lundi 30 septembre 2013

Watch CNBC Rush To The Defense Of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon

If you go on TV to argue a controversial viewpoint, it’s to be expected when the host of the show questions you on your allegations. But what happened last Friday on CNBC’s Closing Bell is just an embarrassing example of how far a financial “news” network will go to defend the head of a huge bank just because that institution is performing well on the stock exchange.

The topic of discussion (for want of a better term) was JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, whose bank has — just in the last couple weeks — reached more than a billion dollars in settlements tied to everything from the London Whale debacle to 2012 to bogus credit card protection plans, and who is currently trying to negotiate the biggest single fine in Wall Street history over allegations that it knowingly unloaded billions in toxic mortgage securities.

Before even getting to the debate over whether Dimon should remain as CEO, co-host Maria Bartiromo showed exactly where her loyalties lie, declaring, “JP Morgan remains one of the best, if not the best performing major bank in the world today.”

On hand to make the case for Dimon to hit the bricks was Salon’s Alex Pareene, who argued that, “If you managed a restaurant, and it got the biggest health department fine in the history of restaurants, no one would say ‘Yeah, but the restaurant’s making a lot of money. There’s only a little bit of poison in the food.’”

The first example of coming to the bank’s defense came after Pareene said that the bank might be too big, too complicated, and “too corrupt” for anyone to properly lead it. This led co-host Scott Wapner not to question that allegation (again, against a bank that is currently negotiating an $11 billion settlement for being corrupt), but to simply call it “hyperbolic” before tossing a softball to Duff McDonald from Fortune.

“It’s preposterous. The stock’s touching a ten-year high,” said McDonald. “It’s a cash-generating machine. Sure they’ve have their regulatory issues but he’s looking to settle them expeditiously, which is everything you want out of a CEO.”

“Should we talk about the financial strength of JPMorgan at this point?” asks Bartiromo, returning to her cheerleading for Dimon. “Even with all of these losses, the company continues to churn out tens of billions of dollars in earnings and hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. How do you criticize that?”

Pareene attempts to point out that much of the revenue has come from “really shady dealings” like alleged bribery in China, to which Bartiromo responds that “You shouldn’t be saying things you can’t prove.”

“Hiring the children of prominent Chinese officials isn’t something I just made up,” answers Pareene, citing a NY Times article.

Note to Andrew Ross Sorkin: This is what your CNBC co-worker Maria Bartiromo thinks of the "facts" in your DealBook column.

Note to Andrew Ross Sorkin: This is what your CNBC co-worker Maria Bartiromo thinks of the “facts” in your DealBook column.

“I don’t like spewing things that are not actual fact on this program,” Bartiromo shouts down at Pareene. She then mocks his source for the story by sarcastically saying “Oh! The New York Times!” and holding up her hands in shocked defeat.

(Of course, she doesn’t point out that her CNBC co-worker Andrew Ross Sorkin is the founder of DealBook, the very column which Pareene cites.)

And so it devolves from there, as the co-hosts and McDonald alternate between mocking Pareene and praising Dimon, talking about how he may (heaven help us) be a future Treasury Secretary.

The short 6-minute segment has gotten a lot more attention than most people would normally pay to CNBC, thanks in no small part to Reuters’ Felix Salmon, who wrote of the horror he witnessed on TV:

This view — that profits cleanse all sins, and that so long as you’re making money, nothing else matters — is not normally expressed quite as explicitly as it was here. After all, there are licit and illicit ways of making money, and surely if your profits fall into the latter category, you should not be able to remain comfortably ensconced as a celebrated captain of industry.

In a response to the piece posted today on Salon, Pareene admits he might have made a mistake:

I may have erred in citing the notoriously liberal New York Times… when the same information has also been reported in more business-friendly outlets like Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

As for Bartiromo’s repeated questioning about who out there could possibly do a better job of running Chase than everyone’s favorite CEO, Pareene responds, “I don’t think Jamie Dimon’s job, or his bank, should exist at all in their present states. I think the exclusive focus by corporations on shareholder value has been pretty awful for the world economy and its poor and working classes, and I think the idea that profitability is its own justification is not a viewpoint shared by anyone outside the bubble of the 0.1 percent, but I have absolutely no fucking clue who should run JPMorgan Chase and Co. Let Maria Bartiromo run it, how is it going to get any worse?”

via Consumerist

Can Kids Recognize Cigarette Logos Even Without Cartoon Camels Involved?

Long gone are the days of Joe Camel and his cartoon pals gamboling across cigarette ads and peering out from packages, but does that mean kids don’t recognize certain brands of smokes when they see them? Nope, says one study — even without blatant gimmicks to draw in the younger set, children can still tell cigarette logos apart from each other.

Back in 1991, researchers working on a study about kids and cigarettes found that 91% of 6-year-olds surveyed could match Old Joe’s cartoon character with a photo of a cigarette, making him on par with Mickey Mouse so far as recognition goes. One might think things have changed in the two decades since, but alas, says a new study, not so much.

A study in Pediatrics published online today found that around the world, children are paying attention to cigarette marketing. Researchers saw 68% of 2,400 children ages 5 and 6, surveyed in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia could correctly identify at least one cigarette brand logo in a game that matched objects with logos.

The authors of the study point to previous studies showing that when kids are exposed to tobacco marketing, they’re more likely to smoke cigarettes as adults. Therefore, the authors write, stronger regulations are required to better protect “this vulnerable population” from the “great efforts” of tobacco companies to encourage kids to use such products.

Removing logos altogether from product packaging or setting up minimum distances between retailers that sell cigarettes and areas kids frequent could serve to keep cigarettes from becomign too familiar to children, suggest the authors.

Kids around world now recognize cigarette brand logos [USA Today]

via Consumerist

IRS Keeps Losing Couple’s 2010 Tax Return, Doesn’t Know Why

A California couple was trapped in the seventh level of bureaucratic hell. They aren’t just dealing with the IRS: they’re apparently dealing with a part of the IRS whose talent for losing paperwork rivals only Bank of America. They’ve sent in their 2010 tax return four times, and the IRS keeps losing it.

The couple owed taxes that year, and mailed a check that was cashed in 2011. Checks and returns get processed separately, so that part makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is what happened to their original tax return…and the three subsequent ones. One of which the husband hand-delivered to the IRS office.

The couple didn’t find out that something was wrong until the following year, when their refund check didn’t show up.

CBS Sacramento was able to refer the couple to the same organization we recommend when you’re doing battle with the IRS: the Taxpayer Advocate Service. They’re like a special squad that helps taxpayers who are having trouble with the agency, but is independent from its bureaucracy.

Call Kurtis: The IRS Keeps Asking For My 2010 Tax Return! [CBS Sacramento]

via Consumerist

Poll: Would You Watch Football On TV Without The Commentators?

Is it time to selectively mute NFL announcers?

Is it time to selectively mute NFL announcers?

Several years back, when Consumerist was flush with all that bubble money from our house-flipping and day-trading side gigs, we posted one person’s suggestion on how you can manipulate your surround sound system so that you wouldn’t have to listen to Joe Buck shill for American Idol, Phil Simms condescend to everyone who isn’t him, or Mike Mayock say…anything. Now some football fans are begging the NFL to give fans the option of just hearing the game without the constant blah blah from the announcers.

Using a very bare bones site (which might be an insult to the phrase “bare bones”), the creators of “Babble Free Football” make their case for how the NFL could please make just one game each week available to viewers minus the constant chatter.

Their target is Thursday Night Football, the current ugly cousin of the weekend broadcasts. And, shockingly, it’s not because they specifically want to mute Mayock’s mutterings. Rather, the logic is this: The NFL owns the rights to the broadcasts, it airs the Thursday game on its own NFL Network, and it has an entire other channel NFL RedZone (not to be confused with DirecTV’s Red Zone Channel for Sunday Ticket subscribers) that is going unused at this time.

So, they ask, why not use RedZone to simulcast the same exact game, but without the chit-chat?

“Many fans will try out the “commentary free” broadcast simply for the novelty of it,” they contend. “Fans who are turned off by commentators will find the broadcast appealing, resulting in more people watching NFL product.”

They are wise to point out that NBC did try this, once, back in 1980, during a Jets-Dolphin game. According to those involved, it actually resulted in more positive feedback from callers than negative. Of course, that was in a pre-Internet era.

So why don’t these fans just hit the mute button?

“We still want to hear the sounds of the game,” they explain. “We want to hear the fans cheering and booing. We want to hear the stadium public address system. We want to hear the hits. We want to hear Peyton Manning yelling, ‘Omaha’ over and over again.”

As someone who heard Manning say “Omaha” a few dozen too many times yesterday in his crushing defeat of my beloved Eagles, I might disagree with that last point, but I see what they’re getting at.

And so we put it to you, Consumerist readers and football fans:

via Consumerist

Gustbuster Umbrella Works As Promised, Withstands High Winds

umbrellacarIf you’re standing outdoors in winds over 50 miles per hour, you may have bigger problems than a broken umbrella. In case it happens, though, don’t you want the strongest possible rain protection? You can find the Gustbuster online and in an awful lot of golf stores, but is that any kind of endorsement? Lab coats flapping in the breeze, our sibling publication Consumer Reports decided to test the Gustbuster’s claims.

The claim is that the umbrella stays solid in winds up to 55 MPH. “Certified by the College of Aeronautics to withstand winds of 55+ mph and above,” to be precise. How does that work out in the real world? Consumer Reports testers attached an umbrella to a car and drove at ever-escalating speeds to see how much wind the umbrella could stand. It reached over 50 MPH without turning inside out–impressive. The Totes umbrella they tested as a control only made it to 15.

If you find that your umbrellas tend to catch the wind and turn inside out, this may be the product for you. If you’re more likely to lose your umbrella than to invert it, spending extra probably isn’t a good option.

Claim check: GustBuster umbrella [Consumer Reports]

via Consumerist

FDA Approves First Pre-Surgical Breast Cancer Drug

"Tiger face" is not currently listed on the known side-effects of Perjeta.

“Tiger face” is not currently listed on the known side-effects of Perjeta.

While many of the hundreds of thousands of people who are diagnosed each year with breast cancer go through radiation or chemotherapy before surgery, until now drugs aimed at treating breast cancer were not FDA-approved for use in the pre-surgery stage.

Today, the FDA granted accelerated approval to Perjeta, the brand-name for pertuzumab, a breast cancer treatment drug produced by Roche. Perjeta was approved last year for post-surgical treatment of some breast cancers, but this is the first time the FDA has signed off on a medication for use before going under the knife.

Perjeta will be used to treat patients with HER2-positive, early stage breast cancer (tumor greater than 2 cm in diameter or with positive lymph nodes) who are at high risk of having their cancer return, metastasize, or of dying from the disease. About 20% of breast cancer patients are HER2-positive.

The FDA based the approval on a study of 417 participants who were randomly assigned to receive one of four pre-surgical treatment regimens: Herceptin (trastuzumab) plus chemotherapy, Perjeta plus Herceptin and chemo, Perjeta plus Herceptin, or Perjeta plus chemo.

According to the results, about 39% of those who received the triple play of Perjeta, Herceptin and chemo were found to have no invasive cancer in the breast of lymph nodes. By comparison, only 21% of patients who received Herceptin plus chemo reached this same state.

The FDA has moved on to a confirmatory trial, looking at 4,800 patients with HER2-positive breast cancer who had prior breast cancer surgery and are at high risk of having their cancer return. Results are expected in 2016, but some doctors are already prescribing Perjeta to pre-surgery patients.

But it won’t come cheaply. A for the manufacturer tells the AP that a combined regimen of Perjeta plus Herceptin would cost the patient between $27,000 and $49,000, for anywhere between nine and 18 weeks of treatment.

“We are seeing a significant shift in the treatment paradigm for early stage breast cancer,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research . “By making effective therapies available to high-risk patients in the earliest disease setting, we may delay or prevent cancer recurrences.”

An estimated 232,340 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, while nearly 40,000 people will die from the disease during the same time. It is the second-largest leading cause of cancer-related death in women.

via Consumerist

Study: Wine Drinkers Often Have Heavier Hands When Pouring For Themselves

There’s a condition often suffered by wine drinkers, one that I always attributed to the fact that my skeleton is made of Osmium, wherein your hand becomes so heavy that before you know it, there’s quite a large serving of wine in the glass. The only way to resolve that situation is of course, to drink it. But it turns out not everyone has dense hand bones, says a new study, wine drinkers just tend to be the over-serving sort when pouring for themselves.

Researchers at Iowa State University and Cornell University found that when people drink wine, a lot of them don’t even realize how much they’re consuming because of variables like the size, shape or color of the glass, reports the Des Moines Register. It all becomes very confusing until oops, half the bottle is gone, it’s midnight and infomercials are wildly entertaining.

A standard serving size is five ounces, says National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, but depending on what kind of wine you’re pouring into whichever vessel you’ve picked often makes it an overpoured situation.

Researchers found that participants poured 12% more wine into a wide glass than a narrow one because we tend to judge volume by height, not width, say researchers. Participants also poured 12% more into glasses they held in their hands, as opposed to a glass sitting on a table.

White wine drinkers are even more heavy-handed than their red wine counterparts, over-pouring white wine into clear glasses by 10%. Red wine was more likely to be served closer to a normal serving size.

Lest you think you’ll change your heavy-handed ways now that you know what you’re doing, well, you probably won’t. Researchers told participants when they were over-pouring, but they still did it, said Laura Smarandescu, an Iowa State marketing professor and co-author of the study.

“A lot of times consumers don’t know how much they drink. Especially when they buy a bottle of wine, it’s less clear how much each person consumes,” she said. “And when people pour on top of wine still in a glass, that bias increases by a lot.”

Ah yes, the old “top me up while you’ve got it in your hand” trick. I know it well.

If you don’t want to over indulge, stock up on narrower wine glasses, red wine and make sure your glass is empty and sitting on the table before your next pour. Or stay just the way you are and enjoy those infomercials.

Study: Wine drinkers often don’t realize how much they consume [Des Moines Register]

via Consumerist

Dish Customers, Prepare For Potential ESPN (And ABC, Disney) Blackout

An extended dispute between Disney and Dish could lead to a blackout of ESPN and ABC.

An extended dispute between Disney and Dish could lead to a blackout of ESPN and ABC.

Okay, so the federal government might shut down tomorrow, which would suck. And possibly making matters worse for 14 million Dish Network subscribers is that they might not have any Disney-owned channels, including ABC and ESPN, if the nation’s second-largest satellite provider isn’t able to make a deal with the broadcast behemoth tonight.

Just like every other contract renewal agreement, there will be lots of discussion about the higher fees being charged to let cable/satellite companies carry stations. ESPN is already the most expensive single non-premium item on consumers’ cable bills, at several dollars per month.

Additionally, Disney’s bundling of stations will likely be a sticking point. While ESPN might be wildly popular, carriers are increasingly being forced to take niche-market channels like ESPN Classic, ESPNews, or ABC Family in order to get the one station that most customers actually want.

Beyond all of this now-standard dickering, there is the issue of the Hopper, Dish’s ad-skipping DVR service that is currently the subject of lawsuits by all the broadcast network operators, including Disney. Dish isn’t likely to negotiate a settlement with Disney during a contract renewal discussion — especially when all the preliminary court rulings have been favorable to Dish — but the lawsuits could cast a pall of ill will over the whole proceedings.

A Dish blackout of a major network and the biggest cable sports network would cause a much larger annoyance to American TV viewers than the recent month-long Time Warner Cable blackout of CBS and Showtime. The CBS portion of that blackout only affected 3 million customers, albeit in the two largest metro areas in the country. A Dish blackout would have an impact on more than 4 times that many viewers.

The TWC vs. CBS spat also occurred during the absolute doldrums of summer TV and ended as soon as the new NFL and college football seasons were starting. If Dish were to pull the plug on ABC just as its rolling out new shows and ESPN in the middle of the football season, the consumer backlash would likely be much more immediate and vocal — and nationwide, as Dish’s service area is generally not fenced in by local regulations.

It’s more likely that, should talks fail tonight, the parties will extend the current agreement. Many of the most public broadcaster/carrier disputes that we see are the end result of multiple extensions and failed talks. So expect to revisit this topic in the not-so-distant future.

Another Looming Shutdown: Dish Network Could Lose ESPN, ABC []

via Consumerist

How Does An Unlimited Return Policy Help L.L. Bean?

llbeanThis summer, outdoors equipment co-op REI made a change: they cut back on their return policy. They no longer accept any item back for any reason indefinitely. Other companies continue the practice, most notably L.L. Bean and Costco. It must be expensive and there must be customers who abuse it. So why do they do it?

Yes, taking stuff back indefinitely does cost the company quite a bit of money, but it has another function: marketing. If you returned a 25-year-old set of flannel sheets and got a gift card in exchange, how many friends and colleagues would you tell that wacky story to? How many online comments about the old sheets would you leave on posts about L.L. Bean? Those wacky stories have value, and market the company in a way that a TV commercial or banner ad never could.

Most of the company’s business is mail order, and people are less likely to send something back as opposed to keeping it in the car trunk for the next time they happen to go to the mall.

REI’s new policy allows returns within a year, and is relatively generous compared to other retailers. Unlike L.L. Bean, the co-op noticed an increase in the number of people who abuse the return policy in recent years. I don’t want to be in the business of looking somebody in the eye behind the counter and questioning the morality of their return,” the company’s executive in charge of stores told NPR. A time limit is more fair than saying “we won’t take these stinky boots back.” Isn’t it?

What Happens When Stores Let Customers Return Whatever They Want? [NPR]

via Consumerist

Company That Makes Game About Scoring Digital Candy You Can’t Even Eat Files For IPO

This is what profit looks like these days.

This is what profit looks like these days.

Using candy as bait is a tried-and-true trick to get people to do things. Like trading a Snickers bar to your little brother so he’ll promise not to tell your parents what time you really came home from that party junior year, candy has a way of persuading people. Heck, Candy Crush Saga doesn’t even reward people players with real candy and yet it’s so popular, the company that makes it is banking on its draw when it goes public.

A source close to, a British mobile gaming company that has been riding high on the popularity of its Candy Crush Saga, has filed confidentially for an initial public offer in the United States, Reuters reports.

Although Candy Crush is so addictive it can cause even your very best friends to ignore you during dinner while trying to get past just one more level (you know who you are), this isn’t a sure thing for King. You might remember a little company called Zynga that relied on its cash cow game FarmVille to make the big bucks, and we all know that $1 billion IPO went downhill fast.

But then there’s Twitter, which also joined the IPO party last month in a the confidential filing and its social network rival Facebook. If those two crazy online kids can make it, why not incredibly successful games based on the greed for virtual candy?

King says it has more than 1 billion gameplays per day, after all, but it remains to be seen if those blinking lights and flashing sweets will translate into a hot stock with staying power. Maybe if the company offers a free candy bar with each share?

Mobile gaming firm sets sights on U.S. IPO: source

via Consumerist

Breaking Bad Finale Has Already Been Pirated More Than 500,000 Times

jesse Plenty of people tuned into AMC last night to watch the finale of Breaking Bad (Spoiler Alert: Jesse and Walter have been living under a transparent dome the whole time!). And hundreds of thousands more around the globe chose to get their hands on the episode via less-than-legitimate methods, even in countries where it is incredibly easy to get the show on the cheap.

According to TorrentFreak, within the first 12 hours of the show airing on the East Coast, more than 500,000 people had BitTorrented the episode, which means it’s likely to become one of the most shared episodes of any TV show this year.

What’s interesting is that, in spite of the millions of homes that have access to AMC, and the millions more who could legally rent the episode for only a few bucks from services likes Amazon and iTunes, folks are still turning to BitTorrent to get it for free.

Giving credence to recent comments by News Corp CEO Robert Thomson that “Australians have very bad habits – piracy happens to be one of them,” TorrentFreak foudn that Australia accounted for 18% of the early downloads, three and a half percentage points higher than the U.S. and nearly double that of the UK. Likewise, five of the ten cities with the most Breaking Bad finale downloads are in Australia, including Melbourne, which accounted for 5.4% of all downloads during the first 12 hours.

Much like Game of Thrones — still the reigning most-pirated show — Australians could simply get the show by paying for a subscription to premium cable channel FoxTel. As Thomson, whose company is a co-owner in FoxTel pointed out last week about Game of Thrones, even some people who pay for FoxTel subscriptions are still BitTorrenting it just to get it before it airs locally.

“One of the explanations for this defiant behavior is that these downloaders simply prefer to torrent the show out of habit,” writes TorrentFreak. “In other cases people may find a pay TV subscription too expensive, or they simply prefer to watch the show at their own leisure instead of following rigid TV-schedules.”

Now if they would only give Dean Norris that Mineral Man spin-off he so rightly deserves…

via Consumerist

Retail Nightmare Before Christmas Reaches Pier One, Canadian Walmart

nightmareIn the classic animated film “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” the Pumpkin King learns about Christmas and convinces the other scary creatures of Halloween Town to take over the holiday. In the North American retail Nightmare Before Christmas, retailers begin to set out Christmas merchandise as soon as the school supplies are off the shelves.

Reader Knah sent in this festive Halloween tree that he found at Pier 1, which is similar to a lovely fall tree that Hobby Lobby inflicted on the world.


Gordon (all Canadian men are named Gordon, it’s a law or something) in Ontario took this photo at Walmart. Yes, it’s part of the larger “seasonal” section, but it’s almost like they’re goading us into creating holiday mashups, putting plastic candy canes in the hands of the ghouls and hanging pumpkins from trees.


via Consumerist

When You’re $.41 Short At The Gas Station, Don’t Punch The Attendant In The Face

When I’m a few cents short of my purchase at the corner store, I either put my stuff off to the side and go to the ATM or hold off on buying an item or two. But not one wanted man in Los Angeles, who decided to punch a female gas station cashier in the face when he couldn’t pay for his $1.41 cigar.

“He just says, ‘Well, this is all I have….(expletive) whatever.’” the woman tells CBS L.A. about the man, who only had a dollar bill on him. “And I was like, ‘You need to get out of the store.’ I was like, ‘I’m sorry.’ And he tries to snatch [the cigar].”

That’s when he hauled off and punched her in the face — all of it caught on the above video.

“It just happened so fast,” says the cashier. “I didn’t think he would hit me. And he just socks me.”

The man was able to flee the scene, as no customers attempted to restrain him on his way out. You can see them in the above video, just watching as the puncher exits the building.

“I’m sure they were surprised by his actions as he walked out of the store,” explains a police officer to CBS. “A few of them were worried about the clerk.”

She’s worried for her own safety now, figuring that if someone can get that angry over 41 cents, things could go really badly when more money is on the line.

“There are cowards out there that are willing to do stupid stuff,” she says.

[via NY Daily News]

via Consumerist

YouTube Copyright Bots Finally Tick Off Someone Who Understands Copyright Law

Harvard law professor and Creative Commons co-founder Lawrence Lessig knows a thing or two about copyright law. So when a record company demanded that he remove a video from YouTube that featured one of their artists’ songs, he not only fought back to keep the clip online, but has now sued that record company in the hopes of getting it, and others, to stop using auto-scanning technology to take advantage of consumers who may not know their rights.

This all began back in 2010, when Lessig gave a keynote address at a Creative Commons conference in South Korea. During the 49-minute lecture (which you can watch above), he showed how people from around the world had made their own versions of a music videos for “Lisztomania,” a song by French musicians Phoenix.

Given that Section 107 of the Copyright Act permits “fair use” of copyrighted materials “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research,” Lessig shouldn’t have been concerned that the video of his lecture contained copyrighted material, as it was all being shown in the spirit of the fair use doctrine.

“If I’m using it for purposes of critique, then I can use if even if I don’t have permission of the original copyright owner,” he explains to NPR.

Things went fine until June 2013. Within a short period of time, YouTube received takedown notices related to this lecture video from both Viacom and Liberation Music, the Australian record company that holds the copyright to the Phoenix song. However, Lessig says he only received a notice from YouTube regarding the Viacom claim, which he successfully disputed.

When the video reappeared following his appeal of the Viacom copyright claim (which we assume involves a clip from The Daily Show that was used in the lecture), that’s when he received the notice that Liberation was also trying to block access to the lecture video. An e-mail from YouTube to Lessig warned him that repeated incidents of copyright infringement could lead to the deletion of his YouTube account and all videos uploaded to the account.

He appealed his case to YouTube and Liberation swiftly replied on July 8 that it would sue him in a U.S. District Court if he did not retract his dispute of their infringement claim within 72 hours.

Lessig retracted his claim on July 10, but filed suit [PDF] in a U.S. District Court in Massachusetts in late August.

“Defendant’s conduct has forced Professor Lessig to choose between sharing his work and views publicly and risking legal liability,” reads the complaint, which is asking for the court to declare that his use of the song in his video falls is considered fair use.

He also accuses Liberation of knowing — or at least that it, as an international record company, should have known — that it was acting in bad faith when it sent the takedown notice to YouTube. Lessig seeks unspecified damages from the company, including legal fees.

Ultimately though, the goal is to set a precedent in order to make record companies and other copyright holders rethink the shoot-first-ask-questions-later mindset behind these automated scanning and takedown systems.

What we’ve got is this computerized system threatening people about content that’s on the Web, much of it legally on the Web,” Lessig tells NPR.

via Consumerist

Chameleon Theft Triggers Bad Karma After Customer Uses Loyalty Card To Buy Reptile Food

There is no way we could ever write about a chameleon without also mentioning karma because otherwise we’re sure Boy George would appear to chastise us for our oversight. And in the case of a pet store customer accused of stealing a Jackson’s Chameleon, karma really is a brat: Cops say he was caught after he swiped his loyalty card while buying food for the pilfered reptile.

The Sun-Sentinel tells the story of a Florida man who tried to save some money by first allegedly stealing a pet and then by going for some reward program points when he bought it food.

Cops arrested the 20-year-old for the theft of the unique reptile, a Jackson’s Chameleon residing in a secured aquarium at Petco.

Employees told the police that two customers somehow reached inside the enclosure to snag the reptile, and then kept on shopping. A chameleon has to eat, after all, so the twosome reportedly picked up live crickets and mini mealworms.

When the suspect went to check out, he of course used his loyalty card to rack up reward points, which also served as a great way to trace him back to the stolen reptile. Police looked at surveillance video at the store and then matched it up with a copy of his receipt.

Police contacted the suspect and he apparently confessed, agreeing to bring the chameleon back to the store. Unfortunately for the innocent reptile, the journey proved too strenuous and he died in transit.

Loyalty customer is rewarded with an arrest [Sun-Sentinel]

via Consumerist

Everyone Honk At Guy Responsible For Slowing Down Drive-Thru Lane With His Fussy Order

“Give me a greasy wax paper packet of french fries and a beef patty slapped between two buns or give me death,” a wise consumer once said. But now that’s changed to “Give me something maybe in a wrap form, with a side salad instead of fries and a gourd-flavored spice latte.” The second order takes a lot longer to make, causing the drive-thru lanes at fast food joints to become clogged and slow.

Because restaurants are offering things like a complicated Cantina Bowl at Taco Bell, which has up to 12 ingredients instead of the couple of things tossed into say, a traditional taco, drive-thru lanes are slowing down.

That means we’re spending more time in line, watching our lives waste away in the pursuit of fast food, reports USA Today, citing a 2013 Drive-Thru Performance Study conducted for QSR Magazine, a trade publication.

The study says McDonald’s, among others, posted slower times for drive-thrus, with an average of 189.5 seconds for an average customer to get through from order to pickup. That’s nine seconds longer than the industry average, says the study.

If customers get impatient enough to give up on the ordeal altogether, it could end up costing businesses: About 60% to 70% of fast-food moneymaking is done at the drive-thru.

Sure, all those new items on the menu seem like a good idea to entice customers — but is it worth it if fast food becomes really slow and complicated?

“The operational pressures to assemble those items are slowing down the drive-thru,” says the editor of QSR.

Another reason the lanes are slow? Customers have this weird insistence on getting the right food. It doesn’t matter if the food is fast, if it’s wrong. To prevent a customer from having to go back to the line to complain and waste everyone’s time, restaurants are moving a little bit slower to make sure the food you ordered is the food you get.

Now hurry up, we’re hungry.

Fast-food drive-thrus are getting slower [USA Today]

via Consumerist

Dunkin’ Donuts Horrifies New England, Sells “Buttered” Bagel With Margarine

A Dunkin’ Donuts customer asked for a buttered bagel. Is “buttered” the past tense of the act of spreading a congealed yellow substance on a bagel, or an adjective that describes the bagel itself after dairy-based butter has been applied to it? No, this is a real consumer question. Stop laughing.

A man in Worcester, Massachusetts, which is sort of near the Dunkin’ Mothership in Boston, ordered a bagel with butter. That is apparently a thing some people do if they don’t know that cream cheese exists. He bit into it and realized that the restaurant staff had applied margarine. He complained about the switch at the restaurant, and they confirmed that they use margarine, not butter. He turned to consumer reporter Mitch Lipka, who checked with Dunkin’ Donuts to see whether this is an actual policy or a horrific oleo oversight.

As it turns out, serving up margarine instead of butter is an actual policy at Dunkin’. Sometimes. The problem, a spokeswoman claims, is food safety. “For food safety reasons, we do not allow butter to be stored at room temperature,” she explained, “which is the temperature necessary for butter to be easily spread onto a bagel or pastry.” Yes. the company recommends that their stores serve individual butter packets with the bagel instead.

Dunkin’ Donuts is a franchised business, though, and different locations do things differently. This location in Worcester happens to “butter” their bagels with margarine, which would be fine if they gave consumers a heads-up, or a choice between having an employee spread margarine for them, or DIY butter pats.

Dunkin’ Donuts on slippery slope with its ‘butter’ [Boston Globe]

via Consumerist

NYC Reverses Illegal Hotel Fine Leveled Against Airbnb Host

In June we heard about a New York City resident who wanted to make a couple extra bucks by renting out a part of his apartment on Airbnb. That seemingly simple action, echoed by Airbnbers around the country on a regular basis, resulted in a fine for apparently tangling with the city’s laws providing against illegal hotels. Months later, vindication is his.

In a post on the Airbnb site, the company’s head of global public policy David Hantman writes that the host — a man Airbnb had stuck by in his times of trouble and also helped out in the legal department — has triumphed in his appeal of an administrative judge’s decision to fine him $2,400 for renting out some space in his home.

The New York City Environmental Control Board reversed the fines late last week, which is a “major victory for Nigel, New York and the Airbnb community,” writes Hantman:

In the appeal, we and Nigel argued—and the appeal board now agrees—that under New York law as long as a permanent occupant is present during a stay, the stay does not violate New York’s short term rental laws. Much of the New York law is confusing, with some provisions applying to certain buildings and not to others. But this shared space provision was crystal clear. We intervened in this case because the initial decision on Nigel’s case was so clearly wrong, and we are pleased to see that the Board agreed.

This will likely be a good thing for other New Yorkers trying to combat ever escalating rents, as well as tourists traveling to the city who want a place to rest their Times Square dazzled heads but don’t want to fork over an excessive amount of cash for a hotel.

Meanwhile, I have a half a couch available for the foreseeable future, just FYI. It comes with a cat for no extra charge.

via Consumerist

This Ad For McDonald’s Mighty Wings Looks Like Something You’d Scoop Out Of Kitty Litter

Even though you can get chicken wings from any family restaurant or sports bar (or buy them at the supermarket at make some yourself), McDonald’s sure has invested a lot of money into advertising and marketing its Mighty Wings. But whoever thought that this sculptural representation of the fast food product looked at all appetizing should really consider a new line of work.

The NSFW language of the Reddit headline basically sums up many folks’ immediate reaction to the “wings” shown in the above photo.

We also thought they looked a bit like:

-Chocolate-glazed pine cones

-A failed attempt at making granola bars

-The cocoons from the 1985 Ron Howard/Steve Guttenberg classic, Cocoon:


Let’s not even get into the implications of the phrase “It’s time for bone in chicken.”

via Consumerist

Airlines Charging Fees To Be Extra Nice Because They Can’t Make Us Pay For Air To Breathe

We’ve come a long way from free luxury: Airlines have run out of finding ways to charge passengers for services that used to be free, like checking a bag or having a place to put your legs, so the newest add-on options are simply treatment upgrades. For a little extra cash, travelers can buy a bit of extra kindness or just a boost back toward the days of yore when airlines actually wanted to do something nice.

Those nice somethings however, don’t come free anymore: Passengers can pay for things like rented iPads loaded with movies, hot meals or even the precious experience of having no one sit next to them and jostle for elbow room on the arm rest.

As the Associated Press reports, the new fees are all about the finer things in flight, and will be served up to passengers based on what their personal data says about them.

“We’ve moved from takeaways to enhancements,” says one consultant. “It’s all about personalizing the travel experience.”

Now that carriers have tacked on those extra fees for bags or changing reservations, they’ve run out of ways to raise more cash. Bring on the extras, the niceties, the additional delights!

But instead of blindly flinging perks at fliers and hoping they stick, airlines will soon be targeting services to passengers using the info of past purchases.

“We have massive amounts of data,” says Delta CEO Richard Anderson. “We know who you are. We know what your history has been on the airline. We can customize our offerings.”

You hear that? They know who we are. Which means Ryan Gosling better be sitting next to me on my flight home to Milwaukee or I will be one very displeased customer.


via Consumerist

Man Holds Protest Vigil Outside Of Sears Over Radiator Warranty

The nice thing about being retired is that it gives you lots of time to pursue old or new hobbies. You could plant an expansive garden, take up woodworking, do volunteer work, or play bingo. Then there’s what a 70-year-old Idaho man is doing: spending 6-8 hours a day picketing a Sears store in Virginia.

The protester and his wife sold their house and now a recreational vehicle is their home. They haul it around with a Ford F-350 pickup truck. They first had the truck’s radiator replaced in Wyoming at a Sears Auto. The new radiator broke while they were visiting their daughter in Virginia, then again while driving to North Carolina. This time, he went back to Sears only to learn that the warranty on the radiator had expired…because he had driven it 800 miles.

Inside NoVa featured the man’s mission, but couldn’t get hold of Sears on a Sunday to get their side of the story, and to find out exactly how far the company will guarantee its work. Other consumers have been quite supportive, though, honking and waving at him. Maybe they’ve had work done at Sears, too.

“There’s been a lot [of] support,” he said. “This is America, the greatest country on Earth, but these conglomerates don’t care about you.”

Idaho man pickets Manassas Mall Sears store [Inside NoVa]

via Consumerist

vendredi 27 septembre 2013

Goodwill Fires Cashier, Presses Felony Charges For For Giving Discounts To Poor People

goodwillGoodwill is a charitable organization that sells donated goods in thrift stores to raise money for its job-training and employment programs. So it’s an organization that helps people. Just not the people who shop in its stores. That’s what a teeenage cashier learned recently when he gave some broke customers off-the-books discounts, and got arrested on felony charges (and fired) for his trouble.

The core problem here is that no one told the cashier that he could give people items for half off whenever he felt like it, but no one told him he couldn’t, either. Usually this doesn’t have to be spelled out when someone starts a retail job. When people in need of clothing with only a few dollars on their back wandered in to the store, he would sell them an item for those few dollars they had.

“Goodwill is a giving and helping company, so I took it upon to myself to be giving and helping because I feel people deserve it,” he said. Yes, but they’re not a philanthropy that provides free or discounted clothes to people: they’re a store that sells used stuff to raise money for other projects.

As far as Goodwill is concerned, unauthorized discounts are the same as stealing. “Our stores are not around to give a hand out, they’re around to give people a hand up by providing funding,” a spokeswoman told TV station WBBS.

Paying it forward lands Naples teen in trouble [NBC 2]

via Consumerist

Salmon From Costco, Trader Joe’s Beat Out Fancy, Expensive Fish In Taste Test

This sea lion may not be getting the tastiest salmon by choosing wild fish over farmed. ( photo bypwrplantgirl)

This sea lion may not be getting the tastiest salmon by choosing wild fish over farmed. ( photo bypwrplantgirl)

The Washington Post recently provided a top chef with a variety of wild and farmed salmon, ranging in price from $6/lb. to $20/lb., and had him prepare dishes for a table of food-snob judges. In the end, farmed salmon handily defeat the wild stuff and the Post concluded that you don’t always get what you pay for.

The Post panel were fed a wide variety of salmon — six from farmed sources and four wild salmon — from waters in Norway, Scotland, Chile, Alaska, Washington, and elsewhere.

There were two Costco products on the list, a wild coho from Alaska at $10.99/lb. and a frozen farmed fish from Norway. This second fish, the only frozen product on the list and sold for only $6/lb., was put into the test at the last-minute with the thought that the testers would most certainly notice the difference.

And apparently they did, but not in the way that the test-runners had expected.

Judging each salmon on a scale of 1-10, this cheapo Costco fish scored the highest at 7.6. Costco also had the lowest-scoring fish on the test, as the wild coho brought up the rear with a mere 3.9 out of 10.

With a score of 6.4, the second-highest rating went to a Trader Joe’s farmed salmon from Norway ($10.99/lb.). In fact, all of the top five finishers were farmed, averaging between twelve to thirteen dollars per pound. Meanwhile the bottom three on the list were all wild salmon, with an average price between fourteen and seventeen dollars per pound.

In explaining why tasters might have been so taken with the Costco frozen product, the Post theorizes that it was the fact that the fish is packed in a 4% salt solution, which adds a bit of flavor and may result in a firmer fish.

“The Costco/Kirkland label product was a fine piece of fish, and one any of us would put on the table,” writes the Post. “Yet it wasn’t strictly comparable to the others.”

The tasters say that there some times when they could immediately identify farmed salmon because of its larger flake and higher fat content — or conversely that some were able to identify the finer grain of a wild salmon — “we could not consistently tell which was which.”

We’re always joking about how “I make/cook/bake/sew/build my own [blank] at home,” but this is the kind of test many people could try with friends at home in a setting that wouldn’t require lab coats and may actually be enjoyable… especially if you’re also taste-testing wine and/or beer.


via Consumerist

Martha Stewart Is Still Waiting For Someone To Come Pick Up Her Broken iPad, Fix It

Martha Stewart has an iPad, a gift from Steve Jobs, and it is broken. Shattered, after she dropped it on the ground. But no one has come to pick it up, prompting her to tweet about it and wonder where in the world the Apple rep is that is supposed to rescue the broken device. Twitter loves this.

Everything started to go downhill for Stewart on Wednesday, when she let her precious device slip to the ground, probably in slow motion while she yelled “Noooooooooo!”

She didn’t know how to deal with this:

Stewart’s ordeal wasn’t fixed by Thursday, despite the fact that the iPad was still shattered:

She’s come up with some handy ideas while she waits:

Just kidding everyone, she’s not actually angry:

Despite her attempt to help Apple out with great ideas, it seems the company isn’t pleased with her tweets:

She finally decided to keep her frustration silent, which means we may never know if anyone from Apple ever showed up. No one came when I tweeted about spilling whisk– err, water on my laptop, so best of luck, Martha. I know how it feels. You’re one of us! Perhaps try an Executive Email Carpet Bomb next time.

via Consumerist

Government Shutdown Could Completely Screw Up Your FHA Mortgage Application

As the real estate market still continues to creep up out of the sinkhole that opened beneath our feet five years ago, home buyers have still been able to rely on loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration. But if lawmakers in Washington can’t figure out a way to keep spending money in the very near future, the federal government would effectively shut down, putting pending FHA mortgages at risk of falling through.

FHA loans accounted for nearly half of all home mortgages issued in 2012, averaging around 60,000 each month. But that approval process will come to a grinding halt if there’s a shutdown next week, as only 3.8% of the entire Dept. of Housing and Urban Development staff will be allowed to continue working.

“FHA will be unable to endorse any single-family loans and FHA staff will be unavailable to underwrite and approve new loans,” writes HUD in its shutdown contingency plan [PDF]

This is also true, reports CNN, for loans backed by the Veteran’s Administration and for the rural development loans of the United States Department of Agriculture.

So if your FHA mortgage is still pending, the process will be delayed until HUD gets back up and running. A day or two won’t make much of a difference, but a lengthy delay could spoil some buyers’ plans. First-time and lower-income home buyers often rely on the lower down-payment requirements for FHA loans in order to get their foot on the first rung of the property ladder. If an anxious seller backs out of a deal because of a delay in an FHA-backed loan, the buyer would have to start from scratch.

via Consumerist