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The Consumerist

On Day 5, The Sexagintuple Frappuccino Is Finally Gone

Thu, 2014-05-29 16:32

On Saturday, a man walked into a Starbucks store in Texas with a vase and created a legend. Technically, he asked the baristas to create a legend, or at least something that everyone on the Internet wouldn’t stop typing about for three days. Last night, he finally drained the last of the Sexagintuple Vanilla Bean Mocha Frappuccino.

It took five days, because while drinking a beverage that includes 60 shots of espresso probably won’t kill you, drinking 128 ounces of sugared coffee beverage goodness just might.


A Starbucks spokesperson told Seattle Weekly that they hadn’t heard about the beverage before Tuesday evening, which is funny because Consumerist had contacted them about it long before noon on the west coast. Maybe they just didn’t get around to checking their e-mail yet.

The important thing that we learned from the Starbucks statement is that this is not an officially condoned way to use up one’s free drink coupons, on birthdays or otherwise. Starbucks doesn’t encourage customers to create their own super-beverages. “[T]his type of beverage order is totally excessive and not something we encourage people to do. After they make that beverage, it’s pretty inedible. Nor is it safe,” noted the spokesperson. Baristas are not encouraged to cater to the deranged whims of caffeine junkies, Gold card holders or not.


Anyway, Andrew the drink-orderer is still alive. Perhaps he was wise not to show his face in any of the drink photos, based on the reaction that his drink received from baristas.

Aaaaaand done. Took 5 days, but I drank it all. #MostExpensiveStarbucks
Andrew Chifari (@ACIFH) May 28, 2014

PREVIOUSLY: New Starbucks Free Drink Record Set With $54 Sexagintuple Vanilla Bean Mocha Frappuccino

Tyson Foods Makes A Play For Hillshire Brands With $6.8B Offer

Thu, 2014-05-29 16:22

ysonThere’s a meaty war brewin: just two days after Pilgrim’s Pride made a bid to take over Hillshire Brands, Tyson Foods crashed the party and upped the stakes with a bid of its own.

Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, one of the largest producers of chicken, pork and beef products, offered $6.8 billion for Hillshire, the company known for its Jimmy Dean breakfast sausages and sandwiches and a plethora of flavored hot-dogs, The New York Times reports.

“We believe that there is a strong strategic, financial and operational rationale for the combination of Tyson and Hillshire,” Donnie Smith, Tyson Foods President and CEO, says in a news release.

The new bid tops the Colorado-based Pilgrim’s Pride bid of $6.4 billion, but comes with many of the same caveats; namely the end of Hillshire’s purchase of Pinnacle Foods.

Less than two weeks ago, Hillshire announced it would acquire Pinnacle Foods, the company behind brands like Vlasic and Duncan Hines, for $4.2 billion. But that’s a move neither Tyson Foods or Pilgrim’s Pride wants anything to do with.

“Our interest is in the Company on its own, and not as combined with Pinnacle,” Smith says in a news release about the offer terms.

According to the Times, Hillshire has long been a target for an acquisition. Pilgrim’s Pride privately approached the company about a merger several months ago but was rebuffed.

Smith, Tyson Foods CEO, wrote in a letter to Hillshire Brands CEO Sean Connolly that the company would have preferred to keep its dealings out of the spotlight but recent events prohibited that.

“We would have preferred to make this proposal to you privately, but in light of current circumstances we believe that it is in the best interests of your and our shareholders to have current and accurate information about our proposal and the reasons we believe that it is a compelling opportunity for both of our companies,” Smith wrote. “For this reason, we are making this letter public simultaneously with my sending it to you.”

Tyson Foods Swoops In With Offer for Hillshire [The New York Times]

Dish Network Will Now Accept Bitcoin Payments From Customers

Thu, 2014-05-29 15:54



Despite the fact that the Securities and Exchange Commission warned early adopters of bitcoin that the cryptocurrency is prime for scammers and other ne’er-do-wells looking to take advantage of people, it seems it’s still catching on with a wider audience. Joining the bitcoin ranks this week is Dish Network, which said it will start accepting bitcoin payments from customers soon.

The satellite TV operator said it’ll take bitcoin from those customers who want to pay their bills with it starting July 1, reports Reuters.

Dish is now keeping company with businesses like, Zynga and even NBA team the Sacramento Kings, who also all accept bitcoin as legal tender for goods.

Dish will be using Coinbase as the payment processor for any bitcoin transactions customers perform online to pay their bills, using whichever bitcoin wallet they’d like.

Again, bitcoin isn’t backed by any government or central bank and is instead bought and sold on a peer-to-peer network.

There’s a lot of skepticism out there from the U.S. government and others as well, especially in light of the bankruptcy of Mt. Gox, the one-time biggest player on the bitcoin exchange scene. It stopped trading in February after hackers cracked its computer system and stole nearly half a billion dollars worth of the currency.

For more on the basic facts of bitcoin, check out our guide to the cryptocurrency.

Satellite TV operator Dish Network to accept bitcoins [Reuters]

May Food And Supplement Recall Roundup: Not So Dairy-Free

Wed, 2014-05-28 23:19

silkIn our May Recall Roundup for food, supplements, and even a few over-the-counter drugs, there’s dairy in the dairy-free pancakes, Salmonella in the chili powder, and always a few precription drugs hiding in the “supplements.”

Our monthly Recall Roundups have grown so expansive that we’ve had to separate them into two separate posts: one for consumer goods, and one for consumables.

If you have any of these listed items in your pantry, first check the varieties and flavors against the ones listed on the recall site or press release, then check expiration date or lot numbers.

When there’s a match, don’t panic! If an item is listed as having undeclared walnuts and you’re not allergic to walnuts, for example, you don’t have to do anything at all. You can keep the item, eat it, not eat it, or return it to the store or the manufacturer for your own peace of mind.

Items that may be contaminated with pathogens or foreign objects are worrisome for everyone, and you should return them to the retail store where you bought them, or contact the company for a refund and further instructions.

Tryst Gourmet and Target, Trader Joe’s, and Giant Eagle hummus and bean dips – possible Listeria contamination
Strong & Kind Bars, Kind Healthy Grains Maple Pumpkin Seeds Bars – may contain peanuts
Haque Brand Golden Raisins – undeclared sulfites

Silk Light Original Soymilk – may contain undeclared almondmilk
Stonyfield YoBaby Peach/Pear Yogurt – possible Klebsiella pneumoniae contamination
Raclette du Haut Livradois, Montboissie du Haut Livradois cheeses – possible Salmonella contamination
Blue Bunny Premium Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream – may contain undeclared egg
Private Selection Chocolate Hazelnut Mascarpone and Caramel Hazelnut Fudge Truffle Ice Cream (Kroger family stores) – may contain undeclared egg
Organic Traditions Dark Chocolate Golden Berries and Dark Chocolate Sacha Inchi Seeds – may contain undeclared milk
Private Selection Sweet Strawberry Sorbet – may contain undeclared milk
Archer Farms Chocolate Hazelnut Swirl Gelato (Target) – may contain traces of undeclared peanuts

Market Basket Dairy-free, Gluten-free Pancakes – may contain undeclared milk. No gluten, though.
LiveGfree Gluten Free Blueberry Pancakes (ALDI) – may contain undeclared milk
Cinnamon Crunch Granola – may contain vanilla almond granola
Grandma’s Potato & Bacon Perogies – undeclared soy

US Trading Company Crushed Chili Powder – possible Salmonella contamination
Caravelle Chili Powder – possible Salmonella contamination
Miravalle Achiote Molido Ground Annato – possible Salmonella contamination
Fernandez Chile Company Chile Molido Puro and Chile Rojo – possible Salmonella contamination
Lisy Sweet Basil – possible Salmonella contamination
Hickory Farms Chipotle Ranch Sauce – may contain undeclared milk

Oscar Mayer “Classic” hot dogs – may contain cheese

LiteFit USA and Thinogenics – contain sibutramine, a drug taken off the market in 2010
Super Arthgold – contains unapproved new drugs (NSAIDs)

Ocean’s Catch Crab Meat – possible Listeria contamination

Bravo Pet Food – possible Listeria contamination
Abady Highest Quality Maintenance & Growth Formula for Cats – possible Salmonella contamination

Verizon FiOS Gets Benefits Of Being A Public Utility Without The Regulations

Wed, 2014-05-28 23:14


(Photo: Damian)

As you probably know, Verizon was the company behind the lawsuit that gutted the FCC’s net neutrality rules. The telecom titan successfully argued that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate broadband providers like Verizon FiOS. What was lost in this discussion is the fact that all the while Verizon was saying FiOS should not face the same level of regulation placed on landline phone service, it was enjoying all the perks of being associated with a public utility.

A quick recap for those coming late to this topic. In the stone age of the Internet, the FCC stupidly categorized broadband as a loosely regulated Title I “information service,” rather than labeling it a Title II “telecommunication service,” which gives the commission more regulatory authority. In 2010, the FCC established the Open Internet Rule (aka net neutrality), which stated that ISPs couldn’t slow down, block, or prioritize any data based on its source, content, or destination.

This also meant that Verizon, et al, could not make money by squeezing deep-pocketed content providers for better access. The ISPs don’t like not being able to nickel/dime at every opportunity, so they sued, successfully arguing to a federal appeals court that the current “information service” classification of broadband means the FCC can’t enact such tough regulations.

Recently installed FCC Chair Tom Wheeler (a former frontman for both the cable and wireless industries) recently introduced his new, controversial attempt at reinstating net neutrality. It would allow ISPs to charge content providers for improved access, but it also leaves open the door to the idea of reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service.

This hasn’t gone over well with Verizon and its cronies, who are have lobbyist spreading industry-approved cow dung all over D.C., arguing that reclassifying broadband would put poor little ISPs like Verizon in a position where they couldn’t do all that innovating (that they don’t actually do).

But while Verizon is trying to convince people how important it is that broadband remain only mildly regulated, a new report [PDF] highlights some of the ways in which Verizon FiOS has benefited from perks afforded only to public utilities like landline service.

See, while Verizon FiOS, as an ISP, is considered a Title I service, Verizon’s franchise deals with municipalities around the country explicitly call out Verizon’s fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network that carries FiOS as a Title II service; the same as landline telephone service.

“Verizon’s New York City’s current cable franchise, as well as the franchises for other Verizon franchises in other states, from DC to New Jersey — all detail that at the core of Verizon’s cable, Internet, and broadband networks is a ‘Title II’, common carriage, telecommunications service,” reads the report. “And it appears this was done for two reasons — it gets all of the powers of the utility, including the rights-of-way that are part of the telecommunications utility service, but it also may charge the copper-based POTS [plain old telephone service] utility customers for the development and deployment of FiOS.”

So Verizon has been able to pay for the rollout (however slow and stalled it may be) of FiOS with the help of its landline customers, and it’s claimed its authority for connecting that FiOS network to consumers’ homes, under Title II. But it doesn’t want the FCC treating the service that it delivers through that network to be treated that way.

None of this is illegal, and sadly it’s standard practice in the cable, telecom, and wireless industries. For example, on a smartphone, the voice and texting services are Title II while your data is Title I. The cable connection coming to your house brings data (Title I) and pay-TV (Title VI) and maybe VoIP phone service, which is currently unclassified.

What it does show is the hypocrisy of these industries, as they use whichever classification provides them the most benefit, regardless of whether or not that label holds true.

“The wireless carriers are all big on using this Title II stuff when it comes to things like getting the FCC to preempt states on tower siting and… the use of phone numbers and mandatory interconnections with landline [networks] and all that good stuff,” Harold Feld of Public Knowledge explains to Ars Technica.

It’s been 12 years since the FCC — under the leadership of Michael “Son of Colin” Powell, who now heads the National Cable & Telecommunications Association — knuckled under to pressure from ISPs and classified broadband as Title I. Back then, one could make the argument that Internet access was not an essential utility, as in-home Internet was just beginning to take off with the growth of DSL and cable Internet.

But with the development and rapid adoption of WiFi, connected devices, tablets and smartphones, the Internet has quickly become an irreplaceable leg on which modern culture and industry stand. Just watch what happens when ISP service goes down in an office for even a short time; it’s no longer, “Oh crap, I can’t IM my friends Sally and Mike,” but “Holy sh&$#, I can’t do a single thing until access is restored because every document and application I need is accessed remotely.”

Today’s businesses are now just as reliant on Internet access as they are on electricity and phone service. It’s time for the FCC to recognize this fact and reclassify broadband accordingly.

Click here for more information on how to let the FCC know how you feel about net neutrality.

Indiana Farm First To Publicly Confirm Second Outbreak Of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea

Wed, 2014-05-28 23:00



Don’t think you care about the porcine epidemic diarrhea hitting farms around the country. Consider your bacon: If you like eating pork, it’ll be a lot harder to buy it if pigs keep dying from the virus. And now that one farm has come out to confirm that it’s been hit a second time when many believed an initial sweep would immunize pigs, it seems that pork might get a bit pricier.

The good news is, PEDv, as it’s called, can’t hurt humans who ingest an infected pig, and isn’t a food safety issue. So there’s that.

But in order to have that pork chop or ham sandwich in the first place, a healthy pig population is necessary on hog farms. And that might be a bit harder if the virus can spread through previously infected farms, as one Indiana farm confirmed, reports Reuters.

Since PEDv first showed up a year ago, it’s wiped out around 10% of the hog population — about 7 million pigs — and pushed up pork prices. And while many farms reported initial outbreaks, none had publicly acknowledged a second, until now. The Indiana farm confirmed the news through its veterinarian this week.

The assumption held by officials was that pigs could develop immunity to PEDv after getting it once, sort of like the chicken pox, or at least not get it again for several years. It’s almost always fatal to baby pigs, prompting researchers to try to extend immunity to piglets through female hogs.

“It happens and it could happen again,” Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford of the U.S. Department of Agriculture told Reuters of secondary outbreaks. “We need to practice good bio-security, cleaning and disinfection, all-in all-out, in order to break the cycle and prevent its re-emergence.”

Retail pork prices have set record highs since the outbreak, records which could likely be broken themselves if there’s a second wave of outbreaks, killing even more hogs.

“If you have that disease, it causes a huge death loss, and then you get it again,” said Josh Trenary, executive director of Indiana Pork. “It’s pretty clear why it would be concerning.”

Exclusive: Deadly pig virus re-infects U.S. farm, fuels supply fears [Reuters]

Comcast Commercial Claims Their Fast In-Home WiFi Can Make Your Offline Game Work Better

Wed, 2014-05-28 22:50
The young men in Comcast's ad are all very impressed that their offline game does not have buffering issues.

The young men in Comcast’s ad are all very impressed that their offline game does not have buffering issues.

Comcast’s been irking a large segment of the internet again this week. This time, though, it doesn’t have anything to do with their pro-merger mania, their stance on net neutrality, or the problems with their actual service. The latest kerfuffle is all about a thirty-second commercial — one that doesn’t even seem to get the basics of its own technology right.

The ad (YouTube) targets a tech-savvy early-20s male gamer audience… and those gamers are exactly the group that can see through the many problems with the spot immediately.

It starts in a giant Xfinity booth in a shopping mall. A Comcast representative speaks with several different young men.

“Do you find that when you’re playing games online with your current service that it’s slow?” helpful Mr. Comcast asks the gamers.

“Yes,” says one, they do! “I get some lag,” another regretfully confirms.

This is a real thing that happens: inconsistent connectivity, at low speeds, can create a situation where a player experiences lag, stuttering, or disconnection from an online game. As a huge number of online games are competitive, player-vs-player environments, that results in a lot of losses and a lot of virtual deaths. And when that occurs, it is frustrating and really does suck for players.

That kind of lag is in fact something that stable, consistent, high-speed internet service can mitigate. So far, so good. But then the commercial starts to go off the rails.

Mr. Comcast gets the gamers playing Trials Fusion. The game is indeed a shiny new title, released on PC and for the major gaming consoles (Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4) just a few weeks ago. The motorcycle tricks-and-racing game launched to generally positive reviews that lauded its mechanics and features. But reviewers also mentioned one notable feature that the game does not have: an online multiplayer mode.

No online mode, no net connection. No network connection, no network lag.

“Do you notice any buffering?” Mr. Comcast then asks.

The gamers happily reply that they do not! And of course they don’t: the game ships on a disc or as a one-time digital download. It’s not on a streaming or cloud service like a Netflix or YouTube video; there’s nothing to buffer. That would be akin to asking if you see Microsoft Word buffering when you type a report on your work computer. Your software might be running slowly, but “buffering” is definitely not the issue.

Of course, the unstated implication in the commercial is that the game is actually streaming. Although the players appear to be using Xbox One controllers, that “console” on the podium in front of them, next to Mr. Comcast, is an Xfinity X1 set-top box. And Comcast does in fact have some tentative plans to launch a set-top video game streaming service in partnership with EA.

Too bad, then, Trials Fusion is published by EA rival Ubisoft, who have their own multiplayer platform.

The criticisms levied by gamers around the internet may seem nit-picky. And sure, really, they are. Computers, gaming, and tech in general get misrepresented in advertising and in media all the time; this ad is not unique or special in that regard.

A lot of people don’t really understand what the tech in their homes is or how it works. This ad, though, is directly targeting the folks who do understand that. And gamers, as a broad generalization, are a group that can be pretty exacting over minute details.

Gaming isn’t Comcast’s business. But targeting a demographic with complete disregard and disrespect for who they are and what their actual needs might be? Now that’s got Comcast written all over it.

Comcast commercial [YouTube, via Reddit]

Target Enters E-Book Arena With New Subscription Service Partnership

Wed, 2014-05-28 22:36

(Elvert Barnes)

(Elvert Barnes)

If the back and forth between Amazon and Hachette has you questioning where to buy your next e-book, Target has a potential solution for you. The company announced Wednesday it has partnered with Librify to give consumers another option when it comes to buying, sharing and discussing books.

The partnership between the retail giant and the startup e-book subscription service will offer customers a range of discounts on the more than 500,000 titles Librify carries, USA Today reports.

The subscription service, which is slated to begin later this year, offers consumers access to a recommended book each month and a 10% to 20% discount on all other e-books for the monthly fee of $8.99.

Officials with Target say there will be further promotions and discounts available to customers who visit Librify though the retailer’s website.

In addition to purchasing books the site will operate as a sort of virtual book club where users can create bookshelves and interact with like-minded readers. Those aspects of the service will be available even if a consumer opts out of the subscription option.

USA Today reports that the partnership is mutually beneficial for both companies. Target will have the chance to build their customer’s online shopping experience, while Librify will tap into Target’s varying consumer base and brand recognition.

Target to offer e-books through partnership [USA Today]

Apple: “Oleg Pliss” Ransom Demand Not Because We Were Breached

Wed, 2014-05-28 22:19



According to Apple, their iCloud suite of services has not been breached, and that the “Oleg Pliss” ransom demand that affected some iPhone and iPad owners did not happen because iCloud as a whole has been breached. Maybe, Apple suggested indirectly, this is all users’ fault for using the same darn passwords for everything.

Victims in Australia and New Zealand woke up early Tuesday morning to find a message from Apple’s “Find My iPhone” service. No, they didn’t pick up someone else’s phone by mistake: the message instructed them to send money via PayPal to an e-mail address without a live PayPal account. People could simply type in their regular passcode or sync the phone to a computer.

Today, the problem spread to some iPhone and iPad owners in other countries, including the United Kingdom and United States. Apple wants everyone to know that whoever is behind the ransom demand, it’s not because of a breach on their end.

In a statement to ZDNet, an Apple spokesperson said:

Apple takes security very seriously and iCloud was not compromised during this incident. Impacted users should change their Apple ID password as soon as possible and avoid using the same user name and password for multiple services. Any users who need additional help can contact AppleCare or visit their local Apple Retail Store.

My devices have been hacked. What do I do? [Apple Support Forums]

Cialis One Step Closer To Being Available Over The Counter

Wed, 2014-05-28 22:08

cialisadGood news for couples who enjoy holding hands while sitting outside in separate tubs that have no attached plumbing — the makers of Cialis are going to ask federal regulators to consider an over-the-counter version of the popular erectile dysfunction drug.

Cialis maker Eli Lilly and French pharma biggi Sanofi announced today that Sanofi has purchased rights to seek regulatory approval for an OTC version of the drug in the U.S., Europe, Canada, and Australia.

If these regulators give it the thumbs-up, then Sanofi would be able to sell Cialis OTC once the patent on the original drug expires.

Eli Lilly says Cialis has rung up more than $14 billion in sales for the company since it was introduced in 2002. The company’s patent on the drug (generic name tadalafil) is set to expire in 2017, meaning Eli Lilly would likely lose a lot of money to generic drug makers who won’t charge a premium for the pills.

An OTC version of the drug would not require a visit to the doctor or a prescription, thus making it available to the larger public who may have either been embarrassed to seek medical attention or who don’t actually need Cialis but want to take it anyway.

Pfizer attempted to bring its Viagra drug to the OTC market back in 2008 to bolster its market share and preempt the inevitable drop in sales once the patents expire, but ultimately decided against pursuing approval after European regulators indicated they would not sign off.

While Viagra (sildenafil) still remains a prescription drug, Pfizer began selling it directly to consumers via the company’s website in 2013.

The original Viagra patent expired in the U.S. in 2012, but a subsequent patent for the use of sildenafil for treatment of erectile dysfunction doesn’t expire un the U.S. until 2019.

[via NY Times]

Lice Prevention Product Company Settles With FTC Over False Advertising Claims

Wed, 2014-05-28 22:06

ftcliceshieldAny parent who’s had the horror of hearing their kid come home and proudly proclaim, “There’s lice at school!” would likely love to prevent such a thing in any possible way. But that’s not reality, unless you make your kid wear a swimming cap to school every day. That’s why the Federal Trade Commission charged one company with false advertising, after it touted its products as “lice prevention” tools.

The FTC leveled the deception charges at personal care company Lornamead, Inc. for its claims that its line of “Lice Shield” items — shampoo, a stick and a spray — could prevent or reduce the risk of getting head lice.

That’s totally different than other products for head lice, called pediuclicides, which are used to treat infestations after the little critters have already set up shop.

The products and ads for it bore claims that citronella and other essential oils used in the Lice Shield line would “dramatically reduce” the risk of head lice infestations, said the FTC’s complaint. It also claimed that the best way to treat head lice was to not get them in the first place, as its products are “scientifically shown to repel head lice.”The products were sold in Albertsons, CVS, Safeway, Rite Aid, ShopRite, Walgreens, and WalMart.

Lornamead will shell out $500,000 as part of the settlement, and is banned from making any similar claims in the future. If it wants to make such claims it’ll have to have at least one well-controlled human clinical study to support that claim.

“As any parent knows, an outbreak of lice can wreak havoc,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When marketers say their products can be used to avoid these pests, they’d better make sure they can back up their claims.”

Company Settles FTC Charges that Head Lice Prevention Claims Were Deceptive []

Beastie Boys Head To Court Against Monster Energy, Everyone Learns What “Dope” Means

Wed, 2014-05-28 21:00



After filing a copyright infringement lawsuit against Monster Energy Drink back in August 2012, the Beastie Boy are facing off against the beverage company in a New York City court this week. And because not everyone in the legal system is down with rap lingo, the players involved had to get down to brass monkeys — err, brass tax about some terms when the case went to trial yesterday.

Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond, the two surviving members of the Beastie Boys, wore suits and sneakers at the federal courthouse in NYC as plaintiffs against Monster.

The band claimed that Monster used its songs in a series of promotional videos and mixes at a snowboarding event, which goes against the late Adam Yauch’s will. He stated that his likeness and art was not to be used for advertising, something GoldiBlox has been having trouble with as well.

And as might be expected, this seems like it’s going to be a colorful trial, reports Billboard. First, the defense had to explain to the courtroom what “dope” meant, saying: “”You’ll learn during the course of this case that ‘dope’… is a positive affirmation.”

The defense did admit that it had infringed on the Beastie Boy’s work, but that the $1 million in damages claimed for the “implied endorsement” in the Monster video is “nonsense. The defense says it can prove the damages aren’t more than $125,000.

Meanwhile, Horovitz took the stand to explain the value of his band’s work, in order to reap a larger reward. During his time up there it sounds like he had a good time — laughing and smiling when he had to explain things like what a “single” is.

He also had to confirm during cross examination that Mike D was indeed, wearing a sailor costume during a question about whether or not the band ever sold out for a watch campaign, despite their insistence that they’d never license their image for consumer products.

“He sure is,” Horovitz replied with a smile when asked if a huge poster of Mike D in the aforementioned outfit showed him dressed like a sailor.

The case should take less than a week, during which time I expect everyone will come to a closer familiarity with all things dope and nautical.

Beastie Boys v. Monster: Ad-Rock Takes Stand, IDs Mike D In a Sailor Suit [Billboard]

CFPB Fines Alabama Real Estate Firm $500,000 For Disclosure Violation

Wed, 2014-05-28 20:13

(Adam Gerard)

(Adam Gerard)

Purchasing everything you need for your home at one store can be convenient – it’s one of the reasons we have one-stop-shops. But when a realty firm doesn’t tell consumers they don’t have to use an affiliated mortgage service provider, well, that’s against the law. And as one company can attest it comes with a hefty fine.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced Wednesday that RealtySouth, the largest real estate firm in Alabama, must pay $500,000 for allegedly violating the Real Estate Settlement and Practices Act (RESPA), which prohibits kickbacks for referrals of real estate settlement services.

Investigators found that the company’s preprinted form purchase contracts either explicitly directed or suggested that title and closing services be conducted by its affiliate TitleSouth LLC. Additionally, the company did not provide consumers with an Affiliated Business Arrangement disclosure clearly stating their right to shop around for a better price.

The CFPB found that this practice illegally benefited TitleSouth, which is owned by the same holding company as RealtySouth.

“Disclosures give consumers the power to make informed financial decisions, and buying a house is among the biggest financial decisions most people ever make,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray says in a new release.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau takes action against RealtySouth for mortgage disclosure violations [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau]

Boston Airport Officials: Plane Engulfed In Flames Was Just Another Training Exercise

Wed, 2014-05-28 20:00


(Instagram: chefaz)

The sight of a plane engulfed in flames on the runway of a major international airport would cause anyone to have a bit of a fright, which is why Logan Airport officials have been busy today explaining to worried social media users that the smoky scene was just part of a training exercise… again.

Images of the fiery plane taken by the Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern circulated on Twitter this morning, reports, but it was just a Massport training exercise.

The Massachusetts Port Authority confirmed that it conducted a training exercise at the airport this morning, explaining that the plane wasn’t actually on the tarmac at the time, though it was visible to witnesses from where it was sitting.

“The fire is not on the tarmac it’s on the airfield. This is something we do 3-4 times a week for training. It’s really not such a big deal,” a spokesmn said.

It’s the second such exercise to spook onlookers in the last few months at the airport, following another smoking fire drill incident on Sept. 11, 2013 that was called “just dumb” by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

Plane Engulfed in Flames at Logan Airport Turns Out to be Another Training Exercise []

Federal Appeals Court Tells Porn Copyright Trolls To Just Stop It Already

Wed, 2014-05-28 19:58

(Great Beyond)

(Great Beyond)

While you may — and probably do — hate your cable and Internet provider, a number of these companies have been doing one thing right over the last few years, by refusing to hand over user information to copyright troll lawyers looking to extort money out of people for allegedly sharing porn over the Internet. Yesterday, a federal appeals court handed down a ruling that could send a number of these trolls back under the bridges whence they came.

The case at hand goes back several years and involves more than 1,000 users for whom the copyright trolls have IP addresses but no names or physical addresses. The porn lawyers want that info so they can contact these customers and say “Your IP address is associated with a BitTorrented copy of [fill in the blank with the title of a porn movie you wouldn't want your grandmother to know you watched]. Pay us [exorbitant amount of money] or we will sue. Your love of things porny will be a matter of public record and your grandmother will have a coronary when she hears you downloaded [porn whose title is so embarrassing you probably wouldn't even tell your close friends you watched it].”

A number of ISPs have fought subpoenas from porn lawyers out to connect the dots between IP addresses and real identities, and some have been successful in shutting the trolls down. In 2012, Comcast referred to the trolls as shake down artists looking to earn a quick buck, and a court subsequently agreed.

However, that same year, a different judge — who was reportedly a former lobbyist for the RIAA, so you know he’s probably not too keen on piracy — actually sided with the trolls and ordered the ISPs, including Cox, Comcast, Bright House, AT&T, and Verizon, to turn over the requested info, potentially setting a precedent that would allow porn trolls to sue thousands of completely unrelated consumers in one “John Doe” action.

The ISPs appealed, hoping to stop this suit and preempt other mass John Doe suits from being filed in the future.

And yesterday, a D.C.-based federal appeals court ruled [PDF] that the troll had demonstrated no direct links between the 1,058 Doe defendants other than they each had at some point over the course of an extended period of time allegedly shared the same file over BitTorrent.

“AF Holdings [the plaintiff, a company with ties to noted porn troll Prenda Law] has provided no reason to think that the Doe defendants it named in this lawsuit were ever participating in the same swarm at the same time,” reads the ruling. “Instead, it has simply set forth snapshots of a precise moment in which each of these 1,058 Does allegedly shared the copyrighted work — snapshots that span a period of nearly five months.”

The court said that two individuals who downloaded the same file five months apart are “exceedingly unlikely to have had any interaction with one another whatsoever,” and that “Their only relationship is that they used the same protocol to access the same work.”

An analogy was made to two individuals who play at the same blackjack table at different times.

“They may have won the same amount of money, employed the same strategy, and perhaps even played with the same dealer, but they have still engaged in entirely separate transactions,” writes the court, which vacated the lower court’s order.

The court also wasn’t convinced that AF Holdings had any intent to actually pursue legal actions against each of the individuals for which it sought account information.

“We think it quite obvious that AF Holdings could not possibly have had a good faith belief that it could successfully sue the overwhelming majority of the 1,058 John Doe defendants in this district,” explains the court. “In seeking such information, AF Holdings clearly abused the discovery process.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of several groups to support the ISPs in their fight against the trolls, called yesterday’s ruling a “crushing blow” for copyright trolls.

“This decision is a crucial victory,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry in a statement. “We are thrilled that a higher court has recognized that it is unfair to sue thousands of people at once, in a court far from home, based on nothing more than an allegation that they joined a BitTorrent swarm.”

[via TorrentFreak]

Here’s What You Should And Shouldn’t Buy In June

Wed, 2014-05-28 19:49

(Erica Smith)

(Erica Smith)

Every store and every industry has its own cycle of sales, and by timing your purchases just right, you can take advantage of them. There are two different things to keep track of: the ways that sales cycle every year, and also current trends in retail.

Here’s what our friends over at DealNews say that you should consider buying, but only if you’re in the market:

DealNews reports that they’ve seen fab deals on underthings at mall stores like Frederick’s of Hollywood and Maidenform, and June is also the time of year when Victoria’s Secret has its annual sale.

Touchscreen Laptops
Deals on these are a little early for back-to-school season, but deal-spotters have found some great ones if you’re in the market for a new computer.

Tropical Vacations
Cruises and travel packages to the Caribbean start to get a lot cheaper once hurricane season kicks off, because you do run the risk of having your vacation canceled out from under you due to crappy weather. Get some solid travel insurance, though.

Here’s what the deal-watchers at DealNews say you shouldn’t buy just yet:

If you really want a new grill but also want maximum savings, try to scrape a few more weeks out of your old one: the best sales on these will be during and after Fourth of July sales.

Trips to Disney World
The cheapest hotel stays close to the various attractions around Orlando are in August: the weather might be hot, but the deals are great.

Apple products
Computers are due for their pre-back to school season refresh, so hold off on buying any new computers if MacBooks or iMacs are your thing.

The Best and Worst Things to Buy in June [DealNews]

Michigan Woman Files Lawsuit Against Plant Linked To E.coli Contamination

Wed, 2014-05-28 19:11

(Kim Moynes)

(Kim Moynes)

A massive ground beef recall earlier this month has been linked to 11 illnesses in four states, and now one lawsuit against the packing plant where the possible E.coli contamination occurred.

A Kalamazoo, MI, college student filed suit [PDF] against Wolverine Packing Co. seeking $25,000 in damages after being hospitalized with an E.coli infection linked to the recent recall of 1.8 million pounds of ground beef, reports.

On May 19, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Safety Inspection Service announced the recall of meat packaged at the Detroit plant and shipped for restaurant use in Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. Inspectors found a link between the ground beef products and an illness cluster. It was determined that the meat may be contaminated with E.coli O157:H7, a potentially deadly bacteria.

According to the complaint, the woman allegedly became sick after eating beef meals at two restaurants in late April.

The woman reports that she felt ill upon waking on April 23. After her symptoms became progressively worse she was rushed to the emergency room and eventually diagnosed as suffering from an E.coli O157:H7 infection.

She was admitted to the hospital for six days and treated for pain, dehydration and anemia as a result of blood loss from the illness.

While the woman was released and returned to her home, she claims to still suffer from on-going after effects of the illness such as general weakness and gastrointestinal discomfort, the complaint states.

The full list [PDF] of recalled products include the establishment number “EST. 2574B” and the production code “Packing Nos: MM DD 14″ between “03 31 14″ and “04 18 14″.

Michigan Woman Sues Beef Packing Firm Over E. coli []

Texas Bar Apologizes For Handwritten Sign With Domestic Beer/Violence “Joke”

Wed, 2014-05-28 19:00

domviolencebadHere is an example of a joke: Why can’t you trust atoms? Because they make up everything. Here is an example of not a joke: Anything making light of serious crimes that can hurt and kill people, including a sign linking domestic beer to domestic violence that caused a furor after a patron at a Texas bar spotted it and posted it online.

The Plano, Texas bar featured a handwritten “joke” on a blackboard that read: “I like my beer like I like my violence. Domestic.” With a heart after that, because what? Sigh.

One woman tells WFAA-TV that she couldn’t believe what she was reading on the chalkboard, and snapped a photo of it.

“How does someone think it’s OK to put something like that up there?” she asked.

She says she asked the female bartender who had apparently written the sign to erase it, as well as two managers, and no one would take it down. So she went home and posted the details of her visit with the photo on Facebook — and it seems the bar is now paying attention.

A regional manager told the news station that the message was erased, and the manager on duty that day was indefinitely suspended without pay. The bar’s owners say it will now use a new system to make sure any sign that’s posted is approved first. In an attempt to make up for any offense, the business will also donate to a local women’s shelter in Plano.

The bar also posted the below message on its Facebook page to apologize, writing:

“It has come to our attention that one of our female employees wrote something offensive without owner’s approval. Domestic violence is something our family unfortunately has overcome in the past, therefore this subject is one we don’t take lightly. We are currently investigating the situation and proper actions will be taken immediately. We thank you for your patience and again want to ensure this is not our stance.”

The customer who snapped the pic says the donation and pledge to work with the women’s shelter is the step in the right direction. And for critics who think she overreacted to the “joke,” she says she did it for survivors of domestic violence.

“I want to give them a voice,” she said. “It can be a really powerful thing for change.”

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Sign ‘joking’ about domestic violence sparks outrage at Plano bar [WFAA-TV]

Watch Woman Eat 9 Lbs Of Steak In 15 Minutes, Because What Else Do You Have To Do Today?

Wed, 2014-05-28 18:36

The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo is famous for its 72-oz steak dinner deal, where the entire thing is free — if you eat it all (including the shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad and roll) within an hour. That challenge was nothing for a woman from Nebraska who not only scarfed down two of these meals, but did so in fewer than 15 minutes.

You can watch the carnage in the above video as the competitive eater — who recently shattered a wing-eating record at the notorious, debaucherous Wing Bowl here in Philadelphia — finishes off her first steak dinner in 4:58, followed by a second meal at the leisurely pace of 9:59.

The previous record for eating a single 72-oz meal at the Big Texan had been 8:52.

“We witnessed history,” the restaurant’s co-owner tells the Amarillo Globe-News. “If there’s a zombie apocalypse, I want to stay away from this girl.”

Given that there was still more than 45 minutes remaining on her original clock to eat the single meal, the champ says she intends to come back to see if she can devour three steak dinners before exploding like Mr. Creosote from The Meaning of Life.

Amazon’s Stupid Shipping Gang Makes Sure Coffee Filters Arrive Safely

Wed, 2014-05-28 18:14

Reader Laura (no relation) received a big, sturdy Amazon box at work. “The kind large enough to hold six to eight regular reams of 8×11 paper,” she wrote to Consumerist. “20 inches in length and a good foot wide and deep.” This box must hold a large amount of office supplies, right? Not so much.

Here is the box that arrived at Laura’s office.


What is that small, well-protected item over on the left half of this box?

There was an essential office supply in the box, but not one heavy enough to justify the big box or the air cushions that filled up most of the space inside.


“Inside was one–count ‘em one–3-inch box of [Melitta] Coffee filters,” Laura wrote. “(and a whole lot of airbladders.) You’re Welcome, Environment.”

Yes, coffee filters. It’s nice to know that they arrived safely, and that any more fragile item would have been well-protected, but this was a bit of overkill.