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Foot Locker Employee Admits To Filming Women In Restroom

Tue, 2014-10-28 15:18

footlockerbrooklynA Foot Locker employee in New York City faces possible jail time after being caught using his smartphone to record footage of women while they used the store’s toilet.

According to the NY Daily News, a former manager at the store in Brooklyn’s Bath Beach neighborhood was using the Foot Locker restroom last week when she noticed a blinking light. When she investigated, she spotted a smartphone placed behind a dragon figurine in the room.

She was pretty sure that it belonged to a male employee — someone she happened to have hired when she was the manager — because he had just used the restroom before she did.

“I was in shock at first,” she tells the Daily News. “Why would you want to do this?”

She told his supervisor about what she’d discovered in the lavatory and the police were called. Officers checked the phone and found at least one additional recording of a female using the Foot Locker toilet.

The News says that the male employee admitted to the police that he was responsible for the recordings. He has been arraigned on two counts of unlawful surveillance — a felony that could earn him up to four years in prison — before being released on $1,000 bail.

“My actions were really wrong,” he later told the News, which reports that the 21-year-old attempted to characterize the incident as a prank between friends. He claims to have apologized to the women in the videos and says he won’t peep again.

Don’t Call It A Cronut: Dunkin’ Donuts To Start Selling A Cross Between A Croissant & A Donut

Tue, 2014-10-28 14:36

notacronutIn a world where you can get a cease and desist letter to stop you from even thinking of calling a croissant/doughnut crossover a cronut, Dunkin’ Donuts knows it has two choices: It can either ignore the (fading) fad of frankenpastries, or it can just play this thing completely straight and call its new croissant-like doughnut/doughnut-like croissant what it is… a croissant donut.

The eatery announced it’ll be selling this combo pastry next month, reports Reuters, riding the somewhat recentish wave of cronut-inspired mashup foods as long as it can.

Starting Nov. 3 at specific U.S. locations, customers will be able to buy the aptly named Croissant Donut, a circular pastry with a “delicate and flaky croissant ring that is glazed like a donut,” according to a spokeswoman.

Its 24 layers of buttery dough clocks in at 300 calories and will cost around $2.49, which is more than twice the price of a normal doughnut.

The chain thinks it’s got a winner on its hands, apparently, as a similar item called the New york Pie Donut that launched last year in South Korea did well and became a permanent menu item.

Again, this isn’t a cronut. Just keep telling yourself that, DD.

Dunkin’ Donuts coffee shops to sell flaky croissant-donut crossover [Reuters]

Walmart Officially Begins Reselling All Those Video Games You Traded In For Groceries

Tue, 2014-10-28 14:36

(Clean Wal-Mart)

(Clean Wal-Mart)

Back in March Walmart launched a program that allows customers to trade in their used video games for store gift cards, you know to buy milk, bread, sweatpants. Now that the mega-retailer likely has a hefty stockpile of said used games it’s ready to resell them, completing its transformation into a bonafide video game reseller.

Walmart announced Tuesday that it has begun to sell certified, pre-owned video games at more than 1,700 stores across the country, Forbes reports.

While Walmart previously said it would resell the old titles brought in by customers, it took nearly seven months to do so.

For Walmart the foray into the used video game market could prove to be a lucrative deal.

“With 117 million gamers in the U.S., we are constantly looking to provide new and game-changing offerings to those customers,” Laura Phillips, senior vice president of entertainment for Walmart, tells Forbes. “We’ve said that we would focus on the $2 billion pre-owned market, and we’re continuing to deliver on that today.”

Although Walmart’s new gig may be encroaching on number one video game retailer GameStop’s territory, the company didn’t sound to shaken up by the new-found competition back in March.

“We win those market share battles because we’ve been at it a long time,” CEO Paul Raines told the Wall Street Journal at the time.

Walmart Starts Selling Used Video Games [Forbes]

YouTube Planning To Let You Pay To Avoid Ads

Tue, 2014-10-28 14:34

(Andrew McDaniel)

(Andrew McDaniel)

Sick of sitting through ads on YouTube just to watch a few seconds of a video clip? The Google-owned service is reportedly readying a version that lets users avoid all the advertising if they’re willing to pay for the convenience.

This is according to the Wall Street Journal, which reports that YouTube is looking for new ways to bring in revenue that doesn’t involve slapping more ads on videos.

YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki revealed the plans at a conference in California on Monday.

“It’s near term,” she explained. “There are going to be cases where people are going to say, ‘I don’t want to see the ads.’”

She says that Google was inspired by the numerous mobile apps that offer two versions — a free one that is supported by ads, and a version that costs the user money but doesn’t bombard them with advertising.

“We’re thinking about how to give users options,” Wojcicki said.

YouTube does allow certain content providers to charge for subscriptions to their YouTube channels, and it’s looking to expand that option along with creating subscription channels of its own. But if YouTube decides to launch a premium, ad-free tier it would be the first time that the company has offered the option of avoiding advertising altogether.

Wisconsin Sues Corinthian Colleges Over Everest’s Job-Placement, Graduation Rate Claims

Mon, 2014-10-27 23:56

Corinthian Colleges, the for-profit educator behind controversial school chains like Everest and WyoTech, is facing yet another lawsuit. This time, it’s from the state of Wisconsin, which alleges that Everest misrepresented important information, like graduation rates and job-placement stats, in order to lure students in.

The suit [PDF], filed by Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen in a Milwaukee court on Monday, alleges that Corinthian violated of the state’s consumer protection laws by using “false, misleading, and deceptive representations to induce students to enroll” at the Everest school in Milwaukee, which shut down in Aug. 2013, but only after having quickly grown to become one of the largest schools in the Corinthian system.

BAD BEGINNINGS

The Wisconsin suit focuses solely on the practices at one Everest campus in Milwaukee, a school that should have set off alarm bells before it even opened its doors, according to the suit.

Students at Everest Milwaukee were required to finish up to 200 hours of on-the-job externship work in their fields of study.

When Corinthian applied to Wisconsin state regulators five years ago for approval to open its Everest campus in Milwaukee, it said that the school’s target goal was to have about 50% of its projected students end up working for the companies where they externed.

Regulators voiced concerns that Everest might enroll too many students and be unable to live up to its placement rates, but the school pledged to slow enrollment if standards were not met, according to the complaint.

Because of the area’s already crowded job market, especially in the allied-health workforce, regulators also expressed doubt that Everest would be able to consistently secure externships for 600 students at any given time. But Corinthian provided regulators with a list of 300 employers it claimed to have already been in contact with.

However, the complaint contends that “no meaningful effort had been made to establish the willingness of these employers to hire Everest Milwaukee students.”

GROWING PAINS

Corinthian’s promise of slowing enrollment and maintaining a reasonable student body were later called into question by regulators when, after only two years, the school’s expected enrollment size of 600 had swollen to around 1,600.

Prosecutors say that Everest Milwaukee was, at times, the school with the highest enrollment among all Corinthian campuses.

The complaint states that the goal of Corinthian admissions staff wasn’t to work with a potential student to find the program that best suited their background and goals, but to push them into the programs with the most available openings.

“For example, if the Dental Program was not fully enrolled, admissions representatives would direct enrollees to that program,” reads the complaint, “even if the student expressed an interest in the Medical Assistant Program.”

Prosecutors say that applicants seeking enrollment in programs that were already full were told to enroll in a different program and then later roll those credit hours over into the desired coursework. However, say prosecutors, credits did not actually transfer from one program to another.

CHECK & BALANCES, BUT MOSTLY CHECKS

The school’s first president tried to convince Corinthian to institute more stringent entrance requirements, including background checks, but abruptly left after about only one year, and without any changes at the school.

While a background check might sound harsh or overly invasive, it could have saved many students a lot money. Students with drug and felony convictions that would have made it difficult or impossible to find work in the medical field were nonetheless enrolled into allied-health programs to learn skills they could probably never be paid to use.

Additionally, the lack of any real enrollment criteria (entrance exams were given but not required) resulted in high dropout rates from students who were not prepared or qualified for a post-secondary education (but who still managed to qualify for thousands of dollars in student loans).

In the early years of Everest Milwaukee, the school only employed one tutor, but around 50% of the student body needed some sort of tutoring because they lacked basic reading skills.

According to the complaint, the tutor at the time said that many of their students could only read at a second-grade level, inadequate for the allied-health programs that employ a significant amount of complicated medical language. One student was actually illiterate, said the tutor, but the school still enrolled her and allowed her to take out student loans.

ON-THE-JOB TRAINING, OR AT LEAST ON A JOB

When it came time for the required externships, prosecutors say that Everest regularly failed to secure a sufficient number of qualified positions for students.

The complaint gives the example of the Dental Assistant Program, which had around 40 students each month in need of an externship.

“At no point were there more than fifteen,” say prosecutors. “[I]n fact, there were typically less than ten.”

So around 66% of these students were unable to find the externship they required and had been promised. Some students were allowed to find their own externships while others graduated without having even had the requisite on-the-job experience.

A number of students were put into externships that were only vaguely related to their studies. Medical Assistant students were sometimes given externships as nursing aides, which is a necessary and important job but which does not require the training or education of a medical assistant.

School leadership complained to Corinthian that the lack of enrollment standards and the huge enrollment numbers hampered their ability to place students in proper externships.

The campus’s Director of Career Services even asked for Everest Milwaukee to slow its enrollment in the Dental Assistant Program to give her time to catch up and train the current crop of students, but her pleas appear were ignored.

JOB-PLACEMENT STATS ARE JUST NUMBERS

In its marketing, Corinthian touts high job-placement stats, once claiming that 78% of Everest grads found employment in their fields of study.

After the school’s first Career Services head walked out in 2011, her replacement found that the actual percentage of Everest Milwaukee students who were getting jobs in their fields was around 5.5%, according to the complaint.

In the first years of Everest Milwaukee’s existence, disclosures on the school’s website listed “N/A” for many programs’ job-placement rates, claiming that they data had not yet been collected and analyzed because it was too recent.

But prosecutors contend that Everest had actually been collecting and sharing this data with its accrediting body, which had grown increasingly concerned about the low placement rates at this campus.

In 2011, the accreditor placed Everest Milwaukee on heightened monitoring because its placement rates had fallen far below acceptable standards.

Even the data that Corinthian chose to share was shockingly low, with only 28.6% placement in its Dental Assistant program and 31.8% for its Medical Billing and Coding program.

Prosecutors claim that by Dec. 2011, internal reports show that the actual placement rate for Everest students was closer to 5%.

But Everest was able to inflate this number by including students who had jobs — just not in the fields in which they were trained — and by including people who were getting occasional work through temp agencies, and some were just plain unemployed.

One Medical Assistant grad was counted as a successful placement even though that grad was actually employed as a barber.

Two former Everest employees say they were fired after trying to shine a light on the manipulation of job-placement stats.

Even though Everest Milwaukee has been shuttered for over a year, and Corinthian is in the process of shutting down or selling off all its Everest properties, the suit seeks restitution to affected students and graduates, as well as forfeitures and fees.

“Our office will prosecute post-secondary schools that use deceptive recruiting tactics to increase enrollments, leaving vulnerable, unemployed graduates with excessive federal student loan debt, underwritten by the taxpayer,” said Attorney General Van Hollen in a statement.

ONE OF MANY

The Wisconsin suit is only the latest of several state and federal lawsuits and probes into Corinthian’s bad business practices.

In September, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Corinthian, for, among other claims, allegedly using inflated job-placement and graduation stats to deceive students into taking out hundreds of millions of dollars in federal student loans.

“For too many students, Corinthian has turned the American dream of higher education into an ongoing nightmare of debt and despair,” CFPB Director Richard Corday said at the time.

A year ago, the state of California sued Corinthian over similar allegations.

And the actions taken against Corinthian are just the most high-profile lawsuits against for-profit schools.

In February, the CFPB sued ITT for allegedly deceiving students into taking out long-term loans.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway sued the for-profit Spencerian schools in 2013, also over misleading job-placement claims.

Earlier this month, a group of 14 state Attorneys General signed on in support of legislation that would create greater oversight of for-profit colleges, which enroll only a small percentage of all post-secondary students, but which represent the largest chunk of the student loan pie.

For-profit colleges — many of which are owned by large national corporations — also have high dropout rates but cost significantly more than one would pay to go to a comparable community college. Thus, students are leaving without degrees but with huge debts that will follow them, possibly for decades.

31,600 Pounds Of Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets Recalled For Staphylococcal Enterotoxin

Mon, 2014-10-27 23:12

nuggetDrop that nugget! The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a recall of 31,600 pounds of Bell & Evans gluten-free chicken nuggets that were shipped nationwide. Random testing in Colorado turned up contamination with Staphylococcal enterotoxin, and all nuggets in the batch have been recalled.

Staphylowhat? The pathogen that caused this recall is Staphylococcus aureus. If that name sounds familiar, certain strains are the “Staph” in “Staph infection” and the “SA” in “MRSA,” or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or the antibiotic-resistant superbugs that are causing serious, terrifying illnesses.

Fortunately, food poisoning with Staphylococcus aureus toxins is one of the less scary foodborne illnesses. While symptoms can begin within maybe half an hour of eating a contaminated food item, it’s usually a mild illness that lasts one to three days. That doesn’t mean you should go chomping on contaminated nuggets, though: check your freezer if this is a product that you buy regularly.

The nugget manufacturer and the U.S. Department of agriculture don’t know of any illnesses caused by this contamination to date, but some may turn up in the future. Since this is a frozen product, people could stick the nuggets in their freezers and forget about them until close to the expiration date.

The nuggets were made by Murry’s Inc., but bear the brand name Bell & Evans. The best by date on the box is August 9, 2015.

Pennsylvania Firm Recalls Chicken Products Due to Staphylococcal Enterotoxin Contamination [USDA]

Papa John’s Has A Frito Pie Pizza Because Why Not

Mon, 2014-10-27 22:16

fritos_chili_pizzaA bag of Fritos, a pot of chili, and a pizza sounds like the menu for my last Super Bowl party. The pizza scientists over at Papa John’s thought that this would be a great idea for a pizza theme, because…well, we’re not quite sure why anyone would think that, but for the next month or so, you can order this strange pizza-casserole hybrid.

One would think that if a Frito-pizza thing came from any chain pizzeria, it would be Pizza Hut. After all, both Pizza Hut and Frito-Lay are part of the same parent company, Yum! Brands. If Pizza Hut decided to do this, they would have stuffed the Fritos in the crust. Presumably. Maybe the chili and the beef as well.

Anyway, if you’re interested in this pie, you’ll be able to get it for $12 through November 23rd. Its toppings include Fritos chips (of course) as well as beef, chili, tomatoes, onions, and cheddar cheese. Of course, there’s also mozzarella.

If you like Frito pie and also Papa John’s pizza, this might be edible. If you happen to try it, let us know how it tastes in the real world.

Papa John’s Debuts New Fritos Chili Pizza [Brand Eating]

Everyone Wants To Believe Photo Of Domino’s Worker Delivering Pizza Directly To Bed Of Hungover Man Is Real

Mon, 2014-10-27 22:08

(Imgur)

(Imgur)

There are some things on the Internet that are just too good to be true, I know, but oh man, I really hope this isn’t one of them: A guy reportedly in the death grip of a truly heinous hangover wasn’t feeling like answering the door to get his Domino’s pizza delivery, but it all worked out because of a brave worker, unafraid to see a lazy customer in his skivvies, watching James Bond movies. That is, if this all really happened.

Making good use of that “extra instructions” section common on many food delivery sites, a fellow reported to be named “Dave” living somewhere in the world had a very special request for the person delivering his pizza, and posted the results of that effort on Imgur: Please, let yourself in and bring my desired items to my den of day-after sloth.

“I’m so hungover in bed. Let yourself in, turn right, go past the kitchen, through the living room, turn left and double doors are my bedroom,” he wrote, adding something that would make me want to run the exact opposite direction, “I’m in my undies watching James Bond. Don’t be alarmed.”

He signs off as “Dave” with a thumbs up emoticon, as if he knew that the universe would be kind to him this day, by way of pizza.

So if the photo from Imgur — which was picked up by a few sites in the UK like The Daily Mirror and Metro — is the honest truth, well then, we’re happy you’re happy, hangover guy, and hope you enjoyed that pizza.

But alas, because the Internet loves making us believe wonderful things such as miraculous pizza deliveries really happened, only to later tear the rug out from under our hoax-believing feet, we must remain slightly skeptical. Who knows, maybe Dave just lives with someone who works at Domino’s who was coming home with leftovers. We might never know, and you know what? That’s okay.

NHTSA Probes Lack Of Parts & Communication In Year-Old Dodge Recall

Mon, 2014-10-27 21:45

(Kerry Lannert)

(Kerry Lannert)

Nearly a year after Chrysler announced two recalls of Dodge Ram trucks, consumers are still waiting to have their vehicles fixed. The lack of parts and slow pace in remedying the steering issues has investigators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration looking for answers.

Reuters reports that NHTSA investigators opened an inquiry into poor communication by Chrysler and the delay of available replacement parts for nearly a million vehicles after receiving 1,012 consumer complaints about the recall process.

“We have concerns with the administration and execution of these safety recalls and accordingly have opened an investigation to collect further information from Chrysler about the details of administration and execution of these campaigns and the logic that supports the strategies used,” officials with NHTSA wrote in a letter [PDF] to Chrysler.

According to a notice [PDF] from NHTSA, the inquiry stems from two November 2013 recalls of Dodge Ram trucks that contain a defect in the left tie rod assembly that if fractured could cause the vehicle to lose steering control.

At the time of the initial recall of the 972,000 model year 2003-2012 light and heavy-duty Ram trucks, NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) says it expressed concern over the manufacturers proposed remedy.

“ODI reviewed the remedy instructions to dealers provided in Chrysler’s technical service bulletin (TSB) and discussed with Chrysler issues related to the pragmatic application of the remedy, including concerns about the difficulty of the repair procedure and application of by independent repair shops that may have limited access to information or tooling needed to perform the recall repairs correctly,” the NHTSA notice states.

Chrysler first notified owners of the affected vehicles in December 2013 and said that repairs could be scheduled in January.

However, NHTSA reports that it received hundreds of complaints from owners reporting frustrations with obtaining service appointments and having their vehicles remedied under the recall.

“Many owners have complained of dealers informing them it would be many months before the dealership could secure a replacement part for their vehicle,” investigators write in the NHTSA report. “During the initial months of the recalls’ launch, ODI contacted Chrysler to confirm there were not any recall administrative issues or unusual remedy parts restrictions, and was informed there were not, and that dealers could order and receive parts through Chrysler’s parts division, Mopar.”

Soon after NHSTA began receiving consumers complaints, ODI received information from dealers that restrictions were in place and that they had been instructed to return the replacement tie rods to Mopar for quality verification.

Chrysler then informed NHTSA that the recall had been suspended while an investigation into quality concerns for the parts was conducted.

For its part, Chrysler tells Reuters that it has kept NHTSA informed of all progress related to the recalls and will cooperate with the agency’s audit.

“Customers have been advised in accordance with the regulations governing recalls,” a spokesman for Chrysler says. “We are continually replenishing our supply of replacement parts. Chrysler Group regrets any inconvenience our customers may have experienced.”

This is the second time this year that NHTSA investigators have questioned Chrysler’s slow-moving pace when it comes to recall fixes.

Back in July, the agency issued a hard deadline for Chrysler to answer for delays in fixing 1.56 million Jeep SUVs recalled during the summer of 2013. The vehicles were recalled because the rear-mounted fuel tank on the SUVs sat too low and were at risk for rear-end explosions.

According to NHTSA, the manufacturer was supposed to install trailer hitches to protect the fuel tank, but as of April 2014 didn’t have parts available.

U.S. safety regulators probe Chrysler Ram pickup recalls [Reuters]

Cat Café Opens In California; In Other News, We’re All Moving To California

Mon, 2014-10-27 21:03

(Cat Town Cafe on Facebook)

(Cat Town Cafe on Facebook)

We’ve been teased before with pop-up so-called cat cafés, which are usually just a temporary wonder and not a permanent source of caffeinated feline delight. It seems that our nation’s long, cat caféless nightmare is now over, however, as a joint effort to offer coffee and get some furry friends adopted just opened in Oakland, CA.

Calling itself “America’s first cat café,” Cat Town Café works with Oakland Animal Services to find homes for cats by allowing visitors to interact in a “cat zone” area of the coffee shop with prospective new feline friends who are free to wander around and interact with people, reports Eater San Francisco.

Cat lovers are always welcome to walk in, the cafe says, but a $10 donation will get you a reservation for one hour in the Cat Zone, where cats play in front of bright murals depicting — what else? — cats.

The schedule was reportedly full over the weekend after the cafe’s first day in business on Saturday. The Cat Zone’s hours run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, while the cafe itself open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for now.

Cat Town Cafe, America’s First Cat Cafe, Now Open In Oakland [Eater San Francisco]

While City Arrests Uber Drivers, Philly Mayor Comes Out In Support Of Service

Mon, 2014-10-27 21:01

uberxHere in Philadelphia, the dispute between cab regulators and the Uber ridesharing service has gotten ugly, with the city arresting and fining numerous drivers over the weekend. Given this response to Uber, you’d think Philly Mayor Michael Nutter would be calling for the service to exit the city. But instead he’s calling for a truce.

“I am supportive of them being here, legally, operating within requirements of the law,” explained the mayor earlier today in the wake of at least six weekend arrests of Uber drivers.

They were accused of “aiding and abetting an unlicensed taxicab service,” and were each fined $1,000 and had their vehicles impounded.

“Ultimately what this is all really about is customer service, innovation, being able to get a ride from point A to point B, get there quickly and safely,” says Nutter.

To stop the arrests by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, Uber has asked the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to grant it emergency authority to operate in Philadelphia and the surrounding area.

Uber’s Uber Black service already operates in compliance with PPA rules in the city, but the Authority has not taken kindly to the launch of the less-formal UberX service in Philly. After months of warnings and cease-and-desists, the PPA made good on its threat to arrest and fine drivers.

Nutter expressed concern that the PPA’s response to Uber is motivated by the Authority’s desire to protect the value of taxi medallions, which sell for at least $500,000.

“Philly is a big city and should have as many quality transportation options as possible,” he explained, saying that some sort of compromise could be reached that doesn’t “negatively affect those who have paid a lot of money for their medallion, but also not freeze out other Philadelphians who want to use their own vehicle, have it properly inspected, properly registered, properly insured, background checks, all those the things have to be in place.”

Uber is currently paying the fines for drivers who are arrested by the PPA and says it will continue to provide the service while it waits for a response from the state’s Public Utility Commission.

However, the PPA executive director says that UberX is no different than a cab service and that the PPA maintains that has the sole authority to regulate it.

[via Philly.com]

Burger King Franchisees Tired Of Inexperienced Corporate Field Coaches

Mon, 2014-10-27 20:23

(Mike Mozart)

(Mike Mozart)

During the last few years and under new ownership, Burger King has changed its business model slightly. The company once owned some restaurants as well as franchising its brand, but now has mostly left the restaurant-running business. Instead, they extract franchise royalties and send “field coaches” to look over the literal and metaphorical shoulders of their franchisees.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed current and former Burger King franchisees who said that the program was once a good idea. Every six months or so, they say, Corporate would send in coaches with extensive fast-food experience who would look around and suggest ways to cut costs or improve customer service.

Now, franchisees complain, many of the coaches are fresh business school graduates with little or no experience in fast food or even in retail. They might be smart, but that means that many of the coaches in charge of telling franchisees what to do don’t really know what they’re doing. The number of coaches was also a problem: one owner of almost 100 restaurants had ten different coaches descending on his restaurants after Burger King increased their ranks.

The importance of a coaching system in a franchised business isn’t just making as much money as possible: quarterly visits from a representative of the home office also helps Burger King keep the customer experience consistent across its kingdom.

Hamburger Helpers or Too Many Cooks? [Wall Street Journal]

Amazon’s Kindle Scout Give Readers The Choice In Which Authors Gets Published – Kind Of

Mon, 2014-10-27 20:17
Amazon launched Kindle Scout, a program that allows readers to chose which up-and-coming authors get published.

Amazon launched Kindle Scout, a program that allows readers to chose which up-and-coming authors get published.

Despite its decidedly unfriendly-to-authors feud with a major publishing company, Amazon is touting a new program that provides an outlet for hopeful authors, while letting readers maybe, sort-of decide who’s worthy of being published.

Kindle Scout, which launched Monday, allows Kindle readers to have a say in what new books reach their devices, and which should go back to the drawing board, CNET reports.

The program provides readers with excerpts of several unpublished pieces of work. After reading the selections, which span all genres, users vote for up to three books to be published.

With new work being added each day, users can continually reevaluate their votes.

At the end of a 30-day voting period, the Kindle Scout team will review the books with the most votes and determine which three will be published.

While the program seems to give readers the feeling that they are making the choice in who gets published and who doesn’t, it’s only an illusion. Amazon says it ultimately holds all the decision-making power.

“Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication,” Amazon says on the new Kindle Scout page.

But users will be rewarded for their quasi-publishing skills if their vote results into a published book. Amazon says those who vote for the winning books will receive a free, full-length Kindle edition one week before the piece is released.

Officials with Amazon say the new program builds on consumers’ already involved nature when it comes to determining which books become best-sellers.

Additionally, the company tells CNET that Kindle Scout is also beneficial for authors, because of its shorter publication process and the contracts offered through Kindle Press.

The authors of chosen books will receive a $1,500 advance, a five-year renewable term, easy rights reversions and Amazon marketing. Published authors also have to split the royalties 50-50 with Amazon.

Still, many independent and up-and-coming writers may be turned off by Amazon’s recent issues with well established authors.

Earlier this year, Amazon and Hachette Book Group began a very public feud over e-book pricing. Over the course of several months the retailer pulled preorders for several Hachette-published authors and stopped offering discounts as a way to allegedly discourage consumers from buying the books.

Since then thousands of authors have protested and written letters to Amazon urging the retail to end its feud with the publisher.

Back in September, Authors United – a group made up affected authors – said that Amazon’s tactics have driven down Hachette authors’ sales with the retailer by at least 50%, and in some cases as much as 90%.

Amazon wants your vote on which books to publish [CNET]

Deer Goes Buck Wild After Breaking Into Furniture Store, Lets Himself Out Back Door

Mon, 2014-10-27 19:44

(KWWL.com)

(KWWL.com)

Say what you want about wild creatures, but there must be some kind of higher understanding going on that allows members of the animal kingdom to know how to act so as to fall perfectly into pun-ready headlines. How else would a male deer know to wreak havoc in a furniture store, effectively going “buck wild”? It’s just too easy.

Showing that our furry co-residents of this great big ball we call home must know about wordplay, a deer broke through the front glass window of a furniture store in Cedar Falls, IA, reports KWWL.com.

Dashing through the store, the deer eluded capture in the sofa department before jumping on a bed or two and heading for the store’s back office.

Store workers got out of its way, with one saying she could smell the animal’s breath as it darted around.

The buck, after going wild, managed to make his way to the back of the store and let itself out by using its antlers to push open the rear entrance.

No one inside the store was hurt other than the deer, which was bleeding after its altercation with the window.

The store remained open for business on Saturday after the hullabaloo.

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Deer breaks into furniture store [KWWL.com]

Kmart And Sears Closing List Keeps Growing, Now Includes Distribution And Repair Centers

Mon, 2014-10-27 18:58

(Trent Rose)

(Trent Rose)

When representatives of Sears Holdings argued that a recent national store closings list compiled by financial information site Seeking Alpha was inaccurate, maybe what they meant was that the list was incomplete. Since then, the list has grown. Depending on whether you choose to count Sears and Sears Auto stores closing at the same time as separate units or not, either 99 or 131 stores will close, in addition to a Nevada distribution center and an Ohio repair facility.

The reason for the discrepancy in numbers is that it depends on how you count stores. Sears tends to list Sears Auto as separate stores, and has even pondered selling the chain or spinning it out as a separate business, like the Hometown and Outlet stores and Lands’ End were in recent years. The Auto stores are closely associated with Sears, though, and are often physically attached to the stores or operate in outbuildings in the Sears parking lot.

On the current closing list, all but two of the Sears Auto outlets are scheduled to close at the same time as the Sears department store that they’re attached to. Two Sears Auto locations will close while the nearby Sears remains open, so we count these two stores separately in the total of 99. If you count each Sears Auto as an entirely separate store, that means that a total of 131 retail outlets are closing.

The list was compiled from information sent to local media outlets, retail property managers, and Sears Holdings employees. The news that a local store is closing probably won’t come as a surprise to employees, or to customers who follow local news.

In years past, Sears did issue comprehensive nationwide store closings lists to the media. They no longer do so, instead saying that the company’s total number of stores will be listed in their quarterly reports. While useful, those are just raw numbers, and to state the incredibly obvious, stores don’t get removed from the totals until after they close.

Sears Layoffs Swell To 7,000, Closing Distribution Center, More Stores [Seeking Alpha]

Restaurant Fires Worker After Customer Says She Caught Him Taking Photos Of Her Breastfeeding

Mon, 2014-10-27 18:56

(KENS 5)

(KENS 5)

As if it’s already not hard enough to find a private moment to breastfeed a baby in public, a woman nursing her 2-month-old son at a Texas restaurant says she saw an employee of the eatery snapping photos of her during the breastfeeding session.

The mom tells KENS 5 that while she’s never encountered a problem breastfeeding in public before, she now knows all too well how the situation can become uncomfortable. She says she looked up and saw the worker taking photos of her and her son.

“I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say. I was speechless. I got hot, my face was hot. I got sweaty, I was so mad, but I didn’t know how to confront him,” she said. “I mean, what am I going to say? ‘Give me your phone?’ I wanted to take his phone and smash it.”

instead, her sister confronted the employee and spoke with management. The owners told KEN% they fired the worker accused of peeping and issued the below statement:

“We cherish families and value the many wives and mothers who work here, and the wives and mothers who are our guests dining here. Their right to breastfeed their babies is something we support and believe in. We were deeply troubled by this employee’s conduct and not only was his conduct an explicit breach of written company policy, it was a violation of the values we care about deeply.”

The experience isn’t going to keep the woman from breastfeeding in public, but with some new reservations.

“I’m nervous about it. I’ll probably bring a blanket, or a cover and take a little more heed in it, but I’m not going to take my kid to the bathroom to eat,” she explained.

Breastfeeding mom claims restaurant employee took photos [KENS 5]

T-Mobile CEO: Apple SIM That Should Let Users Switch Mobile Carriers Is Crippled By Mobile Carriers

Mon, 2014-10-27 18:55

(Kominyetska)

(Kominyetska)

Apple included a very consumer-friendly item in their new iPad Air 2: the Apple SIM. As designed, the Apple SIM lets iPad owners switch cellular carriers without going into phone stores or having to get any new parts. But in reality, mobile carriers are doing their best to prevent any actual real-world consumers from doing so.

The CEO of T-Mobile, John Legere, took to Twitter this week to talk about the Apple SIM and why it’s not really working out just yet, the Verge reports.

But what even is Apple SIM?

Modern mobile devices have a removable little chip in them called a SIM card. The SIM card is the part of the phone that actually lets it work with the carrier’s network. It contains your subscriber information — like your phone number — and gets you connected to the right 4G LTE network when you use data or make a call.

In theory, users can swap SIM cards among devices and maintain their subscriber identity. Get a new phone? Pop the SIM card out of your old one, and into your new one, and carry on as before. The system, as designed, creates a high level of flexibility and mobility for consumers.

But SIM cards do face one strong restriction, and that’s by carrier. For consumers in the U.S., if you buy a phone at a Verizon store, for example, then it comes with a SIM card that only works for Verizon. If you take your phone and switch carriers, you’ll have to get a new SIM card from your new provider.

Of course, by this point consumers are more or less used to upgrading our phones every couple of years, or to switching handsets when we switch carriers. So the majority of customers don’t think about the SIM cards in their phones that often. But phones are far from the only devices that can use mobile networks — and that’s where Apple comes in.

Every iPad on the market (each iterative generation, and each storage size in that generation) comes in two varieties: one that only has wi-fi connective abilities, and one that has both wi-fi and cellular abilities. Versions of the iPad that connect to cellular networks require SIM cards, just like phones do.

With their newest iPad, the Air 2, Apple tried something new: selling it with a pre-installed Apple SIM. As Apple describes it:
The Apple SIM gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from select carriers in the U.S. and UK right on your iPad. So whenever you need it, you can choose the plan that works best for you — with no long-term commitments. And when you travel, you may also be able to choose a data plan from a local carrier for the duration of your trip.

International travel is usually a SIM-card swapping adventure that can let an unwary user rack up major data expenses, so the Apple SIM sounds like an elegant solution for iPad owners. Unfortunately, it’s already not working as intended.

The Verge collected a series of tweets from T-Mobile CEO John Legere as he explained some of the issues.

For starters, Verizon refused to participate at all. Apple’s website lists four carriers total, and the three that operate in the U.S. are Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T. (The remaining carrier is in the U.K.)

Verizon is still far and away the largest mobile provider in the country, with over 123 million subscribers, so that already puts a major crimp in the plan. Still, that leaves AT&T (116m subscribers), Sprint (54m) and T-Mobile (50m) in play. Taken together, those three companies’ subscriber bases outnumber Verizon’s and so Apple SIM should still face smooth sailing, right?

Not so much. As Legere tweeted, and tech sites confirmed, AT&T isn’t playing along with the spirit of the thing, either.

iPad owners who activate their new Apple SIM on AT&T will see their card locked to the carrier forever. An Apple SIM locked to AT&T is, functionally speaking, an AT&T SIM. Want to swap away from AT&T? Too bad, so sad: you’ll need to get a new SIM card from your new carrier just as you would have needed to before the advent of Apple SIM.

Not only that, but if you do initially activate your Apple SIM by connecting to either Sprint or T-Mobile, AT&T vanishes from your list of future options. So if you want to switch carriers, you can only flip between Sprint and T-Mobile.

So while the Apple SIM on paper sure seems like a great idea for consumers, for 239 million American mobile subscribers its functionality is already non-existent or heavily crippled.

Then, as Legere’s tweetstorm continues, there’s the matter of even knowing if you have an Apple SIM.

If you buy an iPad air 2 from the Apple store, it comes with an Apple SIM. However, if you buy the tablet from a mobile carrier — say, if you pick it up at the AT&T store — it may come with either a locked Apple SIM, or a provider-specific SIM, depending on which mobile company you buy it from.

When Verizon and Sprint sell devices, the tablets have those companies’ respective SIM cards pre-installed. No Apple SIM for those customers. AT&T and T-Mobile, however, sell devices with the Apple SIM — but it’s already pre-configured to those carriers. (However, cards configured to T-Mobile are not permanently locked in the way that cards configured to AT&T are.)

And as if that weren’t already complicated enough, Legere also points out that due to a technical restriction in the way the Sprint network actually functions, an iPad Air 2 sold through any of the other three carriers will not work on Sprint’s network — even if the Apple SIM in it has not been configured to any of those other networks.

Legere’s last observation? “Bottom line… it’s complicated… and it is an emerging change in the mobile ecosystem that we will have to figure out as we go.”

That’s certainly true. In the meantime, consumers will have to wait a while until the mobile carriers do figure it out before they can get the network flexibility that Apple promised.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere takes to Twitter to explain Apple SIM’s growing pains [The Verge]

Yet Another Court To Hear Yelp’s Argument Against Revealing Reviewers’ Names

Mon, 2014-10-27 18:53

(colonelchi)

(colonelchi)

For more than two years, a carpet cleaning company in Virginia has been trying to compel Yelp to turn over the identities of reviewers the company accuses of posting false and defamatory information. While both a trial court and a state appeals court have told Yelp to fork over that info, the crowdsourced reviews site has not yet done so — and tomorrow it takes its case before the highest court in Virginia.

It all began back in the summer of 2012, when the carpet cleaner filed suit against seven anonymous Yelp reviewers, claiming they had deliberately posted false, negative reviews in an attempt to hurt the business. 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, maintaining that its users had a right to privacy, failed to oblige but did offer to investigate on behalf of the plaintiff. The carpet cleaner did not accept this offer, and in Jan. 2013, the court found Yelp in contempt.

In May 2013, Yelp, working with the advocates at Public Citizen, appealed the trial court’s ruling, 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 that appeal fell on deaf ears when the state appeals court sided with the plaintiff in January of this year.

At the heart of the appeals court’s decision is the plaintiff’s as yet unproven claim that the reviewers in question were not actually customers of the carpet cleaner.

“Generally, a Yelp review is entitled to First Amendment protection because it is a person’s opinion about a business that they patronized,” explained the appeals court majority. “But this general protection relies upon an underlying assumption of fact: that the reviewer was a customer of the specific company and he posted his review based on his personal experience with the business. If this underlying assumption of fact proves false… the review is based on a false statement of fact – that the reviewer is writing his review based on personal experience.”

This is where there is a bit of a legal catch-22. The plaintiff can’t prove that the reviewers were not customers without revealing their identities, but Yelp points out that these reviews are no different in content than many of the other reviews posted by others and that the carpet cleaner is not taking any particular issue with the other statements of fact made in the review; thus the plaintiff would have difficulty proving that the speech is defamatory.

The carpet cleaner contends that requiring a plaintiff to show that speech is likely to be proven defamatory in order to unmask a reviewer “would be a license to defame, so long as the defamers publish their speech anonymously,” but the flip side of that coin is that businesses could use the “but they weren’t even customers anyway” claim to reveal reviewers’ identities. Even if it turns out that the reviewer was indeed a customer, his or her identity would then be a matter of public record.

In Yelp’s appeal [PDF] to the Virginia Supreme Court, it argues 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.”

The carpet cleaner has even admitted on the record that it doesn’t know “whether that person is a customer or not, and we suspect not.”

The appeal contends that “the only falsity alleged in the complaint is the assertion that, contrary to the assertions in each of the contested reviews, in fact the posters were not actual customers” of the carpet cleaner.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the First Amendment right to speak anonymously. At the same time, it has also acknowledged that there may be a compelling government interest that can overcome that right.

The trial court in the Yelp case held that the plaintiff didn’t need to demonstrate that compelling interest because the reviews are commercial speech. But Yelp argues that case law shows that critical statements of companies are not necessarily commercial speech, even if they may injure the subject’s business. The appeal cites SCOTUS as declaring that commercial speech is “usually defined as speech that does no more than propose a commercial transaction,” which a private consumer’s review of a product or service would not fall into.

The appeal points out that appellate courts in numerous states — while not all taking the exact same route — have agreed that a plaintiff must present admissible evidence that the reviews are false — and possibly evidence of damages — before it can obtain the identity of an anonymous defendant.

“Yelp is concerned that if the Court of Appeals decision stands, and a company is able to identify its critics by doing no more than representing that it believes that its critics are not customers, consumers and others who have valuable contributions to make to public debate, but who worry about retaliation, will be chilled into silence,” reads the appeal.

Also at issue is a Virginia State Law that does not provide additional protections to anonymous Internet users. The appeals court claimed that adopting Yelp’s position in this case would require that it declare this statute unconstitutional.

But Yelp argues that the First Amendment only offers additional protections that this statute does not, so the court need not consider whether or not the state law is constitutional.

“In these situations, the different sources of authority do not conflict,” the appeal explains, “they simply offer alternate paths to relief.”

The case goes before the Virginia Supremes tomorrow in Richmond, with a decision coming later this year.

Several Brands Of Baby Wipes Recalled For Possible Bacterial Contamination

Mon, 2014-10-27 18:11
Nutek Disposables recalled 10 brands of baby wipes over the weekend for possible bacteria contamination.

Nutek Disposables recalled 10 brands of baby wipes over the weekend for possible bacteria contamination.

Consumers use baby wipes for any number of reasons, but they all revolve around the same purpose: cleansing. While the wipes manufactured by a Pennsylvania company will probably remove that smudge of chocolate from your child’s cheek, it might also leave behind bacteria.

The Food and Drug Administration announced in a notice that Nutek Disposables, Inc. recalled 10 brands of baby wipes after testing found traces of Burkholderia cepacia bacteria present in some products.

The company initiated the testing after receiving complaints from customers of odor and discoloration of some wipes.

Following testing the company recalled all wipes manufactured under the brands Cuties, Diapers.com, Femtex, Fred’s, Kidgets, Member’s Mark, Simply Right, Sunny Smiles, Tender Touch, and Well Beginnings.

The wipes were distributed after October 21 to Amazon.com, Diapers.com, Walgreens, Sam’s Club, Family Dollar, and Fred’s.

wipes

[Click to enlarge]

Officials with the FDA say Burkholderia cepacia poses little risk to healthy people, but can lead to infections in people with compromised immune systems.

Nutek reports it has received consumer complaints regarding rashes, irritation, fever, infections, gastrointestinal issues, and respiratory issues. However, the FDA say the complaints have not been confirmed to be related to the wipes.

The company has yet to determine the cause of the contamination, and has stopped shipping wipes from the facility.

Consumers who have purchased the wipes can return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-855-646-4351.

Nutek Disposables, Inc. Issues Alert Due to Potential Bacteria in Baby Wipes [FDA]

Walmart Finally Removes “Fat Girl Costumes” Section Of Website

Mon, 2014-10-27 18:09

As of Monday morning, Walmart.com still featured a "Fat Girl Costumes" section. It has since been replaced.

As of Monday morning, Walmart.com still featured a “Fat Girl Costumes” section. It has since been replaced.

Almost a week after it was first called out for having a section on its website dedicated to “Fat Girl Costumes,” Walmart has finally removed the category and replaced it with “Women’s Plus Size Halloween Costumes.”

A Twitter user in Florida first called out the nation’s largest retailer for the Fat Girl category last Tuesday:

.@Walmart Not sure labeling these as "Fat Girl Costumes" is the best approach. #rude http://t.co/UbDq6BpArv pic.twitter.com/SE5BjOUPFs

— Kristyn Washburn (@ItsWithaY) October 21, 2014

To which the company’s not-at-all-automated Twitter account replied, “Your comments and suggestions are important to us and help make Walmart even better. Thank you.”

Obviously, this didn’t get up the ladder at Walmart HQ, because the controversial section was still up on the site as of this morning.

But after much to-do over the labeling of these costumes, it finally appears as if Walmart has removed the “Fat Girl” label.

“This never should have been on our site,” a Walmart rep told ABC News. “It is unacceptable, and we apologize. We are working to remove it as soon as possible and ensure this never happens again.”

Of course, with every journalist and looky-loo going to Walmart.com to search for “Fat Girl Costumes” this morning, the website now automatically fills in that search term for users when they start typing:
fatgirlsearch

[via Jezebel]

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