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The Consumerist

Cat Lost For 2 Weeks In JFK Airport Found Alive

Thu, 2015-04-16 22:39

Felix's Carrier, without Felix. (Friends of Jack)

Felix’s Carrier, without Felix. (Friends of Jack)

While it only took a few hours for a wolverine roaming Newark airport to be caught and contained, an even more wily creature roamed a different airport in the New York metropolitan area for two weeks. Felix the cat, who was moving from the United Arab Emirates to the U.S. along with his owners, escaped from his carrier when the top was crushed. Fortunately, searchers found him safe and in good health.

While they’re happy to have their cat back, his owners are rather upset that they paid $1,200 to ship a pet in the cargo hold. “For them to take a cat and ship him like he was cargo, not a live animal, makes me sick,” one of his owners told CNN. “You trust that people care and are doing the job well, and then this happens.”

Searchers used trained dogs to sniff out where the cat had recently been, and placed humane traps in those areas. Two weeks after Felix went missing, he turned up in one of those traps.

To soothe cat-lovers’ souls, here’s a photo of Felix reunited with one of his owners.

(Friends of Jack)

(Friends of Jack)

In a statement to CNN before Felix was found, the airline responsible for Felix during the flight, Etihad, said that they plan to review their pet-handling procedures, and “the safety and care of pets traveling with Etihad Airways is a top priority.”

“Friends of Jack” is a group dedicated to finding pets lost in airports. Jack was a cat who escaped from his carrier at JFK in 2011 when his owner was moving from New York to California. He was eventually found after two months, and was too malnourished and sick to survive. Group leaders are determined that no pet should have to go through that, and it organizes volunteers all over the world to help find them. Volunteers do everything from searching airports and the surrounding area with scent dogs to simply calling local veterinarians and shelters to check whether missing pets have turned up.

Friends of Jack [Facebook]

You Can Now Google “Find My Phone” To Locate Your Lost Android Device

Thu, 2015-04-16 22:19

FindMyPhone_1024x512 (1)A new update to the Google app on Android devices now allows users to merely Google “find my phone” and get not just the location of the device, but also the ability to remotely lock it or erase it.

It’s really simple, as long as you do the “find my phone” search while logged in using the same account that you used to register your phone.

We tried it, and within seconds our (admittedly not lost) Android phone was located on Google Maps. It says that the accuracy is within 15 meters, but this appeared to be the exact location.

Once the phone is discovered, you have the option of making it ring at full volume for 5 seconds — which is good for those of us who constantly find their phones hiding between couch cushions or under the bed.

You also have the ability to lock the phone so that it can’t be used and remotely erase the data on the device.

As the Wall Street Journal points out Google has offered something similar through its Android Device Manager app. This just makes it easier to access all these features.

70% Of Coupon Users Still Use Print Circulars For Savings

Thu, 2015-04-16 21:39



If you use coupons, what type do you use? Some surprising information came up at this week’s Association of Coupon Professionals conference, which is an actual thing. It’s not surprising that such a conference would discuss how much consumers like coupons, but it is surprising that 71% of consumers reportedly still use paper coupons.

Yep. Dead-tree coupons are still a thing! While retailers can distribute coupons digitally to more people more efficiently, the study found that redemption rates were much higher for old-fashioned paper coupons. It’s notable that the survey was only about consumer packaged goods: food, toiletries, and other items that you’d find coupons for in a circular in the newspaper. What about coupons for clothing stores and other retail venues? They didn’t present information on that, and it would be interesting to see the results.

Even millennials, the generation of American consumers broadly defined as “anyone younger than the Consumerist editors,” apparently still like paper coupons. According to this study, 61% of millennials still use coupons that came in flyers, as opposed to digital coupons that they printed out. Where are they getting these coupons?

70% Of Consumers Still Look To Traditional Paper-Based Coupons For Savings [GfK Research]

Taco Bell Denies Its First Customer Loyalty Program Will Be Called “Taco Baller” Despite Trademark Application

Thu, 2015-04-16 21:15



How many soft tacos and burritos have traveled down your gullet without anyone ever recognizing the event? The number might be inestimable for some, but starting soon, Taco Bell customers will be able to mark each food occasion by way of a new customer-loyalty program the company is rolling out sometime this year.

In a first for the brand, Taco Bell says the program will work less like a card tallying customers’ purchases and offering a reward upon completion, and instead act like a game through its mobile-phone application, reports Bloomberg.

“We’re thinking of our experience as more of a game and less your traditional punch card,” said Tressie Lieberman, senior director of digital platforms and social engagement, without offering the name of the plan or any other details about how it works.

Though the company filed a U.S. trademark application for the phrase “Taco Baller” for a customer-loyalty program earlier this month, Lieberman says that’s not the name of the new program.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what else a Taco Baller customer loyalty program could be.

Taco Bell to Start Loyalty Program for First Time [Bloomberg]

Verizon Promises Live Sports On New Mobile Streaming TV Service — But Not The Ones You Actually Watch

Thu, 2015-04-16 21:15



TV, as in programming we all like to watch, is a great bet for the future. TV, as in rabbit ears or a cable box, maybe less so. Everyone and their grandmother is leaping to get content available over the internet. From Sony to CBS to HBO to Netflix, streaming services, both for your home and for your mobile device, are the hot new thing. And Verizon wants to play that game too.

Verizon first announced their plans for a new over-the-top TV streaming service back in September, 2014. At the time, details were scant. Last month, they finally provided a few morsels of ingormation, like a timeline (this summer).

Verizon already offers mobile streaming for customers with FiOS, but the as-yet-unnamed streaming service is something else altogether. It is, Verizon touts, “a mobile-first solution that redefines over-the-top video for wireless customers.”

In an announcement today, Verizon also promised basically the holy grail of non-cable video services: live sports programming.

Sports are basically the great anchor keeping subscribers on their cable packages. For fans of pro and college ball (of all seasons and types), the best way to see your favorite teams is still with a traditional package from your (not so) friendly local cable or satellite provider. Getting the rights to a broad spectrum of live sports is a coup for any OTT provider.

But here’s the catch. The new service, Verizon specifies, will include the ACC Digital Network, Campus Insiders, 120 Sports, selections from CBS Sports, and selected live games and documentaries from ESPN.

Campus Insiders and 120 Sports are services that specialize in repackaged material and highlight clips. And that “selected” content from CBS and ESPN is a big fat asterisk.

In other words: it’s not really bringing you the full season of football, basketball, or even baseball — pro or college — that sports fans so desire. Tech site Re/Code asked aruond and was told that Verizon’s service will have dozens of games from CBS Sports and ESPN, but not the high-profile ones: “A CBS rep says those games will come from College Sports Live, its pay service that shows lower-profile college games. Verizon also says it will show ‘select live college football and college basketball games’ from ESPN; a person familiar with the company says those games will come from ESPN 3, the digital network ESPN offers to pay TV subscribers with access to its linear TV channels.”

Not the big-budget stuff. And probably not the games you actually most want to watch.

Live sports programming is still the trickiest thing to find at a low cost, for consumers. Dish’s Sling service probably comes closest, offering a whole bunch of EPSN’s networks plus TNT. CBS has launched its own service, but NFL games (Sunday and Thursday Night football) are specifically excluded from streaming on it. AT&T is trying to capture NFL Sunday Ticket for mobile as part of their planned merger with DirecTV.

Putting together a full package of streaming sports is still a complicated, patchwork endeavor without having a monthly pay-TV subscription. Verizon’s new streaming service may or may not prove to be a good deal for Verizon Wireless customers, but for hardcore sports fans, it’s not going to be enough.

[via Re/Code]

Frederick’s Of Hollywood Closes All Stores, Moves Business Online

Thu, 2015-04-16 20:49



Just two months ago Frederick’s of Hollywood made plans to shutter one-third of its stores, keeping just 60 locations open. Since then, the company appears to have drastically rethought its “re-engineering” strategy, announcing today that it will close all stores and move to an online-only business model.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the lingerie store has struggled to keep up with rival Victoria’s Secret in recent years.

The company announced its new business strategy on its website: “We no longer have store locations. Our online store offers the same selection of products.”

Moving sales solely online will, in a sense, bring Frederick’s back to its early years. The company began with just one store in the late 1940s, offering only mail order catalogs before expanding into malls in the 1960s, the L.A. Times reports.

Retail experts say that the move online could be a profitable move for the lingerie store.

“An online business is nothing more than another retail store without fixed rent,” Ron Friedman, an expert with consulting and accounting firm Marcum, tells the L.A. Times. “They have to really focus and hire people that really understand the online business.”

Frederick’s of Hollywood closes all stores, strips down to Web [The Los Angeles Times]

Netflix Bases International Pricing On Country’s Piracy Level

Thu, 2015-04-16 20:46

(Mrs. Gemstone)

(Mrs. Gemstone)

Netflix has rapidly expanded beyond the borders of the U.S. and now has 60 million subscribers worldwide. However the price of Netflix service varies from country to country, and the company says this is due in no small part to local piracy levels.

“Piracy is a governor in terms of our price in high piracy markets outside the U.S.,” said Netflix Chief Financial Officer David Wells on the most recent quarterly earnings call for the company.

Netflix recently launched in Australia, where piracy is more popular than in other parts of the world. And while the approx. $9.37/month Netflix charges for HD streaming in Australia is slightly higher than the comparable $8.99/month plan here in the U.S., it’s less expensive than other streaming options in the country.

“We wouldn’t want to come out with a high price because there’s a lot of piracy, so we have to compete with that,” explained Wells.

Netflix’s head of content Ted Sarandos said that the best way to combat piracy is to bring Netflix to high-piracy markets. Give people an affordable option with the content they want, and you’ll convert them into paying customers, according to Sarandos.

“The real great news is that in the piracy capitals of the world Netflix is winning. We’re pushing down piracy in those markets by getting access,” he said during the investor call.

[via TorrentFreak]

Colorado DOT Installing Fake Arcade Racing Game At Pot Shops To Warn Players Against Driving While High

Thu, 2015-04-16 20:19

(CBS Denver)

(CBS Denver)

Now that marijuana is legal in Colorado, state officials want to make sure that drivers know it’s not just alcohol that shouldn’t be with you behind the wheel, but pot as well. The state’s Department of Transportation is publicizing that message ahead of the April 20 (4/20) celebrations in the state by way of a fake driving game installed at various dispensaries.

Officials are warning drivers in the state that they don’t belong the wheel after partaking or puffing as part of their 2015 “Drive High, Get A DUI” campaign, reports CBS Denver.

Ten Denver dispensaries feature a fake video game called “End Game,” where at first, it seems to be just another racing adventure. That’s until a public service announcement pops up, reminding players that driving while stoned is illegal.

This, because the CDOT says 20% of drivers who use marijuana in Colorado are unaware they can get a DUI by driving high. Another 50% admit to having driven high — and some of them may gave gotten caught: 12% of the Colorado State Patrol’s DUIs in 2014 related to pot.

“I don’t think people really realize that you can become just as impaired, it’s just as dangerous, when you drive high verses after consuming a few beers,” Sam Cole with CDOT said.

In additional efforts to spread the message, CDOT is partnering with Yellow Cab for the 4/20 event in downtown Denver, to have a Cannabis Quiz Cab driving people around.

“When folks get in the cab, they’re going to be asked questions about the dangers of marijuana and driving. For each question they get correct they’ll get a credit for a future ride,” Cole said.

New Video Games At Denver Pot Dispensaries Aren’t What They Seem [CBS Denver]

The Other Danger Of Online Payday Loans: Identity Theft

Thu, 2015-04-16 19:52
(C x 2)

(C x 2)

Many people who seek online payday loans are already in a very vulnerable position when they take on the added risk of the excessive interest rates and often exorbitant fees associated with these short-term loans. But there’s another danger possibly lurking in the payday shadows: Having all their personal and financial data end up in the hands of cyber criminals.

Bloomberg reports that as millions of consumers turn to online payday lenders – companies known to skirt state laws in order to provide high-interest, short-term loans – for needed lines of credit, they’re also putting their most valuable information up for grabs.

Cybersecurity experts say that the highly sensitive information online payday lenders and lead generators store – such as names, Social Security numbers, addresses and financial data – have made the companies an increasingly tempting target for hackers.

While online payday lenders aren’t the only entities to carry such sensitive consumer information, experts say that larger banks often have more robust cybersecurity defenses.

But even those institutions aren’t exempt from devastating hacks. Just last year, information for 76 million households and 7 million small businesses was compromised in a mega coordinated attack against JPMorgan Chase and other banks.

And it’s not just consumers who take out an online payday loan that are vulnerable to this kind of breach, those who have simply researched the option or shown interest in the credit have also put their data at risk.

Lead generators and clearinghouses often collected personal information from consumers looking for payday loans. Those companies then sell that data to actual payday lenders, creating another avenue in which criminals can get their hands on personal data – either through a hack or by purchasing the information.

In fact, the Federal Trade Commission shut down one such operation that made $46 million by issuing unauthorized payday loans to consumers who had provided their information to a third-party lead generator.

According to the FTC complaint [PDF], the operation purchased the information from the lead generators and, without approval from the borrower, used it to deposit money — typically between $200 to $300 — in a borrower’s account.

Once the unauthorized “loan” was deposited, the defendants would then allegedly withdraw recurring bi-weekly “finance charges” of up to $90, quickly racking in millions of dollars.

Andrew Komarov, president and chief intelligence officer of cybersecurity firm IntelCrawler, tells Bloomberg that criminals accessing consumers’ personal information through online payday lenders is a “new wave of fraud.”

To illustrate his point, Komarov says that IntelCrawler recently obtained several databases from a seller on a hacking forum who claims to have access to lending information for more than 105 million consumers.

Bloomberg contacted several consumers on the list and many said their data came from payday loan applications.

One man told Bloomberg that he was notified last November that two accounts he had with a bank – and had previously provided to a payday lenders – had been hacked multiple times. In all, he says he lost about $1,100.

Hackers getting their hands on consumers’ personal information through online payday lenders isn’t exactly a new worry for consumer advocates.

Tom Feltner, director of financial services for the Consumer Federation of America says that these kinds of breaches highlight a significant threat to the financial system.

“When you have this amount of information in this level of detail about consumers that may have taken out a loan or are considering taking out a loan, that puts their bank accounts at considerable risk,” he tells Bloomberg.

Representatives for the online lending industry tell Bloomberg they’re working to expose fraudulent practices, like companies that knowingly sell consumer information to identity thieves. But that could be easier said than done, considering the thousands of online payday lenders working online.

“The challenge is that people go on lots of different sites—some of those sites are fraudulent sites that are put up there exactly for this purpose: capturing this data,” Lisa McGreevy, chief executive officer of the Online Lenders Alliance, tells Bloomberg.

While the industry tries to find unscrupulous lenders, consumers are left wondering if their information is up for grabs.

For advocates like Feltner, the vulnerability of already-struggling consumers’ information is just another reason payday loan reform need to occur sooner, rather than later.

How Hackers Can Cash In on Your Online Payday Loans [Bloomberg]

Entrepreneur Wants To Sell Un-Frozen Artisanal Ice Cubes

Thu, 2015-04-16 19:50
tudor ice

(Tudor Ice)

Last fall, we learned that artisanal ice cubes were an actual thing. Bars charge $1 extra for them, and they supposedly melt more slowly, leading to a less watery beverage experience and bragging rights. They cost about $1 per giant cube, and here’s the weird part: they ship unfrozen.

Wait, what? Why would anyone ship pre-frozen ice to customers, defeating the entire point of buying ice? With artisanal ice cubes, the point isn’t the temperature: freezers are very common, but it’s the formula of the water that’s important for creating ice free of clouds, bubbles, and contaminants.

This new venture has an interesting background: it’s named after the American “Ice King” of the 19th century, Frederic Tudor, who found a way to preserve and ship massive blocks of ice from New England all over the world during the pre-refrigeration era. One of Tudor’s descendants is an investor in this new venture, and happened to have already trademarked the name “Tudor Ice Company.”

Here’s the $5.99 question, though: are the un-frozen ice cubes any good? They’re sold in 6-packs that cost $5.99, which is not cheap, but if you’re buying artisanal ice cubes, you’re probably not very cost-conscious to start with. Bloomberg News froze up some samples, and they found them cloudy. Boo. They’ll have to be flawless in order to get anyone interested in this product.

Going Clear: Artisanal Ice [Bloomberg News]

The Man Who Shipped New England Ice Around the World
The Development of the Ice Trade [PBS]

Virginia’s Highest Court Says Yelp Doesn’t Have To ID Anonymous Reviewers

Thu, 2015-04-16 19:43

(Rich Rogala)

(Rich Rogala)

For nearly two years, we’ve been telling you about the Virginia carpet cleaner trying to compel Yelp to identify seven of anonymous users so that the business could name them in a defamation lawsuit. After Yelp lost legal battles in both the trial and appeals courts, the state’s highest court today ruled in favor of the review site, but only because the subpoena was served in the wrong state.

A quick recap of this case. In 2012, the carpet cleaner filed suit against seven anonymous Yelp reviewers, claiming they had deliberately and maliciously posted false, negative reviews. The company then subpoenaed Yelp, requesting the real identities of these John Doe defendants.

Yelp objected, claiming its users’ rights would be violated if they were identified without the plaintiff first proving that certain conditions had been met. In Nov. 2012, a trial court in Alexandria, VA, ordered Yelp to abide by the subpoena and provide the requested information to the plaintiff.

Yelp offered a compromise — it would investigate the cleaner’s claims while maintain the anonymity of the users pending the outcome of the investigation. The cleaner declined this offer and the court found Yelp in contempt.

Yelp, working with the advocates at Public Citizen, appealed in May 2013, arguing that a plaintiff must show evidence that a defamation lawsuit has merit before Yelp should be compelled to identify the users. Additionally, there should be a factual showing that the statements made by the John Doe defendants are, in fact, false and defamatory, argued the appeal. But the appeals court again sided with the plaintiff.

The legal catch-22 in this case involved whether or not the reviewers in question were actual customers of the cleaning service. The company insisted they were not, but obviously could not prove that without being able to concretely identify them. Yelp maintained that the reviews in question were materially no different than other reviews that the cleaner did not contest.

In its appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court, Yelp argued that while the carpet cleaner claims that the John Doe reviews were written by non-customers, the company has “offered no evidence to support its belief, no description of its investigation… and no explanation of how its investigation led it to that belief.”

But in the end, today’s ruling doesn’t ponder the First Amendment issues involved in the case. Instead, it looks at whether the carpet cleaner should have issued a subpoena in California — where Yelp and all its relevant files are based — rather than in Virginia.

The carpet cleaner’s lawyer could have presented a subpoena to the clerk’s office of a California circuit court (along with the proper application and fee, of course), which would have obliged the clerk to issue a California subpoena. But instead, the plaintiff presented the subpoena to a representative of Yelp in Virginia.

To the Virginia Supreme Court, this is not sufficient to compel a California company that is not a party to the lawsuit to abide by the subpoena.

“The information sought by [the Plaintiff] is stored by Yelp in the usual course of its business on administrative databases within the custody or control of only specified Yelp employees located in San Francisco, and thus, beyond the reach of the circuit court,” reads the ruling [PDF].

“Although we were hoping the court would rule on both jurisdictional and First Amendment grounds, this is still an important win,” said Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen attorney representing Yelp.

But this isn’t the end of the matter. While Yelp is no longer obliged to abide by the original subpoena, the carpet cleaner can now go through the process of seeking a subpoena through the California courts.

If that happens, Levy contends that “those courts will require it to show evidence to meet the well-accepted First Amendment test for identifying anonymous speakers.”

Veterinarians Warning Pet Owners In Midwest Over Canine Flu Outbreak That’s Sickened Hundreds Of Dogs

Thu, 2015-04-16 19:24

(Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie)

(Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie)

While we humans dread the arrival of flu season every year, we aren’t the only ones who can get sick by coming into close contact with the fellow members of our species. Veterinarians in the Midwest are warning pet owners over a recent canine flu outbreak, telling them to keep sick pooches away from clinic waiting rooms filled with their furry brethren.

At least 1,000 dogs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana have been sickened by the H3N2 strain of the flu virus, reports the Associated Press, though it’s not clear yet how effective current vaccines are against this particular strain.

Dogs can develop a persistent cough, runny nose and fever, and although the virus can’t jump to humans, cats could fall ill from it as well. A small percentage of pups will develop more severe symptoms, experts say, with some deaths associated to the H3N2 infection.

Clinical assistant professor Keith Poulsen of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine advises pet owners with sick dogs to make arrangements with their vet to schedule a test outside the veterinary clinic, to cut down on the risk of infecting other dogs.

As such, keeping your sick pets away from anywhere they’d sniff, lick or otherwise interact with their friends is a good idea.

“It’s really no different if you’re talking about dogs or toddlers, if you think they’re sick, don’t bring them to day care,” Poulsen said.

Canine flu outbreak sickens hundreds of dogs in Midwest [Associated Press]

Walmart Raises Suspicions After Closing 4 Stores In Same Day For “Plumbing” Problems

Thu, 2015-04-16 19:05

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The four stores — two in Texas, one in California, and another in Florida — were all closed on Monday without advance notice to shoppers or the thousands of affected employees. At each of the stores, the reason given for the closures — which are estimated to last upwards of six months — was problems with plumbing.

However, some local officials are questioning the veracity of this claim.

In Pico Rivera, CA, the City Manager tells CBS Los Angeles that he was blindsided by the closure, which affects more than 500 workers in the area. As of yesterday, he said that the city hadn’t received any permit requests from the store.

Some employees at this store are questioning the motive, as it’s been a focal point of the pro-union OUR Walmart movement, and was the first location to stage a wage-related walkout back in 2012.

“This is the first store that went on strike. This is the first store in demanding changes for Walmart,” said one employee.

Walmart’s closure of a Tampa-area store is likewise being met with skepticism.

The Hillsborough County Commissioner tells WFLA that the store “didn’t mention anything about plumbing,” just “repairs and updates to the store.”

A Walmart plumbing technician, one of the 400 employees who could be out of work until the holidays, tells the station that the plumbing explanation lacks credibility.

“Even if they had to replace the whole sewer line, it wouldn’t take six months to replace a whole sewer line in that store,” he says.

Additionally, while this closure is being listed as temporary, a letter sent to the county claims the layoffs are permanent.

An ABC News report out of Tampa claims that no plumbing permits have been pulled in any of the municipalities where Walmart closed stores on Monday.

A city official from Midland, TX, tells ABC that his plumbing inspector was sent away when he tried to visited the closed store earlier this week to help them secure necessary permits.

We’ve written to Walmart HQ seeking comment on these reports and will update if we hear anything back.

Uber Won’t Allow Drivers To Discriminate Against Gay Passengers Even If A State Law Allows It

Thu, 2015-04-16 18:51
(Alan Rappa)

(Alan Rappa)

Even as lawmakers in Oklahoma sign off on a ridesharing service bill that removes protections for gay and transgender passengers, Uber has made it clear that changes to state laws will not alter its anti-discrimination policy.

A bill outlining how Oklahoma regulates ridesharing programs like Uber and Lyft [PDF] passed the state’s Senate on Wednesday, after removing language from a House-passed bill [PDF] that had outlawed discrimination in the industry against passengers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

From Section 14 of the original House bill “Oklahoma Transportation Network Company Services Act” (bolding ours) dated April 1:

“TNCs shall adopt a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of destination, race, color, national origin, religious belief, religious affiliation, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity with respect to passengers and potential passengers and notify TNC drivers of such policy.”

In the same section of the amended bill, written by Sen. Jason Smalley that passed the state Senate on April 15, those bolded words are missing:

“TNCs shall adopt a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of destination, race, color, national origin, religious belief, religious affiliation, sex, disability, or age with respect to passengers and potential passengers and notify TNC drivers of such policy.”

According to the Associated Press, Sen. Smalley said he removed those terms because he thinks private businesses should be allowed to establish their own policies regarding discrimination.

“I believe if a private business owner wants to serve or not serve an individual, they have that purview right now,” he said.

Sen. John Sparks tried and failed before the Senate bill passed to include an amendment [PDF] that would require drivers to tell passengers they’re of the discriminating sort, and explain exactly who they’re not going to drive:

“Any person not wanting to comply with the non-discrimination provisions set forth in subsection A of this section based on sexual orientation or gender identity shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including exteriors of vehicles, mobile phone applications and website. The notice may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which individuals the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“Why should you be able to discriminate?” Sparks said. “We’re talking about a level of civil conduct in the marketplace. Society has figured out that when you enter the marketplace, you should have an expectation of being treated fairly.”

Although the Senate bill opens the door to such discrimination, both Uber and Lyft have policies in place that expressly prohibit drivers from doing so.

“Uber’s policy is to serve every neighborhood, every driver and every person who needs a ride,” an Uber company spokeswoman told the AP, saying the company will continue to enforce its current terms of service, “which make clear that discrimination in any form is not tolerated and will result in removal from the platform,” she said.

While Lyft has yet to respond to our request for comment, the company’s terms of service clearly state the company’s policy against discrimination as well:

“Such Driver will not discriminate or harass anyone on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, age or sexual orientation.”

HSBC Finance Says Some Mortgage Customers’ Information May Have Been Compromised

Thu, 2015-04-16 17:56


Customers of HSBC’s U.S.-based finance division are the latest victims of a data breach, the bank confirmed this week in a letter to the New Hampshire Attorney General.

American Banker reports that HSBC Finance, which was previously known as Household Finance before being purchased by the company in 2003, suffered a breach in which some records of current and former mortgage customers were compromised.

The company says that personal information about mortgage accounts, such as customers’ names, Social Security numbers, account numbers and possibly telephone numbers, were “inadvertently made accessible via the Internet.”

HSBC says it learned of the breach, which took place late last year, at the end of March.

The company declined to provide American Banker additional information about how many consumers were affected or how the breach occurred.

However, HSBC says it has ensured that the compromised information is no longer publicly available, and that notification has be sent to potential victims.

Customers affected by the breach are eligible for a free one-year subscription to a credit monitoring and identity theft protection service.

“HSBC takes this very seriously, and deeply regrets that this incident occurred,” the bank wrote in the letter. “We are conducting a thorough review of the potentially affected records and have implemented additional security measures designed to prevent a recurrence of such an incident.”

HSBC Finance Notifies Mortgage Customers of Data Breach [American Banker]

Ryanair Flight Attendant Lists Passenger’s Camera On eBay, Gets Caught

Thu, 2015-04-16 17:21

(Jon Gosier)

(Jon Gosier)

When we leave something behind on a plane, we like to believe that it is not going home with the cabin crew to be immediately listed on eBay. Yet that’s exactly what one attendant for Irish discount carrier Ryanair is accused of doing. He was caught at his second job when the owner of a camera up for sale was browsing eBay looking for a replacement.

Makes sense, right? He lost his almost-new camera, so he was shopping for a discounted almost-new replacement. The camera originally cost an estimated £499 ($743). While browsing eBay, he noticed the same model of camera that he had lost, in the location where his plane had landed, on eBay with only half an hour left in the auction.

Naturally, he wrote a polite note to the seller. “I am assuming that you work for Ryanair as the cabin gets checked after the flight and your location is Stansted,” he wrote. “So it’s up to you whether this is worth your job or not.”

The employee agreed to meet up and hand over the camera. “I found the camera at the end of the day and I will return it to you, of course. Please, please don’t report me,” the seller wrote back.

Instead, the police showed up at his home to arrest him after looking over the evidence.

Passenger had camera stolen by Ryanair steward then saw it for sale on ebay while shopping for replacement [Mirror] (via Bitterwallet)

Netflix Changes Tune About Seeking Data Cap Exemptions For Service

Thu, 2015-04-16 17:19

netflixhackgrabIn recent years, Netflix has been a vocal proponent of net neutrality and an outspoken critic of ISP business models that would allow certain deep-pocketed companies to gain a competitive edge over smaller players in the streaming video market. Thus the company was heavily criticized in March when it made deals with Australian ISPs that would exempt Netflix from users’ monthly data caps. This morning, the company announced that it regrets this decision and will no longer seek exemptions going forward.

The deals that Netflix made in Australia with providers like iiNet and Optus are commonly known as “zero-rating” arrangements, where the content provider subsidizes its users’ data so that, in this case, a Netflix subscriber could binge-watch at will without any of those hours of video counting against their monthly data cap.

It’s not unlike what T-Mobile offers here in the U.S. with its Music Freedom program, which allows T-Mo subscribers to stream audio from a number of different services without dinging their data allotment.

While zero-rating deals don’t automatically run afoul of the new net neutrality rules recently passed by the FCC, the Commission does now have the authority to review them on a case by case basis. Given that the neutrality rules were just published in the Federal Register on Monday — and that there are numerous legal and legislative challenges pending — it may be some time before we get any idea on how the FCC will handle the zero-rating issue.

In Australia, and some other countries where data caps are more commonplace, these sorts of deals are less controversial. But in a letter sent yesterday to shareholders, Netflix acknowledged that it may have been hypocritical to argue for a truly neutral Internet while still making zero-rating deals in Australia.

“Data caps inhibit Internet innovation and are bad for consumers. In Australia, we recently sought to protect our new members from data caps by participating in ISP programs that, while common in Australia, effectively condone discrimination among video services (some capped, some not),” reads the letter. “We should have avoided that and will avoid it going forward. Fortunately, most fixed-line ISPs are raising or eliminating data caps in line with our belief that ISPs should provide great video for all services in a market and let consumers do the choosing.”

[via ArsTechnica]

California Health Dept. Close To Declaring Measles Outbreak Linked To Disneyland Officially Over

Thu, 2015-04-16 17:03



A few months after Disneyland officials warned unvaccinated people to stay away amid a measles outbreak that was traced back to the park, the California Department of Public Health says it’s preparing to announce the end of the outbreak tomorrow, barring any new cases.

California disease investigators have been trying to contain the spread of measles after the disease popped up in Disney theme parks in December, soon traveling to other states and countries. In California, 131 people were infected, reports the Associated Press.

Many of those who caught the Disneyland measles weren’t immunized or hadn’t gone through the entire measles-mumps-rubella immunization process.

Disneyland was an ideal place for the measles to set up shop, experts said, as the parks bring in steady crowds from around the globe who then act basically as ambassadors, bringing the disease back home with them when they leave.

The Disneyland outbreak “reminds us that we are part of a global medical community” and the U.S. should help tame measles raging in many parts of the world, Dr. Richard Wenzel, an infectious disease expert told the AP.

Though the outbreak was homegrown, with the disease starting with 40 people who had been at Disneyland in December, as well as another identified source, it’s believed that whoever patient zero is, he or she brought it into the country from elsewhere, health experts say.

Disney-linked measles outbreak soon to be over in California [Associated Press]

Volkswagen Recalls 20,000 Chrysler-Built Minivans With Ignition Switch Issue

Thu, 2015-04-16 17:01


Nearly a month after Fiat Chrysler recalled 702,000 minivans and SUVs because of an ignition switch issue that can lead to disabled safety features, Volkswagen announced it would recall more than 20,000 Routan minivans that were produced by Chrysler at the same facility.

According to a notice [PDF] from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Volkswagen will recall 20,676 model year 2009 to 2010 Routan minivans because road conditions or some other jarring event may cause the ignition key to inadvertently move to the off position, turning the engine off and disabling the airbags, power steering and power breaks.

Volkswagen advises owners of affected vehicles to remove all items – including the key fob – from their key rings, leaving only the ignition key.

Last year, Volkswagen recalled nearly 18,500 model year 2009 Routan minivans for the same issue. The company says that some vehicles fixed under that campaign are not being re-recalled. However, if the previously recalled vehicle only received an ignition switch trim ring as a remedy, it will need to be fixed again.

Volkswagen’s latest recall was initiated in response to Fiat Chrysler’s recall of more than 700,000 minivans and SUVs for ignition switch issues last month.

According to NHTSA, Volkswagen made “numerous requests to Chrysler regarding a recall repair remedy and parts supply plan for recall implementation” for vehicles made at the same time as the minivans being recalled by Chrysler.

Volkswagen says in a filing that it learned of Chrysler’s amended recall information “via a news report and through various media outlets.”

Nearly a week later, the company finally received the parts supply and build plan from Chrysler regarding the recalled vehicles.

Volkswagen says it will notify owners of affected Routans and dealers will replace the ignition switch and key fobs. The recall is expected to begin this month for the 2009 Routan and in August for the 2010 Routan vehicles.

Delta Cutting Some International Flights Later This Year

Thu, 2015-04-16 16:00
(So Cal Metro)

(So Cal Metro)

If you were planning to fly Delta Air Lines for an overseas trip this holiday season, you might want to start making other plans. The airline aims to cut its international flights by about 3% during the last three months of 2015.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Delta will trim the routes to Japan, Brazil, Africa, India and the Middle East, as well as seasonal trips to Moscow in an effort to make up revenue.

The company said it chose to cut these routes as they are markets that have been most affected by the strong dollar and where demand has been negatively impacted by the decline in oil prices.

Despite the effect low oil prices and the strong dollars have had on Delta’s international service, the company says it expects to save more than $2 billion on fuel this year.

In preparation for less frequent international flights, Delta has been cutting back on routes from its hub at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, while instead serving more Asian destinations from Seattle and other U.S. airports.

In some cases, the company plans to make the cutbacks by simply using smaller jets. For example, to reduce capacity on Japan routes, Delta will mostly stop using the current Boeing 747 jumbo jets, Bloomberg reports.

Delta Air’s Pullback Abroad Seen Spurring Rivals to Follow [Bloomberg]
Delta Says Profits Triple, Plans Capacity Cuts to Overseas Flights [Wall Street Journal]