Phantom Trigger Review

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In the words of its two-man Russian development team, Phantom Trigger is a “neon slasher”. If that doesn’t sound like a game genre to you, that’s because it’s a combination of the game’s art style, and its play style. Neon in the sense that the game leans heavily on the retro-futurist art style, which makes use of eye-popping colour amidst a mostly dark background. And slasher is a shortening of hack and slash, which you’re probably already familiar with.

The development team in question is called Bread Team, and consists of Victor Solodilov, and Denis Novikov. You can be forgiven for not having heard of them before, as their only claim to fame was the 2015 math puzzler Divide By Sheep, which was a charming and beautifully-drawn mobile title for people of all ages. In it, you were tasked with saving a certain number of sheep in every level, while letting some of them die to ensure you hit that number. That dark comedy only made it more fun.

Phantom Trigger is a wild departure in almost every respect. The premise justifies the hack-and-slash action as part of a man’s brain disease, which is why the variety of monsters you fight – in what is essentially an environment straight out of a dungeon crawler – tend to have heads made out of tumours. You start off with two weapons at your disposal: an ice pick to slash at your enemies, and a whip that can pull them closer. As you progress, you gain access to a fire punch among others, with an important task being levelling up your weapons to keep up with enemy numbers. Your player levels up as well as you fight, giving you a health boost.

Role-playing elements are engaging by themselves, because they lock you into a progression wheel, where you constantly look to improve to sustain the next onslaught. But the combat – at least early on, from the hours we played – lacks variety and becomes highly repetitive much too soon. Put that in combination with the game’s rogue-lite aspect – you only regain life once you cross a checkpoint – and we were frequently left playing the same section over and over, which further contributes to the repetitiveness.

Some sub-levels contain puzzles that follow an internal logic, or mini-games that might grant you certain items. Both tend to be indiscernible in their own way, and in the case of the latter, are presented in an as unclear fashion as possible. You’ll likely want to avoid them whenever you can, which is made possible sometimes by allowing you to pick one of two paths.

Phantom Trigger has five “distinct” worlds to explore, with a parallel change in monster variety and behaviour. The trouble is that none of them have an appealing art style in the first place. Last year’s Hyper Light Drifter was a standout example of how to make use of today’s technological capabilities to breathe new life into an old, pixelated format. But Phantom Trigger, with its lacklustre visual style, doesn’t make good use of the Unity engine.

phantom trigger 1 Phantom Trigger

The game also allows for two-player local co-op mode, which brings in a different-coloured copy of your character to help you fight your way through, giving you double the firepower. But unlike other two-player co-op games – such as Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris – both players share the same life meter, which means both die at the same time. It makes for a more symbiotic relationship, so make sure you’re on the same page.

As for difficulty, you can choose from either ‘Normal’ or ‘Hard’, and the latter’s setting as default suggests the devs understand that Phantom Trigger will appeal to a niche, hard-core player base. It’s a shame then that the game’s PC version – which we tested – doesn’t offer any key remapping. Though for what it’s worth, you’ll have quicker aim with a controller anyway (which Bread Team recommends, as well).

Ultimately, Phantom Trigger lacks any new ideas out of its own, and fails to be more than a passing imitation of the classics that spawned this genre, or be visually appealing like its contemporaries. It does have a free demo, so give that a go if your interest is piqued.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Combat lacks variety
  • Puzzles elements are frustrating
  • Disappointing visuals

Rating (out of 10): 5

Gadgets 360 played a review copy of Phantom Trigger on PC. The game is available at $14.99 (roughly Rs. 960) on Steam for PC, and Nintendo Switch.

T-Pain Says Fans Have Been Singing His Lyrics Wrong, Hilarity Ensues

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In the midst of promoting his latest album, Oblivion, T-Pain decided to revisit his past hits and told fans via Twitter they’ve been signing the wrong lyrics from his hit songs for the past ten years.

The Tallahassee artist revealed it in his first tweet.

Fan Reactions

Social media users sarcastically responded to the musician by some claiming that T-Pain unnecessarily ruined their childhood. Others believe T-Pain is being facetious and not being truthful about the song’s actual lyrics. “Clearly, the T in T-Pain doesn’t stand for Truthful because we all know the correct lyric is “I’mma [sic] buy you a drank, ooh-wee,” Twitter user Dustin Sloane wrote.

Others responded to the news by sharing hilarious GIFs to express their disbelief, while some fans said it’s too late for T-Pain to announce (or allegedly change) the lyrics to his song. “You can’t change it up this late in the game, I already sang oooOOOoooh weeee [sic] in front of a live audience at karaoke. A few times,” Victoria Williams jokingly tweeted.

T-Pain Witty Banter Continues

 Despite the backlash T-Pain received, he continued on his lyrical revelations tour by sharing the following:

“You didn’t have to do this. lol [sic] Do you know how many years Mary J Blige let us think it was “dancery” and not “dance soiree,” Twitter user 3 Gaug3 wrote when she saw T-Pain’s second tweet.

T-Pain’s New Album

Oblivion has received raving reviews from Billboard, NPR, and UPROXX. In an interview with Billboard, T-Pain shared what inspired certain tracks on his fifth studio album. “The message of the whole song is like, ‘Who died and made you boss of me?’ It was one of those ‘everybody shut the hell up’ songs — it intros the album like, ‘Let me do my thing.’ It’s the most vulnerable [track] on the album,” T-Pain said when speaking about the song “Who Died.”

Take a listen to “Buy U A Drank” and “All I Do Is Win,” below. Do you hear the correct lyrics or is T-Pain just playing his fans?

T-Pain’s Oblivion is available on iTunes and major streaming services to listen.

© 2017 ENSTARZ, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

If Your Insurer Covers Few Therapists, Is That Really Mental Health Parity?

That’s the conclusion of a report published Thursday by Milliman Inc., a national risk management and health care consulting company. The report was released by a coalition of mental health and addiction advocacy organizations.

Among the findings:

  • In 2015, behavioral care was four to six times more likely to be provided out-of-network than medical or surgical care.
  • Insurers pay primary care providers 20 percent more for the same types of care as they pay addiction and mental health care specialists, including psychiatrists.
  • State statistics vary widely. In New Jersey, 45 percent of office visits for behavioral health care were out-of-network. In Washington D.C., the figure was 63 percent.

The researchers at Milliman examined two large national databases containing medical claims records from major insurers for PPOs — preferred provider organizations — covering nearly 42 million Americans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 2013 to 2015.

“I was surprised it was this bad. As someone who has worked on parity for 10-plus years, I thought we would have done better,” said Henry Harbin, former CEO of Magellan Health, a managed behavioral health care company. “This is a wake-up call for employers, regulators and the plans themselves that whatever they’re doing, they’re making it difficult for consumers to get treatment for all these illnesses. They’re failing miserably.”

The high proportion of out-of-network behavioral care means mental health and substance-abuse patients were far more likely to face the high out-of-pocket costs that can make treatment unaffordable, even for those with insurance.

In a statement issued with the report, the coalition of mental health groups, including Mental Health America, the National Association on Mental Illness, and The Kennedy Forum, called on federal regulators, state agencies and employers to conduct random audits of insurers to make sure they are in compliance with the parity law.

Harbin, now a consultant on parity issues, said the report’s finding that mental health providers are paid less than primary care providers is a particular surprise. In nine states, including New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts, payments were 50 percent higher for primary care providers when they provided mental health care.

Because of such low reimbursement rates, he said, mental health and substance abuse professionals are not willing to contract with insurers. The result is insurance plans with narrow behavioral health networks that do not include enough therapists and other caregivers to meet the demands of patients.

For years, insurers have maintained that they are making every effort to comply with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which was intended to equalize coverage of mental health and other medical conditions. And previous research has found that they have gone a long way toward eliminating obvious discrepancies in coverage. Most insurers, for example, have dropped annual limits on the therapy visits that they will cover. Higher copayments and separate mental health deductibles have become less of a problem.

Still, discrepancies appear to continue in the more subtle ways that insurers deliver benefits, including the size of provider networks.

Kate Berry, a senior vice president at America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s main trade group, said the real problem is the shortage of behavioral health clinicians.

“Health plans are working very hard to actively recruit providers” and offer telemedicine visits in shortage areas, said Berry. “But some behavioral health specialists opt not to participate in contracts with providers simply because they prefer to see patients who are able to pay out of their pocket and may not have the kind of severe needs that other patients have.”

“This is a challenge that no single stakeholder in the health care infrastructure can solve,” she added.

Carol McDaid, who runs the Parity Implementation Coalition, countered that insurers have been willing and able to solve provider shortages in other fields. When there was a shortage of gerontologists, for example, McDaid said, insurers simply increased the rates and more doctors joined the networks. “The plans have the capacity to do this; I just think the will hasn’t been there thus far,” she said.

The scarcity of therapists who accept insurance creates a care landscape that is difficult to navigate for some of the most vulnerable patients.

Ali Carlin, 28, said she used to see her therapist in Richmond, Va., every week, paying a copay of $25 per session. But in 2015, the therapist stopped accepting her insurance, and her rate jumped to $110 per session.

Carlin, who has both borderline personality disorder and addiction issues, said she called around to about 10 other providers, but she couldn’t find anyone who accepted her insurance and was taking new patients.

“It’s such a daunting experience for someone who has trouble maintaining their home and holding a job and friendships,” said Carlin. “It makes me feel like no one can help me, and I’m not good enough, and it’s not an attainable goal.”

In Virginia, the Milliman report found that 26 percent of behavioral health office visits were out-of-network — more than seven times more than for medical care.

With no alternative, Carlin stuck with her old therapist but must save up between sessions. She has just enough to cover a visit once every few months.

“I make $30,000 a year. I can’t afford an out-of-pocket therapist or psychiatrist,” said Carlin. “I just can’t afford it. I’m choosing groceries over a therapist.”

Angela Kimball, director of advocacy and public policy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said she worries many patients like Carlin simply forgo treatment entirely.

“One of the most common reasons people give of not getting mental health treatment is the cost. The other is not being able to find care,” she said. “It’s hurting people in every corner of this nation.”

Related Topics

Health Industry Mental Health


Gionee M7 Power Review

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So far in 2017, we have seen a shift in smartphone design, with more and more manufacturers slowly moving towards 18:9 displays. This usually involves narrower borders around a phone’s screen, giving it a near bezel-less look. Gionee is the latest to go with the trend, with the Gionee M7 Power. The advantage as a consumer is that you get one more smartphone to choose from in the sub Rs. 20,000 segment.

What is different with this phone in particular, is that it has a big battery as well as a big screen. Gionee’s Power models are well known for their long battery life, and the M7 Power seems to have what it takes to live up to this reputation. We put the Gionee M7 Power to the test to see exactly what it has on offer.

 

Gionee M7 Power design

Gionee M7 Power’s big 6-inch display has an 18:9 aspect ratio and HD+ resolution of 720×1440 pixels. Gionee has used an IPS panel and so the phone reproduces colours well and has good viewing angles. The tall screen has thin borders on the sides but the top and bottom are relatively thicker. Gionee has used the bottom for its branding, placing the fingerprint scanner at the back and using on-screen navigation buttons. The fingerprint scanner is quick to unlock the device, but we found its positioning – and that of the the volume buttons on the right – a bit too high, which means you may find yourself stretching your fingers. 

Gionee M7 Power Camera NDTV Gionee M7 Power Review

Gionee has rounded off the corners, while the edges have been chamfered to make this phone easier to grip. Its flat metal back hides a 5000mAh battery, while the plastic caps at the top and the bottom eliminate the need for antenna lines. Thanks to its big battery, the Gionee M7 Power weighs 199g and it will definitely make its presence felt in your hand. The band that runs around the sides is made of plastic but the power and volume buttons have a metallic feel to them.

You get a single speaker positioned alongside the 3.5mm headphone jack and Micro-USB port at the bottom. Gionee has also added an Infrared emitter on the top, which can be used to control compatible appliances.

Gionee M7 Power specifications and features

The Gionee M7 uses a Snapdragon 435 SoC, which has eight Cortex-A53 cores and is known to be efficient. Phones such as the Xiaomi Redmi 4 (Review) and the LG Q6 (Review) are powered by the same processor.  You also get 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage which is expandable by to 256GB using the Hybrid dual-SIM slot. The phone has two Nano-SIM slots, one of which can hold a microSD card as well. There is support for 4G and VoLTE on both SIMs but only one at a time. You get Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, and USB-OTG.

Gionee ships its own Amigo 5.0 UI on top of Android Nougat. The UI has been tweaked since we reviewed the Gionee A1 Plus, and the quick settings are now accessible by swiping down from the notification area instead of the iOS-like Command Centre. You don’t get an app drawer and all icons are available right on the homescreen. The settings app is customised to some extent, which might take some time getting used to. All custom features on the M7 Power are grouped separately allowing you to explore them in one go.

Just like older Gionee phones, gesture control is built in, allowing you to double-tap to wake the phone or draw alphabets when the screen is off to launch apps. There is an App Clone option as well, which lets you run two instances of the same app. You can also put the big battery of the M7 Power to use by enabling reverse charging and plug other devices in like you would with a power bank.

Gionee M7 Power Ports NDTV Gionee M7 Power Review

Private Space is yet another addition to the software. It lets you hide contacts, messages, notes and call recordings using a separate fingerprint or passcode. This space can be accessed from the lockscreen by using the particular fingerprint, or by doing a two-finger swipe in the aforementioned apps.

There is significant bloatware preinstalled on the phone, including UC News, Xender, Gaana, Messenger, Truecaller, Flipkart and demo versions of a few games. Thankfully, you can uninstall these to free up some space and reduce clutter.

Gionee M7 Power performance, battery life, and cameras

We found the hardware on the M7 Power to be good and did not face any lag or stuttering during the duration of our testing. The processor manages to run apps and games well enough. Having 4GB of RAM is a good advantage and the M7 Power makes the most of it by holding apps in memory when not actively used. Relaunch times are quite good as a result.

The processor isn’t exactly entry-level, but it does come in below the options more commonly seen at this price level. We ran Antutu and managed to score 45,682 points, while Geekbench 4’s single-core and multi-core tests gave us 679 and 2,590 respectively. During our use, the big battery on the phone went on for a whole day with medium to heavy use with still around 50 percent left at the end. In our HD video loop test, the M7 Power managed to go on for close to 17 hours.

Gionee has equipped the M7 Power with a 13-megapixel rear camera and a single LED flash and an 8-megapixel selfie camera. The camera app is basic and has different shooting modes to choose from. Apart from the usual Photo, Video and Panorama modes there is Face Beauty, Group Selfie and a Card Scanner mode. You also have different settings and a professional mode which lets you individually control different parameters of the camera. The Auto Scene Detection option switches to night mode and toggles HDR automatically based on lighting conditions. Gionee has also added a 2x zoom control in the camera app, which is done digitally.

Photos taken in daylight are sharp and have a good amount of detail, but you can see grain on zooming in. Auto HDR does help in getting better output if you are patient, but we did notice that the phone struggled with metering. Low-light photos are average – the phone manages to keep noise levels low but at the cost of detail.

Tap to see full-sized Gionee M7 Power camera samples

Selfies are strictly average, and those taken indoors look grainy. The M7 Power has a 3D Photo option which requires you to move the camera around an object to capture it in 3D. These didn’t turn out great and it looked like the phone records a short video while allowing you to scrub through it. Video recording maxes out at 1080p for both the cameras, and you also have the option to record slow-motion video.

Verdict
The Gionee M7 Power is a good smartphone but at Rs. 16,999, it does seem to be overpriced. We were impressed with the battery life, but the UI and the cameras don’t live up to the standard set by the competition. Around this price, all rounders like the Moto G5S Plus (Review) or Xiaomi Mi A1 (Review) would be more obvious picks for most buyers. However, if battery life is your number one priority, then the Gionee M7 Power would be a better choice.

Windows 10 Photos Companion App for Android, iOS Devices Spotted

With a strong presence of over 600 million devices, Windows 10 is certainly one of the most successful computing platforms. Microsoft is now reportedly preparing a companion app for the default Photos app on Windows 10. The new companion app is reported to be designed for Android and iOS devices to let mobile users quick transfer their memorable mobile pictures to a Windows PC.

The new photos companion app, which is spotted by Italian blog Aggiornamenti Lumia, appears to establish connectivity between a PC and a mobile device using a common Wi-Fi network. For importing content, a QR code emerges on the desktop screen that enables the wireless transfer.

Microsoft is yet to release the reported photos companion app for Android and iOS platforms. Also, it is presumable that the wireless transfer feature will be initially to Windows Insiders to test its success ahead of a public launch. You can meanwhile use OneDrive to view the memories captured from your mobile devices right on your desktop. Microsoft added the ability to create albums on OneDrive automatically based on time and location back in July last year. Microsoft is also testing an Apple AirDrop feature in Windows Insider Preview builds, to share data between PCs.

microsoft photos companion app Windows 10 Photos Companion app Photos Companion app Windows 10

Microsoft will ‘soon’ release its Photos companion on Android and iOS
Photo Credit: Aggiornamenti Lumia

In addition to the companion app support, the Photos app on Windows 10 is said to receive some improvements as well. Microsoft is reportedly developing premium content such as special effects, themes, and music that can be added to photos and videos directly from the Photos app. Also, there are stickers that can be used on top of photos to create new stories. These features are expected to be available on Windows 10 Insider builds in the coming months.

CEO Satya Nadella at Microsoft’s annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday revealed that Windows 10 is now running on more than 600 million devices. Apart from desktops and notebooks, the platform is available on Xbox One consoles, HoloLens headsets, Surface Hub devices, and Windows 10 Mobile-based smartphones.

Although Microsoft recently dropped its focus on developing new mobile devices, there are plans to continue its developments in the smartphone market. The Redmond company already has some of its key apps for Android and iOS devices. Amongst its native apps, Microsoft Edge is yet to receive a final build for mobile devices other than the ones running Windows 10 Mobile. Virtual assistant Cortana is also in the pipeline to enable Apple’s Continuity-like feature on Android and iOS devices. This would give smartphone users another reason to pick a Windows 10 PC.

 

Jay-Z On Beyoncé And Infedelity: 'We Were Using Our Art Almost Like A Therapy Session'

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After picking up eight Grammy nods for 4:44, Jay Z is back in the news again with his recent admission that he cheated on Beyoncé.

In a tell-all interview with the New York Times’ Dean Baquet, Jay Z didn’t hold back as he touched on a wide range of topics, including his relationship with Kanye West; his thoughts on Barrack Obama’s presidency; his music; and his unfaithfulness to wife Beyoncé. Here’s what he had to say about the cheating scandal and how they powered through it to save their marriage.

Cheating On Beyoncé

Over the last few years, the “Empire State of Mind” hitmaker found himself surrounded by rumors that he cheated on Beyoncé and that their marriage was in trouble. Jay Z’s infamous elevator spat with sister-in-law Solange Knowles in 2014 after the Met Gala also did not seem to help his cause.

Beyoncé referred to Jay Z’s infidelity in her visual magnum opus, Lemonade, and Jay Z also made an allusion to being unfaithful in the title track of 4:44. However, the rapper has never addressed the rumors in public, until now.

When asked about the cheating scandal, Jay Z started off by saying that the current divorce rate is somewhere in the range of 50 percent and that’s because most people find it difficult to look at themselves in the mirror after inflicting pain on someone else.

The hardest thing is seeing pain on someone’s face that you caused, and then have to deal with yourself,” he told Baquet. He added that it was the reason why marriages fail because partners find it easier to just walk away from it instead of dealing with it.

Using Music As A Form Of Therapy

Jay Z and Beyoncé both released confessional albums last year, 4:44 and Lemonade, but the joint album the power couple was working on never saw the light of day.

When Baquet asked Jay Z whether it was easy to have a conversation with Beyoncé about marriage problems while making music, the rapper said that they started making music together as a means to work on their marriage.

“We were using our art almost like a therapy session,” he explained. “And we started making music together. And then the music she was making at that time was further along. So, her album came out as opposed to the joint album that we were working on.”

Jay Z added that though it was uncomfortable, he and Beyoncé talked through their issues.” The best place is right in the middle of the pain,” he said.

© 2017 ENSTARZ, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Will Avengers: Infinity War Be the Ultimate Payoff We All Have Been Waiting For?

On Wednesday, Marvel released the trailer of Avengers: Infinity War, which looks like it’s bringing together just about all Marvel heroes we’ve seen since the release of Iron Man in 2008. The trailer also gave us a look at Thanos in action, complete with a funny little gag at the end. It was exciting, and Thanos the Mad Titan is appropriately powerful, throwing the Avengers around like toys. But more than anything else, it also felt like the end of an era, which is exactly how Marvel wants us to see Avengers: Infinity War.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Kevin Feige, the man who has helmed Marvel’s entire cinematic universe talks about the beginnings of the idea behind Avengers: Infinity War and how it all came together. With contracts running out, characters will die and there’s going to be a real change of the guard.

We’ve argued in the past that the movies have been too afraid to change the status quo, but Feige has said that Infinity War comes at the end of a 22-movie arc. With the success of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and the anticipation that’s built up around the upcoming Black Panther, it’s safe to say that Marvel has been able to build itself a pantheon on new heroes who can take over the reins from Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Marvel will stop making movies with these characters – it could reboot them, or perhaps take a leaf out of the pages of the comic books and bring in new incarnations of the characters.

infinity strange squad infinity war

But what’s really amazing to think about, ahead of the release of Infinity War, is that we could finally get a pay-off for ten years of movies. The fact is that Marvel has been able to make some very successful movies, which do a great job in terms of tone, but the interconnected nature of the MCU is its biggest strength, but also a weakness of sorts because you can’t allow a story to run its course. If a character is needed for a scene three movies later, you need to ensure that the pieces are all in position to allow that to happen, or make awkward references to break-ups in the middle of your movie.

With Avengers: Infinity War, we finally get to close out the current arc, and that means allowing the story to develop more organically. It’s a chance to knock the board clean, and that means that we can actually live up to the hype that was created when – at the end or Iron Man – Nick Fury appeared on screen for a short cameo to talk about the Avengers Initiative.

It’s been a long time coming, but at this point, Marvel has finally reached a place where it has everything lined up on the board. Characters have been introduced, and set up, while off-screen, negotiations with other studios brought back Spider-Man, Marvel’s biggest A-lister.

Now, like a child playing with its toys, we can watch Marvel smash the whole set together, and knock some of the pieces off the board. Compared to anything we’ve seen before, Infinity War is operating on a completely different scale. Either we’re going to watch a complete disaster of a movie where every character gets a minute of screen-time, or we’re going to see them take some cues from the comics and cartoons, and bring together the teams effectively.

infinity guardians infinity war

That was one of the shortcomings of earlier movies – both Ultron and Civil War felt off because they tried to focus on too many individuals, rather than picking up on the team. The trailer we’ve seen now at least promises to bring everyone together and keep that as the focus, so it’s going to be interesting to see how it pans out.

But ahead of the May 2018 release date, we’re extremely excited, and can’t wait to see everyone on screen together for once. Whether it’s a well-made film or not, Marvel’s going to make a lot of money on this one, but hopefully, it’s going to do justice to the 10 years we’ve all be waiting for the payoff.

Hospitals With History Get A Second Life

When Laura Kiker rented a new apartment in September a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, she knew she was moving into a historical neighborhood.

She had no idea, though, that her new home at 700 Constitution Ave. Northeast was a former hospital dating back nearly a century.

Today, she loves living in what used to be a patient room, in a four-story building with wide hallways, high ceilings and restored post-World War II-style architecture. A spacious rooftop deck, yoga studio and indoor dog wash are added bonuses for Kiker, and her dog, Stella. “There is so much history in this town, it’s nice to live in a place that has its own,” said Kiker, 30, a management consultant.

Across the country, hospitals that have shut their doors are coming back to life in various ways: as affordable senior housing, as historical hotels and as condos, including some costing tens of millions in the heart of New York’s Greenwich Village.

A wing of Specialty Hospital Capitol Hill found new life as an apartment house at 700 Constitution Ave. Northeast — reflecting its storied architecture. (Courtesy Borger Management)

The trend of converting hospitals to new uses has accelerated as real estate values have soared in many U.S. cities. At the same time, the demand for inpatient beds has declined, with the rise of outpatient surgery centers and a move toward shorter hospital stays.

As health systems consolidate for financial reasons, they might prefer that patients visit their flagship hospital while buildings related to smaller hospitals in their orbit get sold off — especially if the latter have a disproportionate share of indigent patients.

David Friend, chief transformation officer at the consulting firm BDO in Boston, noted that real estate is one of urban hospitals’ most valuable assets. “A hospital could be worth more dead than alive,” he said.

The number of hospitals in the U.S. has declined by 21 percent over the past four decades, from 7,156 in 1975 to 5,627 in 2014, according to the latest federal data.

Even when the conversions make medical sense, they pull at the heartstrings of communities whose residents have an emotional attachment to hospitals where family members were born, cured or died. But they sometimes create health deserts in their wake.

St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York treated survivors of the Titanic’s sinking in 1912, the first AIDS patients in the 1980s and victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, went bankrupt and closed seven years ago. Developer Rudin Management bought it for $260 million and transformed it into a high-end condo complex, which opened in 2014. Earlier this year, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz reportedly bought one of the condos for $40 million.

New York’s St. Vincent’s Hospital, a Greenwich Village institution for 160 years, closed permanently on April 30, 2010, after an unsuccessful search to find a way out of its estimated $700 million debt. It was transformed into luxury town homes. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Developers turned the old St. Vincent’s Hospital site into town houses, some of which sell for tens of millions of dollars today. (Courtesy of Greenwich Lane)

Jen van de Meer, an assistant professor at the Parsons School for Design in New York, who lives in the neighborhood, said residents’ protests about the conversion were not just about the optics of a hospital that had long served the poor being repurposed. “Now, if you are in cardiac arrest, the nearest hospital could be an hour drive in a taxi or 20 minutes in an ambulance across the city,” van de Meer said.

St. Vincent’s is one of at least 10 former hospitals in New York City that have been turned into residential housing over the past 20 years.

What’s next, a pet-icure? Leo gets pampered at the indoor dog wash at 700 Constitution, a hospital-turned-apartment house in Washington, D.C. (Phil Galewitz/KHN)

Closing a hospital and converting it to another use is not exactly like renovating an old Howard Johnson’s, said Jeff Goldsmith, a health industry consultant in Charlottesville, Va. “A hospital in a lot of places defines a community — that’s why it’s so hard to close them,” said Goldsmith, who noted that after Martha Jefferson Hospital closed its downtown facility in 2009 to move closer to the interstate highway, an apartment building took its place.

But many older hospitals are too outmoded to be renovated for today’s medical needs and patient expectations. For example, early 20th-century layouts cannot accommodate large operating room suites and private rooms, said Friend.

Real estate investors say the location of many older hospitals — often in city centers near rail and bus lines — makes them attractive for redevelopment. The buildings, with their wide hallways and high ceilings, are often easy to remake as luxury apartments.

Spurring Development

In some circumstances, a conversion provides a much-needed lift for the community. New York Cancer Hospital, which opened on Central Park West in 1887 and closed in 1976, was an abandoned and partially burned-out hulk by the time it was restored as a condo complex in 2005. Developer MCL Companies paid $24 million for the property, branded 455 Central Park West.

“The building itself is fantastic and a landmark in every sense of the word,” said Alex Herrera, director of technical services at the New York Landmarks Conservancy. He noted that it retained some of its original 19th-century architecture.

The Eastern Dispensary Casualty Hospital, shown here in 1936, was founded in 1888 in southeast Washington, D.C. It eventually was developed into Specialty Hospital Capitol Hill. (Courtesy Library of Congress)

Nicky Cymrot, president of the Capitol Hill Community Foundation in Washington, D.C., a neighborhood group, said that when Specialty Hospital Capitol Hill sold off a little-used 100,000-square-foot wing of its facility that became 700 Constitution, neighbors weighed in with concerns about aesthetics and traffic. The building was first known as Eastern Dispensary Casualty Hospital, which opened in 1905.

But by the time the condominium opened early this year after a five-year, $40 million renovation, the response was positive.

Sophie White, 28, who moved into 700 Constitution this summer, watched the building’s transformation and renovation from a rental property a few blocks away. “It used to be a blight on the neighborhood with unsavory people milling around it,” she said. “Now, it’s a bright spot and with its dog park out front, it’s really a cool place to live.”

Nearly half of the 139-unit building, where one-bedroom apartments rent for nearly $2,600 per month, is already leased. Asked why former hospitals are being bought and redeveloped as housing: “It’s all about location, location, location,” said Terry Busby, CEO of Arlington-based Urban Structures.

Columbia Hospital for Women, in the heart of Washington, D.C., was built in 1915 and shuttered in 2002.
(Courtesy of Library of Congress)

The developer paid more than $30 million for the old hospital property and turned it into an upscale 225-unit luxury condominium community near George Washington University. (Courtesy of Trammell Crow Company)

Likewise Columbia Hospital for Women, which had delivered more than 250,000 babies since it opened shortly after the Civil War, closed in 2002 and reopened in 2006 as condos with a rooftop swimming pool in the city’s fashionable West End.

Some former hospitals are used for purposes other than housing.

In Santa Fe, N.M., St. Vincent Hospital moved into a new facility in 1977 and the old structure downtown was reborn as a state office building. Later, it was abandoned and locals listed it as one of the spookiest places in town. In 2014, the building reopened yet again as the 141-room Drury Plaza Hotel.

‘A Building With Tremendous History’

After Linda Vista Community Hospital, in L.A.’s Boyle Heights neighborhood, closed in the 1990s, the abandoned six-story building fell into disrepair — its empty patient rooms, discarded medical equipment and aging corridors serving as sets for movies such as “Pearl Harbor” and “Outbreak.” Amcal Multi-Housing Inc. bought the property in 2011 and redeveloped it into a low-income senior apartment house called Hollenbeck Terrace.

In 2011, the six-story Linda Vista Community Hospital in East Los Angeles was transformed into apartments for seniors. (Courtesy Amcal Multi-Housing Inc.)

The developer aimed to preserve some of the historical charm of the old hospital building in the Hollenbeck Terrace design. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

“They really rescued a building with tremendous history … while providing really needed low-income senior housing,” said Linda Dishman, CEO of the Los Angeles Conservancy, a group dedicated to preserving and revitalizing historical structures. “It is such an iconic building in the neighborhood.”

Gorman reported from Los Angeles.

KHN’s coverage in California is supported in part by Blue Shield of California Foundation.

 

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Lenovo K8 Note Review

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There has been a sudden increase in the number of powerfully-specced smartphones in the sub-Rs. 20,000 market, and the new Lenovo K8 Note is the latest to join them. The new Lenovo device is targeted at buyers who love entertainment on the go and don’t want to compromise with performance or camera quality. The Lenovo K8 Note sports dual cameras at the back, a feature that has become very popular among Android manufacturers after the launch iPhone 7 Plus (Review) last year. There are already quite a few Android smartphones with dual cameras in the Indian market including the Coolpad Cool 1 Dual (Review), OnePlus 5 (Review), and Honor 6X (Review). We’ll find out how well K8 Note fares against its competitors.

Ever since completing its acquisition of the Moto brand, Lenovo has been on a roll in terms of smartphone shipments. Industry reports show that Lenovo has managed to become one of the top five smartphone vendors in India thanks to its vast portfolio of products. At the India launch of the K8 Note, Lenovo claimed that it has managed to sell 8.5 million K-series devices in the country so far.

 

With the Lenovo K8 Note, the company is also switching to a stock Android experience, ditching the Vibe Pure UI entirely, which is big move. On paper, the Lenovo K8 Note has some decent specs and features, but competition is stiff. Does it manage to strike a good balance between pricing and features? We find out.

Lenovo K8 Note look and feel
The Lenovo K8 Note’s metal body feels sturdy when you hold the phone for the first time. The Aluminium 6000 material offers a premium feel and a soft touch. While there’s no doubt that the K8 Note is one of the better looking phones in its category, the design is far from original, and strongly reminds us of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4. It has 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass spread across the front edges, which looks neat. Lenovo has used an anti-fingerprint coating on the screen which means you shouldn’t have to bother cleaning it very often.

The Lenovo K8 Note has capacitive navigation buttons at the front, which aren’t backlit. We often had trouble using them in the dark. The front camera has its own LED flash which has been a popular demand lately, according to Lenovo. The rear has the dual cameras which are placed one above the other, accompanied by a dual LED flash. The fingerprint sensor is right below the cameras, and was easily accessible at any point. The overall size and placement of physical buttons makes them easy to use. We liked the fact that power and volume buttons have been slightly low to easily fall under a thumb or forefinger depending on which hand you’re holding the phone in.

There are the familiar antenna bands on the top and bottom of the handset’s rear. The bands will match the phone’s colour, making them blend in. The Lenovo K8 Note will be available in Fine Gold and Venom Black, which we received for our review. Lenovo has gone with minimalistic branding on the K8 Note, which is good. You can find a logo at the back.

lenovo k8 note music key gadgets360 lenovo

The left panel has a dedicated “Music key” which is customisable for any purpose. Users can customise it via Settings > Music Key for playing/ pausing audio or video, toggling the flashlight, launching the camera, taking a screenshot, or opening a specific app. The Music Key has a red colour accent to make it stand out, with play and pause icons above it. There are also dedicated slots for two SIMs and a microSD card, which Lenovo stressed is one of the most demanded features in this segment. There’s a Micro-USB port at the bottom, with a speaker grille on either side. Unfortunately, there’s only one functional speaker, but this phone does support Dolby Atmos Audio enhancement. The other grille is just for show, much like on many other budget phones. The top has a 3.5mm audio jack.

We had no trouble using the K8 Note with just one hand. It measures 154.5×75.9×8.5mm and its rounded edges make it fit well in a palm. At 180g, this phone is a bit heavy compared to the likes of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (175 grams) which should be seen as direct competition. Additionally, the Lenovo K8 Note has a water repellent design which help it survive light splashes, but don’t consider it to be equivalent to actual water resistance. Lenovo clearly points out that liquid damage will not be covered under the warranty.

When compared to the Lenovo K6 Note, the Lenovo K8 Note has a lot of improvements in terms of design that make it feel more premium for its price. In the box, you get a transparent plastic case, a USB cable, a 15W rapid charger, a SIM ejector, and instruction manuals. The Lenovo K8 Note is the company’s first smartphone to ship with a rapid charger. However, there are now no bundled earphones which might be a bit of disappointment for some buyers.

Lenovo K8 Note specifications and software
The Lenovo K8 Note features a 5.5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) display. Under the hood, it is powered by a deca-core MediaTek Helio X23 (MT6797) SoC with four cores clocked at 1.4GHz, another four cores at 1.85GHz, and two cores at 2.3GHz. The K8 Note has been launched in India in two storage and RAM variants: 3GB of RAM with 32GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM with 64GB of storage. We received the latter for our review. Storage expansion using a microSD card (up to 128GB) is supported.

lenovo k8 note camera gadgets360 lenovo

Lenovo is heavily marketing the dual camera feature on the K8 Note, which is the company’s first phone to offer this feature. There’s a 13-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel depth sensor for creating a bokeh effect. For selfie lovers, the K8 Note has a 13-megapixel sensor at the front with its own LED flash. There’s a 4000mAh non-removable battery, and this phone does support rapid charging. The K8 Note features 4G with VoLTE (voice over LTE). LTE Cat 6 speed means that you can get up to 300Mbps download speeds and up to 50Mbps upload speeds if your carrier offers that kind of performance. Other connectivity features include Wi-Fi 802.11 ac and Bluetooth 4.1.

One of the big changes Lenovo is making with its all-new K8 Note is in terms of software. The Chinese company shared the news first with Gadgets 360, and confirmed that all future Lenovo phones will run stock Android out-of-the-box. The Lenovo K8 Note runs on the recent Android 7.1.1 Nougat. This means Lenovo has entirely ditched its Vibe Pure UI. Running Android 7.1.1, the Lenovo K8 Note comes has the 3D Touch-like app shortcuts feature, which was rolled out in December last year. K8 Note users can perform contextual actions using any optimised app by simply long-pressing its icon. Our unit had already received the latest July security patch, and Lenovo promises that users can expect timely updates from now on. Some of the other notable Android 7.1.1 features on the K8 Note include GIF support directly in the keyboard, a wide variety of new emojis, split-screen multitasking, and Google Assistant.

You get all the standard Google apps including Duo, Play Movies and Play Music but the phone also comes with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, which are removable. The interface is fluid, and you won’t feel the device stuttering even when many apps are running. Google’s Photos app becomes the default gallery which in our opinion is good, since you can sync all your photos and videos to the cloud.

lenovo k8 note screenshot gadgets360 lenovo

There are still some minor tweaks to the software. You can find the Dolby Atmos app preloaded on the handset for tweaking audio settings. There’s also TheaterMax VR support which was initially introduced with the Lenovo Vibe K4 Note. This time around, however, Lenovo doesn’t have an exclusive partnership with any headset maker. The company feels that there are enough VR headsets in the Indian market, and the Lenovo K8 Note with TheaterMax tech will support most of them.

We tried the TheaterMax mode on the K8 Note with a VR headset in our lab, and found that it worked flawlessly. The VR mode can be enabled by long-pressing the power button and tapping the TheaterMax option. This lets you enjoy media on a virtual large screen, with a 100-degree field of view. We had fun watching videos and TV shows using the K8 Note and a headset as it offered a cinema-like feel. We hope that Lenovo partners with content providers and does even more with its VR push.

Interestingly, Lenovo has already promised that the K8 Note will be receiving an update to Android O before end of this year which makes it an even sweeter deal at this price.

Lenovo K8 Note performance and camera
We had a good time using the Lenovo K8 Note, and found that stock Android was very welcome. We didn’t have any issues despite running up to 12 apps in the background, which can be credited to Android’s memory management. The K8 Note is being launched in 3GB and 4GB RAM options, and our suggestion would be to go with the 4GB version for a better overall experience if you can.

The only thing we noticed was that this phone got warm very quickly. You will start feeling heat if the camera app has been open for a few minutes or if you use GPS navigation even briefly. The same thing happened when gaming. A 20-minute session made the phone warm though not too uncomfortable to use.

lenovo k8 note design gadgets360 lenovo

Gaming on the Lenovo K8 Note was smooth, and it was able to handle heavy graphics in Need for Speed: No Limits without any hassle. Call quality was also decent, and we were able to make calls over the Jio network thanks to VoLTE support. The phone also does a good job of holding on to its signal in congested locations. The single speaker at the bottom right is loud enough but don’t expect it to match the performance of stereo speakers. The Dolby Atmos app can be used to tweak audio options but still has its limits. Considering that Lenovo is heavily marketing the K8 Note as a multimedia device, we wish the company had gone with stereo speakers. There’s no headset in the box which means that you will have to use your own.

As expected, the deca-core processor resulted in some pretty high test scores. AnTuTu returned 86,340 while Quadrant came up with 54,014, both of which are more than what we have seen on any phones we have reviewed in this price range. The K8 Note also managed 33fps in GFXBench and 11,151 in 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme. The 5.5-inch screen has a resolution of 1080×1920 pixels, and is adequately crisp and bright. Viewing angles are fine and sunlight legibility is not an issue. The display on the Lenovo K8 Note, in our opinion, was the best we have seen on a Lenovo device at this price level. We had a good time watching videos and playing games on the K8 Note.

Compared to the K6 Note (Review), the K8 Note has received a major bump in the camera department. It sports a 13-megapixel Purecel sensor and a 5-megapixel Samsung BSI sensor at the back. While the main 13-megapixel sensor is used to capture images, the 5-megapixel one captures depth of field information. The Camera app on the K8 Note is pretty stock which means you won’t get a lot of tweaking options. Users can take images either in Normal mode or in Depth-enabled mode for a bokeh effect. Images taken in normal mode have good details and natural colours with low noise. The camera is quick to lock focus on a subject, and landscapes and macros are decent too. In our opinion, a lot more detail was visible in outdoor shots compared to most smartphone cameras in this category.

Tap to see full-sized Lenovo K8 Note camera samples

Coming to the depth-enabled shots, we found that the K8 Note handled this well but achieving a natural bokeh effect did take some effort. There will be times where you can get it right without making several attempts, but most often, you will get blurred-out shots the first time. You need to set the aperture value between f/1.2 to f/2.8 to blur out the background. We felt that the K8 Note camera was a bit harsh, and we ended up with some shots with unnatural-looking edges. Sometimes the subject wasn’t adequately separated from the background and was partially blurred itself. We hope that this is something Lenovo can improve with software updates especially considering that the Lenovo K8 Note is the company’s first smartphone with dual cameras.

Low-light shots tended to have a lot of noise especially when there was very little light around. We tried using the camera for landscape shots at night and ended up with results that looked washed out. Some indoor samples had visible color shading with poor detail.

The 13-megapixel front camera does a good job with selfies and the LED flash adds to its usefulness. There is a beauty mode to tweak shots slightly. The front camera was able to capture colour tones and details well enough compared to the competition in the segment.

Lenovo K8 Note battery life
The 4000mAh battery in the K8 Note lasted for roughly for 20 hours with heavy usage. During our review period, we had WhatsApp, Outlook, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps, Telegram, and Twitter running at the background the entire time. We used the dual cameras extensively and also played games a lot. With lighter usage, our unit easily lasted over a day before switching to battery saving mode. However, the K8 Note still falls short of what the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 delivers in terms of battery performance.

In our standard video loop test, the K8 Note lasted for 14 hours and 20 minutes, which is good enough for a battery of this size. The Lenovo K8 Note ships with a rapid charger which means you can top it up quickly. We found that a mere 20-minute charge took us up to roughly 40 percent which should be enough juice to last for few hours. If you need a full charge, it will take nearly two hours.


Lenovo K8 Note in pictures

Verdict
The Lenovo K8 Note starts at Rs. 12,999 for the 3GB RAM /32GB storage model while our unit with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage has been priced at Rs. 13,999. At these prices, the Lenovo K8 Note is a great overall package, and brings a lot to the table including stock Android, dual cameras, TheaterMax, and solid build quality. That said, there are few negatives. Battery life isn’t the best in the segment, and the heating issue may concern you. The low-light camera results leave a lot to be desired as well. Thankfully, the highly marketed dual camera feature works well.

For Lenovo fans, the Lenovo K8 Note is a big upgrade from its predecessor, the Lenovo K6 Note, and is definitely worth the money. We can expect the K8 Note to go head-to-head with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Review) which has been very popular in this price range. However, with Xiaomi teasing a new dual-camera smartphone launching soon, we can expect to have fresh competition.

'Vanderpump Rules' Stars Jax Taylor And Brittany Cartwright Spend Time With Her Niece

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Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright have been dating for about two and a half years, and while they haven’t announced any solid plans for their future yet, they make a good-looking family.

During a visit to Kentucky over the weekend, the Vanderpump Rules couple enjoyed spending time with Cartwright’s newborn niece Presley and shared a couple of images of themselves holding the child.

“Missing this little one already, can’t wait to see her at Christmas!! #babypresley #kentucky #family #thanksgiving,” Taylor wrote on Nov. 26 with a photo of himself, Cartwright, and the baby.

“Aunties little Sweet P,” Cartwright added around the same time with a photo of herself and Presley.

Taylor and Cartwright’s visit to her hometown in Kentucky came just days after they spoke about their plans for a future wedding.

“We absolutely talk about it,” Taylor told Life & Style magazine during an interview last week.

“There’s a castle in Kentucky that I’ve always wanted to get married at,” Cartwright then revealed. “It’s absolutely gorgeous, and I just want that complete fairy-tale wedding.”

“I want a winter wedding,” she added, “with snow on the ground and red roses everywhere.”

Taylor and Cartwright’s romance began in early 2015 after the couple met during a visit to Las Vegas. From there, Cartwright vacated her home in Kentucky and traveled to Los Angeles to move in with the reality star and bartender.

Although Cartwright attempted to land a job at SUR Restaurant, where Taylor bartends and Vanderpump Rules is filmed, owner Lisa Vanderpump initially turned her down due to her failure to bring a resume with her to her impromptu interview. Then several months later, Cartwright began working at the venue as a waitress.

For the past several months, Cartwright has been prompting engagement rumors on occasion by sporting a suspicious-looking diamond ring on her engagement finger. However, because the ring is not always seen on her hand, it doesn’t appear to be an official engagement ring.

For more of Jax Taylor, Brittany Cartwright, and their co-stars, including Stassi Schroeder, Scheana Marie, Katie Maloney, Lala Kent, Tom Sandoval, Kristen Doute, Tom Schwartz, Lisa Vanderpump, and James Kennedy, don’t miss the sixth season of Vanderpump Rules, which premieres on Monday, Dec. 4 at 9 p.m. on Bravo TV.

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