lundi 30 juin 2014

Here’s Why The FDA’s Antibiotics-In-Agriculture Policy Is A Charade

Imagine you’re one of only a handful of businesses in the U.S. making a very profitable and lucrative product. Then come new rules that should have the effect of slashing your business drastically and probably weeding out what little competition there is in the market. You’d fight back, especially if you’re part of an industry that is known for tossing money around to get what you want. So why is the drug industry not up in arms about the FDA policy aimed at curbing the use of antibiotics in farm animals? Because it’s not doing anything.

Let’s take a moment to compare the drug industry’s non-reaction to the FDA guidance on antibiotics to the TV industry’s overheated response to streaming video startup Aereo.

The major TV networks, which give their product away for free to anyone with an antenna, spent huge amounts of money filing lawsuits and getting their case before the Supreme Court, all in an effort to stop a startup with a small customer base and service in a limited number of markets.

The networks acted immediately and disproportionately to an incredibly minor threat because in the long run it could have set a precedent that may have resulted in a larger loss to the broadcasters. Just the notion of an Aereo victory led top network execs to speak publicly about actually pulling their channels from the airwaves and going cable-only. This sort of all-out blitz is what most of us have come to expect from industries that sniff any possible harm in the form of competition or regulation.

Meanwhile, antibiotics for farm animals account for around 80% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. each year. And most of these drugs are purchased solely for the purpose of promoting tissue growth in the animals; they also have the effect of sometimes allowing animals to exist in filthy, cramped conditions (at least until the drugs are rendered ineffective by antibiotic-resistant microbes).

But when the FDA announced last fall that it was finally doing something about the overuse of these drugs, the pharmaceuticals industry didn’t run to the Supreme Court; it didn’t drop a few pills in a politician’s pocket to introduce new legislation to override the guidance. In fact, the pharma pholks not only agreed to the guidance, they said it was no big deal.

The CEO of Zoetis actually said at the time that the FDA guidelines — which are completely voluntary — “will not have a significant impact on our revenues.”

As you can see below, Zoetis’s stock price is virtually the same as it was six months ago, and has actually improved since April, implying that investors aren’t freaking out about the company losing a lot of business from the new FDA guidelines:


And while most of the 26 companies involved in this guidance are privately held, none of the public companies — like ADM, PAHC, Merck, Eli Lilly, Novartis — impacted by the FDA policy appear to be worse for wear:







Eli Lilly




Granted, most of these businesses have many other sources in addition to antibiotics, and many of them do business outside of the U.S., but the fact that not one of them has taken a hit to their stock prices indicates to us that investors are not concerned about the longterm effect that the FDA guidance will have.

So it’s with a huge grain of salt that we take today’s happy report from the FDA that every company that it believes to be impacted by the guidance has “agreed to fully engage” in the FDA phase-out of medically unnecessary drugs and phasing in of veterinary oversight.

But again, one has to wonder why drug companies that would ostensibly be harmed by stricter regulation be playing along so complacently.

“If something sounds too good to be true – it usually is,” says Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York, who has been a very vocal critic of the FDA guidance. “It would take an extraordinary leap of faith to believe that asking pharmaceutical companies to change the labeling on packages of antibiotics will result in a tangible reduction of antibiotic overuse on the farm.”

The Congresswoman points out that the guidance has no sort of reporting requirement, nor does it set any quantitative limits on the use of these drugs; it just requires farmers to change the reason they use for buying the antibiotics.

“Until the FDA comes up with an enforceable, measurable guidance that will actually limit the amount of antibiotics used in agriculture production, we will continue to erode the effectiveness of antibiotics until we reach a point where routine infections like strep throat become fatal and life-saving surgeries that require antibiotics to stave off infection become obsolete,” explains Slaughter.

Attention, Austin: Consumerist Is Hiring Technology Folks

You’re reading this site right now, if these words are beaming through your eyeballs into your brain — and you could be working for it, if you’ve got the technological savvy and happen to live in Austin, Texas.

Consumer Reports is hiring both a Technology Manager and a WordPress Developer to help Consumerist with software development and all things WordPress.

Interested or know someone who is? Check out the job descriptions below.

Technology Manager (click to see details/apply) : The Technology Manager will oversee and lead a technology team in Austin responsible for all software development and infrastructure support for Consumer Reports products and services in the areas of Advocacy and Health as well as other consumer facing websites such as Consumerist and the Share Your Story platform.

Developer (click to see details/apply) :The WordPress Developer will support the Consumerist website and other Consumer Reports web properties running on a WordPress platform. In this role the developer will be responsible for designing and coding enhancements, implementing themes and plug-ins, and for the day-to-day maintenance of the website.

Come, join us. We’re pretty nice and like high fives.

GM Has Officially Recalled More Vehicles In 2014 Than It Has Sold In The Last 7 Years

Recalls_063014_v03 Pretty soon there won’t be any General Motors vehicles left on the roadways that haven’t been part of a 2014 recall. On Monday, the company announced the recall of 7.6 million vehicles in the United States – 8.4 million worldwide– most of them for the same inadvertent ignition key rotation that has been linked to at least three fatalities.

In the first campaign, GM is recalling 6.8 million sedans because the ignition switch may inadvertently move out of the run position if the key is carrying extra weight and experiences a jarring event such as hitting a pothole or crossing railroad tracks.

Affected vehicles include:

•1997-2005 Chevrolet Malibu

•1998-2002 Oldsmobile Intrique

•1999-2004 Oldsmobile Alero

•1999-2005 Pontiac Grand Am

•2000-2005 Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo

•2004-2008 Pontiac Grand Prix

The second announced recall includes 554,328 model year 2003-2014 Cadillac CTS and model year 2004-2006 Cadillac SRX vehicles for the same unintended ignition rotation issue.

The company says it is aware of seven crashes, eight injuries and three fatalities related to the new recalls. The three fatalities occurred in late-model full-sized sedans being recalled for inadvertent ignition key rotation.

Consumers who drive the affected vehicles are asked to remove all items from their key ring until repairs can be performed.

In early June, GM recalled 3.2 million vehicles for a related issue. There were no reported fatalities with those vehicles.

While the issue sounds eerily similar to the massive ignition switch defect plaguing GM in recent months, the company says there is no conclusive evidence that the two issues are related.

The latest ignition-related recalls comes just hours after the car manufacturer announced the details of a compensation plan for victims of the unrelated ignition switch defect that killed at least 13 people.

Monday’s additional recalls include:

•181,000 model year 2005-2007 Buick Rainier, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, Isuzu Ascender, Saab 9-7x vehicles, and the 2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT and GMC Envoy XL SUVs were recalled for a possible electrical short in the driver’s door module. The short could disable the power door lock and window switches and, in rare cases, overheat the module.

•9,371 model year 2007-2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD, GMC Sierra HD trucks equipped with an auxiliary battery, because an overload in the feed may cause the under hood fusible link to melt. If that were to occur, smoke or flames could damage the electoral center cover or nearby wiring conduit.

•2,990 model year 2011-2014 Chevrolet Cruze, model year 2012-2014 Chevrolet Sonic, 2013-2014 Chevrolet Trax, Buick Enclave and Verano vehicles because insulation on the engine block heater power cord may become damaged during very cold conditions.

•106 model year 2014 Chevrolet Camera and Impala, Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS vehicles because some may not have had a “Superhold” joint fastener torqued to specification at the assembly plants.

“We have worked aggressively to identify and address the major outstanding issues that could impact the safety of our customers,” GM CEO Mary Barra says in a news release. “If any other issues come to our attention, we will act appropriately and without hesitation.”

Officials with GM say the company will increase the amount it is setting aside to cover recall repairs to $2.5 billion in the first half of the year.

So far in 2014, GM has recalled nearly 25 million vehicles in the United States through more than 50 recall campaigns.

A quick look at GM’s sales records for the past ten years, shows that the company has now officially recalled in the first six month of 2014 more cars that it has sold from 2007 to 2013.

GM Announces Six Safety Recalls [General Motors]

British Airways ‘Happiness Blanket’ Makes Passengers Look Like Idiots From The Future

Here we see a priest from the Temples of Syrinx enjoying a glass of white wine.

Here we see a priest from the Temples of Syrinx enjoying a glass of white wine.

Which gives you more anxiety: Flying across the Atlantic or looking like an extra from Logan’s Run? If you chose the former and you like to fly first class, then British Airways has a “Happiness Blanket” for you to try out.

No, the blanket isn’t intended to make you happy. It’s more for the airline to convince itself and others that its First Class amenities aren’t horrible. Kind of like a mood ring, but in blankie form.

We can't look at these silly blankets without thinking of all the tunics we'll be wearing in the future.

We can’t look at these silly blankets without

thinking of all the tunics we’ll

be wearing in the future.

BA has apparently been testing the LED-encrusted wool blankets (with Bluetooth-connected headband, because we all love having technology strapped to our heads while we rest) on some flights.

The airline says that the device strapped around your noggin “measures the electrical fluctuations in the neurons of the brain, identifying when the wearer is experiencing a feeling of well-being.”

The sensor transmits that info to the fiberoptic lighting in the blanket. When the wearer is stressed, the blanket glows red. When relaxed, it’s blue. When you’ve swallowed that entire ziploc baggie of magic mushrooms you forgot to take out of your bag before going to the airport, the blanket turns you into a seven-legged unicorn.

BA’s tests have thus far reached the paradigm-shattering conclusion that passengers’ mood improved while they drank liquor and ate food, finally proving once and for all that people don’t hate to eat and drink.

Perhaps BA should be testing out these blankets in Economy class, where passengers would be bumping their head-sensors against each other and spilling subpar meals on their expensive mood blankets.

[via BusinessWeek]

Waffle House Urges Team USA Fans To Boycott Belgian Waffles Ahead Of World Cup Match

At any other time, it would be perfectly acceptable — nay! completely encouraged to enjoy a tasty Belgian waffle. But this is not that any other time, Waffle House is reminding Americans, not when Team USA is about to face Team Belgium in the World Cup tomorrow.

Such an event calls for a boycott of that specific type of gridded breakfast pastry, the American-style waffle chain has trumpeted on social media.

Indeed, a rep confirmed to TMZ (because World Cup news is every patriotic American’s gossip these days, right?) that it wants Americans to boycott Belgium.

“We support a boycott on Belgian Waffles,” the rep confirms. “We support America. We don’t support Belgian Waffles.”

Before you do that though, you might want to read up a bit more on the effectiveness of boycotts. Just sayin’.

Watch These 79 Streaming Movies Before Netflix Takes Them Away Tomorrow

Perhaps you were envisioning a relaxing long weekend at home, curled up watching Chinatown, Dr. Strangelove and Beavis and Butt-head Do America (because of course, best combination). I’m here to shatter your dreams and cast your desires into the dirt: Those and 76 other movies won’t be available to stream on Netflix starting tomorrow.

Because there’s always someone on the Internet keeping track of such things (thanks, Reddit!), there’s a list of some pretty good movies you’ll be bummed not to have at your fingertips, for a total of 79 streaming flicks that are about to disappear.

Of course, some of these titles could be available elsewhere like on Hulu or Amazon Prime, so it’s always worth checking those services as well.

The full list is below, plus 45 new additions noted by The Daily Dot that will be available starting tomorrow. As if you can ever make a bandage for the hole all five Rocky installments will leave.

Going bye-bye:And new entries:

10 Questions For The Dalai Lama

A Borrowed Life

A View to a Kill


After Fall, Winter

Angel Heart

As Good as it Gets

Bad Company

Bang the Drum Slowly

Beavis and Butt-head Do America

Call Northside 777

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter


Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Comic Book Villains

Cotton Comes to Harlem

Death Wish 3

Death Wish 4

Desert Fox

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb


Event Horizon

Evil Dead II

Fist of the North Star

For Your Eyes Only

Freedom Writers

From Russia With love

Future By Design


Girl, Interrupted


Hotel Rwanda

Howard Stern’s Private Parts

Killing Zoe

Lars and the Real Girl

Last Holiday

Less Than Zero

Live and Let Die

Look Who’s Talking

Look Who’s Talking Now

Look Who’s Talking Too


Naked Ambition

Never Say Never Again

Nick Of Time

No Way Home

Only the Strong

Palo Alto

Party Monster

Point Blank

Poolhall Junkies

Resident Evil

Robinson Crusoe On Mars


Rocky II

Rocky III

Rocky IV

Rocky V

Roger Dodger


Some Time, Next Year



Spirit of the Marathon

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Stuart Saves His Family

Taxi Driver


The African Queen

The Dust Factory

The Little Prince

The Living Daylights

The Night of the Living Dead

The Odd Couple

The Rat Race

The Running Man

The Terminator

Tokyo Godfathers

And new entries:

12 Angry Men

American Ninja (1985)


Bad Santa

Basic Instinct

Best Defense (1984)

Blue Chips

Body of Evidence

Boyz In The Hood

Can’t Buy Me Love

Cheech & Chong’s Up In Smoke

City of God

Crimson Tide


Dead Man Walking

Don’t Look Now (1973)

Eight Men Out

Fever Pitch (1997)

From Here to Eternity

Gandhi (1982)

Halloween Resurrection

Jersey Girl

Legends of the Fall

Madeline (1998)

Mean Girls

My Girl

My Girl 2

Patton (1970)

People I Know



Primal Fear

Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek I The Motion Picture

Sugar Hill

The Babysitter

The Dark Half

The Hunt for Red October

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958)

The Karate Kid (1984)

The Karate Kid II (1986)

The Keys of the Kingdom

The Parent Trap (1998)


Walking Tall Part II

Court Rules NY Towns Can Use Zoning Laws To Ban Fracking

The battle over the highly controversial topic of fracking — a mining technique that has gained popular use as a method of extracting natural gas from the earth — continues as New York state’s highest court has ruled that towns can use zoning laws to effectively ban the practice.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there are already some 170 municipalities in New York that are currently keeping fracking at bay with the use of zoning laws, much to the dismay of the companies that want to get at the gas and to the landowners who would be paid handsomely for access for drilling.

Fracking proponents claimed that municipalities were trying to override state law by outlawing a legal practice, but the towns maintain that they are not issuing outright bans on fracking; they are just zoning it out of existence.

This is the third victory for the two towns who were sued by an energy company and a landowner after the towns changed their zoning laws in 2011 to drive out fracking.

The practice of fracking in New York has stalled out in recent years as it undergoes review by both the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health.

Using zoning laws to prohibit certain types of businesses is nothing new, especially in towns that are attempting to drive out or prevent industries that they deem harmful to a town’s image or property values. One of the more infamous examples was NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s effective eviction of almost all of the strip clubs and porn shops from Manhattan with the use of zoning laws that severely limited how close these businesses could be to homes, houses of worship, schools, day-care centers or one another.

L’Oréal Accused By FTC Of Making False Claims In Ads For Age-Reversing Products

loreal-ad-full The Federal Trade Commission announced this afternoon that it has reached a settlement deal with cosmetics giant L’Oréal regarding charges of deceptive advertising about its Lancôme Génifique and L’Oréal Paris Youth Code skincare products, which the company’s ad say provide anti-aging benefits by targeting users’ genes. More to come…

Is IKEA Moving Out Of The ‘Burbs? Swedish Chain Opens Its First City-Center Store

You no doubt have visited a suburban landscape complete with a sprawling, blue-topped IKEA store, which is a completely natural sight by now. But an IKEA in the middle of a crowded, busy, city with its more expensive real estate? Weird. And it’s happening.

IKEA announced plans back in 2012 to build its very own district in Hamburg, Germany, and its recently opened, first-ever city-center store there appears to be a first step in that direction, reports Businessweek.

The new store is in the district of Altona, and is part of a pilot project to see if it can grab the business of citydwellers who either can’t easily or don’t want to visit the suburbs or outer reaches to get to an IKEA.

“It’s a very expensive experiment for us, but we want to know if the city-store concept works out,” explains a managing director at IKEA, Johannes Ferber. “Altona could serve as a model for other big cities such as Berlin.”

IKEA expects about 4,000 customers to stream through the doors on average on weekdays and twice that on the weekends and peak days. Bigger sites get as many as 12,000 per day in Munich and Berlin.

“There are many city-dwellers who don’t have a car or aren’t willing to drive outside the city to do their shopping,” said Ferber, bringing up a pretty common problem for many city folk.

To help those who don’t take public transport or own a bike, IKEA says it will rent out cargo bikes for customers to borrow — free of charge — as long as they bring them back within three hours of hauling their stuff home.

Bike couriers will also be available for hire.

“It’s a big challenge for us as we needed a good traffic and service concept to get products to clients’ homes within a short period of time,” Ferber said.

Because there’s nothing like trying to carry long boxes held together by string on a crowded bus filled with other people trying to carry long boxes held together by string.

Ikea Goes Urban With First High Street Store in Hamburg [Businessweek]

Reverse Mortgage Company Caught Mailing Deceptive Info To Seniors

Even under the best of circumstances, choosing to take out a reverse mortgage is a difficult and often costly decision for many senior citizens and their families. But when you throw in a number of half-truths and marketing materials designed to mislead consumers into thinking they are taking part in a government-run program, well, that’s just wrong. And the state of New York won’t stand for it as one company recent found out.

On Monday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his office reached a settlement with New View Mortgage Corp. over the company’s alleged deceptive reverse mortgage direct mailing solicitations.

Reverse mortgages allow a borrower, 62 years or older, to convert the equity on their home into either a lump sum or monthly payments. The funds are not required to be paid back until the borrower moves or dies.

More than 10,000 consumers received reverse mortgage solicitations from New View that were allegedly designed to look like official government notices from the Federal Housing Administration.

According to Schneiderman’s office, the envelopes were labeled with “Economic Stimulus Notice” and “Government Lending Division,” while the body of the solicitation identified the sender as “Federal Housing Administration Home Benefit HECM Program.”

Additionally, the mailing included a section about facts consumers should know about the HECM mortgages. The attorney general’s office concluded that the “facts” presented only the benefits of reverse mortgages and none of the risks associated with the practice.

Among the false “facts” was the statement that “Your Heirs WILL inherit all remaining equity.” The section failed to disclose that heirs have to pay off the mortgage loan in order to keep the home, an issue that has garnered national attention this year.

Under the settlement, the company must pay $12,500 and may not represent the features, benefits, and eligibility requirements of reverse mortgages in future solicitations.

“Making New York more affordable for the middle class includes protecting consumers from false and misleading advertising practices,” Schneiderman says in a news release.

The New York Attorney General’s office provides several tips for consumers considering a reverse mortgage.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Settlement With Reverse Mortgage Provider Over Misleading Advertising Targeting Seniors [New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman]

FX Realizes Maybe People Don’t Want To Look At Billboards Of Worms Coming Out Eyeballs

Click the image to see full size. Or don't.

Click the image to see full size. Or don’t.

There are lots of reasons to have a problem with a billboard. Maybe because it tricks you into thinking there is a suicidal dude perched on top of it, or because it inadvertently mocks someone’s language, or advocates for public urination. But billboards for FX’s upcoming disease-based show The Strain are just good ol’ fashioned gross.

Some billboards for the show feature an image that is already too-familiar to those of us who have tried to fast-forward past it while catching up on The Americans on our DVRs — an eye with some sort of presumably parasitic wormlike creature working its way out (or possibly in) to a human eyeball.

Amazingly, being confronted with such imagery did not go over well with some drivers, who voiced their anger in Tweets that are generally too profane to quote here.

Which, according to TheWrap, has led FX to rethink the idea of selling a new, high-profile show in the most disgusting way imaginable.

“We are in the process of replacing the key art for ‘The Strain’ on outdoor media in several locations,” a rep for the network tells TheWrap.

Of course, this is also the network that didn’t realize that the logo for its new FXX channel was kinda similar to the logo for one of the world’s most profitable oil companies.


From Steno Pools To Cubicles And Back Again: How Offices Put Up Walls, Only To Pull’em Down

Open workspace, anyone? (Bloomberg)

Open workspace, anyone? (Bloomberg)

While it might be hard to believe now, especially if you’re currently staring at the fabric-covered walls of a corporate enclosure — cubicles were first intended as a form of salvation in the workplace. Having three walls to call your own seemed like paradise compared to steno pools filled with clacking typewriters and workers crowded together.

And now it seems the circle of office life is continuing, Bloomberg points out in an interesting video about the history of cubicles, featuring Nikil Saval, author of Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace.

When the cubicle debuted in 1968, it was meant to provide a refuge from the crowded, open workspaces of its day. Yes, you’re thinking of Mad Men right now.

“The idea was to give workers something of their own, that they could personalize,” Saval explains.

But anyone who’s ever worked in one of those things or seen the movie Office Space is likely to cringe at the thought of those micro-offices, which ended up filling the floors of companies with as many workers as could possibly be squeezed in.

As soon as cubicles became synonymous with big, dumb companies, and “one of the most reviled objects in the workplace,” open work spaces were seen as the path to freedom.

But despite that roundabout trip and our collective loathing of cubicles, Saval cites research that says people who leave cubicles for open workspaces often miss those very same walls that once fenced them in.

Basically, we can’t make up our minds and will probably go back and forth between the two styles forever, because all of this has happened before, and will happen again.

Cubicles Were Once Awesome. So What Went Wrong? [Bloomberg]

Former Delta Employee Accused Of Approving $22 Million In Fake Invoices

The scary Delta lady does not approve of smoking or mail fraud. (photo: Bill Binns)

The scary Delta lady does not approve of smoking or mail fraud. (photo: Bill Binns)

If you’ve ever worked at a large, profitable company that spends billions of dollars a year, you’ve probably thought about how easily one (but certainly not you!) could sneak fake charges through the system without anyone even noticing. And for nearly 10 years, an employee at Northwest (and then Delta) managed to make that daydream a reality, allegedly siphoning off $22 million through bogus invoices.

Minneapolis Business Journal reports on the indictment [PDF] against the former airline employee and his alleged accomplice that was handed down earlier this month and unsealed last week.

According to the indictment, between 2004 and 2013, a supervisor of Northwest’s Minneapolis-based communications group — responsible for installing, maintaining and upgrading radio communications technology in the airline’s control and crisis centers — and an associate in California allegedly ran a scheme where the airline employee would approve invoices for the other man’s company, Airborne Voice and Data.

And this wasn’t a matter of padding Airborne’s invoices. Prosecutors claim that Airborne never provided any of the good or services for which it invoiced.

Some of the money paid to Airborne was kicked back to the airline employee, who had started his own front company called North Communications Group.

The merger with Delta had no apparent effect on the scam, as it continued for another few years.

The defendants now face one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and 96 counts of mail fraud for all the checks that the airlines paid over the years, ranging from $8,850 to more than $228,000.

SCOTUS: Google Must Face Lawsuit That Its Street View Data Collection Invaded Consumers’ Privacy

The Supreme Court was busy on Monday, not only did it make a ruling in the long-awaited Hobby Lobby case, but it also declared that Google must face a lawsuit over privacy invasions that occurred while gathering Street View data.

The Supreme Court declined to hear Google’s challenge to a federal appeals court ruling that the Wiretap Act covers data on unencrypted, in-home Wi-Fi networks, VentureBeat reports.

Google argues it didn’t violate the U.S. Wiretap Act when its Street View cars collected personal information – including e-mails, usernames, passwords and more – through consumers’ home Wi-Fi systems as it drove through their neighborhoods.

Unfortunately for Google, SCOTUS doesn’t see it quite the same way and the company must now face a class-action lawsuit alleging it illegally snooped on people from 2008 to 2010 in order to boost its Street View data.

Last September, Google lost an appeal in federal court over whether or not the company invaded people’s privacy. At the time, the court said the collection of personal correspondence and online activities was wrong, and a violation of wiretap laws.

Google protested that it was exempt from the law because the information transmitted on those networks used “radio communication” and is already accessible to the public.

However, the federal court ruled that while you could always hop on your neighbor’s Wi-Fi if it wasn’t encrypted, “members of the general public do not typically mistakenly intercept, store, and decode data transmitted by other devices on the network.”

Previously, the company reached a settlement with 38 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The company agreed to pay $7 million and destroy the data it collected.

Supreme Court: Google must face lawsuit over ‘Street View’ privacy invasions [VentureBeat]

Lawsuit: Former Benjamin Moore Worker Claims Certain Paint Names Are “Racially Offensive”

Paintbrush, can are unrelated to the story. (Fujoshi)

Paintbrush, can are unrelated to the story. (Fujoshi)

While in some cases it might be pretty cool to have a paint color named after you, an African-American former worker for Benjamin Moore claims in a new lawsuit that the company fired him after he complained about paint colors that seemed to be named after him.

The New Jersey man says in the suit that Benjamin Moore had “despicable and racially insulting paint colors” that in two cases, paired his first and last names separately with “brown” and “chocolate,” reports Courthouse News (via

So for example, if his name is Joe Smith, the names were Joe Brown and Smith Chocolate — but his name is not as common as that.

He claims in the lawsuit that when he started working at the company in June 2011 in its Digital Marketing department, “it was clear to the plaintiff that he was not part of the traditional culture” of the company.

The first problems started, he says, during the launch of a certain campaign, where one of the colors in it was his last name plus Chocolate. As that was part of his name and he’s a black man, “the plaintiff found this to be extremely racially offensive” and that “when this was mentioned at a meeting with at least eight people including his supervisor, this was met with awkward silence.”

There’s another color that he says a fellow employee pointed out to him that combines his first name and Brown, and that the other worker allegedly “thought it was funny.”

After complaining at other times and openly expressing his repeated disdain to the offensive color names, he claims “no action was ever taken by Benjamin Moore to change the names of these colors and they remain on Benjamin Moore’s web site and are still sold on the open market with these racially offensive names.”

His lawsuit also alleges that he was passed over for promotions due to his race, and wasn’t getting paid overtime. He’s claiming wrongful termination in March 2014, when he was fired but Benjamin Moore retained his “two white, blonde-haired and blue-eyed subordinates.”

He’s seeking damages for discrimination, retaliation and a hostile work environment; Benjamin Moore hasn’t publicly commented on the lawsuit.

*Thanks for the tip, R.G.

Fired Worker Finds Paint Names Offensive [Courthouse News]

GM Compensation Plan Could Pay Ignition Defect Victims $20,000 To Several Millions

How can you put a price on price on a life cut short? It’s not exactly an easy question and there really is no right answer. But General Motors’ compensation plan attempts to do so, starting the process at no less than $1 million when it comes to those who died in accidents caused by a defective ignition switch found in thousands of vehicles.

The General Motors’ compensation plan, unveiled on Monday, does not put a cap on the payment amount victims could receive. Instead those affected by the faulty switch could receive anywhere from $20,000 to double-digit millions depending a number of factors including loss of wages, severity of injuries and more, the New York Times reports.

For months the company has promised to divulge details of the plan created by expert Ken Feinberg, who was given “full authority” to establish compensation eligibility criteria. Just two weeks ago, GM CEO Mary Barra announced that the company would begin processing claims August 1.

Under the compensation plan, GM promises to not invoke its protection from liabilities involving incidents that occurred before its July 10, 2009 bankruptcy restructuring agreement.

According to the plan’s formula, families of those who died are entitled to at least $1 million, plus the calculation of lifetime earning lost, and $300,000 for a spouse and for each dependent.

Feinberg provided the hypothetical scenario in which the family of a 25-year-old married woman with two children who was earning $46,400 a year at the time of her accident would receive $4 million, the Times reports.

Consumers who suffered life-altering injuries could receive even more when the cost of lifetime medical care, lost earnings power and other factors are considered.

The plan also addresses consumers who faced less-severe injuries. Those who were treated at a hospital or an outpatient medical facility within 48 hours of the accident are eligible for a claim.

The formula for that claim is $20,000 for one night in the hospital; $70,000 for two to seven overnights, $170,000 for eight to 15 overnights, with a maximum of $500,000 for 32 or more overnights. Those treated on an outpatient basis could receive a maximum of $20,000.

Additionally, the plan provides for payout for accidents that have yet to occur. The protocol will cover crashes that happen through December 31, 2014.

Notably, the plan appears to take a more flexible approach in determining who is eligible for payments than it has when it comes to linking deaths to the defect. So far, the company has publicly stated 13 deaths were a result of the defect, but other, non-company reports have put the death toll much higher.

There are two fixed thresholds for eligibility. The crash mush have involved one of the models of cars that the company recalled for the defective switch and there must be evidence that the airbags did not deploy.

The ignition switch defect caused effective vehicles to lose power while in motion, rendering the airbags and other features like power steering and brakes inoperable.

Feinberg says that if the air bags deployed or the seatbelts locked, “then the power was on” and the faulty switch was not responsible for the accident.

However, the plan will take into consideration other evidence such as police reports, witness statements, photographs and hospital reports when making a decision on eligibility.

Feinberg says the biggest issue with the compensation plan is the fact that many of these accidents happened years ago.

“The car is going to be gone. Many of the records are gone. We’re going to have to reconstruct what happened 10 years ago,” he says. “We will bend over backward to work with people.”

GM previously announced that the compensation program would cover approximately 1.6 million model-year 2003-2007 recalled vehicles manufactured with an ignition switch defect and approximately 1 million model year 2008-2011 recalled vehicles that may have been repaired with a recalled ignition switch.

While GM officials are hopeful the compensation program will deter victims from seeking relief through the courts, they say filing a complaint doesn’t necessarily mean consumers forfeit their right to sue.

Feinberg says that victims only waive their right to sue if they accept the payment from GM. Those affected by the defect can file a claim with the company to preview their eligibility and payment.

Claims will begin processing on August 1 and end on December 31. Officials say checks are likely to start reaching victims in the fall.

Since GM announced the recall in February, it has faced increased scrutiny, including a number of inquests into how long the company knew about the deadly issue before warning drivers. In May, the company was slapped with a $35 million fine for waiting 13 years to acknowledge the defect it knew about before the first recalled vehicles hit the road.

Earlier this month, CEO Barra revealed the findings of an internal investigation during a speech to GM employees, describing the report as “brutally tough” and “troubling” and confessing there was a fundamental failure to meet customers’ needs.

Additionally, certain employees involved with the issue exhibited a “pattern of incompetence and neglect” by failing to disclose relevant information and allowing the defect to go without a recall even after it was fixed in 2007. As a result, 15 employees were fired from the company.

However, the report claims there was no conspiracy or cover-up orchestrated by GM executives related to the delayed recall.

“I told our team as bluntly as I knew how, that the series of questionable actions and inactions uncovered in the investigation were inexcusable,” Barra told the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce’s Oversight and Investigations Committee two weeks ago.

G.M.’s Payout Formula for the Dead: $1 Million and Up [The New York Times]

Watch A Guy Clean And Peel A Bunch Of Potatoes With A Power Tool And A Bucket Of Water

Are there a million and one ways out there to do every household task anyone’s ever had to do? Yes. Are they all methods we would personally advise using? Maybe not so much. But that’s a decision you need to make for yourself when presented with the evidence of say, cleaning and peeling a bunch of potatoes using a jerry-rigged power tool, a bucket and some water.

The Internet in its infinite iterations of How To’s recently coughed up this YouTube demonstration on how to prep your potatoes for cooking with a bit of a terrifying method: The guy basically has a bristled brush (hopefully not the same one he uses to scrub out the toilet, notes, a bucket, and a sprinkler hose.

Put all those together — the water providing some lubrication for the power tool to do its rapid brushing — and out come peeled potatoes and a bunch of potatoey water.

This process looks like it could be a little rough on potatoes and perhaps take more than a few chunks out of’em, but again, we’re not here to tell you what to do with potatoes, just to let you know what methods others out there are inflicting on them.

Supreme Court Rules For Hobby Lobby In Contraception Case

In perhaps the most closely watched case of this year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and a Pennsylvania cabinet company, and held that closely held corporations can not be required to provide health insurance coverage that includes contraception.

The Affordable Care Act mandates that that employers provide health insurance that includes coverage for contraception. There are exemptions to the law for certain businesses owned by religious groups, but not for businesses that just happened to be owned by people with personal religious beliefs that don’t support contraception.

At the heart of the debate is the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which states that “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except… if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

According to lawyers for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, the Affordable Care Act requires them “to do precisely what their religion forbids them or face draconian consequences — including millions in fines, private lawsuits and government enforcement actions.”

Lawyers for the government argued that the RFRA was intended to protect individuals and not the owners of corporations, and that the contraception mandate places no personal burden on business owners since they are not the actual insurer and it is the employees’ choice as to whether they use that particular coverage.

Hobby Lobby had successfully argued its point to a federal appeals court agreed which found that corporations have the same political speech rights as individuals. Conestoga, which is owned by a Mennonite family, lost its argument before a federal appeals court.

More to come…

SeaWorld Ride Takes Passengers Prisoner Hundreds Of Feet In The Air For Three Hours

seaworld As if SeaWorld didn’t have enough issues, a fun day at the park turned into an anxiety filled nightmare for nearly 50 people who were stuck more than 200 feet in the air for hours when the ride they were on Sunday lost power.

A power outage at the San Diego park left 46 patrons and two employees stranded on the enclosed Skytower ride, which stands 400 feet tall and allows guests to see panoramic views of the surrounding area, FOX5 San Diego reports.

The ordeal lasted nearly three hours. During that time, employees passed out snacks and water for the trapped patrons. San Diego Fire and Rescue crews were called to the park and placed on standby.

Eventually, SeaWorld employees were able to restore power to the ride and got all passengers off safely.

Fire officials tell FOX5 that a teenager and a child needed medical assistance. One was rushed to the hospital by ambulance to be treated for anxiety.

SeaWorld released a statement Sunday evening about the earlier event:

SeaWorld’s San Diego’s Skytower ride experience a power failure this afternoon. With guest safety as our top priority, park engineers spent four hours trouble-shooting the problem before restoring power to the Skytower and safely returning the 46 guests to the ride loading area. The guests were never in danger and park officials were in constant communication with them while the power failure was being addressed. Two SeaWorld employees were also in the Skytower providing guests with water and snacks. The San Diego Fire Department was on scene, however, there was no requirement for an emergency evacuation. We greatly appreciate the patience of our guests, and they received return admission and other park amenities. The cause of the power failure is under investigation.

Dozens stranded on SeaWorld ride after power outage [FOX5 San Diego]

Broadcasters Using Aereo Ruling To Try To Shut Down Dish’s Streaming Service

DISH_Anywhere_on_iPad The fallout from last week’s Supreme Court ruling against streaming video startup Aereo continues, with broadcasters arguing that the SCOTUS decision bolsters their legal efforts to shut down Dish Network’s Dish Anywhere service.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco is set to hear arguments in a dispute between the broadcasters, led by FOX, against Dish over Dish Anywhere, which uses Slingbox technology to allow subscribers to have online access to live and recorded content from their DVRs.

In the Aereo case, the broadcasters successfully convinced six justices that the streaming service — which used tiny antennae to capture freely available over-the-air signals and send them over the Internet to paying customers — was more like a cable company than an antenna landlord. This means that Aereo would need to pay the often-hefty retransmission fees that cable companies pay to the networks so you can watch The Bachelor or whatever hourlong drama NBC will cancel after 4 weeks.

Just in case the appeals court hadn’t heard about the Aereo decision, the FOX lawyers immediately sent over a copy, along with a note [PDF] explaining why the SCOTUS ruling proves the broadcasters’ point.

The network argues that Dish “engages in virtually identical conduct” to Aereo by allowing customers to stream the broadcasts over the Internet. FOX claims that Dish is thus engaging in an illegal public performance and can’t hide behind the defense that it is only providing the equipment for streaming or that it is the subscribers who are doing the transmitting to themselves from their own copies.

In its response [PDF] to the FOX filing, Dish argues that there is actually language in the Aereo ruling that bolsters its legal position.

First, Dish points to the fact that SCOTUS’s problem with Aereo is that it was acting like a cable company without paying retransmission fees. Since Dish does pay retransmission fees and isn’t pirating network feeds, the Aereo comparison doesn’t hold water, claims the satellite company.

“Customers pay for the right to receive works, with Fox’s authorization, and do receive them at home before sending them to themselves,” writes Dish.

Another part of the SCOTUS ruling cited by Dish is that Aereo “uses its own equipment, housed in a centralized warehouse, outside of its users’ homes.” To Dish, this is very different than the Sling technology it uses.

“Sling is not centrally controlled and the device lives in the customer’s home,” writes Dish. “Sling is just like a DVR or VCR — it is built right into the Hopper with Sling DVR in customers’ living rooms.”

Finally, Dish quotes the Aereo ruling, which states that a “[public performance] does not extend to those who act as owners or possessors of the relevant product,” which would seem to indicate that services like cloud-based DVRs and DVRs that are accessible from out-of-home are fine, so long as the person accessing that content is the owner of the content.

[via Ars Technica]

You Can Buy An Entire Town In South Dakota For The Bargain Price Of $400K

Check your pockets and dig into the couch cushions — if you can rustle up some spare change to the tune of $400,000, you could be the owner of your very own town in South Dakota. The man who owns Swett, S.D. — and its bar, single house, workshop, three trailers and 6.16 acres of land — is looking to sell.

Sure, $400,000 is a lot of money for anybody. But instead of just owning a single house, you could crown yourself Grand High Empress/Emperor of this unincorporated hamlet about two hours from Rapid City, reports the Rapid City Journal.

The sole owner of Swett — and one of its two inhabitants, along with his wife — is selling everything in order to focus on his traveling concession business.

“Like I say, I hate to get rid of it,” he said Benson, after listing the town last week. “If I don’t sell it, if I don’t sell it this first year, I would probably keep it.”

Swett used to have as many as 40 people but has now shrunk down to only two residents and handful of buildings. At least the bar sounds like it’s there to stay, as a meeting place for the locals.

“This place is pretty much where the highway ends and the Wild West begins,” joked one patron of the bar’s previous rough reputation, though now it’s not out of place for families to come there for a meal.

As such, the locals still want whoever buys the town to keep the tavern, with its rough charms and all. As one customer remembered, a friend who was passing through from Seattle noted that same local flavor. Which again, can be purchased with the town for $400,000.

“He said, ‘this looks like a good place to be killed’. And I said, ‘you could be killed anywhere, Randy. You could get killed at home feeding your furless cats, at least here it will be exciting’.”

Let me just say that getting killed while feeding furless cats is a very specific and sad way to go. So let’s hope that won’t happen to anyone.

Got a spare $400,000? Buy your own town: Swett, South Dakota [Rapid City Journal]

United Airlines Flight Makes Emergency Landing After Slide Deploys Midflight

You never want to be a in a situation where the inflatable emergency exit slide on your airplane deploys, as its “emergency exit” name implies there is an emergency and you should be exiting. But what about when that slide is the emergency?

That was the dilemma facing the passengers and crew of a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Orange County, CA, on Sunday night, when one of the plane’s exit slides deployed in midflight, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Wichita, Kansas.

“I heard a kind of loud pop and hissing noise,” one passenger tells the Wichita Eagle. “I turned around to the back and that slide that would normally go outside the plane so you can slide down in an emergency had for some odd reason deployed inside the plane while we were flying. Fortunately nobody was back there.”

In case you’re wondering, they exited the plane via a portable stairway instead of down a slide.

No one was injured but the incident — the cause of which is currently unknown — threw a huge wrench in the travel plans of the nearly 100 passengers on board the flight.

“It took off on time but it sure didn’t land on time,” said the passenger. “My theory about flying is any landing you walk away from is a good one.”