchscreen with a secondary control knob – still lacks Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There’s no WiFi hotspot option, nor active noise cancellation. Although the automaker took pains to reassure us that it had paid particular effort to making sure the “visual noise” of clashing textures and angles in the cabin had been cleaned up, there’s still noticeable difference in the pattern and hue of the elephant-butt plastic on the dashboard. Does the 2017 CX-5 hold up to the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Lexus NX200t, and Mercedes-Benz GLA that Mazda had – confidently – brought along for back-to-back comparisons? Brand cachet aside, there’s no denying that the CX-5 is a smooth, quiet SUV. Much of Mazda’s hard work has been on filling in gaps where road noise might enter the cabin, fitting acoustic glass and new seals on doors and windows, and even changing the natural frequency of different parts of the vehicle. Throw in some extra insulation, and the result is a markedly quieter car. I’m not entirely convinced that those with their heart set on a Q3 or X1 will abandon that for a CX-5, even if 2017’s model is so improved. Yet, out on the road, it’s hard to argue that the automaker’s goals haven’t been met. Mazda wanted a better-driving, more comfortable, smarter, and safer SUV, and by each of those criteria they’ve succeeded. Price has risen a little – by between $450 and $850 depending on trim – but so has the standard equipment at each level. With prices from $24,045 (plus $950 destination) for the base FWD CX-5 Sport, rising to $30,695 for the AWD CX-5 Grand Touring, it’s still affordable, too. Time will tell whether Mazda’s premium ambitions play out. Beyond the semantics, however, is a more refined SUV that flatters eager drivers as much as it cossets passengers. Whatever you might be cross-shopping in the compact crossover space, the 2017 CX-5 earns its spot in consideration.
By introduction, Dyson pointed out that this isn’t actually the company’s first automotive effort. Back in the 1990s, Dyson had a team working on a diesel exhaust capture system that promised to collect soot emissions from trucks and other vehicles. While it apparently worked, the company found no automakers were interested in implementing it. That pushed Dyson to explore the potential of his own vehicle, becoming less reliant on the whims of other companies. “Some years ago, observing that automotive firms were not changing their spots,” he explained to staff, “I committed the company to develop new battery technologies. I believed that electrically powered vehicles would solve the vehicle pollution problem.” Now, the same battery and motor technology that powers vacuums like the Cinetic Big Ball Animal and connected vans and purifiers like the Pure Hot+Cool Link will be turned to powering an EV. “The latest digital motors and energy storage systems power the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer and cord-free vacuum line,” Dyson points out. “We’ve relentlessly innovated in fluid dynamics and HVAC systems to build our fans, heaters and purifiers.”Details on the new vehicle are scant, mind. That’s by intent, with the CEO warning that the auto industry is fiercely competitive and that it’s too soon for Dyson to tip its hand. Still, there’s no denying the broader roadmap.“At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together into a single product,” Dyson confirmed. “Rather than filtering emissions at the exhaust pipe, today we have the ability to solve it at the source. So I wanted you to hear it directly from me: Dyson has begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to be launchd by 2020.”The company currently has a team of more than 400 people working on the project, including Dyson’s own engineers and “talented individuals from the automotive industry.” Further recruitment is planned. They have an impressive budget, too, with £2bn ($2.7bn) earmarked to the vehicle’s development. The big question, of course, is just what sort of EV Dyson has in mind. While the obvious conclusion would be a Tesla-rivaling car – and indeed, the storyline of an rich, environmentally-minded engineer setting out to do what traditional automakers would or could not has clear parallels between James Dyson and Elon Musk – it’s not the only possibility. Gogoro, for example, arguably has more in common with Dyson as we know it now, with its interchangeable batteries currently powering all-electric city scooters.Rumors of a Dyson EV began circulating in early 2016. Then, a subsequently-redacted government grant disclosure apparently confirmed the project, though the company would not commit to it publicly. The year before, Dyson had acquired a long-life battery startup. Dyson has announced plans to build an electric vehicle, the biggest departure yet for the British company best known for its vacuum cleaners and fans. The news was shared by founder and engineer James Dyson with employees today, along with the target of a 2020 launch for the as-yet-unnamed EV. According to Dyson, there’s already a considerable team – and budget – working on the problem. James Dyson just announced to @Dyson employees that we’ve begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to launch in 2020. pic.twitter.com/yUZNvIsYIi— Dyson (@Dyson) September 26, 2017
Story TimelineLenovo Smart Clock brings Google Assistant to your bedsideLenovo Yoga S940, Yoga A940, Yoga C730, Yoga Mouse bring on the smartsLenovo Tab E10 available in the US six months after debut As with the 14e Chromebook Enterprise, the new 14w Enterprise features an aluminum design said to be durable enough for classroom use. The model features narrower bezels and touchscreen support, as well as Staffhub and Microsoft Office 365. The Lenovo 14w Enterprise packs an AMD 3GHz A6 dual-core processor alongside AMD integrated graphics, up to 8GB of RAM and up to either 128GB eMMc storage or a 256GB SSD. The model features Dolby Audio and up to an 11-hour run time per charge, depending on usage.Lenovo will offer the 14w Enterprise with a 14-inch display featuring up to a Full HD resolution alongside touch support. The laptop has an array of ports that should meet the needs of most students and business users, including one USB-C, two USB-A, HDMI 1.4, a microSD card slot, and one combo audio jack.Though it’s not the lightest laptop Lenovo has introduced this year, the 14w Enterprise is still very portable with a weight of up to only 3.39lbs. Enterprise customers will be able to purchase the 14w Enterprise from Lenovo in March starting at $299 USD. Joining its new 14e Chromebook Enterprise is Lenovo’s 14w Enterprise, an alternative to the Chromebook that offers Windows instead of Chrome OS. The model strikes a compromise between features and cost, offering enterprise customers an inexpensive laptop capable of getting their workers or students online and connected to business services.
SOURCE: Autoblog The Roadster is much wider and lower than your average Bug and it is a two-seat roadster with cool plaid interior that would be right at home in most VW classics and some new VWs. This car doesn’t roll on a standard Bug chassis, it’s all tube frame like a racing car. The suspension is MacPherson struts front and trailing arms in the rear. The custom chassis allows the car to wear bigger tires than you might expect with 225 width fronts and 255 width rears on 18-inch wheels. Power is from a 2.7L air-cooled, fuel-injected flat-four with 210hp and 182 lb-ft of torque with a 5-speed manual transmission.The engine is based on what Porsche used in the 914 and VW plugged into the Type 4 Bus. It is tweaked and modified by Memminger. A glance at the images shows a very nice interior that would look at home in a Porsche.Inside the car, you can see exposed tubes from the frame making it look very racy. There is no word on how much this car might cost or if it’s even available to purchase. For all we know this might just be a prototype car to show what Memminger can do. A fast glance at the Memminger Roadster 2.7 and you might think you are looking at a classic VW Beetle. A closer inspection tells you that despite the visual similarities, the Memminger car is a vastly different beast. The car is built by a German restoration shop unsurprisingly called Memminger.
It uses the same 4.0-liter AMG V8 biturbo engine as the GT R, and indeed the horsepower and torque figures – the latter clocking in at a healthy 516 lb-ft from 2,100 rpm – are the same for both cars. Each uses an AMG Speedshift DCT 7-speed transmission, too, along with rear-wheel drive. That’s because AMG didn’t take the typical route to make the GT R PRO faster, and just throw more power at it. Instead, it opted to tune the coupe for better performance on the track, borrowing tech and tweaks from the AMG GT3 and GT4 race cars in the process. 0-60 mph comes in the same 3.5 seconds, but the PRO version shines when it reaches the corners. There’s AMG RIDE CONTROL coil-over suspension, for example, with manual adjustment of the damping. That allows the spring rate, rebound, and compression to all be tweaked, using adjustment wheels on the dampers themselves. The aero has been updated as well, with larger carbon fiber front splitter with aluminum supports, carbon fiber “flics” on the front bumper, “gills” in the fenders, and an adjustable front axle sway bar also made of carbon fiber. AdChoices广告The result is more downforce on the front axle, and then there’s a new fixed rear spoiler, roof with lowered center section, and rear diffuser, all made of carbon fiber too. Carbon ceramic brakes are standard, too. As we found when we took the 2020 AMG GT R PRO to the track, the result is a car that feels more nimble, more agile, and generally more purposeful. Mercedes-AMG’s figures tell the same story. With AMG GT3 racing driver Maro Engel behind the wheel, the new coupe did the Nürburgring North Loop in exactly 7.04.632 minutes: six seconds faster than the best speed of the AMG GT R.You’ll pay handsomely for this performance improvement, mind: more than $8k a second, indeed. The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO starts at $199,650 (plus $995 destination) and will begin to appear in US dealerships by the end of the year. Mercedes-AMG has confirmed pricing for its most fearsome AMG GT car yet, with the limited-edition 2020 GT R PRO set to command a hefty tag if you want to get your hands on the keys. Only 750 of the 577 horsepower cars will be produced worldwide, the automaker has confirmed. Story TimelineMercedes-AMG GT R Pro is a GT4-inspired monster2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO tops AMG GT 2-door revampThe 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R PRO speeds smarter with lavish new aero
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Medicaid Expansion Unsettles Governors’ Meeting Governors express sharp disagreements about whether to expand Medicaid, as mandated by the health law. Meanwhile, a pediatric expert warns congressional staff that state efforts to roll back Medicaid eligibility could cut coverage to millions of poor children.Stateline: Health Care Ruling, Elections Dominate Governors’ MeetingThe typical low-key summer gathering of the nation’s governors was anything but subdued this year. The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision leaving it up to the states whether to expand their Medicaid programs topped headlines coming from the National Governors Association’s two-day meeting held in Williamsburg, Va., that began July 13. … The NGA, an organization made up of governors of both parties, historically strives for bipartisan agreement, but with this topic, that seems unlikely (Prah, 7/16).CQ Healthbeat: ‘Maintenance of Effort’ Provisions Critical To Coverage For ChildrenIf governors do not have to abide by the health law requirement that they maintain current eligibility policies to enroll children in Medicaid and CHIP, gains made in insuring those youngsters would be lost, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics expert speaking to congressional staff on Monday. The health care law will reduce the number of children who do not have insurance from about 7.4 million to 4.2 million if funding for coverage is provided as expected, Renee Fox, said. … But if lawmakers were to get rid of requirements that states maintain eligibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) until 2019, the number of kids without insurance would be around 7.9 million to 9.1 million, according to Fox (Adams, 7/16).Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Colorado Hospitals Want Medicaid ExpansionBurdened with providing $1.5 billion in care for the uninsured a year, Colorado hospitals support an expansion of Medicaid to help reduce health care costs. “As of now, the Medicaid expansion is the best solution we know of to get health insurance for the people who need it most,” said Julian Kesner, spokesman for the Colorado Hospital Association. Kesner said the association’s financial analysts are calculating how much a failure to expand Medicaid would cost hospitals, but he doesn’t have an estimate yet (McCrimmon, 7/16).The Associated Press/CBS News: Texas Medicaid Debate About Politics, IdeologyThe debate in Texas over whether to fully implement the new federal health care law has little to do with health care, and a lot to do with ideology and politics. Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs summed it up best last week when he said the question is not whether to pay for poor people’s health care, but who will pay (7/16).
New Track-And-Trace Proposal Would Combat Drug Counterfeiting, Gray Market Politico Pro reports on a draft legislative proposal released last week. Politico Pro: Track And Trace Draft Could Address Drug CounterfeitingThe bipartisan track and trace draft legislation released last week would allow drugs to be authenticated throughout the supply chain, which could help combat counterfeiting as well as the so-called gray market that’s been highlighted in the drug shortage crisis, Democratic staffers who worked on the draft said. The legislation would initially establish only a lot — or batch — level drug pedigree requirement. But it requires every bottle of pills or vial of drugs contained in a lot to be labeled with a unique identifier of its own. That can be traced back to the manufacturer lot and confirmed as authentic (Norman, 10/30).Meanwhile, CQ HealthBeat reports that another coalition, this one made up of HIV and AIDS advocates, is urging Congress to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction efforts that would not include the automatic cuts called for as a result of the sequester. CQ HealthBeat: Big Coalition Urges Hill Against AIDS-Related Automatic CutsA coalition of 118 organizations involved in the care of people with HIV and AIDS is urging congressional leaders to raise revenues as part of a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction that would prevent automatic cuts Jan. 2 under sequester provisions of the budget control law. “Sequestration cuts, scheduled to take place in just a few weeks, will reverse efforts to prevent HIV in our country and severely disrupt the system of lifesaving care and treatment that today serves over 500,000 low-income people with HIV/AIDS,” the Oct. 26 letter said (Reichard, 10/30). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
A selection of health policy stories from Mississippi, Oregon, Connecticut and California.The Associated Press: Healthy Officials Trying To Save JobsTop officials at the Mississippi State Department of Health say they’re trying to prevent layoffs for 41 employees and 41 contract workers who were part of a program to help women with high-risk pregnancies. Dr. Mary Currier, the state health officer, said Friday that the social workers were told April 15 their jobs could be eliminated July 1 (4/28).The Lund Report: For-Profit Hospitals Skimp On Charity CareOregon’s two for-profit hospitals are among the stingiest hospitals in the state when it comes to providing care for the poor. Willamette Valley Medical Center spent less than 1 percent of patient revenue on charity care in 2011, a tenth the average of its peers, according to a Lund Report review of the state’s major hospitals. And McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center, the only other major for-profit hospital in Oregon, spent 3.2 percent of patient revenue on charity care (Sherwood, 4/26).Kaiser Health News: Oregon’s Dilemma: How To Measure Health?There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to track the health of a population: the average blood pressure of a large group of people, the rate of mental illness, the average weight. Epidemiologists have been collecting this kind of data for years, but now, in Oregon, there is cold, hard cash riding on these metrics (Foden-Vencil, 4/26).CT Mirror: Hospitals Working Together To Reduce Surgical ComplicationsConnecticut hospitals traditionally considered competitors have been quietly teaming up to share techniques to reduce surgical infections and complications. The idea is to improve patient care and efficiency in a landscape of skyrocketing health care costs and pressure from the federal Affordable Care Act to improve performance. On Friday, surgeons, hospitals, health plan providers, physicians and politicians gathered at the state Capitol for a symposium to raise public awareness of hospitals’ efforts to contain costs and to discuss challenges that lie ahead in health care reform (Merritt, 4/26).HealthyCal: ‘Show Me The Money’Imagine taking a job without knowing how much you’ll be paid. Or having your car fixed without knowing the cost. That’s how state health insurers and our most vulnerable patients — the old, sick, and poor — feel about California’s latest plan to squeeze them into a new managed care program that may be woefully unprepared for a transition scheduled for the fall (Perry, 4/28).California Healthline: Legislature OKs First Special Session BillsThe Assembly and Senate yesterday voted to approve two similar bills that would reform the individual health insurance market and ban pre-existing conditions as a reason for denying health insurance. They are the first bills from the special session on health care reform to pass legislative floor votes. The bills now must pass a procedural vote by both houses of origination before heading to the governor’s desk. The governor’s office has expressed support for the bills, so both are expected to be signed into law (Gorn, 4/26). State Highlights: Ore. For-Profit Hospitals’ Charity Care Lags This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. The makers of a pomegranate juice called Pom Wonderful ask the court to rule that Coca-Cola is falsely labeling its Pomegranate Blueberry juice that is 99.4 percent apple and grape juice.Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court Seems Inclined To Bolster Truth-In-Labeling LawsIn a case that could strengthen truth-in-labeling laws, Supreme Court justices on Monday voiced deep skepticism about Coca-Cola’s Pomegranate Blueberry juice that is 99.4% apple and grape juice, saying the name would probably fool most consumers, including themselves. The high court is hearing an appeal from Stewart and Lynda Resnick of Los Angeles, makers of a rival pomegranate juice called Pom Wonderful, who complained that the name of the Coca-Cola product, sold under the Minute Maid brand, is false and misleading. … At issue is whether federal law permits selling a product with a name or a label that is almost sure to mislead consumers, and how much latitude manufacturers have in marketing (Savage, 4/21).The Wall Street Journal: Justices Skeptical Of Coke’s Pomegranate Juice LabelLos Angeles-based Pom, which sells juices and juice blends with high content of costly pomegranate juice, claims that Coke is misleading consumers with a Minute Maid product it calls Pomegranate Blueberry Blend of Five Juices. The product, which contains about 0.5% of pomegranate and blueberry juices, highlights the words Pomegranate Blueberry, features a pomegranate and blueberry on its label, and is colored a bluish-purple, altering the natural hue of the less pricey apple and grape juices that make up more than 99% of the beverage (Bravin, 4/21).The high court will also consider a case Tuesday involving abortion and free speech – Politico: Abortion At Heart Of Ohio Speech CaseThe Supreme Court will consider Tuesday whether an anti-abortion group can challenge an Ohio law that could have restricted it from publicly accusing a political candidate of voting for taxpayer-funded abortions in Obamacare. The justices aren’t likely to decide whether the law chills free speech—although Susan B. Anthony List and even the Ohio attorney general say that it does. They’re instead being asked to decide whether SBA List has standing to challenge the law since the group was never prosecuted under it (Winfield Cunningham, 4/22). Supreme Court Weighs Truth-In-Labeling Issue In Case Involving Juice Product
Today’s headlines include coverage of Medicare data released Monday indicating that 2012 charges for some common inpatient hospital procedures dramatically increased over the previous year. Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Rape Victims May Have To Pay For Some Medical ServicesKaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: “The effects of a sexual assault can be long-lasting, but the medical bills shouldn’t be. Yet a new study finds that despite federal efforts to lift that burden from rape victims, a hodgepodge of state rules means some victims may still be charged for medical services related to rape, including prevention and treatment of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. ‘If you’re exposed to HIV as a result of the attack, that’s something the state should be paying for, especially if we can give you prophylaxis to prevent infection,’ says Ilse Knecht, deputy director of public policy at the National Center for Victims of Crime” (Andrews, 6/3). Read the column.Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Medicare Could Save Billions By Scrapping Random Drug Plan Assignment; Pre-Existing Condition Bans – Are They Really Gone?Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, writes about a new study regarding Medicare’s drug plan assignment process: “In 2013, an estimated 10 million people who participate in the Medicare prescription drug program, known as Part D, received government subsidies to help pay for that coverage. They account for an estimated three-quarters of the program’s cost. Most of those low-income enrollees are randomly placed in a plan that costs less than the average for the region where the person lives” (Rovner, 6/2). Also on the blog, Rovner tells her own experience with insurance coverage and pre-existing conditions: “Now, as a health reporter, I knew the first letter was a mistake. The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides that if you’ve had continuous coverage, meaning coverage without a break of more than 63 days, your new insurer may not impose a pre-existing condition waiting period. Obviously I hadn’t had a break of more than 63 days. I hadn’t had a break of even one day. I did that quite purposefully. But the mix up raised a broader question – What about the requirement of the Affordable Care Act that prohibited pretty much all pre-existing condition exclusions as of Jan. 1, 2014? Under the law, the only plans that may continue to exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions after that date are individual plans that are ‘grandfathered,’ or haven’t changed substantially since the law was passed in 2010’” (Rovner, 6/2). Check out what else is on the blog.The New York Times: Hospital Charges Surge For Common Ailments, Data ShowsCharges for some of the most common inpatient procedures surged at hospitals across the country in 2012 from a year earlier, some at more than four times the national rate of inflation, according to data released by Medicare officials on Monday. While it has long been known that hospitals bill Medicare widely varying amounts — sometimes many multiples of what Medicare typically reimburses — for the same procedure, an analysis of the data by The New York Times shows how much the price of some procedures rose in just one year’s time (Creswell, Fink and Cohen, 6/2).The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: Further Evidence Of How Weird Hospital Pricing IsThe federal government last year for the first time released the prices that hospitals charge for the 100 most common procedures. The Medicare data from the 2011 fiscal year demonstrated wild variations in what hospitals charge the health-care program for seniors – for example, a joint replacement could be priced anywhere between $5,300 and $223,000 depending on the facility (Millman, 6/2).The Wall Street Journal: Hospitals’ Prices Common Services On The RiseFederal data released Monday show an increase in the average price hospitals charge to treat common conditions, with vascular procedures and chest-pain treatment showing some of biggest upticks. The numbers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services include 2012 prices at 3,376 hospitals for the 100 most common inpatient stays by Medicare patients. It is the second year the agency has released such data, and it reflects $57 billion in payments from Medicare, the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled (Armour, Weaver and Beck, 6/2).USA Today: Cheaper Eye Drug Could Save Medicare $18 BillionSwitching from an expensive eye medication to a similar, much cheaper medication could save Medicare $18 billion over the next decade, a report released Monday finds. Lucentis to Avastin are used to treat wet macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema. Avastin costs $55 per treatment, and Lucentis costs $2,023 per treatment. Both are made by Genentech, a subsidiary of health care company Roche. The medications made headlines recently when Medicare released its provider-payment data for 2010 and showed that one Florida doctor was paid $21 million by Medicare for his use of Lucentis (Kennedy, 6/2).The Washington Post: Anthony Brown Says He Should Have Taken Direct Role In Maryland Health Exchange RolloutDemocratic gubernatorial front-runner Anthony G. Brown said Monday that he should have taken a more direct role in overseeing Maryland’s online health insurance exchange, a project that turned out to be deeply flawed. Brown, the state’s lieutenant governor, made the remark during a spirited, hour-long debate with his two leading rivals that also included clashes over the candidates’ commitment to expanding pre-kindergarten education in coming years and the tax environment in the state (Wagner, 6/2).The Associated Press: Doctors Lean More Left, Political Donations ShowThe first rigorous look at donor doctors also finds they’ve become increasingly generous, with political contributions surging to almost $200 million in recent years. An increase in female doctors — who more often than men donated to Democrats — and a decline in physicians working on their own or in small practices occurred during study years. Those changes likely contributed but reasons for the political shift are unclear, said study co-author David Rothman, a social medicine professor at Columbia University’s medical school (6/2).The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: Doctors Are Donating Less Often To Republican CandidatesThere have a few been recent hints at how the sweeping changes within the medical industry are reshaping the politics of being a doctor. But a new study suggests a profession once solidly aligned with Republicans has become more Democratic in the past 20 years, as the number of female doctors grows and the traditional small physician’s office is on the wane. Researchers analyzing doctors’ federal campaign contributions between the 1991-92 and 2011-12 election cycles found that doctors — who once contributed to Republican campaigns at consistently higher rates than the entire donor population — have become less enthusiastic donors to the GOP (Millman, 6/2).The Wall Street Journal: Veterans Affairs Hospitals Vary Widely In Patient CareThe Phoenix facility at the heart of the crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs is among a number of VA hospitals that show significantly higher rates of mortality and dangerous infections than the agency’s top-tier hospitals, internal records show. The criticism that precipitated last week’s resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has focused largely on excessive wait times for appointments across the VA’s 150-hospital medical system (Burton and Paletta, 6/2).The Associated Press: Reid Vows Quick Senate Action On VA Health BillA refashioned bill to address problems plaguing the Veterans Affairs Department should be approved by the Senate as soon as possible, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would give the VA authority to immediately remove senior executives based on poor job performance while preventing “wholesale political firings” that Sanders said could be allowed under a similar bill approved by the House (6/2).Politico: Harry Reid: GOP ‘Double-Speak’ On VeteransSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Republicans of prioritizing the wealthy over the health of military veterans, arguing that “every senator” should support Democrats’ plan to boost medical care access for veterans, no matter the price tag. Reid on Monday slammed Republicans for rejecting a veterans bill written by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in February. Reid accused the GOP of “double-speak” by criticizing the Veterans Affairs Department but denying the agency the funding it needs. He bashed Republicans for spending billions on Iraq paid for by “the taxpayers’ of America’s credit card” while failing to invest in care for those returning from overseas conflicts (Everett, 6/2).The Washington Post: With Shinseki Out, What’s Congress Going To Do About The VA? So now what? That’s what many in Washington will be asking this week now that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki has resigned, a move that lawmakers agreed was a good “first step,” but just part of a new push to overhaul the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs. With Shinseki’s sudden departure, it’s likely that Congress will take weeks, if not months, to sort out the situation. The debate will break down along familiar lines — Democrats and Republicans agree in principle that something must be done, but the House and the Senate can’t agree on how to do it. Senate Democrats are pushing to pass a comprehensive bill with several changes, while House Republicans are touting nine veterans-related measures that they’ve passed in recent months and seen ignored by the Senate. Meanwhile, the issue of veterans’ care is fast becoming fodder on the campaign trail, with Democratic and GOP political operations already targeting incumbents and challengers for ignoring the VA scandal or voting against VA budget increases (O’Keefe, 6/2).Los Angeles Times: Veterans Group Pushes For ‘Marshall Plan’ To Address VA Member IssuesAs the Senate prepares to take up reform legislation growing out of the VA healthcare scandal, a group representing Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans called Monday for a “Marshall Plan” for veterans and for the president to appoint a post-9/11 veteran or someone who understands the younger generations of veterans as the next secretary of Veterans Affairs. The group also called for the Senate to swiftly pass legislation that would expand the VA secretary’s authority to fire or demote senior staff for poor performance and for Congress to increase funding for VA healthcare and approve a bill designed to combat suicides among veterans (Simon, 6/2).USA Today: Poll: Confidence In Veterans’ Care Plummets To New LowAmericans’ confidence in the medical care provided for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has plummeted to new lows in the wake of the VA scandal, a USA TODAY Poll finds. Most people see the problem as widespread and systemic. Just one in five rate the job the government does in providing veterans with medical care as excellent or good, about half the percentage who said that in a Pew Research Center survey in 2011. Then, half rated the care as “only fair” or poor; now seven in 10 do (Page, 6/2).The New York Times: Ventas To Buy American Realty Capital Healthcare For $2.6 BillionVentas, the nation’s biggest health care real estate investment trust, said on Monday that it had agreed to acquire the American Realty Capital Healthcare Trust for $2.6 billion in stock and cash. At $11.33 a share, the offer is 14 percent above the Friday closing stock of the company, known as A.R.C. Healthcare (6/2).The Wall Street Journal: Humana Files RICO Claim Over Medtronic Bone DrugHumana alleges that Medtronic paid $210 million to prominent physicians who advocated the drug’s use in certain neck and spine surgeries that hadn’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to Humana’s complaint. Humana alleges the doctors advocated these uses, in part, in medical journals (Walker, 6/2).The Washington Post: Videos Aim To Inform Patients About Their Medical Options At The End Of LifeThe video was direct and dramatic. In a demonstration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, a technician pushed down hard on the chest of a dummy. A white-coated doctor narrating the video laid out grim odds: “Most of the time, in patients with advanced disease, CPR does not work,” she said. As a result, patients need a ventilator to help them continue breathing. Goff watched a technician maneuver a metal instrument down the dummy’s throat to prepare for insertion of a tube that pushes air into the lungs. Then the camera zoomed to a close-up of an elderly patient, eyes closed, in a hospital bed. He had a breathing tube in his mouth. Equipment surrounded his bed (Sun, 6/2).The Associated Press: Task Force To Aid NYC’s Mentally Ill InmatesMayor Bill de Blasio announced a new task force Monday to overhaul how New York City’s corrections system treats the mentally ill — both in jail and out — following the grisly deaths of two inmates with psychological problems (6/2).The Associated Press: Del. Lawmakers Eye Heroin Overdose AntidoteDelaware lawmakers are eyeing legislation to help drug addicts survive heroin overdoses. State officials last year adopted a pilot basic life support protocol that allows emergency responders to treat suspected narcotic overdoses with naloxone, a heroin overdose antidote known by the brand name Narcan (6/2).Check out all of Kaiser Health News’ e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. First Edition: June 3, 2014
Today’s headlines include a report about an uptick in VA referrals to private physicians. Kaiser Health News: Hospitals Seek To Help Consumers With Obamacare PremiumsKaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: “Some hospitals in New York, Florida and Wisconsin are exploring ways to help individuals and families pay their share of the costs of government-subsidized policies purchased though the health law’s marketplaces – at least partly to guarantee the hospitals get paid when the consumers seek care. But the hospitals’ efforts have set up a conflict with insurers, who worry that premium assistance programs will skew their enrollee pools by expanding the number of sicker people who need more services” (Appleby, 8/14). Read the story, which also appeared on CNN Money.The Wall Street Journal: Health Law Spurs Paperwork CrunchBackers of the health-care law say they are rushing to make sure tens of thousands of people provide more documents to prove they are in the U.S. legally and therefore entitled to the coverage they obtained through HealthCare.gov. Immigrant advocates say they felt the Obama administration moved hastily in announcing Tuesday it would cut off health insurance for up to 310,000 people who signed up for plans through online exchanges run by the federal government if they don’t send additional information in the next few weeks showing they are U.S. citizens or legal residents (Radnofsky, 8/13).Politico: Solving A 2014 Obamacare Problem Pushes Premium Hikes In 2015The Obama administration’s effort to end one political crisis during the 2014 Obamacare rollout may have sown the seeds of another controversy: potential double-digit rate hikes in 2015. If insurers have their way, some residents in politically key states like Florida, North Carolina and Iowa would face hikes of 11 percent to nearly 18 percent — far beyond the average 7.5 percent increase in proposed rates for much of the country (Norman, 8/13).Los Angeles Times: Health Insurance Giant Wellpoint Renames Itself AnthemThe change is expected to take place by the end of the year. It is subject to a special shareholder vote Nov. 5. Indianapolis-based WellPoint, the nation’s second-largest health insurer by enrollment, was a major player during the initial rollout of Obamacare (Terhune, 8/13).The Associated Press: VA Referrals To Private Doctors On RiseThe Department of Veterans Affairs is significantly increasing its referrals of veterans to private doctors following a scandal over lengthy patient waiting times at many VA hospitals and clinics and falsified appointment records, VA Secretary Robert McDonald said Wednesday. McDonald spoke to a few hundred people at the American Veterans national convention. He is scheduled to visit the city’s VA hospital on Thursday (8/13).The Wall Street Journal’s Pharmalot: Sovaldi Debate Hurts Access For Opioid Treatment PatientsThe tussle over the cost of the Sovaldi hepatitis C medication may prevent yet another segment of the population from being treated – people who are enrolled in opioid treatment programs. Although the drug has shown evidence of curing nine of 10 sufferers and the product labeling does not suggest Sovaldi is not safe for these patients, payers are balking at covering the medicine for people with a history of a substance use disorder, according to Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly (Silverman, 8/13).NPR: Who Gets First Dibs On Transplanted Liver? Rules May ChangeHornbuckle and Wright are among more than 12,000 Americans are waiting for a liver transplant because their own is failing, thanks to conditions such as hepatitis, cancer or cirrhosis. But only about 6,000 livers are donated each year. So, each year, hundreds of patients like Hornbuckle and Wright die while waiting. And not everyone has the same chance to get a liver. It depends a lot on where you live (Stein, 8/14).The Associated Press: Mississippi: State Asks Full Court To Reconsider Abortion RulingMississippi is asking a federal appeals court to uphold a state law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to obtain privileges to admit patients to local hospitals (8/13).Kaiser Health News/ Los Angeles Times: California’s Medi-Cal ExplosionCalifornia is coming face to face with the reality of one of its biggest Obamacare successes: the explosion in Medi-Cal enrollment. The numbers — 2.2 million enrollees since January — surprised healthcare experts and created unforeseen challenges for state officials. Altogether, there are now about 11 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries, constituting nearly 30% of the state’s population (Gorman, 8/13). Check out all of Kaiser Health News’ e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. First Edition: August 14, 2014
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. During a breakfast with reporters, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell also signaled that the federal government is unlikely to “step in” to address narrow network issues related to health plans offered on the exchanges Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Burwell Meets The Press: Managing Expectations On Ebola, Healthcare.gov, ACA Year 2We’re working on it. No matter what the topic — from improving consumers’ experience with healthcare.gov, the health law’s Medicaid expansion, narrow networks and even Ebola — Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell told reporters Thursday her agency is on it. During a breakfast with reporters sponsored by Kaiser Health News and the health policy journal Health Affairs, Burwell tried to manage expectations about the health law’s next open enrollment season and declined to make a prediction about how many people would enroll this time around. She also cautioned that we are likely to see the number of Ebola cases rise before the crisis subsides (Carey, 10/9).CQ Healthbeat: Burwell Appears Reluctant To Add New Network Adequacy StandardsHealth and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell signaled Thursday that the federal government is unlikely to step in anytime soon to ensure that health insurers are offering sufficiently broad provider networks or that the lists of providers that plans give to consumers are up-to-date and accurate. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners is already trying to come up with revisions by December to their state law template addressing the issue. The organization is expected to vote on approving the draft and recommending it to state officials next year. NAIC senior health and life policy counsel Jolie Matthews said two weeks ago that the model state law may add requirements for insurers to update their provider lists on a regular basis. Burwell referenced that work in a briefing with reporters when she was asked whether HHS officials will tighten their own standards. The wide-ranging briefing also covered the fight against Ebola, electronic medical records, payments to insurers that are not as profitable as expected, the federal health enrollment website and the upcoming marketplace enrollment period (Adams, 10/9). Burwell ‘Manages Expectations’ For Sign-Up Numbers During Health Law’s Next Enrollment Season
After Pope Francis’s visit to the U.S., possibly the biggest news item this week has been the depraved price increase that Turing Pharmaceuticals posted for its drug, Daraprim. Although the 5,455 percent that Turing hiked Daraprim’s price is astounding, the absolute daily price is less than that of many other drugs and the practice of gouging prices on specialty drugs is consistent with practices across the industry. (Daniel R. Hoffman, 9/24) The Washington Post’s The Fix: Donald Trump Just Went After Martin Shkreli. Why In The World Isn’t The Rest Of The GOP? Tribune News Service: Patients Win As Larger Insurers Seek To Cut Costs With Better Service The Philadelphia Inquirer: A 5,455 Percent Price Increase? Expect More Of It Jumping into the prescription drug debate could help elevate those candidates’ plans, because prescription drug prices is one of the few health-care issues where Americans agree that the status quo needs to change. In fact, 76 percent of Americans said dealing with prescription drug prices should be Washington’s No. 1 health-care priority, according to an April poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. … GOP front-runner Donald Trump is regularly praised by liberal leaders, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), for his call to raise taxes on the wealthy. Want to out-Trump Trump? Why not start talking about an issue that matters deeply to so many Americans? (Amber Phillips, 9/24) So, who’s trying to shut down the government, Democrats or Republicans? The answer, naturally, depends on whom you ask. … Put another way, it was Republicans who decided to tie the continued operation of government to the question of whether Planned Parenthood should receive Medicaid dollars. They took the hostage, they’re responsible for the consequences. Feel free to debate the merits of Planned Parenthood all you like, but this fight isn’t new. The recent videos didn’t seem to persuade any of the organization’s supporters in Congress to flip to the other side. So the outcome Thursday wasn’t just predictable, it was a certainty. (Jon Healey, 9/24) Yes, the U.S. pays 40 percent more for drugs than other countries do, and last year those costs rose 12.6 percent. But the increase is expected to slow, and drugs still account for just 10 cents of every dollar Americans spend on health care. What has rightly made drug costs a political issue, however, are the astronomical prices of a few specialty medicines. … The best strategy to push down such prices — the one endorsed by [Hillary] Clinton and one of her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders — is to give Medicare, which pays for 29 percent of all U.S. prescription drug purchases, the ability to negotiate prices with drugmakers. That Medicare doesn’t already do this is Congress’s fault. (9/24) These changes mark a new era, in which Medicare offers powerful incentives for physicians to participate in ACOs and other innovative payment and delivery models. … This revamping reflects a broader movement in U.S. health care toward paying for medical services on the basis of value rather than volume — a movement built on the prevailing view in the health policy community that cost-containment efforts can succeed only if we move away from fee-for-service payment. But there are several important problems with this belief and the reforms it inspires. (Jonathan Oberlander and Miriam J. Laugesen, 9/24) One of the nation’s highest-profile LGBT advocacy organizations has joined the calls for Congress to investigate Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company that recently sparked a national backlash when it proposed hiking the price of a critical anti-infection drug. On Wednesday, The Huffington Post has learned, the Human Rights Campaign sent letters to the chairmen of three key House committees with jurisdiction over health care and the drug industry. In the letters, the organization calls upon the committees to investigate Turing’s recent announcement that it would raise the price of drug called Daraprim, a treatment for toxoplasmosis, from $13.50 to $750 a tablet. (Jonathan Cohn, 9/24) Forbes: Utah Proposes Tax On The Sick To Pay For Obamacare Medicaid Expansion Pope Francis’s visit has brought renewed attention to some of our nation’s toughest economic challenges: inequality, poverty and income (im)mobility. These are pressing issues that leaders of both political parties say they want to tackle, but they disagree on useful, or even acceptable, policy tools. I have a humble suggestion for an antipoverty policy that, if framed correctly, could appeal to both left and right (though probably not Francis). That policy: better access to contraception. (Catherine Rampell, 9/24) Bloomberg: Let Medicare Tackle High Drug Costs The New England Journal of Medicine: Physician Payment After The SGR — The New Meritocracy The New England Journal of Medicine: Leap Of Faith — Medicare’s New Physician Payment System The Washington Post’s Plum Line: Government Shutdown Fight May Again Shake Up GOP Presidential Race After the legislature blocked his Obamacare Medicaid expansion plans in 2014 and 2015, Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) began working with legislative leaders to negotiate some kind of “compromise” to expand the program to more than 100,000 able-bodied adults. Although the deal is being negotiated in secret, some details have been leaked to the public. According to the few specifics made public, the biggest component of the negotiated framework is to levy a new “assessment” on medical providers in Utah to help pay for the state’s share of expansion. But the so-called assessment is simply a new Obamacare tax on the sick that will not only raise health care costs for all Utahns, but add significantly to the national debt. (Nic Horton, Jonathan Ingram and Josh Archambault, 9/24) Los Angeles Times: Are Democrats Actually The Ones Trying To Shut Down The Government? With the big news out of Congress today the warm welcome received by Pope Francis, one might forget that our nation’s august legislature is headed for yet another government shutdown, this time over Republican demands that the government cut off all funding for Planned Parenthood, most of which comes in the form of Medicaid reimbursements for women’s health care. This comes at a particularly inopportune time for Republicans. Just when it was starting to look like their chaotic presidential primary might be heading to a more sane place, the shutdown controversy threatens to drag it backwards, boosting the candidates the party fears most. (Paul Waldman, 9/24) The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: We Must Act On Global Health Because Millions Of Lives Are At Stake The Washington Post: Want To Fight Poverty? Expand Access To Contraception. Pope Francis hasn’t changed any church policies on economics, social justice, war, abortion or gay marriage. As if to underscore that point, on Wednesday he visited the Little Sisters of the Poor, which took the U.S. government to court to fight a requirement that religious organizations cover birth control in the health insurance they provide to employees. Yet in his emphasis on the plight of the poor, immigrants and the environment, this pope has changed the Catholic Church’s tone and rebalanced its priorities. That bothers conservative activists in the U.S., where the Catholic hierarchy for three decades has largely been identified with Republicans and the culture wars because of its stress on abortion and gay marriage. (Albert R. Hunt, 9/24) Bloomberg: Pope Moves The Needle In U.S. Politics The planned mergers of several of America’s largest health insurers Aetna combining with Humana, and Anthem with Cigna is almost certain to be good for the insurers, reducing overhead and improving their bargaining position as they attempt to negotiate better rates with providers. But what’s in it for you and me? The answer may surprise you: In all likelihood, the mergers will lead to better medical care at lower costs. (Jon Kaplan, 9/24) The report made a strong case that the benefits of the right health investments far exceed the costs. Indeed, I believe the moral and economic case for investments in health care–both prevention and treatment–is as or more compelling than in any other area in the developing world. The dramatic declines in child mortality and increases in life expectancy demonstrate that policy can make an immense difference. (Lawrence Summers, 9/24) The “doc fix” — a permanent replacement for the unworkable sustainable growth rate formula (SGR) enacted in 1997 for calculating Medicare’s physician fees — had been a long time coming …. At the heart of the legislation is the new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), which replaces the Physician Value-Based Payment Modifier to move physician payment under Medicare further into the territory of value-based purchasing. … When it is implemented, the MIPS will become the largest physician pay-for-performance scheme in the world and the first to create a single value-based purchasing framework covering the full spectrum of physician specialties. This new meritocracy will need to be flexible enough to account for the heterogeneous practice styles of the professionals who care for Medicare beneficiaries and the settings in which they work. (Meredith B. Rosenthal, 9/24) Huffington Post: Top LGBT Group Wants Congress To Investigate Drug Company That Proposed Massive Price Hike Viewpoints: Pinning Blame For A Possible Shutdown; Medicare Should Help On Drug Prices A selection of opinions on health care from around the country. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. The New York Times: A Novel Plan For Health Care: Cutting Costs, Not Raising Them As employees know all too well, health insurance companies have one surefire way to lower costs: Ask their customers to pay more. Intermountain Healthcare, a nonprofit health system in Salt Lake City, is trying something virtually unheard-of: promising to sharply cut costs rather than pass them on. Its new health plan, SelectHealth Share, is guaranteeing to hold yearly rate increases to one-third to one-half less than what many employers across the country typically face. (Abelson, 2/17) Industry’s Eyes Turn Toward Utah Health System As It Rolls Out ‘Innovative’ Plan To Cut Costs Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City is guaranteeing a long-term lock on price increases, a move only a few other systems in the country have tried.