vendredi 29 juillet 2016

Consumer Reports Finds Serious Security Flaws In Fertility App Glow

The fertility-tracking app Glow collects detailed information about users’ bodies and sex lives, and one thing that may not occur to users is the possibility that their data could be compromised. No, not just if someone swiped their phone or broke into their account: our colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports discovered some serious security flaws in the app, which Glow has now fixed.

People who are very interested in privacy and technology and users of Glow will want to read the whole rundown of what was wrong and how the team discovered it, but here’s a basic overview of the three security problems, which have now been fixed.

Open invitation: Women using the app to avoid or achieve pregnancy might find it useful to let their partners in to view their accounts. The problem with this is that Glow made it a little too easy to connect accounts: a malicious user could add him- or herself to an account without the woman granting them permission to do so, and have access to some very personal data without her even knowing.

TMI on the forums: Posts on the app’s forums had more data embedded in them than displayed to users, which included the user’s full name, birthdate, e-mail address, location, and some recent information from her health log.

Consumer Reports was easily able to access this information using a computer as a wireless access point, meaning that any malicious person who sets up a WiFi hotspot to gobble up unwitting users’ data could scoop up this data, which is enough to commit identity theft or harassment.

Changing a user’s password: If someone wants to seize control of another person’s fertility-tracking account, it’s easy to do: a malicious password-changer simply has to take the code generated when changing the password on a dummy account, then fill in the target’s details.

While the site asks for an account’s old password when sending in an honest password change request, you don’t actually need that old password to change the new ones. It would be possible to easily change passwords for multiple users this way.

Glow users should have received a notification telling them to update the app and change their passwords, and to unlink their account from any partner accounts that are connected, then reconnect them.

A company representative told Consumer Reports that it doesn’t know of any data or accounts that were compromised in this way, and Glow didn’t know about it until Consumer Reports alerted it to the problem.

Just keep this in mind: what are you typing into your favorite apps, and how do you know that it’s secure?

Glow Pregnancy App Exposed Women to Privacy Threats, Consumer Reports Finds [Consumer Reports]

For-Profit ITT Expects New Student Enrollment Will Drop By Up To 60% This Fall

Facing multiple lawsuits, the possible loss of its accreditation (from an accrediting body that is in trouble on its own), and demands from federal regulators that it have enough cash on hand to cover losses in case things do collapse, ITT Educational Services now says it will likely see new student enrollment drop by up to 60% this year.

ITT dropped this little bit of bad news in an SEC filing this morning, saying that all the financial demands on the for-profit education chain have forced it to make cuts to its marketing and recruitment budgets. That means fewer ads for ITT Tech during Maury and fewer recruiters trying to convince students to pay the school’s relatively high tuition.

As a result, projects ITT, new student enrollment will be down 45% to 60% between now and the end of the year, compared to the same time period in 2015.

“While we expect these modifications to result in an increase to our operating income and cash flow in the short-term, continued enrollment declines would have a negative long-term impact on our revenue, cash flows and financial condition,” acknowledges the school. In other words: Slashing these budgets saves money right now, but could really hurt the company in the long run.

ITT has teetering in this tight spot for more than a year. It revealed in 2015 that it was the subject of a federal fraud investigation. The Dept. of Education then placed restrictions on ITT’s access to student aid after the school failed to account for millions in federal funds.

The educator has been sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over its loan practices, nursing students who say they were misled about the school, Massachusetts for allegedly harassing students, and by a whistleblower who alleges that the school deceived applicants about the education they would receive and their job prospects.

Meanwhile, the school’s accrediting body — the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) — is currently deciding whether or not to pull ITT’s accreditation, which could severely hamper its ability to operate. If that weren’t bad enough, a Dept. of Education advisory panel recently recommended revoking the agency’s recognition of ACICS, which would put a number of for-profit schools at risk.

[via Buzzfeed News]

Panera Restaurant Shut Down Due To High Carbon Monoxide Levels

When you hear about a restaurant being shut down for a health hazard, you might assume that it’s because of an outbreak of illness, or because someone barfed. A Panera restaurant in Seekonk, MA closed down today to protect everyone after a carbon monoxide leak in the restaurant made 18 customers sick.

Restaurant investors are pretty nervous about the mere suggestion of foodborne illness: as soon as news reports surfaced that people in a Panera somewhere were sick, the company’s stock price fell. It recovered after investors learned that the food wasn’t implicated.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, and eventually loss of consciousness. 13 patients were treated on the scene, and five transported to the hospital.

More to the point, though, the local franchisee and the health department are investigating the cause of the leak, and the restaurant will remain closed until they find it. Only then will customers and employees be allowed back in.

Panera Shuts Restaurant After Possible Carbon Monoxide Exposure [Bloomberg]

President Signs Law That Overturns Vermont GMO Labeling Rules, Replaces Them With Barcodes

Mercedes Pulls Potentially Confusing Ads For 2017 E-Class That Call The Car ‘Self-Driving’

Fully autonomous cars will be available to consumers someday, but not yet. After consumer advocates, including our own parent organization, Consumer Reports, complained to Mercedes and to the Federal Trade Commission about the misleading nature of an ad that shows off a new model’s driver-assist features. The car isn’t autonomous, but advocates were concerned that the ads imply that it is.

Mercedes has reportedly taken the TV spot down from its YouTube channel, but it’s still available over at ad site iSpot. It begins with a voiceover by Jon Hamm asking, “Is the world truly ready for a car that can drive itself? An autonomous-thinking automobile that protects those inside and out?” No, probably not, because the E-Class isn’t an autonomous car.

The ad does have disclaimers, but they’re easy to miss.


The ad shows some situations where the 2017 E class uses automated features like steering assist, cruise control, and parking assist, but doesn’t clarify that this car doesn’t drive itself, and can put the driver back in control at any time.

In an open letter to FTC chair Edith Ramirez, the consumer advocates, including representatives from Consumer Reports, the Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Auto Safety, and a former NHTSA administrator, shared a magazine ad for the car and expressed concern that the vehicle is being sold as fully autonomous. They shared an ad for the E-Class that has appeared in some print magazines. It’s easy to see how a reader could get the wrong idea.


“The E-Class does not meet the definition of either a fully or partially self-driving car,” they write in the letter, “yet it is marketed in a way that a reasonable consumer would believe it does.”

The question of what features make a car self-driving became an important one when news broke that a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model X happened when the car was in semi-autonomous “Autopilot” mode. What happens if more drivers put their trust in cars that aren’t actually self-driving?

The company has decided to pull the ads in response to the consumer advocates’ concerns. “We do not want any potential confusion in the marketplace to detract from the giant step forward in vehicle safety the 2017 E class represents,” a Mercedes spokeswoman told AutoNews.

The consumer advocates say that this is a win for consumers. William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, said in a statement that “consumers deserve clear communication about what new technologies in vehicles can and cannot do. All auto companies should be sure that their marketing choices don’t run the risk of making consumers think a car or safety feature is more capable than it is.”

Give Your Brain A Workout With This Week’s Consumerist Quiz!

That’s right: It’s time to once again put on the mental SCUBA gear and dive deep into your memory, to see if you can recall all the things you’ve read this week.

For the uninitiated, the Consumerist Quiz is a quick test where all the questions involve stories covered since Monday (July 25). Last week was apparently too easy for most of you, with the median score skyrocketing to 67%. Hopefully this week’s memory jog will actually cause you to break a sweat.

No more jibber-jabber. Let’s do it to it!

Pokémon Go Creators Removing Some Locations In Effort To Be “Respectful” Of Reality

Since Pokémon Go launched earlier this month, the mobile game has sent out into the world in droves, seeking Pokemon, as well as “Pokéstops,” where they can stock up on Pokéballs. But those stops and gyms are all real life locations — and some of the people who live or work there aren’t exactly pleased with the new crowds.

While some businesses have embraced the new Pokéreality, others just want it to go away. Other places open to the public, like the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan and the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., have even asked to be removed from the game.

So for those who don’t want all that attention, the game’s creators say they’ll be working on removing certain locations to stay respectful of the real world.

“When something is really popular, we have to figure out the most respectful way to deal with it and make sure that everyone is playing safely and doing things in a respectful manner,” said The Pokemon Company’s consumer marketing director J.C. Smith in an interview with the Associated Press.

Part of the problem is that with all the attention the game has received, he says, and all those folks playing it, “it’s tough to think of all the ways it could affect the world.”

He says the company initially focused on making sure the play experience was done right — addressing server issues and other technical aspects of the game.

“Now, we’re looking at features in the game and how to fine-tune them so that it’s appealing to the fans but also respectful of the private institutions that are affected by it,” Smith says.

Though he declined to set a timeline of when the updates will happen, changes have already happened at some locations: the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum says the museum has already been removed from the game upon its request.

‘Pokemon Go’ creators working to be ‘respectful’ of reality [Associated Press]

Kmart Realizes Maybe It Should Try Communicating With Its Own Employees

Nicholas Eckhart
Last weekend, a story hit the Internet about the current fears of Kmart employees that they’re being asked to move all stock to the sales floor because the company is in slow-motion liquidation. The communications staff at Kmart’s parent company, Sears Holdings, realized that they had to do something when news outlets began sending them questons about the employees’ accounts. Maybe they also needed to communicate a little better with store employees.

In the initial report, employees explained that they had been told to move merchandise to the sales floor, and that each store in the chain had a mysterious “phase” designation that some employees connected to being on track to be closed.

Business Insider had compiled e-mails from employees and chatter on message boards online, and speculated that Kmart might be preparing to shut the entire chain down. After the story went online, news outlets asked Kmart for a response, and they posted one on a company blog denying the reports.

The company’s VP of media relations and corporate communications, whose job is to deal with the media and with communicating with the company’s employees, told PRWeek that the misunderstanding happened “at the store level” and has apparently now been cleared up.

Yet the employees taking their concerns to a blogger indicates that they thought they were being lied to or at least misled by their bosses, and that there was nowhere in the company that they thought they could take these concerns.

“When negative stories come up, we have to remind associates of all the things we’re working on to change the trajectory of the company,” communications VP Braithwaite told PRWeek. Stories about potential problems in stores or secret closure plans “chip away” at employee morale from the outside.

News outlets were happy to parrot the bad news, he pointed out, but no one mentioned the company’s and no one mentioned the company’s comeback initiatives, which included a relaunch of blue light specials.

Longtime Kmart watchers remember that all of this has happened before, though: they also reportedly brought blue light specials back in 2007. Back in 2010, a “Kmart Renaissance” marketing push in some cities led to customers being accused of fraud, and soured many of them on Kmart at least temporarily. That was supposed to be a relaunch, too.

Sears Holdings focuses on employee comms after Kmart liquidation reports [PRWeek]

AT&T Tweaks Uverse Data Caps (Again), Will Still Charge You $30 For Unlimited Data

If it seems like this is the season when every ISP out there is messing with its data caps, well, that’s because it is. Up today: AT&T, with its second shift in data cap policy in the last six months.

In a corporate blog post today, AT&T announced increased data for its higher-speed customers… but not for anyone stuck on DSL.

AT&T’s GigaPower customers — those pulling 1 Gbps fiber speeds in a few select markets — no longer are subject to a data cap, and can pull unlimited data. Meanwhile Uverse customers getting connections of up to 300 Mbps will see their data cap bumped up to 1 TB from its current limit of 300-600 GB. And, like everyone else, they’re now offering an add-on for unlimited data, to the tune of $30 per month.

It’s actually only been a couple of months since the last time AT&T updated their data cap policy, back in March. But since then, everyone else has been tweaking their own policies, so AT&T may as well shift to be part of the club.

Charter agreed not to impose data caps for several years as a condition of being able to merge with Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable.

Comcast expanded how many cities are subject to data caps, but also expanded their data cap in all markets to 1 TB per month and added a $50 “unlimited” tier for customers to buy.

CenturyLink, likewise, started charging their customers up to $50 per month for exceeding the data caps on their service.

So why, other than keeping up with the competition, is AT&T making another change just four months after its last big shift?

Part of the answer is in its own blog post: our old friend, corporate synergy. AT&T’s offering limited data to anyone who signs up for both Uverse internet and also either Uverse or DirecTV TV service. In short, now that it can match other providers’ double-play offerings more widely, it’s sure as heck going to — and it’s going to try to give users incentives to go for it.

NY Regulators Cracking Down On Sale Of Undersized Lobsters At Price Chopper Stores

It’s summer, and many people are no doubt jonesing for that seasonal favorite, the lobster roll. But in order to make sure there are enough lobsters to go around without depleting the crustacean population, there are laws regarding how big they have to be to be sold. And according to New York regulators, Price Chopper has had more than a few undersized lobsters for sale in the last few months.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation said Thursday that it’s yanked more than 1,100 pounds of undersized products from Price Chopper locations in three different inspections since March.

New York’s Environmental Conservation Law requires that lobsters that are taken, possessed, bought, sold, imported, and exported must measure between 3 and 3/8-inches and 5 and 1/4-inches from the eye socket to the end of the body shell.

Officials started looking into Price Chopper’s lobsters after agents spotted two short lobsters at Price Chopper stores in Binghamton. Random checks in May at other stores found similar results.

An inspection at a Price Chopper distribution center in Schenectady on Tuesday this week found that 820 lobsters, or about 15% of the inventory of 297 cases, were under the legal size limit. At least 105 other short lobsters have been seized at other stores, with a total seizure valued at more than $7,999.

Price Chopper could be facing fines of up to $100 for every shellfish involved, though the state says it’s planning to negotiate a settlement with the grocery chain in the coming weeks.

These little guys won’t go to waste, however: New York donated the undersized shellfish this week to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York in Latham.

Sony, Ghostface Killah Must Face Copyright Lawsuit Over Use Of ‘Iron Man’ Cartoon Theme

The composer of the theme song used in the 1966 cartoon version of Marvel’s Iron Man won a minor victory today, with a federal appeals court ruling that Sony Music and rapper Ghostface Killah must face the composer’s claim that they violated his copyright by sampling the 50-year-old ditty without his permission.

Way back in 1966, Jack Urbont wrote a variety of theme songs for a series called The Marvel Super Heroes. The show featured tales of five different Marvel characters — including “The Invincible Iron Man” — each of whom got their own theme music, also written by Urbont.

The composer, who says he was introduced to Marvel bigwig Stan Lee by a mutual friend, never signed any sort of written agreement for his compositions, but was paid a total of $3,000 for the bundle of theme songs sold to the comics company.

What’s more, contends Urbont, Marvel understood that he retained the copyright on these songs, noting that he later received royalty payments in spite of never having signed a royalty agreement.

At the time, the U.S. Copyright Office listed Urbont as the owner of these songs, and he filed a renewal for that copyright in 1994. He has also successfully made licensing deals to have the Iron Man theme used in the 2008 movie version of the superhero’s story.

What Urbont didn’t agree to was Ghostface Killah’s use of the 1966 theme in the opening and closing tracks of his album Supreme Clientele, released in Feb. 2000.

The composer didn’t learn about the use of the theme music until nearly a decade later, ultimately filing a lawsuit in 2011.

Sony, however, argues that Urbont does not hold the copyright to the sampled theme song, claiming the music was written as a “work for hire.” The record company points to a recording — not of the Iron Man theme, but of other songs in that Marvel bundle penned by Urbont — released in 1969 which lists Marvel as the copyright holder.

Another point of contention involves a 1995 settlement between Urbont and Marvel over these theme songs. That settlement refers to Urbont as the “renewal copyright owner” of these songs and the related recordings, and also refers to Marvel as a “Licensee” of these works. However, the settlement notes that Marvel faces no liability.

To Urbont, this is an indicator that he is the rightful copyright owner. To Sony, it shows that Marvel disputes Urbont’s true ownership, as it neither explicitly acknowledges him as the rightful copyright holder nor does it transfer the copyright to either party.

Both sides asked the district court for summary judgment and in April 2015, the judge sided with Sony and Mr. Killah [PDF], agreeing that the music was written as a ” “work for hire” because it was composed at Marvel’s “instance and expense,” and because Urbont had not sufficiently demonstrated that Marvel considered him the copyright holder in 1966.

Urbont appealed, arguing that the district court had overlooked genuine issues of material fact bolstering his claim to ownership of the theme. This morning, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the composer [PDF].

The appellate panel made no judgment about the validity of Urbont’s copyright claim but said the 1966 copyright registration and the subsequent successful renewal constitute “prima facie evidence of the
validity of the copyright.” It’s not definitive proof, but that’s not an issue to be determined at the summary judgment stage, explains the appeals court.

Regarding the “work for hire” factor, the district court had ruled that because Marvel picked the subject matter and scope of Urbont’s themes — and Marvel retained the right to accept or reject his submissions — Sony was correct in claiming that Urbont could have no copyright claim.

However, the appeals court points to other factors that the lower court did not address in its deliberations. For instance, Urbont claims that while Marvel could accept or reject his music, the company had no authority to alter it. Or the fact that the composer approached Stan Lee about writing the music, rather than having been hired by Marvel to do a specific task.

Additionally, according to Urbont, he recorded the themes at his own expense without any financial contribution from Marvel. If true, this could contribute to his argument that Urbont undertook this endeavor on his own.

Again, none of these are definitive proof that Urbont is the copyright owner — indeed, the court even noted that some factors not considered in the summary judgment seem to weigh in Sony’s favor — but they are “genuine issues of material fact remain as to whether the Iron Man composition was created at Marvel’s instance and expense.”

“We conclude that the district court erred in concluding that Urbont failed as a matter of law to produce evidence sufficient to rebut the presumption that Marvel owned the work,” explains the appeals court, later writing that “Urbont has raised genuine issues of material fact with respect to his claim of copyright infringement, and we vacate the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of” Sony and Ghostface Killah.

The case now goes back to the district court, where these issues can be resolved (or more likely quietly settled outside of the courtroom).

How Scalpers Make More Money Off Broadway’s ‘Hamilton’ Than The Show’s Producers

There’s good news for impatient theater fans who want to see the hit Broadway show “Hamilton.” After ticket prices peaked between this year’s Tony awards on June 12 and the departure of some original cast members a month later, they’ve now plummeted… to only about six to ten times their original face value.

Back in 2007, New York repealed many of its laws against ticket scalping, though people in the industry prefer the more politically correct and respectable-sounding term “broker” now. Instead of standing in a line and buying up as many tickets as they can, brokers create bots to virtually scoop up those tickets much faster.

The problem is that now that Ticketmaster lists resale tickets right on the page where customers would buy tickets directly from the theater if any were available. Sites like StubHub also seem much more legitimate than buying a ticket for cash from around the corner from the theater.

The result is that there’s a frenzy over tickets to this show, and Broadway hasn’t really had to deal with this situation before. The New York Times calls each performance of the show a mini-Super Bowl in terms of getting tickets and prices rising and falling at the last minute.

The Times built its own ticket bot to track prices, though the team could have added features that would have let them scoop up tickets to resell, too. While a possible solution to the problem of revenue streams in the news industry, that would have been extremely unethical. What the bot let the Times do was track prices over time across multiple resale sites and box-office sales on the original site through Ticketmaster.

The bot calculated that the show earned many times what they originally spent on the tickets, earning money for using some software instead of actually producing a show.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has increased the penalties for buyers caught using ticketing bots, and has proposed capping the prices of tickets on the resale market. That change would also probably have unintended consequences.

How Scalpers Make Their Millions With ‘Hamilton’ [New York Times]

MTV Bringing Back “Beavis And Butt-head,” “Daria,” & More With New Classics Channel

Has your TV-viewing life been missing a pair of friends sitting on the couch exclaiming “This sucks!” or an angsty teen dealing with her bubbly sister and other perils of high school? They’ll soon be making a reappearance, as MTV bets that folks are feeling nostalgic enough for the ’90s and early aughts to justify its new MTV Classic channel.

MTV announced Thursday that it will rebrand the VH1 Classic channel as MTV Classic, bringing titles like Beavis and Butt-head, Laguna Beach, Total Request Live, and Daria back into consumers’ homes starting Aug. 1.

“MTV Classic gives audiences a modern and artful home for classic MTV programming and — alongside MTV, MTV2, MTV Live, and mtvU — rounds out a diverse portfolio with music and youth culture at its core,” Sean Atkins, president of MTV, said in a statement.

MTV Classic’s debut coincides with the channels first appearance exactly 35 years ago. The first show to air on the new channel will be MTV Hour One, the first hour of programming from the 1981 channel launch.

Bloomberg reports that prior to the launch, MTV engineers have undertaken a mammoth task: digitizing millions of old VHS tapes stores for yeas in vaults and filled with live performances and interviews from musicians and stars who visited MTV studios over the past 35 years.

That means in addition to shows like Cribs, Jersey Shore, and Run’s House, MTV Classic will also replay live concerts, interviews, red carpet appearances, and episodes of docuseries Storytellers.

“Part of the reason our brand is powerful is because so many of us still have affection for what MTV is or was or could be,” says Erik Flannigan, who works for MTV parent company Viacom, tells Bloomberg. “There are great things that happened on MTV that are valuable and merit consideration.”

While bringing the footage out of the vaults definitely makes for a blast from the past, it’s not just about reminding viewers of their old favorites.

By digitizing the footage, MTV is making it more accessible to license to people making documentaries or movies, creating an additional revenue stream, Bloomberg reports.

The channel can also repurpose the items for consumption on other avenues, like Snapchat and YouTube.

“We can create digital franchises out of this material, whether it’s bits for Snapchat, YouTube or Instagram,” Alex Pappademas, managing editor of MTV News, tells Bloomberg. “Young people are really interested in nostalgia and the past.”


[via Bloomberg]

JetBlue Starting Flights To Cuba Next Month From $99 Each Way

JetBlue is getting the jump on other domestic airlines that have announced their plans for flights to Cuba, saying it’ll be the first domestic airline to fly a commercial flight from the U.S. to the island nation, starting next month.

JetBlue’s plan to start nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Santa Clara–Abel Santamaría Airport (about three hours east of Havana) on Aug. 31 would make it the first airline to fly to the island nation from the U.S. in more than 50 years.

Regional airline Silver Airways and American Airlines have also released their departure dates for their initial flights to Cuba (Sept. 1 and Sept. 7, respectively), after the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded approval for Cuba travel to six U.S. airlines

JetBlue still needs approval from the Cuban government, the Miami Herald notes, but if all goes according to plan, fares will start at $99 each way, the airline said. That price will include Cuba-required health insurance coverage and taxes, which makes it the lowest Cuba fare announced so far.

“It’s a new day for Cuba travelers and one we have thoughtfully prepared for,” said Marty St. George, executive vice president of commercial and planning at JetBlue. “We are proud to usher in a new era of Cuba travel with affordable fares and great service.”

As part of U.S. regulations, citizens traveling to Cuba have to complete an affidavit affirming that they’re going for one of 12 reasons of approved travel. JetBlue says it’s built that process right into its booking process, so it can be completed in a few clicks.

The airline has also been tentatively awarded four daily flights between the Cuban capital of Havana and Fort Lauderdale, New York, and Orlando, but neither JetBlue nor American — which also has approval for five daily flights to Havana — have announced when they’ll start those flights.

Florida Officials Investigating 4 Cases Of Zika That May Have Been Transmitted By Mosquitoes

For the first time in the U.S., health officials believe local mosquitoes may have transmitted the Zika virus to humans.

Florida authorities are currently investigating four cases of Zika infection that are believed to have been caused by mosquitoes carrying the virus: two of the four cases are in Miami-Dade County, while the other two were reported in Broward County.

None of the four people involved had traveled to Zika-affected areas, and it’s believed they were infected by local mosquitoes carrying the various. However, sexual transmission has not yet been ruled out.

“We are looking into other modes of transmission. We’re conducting this investigation as we would other mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue (fever),” the communications director for the Florida Department of Health, told CNN [warning: link contains video that autoplays].

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also helping officials in their investigation.

“Evidence is mounting to suggest local transmission via mosquitos is going on in South Florida,” Tom Skinner, senior press officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN. “These cases fit similar transmission patterns (of) mosquito borne diseases like chikungunya that we’ve seen in South Florida in years past.”

The Florida health department is now giving out Zika-prevention kits in the areas under investigation, our colleagues at Consumer Reports note, with a focus on getting the kits to pregnant women who are at the greatest risks from the virus, which can cause serious birth defects.

Officials are going door-to-door asking people to provide urine samples and other information so they can try to figure out how many people could be infected with Zika. That’s because for most of the other people who contract the virus, they’ll only see mild symptoms or none at all, so they may not even know they’ve got it.

Just in case, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has asked blood donation centers in the two affected counties to stop collection immediately until officials can screen the blood for Zika, or set up a process that would deactivate it.

Anyone whose traveled to those two counties have also been asked not to donate blood for four weeks after returning form that area, as “a prudent measure to help assure the safety of blood and blood products,” the FDA said.

“Mosquito control has already conducted reduction and prevention activities in the area of investigation,” officials with the Florida Health Department said in a statement. “Residents and visitors are reminded that the best way to protect themselves is to prevent mosquito bites through practicing good drain and cover methods.”

People are also advised to use mosquito repellent.

Florida officials investigating 4 possible non-travel-related Zika cases [CNN]
First Zika Outbreak Confirmed in Florida [Consumer Reports]

Walgreens Closing,

With easy-to-remember names like and, one might expect these Walgreens-owned websites to be doing gangbusters business. Yet the retailer says it will shutter both sites by the end of September. 

Five years after Walgreens bought the sites, it says it will shut them down in order to concentrate on its own online presence, The Seattle Times reports.

“Over the past year, we have been focusing on building new omnichannel capabilities on…,” Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso said. “After careful consideration, we have decided to shut down and We intend to focus on”

A look at the two websites on Friday didn’t reveal any notification about their imminent closure. However, the contact page for does include notice that dollars — a rewards program — will no longer be accepted after Sept. 30.

“ dollars is ending soon: On September 30th we will be ending our dollars™ program.

You can still earn dollars™ until August 13th, 2016. After that, you can redeem all of your dollars™ in a redemption-only period from August 14th through September 30th.

After September 30th, 2016, all unredeemed dollars™ will expire and the program will end.”

The Times reports that the closure of the sites will result in some layoffs at Walgreens, but eliminated jobs will focus solely on and employees.

Walgreens shutting its unit [The Seattle Times]

Cable, Wireless Industries Try Yet Again To Take Net Neutrality To Court

We have had had net neutrality as the law of the land for over a year now. Lawsuits immediately followed its implementation, of course, but the appeals court took the FCC’s side. So if you’re industry and you’re still ticked off, what’s left? Ask for a do-over… if you can get one.

A big bunch of trade and industry groups representing the wireless, cable, and telecom industries today filed their next attempt to have the FCC’s Open Internet Rule — net neutrality — overturned.

The actual request is called a petition for an en banc review. Basically, the idea is that an appeals court case, except at the Supreme Court level, is heard and ruled on by a set of three judges, not by the entire court. Asking for an en banc review means they’re asking for all (or most, if there are more than 15; DC has 17) of the judges in the circuit to rehear the case together.

USTelecom and CenturyLink filed the first petition (222-page PDF) this morning, and have since been joined by American Cable Association and the CTIA and NCTA — respectively, the wireless industry’s and cable industry’s big trade and lobbying groups.

USTelecom president Walter McCormick, announcing the filing, said in a statement that it’s leading the legal challenges “because the agency used a flawed and anti-consumer approach to implement net neutrality standards.”

“Regrettably,” McCormick continued, “two judges on the appeals court failed to recognize the significant legal failings of the FCC’s decision to regulate the internet as a public utility. USTelecom has asked for an en banc review to help ensure that the FCC does not give itself authority — which Congress has not granted — to impose heavy-handed regulation on internet access. Reclassifying broadband access as a public utility service reverses decades of established legal precedent which has been upheld by the Supreme Court.”

The NCTA, on the other hand, seems just as tired of this nonsense as the rest of us are (despite pursuing it anyway). In a blog post, they write, “We don’t celebrate this petition, but we believe this action is necessary to correct unlawful action by the FCC.”

The post continues by actually saying that net neutrality is super great! “We aren’t challenging the specific net neutrality protections,” which is good because they’d almost certainly lose based on the legal history so far. Instead, they’re tackling procedure: “Regrettably,” — there’s that word again — “the 2015 Order abruptly and unreasonably abandoned that long-established precedent, reverting to an outdated regulatory framework. Quite simply, as regulators for decades have acknowledged and consistently determined, dynamic Internet networks do not resemble or deserve to be treated like archaic telephone systems.”

“Because the FCC Order was such a monumental departure from the FCC’s successful tenure of overseeing broadband internet networks that have seen tremendous investment, expansion and innovation, we seek rehearing of these critical issues,” it concludes.

FCC chair Tom Wheeler, however, is not having it. In his statement, Wheeler called it “no surprise” that industry is trying yet again.

If the court does take up the petition, Wheeler said, “We are confident that the full court will agree with the panel’s affirmation of the FCC’s clear authority to enact its strong Open Internet rules, the reasoned decision-making upon which they are based, and the adequacy of the record from which they were developed.”

That said, legal analysts across the board think this petition is a long shot at best. Loads of folks who lose an appeals case request an en banc hearing, but very, very few actually get one. Tactically speaking, this petition is basically the industry’s best chance to keep presenting the question of whether or not the FCC can do this thing (that they already did more than a year ago), in hopes of maybe eventually being heard by the Supreme Court.

Man Planning To Sue After Arrest For “Meth” That Was Actually Krispy Kreme

It was a case of mistaken identity. Orlando Police thought they’d identified methamphetamine in a man’s car, when really, it was just the flaky remains of the Krispy Kreme doughnut glaze he’d enjoyed earlier. He’s now planning to sue the city for the arrest that stemmed from that mistake.

The Florida man said he used to treat himself to a Krispy Kreme doughnut every other Wednesday, and eat them in his car, The Orlando Sentinel reports. [warning: link contains video that autoplays]. But after police officers pulled him over last December and spotted a few flakes of glaze in his car that they thought were crystal methamphetamine, and arrested him, well, that routine is no more.

Police said in their report that he was pulled over in December because he didn’t come to a full stop before pulling out of a 7-Eleven parking lot, and because he was driving 42 mph in a 30 mph zone.

The officers had staked out the location because of reports of increased drug activity at the convenience store. Upon spotting the flakes, police first thought the substance was crack, the man said, before settling on meth. The report notes that “a rock like substance” was “on the floor board where his feet were.”

He tried to tell them it was the glaze from a doughnut, he said, which the arrest report confirms: “[The man] stated that that the substance is sugar from a Krispie Kreme Donut that he ate,” the arresting officer wrote.

Two roadside drug tests came back positive for the illegal substance, the man’s arrest report said, and he was taken away to county jail.

But when a state crime lab did another test several weeks later — finding that the substance wasn’t any kind of drug — he was cleared. Three days later, the State Attorney’s Office in Orlando formally dropped the case.

“It was incredible,” he said. “It feels scary when you haven’t done anything wrong and get arrested. … It’s just a terrible feeling.”

He’s now hired a lawyer and is planning to file a lawsuit to ask the city to pay him damages.

“I got arrested for no reason at all,” he said.

Unless you count “loving doughnuts so much you get the glaze all over your car” as a reason, of course.

Cops mistook Krispy Kreme doughnut glaze for meth, Orlando man says [The Orlando Sentinel]

There’s Now A Card Version Of “The Oregon Trail”

Until just a few years ago — when The Internet Archive brought the game to most current browsers — the only way to relive your virtually Typhoid-filled childhood traversing The Oregon Trail was to hook up that ancient computer still stored in your parent’s basement. Now, you don’t even need a computer, or any electronic device, as there’s a tabletop game.

According to the Oregonian, the tabletop card will hit select retailers’ shelves this Sunday, July 31, giving people everywhere the opportunity to gather around the kitchen table to hunt game and avoid dysentery as they make their way west.

The new tabletop version of the classic game — which was recently inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame — was first spotted by a redditor and confirmed to be in stock at several Portland-area Target stores.

A spokesperson for the retailer tells The Oregonian that the game will officially debut on July 31, although some store chose to sell the product earlier.


Despite advancements in technology since the game first debuted in 1971, a post on the game by the Reddit user shows the new card version has kept many of the aspects The Oregon Trail is known for: cards feature 8-bit imagery of oxen, bullets, food, and other things you would have previously seen on the computer.

Additionally, it appears the cards include tombstones in which players can write their names and cause of death on the Trail.


The game is reportedly one of several Target exclusives that were released without promotions or fanfare, The Oregonian reports.

‘The Oregon Trail’ released as a Target-exclusive tabletop card game, on sale July 31 [The Oregonian]

NM Politician Spots New, Destroyed Sneakers In Trash At Sports Authority Store Closing Sale

Politicians are regular people who do mundane things like check out store-closing sales at national sporting goods retailers. A New Mexico state representative spotted shoes that had been deliberately destroyed tossed in the dumpster outside of a closing Albuquerque Sports Authority store, and was angry that good shoes had deliberately been destroyed.

Unfortunately, this happens for liability reasons or because of contracts with suppliers. When fancy bridal chain Priscilla’s of Boston shut down back in 2012, horrified observers found unsold dresses in the trash marked up with red spray paint.

The state representative, Idalia Lechuga-Tena, says that she was shopping the store closing sale when she noticed an empoloyee carrying sneakers to the trash. The items had been slashed, she reports, so even dumpster divers who found them wouldn’t be able to use or repair them.

Finding a certain brand of clothing or shoes in thrift stores cheapens it in the eyes of marketers, and it can be easier and cheaper for suppliers to simply write off unsold merchandise instead of sending someone to get it.

“There are many non-profits in New Mexico that are constantly looking for donations,” she told a local news station. “I understand they’re a big corporation but there’s need in every single community.”

There isn’t much of the former “big corporation” left, with headquarters staff laid off and the stores closing sooner than anticipated. KRQE tried to contact Sports Authority, but there was no one left handling publicity to take their call.

State Rep: New shoes wasted, tossed in dumpster by Sports Authority [Sports Authority]

Google Plans To Work With All Carmakers On Self-Driving Vehicles

Google recently announced it will work with Fiat Chrysler to develop driverless minivans, but the tech titan has plans to make several more deals with automakers to ultimately put its autonomous vehicle tech in a variety of cars.

PCWorld reports that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, will work directly with automakers to advance the technology for self-driving vehicles.

“We do expect we’ll work with many partners in this area,” Ruth Porat, chief financial officer of Google and parent company Alphabet, told investors on Thursday. “We’re solving a really big need.”

While Porat stopped short of saying which carmakers the company plans to work with, she did update the autonomous driving technology progress so far.

Under the deal with Fiat Chrysler, Google will have 100 model year 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans outfitted with self-driving technology for use in tests. Those vehicles are expected to hit the road later this year.

“We’re pleased to be working with FCA, more than doubling the number of cars we’re having,” Porat said.

Google’s vehicles have so far traveled more than 1.7 miles on the streets of Mountain View, CA, Phoenix, Kirkland, WA, and Austin.

Google’s parent company will work with more auto makers on self-driving cars [PCWorld]

China Okays Merger Of Former U.S. Beer Giants

The final country that needed to weigh in on the mega-merger of beer giants SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch InBev has given its blessing to the sudsy nuptials. This morning, Chinese regulators approved the deal, effectively clearing the road for the acquisition to move forward.

The decision by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce came as little surprise, given that SABMiller had already agreed to sell its 49% stake in CR Snow, China’s largest brewing company, in an effort to preempt any regulatory action.

READ MORE: How America’s Two Signature Beer Companies Became Expats

But the combined AB InBev/SABMiller would still have a significant position in China, with around 20% of the market share for the brands that would remain under the companies’ control.

SABMiller has sold off a number of brands around the world — including all of its U.S. holdings — to appease local regulators.

The only other issue that could slow down the race to integrate is AB InBev’s recently revised cash offer for SABMiller. In an effort to quell concerns about the recent decline of the British Pound, the Brazilian-Dutch colossus elected to boost its offer price for London-based SABMiller. Some are concerned that the increase isn’t sufficient to represent SABMiller’s true value.

Now that all international regulatory bodies have thumbs-upped the merger, the SABMiller board will likely move quickly to consider this revised offer. U.S. cigarette giant Altria — formerly Philip Morris — is one of the largest shareholders of SABMiller, and has signaled its approval of the increased AB InBev offer, however some other minority investors are reportedly more skeptical. If both Altria and the other major investor — the Santo Domingo family of Colombia — back the deal, SABMiller’s board may not have any choice but to move forward with the merger.

Today Is The Last Day Windows Users Can Upgrade To Windows 10 For Free

If you’ve been putting off upgrading your current Windows operating system to Windows 10 — even after all that nagging, prompting, and pestering from Microsoft — today is decision day: either upgrade for free before the end of the day, or you’ll have to pay if you upgrade later.

Microsoft has been warning folks for months that the deadline was nigh, telling customers that the chance to upgrade for free would end on July 29.

Despite that deadline, however, you have a little bit of wiggle room: “Windows 10 upgrades must be fully completed by 11:59 p.m. UTC-10 on July 29, 2016,” a Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed to Consumerist.

That translates to July 30 at 5:59 a.m. EDT for those on the eastern seaboard, and 2:59 a.m. PDT on July 30 for those living on the West coast. If you want to be safe, probably aim to do it tonight, and not in the small hours of the morning.

If you don’t get your upgrade downloaded by the deadline, you’ll have to pay $120, while Windows 10 Pro will cost a cool $200.

Man Arrested For Doing Yoga, Threatening Crew On Flight Owes United Airlines $44,000

Remember the man who was arrested after he refused to stop doing yoga and got violent with the crew, forcing the pilot of a United Airlines flight to turn the plane around? For all of that, he’ll have to pay United more than $44,000.

The man, a Korean tourist who had been flying from Hawaii to Japan last March, was sentenced on Friday by a federal judge in Honolulu to time served, amounting to about 13 days, the Associated Press reports, and ordered him to pay $44,235 in restitution. He pleaded guilty in April to interfering with a flight crew and was allowed to return home to South Korea at that time.

He’ll be under court supervision for three years, which is the amount of time he has to pay what he owes, The Associated Press reports. He also might not be allowed back in the U.S., which he says is fine because he has no plans to travel here again.

Court records show that the man didn’t want to sit in his seat during the meal service on the March flight from Honolulu to Tokyo, so he decided to do yoga and meditate in the back of the plane. But authorities say he turned violent when he was asked to return to his seat, threatening the crew and other passengers, and shoving his wife. That’s when the pilot turned the plane around.

At the time, the man told authorities he hadn’t slept for 11 days.

The judge said she agrees with prosecutors that his actions constituted a violent felony.

“I think your client is getting off very easy” with the $44,235 restitution amount, considering the costs of turning the flight around and the passengers who had to go back to Honolulu, she said.

“I take this very seriously and I have a great deal of concern about this behavior,” she said.

He’ll be allowed to go back to South Korea, but will have to work with a probation officer beforehand to work out restitution payments.

“He didn’t say it but he does apologize for what happened,” his lawyer said. “This is a truly isolated incident.”

Time served, $44K restitution for airplane yoga arrest [The Associated Press]

Consumerist Friday Flickr Finds

Here are five of the best photos that readers added to the Consumerist Flickr Pool in the last week, picked for usability in a Consumerist post or for just plain neatness.

Brian Rome
Mike Matney
Daniel Oines
吉姆 Jim Hofman
Ashi Fachler

Want to see your pictures on our site? Our Flickr pool is the place where Consumerist readers upload photos for possible use in future Consumerist posts. Just be a registered Flickr user, go here, and click “Join Group?” up on the top right. Choose your best photos, then click “send to group” on the individual images you want to add to the pool. Can’t Explain Why People Keep Texting Me To Babysit Their Kids

We’ve all gotten wrong-number calls and texts; some of us have even been on the receiving end of repeated wrong-number calls looking for the same person. But Consumerist reader Ed wants to know why his phone number is listed — twice — as a babysitter on, even though he’s (A) not a babysitter, and (B) never had an account with the site.

Unfortunately, has no good answers for Ed.

Babysitter Needed

It all started in mid-June, when Ed began receiving unsolicited text messages from people seeking a babysitter for their children.

The inquiring parents told Ed they found his number on — a site that lets users find a variety of caregivers, and a site that Ed has nothing to do with.

“People are texting me, thinking I’m a caregiver who has been vetted by,” Ed told Consumerist via email. “I am not.”

Failure To Respond

Folks make mistakes, so maybe someone who does have a account was typing too quickly and inadvertently transposed a number. Seeking to resolve the problem, Ed tried contact to see about removing the erroneous listing.

That was apparently easier said than done, he told Consumerist. “I have attempted to contact them three times to fix the matter,” to no avail.

Shortly after first contacting the company, Ed says emailed him with a note that the site would remove the ad and his phone number. The only problem: He hadn’t yet given them his phone number, so how could they possibly know which ad to remove?

“I don’t recall providing my cell number in my original complaint submission on their web form,” he tells Consumerist. Even if had somehow been able to figure out his number, it didn’t matter as the errant messages persisted.

“I continued to receive texts,” says Ed, who sent a second email on July 3, but did not receive a response from

And because only paid members can see full posts on the site, and Ed wasn’t about to ante up for a membership, he had no way to know if his number had been removed.

“Even the listings you can ‘see for free’ have no way of searching by cell number,” he explains.

A Matter Of Trust

At that point, Ed felt the only thing he could do was inform the people who texted him about the issue.

“Received your text about child care services. I do not provide child care services and have attempted to notify support three times on the matter without success,” he wrote back to potential clients. “Therefore I am contacting everyone who has contacted me to warn you that the site doesn’t seem to be concerned with the integrity and safety of its ads. I would be weary of using this site for your child care needs given that I have attempted to report someone has placed a fake ad with my phone number and they do not seem concerned enough to address this obvious security concern.”

His replies apparently lit a fire under Ed says the site responded twice with apologies; this time they remembered to ask for his number.

Double Trouble

While Ed was waiting to make sure his phone number was removed from the site, we reached out to to find out how this issue could occur and why it wasn’t immediately addressed.

Jacalyn Lee, a spokesperson for the company, tells Consumerist that the issued ended up being a bit more complicated than one would think.

For starters, Ed’s number was associated with two listings on the site.

“It is possible that [he] continued to receive text messages after removed his phone number from one account because there was also a second account with the same number on file that we were not notified about,” she explains.

While the company says it doesn’t know why his number was connected to accounts that weren’t his, they say that both have been removed from the site.

No Verification Required

This entire scenario could have been avoided if verified the phone numbers listed on the site, and Lee says that users can choose to verify their phone number and email addresses. However, the company does not monitor this information or require that users verify their numbers.

“Once a post is created, we encourage all members to always use’s messaging service, including sending messages through instead of using personal email addresses,” Lee says. “This guards their privacy and allows us to monitor all electronic exchanges for suspect activity. That way, members only share their contact information if and when they feel comfortable.”

Lee suggests that if members are suspicious of any job postings, they can notify the Safety Team. This can be done by clicking the “Report” flag located in messages and job posts.

“ takes reports from members very seriously and we want to know if members think a job post or message is spam, a scam or suggestive,” Lee tells Consumerist, noting that additional information can be found on the site’s Safety Center. 

jeudi 28 juillet 2016

5 Things We Learned About The Not-So-Mysterious Business Of E-Commerce Arbitrage

We’ve written about the practice of arbitrage in e-commerce in the past. Arbitrage is when you take advantage of different prices for the same items in different places, and make money by buying it from one place and reselling it in another. E-commerce has created a new variation on this business: people who receive orders from one site, order the items for their customers on another, and then ship directly, serving as a middleman.

Jason Feifer over at Entrepreneur magazine looked at this scheme in some detail, and wondered how to (maybe) prevent or stop it. He introduces readers to some of the sellers, and also to a cat toy inventor who has declared war on resellers of his products.

  • A typical transaction works like this: a company sends their item to the Amazon warehouse. An order comes in and Amazon fulfills it, shipping it to the name and address on the order. This isn’t who placed the Amazon order, though. The actual purchaser bought the same item on eBay, and the middleman turned around and ordered it as a gift from Amazon. The seller never knows… unless they happen to have a distinctive item and they control the supply of it.

The e-commerce platforms vary, but the process is the same: a customer buys from one site, and the item is shipped to them from antoher.

  • Everyone makes a little bit of money on this transaction, including both selling platforms, the arbitrage seller, and the original seller, but it’s understandable why the original seller feels like a sucker, shipping directly to a customer who paid a few extra bucks to someone else.
  • Arbitrage isn’t hard to learn, and is a job that people seem to fall into. Some are disabled or have trouble finding traditional work and running a traditional business for other reasons. Specialized software helps with both ends of the transaction.
  • Marketing work-at-home schemes to vulnerable people might seem like a shady business, but the companies that market this software don’t really care. One software seller wrapped himself in the mantle of helping people earn a (somewhat) honest living. None of the programs guarantees income, but they’re still marketed like get-rich-quick schemes.
  • There are ways to sabotage the process, which are satisfying but ultimately don’t solve anything. One seller of a different product bought his own item from a reseller on eBay, then turned around and hiked the price tenfold. The eBay seller had a choice: fulfill the order, or risk bad feedback, too much of which puts a seller’s account at risk.

Why It’s Nearly Impossible To Stop This Amazon and eBay Scheme [Entrepreneur]

Snake Oil Was A Real Thing & 3 Other Things You Should Know About Sham Medicines

To Prevent Poisoned Kids, Lock Up Both The Pot Brownies And The Toothpaste

When something becomes legal, it becomes more common in citizens’ homes. That’s why it’s not surprising that a study shows an increase in treatment for accidental poisonings of children in Colorado after recreational marijuana became legal to buy and sell there in 2014. Yet while this serves as an important reminder to caregivers to lock up their infused brownies, children are still most likely to be poisoned by ordinary household products like cleaning supplies and over-the-counter medications.

In their analysis of cases of poisoning among children at a children’s hospital the suburbs of Denver, the doctors who conducted this study found that just over half of the cases (52%) involved edible products, while the rest involved less processed, smokable forms of the drug.

The doctors noted that the total number of poison control cases in Colorado increased an average of 24% each year from the beginning of 2009 to the end of 2015, and the nationwide rate increased 19% during the same six-year period.

Cannabis edibles in the form of brownies, cookies, or candy are popular products that are commercially available in Colorado, and the problem with such products is that their packaging makes them indistinguishable from other sweets, especially if you’re a toddler who can’t read.

On the other hand, the Washington Post’s occasionally contrarian Wonkblog points out that even in Colorado, most common poisoning hazards to kids are regular household items like toothpaste, diaper cream, and cleaning products.

Sales of edible and smokable products are brisk, but only .23% of calls over poisonings or suspected poisonings in Colorado involves cannabis products. You should lock up your pot-infused lollipops, but also lock up those detergent pods, mouthwash, and dish detergent, and supervise kids around crayons, toothpaste, and diaper cream.

Your kid is way more likely to be poisoned by crayons than by marijuana [Wonkblog]
Unintentional Pediatric Exposures to Marijuana in Colorado, 2009-2015 [JAMA Pediatrics]

4 Times Apple Shot Itself In The Foot Trying To Reach Streaming TV Deals

Apple revolutionized the music market with the iPod and iTunes, then made traditional cellphones and laptops a thing of the past with the iPhone, yet it’s lagging behind Sony, Dish — and soon AT&T/DirecTV — in introducing a cable-replacement live-TV streaming service. Not for lack of trying. In fact, a new report claims that Apple has been trying too hard and has repeatedly talked its way out of giving cord-cutters an Apple video option.

The Wall Street Journal points to a number of hubristic moves by top Apple executives that appear to have turned off or baffled the TV industry folks the company had hoped to win over.

Here are a few select moments from the Journal story…

1. Trying to sell Disney on fixed rates:
Disney is one of the biggest players in broadcast and cable TV, owning its own namesake channels along with ABC and ESPN — the most expensive channel on most folks’ basic cable bills.

The company has already made some of its channels available for live-streaming on Dish’s SlingTV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue, and according to the Journal, Disney CEO Bob Iger was eager to make a deal with Apple for its in-development live-stream service.

Thing is, Apple exec Eddy Cue reportedly demanded that Disney agree to freeze its per-subscriber charge to Apple for several years, rather than the traditional model of yearly increases.

Disney said no to the offer, as did Fox and CBS.

You may remember Cue as the guy who admitted in court that he and Steve Jobs had tried to convince Amazon to stop selling music if Apple agreed to not get into the e-book business. That deal also never materialized, and Apple’s overzealous deals with e-book publishers ended up in the companies being sued by the U.S. Justice Department.

2. We Don’t Want All Your Channels:
The Journal notes that Apple saw the potential for live-streaming TV back in 2009, and even offered to pay broadcasters more than they were getting for cable companies.

Alas, Apple only wanted to pay for specific channels, rather than the “all-in” bundles that content companies force on pay-TV providers.

On the one hand, that could be a positive for consumers, if they were paying Apple a lower price for fewer channels. On the other, it would set a precedent that the broadcasters don’t want to set.

Part of the issue in the Apple live-TV adventure is that neither it nor the broadcasters are desperate enough to each a deal that would shake the industry up.

As the Journal points out, Apple’s $1 billion annual revenue from its TV business is less than half a percent of the company’s total yearly sales.

Meanwhile, one TV exec tells the Journal that the broadcast industry might be challenges right now, “but we’re not waiting for this white knight to come racing in the way music was.”

3. Trying To Nickel & Dime The Nickel & Dimers:
In 2011, Apple execs met with Comcast and Time Warner Cable to discuss selling their video feeds through Apple-made set-top boxes. Apple would even make it so the cable giants did all the selling and customer service.

So how did this not happen? Per the Journal, Apple wanted a cut of $10/month per subscriber, and — in a bit of irony, considering its stance in the Disney negotiations — refused to freeze that rate, meaning Apple could seek a higher share of subscriptions in the future.

The cable execs also wanted to see what Apple’s user interface would be like on the proposed service, but only got a vague promise that it would be “better than anything you’ve ever had.”

4. Do The Negotiating For Us:
PlayStation Vue users know that the service only offers local broadcast affiliate access in certain markets, and SlingTV only recently began testing live local TV in a handful of cities.

That’s because — aside from a few affiliates in the nation’s largest markets — most local network TV stations are not owned by the networks. So live-streaming services can make a deal with CBS and others that includes local access to stations owned by the network, but if you want access for independently owned stations, you’ll have to talk to them.

Yet, according to the Journal, Eddy Cue tried to talk the major networks into putting together some sort of deal with these third-party affiliates, effectively asking the networks to negotiate on behalf of companies they don’t own.

At this point, Apple may choose to never take on the hassle of starting its own live-TV streaming service, especially as pay-TV operators react to FCC set-top box regulations by accelerating their shift to app-based TV access. Rather than get into the billing and customer service mess of becoming a de facto cable company, Apple will choose to just sell good devices for accessing live-streaming content sold by others.

Boeing Might Stop Making 747 Jumbo Jets After Recent Slump In Orders

The days of flying through the air in a jumbo jet filled with hundreds of other travelers may someday be a thing of the past, as Boeing says it’s considering stopping production on its 747s.

Not as many orders have been coming in for the jumbo jets, which first appeared on the scene in the 1970s, according to a regulatory filing on Wednesday.

“If we are unable to obtain sufficient orders and/or market, production and other risks cannot be mitigated, we could record additional losses that may be material, and it is reasonably possible that we could decide to end production of the 747,” Boeing said.

It’s put the kibosh on plans to ramp up production of the 747 from its current one plane per month starting in 2019, and will stick to its decision to halve the production rate in September instead.

“On the 747 program, we decided to reduce future production expectations and revenue assumptions to account for current and anticipated weakness in the air cargo market,” Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said on a post-earnings call with analysts reported by Reuters.

Cathay Pacific, United Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air China, and other airlines currently use the latest version of the 747.

Since Boeing first introduced the plane in 1970, it’s delivered more than 1,500 of the jets, The Wall Street Journal notes, starting with its first orders for Pan American World Airways.

Industry pros say the jumbo jet made international travel affordable for more people, with hundreds of seats on each flight spreading the cost out among a bigger group of paying passengers than previous planes.

New Vizio Owner LeEco Is In The Ecosystem Business, Not The Gadget Business

Earlier this week, TV-maker Vizio announced that it had been acquired by the Chinese company LeEco. “Who?” you might have said. Even people in China would have said the same thing until a few years ago, but now the company is a conglomerate that sells streaming video and smartphones, and electric cars.

If that seems like a random selection of businesses, it’s not. Once we have fully autonomous vehicles, what are you going to do on road trips instead of driving? Most people would probably watch TV or movies by themselves or with passengers. Who would put TV and movies in those millions of cars?

The Verge, which has followed the company’s product releases in recent years, explains that LeEco’s name is the result of a “global branding exercise” a few years ago: the name of their flagship product, Letv, means “happy TV” in Chinese, and what the company plans to sell are integrated content and product ecosystems.

If you follow technology news, you may remember an incident where the company’s founder and CEO posted on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site that’s kind of like Twitter, if no one on Twitter were allowed to speak out against the Chinese government. Founder and CEO Jia Yueting compared Apple to Hitler, which didn’t go over well in Western countries.

The point that Jia was trying to make was about platform types, since the first LeEco smartphone running Android was about to hit the market. Apple has its own ecosystem for users, too, but it’s closed.

Meanwhile, the company had a choice: it could spend money to get into the TV market in the Americas on its own, or acquire a current prominent brand. “We could have chosen to use the $2 billion to enter the market organically,” the company’s SVP explained to The Verge.

The company then plans to bring its content and software ecosystem to Vizio’s TVs, since it’s already established as a respected brand here. The part of Vizio’s business that performs analytics on what customers watch will be spun off into a separate company… and LeEco will be their first client.

What is LeEco, and why is it buying Vizio? [The Verge]

Some Banks Offering Tech Employees Mortgages With No Down Payment

Usually when you hear about banks offering home loans with low down-payment requirements, it’s intended to attract first-time homeowners who may not have the tens of thousands of dollars it can take to make the full 20% upfront payment. However, some banks in high-priced areas in and around Silicon Valley are using 0% down-payment loans in an attempt to attract well-heeled tech employees.

Bloomberg reports that lenders in the San Francisco Bay area are elbowing each other to court tech employees looking to buy homes, offering them deals such as no down payment loans, or 24-hour guarantee approval.

For example, one of these lenders, San Francisco Federal Credit Union, is offering zero-down mortgages on homes costing up to $2 million. That means the home-buyer would not be required to plunk down upwards of $400,000 before moving in.

Of course, while eliminating a down payment might help a homeowner save in upfront costs, it also means the total loan being taken out is more — and, in turn, payments can be higher.

Still, SFFCU points out that its new practice doesn’t mean it automatically approves mortgage applications for everyone.

The company says it has rejected four in 10 applicants, and only approves people who have an average income of $219,000 and a FICO score of 747, Bloomberg reports.

“We are vetting our borrowers to make sure they can afford it and have reserves,” SFFCU chief lending officer, Rebecca Reynolds Lytle, told Bloomberg. “It’s a loan — it’s not going to be risk free.”

Still, Bloomberg reports that since beginning to offer the option in December, SFFCU has more than $100 million pre-approved for 30-year adjustable-rate mortgages in what’s called the Proud Ownership Purchase Program for You.

Banks like SFFCU and First Republic Bank — which has branches in the headquarters of Facebook and Twitter — say the new approach is a response to the usual housing market and employment compensation in the area.

Because many of the tech companies’ compensation packages include shares that aren’t liquid, some homebuyers have a difficult time determining if they can even afford to purchase a home in the area.

For that reason, lenders have enlisted the help of financial advisers to run new software that factors in debts and future income, including the stock, and other costs.

“In a weird housing market, in a place where a lot of assets are not liquid, it helps to have their kind of modeling,” one homebuyer who went through the process tells Bloomberg. “They’re catering to people scared by this scary real estate market.”

While lenders and borrowers may contend that the unusual market calls for unusual mortgage processes, some advocates worry the idea of guaranteed mortgages could cause another housing bubble.

“Lenders get so caught up trying to stay competitive and finding a market edge, they basically allow greed to overcome common sense,” Terry Wakefield, a mortgage consultant, tells Bloomberg. “Easy money does fuel and accelerate the inevitable bubble.”

Others say the option, while it might be helpful, shows that lenders may be destined to repeat past mistakes.

“Given what we went through in 2008, zero-down financing is suicidal for our country,” Chuck Green, CEO of Bay Area Capital Funding Inc., says. “We have to learn from our mistakes.”

Silicon Valley Elites Get Home Loans With No Money Down [Bloomberg]

Chipotle Will Open Its First Burger Restaurant In Ohio This Fall

Chipotle is hoping its customers have gotten over that whole food-borne illness thing and will trust it to make tasty burgers, with its new venture dubbed “Tasty Made.”

The company announced that it’ll open its first burger restaurant, dubbed Tasty made, in Ohio this fall. The menu will feature only burgers, fresh-cut French fries, and milkshakes.

“Early fast food burger restaurants generally had focused menus,” said CEO Steve Ells in a press release. “We think there’s great strength in that original fast food model and wanted to create a restaurant built around that.”

The new chain will only use “high-quality ingredients that are grown and raised with respect for the animals, the land, and the farmers who produce them,” Chipotle said. Burgers will be made with beef that’s been raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones, and the shakes will be made with “real ingredients” including milk, cream, sugar, and eggs. Burger buns will be free of preservatives, dough conditioners, and other artificial ingredients.

Although Chipotle had earlier trademarked the word “Better Burger,” that name has apparently been dumped in favor of Tasty Made.

This isn’t the first time Chipotle has strayed from burritos and tacos: the chain also has ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen in Washington, and has invested in Colorado-based Pizzeria Locale. Those brands are still relatively small now, with fewer than 10 outlets of each open.

(h/t Business Insider)

Comcast’s Still Not Sure There’s Any Money In This Whole “Streaming” Thing

You might have heard that it’s 2016, and streaming your TV via the internet is all the rage. And yet despite being just as susceptible to cord-cutters as anyone (everyone) else, Comcast is still not thinking the whole streaming-TV thing is a moneymaker.

In the company’s quarterly investor call this week (transcript), Comcast executives faced many questions about over-the-top (broadband) TV. And they were… less than enthusiastic.

Neil Smit, the CEO of Comcast Cable (as opposed to the whole Comcast company), told investors that, “We haven’t seen an OTT model that really is very profitable for us.”

That doesn’t speak well for its “Stream” streaming service, which is still in a very small pilot test.

Smit continued, “We think that … the bundle is still the best value. And concerning single-play and broadband, we do market that. We think there’s going to continue to be streaming services and OTT services that come through and broadband will continue to grow as we continue to invest in the network and the WiFi capabilities.”

Comcast (the whole thing, this time) CEO Brian Roberts seemed to echo the sentiment that the company would rather be in the broadband business than the one selling you content over it.

“OTT economics are unproven to us, and out of footprint” — meaning, to people who aren’t already Comcast cable or internet subscribers — “it’s not clear that that’s the right strategy for us,” Roberts said.

“So we’re about a business model where we’re able to grow the customer base, have customers that have multiple products, really high value and ever-reducing churn and innovative new products you that bolt on. Now, it’s not clear how you do that where you don’t have a network, but we’re innovating all the time, and we’re happy with the strategy we have,” he concluded.

Translated out of Financialese and back into English, Roberts basically told investors that the company has no interest in offering TV programming to people who aren’t connected to their actual wire network. So Comcast broadband subscribers? Sure, let’s maybe build something in for them, some kind of TV Everywhere product to bundle — but no, we’re not interested in pulling a Dish Sling or a PlayStation Vue out of our hats.

The executives all took this stance despite clearly finding streaming TV to be of interest, and worth pursuing. Roberts opened the call by repeatedly singing the praises of streaming media.

Roberts gushed to investors about coverage of the upcoming Rio Olympics, saying, “NBC’s coverage will be unprecedented; everything live streamed. 306 events, 11 networks, close to 6,800 hours of content.” He also enthused over the X1 platform, calling it “a destination that will combine live television, online streaming and on-demand content.”

Stephen Burke, the CEO of NBCUniversal, stuck with the company line, although it looks a little different from the content company half of the business. Burke spoke to needing to get his content onto everyone else’s streaming offerings, saying that “the key there is going to be making sure that we’re in every bundle, and I think we’re going to be.”

He also spoke to “making sure they’re incremental, that they’re not cannibalistic,” meaning that OTT packages need to not make people cancel their pay TV. (Too late.)

“I believe the vast majority of OTT subscribers will be incremental. We’ll be going after people who currently are not part of the ecosystem and therefore will be additive to NBCUniversal and all of Comcast NBCUniversal as well,” Burke said.

It’s true that Comcast’s broadband subscribers aren’t going anywhere. That’s because, by and large, consumers have no choice of their provider in a largely uncompetitive marketplace full of local monopolies. But their TV subscribers are still peeling away. Sure, there are some ways to make TV cheap enough that customers who otherwise wouldn’t sign up and stay… but heading into the future counting on it is probably a bad plan.

[via DSL Reports]

International Partnership Created To Speed Up Antibiotic Development

Drug-resistant superbugs are on the rise, increasingly rendering a number of drugs useless even for infections that were once easily treated. At the same time, it’s been more than three decades since medical science found a new class of antibiotics, meaning the bugs may be outpacing the drugs. Today, the U.S. government, along with private organizations in the United Kingdom and stateside, announced a partnership intended to accelerate the development of new antibiotics.

The Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Wellcome Trust of London, the AMR Centre of Alderley Park, and the Boston University School of Law that hopes to feed hundreds of millions of dollars in funding toward antibiotics research over the next five years.

I Need A New Drug

A recent data provided by Pew Charitable Trusts, no new class of antibiotics has been discovered since 1984. All antibiotics introduced in the decades since have been updates and improvements on existing classes.

Meanwhile, also per Pew, only 37 antibiotics are currently in the FDA’s drug approval pipeline. Of those, and only about one-third of those are specifically intended to treat the types of drug-resistant infections that are on the rise, including drug-resistant gonorrhea (affecting 243,000 Americans a year); C. difficile infections — sometimes resulting from an overuse of antibiotics — that affect half a million people a year and kill 15,000; and infections that are resistant to a class of antibiotics known as carbapenems.

What Will CARB-X Do?

In the tech world, a few developers working around a folding table in the garage can get millions in startup funding from venture capitalists, but antibiotics require a lot more time and energy just to get to the point where they enter the approval process. Even then, only about 20% of infectious disease drugs that begin this process will ever get the green light from regulators. Thus, pharmaceuticals investors have had little reason to back research into new antibiotics. CARB-X hopes to turn that trend around by turning on the cash spout for this vital drug development.

HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will provide up to $250 million in research funding over the next five years, including $30 million the first year of CARB-X. The AMR Centre — located in Cheshire, UK — is pledging to provide upwards of $100 million over the five-year period, including $14 million to start. The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will provide research support, including preclinical research expertise, to CARB-X-supported projects.

CARB-X itself will be headquartered at the Boston University School of Law, with an executive team — made up of experts in the field of drug development — led by health law researcher Kevin Outterson.

Additionally, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard will create an antibiotics chemistry hub that product developers can access.

The long-view idea is that funding and shepherding researchers through the rough, early stages of the development and approval process will result in contributions from other private and public funding sources so that these drugs can complete their development and — fingers crossed — be approved and introduced to the market.

“Our hope is that the combination of technical expertise and life science entrepreneurship experience within the CARB-X’s life science accelerators will remove barriers for companies pursuing the development of the next novel drug, diagnostic, or vaccine to combat this public health threat,” said acting BARDA deputy director Joe Larsen, Ph.D. “In the same way BARDA’s investment model has proven successful in advancing countermeasures through late-stage development, we believe this international partnership can identify promising candidates in the early stages of development that may offer treatment options for drug-resistant bacterial infections.”

Uber Drivers Say That When They Turn Down Ride Requests, They Get Timeouts

Just like when your mom told you to go sit in the corner for refusing to pick up your toys, Uber drivers say that when they repeatedly turn down ride requests, they’re given timeouts.

CNNMoney spoke with drivers who say that after they’ve refused a few ride requests, they’re locked out of the Uber system for up to 15 minutes.

One driver said he usually gets put in four four-minute timeouts by Uber every day, because he refuses to accept UberPool rides. The company contends that the carpooling service is a boon for drivers, as it means less wait time in between requests.

But while UberPool may be attractive to passengers — who get a discount for sharing their ride with others along a similar route — many drivers don’t like it because they say the system means more work, but not necessarily more pay.

Other drivers complain that their ratings take a hit when they pick up UberPool passengers: riders can get grumpy when the driver goes out of the way to drop off another person first, or if they’re sitting next to a stranger they just don’t like, and take it out on the driver with a low rating.

“They do it begrudgingly,” Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy, a ridesharing blog, told CNNMoney of drivers that drive for UberPool. “They’re basically doing the same trips, but now they have two people in [their car] and they get paid about the same amount.”

Drivers also say it isn’t always clear exactly when and why they’re put in timeout. Uber didn’t offer details about timeouts to CNNMoney, simply pointing to its policy that says if drivers have a low ride acceptance rate they may be temporarily logged out of the app.

We also reached out to Uber for more information on the practice of timeouts, and will update this post if we hear back.

Critics of Uber’s stance that drivers are independent contractors point to the practice of timeouts as further evidence that the company actually treats drivers like employees.

“True independent contractors have the freedom to decide when they want to work and what kind of work they want to do,” Benjamin Sachs, a Harvard Law School professor told CNNMoney. “By giving drivers timeouts, Uber is exercising the kind of control over its workforce that employers exercise over employees.”

How Uber punishes drivers who refuse to use UberPool [CNNMoney]

Tumblr Users Will Soon Be Able To Make Money From Ads

Just in case you didn’t think Tumblr pages were cluttered enough with cribbed photos and seemingly endless lists of comments and notes, the micro-blogging platform is rolling out ads in an effort to let users earn something from the stuff they post.

In a blog post this week, Tumblr said it was working on a program that would soon let users receive a cut of the revenue from ads appearing on their blogs.

“This was a long time coming, and will be one of the biggest projects we’ve ever launched at Tumblr,” Tumblr founder David Karp wrote on the blog.

While Tumblr says it is still working out the specifics of the program, users who want to earn money in the program will need to go through some sort of registration process.

Eventually, the company will create a revenue split between the company and users.

Tumblr says the ads will be displayed by default, but users can choose to opt-out of the program under the settings menu.

TechCrunch reports that the ads will be displayed in three places: the main page of the Tumblr blog, on the slide-out section on the web, and on Tumblr’s mobile apps and mobile web.

This isn’t the first time Tumblr has gone the route of trying to make using the site a profitable venture for users: previously, the site launched the Creatrs program that connects users with brands directly, instead of having advertisers work with third-party influencer networks.

[via TechCrunch]