Archives October 2015

With 33 Crew Members Presumed Dead, Family of El Faro Crew Members Continue to Press Charges


Photo Credit: WBZ-TV

Photo Credit: WBZ-TV

El Faro, the cargo ship that tragically sunk on October 1 after it experienced a hull breach near the eye of a hurricane, has resulted in a number of lawsuits from the missing crew’s family and loved ones. The latest federal lawsuit, filed by the wife of Jackie Jones Jr., a mariner who is believed dead, claims that the El Faro had faulty electrical systems, defective satellite equipment, and corroded steel.

Mr. Jones’ wife, Addreisha Shirliea Jones, alleged that the owner of El Faro failed to make the necessary safety and maintenance precautions before negligently sending the cargo ship out to sea as hurricane Joaquin gained strength. This, she claims, not only violates the federal Death on the High Seas Act, but the Jones Act as well, an act that governs domestic shipping.

Cargo shipping is a popular means of transporting goods in the United States, with exports of goods and services of over $2.1 trillion in 2011 alone.

But the recently filed lawsuit — joining two others that have been filed since the ship and its passengers went missing — alleges negligence on the part of TOTE Maritime and its affiliate Sea Star Line LLC, the registered owners of El Faro.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the cargo ship was carrying cars and consumer goods to San Juan, Puerto Rico. While the ship was reported to have passed all safety inspections, El Faro was scheduled to have its boilers serviced in early November.

While federal investigators are seeking further evidence by locating the ship’s wreck and attempting to procure its voyage data recorder, the Jones family’s attorney at law reports that information gathered via interviews with former crew is evidence enough.

The lawsuit contains a great deal of evidence, tied with allegations regarding El Faro’s condition. According to interviews, the ship was “routinely overloaded with cargo,” such as vehicles, making the ship especially vulnerable in dangerous situations. Additionally, the ship allegedly failed to have functioning Emergency Position Indicating Radio beacons on board. These are a means of collecting and projecting location data.

After six days of searching for El Faro, the Coast Guard officially called off its search for survivors; all 33 crew members are believed to have died in the sinking.

Pepsi Made a ‘Perfect’ Mistake With Its ‘Back to the Future’ Marketing Plan


marketingOctober 21, 2015: The day that advertisers and marketers have been anticipating for over two decades, ever since Marty McFly, Jennifer Parker, and Doc Brown traveled “back to the future” in 1989.

The advertising team at PepsiCo. was surely eagerly awaiting the date, which was featured in the popular movie “Back to the Future II” starring Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly. In the movie, “Pepsi Perfect” was Marty’s favorite soft drink.

Pepsi decided to release a 16.9 oz. limited edition of “Pepsi Perfect” (which isn’t actually any different from regular Pepsi, besides being made with “Real Sugar,” as a press release stated) which consumers could purchase through Amazon and Walmart, according to Fortune and the New York Post.

The drink was listed for $20.15, but Pepsi never actually announced the time when the drink would go on sale. Most people assumed that it would be available on October 21, but a small group of fans discovered that Amazon and Walmart had actually put the bottles on sale on October 20. The news spread on reviews and on Reddit, according to FOX News, but the majority of “Future” fans logged onto their computers at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 21 to purchase their bottles.

The problem was, nearly all of the 6,500 limited release bottles of “Pepsi Perfect” had sold out the day before. The company sent out a tweet at 8:32 a.m. on Oct. 21 blaming the incident on a technical glitch that only affected some consumers.

“The future may have arrived early for some lucky fans, but #PepsiPerfect isn’t sold out just yet! It goes on sale this morning!” the tweet read.

Tthose unlucky fans weren’t buying it, though. In fact, some even stated that they wouldn’t be buying any Pepsi products from now on.

“Good job Pepsi. You have completely wrecked your image in a matter of hours. These are currently going for $500+ on ebay. Your business plan and market research are quite possibly worse than the actual product itself. Have fun losing out on a bunch of money,” wrote one Amazon reviewer.

“Pepsi and their scam with this release has just make [sic] me switch to Coca-Cola,” wrote another.

The company later announced that it would be released another round of 6,500 “Pepsi Perfect” bottles through on Nov. 3, 2015 at 6 a.m. PT, again priced at $20.15.

It seems as though the damage has been done, however, at least for Pepsi’s “Future” marketing stint. Although “interesting content” is one of the top three reasons why consumers follow a brand on social media — and this is pretty easy to create when a popular movie from the 80s references a specific company and product — over 50% of loyal consumers who follow a brand on social media are doing so because they trust the brand.

For many Pepsi fans, building up the hype for “Pepsi Perfect” and failing to produce an actual product was enough of a mistake to warrant total dismissal.

“Horrible launch. Way to lie and false advertise the release date and time to your customers,” reads an Amazon review. “I will never buy a Pepsi product again.”


2 Doctors Charged in Scranton Urgent Care Center Insurance Scam Case

urgent care

urgent careAlthough urgent care centers are a quick, convenient alternative to going to the hospital for patients, two doctors from Scranton, PA, seem to have mistaken working for one as a convenient “get rich quick” scheme.

Dr. Rajaa Nebbari, 44, and Dr. Chetan Byhadgi, 52, worked at Advanced Urgent Care on Mulberry St. in Scranton but are now no longer employed there. Last Tuesday, Oct. 20, they were charged with Medicaid fraud, conspiracy, theft by deception, and insurance fraud, according to the Scranton-area ABC affiliate

The charges stem from a raid on the Advanced Urgent Care facility back in July. At the crux of the suit, the state attorney general’s office is accusing them of submitting fraudulent claims to Medicare programs, private insurance, and medical assistance.

They also allegedly instructed other unqualified staff working in the clinic to write prescriptions for controlled substances. According to reports, they still own a family urgent care center in the area but no longer work at the Advanced Urgent Care center their charges came from. They worked at that location while it was under a different name.

There are more than 6,800 urgent care centers in the U.S., according to the Urgent Care Association of America. Estimates show that about three million patients visit an urgent care center every week in the United States, which is no surprise considering the average visit will cost $1,350 less than a trip to the hospital.

As these types of locations continue to grow in popularity and prevalence, patients should keep in mind the reputation of the professionals they’re dealing with and report any activity that looks suspicious.


Marijuana Mascot May Hurt Ohio’s Chances of Legalization

Cannabis plant at early flowering stageA new initiative meant to help promote the upcoming vote for legalization of marijuana in Ohio could have the opposite effect, experts are saying. A pro-marijuana group called ResponsibleOhio has released its new marijuana mascot, a giant green superhero-looking bud of weed with a head called Buddie, according to The Huffington Post.

While the group has said it’s meant as a fun gimmick to be used at places like college campuses to help get out the vote, many proponents of marijuana legalization are condemning the idea as childish and potentially reckless. Some are even comparing it the controversial Joe Camel cigarette campaign from years past.

Ohio will vote on Issue 3, which would legalize marijuana use for both medicinal and adult use, in less than three weeks. While the approach is being heavily scrutinized, it is succeeding in winning the headline battle for those who believe “all news is good news.”

Count the pro-marijuana people from Marijuana Majority, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and even the folks at The Weed Blog among those against the cartoon-themed promotion. Leaders of which all have signed a petition entitled, “Stop using a superhero mascot to campaign for marijuana legalization in Ohio.” The petition currently has more than 500 signatures.

To them it’s an unnecessary and ill-conceived ploy that will do much more harm than good. Most college kids don’t need convincing on such a matter. Overall more than half (52%) of Americans believe cannabis should be legal. Yet critics say it’s the parents of children who are deciding whether or not the health/medical benefits outweigh the potential for abuse and misuse, and creating a cartoon superhero hardly seems like the right way to win them over.

A perfect example of the negative impact “Buddie” has already caused can be seen in the crashing of a press conference for a marijuana research center by a parody mascot called, “Nuggie.” (Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up). Except “Nuggie” came to the event, which had children present, equipped with a giant joint, a bong, and bloodshot eyes.

Polls estimate that about 56% of Ohio voters support Issue 3 and if it passes on November 3 essentially everyone outside ResponsibleOhio believe it will do so in spite of, rather than thanks to, “Buddie.”

Over 35 Leading Healthcare Societies Convened to Find a Comprehensive Solution to America’s Obesity Problem

Happy woman celebrating weight lossTo tackle America’s obesity crisis, over 35 leading U.S. healthcare organizations have joined forces to create National Obesity Care Week (NOCW), a yearly campaign that aims to develop a comprehensive and personalize approach to treating obesity. NOCW is scheduled for November 1-7 of this year, and will call upon healthcare professionals, patients, and policymakers alike to “Change the Way We Care” for obesity, developing a more compassionate approach to help those living with obesity.

At a summit in Gainesville, Florida last month, the attendees discussed guidelines, an educational curriculum, and an obesity treatment app, among other initiatives from a spectrum of disciplines.

“We represent many different specialties, backgrounds, and perspectives, but we’re all really treating the same disease,” said summit moderator John M. Morton, MD. “That’s why there is intense and growing interest in how we can work together to better help our patients with obesity and related diseases.”

Representatives who specialize in treating diabetes, oncology, and dentistry all agreed that obesity affects their patients. However, tackling the issue from one discipline isn’t enough; rather, a multidisciplinary approach needs to be taken.

Many Americans look to plastic surgery to fix weight issues, using invasive surgeries such as liposuction. But without comprehensive change, such as regular diet and exercise, statistics show that these individuals rarely keep off the weight that the liposuction has removed.

“Medical care is so siloed,” said MD MPH William Herman, representative of the American Diabetes Association. “We need to move from a piecemeal approach to one that is more comprehensive.”

And regardless of the discipline, every representative had something to contribute to the summit. For example, Jennifer Ligibel, MD, from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, presented data that demonstrated a strong correlation between obesity and cancer, positing that obesity control will be the highest for of cancer prevention over the next 20 years.

But this is only one piece of the puzzle. As America falls deeper into a troublesome and very real obesity epidemic, such a comprehensive approach may be the solution we have been searching for.

As the Baby Boomers Grow Older, Elder Exploitation and Abuse Will Grow As Well

Elderly careWith money being stored and transferred digitally more often due to the ease of use, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is plenty of room for error. One of the most common issues resulting from this is financial exploitation, specifically regarding elderly people.

The Washington Post reports that 85-year-old Bethesda, MD, resident Rene Cuzon du Rest was recently the victim of exploitation, amounting up to $404,000 being stolen from him.

Cuzon du Rest was born in France and immigrated to the United States after World War II in order to become an oceanographer. By age 85, he had bequeathed the majority of his savings to cancer research.

However, as he slipped further into dementia, Cuzon du Rest required the help of a caretaker. He hired 66-year-old woman Rosetta Horne, who over a span of two years was able to withdraw $400 in cash everyday, enter banks impersonating Cuzon du Rest, liquidated his brokerage account, and had even arranged to have his safe deposit box drilled open.

After a two week trial, Horne was convicted of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, theft, and embezzlement. She was ultimately sentenced to five years in prison.

Attorney John McCarthy, who handled the case, said that Cuzon du Rest’s situation was a typical instance of elder abuse. Unfortunately, of those elders who are even aware it is happening, many don’t report it out of fear or embarrassment.

“Only 41 out of every 1,000 cases of elder financial exploitation are reported,” remarked the prosecutors involved with the case.

With so many instances of exploitation going unreported, cases of elder abuse may be increasing more than we realize.

According to Oregon’s Statesman Journal, the third annual report from the Oregon Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigations (OAAPI) showed a 10% increase in the number of investigations of abuse and mistreatment cases just in 2014.

In that year, there were more than 38,000 potential cases of abuse, a substantial jump from the 35,000 cases from 2013. These situations involve the abuse of elders, including those with physical, intellectual, developmental, or mental-health disabilities. The most common of these situations dealt with financial exploitation and neglect.

The 2010 Investor Protection Trust Elder Fraud Survey found that one in five people over the age of 65 in the United States had been victims of financial fraud.

But Joe Merrifield, the research and prevention unit manager of the OAAPI, said the census data shows that these figures are on the rise. Since 2010, there have been more 50,000 residents turning 65 annually, which will likely lead to an increase in the number of these cases.

“Obviously, not everyone over 65 is vulnerable,” Merrifield said. “Many are living longer, healthier lives, but it’s likely we’ll continue to see an increase in the number of cases reported as well as the number of cases investigated and the number of vulnerable adults abused as a result.”

With the annual growth of the baby boomer generation expected to add nearly 300,000 elders to Oregon’s population, the OAAPI created a tool-free hotline for children and adults, with the sole purpose of reporting abuse.

Taxicab Commissions Are Resorting to Restraining Orders to Overcome Their Competition

Business man wavingAfter watching corporations use monopolies to take advantage of consumers, many people have come to see the advantages that competition can have. Without competition, there is no reason for companies to offer better services or lower prices.

In recent years, one of the biggest battles between organizations trying to prevent independent entities from competing with them is the rivalry between taxicabs and newer transportation services such as Uber. Taxi companies feel so threatened by these services that they are now taking legal action.

Most people usually correlate restraining orders with preventing situations of sexual harassment or elder abuse, the latter of which affects those over the age of 65. However, they are now commonplace between corporations and their competitors.

According to, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC) in St. Louis, Missouri, filed a temporary restraining order against Uber. In the suit, the commission contended 19 of Uber’s drivers to background checks that were not conducted by Uber itself.

“Missouri state law requires every vehicle that transports individuals to have a background check of the individual, its state law,” said Chuck Billings, the attorney for the Taxicab Commission.

They found that 11 out of the 19 drivers didn’t have the commercial driver’s licenses that are required by law. None of the drivers checked had taxicab commission licenses required by the city, either, and two drivers in particular were found to be in worse circumstances.

One of the drivers was found to have a previous larceny conviction, and another had an outstanding warrant simply for not paying a $95 traffic fine for improper use of signal lights.

In order to defend themselves, Uber released information showing they gave 5,000 rides just during their first weekend in operation in St. Louis, 2,000 of which were between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. and thereby reduced the risk of people driving under the influence. The Taxicab Commission averages only 300 rides in a weekend.

Uber then filed their own lawsuit against MTC in September for anti-competitive conduct in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, for permissions to operate freely for two weeks. However, their request was denied.

Even though Uber has been able to find solace in many other Metropolitan areas in America, they’re having troubles overseas as well.

China’s transport ministry recently released a draft regulation that addresses ride-hailing apps such as Uber and their other independent competitor Didi Kuaidi, Quartz reports. Together they currently give around seven million rides a day across more than 300 cities in China.

These new regulations are attempting to force Uber and Didi to operate like traditional taxi dispatchers, which is a radical change from their current business practices.

However, the draft at no point specifically names Uber or Didi, but rather “online pre-booked taxis.”

This suggest that the Chinese government may want to rein these two companies in to their existing transportation infrastructure to profit from their success rather than bring it to a halt.

Both companies remain willing to cooperate with the government to avoid more serious consequences.

“This draft of the proposed regulation is still at the stage of public consultation,” explained a Didi spokesperson. “We will give responsible feedback and recommendations to the authorities, after studying opinions and responses from experts, industry players, and most importantly passenger and driver communities.”

These regulations and lawsuits certainly present obstacles for these independent transportation services, but they do not yet spell the end of Uber and Didi.

The Casual Opulence of the Frieze Art Fair

Blur or Defocus abstract image of the lobby of a modern art centThe posh city of London is fuller than ever with celebrities, eccentric millionaires, and art collectors, who are gathering at this year’s Frieze Art Fair to get a piece of the action. On October 14, the event began strongly, with a 15-minute line snaking through the fair’s location at Regent’s Park.

Among the elite waiting to get in were billionaire Eli Broad, heiress Nicky Hilton Rothschild, and actor Benedict Cumberbatch. In London for his interpretation of Hamlet, Cumberbatch was accompanied by his wife, and was seen at the Gagosian Gallery perusing a $600,000 sculpture by British artist Glenn Brown.

Across from the event at Regent’s Park, Frieze Masters offers historic pieces by some 130-odd art dealers. The fine, historical art is an interesting juxtaposition to the contemporary art displayed alongside it.

But art dealer Richard Feigen feels that’s how it should be. For his booth, Feigen hired interior designer Juan Pablo Molyneux to give his space an old-world Italian palazzo feel, as Pablo Picasso and Renaissance paintings sit next to one another, as if they were meant to.

Some of Feigen’s first sales of the Fair was a $35,000 collage by Ray Johnson, and a solid gold trash can by James Rosenquist that sold for a modest $75,000.

While 71% of collectors say they purchase their art online, it is often hard to gauge the quality of pieces bought on the internet. The Frieze Art Fair provides a safe haven of sorts for collectors to peruse through paintings and sculptures that are guaranteed in quality and value.

“It’s a very safe place to go,” said Marianne Boesky, owner of Marianne Boesky Gallery. “You are buying quality, not something untested.”

And if quality is denoted by price tag, these works are absolutely top of the line. Take Huma Bhabha’s carved cork sculpture, for example, that sold for $195,000, or Damien Hirst’s sculpture of a pickled shark, that is priced around $10 million.

Ohio Plastics Company Doing Their Part to Combat Decline in Recycling Throughout the Country

Rubbish that can be recycledIt seems like recycling was almost just a passing fad throughout the country that eventually lost steam, but one Ohio company is doing their part to breathe life back into the cause.

According to the Fremont News-Messenger, The Plastics Group, Inc. of Fremont, OH, is receiving a $225,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to install a new plastic recycling line in their factory.

The project will have a massive effect on the surrounding community, allowing the company to recycle more than 1.2 million pounds of plastic each year. The recycled plastic will go towards building gas cans, kayaks, and other plastic-based goods, lowering costs on the back-end for prospective local buyers.

The recycling line, which will begin operation in April 2016, will also add at least nine new jobs to the 245-employee company.

“The payback is big. We are helping the environment, creating new jobs and saving material,” said Michael Moore, chief financial officer of The Plastics Group.

Recycling has been a hot topic in recent years as a widespread effort to get people more involved has begun to fall short after gaining steam in the mid-2000s.

A 2011 study found that 94% of Americans have access to plastic bottle recycling, with 40% also being able to recycle other types of plastic containers, such as yogurt cups and dairy tubs. Despite how easy it has become to recycle, most people and businesses still opt to throw plastics into the trash.

According to the New York Times, prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of lower oil prices and reduced demand overseas. The slump has forced some recycling companies to cancel the development of new technology, or in some cases, even cease operation.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s deputy director, Laurie Stevenson, is hoping their grant to The Plastic Group will spark an effort throughout the state to focus on recycling and the positive effects it can have on residents, as well as the environment they live in.

“I have a personal connection to Fremont. I grew up here and spent most of my childhood here. From EPA’s perspective, I’ve seen a real change in the agency grow and develop and interact with business,” Stevenson said.

The recycled material, which otherwise would be thrown into a landfill, will allow the Fremont factory to reuse plastic for production. The Plastics Group will also invest about $500,000 into the project to further enhance their recycling efforts.

Nova Scotia Fishing Village Draws Winner in Innovative Lottery Fundraiser

The unique raffle-card lottery game that captured much of the world’s attention for the last year or so has finally pulled a winner. The small town of Inverness, a fishing village off the coast in Nova Scotia, Canada, has made national headlines for their lottery game known as “Chase the Ace.” It started last October as a way to raise funds for a local community center, according to The New Yorker.

The lottery started as a $200 jackpot that rolled over every week until someone won the grand prize by selecting the Ace of Spades from a deck of cards after first having their raffle ticket pulled. The wait is finally over as Donelda MacAskill, a 62-year-old woman from Nova Scotia, won the grand prize this past weekend, which had accumulated to $1.7 million.

“You don’t play with the thought of winning,” MacAskill told when asked what she planned to do next. “I really didn’t think I was going to win. That’s why I was on the side of the road, ready to head for home.”

Apparently, MacAskill and her husband, John, were about to head home when she realized her number had been called. With more than 25,000 people crowding the small town and the hockey arena being used to house the card pulling, it was a struggle to make it there in time. Lucky for her, she did.

A random lucky million dollar winner isn’t what makes this lottery particularly unique, though; that happens pretty much every day somewhere around the world. Regardless of how much is won, 70% of winners will lose or spend it all within five years.

Yet what happened in Inverness over the last year was something of an experiment by a small town.

Not only did they market and advertise the event, they were able to draw literally tens of thousands of people from around the country to a place they may have otherwise never even heard of. The contest rules made it clear you had to be present in Inverness to win.

“There’s a saying going around here,” said Alec O’Neill, whose family owns the Village Grill in the town, a short drive from the region’s acclaimed Cabot Cliffs golf course. “The golf course spent $500-million to put us on the map. And the legion just bought a deck of cards.”

Two organizations took part in putting the event together, the Royal Canadian Legion and the Inverness Cottage Workshop. The two will evenly split what’s expected to be over $2 million in net earning.