CDC Looking into Second Viral Outbreak on Cruise Ship in Two Weeks

(BALTIMORE) — Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas is scheduled to leave Baltimore on its next voyage on Saturday afternoon, but will need approval from the Centers for Disease Control after its last two cruises saw passengers fall ill.

During its last trip, which departed on April 5, 99 of the ship’s 2,120 guests and eight of the 800 crew members experienced an illness believed to be norovirus. In a statement, Royal Caribbean said that steps were taken during the last cruise to prevent transmission of the illness — including “enhanced cleaning procedures and protocols, and using special cleaning products and disinfectants that are proven to kill norovirus.”

Due to extra cleaning, Saturday’s departure was pushed back to about 6 p.m. All guests are expected to receive a letter when they board asking whether they have experienced any gastrointestinal symptoms in the last three days. Royal Caribbean also said that passengers can also reschedule their trip if they are uncomfortable on the ship.

Two CDC Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officers and one epidemiologist will board the ship on Saturday to conduct an investigation and evaluate both the outbreak and the cruise line’s response.

The previous journey, which departed on March 28 and returned to Baltimore on April 5, was also affected by a similar illness, with 111 of 2,122 passengers and six of 790 crew members falling ill. The CDC confirmed the illness on that trip was caused by norovirus.

The CDC says up to 300 million people around the world are stricken with norovirus, a figure only surpassed by the common cold.

Posted On 12 Apr 2014

New NHL Lawsuit Is the Most Graphic Yet

(NEW YORK) — A new lawsuit that accuses the NHL of putting profits before safety is littered with images of bloodied, toothless hockey players.

The class action suit, filed Wednesday in federal court in New York on behalf of nine former players, claims the league “fosters a culture of ‘enforcers’ and ‘goons.’”

“[The players] have suffered and will continue to suffer serious health problems as a result of the NHL’s sophisticated use of extreme violence to bring fans to the game in hockey arenas, on television, the radio and the Internet,” the lawsuit claims.

The nine former players are Dan LaCouture, Dan Keczmer, Jack Carlson, Richard Brennan, Brad Maxwell, Michael Peluso, Tom Younghans, Allan Rourke and Scott Bailey.

LaCouture, 36, was involved in 52 fights and “suffers from headaches, irritability, sensitivity to light, change of personality, and depression,” according to the lawsuit.

Peluso, 48, was involved in 179 fights in NHL games and is one of just four players to incur over 400 penalty minutes in a single season, the suit states.

The 110-page complaint includes 51 images ranging from grainy black-and-whites to high-resolution broadcast screen grabs. Some images capture bench-clearing brawls in action, while others show injured players being carried off the ice.

A spread of six images from the 2010 documentary, Broad Street Bullies shows one player with blood streaming down his face and another grinning with no front teeth.

“Popular culture has reflected the fused association between extreme violence and the NHL in many different media,” the lawsuit reads, citing the goalie mask-wearing killer in Friday the 13th as an example of hockey’s culture of violence.

The complaint also calls out “incidents” from nearly a century ago, including the “the Coutu Incidents” of 1925, in which Wilfrid Arthur Coutu incurred a measly $50 fine after severing another player’s ear, and “the Richard Incident” of 1955, in which Maurice Richard was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame six years after punching a referee in the face.

But the bulk of the complaint criticizes the NHL for failing to protect players from the dangers of head trauma –- a claim that mirrors a class action filed by former NFL players that resulted in a $765 million settlement last summer.

The complaint is the second class action suit filed against the NHL. The league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he intends to “defend the case vigorously.”

“While the subject matter is very serious, we are completely satisfied with the responsible manner in which the League and the Players’ Association have managed Player safety over time, including with respect to head injuries and concussions,” he said in a statement.

A growing body of research has linked repeated head trauma to chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE -– a disorder marked memory loss, impaired judgment, aggression and depression. At least four NHL players have been diagnosed with CTE after death, including New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard, who died from a drug overdose in 2011.

Paul Anderson, a Kansas City, Mo.-based attorney who founded, said the graphic new class action “certainly has merit,” but went “overboard.”

“I think using multiple pictures in a complaint is unnecessary,” he said. “I think they’re going to lose credibility with the judge.”

Only one of the 51 images clearly shows a player involved in the suit, with the remaining 50 depicting famous examples of hockey violence.

“It’s unfortunate,” Anderson said of the “immaterial” images and “factual errors” in the suit, including a reference to Gordie Howe dying from Pick’s disease when in fact the hockey legend is still alive. “I don’t want them to override the actual merits of the complaint.”

Cullin O’Brien, an attorney with the Boca Raton, Fla. firm that filed the suit, called the Gordie Howe error “a distraction” from the suit’s serious claims.

“Anyone who’s focusing on the typos doesn’t understand that this is a serious allegation,” Cullin said on behalf of the firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, acknowledging another error in the misspelling of Sidney Crosby’s name. “We’re pleading the facts to show that the NHL undisputedly had knowledge that the extreme violence from its game was harming its players for a very long time — so much so that it’s engrained in our cultural consciousness through various media depictions of the NHL.”

“The typos will be corrected,” Cullin added.

Posted On 12 Apr 2014

Breakfast Wars: Taco Bell Aims to Devour McDonald’s Morning Menu Empire

(NEW YORK) — Taco Bell has launched an all-out advertising assault to promote its new Waffle Taco, in the hopes of taking a bite out of McDonald’s breakfast empire.

One ad, set to the tune of “Old Macdonald Had a Farm,” features a guy who has been eating McDonald’s Egg McMuffin since 1984. After trying Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu, he suddenly gets with the times, trimming his mullet and getting a smartphone.

Another ad shows a montage of 25 men from across the country named “Ronald McDonald” who say they “love Taco Bell’s new breakfast.”

So why aim directly at fast food breakfast goliath McDonalds? Because Americans spend $32 billion annually on fast food breakfast and McDonald’s commands one-third of the market and has been making Egg McMuffins since the 1970s.

Welcome to the Breakfast Wars.

Taco Bell has been working on its morning menu, which includes the Waffle Taco, the AM Crunch Wrap and Cinnabon Delights, for over seven years and it’s not about to flinch.

“The message is we’re here to stay in breakfast,” said Taco Bell’s chief marketing officer Chris Brandt. “The whole reason we’re doing this is we just thought breakfast was really boring and so we wanted to break up the boring, shake up the routine.”

Taco Bell made sure all of its new breakfast sandwiches can be held in one hand. They even have a new coffee line too.

And McDonald’s took notice. Taco Bell’s “I’m Ronald McDonald” ad, a campaign by Oscar-winning director Errol Morris, generated so much buzz, the Golden Arches rounded up its troops and immediately fired off a response.

They posted an image on social media showing their mascot, the red and yellow Ronald McDonald clown, kneeling down to pet the Taco Bell Chihuahua with the words, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” They also offered free small cups of its McCafe coffee to customers during breakfast hours for two weeks.

“McDonalds said ‘back off our territory, we’re the breakfast king,’ and they started this marketing blitz,” said Hayley Peterson, a retail reporter for Business Insider. “They also put on a concert in Times Square and a flash Mob in Chicago to sort of get the buzz growing in major cities over their McCafe coffee line.”

McDonald’s gets about 20 percent of its sales from breakfast. It made $10 billion last year off their morning menu alone, dwarfing Taco Bell’s $7.6 billion in total sales for all menus combined.

But McDonald’s is fretting about the little Chihuahua because in the last few years, breakfast has become more important than ever to the fast food giant’s bottom line.

“[Breakfast is] the cheapest meal you can get outside of a snack, and consumers are still tight with money after the recession,” Peterson said.

“Traffic during the breakfast [hours] have been steadily increasing, while traffic during the lunch and dinner hours have been steadily decreasing year over year, and that’s why there’s this sudden interest in breakfast.”

And Taco Bell isn’t the only one duking it out in the Breakfast Wars. Just last week, Dunkin Donuts unveiled its eggs benedict sandwiches, and last month, Starbucks unveiled new breakfast items, such as the Egg and Cheddar sandwich on multi-grain toast and the new and improved Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich.

“There’s a definitely a huge market for, ‘I’m going to splurge today, once-a-week’ and get fast food,” Peterson said.

Posted On 12 Apr 2014