lundi 31 août 2015

Fiat Chrysler Offers $100 Gift Cards To Get Your Recalled Car Fixed Already

jeeplomoThe federal government has fined Fiat Chrysler $105 million for its failure to address vehicle defects and active recalls, and perhaps they’ve concluded that customers will respond to a cash incentive, not a cash punishment. Taking a break from desperately hugging General Motors, today the automaker announced an offer: car owners get $100 if they bring their vehicle in for repair, and an extra $1,000 or $2,000 trade-in incentive to buy a new car instead.

The company hopes that offering money or trade-in incentives encourages people who own affected cars to bring their vehicles in for replacement. If the owners traded in recalled Jeep Grand Cherokees from the ’90s or Jeep Libertys from the ’00s for brand-new vehicles, the company certainly wouldn’t complain.

Part of the company’s punishment from NHTSA was for not making needed parts for the repairs available: if they’re bribing people to come in and get their cars fixed, the parts must be available now.

To find out whether your vehicle is eligible for the program, grab your VIN and check the Fiat Chrysler site, or check NHTSA’s site, Remember that if you’ve bought a used car recently, even if it was sold to you as “Certified,” check with the NHTSA database and with the manufacturer to make sure there aren’t any active recalls.

Fiat Chrysler offers $100 debit cards to owners of recalled U.S. vehicles [Reuters]

At This Restaurant, Eat Quinoa With No Human Interaction



Would you eat in a restaurant where you don’t interact with the employees at all? There’s a new restaurant that’s either the next frontier in segregating our society by wealth, or an efficient way to grab a quick bowl of quinoa. Diners order and pay for their meals using tablet computers, then pick them up from glass cubbies, like a neo-automat.

Time for a brief consumer history class: automats, are restaurants that consist solely of vending machines; they’ve existed in different forms in different countries, but the most familiar to Americans would be the Horn & Hardart chain in major cities. The automated cafeterias had high-quality meals and desserts in little cubbies behind glass doors, and customers bought them using coins for each individual item.

Eatsa, a new restaurant in San Francisco, is the latest restaurant to revive the idea, using tablets to take orders, then serving the meals in cubbies with translucent screens on the front, where the customer’s name pops up.

SFGate calls it a “fully automated restaurant,” but it really isn’t. A fully automated restaurant would have robots making the food, and we’ll get there soon enough. At Eatsa, there are employees making the food. They stay invisible on the other side of the wall, though, so you can pretend that you’re in a robot-run establishment. The food is vegetarian, based on quinoa, and early visitors gave it good reviews, especially for the price. There are eight items on the menu each day, each of which costs $7.

Fast food reinvented? Eatsa, a fully automated restaurant, opens today (via NPR)

Tennessee Authorities Investigating Allegations Of Animal Cruelty At Chicken Farm Dumped By Tyson, McDonald’s

Last week, Tyson Foods and McDonald’s said they were cutting ties with a poultry farm in Tennessee that was accused by an animal rights group of mistreating and abusing chickens. Authorities in that state now confirm they’re looking into the allegations of criminal animal cruelty by operators of the farm.

Tyson sourced the meat it sold to McDonald’s for chicken McNuggets from the farm in question. Last week the company announced it would no longer get its chickens from the Tennessee Farm, after Mercy for Animals published undercover video footage that reportedly showed chickens being beaten and stabbed with a pole that has a spike on it, as well as sick and deformed chickens mixed in with healthy birds in a huge, over-crowded holding area.

Mercy for Animals had asked Tennessee authorities to prosecute the owners of T&S Farm for violation of state laws prohibiting animal cruelty.

“The case is currently under investigation,” said Colin Johnson, assistant district attorney for Obion and Weakley County, where the farm is located, in a statement to USA Today.

Both McDonald’s and Tyson issued statements last week decrying animal abuse.

“We believe treating animals with care and respect is an integral part of a responsible supply chain and find the behavior depicted in this video to be completely unacceptable. We support Tyson Foods’ decision to terminate their contract with this farmer,” McDonald’s said at the time. “We’re working with Tyson Foods to further investigate this situation and reinforce our expectations around animal health and welfare at the farm level.

Tenn. authorities investigating ex-McDonald’s chicken supplier for cruelty [USA Today]

Illinois Can’t Pay Its Lottery Winners Right Now

Current lottery winners in Illinois might have to delay their joyful reactions for a little while. The state hasn’t passed a new budget, which means that they’re unable to pay lottery winners whose prizes are $25,000 or more. That’s a total of 29 lottery winners still waiting for their money since the current fiscal year started on July 1st.

Without a state budget in place, lottery officials can’t legally pay out big prizes. Prizes under $25,000 can be paid at a person’s local lottery claim center, and prizes under $600 can be cashed in at a store that sells lottery tickets.

It’s not the most serious consequence of the state budget crisis by any means, but frustrating for winners who have been handed a great big ceremonial cardboard IOU. The state comptroller’s office cuts checks for $25,000 or above, and lottery winners aren’t happy.

“I bought the ticket, I should get the money when it’s due to me,” a man who won $250,000 on a scratchoff game told TV station WLS. “I shouldn’t have to wait for some budget to be settled.” Unfortunately, that’s not how bureaucracies work.

Illinois lottery winners are in limbo [CNN]

Jewel-Osco: Payment System Outage Could’ve Caused Multiple Charges On Customers’ Cards

If you shopped at Jewel-Osco recently and used your credit or debit card to pay, you might want to check your accounts and make sure you weren’t charged multiple times for one transaction: the grocery chain confirmed on Monday that its payment system suffered a glitch that could’ve caused some customers to be overcharged for their purchases.

Though Jewel isn’t saying how many customers may have been affected, it confirmed to the Chicago Tribune that “some” customers could’ve had issues.

“Late last week, our third-party payment processor notified us that there was a payment system outage which resulted in some customers’ debit and credit cards inadvertently being charged twice or more for one transaction,” a Jewel spokeswoman told the Tribune. “We are investigating this issue with the processor, and we deeply regret any issues that customers may have experienced as a result of this.”

One woman was frustrated to find that she ended up getting hit with additional charges on her card after she bought $306.45 worth of groceries on Friday, and had trouble with the transaction going through. The cashier had her repeatedly swipe her card, she says, up to about six times. A manager eventually got involved and had her swipe the card three times — once for $106.45 and two times each for $100.

The next day, she found her bank account had been charged an extra $100, and said Jewel told her the charge would be reversed within two days. But on Sunday she found more surprises in her bank account: she hadn’t been credited for that $100 overcharge, and was also hit with $306.45 in increments of $106.45, $100.00 and $100.00. Needless to say, she’s still not happy that she’s paid more than $700 now for $300 worth of groceries.

“I am going to have checks bounce and get non-sufficient funds charges posted to my account and have my other payments and debits affected,” she said, adding that Jewel should’ve posted a notice notifying customers about the processing.

Shopper says Jewel debit glitch cost her $400 [Chicago Tribune]

Amazon Now Delivering Farmers Market Produce To Your Door

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 3.46.03 PMBetween Prime Pantry, Amazon Fresh and Seattle’s new Prime Now alcohol delivery, you never have to leave your house to restock the pantry. That is unless you want fresh produce grown by local farmers. Well, it appears that Amazon has that covered for you now, too.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the e-commerce giant is testing what it calls Farmers Market Direct in certain areas of Southern California.

The program – which is a partnership with Fresh Nation, a company that connects farmers and vendors with consumers – is advertised as delivering baskets of fresh produce to consumers just hours after its been harvested.

Customers can choose either small or large deliveries of fresh vegetables, fruits, or a combination through the Farmers Market Direct page.

However, there isn’t someone with Amazon simply walking the fields of local farms to complete deliveries. Instead, the produce is chosen by “providers who attend local farmers markets in neighborhoods each day of the week to source the freshest, tastiest, most nutritional seasonal produce.”

Delivery of the produce isn’t instantaneous, either. The Amazon Farmers Market Direct order page says that a provider will contact the customer within one business day to confirm the purchase. The company then sends an email the day before drop-off, providing a three-hour delivery window.

Tony Lee, the founder of Fresh Nation, came up with the idea to deliver fresh produce after managing a farmers market in Connecticut.

“Because farmers markets are only open for a few hours a week, there wasn’t enough time for people who want fresh local food to get it,” he says. “Making fresh local food more available to more people on the one hand and on the other bringing more business to these small farmers and food producers — that’s our mission.”

Lee created a database of farmers markets from across the country, organized a supply chain and ran small tests of deliveries before approaching Amazon about a partnership.

“The idea is that we’re benefiting the vendors, never cannibalizing their sales,” Lee tells the L.A. Times. “We never want to take sales away from them that they would have gotten through farmers markets. When they sell to us, it’s extra sales.”

For now deliveries are being made on a trial basis, but the L.A. Times reports the model could rollout nationwide in the near future.

Amazon is testing farmers market produce delivery [The Los Angeles Times]

No Buzzkill Here: Legal Marijuana Not Affecting Alcohol Sales (So Far)

As the first states moved toward the legalization of marijuana, some in the booze business were concerned that having easier, legal access to pot would somehow encroach on alcohol sales. But in Colorado, where marijuana has been legal since the beginning of 2014, consumers are not giving up their wine and beer in favor of weed.

The Guardian points to the fact that Colorado’s tax revenue from alcohol has continued to grow in the year and a half since legalization. For the fiscal year 2015, alcohol excise taxes were up a total of 2.1% (the same increase as FY 2014), led by a 2.9% increase in tax revenue from distilled spirits.

At the same time, Colorado brought in more than $102 million in taxes and fees from marijuana for the year ending in May 2015, nearly triple the $34.85 million it raked in during the first fiscal year in which pot was legalized in the state.

Some alcohol companies have expressed concerns that consumers would choose marijuana over their alcohol of choice, and have been worried about the possible financial implications of legalization in additional states — or even nationwide.

On the flip side of that coin is the theory that increased access to marijuana will lead to more consumption of alcohol.

But the Colorado numbers seem to indicate that people in the state are drinking just as much as they were before legalization. One craft brewer in the state tells the Guardian that he doesn’t “think people are doubling down in one category or the other,” and that he’s seen “no demonstrable impact at all in terms of sales.”

This all comes with the caveat that we’re talking about less than two full years of data from only one state. It will be some time before we see whether those pre-legalization concerns were unwarranted, or if consumers are indeed making a choice of pot over alcohol.

McDonald’s Will Serve Pumpkin Spiced Latte In Only 38% Of Restaurants

(Eva A.)

(Eva A.)

If you seek pumpkin-flavored food items in as many venues as possible, we have some bad news: only 38% of McDonald’s outlets plan to offer the chain’s pumpkin spiced latte (not to be confused with the pumpkin spice latte served elsewhere) this fall and winter, as part of a plan of rotating regional offerings and limited-time offerings.

It might sound strange that a fast-food restaurant that built its empire by being the same everywhere hopes to save itself from falling sales by changing what it offers in different places. Their goal seems to be to create buzz for their products by offering them for limited periods and rotating them through different regions. Even the McRib didn’t appear on every menu nationwide the last time it was available.

Some areas also get their very own products that aren’t offered in other places: New England had the McLobster this summer, for example. While you might think that New England can keep the McLobster, knowing that it’s a limited-time offering in only one region increases the novelty. Maybe people will come try it just so they can brag that they did.

Back in 2013, the pumpkin spiced latte was available in every restaurant, but limiting its availability solves another problem for McDonald’s: franchisees are unhappy with the sprawling menu and want to pare it down. Adding more sandwiches and latte flavors is the opposite of that, so limiting the number of special menu items that any restaurant has to deal with at any given time is an improvement over throwing every limited-time item on the menu at every restaurant nationwide.

McDonald’s Regional Strategy Means You May Not Get Pumpkin Latte [Bloomberg]

CEO Of Frisch’s Big Boy Planning Expansion, New Restaurant Designs To Attract Younger Customers

When’s the last time you went to a Frisch’s Big Boy? Can’t remember, or maybe you don’t have one nearby? The chain’s new boss wants to change that, and is pushing to expand to more franchise locations in the U.S., as well as retool the restaurants to bring in the younger set. You know the word, starts with an “m” and rhymes with “shmillennials.”

NRD Capital took over Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants last week after shareholders approved a $175 million acquisition, marking the first time in the chain’s history that it won’t be under family ownership. NRD’s head honcho and interim Frische’s CEO Aziz Hashim says that while the brand has been profitable, it can benefit from a few changes.

Our primary goal is to make sure our existing customer is totally taken care of,” Hashim told the Associated Press. “So, no plan to alienate our current customer base; we want to actually make it better for them. At the same time, we want to make an effort to drive some new customers.”

Some of the changes will include adding appetizers and shareable plates to the menu, as well as possibly chili cheese fries, buffalo wings and other “classic American” items. New beverage options and things like signature drinks could also appear on the menu. New franchised restaurants in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee that will likely be smaller and be of different designs than the current Frisch’s restaurants. Right now, 26 of Frisch’s 121 Frisch’s restaurants are run by franchisees.

There is also a special plan in the works just for the millennial set, dubbed “Frisch’s Big Boy 2.0.”

Though lifelong fans might be apprehensive of big changes, Hashim says they have nothing to worry about.

“We bought the brand because of what it is today,” he said.

New boss of Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants plans expansion [Associated Press]

Broadcasters Association Sues FCC Over Cable Competition Rules

Under federal law, a city can regulate cable TV rates for its residents if there is not “effective competition” in that market — that is, if one cable operator dominated the TV landscape in that area. But the Federal Communications Commission recently revised its way of looking at things so that it now presumes that satellite providers offer effective competition for the cable industry. This change hasn’t gone over well with broadcasters, who have petitioned a federal appeals court to challenge the FCC.

Let’s go back to 1992, when Congress passed the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act. The law allows for cities — or any other body that authorizes local pay-TV franchises — to regulate cable TV rates if they can show that there is a lack of competition.

In the decades since, the FCC had granted rate regulation authority to various governments and agencies around the country who had been able to demonstrate that the local cable TV company was the only game in town.

Then in late 2014, when Congress reauthorized legislation that allows satellites to rebroadcast TV signals, it also directed the FCC “to establish a streamlined process for filing of an effective competition petition… for small cable operators, particularly those who serve primarily rural areas.”

The FCC took that direction and truly simplified the process. A new rule [PDF] issued in July 2015, presumes that satellite TV services offer effective competition in every market. This change shifts the burden of demonstrating effective competition from the shoulders of the cable companies and onto the local franchise authorities.

And because of this presumption of competition, the FCC determined that all existing rate-regulation jurisdictions would expire within 90 days if the affected franchise authorities did not file new requests for certification.

On Friday, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, and the Northern Dakota County (Minnesota) Cable Communications Commission filed a joint petition [PDF] with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, alleging that the FCC Order is “arbitrary” and “capricious.”

The franchising authority from Minnesota is the most directly impacted of the three petitioners as it is one of the franchises whose rate-regulation certification may be terminated because of the change.

In a blog post explaining their side of the lawsuit, the NAB contends that “By deeming the nation effectively competitive, the FCC stripped from local franchise authorities across the country their longstanding roles as cops on the beat. Without the power to protect consumers, local authorities are being pushed aside to allow for higher cable prices – especially for basic cable service – more mysterious fees, higher equipment costs, and the potential disintegration of the basic tier of service.”

Subway Hoping A New Look Will Help Turn Things Around In 2016

Even before the public face of Subway became embroiled in a child pornography scandal, the nation’s largest fast food chain was facing sagging sales and concerns from franchisees about management. The company is now hoping a new look and refreshed menu can help put Subway back on track.

Citing people close to the matter, The New York Post reports that Subway plans to reveal a rebranding effort in 2016.

The 50-year-old Connecticut-based chain is reportedly considering redesigning the look of not only its stores and employee uniforms but its ever-changing menu.

While a spokesperson for the company says it is taking a “multifaceted” approach to improving operations, they offered few details other than to note Subway would offer staff training and new products.

The rebranding comes as the company has faced several setbacks in recent years.

According to the most recent QSR 50 report, which compares growth and sales at the nation’s largest fast-food companies, Subway has some 27,000 locations (all franchisee-owned), by far the most stores of any chain.

At the same time, its $475,000 per-store earnings were the second-worst in the report.


In addition to less-than-stellar sales, the company has had to deal with its fair share of controversy.

Most recently, longtime Subway spokesman Jared Fogel entered guilty pleas on child porn-related charges. The company had already suspended its relationship with Fogel during the criminal investigation.

Back in 2014, Subway faced backlash after a report showed that it used Azodicarbonamide – a chemical that is used to improve elasticity in bread but that also shows up in things like yoga mats – in its breads.

The company quickly announced it would stop using the chemical, and in June 2015 pledged to remove all artificial ingredients from its menu by 2017.

Subway preparing ‘multifaceted’ facelift amid slumping sales [The New York Post]

Quickie Las Vegas Wedding Industry Just Isn’t Pulling In Couples Like It Used To

While running off to Sin City to get married by an Elvis impersonator used to evoke a certain spontaneous glamor and excitement, Las Vegas wedding chapels are more likely to be lonesome tonight than they have in the past, as those in the industry say quickie wedding customers just aren’t crowding their doors anymore.

The number of Vegas weddings has been dropping over the last decade: In 2014 there were 128,000 Vegas weddings, while this year there were only 81,000, reports the AFP. This, despite the fact that Clark County’s marriage license office is open until midnight every day, even on holidays.

“The wedding business here in Las Vegas has fallen off since 2004. We haven’t had ups and downs, and ups and downs — it’s just been a consistent drop every year,” says the pastor at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. “You know, people don’t have as much money anymore because the economy here isn’t that good.”

Kitschy and quick used to be the height of cool — from Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in the 1950s to Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie, or Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman somewhat more recently. And who could forget Britney Spears’ 55-hour wedding to whatsisface? Yes, we remember those people, but nowadays, we don’t really want to get married like them. Many of those Sin City celebrity unions didn’t end up lasting long, taking the shine off a quickie, kitschy Vegas wedding even more.

That, and movies like The Hangover — a madcap bro comedy involving multiple levels of intoxication with various substances and wildly impossible scenarios involving improbable characters and also Mike Tyson — which you might think would add to the city’s appeal for fans of Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and the gang, have given the city a wild reputation, one Clark County clerk told the AFP.

“One of the misconceptions over the past few years is that people only come here when they are drunk and they get married last-minute, and that’s just not true. That makes great movies but that’s just not true,” says Goya.

It’s not all bad news for you Elvis impersonators out there: Las Vegas is still the No. 1 destination for weddings in the U.S., and now that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, it could see even more customers flocking to those quickie chapels.

To lure couples (and their money) back to the city, Las Vegas is launching a publicity campaign to put the shine back on the apple, with a focus on tourists coming in from out of the country. It could be a tough fight though, considering to make a splash in the wedding world these days you need to plan an elaborate song-and-dance worthy of a viral video, or at the very least, get hitched in the frozen food section at Costco.

Wedding bells growing quieter in Las Vegas [AFP]

Dish Taking Away Users’ Right To Sue Company In Court. Here’s How To Opt Out

Over the weekend, a number of Consumerist readers wrote to us with the bad news that, like a growing number of companies, Dish Network is updating its terms of use to strip customers of their right to dispute legal claims in a court of law. There is a way for Dish subscribers to opt out of this restriction — but only if they do it right away.

The updated Dish “Residential Customer Agreement” [PDF] includes a new provision that requires that all customers settle their disputes through either mandatory binding arbitration or in small claims court. Both situations put severe limits on the damages that can be awarded.

Additionally, Dish customers are barred from joining other wronged customers in any sort of class action. So even if the company were to do something that negatively affected millions of customers, each individual subscriber would need to file his or her own dispute with the satellite service… and then have it heard by a third-party arbitrator, or in a small claims court without legal representation.

However, Dish is providing subscribers with the ability to opt out of this provision, but only if they do so within 30 days. So if you’re a Dish customer, check your e-mail inbox because you probably have a boring-sounding message from Dish with details of the new arbitration rules. Your 30-day countdown started whenever that e-mail was sent.

This form [PDF] must be filled out and returned to Dish within that time frame.

Make sure you send the form to the correct address:
DISH Network L.L.C.
Attn: Dispute Resolution
P.O. Box 9040
Littleton, CO

“Any opt-out not received within the thirty (30) day period set forth above will not be valid,” according to the terms.

For new Dish customers, the 30-day countdown clock starts the day your service goes active.

After FDA Warning, Kim Kardashian Posts Corrected Endorsement Of Morning Sickness Pill

Kim Kardashian issued a corrected endorsement for morning sickness pill after the FDA took issue with a first post's lack of acknowledgement of associated safety risks.

Kim Kardashian issued a corrected endorsement for morning sickness pill after the FDA took issue with a first post’s lack of acknowledgement of associated safety risks.

Weeks after federal regulators took issue with drug company Duchesnay for allowing mom-to-be Kim Kardashian to tout the benefits of its morning sickness pill on social media without properly disclosing the drug’s associated risk and limitations, the reality star posted updated endorsements, complete with acknowledgement of the pill’s side effects.

The new “#CorrectiveAd” posts – which were quickly pushed down the page thanks to Kardashian’s posts about the MTV Video Music Awards – were mandated by the FDA after the agency issued a warning letter to Duchesnay in early August saying the lack of safety information included in Kardashian’s original July posts put consumers at risk.

“I guess you saw the attention my last #morningsickness post received,” an Instagram post from the celebrity states. “The FDA has told Duchesnay, Inc., that my last post about Diclegis (doxylamine succinate and pyridoxine HCl) was incomplete because it did not include any risk information or important limitations of use for Diclegis. A link to this information accompanied the post, but this didn’t meet FDA requirements. So, I’m re-posting and sharing this important information about Diclegis.”

According to the FDA letter, a review of the first endorsements by Kardashian found the posts to be “false or misleading in that it presents efficacy claims for Diclegis, but fails to communicate any risk information associated with its use and it omits material facts.”

As a result, the FDA claims the post misbrands the pill, which makes its distribution a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Regulators told Duchesnay that the misleading messages – which were quickly deleted by Kardashian in August – be corrected in the same format they were originally posted – meaning on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

While the first posts included a link to the company’s website and Duchesnay sent out a press release providing more details about the partnership including information on Diclegis, the FDA claimed those steps weren’t enough to mitigate misinformation.

Kardashian addressed those issue in her corrected ads on Sunday. The rather lengthy post goes on to include limitations – “Diclegis has not been studied in women with hyperemesis gravidarum” – and important safety information including a number of other medications that shouldn’t be taken in conjunction with the pill.

Here’s the full text of the corrected ad:

#CorrectiveAd I guess you saw the attention my last #morningsickness post received. The FDA has told Duchesnay, Inc., that my last post about Diclegis (doxylamine succinate and pyridoxine HCl) was incomplete because it did not include any risk information or important limitations of use for Diclegis. A link to this information accompanied the post, but this didn’t meet FDA requirements. So, I’m re-posting and sharing this important information about Diclegis. For US Residents Only.

Diclegis is a prescription medicine used to treat nausea and vomiting of pregnancy in women who have not improved with change in diet or other non-medicine treatments.
Limitation of Use: Diclegis has not been studied in women with hyperemesis gravidarum.

Important Safety Information
Do not take Diclegis if you are allergic to doxylamine succinate, other ethanolamine derivative antihistamines, pyridoxine hydrochloride or any of the ingredients in Diclegis. You should also not take Diclegis in combination with medicines called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), as these medicines can intensify and prolong the adverse CNS effects of Diclegis.

The most common side effect of Diclegis is drowsiness. Do not drive, operate heavy machinery, or other activities that need your full attention unless your healthcare provider says that you may do so. Do not drink alcohol, or take other central nervous system depressants such as cough and cold medicines, certain pain medicines, and medicines that help you sleep while you take Diclegis. Severe drowsiness can happen or become worse causing falls or accidents.

Tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Diclegis can pass into your breast milk and may harm your baby. You should not breastfeed while using Diclegis.

Additional safety information can be found at or Duchesnay USA encourages you to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit or call 1-800-FDA-1088.”

[via Bloomberg]

Guy Buys Lottery Ticket With $20 He Found On The Street, Wins $1 Million

Here’s yet another story that’ll make you want to go out and buy a lottery ticket, even though let’s face it, this kind of thing will likely never happen to us: A guy who found $20 on the street and used it to buy a lottery ticket has won $1 million as a result of his lucky break.

The California Lottery says a San Francisco Bay Area man spotted a $20 bill on the street outside the airport last week, and decided to buy two scratch-off tickets with it. One of them yielded the top prize of $1 million.

“I scratched the ticket outside of the store,” he said, saying he was in shock when he won. “I told my friend who I was with that I didn’t know if it was real but, ‘I think I just won a million dollars.’ ”

The man works as a bartender, and says he’s planning on saving the money for now. The store where he purchased the ticket will also receive $5,000 from the lottery for selling the winning ticket.

Keep your eyes peeled for free money, as well: the winner joked that he might start leaving $20 bills on the street in random spots to spread his good fortune.

Uber Hires Security Researches Who Hacked A Jeep To Protect Its Self-Driving Cars From Cyber Attacks

uberlogodogsAs technology advances and our cars become more and more autonomous, they are also opened up more and more to a new danger that didn’t used to exist on the roads — hack attacks. To protect that new technology and reassure future customers that riding in self-driving cars can be safe, Uber has hired the same two vehicle security researchers who managed to remotely hack a Jeep earlier this summer.

Uber Technologies announced that Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek would be joining the company as of this week, reports Reuters. Miller had been employed at Twitter and Valasek was working at security firm IOActive.

They’ll be joining other autonomous vehicle experts hired away from Carnegie Mellon University at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center, a research center the company opened in Pittsburg in February.

A spokeswoman said the duo will work with the company’s top security officers “to continue building out a world-class safety and security program at Uber.” It’s likely that their jobs will include figuring out how to protect the cars against attacks from people like themselves.

If Uber didn’t have to pay the hundreds and thousand of contract drivers ferrying passengers around every day, it would mean it could pocket a lot more money from each fare. To achieve this dream, Uber has been hiring experts from universities and research centers to stock its talent pool.

The company also announced a partnership last week with the University of Arizona that will put money toward research into the mapping and safety technology needed for autonomous vehicles. Uber will then test those prototypes on the streets of Tucson.

After Miller and Valasek hacked a Jeep Cherokee, exploiting the system’s cellular network to sneak in through the entertainment system and get control of the car’s engine, brakes and steering, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles recalled 1.4 million vehicles so users could install software to prevent hackers from replicating the attack.

Jeep Cherokee owners have since filed a lawsuit against FCA and Harman International, the makers of the UConnect infotainment system that was breached. The three plaintiffs are seeking class-action status, accusing FCA and Harman of fraud, negligence, unjust enrichment and breach of warranty.

Uber hires two security researchers to improve car technology [Reuters]

Man Comes Home To Find Out Roommate Has Listed His Room On Airbnb

If you only live in your condo part-time, you can imagine that the roommate who is there the rest of the time might get up to some hijinks while you’re away. But you probably didn’t think he would list your room on Airbnb without mentioning it.

This is what happened to a man who splits his time between California and Chicago, and who recently came back from the West Coast to find that two random people sleeping in his bed and drinking his booze.

“Your imagination goes crazy. What’s been going on?” The man, who owns the two-bedroom condo and sublets a room to another guy, tells CBS Chicago. “It could be everything from orgies to to drugs.”

Suspecting that his roommate had listed the room online, the homeowner looked on the Airbnb site and found his condo was indeed available for rent. The roommate had even used some of the owner’s personal photos of the condo for the listing.

Not surprisingly, that roommate has been given the heave-ho, while the homeowner looks for answers from Airbnb about how something like this could happen.

Unfortunately for him, the online rental platform is distancing itself from the bad roommate’s actions.

“Airbnb does not own, operate, manage or control accommodations, nor do we verify private contract terms or arbitrate complaints from third parties,” reads a statement from the company.

One could certainly see Airbnb’s side, as the company positions itself as just a listing service for people to publicize spaces available for guests. Services like Craigslist have long made similar claims that they are merely platforms through which third parties conduct business.

But you can also see how this “not our problem” stance would be incredibly frustrating to victims like this homeowner, who just wants to know how someone could list a room on Airbnb without showing that he owns the condo.

T-Mobile CEO Has No Idea What People Are Doing With 2 TB Of Mobile Data, Vows To Stop Them

Heads up, mobile data hogs: T-Mobile is on to your tethering shenanigans and your testing the limits of what “unlimited data” means. In a blog post, CEO John Legere says that the company plans to go after its biggest “network abusers,” and it will begin today. What’s “abuse,” according to Legere? Using as much as two terabytes of data per month.

It’s hard to use that much data in a month with just a phone, but this all goes back to the users violating the terms and conditions of their accounts, which T-Mobile coincidentally declared war on about a year ago. They didn’t end up carrying out the plan last year, but this year the warnings and account downgrades are happening.

Smartphones can be used as mobile wifi hotspots, which is useful, say, when you’re trying to put up a blog post in the waiting room at the dentist. While T-Mobile only lets its users with unlimited accounts use about 7 gigabytes of data on their phones as mobile hotspots every month, there are ways around that limit, using apps designed for the purpose of illicit tethering.

There’s a difference between sneaking a desktop Web browsing session and whatever the heaviest users are up to, though, and Legere is threatening to check up on the top 3,000 data users nationwide. T-Mobile claims to have developed technology to find these users and stop them.

Will T-Mobile follow through this time? Will people who aren’t abusing the network be swept up in this hunt for the perpetrators of alleged network abuse? We’ll find out soon, maybe.

Stopping Network Abusers: An Open Letter to T-Mobile Customers [T-Mobile]

Nestle Announces Another Change To Supply Chain: All KitKat Chocolate Will Be Sustainably Sourced

After saying that “forced labor has no place in [their] supply chain” for Fancy Feast cat food, Swiss conglomerate Nestle SA is now addressing another supply chain area, saying KitKat will be the first global chocolate brand to make all its products with sustainably sourced cocoa. This, as the chocolate industry has come under fire for allegations of child labor.

All KitKat candy bars will contain cocoa made by independent third parties by the first quarter of 2016, the company said in a statement Monday.

Nestle already uses only sustainably sourced cocoa in certain markets, but this move extends the practice worldwide, including in the U.S., where Hershey Co. holds the license to make KitKat bars.

“We’re delighted to be a flag bearer for the industry, as the first global chocolate brand to announce such a move,” said Sandra Martinez, Head of Confectionery for Nestlé. “Sustainable cocoa sourcing helps safeguard the livelihoods of farming communities and delivers higher quality cocoa beans. This announcement will only strengthen consumer trust in KitKat as a responsible brand.”

Bloomberg notes that the chocolate industry has come under fire for years for the practice of producers using child labor in cocoa fields: in 2014, random visits to 200 farms in the Ivory Coast that supply Nestle found four children under 15 working in cocoa fields, according to a report by the Fair Labor Association.

Ashley Madison Says People, Even Some Real Women, Are Still Signing Up For Cheating Site

ashleymadison-580x370We can understand why people continued to shop at retailers that have been hit by data breaches. You still need to buy groceries, clothing, housewares, etc. But what about a website whose main selling point is privacy? Even though — the dating website for cheaters — has been publicly embarrassed by the posting of millions of users’ personal data, it claims that people are still signing up… and that they’re not all just dudes.

A statement from Avid Life Media, the Canadian parent company of Ashley Madison, claims that “hundreds of thousands of new users signed up” with the site in the last week, including 87,596 women.

The company is making a point of this last figure after a Gizmodo analysis of the stolen Ashley Madison data concluded that not only was there an extraordinarily high ratio of male to female users on the site (even though it’s free for women to sign up), but that virtually none of the female accounts had communicated in any way with the men on the site.

READ MORE: Why The Stolen Ashley Madison Data Is (Legally) Fair Game For The Internet

Avid Life claims that assumptions made in this analysis were incorrect and contends that “Last week alone, women sent more than 2.8 million messages within our platform.”

The site also takes issue with reports of the male to female ratio. The stolen data shows that there are 31.3 million male users, compared to only 5.5 million females on Ashley Madison. Avid Life claims that when you look at the number male users who paid to communicate with women versus the number of female members who actively used their accounts, the ratio is actually 1.2:1.

What the Avid Life statement doesn’t make clear is how many of the recent sign-ups were legitimate, paying users and how many were free accounts set up by people curious to see what all the hubbub was about.

The company’s CEO Noel Biderman, whose e-mail inbox was the source for on 13GB data dump, stepped down last week, with Avid Life saying that the “change is in the best interest of the company and allows us to continue to provide support to our members and dedicated employees.”

Fiat Chrysler Wants To Hug GM So Tight They Merge

When you’re a multibillion-dollar company that’s been under heavy scrutiny from federal regulators and you’ve been turned down by several potential suitors in the last year, you don’t simply give up on a possible merger. Or at least that seems to be the case for Fiat Chrysler when it comes to the automaker’s unrequited love for General Motors.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne once again expressed his desire to see the two car manufacturing heavyweights join forces in an interview published over the weekend on Automotive News.

Although Fiat Chrysler [FCA] was shot down by rival GM previously, Marchionne says he’s not backing away from a potentially lucrative deal, not without a fight, anyway.

After crunching the numbers, he tells Automotive News, that his board feels there really is no choice in the matter; they must put pressure on GM to begin talks.

“Look, the combined entity can make $30 billion a year in cash. Thirty. Just think about that [expletive] number,” he says.

Of course, Marchionne doesn’t think things have to be hostile just yet. Instead, he plans to ease GM into the talks, starting with a little nudge and working into a full on embrace. Wait, what?

“Not hostile,” he says. “There are varying degrees of hugs. I can hug you nicely, I can hug you tightly, I can hug you like a bear, I can really hug you. Everything starts with physical contact. Then it can degrade, but it starts with physical contact.”

Who knew that merger deals between major automakers could be so… physical?

Marchionne then goes on to say that he simply wants to present his case to GM CEO Mary Barra.

“I’m not trying to date Mary, for the record, but I tried to get to see her,” he says.

Despite the CEO’s clear love for a possible deal, insiders at GM tell Automotive News that the company feels a merger would be a bad idea.

“Why,” a GM executive asked Automotive News, “should [GM] bail out FCA?”

While Marchionne opines that the presumably billion-dollar deal would create a wealth of profit for a combined company, others express concern that it would mean the loss of thousands of jobs, plant closures, and the end of several vehicle models.

Marchionne denies these assertions, saying that the “doom and gloom of reductions, and headcounts, plant shutdowns” is nonsense.

Still, a spokesperson for GM tells Automotive News that the company and its shareholders believe they are better off on their own.

Marchionne puts the squeeze on GM; GM’s response: ‘Why bail out FCA?’ [Automotive News]

Hunger Games, Transformers Movies Will Disappear From Netflix After Company Decides Not To Renew Epix Deal

You have until the end of September to see Katniss on Netflix.

You have until the end of September to see Katniss on Netflix.

While there’s always plenty of streaming content to watch on the Internet these days, if you’re a fan of Hunger Games or Transformers flicks, better watch them on Netflix now, while you still can: the subscription streaming service says it won’t be renewing its deal with Epix, the cable provider with domestic streaming rights to those movies in the U.S.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire, World War Z and Transformers: Age of Extinction will all expire at the end of September, Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer at Netflix announced in a blog post on Sunday.

Netflix says that it’s working on its own original movies so that members can have access to newer content, because studio licensing practices often mean a long wait to see theatrically released movies at home. In the meantime, the company says it won’t be renewing its deal in the U.S. with Netflix.

“While many of these movies are popular, they are also widely available on cable and other subscription platforms at the same time as they are on Netflix and subject to the same drawn out licensing periods,” Sarandos notes. Basically: we know you can see these elsewhere, so we’ll let you do that and instead focus on pushing our own content.

This isn’t the first time titles have vanished from Netflix after a deal with Epix ran its course: in May 2013, a slew of classic movies were yanked from the streaming service when it decided not to renew a different deal with Epix. At that time, Netflix soothed customers with the announcement that Hunger Games would be coming to the platform soon.

Google Adds Paid Home Service Provider Suggestions To Search Results For “Clogged Toilet,” “Plumber”

Google provided this example of what its new services ad function will look like.

Google provided this example of what its new services ad function will look like.

Less than a year after Amazon took on the likes of Angie’s List, Yelp and other companies that can connect consumers to professional service providers like plumbers, locksmiths, electricians and others, Google announced it would join the fray by adding prescreened service providers to its sponsored search results.

The new service – which launched in the San Francisco Bay area on Friday – is part of Google’s paid app for small businesses called AdWords Express in which professional service providers pay to be within the top search results for a given word, like “plumber” or “clogged toilet.”

Service providers are screened and qualified by Google. They must be licensed, insured and complete a background check and mystery shopping review, a spokesperson for the company tells the Wall Street Journal.

After the qualifying process, Google says it will organize the information provided by the company into a business page.

“When someone in your service area searches for ‘house cleaners’ or other related terms, we’ll show your profile within an expandable listing at the top of Google search results,” the company says.

Customers can then read reviews, submit service requests or call businesses directly for more information.

So far, the company says that services are available for plumbers, handymen, locksmiths and house cleaners.

The new service will be direct competition for Amazon’s new Home Services platform, consumer review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List, as well as traditional retailers Home Depot and Lowe’s, both of which have worked to link consumers with local service providers in the past.

[via The Wall Street Journal]

Newark Airport Terminal Locked Down Sunday Night After Security Breach

People traveling through Newark Liberty International Airport on Sunday were in for a bit of a wait, as authorities locked down Terminal C for more than two hours after a man breached security.

CBS New York reports that shortly before 7 p.m., a man illegally entered the terminal through a door in a secure hallway.

A passenger waiting in the terminal tells the Associated Press that he heard yelling and then saw several TSA agents chasing a man.

Agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained the man and turned him over the Port Authority police.

The AP reports that the man had a ticket for a flight at the airport, but it was unclear why he entered the secure hallway.

Immediately after the man was detained, CBS New York reports, that per security protocol, the terminal was evacuated, put on lockdown and swept by authorities and K9 units. It reopened around 9:30 p.m.

Travelers at the airport took to Twitter during the lockdown, showing long lines of people waiting to re-enter the terminal.

Man Enters Secure Hallway at Newark Liberty Airport [The Associated Press]
Newark Liberty Terminal C Reopens After Security Breach [CBS New York]

Walmart Cutting Workers’ Hours As It Increases Wages

In recent months, Walmart increased pay for entry-level employees so that all workers were making at least $9/hour. At the same time, the retailer’s earnings have come up short of expectations, leading Walmart to instruct managers to curb spending by cutting hours for some workers.

Bloomberg News reports that Walmart HQ recently explained to store managers that if they have over-scheduled their staff — that is, if the store’s sales projections aren’t in line with its labor spending — they may need to do things like send people home early or direct them to take a longer, unpaid lunch break. Bloomberg says dozens of employees have confirmed these types of hour reductions in their stores have already begun to take place.

Walmart claims this won’t affect efforts to provide better customer service, cleaner stores, or properly stock shelves.

However, one Texas Walmart staffer says her store has cut 200 hours of worker pay per week from its ledger. In a single day, eight workers — including department managers — had been sent home by late afternoon. The employee says a customer had to wait 30 minutes for service because of the lack of staff.

Nestle Says There’s No Place For Forced Labor In Cat Food Supply Chain

After American consumers learned about horrible working conditions and trafficked workers on some fishing vessels out of Thailand, class action lawsuits began, accusing American, European, and Thai companies of benefiting from deplorable working conditions farther up their supply chain. One of the companies accused, the Swiss conglomerate Nestle, says that “forced labor has no place in [their] supply chain” for Fancy Feast cat food.

In an e-mail to the Associated Press, the company didn’t deny the allegations, but did explain that its suppliers are supposed to respect human rights, and the company has worked to eliminate all forced labor from its global supply chain.

The initial class action complaint points out that while cans of Fancy Feast do say that the fish comes from Thailand, it does not specify “Made in Thailand out of fish that may have been caught by men and boys trafficked from poorer neighboring countries and forced to work punishing hours while motivated by fear.” Cat food cans are small, so the print would have to be very tiny.

While the class actions are federal, they only accuse the companies that have allegedly benefited from slave labor of breaking the law in California, a state with strong consumer protection laws without equivalents in other states.

Nestle: Forced labor has no place in our food supply chain [AP]