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The Consumerist

Budweiser Mocks Craft Beer Snobs, Sells Craft Beers

Tue, 2015-02-03 00:41

macroIt’s fine if a company wants to mock the people who refuse to buy its products in an ad, including an ad aired during the Super Bowl. That was the point of a Budweiser commercial mocking the entire culture of beer snobbery…while Budweiser’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, owns brands that either are or imitate craft beer brands and trends, brewing some of them in the same facilities that make Budweiser.

Missed the Super Bowl, or missed this particular ad because you were in the kitchen grabbing another Goose Island 312? Here it is. Oh, and that Chicago-branded craft beer came from a Budweiser macro-brewery in Baldwinsville, NY.

The ad’s message is clear: some people like to sip and fuss over beers, and some people just like to drink ‘em. Craft beer fans found this insulting, and maybe that was the point. That’s a nice bit of brand differentiation, but Budweiser can’t be surprised that people are calling them out on their hypocrisy, because the company has noticed how the industry is changing in the United States, and is acquiring the craft brewery competition.

That means at the same time they mock pumpkin peach ales, AB InBev just signed a deal to by Elysian Brewing Co. in Washington state. Which used to make a pumpkin peach ale.

pumpkinpeach

It’s a strange ad, trying to set up a social class and generational war among beer drinkers at the same time that the brand’s corporate parent has been planning for the future by acquiring successful breweries and creating its own brands, like Shock Top and Angry Orchard hard cider.

I kept waiting for the next tagline to be, “It’ll get you drunk!” as in the classic “Samuel L. Jackson beer” sketch on Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show. (That video is not remotely safe for work, or for sensitive ears. Click with caution.)

Bud mocks craft beer. But it owns microbrews! [CNN] (Warning: auto-play video)

New Lands’ End CEO Sees Company As A ‘Global Lifestyle Brand’

Tue, 2015-02-03 00:01

(Karen Chappell)

(Karen Chappell)

When you think of “Lands’ End,” you probably don’t think “high fashion.” Yet the brand has hired Federica Marchionni, the president of Dolce & Gabbana USA, to be the company’s new CEO. Will Marchionni be able to turn Lands’ End into a global luxury brand and help it find a more profitable identity after breaking off its 13-year relationship with Sears?

Sears purchased Lands’ End in 2001, before the department store merged with Kmart to create Sears Holdings. While it seemed like a nice idea that a famous mail-order brand could set up mini-stores in Sears locations and perhaps draw Lands’ End customers in to try things on and return or exchange items. Sears spun the brand out as a separate company last year, and it still lacks an identity in its post-Sears era.

It’s difficult for the company to find its own identity when its offline presence is still inside Sears stores, just as it was when the companies were still together. Yes, officially the new company rents that space, and they announced vague plans to leave the Sears nest at the time of the spinoff, but that would be an important first step.

Marchionni has a background in selling pricey items to wealthy people: after working for major electronics companies, she took executive jobs at Ferrari and Dolce & Gabbana. Her goal with Lands’ End is to take the company’s heritage as a “classic American brand” and transform it into a “global lifestyle brand.”

New Lands’ End CEO comes from Dolce & Gabbana [CNN]

RadioShack Employee Accused Of Stealing Racy Photos From Woman’s Phone

Mon, 2015-02-02 23:01
(Mike Mozart)

(Mike Mozart)

Recently when we’ve talked about stolen photos it’s been related to a massive data hack. But for a San Francisco woman, the invasion of privacy came at a much smaller, more personal level when several of her intimate photos were allegedly stolen by a local RadioShack employee, who now faces felony charges and a civil lawsuit.

The San Jose Mercury New reports that a 24-year-old man was scheduled to be arraigned Monday after being charged with allegedly stealing racy personal photos off a customer’s cellphone.

Local police say the 28-year-old woman brought her phone to a local RadioShack store in November to have the broken glass repaired.

The woman didn’t notice anything was amiss until earlier this month when she began deleting photos from her tablet, which is connected to her cellphone through iCloud. At that time, she realized that 17 of her photos had been texted to an unfamiliar phone number.

According to the civil lawsuit against the man and RadioShack, the photographs in question were of a private and sensitive nature and depicted the woman wearing little or no clothing.

Upon realizing her photos had been compromised the woman contacted local authorities, who identified the employee who handled the woman’s phone repair.

“He basically admitted to stealing these photographs and sending them to himself,” authorities tell the Mercury News.

The man was subsequently charged with stealing computer data and a related misdemeanor. He is no longer employed at RadioShack.

RadioShack did not return the Mercury New’s request for comment regarding the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages on allegations of privacy intrusion and negligence.

Ex-worker at Marin Radio Shack accused of stealing spicy photos from woman’s cellphone [San Jose Mercury News]

Sex Toy Retailers Stocking Up To Prepare For ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Valentine’s Day Premiere

Mon, 2015-02-02 23:01

(m01229)

(m01229)

If there’s one industry that’s been missing out on marketing opportunities linked to big budget feature films, it’s got to be the sex toy industry. Because before Christian Grey and his room full of educational tools got everyone’s moms and aunts texting things we’d rather not read, there really wasn’t an opportune time to peddle promotional Kegel balls.

That time is now: With the Valentine’s Day premiere of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie looming, effectively mainstreaming sex toys on the big screen, the New York Times reports that retailers are stocking up on the whips, blindfolds, handcuffs, masks and other sexual sundries.

The idea being, if the movie does as well as the industry hopes it does, that could send sex toy seekers who like what they see on screen flocking to stores.

Some manufacturers have even changed up packaging and products to go along with the tone and theme of the film, although there’s only one company with the rights to sell official Fifty Shades of Grey adult products, a company called Loverboy that’s selling its products in Target and elsewhere.

Speaking of Target, you may recall that the giant chain recently started shilling official Fifty Shades of Grey products like a “vibrating love ring.” It does not go on your finger, and should not be displayed next to kids’ toothbrushes.

When the first book in the series came out in 2011, retailers say they weren’t prepared for the onslaught of shoppers. The bondage tome sparked a 7.5% jump in sales of sex toys, videos and books in 2013. This time, they’ll be ready.

“It is the biggest moment for our industry in popular culture pretty much ever,” Claire Cavanah, a co-founder of Babeland, an adult novelty retailer, told the NYT. “We’re all sort of preparing for what could be another wave of toys.”

Sex Toy Shops Prepare for Tie-Ins to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ [New York Times]

RadioShack Negotiating To Close Half Of Its Stores, Sell The Rest To Sprint

Mon, 2015-02-02 22:03

(cmorran123)

(cmorran123)

Is it possible for RadioShack to survive? Experts believe that the 94-year-old company is going to declare bankruptcy in the coming weeks, but what are its plans after that? One report from inside the pre-bankruptcy negotiations is that the retailer plans to sell about half of its store leases to Sprint, turning them into Sprint stores, and shut down the rest.

Yes, that would mean that RadioShack as a retail brand would die, being replaced with two things we probably don’t need: more mobile phone stores and empty storefronts. There are currently about 4,300 Radio Shack stores. The store has been stuck in an odd position until now, with investors preventing it from closing stores to save money.

Shutting down the brand entirely isn’t the only option: it’s possible that the entire Sprint deal could fall apart, or that another company could swoop in and buy RadioShack. Another possibility that’s being discussed is co-branding the stores as RadioShack and Sprint: perhaps keeping some non-phone electronics and selling only Sprint phones, for example.

RadioShack in Talks to Sell Half Its Stores to Sprint, Shutter the Rest [Bloomberg News]

Starbucks, Match.com Team Up To Create Awkward Blind Dates

Mon, 2015-02-02 22:01

(Ko Fujimura)

(Ko Fujimura)

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, love is in the air. Well, it is for Match.com and Starbucks, anyway. The two companies are sharing a meet-cute like no other by teaming up to make it easier for consumers to meet their perfect someone.

The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that Starbucks has made a deal with Match.com to create a “Meet at Starbucks” feature available on the dating site.

The deal between the two companies takes advantage of Match.com’s finding that one out of three first dates takes place at a coffee shop.

Match members can use the new feature to send a message to someone they might like and find a convenient location for their first coffee date using the Starbucks store locator.

In addition to the new feature, Starbucks announced it will host the “World’s Largest Starbucks Date” at select locations in the U.S. and Canada from 2 p.m. to close on February 13.

For the event, Starbucks locations will play romantic music, offer special menu pairings and provide photo props couples can use to photograph their “Starbucks date.”

“There’s no better time to celebrate meaningful moments of connection, and encourage new ones, than during Valentine’s Day,” Sharon Rothstein, Starbucks global chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

Starbucks revs up its dating, romance and matchmaking efforts [Puget Sound Business Journal]

Unattended Bag That Sparked Bomb Investigation In NYC Bus Station Actually Filled With 1,000 Condoms

Mon, 2015-02-02 21:42

(Port Authority Police

(Port Authority Police

Do you ever get that feeling like you’ve left your bag filled with over a thousand condoms in it somewhere you shouldn’t have? No? Because somehow someone at a bus station in New York City managed to wander off and leave a bag fairly brimming with contraception unattended, prompting a bomb investigation.

While one might imagine that managing to lose such a treasure trove is nigh on impossible, authorities with the Port Authority Police say they had to investigate a potential bomb situation when officers on patrol found a silver bag by itself at the George Washington Bridge Bus Station late last week, reports NJ.com.

The building is under extensive renovation, making the bag’s spot behind a barrier-separated lane next to the waiting room a bit suspicious.

After a canine unit arrived to check for explosives and came up empty, officers opened it up to find it held about a thousand individually-packaged male and female condoms of various brands and styles, a police rep explained.

All is not lost, my pleasure-seeking and safe friend! You can still get your love tools back.

“The bag and its contents were vouchered,” the rep added. “Thus far, no owner has come forward.”

Unattended bag of condoms spurs bomb investigation at Port Authority bus station
[NJ.com]

Lab Results Are In: Holiday Breads Were Laced With Synthetic Marijuana

Mon, 2015-02-02 21:28

(Daniel Murguía)

(Daniel Murguía)

The celebration of Three Kings Day is supposed to be fun, not terrifying. Marking the holiday with a cake or sweet bread should not cause dizziness, heart palpitations, and hallucinations among people who are celebrating. Yet that’s what happened to around 40 people who purchased Rosca de Reyes sweet breads from a southern California bakery last month.

You may be familiar with different cultures’ variations on king cakes, which have different ingredients but one thing in common: they conceal a small, non-edible token, and the person who wins that token is king or queen for the day. In the U.S., the holiday is mainly associated with Louisiana, but it’s a tradition in Latin America as well. The bread contains dried fruit and a tiny baby Jesus figurine.

Lab tests performed by the Orange County Register showed that the breads sold in January contained an extra festive ingredient: a synthetic cannabinoid. Specifically, a strain called JWH-122. The lab believes that this contamination isn’t accidental, especially since the substance was found in multiple cakes.

The substance can be sprayed on smokable dried plants: this specific strain is illegal, but the synthetic cannabinoids aren’t hard to find in head shops.

The bakery was closed for much of January for reasons not directly related to the king cake incident. The local health department and police are conducting their own investigations, and haven’t commented publicly on them.

Tests Show Synthetic Drug Contaminated Holiday Bread From CA Bakery [Food Safety News]

McDonald’s Is Selling Tubes Of Big Mac Special Sauce… But Only In Australia

Mon, 2015-02-02 20:56
(Morton Fox)

(Morton Fox)

If you’ve ever wanted to slather McDonald’s Big Mac special sauce on a home-cooked burger but didn’t have the energy or motivation to make your own copycat version, then the idea that company is now selling bottles of the yellow-orange sauce is probably exciting. That is until you find out you can only get it in Australia.

ABC News reports that McDonald’s is selling the sauce directly to consumers for the first time.

“For too long Big Mac Special Sauce has been trapped in a beautiful, delicious burger – now we’ve set it free!” the company announced.

McDonald’s restaurants in Australia began selling the 25-milliliter tubes (about an ounce) today, and will continue to do so until they are sold out.

“Big Mac sauce is one of the most iconic McDonald’s ingredients and people often ask us where they can buy it, so we’re excited to be the first country in the world to offer tubes of Big Mac sauce to our customers,” McDonald’s CMO Australia Mark Lollback says.

McDonald's in Australia is auctioning a 500-ml bottle of Big Mac sauce.

McDonald’s in Australia is auctioning a 500-ml bottle of Big Mac sauce.

If about an ounce of sauce isn’t enough for you, then you might be interested in the limited edition large bottle listed on eBay. The sale of the 500-milliliter bottle is being auctioned to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

“With 500 ml to play with, you’ll have enough to impress your friends at dinner parties, cheat your way to cooking show fame, and get elected as Prime Minister!” the listing boasts.

The bottle has so far garnered 135 bids, the highest being $23,100.

Of course if you don’t want to shell out the big bucks – or don’t live in Australia – you can always make the sauce at home. Back in 2012, the company’s executive chef demonstrated in a YouTube video just how you can make the iconic sauce yourself.

McDonald’s Selling Limited Edition Special Sauce for First Time [ABC News]

Amazon Reportedly Dumping ‘Doctor Who’ & Other BBC Shows From Prime Instant Video On Feb. 15

Mon, 2015-02-02 20:27

(Mike Matney Photography)

(Mike Matney Photography)

Just a few weeks after Netflix subscribers were forced to deal with the potential reality of losing access to some of their favorite BBC shows (a move that Netflix reversed later, sparing titles like Doctor Who and Luther, after all that worry), Amazon Prime customers will be seeing certain titles from across the pond disappear starting Feb. 15.

According to a report by The Verge, the problem of having to share content is too much of an issue for Amazon, which will be pulling Doctor Who and the majority of its BBC programming from Prime Instant Video in a matter of weeks.

The site cites sources familiar with the matter who say that the current licensing deal Amazon has in place with the BBC lets other subscription services carry that same content, which isn’t in line with Amazon’s grand plan. It’s decided instead not to renew the agreement, The Verge says.

This doesn’t come as too much of a surprise when you look at Amazon’s efforts to branch out into its own programming with shows like Transparent while also snapping up content like The Americans and Justified and not allowing any other competitors to stream it.

Sources say the company will be focused on original programming this year and exclusive content deals to keep customers coming back for what only it can provide.

Amazon will reportedly start notifying customers about the upcoming changes and detailing which shows will be getting the boot.

Doctor Who and other BBC shows are vanishing from Prime in Amazon’s fight for exclusivity [The Verge]

FCC Chairman: Commission Should Approve Cities’ Requests To Preempt State Laws That Block Local Broadband

Mon, 2015-02-02 19:48
(Carly Lutzmann)

(Carly Lutzmann)

Chattanooga’s biggest claim to fame, in 2015, might be its super-fast, publicly-owned, gigabit fiber network. The model has been hailed as a triumph of modern technology and infrastructure by the White House and the FCC, but the network has been unable to expand because of a law on the books in Tennessee designed to tamp down public competition to private ISPs. Last year, the city asked the FCC to intervene so they could build out their network — and now, it looks like they’re going to get their wish.

The cities of Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, TN both filed petitions last year asking to be able to expand their existing municipal networks. But 19 states, including North Carolina and Tennessee, have industry-sponsored laws on the books that restrict or prohibit the building or expansion of public broadband networks.

Today, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler released a statement unambiguously giving a thumbs-up to the petitions from both cities, and asking the commission to vote in their favor:

Communities across the nation know that access to robust broadband is the key to their economic future — and the future of their citizens. … They should be able to make their own decisions about building the networks they need to thrive. After looking carefully at petitions by two community broadband providers asking the FCC to pre-empt provisions of state laws preventing expansion of their very successful networks, I recommend approval by the Commission so that these two forward-thinking cities can serve the many citizens clamoring for a better broadband future.

The statement is not a surprising one, but will certainly meet with extreme disapproval and loud noises from the major ISPs and the politicians to whose coffers they contribute. Wheeler has been saying since June that he believes the FCC both can and should pre-empt those state laws when a community chooses to build its own network, especially when it contributes to an environment of increased competition.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration joined the chorus singing the praises of competition, formally opposing restrictive state laws, and calling for the FCC to do something about it.

Wheeler is expected to circulate the proposed order to the other members of the FCC on February 5. The commission will vote on the proceeding as part of their open meeting on February 26. Fed-watchers generally expect the vote to come out on a partisan divide, with commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel joining chairman Wheeler and commissioners O’Rielly and Pai dissenting.

Although the vote would allow Wilson and Chattanooga specifically to build out their own networks in defiance of the North Carolina and Tennessee laws, it would not broadly overturn laws in those or any other states. Each city wishing to build or expand a municipal network would have to go through its own process and file its own petition.

Several members of the Senate have introduced a bill that would outright block states from blocking local broadband projects, which would make further FCC actions unnecessary, but GovTrack gives that about a 2% chance of ever becoming law.

Report: Overdrafting Just A Little Or A Lot Has The Same Negative Consequences For Consumers’ Accounts

Mon, 2015-02-02 19:37
(David Goehring)

(David Goehring)

For most consumers, overdrawing their checking account results in a hefty fee. While it’s safe to argue that consumer who have more overdrafts will pay more in fees, a new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts finds that both high-frequency and low-frequency overdrafters often face the same devastating financial ramifications from banks’ overdraft penalties.

The analysis, called Overdraft Frequency and Payday Borrowing [PDF], takes a deeper look into the 2013 Pew Charitable Trusts survey data to compare the experiences of those who incur more than four debit card overdrafts a year – known as high-frequency overdrafters – and those who paid one to three overdraft penalties – known as low-frequency overdrafters – and their relation to the payday loan industry.

Pew Charitable Trusts found several slight differences between consumers who overdraft frequently and those who only do so a few times a year.

Pew Charitable Trusts found several slight differences between consumers who overdraft frequently and those who only do so a few times a year.

While high-frequency overdrafters were found to have paid an average of $95 in total fees for their last negative balance – nearly twice the $51 low-frequency overdrafters paid – both groups face similar issues when it comes to banking.

For example, the analysis found that one-quarter of low-frequency and one-third of high frequency overdrafters have had to close a checking account in response to overdraft fees.

Nearly 67% of low-frequency overdrafters and 59% of high frequency overdrafters incurred overdrafts with a transaction of $50 or less.

Additionally, nearly two-in-10 (19%) low-frequency overdrafters and three-in-10 (32%) high-frequency overdrafters paid an extended overdraft fee because they did not pay back the overdraft and the fee within the required number of days.

The report looks at the likelihood that payday loan borrowers will overdraft.

The report looks at the likelihood that payday loan borrowers will overdraft.

When it comes to a relationship with payday loans, Pew found that overdrafters are more likely to have taken out the small-dollar, high-interest loans.

In fact, the report found that consumers who take out payday loans are 144% more likely to overdraw their account than payday non-borrowers.

About 12% of low-frequency overdrafters and 9% of high-frequency overdrafters have taken out payday loans, compared to the 6% and 4%, respectively, of the general population.

While Pew researchers say they can’t determine a causal relationship between payday borrowing and overdraft, it is clear that the two products are often used by the same customers.

“Having a payday loan does not eliminate the risk of checking account overdraft and in fact is often the cause of an overdraft, so that borrowers end up paying for both the loan and the overdraft,” the report states.

The findings in the new analysis lead Pew to conclude that “rules that limit the harm of overdraft need to apply to all consumers and not just those who incur the most fees.”

The group goes on to urge the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to write broad rules to ensure that checking accounts are safe and transparent products for all consumers by limiting overdraft fees and prohibiting bank practices that increase them.

Overdraft Frequency and Payday Borrowing [The Pew Charitable Trusts]

Airlines Cancel More Than 5,400 Flights As Winter Storms Pummel U.S. Airports

Mon, 2015-02-02 19:18

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

Because Mondays just aren’t bad enough, it seems Mother Nature is having a bit of a giggle after forcing the second work week in a row with nasty winter storms, snarling traffic at airports from Chicago to the East Coast and prompting more than 5,400 flight cancellations since Sunday.

While snow and sleet and other nasty weather conditions pummel cities like Chicago, Boston, Detroit and New York, travelers trying to escape Phoenix after the Super Bowl could find themselves stranded until conditions improve, reports USA Today. That city is having issues with fog, slowing flights out of the airport last night.

The worst airport right now is Chicago’s O’Hare, with almost 800 cancellations as of this morning, according to FlightAware. That’s after yesterday saw 1,400 flights canceled at the airport.

Half of Boston’s flights have been canceled today at Logan International, and about a third of those at New York LaGuardia.

Again, it’s not just those travelers flying into or out of those cities — the effects can ripple out to airports all around the country as planes serving different cities might not be able to get to those without nasty weather.

The best advice we can give is to put your patient hats on and stay in contact with your airline for updates before you head to the airport.

Airlines ground 5,400 flights as new work week begins [USA Today]

Report: CFPB To Release Rules Governing Payday Loan Industry Soon

Mon, 2015-02-02 18:41
(Observe The Banana)

(Observe The Banana)

Last March, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it was in the “late stages” of crafting rules to rein in the often predatory payday lending industry. Nearly a year, later the agency is reportedly on the cusp of announcing said rules.

The Associated Press reports that the Bureau is ready to put its metaphorical foot down on the $46 billion industry after receiving continuous reports of consumer complaints and loopholes in state laws.

The full rules, which are expected to be announced early this year, will mark the first time the Bureau has used its authority to regulate the industry as a whole.

“Our research has found that what is supposed to be a short-term emergency loan can turn into a long-term and expensive debt trap,” David Silberman, the bureau’s associate director for research, markets and regulation, tells the AP.

Last year, the Bureau released a report that found four out of five payday loans are made to consumer already caught in the debt trap; meaning their payday loans are rolled over or renewed every 14 days.

The CFPB found that by renewing or rolling over loans the average monthly borrower is likely to stay in debt for 11 months or longer. More than 80% of payday loans are rolled over or renewed within two weeks regardless of state restrictions.

While the CFPB isn’t allowed under law to cap interest rates, it can deem practices used by the industry to be unfair, deceptive and abusive.

According to the AP, the agency is considering rules that could establish tighter restrictions to ensure consumer have the ability to repay the often debt-cycle enduring loans.

Other rules could require payday lenders would be required to perform credit checks, placing caps on the number of times a borrower can draw credit and finding ways to encourage states or lenders to lower rates.

Over the last year, the CFPB has taken action against individual lenders for a variety of infractions such as deceptive advertising and harassing borrowers.

Last July, the Bureau ordered ACE Express to pay $10 million for allegedly pushing borrowers into the cycle of debt.

Before that, in March 2013, the CFPB announced it was investigating World Acceptance Corp. (aka World Finance), one of the nation’s largest high-interest installment lenders.

Feds working on new payday loan rules [The Associated Press]

S’Mores Could Be Oreo’s Next Exotic Flavor

Mon, 2015-02-02 18:24
Michael De Souza

Michael De Souza

Ready for another exotic Oreo flavor? It’s possible that the world was never really ready for watermelon or Oreo-flavored Oreos, and that didn’t stop Nabisco from inflicting them on the world. We are intrigued with this image of a S’More Oreo cookie, featuring two-colored chocolate and marshmallow “creme” sandwiched between graham-flavored cookies.

Thematically, S’Mores sound like they should be a summer cookie, since most people associate the treat with summer campfires, Suddenly S’Mores notwithstanding.

Images of Red Velvet Oreos leaked online months in advance of their Valentine’s Day 2015 launch, though, so that timeline would line up nicely.

S’mores is the nonsense name given to a snack sandwich consisting of chocolate pieces, graham crackers, and a roasted marshmallow. It’s a special combination of flavors that is difficult to get right without actually setting the marshmallow on fire.

Yeah, I’ll probably buy a packet anyway. We don’t have a release date or confirmation from Nabisco or parent company Mondelez on this, but this pckage sure looks a lot more plausible than past hoax flavors.

COMING SOON: Limited Edition S’mores Oreo Cookies [The Impulsive Buy]

CDC: Many Packaged Toddler Foods Contain Too Much Salt, Sugar

Mon, 2015-02-02 18:23

(cavale)

(cavale)

While the ease of pre-packaged meals for the wee set is surely tempting, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says parents should be aware that many contain worrisome amounts of salt and sugar.

Eating too much of these kinds of foods could start a chain reaction that could contribute to other health risks, the government says in the study published today in the journal Pediatrics, via the Associated Press. The study points out that almost one in four U.S. children between ages 2 and 5 are overweight or obese, with about 80% of 1- to 3-year-olds eating more than the recommended maximum level of daily salt.

“We also know that about one in nine children have blood pressure above the normal range for their age, and that sodium, excess sodium, is related to increased blood pressure,” said the CDC’s Mary Cogswell, the study’s lead author. “Blood pressure tracks from when children are young up through adolescence into when they’re adults. Eating foods which are high in sodium can set a child up for high blood pressure and later on for cardiovascular disease.”

Looking at more than 1,000 foods marketed for infants and toddlers, researchers found that about seven in 10 toddler dinners had too much salt and most breakfast items and snacks for infants and toddlers contained extra sugars.

As such, the study advises parents to make sure they’re reading food labels and trying to make healthy choices,

No brand names were listed in the results, but researchers included popular brands of baby food, toddler dinners including packaged macaroni and cheese, mini hot dogs, rice cakes, crackers, dried fruit snacks and yogurt treats in the study.

The critics have already chimed in, with the Grocery Manufacturers of America, a trade group whose members include makers of foods for infants and toddlers, issuing a statement that the study “does not accurately reflect the wide range of healthy choices available in today’s marketplace … because it is based on 2012 data that does not reflect new products with reduced sodium levels.”

As such, the study “could needlessly alarm and confuse busy parents as they strive to develop suitable meal options that their children will enjoy.”

Researchers say this is the most recent, comprehensive data on commercial foods for young kids, while noting that there have been some healthy inroads made recently.

“The good news is that the majority of infant foods were low in sodium,” Cogswell said, but that it was suprising that “seven out of 10 toddler foods were high in the amount of sodium per serving and that a substantial proportion of toddler meals and the majority of other toddler foods and infant’s and toddler’s snacks contained an added sugar.”

So what should toddlers be eating? Foods shouldn’t have more than 210 milligrams of salt or sodium per serving, according to the Institute of Medicine recommendations, but the average for toddler meals in the study was 361 milligrams.

Too much sugar is defined as more than 35% of calories per portion coming from the sweet stuff, based on the Institute of Medicine’s guidelines for school food. Many foods in the study were over that, with sugar providing an average of 47% of calories for infant mixed grains and fruit; 66 percent of calories in dried fruit snacks, and more than 35 percent of calories in dairy-based desserts.

“It’s just additional calories that aren’t needed,” Cogswell said.

Toddler food often has too much salt, sugar, CDC study [Associated Press]

The 10-Year-Old Girl Inside All Of Us Is Weeping At Demise Of Bonne Bell’s Lip Smacker

Mon, 2015-02-02 17:30

(Lip Smackers)

(Lip Smackers)

There are few things that scream mid-90s pre-teen more than the sugary taste of Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker lip gloss. Future generations may not have the chance to experience the rush of shiny sweetness as iconic youth cosmetic brand Bonne Bell is closing up shop and selling itself to a California company.

The Plain Dealer reports that Bonne Bell Co. is closing all manufacturing and distribution operations at a facility in Ohio after the company sold a significant portion of its business.

While the death of Bonne Bell no doubt makes the 10-year-old in all of us weep, the company isn’t exactly going away forever.

Aspire Brands, which owns the youth-based brands, has entered into an agreement in which California-based Markwins International – the owner of brands Wet ‘n Wild and Physicians Formula – will acquire the Bonne Bell and Lip Smacker brands.

It’s unclear just what Markwins plans to do with the celebrated Bonne Bell brands, but officials with the shuttering company appear to have high hopes.

“Markwins has a proven track record of creating excitement and bringing innovation to the cosmetic category,” Jess “Buddy” Bell, Jr., founder of Aspire Brands says in a statement. “They will bring the same excitement and innovation to the Lip Smacker and Bonne Bell brands. I am excited about the future of the Lip Smacker and Bonne Bell brands under Markwins ownership.”

For the sake of our future children and theirs, here’s to hoping that we’ll continue to see flavors like Red Raspberry, Candy Cane, Strawberry, Root Beer Float, Birthday Cake, and Dr. Pepper gracing the cosmetic shelves of the local drug store for years to come.

The Bonne Bell Co. is closing and employees will be laid off [The Plain Dealer]

Hotel Rates Predicted To Go Up Again This Year After A Pricy 2014

Mon, 2015-02-02 17:10

(Bill Binns)

(Bill Binns)

That sting you felt in your wallet after staying at a hotel wasn’t a phantom pain: Room rates at hotels in the United States were at their highest level in 2014, with experts predicting that the price surge isn’t going to settle down this year.

Hotel rates were up 4.6% to $115 on average in 2014, according to a new report by hospitality research firm STR Inc. (via the Chicago Tribune). And hotels are raking it in because of it, with the average revenue collected by hotels per room jumped 8.3% to a high of $74.

Despite the prices, we’re still willing to get a room at the inn, with average occupancy rising 3.6% to 64.4%.

The priciest place to stay was — no shocker, here — New York City, where guests shelled out an average of $263 per night. San Francisco and Miami came next at $207 and $185 per night, respectively.

The fun doesn’t stop there, folks — while you’re down, hotels figure they might as well kick you, as industry experts say they expect hotels to add some more extra fees and surcharges. And we’ll have to just deal with it, because hotels can always find someone else willing to pay.

“Hotels have pricing power now and they will exercise that,” said Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management.

And start saving those pennies for vacation: By the end of this year, industry analysts say we’ll be facing a 5.2% increase on room rates.

Hotel rates reach new record; more guest fees to come [Chicago Tribune]

GM Compensation Fund: Approved Death, Injury Claims Likely To Rise Following Onslaught Of New Submissions

Mon, 2015-02-02 16:53

(Louis Abate)

(Louis Abate)

Although the deadline for submissions to the General Motors ignition switch victims’ compensation fund has come and gone, officials with the program say the number of approved death and injury claims will likely rise for several more months.

Reuters reports that the number of deaths deemed eligible for composition under the fund increased by one to 51 from last week, while the number of approved injury claims increased by two to a total of 77.

Camille Biros, deputy administrator for the fund, tells Reuters that the number of approved claims will “absolutely” rise as claims are processed in the coming weeks.

As of Sunday, the fund had received 4,180 claims, up from the 3,068 that had been received by January 32.

Additionally, Biros anticipates the number of received claims to rise, as the program will accept any submissions that have a time stamp before the January 31 deadline, but have not yet been received by the fund.

Biros says the fund will likely be processing claims until the end of spring.

Officials with GM previously said they expect to spend $400 million on claims, but that the figure could rise as high as $600 million.

The claimants are not obligated to accept the compensation, but if they do take the money they give up their rights to pursue legal action against GM with regard to the ignition defect.

The compensation program covers approximately 1.6 million model-year 2003-2007 recalled vehicles manufactured with an ignition switch defect and approximately 1 million model year 2008-2011 recalled vehicles that may have been repaired with a recalled ignition switch.

Deaths linked to defective GM switch expected to rise-fund official [Reuters]

Sam’s Club Put Money-Back Guarantee On Booze Labels, Wouldn’t Honor It

Mon, 2015-02-02 16:49

(Ryan)

(Ryan)

When a product says “Money-Back Guarantee” on the label, it’s not out of line to assume that you’ll get your money back if you don’t like it, right? That’s what one Sam’s Club customer thought when he bought some seriously subpar house-brand vodka at the liquor store at his local Sam’s Club. The problem: the store, corporate, and the distillery disagreed about who should honor that guarantee.

The vodka was Member’s Mark brand, the brand for generic products at Sam’s Club stores. You would think that before putting a money-back satisfaction guarantee on the label, the company would figure out who’s responsible for honoring it. Apparently, no one has ever complained about this vodka, which is difficult to believe. The customer, who eventually contacted CBS Sacramento’s Kurtis Ming, said that he found the drink “sour” and flavorless, which is a bad combination.

He brought it back to the store, which is how such a guarantee from a store brand should work. Sam’s Club employees told him that it’s illegal to accept returns of alcoholic beverages. (It isn’t.) The store sent him to corporate, and company representatives said that they would put him in touch with the distillery. They didn’t.

It took contacting the local CBS affiliate to force Sam’s Club to actually do anything about the subpar bottle. They accepted it back and gave the customer an extra $25 gift card, which was very nice.

He took his refund over to Costco’s liquor store to buy some vodka from their house brand, Kirkland.

Call Kurtis: Sam’s Club Wouldn’t Stand By Vodka Money-Back Guarantee [CBS Sacramento]

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