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The Consumerist

Subaru Recalls 660,000 Vehicles Becasue Being Able To Stop Is Necessary

Thu, 2014-07-03 15:53
(Shawn Toohey)

(Shawn Toohey)

Some Subaru owners may be having a little deja vu today. The car company is recalling more than 660,000 vehicles, half of which were recalled for the same problem last year – a brake line issue that could make it difficult to stop.

Subaru announced the recall Friday because the brake line in the vehicles can rust and leak fluid, which could cause the car to take longer to stop, the Associated Press reports.

Affected models include the 2005 to 2009 Legacy and Outback, 2008 to 2014 Impreza and the 2009 to 2013 Forester.

The recall covers vehicles sold or registered in states were salt is used to clear roads during the winter months. Those states include: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

According to a notice [PDF] filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the problem can occur when salt water splashes on the brake lines through a gap in the fuel tank protector, resulting in excessive corrosion. Overtime, that corrosion can cause brake fluid leakage that would require longer distances to slow or stop the vehicle.

Subaru will notify owners of the issue and dealers will perform tests on the brake system. If no brake fluid leak is found, dealers will rustproof the area with anti-corrosive wax. If there is a leak, the brake line will be replaced followed by rustproofing.

Nearly 274,000 model year 2005-2009 Outback and Legacy cars were recalled for the same issue back in March of 2013.

Subaru recalls 660K vehicles for brake line rust [The Associated Press]

Water Floods Plane Cabin After The Australia-Bound Airbus A380 Springs A Leak

Thu, 2014-07-03 15:46

(So Cal Metro)

(So Cal Metro)

I once learned from Eliza Doolittle that the rain in Spain stays mostly on the plain, but she didn’t say a darn thing about the rain on a plane heading for Australia. She’d probably be as surprised as the passengers on a recent Qantas flight when the double-decker Airbus A380 sprung a leak, sending water coursing through the cabin.

Water was reportedly flowing down aisles and trickling down on the heads of passengers, forcing the plane to return to L.A. late Tuesday night, officials and passengers said, according to the Associated Press.

The flight landed safely after an hour in the air, Qantas said, adding that there were no safety concerns with the leak and the pilot only turned the plane around because well, it couldn’t be very comfortable for customers to sit and soak on a trans-Pacific flight.

While some passengers were moved to dryer areas after water flowed down the stairs and dripped onto passengers in the lower deck, that was only a stopgap measure.

“You couldn’t keep going like that for 15 hours,” one passenger reportedly told KABC-TV.

Passengers stayed overnight in a hotel while other flight arrangements were made, ostensibly for planes that don’t have leaks.

Meanwhile, Qantas says it’s investigating the issue with the plane, and what caused the leak.

Rain on a Plane: Leak Forces Flight’s Turnaround [Associated Press]

Feds Update, Expand Rules Covering How Airlines Report Their Animal-Safety Records

Thu, 2014-07-03 15:29

(CarbonArc)

(CarbonArc)

When you’re flying with your pet, sometimes it’s not possible to keep your beloved Mr. Saucypants in the plane cabin with you. But banishing him to the cargo hold below can be a daunting prospect, which is why U.S. regulators have expanded how many airlines must report on their animal-safety records.

Passengers traveling with pets will have access to more information now, things like animals that were lost, injured or died while carriers transported them, Reuters reports. The U.S. Transportation Department has beefed up who has to report, from 14 airlines currently to 27.

The new rules go into effect on January 1, 2015 and will also include commercial shipments of pets, like those by breeders, for the first time. The rules only covered pet owners and their animal friends previously.

This only covers furry friends, however, so if you’re flying with your iguana, there aren’t numbers on lizards. The DOT said it would be “unduly burdensome” to report on all species, despite the urging of animal rights groups to do so.

Every year airlines will have to file a report with all the numbers — the total amount of animals transported, lost, injured or died. Before now, airlines simply reported monthly on what happened to animals, not how many pets they actually transported.

“This rule will provide consumers with a fuller picture of an airline’s safety record when it comes to transporting animals,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Consumers deserve clear and accurate information when choosing among air transportation options,” he said.

U.S. expands airlines’ reporting requirements on pet safety [Reuters]

The Government Has 1.2 Billion Reasons To Keep Corinthian Colleges Afloat

Wed, 2014-07-02 23:29

If Everest shuts down, the shouting woman from its ads and 72,000 other students may be off the hook for their student loan obligation (which would of course then pass to the taxpayers).

If Everest shuts down, the shouting woman from its ads and 72,000 other students may be off the hook for their student loan obligation (which would of course then pass to the taxpayers).

For the last week, we’ve been telling you about the ongoing negotiations between the U.S. Dept. of Education and Corinthian Colleges, the operators of the for-profit Everest University, WyoTech, and Heald College chains, that would sell off some of the schools and wind-down the others. Some people have asked why the government doesn’t just let Corinthian collapse. Part of the reason is that it would leave some 72,000 students in the lurch, but a big motivating factor is that the government could end waving bye-bye to more than $1 billion in student loan debt.

What a lot people don’t know — because it doesn’t happen very often — is that one of the few ways the government will discharge 100% of someone’s student loan debt is if their school completely shuts down and the student doesn’t continue her education elsewhere.

And it’s not just currently enrolled students that could get out of their loan obligation. If you withdraw from a school and it closes within 120 days, you may also qualify for a discharge. Additionally, those who are on an official leave of absence from the school when it closes may have a way out of their federal student loans.

Note that we’re only talking about federal Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans (which include Stafford and PLUS loans), or Perkins Loans.

Corinthian students take out some $1.2 billion a year in these federal loans. It’s impossible to predict how many of the current students would choose to continue their education elsewhere and how many would opt just to say “Thanks for the discharge” and move on with their lives without finishing school.

Even those students who want to continue on elsewhere could face some bureaucratic hurdles if Corinthian simply ceases to operate.

“The school’s failure would unnecessarily harm students because they would have no access to academic records, assistance with transition or transfer, or any other services that a school in teach-out can provide,” the company wrote in a recent court filing.

While Corinthian claims the government would be on the hook for the full $1.2 billion it would have to discharge, the exact number is in doubt. While certainly not every one of Corinthian’s 72,000 students would choose to give up on college, you also have to factor in that a large number of students that would be eligible for discharge have been enrolled for multiple years, so there is a lot of money at stake here.

There is the additional question of whether or not Corinthian students should be compelled to continue their education just because some other school snaps up Corinthian-operated campuses. Similarly at the campuses that will be wound down through teach-out programs, should those students have to accept this degraded educational experience just because Corinthian made a deal with the government?

In their letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a group of U.S. Senators want the Dept. of Education to clarify whether “students at closing campuses have the option to refuse a planned teach-out and instead seek Closed School Discharge?”

If you’re a current Everest, WyoTech or Heald student, we still want to hear from you. Shoot us an e-mail at cci@consumerist.com.

Controlled Crash? [Inside Higher Ed]

If your school closes while you’re enrolled or soon after you withdraw, you may be eligible for discharge of your federal student loan. [StudentAid.gov]

It’s Hard to Shut Down a Poorly Performing For-Profit College [BusinessWeek]

Is Tide Oxi Really The Super Cleaning Agent That The Blonde Property Brother Says It Is?

Wed, 2014-07-02 22:46

Tide

For me, “deep-cleaning the house” has a place on the same list where you’ll find “getting a root canal.” But sometimes you have to, even it it means pulling out five different cleaners to get the job done. Tide claims its new product can clean more than 225 household items. Sounds too good to be true, right? It might be or it might not be – it just depends on your belongings.

The new detergent is Tide’s attempt to cash in on Oxi Clean. The packaging not only calls out that cleaning product’s name in a “Compare to Oxi Clean” burst; the TV ad tries to capture some of the DIY magic viewers will remember from the gool ol’ Billy Mays (RIP) infomercials that made the pitchman famous.

The Tide Oxi video features somewhat-celebrity Jonathan Scott from HGTV’s Property Brothers standing in a garage full of stuff, lamenting about how consumers can clean just about everything in their homes with the new product.

Our colleagues at Consumer Reports gave us the lowdown on just how the new product works, what products it compares to and whether or not we could just use our tried-and-true laundry detergent to clean everything we own.

Although Pat Slaven, a textiles expert at CR, didn’t test Tide Oxi, she did break down what might make the product so potent to filth.

Tide Oxi’s complete ingredient list wasn’t yet available on the website, but Slaven deduced that the product appears to be in the same family as Tide Boost with Oxi.

“Sodium Percarbonate, which is the active ingredient in Oxi Clean and similar powered products, is a mild oxygen bleaching agent and it does work on many surfaces beyond normal laundry,” she says.

Since the same compound is found in Oxi Clean, it’s feasible that one could try to use that product in the same manner as Tide Oxi. But can we use Tide Oxi on products we might not be able to use Oxi Clean on? That’s pretty unclear from the Tide commercial.

The video isn’t actually specific on just what Tide Oxi can clean. It suggests viewers go to TideThat.com where they can supposedly learn about the alleged “225+ uses” for the product, but that just redirects you a boring page with basic product information and no mind-blowing list of household cleaning chores for which you could use Tide Oxi.

Throughout the video Scott declares that consumers can “Tide that” while pointing out a number of items, including dressers, plush toys, couches, lawn chairs and of course, clothes.

To actually clean the items, Scott uses a mixture of Tide Oxi and water on what looks to be a foot rest of some sort. After a few quick swipes with a bristled brush, the fabric is gleaming once again.

But if watering down detergent is all it takes to clean every item in our homes, then we could just buy bargain brand, right? Not so much, apparently.

As far as using your regular household detergent and water to clean? It’s probably not going to make your items as spotless as Scott’s seem to appear in the commercial.

“Dissolving normal detergent will not give the same results,” Slaven explains. “However a number of the items shown in the video could most likely be cleaned with other common cleaning agents and do not specifically require a mild bleach.”

We couldn’t just take Scott’s word for it, so we set out to clean a few items.

My filthy tub before TIde Oxi on the left, after on the right.

First up, the sadly neglected bathtub in my apartment. I generally clean it with bleach but thought we’d give this new product a shot.

I probably should clean the tub more often. The Tide Oxi mixture did little to actually take all the grime and dirt off of the sides of the shower, even with excessive scrubbing with the brush.

Next, I took Tide Oxi to a few discolored spots on the tile. That produced a more favorable result, with the spots easily disappearing.

Spot cleaning the floor produced better results. Before on the left, after on the right

Spot cleaning the floor produced better results. Before on the left, after on the right

Then we head into the kitchen and find a filthy toaster. I’m really not sure why it’s so dirty, we don’t used it often – maybe that’s why.

Either way, the mixture seemed to do the trick, with the scrubbing-brush taking off the spots and dirt quite easily.

How does a toaster get dirty? Before on the left, after on the right.

So what’s the verdict? Eh, we could have probably used other household cleaners and ended with the same or at least similar results.

Whether or not you want to take Scott’s endorsement, and our limited testing, of the product to mean you should use it, too, is up to you. But above all Slaven says there’s one thing consumers should always do when using a detergent to clean.

“The real recommendation here is test first in an inconspicuous area and make sure whatever product you are using doesn’t damage the surface,” she says.

Oh, and it appears the company is using the hashtag #tidethat to help amp up publicity for the product. Although, that doesn’t appear to be working out all that well.

Amazon Willing To Pick Fight With Feds On In-App Purchases

Wed, 2014-07-02 22:10

(Stephen Woods)

(Stephen Woods)

Earlier this year, Apple agreed to refund $32.5 million to customers of its App Store in order to settle charges from the Federal Trade Commission that the computer company did little to protect users from inadvertent in-app purchases. The FTC is looking to reach a similar deal with Amazon over its app store, but the online giant has said the government will probably have to make its case in court.

The Verge reports on a letter sent from Amazon VP and Associate General Counsel Andrew DeVore to FTC Chair Edith Ramirez, in which DeVore writes that it is “deeply disappointing” that previously “constructive meetings” with the FTC have apparently failed with the agency’s staff being authorized to file a lawsuit against Amazon if it “doesn’t enter a consent order in the model of the Apple consent order.”

Amazon maintains that its system is different from Apple and should therefore not be treated the same.

“The main claim in the draft complaint is that we failed to get customers’ informed consent to in-app charges made by children and did not address that problem quickly or effectively enough in response to customer complaints,” writes DeVore, who claims that Amazon has issued refunds to customers who complained about their kids making in-app purchases.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FTC isn’t happy that Amazon waited until June of this year to finally require informed consent for in-app purchases, and the agency still thinks the company could do better, with more prominent notices, and a password requirement for all in-app purchases.

The FTC says it has received thousands of complaints about unauthorized in-app purchases from Amazon.

“The commission is focused on ensuring that companies comply with the fundamental principle that consumers should not be made to pay for something they did not authorize,” an FTC rep tells the Journal. “Consumers using mobile devices have the same long-established and fundamental consumer protections as they would anywhere else.”

Letter Mailed In 1931 Turns Up At Post Office, Gets Delivered 83 Years Late

Wed, 2014-07-02 21:45

(TheeErin)

(TheeErin)

Like a message in a bottle, tossed up on the shore by the tide after sailing the oceans of time (It’s summer, it’s hot and water sounds awesome), sometimes misdirected mail shows up to remind us of the past. And when it takes 83 years to show up from wherever lost letters go, it’s bound to make for a good story.

The nine-page letter was sent from a 23-year-old school teacher to her mother in the summer of 1931, reports CentralMaine.com. It recently showed up in the morning mail bag of a letter carrier, who noticed that not only was there a $0.02 stamp on the letter to signal its age, the address no longer existed due to changes in how addresses are done now.

The postmaster was able to track down the niece/granddaughter of the letter writer and receiver and deliver the missive by hand. She says it’s funny that her aunt was writing to apologize for taking so long to get in touch. Both have since passed away.

“One of the best parts for me of what she wrote was that she apologized for not writing sooner, as she knew her mother had been anxiously waiting all week for a letter — which, as we know, was never received,” she said. “She said ‘I’m just getting around to write. I imagine you have been anxiously waiting for a letter all week. I have no excuses, but that I just didn’t get to it and there are lots of things to tell you, too.’”

No excuses for those 81 years, and so far, no explanation for how the letter seemed to appear out of nowhere. Officials think perhaps it got stuck in sorting equipment at some point and just escaped recently.

“As I was sorting I came across it — it appeared to be old, but it was in really good condition,” the worker says. She then put the letter on the desk of the postmaster so they could try to track down the surviving family members.

The woman and her family now hope someone will come forward to contact them with the story of the letter’s journey, if they had a hand in it.

“We’re hoping someone will see this and say ‘I found it’ because we’ll never know otherwise,” she said.

Letter finally makes it to Pittsfield, 83 years late [CentralMaine.com]

Waitress Claims She Was Fired After Facebook Friend Printed Out Her Complaint About Bad Tippers

Wed, 2014-07-02 21:01

(avitania)

(avitania)

It’s always tricky when it comes to dealing with work woes and social media — sure, you want to complain about a rough day on the job, but whatever you post on Facebook or Twitter can always come back to haunt you. In the case of one Ohio waitress, one of her Facebook friends happened to be one of her customers, who then happened to read her complaint against bad tippers.

And it didn’t matter whether her employers could see her post or not, because the customer — a former schoolmate of the waitress — printed out the Facebook status in question. She tells Toledo News Now that she was then fired.

“They told me that I knew what I was doing when I posted that, and they would have to let me go because a customer came in [who had] printed off a screen shot of it,” she says. “And they were really upset.”

As for what exactly the complaint was, it sounds like a bit of a she-says they-say situation: The waitress claims it was simply a vague complaint about bad tippers, with no mention of a specific customer or even the name of the restaurant.

“I just said, ‘If you come into a restaurant and spend $50 or more, you should be able to tip appropriately for that,’” adding that she’d had a slow night that night, with multiple customers tipping only about 10%.

But the restaurant says was fired for using a derogatory name to refer to the customer, which goes against its corporate policy about employees mentioning the restaurant on social media.

Let’s face it: If it’s on the Internet, the wrong person will inevitably see it. Keep that

Findlay waitress fired for Facebook post about tipping [Toledo News Now]

Which Fireworks, If Any, Are Legal In My State?

Wed, 2014-07-02 20:17

 Great Beyond)

Get your fireworks and your insurance at this one-stop shop in South Dakota (Photo: Great Beyond)

Like many kids whose families made biannual treks down I-95 to Florida, I used to beg my mom to please let me stock up on all the brightly colored and colorfully named fireworks you could buy at places like South of the Border. And every year on July 4th, I’d still be stuck with my stupid sparklers while the kids down the block set off their Fiesta Bombs and Earth Shakers. But hey, at least I wasn’t breaking the law, no matter how awesome it would have been.

My story might have been different if, instead of Pennsylvania — where “ground and hand-held sparkling devices… novelties… and toy caps” are all that’s allowed without a permit — I’d been raised in Montana, where the only fireworks specifically forbidden are skyrockets, roman candles, and bottle rockets.

Each state has different — and often incredibly specific — rules governing which fireworks you can buy, along with where and when you can set them off.

Thankfully, there’s the American Pyrotechnics Association, which has the handy state-by-state guide to fireworks ordinances that we always check out this time of year.

For example, in Nebraska, you can buy sparklers — but only gold and silver — spray fountains, torches, color fire cones, star and comet type aerial shells without explosive charge, lady fingers (that don’t exceed ⅞” in length and ⅛” in diameter and with a total pyrotechnic composition that doesn’t exceed 50 mg. each), color wheels and any other item approved by Fire Marshal.

But Nebraskans have tight window within which to buy these items legally: June 25-July 4. In Lincoln, NE, that time period is only two days long and Omaha residents are out of luck because fireworks are prohibited there.

Similarly, while Montana puts few restrictions on the kinds of fireworks you can buy, the actual fireworks can only be sold in the state between June 24 and July 5 or between December 29 and December 31.

There are four states — Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — where no consumer-grade fireworks are allowed.

Another four states — Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, and Vermont — that are basically sparkler-only, though you’ll want to look at the particular rules for your state.

States like Montana, Maine, Texas, and others that only prohibit a small number of specific fireworks products do of course require residents to observe federal regulations as set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 16 spells out two very specific fireworks bans.

Part 1500.17(a)(3) prohibits:

“Fireworks devices intended to produce audible effects (including but not limited to cherry bombs, M-80 salutes, silver salutes, and other large firecrackers, aerial bombs, and other fireworks designed to produce audible effects, and including kits and components intended to produce such fireworks) if the audible effect is produced by a charge of more than 2 grains of pyrotechnic composition.”

While (a)(8) bans:

“Firecrackers designed to produce audible effects, if the audible effect is produced by a charge of more than 50 milligrams (.772 grains) of pyrotechnic composition (not including firecrackers included as components of a rocket), aerial bombs, and devices that may be confused with candy or other foods, such as ‘dragon eggs,’ and ‘cracker balls’ (also known as ‘ball-type caps’), and including kits and components intended to produce such fireworks.”

Whatever you light off this weekend, don’t do it stupidly. Fireworks are awesome. Fireworks in the eye are not.

Truck Driver Shortage Could Mean Higher Prices In Store Aisles

Wed, 2014-07-02 20:05

(nffcnnr)

(nffcnnr)

When strolling down the store aisles, shoppers might forget how all those products arrived on at their final destination on shelves, ready for the plucking. Many times it’s truckers that get the bottles of beer on the wall and the newest gadgets in stock, but what happens when there aren’t enough drivers to go around? Prices for consumers an go up, a new report says.

The truck driver shortage is partly due to a harsh winter, new federal regulations, and a higher number of items that need shopping. Top that all off with rising fuel costs and it’s getting harder for companies to ship products where they need to be when they need to be there, and at a reasonable price, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Anything considered a consumer product could potentially be affected, all because we’re willing to spend right now. That demand for stuff triggers a need for more raw goods and then there’s more merchandise to eventually ship. Someone’s gotta drive those big containers around, after all.

But there just aren’t enough truckers, the American Trucking Associations says: Right now there are 3.2 million drivers and about 30,000 more are needed. It’s all part of an ongoing problem that slowed down during the recent recession, but keeps growing as the economy gets better.

“Our business is picking up. Then we need more trucks on the road to deliver our product. The trucks get filled right to the top. … You have to make hay when the sun shines,” the president of one beer distributor said of the current buying boom. “People are now gainfully employed again, and beer’s a recreational commodity.”

Another part of the problem? Federal trucking regulations covering how many hours truckers can work changed — those hours have been limited and drivers can only restart the work clock after sitting out for 34 hours. That limits productivity, the industry says, prompting trucking companies to charge more, setting off a increased prices for raw materials and then, the items on shelves themselves.

In case you want to do us all a favor and help keep those prices down, the median income for a truck driver is $38,200, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent data from 2012.

Truck driver shortage, other troubles could push up prices for consumers [Detroit Free Press]

Amazon Official Says Feud With Hachette Is In The “Long-Term Interest Of Our Customers”

Wed, 2014-07-02 18:58

(enokson)

(enokson)

Apparently, removing preorders and delaying the shipping of books from a publishing company you’re feuding with isn’t a big deal if you happen to be the top online retailer. That’s pretty much how one official with Amazon describes the e-tailer’s recent tactics in negotiating with Hachette Publishing Group.

Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s senior vice president of Kindle content, defended the company against criticism that its actions were an attempt to bully the publisher into new contractual terms for e-book pricing and how to split earning from books, The Wall Street Journal Reports.

About three months ago Amazon began delaying the shipping orders and pulled the pre-order option for certain Hachette authors in the United States and for Bonnier Media Group books in Germany.

Just last week, the German Publishing Association filed a complaint accusing Amazon of antitrust violations for their actions.

Still, Grandinetti implied on Tuesday that the company’s actions were made “in the long-term interest of our customers.”

“This discussion is all about e-book pricing,” he said. “The terms under which we trade will determine how good the prices are that we can offer consumers.”

Grandinetti indicated the retailer was willing to suffer some damage to its reputation over the recent feud. However, some industry insiders contend this situation, as well as the company’s similar feud with Warner Home Video, could come back to haunt the e-tailer more than just in the pocketbook.

Although, Amazon presumably doesn’t care that much about missing out on the money it could be making off the Hachette items, as it has millions of other books and movies — not to mention appliances, music, food, tools, and mini-tanks — that it can still sell.

In fact, the retailer gave customer’s its blessing to shop elsewhere. And other book dealers and sellers have been more than happy to fill the void by offering consumers’ favorite Hachette published authors, such as J.K. Rowling, at some pretty steep discounts.

Shortly after the feud entered its third week, Walmart began offering 40% off of nearly 400 Hachette books and promised speedy delivery of current titles. Over at Barnes & Noble, customers could also receive up to 40% off certain Hachette produced books.

Grandinetti wouldn’t comment on how negotiations were going between Amazon and Hachette.

This isn’t Amazon’s first attempt to strong-arm publishers. In 2010, the retailer briefly removed the “buy” button from Macmillian published books. That same year, the e-tailer lowered the prices on Penguin hardcovers to $9.99 when the publisher refused to budge on e-book pricing.

“We were fighting for what we thought was right for consumers, and the same is true here,” Grandinetti tells the WSJ.

Amazon Defends Its Stance Against Hachette [The Wall Street Journal]

Could A Fungus Extract Take Away Drug-Resistant Superbugs’ Super Powers?

Wed, 2014-07-02 18:52

(Scott Lynch)

(Scott Lynch)

We’ve written several stories stories over the years asking farmers to stop feeding unnecessary antibiotics to their animals, but it’s not because we object to the taste of penicillin. It’s because study after study has shown that the over-use of antibiotics contributes to the development of so-called superbugs, bacteria that are resistant to the very drugs intended to kill them. But researchers in Canada may have found a way to reverse that resistance.

The Wall Street Journal reports on research from scientists at McMaster University in Ontario who believe a compound, aspergillomarasmine A, extracted from a common fungus may hold the key to turning off drug resistance in bacteria.

According to the researchers, the compound has been shown to turn off the gene for an enzyme — New Delhi Metallo-beta-Lactamase-1, or NDM-1 — that gives bacteria the ability to survive antibiotic treatments.

When combining a purified form of the compound with an antibiotic, the researchers were able to deactivate the gene for NDM-1 in three drug-resistant superbugs. It removes zinc from the enzyme, which apparently makes the bacteria vulnerable to drugs again.

They tested on mice who had been injected with a lethal dose of drug-resistant bacteria. The compound on its own didn’t work, nor did the antibiotic. But when administered together, more than 95% of the mice survived.

In the U.S. alone, more than 2 million people every year become ill from drug-resistant microbes, with some 23,000 dying. If researchers can figure out exactly how much of the compound is needed to deactivate this gene and how to safely provide it to patients, that could help keep superbugs at bay, or at least give them something new to work on.

“Discovery of a fungus capable of rendering these multidrug-resistant organisms incapable of further infection is huge,” Irena Kenneley, a microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, tells the Journal. “The availability of more treatment options will ultimately save many more lives.”

Of course, it will take a number of years and a lot more research and trials before any product reaches the market. And even then, there’s nothing to say that bacteria won’t just eventually develop a work-around that makes them resistant to the compound.

“I can’t imagine anything we could make where resistance would never be an issue,” admits the study’s lead researcher Gerard Wright, director of McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research. “At the end of the day, this is evolution and you can’t fight evolution.”

Stranger Offers To Pay For Fellow Walmart Shopper’s Diapers When They Cost More Than Expected

Wed, 2014-07-02 18:44

(Argus Leader)

(Argus Leader)

Usually when one hears a shopper has been caught on tape, the mind leaps immediately to troublesome behaviors we’ve seen in the past from bad consumers. That makes it all the more refreshing to see a stranger offer to pay for her fellow shopper’s purchase, after she’d realized she couldn’t get a price match on all four boxes of diapers and thus, could only afford one.

While waiting in line behind the two women, a local wedding entertainer filmed the interaction between the two, reports the Argus Leader (warning: video auto-plays), unbeknownst to them. He posted it on Facebook this week, and it’s since been shared more than 1,000 times and “liked” by more than 4,000 people.

The older woman had made her selections and gotten into line behind the young mother, who had four 148-count packages of diapers in her cart, and nothing else. When the line wasn’t moving, she wandered off and came back later. The same customer was there, but only had one box of diapers. Apparently, the lower price offered by a competitor could only be price-matched for one box, instead of all four.

The video shows the older woman taking the three boxes and putting them back on the checkout lane, then she pulls out her credit card and tells the cashier to ring it all up on her. She and the mom chat briefly and leave.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. I kept saying thank you and God bless you,” says the mother, who’s raising her 4-month-old son with her husband on a single income. She’d heard about the price-match deal and thought it would be a boon for their budget.

All the older woman asked is that she pay it forward sometime in the future when she could, and help someone else in need.

Her new friend didn’t know the moment had been caught on tape either, until someone called and asked her about it. She says she didn’t do it for glory, she did it because it had to be done.

“You can’t take it with you,” she says of the $120 she spent on the diapers. “I just think we should do things like that. That’s kind of my thinking.”

Woman on receiving end of good deed: ‘I couldn’t believe it’ [Argus Leader]

Google Buys Music Playlist Service Songza For Reported $39 Million

Wed, 2014-07-02 17:50

You've been Googlefied.

You’ve been Googlefied.

The coffers of Silicon Valley are tinkling sweetly again with the sound of coins exchanging hands upon the news that Google has bought music playlist service Songza for a reported $39 million. Because in the technology world, everyone’s gotta have a piece of every pie.

The price cited for the deal by “a person briefed” on it who spoke to the New York Times says it’s more than $39 million, the Google-Songza deal is much smaller potatoes than Apple’s $3 billion payout for Beats Music, at least monetarily.

But that deal involved a sizable business in making headphones, while Google’s acquisition of Songza is probably designed to gain entrée into musical curation services. Songza’s app tailors music playlists of recommended songs to users depending on the time of day, or the mood a person is in, or even the weather, through a partnership with The Weather Channel.

Google announced the new member of its entourage on its blog, without mentioning the price but saying nothing will change… for now.

“We aren’t planning any immediate changes to Songza, so it will continue to work like usual for existing users. Over the coming months, we’ll explore ways to bring what you love about Songza to Google Play Music,” the statement explains, adding that YouTube could be involved as well.

As of the end of last year, Songza reportedly had 5.5 million regular users, which is a drop in the bucket when compared to rival Pandora’s 75 million regular users. But now it’s got the Goliath of Google in its corner, something the company says it’s excited about, while also insisting it’ll be business as usual.

“We can’t think of a better company to join in our quest to provide the perfect soundtrack for everything you do. No immediate changes to Songza are planned, other than making it faster, smarter, and even more fun to use.”

Corinthian’s Plans To Sell Off Heald College Campuses Didn’t Win Over Government

Wed, 2014-07-02 17:39

healdheaderA week ago, beleaguered for-profit college biggie Corinthian — which operates the Everest University, WyoTech, and Heald College chains — confirmed that it would be meeting with the Dept. of Education to discuss its plan to sell off some of its campuses in an attempt to free up student loan money and allow classes to continue while the school is investigated by state and federal regulators for allegations of misleading marketing and questionable loan application processes. The two parties met on Tuesday, but no deal was reached.

This morning, Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said that yesterday’s meeting with Corinthian to hash out a deal that would have released some $16 million in loans to students did not result in a final agreement.

“While we did not reach an agreement yet with Corinthian officials, we are optimistic that further conversations with the company will produce an acceptable plan in the next few days that protects the interests of students and taxpayers,” said Mitchell in a statement.

Corinthian repeated that sentiment saying it “continues to work cooperatively with the U.S. Department of Education to complete an operating agreement as contemplated by the previously announced Memorandum of Understanding.”

The Sacramento Bee reports that Corinthian’s plan, which has the approval of its board, involves the sale of Heald College campuses.

Heald has campuses in a dozen locations, almost all of them in California, where Corinthian is being sued by the state’s Attorney General Kamala Harris for allegedly providing inflated job-placement information to both prospective students and to investors.

“The Company has not yet secured a buyer for all or any subset of the Heald Schools, but has allocated internal resources to identify potential buyers and evaluate proposals for these campuses,” reads a recent SEC filing from Corinthian. “The Company intends to execute definitive sales agreements with one or more third parties for the sale of the Heald Schools within approximately six months.”

As we mentioned yesterday, if any current or former students at Heald, Everest, or WyoTech want to talk to give Consumerist readers their insight into what’s going on with these schools, shoot us an e-mail at cci@consumerist.com.

Target Asks Shoppers Not To Bring Guns Into Its Stores

Wed, 2014-07-02 17:31

(Ron Dauphin)

(Ron Dauphin)

Target added its name to the list of companies asking customers not to bring guns into its stores.

The retailer made the announcement by posting a notice on its website early Wednesday, USA Today reports.

In the past, the retailer has kept a rather neutral stance on firearms in stores, simply saying that the company does not sell guns and follows state and federal laws regarding open-carry.

The company refrained from specifically addressing the issue last month when gun rights activists were spotted carrying firearms inside several Target stores. That move subsequently led led one group to gather tens of thousand of signatures on a petition urging the retailer to prohibit weapons in Target stores.

It’s unclear if the new stance has anything to do with the demonstrations, petition or the fact that a security officer at a Georgia Target found a loaded gun in the toy section of the store last month.

Wednesday’s announcement appears on the retailer’s A Bullseye View blog and asks consumer to help create a safe and inviting experience for others.

Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.

We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.

This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.

The list of companies asking customers to refrain from bringing firearms inside stores has grown considerably this year.

In May, Chipotle announced that it would rather its customers didn’t bring firearms into their stores. Previously, the company abided by local laws regarding open carry and concealed carry in determining whether or not to allow guns into particular stores.

“However, because the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers, we think it is time to make this request,” explains the statement, which does not appear to be an outright ban but a request from the company to its customers.

Back in 2013, Starbucks issued a similar statement, which also stopped short of actually banning the carrying of guns into the coffee shops. CEO Howard Schultz instead asked “that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas — even in states where ‘open carry’ is permitted—unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.”

Target ‘respectfully’ bans shoppers from packing heat [USA Today]

Dumpster Diving Bear Cub Rescued After Getting Cookie Jar Stuck On Its Head

Wed, 2014-07-02 16:53

(New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection)

(New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection)

While the relationship between Mother Nature and the Human World might be getting a bit too cozy, turning wild animals into bargoers and birthday bashers, which while adorable, is not good for either party involved, it’s still pretty adorable to imagine a bear cub with a cookie jar stuck on its head getting a big rescue.

When someone leaves animal crackers around, wild animals are going to want a taste, which is what happened to a 6-month-old black bear cub emulating Winnie Pooh. He went for a discarded oversized cookie jar in the absence of honey, reports NorthJersey.com.

After he got his head properly stuck in the plastic bin, the little guy wedged himself in a tree, proving to be quite a challenge for rescuers. They climbed 40 feet up into the tree to rescue him and give him a large dose of fluids after his dehydrating ordeal.

“It was an oversized animal cracker jar. We suspect he got it from a neighbor’s trash container. We did find trash on the ground,” said a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“He was trying to eat what remained in the jar and pulled the jar over his head,” he added. “He got spooked and went up into the tree.”

Various fire departments were also onhand with two of the DEP staff, all coming together to save our hero from what could’ve been an awful outcome.

Rescuers set up netting in case the bear fell, and then tranquilized him so they could cut the jar off his head.

He’s now in safe hands and is expected to be just fine. Here he is taking a nice, cool dunk after his ordeal:

Out of that blasted tree, at last.

Out of that blasted tree, at last.

Now’s a good time to remind you all: Take care of your trash if you live in an area with foraging wildlife, animal-proofing trashcans and not leaving bins out overnight unprotected, the DEP says.

Bear cub rescued after head gets stuck in cookie jar in Ringwood [NorthJersey.com]

One Sentence From News Story About Exploding Laptop Sums Up What It’s Like To Be In Dell Hell

Wed, 2014-07-02 16:52

splodingdellLongtime readers of Consumerist are familiar with “Dell Hell” stories, in which something bad happens to a Dell computer and then the company does its best to do absolutely nothing about it. A recent news story about an exploding Dell laptop is a perfect example of Dell’s particular flavor of ignorance.

A 72-year-old woman here in Philadelphia was just sitting around watching the Phillies lose when the battery on her 6-year-old Dell laptop exploded.

Luckily, she was able to put the fire out (though her shirt, carpet, desk, and dog bed are charred) and she only had to be treated for minor chemical burns, but when the local NBC affiliate attempted to speak to someone at Dell, well… here’s the one sentence that epitomizes Dell Hell:

“NBC10 tried to contact Dell’s corporate office but the media number did not work and we received an error message when we tried to send an email.”

Not that we expect Dell to actually do anything about a laptop that was purchased six years ago, but at least pretend to give a damn and release a statement saying you’re taking it seriously.

Kroger Expands Online Reach With $280M Purchase Of Vitacost.com

Wed, 2014-07-02 16:32

(Steve Swain)

(Steve Swain)

Kroger Co., the largest supermarket operator in the United States, plans to expand its online grocery offerings now that it has made the move to purchase Vitacost.com.

The deal, valued at $280 million, would give Cincinnati-based Kroger a jumpstart in entering new markets and new channels, Reuters reports.

Boca Raton-based Vitacost.com is an online grocery and nutrition products retailer dedicated to selling vitamins, herbs, supplements, sports nutrition and beauty care products. The company currently has about 2.3 million active customers.

The deal marks the second significant change for Kroger this year. The company completed the purchase of North Carolina-based Harris Teeter Supermarkets for $2.4 billion in January.

That acquisition added more than 200 supermarkets to Kroger’s network.

Kroger to buy online retailer Vitacost.com for $280 mln [Reuters]

While Other Restaurant Chains Cut Down On Sodium, KFC Meals Have Been Getting Saltier

Wed, 2014-07-02 16:29

Between 2009 and 2013, the sodium levels of this KFC meal actually increased by 11%, according to the CSPI survey.

Between 2009 and 2013, the sodium levels of this KFC meal actually increased by 11%, according to the CSPI survey.

With an increased concern about the role high sodium levels play in high blood pressure, kidney disease and other health issues, a number of restaurant chains have been attempting to cut back on the salt in recent years. A new review of meals from 17 of the nation’s most popular fast food and family eateries shows that most chains are slowly reducing the amounts of sodium in their food (though it’s still very high), while a small number of others have actually gone the other direction.

A new survey [PDF'\] from the Center for Science in the Public Interest looks at a total of 136 meals from the 17 restaurant chains to see whether the sodium levels in those meals changed between 2009 and 2013.

This table (click image to read) shows the extent to which each chain reduced or increased sodium content.

This table (click image to read) shows the extent to which each chain reduced or increased sodium content.

While there is no hard-and-fast number on recommended sodium intake, both the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control say that 1,500mg a day is a good number for those looking to avoid high blood pressure.

The CSPI study found that 79% of the adult meals surveyed were still above that 1,500mg line, with seven meals — mostly from family restaurants — containing more than three days’ worth of sodium.

In general, sodium levels have fallen, but not by much. According to the CSPI, the overall sodium reduction between 2009 and 2013 was only 6%, or 1.5% per year. Kids’ meals only dropped by 2.6% during the four-year period, and much of that was due to restaurants replacing french fries with fruit options.

The biggest names in fast food are also responsible for the biggest reductions in sodium. All of the meals surveyed at Burger King, McDonald’s, Subway, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell demonstrated some level of sodium reduction.

Of that group, Subway’s efforts to cut salt were the most effective, reducing sodium levels nearly 28%, followed by Burger King at 27%. BK’s cheeseburger kids’ meal had the most substantial decrease in sodium (44%), going from 1,200mg to 840mg.

On the opposite end of the survey are those popular eateries where sodium levels actually went up.

While Wendy’s and Sonic were each able to reduce the sodium on 50% of their surveyed meals, increases in other menu items resulted in a net increases in sodium of 2.7% and 1.3%, respectively.

But that was nothing compared to KFC, which only reduced sodium on 14% of one of its seven meals in the CSPI survey. While the reduction for that particular meal was significant (22%), four of the six other meals had double-digit percentage increases in sodium, resulting in a whopping 12.4% net sodium increase for the chicken chain.

The biggest single meal sodium increase also came from KFC, where the kids’ meal with a grilled chicken drumstick, corn on the cob, string cheese, and Capri Sun juice drink resulted in a 52% increase from the 2009 version of the meal. The not-horrible news is that the sodium level for this meal is still under the 1,200mg daily intake figure recommended for children.

But the sodium levels at the family restaurants make most fast food look like heart-healthy options by comparison.

Look at the below chart of the 10 saltiest meals found in the survey, all of which have at least two days’ worth of sodium, and all but one of which comes from a sit-down family eatery:
saltymeals

The FDA puts no limits on sodium content in food, which some public health advocates believe is a mistake. The CSPI points to the restaurant industry’s slow and inconsistent efforts to reduce sodium as evidence that regulation is needed.

“For far too long, the FDA has relied on a voluntary, wait-and-see approach when it comes to reducing sodium in packaged and restaurant food,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “If chains like KFC, Jack in the Box, and Red Lobster are actually raising sodium levels in some meals, FDA’s current approach clearly isn’t working.”

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