Sometimes there are no words in the human language that can adequately express the rage/excitement/annoyance/eyeroll one can feel when presented with a friend’s Facebook post. And because, you know, a picture is worth a thousand words, Facebook is rolling out the capability to respond to posts on the social network with photos.
Facebook hasn’t made an official announcement yet, but the company tells The Verge that the new commenting feature will roll out globally today on both desktop and mobile sites.
So your politically-opposite-from-you third cousin twice removed won’t stop going off about that thing you disagree with? Answer with a photo of you with your fingers in your ears!
A chain of replies on a link you posted involving that one thing in the news that everyone is arguing about is getting too heated? We recommend a cat photo — they go with everything.
The only downside as we can see it — no animated GIFs will be supported quite yet. That makes Sad Dawson very sad.
American auto manufacturers are selling cars and making profits again, so that means that our auto industry has recovered from its terrible collapse of just a few years ago. Right? The companies themselves have recovered, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going on a hiring spree just yet.
The problem isn’t money: automakers have that. They’re not selling record numbers of cars, but the prices are higher. If anything, their problem is an excess of caution. Instead of expanding existing plants and building new ones, automakers are pushing productivity and demanding more from the workers they have. “[H]ow long can this go on before you start having some issue with morale in the plants?” one industry expert asked NPR rhetorically. Factories are at 90% capacity, and how many man-hours it takes to assemble a car is way down. Productivity is good, but it means that you can’t gauge economic recovery by the number of new people on the payroll.
Automakers must have learned their lesson from 2008 and 2009: they’re not about to invest in capacity for business they don’t have yet. They’re hiring and expanding, but slowly and cautiously.
Well that was fast. Not even two weeks after Sony announced its upcoming PS4 gaming console wouldn’t have the insane restrictions on used and resold games that Microsoft had instituted for its new Xbox One device, reports say the boys from Redmond have decided that maybe some of their policies weren’t exactly the greatest ideas.
Microsoft had previously said that users would need to check in periodically — as frequently as once per day — which means you couldn’t take your device somewhere that didn’t have an Internet connection.
This was particularly annoying to members of the U.S. military who were stationed in places — especially on ships and submarines — without constant access to the the Internet.
GiantBomb says Microsoft is also dropping region locks, so that people can bring their console with them wherever they travel, or again, wherever a service member is stationed.
Microsoft has also reportedly ditched its planned restrictions on trading or loaning games. The rules announced earlier this month said that games could only be resold to participating retailers, and that it was up to the publisher to decide whether a game could be resold.
Even more controversial was the rule about giving away a purchased game. Microsoft had said that users could only give away games to other users who had been on their “friends” list for at least 30 days, and then the game could only be given once.
Microsoft has now updated its Q&A to reflect the new changes, though the language used is still not exactly crystal clear.
For instance, on the issue of trading and reselling games, it just states: “We are designing Xbox One to enable customers to trade in and resell games. We’ll have more details to share later.”
And instead of an explanation about the change of policy on giving away purchased games, the Q&A has just removed that question altogether.
To that end, Microsoft’s Don Mattrick, who angered a lot of customers when he said last week that they could just keep using the Xbox 360 if they didn’t want to always be online, has posted the following explanation:
Last week at E3, the excitement, creativity and future of our industry was on display for a global audience.
For us, the future comes in the form of Xbox One, a system designed to be the best place to play games this year and for many years to come. As is our heritage with Xbox, we designed a system that could take full advantage of advances in technology in order to deliver a breakthrough in game play and entertainment. We imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing, and new ways to try and buy games. We believe in the benefits of a connected, digital future.
Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One.
You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.
So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:
An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.
Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.
In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console — there will be no regional restrictions.
These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray.
We appreciate your passion, support and willingness to challenge the assumptions of digital licensing and connectivity. While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds.
Thank you again for your candid feedback. Our team remains committed to listening, taking feedback and delivering a great product for you later this year.
Reader Walter went out on a retail archaeology expedition, also known as “going to Kmart.” Searching the electronics section, he thought he hadn’t found anything out of the ordinary until he turned the artifact over, and discovered a copyright date of 1996. At least! A true ancient electronic find! Or was it?
It wasn’t. Here are the pictures that Walter sent in:
Coming across the tales of the various artifacts located throughout the land, I myself went on a journey to see what I could find. Much to my surprise, I came across this gem at a K-Mart not too far from my home. At first I disregarded it, but saw the date on the back and knew I found something of interest.
While it’s entirely possible that this radio has languished in a warehouse for years, or even that it’s been on the shelves since the first Clinton administration and this is an exceptionally dust-free store, there’s a more mundane explanation. This portable radio, the ICF-S10MK2, isn’t just widely available from mainstream retailers: you can get it directly from Sony. They just don’t appear to have redesigned the packaging in that time. That’s the advantage of classic packaging that doesn’t offer the top hits of 2005.
Of course, the product description hasn’t aged very well now that we have iPod Shuffles and teeny FM receivers. “Take your music with you. The ICF-S10MK2 pocket AM/FM radio fits easily into your shirt or jacket pocket for convenience and portability,” it says. More importantly, it runs for 48 hours or so on a couple of AA batteries, and can get your family through any emergency requiring a radio. Try that with your iPhone.
The gap between tying on your apron springs and producing a family feast from scratch after a few hours and slapping down some fast food on the table and calling it dinner is narrowing. That’s good news for anyone who likes the idea of a homemade meal but isn’t exactly Julia Child in the kitchen, and it’s partly due to some crafty research by the big food companies.
See, packaged-food companies like Kraft and Bumble Foods have been tapping into the problems plaguing consumers, and have figured us out, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The result? Products that can be simply combined into full meals that have that homemade feel, but don’t take all the time and energy of a more traditional effort. There’s still enough “cooking” involved, however, to not instill that cheating feeling in consumers.
To wit: Kraft spent 18 months working on its new Recipe Makers products, which include at least two sauces mixed together with fresh ingredients. Those two sauces are important, as only having one step or fewer ingredients doesn’t make it feel as homemade, the company’s research showed.
Bumble Bee’s recent launch of its SuperFresh frozen seafood works along similar lines — fish comes wrapped in parchment paper for steam-cooking that is pretty hard to mess up. It cuts down on work but still has enough to do so the prepare feels involved.
In other words: They’re helping us fake it if we can’t make it. Make me chop a few things, prepare a few ingredients and actually cook it on the stove and I may as well be Mrs. Child.
The Art of Almost Homemade [Wall Street Journal]
Have you always wondered what happens to glass containers after the recycling truck scoops them up from the curb? The crack GIF-making team at NPR’s Planet Money visited a plant in New Jersey that’s now able to take glass bottles and turn them into something other than sparkly construction materials. In a series of animations, they take readers through the whole process. [Planet Money]
She tells College Station, TX’s The Eagle that she’d just dropped her cat off at the vet when she spotted the bag lying in the left-turn lane.
“It looked like a gallon-size baggie with a blue zipper on top,” she recalls. “It just barely caught my eye, and I thought it was money, then was like, ‘Nah, it’s probably a dirty diaper.’”
But when she looked closer, she realized this was not some haphazardly discarded nappy. Inside, there were two bundles containing stacks of $100 bills.
“At first I thought it was drug money or somebody threw it,” she tells The Eagle. “I was kind of scared when I got it until I saw the Chase label on the bag.”
There was a Chase branch right down the street, so she figured she’d take it there as that seemed to be the most likely source of the wayward cash.
She arrived at the bank to find that it hadn’t yet opened for business. Rather than sit around and wait, she began knocking on the glass in an attempt to get someone’s attention.
“[The bank manager] thought I had been in an accident or somebody had mugged me,” she says. “I told her ‘I have y’all’s money. She said ‘What?’ and then she thought I was a crazy person. I told her to stay right there while I got it. She saw it and opened that door up as fast as she could.”
The manager asked the woman if she’d counted the cash, but the woman said she didn’t want to know.
“She told me I’m the most honest person in the world, and I said ‘or the dumbest.’”
The woman initially believed that the bag contained hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Chase later confirmed to The Eagle that the bag contained $20,000. For her efforts, the bank rewarded the woman with a $500 gift card.Take Our Poll
Sure, you probably know the basic ingredients in your fast food lunch — chicken or beef, lettuce and tomato, whathaveyou — after all, you’re the one who ordered it. But if you, like many consumers, care whether or not those ingredients include genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the ingredient list usually is no help. Chipotle announced that it will now mark those ingredients on its website for discerning consumers.
NaturalNews says that with this new effort, Chipotle is the first U.S. fast food chain to label GMOs in its food, even if only on the web site and not on menus in stores. The pink “G” stands for GMOs on each of its ingredients, along with the other keys for “Local” food or “Responsibly raised meats.”
While there’s still a lot of debate over whether or not its unhealthy to grow and consume GMOs, environmental and consumer advocates have been pushing for change in how such information is presented to consumers.
It’s worth noting, as Businessweek points out, that although Chipotle implemented this system back in March, no one has really noticed or paid attention until now. And that’s just the first step, says Chipotle:
“Our goal is to eliminate GMOs from Chipotle’s ingredients, and we’re working hard to meet this challenge,” the company explains. “For example, we recently switched our fryers from soybean oil to sunflower oil. Soybean oil is almost always made from genetically modified soybeans, while there is no commercially available GMO sunflower oil. Where our food contains currently unavoidable GM ingredients, it is only in the form of corn or soy.”
The Genetically Modified Burrito: Chipotle Tells All [BusinessWeek]
Chipotle becomes first US restaurant chain to voluntarily label GMOs [NaturalNews]
“We recognize the importance of providing our guests with many options, including alternative choices for people with food and dietary restrictions,” writes DD CEO Stan Frankenthaler in an e-mail to Bloomberg.
Dunkin’ has been testing the gluten-free products at some Massachusetts stores and is now selling them at outlets in Hartford, CT.
In order to keep the gluten-free products from the standard items, Dunkin’ will package them separately. Those with serious gluten sensitivities will probably want to ask questions of their local eatery about handling and training before they chow down.
Gluten-free foods have long been desired by people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder whose standard treatment involves a gluten-free diet. However, a growing number of people have begun avoiding the protein for a variety of other reasons. It’s estimated that gluten-free foods are now a $20 billion a year business in the U.S. alone.
But if you’re thinking the gluten-free products are going to have fewer calories, you might be mistaken. Bloomberg points out that the gluten-free donut has 60 more calories than its standard counterpart.
Gluten-free donuts will go for around $1.89 each, while the no-gluten muffins will run you around $2.39.
Domino’s Pizza began offering gluten-free pizza crust last year, targeted mostly at people with mild gluten sensitivity or people who are just trying to avoid the protein but don’t have celiac.
Speaking of “time to make the donuts,” a rep for the company tells the AP that it won’t be bringing back that classic slogan that was the company’s mantra for 15 years, anytime soon.
Ah, butter! The most diety-of diet foods, guaranteed to slim your hips and trim your tummy! Wait — are we in an alternate universe? Why are people mixing butter into their coffee in some kind of new health/energy craze?
It kind of makes sense that butter would work in coffee, so far as taste buds go. After all, it’s a dairy relative of milk and cream. But as MSN Health says, there are some touting butter coffee as a way to get an energy spike and stay healthy.
Fans of the paleo diet — who are of the mind that eating animal proteins and fats like a caveman is the way to live healthy — say that putting butter in your coffee can give you a boost of energy when paired with. That’s the idea behind “Bulletproof coffee,” a recipe that combines a few tablespoons of unsalted-grass-fed butter plus a coconut-palm oil blend called MCT. Proponents of the stuff say it’s supposed to promote weight loss, boost energy and charge your brain up.
But health experts point out the obvious: Whether or not those various claims are true, mixing butter in your coffee will probably cause you to gain weight by the mere fact that it’s adding 100 to 200 calories to your diet per day.
And that energy boost is predicated upon the idea that MCT is digested faster than other fats, and thus must boost energy. There’s no evidence out there to support that claim, however.
So go ahead, mix that creamy butter in your morning Joe. It won’t hurt you, but don’t expect to turn into a svelte underwear model with boundless energy to burn.
Nobody better debunk my “Daily Intake Of Ice Cream Is The Best Diet Ever” fad I’m about to unleash on the world. It doesn’t promote weight loss but it does make you really happy in your mouth.
Being pregnant isn’t a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but a 1978 law does specifically prohibit discriminating against pregnant workers. Women generally aren’t forced out of their jobs once their pregnancy becomes visible like they were in past decades, but that doesn’t mean that no one ever loses her job (and her health insurance) right at a time when she really needs it.
What employers can do, though, is put unreasonable restrictions on employees who just so happen to be pregnant. These changes may not cost the company anything or affect the employee’s work, like letting a cashier sit on a stool when she has no customers, or letting a shelf stocker sip on a water bottle to prevent dehydration.
According to a new report from the National Women’s Law Center and A Better Balance, this kind of sneaky discrimination disproportionately affects women in lower-paid jobs (think retail employees) or in professions that were once mostly or exclusively male. A letter carrier who asked to be put on indoors duty on exceedingly hot days had her request denied, but other carriers with temporary disabilities received accommodations. A package-delivery driver whose doctor restricts her from heavy lifting can’t be put on light duty, but colleagues with back injuries are. A restaurant line worker had her water bottle taken away, and suddenly was no longer allowed to take time off for doctor’s appointments now that they were prenatal visits.
As one Dollar Tree cashier explained it, her boss wouldn’t let her sit because of, you know, gender equality:
“I asked for a stool to sit on while working at the register, but my boss denied my request and said, ‘You can’t get special treatment since a man can’t get pregnant,’” she was quoted in the report.
Discrimination against pregnant workers has been rising, report says [Washington Post]
It Shouldn’t Be a Heavy Lift: Fair Treatment for Pregnant Workers [National Women's Law Center]
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 [EEOC]
To some people, the Alamo Drafthouse chain of movie theaters may be best known as the place that created the greatest anti-texting PSA ever, but for one Consumerist reader, it’s also the company that won him over by proactively responding to a minor annoyance without anyone having to file a complaint.
Eric says he and his friends went to an Alamo last weekend to check out Man of Steel, which is apparently some sort of indie documentary about the possibility of alien life on Earth. He tells Consumerist that during the movie, a door alarm in the building began going off. At first, it wasn’t that noticeable because it was at a part in the film when alarm-like noises would make sense.
But then it continued on for several minutes and Eric, et al, realized they were not supposed to be hearing it.
The alarm eventually ceased and everyone continued on watching the movie, but when things were wrapping up and theatergoers began paying their checks — Alamo serves food and beer — each person in the theater got a free pass to another Alamo movie as a proactive apology for the door alarm incident.
“The alarm was a bit annoying, but it didn’t really bother anyone in my group,” Eric tells Consumerist. “Yet Alamo did a small thing to ensure that we will be back (and spending way more on beer and food than the cost of a ticket).”
A rep for the theater chain says that though the company strives to be the best at all times, “we also recognize we’re human and the world is sometimes an imperfect place. Mistakes happen. When they do, we look to own those mistakes or errors in an honest and open way and, where necessary, make amends for any experience that did not meet our standard.”
This all just gives us another excuse to play the aforementioned anti-texting PSA (which contains a slew of NSFW language, along with multiple instances of questionable pronunciation):
Daniel and his family were recently going through the security checkpoint at Logan International in Boston. Traveling with a 10-month-old, the parents have grown used to the hassles of having all of their additional baby-related items scrutinized.
“Whether it’s putting expressed milk that my wife worked so hard to produce in a special scanner or complaining about the consistency of an ice pack, I always make sure to leave a ton of time,” he writes.
And so when they got to the checkpoint in Boston, he wasn’t surprised when the agent asked him to remove all the all jarred baby food from their luggage.
What he wasn’t expecting was a request from the agent to actually open the jars. While the TSA’s published policies do say that it has the authority to request that baby food containers be opened, actually unsealing the food jars is problematic as, once the lids are opened, the contents need to be refrigerated within an hour or be tossed out. Given that the family still had hours of traveling in front of them, opening the jars would effectively be the same as being told to throw them in the trash.
When Daniel brought this up to the agent, he says he was given an ultimatum: Open up the jars or either he or his wife would be subject to a pat-down.
This didn’t seem to make much sense to him and his wife. What good would a pat-down do when the concern was about what was in the jars of baby food? And why only one of them?
“When I asked the agent for the reason, pointing out the obvious flaw in their logic, he responded that we were now suspicious as passengers, and had to undergo extra screening,” recalls Daniel. “Of course, that suspicion only extended as long as we refused to open the jars–if we changed our mind, we could be on our way, grope-free.”
Daniel agreed to the pat-down so that the family could get on its way to the gate, but the questions still linger.
“If you think the food is explosive, insist that we throw it away! If you think we are dangerous, insist that both my wife an I submit to a pat-down!” he says. “In either of those situation, I would disagree with their assessment, but at least I would understand.”
We asked a rep for the TSA why Daniel would be subjected to a pat-down when the agent’s concern was about the contents of the jars. Here is the agency’s response:
TSA allows passenger’s to travel with medically necessary liquids and gels, including medicines, baby food and breast milk, in excess of 3.4 ounces and we ask passengers to show these items to our officers at the checkpoint so they can be screened separately. TSA uses technology called a Bottled Liquid Scanner (BLS) to screen these items at the checkpoint. Use of this technology does not require that the jars or bottles be opened. If, however, the jars or bottles cannot be screened with the BLS, like in this case, because the food labels completely covered the jars, TSA officers will employ liquid test strips to screen the contents. Use of the strips requires that the jars or bottles be opened. TSA does note on our website that officers may need to open these items to conduct additional screening. If the passenger refuses to allow officers to screen the liquids or gels in the manner necessary, standard protocol calls for the passenger to undergo secondary screening, which includes a pat down and swabbing of his/her bags and possibly his/her hands with our Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) equipment. Absent the proper screening of the liquids or gels, the secondary screening and use of ETD will alert officers if the passenger has been handling explosive materials.
That still doesn’t explain why only one of the parents needed to undergo the secondary screening. Just because dad is free of explosives doesn’t mean mom is.
I sit, and I stare at the Internet connectivity thingy on my computer. “Why aren’t you working faster, Wi-Fi? Why are there only four bars, now five, now four and yet you still won’t work?” Many Wi-Fi users are accustomed to the woes of the slow connection but hark! There could be relief in sight.
The Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group that actually owns the trademark for the word Wi-Fi and any products bearing that official stamp (who knew?), is working on certifying products that will be able to run on a faster and more reliable wireless network technology.
When you see that little stamp on products, it means that it’s certified to run on Wi-Fi, explains the Chicago Tribune. And here I was just thinking it was what we all called wireless Internet (slaps forehead).
Anyway, the group is working on a certification program that will hopefully lead to a whole bunch of more advanced routers, smartphones, and computers hitting the market soon, says Greg Ennis, the alliance’s technical director.
The new standard in Wi-Fi be as much as four times as fast as the current technology and run on a new frequency band. What that all adds up to is sort of like going from a slow, residential road to driving on a new freeway with higher speed limits.
“We expect that the users will see a significant increase in the performance of their applications,” Ennis said.
This also means that in homes or apartments where there are a bunch of devices trying to connect to the Internet, the routers will be able to provide better coverage. But that new technology won’t come cheap at first, with the newer routers costing more than $150 compared to the usual $50 or so right now.
New devices like smartphones going on the market soon will utilize this faster Wi-Fi, however, which could lead the way for other electronics to start making it affordable as well.
Certification begins on a faster, more reliable Wi-Fi technology [Chicago Tribune]
It’s a good idea to lay out your plans and wishes for your funeral ahead of time, either in writing or with a trusted funeral director. It keeps your family from second-guessing some very expensive decisions at the same time they’re grieving.
The people peddling prepaid funeral contracts preyed on that desire for peace of mind. National Prearranged Services promised customers that they’d lock in prices and have their funerals paid in full whenever they died. Instead, they scammed around 150,000 customers for as much as $10,000 each. The company operated for sixteen years, from 1992 to 2008, promising customers that their money was going into trusts or life insurance policies. They went into neither.
Investigators found that money from customers went straight into real estate and personal purchases by company employees and officers. In classic Ponzi scheme fashion, if they needed to pay for a funeral, money from new contracts went back out to cover those costs.
Six company officers, who happen to all be related, have been charged in this case. They dispute the government’s estimate that as much as $600 million has been lost. The first family member pleaded guilty this week to six counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and misappropriation of insurance premiums. She could be sentenced to as long as 30 years in prison and pay a $1 million fine, but her attorneys say that at age 69 and in frail health, that is not an appropriate sentence.
Planning your funeral ahead of time is a good idea, but prepaying for it isn’t necessarily a good idea, according to the Federal Trade Commission. A better choice is a trust or life insurance policy that you and your family control and that will cover the service you want. Businesses may change hands, your contract may not cover every expense, and sometimes costs actually go down over time.
Remember that massive $25 billion settlement between the nation’s largest mortgage servicers — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, Citi, Ally — and attorneys general from around the nation? Well, it comes with a lot of rules for these institutions to follow. But the person in charge of monitoring the settlement says most of the banks are failing to comply fully.
Joseph A. Smith, Jr. is the Monitor of the National Mortgage Settlement and he recently filed compliance reports on the five servicers with a U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. He also published report cards for each servicer to show how the banks performed when tested on a wide variety of compliance issues; from small-ish things like providing a single point of contact for homeowners involved in the settlement to bigger issues like foreclosing in error.
Only ResCap Parties, the name given to Ally’s former mortgage servicing portfolio that has since been sold off to new owners, passed all of the tests run by the Monitor during the previous six months. The four other servicers each failed at least one test.
Bank of America failed twice — first on the test to see if it provided accurate information in letters sent to homeowners before putting the property into foreclosure; then a second failure on the rule requiring servicers to let modification-seeking customers know within five days whether or not they have sent in all necessary documents.
That second one will come as little surprise to anyone who read the sworn statements of a half-dozen former BofA employees who allege the bank not only deliberately “loses” modification paperwork, but uses financial incentives to encourage employees to do so.
The monitor says that Wells Fargo also failed when tested for compliance with this same five-day notification rule.
Chase disclosed to the Monitor that it failed two tests. The first test requires that banks terminate forced-place insurance within 15 days of receiving proof that coverage exists. Forced-place insurance is purchased by mortgage servicers when a homeowners fails to provide her own homeowner’s insurance on the property. It is often significantly more expensive, and usually only covers the bank’s investment in the property.
Chase’s second fail was in the test to see if the servicer follows the timelines for making a decision on a borrower’s loan modification application and for notifying the customer of its denial decision.
With three failed tests, Citi was the worst performer of the bunch. Like BofA and Wells, it failed in the requirement of letting modification applicants know whether their documents had been received in a timely manner. It also shared BofA’s failure to provide accurate information on pre-foreclosure letters to homeowners. Perhaps the two were looking at each others’ tests?
For good measure, Citi threw in a third and final failure in the test for compliance with a requirement to notify borrowers about missing documents within 30 days of a request for a short sale.
When a bank fails one of these tests, it must provide the Monitor with a Corrective Action Plan, which may include compensation for wronged borrowers. The tests will then be repeated, and if further violations are discovered, there could be financial penalties.
“These findings, combined with the complaints I have heard from attorneys general, counselors and distressed borrowers, tell me there is still work to be done,” said Smith in a statement. “While I believe distressed servicing is better this year than it was last, it is not yet where it needs to be… While there is more work to be done, I remain confident that the Settlement is helping to improve the mortgage finance system.”
A brand new study, the first of its kind, from the Department of Housing and Urban development found that same-sex couples aren’t getting quite a fair shake compared to heterosexual couples looking for info about rental housing advertised on the Internet. Which means that gay and lesbian couples aren’t hearing back as often to e-mail inquiries about renting an apartment. What’s more, gay couples face slightly more discrimination than lesbian couples.
If you’re thinking “Hmm, that doesn’t really sound fair,” you aren’t alone. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said this disparity in the findings shows a need “to continue our efforts to ensure that everyone is treated the same when it comes to finding a home to call their own, regardless of their sexual orientation,” according to the Associated Press.
In the study, HUD sent two emails to a landlord asking for info about a rental unit advertised online. One set of senders was a same-sex couple, and the other heterosexual.
About 11.6% of the time, heterosexual couples were favored in responses over gay male couples, and over lesbian couples 11.2% in the tests. The study’s author points out that it’s possible that not getting a response could be chalked up to other reasons besides discrimination, but that the overall trend isn’t a good one.
“Given how easy it is for providers to respond to emails, this finding is disturbing that they’re not getting a response,” she wrote.”This discrimination is found at the initial stage of the housing search process, which would mean that same-sex couples are being shut out of the housing process right away.”
Although there are 20 states (as well as Washington, D.C.) that have passed laws banning discrimination against people who identify within the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender set, there’s no federal law prohibiting that kind of treatment. But on that note, the study found slightly more adverse treatment for same-sex couples in states with more protective discrimination laws than in states without.
HUD recently issued new guidance for legislators that proposes to treat any discrimination based on ”sex stereotyping” or “gender nonconformity” as sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
Study finds housing bias against same-sex couples [Associated Press]
Ryan ordered an iPad camera connection kit from Best Buy for in-store pickup. The employees of his local Best Buy store apparently only read the first word of any order now, and instead packed up an iPad Mini. It sounds wacky, but Ryan says that he somehow missed this discrepancy, picked up his order, and went home. He sent an email and got a form letter in return.
He says that his logic in contacting corporate instead of the store was that the store would probably try to cover up its error and not listen to him, while they’re accountable to corporate. This probably isn’t true, especially if he had managed to get there in person and speak to a manager, but it’s logical.
The response was a little better when he called on the phone, but the end result was still that he planned to go return the iPad whenever he got around to it. Either way, no one seemed very concerned.
Another story of free iPads! More like a free iPad mini… Long story short I picked up my online order from the store, didn’t pay much attention as always. When I get home I discover that the iPad camera connection kit I ordered was replaced with an iPad mini! How nice of them!
Contacted Best Buy and no one seemed to care so I called corporate who put me on hold, contacted the store and blah blah blah. I’m going to return the iPad mini atmy earliest convince, guess it’s no wonder they are going down fast!
Well, maybe when they were shipping extra iPads by the case. The question is whether they would have tracked down a less honest customer who kept the tablet instead of reporting the discrepancy. Either way, we passed Ryan’s contact information on to Best Buy, and everyone was generally helpful to each other.
[The Best Buy representative] was great and even offered a $100 certificate. We actually spoke for about 15 minutes and had some good feedback for one another. In no way was I really inconvenienced, it’s a simple exchange to get the product I originally ordered.
While you aren’t obligated to return things that are shipped to you even though you didn’t order them, morally you probably should. In this case, the items weren’t “shipped” to Ryan, and he intended to bring the errant iPad back, so this whole story ends nicely. Or it will whenever Ryan gets his camera kit for the iPad that he already has.
President Obama has nominated former wireless industry lobbyist Tom Wheeler to fill the FCC’s top spot, and yesterday Wheeler appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee to discuss the gig.
When asked what he thinks of the Librarian of Congress’ belief that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act gives wireless carriers the ultimate authority in deciding how phones are used — even after the device has been fully paid for and the customer is out of contract — Wheeler responded, “Who knew the Library of Congress had this far of a reach?… I am a strong supporter of intellectual property rights. At the same point in time, I believe that when I as a consumer or you as a consumer, or anyone have fulfilled our commitment and we’ve paid off our contract, that we ought to have the right to use that device and move it across carriers as we see fit. I look forward to working on this issue and resolving this issue to give consumers flexibility.”
As for how such a ban could be overturned, Wheeler is in the same boat as his predecessor, as it’s the Librarian of Congress who has the sole discretion of interpreting and reinterpreting what the DMCA means and intends.
“I don’t know whether it [should be] a permanent exemption [to the DMCA], whether it is a rewrite of the Copyright Act, or what the appropriate solution is,” testified Wheeler, “but I do believe there needs to be a solution and consumers should have the right to unlock their phones after they’ve lived up to their side of the agreement.”
Wheeler is not alone in his view on the unlocking ban. Members of Congress have introduced legislation intended to overturn the LOC’s ruling; the White House says it agrees with the 100,000+ citizens who signed a petition asking for the ban to be overturned; and advocacy groups like our own Consumers Union have called on lawmakers to please have some darn sense and get rid of this anti-consumer ban.
I feel lost. I’ve never had to buy a man’s suit because I am not a man but what if I did want to buy a suit from Men’s Wearhouse? There will be no one to guarantee it, at least not the guy I’ve come to know and trust (despite my nonexistent suit needs) from the commercials. He’s just gotten the axe, the company announced today.
George Zimmer wasn’t just the man who told men, “You’re going to like the way you look, I guarantee it.” The bearded face of the company opened the first Men’s Wearhouse store in 1973, reports CNNMoney, but he also served as the executive chairman of the board. Until now.
“The Board [of Directors] expects to discuss with Mr. Zimmer the extent, if any, and terms of his ongoing relationship with the company,” the retailer said in a prepared statement.
There’s been no word yet as to why the company fired its co-founder, but Men’s Wearhouse has also put off its annual shareholders meeting, which was supposed to be today. That moves is necessary so it can ”re-nominate the existing slate of directors without Mr. Zimmer.”
Like I said, never bought a man’s suit and have no clue if I’d ever go to Men’s Wearhouse. But the fact that I know its spokesperson despite even being targeted in the ads, well, it goes to show that a little bit of bearded confidence goes a long way in the advertising world.