mardi 28 février 2017

Papa John’s Testing Extra $3 Fee To Make Your Pizza First

Most of us have experienced the pain of having to wait an ungodly long time for a pizza ordered during the big game, or on a Friday night, or some other time when pizza is on everyone’s mind. That’s why Papa John’s is willing to bet you’d pay extra to prioritize your pie ahead the rest of the crowd.

The Associated Press reports that Papa John’s is testing a $2.99 “Papa Priority” fee in a few markets, with the possibility of expanding. In the section on the restaurant’s site

YouTube Goes Up Against Cable Companies With $35 Live TV Streaming Service

Back in October, Google began shaping up its YouTube-based pay-TV service with the hope of launching the option early this year. Now, just as February comes to an end, the company has officially launched YouTube TV.

Google on Tuesday revealed details of YouTube TV, a $35/month TV service will provide customers with 40 network options and several add-on options.

YouTube TV will first launch in large U.S. markets. Those interested in the service can sign up to be notified when the option launches in their area.

The service, which will be available through a standalone app and comes with six accounts per membership, offers a package of both broadcast network and cable channels.

In all, the service will offer more than 40 networks, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, regional sports networks, as well as the cable channels owned by those networks, like USA, Fox Sports Network, ESPN, Disney, and Bravo. Customers will have the option to add Showtime or Fox Soccer Plus to their package for an unspecified cost, Google notes.

Additionally, subscribers receive access to YouTube Red original content. YouTube launched Red, an ad-free $9.99/month subscription service in Oct. 2015.

If you’re too busy to watch any of these channels live, YouTube TV will also offer a DVR service, with no storage limits.

Google says the cloud DVR can record an unlimited number of programs, simultaneously, without using data or space on your mobile device. The recording will be stored for nine months.

While Google expects that service to be most popular on mobile devices, it will be available on all screens, including computers and TVs through Google Chromecast.

YouTube TV is just the latest entry in the over-the-top cable-replacement market, joining Dish’s Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now from AT&T.

This Pharmacy Ad Suggests “Very, Very Strong Antibiotics” Even When They Won’t Do Any Good

When you’re sick, it makes sense that you want a pill to just make all the symptoms go away, which is probably why some doctors continue to prescribe antibiotics even when they aren’t necessary and may, in fact, cause harm. It probably doesn’t help when a pharmacy perpetuates the myth that we should just take antibiotics whenever we might be sick.

Journalist Felix Salmon spotted this subway ad for New York City-based Capsule Pharmacy, which hand-delivers prescription drugs in NYC:

For the record, the ad states, “Someone sneezed? It’s OK, we’ll be right over with some very, very strong antibiotics.”

The problem is, as many people have pointed out, a sneeze — let alone someone else’s sneeze — is not an indication of something you should treat with antibiotics.

Here’s a helpful chart from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

A 2016 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts provides more granular information on how likely it is that a common ailment requires antibiotics:
A sneeze could be an indicator of a bacterial sinus infection, but there’s also a one-in-three chance that it’s viral, meaning your antibiotics are just putting you at risk for a Clostridium dificile infection and helping to create drug-resistant bacteria (more on all of that below).

That sneeze — which again, is not your sneeze — could just be allergies, which can often look like someone has a cold or other nasal condition. If someone sneezes near you because they are having an allergic reaction, (A) you’re not going to catch someone else’s allergy and (B) antibiotics won’t stop that person from sneezing.

Even something like bronchitis, which sometimes has a bacterial component, should not generally be treated with antibiotics.

For decades, the CDC has advised against using antibiotics to treat acute bronchitis, and the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set — a set of performance measures used by the healthcare and insurance industry — says the antibiotics prescribing rate for acute bronchitis should be zero. Yet a 2014 study found that doctors were still prescribing the pointless drugs 71% of the time.

What’s The Harm?

Unlike other prescription medications that can have immediate and potentially lethal side effects — or lead to a nationwide addiction epidemic, like the case of opioid painkillers — the problem with antibiotics overuse are less in-your-face, though the consequences could be dire.

Overuse of antibiotics is a leading contributor to the development of drug-resistant bacteria. Penicillin and other once commonly used antimicrobials are now largely ineffective. In their place, physicians have had to turn to drugs formerly thought of as last lines of defense against bacterial infections.

A recent CDC study found a nearly 40% increase since 2006 in a class of antibiotics known as carbapenems, drugs usually reserved for patients exhibiting resistance to multiple antibiotics. Similarly, the use of vancomycin, a particularly harsh antibiotic of last resort, saw a 27% increase between 2006 and 2012, attributed to the increasing need to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Last summer, a CDC report highlighted the increasing numbers of drugs that are becoming less effective at treating gonorrhea, with each drug’s effectiveness dropping as it was used more frequently.

It’s gotten to a point where — following the discovery of a bacteria resistant to more than a dozen antibiotics — CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden cautioned that “We risk being in a post-antibiotic world.”

In addition to antibiotic resistance, which is a global problem, there are more personal concerns about taking these drugs when you don’t need them.

Taking antibiotics can kill the healthy bacteria in the gut, allowing more harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium difficile, to grow in its place, potentially resulting in diarrhea, fever, nausea, and abdominal pain. In 2015, it was estimated that some 15,000 Americans died as a direct result of a C. difficile infection.

According to the CDC, adverse reactions to antibiotics are a common cause of emergency room visits for children and teens.

“It’s imperative that patients receive the right dose of the right antibiotic, for the right amount of time and only when necessary,” says Lauri Hicks, Director of the CDC’s Office of Antibiotic Stewardship. “When antibiotics are inappropriately prescribed and used, we jeopardize the health of patients, and we jeopardize the effectiveness of the antibiotics available to fight serious infections.”

We’ve asked Capsule to comment on this ad but have not yet heard back. If the company chooses to respond, we will update.

Nintendo Sues Company Giving Real-Life Mario Kart Rides

If you’ve ever played Mario Kart and said “This would be super fun in real life, and even better in a Mario/Luigi/Bowser/Princess Peach costume,” then the good news is that someone in Japan made your dream a reality. The bad news: They didn’t get permission from Nintendo.

If not for the copyright problems, a trip to MariCar sounds pretty fun. Starting at ¥8,000 per person, or about $71, you get a two-hour guided tour driving around Tokyo on public roads. No, we’re serious, you can dress as Mushroom Kingdom characters and drive a Go-Kart. They don’t pick up gold coins along the way by driving through them, but the tour looks pretty fun otherwise.

In a statement to the New York Times, the company behind the karts explained that it had checked with legal experts and also told Nintendo about its plans. The legal experts allegedly said that there was no problem with using Nintendo’s characters in this way.

“We cannot even imagine how much it would cost in a court dispute against the world-famous company,” the operator said in the statement. “We are afraid that our business will be hugely influenced.” Yes. Yes, that would be a problem.

Nintendo does have plans to bring its characters out into the real world by opening small areas in Universal Studios theme parks in Japan and in the United States that feature characters from the Mario Brothers franchise. The company just doesn’t want the characters tearing around Tokyo. Without giving Nintendo money.

Xbox Launching $10 Monthly Subscription To Library Of 100+ Downloadable Games

Times used to be, a video game player’s library might have been limited to as many piles of cartridges or discs as they could fit at home. But as consumers turn to digital libraries for everything from movies and TV to music, it only makes sense that the gaming industry would follow a similar path. That’s why Microsoft is launching a new monthly subscription service that gives users access to more than 100 downloadable games from its legacy catalog.

Xbox Game Pass will be available later this spring, and offers unlimited access to more than 100 Xbox One and backwards-compatible Xbox 360 games for $9.99 per month.

That’s a smaller library than PlayStation Now’s selection of about 450 games. Depending on how you pay for for PS Now, it’s either a lot more expensive or slightly less expensive than Xbox Game Pass. A monthly subscriber pays twice as much ($19.99). Someone who buys PS Now in three-month chunks pays 50% more ($45) than a Game Pass customer for the same period. If you’re willing to fork over for an entire year of PS Now, the $100 annual fee actually comes out to less per month than the Xbox service.

Microsoft isn’t coughing up a complete list of which games will be in the catalog, however, saying instead only that Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, NBA 2K16, and SoulCalibur II will be among those available when the service launches “later this spring.”

Additional games will cycle in and out regularly, Microsoft says, but major releases likely will take some time to hit the platform.

Another area where Game Pass differs from PS Now is the ability to download games. With Game Pass, you’ll be able to play downloaded games as long as your subscription is current, but if you want to keep playing them beyond that, or access a title after it cycles out of availability, you’ll have to buy it. However, Games Pass customers will be able to receive a discount on the purchase price.”

Before XBox Game Pass launches to the broader community in a few months, Microsoft says it will be testing the service with “select members of the Xbox Insider Program in the Alpha Preview ring starting today with a very limited number of titles,” adding that Xbox Live Gold members will receive access to the service before it launches on a wider basis as well.

BCBG Max Azria Reportedly Prepping For Bankruptcy

Earlier this month, BCBG Max Azria Group announced the closure of nearly 120 stores, setting off rumors that it would soon join the growing list of mall tenants filing for bankruptcy. Now comes a report claiming that this filing could happen as soon as next week.

This is according to Reuters, whose sources say that BCBG is working with financial and legal advisors to prep the bankruptcy documents.

The retailer, which is owned by investment firm Guggenheim Partners, did not provide comment on the bankruptcy rumors.

Reuters reports that BCBG has previously told investors it would like to avoid bankruptcy by cutting its $486 million in debt.

An alternative has apparently not materialized, the sources note, adding that some of the company’s assets could eventually be sold to others through the process.

The bankruptcy plan comes just weeks after BCBG announced it would shutter 120 stores — about one-third of its U.S. stores — that are either unprofitable or have untenable lease agreements in coming weeks with some locations already hosting close-out sales.

These closing affect the company’s BCBGMaxazria and BCBGGeneration locations, but not the retailer’s store-within-a-store concept housed in various Macy’s department stores.

No, It’s Not Just You: Lots Of The Internet Is Down, Thanks To A Problem At Amazon

Sure, Amazon is a huge retailer and a giant media company, but its biggest presence is hidden from a lot of folks: It’s a massive internet host. Thousands of sites and companies rely on Amazon Web Services (AWS) every day… so when there’s an outage, as we’re apparently seeing right now, the effects ripple far and wide.

Amazon’s AWS status page currently has a notice about “Increased Error Rates,” saying, “We’re continuing to work to remediate the availability issues for Amazon S3 in US-EAST-1. AWS services and customer applications depending on S3 will continue to experience high error rates as we are actively working to remediate the errors in Amazon S3.”

Translating that out of Tech-ese and into English, it means that folks on the East coast trying to reach services that use Amazon’s web services are having a whole lot of trouble with it right now.

An enormous number of sites, including Airbnb, Business Insider, Expedia, Medium, Netflix, Quora, Slack, Trello, and the Securities and Exchange Commission are experiencing issues related to the outage, VentureBeat reports. Some portions of Amazon itself are also having issues.

We tried to look up the DownDetector report for Amazon Web Services but, ironically, DownDetector itself is returning significant errors trying to view the site.

Those are just a small fraction of the companies, large and small, that use AWS; we’ll update as we learn more, or when Amazon resolves the problem.

Update: Just before 3:00 p.m. (Eastern time), Amazon tweeted out, “For S3, we believe we understand root cause and are working hard at repairing. Future updates across all services will be on dashboard.” The company did not provide an ETA for when those repairs might be finished.

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Target CEO: The Retail Landscape Hasn’t Been This Bad Since The Recession

Brick-and-mortar retail is in trouble. You can tell that from reports on this very site of retail bankruptcies and store closings, and from the number of Amazon boxes piled in front of your and your neighbors’ front doors. Today, Target executives shared discouraging news of falling sales and profits at its investors day event, and explained that the chain’s way forward is to imitate Walmart.

Target plans some aggressive price-cutting, including an everyday low price strategy meant to bring back loyal customers. Stock traders didn’t react well to that news in the short term, but it should please Target shoppers, and they’re the ones who really matter.

In the long term, Target’s strategy is a variation on one that Walmart tried. Walmart Express stores were mini stores built in communities too small to support a full-line Walmart. The experiment ultimately failed, and all of the stores closed at the beginning of 2016.

Target is betting that the idea of mini discount stores can be made upscale, and is creating precise mixes of products for different neighborhoods. The difference from the Walmart Express concept is that instead of in tiny towns, the small stores will be in urban areas and tiny towns with colleges in them. They’ll have yogurt cafes and offer baby products in family-intensive neighborhoods.

Americans still are spending money, of course: We’re just spending it online or on experiences or groceries. Since Walmart’s grocery sections are larger and better established, Walmart is surviving this retail downturn a lot better than Target, which is still struggling to interest shoppers in its small grocery offerings. Target’s online sales are a tiny part of its overall revenue. If that’s where shoppers are heading, the retailer needs to figure out where to follow them.

For now, though, Target needs to concentrate on bringing customers back to the stores it has rather than on its plans to open hundreds of new ones.

5 Things We Learned About Sexual Harassment & Discrimination Claims Against Kay Jewelers, Jared

A year after Sterling Jewelers’ Kay Jewelers found itself on the receiving end of thousands of complaints from customers alleging the company swapped out their diamonds for fake ones, hundreds of employees are alleging they were victims of sexual harassment and discrimination at Kay and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry. 

A new report from the Washington Post, which has been following the growing case for more than a year, reveals that more than 250 former and current employees of Sterling claim that executives have created a corporate environment where women were groped, demeaned, and urged to engage in sexual acts in order to receive promotions and preferred job placements.

The allegations are part of an arbitration case filed against the company in 2008. The Post obtained many of these arbitration documents, providing a behind-the-scenes peek at what it was like to work for the jewelry conglomerate — which operates 1,500 stores and is owned by Signet Jewelers — over the past two decades.

The Post’s report, which includes testimony from several former and current employees and their lawyers, includes a wealth of information about the company’s business practices and treatment of both male and female employees. Here are 5 things we learned from the report.

The arbitration case against Sterling was first filed by more than a dozen women in 2008.

While the case originally revolved around gender discrimination, it has grown to include some 69,000 former and current employees and issues including wage theft, sexual harassment, and gender payment gaps.

As with many large companies, Sterling requires employees to waive their rights to bring any employment-related dispute to court. Instead, they must bring the complaints forward through arbitration, which, in this case, required the documents to be designated as confidential.

The Post, which requested documents related to the case starting in 2015, reports that attorneys for the employees and the company reached an agreement recently to make any of the documents public, as long as individuals involved in the alleged misconduct were not named.

In all, the Post reviewed 1,300 pages of redacted documents and testimony related to the case. While the names of most individuals were blacked out, a filing from 2013 shows that some top executives had been accused of discrimination.

For example, the employees’ attorneys motion supporting class action status accuses Signet CEO Mark Light of allegedly having sexual relationships with female employees and promoting them based on how they responded to the demands, the Post reports.

Sterling declined to comment on the allegations against Light and others, while Light did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.

The Post reports that many of the allegations revolve around action at the company’s annual managers meeting.

Employees claim in testimony that the mandatory, no-spouses-allowed meeting featured a wealth of alcohol and often turned into a “sex-fest” where women were targets of grabbing and harassment.

The documents also allege that other company events included sexual “preying” that was either encouraged or condoned, the Post reports.

One woman who worked as a manager for the company from 1994 to 2008 recalled male executive who “prowled around the (resort) like dogs that were let out of their cage and there was no one to protect the female managers from them.”

“If you were even remotely attractive or outgoing, which most salespeople are, you were meat, being shopped,” the woman tells the Post.

A former employee at a Kay Jeweler outlet tells the Post that when she first started with the company she thought of it as a professional atmosphere where managers would mentor and help employees grow.

While she worked her way up to manager, she tells the Post that she began to witness and experience sexual harassment.

For example, she claims that in 2005 a district manager promised to transfer her to a new store if she had sex with him. She tells the Post that she consented, but only after feeling that she was “backed into a corner.”

The Post reports that employees who tried to report the misconduct often faced retaliation instead of help.

In some cases, the former employees say in testimony, that the internal hotline led to verbal abuse or termination.

One employee, who worked for the company for five years, claimed that after reporting to superiors that a district manager had tried to kiss and touch her at a manager event, she was accused of theft and fired. She was days away from receiving a $30,000 commission-based bonus, the Post reports.

A spokesman for Sterling tells The Post that company officials “have thoroughly investigated the allegations and have concluded they are not substantiated by the facts and certainly do not reflect our culture.”

Additionally, the rep says that allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination “involve a very small number of individuals,” and that the arbitration filings “paint a negative and distorted picture of the company.”

As for alleged retaliation, the rep says that those cases were thoroughly investigated and appropriate action was taken.

The former and current employees are requesting unspecified punitive damages and back pay. A class hearing, where the witnesses will be called to testify, is scheduled for next year, the Post reports.

SoundCloud Now Offering Streaming Music Subscription At Half The Price Of Spotify

Almost a year after SoundCloud launched its streaming music subscription service — dubbed SoundCloud Go — the company has a new offering that’s half the price of its rivals Spotify and Apple.

The new mid-tier plan costs $4.99/month for web and Android users and $5.99 for iOS users. It includes 120 million streaming tracks, offline listening, and no ads.

The higher-priced plan has been renamed SoundCloud Go+, and offers the same experience but with 150 million streaming tracks available, and the ability to skip preview tracks. Web and Android users pay $9.99/month on that plan, while iOS users are slightly higher at $12.99/month.

If you’re wondering why SoundCloud’s music library is so mach larger than the 30 million tracks Apple and Spotify offer, that’s because any user can upload music to the service, Bloomberg points out. Which means ostensibly, someone could enjoy that recording of you singing with your cat, or maybe some thrilling federal appeals court arguments.

Although there were some rumors last fall that Spotify was looking into buying SoundCloud, that deal never went through, sources told Bloomberg. And despite buzz earlier this year that the service would be shutting down, everything is just fine, one executive says.

“We’re not closing down this year,” SoundCloud co-founder Alex Ljung told USA Today. “Absolutely not.”

FCC Chair Claims Broadband Investment At Historic Low Level Because Of Net Neutrality; That’s Not What The Numbers Say

This morning, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai made a claim that net neutrality, which hasn’t even been in place for two years, has driven investment in U.S. broadband to historically low levels. However, the actual numbers given by the nation’s largest cable and telecom companies don’t appear to back this up.

Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Pai blamed net neutrality for causing uncertainty in the broadband market and declared that “uncertainty is the enemy of growth.”

However, many of the nation’s largest broadband providers have grown in the last two years.

Since Feb. 26, 2015, the day that the FCC voted to approve the neutrality rules, AT&T’s share price has increased by more than 20%, Comcast’s is up 26%. Verizon’s stock price is at the same level as it was, though it has fluctuated as much as 15% in either direction since then. Charter’s share price is up 40%, after the FCC allowed it to acquire Time Warner Cable and Bright House in 2016. The only major broadband provider whose stock has fallen dramatically in the last two years is CenturyLink, whose share price has sunk around 50% in that time.

The real thrust of Pai’s anti-neutrality claim is that it’s hurt investment in broadband.

“After the FCC embraced utility-style regulation, the United States experienced the first-ever decline in broadband investment outside of a recession,” said the Chairman. “In fact, broadband investment remains lower today than it was when the FCC changed course in 2015.”

None of the companies we contacted — Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, or Charter — responded to our request for comment on the Chairman’s statement, so we just looked at the annual and quarterly earnings report for the industry’s biggest players.

In its most recent earnings report, Comcast — the nation’s largest broadband provider — noted that in 2016 year over year “capital expenditures increased 7.5% to $9.1 billion.”

Well, maybe those were investments in Comcast’s many non-broadband ventures like its NBCUniversal entertainment division or its theme parks? Nope.

The lion’s share ($7.6 billion) of that $9.6 billion went to the company’s Cable Communications division, “primarily reflecting increased investment in line extensions, a higher level of investment in scalable infrastructure to increase network capacity and continued spending on customer premise equipment related to the deployment of the X1 platform and wireless gateways.”

In case you were wondering, that $7.6 billion was an increase of 7.9% over the previous year.

Likewise, AT&T said it its most recent earnings that it spent $22.9 billion on capital investment in 2016, up from $20.7 billion in 2015. Granted, the 2015 number was slightly down from the $21.4 billion spent in 2014, but it’s higher than the $19.7 billion or $20.2 billion spent in 2012 or 2011, respectively, seeming to undercut Pai’s claims of historic low levels of investment.

Because of the massive merger with Time Warner Cable, there’s no apples-to-apples comparison to be made. However, Charter did spend $7.5 billion on capital expenditures in 2016, 85% of that on expanding and building out its network. That appears to more than the combined investment by Charter and TWC in capital expenditures during the pre-merger years.

Even Verizon, which has not seen the same growth as the other companies is spending more on capital expenditures than it did before the neutrality rules were put in place. In 2015, the year where Pai contends investment sunk to levels unseen outside of a recession, Verizon spent $17.8 billion on capital investments, more than in any other year since the U.S. came out of the recession.

Verizon’s most recent capital expenditures ($17.1 billion for 2016) are virtually identical to the amount spent in 2014, all of which is higher than the $16.2-$16.6 billion the company spent in the supposed glory years of post-recession investment.

Even CenturyLink, which has seen its stock price cut in half, managed to spend more in 2016 ($2.96 billion) on capital expenditures than it did in 2015 ($2.86 billion).

So maybe Pai was referencing capital investments by broadband backbone providers, those companies that connect all the disparate user-facing networks into one cohesive system? Again, the investment numbers don’t pan out.

Level 3 Communications, which is currently being acquired by CenturyLink, spent $1.33 billion in 2016, more than it spent in either 2015 ($1.23 billion) or 2014 ($1.25 billion). Cogent Communications spent $45.2 million last year, up from $35.6 million in 2015.

The numbers seen in these earnings reports generally jive with what many of these companies told investors at the beginning of 2016 — that they would continue to spend money on expanding and improving their networks.

So what is Pai’s justification for this claim? According to a rep at the FCC, the Chairman’s comment was based on data provided by USTelecom, the industry’s lobbying arm that is actively pushing for the FCC and Congress to roll back net neutrality and privacy regulations on broadband providers.

The FCC has not responded to our query as to why Chairman Pai would use data provided by industry lobbyists over the actual numbers these companies are providing publicly.

Pai also inexplicably claimed today that his decision to end the FCC’s investigation into “zero-rating” — the practice of not counting certain types of data against users’ monthly allotments — was somehow the impetus for the resurgence in unlimited data plans from wireless providers.

As The Verge notes, unlimited data plans really have nothing to do with zero-rating. For example, AT&T zero-rates DirecTV and DirecTV Now video streams for its wireless customers. That doesn’t make it an unlimited data plan (unless your entire data usage is DirecTV video). Similarly, Verizon doesn’t count streamed NFL games against data plans, but that’s not the same as an unlimited data plan. The fact that an FCC Chair doesn’t understand the difference — or is willing to gloss over this disparity — should be a cause for concern (for anyone who isn’t a telecom executive).

CEO Howard Schultz Says Starbucks Is Ready To Open A Cafe In Italy

It takes a whole lot of beans to try to compete with Italian espresso in Italy, but Starbucks’ outgoing CEO Howard Schultz says his chain is finally up for the challenge.

Starbucks has some 26,000 stores in 75 countries around the world, but not Italy. Schultz says it’s time to enter that market with one of the company’s new high-end cafes, which will open in Milan next year.

“I didn’t think we were ready to come to Italy,” Schultz told The Associated Press. “I think Italy is such a special place. I am so respectful of the Italian coffee heritage and the Italian culture, and I think we had to earn that respect, opportunity, and I think over the years we got to the point that we are now ready to come.”

The cafe will also feature Princi baked goods and deli items as part of Starbucks’ partnership with the Italian bakery, which until now, only involved cafes outside of Italy.

Schultz will be spending much of his time focusing on the company’s line of upscale “Reserve” roastery locations after he leaves his post as CEO in April. The Milan cafe, he says, completes his “own dream and the circle of Starbucks.”

There are skeptics of Starbucks’ plan, naturally.

“We are happy the way we are,” a Milan coffee bar patron told the AP. “We don’t need to be invaded by American scenery. We already have McDonald’s and that’s enough.”

CloudPets “Smart” Toys Leak More Than 2M Voice Recordings, Other Personal Data

Samsung Vice Chair, Four Others Indicted On Bribery & Embezzlement Charges

A week after a South Korean court approved a warrant for the arrest of Samsung vice chairman Jay Y. Lee in connection with a bribery case, the executive and four others were officially indicted. 

The New York Times reports that Lee, who was arrested on Feb. 17, was indicted on bribery and embezzlement charges while four other senior executives — three that have resigned — were indicted for the same charges, but not arrested.

Lee initially avoided arrest last month when a court denied the prosecutor’s first warrant request, citing a lack of evidence.

The indictments come at the end of the South Korean special prosecutor’s 90-day investigation into a corruption scandal involving South Korea President Park Geun-hye.

Lee was first publicly tied to the case last month when he faced 22 hours of questioning related to his part in the scandal.

The case involves whether or not millions of dollars in payments from Samsung to businesses and foundations run by an associate of the President’s — Choi Soon-sil — constituted a bribe, and if Lee had any personal dealings with the contributions.

The prosecutor’s office alleges that Samsung’s contributions — including $17 million in donations to Choi’s foundation and millions of dollars worth of contracts to companies she ran or was involved with — were made in exchange for a decision by the National Pension Services to support a merger of two of the electronic company’s affiliates.

The merger was personally reportedly beneficial to Lee, as it eventually led him to take over control of Samsung from his father.

The Times reports that while Lee was charged with embezzlement and bribery, he was also accused of perjury stemming from claims he made in a preliminary hearing that he never bribed Choi or President Park.

He continues to claim that the millions of dollars in “donations” Samsung paid were coerced, the Times reports.

JCPenney To Bring Appliances To 100 More Stores, Add Brands

While JCPenney recently announced plans to close more than 130 stores and offer early retirement to employees to cut its staff, the department store chain also has some good news. It is expanding appliance showrooms to an additional 100 stores for a total of 600, and adding more brands to its offerings.

Appliance sales have apparently been a hit, especially as Sears stores continue to close in malls across the country. The chain’s appliance sales have expanded from a three-state pilot project just over a year ago to 500 stores. Some stores even sell whole-house HVAC systems.

JCPenney got rid of its own appliance sections back in the ’80s, but now sees an opportunity in that business. It’s no coincidence that it’s expanding this business as it has a new CEO who previously worked at Home Depot, now a big appliance-seller.

“Appliances reinforce the ongoing strength of our growth initiative as we pivot our retail strategy towards non-apparel and growing categories,” CEO Marvin Ellison said during a recent conference call with industry analysts, TWICE reports. While JCPenney continues to do okay in apparel, especially with its investment in plus-size clothing, it’s clear to retail-watchers that consumers are fickle and apparel is not a good category of merchandise to depend on.

The continuing decline of Sears is one reason why JCPenney is expanding its appliance program so quickly. While it might seem like a terrible idea to follow a failing retailer into its signature business, the problems at Sears are complex, and Americans still need refrigerators and stoves.

“We share over 400 malls with a struggling retailer that was once dominant in this category and we have some in-house talent that understands this space really well,” Ellison explained during the conference call.

Taco Truck Stuck In Traffic For Hours Does Everyone A Favor By Opening For Lunch

Being stuck in traffic for hours on end? Awful. Being stuck in traffic for hours on end with some tacos? Not so bad at all.

While drivers on I-5 in Washington were stuck in traffic for hours after a truck filled with propane tipped over, the operators of one taco truck saw an opportunity to set up shop, selling much-needed food to stranded commuters, reports The Seattle Times.

Motorists caught in a standstill on Monday included three employees driving a taco truck to serve lunch in a Seattle neighborhood. Their original plans put on hold indefinitely, the workers decided to open the truck for lunch anyway, right where they were.

“We are ready to serve food, everywhere,” the truck’s owner told the Times.

It’s a good thing, too, as there were plenty of customers ready to chow down in the middle of the traffic jam.

“I got out and was walking around, and I see this lady walking back to her car with a to-go box,” one driver, who was stuck for three hours during the closure, told the Times. She went exploring and found the taco truck open for business, so she figured she’d make the best of it, ordered food for herself and her husband, and went back to wait.

It sounds like a little food can go a long way in these trying situations: She says that despite missing a doctor’s appointment and her afternoon work shift, she wasn’t frustrated by the experience, noting that in this kind of situation, “You got to make the best of it, right?”

Walmart Adding Express Pharmacy & Money Services To Mobile App

In a bid to get you in and out of stores quickly and efficiently, Walmart is turning to its digital offerings. The big box retailer plans to roll out upgrades to its mobile app that will allow customers of its pharmacy and money service departments to complete some transactions through their phones and pick up items at new, dedicated “express lanes.” 

Walmart on Tuesday announced that starting next month it will roll out the mobile upgrades to create a “faster, easier, and more convenient experience” experience for pharmacy and money service customers.

With the update, Walmart pharmacy customers will be able to refill prescriptions from their phones and use an “express lane” to pick up their order and pay electronically.

To get started with the online pharmacy services, Walmart says customers can input some information — such as scanning prescription numbers — into the app prior to coming into the store.


To complete the transaction, customers must come to the pharmacy counter, open their app and tap “prescription ready for pickup,” enter a PIN on their phone, scan a code displayed on the register, and then pick up their order in the department’s express lane.

A nearly identical paperless transaction will also debut in the retailer’s money services department, that allows customers to transfer money in stores each month.

Instead of filling out paperwork for money transfers, under the upgrade, customers will be able to enter data on their phones, go through the money services express lane, and scan a register code to verify the transaction and pay.

A receipt and reference number is then sent to the app and can be emailed or texted from the phone, Walmart says.

In stores that don’t have a Money Services desk, customers can visit the Customer Service desk to complete the same process.

The new features are expected to be available at all of Walmart’s stores by the fall.

SpaceX Planning To Send Tourists On A Trip Around The Moon In 2018

Who knew all you’d have to do to get a lift into space is ask Elon Musk for a ride? ride? The CEO of SpaceX (and Tesla) says two private citizens approached the company — ostensibly wearing trench coats and carrying suitcases of cash — and asked to go on a trip around the moon. He’s planning to take them there in 2018.

He won’t be piloting the Crew Dragon spacecraft himself on the one-week trip, of course, but the ride will be privately crewed as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX said in a statement on Monday.

Musk says the plan is to launch the Crew Dragon later this year and send it to the International Space Station in demonstration mode, with no humans on board. A later mission with crew is expected to fly in the second quarter of 2018.

Once Crew Dragon missions are underway for NASA, SpaceX is planning to launch the two space tourists — who have already paid a “significant deposit” for their moon mission — “on a journey to circumnavigate the moon and return to the Earth.”

Lift-off will occur at a familiar place: Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A near Cape Canaveral, which is the pad used by the Apollo program.

“This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them,” the company said in the statement.

SpaceX expects to conduct health and fitness tests and begin initial training later this year, saying that “other flight teams have also expressed strong interest,” with more expected to follow.

Of course, just because Musk is saying two private citizens are going on a trip around in the moon in less than two years doesn’t mean it will happen. And if you can’t make it to the moon in the next few years, don’t worry: Musk also has a plan to colonize Mars that you might be into.

Study Claims That There’s A Decent Chance You Look Like Your Name

Have you ever met someone and immediately thought “You look like a Heather,” and then it turns out they person is actually named Heather? While you might want to believe you have some kind of psychic ability, you probably don’t. Instead, a new study finds that under the right circumstances people can often correctly match names to faces based on social perceptions. 

The research, published this week in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that social perceptions can likely influence facial experience.

The study, based on eight experiments involving hundreds of people in France and Israel, explored whether or not name stereotypes can be manifested into facial appearance, creating a face-name matching effect.

“Both age and ethnicity play a role in our name and in our look,” the report states. “Our goal was to see whether the face-name matching effect could be demonstrated beyond these variables.”

Through this effect, a stranger is able to accurately match a person’s name his or her face.

In each experiment, participants were shown a photograph and asked to select the given name that corresponded to the face from a list of four or five names.

According to the research, the participants were able to match the name to the face 25% to 40% more accurately using a list of names rather than random chance, which had a 20% to 25% accuracy rating.

The researchers believe this result may be the effect of cultural stereotypes associated with names.

For example, in one experiment, the participants were given a mix of French and Israeli faces and names. The French students were better than random chance at matching the French names and faces, while the Israeli students were better at matching only Hebrew names and Israeli faces.

The researchers also wanted to know if face-name match could be replicated by a non-human. To do this, the researchers conducted two experiments with computers that were trained with a learning algorithm.

“If a face-name matching effect emanates from a person’s face, a computer should be able to learn it and make similar matches,” the researchers hypothesized. “This procedure also allowed us to significantly increase the number of stimuli, thus strengthening the validity of our behavioral studies.”

In another experiment, the researchers asked a computer to match 94,000 faces to names. The names were presented to the computer on a two-name to one face basis. In the end, the computer was able to correctly match the names and faces with a 54% to 64% accuracy.

“These results validate our theory that a match in the stimuli itself drives the face-name matching effects observed, and not any other possible behavioral bias of human participants,” the study states.

The improved accuracy of both the participants and the computer could be the result of people subconsciously altering their appearance to conform to cultural norms associated with their names, lead researcher Yonat Zwebner said in a statement.

“We are familiar with such a process from other stereotypes, like ethnicity and gender where sometimes the stereotypical expectations of others affect who we become,” said Zwebner.

Additionally, he notes that prior research has shown there are cultural stereotypes attached to names, including how someone should look.

“For instance, people are more likely to imagine a person named Bob to have a rounder face than a person named Tim,” he says. “We believe these stereotypes can, over time, affect people’s facial appearance.”

Of course, the report notes that other factors can create shared face-name schemes, such as the literal meaning of a name or an association with a famous person.

“Converging evidence suggests that both faces and names separately convey social signals, eventually leading to a possible correlation between the two,” the report states. “Specifically, faces communicate information to the perceiver about a person’s identity.”

The report concludes that the association between faces and social perceptions could be a two-way street.

“The face-name match implies that people ‘live up to their given name’ in their physical identity,” the report states. “The possibility that our name can influence our look, even to a small extent, is intriguing, suggesting the important role of social structuring in general and naming in particular in the complex interaction between the self and society.”

Maybe Emptier Stores Mean Higher Customer Satisfaction?

Most retailers are having trouble bringing in foot traffic, leading once-steady brands like JCPenney, Sears, and Macy’s to shutter large swaths of stores. Yet, those customers who continue to shop at brick-and-mortar retailers appear to be happier about the experience.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index has released the annual results of its survey for consumer sentiments about the nation’s largest retailers, and despite large-scale closings at Sears, Macy’s, and JCP, scores for each of them are up this year. Sears and Macy’s each improved by six points, and JCP enjoyed an eight-point bump. How could that be?

closing_stores_rising_scoresScores rose even for retailers that announced drastic cutbacks to their store count and layoffs after the holiday season. Those were mostly department and discount stores. Macy’s rose six points, from 73 to 79, and announced that it would be closing 68 stores shortly after the holidays. Sears rose six points as well, from 71 to 77, but its parent company announced the closure of 150 Sears and Kmart stores at the beginning of the year.

During the holiday season in 2016, shoppers shifted a record amount of our shopping online. Maybe, the group that compiles the ratings suggests, shopping is more enjoyable when crowds are smaller. Participants were interviewed between Nov. 15 and Dec. 19, 2016, during the holiday shopping season.

While happier customers generally correlate with better business, it’s also possible that shorter lines and smaller crowds mean faster service and better-stocked shelves, leaving shoppers with more positive feelings about the stores they visit. This could also account for why shoppers give just about all stores higher scores for things like layout and cleanliness: It’s easier to navigate a store and keep it clean when fewer people walk in the door.

“As traditional outlets such as Sears, Macy’s and JCPenney shed properties, shoppers may experience better service in the stores that remain,” ACSI Managing Director David VanAmburg said in a statement. “Although this is obviously not ideal or sustainable in the long run, fewer customers mean shorter lines, faster checkout and more attention from sales staff.”

The Nordstrom drop is an anomaly, and can’t be blamed on the company’s political controversy after dropping Ivanka Trump products. The survey was administered during November and December of 2016, weeks before the First Daughter’s fashion line became an issue. It was around the time that Nordstrom was selling an $85 leather-wrapped rock as a holiday gift, but even a product that silly wouldn’t account for such a large drop.

Target’s score also fell slightly, from 80 to 79. It’s listed among the health and personal care stores with discount competitor Kmart and national pharmacy chains. Perhaps that’s just a reflection of customers who are dissatisfied with the pharmacy changeover.

Last year, Abercrombie & Fitch had the distinction of being the only retailer to score below Walmart. This year, it still brings up the rear among specialty retailers with a score of 76, but that’s four points ahead of Walmart, which, with a 72, has the lowest score of all retailers this year. Abercrombie & Fitch is still finding its way during a massive rebranding effort.

Sometimes, factors beyond retailers’ control affect how shoppers rate them: ACSI credits rising scores across the board for supermarkets to falling food prices more than to anything that the retailers themselves are doing.

If you’re curious about how your favorite retailers did, or want to read the analysis, you can download the report yourself at the ACSI site. The scores for different industries are updated throughout the year.

lundi 27 février 2017

Leaked Memo: Third-Party Screen Repairs Don’t Void iPhone Warranty

Like slices of buttered toast, cupcakes, and pans of lasagna, smartphones always seem to fall face-down when dropped. Third-party repair shops have popped up to help users when this happens, but using these companies while an Apple device is still under warranty has been a gamble until now.

Departing from Apple’s network of Genius Bars and authorized repair shops for services previously meant voiding one’s warranty. Let’s say that you bring your phone to a third-party repair shop after smashing the screen.

A few months later, the volume buttons stop working, and that’s when you learn that letting an unauthorized shop open up your phone means that you’ll have to pay out-of-warranty prices to get a repair of your phone.

Over the weekend, 9to5Mac shared a leaked memo to retail store employees that details a change to the company’s repair policy.


If the whole phone or the display has to be replaced to fix the problem, customers will have to pay the out-of-warranty rate to make up for leaving Apple. However, recent changes to AppleCare+ for phones mean that customers pay only $29 for screen repairs while the device is under its original or extended warranty. Perhaps that’s meant to discourage clumsier iPhone users from seeking out third-party shops in the first place.

FCC Chair Faces Blowback Over Decision To Undo ISP Privacy Rule

Last week, FCC Chair Ajit Pai declared that he would halt the Commission’s new privacy rule before it kicks in on March 2. That last-minute decision is now under fire from within the FCC and beyond.

This privacy rule — delineating which user data an internet service provider can and can’t share without a user’s permission — stems from our old friend, net neutrality, which just happens to celebrate its second birthday today.

Two years ago today, the FCC voted to recategorize broadband so that it could be regulated more like a utility.

One of the side-effects of this decision is that privacy concerns about ISPs shifted from being the duty of the Federal Trade Commission to the FCC. And when the FCC finalized its version of these privacy rules in Oct. 2016, it created some new ISP-specific regulations that did not sit well with the telecom industry.

Basically, the rule says that ISPs must get users’ permission before they can share certain sensitive information with third parties. They must also give users a way to opt out of having their less-sensitive information shared with third parties. What rubbed ISPs the wrong way is that the rule only applies to service providers, not content providers.

They, along with a pre-Chairman Pai and his fellow anti-regulation regulator Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, claimed this is unfair to ISPs, glossing over the fact that the FCC can’t regulate content providers.

After the 2016 election, when it became clear that the winds of political change would be blowing through Washington in 2017, the telecom lobby filed a petition asking to have the FCC revisit and reverse the privacy rule… and the Title II reclassification along with it, eventually.

The industry has also been asking Congress to act to reverse the privacy rule, using the Congressional Review Act. That Act allows Congress to review, rule on, and reverse any piece of regulation put into place during the last days of the previous administration. It’s only been successfully used once prior to 2017, but has already been deployed twice by the Congressional majority during the first month of the Trump administration, with signs pointing to more uses coming.

Then on Friday, Pai issued a statement saying that he would be asking the Commission — himself, O’Rielly, and lone Democrat Mignon Clyburn — to vote on whether to adopt a stay on the data security part of the rule, which goes into effect on March 2.

If the Commission votes on a stay, it will almost certainly adopt one in a 2-1 vote. If the Commission does not vote on a stay, then Pai has — and will use — the authority to tell the appropriate FCC bureau to hold off. Either way, the rule will not be enforced.

Pai’s latest action has prompted an outcry from consumer and privacy advocacy groups, as well as from Senator Ed Markey (MA).

Markey, along with several other Senators, vowed earlier this month that if the FCC were to take action to reverse net neutrality, it would “unleash a political firestorm” the likes of which would make the record-smashing four million comments the Commission received over net neutrality in 2014 look “minuscule” by comparison.

He repeated the sentiment in a call with media today, pointing out that most consumers “are effectively captive to their ISPs,” having no real competition to choose from, and cannot simply change providers if they find their current provider’s privacy standards insufficient.

ISPs “can sell dossiers [of subscriber data] to the highest bidder without consent, and that is unacceptable,” Markey continued. “We cannot allow Republicans to put Big Broadband before competition, to put corporate interests before consumers. So let’s be clear about the ultimate goal here: Chairman Pai and his Republican allies in Congress want to do the bidding of Big Broadband … and will clearly try to do that through every avenue possible.”

Markey then vowed to “oppose every effort” by anyone who attacks broadband privacy, be it Congress or the FCC, adding, “we will rally millions of Americans to this cause. This is something that goes right to the heart of the 21st century, right to the heart of the relationship between Americans and the internet, and if the Republicans think that they will be able to roll back these protections without a huge fight, they are sorely mistaken.”

As to whether it will be Congress or the FCC that acts, however, that’s still very much up in the air. After his first FCC meeting as Chair, Pai demurred when asked whether he would rather the FCC dismantle its own rules or for Congress to do it instead, telling the press, “That’s entirely a decision for elected officials to make, and I don’t pretend to be in a position to either prescribe to them or even recommend to them what the course of action should be.”

MORE: How much control do you actually have over your private data?

The repeated rallying cry for opponents to the ISP privacy rule is that it’s not fair for an internet service provider to be treated and regulated differently than an edge provider — internet-based services like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and so on. Instead of the FCC imposing strict rules, the argument goes, instead regulation should be “harmonized” with the FTC’s standards.

The FTC, however, has expressed repeated support for the rule as-is. At the time the FCC voted to adopt the rule, then-FTC chair Edith Ramirez applauded the action, saying that the FCC’s rule “will provide robust privacy protections, including protecting sensitive information such as consumers’ social security numbers, precise geolocation data, and content of communications, and requiring reasonable data security practices.”

Ramirez, though, has since stepped down from the FTC. Maureen Ohlhausen is currently the Acting Chair, but has not yet delivered a statement about the FCC’s privacy rule.

However, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement [PDF] about the privacy rule, and FCC chair Pai’s method of backing away from it.

“Chairman Pai has created an unfortunate dilemma: accept a Bureau-level action that indefinitely unwinds key consumer privacy protections established by the FCC last year, or accept four business days (rather than the usual three weeks) to evaluate and vote on a decision that has massive ramifications for the security of private information held by broadband providers,” said Clyburn.

“I am very troubled by the news that the data security protections of the Broadband Privacy Rule will be put on hold,” the FTC’s McSweeny added.

“In an age of Internet connected everything, removing security requirements from broadband providers is needlessly dangerous for American consumers,” said McSweeny. “The rules the FCC adopted conform to long standing FTC practice and provide clear rules on how broadband companies should protect their customers’ personal information.”

“The outcome is clear,” both continued. “Chairman Pai is determined to take action that leaves consumers without a cop on the beat protecting their personal information from misuse by their broadband service provider.”

“This means no federal data security requirements whatsoever for broadband providers,” Clyburn and McSweeny concluded, calling it the “antithesis” of putting consumers first.

Lawsuit Claims Five Automakers Knew Of Dangerous Takata Airbags, Used Them Anyway

Takata recently agreed to pay $1 billion to close the books on a federal criminal investigation into its shrapnel-shooting airbags linked to 11 deaths, but the auto parts company — and several automakers — must still answer allegations that these airbags were a known problem long before the massive recall.

Today, attorneys representing victims of Takata airbags also accused Ford, Nissan, Honda, BMW, and Toyota of knowing about this defect for years and doing nothing about it.

The Detroit News reports that documents filed Monday in United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida claim that the automakers knew the airbags could rupture violently, injuring occupants, but continued to use the devices in order to save money.

The filings are part of pretrial evidence-gathering related to dozens of lawsuits against Takata and the automakers.

According to the filing, internal documents from Ford, Nissan, and Toyota suggest that despite concerns over the safety of the devices, the cost of vehicle production influenced the decision to keep using Takata’s airbags, which have been found to explode with such force that pieces of metal fly at occupants.

For example, the New York Times reports that Toyota continued to use the auto part maker’s airbags following a 2003 rupture of an airbag in a vehicle that was undergoing lab tests. Despite this and the company’s “large quality concerns” about Takata and its “unacceptable” quality performance, the airbags continued to be used.

Internal documents reportedly show that in 1999 and 2000 Honda was involved in developing the ammonium nitrate used in the airbags. The propellant was eventually named as one of three contributors to the airbag ruptures. 

Ford allegedly decided to use Takata’s inflators despite objections from in-house experts who believed the propellant used in the devices was unstable. The filing also claims that Nissan began toying with the idea of adding a drying agent to the propellant in 2005, the Times reports.

With regard to BMW, the Times reports that the company also knew of the issues.

This isn’t the first time that automakers have been accused of failing to address the Takata defect before the first recall was initiated.

Last month, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office filed a lawsuit alleging that Takata and 15 automakers that equipped vehicles with the automaker’s airbags failed to protect consumers from the dangerous defect that has been linked to 11 deaths.

That suit, which names Honda, Ford, Toyota, BMW, Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Nissan, FCA, Volkswagen, Audi, Ferrari, General Motors, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz as defendants, claims that the carmakers and Takata knew about and misrepresented the dangers posed by the airbags in the late 1990s.

The AG’s office claims that the companies violated the state’s unfair trade practices act by producing airbags that “were unreasonable and positively dangerous.”

To date, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 12.4 million total airbag inflators have been repaired or replaced, including 6.7 million driver-side airbags and 5.7 million passenger-side airbags have been fixed.

To find out if a vehicle is affected by the recall owners are urged to enter their individual VIN on NHTSA’s database.

Here’s A Snap-On Bluetooth Skimmer Spotted Out In The Wild

Have you ever wondered how a retailer can leave a Bluetooth skimmer on a payment card terminal in its stores for weeks at a time? It’s harder to detect the devices than you might think, because crooks have their own places to shop for spare parts that snap right on a payment terminal and are hard to spot if you aren’t looking for them.

A security technician at an unnamed U.S. retailer sent photos of the outside and inside of the device to Krebs on Security for educational purposes after three of the devices were found in a store.

The skimmer uses Bluetooth to zap customers’ payment data in real time to either a second device hidden nearby or even someone sitting in a car in the store’s parking lot with a phone, computer, or tablet.

The way that store employees found the skimmer was pretty low-tech: They noticed that the buttons on the PIN pad were more difficult to press than usual. When they discovered the reason why, a sweep of the rest of the registers turned up two more.

There’s one detail that the crooks missed and customers passing by did, too: The plus and minus signs are swapped on the PIN pad overlay. To be clear, the skimmer is the device on the right.

Krebs on Security

The name of the retailer is censored, but you’ve probably seen these Ingenico terminals in use in dozens of stores. Worse, the retailer didn’t have EMV cards enabled at the time of the skimming incident.

We’d say that they show you what to look for, but as you can see there isn’t much that stands out as a way to tell the real terminal and the overlay apart.

READ MORE: Let’s Watch Some Promotional Videos From Makers Of ATM Skimmers

If a device doesn’t quite feel right, as people at this store noticed, let someone know. It could be a defective unit, or someone may have snapped a device over it to scoop up your payment data.

Owners Of Discontinued Keurig Rivo Having Trouble Buying Coffee Pods That Will Work

When Keurig quietly discontinued its Rivo Cappuccino & Latte System in Dec. 2016, the company said customers would still be able to purchase Lavazza brand pods — the only ones the Rivo accepts — in its online store, as well as from a few other retailers. Soon after, however, customers started bumping into “out of stock” notices almost everywhere online. What’s the deal?

Consumerist reader John wrote in saying he’d heard Keurig has had supply chain issues, noting that all the caffeinated pod products for the Rivo have been out of stock for months at

On Keurig’s site there’s a warning that at least one of the out of stock products is unavailable “until February 2017.”


While caffeinated varieties are also out of stock on Lavazza’s website and on, as of Feb. 27, there are still pods available in certain flavors on Amazon — albeit at a hefty price.

Keurig pulled the plug for Rivo late last year, but it sounds like it some customers never got the memo and only realized it once they were on the hunt for coffee pods.

“@Keurig has the rivo been discontinued?” a Twitter user wrote on Feb. 14. “Out of stock pods and brewer hard to find on website.”

In response to complaints that Rivo pods are out of stock in many places, Keurig has told some customers that it’s “still supporting production and we expect Rivo pods to be available for at least the next three years.”

Despite that, complaints have been circulating for months about the out-of-stock pods.

Over at coffee product review blog Coffee Stylish, readers started posted their gripes in December.

“It’s very difficult to find anything other than the no decaffeinated pods, my local Bed bath and beyond stated they can’t get any other kind shipped, is my only option to purchase online?” one reader wondered on Dec. 15.

“I hope they plan or giving the people who bought this maker their money back when they no longer make the pods,” another wrote on January 22. “They have been out of stock at Keurig for some time.”

“I’m with you,” someone else agreed on Jan. 30. “I have been PISSED for months now. No warning, nothing. Last I saw was ‘sometime in Feb’ they’d be back in stock. So I guess I have a $229 brick on my countertop now. Good luck finding pods online for even close to retail price. This isn’t right at all.”

“Please offer a full refund/exchange or at least reusable capsules to calm the angriness of some of us who stupidly bought the Rivo last year and can’t use it anymore,” an angry customer wrote on Feb. 11.

“I barely finished the coffees that came with it and just found out it’s now discontinued,” another reader wrote that same day.” WHAT?! Bed Bath and Beyond used to carry them but they’re took them from the shelf, Amazon is way too expensive, and Lavazza is out of stock.”

Others have noticed elsewhere on the internet.

“I got this Keurig Rivo in December of 2016 as a Christmas gift, and it still works great,” an Amazon reviewer wrote on Feb. 12. “However, Keurig has stopped productions of the Keurig Rivo and it’s pods. So now my awesome Rivo is becoming absolutely worthless.”

“I am extremely sad I had to read about the Rivo platform being discontinued on Facebook via a visitor post,” one customer wrote to the company on Facebook on Feb. 24. “To make matters worse the Rivo pods have been out of stock since December.”

Consumerist reached out to Keurig to ask if there were potential supply issues for the pods, and when the product would be back in stock. A company spokeswoman did not mention any supply issues, but said the pods are due back on on March 3.

We also asked whether or not customers had been informed of the company’s decision to discontinue the Rivo, and if not, what the reasoning behind that decision was. We will update this post if we hear back.

FCC Chair Ajit Pai Has No Plans To Review AT&T/Time Warner Merger

In recent years, the FCC played a key part in blocking the mergers of AT&T and T-Mobile, and Comcast and Time Warner Cable, while also using its regulatory leverage to place pro-consumer conditions on the mergers it did approve — like getting Charter to agree to not use data caps for seven years. However, the FCC will apparently give AT&T its wish and not even chime in on the pending merger of AT&T and Time Warner.

This is according to recently elevated FCC Chair Ajit Pai, who told the Wall Street Journal today that he has no reason to review the merger if it’s not brought to the Commission’s attention.

“My understanding is that the deal won’t be presented to the commission,” Pai told the Journal.

While FCC review of a merger involving AT&T (the nation’s largest phone service provider, and second-largest pay-TV provider) and Time Warner (one of the biggest players in pay-TV content, with channels like CNN and HBO) might seem like it’s destined for FCC review, AT&T has maintained that the combination of the two companies won’t involve any swapping of airwave licenses, so the FCC need not involve itself.

Time Warner recently sold one of the few licenses it does have — Atlanta broadcast TV station WPCH — to Meredith. The merging companies contend that the remaining licenses are not for broadcast but for services like satellite uplinks, that they say won’t need to be transferred as part of the deal.

If the FCC does not get the chance to vet this merger, that means that only the Justice Department looks at the deal. However, unlike the FCC review process, a DOJ review does not take into account the generalized question of whether a merger is in the public interest. It’s that aspect of FCC vetting that has allowed the Commission to place certain restrictions on mergers over the years.

As it became more evident that a Pai-led FCC was unlikely to pursue this matter, a group of U.S. Senators recently asked AT&T to explain how this merger could benefit American consumers.

AT&T’s response was a bit baffling, claiming that neither AT&T nor Time Warner “approaches the market dominance that both would need to hobble distribution competitors” or raise prices.

AT&T downplayed the size of its pay-TV reach by saying that it is the second or third most popular pay-TV provider in most markets. What the company glosses over is that DirecTV, because it’s not tied to pesky network infrastructure like cable or fiber lines, is in virtually every market.

Raiders Of The Lost Kmart Unearth Sports Memorabilia No One Wanted 5-10 Years Ago

The brave retail archaeologists we call the Raiders of the Lost Walmart recently made a side expedition to Kmart, where they dug up a cache of sports-related gear that has apparently been sitting around, unpurchased for years — more than a decade in one instance.

Reader Steve was shopping at his local Kmart store in Arizona when he noticed something on a sale rack that isn’t all that unusual for a store in Arizona: The store was selling commemorative t-shirts from a game that the NFL’s Cardinals played. What was unusual was that the game was in October 2006.



“Why would anyone want a 11-year-old shirt celebrating two teams playing each other that both sucked that year?” Steve pondered. That’s a good question. The significant thing about this game is that it was the first regular season game that the Cardinals played in their then-new home, University of Phoenix Stadium.

Reader Joe found something similar in his local Kmart: A rack of U.S. Open t-shirts from the years 2011 through 2015, also marked down to $5, with no explanation.








Our best guess is that both the Cardinals shirt and the collection of U.S. Open shirts were hidden in a corner of the warehouses of their respective stores when Kmart made its decision to purge the warehouses and immediately put all merchandise out on the floor. If they can unload these shirts for $5 each when they were just taking up space for years, maybe it worked out in the end. Who, however, would buy them?

Returning to some more traditional Raiders of the Lost Walmart fare, Steven (not to be confused with Steve) noticed this Zune 120 hanging out on a shelf in the electronics department.

Following the dates on the price tags, it was marked down to only $229 back in 2009, then marked back up to $249 in 2016.

That is cheaper than you can buy the Zune 120 for on Amazon. People are still buying the devices, or at least still posting Amazon reviews for them. Bless you, Zune fans.