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The Consumerist

Delta Will Give Business Customers Travel Credits If Its On-Time Rate Dips Below Both United & American

Tue, 2015-09-01 21:20

(zonaphoto)

(zonaphoto)

In a move that seems meant to reassure business customers while simultaneously patting itself on the back for a job well-done, Delta Air Lines is talking up its current lead over United Airlines and American Airlines in the area of on-time flights by promising to pay travel credits into corporate accounts if it falls behind its rivals.

With 83.7% of mainline flights arriving on time in the 12 months through December, Delta is currently No. 3 for on-time arrivals, which is defined by the government as any flight that lands within within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival. It’s only behind non-global carriers Alaska Airlines and Hawaii Airlines at the first two spots, while American and United came in at sixth and seventh places in 2014, respectively.

“We’ve been focused on relentless operational success, because any carrier could replicate anything we do, whether it be seats or food or Sky Clubs, but they can’t replicate our performance,” Bob Somers, vice present of global sales told Bloomberg.

If both — not one or the other — American and United beat Delta’s on-time and completion rates for a year, Delta will award travel credits of $1,000 to $250,000 to businesses with a contract. The amount of credits offered will vary depending on those who suffer the most delays and cancellations.

It’s a bit of a long shot that Delta will have to pay up, however — the deal doesn’t take into account international flights or regional affiliates, and United and American would have to significantly up their game to outdo Delta as well: according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, their on-time rates for the 12 months ending in December 2014 were 75.99% and 75.79%, respectively.

Delta to Pay Business Fliers If It’s Later Than American, United [Bloomberg]

7-Eleven Expands Delivery Service To Three More Cities, Still Doesn’t Include Slurpees

Tue, 2015-09-01 20:13

(Ben Schumin)

(Ben Schumin)

Two months after 7-Eleven announced that lucky (maybe) residents of San Francisco and Oakland could have microwaved burritos and other convenience store fare (no Slurpees, though) delivered right to their home, the company has expanded the service. While the expansion still doesn’t include the on-demand delivery of sugary Slurpees, it does include three additional service areas: Chicago, Los Angeles and certain parts of New York.

A spokesperson for 7-Eleven tells The Associated Press that Slurpees are best “consumed immediately” and won’t be available for delivery through the service just yet. However, DoorDash – the company that actually delivers the goods – says it is working on a way to get the slushy treats to consumers’ doors without melting.

7-Eleven’s delivery service is expected to expand to Washington, D.C., and Boston in the coming months.

7-Eleven expands home delivery in several cities [The Associated Press]

Emergency Responders Smash Car’s Window After Report Of Baby Locked Inside, End Up Rescuing Lifelike Doll

Tue, 2015-09-01 19:58

Real locked car, unreal baby. (KOGO ABC 7 News)

Real locked car, unreal baby. (KOGO ABC 7 News)

If you’re in the habit of leaving eerily lifelike baby dolls strapped into a car seat while you’re out and about, you might want to reconsider, unless, of course, you like having your car’s windows smashed open: police in Oakland, Calif. say emergency responders busted the window of a vehicle after passersby reported a baby locked inside, only to find it was a very human looking doll that’d been placed in a rear-facing car seat, just like a living child would be.

An officer with the Oakland Police Department told ABC News that emergency personnel forced their way into the vehicle on Monday, because that’s just what has to be done when a report like that comes in.

“Although this incident did not involve a baby or small child, it was unknown at the time,” the officer said. “And first responders’ number one priority is to ensure … safety.”

It’s unclear why the owner of the car left the doll in the back seat, but it’s unlikely they’ll make that mistake again. Because as it turns out, people who see what appears to be child in a locked car with the windows up are going to report it. Which of course, is a good thing for any real babies in that situation, so keep it up, guys.

“We encourage anyone who believes there is a dangerous situation such as this incident to contact emergency personnel so we can make that determination,” the officer added.

Emergency Crews Smash Car Window to Rescue Baby, Find Lifelike Doll in Car Seat [ABC News]

Federal Advisory Panel Recommends Clearer Disclosure Of Airline, Hotel Resort Fees

Tue, 2015-09-01 19:23
(kevindean)

(kevindean)

It’s no secret that airlines have increased their fees and shrunk the size of their seats over the years in an attempt to maximize revenue. While those extra costs and seat sizes are generally available through the carrier’s website, a federal panel thinks that information would better serve passengers if it were readily available during the ticket purchasing process.

That was just one recommendation from the Advisory Committee For Aviation Consumer Protections meeting on Tuesday, which included several suggestions related to the travel industry, namely regarding airline and hotel fees.

When it came to recommendations for the airline industry, the panel determined that carriers should clearly disclose the cost of change and cancellation fees, as well as the size of a plane’s seats before the purchase of a ticket is made.

The recommendations – which will form the basis for a report to Department of Transportation’s on improvements to be made for existing consumer protection programs – came after the panel heard testimony from passengers about the difficulty they encounter when trying to find information about change or cancellation fees on airlines’ websites and their claims that airlines hid fee information in the fine print of tickets.

The issue of seat shrinkage was discussed by the panel following concerns that passengers may not be able to properly exit planes in the case of an emergency.

Those fears have increased in recent years as airlines have decreased the distance between a seat and the seat in front of it by as much as six inches in order to cram more passengers on flights, the Associated Press reports.

Charles Leocha, a panel member and founder of consumer group Travelers Union, said that while the Federal Aviation Administration requires that aircraft makers demonstrate that all passengers can be evacuated from a plane within 90 seconds, most planes in use were tested before seating room was reduced.

The panel recommended that the FAA conduct more realistic evacuation tests on planes with seats closer together and that airlines include seat dimensions clearly on their websites.

Additionally, the panel encouraged the DOT to continue investigating the safety and security issues related to inflight mobile electronic communications.

“The panel recommends that, if safe and secure, the DOT allow airlines to decide whether passengers can use mobile phones for in-flight calls,” Kathleen Kane, Pennsylvania Attorney General and panel member said.

In addition to addressing changes related to airlines, the panel also handed down recommendations for the hotel industry, specifically regarding the increased use of mandatory surcharges called “resort fees.”

Back in 2012, the Federal Trade Commission sent warnings to 22 different hotel operators warning them that they weren’t doing enough to disclose these fees, but no legal actions have been taken since, in spite of the fact that some popular tourist destinations are hiding their resort fees until the final payment screen.

In July, consumer advocacy groups called on the FTC to put an end to the deceptive fees and take action against hotel operators that refused to follow the orders.

On Tuesday, the Advisory Committee For Aviation Consumer Protections echoed some of those sentiments with a recommendation – directed at the FTC – that hotels be required to include any mandatory fees in their room rates.

“If the room is $125 a night and resort fee is $50, they now have to say the room is $175, that’s our recommendation,” Kane said.

Leocha noted that hotels can continue to list their fees separately once a consumer is at the facility, when it comes to booking the price must include all fees as one figure.

[via The Associated Press]

Scientists Working Hard To Save Us All From Rapidly Melting Ice Cream Cones

Tue, 2015-09-01 18:57

(Barbara L. Hanson)

(Barbara L. Hanson)

It’s a hot day, you’ve got a cool treat — it’s inevitable. That ice cream scoop, once so perfect in its rounded form, is going to melt, forcing you to fight the age-old battle against drips with your tongue as your only weapon. Take heart, dessert warriors: there are scientists out there who are trying to help us all, by developing an ice cream that takes a bit longer to melt.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have taken on the task of preventing ice cream from dribbling down your arm so it can instead get into your mouth, reports Public Radio International in a recent segment of “The World” available online.

“We’re not talking about ice cream that doesn’t melt at all, we’re talking about ice cream that melts more slowly than you would typically expect from a scoop of ice cream sitting on top of an ice cream cone for example,” Kate MacPhee, a professor of biological physics in the Institute of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems at the University of Edinburgh told The World.

The team is working with a protein called BsIA that binds together air, fat and water in ice cream in what they call a “bacterial raincoat” to keep it frozen longer. The naturally-occuring protein adheres to fat droplets and air bubbles, making them more stable.

“That’s what you have in ice cream,” says MacPhee. “You have an oil and a sugar-syrup mixture, and you have air in there to keep it light and allow you to scoop it up, and you also have the solid surfaces, which are the ice crystals in there, so our protein can stabilize all of those.”

When the ingredients are stabilized by this bacterial raincoat, it slows the melting process and prevents gritty ice crystals from forming (like in freezer burn, perhaps) so your ice cream will be even smoother and creamier and still hold up for as much as 10 minutes longer than usual on a hot day. That’s good news when it comes to doing the laundry.

“We can predict then that children should be able to get all the way through an ice cream cone without it dribbling all down the sides, which I think will be a bonus to parents all around the world,” MacPhee adds.

Yes, ah, parents. They’re the only ones who have to worry about huge chocolate ice cream stains ravaging a pair of new white shorts after deciding that yes, a double scoop is necessary even when it’s 100 degrees and there are no clouds in the sky.

A newer, slower melting ice cream cone is coming soon [PRI.org]

Radioshack Creditors Claim Pre-Bankruptcy Shenanigans Go Back To Early 2014

Tue, 2015-09-01 18:36

(Matthew Hunt)

(Matthew Hunt)

The electronics retailer RadioShack had been obviously doomed for a while, finally declaring bankruptcy in February of 2015. Yet lenders kept giving the company money to keep the lights on and keep paying employees to ask for phone numbers and buy extended warranties. Now a group of junior creditors have filed a lawsuit against former Radioshack leaders and the hedge fund Standard General, alleging that this whole bankruptcy was deliberately planned to deliver RadioShack to Standard General at a fire-sale price.

Like people, corporations have secured and unsecured creditors: a secured line of credit, for example, would be a car loan, since the bank has the right to take the car back if you default on a loan. An unsecured line of credit for a person would be a credit card. If you declare bankruptcy, things and property that you own can be sold to repay creditors. You can keep a car to get around, but not an antique car collection. You can keep the home you live in, but your ski villas have to go.

Ideally, these assets would be sold to the highest bidder to raise the largest amount of money possible for creditors. Instead, more than half of all stores were closed, and 1,700 sold to Standard General, the senior creditor, using RadioShack’s debt as payment. Junior creditors objected, but at the time the bankruptcy judge said that saving jobs in those 1,700 stores was an important priority: other bidders for the stores themselves were liquidators.

In a complaint filed in federal court this week, the creditors claim that RadioShack CEO Joseph Magnacca began working with Standard General at the beginning of 2014, trading the top position in the chain’s lineup of creditors for a seat on the board at another company Standard General has lent millions to, American Apparel. (That company is also looking doomed right now.)

The creditors say that selling RadioShack stores at the “reduced price” of $145.5 million deprived junior creditors of receiving more bankruptcy proceeds, even if it did save thousands of jobs.

RadioShack Creditors Sue Hedge Fund Over Chain’s Collapse [Bloomberg News]

Analyst: Best Buy’s Prices Now Much Closer To Amazon’s

Tue, 2015-09-01 18:33
(Rob Lawton)

(Rob Lawton)

When looking for the best deal on electronics consumers used to flock to a little chain called Best Buy, but over time Amazon – with the growing convenience of shopping from home, speedy deliveries and discounts – has crowded into the electronic store’s customer pool. Now, after years of playing catchup, it appears that Best Buy has closed the pricing gap with its online rival.

That’s according to a new report based on price checks at both stores conducted by SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Barron’s reports.

The price checks of 50 accessories and larger ticket items found for the first time that both retailers were charging virtually the same prices.

“In the past, we’ve seen a gradual tightening of the spread between the two retailers,” David Magee, managing director for SunTrust Robinson Humphery, said. “This time, the basket totals were essentially at parity.”

Magee goes on to explain that the pricing parity is another important step in Best Buy’s turnaround efforts.

As Consumerist reported last month, the electronics retailer has turned a corner by getting back to what executives called the basics: offering advice, service and convenience at competitive prices.

The company has also benefited from its new mini-store concept and deals with tech companies such as Apple.

The retailer was the first non-Apple entity to sell the Apple Watch, and recently it announced it would expand the availability of the smart watch to all of its stores in the U.S.

Additionally, Best Buy announced last week that it has officially become an Apple authorized reseller. While the company has sold Apple products for years, they weren’t an official location for service for Apple products until recently.

Best Buy Achieves Price Parity With Amazon For First Time: SunTrust [Barron’s]

Following Deaths, FDA Warns Makers Of Powdered Caffeine That Their Products Are Dangerous

Tue, 2015-09-01 18:28

(Carbon Arc)

(Carbon Arc)

Last summer, two young adults died after ingesting powdered caffeine, leading the Food and Drug Administration to warn consumers of the potential hazards of the popular stimulant while public health advocates called for a ban on the powdered product. Now the FDA is taking things to the next level and warning caffeine manufacturers that their products are “dangerous and present a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury.”

The FDA announced today that it has sent letters to five different companies, letting them know that continued sale of their products as “dietary supplements” with their current labeling and usage instructions could result in seizure by the agency.

One of the repeated themes in the letters is the potency of powdered caffeine and the difficulty consumers have with measuring amounts recommended on product labels.

For example, one product label provides the following instruction: “As a dietary supplement, take 50 to 200 mg up to three times daily. Use an accurate milligram scale for measurement.”

First, the FDA notes that most consumers don’t have scales precise enough to accurately measure this tiny amount. And if you want to take a volumetric approach to measuring, you get into sizes like 200mg of the powder equaling about 1/14 of a teaspoon, which is not an option you find on the measuring spoons in most kitchens.

Other products were cited for instructing users to ingest a “rounded 1/32 teaspoon,” which is both a imprecise measurement and an uncommon measuring spoon size.

And if users of these products do turn to common measuring devices they run the risk of doing real damage says the FDA.

“A single teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine is roughly equivalent to the amount in 28 cups of coffee,” writes the agency. “Consuming as little as one teaspoon of caffeine has been associated with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and heart palpitations.”

Make the common mistake of confusing a teaspoon and a tablespoon and you’re tripling the amount of caffeine ingested. The FDA says this level of consumption has been associated with symptoms including chest pain, hypokalemia, elevated blood glucose, tachycardia, bigeminy, agitation, respiratory alkalosis, irregular heartbeat, and death.

Another problem with some powdered caffeine products is the size of the packaging. Given the small amount of caffeine per recommended dose, a 10 kg package contains around 50,000 servings. One product was sold in a 25 kg package, equivalent to anywhere from 125,000 to 500,000 servings of that particular product.

The companies have 15 days to reply to the FDA with details of how they are planning to address the violations cited in the warning letters. If violations continue, the FDA could take further action and seize products.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has petitioned the FDA to ban the retail distribution of powdered caffeine, says today’s FDA announcement is a first step in the right direction.

“Pure caffeine never should have been sold to consumers,” says CSPI Regulatory Affairs Director Laura MacCleery in a statement. “A teaspoon is a fatal dose for a child, and two teaspoons would kill most adults. FDA has clear authority to ban such a hazardous product and should do so.”

McDonald’s Can’t Use The Word “Artisan” To Describe Limited-Edition Burger In Ireland

Tue, 2015-09-01 17:34

(McDonald's)

(McDonald’s)

In a world where marketers are constantly trying to catch the attention of shoppers with products that are seen as fresh, wholesome and healthy, there are some words that perhaps used to mean something more to people than they used to. Like “artisan” — in the past, this would’ve meant a skilled worker spending time and great effort on making something. Now, that could just mean more premium ingredients on your fast food burger. But in Ireland, it’s not so easy to use such words lightly, as McDonald’s recently found out with its first attempt at an “artisan” Irish burger.

McDonald’s was using the word to herald the arrival of its limited-edition special burger, the McMór, reports The Irish Times, calling it a “tribute to the best produce and finest flavours from across Ireland.” The burger is made with Ballymaloe relish, Charleville cheddar and a “potato-flaked bun” layered with shredded cabbage atop beef and bacon.

Ireland’s food authorities have rules on what can be dubbed artisan, however: under Food Safety Authority of Ireland guidelines published earlier this summer, the term artisan only applies if the product is made in limited quantities by skilled craftspeople, the processing method isn’t totally mechanized and it should use food grown or produced locally “where seasonally available and practical.”

McDonald’s has now agreed to not use the term in connection to the McMór.

“The usage of the term artisan is, as we are now aware, inaccurate in so far as it is in breach of some of the recently launched, voluntary guidelines around the usage of the term in the marketing of food,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “This specific term will no longer be used in any news release around the limited-edition McMór.”

Would McDonald’s be in legal trouble if it refused to drop “artisan” from the burger’s description? Probably not, as these are voluntary guidelines. But if it wants to maintain a good relationship with Irish food authorities, it behooves them to comply.

McDonald’s ‘artisan’ burger fails to cut mustard with authority [The Irish Times]

Lawsuit Alleges Chipotle Misleads Customers About Use Of GMOs

Tue, 2015-09-01 17:13
(Josh Bassett)

(Josh Bassett)

Back in April, Chipotle proudly declared that it was the only major fast food chain in the country to contain an entirely GMO-free menu. Now, just four months later, a recently filed class-action lawsuit says that proclamation isn’t exactly truthful, accusing the fast casual restaurant of false advertising and deceiving diners into paying more for their food.

The class-action lawsuit [PDF], filed by a California woman in federal court in San Francisco, alleges that Chipotle violated the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act because its food labeling is false and misleading, and the company deceived diners into paying more for their food on the basis that it was GMO-free and “aligned with consumers’ ethical eating choices.”

According to the lawsuit — which aims to cover everyone who bought Chipotle in California since the April 27 “no GMOs” announcement — Chipotle has been selling itself to health-conscious consumers since at least 2009.

“Chipotle has carefully tailored its public image by marketing to healthy-lifestyle and environmentally conscious consumers that it knows are willing to pay premium prices for its food,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs contend that Chipotle’s recent public statements do not accurately reflect the company’s practices.

“As Chipotle told consumers it was ‘G-M-Over it,’ the opposite was true. In fact, Chipotle’s menu has never been at any time free of GMOs,” the lawsuit states.

Among other things, the complaint claims that Chipotle continues to serve meat products that come from animals which feed on GMOs, including corn and soy.

The suit also asserts that the sour cream and cheese products used at the company come from dairy farms that feed animals with GMOs. Additionally, Coca-Cola and other soft drinks sold by the chain are made with corn-syrup that likely contains GMOs.

While the company’s advertisements don’t mention that GMOs may be found in its products, its website does contain notices that some of its products – including soft drinks and meat – may include GMOs.

In one instance, the company notes that “most animal feed in the U.S. is genetically modified, which means that the meat and dairy served at Chipotle are likely to come from animals given at least some GMO feed.”

Chipotle's GMO-dedicated page notes that some of its products may not be entirely GMO-free.

Chipotle’s GMO-dedicated page notes that some of its products may not be entirely GMO-free.

However, the lawsuit claims these disclaimers are not good enough, noting that “Chipotle only discloses this information on its website because it knows its fast-food customers never need to visit Chipotle’s website to buy food.”

“Chipotle knows that its menu contains ingredients with GMOs, it takes no meaningful steps to clarify consumer misconceptions in its advertisements and on its billboards, both in stores and in print, which instead say ‘all’ of the ingredients used in its Food Products are ‘non-GMO,'” the suit states. “A ‘hipotle meal was, and remains, the very definition of a GMO meal.”

As a result of Chipotle’s conduct, the suit alleges, that customers are routinely deceived into buying the company’s food, or paying more for Chipotle products than they would have otherwise paid.

“Consumers today are very concerned about what they eat, and restaurants know that consumers place a premium on food that is considered to be healthy or natural,” an attorney representing the proposed class-action said in a statement. “Chipotle’s advertising in its stores should have accurately informed customers about the source and quality of its ingredients and should not mislead consumers that they are serving food without GMOs when in fact they are.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for the class.

Amazon Prime Videos To Finally Be Downloadable On iOS, Android Devices

Tue, 2015-09-01 16:57

The latest version of the Amazon Video app for Android allows for offline viewing of Amazon Prime movies and TV shows.

The latest version of the Amazon Video app for Android allows for offline viewing of Amazon Prime movies and TV shows.

One of the selling points of Amazon Fire tablets — especially for frequent travelers and parents whose kids like to watch movies while riding in the back seat — is that Amazon Prime members can download videos for offline viewing. This option has not been available for Prime members using iOS or non-Amazon Android devices. But now Amazon is giving these members the ability to download movies and shows to watch at their convenience.

Re/code notes that Amazon now lists iOS and Android devices as compatible for downloadable Prime Content.

Amazon’s non-Prime rental and digital purchase content has long been available for download on iOS and Android, but when it came to the Prime video library, downloading was only allowed on Amazon-branded devices. It was a feature that set the service apart from other subscription video streamers like Netflix, but which few users could take advantage of.

Now, instead of using downloadability as a way of selling Fire tablets, Amazon appears to be hoping that it will win over new customers to Prime.

Of course, as Fire tablet owners can attest, not every Prime video is available for download. The e-tailer has to negotiate this feature for each of the titles it carries and some distributors either want too much or just simply say no.

Hilton’s Partnership With Uber Allows Guests To Grab A Ride Through Hotel’s App

Tue, 2015-09-01 16:42

(Adam Fagen)

(Adam Fagen)

Once upon a time, the hotel front desk was the go-to spot for guests who wanted something, whether it’s more towels or advice on the best spots in town to visit (and a cab to get there). You’ll still have to call for more towels at Hilton Hotels, but in a new partnership with Uber, hotel guests will now be able to schedule alerts through the HHonors app to remind them when they need to arrange a ride to check out the sights they’ve planned to see during their stay.

While yes, people can just use the Uber app themselves to get a ride to or from the hotel to, say, the airport or look up local spots on their own, there are those who want to get around town and see the sights during their visit but maybe don’t want to look up addresses and remember to call for a ride at the right time. Or maybe you’re the kind of person who is always running late, only to find they can’t get a car nearby at the last minute.

As such, Hilton’s new venture with Uber lets guests set up “Ride Reminders” that notify them when they should hail an Uber within the hotel app for their next outing.

“Ground transportation is obviously a must in the travel experience and both companies think about being innovative,” Uber travel partnerships head Jonathan DiOrio told TechCrunch. “It’s really that dialogue and that vision of how can we connect our respective platforms and use technology to seamlessly and elegantly enhance that guest experience.”

Guests will also be able to take advantage of Uber’s local rider data: the HHonors app will have a “Local Scene” feature rolling out later this month that shows Hilton guests the most popular spots in 20 cities. If everyone is going to that “secret,” out-of-the-way BBQ place that transcends all meaning of delicious meat, Uber will know, and you’ll get to go, too.

Checking Out? Hilton’s App Now Lets You Grab An Uber [TechCrunch]

Comcast CFO Says Failure Of Time Warner Cable Merger Is “Blessing In Disguise”

Tue, 2015-09-01 16:18

comcast-twclogo_NOGOComcast spent a year and a half, and untold millions, pushing for regulators to approve its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. And then, when regulators said they would try to block the deal, the mega-merger evaporated. You might expect Comcast executives would still be stewing about their failed attempt to take over most of the cable and broadband service for both New York and Los Angeles, but at least one C-level suit at the company is trying to put it behind him.

“In some ways, it’s a shame that Time Warner Cable did not happen and in some ways it’s a blessing in disguise,” new Comcast chief financial officer Mike Cavanagh tells the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Of course, Cavanagh doesn’t have any real personal attachment to the failed TWC acquisition, as the former JPMorgan Chase exec only recently made the move to Kabletown.

Regardless, the company’s new CFO says Comcast can now take the billions it would have spent acquiring and integrating TWC and use it to improve the Comcast customer experience.

The nation’s largest cable and Internet company is also rumored to be looking into making a move in the wireless world after seeing its biggest pay-TV rival, DirecTV, get gobbled up by AT&T for $49 billion, only weeks after the collapse of the Comcast/TWC marriage.

American service providers have mainly focused on bundling TV, Internet and home phone service because they can be carried on the same cable line. Some, including Comcast, have previously considered getting into the wireless business, acquiring spectrum for possible future use. Then in 2012, Comcast and others sold off billions of dollars of unused or barely used wireless spectrum to Verizon. In exchange, they could market Verizon services to their cable and Internet customers.

But with consumers increasingly shifting their online use toward wireless, and with AT&T/DirecTV now able to offer wireless/pay-TV bundles, Comcast appears to be rethinking its stance on the issue.

“In Europe, the flavor of the month is quad-play” says Cavanagh, referring to bundles of TV/broadband/landline/wireless services. He says that Comcast has the “wherewithal to go down that road,” and that “It’s something we should pay attention to, and you can count on us putting some time into the issue.”

Southwest Flight Diverted After Fight Breaks Out Between “Disorderly” Group Of Passengers

Tue, 2015-09-01 15:32

(David Transier)

(David Transier)

A Southwest Airlines flight from San Diego heading to Chicago last night had to make an unplanned stop in Amarillo, TX last night, after police said a fight broke out on board among a group of passengers who were traveling together.

The flight ended up diverting to Amarillo at around 10:30 last night, Southwest said in a statement (via the Associated Press), “after several passengers traveling together became disorderly and, subsequently, refused to obey instructions from the crew.”

Once on the ground, six passengers were detained on suspicion of interfering with the flight crew, and six others deplaned at that time as well, as Southwest told CBS Chicago: “Additionally, six other members of the group chose to deplane and remain in Amarillo.”

The AP reports that “a handful” of others were prevented from re-boarding the plane at the request of the crew, however, citing Amarillo police. In any case, the group left the plane, and the flight went on to Chicago at around 1:30 a.m., finally landing around three hours after it was originally scheduled to arrive, at 3:22 a.m.

A police corporal said those involved in the brawl appeared to be in their 20s and 30s and were part of a larger group of people traveling together. It’s unclear exactly what the fight or disturbance was about, however.

“We’re taking statements from everybody,” he told reporters. “But at this point, I don’t really have a lot other than, obviously, several passengers felt like they were definitely out of line, very vocal, very obnoxious-acting. Was it a disruption of the flight? That’s going to be up to the FBI to determine.”

Flight to Midway diverted to Texas when fight breaks out on board [Associated Press]
Six Men Detained In Texas After Disrupting Flight From San Diego To Chicago [CBS Chicago]

Next Up For McDonald’s Revamped Menu: McMuffins, Biscuits & Bagels With Real Butter

Tue, 2015-09-01 15:16
(Morton Fox)

(Morton Fox)

A month after McDonald’s officially beefed up its Quarter Pounder, the fast food giant is poised to makeover a few other staples: the English muffin, bagel and biscuit, adding real butter to the ingredient list.

NBC News, citing two sources close to the matter, reports that the switch to the upgraded breakfast items would occur once locations use up their supply of liquid margarine.

While the Golden Arches hasn’t officially confirmed its plans to change the bread items, some stores have already started posting signs about the switch.

A location in Manhattan reads: “We’re proud to cook breakfast items on the grill with real butter and we toast our English Muffins, biscuits and bagels with real butter, too.”

One of the sources tells NBC News that the signs are meant to both highlight the use of real dairy products and warn customers who may have dairy allergies not to consumer them.

McDonald’s has been on a roll lately, making changes to its menu. In addition to changing its breakfast breads and beefing up its Quarter Pounder, the fast food giant announced earlier this year it would toast buns and make changes to the way it sears its beef.

The menu revamp is part of the company’s turnaround effort under new CEO Steve Easterbrook.

McDonald’s Continues Menu Tweaks: This Time It’s the McMuffin [NBC News]

Store-Brand Frozen Corn Recalled For Potential Listeria Contamination

Tue, 2015-09-01 15:00

Time to check your frozen vegetable stash: bags of frozen corn sold as store private-label brands that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes have been recalled by the company that packaged it. Some of the corn was distributed to Save-A-Lot discount grocery stores and to Market Basket stores, but two of the brands were not exclusive to any one retailer.

No illnesses have been reported: the pathogen turned up during routine testing in Tennessee. Affected corn may have been distributed to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Here are the affected brands:

Wylwood (Save-A-Lot) and Market Basket corn was distributed in 1-pound bags, with a “best before” date of June 2017.

ucm460637

ucm460636

Bountiful Harvest and West Creek corn was distributed in 2.5-pound bags, with a “best before” date of June 2017.

ucm460639

ucm460638

If you have the product in your home, throw it away, and contact the company, Bonduelle USA, at 1-877-990-2662 if you want a refund.

Experts recommend heating food to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, which does kill Listeria. Freezing does not kill the bacteria, which is why it’s been such a nefarious presence in ice cream and in frozen vegetables this year.

Listeriosis is especially dangerous to people who are very young, people who are elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Bonduelle USA Recalls Frozen Corn Because Of Possible Health Risk [FDA]

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

Tue, 2015-09-01 01:04

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

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

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

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

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

At This Restaurant, Eat Quinoa With No Human Interaction

Mon, 2015-08-31 23:56

(Eatsa)

(Eatsa)

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

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

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

The future of dining at @eatsa pic.twitter.com/FJ6GjxXNr8

— Lucas Matney (@Lucas_Matney) August 29, 2015

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

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

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

Mon, 2015-08-31 23:14

(Chris Goldberg)

(Chris Goldberg)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illinois Can’t Pay Its Lottery Winners Right Now

Mon, 2015-08-31 22:55

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

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

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

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

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

Illinois lottery winners are in limbo [CNN]

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