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Oakland Airport Baggage Handlers Accused Of Participating In Marijuana Smuggling Ring

Tue, 2015-05-19 20:01



Federal officials say they’ve uncovered an alleged marijuana smuggling ring that involved three baggage handlers working at Oakland International Airport. Because airport workers can go behind the scenes where others can’t, investigators say the baggage handlers used their security badges to access off-limits areas and get pot from one point to another.

According to a criminal complaint, the workers were part of a group of people charged in an alleged conspiracy to ferry marijuana around the country, reports CBS San Francisco, dating back to July 2012.

Officials allege that the baggage handlers would carry luggage containing marijuana to bypass screening areas, bringing the cargo directly to the terminals where they’d then hand off the bags to passengers who’d already been screened and were ready to board their flights.

Some of the exchanges happened in the men’s restroom, after suspects would allegedly alert each other to which specific stall to meet and make the handoff. The accused co-conspirators would then fly off to various destinations around the country to distribute the drugs.

The defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute, 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.

Oakland Airport Baggage Handlers Among 14 Charged In Marijuana Smuggling Conspiracy [CBS San Francisco]

Nevada’s Attorney General Is Investigating Cash4Laptops/Cash4iPhones

Tue, 2015-05-19 19:57

(713 Avenue)

(713 Avenue)

Last year, we shared two readers’ crappy experiences with the brand that does business under the names Cash4iPhones and Cash4Laptops. One had his offer for three phones cut by more than $900, and another received an offer of $263 for his phone and a check for $41. Our readers aren’t alone, of course, and the attorney general in the state of Nevada, where the company is based, is investigating them.

We learned this from CBS Sacramento’s Kurtis Ming, who was checking out the company on behalf of local viewers who had their own complaints. The Better Business Bureau has more than 1,700 complaints on file about the two sites’ parent company, eCycleBest, and the KHTK viewers’ issues were typical. One sent in an iPad after receiving a quote of $212, then actually got $31. Another was quoted $58 for his old iPhone, and got only seven bucks instead.

It’s fine if a device-buying site makes a different offer once they inspect the item closely. The problem is that if they say the customer has the right to reject the offer and get the device back, they actually have to do that. Both customers say that they weren’t able to get through to the company within the three-day cancellation window. The Nevada Attorney General has heard the same thing. If you’ve had a bad experience with this company, be sure to share it with their state’s AG so it can be part of their investigation.

Call Kurtis Investigates: Cash For Laptops And Cash For iPhones Under Investigation [CBS Sacramento]

Walmart Is Now The Rightful Owner Of Walmart.Horse

Tue, 2015-05-19 19:21

The image above represents all of the content ever posted on Think about the money wasted on legal fees to have this site taken down the next time the price of bread goes up.

The image above represents all of the content ever posted on Think about the money wasted on legal fees to have this site taken down the next time the price of bread goes up.

You’ll have to excuse us if we’re not in the greatest spirits today, as we’re in mourning for the loss of, the nonsense website that Walmart spent actual time and money to shut down and acquire.

We told you about back in March after its creator, Jeph Jacques, a source of Questionable Content, was hit with a cease-and-desist order from Walmart’s “Brand Protection” team.

Even though the site was literally nothing other than a photo of a horse crudely overlaid on a picture of a Walmart store and there is no possible way a reasonable human being would think this was something created by the retailer, the letter says the use of the Walmart name “suggests Walmart’’s sponsorship or endorsement of your website and correspondingly, your activities,” and that this infringes on retailer’s trademark “because it weakens the ability of the Walmart mark and domain name to identify a single source, namely Walmart.”

Jacques — who described the site as a “piece of postmodern Dadaism — nonsense-art using found objects” and contended that it was “an obvious parody” which falls under the umbrella of fair use — did not heed the company’s takedown demand and the site remained live and unchanged.

But the Guardian reports that the site so rankled Walmart that it wasted additional time and money by taking its complaint to the World Intellectual Property Organisation and sought to take over under the WIPO’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.

“The UDRP is a domain name dispute resolution process that was designed to address cybersquatting issues,” trademark lawyer Roberto Ledesma explains to the Guardian. “This is reflected in the elements needed to prevail in a UDRP, which requires that the domain name has been registered in ‘bad faith’ and without rights or legitimate interests in the domain.”

But the matter never actually went before a UDRP panel, as Jacques decided it wasn’t worth fighting Walmart anymore.

And though does not redirect to, or even a section of related to horses, the Guardian reports that the company is indeed the proud owner of the URL.

Generic top-level domains (like .horse and .bike) are expected to be somewhat of a legal battlefield in the coming years. This is especially true of domains like the new .sucks, which is currently in the process of being doled out to interested buyers. However, anyone looking to register a URL like is going to have to pay top dollar.

PayPal Must Pay $25M In Refunds, Penalties For Illegally Signing Customers Up For Online Credit Product

Tue, 2015-05-19 18:51
(Liz Wise)

(Liz Wise)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau alleges that online payment platform PayPal signed up customers for PayPal credit accounts without authorization, forced customers to use this credit line instead of their preferred payment methods, and failed to address disputes. As a result, PayPal will pay a total of $25 million in refunds and penalties.

The CFPB announced today that it filed a complaint and proposed consent order against California-based PayPal for illegally signing customers up for PayPal Credit without their permission and deceptively advertising the benefits of the credit service.

According to the complaint [PDF], since 2008 PayPal has offered PayPal Credit – formerly Bill Me Later – to consumers making purchases from online merchants using the service or eBay.

While the product was advertised as optional, the CFPB claims in some instances people who were attempting to enroll in a regular PayPal account, or simply make an online purchase, were signed up for the credit service without realizing it.

In some cases, the company allegedly enrolled other individuals while they tried canceling or closing out of the application process.

After customers were enrolled in the service, PayPal would automatically set or reselect the credit as the default payment method for all purchases made through the system.

“This meant consumers used PayPal Credit even when they intended to use another method of payment such as a linked credit card or checking account,” the CFPB says in a statement.

When customers tried to select a different payment method, they tell the CFPB the purchase was still completed with the unwanted PayPal Credit. As a result, many PayPal users incurred late fees and interest because they didn’t know they had made a purchase through PayPal Credit.

The CFPB claims that most customers discovered their accounts only after finding a credit report inquiry or receiving welcome emails, billing statements, or debt-collection calls for amounts past due, including late fees and interest.

In addition to illegally enrolling customers in the PayPal Credit service, the CFPB alleges that the payment services company deceptively advertised benefits of the program and unfairly charged customers interest after promising a deferred interest promotion.

According to the CFPB, PayPal advertised promotions such as a $5 to $10 credit toward purchases if customers used the service. However, the company failed to honor the credit.

Additionally, the company regularly advertised a limited-time, deferred interest promotion. Under the deal, PayPal purported to let users pick how payments would be applied to these promotional balances.

However, when consumers attempted to contact the company to get more information or request to apply their payments to promotional balances often could not get through to the company’s customer service line or were given inaccurate information.

As a result, many individuals tell the CFPB that they incurred deferred interest fees that they could not avoid.

Unfortunately for customers, PayPal’s billing issues didn’t end there. The company allegedly failed to post payments or failed to remove late fees and interest charges from users’ bills even when payments were unable to be made because of website failures. enable to make payments because of website failures.

When customer brought the billing issues related to fees and interest to PayPal’s attention, the company allegedly mishandled the disputes and made additional billing errors.

Under the CFPB’s proposed consent order [PDF], PayPal must provide $15 million in redress to those who were mistakenly enrolled in PayPal Credit, who mistakenly paid for a purchase with PayPal Credit, or who incurred fees or deferred interest as a result of the company’s inadequate disclosures and flawed customer-service practices.

The company must also pay a $10 million civil penalty to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.

Additionally, PayPal is required to take steps to improve its consumer disclosures related to enrollment in PayPal Credit to ensure customers know they are enrolling or using the product for a purchase.

“Online shopping has become a way of life for many Americans and it’s important that they are treated fairly,” CFPB director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “The CFPB’s action should send a signal that consumers are protected whether they are opening their wallets or clicking online to make a purchase.”

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Takes Action Against PayPal for Illegally Signing Up Consumers For Unwanted Online Credit [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau]

Suspicious Buzzing Noise Leads To Discovery Of 40,000 Bees Under Floorboards Of NYC Home

Tue, 2015-05-19 18:43

(Theodore Scott)

(Theodore Scott)

No one likes unwanted houseguests squatting in their home, even if said residents are busy making something tasty. So when officials in New York City found a hive of roughly 40,000 bees living under the floorboards of a Queen apartment, experts felt it was best to evict.

The owner of the home called in a retired New York Police Department detective whose known for his skill with bees to diagnose the source of a loud, buzzing noise coming from somewhere inside the house, reports the New York Daily News.

His investigation using an infrared camera on a pole led to the discovery of the rogue swarm that had moved in under a bedroom in the house, at a spot where that room overhangs a backyard deck. It took more than two hours to remove the bees, with honey dripping off a massive honeycomb as it was carefully pulled out from under layers of siding and plywood.

Luckily enough for the hive, the queen was found, so the colony will be moved to a new home upstate by another beekeeper.

Buzz off! Massive hive of 40,000 bees found under bedroom floor of Queens home [New York Daily News]

4 Cancer Charities Accused Of Swindling Donors Out Of $187 Million

Tue, 2015-05-19 18:32

Children’s Cancer Fund of America Inc. is one of four cancer charities charged with allegedly perpetrating a scheme to bilk consumers out of millions of dollars.

Children’s Cancer Fund of America Inc. is one of four cancer charities charged with allegedly perpetrating a scheme to bilk consumers out of millions of dollars.

Federal regulators, state officials and prosecutors and law enforcement officers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia partnered up to charge four cancer charities and their operators for running a scheme to swindle consumers out of $187 million in charitable donations.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Cancer Fund of America, Inc. (CFA), Cancer Support Services Inc. (CSS), Children’s Cancer Fund of America Inc. (CCFOA) and The Breast Cancer Society Inc. (BCS), along with their operators, told donors their funds would go toward helping cancer patients.

However, the agencies allege that the donations were actually spent on cars, trips, luxury cruises, college tuition, gym memberships, jet ski outings, sporting event and concert tickets, and dating site memberships for the company operators, their family members and friends.

Stay tuned for more information on this enforcement action.

AT&T CEO: We Can Invest In Our Company Despite Net Neutrality Because It’ll Lose In Court Anyway

Tue, 2015-05-19 18:17
(Mike Mozart)

(Mike Mozart)

All of the big ISPs hate the FCCs new net neutrality rule. They’ve been protesting the agency’s decision since before it was even made. And yet the top executives at the cable ISPs have all by now explained why net neutrality is not actually a threat to their businesses, and this week was AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson’s turn.

AT&T spent the duration of the net neutrality fight trying their hardest to make “regulation stifles innovation” a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the heels of the White House’s call for the FCC to use Title II for net neutrality, last year, AT&T promptly issued a threat basically to take their ball and go home. Just a few months after announcing they might do a huge expansion of their gigabit fiber offerings, AT&T did an about-face, claiming that the plans were on hold due to the potential of strong net neutrality regulation.

At the time, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told investors, “We can’t go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed.”

Of course, the ISPs did not get their way, back in February, and the FCC vote to adopt the new rule. And in passing their regulation, the commission called everyone’s “this will stop us from investing” bluff.

So how is AT&T’s Stephenson now justifying his company’s continued well-being and failure to collapse into a pile of bankrupt ashes?

“The exact comment I made,” he said in an interview with CNBC this week, “was, we’re going to put a pause on our new broadband deployment plans until we see how these rules came out. We have seen how the rules came out.”

And yes, there is a truth to that: we have all now seen the new rule. But AT&T hates that new rule. They expressed disappointment in the FCC for actually regulating. They have been warming up their legal challenges since before the rule was even adopted. And they are now among the many parties filing the giant slate of lawsuits against the FCC to halt that rule.

So why is supposedly disastrous new regulatory environment suddenly not so bad for AT&T? Because they don’t expect it to last.

“As we read those rules, we do believe they’re subject to modification by the courts and remand by the courts to the FCC,” said Stephenson, which translated from the legalese to the English means they expect the courts to toss the rule back to the FCC for major edits, or to invalidate it entirely.

“Based on our reading of the Title II order that came out, we’re operating and we’re investing under the scenario that these rules will probably be changed,” Stephenson said. “We don’t think this rulemaking is sustainable from a legal standpoint, but the courts will decide that.”

And if the lawsuits fail, well, there’s always Capitol Hill. “Irrespective,” continued Stephenson, “the Congress seems inclined to make a change here so we really think these rules will be modified to a format that will be conducive to investment in the long haul.”

However, should Congress not fall into line, Stephenson has a plan C: the White House changing hands in the 2016 election, and the FCC’s current 3-2 party split swapping majorities. “Title II was put in place with a 3-2 vote of this commission. Title II could be changed by a 3-2 vote from another commission,” said Stephenson. “There’s just a lot of moving parts here. We think it’s unlikely the rules will stay in place like they are in the long term.”

Of Stephenson’s A, B, and C plans, the courts are probably the most likely. A Congressional solution has supporters but not enough of them, and also faces strong opposition. And as for the FCC changing its tune later? As we’ve described before, it’s possible that they could, but it’s deeply unlikely without an external force prompting it, and it would go through the same lengthy rulemaking process as before.

And so, the courts. But the FCC has been prepared for the inevitable lawsuits for many months, and crafted the entire new rule with the court’s tossing-out of the 2010 rule in mind. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is confident that the FCC can win on this round.

And yet, in terms of AT&T and others continuing to invest in their own companies and company infrastructure, net neutrality pretty much doesn’t matter. Companies are going to do whatever makes them money, and the internet is — and will not stop being — big business.

Why net rules no longer an investment barrier: AT&T [CNBC via Ars Technica]

Tic Tac Introduces New Flavors That Change As They Dissolve, Because Millennials Can’t Stand Being Bored

Tue, 2015-05-19 18:01

Tic Tac's current flavors (via Facebook)

Tic Tac’s current flavors (via Facebook)

In yet another example of how badly brands want to cater to — and get the business of — younger consumers, Tic Tac is introducing its first major product innovation in seven years: Flavors that change as they dissolve in your mouth, because millennials just cannot stand being bored, nope, not for one second.

Tic Tac Mixers were designed for young consumers who hate being bored, Todd Midura, marketing director for Tic Tac in the U.S. told Bloomberg, and will come in either cherry cola or peach lemonade.

“It was really born from looking at consumer needs and trying to make sure we’re appealing to those younger consumers,” Midura said. “It’s all about people wanting the product to entertain them. Younger people are really looking for a product to do that.”

The company says there are three reasons why someone might want a Tic Tac — to freshen breath, have a “sweet, fruity” moment or “emotional rescue.” Okay, then.

Since Tic Tacs first came on the scene in 1969, the product has remained pretty much the same, besides a tweak to packaging in 2010 to allow the clear containers to hold more mints than before. That’s because people haven’t wanted a change, Midura says.

“There’s an element of nostalgia,” he said. “People love being able to see what’s inside.”

Unless you’re bored and you can’t find entertainment anywhere else than a flavor-changing candy.

Tic Tac Adds New Flavor-Changing Varieties to Draw Millennials [Bloomberg]

Jury Hits Debt Collector With $83 Million Verdict Over Bogus $1,130 Debt

Tue, 2015-05-19 17:51

(Luke Hornick)

(Luke Hornick)

A jury in Missouri recently awarded $251,000 in damages to a local woman who was wrongfully sued by a debt collector — more than 222 times the amount she’d been sued over — but that’s nothing compared to the additional $82.99 million in punitive damages assessed against the collection company.

It all started several years back, when Portfolio Recovery Associates claimed a Kansas City, MO, resident owed $1,130.14 in credit card debt.

But she didn’t owe this debt — in fact, it belonged to a man who lived in the other Kansas City (the one in Kansas). Like many debt collectors, Portfolio lacked the proper documentation for the debt it purchased but pursued it anyway.

“The lawsuit terrified me,” she told KCUR FM in a written statement. “I feared they would take my house and I feared they would arrest me.”

A legal aid lawyer spent months trying to convince Portfolio Recovery of its error, but the company continued to attempt to collect the bogus debt.

And so when the debt collector sued the woman, she filed a counterclaim, alleging malicious prosecution and violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

A judge sided with the woman last October, ruling that the debt collector had “acted in bad faith, abused the discovery process and repeatedly violated this court’s discovery orders.”

“I was very shocked that they sued me for one year and three months even though I never had the credit card,” says the woman. “And after they dismissed the case, they said they might sue me again.”

A jury was subsequently asked to make a decision on damages, and last week they came down hard on Portfolio Recovery. The $252,000 was awarded to the woman for the company’s violations of the FDCPA, while the $82.9 million was for malicious prosecution. That figure represents around half of the company’s net income for 2014.

If that verdict is upheld, the woman (and her attorneys) would receive half while the other half would go to the Missouri attorney general’s office to set up a victims’ compensation fund. The state’s AG’s office has reportedly received dozens of similar complaints about Portfolio Recovery in the last decade.

The woman’s lawyer says the jury hit Portfolio Recovery with a “verdict that it thought would get this company’s attention.”

“This company has gained a reputation for take no prisoners, ‘If you mess with us we’re going to take you all the way, you’re going to have to spend a lot of money on this litigation, you’re going to have to go all the way to trial,’” said her attorney. “And so, among consumer lawyers, they are known to be very aggressive in litigation and to not stop; even when they’re wrong, they’re just not going to stop.”

Portfolio Recovery says it will appeal the “outlandish” verdict.

“We hope and expect the judge will set aside this inappropriate award, and we plan to file motions to make the request formally in the very near term,” says the company. “Any fair reading of the facts of this case makes plain that a verdict of this size is not justice by any means and cannot stand.”

Jury Awards KC Woman $83 Million In Debt Collection Case [KCUR]

Jackson County jury assesses $82 million verdict against debt collection firm [Kansas City Star]


NHTSA Investigating Nissan Vehicle Issue That Can Result In Blown Tires, Brake Failure

Tue, 2015-05-19 17:40
(Russ Swift)

(Russ Swift)

Suffering a tire blowout while driving down the highway is never a welcome experience, but imagine if you found out that the tire blew, not because of debris on the roadway, but as a result of a manufacturing defect with your vehicle? It’s for that reason more than 130,000 Nissan Versa vehicles are now under investigation by federal regulators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation opened a probe into model year 2008 to 2010 Versa vehicles after receiving 93 complaints about fractured front suspension coil springs.

According to a notice [PDF] posted by NHTSA, the fractured spring can lead to tire punctures or brake line damage while driving, which increase the risk of an accident.

“Preliminary analysis of the complaints indicates that the coil spring failures occur without warning and can happen at any speed,” the agency says in the notice.

While no injuries or fatalities have been reported related to the issue, one complaint did involved a crash

The driver in that instance was entering a highway on-ramp when they heard the crunching sound of metal on metal coming from the front passenger side of their car.

“I attempted to straighten out my car after the slight right turn and my right tire was not reacting to my turning of the steering wheel. I hit the brake a bit and tried to slow the car when my car started to fishtail,” the complaint states. “I was already in a spin that caused me to completely lose control… the car speed past 360 degrees, I went over an island and came to an abrupt stop once I took out the stop sign on this island.”

Another complaint involved the coil spring fracturing while the vehicle was traveling at 65 miles-per-hour, causing a sudden tire failure by cutting the inner sidewall.

Several other complaints include instances where the vehicle experience a passenger-side coil spring fracture while driving at speed in excess of 40 miles-per-hour. At least one of those cases resulted in a tire puncture and brake line failure.

NHTSA says ODI has received field report information related to the failures for the affected vehicles.

A preliminary investigation has been opened by the agency to access the scope, frequency and safety-related consequences of the alleged defect. The investigation is NHTSA’s first step in a process that could result in a recall of the vehicles.

Raiders Of The Lost Walmart Will Upgrade Your PC At Reasonable Prices

Tue, 2015-05-19 17:35

The Raiders of the Lost Walmart are a fearless band of retail archaeologists who will stop at nothing to find uncover every retail antiquity that the world’s big-box stores have to offer. Whether it’s a rebate due in 2004 or a Game Boy Advance of ambiguous color, the Raiders have shared their findings with Consumerist so we can all…well, mostly we’ve just learned not to shop for electronics on clearance at discount stores.

The first find isn’t all that ancient or unusual, but it’s also not going to move off the shelf at the posted price anytime soon.


“I found this 2013 version of internet security software “On Clearance” for $4.97 off the other day at Wal-Mart,” reader Speak wrote in his field report. “It looks like a 1 year newer package, about 1 year later than the one shown in this post, but for the same price.”

Meanwhile, this computer graphics card model dates back to 2006. That wouldn’t be so bad, but only if you had an older computer around that needs upgrading. However, Walmart isn’t about to discount technology on their shelves just for being nine years old.


YouTube Kids Accused Of Running Beer Ads, Crotch-Grabbing Lessons, Wine-Tasting Tips

Tue, 2015-05-19 17:05

The groups contend that the YouTube Kids app search function shows inappropriate material for children.

The groups contend that the YouTube Kids app search function shows inappropriate material for children.

Since Google launched the YouTube Kids app in February, the service has come under fire from consumer advocates for its advertising practices. Now, instead of focusing on the commercials shown through the service, several of those same groups are raising concerns with federal regulators over what they call disturbing and potentially harmful content for young children to view.

In a letter [PDF] sent today to the Federal Trade Commission, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) asked the agency to investigate the app after they found videos shown on the service contain inappropriate content including explicit sexual language, profanity, and jokes about pedophilia and drug use.

In the below video, using clips all allegedly pulled from YouTube Kids on the same day, the groups highlight videos that include, among others, a Budweiser beer ad, an instructional video on how to grab your crotch like Michael Jackson, a lecture about suicide, and footage from kids cartoon Animaniacs accompanied by a decidedly not-for-kids song from Family Guy:

( function() { var func = function() { var iframe_form = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-form-89424586556b9ee0ede2b710dadc09bc-555b5144d9671'); var iframe = document.getElementById('wpcom-iframe-89424586556b9ee0ede2b710dadc09bc-555b5144d9671'); if ( iframe_form && iframe ) { iframe_form.submit(); iframe.onload = function() { iframe.contentWindow.postMessage( { 'msg_type': 'poll_size', 'frame_id': 'wpcom-iframe-89424586556b9ee0ede2b710dadc09bc-555b5144d9671' }, window.location.protocol + '//' ); } } // Autosize iframe var funcSizeResponse = function( e ) { var origin = document.createElement( 'a' ); origin.href = e.origin; // Verify message origin if ( '' !== ) return; // Verify message is in a format we expect if ( 'object' !== typeof || undefined === ) return; switch ( ) { case 'poll_size:response': var iframe = document.getElementById( ); if ( iframe && '' === iframe.width ) iframe.width = '100%'; if ( iframe && '' === iframe.height ) iframe.height = parseInt( ); return; default: return; } } if ( 'function' === typeof window.addEventListener ) { window.addEventListener( 'message', funcSizeResponse, false ); } else if ( 'function' === typeof window.attachEvent ) { window.attachEvent( 'onmessage', funcSizeResponse ); } } if (document.readyState === 'complete') { func.apply(); /* compat for infinite scroll */ } else if ( document.addEventListener ) { document.addEventListener( 'DOMContentLoaded', func, false ); } else if ( document.attachEvent ) { document.attachEvent( 'onreadystatechange', func ); } } )();

“Making matters worse, the design of the app appears to facilitate access to videos that are inappropriate for children,” the letter states. “As users of YouTube Kids search for material, the app begins to recommend similar videos, as the ‘Recommended’ function on YouTube Kids is apparently based on ‘Search’ history. When we were conducting our review, YouTube Kids actually began recommending videos about wine tasting on its app for preschoolers. Thus, the more inappropriate videos children search for, the more inappropriate videos they will be shown via the app’s ‘Recommended’ function.”

The groups say they came across the questionable material after their first complaint to the FTC regarding concerns that YouTube Kids app was unfair and deceptive toward children and parents.

“In subsequent research of YouTube Kids conducted by the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy, we have discovered that Google’s deceptive practices toward parents are even more widespread and pervasive than we documented in our initial request for investigation,” the letter states.

The groups contend that the allegedly inappropriate material is deceptive in light of Google’s public claims that the service is a safe place for children under five to explore.

Additionally, the groups tell the FTC that Google is further engaging in deceptive practice because many of the inappropriate ads would violate the company’s own policies.

“The YouTube Kids Advertising Policy states that ads for “Illegal or Regulated Products” such as alcohol are prohibited on the app,” the letter states. “As described above, CCFC and CDD found multiple videos for alcohol that appeared to be ads that previously aired on television.”

A spokesperson for Google tells the Wall Street Journal that content for the app is chosen using a combination of automatic filters.

If a user comes across content they feel is inappropriate they can flag the video and Google will manually review the video and remove it if it doesn’t fit the company’s guidelines, the spokesperson says.

Today’s complaint from CCFC and CDD is the second the groups have signed onto in regard to Google’s YouTube Kids app. Back in April, the advocates, along with those from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, and Public Citizen accused Google of violating Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive marketing practices.

According to that letter [PDF], the service violates multiple rules about youth-targeted advertising.

The FTC tells the Journal that it has received both of these complaints about YouTube Kids, but says it couldn’t comment on whether or not the agency was investigating these allegations.

Google’s YouTube Kids App Criticized for ‘Inappropriate Content’ [The Wall Street Journal]

Lawsuit: “Defective” Chicken McNugget Contained Bone Shards That Caused “Severe Injury” When Swallowed

Tue, 2015-05-19 17:04

(Jeepers Media)

(Jeepers Media)

A Chicago man says he had to take a trip to the emergency room after eating what he calls a “defective” Chicken McNugget caused him “severe injury” when he swallowed it. He’s filed a lawsuit claiming the food in question contained one or more sharp bone shards that didn’t feel so great going down.

The lawsuit says the man bought McNuggets in May 2013 from a Chicago McDonald’s, and that one he bit into had at least one sharp bone shard, reports the Chicago Tribune.

“The Subject Chicken McNugget constituted an unreasonably dangerous product when put to use for which it was intended, in that it could not be consumed with safety and without the risk of impaling and/or cutting the consumer in the mouth, tongue and/or throat, and potentially causing additional damage to the stomach, digestive track and intestines of the consumer, due to the sharp bone shards contained therein,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit says McDonald’s workers didn’t inspect and test the McNugget in question for bone fragments before giving it to the plaintiff.

McDonald’s didn’t return the Tribune’s request for comment, and neither did co-defendant Tyson Foods, the company’s chicken supplier.

Cook County man sues McDonald’s over ‘defective’ McNugget [Chicago Tribune]

New FDA Rule Would Provide More Information About Antibiotics In Farm Animals, But Still Not Enough

Tue, 2015-05-19 16:29

(Teresa RS)

(Teresa RS)

After decades of inaction on the issue, the FDA is slowly taking actions that it hopes will curb the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals, which currently accounts for around 80% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. The agency’s latest measure, if approved, will provide more information about how farmers are using these medically important drugs, but by the FDA’s own admission, it’s still not sufficient.

Under the current rules, the FDA receives annual reports on the total amount of antibiotics sold and distributed for use in livestock. While that data helps to show how huge this market is, it fails to provide any sort of granular numbers on how the drugs are used.

The proposed new rule would require companies to provide sales data in terms of the major food-producing animals that the drugs are being used on. Thus, the FDA would have some idea on how much of each of these drugs are going to cattle, pigs, chickens, or turkey.

“The additional data would improve understanding of how antimicrobials are sold or distributed for use in major food-producing animals and help the FDA further target its efforts to ensure judicious use of medically important antimicrobials,” reads a statement from the agency.

That statement also makes it clear that this data alone is inadequate to determine whether recent regulations are having any effect on the overuse of antibiotics.

“While adding species-specific information will help provide a fuller picture, more detailed information is needed about on-farm use practices to adequately understand links between usage patterns and trends in resistance,” continues the statement.

Susan Vaughn Grooters, policy analyst for advocacy group Keeping Antibiotics Working, notes that public health advocates have been asking the FDA to collect this data for years.

“Had leadership acted sooner, we’d already be collecting species-level data by now, which is essential to help us measure the success of FDA’s voluntary guidance to industry,” she explains. “In light of the growing crisis of resistance, any effort to close this information gap is welcome — even if it is nearly a decade late.”

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter from New York, a microbiologist and outspoken critic of antibiotics in farm animals, points out that the proposed rule doesn’t do anything to resolve the most pressing concern about using these drugs on livestock: the so-called “disease prevention loophole.”

Under the FDA’s 2013 voluntary guidance for drug companies, drug makers were asked to stop selling veterinary antibiotics solely for the purpose of growth promotion. But since almost all of the affected antibiotics are also approved for medical use, farmers just changed their reason for buying the drugs from growth promotion to disease prevention.

“Knowing how much of the drugs are being used in cattle or pork or poultry will be helpful in identifying the problem areas, but it won’t change the fact that we are frittering away one of our most precious resources for human health,” says Rep. Slaughter. “I will continue to call on the FDA to make all the changes necessary to meet their mandate of protecting the public health.”

Slaughter has also reintroduced the Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals (DATA) Act, which directs the FDA to enhance its collection and reporting of antibiotic use in food animals.

Starbucks & Spotify Team Up In Streaming Music Deal

Tue, 2015-05-19 15:55

(Renee Rendler-Kaplan)

(Renee Rendler-Kaplan)

Just two months after Starbucks stopped selling CDs in its stores, the coffee chain says it’s going to be filling customers’ ears with music another way, announcing a streaming partnership with Spotify that will let customers have a say in what’s being played.

On Monday Starbucks announced a multi-year deal to work with Spotify to make playlists for its stores and promote the subscription streaming service at those locations.

“By connecting Spotify’s world-class streaming platform into our world-class store and digital ecosystem, we are reinventing the way our millions of global customers discover music,” Howard Schultz, the company’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

Starting this fall, Starbucks employees and customers will be able to pick what songs are played in stores. Spotify will also be incorporating into the Starbucks mobile app. Spotify customers will also be able to collect Starbucks’ rewards points as part of the deal, which is the first time the company has allowed a third party to access its program.

About 150,000 Starbucks workers will also get free access to Spotify’s premium service starting this summer, which usually costs about $10 a month.

“We’re really making the barista the D.J. here,” Daniel Ek, chief executive of Spotify, said in a conference call according to the New York Times.

Which could be bad for you if you already know and loathe your baristas’ taste in music based on the playlists they might already have going now. Better pack earplugs, in that case.

Postmates Underestimated Demand For Free Pizza In Minneapolis

Mon, 2015-05-18 23:50

(Jeremy Segrott)

(Jeremy Segrott)

If such a thing is even possible, the delivery company Postmates underestimated the general public’s hunger for free pizza. To promote the expansion of their company to Minneapolis and St. Paul, Postmates offered free pizza to anyone who was able to place their order at just the right time.

Postmates is the company that provides delivery for restaurants and retailers that don’t offer their own delivery service: prominent partners include Chipotle and Starbucks, but the lure of Postmates is supposed to be delivery from anywhere. They claim to start in each new market with 100 freelance drivers and bike-riders who make deliveries, and the free food is a lure to get people to try the service.

Instead, attempts to get pizza were, for some users, an exercise in futility. There are only so many free pizzas to go around. The Star-Tribune’s Kavita Kumar tried to place a pizza order and was unable to, and others shared the same frustration on social media.

@Postmates #Minneapolis been trying to get my free pizza delivered all day and all I get is this… #failing

— The Holocron (@The_Holocron) May 16, 2015

There also seemed to be some confusion over what was being given away and when: the company launched in Minneapolis and Charlotte, NC on the same day, and I read the announcement to say that they were giving away pizza for two days in Minneapolis and ice cream for two days in Charlotte. People in Minneapolis interpreted this to mean that the ice cream was available to them, too.

People clamoring for free stuff is quite different from ordering a burrito that comes with substantial service and delivery fees, though.

Postmates overwhelmed at launch, can’t keep up with orders for free pizza and ice cream [Star-Tribune]

Oculus Won’t Block Virtual Reality Porn On Headsets

Mon, 2015-05-18 22:41

oculusdkWhile demos of virtual reality headsets have thus far stuck to immersive games and interactive clips that let you experience things like flying over a city or race through a jungle, some people are thinking about how the tech could be employed for more intimate purposes. And the folks at Facebook-owned Oculus VR are just fine with that.

The Oculus Rift headset prototype helped kicked off the latest batch of VR headgear when it won Best of CES in 2014. The company was then snapped up by Facebook and its technology is already being used in headsets designed by others, like Samsung’s Gear VR. The consumer version of the Rift is expected to launch in the coming months.

Some big-money electronics companies actively shy away from supporting erotic content and applications, but Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is taking an a hands-off approach when it comes to X-rated uses of his company’s devices.

“The Rift is an open platform, we don’t control what software can run on it,” he explained during the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Conference on Monday, according to Variety. “And that’s a big deal.”

Variety notes that others on the same panel as Luckey were less willing to discuss the porn issue.

Nick DiCarlo, the Samsung VP in charge of its VR business, noted that Milk VR, the company’s storefront for VR content, “is being programmed as a major media outlet.”

So that’s probably a no on porn from Samsung. Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to watch adult content on the Gear VR, but that it likely won’t be sold through Milk.

Facebook Might Let Businesses Contact Customers Through WhatsApp

Mon, 2015-05-18 22:21



When Facebook forked over $19 billion to buy WhatsApp last year, it wasn’t clear how the company planned to make money off the messaging service, considering it already had its own separate app. One possibility? Facebook is considering allowing businesses to contact users — for a price, of course.

Facebook said that it may introduce business-to-consumer interaction that marketers would pay to get access to, reports Bloomberg. At 800 million users, WhatsApp is close to the 1 billion number Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg cited in the past as the level it could start to become a meaningful business.

“We think that enabling that B2C messaging has good business potential for us,” David Wehner, Facebook’s chief financial officer, said at a technology conference Monday. “As we learn those things, I think there’s going to be opportunities to bring some of those things to WhatsApp, but that’s more longer-term than the near-term.”

It’s unclear whether users would have to opt in to such an arrangement, or whether companies who’d paid their fee to Facebook could reach out to whoever they wanted.

Facebook Might Consider Business-to-Consumer Chat for WhatsApp [Bloomberg]

Google Reportedly Adding Buy Button To Sponsored Mobile Search Results

Mon, 2015-05-18 22:08


Searching for and buying a product with your smartphone is about to get a bit easier. Google is reportedly just weeks away from adding a “buy” button to mobile search results, a move that will increase the company’s rivalry with other online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is attempting to simplify the smartphone shopping experience by allowing users to simply hit a buy button to complete a transaction straight from search results, rather than toggle between retailer websites.

The new buttons will only accompany sponsored search results; the options that pop up on the page under the “Shop on Google” heading. Non-sponsored results supported by the traditional Google search algorithm will not include the new buttons.

Clicking on the buy button will take a prospective buyer to another Google product page where they can pick sizes, colors, and shipping option.

While the entire transaction will take place on a Google page, the products will continue to be provided by and sold from actual retailers.

A person with knowledge of the new venture, tells the WSJ that Google will provide customers the same option to opt into marketing programs – such as emails and discounts – that would traditionally be seen on the retailers’ website.

Google pages where purchases are completed will also be heavily branded for the retailer selling the products. Recommended purchases, often seen below a selected item will also come from the same retailer.

The new system will function much like rival online retailers apps from Amazon and eBay, allowing users to store their payment information and shipping information making it easier to complete future purchases, even if they from a different retailer.

Google won’t actually share the data with retailers. Instead, the company will get the funds from shoppers and passes it on to the retailer, the WSJ reports.

Can Google Outsell Amazon and eBay? [The Wall Street Journal]

Beaver Wanders Into A Lowe’s Store, Finds Nothing Useful

Mon, 2015-05-18 21:42

(Mike Mozart)

(Mike Mozart)

If you find a trip to your local home-improvement superstore daunting and stressful, imagine being a young adult beaver preparing to build your first home. One of the rodents wandered into the chain’s location in Fairbanks, Alaska, and wandered the store’s aisles aimlessly. It was as likely to find twigs and mud as you are to agree on a paint shade for the master bedroom.

While we’ve shared stories of animals wandering around stores, a manager told the Fairbanks News-Miner that one had never visited the one in Fairbanks before.

A Department of Fish and Game employee brought the beaver to a wildlife biologist to be checked out, and the biologist released the animal in some wetlands that were nearby, but far from the Lowe’s store. It had most likely come from an area a few blocks away: beaver parents kick their adult offspring out so they’ll be forced to find a mate and build their own home. That’s probably what this beaver was trying to do, but they didn’t have the type of supplies that it was used to.

If you’re visiting Alaska and happen to spot a beaver lodge with crown molding, you’ll know that the Lowe’s beaver is doing okay.

A beaver walks into an Alaska hardware store … [News-Miner]