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YOUR HEALTH: Why robots are good at fixing broken hearts

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ATLANTA, Georgia – Susan Watkins has always been active.

"I walk a lot, I work out with a personal trainer at least once a week."

She even loves horseback riding.  But last year, she noticed some unusual symptoms while simply walking.

"I got winded and I knew that's not normal for me."

An echocardiogram revealed Susan's mitral valve was leaking and needed repair.

Three million Americans every year struggle with a leaky mitral valve.  The condition can put strain on the heart, and can cause the muscle to flutter, or beat irregularly.

Cardiac surgeon Douglas Murphy says a severe leak in the mitral valve like Susan's can take its toll on the heart.

"That's blood leaking backwards at high velocity."

Susan needed surgery to repair the valve.

"Traditionally it was saw the sternum in half and operate from the front of the chest," explained Dr. Murphy.

Now Dr. Murphy and his team perform the procedure robotically, making five tiny incisions on the side of the patient.

"If you come from the side, the right side, it's a straight shot to the valve," he said.

Then the surgeon controls the robotic instruments from a console ten feet away.

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  In a minimally invasive mitral valve repair, the surgeon makes a small incision on the right side of the chest, either above or below the breast, without breaking or cutting the breastbone, as in traditional sternotomy.   He or she inserts surgical instruments to access the heart and repair the valve.   This procedure typically results in less blood loss, less postoperative pain, less scarring, and a shorter recovery time than sternotomy, or open heart surgery.   Published research by NYU Langone doctors shows that the long-term clinical outcomes for 1,000 people who had minimally invasive procedures were equivalent to the outcomes of those who had a sternotomy. (Source:

Because the surgery is much less invasive, it reduces the risk of complications.

"The number one complication in heart surgery is stroke.  We see less than one percent stroke with this."

And the recovery is much faster.

Susan spent two nights in the hospital and was exercising four weeks after surgery.

"It's not even tired, my heart rate is hardly up, I don't have any problem breathing at all, no shortness of breath."

Repairing broken hearts for a long and healthy life.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Rock Island house catches fire

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ROCK ISLAND, Illinois – Rock Island Fire Department responded to a house fire on 2044 36th St. on Wednesday, June 27.

The call came at 4:30 and revealed a fire in the attic with smoke coming out of both sides of the house. Fire fighters say no one was in the house, but they were able to rescue a dog named Dipstick.

Crews are currently searching for hot spots, and a fire marshal is on the way to start an investigation.

It’s unclear what caused the fire or if the owners can get back inside today, due to possible smoke damage.

(Dipstick the dog was in the house at the time of the fire)

Apple and Samsung settle 7-year patent infringement battle

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(CNN Money) — Apple and Samsung have finally ended their seven year-long legal fight over patent infringement.

The two companies have agreed to a settlement, according to court documents filed Wednesday. The companies did not disclose the terms of the deal.

The dispute began in 2011 when Apple accused Samsung of copying the iPhone’s design and infringing on patents for features like double-tapping to zoom. The settlement comes after Apple won a $539 million jury award in May.

Litigating the case cost the two companies hundreds of millions of dollars and resulted in several rulings and appeals. In 2012, a jury ruled Samsung must pay Apple more than $1 billion for copying various hardware and software features of the iPhone and iPad. A federal judge later reduced that penalty by $450 million.

Their fight eventually landed in the Supreme Court, which in 2016 reversed an appeals court ruling that Samsung must pay $399 million for patent infringement. Justices sent the case back to the lower court to determine just how much Apple should receive.

Related: In tech, patents are trophies — and these companies are dominating

A representative for Apple declined to comment beyond referring CNNMoney to a statement the company released last month following the jury award.

“This case has always been about more than money,” the company said at the time. “Apple ignited the smartphone revolution with iPhone and it is a fact that Samsung blatantly copied our design. It is important that we continue to protect the hard work and innovation of so many people at Apple.”

Apple added: “We’re grateful to the jury for their service and pleased they agree that Samsung should pay for copying our products.”

Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bettendorf girl reaches life-changing milestone after sledding accident that almost amputated her leg

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BETTENDORF– “I kept asking myself why did this happen to me. but I guess it’s just my story.”

It’s a story that looks different depending on whom you ask.

“I see pain that I went through and everything that’s happened so far,” says 12-year-old Savannah Zaehringer.

Last winder Savannah got in a sledding accident. She was sledding off of 23rd Street in Bettendorf when she hit a fence. Her body went under the fence, and her right foot got stuck. At first doctors said her dying leg needed to be amputated. But nine surgeries and eleven blood transfusions later, this story is still going.

Back in March, Savannah was home from the hospital, but pretty much bed ridden. Her physical therapy was getting in and out of bed. But she knew she could keep her leg.

But the chapter unfolding now is taking an unexpected turn for the best.

Savannah is now walking on her own, not very far, but walking.

“I was really happy because honestly, I thought I wouldn’t walk because it’s been so long,” says Savannah.

But her journey to healing has been close to perfect.

“Everything that could go wrong, she really hasn’t gone wrong,” says Savannah’s mom Sasha. “I’m glad I trusted my instincts when I said no, I want her in Iowa City because if not, she wouldn’t have her leg.”

The next chapter is healing the pressure ulcer on the bottom of her foot.

But after that, a new plot twist.

“Run. It’s the one thing I love to do,” says Savannah.

It’s a different story depending on who’s looking. But it’s a story worth telling in hopes it can help someone else writing their own.

“I think her leg is beautiful. It tells a story that she’ll share and touch other peoples lives and be able to use it for good,” says Sasha.

Savannah will return to school in August. She will be an eight grader at Bettendorf Middle School.

Abortion-rights bloc to fight after pregnancy center ruling

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — In effectively knocking down a California law aimed at regulating anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to abortion-rights supporters who saw the law as a crucial step toward beating back the national movement against the procedure.

Democratic-led California became the first state in 2016 to require the centers to provide information about access to birth control and abortion, and it came as Republican-led states ramped up their efforts to thwart abortion efforts.

Despite the court’s 5-4 decision Tuesday, abortion-rights advocates pledged to keep fighting what they call “fake health centers,” but their next steps weren’t immediately clear.

Some saw potential to use the ruling to push back against laws in conservative states such as Wisconsin and Texas that require abortion providers to share information about adoption or to combat the federal push to ban U.S.-funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions.

Hawaii and Illinois have laws similar to California, which required unlicensed centers to post information saying so and mandating licensed centers provide information about access to free or low-cost state programs that provide birth control, prenatal care and abortion. The ruling puts the laws in other states at risk.

California lawmakers said their law was meant to crack down on centers that deceive women by failing to inform them of their options or providing medically inaccurate information aimed at discouraging them from having abortions.

Advocates saw some room for hope in Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissenting opinion. He said that among the reasons the law should be upheld is the high court has previously backed state laws requiring doctors to tell women seeking abortions about adoption services.

“After all, the law must be evenhanded,” he wrote.

Anti-abortion groups, meanwhile, hailed the ruling as a victory for free speech and said the law coerced crisis pregnancy centers into providing information about services they don’t support. Thomas Glessner, president of the National Institute for Family and Life Advocates, which had sued over California’s law, called it a “great day for pro-life pregnancy centers.”

Estimates of the number of crisis pregnancy centers in the U.S. run from 2,500 to more than 4,000, compared with fewer than 1,500 abortion providers, women’s rights groups said in court documents. NIFLA has ties to 1,500 pregnancy centers nationwide and roughly 150 in California.

“California was really responding to what was becoming a pervasive issue in California with these crisis pregnancy centers giving false information,” said Maggy Krell, chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.

California had not been enforcing the law in recent months. The justices sent the case back to lower courts but wrote in the majority opinion that the centers “are likely to succeed” in their constitutional challenge to the portion of the law involving licensed centers.

“California cannot co-opt the licensed facilities to deliver its message for it,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote. He called the requirement for unlicensed centers to post a notice stating they are unlicensed “unjustified and unduly burdensome.”

Abortion-rights groups and California lawmakers said they needed to go through the decision fully before moving forward. A spokeswoman for state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said his office is “closely monitoring our options to determine the best next steps.”

“The state of California and NARAL are just never going to stop protecting the right to choose and expanding it and ensuring that women actually have the full range of voices available to them,” said Amy Everitt, vice president for special projects at abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America. “How we operationalize that and the very next steps, I’m not sure.”

Advocates said the attorney general and local authorities should keep targeting crisis pregnancy centers that provide false information to consumers, such as pamphlets that suggest abortions can lead to breast cancer.

They also stressed the importance of fighting the Trump administration’s appointment of anti-abortion justices to lower courts nationwide. They suggested that while the crisis pregnancy center case was decided on free-speech grounds, conservatives have the full-scale elimination of abortion rights in their sights.

California Assembly members David Chiu and Autumn Burke, both Democrats, said they would explore options for another legislative go-round at the issue and said they may be more aggressive in the face of defeat.

“I don’t think the message we send today is that we’re going to back off,” Burke said. “I think the message that we send today is: You shot one over the bow, we’re going to shoot three over the bow.”

CNN contributed the video for this article

Commentary: This feels like a tipping point on marijuana legalization

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by Z. Byron Wolf, CNN

(CNN) — Voters on Tuesday in Oklahoma — Oklahoma! — became the latest in the US to approve broad access to marijuana when they approved one of the most permissive medical marijuana initiatives in the country.

The state’s Republican Gov. Mary Fallin said she’ll work to tighten the initiative and then responsibly implement it, although she was concerned about it leading to recreational marijuana use.

That will make 30 states with some kind of legalized marijuana. Nine of those states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized the drug. Vermont becomes the ninth when its legal pot law becomes effective July 1. Voters in Michigan will vote on legal pot this November. In Utah, they’ll weigh in on medical marijuana.

The entire West Coast of the United States has legalized the drug. The entire northern US border abuts a country (Canada) that has legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Candidates and Democrats, in particular, are taking note and trying to use the issue to their advantage.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has promised to introduce a decriminalization bill soon. Rolling Stone recently noted it is taking him some time. There are other proposals to fully legalize the drug at the federal level, including one by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, an oft-mentioned potential 2020 presidential candidate.

Other potential presidential candidates in the Senate, including Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Bernie Sanders of Vermont have signed on as co-sponsors to Booker’s effort.

A Democratic strategist — Guy Cecil, who has worked for super PACs — said in May that Democrats see pot as a motivating issue for young voters:

“I don’t think there’s any question that in the places we’ve seen legalization on the ballot, that it has increased interest in the election on the part of young voters in particular, that it has increased turnout in those states — that’s not the reason somebody should be for it! — but I certainly think it’s a winner just in terms of the pure politics of it.”

In Virginia in 2017, Ralph Northam used a call for marijuana decriminalization in tandem with arguments about criminal justice reform. Northam’s efforts stalled in the state legislature. Other states’ efforts have contended with courts and hostile governors. Arkansas is inching toward implementing the medical marijuana initiative they approved in 2016.

Support for legalized marijuana has been growing at a sustained clip for years.

In 2000, 31% of Americans supported legalization, according to Gallup. By 2009, support had grown to 44% in their polling and in October of 2017 it was at 61%. Recent polls by Pew and Quinnipiac have similarly shown support to be over 60%. Polls have routinely shown more than 50% support since 2013.

Support for medical marijuana is nearly ubiquitous. Quinnipiac found 94% support for medical marijuana in their most recent poll.

Gallup drew a parallel between the growth in support for legalized marijuana and for same-sex marriage, both of which grew exponentially over the past two decades. The Supreme Court made marriage a right in 2015. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Supreme Court gives anyone a right to marijuana.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, is moving in the opposite direction. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has thrown out the Obama-era guidance to not interfere with states experimenting with legalization, which may have had the inverse effect of galvanizing supporters.

It was a Republican, Sen. Cory Gardner of trailblazing Colorado, that held up Justice Department nominees until the administration relented and President Donald Trump said he’d work with Congress to protect marijuana states.

None of that suggests an imminent bipartisan effort to decriminalize the drug or even that the government is any closer to removing marijuana from the DEA’s list of Schedule 1 drugs “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

But boy does it feel like things are moving fast.

Planters Cheez Balls are coming back – in appropriately retro canisters

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The Kraft Heinz company announced Tuesday that a beloved cheese snack is back after a very long hiatus.

“Cheese lovers, say ‘Cheez!’ Top hats off to those who started petitions, created online groups, and wrote snail mail letters asking Planters to bring back their favorite cheesy snack,” the company said in a news release.

“Thanks to their dedication over the past 12 years, Planters announces the return of Cheez Balls and Cheez Curls for a limited time,” the release continued.

The snacks will be available in July.

Planters Cheez Balls are sold in 2.75-ounce canisters and Cheez Curls are sold in 4-ounce canisters and will roll out on grocery store shelves nationwide starting at a suggested retail price of $1.99.

The snacks will be available in retro canisters almost identical to the ones seen on store shelves more than a decade ago.

For more information on Cheez Balls and Cheez Curls, visit

Heat wave on track for late week

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A rather delightful day it turned out to be as temperatures made their way around the lower 80s.

Come tonight, some patchy fog could be expected in spots with overnight lows around the mid 60s.

Nature’s thermostat slowly cranks up in the days ahead with upper 80s on Thursday and added humidity.  The major heat is felt both Friday and Saturday with highs in the middle 90 and heat index values in the 100-110 degree range. Overnight lows will be in the 75-80 degree range,   Remember,  this is the type of weather that is tough on the body if you’re in this heat for a long period of time.  So, take those breaks away from the heat.

We’ll try to rinse some of this heat and humidity in the air with a few showers and thunderstorms by late Saturday night into early Sunday morning.

Chief meteorologist James Zahara

Download the News 8 Weather App — for iOS, click here and for Android, click here

Download the free News 8 App — for iOS, click here and for Android, click here


Local Steelworkers call SCOTUS decision an attack on unions

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Some 1,900 union members at the Arconic plant already know the stakes.  Iowa is a so-called right-to-work state.

The Supreme Court decision on Wednesday, June 27, reinforces that concept across the country.

“It’s an attack on working people,” said United Steelworkers Local 105 President Brad Greve.

At the union hall in Bettendorf, there’s concern about representing members.  Plus, worries over big money that’s finding ways to try to silence unions.

“Everybody should be heard,” Greve said.  “We should be creating an atmosphere and a community that helps people.”

The Illinois case involves a dispute over union dues because the employee disagrees with policies.

Already butting heads with AFSCME, though, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner hails the Supreme Court decision as a major victory.

“This ruling is pro-worker and pro-taxpayer,” he said.  “This ruling is a great victory for our democracy, our public employees and the taxpayers who count on us to bargain on their behalf.”

For Local 105, the best response may come at the ballot box.  That’s why they’re stressing the importance of midterm elections.

“What it takes for us to put food on the table for our families and to have a voice in the workplace,” Greve concluded.  “Put people in office that are going to do that.”

At this local, ready to get out the vote.

House rejects Republican immigration bill, ignoring Trump

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-led House rejected a far-ranging immigration bill on Wednesday despite its eleventh-hour endorsement by President Donald Trump, as the gulf between the GOP’s moderate and conservative wings proved too deep for leaders to avert an election-year display of division on the issue.

The vote was 301-121, with nearly half of Republicans opposing the measure. The depth of GOP opposition was an embarrassing showing for Trump and a rebuff of House GOP leaders, who’d postponed the vote twice and proposed changes in hopes of driving up the vote for a measure that seemed doomed from the start.

The tally also seemed to empower GOP conservatives on the fraught issue. Last week a more conservative package was defeated but 193 Republicans voted for it.

Even if it passed, it would have been dead on arrival in the closely divided Senate, where Democrats would have had enough votes to kill it.

GOP leaders have been talking about a Plan B: a bill focused narrowly on barring the government from wresting children from migrant families caught entering the country without authorization.

With television and social media awash with images and wails of young children torn from parents, many Republicans want to pass a narrower measure addressing those separations before Congress leaves at week’s end for its July 4 break.

But GOP aides said Republicans had yet to agree on bill language. And the effort was complicated by a federal judge who ordered that divided families be reunited with 30 days.

Democrats voted en masse against the House legislation, which would provide a shot at citizenship for hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children.

It would provide $25 billion for Trump to build his coveted wall on the border with Mexico, restrict family-based immigration and bar the Homeland Security Department from taking migrant children from parents seized crossing into the country without authorization.

In a startling turnabout earlier Wednesday, Trump made a last-minute pitch for the bill. Last Friday, he urged Republicans to stop wasting time on the effort until after the November elections.


The tweet — which referenced Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., one of the bill’s sponsors — could well garner additional votes for a measure that was still expected to fail Wednesday. It was also the latest example of Trump’s erratic dealings with Congress. On Friday he dashed off a tweet, saying Republicans should “stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November.”

Trump had heard from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who urged him to publicly support the bill, said a person familiar with the conversation who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. McCarthy, who is hoping to succeed Speaker Paul Ryan as speaker next year, and Trump have forged a close relationship.

Hours later, the White House sent a letter to lawmakers restating its support, saying the legislation would “support the administration’s goals” on immigration.

Justice Anthony Kennedy to retire from Supreme Court

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, giving President Donald Trump the chance to cement conservative control of the high court.

The 81-year-old Kennedy said in a statement he is stepping down after more than 30 years on the court. A Republican appointee, he has held the key vote on such high-profile issues as abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, guns, campaign finance and voting rights.

Kennedy said he has informed his colleagues and Trump of his plans, and that his retirement will take effect at the end of July.

Without him, the court will be split between four liberal justices who were appointed by Democratic presidents and four conservatives who were named by Republicans. Trump’s nominee is likely to give the conservatives a solid majority and will face a Senate process in which Republicans hold the slimmest majority, but Democrats can’t delay confirmation.

Trump’s first high court nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed in April 2017. If past practice is any indication, Trump will name a nominee within weeks, setting in motion a process that could allow confirmation of a new justice by early August. Trump already has a list of 25 candidates — 24 judges and Utah Sen. Mike Lee — from which the White House has previously said he would choose a nominee.

Prominent on that list are Judges Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania and William Pryor of Alabama, seriously considered for the seat eventually filled by Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who serves on the federal appeals court in Washington, DC.

Kavanaugh is a longtime Washington insider, having served as a law clerk to Kennedy and then as a key member of independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s team that produced the report that served as the basis for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment. In October, Kavanaugh dissented when his court ruled that an undocumented teen in federal custody should be able to obtain an abortion immediately.

Abortion is likely to be one of the flash points in the nomination fight. Kennedy has mainly supported abortion rights in his time on the court, and Trump has made clear he would try to choose justices who want to overturn the landmark abortion rights case of Roe v. Wade. Such a dramatic step may not be immediately likely, but a more conservative court might be more willing to sustain abortion restrictions.

Interest groups across the political spectrum are expected to mobilize to support and fight the nomination because it is so likely to push the court to the right.

Republicans currently hold a bare 51-49 majority in the Senate, although that includes the ailing Sen. John McCain of Arizona. If Democrats stand united in opposition to Trump’s choice, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky can lose no more than one vote. If the Senate divides 50-50, Vice President Mike Pence could break a tie to confirm the nominee.

Regardless of who replaces him, Kennedy’s departure will be a massive change for the high court, where he has been the crucial swing vote for more than a decade. He has sided with the liberal justices on gay rights and abortion rights, as well as some cases involving race, the death penalty and the rights of people detained without charges at the Guantanamo Bay naval base. He has written all the court’s major gay-rights decisions, including the 2015 ruling that declared same-sex marriage is a constitutional right nationwide.

He also has been a key vote when conservatives have won major rulings on the outcome of the 2000 presidential election in favor of George W. Bush, gun rights, limiting regulation of campaign money and gutting a key provision of the landmark federal Voting Rights Act.

There were no outward signs that Kennedy was getting ready to retire. He had hired his allotment of four law clerks for the term that begins in October and he is planning to spend part of the summer as he typically does, teaching a law school class in Salzburg, Austria.

But several former law clerks said that Kennedy, a nominee of President Ronald Reagan, prefers to be replaced by a Republican. Control of the Senate is at stake in the November elections, and if Democrats capture the majority, Trump could find it difficult to get his choice confirmed.

Few obstacles seem to stand in the way of confirming Kennedy’s replacement before the court reconvenes in October. Republicans changed the rules during Gorsuch’s confirmation to wipe out the main delaying tactic for Supreme Court nominees, the filibuster, and the need for 60 votes to defeat it.

The other two older justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, and Stephen Breyer, 79, are Democratic appointees who would not appear to be going anywhere during a Trump administration if they can help it.


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