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The Consumerist

How The New McDonald’s CEO Could Improve Restaurants Worldwide

12 hours 33 min ago

(yarnzombie)

(yarnzombie)

For years now, we’ve referred to Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed as “curiously Australian,” since it’s unexpected and exotic for a Tex-Mex fast-food joint to be run by someone from the other side of the planet. Now another fast-food company has a chief executive from elsewhere in the Anglophone world: the incoming CEO of McDonald’s, Steve Easterbrook, is British.

Don Thompson, who will step down on March 1st, started with the company as an electrical engineer and worked his way up to the top job. Easterbrook started as an accountant, and served as CEO of McDonald’s UK. Changes made in restaurants in that country under Easterbrook’s leadership are things that American consumers have found lacking at McDonald’s.

Fruit: Well, no one goes to McDonald’s because they’re in the mood for health food, but McDonald’s in the United States has been experimenting with feeding more fruit to their youngest customers. Instead of a confusing array of Happy Meal options that include apples or tangerines, McDonald’s UK started a simple enough promotions: free bags of fruit with every Happy Meal on the first Friday of every month.

Environmental responsibility: Okay, “McDonald’s” and “environmental responsibility” might sound like they contradict each other, but they don’t. McDonald’s UK started a composting program, returning food scraps to the earth.

Food sourcing: This is important, since food sourcing is part of why Chipotle has become so popular with young adults in the US. McDonald’s UK sells beef, pork, and organic milk that has been sourced from inside the country, and coffee that’s Rainforest Alliance-certified. They’ve only used sustainably caught fish since 2001.

Fish sticks: We’re not sure whether this is a good or bad thing, but McDonald’s UK sells fish sticks that are similar to the Filet-O-Fish patty, or “fish fingers” as they’re called over there. That’s not necessarily something that American consumers are clamoring for, but it’s an interesting difference.

McDonald’s in US vs. UK: How New British CEO May Transform the Burger Chain [ABC News]

Cablevision Sues Verizon, Claims “Fastest WiFi” Ads Are Misleading

Thu, 2015-01-29 23:45

(Alec Taback)

(Alec Taback)

Competing companies often call each other out for exaggerations in ads and other marketing sleight of hand, but Cablevision has decided to let the legal system settle its dispute with Verizon over claims of who has the “fastest WiFi available.” Meanwhile, Verizon says the lawsuit is a marketing ploy to sell Cablevision’s WiFi phone service.

The suit [PDF], filed today in a U.S. District Court in New York, accuses Verizon of making misleading statements that not are not only false advertising about its own products but which also mislead consumers with regard to Cablevision.

“Verizon’s false claim of WiFi speed superiority is deliberately designed to undercut Cablevision’s competitive WiFi advantage in the marketplace,” reads the complaint, which adds that the Verizon claims are “likely to interfere” with Cablevision’s recently announced WiFi-only voice, text, and data service.

“The false ads in Verizon’s campaign are designed to undermine the competitive threat Cablevision’s WiFi services pose to multiple facets — both internet and cellular service — of Verizon’s business,” continues the suit.

Cablevision contends that Verizon is basing its speediest WiFi boast on the new AC1750, 802.11ac routers that its customers are gaining access to. The problem is, according to the complaint, that Cablevision already offers AC1750, 802.11ac routers to its customers, and has for about a year.

Since both companies are offering effectively the same WiFi routers to customers in the same general area, Cablevision doesn’t see how Verizon could claims its service is the fastest, especially when customers have to pay up to $199.99 (or $9.99/month) for Verizon’s while Cablevision’s is included with service.

The suit also points out that Cablevision has rolled out more than 1 million WiFi hotspots for customer use in the New York City tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT), meaning subscribers have wider access to WiFi out of home, as Verizon’s hotspots in the area are actually licensed through third parties.

It’s worth noting that Cablevision has introduced a large number of its hotspots in a similar and controversial fashion to Comcast, by using using each company-supplied wireless router for both the at-home subscriber and WiFi users on the go. Companies that do this claim that users of the public WiFi will not be able to access the home network and that the public use does not affect service to the paying subscriber, though many people are skeptical about both of these claims.

Back to the complaint… It takes particular issue with the fine print in Verizon ads that support the “fastest WiFi” claim by citing a study that Cablevision believes was privately commissioned and is not available to public.

Cablevision says it sent a letter to Verizon on Jan. 23 demanding the withdraw of the ads in question and explaining that the routers being offered by both companies are identical. The company also requested a copy of the study Verizon cites in its ads.

According to the complaint, when legal reps for both companies spoke, Verizon again pointed to this study but as of today had not made it available.

“Verizon’s false advertising campaign is especially damaging to Cablevision because Cablevision’s superior WiFi capabilities have long been a market differentiator for Cablevision,” reads the suit, which alleges violations of federal false advertising prohibitions and New York state laws regarding deceptive business practices.

When reached for comment a rep for Verizon said the company had not yet seen the lawsuit, which was filed at the end of business today. However, Verizon believes the suit is a “boldface ploy to promote Cablevision’s latest wireless gambit.”

“A third party has tested and validated the FiOS Quantum Gateway Router,” continues the statement. “It offers the fastest in-home Wi-Fi available from any provider. As usual, Cablevision is confusing consumers by using an apples to oranges comparison of in-home and public Wi-Fi.”

What may be confusing to many consumers is the discussion of “fastest WiFi” at all, as many casual viewers might assume this means fastest broadband access when in fact one has little to do with the other.

You can have the fastest in-home WiFi on Earth but if your Internet connection is slow as mud — or if your ISP is deliberately allowing your Netflix stream to bottleneck — that world’s fastest router can’t speed up data it’s not receiving.

Campbell Soup Reorganizes, Focuses On Non-Soup Food

Thu, 2015-01-29 23:07

(Jennifer Snyder)

(Jennifer Snyder)

People aren’t buying as much canned soup as they used to. Whether it’s because meals with a cream of mushroom base have gone out of style or people have left for other brands, Campbell’s canned soups aren’t selling like they used to. That’s why Campbell Soup Company is reorganizing its business to focus on lines of food other than soup.

Instead of organizing itself by geographic regions or by brand, the company will organize itself according to food type. Campbell owns some brands that you might not have associated with the company, like Bolthouse Farm vegetables, Pepperidge Farm, Plum Organics baby food, Prego pasta sauce, Spaghetti-Os, and V8. The company will now organize itself into divisions in charge of packaged meals and beverages, cookies and snacks, and fresh packaged produce.

It’s not that people aren’t eating soup, but Americans are switching to store brands or to smaller gourmet or organic brands of packaged soup. Campbell’s has tried to compete with other brands, but an attempt to reach young foodies with $3 plastic pouches of soup that isn’t organic, gluten-free, or vegan didn’t really succeed.

Campbell Soup to reorganize, shift focus from soup business [Reuters]

Chipotle’s Non-Burrito Pizzeria Concept Expands Eastward

Thu, 2015-01-29 22:48

pizzerialocaleFor the last couple of years, Chipotle has been playing around with pizza at the few Pizzeria Locale eateries it has in Colorado. But now the eatery is looking to the east and seeing there are hungry mouths to feed in the Kansas City area, where another Locale is set to open this summer.

The Kansas City Star reports that a Pizzeria Locale restaurant will open up next door to an existing Chipotle in the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City, MO, and will employ between 15-20 people.

The Pizzeria Locale idea, which is a partnership between Chipotle and restaurant founders Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, brings Chipotle’s made-to-order practices to the pizza business, using ovens that can blast a custom-made pizza in a matter of a few minutes.

The selection of Kansas City is interesting as it was one of the first (but not the first, as the Star writes) non-Colorado destinations for Chipotle when that chain first began expanding more than 15 years ago.

Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson opened their first Pizzeria Locale, a full-service restaurant, in 2011 in Boulder. Then Chipotle became interested and backed the opening of two quick-service locations in 2013 and 2014, both in Denver.

Now it’s a wait-and-see game to find out if Kansas City residents will take to this new pizza or if they’ll stick with the pies they know.

[via Eater]

Olive Garden Revamps Menu, Invites Food Snobs To Come Whine About It

Thu, 2015-01-29 22:12

(David Buchwald)

(David Buchwald)

Olive Garden has never pretended to be a center of fancy cuisine or healthy eating. Its selling point the quantities of food available, including and especially breadsticks coated with garlic salt. Olive Garden is currently trying to rebrand itself, introducing a new logo and adding new ideas to the menu, like burgers and tapas. Is that enough to impress food snobs? Of course not. It’s Olive Garden.

Investor Starboard Value criticized many things about the O.G., from its failure to boil water with pasta to its over-generous breadstick baskets. The company does need to do better, but can the restaurant succeed? Of course: this is America. All you need to do is deep-fry as many vegetables as possible and slather cheese on every surface.

At least, that’s the impression we get from a review of the new menu preview Either it was a terrible idea for Olive Garden to invite local food bloggers in Detroit to a tasting event for its new menu, or the chain knew exactly what it was doing. Either way, what we’ve learned is that Olive Garden is not holding back on the cream sauces, that they do sad and terrible things to innocent meat and seafood, and that their food has a vague relationship to the true nature of Italian food. This new menu should be a hit.

The invitation to bloggers said that “Olive Garden recently unveiled the most significant menu revolution in the restaurant’s history,” which sounds promising. The problem, of course, is that people who have food blogs tend to be people who sneer at Olive Garden’s entire approach to food. That’s why this Metro Times review of the chain’s tasting menu almost sounds like a commercial, if you are a person who likes Olive Garden’s particular approach to Italian food. Maybe you are not fussy about your risotto, and piling tomato sauce on salmon and calling it “bruschetta” sounds appealing. It might be. However, reviewer Michael Jackman wonders where this idea came from, since it was definitely not Italy.

The menu says the dish was “inspired by journeys through Italy.” If so, the journey must have been at very high speed and on powerful hallucinogens, and does through airspace count as through?

Maybe it was a journey through Italy where the only word that the traveler could say in Italian was “formaggio,” resulting in a very strange reflection of Italian cuisine.

We went and tried Olive Garden’s ‘new’ menu so you don’t have to [Metro Times]

China’s Ministry Of Commerce Pledges To Crack Down On Counterfeit Items Sold Online

Thu, 2015-01-29 22:02

(Pamela Greer)

(Pamela Greer)

After another Chinese government agency scolded e-commerce giant Alibaba and its eBayesque subsidiary Taobao over its mismanagement of its business and for selling or allowing bogus goods to be sold to the public, the country’s Ministry of Commerce has pledged to crack the whip on the online industry and try harder to prevent the sale of counterfeit goods.

Without naming Alibaba or any other specific selling sites, the ministry’s spokesman announced the pledge today.

“The sale of fake goods at some online stores is rampant,” ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said at a press briefing, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal, saying the government, companies and consumers should work together to address the problem.

Yesterday the State Administration for Industry and Commerce criticized Alibaba in a white paper, alleging that Alibaba and Taobao allowed for products to be sold that infringe on trademarks, or are of substandard quality. The paper said the company looked the other way when fake cigarettes, alcohol and branded counterfeit bags were sold on its marketplace sites, along with weapon sales and other things the public shouldn’t be able to buy.

According to the WSJ, that paper has now been removed from the SAIC website, with a press rep saying she didn’t know why it was gone.

China to Crack Down on Sale of Fake Goods Online [Wall Street Journal]

Video Game Simulates The Singular Thrill Of Assembling IKEA Furniture

Thu, 2015-01-29 21:17

Unlike many of my friends, I enjoy assembling IKEA furniture — to a point. I have been known to utter a few Scandinavian profanities after a few days of shredding my fingers with an allen wrench. Now a video game will apparently allow me to enjoy that unique thrill of putting together a nonsense-named end table without enduring any physical or spiritual injuries.

Höme Improvisåtion is a free game for both Windows and Mac that puts you in a living room with some decidedly IKEA-like furniture that is missing one key component — IKEA’s all-but-wordless assembly guides.

And you’re not only stuck having to sort out the pieces sans instructions. Once you’ve put a peg into what you hope is its associated hole, it’s stuck. At least with real IKEA furniture, you can usually work your way backward when you make an assembly error.

All the pegs fit into all the holes, which means you can create whatever furniture Frankenstein you want from the pieces available.

The game also offers a multiplayer experience that is supposed to aid in your faux-IKEA constructions, but which we predict will only end in dissolved friendships.

“Or labor alone and descend into madness,” the above preview video suggests.

[via CNET]

3 Things We Learned From A Guide To Ordering Craft Beer

Thu, 2015-01-29 21:01

(afagen)

(afagen)

While craft beer has been enjoying increasing popularity in the last few years, not everyone is confident enough to stride into that new beer hall down the street and roll a beer order right off their tongue like a beer sommelier fresh from beer sommelier school. Even if you’re not steeped in hops lore, there are a few things you can learn about ordering something you won’t hate, and not feeling like a total n00b when you do.

The Atlantic’s CityLab has a great guide for non-beer snobs to bring them through the maze of craft beers on menus these days and come out with a tasty selection on the other side. A few of our favorite lessons learned are below, with step-by-step guidance over at CityLab.

1. Come prepared with examples you know you like: Whether it’s a brand name or a memory of a taste, knowing what tastes good to you will help bartenders make a recommendation. Love Guinness, hate Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and only drink Budweiser when you’re desperate? That information can come in useful.

2. Study up on a few flavors common in the industry: Engert has developed categories he says are used at places like Whole Foods, and are likely similar to terms used in many beer establishments — Crisp, Malt, Hop, Roast, Smoke, Fruit and Spice, and Tart and Funky. These flavors can vary, but can provide a good starting point when talking with bartenders. CityLab has a great chart with more information in its guide.

3. Not all beers are served the same (so play it cool): Maybe you’re used to seeing beer served in a tall, frosty glass, or a pint glass. But don’t be surprised if you get 10 ounces of an IPA instead a 16-ounce pint, as ABVs vary by brew and can be more costly when there’s more of it poured. In general: lighter beers are surved colder in straight-sided glasses, while heavier beers come warmer in curved glasses, like a Chimay in a goblet.

For more, check out CityLab’s guide and stop getting so worked up the next time you’re faced with a confusing list of pilsners, lagers, Hefeweizens and stouts. It’s all going to be okay.

The Non-Beer Snob’s Guide to Ordering at a Craft Beer Bar [CityLab]

Facebook Launching “Place Tips” So You Always Know Everything About Where You Are

Thu, 2015-01-29 20:57

(Adam Fagen)

(Adam Fagen)

When creating a post on Facebook, users can already tag their location to let the world know where they are. Now, the social media site is taking things a step farther with Place Tips, a service offering iPhone users a chance to learn more about that location, whether it be a coffee shop, restaurant, shopping mall or national landmark.

The Wall Street Journal Digits Blog reports that Facebook is in the process of testing Place Tips in New York City.

Place Tips will deliver information about the locations – derived from the locations’ Facebook pages – to the top of a users’ News Feed. The information will be displayed on a series of cards detailing things like posts and photos friends have shared about the location, Facebook says.

For now, the service is only available on the iPhone app, Facebook did not specify when it would be available to Android users.

To ensure that the locations sent to users’ apps are accurate Facebook will employ beacons that transmit Bluetooth signals in a range of about 500 feet. In the past, such beacons have been used by merchants, airlines and sports teams to send information or sales offers to nearby smartphone users.

Large, high-traffic landmarks such as Times Square and the Brooklyn Bridge the company says it will use GPS signals, cellphone towers and Wi-Fi signals to offer location-specific information to users.

Officials with Facebook say that to start, the service will be free for businesses to use, but it could turn into a revenue-generating product in the future.

Facebook users will have the option to opt-out of the new feature by turning off locations services on the Facebook app.

Because the information used in Place Tips will come from businesses’ Facebook pages, some companies may be amping up their social media content.

Brianne Sperber, a spokesperson for Strand Book Store – one of the companies testing the beacons – says that she plans to put more thought into the store’s Facebook page because of the new program.

“If Facebook is going to really do this for me and it’s going to be free of charge, I’m going to spend a lot more time considering how I place things on Facebook,” she tells the WSJ.

Facebook Tests Bluetooth ‘Beacons’ to Feed Users Local Content [The Wall Street Journal Digits Blog]

“Nacho Cheese” Is Whatever You Want It To Be

Thu, 2015-01-29 20:43

 Paxton Holley)

The little-known “Stadium Nacho,” which is a refined blend of cheddar and Romano cheeses, with an insouciant hint of brand marketing for Madden NFL. (photo: Paxton Holley)

Those of us who grew up with orange-tinted fingers and salt-cured lips from spending too much time feeding at the Dorito trough know what “nacho” cheese is, or at least we know what it tastes like. But the fact is that, unlike most other well-known cheese varieties, there is no actual definition for what constitutes the cheese we call nacho.

This new piece from Bloomberg takes a hard look at this vaguely defined dairy item that is nowhere on the FDA’s list of requirements for more than 70 cheese varieties, from Asiago to Swiss.

Okay, so there is no FDA standard for nacho cheese, but surely the prepared food industry that loves slapping the nacho name on its products must have some sort of general guidelines.

Nope.

Bloomberg’s Venessa Wong tried to get a definition from Old El Paso, which recently launched nacho cheese-flavored taco shells.

A rep for General Mills says that the cheese flavor in the OEP shells is “based on what consumers are used to and what they believe nacho cheese flavor is.”

So, reading between the lines, he seems to mean whatever tastes the most like a Dorito. But not quite, as Old El Paso uses cheddar and blue cheeses while PepsiCo says that Doritos are coated with a mix of cheddar and Romano cheeses. Meanwhile, Pringles uses a cheddar, Romano, and parmesan blend.

The ineffable nature of nacho was confirmed by the manager of cheese education and training at the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, who tells Bloomberg, “There really is not a Nacho Cheese per se… There might be some jarred cheese blends on the market that say ‘nacho cheese,’ but again, these are blends that are meant to heat up and dip chips into.”

So now the next time you’re at a party and your friend says something about nacho cheese, you can be the one that goes, “Did you know there really is no such thing as nacho cheese?” right before everyone walks away from you for being that person.

Two Big Reasons The New Broadband Standard Is Bad News For The Comcast Merger

Thu, 2015-01-29 19:54

Comcast-TWCLogoNone of the big ISPs are happy about today’s FCC vote drastically increasing the bare minimum that qualifies as “broadband.” But even though executives at Verizon, AT&T, and plenty of others are probably muttering aloud rude words in the C-suite right now, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have good reason to be more worried than most.

The Comcast merger has been traveling a long and bumpy road since the two companies first announced their intent nearly a year ago. At first, both thought their merger was a sure thing. But as opposition has mounted, the FCC has been taking its mulling over every facet of the transaction. Today’s change, defining broadband access as download speeds of 25 Mbps or higher, now threatens Comcast’s pro-merger arguments on two new fronts.

Comcast Internet Essentials is no longer essential internet.
Comcast has been leaning heavily on its Internet Essentials program for low-income families as a reason for the FCC to approve the merger. Narrowing the digital divide is in the public interest, the argument goes, and so by expanding Comcast’s footprint nationwide the FCC also expands the number of families who have access to the $10-per-month offering.

Internet Essentials is far from perfect, but it does exist and over 350,000 families get to reap the benefits. Time Warner Cable does not have a similar program, so it’s true that letting the two companies merge would widen the number of eligible and participating families.

But for Comcast, there’s a big new problem now. Internet Essentials offers a download speed of 5 Mbps and an upload speed of 1 Mbps, for that $10 per month. And as far as the FCC is now concerned, that doesn’t qualify as high-speed broadband, and isn’t part of the solution to the digital divide. Comcast would need to increase the speed to their poorest customers five-fold (or at least promise they plan to) in order to hit the standard the commission has just set.

The new baseline has even less competition than the old baseline.
Comcast has fallen back, time and time again, on arguments that because the broadband market is highly competitive locally, that it doesn’t matter if the merger would leave them controlling way too much the nation’s high speed broadband access. They have pointed to DSL and mobile as offering competition in pretty much every market.

At speeds of 4 Mbps, that’s true. Copper-wire DSL is available in much of the country, and certainly in all the urbanized parts. But get to speeds higher than 5 or 10 Mbps, and suddenly what scant competition there is falls away.

 not enough.

Graph from the Department of Commerce report showing how many Americans have competition for broadband services at high speeds. Spoiler: not enough.

A Commerce Department report released last December found that once you get to speeds of 25 Mbps or higher, only 37% of the country has even two providers to choose between, let alone a third nearby. And FCC chair Tom Wheeler has stressed the fact, repeatedly calling for more — not less — competition at high broadband speeds.

As opponents to the merger have been pointing out for quite some time, if Comcast and Time Warner Cable should merge, the resulting company would serve a solid half of all American customers using connections faster than 25 Mbps. Given that internet content is delivered not just nationally but globally, and that contracts with 21st century companies like Netflix are likewise national and not local, this is a huge problem.

And while mobile competition might be robust, no matter what Comcast says, wireless data is still right out as a viable competitor to wired cable or fiber internet.

Shoplifting Suspect Calls 9-1-1 On Walmart Security Guards Following Him Around

Thu, 2015-01-29 19:54

(genebob)

(genebob)

It must have been very unnerving for a man in Georgia when he noticed that two tough-looking men were following him around as he left Walmart. They caught up with him, claiming to be security guards from the store, and brought him back to Walmart. Police say that the suspect thought they were “thugs” and pulled a knife on the men, then called 9-1-1.

It’s possible that someone could simultaneously be a Walmart security guard and a thug, but the fact is that they were real on-duty security guards, and they told police that the man they followed had been spotted taking items from the store. The guards followed him out of the store, then brought him back.

The suspect claims that he still wasn’t clear on who these men were and where they were taking him, which is why he pulled out a weapon. He got away, but police caught up with him. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution didn’t specify whether the police who found him were the police that he had summoned by dialing 9-1-1, but it would be appropriate if they were.

The man was arrested for aggravated assault, and we don’t know whether he was charged with shoplifting as well.

Walmart shoplifting suspect called 911 on security guards [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

CT Tax Commissioner: Walmart Tax Refund Service Just A Lure To Get You To Shop At Walmart

Thu, 2015-01-29 19:46

(Ron Dauphin)

(Ron Dauphin)

Walmart recently announced a service that allows consumers who use certain participating tax preparers to pick up their refunds at a Walmart store. The program already has one high-profile detractor in the form of Connecticut Commissioner of Revenue Services Kevin Sullivan who says he believes the program is intended to get consumers to spend their refunds at Walmart.

In a statement yesterday, Sullivan described the Direct2Cash program as “just a way to lure taxpayers into spending at Walmart the minute they get their hard-earned refunds.”

He has called on his staff to look at how the nation’s largest retailer is implementing the service in Connecticut. He may also seek the assistance of the state’s Attorney General as well as the Department of Banking and Department of Consumer Protection in investigating the service.

In addition to the fee paid to tax-preparation partners — like the 3,000 or so Jackson Hewitt preparers that will be in Walmart stores offering $50 Walmart gift cards for customers who e-file — there is a $7 fee for getting your refund through Direct2Cash.

The refunds themselves end up going to a Walmart banking partner, but Walmart will remit the refund to Direct2Cash users when they show up at the store with their redemption code.

If the code isn’t redeemed within a given period of time — as little as two weeks in some cases — the customer must return to the tax preparer and arrange another way to get their refund.

The requirement of going to a Walmart store for your refund appears to concern Sullivan the most.

“It’s welcome to Wal-Mart and good-bye refund,” he explains. “While pretending to help otherwise bankless taxpayers, Walmart is really just helping itself to turn tax refunds into immediate store sales.”

Walmart has not yet responded to our request for comment on Commissioner Sullivan’s statements.

The $7 fee for getting a refund in cash is likely less expensive than taking it to a check-cashing store. However, the requirement that customers use a participating tax preparer may be a legitimate cause for concern.

As we’ve warned readers repeatedly, only a few states have any sort of regulation or certification requirements for paid tax-prepares, meaning you may be paying for advice that you don’t need and which may be inaccurate or wholly incorrect.

Meanwhile there are services, like the IRS’s VITA program, which provides free tax-prep assistance for people earning $53,000 or less, and the agency’s Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program assists those 60 years of age or older. Or the AARP’s free Tax Aide program to low/moderate-income individuals, with a focus on those 60 years of age and older.

People Wait In Line For Hours To Feast Upon Sliders Upon Opening Of Las Vegas’ First White Castle

Thu, 2015-01-29 19:46

(White Castle on Twitter)

(White Castle on Twitter)

You think you love White Castle sliders, but do you love them enough to wait in line for hours to get your hands on one (or 12, as the case may be)? Stalwart fans in Las Vegas celebrated the opening of the city’s first White Castle by standing outside in line for reportedly up to four hours to get inside.

According to Eater Vegas, diners started lining up more than two hours before the county commissioner cut a ceremonial ribbon to officially open the new location yesterday.

People on the scene threw out wait times of anywhere from one to three hours to get inside the place near the Las Vegas Strip, with others saying hundreds were in line, kept at by by security staff.

Things were still crowded at 4 a.m., with a photo posted on Reddit claiming to be from that time with the line still going strong. That makes total sense, however, as 4 a.m. is like peak White Castle time.

(imgur)

(imgur)

Insert Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle reference here.

How Long Were the Lines For Sliders at White Castle? [Eater Las Vegas]

Toyota Recalls 57,000 Avalon, Prius Vehicles For Fire Risk, Airbag Deployment Issues

Thu, 2015-01-29 19:26

(stellarviewer)

(stellarviewer)

For the third time this week an automaker has recalled tens of thousands of vehicles because of a potential fire risk. In addition to recalling 52,000 sedans for wiring issues that could lead to a vehicle fire, Toyota is recalling 5,000 cars whose airbags may not deploy properly.

The Detroit News reports that Toyota will recall 52,000 model year 2011 and 2012 Avalon vehicles in the United States.

Officials with Toyota say the recall was initiated because cargo in the trunk can come into contact with the vehicle’s audio system subwoofer and move wires out of position. If one of the wires contacts the metal frame of the subwoofer, it could result in an intermittent short-circuit, leading to the subwoofer overheating and starting a fire.

Toyota dealers have been instructed to disconnect the rear subwoofer as a precaution until a remedy is available.

The Detroit News also reports that Toyota recalled 5,000 model year 2014 to 2015 Prius V hybrids because of issues with the front passenger airbag.

The company says the vehicles are equipped with an occupant classification system, which activates and deactivates the passenger seat airbag system depending on the weight of the occupant.

However, some of the recalled Prius vehicles may not have been calibrated properly, meaning that under some conditions the passenger airbag may not deploy in the event of a crash even if a person is in the seat.

Dealers will recalibrate the system to fix the issue.

Toyota says it is unaware of any injuries or fatalities related to either recall.

Toyota recalls 52,000 Avalons for fire risks [The Detroit News]

Dish’s “Reverse AutoHop” Will Cut Out Everything But The Commercials From The Super Bowl

Thu, 2015-01-29 18:41

(Brady O'Brien)

(Brady O’Brien)

Aside from the scrumptious gameday food, you could argue that for many people the best part about the Super Bowl is the commercials. But to get to those often funny, sometimes disappointing 30-second spots, you have to spend a majority of your time watching two teams you don’t really care about throw and kick a football down a long green field. To appease consumers who don’t care about the game but do care about the commercials, Dish Network is turning its commercial-skipping technology into game-skipping technology.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Dish is releasing a temporary feature called Reverse AutoHop that will let subscribers who record Sunday’s game avoid the plays on the field and focus on the billions of dollars worth of commercials.

Reverse AutoHop will be available when a viewer plays back the Super Bowl the day after it airs. Dish Hopper customers must have the Prime Time Anytime feature enabled for NBC prior to the game.

“This day is about two things: football and commercials, and for good reason — both are entertaining and our customers love them,” Vivek Khemka, Dish senior vice president of product management, said in a statement.

Media buyers say Reverse AutoHop will help make the ads featured during the Super Bowl front and center for a wider audience.

“Regardless of who wins the game, that’s a win for advertisers and consumers,” Bill Koenigsberg, president, chief executive and founder of media buyer Horizon Media, tells the WSJ.

The limited-time component is a take on the company’s AutoHop feature that is normally used to let viewers skip through ads and only watch their recorded programing.

AutoHop has been the center of numerous battles for Dish and broadcast networks since the feature was released in 2012. Broadcasters such as FOX, CBS and NBC have claimed that the ad-skipping element violates copyright while Dish had maintained that it is not different from when an individual chooses to record a program and edit out the commercials.

Some of the broadcasters quietly dropped their legal battles against Dish in exchange for tweaking AutoHop to be more advertiser-friendly. For example, Dish’s recent deal with CBS prohibits the pay-TV provider from editing out ads for the first seven days after a CBS primetime show airs.

Attention Football-Hating TV Commercial Lovers – This Dish is For You [The Wall Street Journal]

Kate Spade Saturday Stores And All Jack Spade Men’s Locations Shutting Down

Thu, 2015-01-29 18:28

Popping up no more.

Popping up no more. (Bex.Walton)

Following the downfall of Piperlime, discerning shoppers with an eye for a bargain will no doubt be screaming “WHYYYYYYYY?!?” to the heavens* upon hearing the news that bosses at Kate Spade Co. are shutting down the company’s line of Kate Spade Saturday stores, as well as all Jack Spade men’s locations.

Kate Spade Saturday offered lower-priced items than the main brand, with 19 stores stores now set to close. A total of 12 Jack Spade men’s locations will join those stores in the dustbin, reports Bloomberg, with the company saying it’ll shut the stores down in the first half of this year.

Kate Spade Saturday will be folded into another brand, the New York-based company said in a statement. Closing the stores could cost the company as much as $39 million when all is said and done.

“The best path was to apply all the learnings from the Kate Spade Saturday brand and incorporate it into our Kate Spade New York brand,” Chief Executive Officer Craig Leavitt said. “It’s a very big undertaking to launch and nurture a brand from scratch.”

*Or you just have a best friend who completely freaking out right now.

Kate Spade to Shut Brand Stores While Forming China Venture [Bloomberg]

FCC Votes To Make 25 Mbps The New Minimum Definition Of Broadband

Thu, 2015-01-29 18:15
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, speaking at the FCC open meeting on January 29, 2015.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, speaking at the FCC open meeting on January 29, 2015.

As expected, the FCC voted this morning to approve a new standard for defining what qualifies as broadband internet. The new standard officially requires a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps, an enormous increase from the previous minimum standard of 4 Mbps.

The new broadband definition came as part of a 3-2 vote to accept the findings of an annual report on the state of broadband adoption in the US. The presenters delivering report explained that Congress defines advanced telecommunications capability as “enough broadband to originate and receive high quality voice, data, graphics, and video.” In 2010, the FCC determined that 4/1 was sufficient to meet that standard. But the tools change.

The new report looks not only at individual access but also at household use, where all members share a connection across their several simultaneously active devices. And the report authors announced that, “with this in mind, as well as the services that providers are marketing and customers are choosing, this report finds that ‘advanced capability’ means access to download speeds of at least 25 Mbps, and upload of at least 3 Mbps.”

Given that new standard, the report finds negatively that broadband expansion and coverage are not at all where they need to be, and that the FCC needs to do more to get Americans connected.

Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel spoke warmly about the higher standard, both looking to the rapid growth of internet-connected devices and services.

Clyburn commented that earlier this month at CES, we saw “some amazing innovations, like wearables, which promise to greatly improve the quality of life, particularly for those most vulnerable and fragile.” But, she added, “with no iternet infrastrucutre, without ubiquitous broadband, and absent the means to connect, these incredible inventions” are basically useless. “What is crystal clear to me is that the broadband speeds of yesterdear are woefully inadequate today and beyond.”

Rosenworcel likewise looked far into the future in her approval. “We can do audacious things if we set big goals,” she said, “and I think our new threshold, frankly, should be 100 [Mbps]. I think anything short of that shortchanges our children, our future, and our new digital economy.”

Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly dissented vehemently. O’Rielly took exception to the idea that any standard should take into account dawning new uses like streaming 4K video. “Some people believe probably incorrectly that we are on a path to interplanetary teleportation,” he mocked. “Should we include the estimated bandwidth for that as well?”

Pai also found the new standard to be unrealistic, and lashed out at Wheeler, saying, “for some time now under this administration, grounding the new benchmark for broadband in reality hasn’t been the point.”

Pai and O’Rielly both called out 25 Mbps as unneccessary, saying that tasks like streaming 4K video are so narrowly adopted that broadband doesn’t need to support it, and citing “consumer preference” that “only this year has the majority of consumers with access actually adopted speeds of 10 Mbps or higher.”

Of course, that might have something to do with the number of homes served only by DSL or satellite, where speeds over 10 Mbps are hard to come by, or the fact that cable packages with speeds of 25 Mbps or higher are expensive. It also disregards the chicken and egg problem, where consumers who don’t have access to reliable, high-speed connections aren’t going to pursue activities like trying to watch 4K programming on Netflix while also background downloading a 25 GB game onto their gaming console.

Chairman Wheeler spoke last, directly calling out the discrepancy between telecom’s lobbying and advertising. “Somebody is telling us one thing and telling consumers another,” Wheeler said of Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable.

Speaking of Verizon, for example, Wheeler said that Verizon’s filings with the FCC read, “Consumers continue to find that services at the existing 4Mbps/1Mbps threshold meet their needs for broadband services and a higher benchmark would serve no purpose.”

Verizon’s own marketing materials, meanwhile, explain that although FiOS provides great bandwidth, “you’d be surprised how fast it goes,” and specifically says that their 25 Mbps connection “is best for one to three devices at the same time,” but that a family or household with three to five devices in it should go for 50/50 or better.

“Our challenge is not to hide behind self-serving lobbying statements,” he concluded, “but to recognize reality. And our challenge is to help make that reality available to all.”

The full 2015 Broadband Progress Report is not yet available online but should be soon.

No More Posting Of Nude Photos For Operator Of Revenge Porn Site

Thu, 2015-01-29 18:08

In this post from 2012, the site's operator boldly declares that the site is completely legal, and that he is indemnified. The bottom portion of this screengrab details the rules for sending in photos to the site.

In this post from 2012, the site’s operator boldly declares that the site is completely legal, and that he is indemnified. The bottom portion of this screengrab details the rules for sending in photos to the site.

My co-workers tell me that there are plenty of websites out there with images and footage of naked people who agreed to be photographed in such revealing conditions. But there are also so-called “revenge porn” sites that post intimate personal photos and videos of people who didn’t consent. Facing a lawsuit from federal regulators, the operator of one such site has agreed to get out of the revenge porn business.

The Federal Trade Commission complaint [PDF] against the operator of a now-defunct site, isanybodydown.com, alleges he used deception to acquire the images and videos he posted online.

He openly asked readers to anonymously send in nude photos of other people and to include personal information like full name, age, location, phone number, website, and a link to the subject’s Facebook profile.

The site’s operator also posed as a woman on Craigslist, where he would send photos that he claimed were his to other women while requesting that they send back revealing pictures of their own. The women who did respond would then have their pictures posted on the site without permission or knowledge, according to the FTC.

Finally, there was the site’s “bounty system” that allowed readers to pay a listing fee of $20 to request that others find and post photos of a specific person in exchange for a reward of at least $100.

Anyone who complained about their images ending up on the site were then directed to sites that the operator also owned, where they could pay upwards of $500 to have the images removed, without being told that the owner of this removal service was the same person who had posted the pictures to begin with.

As part of his settlement [PDF] with the FTC, the site operator must destroy all images and personal contact information he collected.

“This behavior is not only illegal but reprehensible,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “I am pleased that as a result of this settlement, the illegally collected images and information will be deleted, and this individual can never return to the so-called ‘revenge porn’ business.”

3-Year-Old Slips, Falls Into Grease Pit Outside Denny’s

Thu, 2015-01-29 17:49

(Joe King)

(Joe King)

Outside of a Denny’s restaurant in Wisconsin, there are two plastic manhole covers that don’t look like they’re a portal to anything particularly dangerous. While walking by them last week, a 3-year-old boy accidentally dislodged an unsecured cover and fell inside the pit it covered. That was an 8-foot-deep and incredibly stinky grease pit.

If you’re wondering why there are unsecured covers on deep grease pits, well, you’re not alone in that. How this happened was that the 3-year-old didn’t like his mother’s answer when she told him that he couldn’t jump on the wet, slippery-looking plastic covers that were near the sidewalk. Being a 3-year-old, he stomped his foot, but that foot was on one of the manhole covers. His tiny stomp knocked the cover off the hole, and the child lost his balance and fell in.

The parents panicked, since they didn’t know how deep the hole was or where it led: they thought it might run to the sewer system. It’s only 8 feet deep, as it turns out, but that doesn’t make it a lot less dangerous.

The boy’s father pulled him out by the hood of his coat, and passersby pitched in to help clean him off after removing his clothes with their water bottles and baby wipes from their diaper bags.

He was taken to the hospital to make sure he hadn’t swallowed or inhaled any of the noxious substance,

Mother says she feared losing her son in grease pit [Post-Crescent]

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