mercredi 31 mai 2017

Report: Apple’s Version Of A Connected Speaker To Debut Later This Year

Apple makes phones, tablets, computers, headphones, and even easy-to-lose wireless earbuds, but there’s one thing missing. Unlike Google and Amazon, Apple doesn’t sell a smart speaker that also serves as a smart home hub. That’s reportedly about to change, and factories are starting to crank out Apple’s take on the hot products.

Those ever-wise “people with knowledge of the matter” told Bloomberg News that the speaker is coming, and is made by Inventec, which also makes AirPods.

While the speakers wouldn’t go on sale until later this year, they could be announced in June at Apple’s developers’ conference.

According to the sources, the speakers are powered by the Siri virtual assistant that’s available on Apple’s phones, tablets, and computers. Apple hopes to differentiate its version of a common product with better sound quality, and features like virtual surround sound and sensors that are able to measure a room and adjust the acoustics accordingly.

It would also help make Apple’s HomeKit smart home software more useful, since users now have to coordinate their devices with an AppleTV or an iPad.

In addition to controlling HomeKit-compatible third-party smart devices, Apple will reportedly also let third-party developers create voice functions for the speaker. Last year, Apple began preparing for this by letting developers in to use Siri and make iOS voice commands do something useful.

If the unnamed speaker does launch in June, it would be the first new piece of hardware announced at Apple’s WWDC since 2013, when the cylindrical Mac Pro was introduced.

HHS: Taxpayers May Have Overpaid $1.27 Billion For EpiPens

Even though drug company Mylan agreed to pay $465 million to quickly settle a Justice Department investigation into allegations that it deliberately overcharged Medicaid for its EpiPen emergency allergy injector, a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services indicating that taxpayers may have overpaid more than twice that amount over ten years.

Earlier today, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General sent Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley a letter [PDF], estimating that the actual additional cost for EpiPen from 2006 through 2017 could be as high as $1.27 billion.

A quick lesson in how Medicaid pays for prescription medications: Drug companies whose products are purchased by Medicaid reimburse the program through mandatory rebates. The rate of those rebates is based on whether the drug is an “innovator” medication (often a newer, higher-cost drug with little or no competition) with a rebate rate of at least 23.1%, or a “non-innovator multiple source” (NIMS) drug (often an older drug with competition from generics), with a much lower rebate rate (currently 13%).

Last fall, among rising concerns about Medicaid fraud, the Acting Administrator for the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), confirmed that Mylan had indeed mis-classified EpiPen as a NIMS drug and had been paying rebates that were at least ten percentage points smaller than what the company should have paid, since at least 2011.

Mylan did not actually acquire EpiPen until 2007, when it purchased Merck’s generic drug business, so if the OIG’s estimate goes back to 2006, then Mylan may not be responsible for some of that potential $1.27 billion overcharge.

Only two days after CMS confirmed the misclassification of EpiPen, and before it could determine the true amount and extent of Mylan’s overcharging, the drug company revealed the $465 million DOJ settlement in a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company also said the settlement allowed Mylan to avoid admitting any liability or wrongdoing.

The settlement, which was never announced publicly by the DOJ and still has not been officially finalized, was heavily criticized on Capitol Hill, and Grassley’s Judiciary Committee asked Mylan to testify about the deal. However, the company declined to appear and explain itself to lawmakers.

“The fact that the EpiPen overpayment is so much more than anyone discussed publicly should worry every taxpayer,” said Grassley in a statement, pointing out that CMS had previously advised Mylan about the improper classification of the drug but that the company did nothing to address this issue. “It looks like Mylan overcharged the taxpayers for years with the knowledge EpiPen was misclassified.”

Grassley says Mylan has been unwilling to cooperate or to voluntarily provide documents requested by Judiciary. The Senator indicates in his statement that a subpoena may be “the only way to get to the bottom of this.”

When reached for comment by Consumerist, a rep for Mylan would only say that the company continues to “work with the government to finalize the settlement as soon as possible.”

Dunkin’ Donuts Threatens Coffee Shop With Legal Action Over Handwritten Window Message

We understand the need for companies to protect their trademarks, but the biggest names in coffee seem to love punching down at small businesses over minor disputes. Starbucks twice fought — and twice lost — a battle with a small New Hampshire roaster over “Charbucks,Caribou Coffee forced a Michigan cafe to change its name, and now Dunkin’ Donuts is threatening legal action against a Massachusetts coffee shop over a slogan handwritten on the store’s window.

The Sun Chronicle reports that Dunkin’ sent a cease and desist letter to Mike’s Coffee Shop in North Attleboro, MA, after the smaller store decorated its windows with a different take on Dunkin’s well-known slogan “America Runs On Dunkin’.”

The tag lines — “North Now Runs On Mike’s” and “Plainville Now Runs On Mike’s” — were the result two different customers’ offhanded comments that the surrounding cities now run on Mike’s, according to owner Steve Copoulos, who recently opened the shop in the former home of a Dunkin’ Donuts.

While the slogans sound familiar, Copoulos tells the Sun Chronicle, he never even considered the cheeky window art would cause problems with the coffee giant.

According to the cease and desist letter, the company found Mike’s use of the phrase a direct infringement on Dunkin’s 2006 trademark for “America Runs On Dunkin’.”

“Displaying ‘Plainville & North now runs on Mike’s’ creates a likelihood of confusion among consumers by implying that you are an approved vendor of ours,” the letter states, as reported by the Sun Chronicle. “Your actions are clearly designed to trade on the goodwill and reputation associated with the America Runs on Dunkin’ trademark and constitutes both trademark infringement and trademark dilution.”

But Copoulos says he never intended for the coffee shop to be anything like Dunkin’. Instead, he says he only opened the store in order to offer residents an alternative to stores like Dunkin’ and Starbucks, and that customers are likely able to differentiate between the two companies.

“I want to be the exact opposite: A friendly and happy place where you can talk to the owner,” he tells the Sun Chronicle. “I want my customers to come in here knowing they can get a good cup of coffee in a comfortable environment.”

Copoulos suggests that Dunkin’s cease and desist letter is just the chain’s way of swinging around its clout, and getting back at Copoulos’ family for refusing to sell the building to the bigger chain.

The owner tells the Sun Chronicle that Dunkin’ tried to buy the building outright several times, and each time the family refused, the company threatened to open a location down the road. Something it eventually did.

“They want every corner and they don’t want any competition,” Copoulos said.

Consumerist has reached out to Dunkin’ Donuts for comment on the letter. We’ll update this post if we hear back.

Netflix Doesn’t Care As Much About Net Neutrality Anymore Because It’s Big Enough Not To

Here we are, fighting the net neutrality fight again. The battle lines are drawn and basically everyone is right where they were the last time we did this, back in 2014 and 2015, with one key player missing from the debate: Netflix. The streaming video service that once defiantly asked why ISPs weren’t paying it extra for making their service worthwhile is absent this time around. Why? According to its CEO, Netflix just doesn’t need to care as much anymore.

Speaking at Recode’s Code Conference today, Netflix CEO, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings pretty much said his company is too big to stress about net neutrality anymore, and passed the torch to the next generation of businesses.

“Neutrality is really important for the Netflix of ten years ago, and it’s important for society, it’s important for innovation, it’s important for entrepreneurs,” Hastings told moderator Peter Kafka.

“So, in that sense, it is really important. And, you know, we’re weighing in against [reversing] it — we’ve said we think neutrality’s very important.”

“But,” Kafka noted, “You’re not as loud, you’re not yelling about it on Facebook, you’re not…”

“That’s fair,” Hastings admitted. “It’s not our primary battle at this point. Other people it is, and that’s an important thing, and we’re supportive through the industry association, but I think you’re right that we don’t have the special vulnerability to it” anymore.

Instead, he told Recode, it’s someone else’s problem now.

“We had to carry the water when we were growing up and we were small,” said Hastings. “Now other companies need to be on that leading edge.”

Handing over the fight to other companies is a bit of a turn for Hastings, who in past years has been extremely outspoken about net neutrality and internet service provider behavior.

Back in 2014, for example, he said Comcast — then still trying to merge with Time Warner Cable — was “coming for the whole internet.”

That came, probably not coincidentally, just a few months after Netflix had to cough up cash to Comcast to get the cable behemoth to deliver Netflix’s video content to customers without letting it bottleneck and slow.

However, Netflix also proved happy to take advantage of zero-rating deals where possible, paying off providers for access to otherwise data-capped customers. And it’s now pretty buddy-buddy with Comcast, which is letting customers access and pay for Netflix services through its X1 set-top box just like any other premium channel.

Netflix was among the companies represented by the Internet Association when it asked the FCC to leave net neutrality well enough alone already early in May. But that doesn’t really matter, Hastings said, telling Kafka, “I think Trump’s FCC is going to unwind the rules no matter what anybody says.”

But since Hastings is hanging the responsibility on everyone else to object, well, here’s your turn. If you’ve got thoughts about the FCC’s plan to reverse net neutrality, and you haven’t told the FCC what you think yet, here’s how.

Delta Tests Replacing Boarding Passes With Fingerprints For Lounge Access

While it’s trying facial recognition automated baggage drops in Minneapolis, Delta Airlines has implemented another form of biometric identification at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Ultimately, the airline plans to let passengers use their fingerprints in place of boarding passes to check in, check bags, and board their flights.

CLEAR is an existing service that speeds you past the security line for a fee. People in the pilot program have to be enrolled in CLEAR as well. Delta combines CLEAR’s data with your frequent flier information and boarding pass information, with the goal of letting passengers zip past checkpoints where they would normally need to show a boarding pass.

For now, a fingerprint only gives people who are part of the program access to the Sky Club lounge. To be eligible, customers need to be part of the Sky Miles program and also be enrolled in CLEAR.

The airline’s planned Phase 2 would let passengers use their fingerprints at any time that they would normally need to show a boarding pass, including when boarding the plane. JetBlue and British Airways are testing similar programs, but they use facial recognition, not fingerprints.

Phase 2 will happen if the Phase 1 test goes well. If you see people locked out of the Delta lounge on your next trip through DCA, you’ll be able to tell how those tests are going.

Colorado To Spend Marijuana Tax Money To Fight Addiction And Homelessness

The state of Colorado collected more than $100 million in taxes on retail recreational marijuana sales last last year. So what’s it going to do with all that extra cash? The governor’s new budget allocates that money for supportive housing, health screening in public schools, addiction treatment, and on regulating the cannabis industry.

One budget item puts aside $5.9 million in tax funds for law enforcement grants to fight gray and black market marijuana sales. The state wants to fight the illegal market and stop people who get their weed from medical dispensaries from re-selling it to other people. It doesn’t collect taxes on any of those sales, after all.

The largest allocation from the Marijuana Cash Fund, as it’s called, is $15.3 million for supportive housing and other services for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, with the goal of keeping them out of prisons and hospitals. Another program spends $7.1 million on helping keep people in mental health crisis out of jails and finding appropriate services for them.

An existing program that puts health care professionals in public and charter schools will receive another $9.7 million in grant funds. Their responsibilities will include “education, universal screening, referral, and care coordination for students with substance abuse and other behavioral health needs.”

The state is also funding a $500,000 two-year pilot program to train physician assistants and nurse practitioners in treating and prescribing medication for people with opioid addictions.

All of these programs depend on the Department of Justice not stepping up enforcement in the six states that have legal recreational marijuana use and state-regulated retail sales. The Trump administration is likely to do so, and even the medical marijuana industry is nervous about what’s possible.

(via Vice News)

Feds Say Trampoline Company Used Phony Reviews From Bogus Trampoline Experts

If you sell a product that has glowing reviews from dependable expert critics, you’d probably want to point that out to customers. Or… you could just go ahead and make up a bunch of fake “expert” sites filled with fictional reviews.

The Federal Trade Commission has accused the folks behind several trampoline-selling sites of creating multiple supposedly independent websites to trick customers into believing that their products had received rave write-ups from people who know a thing or two about trampolines.

According to the FTC’s complaint [PDF] brothers Sonny and Bobby Le — who operated under several names, including Recreational Products, Trampoline Jumpers, Happy Trampoline, and others of pointing potential customers of their Olympus Pro and Infinity trampolines to separate websites with favorable reviews of these products.

These sales websites, the FTC claims, prominently featured logos from supposedly independent review entities, including “Trampoline Safety of America,” the “Bureau of Trampoline Review,” and “Top Trampoline Review.”

When a potential customer clicked on the logos they were directed to the websites of those reviewing organizations, which claimed to provide objective information, including unbiased “expert reviews” and ratings based on safety, performance, and other qualities.

Each of these sites agreed that the Le brothers’ trampolines (which sell for as much as $5,000) were just awesome.

“In conclusion I highly recommend the Olympus pro trampoline,” reads one site. “It is the heaviest frame and highest weight capacity of all the trampolines we’ve reviewed. The double security net with the clips and zipper makes it one of the safest as well. As you can see from their website they have been featured on many TV shows / commercials.”

While customers were led to believe these reviews and ratings were legit, the FTC claims that wasn’t the case.

In fact, the FTC contends that nearly everything — logos, claims, reviews — was faked by the Le brothers.

Additionally, the FTC claims that Bobby Le went even further in perpetuating the scheme, writing favorable online reviews that appeared to come from ordinary trampoline owners. The reviews typically praised the Les’ products, while scathing other brands.

“Found this trampoline on the Bureau of trampoline review [sic] and this is the best trampoline that I’ve ever owned. I had the jumpsport [sic] recently and It [sic] is not as advertised. Within 2 yrs. [sic] the frame started rusting. This crap is definitely china [sic] made. Don’t waste your money [sic],” a review allegedly written by Bobby states.

In settling the FTC’s false advertising claims, the Sonny and Bobby Les agreed to stop making misrepresentations related to their product reviews. They are also required to disclose clearly any connection between an endorser and the company.

Ohio: Makers Of OxyContin, Percocet & Other Opioids Helped Fuel Drug Epidemic By Misleading Doctors, Patients

As Americans nationwide deal with the ongoing opioid epidemic, which has also resulted in the resurrection of heroin in many parts of the country, the Ohio Attorney General is accusing five major pharmaceutical companies of misleading the public about the safety and benefits of opioid painkillers.

In a lawsuit [PDF] filed in Ross County, OH, Court of Common Pleas, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine accused Purdue Pharma (maker of OxyContin and others); Endo (Percocet); Teva (Fentora); Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (Duragesic); and Allergan (Norco) of operating marketing campaigns that “falsely deny or trivialize the risks of opioids while overstating the benefits of using them for chronic pain.”

The pharma companies allegedly downplayed the risk of addiction posed by these drugs, and instead talked up the concept of “pseudoaddiction” — the notion that apparent symptoms of addiction may actually be signs of under-treatment.

The complaint cites a number of instances where the defendant companies allegedly put their support behind pseudoaddiction as a reason for prescribing more of a painkiller, like a 2007 book sponsored by both Purude and Teva subsidiary Cephalon, which allegedly stated that patients who request certain opioids by name, exhibit manipulative behavior, are hoarding or seeing multiple doctors may just be experiencing pseudoaddiction.

A 2009 website paid for by Janssen allegedly stated that pseudoaddiction “refers to patient behaviors that may occur when pain is under-treated,” and that it differs from true addiction “because such behaviors can be resolved with effective pain management.”

The lawsuit describes a Purdue-sponsored role-playing exercise wherein “a chronic pain patient with a history of drug abuse tells his doctor that he is taking twice as many hydrocodone pills as directed. The narrator notes that because of pseudoaddiction, the doctor should not assume the patient is addicted even if he persistently asks for a specific drug, seems desperate, hoards medicine, or ‘overindulges in unapproved escalating doses.’ The doctor treats this patient by prescribing a high-dose, long-acting opioid.”

AG DeWine also says the defendant drug companies exaggerated the effectiveness of screening tools to detect and prevent addiction in chronic pain patients. In marketing materials — taking the form of webinars, supplements, and conference presentations — the complaint notes that Purdue and Endo communicated to physicians that things like urine tests could be used to identify and weed out bad apple patients who were overusing opioids. However, opioid dispensing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that current screening methods “show insufficient accuracy for classification of patients as at low or high risk for abuse or misuse.”

Drug companies also allegedly misled physicians and patients into believing that they could increase the dosage of their opioid medications without increased risk.

A 2007 pamphlet for Kadian acknowledged to patients that, “Over time, your body may become tolerant of your current dose. You may require a dose adjustment to get the right amount of pain relief. This is not addiction.”

A joint Cephalon/Purdue guide from that same year allegedly claims that some patients “need” a larger dose of an opioid, regardless of their current prescribed dosage, and that there is “no ceiling dose” for patients with severe pain.

“The ability to escalate dosages was critical to Defendants’ efforts to market opioids for long-term use to treat chronic pain,” contends the lawsuit. “[A]bsent this misrepresentation, doctors would have abandoned treatment when patients built up tolerance and lower dosages did not provide pain relief.”

DeWine claims that the drug makers downplayed the difficulty in managing opioid dependence and withdrawal to “make doctors feel more comfortable starting patients on opioids.” As noted by the CDC, opioid withdrawal symptoms run the gamut from anxiety, insomnia, abdominal pain to tremor and tachycardia (rapid heartbeat).

The AG’s office is asking for a jury to declare that the companies’ actions were illegal; for the court to grant an injunction to stop these marketing practices. It seeks damages to compensate the state for the additional costs of dealing with the ongoing epidemic, and refunds for Ohio consumers who allegedly paid for unnecessary opioid prescriptions for chronic pain.

“These drug manufacturers led prescribers to believe that opioids were not addictive, that addiction was an easy thing to overcome, or that addiction could actually be treated by taking even more opioids” says DeWine. “They knew they were wrong, but they did it anyway — and they continue to do it. Despite all evidence to the contrary about the addictive nature of these pain medications, they are doing precious little to take responsibility for their actions and to tell the public the truth.”

We’ve reached out to each of the defendant companies for comment; not all have responded.

A rep for Janssen maintains that the allegations in the lawsuit are “legally and factually unfounded,” and that the company has “acted appropriately, responsibly and in the best interests of patients regarding our opioid pain medications.”

Purdue says it shares DeWine’s concerns about the opioid crisis but did not address the lawsuit directly.

“OxyContin accounts for less than 2% of the opioid analgesic prescription market nationally, but we are an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology, advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and supporting access to Naloxone — all important components for combating the opioid crisis,” reads the statement from Purdue.

In a statement to Consumerist, Teva says, “We are reviewing the complaint filed today by the Ohio Attorney General in the Ross County Court of Common Pleas. We have not completed review of the complaint and cannot yet provide comment.”

Allergan has declined to comment. We will update this story if we receive additional comment from Endo.

Former FCC Commissioner Uses Terror Attacks To Make Worst-Ever Argument Against Net Neutrality

There are many misleading, questionable, and frankly just plain bad arguments against net neutrality out there these days, but a former FCC commissioner may have outdone them all for pure inanity, somehow blaming the push for an open internet for global terrorism.

That’s not us reading into the words of one-time FCC member Harold Furchtgott-Roth. His opinion piece for Forbes is actually titled “To reduce terrorism, repeal network neutrality.”

Furchtgott-Roth isn’t just a roving think tank consultant of the type endemic to D.C.; he served as an FCC commissioner from 1997 to 2001 and was one of the Congressional staffers who helped shape the Telecommunications Act of 1996 prior to that.

The piece was published on May 24, two days after a suicide bomber killed 23 and injured 116 in an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, on May 22.

“A sensible question,” Furchtgott-Roth writes, “is why civilized governments do not seek to deprive terrorists of unfettered access to the internet.”

“Sadly,” he continues, “here in America, limiting access to the Internet would be illegal under the euphemistic term ‘network neutrality,’ the two-year-old experiment in federal regulation of the Internet.”

This is argument is completely wrong in several different ways. For one thing, net neutrality has nothing to do with providing any particular specific individual access to the internet, but rather, has to do with requiring providers to give users the content they request without preferential interference.

And in fact, in the U.S., persons who are convicted of crimes do often have their right to access the Internet severely curtailed. Internet use in prisons is generally banned, and internet use bans are not uncommon as a probation term for those who were convicted of internet-related crimes.

“Under network neutrality, broadband companies — such as AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon — are prohibited from discriminating against any lawful websites or content,” Furchtgott-Roth writes. This part is, in fact, completely true. That is the entire point of net neutrality: You ask for content, and your ISP lets you have it without messing with it.

But Furchtgott-Roth is mad that objectionable content is not automatically considered unlawful content and therefore legally blockable.

“There is no clear distinction between lawful and unlawful websites and content,” he writes. “The net result is a broadband company could and likely would be sued for blocking websites housing information about recruitment and organization for ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Ku Klux Klan, or other terrorist groups.”

What Furchtgott-Roth is ultimately arguing in favor of is granting ISPs permission to engage in content curation and blanket censorship on behalf of their users — and he blames net neutrality for ISPs lack of ability to do so now.

Instead, he says, “A better approach would be to allow consumer preferences and competitive market forces for ISPs to fight against terrorism.” He wants “Different ISPs to compete on the basis of their degree of ‘anti-terrorist’ efforts.”

In fact, a private company already can already form to offer limited internet services, not subject to Title II common carriage laws, restricting whatever kind of content it wants.

That came up in 2015, during the oral arguments in federal court when the FCC was defending its Open Internet Rule against lawsuits from industry and lobbyists.

FCC associate general counsel Jacob Lewis argued during the hearing that a carrier that existed specifically on the basis of filtering the internet before bringing it to consumers is not a mass communications broadband ISP, because it’s selling a different service and experience entirely and consumers are made aware of that going in. So an “anti-terrorist” internet service could launch tomorrow, filtering out every mention of the word “bomb” on the entire internet, and would be permitted to do so under existing law.

Furchtgott-Roth proposes that these anti-terrorist ISPs block known terrorism-related material and information and “coordinate with law enforcement officials to block or to limit access to known or suspected terrorists.”

He notes that, “some major ISPs might not be interested in having an anti-terrorist campaign,” but thinks, “all would likely be willing to resell their service to a third party with practically any marketing approach, including anti-terrorist.”

But while third-party reselling does exist in mobile — many small carriers use networks built and owned by Verizon or AT&T — it largely does not happen on U.S. wired broadband connections. Comcast is not going to resell Comcast access to a third-party for its own limited-use network. Nor is Charter. If the major cable ISPs were open to third-party reselling, we wouldn’t find ourselves with an utter dearth of competition in most markets today.

And that, of course, is aside from the problem of trusting your ISP to be able to successfully tell the difference between “terrorist” and “researcher,” or even between “good” and “bad” based merely on content traffic requests made from a device. Which, frankly, most people are unlikely to trust — or want — their ISP to do.

[via Techdirt]

Schemer Claims Subway Manager Needs Bail, Scams $200 From Employee

Combining the juvenile tradition of pranking fast food restaurants with the “your relative is in jail” wire fraud scam, someone managed to trick employees at a Subway restaurant to fork over $200 to a complete stranger.

According to KARK 4 News, someone called up a Maumelle, AR, Subway store around 8:30 p.m. on May 29, claiming to be from the local sheriff’s office.

The caller told the employee that the store’s manager, who was identified by name, had been arrested and was in need of money for bail. The schemer claimed that a relative of the manager would arrive at the store to pick up the funds.

The employee told police that a short time later a man entered the restaurant claiming to be the manager’s brother-in-law. The employee then opened the cash register and gave the man the contents.

After the supposed brother-in-law left, the employee called the manager only to find he had not been arrested.

Police are asking the public for help in identifying the man, who was caught on security footage inside the store.

9 Things We Learned About The Video Game Origins Of Chuck E. Cheese’s

Did you know that the restaurant and entertainment chain Chuck E. Cheese’s was originally part of the video game company Atari? While today we know the chain for kids’ parties and occasional adult drunken brawls, the chain had its origins in the carnival summer jobs of Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell. It helped to make video games mainstream, and fueled the animatronic nightmares of multiple generations of children.

How did the original party begin? To celebrate the chain’s 40th birthday, Fast Company looked back at its origins.

1. Founder Bushnell was talking to friends and colleagues about starting a restaurant with a carnival-like atmosphere before he ever thought about making video games.

2. One early purpose for the chain was to let families and kids play arcade games — you know, the kind Atari made — in an environment other than a teenager-infested arcade. News reports at the time told of scary things that happened at regular arcades, like marijuana use and interracial dancing.

3. The character Chuck E. Cheese began as a gray rat named Rick Rat or Big Cheese, and served as an Atari mascot for a time. Bushnell claims that the character was supposed to be a coyote, but he kept the rat costume anyway.

4. Rick/Chuck became a mouse once plans for a pizza restaurant became real. Gene Landrum, the marketing executive who developed the restaurant concept and was in charge for the first few years, had pointed out that a rat wasn’t really approriate for a family restaurant mascot.

“We can’t have a rat,” he said. “A rat is too predatory and too lethal.”

5. Bushnell left Atari a few years after Warner purchased the company and he was unhappy. and the restaurant idea, by then called Pizza Time Theatre, gave him a project to work on that didn’t violate his non-compete clause.

6. The animatronic characters were mounted in living “portraits” on the walls, and the show ran in an 8-minute loop. The original idea was for the show to entertain adults while they waited for pizza, and the jokes verged into PG territory for that reason. Kids, of course, would be playing the arcade games.

7. Pizza Time Theatre began under Atari, and Bushnell bought the intellectual property and the first restaurant from Warner for $500,000. In 1979, he left the company and began developing it as a business that could expand and be franchised.

8. Knockoff restaurants proliferated across the country, including a Rocky and Bullwinkle-themed one. That craze mostly died out, but Showbiz Pizza, a chain started by a franchisee who developed his own similar characters and concept instead, thrived. It was still doing fine even after a legal fight with Pizza Time Theatre meant it had to share profits with its competitor.

9. An over-expanded Chuck E. Cheese’s filed for bankruptcy in 1984, and the following year, Showbiz Pizza purchased the chain, and the more dominant Chuck E. Cheese’s brand won out. The restaurants adopted that name. The company still survives with around 500 restaurants.

Science Cooks Up Crazy-Powerful Triple-Action Antibiotic; Still Needs To Be Tested On Humans

Researchers have monkeyed around with one of the stronger antibiotics available for use on humans, resulting in a drug that fights pathogens in three different ways and is thousands of times more powerful than its current form. However, it still hasn’t been tested on humans, meaning it’s a long way from reaching pharmacy shelves.

Vancomycin is a very powerful antibiotic that’s been in use for about 60 years, but it’s long been considered a drug of “last resort” for two reasons. First, it can be incredibly harsh for the patient. From personal experience: I had to be treated with vanco after surgery several years back, and not only did it require intravenous antihistamines to make the drug tolerable, nurses had to move my IV to a different location every day because the injection sites would become damaged.

Second, just like other antibiotics, frequent use of vancomycin will only encourage the development of drug-resistant bacteria. There are already vanco-resistant strains of pathogens like Enterococcus and Streptococcus, so physicians need to deploy the drug judiciously in order to avoid rendering it useless down the road.

Scientists from the Scripps Research Institute have been tinkering with vancomycin for years, attempting to craft a better, more efficient version of the antibiotic. In a report published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they detail the results of said tinkering: a vanco that works in three different ways to kill bacteria and which appears to be less likely to promote resistance.

Vancomycin’s primary way of killing bacteria is to block them from building cell walls. Vanco-resistant pathogens have figured out a way to keep building that wall, swapping out the original protein with a different one. The Scripps team says their new vancomycin prevents both proteins.

Additional tweak to the drug helps to halt the entire process of cell wall construction, while the final tine of the trident ruptures the cell membrane, leading to the bacteria’s death.

Most importantly, these three power-ups to vancomycin appear to work independently of each other, so the bacteria would need to develop resistance to all three attacks to render vanco pointless.

While the development of a very powerful, ultra-efficient vancomycin is hopeful, the drug has not been tested on animals for safety and effectiveness. The researchers say they currently have no indication that this newer vanco would be overly toxic to mammals, but that will still need to be tested.

It’s been decades since the last new class of antibiotics, and as common infections become more difficult to treat with traditional antimicrobials, hospitals have been increasingly turning to drugs that treat antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

Last year, a rare gene plasmid — which can move between cells of different types and confer resistance to colistin, another last-resort drug, on a variety of bacteria — was discovered in a human patient in the U.S.. Dr. Tom Frieden, then-Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cautioned that “The medicine cabinet is empty for some patients.”

Do You Have To Be 21 To Drink On International Flights?

Just about every college kid who’s flown to Europe knows that when they land they’ll be able to get a beer without the fake ID they paid too much to acquire from their neighbor’s creepy older brother. But can those under-21 travelers drink during that flight? Depends on the airline. 

Conde Nast Traveler reports that most airlines set a minimum drinking age that corresponds to the standard booze-purchasing age for their home country — regardless of which direction they are flying.

For instance, American Airlines — which is based in Texas — will only serve alcoholic beverages to customers if they’re 21 years of age or older, even if the plane is over international waters and headed to a country with a more generous minimum age.

Delta, United, Alaska Airlines, Virgin America, Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit, and Allegiant also follow U.S. laws, only serving adult beverages to those 21 and older.

Airlines overseas tend to follow similar rules, CN Traveler reports. For example, Iceland-based WOW Air adheres to the law of its land, serving customers 20 years or older no matter where they’re flying from.

A number of airlines — Mexico’s Interjet, British Airways, Australian carrier Qantas, and Dubai-based Emirates — set the lower minimum age of 18 on their flights.

CN Traveler reports that Air Canada takes a bit of a different approach: While the drinking age is 18, younger passengers on some international flights can partake in a libation if they are given express consent by the guardian or parent accompanying them.

As always, cabin crew on any aircraft have the final authority in determine when anyone of any age has had enough to drink.

You Can Get A Chicken Big Mac Without Assembling It Yourself — If You Live In Australia

The Big Mac-McChicken: A sandwich that looks like a Big Mac, but uses McChicken patties instead. McDonald’s customers have long been able to make the sandwich mashup on their own by ordering both sandwiches and stacking them together. But guests in Australia will no longer have to pay for two sandwiches when looking to cure their Chicken Big Mac craving.

News Corp Australia reports that local McDonald’s restaurants have officially put the Chicken Big Mac on the menu — until July 18, at least.

The sandwich comes with everything you’d expect from a Big Mac — three pieces of bread, special sauce, lettuce, pickle, and onion — but with chicken patties rather than beef patties.

“The iconic Big Mac and the McChicken are among our most popular burgers, so it made sense to mix up these two classics and give our customers a new and exciting product to try — the Chicken Big Mac,” McDonald’s Australia’s CMO Jenni Dill told News Corp.

So far, customers appear to be appreciating the more convenient menu item.

The new sandwich isn’t relegated only to Australia, Mashable reports, customers in Qatar, Egypt, the UAE, and the Netherlands can find the meal on their menus. Of course, those craving the meal stateside can simply order the components and make it themselves.

In addition to adding the Chicken Big Mac to the menu, McDonald’s Australia restaurants have also temporarily added Shaker Fries to the board. The Cheeseburger Shaker Fries are regular fries accompanied by a small packet of seasoning. In this case, that packet uses seasonings mimicking the taste of a cheeseburger, including beef, onion, pickle, ketchup, mustard, and cheese.

Google Expands Waze Carpooling Service To All Of California

When ride-hailing apps like Lyft and Uber first appeared, they were called “ride-sharing” services, since people didn’t really know what else to call peer-to-peer unlicensed taxi services. By contrast, the carpooling feature that’s part of Google-owned map and traffic app Waze is more like organized hitchhiking, and now it’s going statewide in California.

After tests in the San Francisco Bay area and cities in Waze’s home country of Israel, the app is launching statewide in California, including the traffic-snarled Los Angeles area. Users will have to download a separate app, which is available for iOS and Android, to request a ride.

The company frames the carpooling service as another front in its fight against traffic, which also includes real-time routing to alternate routes based on users’ reports of heavy traffic, road closures, crashes, and other obstacles.

“No longer will Californians be held captive by their horrific commute,” Waze declared on its official blog. “Join us in working together to fight daily traffic, improve our commute, help protect the environment, and save a little money.”

Both of the major ride-hailing apps have carpool-like services, called UberPool and Lyft Line, but they’re more like sharing a taxi with strangers when you’re heading in the same direction.

While Waze’s carpooling service does charge passengers some money that goes to the driver, it’s not enough to compensate the driver for chauffeuring someone. It’s more like sharing gas and tolls with someone who gives you a ride home from college.

The Los Angeles Times reports that drivers don’t undergo any kind of background checks before the app connects them with strangers to haul around, and they also aren’t required to have commercial car insurance. The service doesn’t supply the kind of liability insurance that the ride-hailing app covers drivers with, either.

Waze doesn’t yet charge a commission on the money paid to drivers, but plans to do so in the future.

JetBlue Hopes Facial Recognition Tech Can Speed Up Boarding At The Gate

For some flights, you’ll spend more time in line at the airport than you will in the air. Checking your bags, going through security, then boarding at the gate (not to mention the idle time spent in the jet’s aisle while the people in front of you invariably stow their over-large rolling suitcases improperly in the overhead bins and then remember they have to get something from that bag). JetBlue is hoping that using facial recognition technology can speed up at least one portion of this process.

The airline announced this morning that it will start testing a (hopefully) expedited boarding process on one route — Boston to Aruba — starting at some point in June.

After passengers on this route get through the security checkpoint gauntlet, they’ll have the option of posing for a photo at a camera station that links up to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection computers to verify your face against any sort of passport or visa photo you’d have stored with the agency.

If the CBP can identify you, you’ll be cleared to board the jet without having to whip out your boarding pass (which you always manage to put in the most difficult to reach pocket).

“We hope to learn how we can further reduce friction points in the airport experience, with the boarding process being one of the hardest to solve,” says JetBlue executive VP Joanna Geraghty.

While JetBlue is touting this announcement as a first for a U.S. carrier, it’s not the first airline to use facial recognition to speed up boarding. British Airways launched a test of similar tech earlier this spring at Heathrow Airport in London.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines recently spent $600,000 on self-service luggage check-in machines that use facial recognition at Minneapolis-St. Paul International.

Michael Kors To Close 100 to 125 Stores

Last year, Michael Kors pulled back on its department store presence and stopped accepting coupons for its merchandise in those locations in order to polish its brand and increase sales, but those changes have apparently only harmed the brand’s value. Now, the luxury accessories retailer is prepping to close at least 100 of its stores.

Michael Kors announced the upcoming closures in an effort to improve profitability after the company recorded a $193.8 million loss in the fourth quarter of 2016 tied to underperforming stores.

The closures will occur over the next two years, at which time the company expects to realized $100 million to $125 million in one-time cost savings. Specific locations closures have yet to be announced.

Comparable store sales fell by 14.1%, while sales over the fiscal year decreased 8.3%.

In an effort to turnaround falling sales, Michael Kors announced in Aug. 2016 that it would be making some changes to its business model, namely removing itself from the department store equation.

According to the company, deep discounts at such store led customers to think that the brand is worth less than it was, which in turn lead to dips in revenue and profit margins for both department store and standalone store sales.

In the end, the company said it would offer fewer products at department stores and exclude those items from department stores’ “friends and family sales” and coupons.

Flight Makes Emergency Landing After Laptop Battery Catches Fire

Passengers on a cross-country flight last night have all safely arrived at their destination after a surprise laptop battery fire forced the flight to make an emergency landing in Michigan.

The incident took place on JetBlue flight 915 from New York’s JFK airport to San Francisco last night, CBS News reports.

The battery was in a passenger’s backpack, near the rear of the plane, when it started emitting gouts of smoke, passengers said.

“We’re at 35,000 feet and all of a sudden we hear an announcement and we look back in row 25 and we saw everybody standing up and smoke coming around and we didn’t know what was going on,” one passenger told CBS.

The fire was put out, but the flight diverted to Grand Rapids, Michigan where it then sat on the tarmac for three hours while emergency crews took the battery away and inspected the plane. Everyone eventually continued safely on to San Francisco.

A very small percentage of lithium-ion batteries ever catch fire or explode — but as battery-powered devices become pervasive, that very low percentage begins to add up into a startling number of fires.

Last year, of course, we had the whole Samsung Galaxy Note 7 debacle, but the problem goes much deeper. CBS notes that there have already been 12 battery-related fires reported on aircraft this year, and in fact several airlines now stock and fly with fireproof bags explicitly meant to contain flaming devices in an emergency (although JetBlue does not).

The potential flammability of laptop batteries is also one concern experts have voiced over the potential expansion of a laptop ban on international flights into the U.S.: a battery fire in the passenger cabin can be quickly spotted and contained, but one in the baggage hold could do significantly more damage.

In the wake of the Note 7 double recall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said that the risk of fire from these batteries is real, and the industry needs to have and adhere to a modernized safety standard.

Dumpster Diving For Beauty Products: Is It Legal And Safe?

mardi 30 mai 2017

Kroger Recalls ‘Simple Truth’ Macadamia Nuts For Possible Listeria

If you have some Kroger Simple Truth store-brand macadamia nuts sitting around, check the package before chowing down. The nuts have been recalled over concerns about possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes

Additionally, there’s a separate, apparently unrelated, recall of Ava’s brand cashews, also for potential Listeria contamination.

Simple Truth brand macadamia nuts: What you should look for are 12-ounce clear plastic bags of dry roasted macadamia nuts. They were sold at Kroger, Bakers, Gerbes, and Dillons supermarkets in Ohio, Southeast Indiana, Northern Kentucky, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. Affected products will have a “Sell by” date of May 2, 2018. Customers with any questions about the recall can call 1-800-KROGERS.

Ava’s Cashews: These came in clear plastic 8-ounce tubs, and only a few hundred were distributed. They were sold in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. They will have a Best by date of 4/28/18. If you have questions about the recall, call 413-732-4193.

Listeria monocytogenes is a common foodborne pathogen, but one that can cause serious health complications in pregnant women, children, people with compromised immune systems, and elderly people.

It’s also one of the sneakiest foodborne illnesses, since it can lurk in your body for as long as 70 days without making you sick. Does anyone keep track of what they ate for that long?

For healthy adults, the infection may pass with no symptoms, or as only a brief gastrointestinal illness. It manifests as brief flu-like symptoms in pregnant women, but can cause serious complications for the fetus, which can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, or stillbirth.

Invasive Listeriosis can cause life-threatening meningitis in other patients, and symptoms to watch for include fever, body aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.

Twitter Creates New Inbox For Direct Messages From Strangers

Twitter has long allowed users to contact each other privately through Direct Messages, but usually only if the two accounts are following each other. That’s about to change.

Twitter will now allow strangers to DM you (if you want them to; more on that in a bit), but those messages will be filtered into a separate inbox where you can choose to delete or accept the communication.

That new feature, which sounds similar to Facebook’s “Other” inbox, only works when a user has enabled a setting that allows them to receive messages from people they don’t follow.

To do this, users must go to the “Privacy and Safety” settings on Twitter and check the box next to “Receive Direct Messages from anyone.”

Once the setting is enabled, incoming messages from people you don’t follow will appear as “Requests” in the Messages tab. Users can then either delete or accept the message. Accepting the message allows people to engage with the other person and the message will officially be moved to their inbox.

Deleting the message will remove it from your inbox. While deleting the message won’t prevent someone from sending you another in the future, the sender won’t be able to see if you delated the correspondence.

[via TechCrunch]

The Whole Foods Coconut Mystery Solved

It was a dark and stormy morning at Consumerist HQ, when we received a troubling missive: One of our readers was outraged to find that Whole Food was charging $1 more for a coconut that comes with a straw than those without. We weren’t sure what we would find, but we knew we had to crack this case — one way or another.

Consumerist reader Chris emailed us a photo he took at an Oakland, CA, Whole Foods store that shows what he believed was an outrageous surcharge for a straw, noting that it was funny, “as it seems these are the same brand of straws that are free at the door.”

As it turns out, according to a Whole Foods spokesperson, the pricier coconuts on the right don’t cost more because of the straw, but because those coconuts have already been cracked open by Whole Foods employees and are ready-to-drink. Essentially, you’re paying $1 more for the labor, and not for the free straw.

If you buy the $3.99 coconuts, you’d better have a sharp object like a machete handy* if you want to drink from it immediately after leaving the store. We do not recommend carrying around a machete.

*Editor’s note: We were thisclose to using “The Whole Foods Coconut Mystery, or How to Save $1 By Carrying A Machete” as a headline, but decided against it in the end so as not to encourage machete-carrying.

WHO: Tobacco Isn’t Just Bad For Humans, It’s Also Killing The Environment

From cancer to heart disease and many things in between, the health effects of smoking tobacco are well known. But a new report from the United Nation’s World Health Organization tries to show how all this smoke has affected the environment.

The WHO report [PDF] is being released in advance of World No Tobacco Day (which, honestly, needs a catchier name) on May 31. It looks at the agricultural impacts of cultivating tobacco and the negative consequences of manufacturing and distributing it, including the use of fossil fuels and production of hazardous waste.

It also focuses on the environmental damage caused by the immediate consumption of tobacco products, as well as “the post-consumption waste and health implications that continue to play out long after the tobacco has been smoked.”

A few key figures from WHO’s report:

• Tobacco waste contains more than 7,000 toxic chemicals that pollute the environment, including human carcinogens.

• Smoke emissions from tobacco have added up to thousands of tons of human carcinogens, toxicants, and greenhouse gases going into the environment.

• Cigarette butts and other tobacco waste account for a huge amount of trash. A 2014 study found that these items make up more than 1/3 of the refuse collected during coastal cleanups. Meanwhile, nearly 2/3 of all cigarettes purchased each day end up discarded into streets, grass, water — anywhere but a trash receptacle.

“Tobacco threatens us all,” WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said. “Tobacco exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices and pollutes indoor air.”

To address this threat to global development, WHO is urging governments to take control with measures like banning tobacco marketing and advertising, promoting plain product packaging, and making indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free.

Another valuable tool to fight tobacco use? Taxation: While it’s one of the least used methods, increasing tobacco tax and prices is one of the most effective tobacco control measures available, says Dr. Oleg Chestnov, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for NCDs and Mental Health

And although governments pull in almost $270 billion in tobacco excise tax revenues each year, WHO says this could increase by over 50% for an additional $141 billion simply by raising taxes on cigarettes by $0.80 per pack in all countries.

“By taking robust tobacco control measures, governments can safeguard their countries’ futures by protecting tobacco users and non-users from these deadly products, generating revenues to fund health and other social services, and saving their environments from the ravages tobacco causes,” Dr. Chan said.

Jacksonville TV Station Owner Fined For Airing Jaguars Ad With Bogus “Emergency Broadcast Transmission”

Imagine sitting around your Florida home in August, just as hurricane season is swinging into high gear, when your TV suddenly starts making a familiar alert sound, declaring “This is not a test. This is an emergency broadcast transmission.” Then you look up at the screen and see it’s just an ad for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not only is this a bad idea for a TV commercial; it’s also against the law.

More precisely, to “knowingly utter or transmit.. any false or fraudulent signal of distress” is a violation of Section 325(a) of the Communications Act.

Yet, in Aug. 2016, NBC affiliate WTLV in Jacksonville repeatedly broadcast the following ad, promoting the Jaguars, to local viewers:

The soundtrack to the commercial mimicked very closely one you’d hear through the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

“This is an emergency broadcast transmission. This is not a test,” announced the commercial, over slow-motion footage of Jaguars players at practice. “This is an emergency broadcast transmission. This is not a test. Please remain calm. Seek shelter.”

Folks in the area complained to the Federal Communications Commission, which launched an investigation. The ad had been supplied to WTLV by the Jaguars and ran on the station four times over the course of three days. The station told the FCC that it has policies against airing bogus EAS messages, but that station staff failed to screen this commercial before airing it.

It wasn’t until this fourth airing that a senior station staffer saw the commercial and alerted WTLV’s president to advise him that the ad might be an improper EAS broadcast.

This week, WTLV’s owner TEGNA Inc., agreed to a settlement [PDF] with the FCC, whereby the company pays $55,000 and agrees to come up with a better compliance plan.

Amazon Wants To Turn Shipping Labels Into Little Parachutes For Drone Deliveries

What if package delivery drones didn’t have to actually land to make their deliveries, and instead just dropped their cargo near your home and flew away? Amazon recently filed several variations on parachutes — in the form of shipping labels — that would soften your package’s landing.

Based on Amazon’s patent application [PDF], the parachute label would consist of multiple layers, with the drone peeling off the label at its destination and opening the parachute. A large or heavy box might have multiple parachutes attached.

Multi-layered parachute labels could also contain bar codes, coupons, or other information.

While the following drawing is certainly not to any scale, it does stand as a reminder that if drone deliveries are delivering packages via parachute, those parcels are going to be left in unsheltered areas, where they would be more vulnerable to the elements and theft:

Commercial delivery drones in the United States aren’t yet a thing, but Amazon is testing the technology and held a demonstration a few months ago where the retailer delivered some sunscreen at a conference.

This is not the wackiest idea that Amazon has had for delivering packages from drones to doorsteps. When patenting ideas to safely drop packages from hovering drones, it included a version of this parachute idea, and also also a system where flaps on boxes could be used like glider wings to sort of guide packages gently to the ground and to their destinations. The autonomous drones would pilot the glider boxes.

(via Geekwire)

Hormel Worried People Will Confuse ‘Black Label’ Beggin’ Strips With Its Real Bacon

Hormel makes bacon for human consumption, while Nestlé Purina makes bacon — or Beggin’ Strips — for dogs. The bacon and Beggin’ worlds have generally played nice with each other, but then Purina came out with “Black Label” Beggin’ Strips, which hits too close to home for Hormel.

In a federal lawsuit [PDF] filed last week in a Minnesota court, Hormel accuses Purina of trademark infringement and false designation for using the “black label” description to advertise a new line of dog treats.

Hormel takes issue with the Jan. 2017 launch of Purina’s new line of bacon-shaped “real meat” dog treats that use of the designation “black label,” the same mark Hormel has used on products since 1963.

According to the lawsuit, Purina’s recent use of the “black label” designation is likely to cause confusion among customers related to the origin or sponsorship of Purina’s products.

Purina’s products feature a large image of bacon-shaped treats touting that it contains “real pork” as the “no. 1 ingredient,” and the “black label” designation front and center.

Additionally, Hormel claims that Purina has created advertisements showing that its products have the appearance of real bacon, which the company depicts in ads as floating against a black backdrop, a look “strikingly similar to a number of Hormel advertisements for its Black Label brand products.”

Hormel further claims that Purina has purchased keyword search advertising for the terms “black label bacon.” When a customer searches the terms sponsored online advertisements for Purina’s black label bacon-shaped dog treats are triggered.

In addition to plastering the label on packages of treats, Hormel claims that Purina has also used Hormel’s likeness in television advertisements for the treats.

One specific commercial from 2012, titled “Beggin’ Strips — Get That Bacon on the Meat Aisle,” features a dog sniffing down a grocery bacon case, with shots that include Hormel’s Black Label bacon.

Hormel contends that it approached Purina about the use of black label in January. However, the company has continued “its wrongful use of the identical mark in connection with bacon-shaped ‘real meat’ dog treats.”

“By using BLACK LABEL in connection with its bacon-shaped, ‘real meat’ dog treats without Hormel Foods’s authorization, [Purina] is causing consumer confusion, mistake or deception, and is willfully and intentionally trading upon the goodwill in the BLACK LABEL mark that Hormel Foods has developed at its considerable expense and effort,” the lawsuit states.

Hormel claims that by using the label Purina “has caused and is causing Hormel Foods substantial and irreparable harm and injury.”

Consumerist is reaching out to Purina for comment and will update when we receive a response.

Homeland Security Won’t Expand Laptop Ban To Flights From Europe (For Now)

The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed to Consumerist that it will not be expanding a ban on laptops in the cabins of U.S.-bound aircraft to cover flights coming from Europe. At the same time, DHS cautions that this restriction still remains a possibility in the future.

A spokesman for the DHS told Consumerist that Secretary John Kelly spoke on the phone with European Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Violeta Bulc, the EU’s Transport Commissioner, on Tuesday to discuss aviation security.

While on the call, the three “agreed on the need to raise the bar for aviation security globally, including through a range of potential seen and unseen enhancements,” and committed to working together to “secure global aviation,” while keeping the lines of communication and cooperation clear.

“Finally, while a much-discussed expansion of the ban on large electronic devices in the cabin on flights to the United States was not announced today, the Secretary made it clear that an expansion is still on the table,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Secretary Kelly said he would do whatever it takes to secure passenger flights heading to the U.S. — “including prohibiting large electronic devices from the passenger cabin – if the intelligence and threat level warrant it.”

“Over the last few months DHS has continuously reached out to global aviation partners regarding serious and evolving threats to aviation, and the Department will continue to do so,” the spokesperson told Consumerist.

Court Temporarily Halts School’s Expulsion Of Student Who ‘Liked’ Racist Instagram Images

Four California high school students who were suspended earlier this year for their alleged support or complicity with a racist Instagram account will not immediately have to face the immediate possibility of expulsion or further disciplinary action after a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order against the school district.

Students from the small East Bay Area city of Albany, CA, do not dispute that they followed another student’s Instagram account that they admit had “prejudiced and potentially bigoted overtones.” This account, which is now deleted, reportedly featured threatening and insulting images of about a dozen female students (almost exclusively minorities).

After that account came to the attention of school administrators, several students were suspended for liking or commenting on these posts. After serving their suspension, four Albany juniors sued the school district [PDF], alleging violation of their First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

They contend that the school not only wrongly suspended them for constitutionally protected conduct that occurred privately, outside of class, but that the administration put three of the plaintiffs at risk by forcing them to attend a public rally where the plaintiffs say they were attacked verbally and physically.

That complaint also sought a temporary restraining order that would prevent the school from moving forward with additional disciplinary actions, including expulsion, pending the outcome of the students’ lawsuit.

On Friday, a federal judge granted that order [PDF], explicitly halting one student’s June 1 expulsion hearing and barring the school from “holding any disciplinary proceedings or taking any other disciplinary action against plaintiffs based on the conduct that is at issue in this case.”

The judge said that this case raises serious questions about the First Amendment rights now that, “outside of the official school environment, students are instant messaging, texting, emailing, Twittering, Tumblring, and otherwise communicating electronically.”

“The application of the Supreme Court’s school speech jurisprudence to the type of off-campus speech at issue in this case raises open and complex questions that our circuit has expressly held are not amendable to ‘a one-size fits all approach,'” explains the judge. “The questions here include, among others: the degree to which First Amendment protections apply to the students’ off-campus speech on Instagram; which analytical framework applies and what outcome is dictated by the relevant analysis; and how, if at all, the analysis is affected by the fact that plaintiffs did not directly post the images but only commented on them.”

Given that these issues are serious enough to require that a court settle the dispute, the judge concludes that they are therefore sufficient for granting a restraining order.

The judge did not, however, grant the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction that would have forced the school to remove “any and all record of disciplinary action” against these students, or allow the students to make up work or take tests they missed as a result of the suspension. The whole point of a restraining order, explains the court, is to preserve the status quo. Scrubbing the students’ records or allowing them to retroactively improve their grades would go beyond the scope of merely keeping the status quo intact.

The students’ lawyers and the school will be back in court on July 13 for a hearing on motions for summary judgment.

Welcome To The Fifth Circle Of The Denim Inferno: A $445 Sundress Made From Upside-Down Jeans

Did you ever take an old pair of jeans, cut the legs along the inseams, sew in some fabric, and call it a skirt? That’s a popular do-it-yourself project, but one fashion brand has taken that idea and flipped it upside down. The latest item in the ongoing overpriced weird denim trend is like a skirt in this style, but flipped, with the jeans’ waistband dangling around the wearer’s knees.

The construction of this dress, which you can buy for $445 from ShopBop, raises many interesting questions. The company behind it, 6397, also sells jeans. Do they make two full pairs of jeans, then cut them apart and sew in the denim panels? Probably not, since this dress uses the fronts of two pairs. Regular dark-colored jeans from this brand sell for $265, and making a whole pair of jeans only to throw away half would be wasteful.

We learned about this item from Fortune, which pointed out that while this dress has four pockets, they’re all useless, since they’re upside down. That seems like a waste of some very nice pockets.

If it costs a few hundred bucks while also looking like it was assembled by a 12-year-old let loose with a sewing machine, it must be a denim item from 2017. This upside-down creation follows other impressive projects like the knee window jeans, clear jeans, jeans soaked in fake mud, and cold-thigh jeans that convert into denim panties.

Why The Supreme Court’s Ruling In Toner Cartridge Case Is A Win For Consumers

How To Get Your Refund From Amazon For Your Kids’ Unauthorized In-App Purchases

If you’ve been waiting patiently for a refund from Amazon for in-app purchases your kids made without your permission, your time has come.

More than a year ago, Amazon was found liable for unfairly billing parents for kids’ in-app purchases. purchases. Then, in April, Amazon and the Federal Trade Commission each agreed to drop their appeals, paving the way for the refund process to begin.

If you’re eligible for a refund, the FTC says you should be receiving an email directly from Amazon. If you don’t get that email but believe you’re due money from this settlement, you can go to the retailer’s refund site here.

You can also log into your Amazon account and go to the Message Center to find information about requesting a refund under “Important Messages.”

More than $70 million in charges incurred between Nov. 2011 and May 2016 may be eligible for refunds, the FTC says. The deadline for submitting refund requests is May 28, 2018.

Questions about your individual refund? Call at Amazon at 866-216-1072.

Delta Passenger Claims He Was Interrogated After Falling Asleep On Flight

A Delta Air Lines passenger claims he was yelled at by a flight attendant and grilled by law enforcement after he fell asleep on a recent flight.

Yes, you read that correctly: The New York Daily News reports that the 30-year-old Moroccan-born man was flying from North Carolina to New York on May 8 with his fiancée on a flight operated by ExpressJet.

He says a flight attendant had spotted him yawning, and approached him, asking if everything was okay. He told her he was fine, that he was just tired. Soon after, he says he was about to nod off when the attendant yelled at him and told him he should move to a seat in an empty row across the aisle.

He said he’d rather stay in his seat, next to his fiancée, and remained where he was. When he got off the plane, he claims he was interrogated for almost 40 minutes by police at LaGuardia Airport.

“All this interrogation, all these questions,” he told the NYDN. “Then the police officer realized that this is nothing more than just discrimination against color and race.”

Delta said in a statement that its crew decided to contact law enforcement officials “based on their observance of concerning behaviors by the passenger toward his seat companion, including physical actions and verbal tones.”

But his fiancée says he was behaving normally during the flight.

“It was embarrassing to be in that situation and for doing what? Yawning and sleeping on the airplane or just for being a Muslim?” she told the NYDN.

ExpressJet operated the flight, saying in a statement that “The circumstances surrounding this event are still under investigation.”

“At ExpressJet, we train our crews to use their professional experience and practice best judgment to ensure the safety of all of our customers,” the airline said. “While we regret the inconvenience caused to the passengers, the safety and security of everyone on board is our top priority and cannot be compromised.”

The man’s lawyer says he’ll be taking action against the airline, because he doesn’t want the same thing to happen to others. He says his client also wants Delta to investigate the situation, saying it was “disgraceful” that the couple had to go through such an ordeal.

Passenger Kicked Off Southwest Flight Tries To Run Back On Plane, Gets Tackled Instead

A man who was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight last night was not going to take no for an answer, and apparently thought he could somehow run his way back onto the plane. He was mistaken.

According to CBS Chicago, the incident — some of which was caught on video — began shortly after travelers boarded the Chicago-bound plane in Las Vegas.

One passenger tells CBS Chicago that the man entered the restroom after boarding and would not leave. Once the crew convinced him to leave the restroom, he was asked to leave the plane. But the traveler apparently wasn’t ready to give up on his journey to Chicago just yet.

“Next thing you know, he tried to fight his way back on, and that’s when the Southwest guys came and got him,” one passenger tells CBS. Another traveler notes that the man’s second entry onto the plane was violent and that he pushed people out of his way.

Video of the incident shows a Southwest employee holding the man, whose hands were eventually zip-tied, down on the plane’s floor until Las Vegas police officers took him away.

A rep for Southwest tells CBS that its crew members acted appropriately to remedy the situation.

“The passenger became unruly and our employees utilized their training to manage the situation until local law enforcement could assist with removing the passenger from the flight,” the company said.

The flight landed in Chicago about an hour behind schedule.

RadioShack Closed All But 70 Stores This Weekend

Unless you happened to walk or drive past a RadioShack this weekend, you may not have realized that Memorial Day weekend 2017 marked the end of almost all of the chain’s stores. It once had more than 7,300 locations, and now it’s down to 70 corporate stores and a few hundred franchisees.

RadioShack plans to (maybe) survive with those few dozen stores, the remaining franchisees, and by selling online. Will customers be interested in buying online once the supposed “clearance” sales are over? Does the RadioShack brand hold any value other than nostalgia?

“We have heard countless stories and truly appreciate the millions of employees and customers that have made RadioShack their neighborhood convenience electronics store for the past century,” the company said in its farewell press release, “and we invite every home in America to come innovate with us one last time.”

By “innovate,” the company seems to mean “buy everything that isn’t nailed down,” including whatever you can stuff in a bag. Its Twitter posts have become almost unbearably sad, and corporate social media still frames the closures as “select locations.” That is true in the sense that the chain has selected pretty much all of its stores to close.

If you miss the days when RadioShack sold toaster-sized answering machines and the TRS-80, the company apparently found a cache of old merchandise that would put the Raiders of the Lost Walmart to shame, and is holding an online auction. Want a gold ladies’ watch with the RadioShack logo, or a box of framed stock certificates that are now extra-worthless after the company has filed for bankruptcy twice? Now that your local store has been picked over, the online auction is your last chance.

Belgian King “Not Happy” With Burger King’s Effort To Unseat Him

Who is more deserving to be the Belgian monarch: A man who was — literally — born to do the job, or a fast food chain? However silly that question might sound, it’s one that the actual King of Belgium would rather Burger King didn’t ask.

BK is opening its first restaurant in Belgium in June, and to promote the event it’s launched a campaign called “Who is the king?” featuring a cartoon likeness of King Philippe of Belgium, who ascended to the throne in 2013 after his father abdicated.

Reps for the monarch tell Reuters that they are “not happy with them using an image of the king in their campaign.”

Visitors to are presented with a cartoon version of the king and a Burger King burger and asked to vote. “Two Kings. One crown. Who will rule? Vote now … ” the site reads.

If you click on King Philippe, a popup asks, “Are you sure? He won’t be the one to cook your fries.”

“We disapprove of this approach,” royal spokesman Pierre Emmanuel de Bauw told the BBC. “Since it is for commercial purposes, we would not have given our authorization.”

After the monarch’s representatives expressed their displeasure, a spokeswoman for Burger Brands Belgium says the company is weighing whether to tweak the advertising. As of May 30, the cartoon king remains.

“We are deliberating on how to proceed,” she told Reuters. “Should we make a change to our campaign we would communicate that.”