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The Consumerist

Bud Vs. Microbew: A GIF Lesson On How Your Beer Is Made

Mon, 2014-07-07 17:48

(St. Louis Public Radio)

(St. Louis Public Radio)

Learning anything is much more fun when it comes with illustrations and animation, though when the lesson is about beer, you’re likely going to pay attention all on your own. Don’t know the difference between how a microbrew is made versus how the big companies like Anheuser-Busch do it? Me either, really, but these GIFs can explain. [via St. Louis Public Radio]

Guy Shown Sleeping On ESPN Broadcast During Yankees-Red Sox Game Sues For Defamation

Mon, 2014-07-07 17:30

(@EddieSzymanski on Twitter)

(@EddieSzymanski on Twitter)

While yes, sporting events are the most important, serious endeavor and should be approached only with the utmost in respect and deepest reverence, sometimes things happen. Sometimes you need a nap, even during a game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. But one fan says the Yankees, ESPN, its announcers and a Major League Baseball organization defamed him by broadcasting his snooze on-air, allegedly calling him “fatty, unintelligent” and “stupid.”

The man is suing Major League Baseball Advanced Media, ESPN New York, the New York Yankees, and ESPN announcers Dan Shulman and John Kruk, in Bronx County Supreme Court, reports Courthouse News. He’s seeking $10 million in damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Here’s how it went down: During the April 13 game between the teams at Yankee Stadium, the guy dozed off. That simple action “opened [an] unending verbal crusade against the napping plaintiff,” the complaint states.

With the cameras pointed on him, the announcers allegedly said things about him including “but not limited to ‘stupor, fatty, unintelligent, stupid’ knowing and intending the same to be heard and listened to by millions of people all over the world …”

Not only that, but he claims MLB then kept it up on its site the next day, the complaint says, all because he had a nap attack, which could totally happen to anyone.

“Nothing triggered all these assertions only that the plaintiff briefly slept off while watching the great game something or circumstance any one can easily found them self,” the complaint states, verbatim.

As a result of the photos, commentary and social media attention, the plaintiff claims he was shown in a false light, that his reputation was damaged and it’s no one’s business if he was napping.

A list of some of the things the complaint says were stated about the napper:
“Plaintiff is unintelligent and stupid individual.
“Plaintiff is not worthy to be fan of the New York Yankee.
“Plaintiff is a fatty cow that need two seats at all time and represent symbol of failure.
“Plaintiff is a confused disgusted and socially bankrupt individual.
“Plaintiff is confused individual that neither understands nor knows anything about history and the meaning of rivalry between Red Sox and New York Yankee.
“Plaintiff is so stupid that he cannot differentiate between his house and public place by snoozing throughout the fourth inning of the Yankee game.”

Snoozing Fan Claims ESPN Defamed Him [Courthouse News]

While Owner Shops At Walmart For 13 Hours, Dog Dies In Her Hot Car

Mon, 2014-07-07 17:23

(Ben Schumin)

(Ben Schumin)

Yet another reminder why you should never, ever leave your pet (or child) inside the car, even with the window cracked, during the hot summer months occurred this weekend in Florida.

A 49-year-old woman was arrested after police officials say her dog died inside a hot car while she shopped at a local Walmart, Fox8 WGHP reports.

The woman was reportedly “browsing” inside the Walmart store for 13 hours (13 hours?!) and forgot the dog was inside her car.

Sadly, the dog had already died when another Walmart shopper found him. Police report there was no food or water left the animal. A window was partially cracked, but that did little to provide relief for the rising temperatures inside the vehicle.

Officials say the dog’s cause of death was heat exhaustion. The woman was charged with one count of misdemeanor cruelty toward animals.

We have no idea what could prompt someone to shop inside a Walmart for 13 hours, but let this tragic story be a reminder to not leave your animals in hot cars even for a few minutes this summer.

Dog dies in hot car while woman shops at Walmart for 13 hours [Fox8 WGHP]

Tesla Investigating Why A Stolen Model S Split In Half After High-Speed Chase, Collision

Mon, 2014-07-07 16:40

(KTLA.com)

(KTLA.com)

It’s not every day that a car splits in half, and it’s definitely not an even carmakers want to have happen. That’s why Tesla is now pledging to fully investigate how a stolen Model S split in half at the end of a high-speed chase and collision with a light pole.

According to police, a Tesla dealership called to report that someone was “tampering or messing” with one of the vehicles early on Friday morning, reports KTLA.com.

Officials arrived on the scene and started going after the alleged thief around 12:45 a.m., chasing the suspect at speeds of up to 100mph.

The chase ended when the Tesla hit two other cars and a lamp post, splitting the Model S in half and starting a battery fire. One half of the car landed on another.

“There were fires after that that broke out,” a witness said. “I saw the firefighters — like 25 firefighters – standing around the white car with the Jaws of Life.”

“We originally thought it was fireworks. Everybody thought it was fireworks that were just exploding,” he added.

Six people were injured on the runway Tesla’s rampage, and four other vehicles were hit by it, police said. Meanwhile, the man in the Tesla was thrown from the car and thought to be dead, but he was resuscitated on the way to the hospital.

Tesla says it wants to investigate and check out the bits and pieces of the Model S, reports the Financial Post.

“We’ve asked to take a look at the vehicle as soon as that’s possible,” a spokesman said. “There aren’t so many S’s involved in major crashes, and certainly not quite like this one, so we absolutely want to have a look to understand what happened.”

LAPD: Stolen Tesla Involved in Police Pursuit Crashes Into Cars, Splits in Half in WeHo; 7 Injured [KTLA.com]
Tesla Motors Inc. to investigate Model S that split in two after high-speed chase and collision [Financial Post]

Food Processor Archer Daniels Buys Wild Flavors For $3 Billion

Mon, 2014-07-07 16:21

(This Year's Love)

(This Year’s Love)

The plethora of oils, syrup, starches and other products from Archer Daniels Midland Company are getting a bit more natural with the company’s acquisition of Wild Flavors GmbH this week.

Decatur, Illinois-based ADM announced Monday that it plans to purchase the natural food ingredient maker for $3 billion, Bloomberg reports.

Kentucky-based Wild Flavors provides flavorings, colors and ingredients for more than 3,000 customers in the food and beverage industry. It also owns the Capri Sun brand, however that is not included in the deal, a spokesperson tells Bloomberg.

The deal represents the largest ever for ADM, which looks to diversify away from grain processing and gain a foothold in overseas markets for foods and drinks.

The move could represent more options for consumers shopping for naturally flavored food products, a popular trend right now. A recent report from Nielsen found that consumers were more likely to purchase products labeled as ““locally sources” or “organically certified.”

In fact, sales of products with sustainable claims on the packaging grew on average 2% between 2013 and 2014. Products that promoted sustainability actions through marketing programs saw sales increase by %5 during the same time frame.

ADM to Acquire Wild Flavors for $3 Billion in Biggest Deal [Bloomberg]

The New York Times Offers Helpful Explanation Of What A Phone Booth Is

Mon, 2014-07-07 15:33

phoneboothsThe time has come, it seems, to sit the children down by the glow of the 55-inch flat screen TV set to the fireplace channel, and tell them all about what that weird looking metal and glass box used to mean to people. Yes, kids, we had to use landline telephones for many years, some inside one of these magical “booths.” The New York Times can explain. [via Jim Romanesko]

Reminder For Travelers: Knives Belong In Checked Baggage, Not Concealed Inside Your Shoe

Mon, 2014-07-07 15:22

(TSA)

(TSA)

Using consumer products for purposes other than their intended function is usually just inconvenient — have you ever tried eating soup with a fork? It’s the worst! — but when you get weapons and the Transportation Security Administration involved, it’ll likely lead to some hefty consequences. Case in point: a knife hidden in a shoe.

A traveler going through security at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport has been arrested, TSA authorities say, after he was allegedly found with a knife stuck inside the bottom lining of one of his shoes.

Which, besides being illegal, sounds darned uncomfortable.

Officials say airport police responded and arrested the man, which is about all the detail the Associated Press is reporting.

At one point the TSA had decided to allow small knives on planes, but that decision was eventually reversed last summer after industry groups representing flight attendants and others complained that it would pose a security risk to allow such weapons on board.

Knife found in shoe at Detroit Metro Airport, authorities say [Associated Press]

Am I Completely Screwed If My Student Loan Co-Signer Dies?

Mon, 2014-07-07 15:00

Imagine this scenario: You’ve been out of college for several years, have a good job and you have no problems making your student loan payments in full and on time. Then tragedy hits; your parent dies or declares bankruptcy. If this loved one was a co-signer on your student loan, this change can trigger an often-overlooked clause that allows the lender to claim you are in default on your loan, potentially wreaking longterm havoc on your credit and finances.

The TL;DR Version:

Many private student loans have “automatic default” clauses that are triggered when a loan’s co-signer dies or declares bankruptcy.
Even if the loan is in good-standing and the borrower is financially stable, the loan can be called in and the default reported to credit bureaus, tainting the borrower’s credit.
Some lenders allow for borrowers to release co-signers after certain requirements have been met, but they don’t make it easy.
If a lender doesn’t have a co-signer release clause, it may allow you to appeal to be the sole name on the loan, but you often have to make this appeal within a limited time window.

With tuition rates outpacing inflation, a growing number of students have had to turn to student loans. Borrowers also increasingly took out private loans to make up difference that federal loans won’t cover. In order to obtain these loans or to minimize the interest rates, many private loans are co-signed by parents or other family members.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose April 2014 report listed auto-defaults as a significant source of complaints from borrowers, nearly 90% of private student loans were co-signed in 2011.

So, how does an option intended to help student borrowers with no or poor credit histories turn into a credit-wrecker?

What The #*&(@ Is An Automatic Default?Image courtesy of bluwmongoose Section Permalink Bookmark Section Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
If you have a private student loan, you may not know that buried deep within the terms of that loan there may be a small but poisonous provision that permits the lender or loan servicer to place a loan in default, or accelerate the full balance of the loan, upon the death or bankruptcy of a co-signer. And it doesn’t matter whether the loan is in good standing or if you are financially stable.

Deanne Loonin, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, tells Consumerist that her organization has been trying to spotlight this hazard to borrowers.

“There’s no standard language required so there are variations on the theme,” explains Loonin, “but that’s where it originates.”

The Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project offers examples of what these kinds of provisions may look like.

How Do Lenders Decide To Default?

They are called “automatic defaults,” but how automated are the systems that determine whether or not your loan is suddenly due?

The 3 Models For Loan Servicing

There are generally three ways in which your private student loan can be owned and serviced:
•1: The lender both owns and services the loan. Such loans tend to offer the most flexibility in terms of automatic defaults.
•2: The lender owns the loan, but a third party services it. Adds another layer of bureaucracy; servicer may be required to follow lender’s rules on auto-defaults.
•3: The loan has been securitized and is now part of a larger pool of loans that has been sold off to investors. The servicer has minimal ability to bend the rules.

Because each lender is different in the way it handles auto-defaults, there is no hard-and-fast answer to that question.

According to the CFPB report, some industry participants rely on third parties that scan public records of death and bankruptcy filings. Those records are then electronically matched to customer records and used to trigger the default. Lenders who rely on this process often do not take into any extenuating circumstances into consideration before hitting the default button.

That isn’t always the case, explains the CFPB’s Rohit Chopra (who previously answered a bunch of Consumerist readers’ student loan questions).

Banks that actually own the loans they service are generally able to exercise more discretion on defaults, explains Chopra. But even that leeway is subject to pooling and servicing agreements, which lay out rules that govern bundled securitized loans and can often be restrictive.

Bad for the Banks

While the auto-default rules are intended to protect lenders from being stiffed by a borrower who can’t repay without a co-signer, Chopra explains that these provisions can lead to outcomes that are not in the best interest of the financial institution or the borrower.

“For many lenders, they might find that it doesn’t make sense to demand a full balance on a loan when a person is paying on time and has been for a significant period of years,” Chopra says of automatic default clauses.

4 Ways Auto-Defaults Can Backfire On Banks
  1. Reduction of Interest Income: Placing a loan that is in good-standing in default and demanding the full balance will likely reduce the interest income over the life of the loan.

  2. Reduced Recovery of Principal: Automatic defaults may lead to lower recoveries of principal balances because a borrower is unlikely to be able to cover the entire cost of the loan immediately; additionally, the servicer could lose money by using collection agencies.

  3. Poor Customer Experience: For a borrower who has proven to be a responsible paying customer and is facing the death of a parent or grandparent co-signer, debt collection calls demanding the full balance with limited explanation will probably not be welcomed. This might substantially reduce the willingness of the borrower to pursue other credit products with the financial institution.

  4. Damage to Reputation: The deployment of debt collection protocols on an otherwise-performing loan in a time of a family tragedy may give the impression that a private student lender or servicer is inadequately managed or simply unwilling to work constructively with borrowers.

Damage That Can’t Be Undone?Image courtesy of Tim Schreier Section Permalink Bookmark Section Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
While auto-defaults may look bad for banks, the consequences for borrowers are much worse and longer-lasting, even though the borrower may have done nothing to cause the problem.

Student loan servicers report automatic defaults to credit bureaus, negatively impacting the borrower’s credit profile, which, in turn, makes it challenging to qualify for future loans, obtain credit, or even get a job.

Loonin explains that credit reports don’t make a distinction about the reason for a default, meaning most loans placed in default are treated the same way.

Stopping The Problem Before It Starts

Federal loans generally don’t require a co-signer, but a number of students who take out private loans do so without first exhausting all federal lending options.

“Private student loans should really be a last resort, if possible,” says Chopra. “When you run into trouble you often have very few options to navigate tough times.”

Of course, with tuition rates still on the rise, federal loans won’t provide enough funding for some students, leaving private student loans as the only option.

“With private student loans, because it’s so much money, consumers need to look at terms very carefully before signing the contract,” Maura Dundon, senior policy counsel with the Center For Responsible Lending, tells Consumerist. “You need to check for these provisions.”

One of the main issues with these types of loans, and their provisions, is that the consumers taking them out are young and simply not looking to the future.

“While you don’t expect to hit tough times, consider the class of 2008,” Chopra says. “They started school when the economy was okay, but by the time they graduated, it began to crater.”

What If I Already Have One Of These Loans?

There may be an out for consumers that have already taken out private loans with auto-default provisions, but it all depends on the wording in your contract.

For example, if you’ve been out of college for five years and no longer see the need to have your parent tethered to your existing loan, some lenders will offer a co-signer release if a borrower meets certain requirements – generally a set number of on-time payments.

But Chopra explains that many borrowers have found that their loan contracts don’t include co-signer release provisions, meaning they may be stuck.

And even those borrowers who do have co-signer release provisions have learned that actually obtaining that release is no simple task.

In one case highlighted in the CFPB report, a borrower reported that at the time of origination, the lender stated it could release his co-signer after he made 28 on-time payments. However after making those payments, the borrower learned that 36 payments were required. After making the additional payments, he was told that 48 payments were now required.

Dundon suggests to avoid this situation, borrowers working toward completing requirements set by the release guidelines should keep thorough records and stay in touch with the lender.

According to Chopra, many borrowers who try to learn their lender’s co-signer release guidelines — and all the attendant paperwork — often run into roadblocks, like being unable to locate any of this information on lenders’ and servicers’ websites.

But that doesn’t mean a borrower is out of luck entirely.

The CFPB has provided several sample letters that consumers can send to their loan servicer inquiring about how to release a co-signer [PDF].

Chopra tells Consumerist that the letters have been very helpful for borrowers so far.

What If There Is No Co-Signer Release Provision?

Consumers that do not have co-signer release provisions, or who are finding out too late that their loan contains this auto-default clause, may not be completely screwed.

Because triggering automatic defaults isn’t the best business practice for banking institutions, borrowers can try to appeal to their servicer.

“It’s a case-by-case basis and depends on how long the default has lasted,” Loonin says. “You can try to work with the lender on a payment plan.”

However, most lenders write off loans after about 120 days, so some borrowers might need to work with a debt collector or company other than their original lender.

This Is All Going To Change, Right?Image courtesy of John Hanley Section Permalink Bookmark Section Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Following the CFPB’s report on automatic default clauses and their potentially devastating after-effects, legislators began taking a look at what could be done to protect consumers.

In early May, New York Representative Tim Bishop proposed an amendment to the Truth in Lending Act that would establish requirements for the treatment of a private education loans upon the death or bankruptcy of a co-signer of a loan.

Known as the Protecting Students From Automatic Default Act of 2014, the proposed amendment adds a section to the current Act that outlines duties a servicer should follow upon learning of a co-signer’s death or bankruptcy. The law would require the lender to immediately notify the borrower if an auto-default is going to be triggered, or if the loss of the co-signer otherwise changes the terms of the loan, or accelerates the repayment terms of the loan.

Additionally, the proposed bill establishes a timeline of at least 90 days for the borrower to identify a new co-signer, if necessary, before facing default.

While the bill has yet to make any progress, its introduction is just one sign that things could change for the better.

So Long Sallie?

I change that would have a more immediate effect if it comes to pass, Sallie Mae, the issuer of millions of student loans may be getting out of the business of automatic defaults.

A spokesperson for the company tells Consumerist that shortly before spinning off its loan servicing operation into a separate entity called Navient Corporation, Sallie Mae revised its policy on the position of removing deceased co-signers from private education loans.

Sallie Mae’s process upon notification of a co-signer’s death now calls for the customer to automatically continue as the sole individual on the loan with the same terms.

Additionally, if the customer’s account becomes delinquent, the company will work with him or her to understand his or her ability to make ongoing payments.

The company reserves the right to modify the loan’s terms to accommodate the customer’s demonstrated ability to pay if the customer is in financial hardship.

“We deeply regret that prior contacts made on our behalf to family members of a deceased cosigner may have been unintentionally insensitive and caused unnecessary burdens at such difficult times,” the spokesperson said.

The company is also prospectively removing co-signer death from its promissory notes as a basis on which Smart Option Student Loans may be placed in default.

So while these automatic default clauses can wreak-havoc, not all hope is lost just yet.

Corinthian Colleges To Sell Off 85 Campuses; Close 12 Others

Mon, 2014-07-07 12:18

For continuity's sake, we hope the eventual buyers of Everest keep the shouting lady and just overdub her voice with the school's new name.

For continuity’s sake, we hope the eventual buyers of Everest keep the shouting lady and just overdub her voice with the school’s new name.

While most of us spent the July 4th weekend relaxing and trying to not think about work or school, the folks at faltering for-profit education company Corinthian Colleges — operators of Everest University, WyoTech, and Heald College — were busy slapping For Sale signs on almost all of their campuses around the country.

Okay, so maybe no one from CCI was actually placing those campuses on Craigslist, but the company did reach a deal with the Dept. of Education that will result in the sale of 85 schools and the closure of 12 others during the next six months.

Corinthian, which had been receiving around $1.4 billion a year in funding via federal student loans, is currently being sued or under investigation by numerous state and federal authorities for its recruitment and marketing practices.

When CCI failed to turn over documents related to these investigations, the U.S. Dept. of Education put a hold on its access to loan funds, effectively ringing the death knell for the company.

In late June, CCI and Education announced they had reached a tentative agreement to wind down the company’s operations through the sale of campuses and teach-out programs at campuses that were not sold.

The two parties were unable to reach a final deal by the July 1 deadline, but talks continued until Thursday evening, when they announced an arrangement that will release $35 million in student aid, under the condition that it can only be used to pay for approved education activities. These include student refunds, payroll expenses, accounts payable, interest and related fees, and related professional fees.

Corinthian can not use federal funding to pay dividends, legal settlements of lawsuits or investigations, or debt repayments.

The school must hire an independent monitor that will have access to Corinthian personnel and budgets “to ensure prudent financial management and see that taxpayer-funded federal student aid dollars are spent well.” This monitor will be responsible for reviewing the campus sales and the teach-out plans.

The dozen schools that will enter the teach-out phase must stop accepting new students.

CCI must also create a reserve fund of at least $30 million for refunds to students.

“We have accepted an operating plan for Corinthian Colleges Inc. that will protect students’ futures and fulfill the Department’s responsibilities to taxpayers moving forward,” U.S. Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said.

The actual campuses being closed are not listed in the operating agreement [PDF], though a previous court filing had specifically called out all Heald College campuses as going up for sale.

What’s still not known is whether students at any of the for-sale or teach-out campuses will be given the option of ending their education and having their federal student loans discharged.

Federal law allows for students at closed schools who choose to not continue their education to apply for a 100% discharge of their student loan obligation. Since the sale/teach-out programs could keep those students moving forward with their schooling, the government hopes to not lose out on the $1 billion or more that it could lose through discharge.

In the wake of the initial agreement, a group of 12 U.S. Senators wrote to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, suggesting that students should be given the option of taking the discharge even if their campus is sold to another college.

Additionally, the Senators called on Education to ensure that the buyer(s) of these campuses is not also under investigation.

Charge Electronic Devices Before Flying Back To U.S. Or You Might Not Be Allowed On Plane

Mon, 2014-07-07 11:37

(Paul Thompson)

(Paul Thompson)

If you thought you could escape the probing playfulness of the TSA by traveling abroad, you were mistaken. The agency recently announced that travelers flying directly to the U.S. from certain, unnamed overseas airports will be required to power-up their carry-on electronics devices in order to board their flights.

The idea is that terrorists would try to sneak in their terrorism gear under the guise of smartphones, laptops, tablets, or maybe an old GameBoy. Hoping that terrorists wouldn’t think, or be able, to craft an electronic device that could both blow stuff up and perform the basic, non-terror functions of the device, the TSA is hoping that the threat of an agent — not even a TSA agent — occasionally saying “Would you mind powering that up for me?” is enough to prevent attacks.

“Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft,” said the TSA in a statement. “The traveler may also undergo additional screening.”

The TSA doesn’t have screeners at airports in other countries, but it can tell countries that want to operate flights into the U.S. what screening criteria to use.

And because the TSA loves to keep travelers on their toes, it’s not divulging which of the more than 250 foreign airports with direct flights to the U.S. are involved in this security tweak.

American Broadband Speeds Improve, Still Not In Top 10 Globally

Thu, 2014-07-03 21:47

States in the Mid-Atlantic and New England dominate the lists of America's fastest connection speeds.

States in the Mid-Atlantic and New England dominate the lists of America’s fastest connection speeds.

On this weekend when we celebrate the founding of the United States of America, we can rest assured that our broadband speeds are certainly improving, up 31% in just a year, according to a new survey of global broadband connections. Much like the recent World Cup showing, that’s something to be proud of, but still doesn’t put us among the world’s elite.

The folks at Akamai have released their State of the Internet report [PDF] [via BGR.com], which shows that the U.S. has made significant improvements to the speeds it delivers to Internet users.

The average connection speed in the States is now 10.5Mpbs, up 31% from a year ago, and enough to beat out Canada’s 9.5Mbps average. But while we may have the fastest connections on this side of the globe, we’ve got some catching up do in order to claim the world’s best broadband.

The U.S. did not make the cut for the world's fastest connection speeds.

The U.S. did not make the cut for the world’s fastest connection speeds.

South Korea continues to lead the pack with its 23.6Mpbs average nine megabits faster than the runner-up, Japan (14.6Mbps). And while our 34% year-over-year jump in speed is impressive, many of the countries with faster broadband connections are also improving at a similar clip.

Japan’s average connection speeds jumped 29% in a year, while Sweden (11.6Mbps) improved by 30% and Finland and Ireland (both 10.7Mpbs) are outpacing America with speed increases of 37% and 47%, respectively.

The U.S.’s 10.5Mbps lands us at 12th overall. One category in which the U.S. cracks the top 10 is the percentage of users with broadband connections of more than 10Mbps. Our 36% is good enough for 7th place, though again it’s less than half of South Korea’s 77% and is also dwarfed by Japan’s 54%.

Of course, the sheer size — both geographically and in terms of population — of the U.S. makes it difficult for our average numbers to beat those of countries with significantly smaller user bases and higher population densities.

Akamai identified nearly 163 million unique users in its survey. The only country that was even close was China, with 123.5 million. The number of addresses in the U.S. is four times that of Japan and eight times that of Korea. Many of the other countries that beat out the U.S. in terms of connection speeds have even fewer users.

In terms of the U.S., seven of the ten states with the fastest average connections are in the Mid-Atlantic/New England region, with Virginia (13.7Mbps) being the fastest in the nation. Only Utah and Michigan represent the rest of the country in the top 10.

And when it comes to average peak connections, Michigan is the only state that isn’t along the D.C. to Boston Corridor. And then the ten states with the highest percentage of users with connections of 15Mbps or more contains only states from the Mid-Atlantic and New England.

Just to keep things in the spirit of the July 4th weekend, it’s worth noting that the U.S. fared better than the U.K. on the survey, just like it did at the World Cup, and just like it did in the Revolutionary War.

Take that, King George!

Regulators Question Chrylser’s Slow-Moving Pace To Fix Jeeps Recalled In 2013

Thu, 2014-07-03 20:45

(Consumerist Dot Com)

(Consumerist Dot Com)

Following criticism for a lack of action in the recent General Motors ignition switch defect, federal regulators aren’t holding anything back when it comes to keeping car manufacturers accountable for fixing safety issues on their vehicles in a timely manner. Or so it appears after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a hard deadline for Chrysler to answer for delays in fixing vehicles affected by a recall last year.

According to a report from the New York Times, NHTSA is giving Chrysler until July 16 to answer questions about why it is taking so long to produce trailer hitches to protect fuel tanks in more than 1.56 million Jeep SUVs recalled last year.

Last summer, the car manufacturer and NHTSA agreed to a remedy for the issue that left the vehicles at risk for catching fire. The repair involved equipping vehicles with a trailer hitch that could reduce the risk of fires.

NHTSA officials noted in the letter that Chrysler didn’t select a supplier for the new parts until December 2013, and that a purchase order wasn’t submitted until January. As of April, the parts are still not available.

The letter says in part that at the current rate of repairs, Chrysler would need 4.7 years to fix all of the recalled Grand Cherokees and two years to fix the Liberty SUVs.

Chrysler now has until mid-July to answer for its delayed process and why there was only one supplier hired to produce millions of parts.

According to the original recall notice [PDF] model year 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty vehicles were recalled because the rear-mounted fuel tank on the SUVs sat too low and were at risk for rear-end explosions.

The fix, which came after tense discussions between the two entities, was quickly criticized by consumer advocates. Their issue with the remedy rested in the fact that hitches had not traditionally been seen as safety devices, the Times reports.

During discussions last summer, Chrysler reportedly refused to crash test the remedy, so NHTSA took it upon itself to evaluate the hitch’s effectiveness.

This month, NHTSA released a crash reconstruction report [PDF] that found the extra part could, in fact, make a difference.

This test program demonstrated that crash reconstruction testing of KJ Jeep Liberty and ZJ Jeep Grand Cherokee could reasonably replicate real-world, rear impact fuel system leakage occurrences.

Adding the OEM hitch-receiver to the vehicles places additional structure behind and to the sides of the fuel tank. The added structure appears to reduce tank damage and fuel leaks in certain rear impact crashes.

Chrysler is currently under investigation by regulators for alleged ignition switch defects. The investigation was announced just three weeks ago and revolves around the company’s Dodge Grand Caravan, Dodge Journey, Chrysler Town and Country, Jeep Commanders and Jeep Cherokee models.

The affected vehicles may contain a defect that can cause the key to either be knocked or jostled out of the run position. This could then cause a loss of power to the steering wheel and brakes, as well as the disabling of the air bags in the event of a crash.

The issue with Chrysler comes just as regulators have been facing scrutiny for their lack of action after receiving a decade’s worth of reports on the General Motors’ ignition switch defect.

It took nearly 13 years, and at least 13 deaths before GM recalled 2.6 million cars because of the defect.

Regulators Criticize Chrysler for Delay in Repairing Recalled Jeeps [The New York Times]

25 All-American Movies & TV Shows You Can Stream This 4th Of July

Thu, 2014-07-03 20:30

(afagen)

(afagen)

While we usually think of fireworks, backyard barbecues and the hot sun beaming down on red, white and blue parades around the country, this year’s 4th of July celebrations might be somewhat dampened as many parts of the country face some wet weather. Or heck, maybe it’s too hot to leave the AC. Either way, we’ve got 25 movies and TV shows you can stream to stay in the American spirit.

Don’t see one of your favorites? You can always check the in-demand offerings from your cable or satellite provider. Or just watch World Cup soccer all day Friday.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
Available on: Netflix

Independence Day
Available on: YouTube

Team America: World Police
Available on: Showtime

John Adams
Available on: Amazon Prime, HBO Go

Band of Brothers
Available on: HBO Go

The Pacific
Available on: Amazon Prime, HBO Go

Apollo 13
Available on: Amazon Prime

Wet Hot American Summer
Available on: HBO Go

House of Cards
Available on: Netflix

Recount
Available on: HBO Go

Veep
Available on: HBO Go

The Americans
Available on: Amazon Prime

The Hunt for Red October
Available on: Netflix

Patton
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Crimson Tide
Available on: Netflix

Coming to America
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Major League
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Election
Available on: Showtime

Nixon
Available on: Showtime

Alpha House
Available on: Amazon Prime

The West Wing
Available on: Amazon Prime

Secret Honor
Available on: Hulu+

Tanner 88
Available on: Hulu+

Homeland
Available on: Showtime

Baseball (or really, anything Ken Burns, and there’s a lot)
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime

One University Saved Students $31M In Student Loans By Sending Them A Letter

Thu, 2014-07-03 19:23

(Jeff Edmanson)

(Jeff Edmanson)

“Know before you owe” took on a different meaning for students at Indiana University this year. A new initiative by the school resulted in students borrowing nearly $31 million less than in previous years.

How could that be possible, you ask? With a simple letter informing students, before they took out additional loans for the next school term, what their monthly loan payment would be after graduation, Bloomberg reports.

In all, the university’s share of federal undergraduate Stafford loans dropped 11%, from $279.6 million to $249 million in just nine months – easily outpacing the national decline rate of 2%.

School officials say the new initiative, which began in the 2012-2013 school year, not only allows students to reevaluate their current loan tab and make needed changes, but it also expands their understanding of finacial aid and loans.

“If they know at all times their debt, and the repayment, it helps with a lot of planning,” associate vice president and director of financial aid at the university, Jim Kennedy tells Bloomberg.

The decline is likely a welcome change now that the outstanding student loan debt tab sits at more than $1.2 trillion. The high amount of debt has come under scrutiny lately with federal regulators, politicians and advocates calling for changes to the student loan infrastructure.

Recent studies have shown that few students understand their loan terms, something that can leave them unable to repay their loans down the road.

One student at Indiana’s Bloomington campus tells Bloomberg that after receiving her letter she decided to explore more scholarships.

“When you take out loans for the year, you just see a smaller number than the grand total,” she says. “Seeing the letter definitely put things into perspective.”

While federal law requires colleges to provide counseling to borrowers at the beginning and end of their studies, the Indiana University initiative goes a step farther. The schools have implemented personal finance course, peer-to-peer advising and added more information to its website for students to access.

Additionally, students are now required to confirm they want to take out loans on the school’s website. Kennedy says the move helps students to really understand what they are taking on.

After seeing his acquired debt, Rigo was hesitant to continue borrowing. Instead, he’s cutting expenses and saving funds from his summer job to help offset tuition costs next year.

“When I saw the grand total, it was eye-opening as to how much I borrowed and eventually I’ll have to pay that,” Hernandez said.

So, what instigated the change for Indiana University and its schools? The constantly increasing student loan default rates facing students.

The most recent rate for the Bloomington campus, for students required to start repayment in 2010 was 6.4%, up from 3.4% just a year earlier.

“I’m not surprised it drives down the borrowing once you know the consequences,” Kennedy says.

How Students at a U.S. University Borrowed $31 Million Less [Bloomberg]

Going Beyond The Tongs: The Ham Dogger, Pizza Oven Box And Other Grilling Gadgets

Thu, 2014-07-03 19:00
Ham doggin' it.

Ham doggin’ it.

You’ve got your apron, your tongs and your basic tools to turn, poke and otherwise keep your meats, veggies and other grilling ingredients happy while you cook up a summer feast. But you’re not limited by the usual fare of basic hamburgers, kebabs and hot dogs. Not with things like a pizza oven box and a plethora of other unnecessary but nonetheless existing gadgets.

Consumer Reports tested one of these items, the Bakerstone Oven Pizza Box, a thing that essentially turns your grill into an oven, as its name indicates. Testers also tried a pizza baked on a stone placed on grill burners.

“The pizzas took about four minutes to bake in the box and less time to devour,” CR notes. “Some staffers didn’t see a big difference between the pizzas cooked in the box and those cooked on the stone, but our pizza master has used his own wood-fired pizza oven at home and in restaurants for the past 20 years. He pointed out that the box turned out pizza with crispier crusts and nicely cooked toppings.”

So what else is out there? A bunch of stuff — and let it be noted that we have not tested these products, nor are we endorsing their use or any particular brand. They’re just a bunch of things you might not know you can buy.

A robot that cleans your grill: For all those times you want a robot to get yet antoher chance to replace human effort and eventually rule the world.

A thing that helps you stuff burgers: Exactly what it sounds like — a press that essentially shapes a patty around whatever you want on the inside. Cheese, that’s what you want.

Bear claw meat handlers for shredding meat: Ever want to pretend you’re a bear? Go at it, shred that pork.

And then there are the baskets: You can buy a basket to grill S’mores, a basket for meatballs and a cage for corn on the cob. You can even pop popcorn on grills these days.

The ham dogger is a thing: The what? The ham dogger, duh. You know, to make a burger shaped like a hot dog? Obviously.

Happy grilling, everyone, and yay America. Because we might’ve lost in the World Cup (remember when we all liked soccer?) but we WON OUR FREEDOM.

Why These 5 Pro-Consumer Bills Won’t Become Law In 2014

Thu, 2014-07-03 18:30

(photographynatalia)

(photographynatalia)

Back in January, at the dawn of the year, we gazed into our not-quite-crystal ball and took a look at some pieces of pending legislation that could help consumers this year. Now, in July, we’re at the halfway point of the year, and so it’s a good time to take a look at those bills and see how the wheels of government have turned in 2014.

The five bills we specifically looked at were:

The basic update is the same for all of the bills: they have gone into Committee and are deeply unlikely ever to come back out. They have crossed the event horizon into the bureaucratic black hole of Congress and probably won’t ever again see the light of day.

The more interesting question is: why? And that’s where they diverge a little bit.

All About Committees
When most of us think of Congress, we imagine the House and Senate floors, and all those rows of rings of wooden desks. But although the venue looks impressive, the vast majority of a legislator’s work is done elsewhere.

Congressional committees, in both houses, are where everything happens. They are the gatekeepers, in both the House and the Senate, that make the system run. In theory, the system allows for legislators to act as subject area experts — letting them have a go at the text of a bill to be sure it regulates what it needs to and won’t have too many negative unintended consequences.

U.S. law is huge and sweeping and complicated, after all, and a representative who has a strong background in telecom or copyright law may not be so great at reading an agriculture bill and knowing all the relevant context around it. Committees also have specialized subcommittees, to break down areas of law even further.

Of course, there’s more to it than just that. Some committees carry more prestige than others, and ambitious members of Congress are constantly jockeying for positions in the committees that come across as more important in the political game. There are all kinds of rules about who can serve on how many committees of which type at any given moment.

Likewise, not all positions inside committees are created equal. Every committee and subcommittee has a chair, a ranking member, and sometimes a vice chair. And this is where it starts to get tricky.

The committee chair is the one who gets to set the committee’s agenda — meaning he or she is the one who picks what bills a committee will hold hearings and meetings on, and which ones ultimately will stand a chance of advancing out of committee to see a vote on the floor.

Clearly, then, committee memberships are important, and chairmanships even more so. And how are they determined? As the Library of Congress explains:

Membership on the various committees is divided between the two major political parties. The proportion of the Members of the minority party to the Members of the majority party is determined by the majority party, except that half of the members on the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct are from the majority party and half from the minority party. The respective party caucuses nominate Members of the caucus to be elected to each standing committee at the beginning of each Congress.

Meaning: if Party A takes 51% of seats in an election, then Party A gets to determine how many Party A members and how many Party B members get to sit on each committee for the next two years. Then both parties get to nominate committee members, in those numbers, among themselves.

That’s how committees work in a broad sense. So how, specifically, does that apply to these bills?

Political Partisanship
It doesn’t take a Washington insider to realize that the 113th Congress — the session that started in January, 2013 and will end in December of this year — is not exactly in the habit of civil agreement. In the House especially, but also in the Senate, members of Congress make more headlines lately for torpedoing legislation than for passing it.

As GovTrack.us, Pew, and the Washington Post have all reported, the current Congress is less productive than its predecessors by almost every measure. In 2003, Congress passed 198 pieces of legislation. In 2013, it was 65.

Looking at our five specific bills, who sponsored them, and what committees they’ve gone to, it’s not difficult to see the specter of partisanship at play. In many, though not all, cases, the bills and the committees are in opposing hands.

HR 1150: Introduced by Louise Slaughter (D-NY). 72 co-sponsors (72 D, 0 R). In the House Health subcommittee, chairman: Joe Pitts (R-PA).

HR 1844: Introduced by Hank Johnson (D-GA). 78 co-sponsors (78 D, 0 R). In the House subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, chairman: Spencer Bachus (R-AL).

S 1256: Introduced by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). 12 co-sponsors (11 D, 1 R). In the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, chairman: Tom Harkin (D-IA).

S 878: Introduced by Al Franken (D-MN). 24 co-sponsors (23 D, 1 I). In the Senate Judiciary Committee, chairman: Patrick Leahey (D-VT).

S 1803: Introduced by Dick Durbin (D-IL). 10 co-sponsors (10 D, 0 R). In the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, chairman: Tom Harkin (D-IA).

In the House, then, it’s easy to guess why the bills aren’t going anywhere. But in the Senate, there’s a lot more party match, so acrimony across the aisle isn’t the only answer.

Follow The Money
The things these bills target — mandatory binding arbitration, the student loan industry, and the rampant overuse of antibiotics in agriculture — have one aspect in common: money.

Actually restricting the use of antibiotics in industrial farming, as opposed to ineffectually asking nicely, would cost some big corporations a lot of cash.

The Senate bill that would curtail that is S 1256, and it’s in a committee run by Tom Harkin. Harkin represents Iowa, which is a farming state that would likely not want to re-elect a guy that made agriculture lose money. Additionally, an enormous amount of his campaign contributions come from the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. His motivations for hearing and advancing a bill that farmers and big pharma both stand against, therefore, are nonexistent.

On the other hand, the Student Loan Bill of Rights (S 1803) sits in the same committee. Several of the bill’s 10 co-sponsors serve on that committee. In theory it seems like they would be compelled to advance their own bill. But in reality, GovTrack.us finds no correlation there. In fact, the correlation they find runs the other way: “6+ cosponsors serve on a committee to which the bill has been referred” tends to correlate with a lower chance of getting through committee.

But money also comes into play here. Although you don’t see “student lending industry” popping up in the top five donor industries to the campaign funds for any of the HELP committee members, you also don’t see “student borrowers” on that list. In other words: although money may not compel them to avoid advancing the bill, money supporting other interests compels them to spend their time and resources on other bills instead, leaving this one to sit and rot. Corporations and donors have much, much louder voices in politics than masses of ordinary citizens do — especially citizens who are unlikely to vote in midterm elections.

Though Sometimes There’s Hope…
Four of our five bills are almost certainly, without question, going to drop dead in committee. But one actually stands a chance of getting through: the Arbitration Fairness Act.

GovTrack doesn’t give it great odds of clearing committee, mind — just 44%. But as compared to the 0% and 1% chances other bills see, that’s sky-high optimism. And the bill has a fair amount going for it, politically speaking.

The committee chair and all subcommittee chairs are friendly to the idea and to the sponsor, and the concept itself is seen as sticking up for the consumer against big corporations, especially banks. Corporations are inconvenienced, but do not lose megatons of money, if arbitration is reined in and more regulated. And voters get to feel warm and fuzzy about it. So there’s not a net loss for most of the committee members if the bill goes to the floor for a vote.

Unfortunately, even if it does get to the floor for a vote, GovTrack estimates it’s not likely to pass. They give it a 6% chance of becoming a law, overall.

In the defense of Congress, though, the fact that only about 3% of bills ever become law is not necessarily a bad thing. So far the 113th Congress has seen 9012 bills and resolutions introduced; with six months left to go before they adjourn, they’ll almost certainly clear 10,000. There’s no way that all of them can be good law, or seriously introduced in good faith, and some should die in committee, never to be seen again.

But the outsized influence of money on the political process strongly influences which bills are likely to make it or not. Individual consumers aren’t throwing around the same kind of campaign cash as gigantic corporations, and never will be. And that means that passing legislation that serves people, but hurts business, will continue to be a difficult uphill battle.

Dinners And Parties: Here’s Why Comcast Isn’t Worried About Getting The TWC Merger Approved

Thu, 2014-07-03 17:47
(Consumerist)

(Consumerist)

Comcast has been using every trick in the book to drum up approval for their pending merger with Time Warner Cable. They’re spending big on lobbyists, filling campaign coffers, relying on revolving doors, and strategically funding feel-good initiatives. But those are just icing on the cake. What really gives them confidence in their merger plan? The buddy-buddy relationship they’ve developed with regulators.

The folks over at MuckRock filed a Freedom of Information Act request and got their hands on some unsurprising but disappointing e-mails between a Comcast executive and a high-ranking Antitrust Division attorney at the Department of Justice.

The executive invited the attorney to a fancy viewing party for the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics. The attorney, wrote more than once that the party sounded tremendously fun and like a great time. In the end she did decline, saying “Our ethics rules are very restrictive,” and pointing out that hanging out with Comcast probably wouldn’t fly.

The Comcast VP understood, although, she said, she “thought it would be OK since we have nothing formally before you all.”

The two, however, clearly have other ways to maintain a cordial professional relationship: after the attorney bowed out on the big party, she offered to schedule dinner.

People who often have to work with each other at different organizations often form friendly relationships, even when those organizations are in competition or conflict with each other. That’s why ethics rules, like the ones at the Justice Department, exist. But the timing here says more than the invitation does.

The Sochi opening ceremonies were on February 7. Comcast and TWC made their merger announcement on February 13, less than a week later. Clearly, the wheels were already turning at both companies long before a single dancer hit the floor in Russia. It’s no coincidence that a VP of legislative affairs at Comcast would be wanting to renew that particular acquaintance at that particular time.

The e-mails — all embedded at MuckRock — don’t have any “gotcha” moments and aren’t showing any ethics violations. Instead, they’re a window into how the political and regulatory world in Washington really runs.

There are tons of reasons that the Antitrust Division should block the merger. Consumers and advocates alike hate everything about the idea. Other companies object. Subscribers and some shareholders are against it, too. Even the United States Senate seems to have its doubts.

And yet Comcast is able to approach the deal as a foregone conclusion, and they’re probably right. Because when the regulators and the regulated are literally going out for drinks together, they’re probably going to keep getting along elsewhere, too.

Comcast executives appear to share cozy relationships with regulators [MuckRock, via BGR]

We Tried It: Bakin’ Bacon In The Oven

Thu, 2014-07-03 17:30

baconwetrieditThey say life is hard. Not so, my friends. Not so when you’re tasked with trying a new way to make and subsequently eat bacon. And of course, you’re right — making bacon in the oven isn’t exactly a “new” concept.

“My mom/dad, always made our bacon this way,” you probably said to me if you’re a friend I spoke with recently on the subject.

But most people probably make bacon on the stove, whether in a grill-top pan or otherwise, with a bacon guard to keep the spatters at a minimum or just freeing up your range to grease galore. It’s also fun to say “bakin’ bacon,” for obvious reasons, and that’s enough justification to do something around here.

OVEN TEST 1
First I found a recipe for “crispy, crunchy bacon,” with flour-coated bacon that bakes in the oven. Cool, let’s try that, because bacon.

THE BACON: D’Artagnan

THE METHOD: The instructions said to coat the bacon in flour and place it on a foil- or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Bacon coated in flour, hanging out.

Bacon coated in flour, hanging out.

Did that. Failed to check the bacon while cooking, perhaps trusting too blindly. At the 20-minute mark, checked bacon to find it on the verge of inedibility.

Future bacon bits?

Future bacon bits?

THE TAKEAWAY
Crunchy, indeed. Exhibit No. 38783 on why you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. If you need homemade bacon bits, however, this is your new jam.

But don’t worry, it wasn’t a total waste — I made the same bacon on the stove top and it was delicious like bacon wants to be.

bothbacons

OVEN TEST 2
After returning to the Consumerist’s deeply underground super secret lair and bemoaning that poor, burned bacon, my understanding and empathetic coworkers shoved me out of my funk by suggesting that I redo the oven test, only skipping the flour and keeping an eye on the bacon while it cooked, this time.

THE BACON: Boar’s Head

THE METHOD: You can look for a recipe with a fancy name on it, but even Ina Garten’s “Roasted Bacon” comes down to what I did — preheat oven to 350 degrees, lay uncoated bacon on foil-covered tray, bake for 20 minutes.

Uncoated bacon, hanging out.

Uncoated bacon, hanging out.

This go around, I set a timer for 10 minutes and checked the bacon then. It looked pretty delicious, but I let it go for a further three or so minutes. This will vary, of course, by how cooked you like your bacon.

All done, ready to drain and get chewed.

All done, ready to drain and get chewed.

THE TAKEAWAY: Delicious, perfect, bacony. And without all the spattering on the stove top. I just left out the grease-covered foil to let it congeal a bit and then tossed, so clean-up is definitely a lot easier.

Also, I got to eat a lot of bacon.

Special thanks to tasters/owners of reliable ovens, Lauren and Liz, along with guinea pigs Jim, Katie, Bobbi and Todd. You are my best bacon friends.

Found a kitchen or DIY experiment — old or new, it doesn’t matter — you want me to try? I’ve got my limits, but I’m open to suggestions. Send an email to tips@consumerist.com with the subject line WE TRIED IT.

Peeps Latch On To Ridiculous Holidays In Push To Become Year-Round Treat

Thu, 2014-07-03 17:16

PeepsHave you ever heard of “compliment your mirror day?” Well, it’s today and there’s a Peep to celebrate it. Yes, that Peep – the concoction of marshmallow and sugar generally relegated to the Easter holiday.

Earlier this year we told you that the new Peeps Mini product was aiming to make itself a year-round treat, and now it appears the candy marketers are getting a bit creative (or desperate?) in their attempts to find popularity.

The company is celebrating the “Everyday is a holiday” campaign by tying the product to every obscure holiday imaginable – including “National Log Day” and “Sewing Machine Day,” Mashable reports.

The 365-day campaign, which is prominently featured on the Peeps’ social media pages and website, showcases illustrations of the bite-sized Peeps doing everything from being a piece of sushi for “National Sushi Day” to strapping on antennas to depict an alien for “World UFO Day,” which just happened to be yesterday.

The everyday mini Peeps come in Watermelon, Strawberry Creme, Chocolate Creme and Vanilla Creme flavors. The candies themselves are small versions of the bird-shaped Peeps, about 40% smaller, and come 24 to a bag.

Peeps Is Planning 365 Straight Days of Holiday Celebrations [Mashable]

Airbus: Pilots Don’t Need Windows In Cockpit, Or Even A Cockpit

Thu, 2014-07-03 16:48

The Airbus patent suggests two alternate, windowless locations for the pilot's "viewing platform."

The Airbus patent suggests two alternate, windowless locations for the pilot’s “viewing platform.”

All those windows in the cockpit of your jumbo jet? They’re expensive to maintain and just slow the plane down, but they’re necessary for the whole “seeing” thing. The folks at Airbus disagree.

In a recently published patent filing, the plane manufacturer describes a plane where the “cockpit lacks any glazed surfaces” and where the pilot uses only display monitors for piloting the plane.

Airbus explains that the current requirements for cockpits result in compromises to the ideal lancet-like form that a plane should have.

“[T]he housing in the nose for radar, a landing gear, and especially for the cockpit, requires a much more complex shape and structure to be provided, with numerous radii of curvature,” reads the patent. “In particular, the presence of the cockpit requires a large glazed surface to be provided in order to give operational physical visibility and to meet the rules and requirements for certification, such a glazed surface being very heavy which requires numerous structural reinforcements to be put in place which increase the mass of the aircraft still further.”

And all that room that the cockpit takes up means fewer paying passengers, resulting in cramped seating conditions and not as much money in airlines’ pockets.

But Airbus’s idea is set on “mitigating these drawbacks by providing an aircraft having a new cockpit of which the impact on the mass and on the aerodynamics of the aircraft is significantly reduced.”

The patent suggests other locations for a “viewing platform” from which the pilot would control the plane. For instance, it could be — according to Airbus — put below the cabin or up in the vertical stabilizer at the rear of the plane.

Of course, you’re still having to move around people and equipment, so relocating the pilot brings up other concerns. Putting the pilot below the passengers takes away space reserved for luggage. And if cutting out a cockpit means additional rows of passengers, that would likely mean more luggage.

Likewise, putting the flight crew and all their equipment in the cramped rear of the plane could throw off the balance of the aircraft and would certainly result in the crew being very close to each other. The last thing you want is your pilot and co-pilot getting into a fight over who gets the armrest.

Then there is also the issue of visibility. While a series of monitors (or heck, a pair of VR goggles) could indeed provide views that are equal to or better than what pilots see from the cockpit windows, they’re not of much use when a camera is knocked out or — heaven forbid — the plane loses power.

Obviously, the purpose of the patent filing isn’t necessarily an indication that Airbus intends to make windowless, cockpit-less planes (which would ultimately need the thumbs-up from regulators). So don’t expect to see your pilot climbing up into the stabilizer or using your checked luggage for a seat any time soon.

The patent does away with a cockpit and instead creates the "viewing platform," with the pilot seated before a large, curved video screen.

The patent does away with a cockpit and instead creates the “viewing platform,” with the pilot seated before a large, curved video screen.

Airbus: Pilots don’t really need windows [SeattlePI.com]

Airbus Wants To Take The Cockpit Out Of The Cockpit Of The Future [Jalopnik Flight Club]

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