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Here’s Another Near-Invisible Card Skimmer Found On A European ATM

Fri, 2014-08-22 19:34

On the right of this photo is a 1-euro coin, which is more or less the size of a U.S. dollar coin. On the left is a super-thin skimmer recovered from the card-reader slot of an ATM in Europe. Powered by a watch battery, it was only found when the ATM displayed a “fatal error” message and a technician came by to figure out what was wrong.

(Krebs on Security)

(Krebs on Security)

The bank that showed this skimmer to Krebs on Security wants to stay anonymous, but is somewhere in Europe. While credit and bank cards in Europe in theory use EMV (computer chip) instead of magnetic strips, they still often have magnetic strips in order to be backwards-compatible in countries that still use magnetic card readers.

When it comes to skimmers, there are a few very basic precautions that you can take to prevent having your bank account drained by a skimmer.

1. Cover your hand while inputting your PIN. Imagine that there’s a camera somewhere above the screen pointing down at your hand, because sometimes there is.

This method is not foolproof: some skimmers use a false PIN pad to capture numbers instead, so shielding your hand wouldn’t work. Most skimmers recovered recently use separate data capture devices and cameras, though, so it’s a helpful tactic. This might mean using walk-up instead of drive-up ATMs if, like me, you’re too short to reach the machine with two hands while sitting in a car.

2. Use a credit card to reduce your fraud liability at a gas pump or kiosk. This one might be a little too obvious, but fraudsters can’t drain your bank account if they don’t have access to it. Yes, you will eventually get the money back, but an empty bank account can lead to a very unpleasant week.

Stealthy, Razor Thin ATM Insert Skimmers [Krebs on Security]

Following Deaths Of 2 Children, 2.2 Million Bean Bags Recalled

Fri, 2014-08-22 18:42

bean bags The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the voluntary recall of 2.2 million Ace Bayou Corporation bean bag chairs after two children opened them, crawled inside and tragically suffocated to death.

The voluntary industry standard requires non-refillable bean bag chairs to have closed and permanently disabled zippers. However, the recalled chairs have two zippers that can be opened, providing enough space for a child to enter. The child can then become trapped and suffocate or choke on the bag’s foam beads.

A 13-year-old boy from Texas and a 3-year-old girl from Kentucky died inside the Ace Bayou chairs after suffocating and inhaling the beads, CPSC reports.

Affected chairs include both round or L-shaped, vinyl or fabric, and are filled with polystyrene foam beads. The chairs were sold in a variety of colors, including purple, violet, blue, red, pink, yellow, Kelly green, black, port, navy, lime, royal blue, turquoise, tangerine and multi-color.

Round bean bag chairs were sold in three sizes, 30, 32 and 40 inches in diameter, while L-shaped bean bag chairs measure 18 inches wide by 30 inches deep by 30 inches high. “ACE BAYOU CORP” is printed on a tag sewn into the bean bag chair’s cover seam.

The chairs, which retailed for between $30 and $100, were sold at Bon-Ton, Meijer, Pamida, School Specialty, Wayfair, Walmart and Amazon.com before July 2013.

The CPSC urges consumers to check their bean bag chairs for any zippers that can open and take those that can open away from children immediately.

Owners should contact New Orleans-based Ace Bayou for a free repair kit to permanently disable the zippers so that they cannot be opened.

Two Deaths Reported with Ace Bayou Bean Bag Chairs; Recall Announced Due to Suffocation and Choking Hazards [U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission]

Creator Of “Your Baby Can Read” Program Settles False Advertising Charges

Fri, 2014-08-22 17:55

ybcrAlmost exactly two years after the Federal Trade Commission accused the people behind the popular “Your Baby Can Read” training program of making deceptive advertising claims, the product’s creator has finally reached a deal to settle charges that he and his company made baseless pronouncements about the effectiveness of the program and that they misrepresented scientific studies to prove these bogus statements.

Your Baby Can Read, created by Dr. Robert Titzer, raked in more than $185 million from the sales of its $200 kits. The program made claims in ads, infomercials, and on social media that it could teach babies to read as early as nine months out of the womb, and that kids who used YBCR could handle reading something as complicated as a Harry Potter book by the age of three or four.

In 2013, the FTC’s complaint was amended to allege that the makers of YBCR lacked competent and reliable scientific evidence to show that the program could actually teach babies to read, or that the program helped very young children reach advanced levels of reading at a preschool age.

The amended complaint also charged Dr. Titzer with making deceptive expert endorsements for YBCR.

Titzer touted the program, even after the initial FTC complaint, by making supportive statements about YBCR, including that it “gives infants and children an early start on academic learning, allowing them to perform better in school and later in life than children who did not use the program,” or that “Scientific studies prove that Your Baby Can Read! teaches infants and children to read.” However, the FTC alleged that the research Titzer used to support these claims was not sufficient.

According to the 2013 complaing, Titzer “did not exercise his purported expertise in infant research in the form of an examination or testing of the Your Baby Can Read! program, at least as extensive as an expert in infant research would normally conduct, in order to support the conclusions presented in his endorsement.”

As part of the deal with the FTC Titzer and his company are prohibited from making unsubstantiated claims about the performance or efficacy of any product that teaches reading, and neither defendant can use the statement “Your Baby Can Read.”

Dr. Titzer is barred from endorsing any product unless he has a reasonable basis for the claims made. He must also pay a penalty of $300,000.

DEA To Change Classification of Some Frequently-Abused Painkillers Like Vicodin

Fri, 2014-08-22 17:49

(Sarah Braun)

(Sarah Braun)


As a country, we sure do like our prescription painkillers. In fact, we like them a bit too much: Americans consume 99% of all hydrocodone drugs manufactured in the world. Prescription drug abuse — and deaths from overdose — are rampant. The DEA is hoping to stem the tide of abuse and overdose with a new rule that changes the way some painkillers are classified, and will make them harder for individuals to get.

The L.A. Times reports that the DEA today is announcing a new rule that will tighten regulations on drugs containing hydrocodone, like Vicodin. The new rule, which classifies them as Schedule II drugs, places them in the same category as other frequently-abused drugs like OxyContin.

The drugs are currently classified as Schedule III. Schedule II classification, which goes into effect in 45 days, will make them more difficult to obtain. Patients will be able to get fewer pills at a time and will have to obtain new prescriptions from their doctors more often.

The FDA recommended reclassifying vicodin and other hydrocodone drugs as Schedule II last October, after several years of resisting the change because the new classification will make it more burdensome for patients with legitimate needs for the drugs to obtain them. However, the Times reports, after the DEA showed that hydrocodone-containing drugs are all over the black market, the FDA reconsidered their position.

Almost 7 million Americans are estimated to abuse prescription painkillers, a representative for the DEA told the Times. Overuse and abuse of hydrocodone drugs contributes to about 16,000 deaths per year — more than heroin and cocaine combined, the Times reports.

Many of the fatal overdoes do result from illegally obtained drugs. However, plenty don’t. A Times investigation looking at records from four California counties found in half of prescription drug-related deaths, the medications were directly prescribed by doctors and presumably legally purchased.

DEA tightens controls on hydrocodone painkiller drugs [L.A. Times]

Latest Federal Probe Into GM’s Delayed Ignition Switch Recall Centers On Company’s Legal Department

Fri, 2014-08-22 17:38
(Paul Bica)

(Paul Bica)

We know, we know: Broken record here, but the legal woes for General Motors are far from over and new probes are announced every day. Now federal prosecutors are looking into whether the car manufacturer’s legal department concealed evidence that could have led to an earlier recall of vehicles with faulty ignition switches that ultimately led to at least 13 deaths.

Citing people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan are in the early stages of an investigation regarding whether employees tied to the company’s legal department contributed to the 11-year delay of the recall by hiding evidence of an issue.

The people cited by the WSJ say the review of current and former company lawyers is part of a larger criminal investigation into possibly misleading statements the company made in reference to the ignition switch used in millions of vehicles.

The investigation comes after GM released an internal report earlier this summer that found the company’s lawyers failed to alert other managers to lawsuits against the company that could have addressed accidents where airbags did not deploy.

According to the internal report, members of GM’s legal staff were repeatedly warned, starting in 2010, that GM could face costly punitive damage awards over failure to address safety problems.

Following the internal probe, GM dismissed 15 employees, including several lower level lawyers, citing their failure to take action.

During a July senate hearing, Michael Millikin, general counsel for the manufacturer, told lawmakers that “we had lawyers at GM who didn’t do their jobs” and said they are no longer with the company.

Lawmakers weren’t exactly happy with that answer. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill voiced concern that despite his employee’s failures, Millikin was able to keep his position within the company.

Since then, at least three additional high-level GM attorneys have been dismissed and the company hired outside representation to review its litigation process. Millikin continues to work as general counsel for the company.

GM’s legal department is just one area in which prosecutors are looking for possible criminal liability, the WSJ reports. In June, a Congressional investigation into the ignition debacle indicated that at least one current GM Vice President was made aware of the problem as early as 2005.

The WSJ reports that probes against in-house lawyers don’t occur often because of complicated attorney-client privileges and the difficulty in proving liability. Still, similar cases have led to decisions and fines for companies in the past.

In March, Toyota Motor Corporation reached a deal to pay $1.2 billion to settle fraud charges after a four-year criminal probe into the company’s efforts to conceal safety issues related to unintended acceleration.

Those familiar with the situation between GM and the new legal investigation say prosecutors could try to charge current and former GM lawyers and others with mail and wire fraud – the charges used in the Toyota case.

The latest investigation is in the early stages and could end without any charges being brought against the legal department or GM.

U.S. Probe Examines GM Lawyers [The Wall Street Journal]

AirBNB Squatter Brothers Quietly Leave Their Ill-Gotten Condo

Fri, 2014-08-22 17:28

(Jonathan Coffey)

(Jonathan Coffey)

The AirBNB squatter nightmare is over…as far as we know. The owner of the property filed an unlawful detainer notice, which is part of the legal eviction process. While the squatters didn’t respond to that notice before their Monday deadline, instead they quietly left the condo, leaving surprisingly little damage.

The owner of the condo says that she plans to sell, since her vacation home has been tainted by the whole experience. She has walked through the place after the brothers left, but stayed in a hotel while she sorted condo-related business out. She had a number of eyes on the condo, including everyone from neighbors to an actual surveillance team put in place by AirBNB to watch the brothers.

The squatter saga began when an AirBNB “guest” rented a condo in Palm Springs, California for 44 days, but stopped paying for the residence after only 30 days. That’s the point when a guest gains renter’s rights in California, and he took advantage of this rule to avoid eviction. Reporters on the scene in Palm Springs were able to figure out the identity of the renter, a game developer who had raised $39,739 on Kickstarter for a project, Confederate Express, and then hadn’t produced anything before starting another Kickstarter project under his company’s name instead of his own. Kickstarter later suspended that still-unfunded project.

The homeowner thinks that the media attention that her situation received was ultimately helpful in booting the squatters. “As crazy and stressful as the media attention was, I’m happy the story went viral,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Airbnb squatters leave Palm Springs condo [San Francisco Chronicle]

Are Mozzarella Sticks The Next McDonald’s Dollar Menu Item?

Fri, 2014-08-22 16:39

Photo courtesy of (@melarenass)

Photo courtesy of (@melarenass)

When you think of McDonald’s you probably think of burgers and fries. But could the fast-food joint be the next big thing for Mozzarella sticks? Probably not, but that’s not stopping at least one location from serving the cheesy sticks.

According to a report from FoodBeast, a northern New Jersey McDonald’s is offering a box of three-piece mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce for a dollar.

It’s not clear whether this is a rogue McDonald’s or if the company as a whole is truly considering adding the option to it’s already self-described overcomplicated menu.

FoodBeast reports that the cheese sticks are already available on McDonald’s menus in the UK.

Mozzarella sticks, a food staple of happy hours and endless appetizer menus, aren’t a completely unheard of fast-food offering.

Previously, Burger King added mozz sticks to the menu, however, the cheesy logs didn’t garner enough love from customers to make it a permanent menu fixture in the U.S.

McDonald’s Testing McMozzarella Sticks with McMarinara Sauce [FoodBeast]

Washington State Just Says No To Mobile Weed-Smoking Wagons

Fri, 2014-08-22 16:35

A handful of companies, including the Weed Bus Club, have popped up in Washington to provide visitors with a place to smoke while touring Seattle.

A handful of companies, including the Weed Bus Club, have popped up in Washington to provide visitors with a place to smoke while touring Seattle.

In the wake of Washington state’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana, some businesses have popped up to cater to weed tourists who want to see the sites while also enjoying the cannabis they have purchased. But state regulators have now made it clear that smoking pot on buses — even chartered ones — is a no-no.

The idea for these weed wagons apparently arose out of a response to laws against smoking pot in public. One company, the Weed Bus Club, markets itself as providing an easy way to check out Seattle’s licensed marijuana retailers while also enjoying their products.

“We save you the effort of researching the shops by driving you straight there, and then you can smoke right on the bus!” reads the company’s site.

But the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission is making its stance very clear on this issue, notifying the charter and excursion bus operators in the state that “the consumption or use of marijuana products on their vehicles by passengers or drivers is prohibited by state law.”

The commission also reminded these charter operators that “failure to comply with the law will result in the cancellation of their state-issued operating permit.”

[via SeattlePI.com]

Consumerist Friday Flickr Finds

Fri, 2014-08-22 16:12

Here are nine of the best photos that readers added to the Consumerist Flickr Pool in the last week, picked for usability in a Consumerist post or for just plain neatness.

(Freaktography)

(Freaktography)

(Chris Goldberg)

(Chris Goldberg)

(Renee Rendler-Kaplan)

(Renee Rendler-Kaplan)

(Karen Chappell)

(Karen Chappell)

(Nicholas Eckhart)

(Nicholas Eckhart)

(Sébastien Barré)

(Sébastien Barré)

(George)

(George)

(pjpink)

(pjpink)

(Andrés Nieto Porras)

(Andrés Nieto Porras)

Our Flickr Pool is the place where Consumerist readers upload photos for possible use in future Consumerist posts. Want to see your pictures on our site? Just be a registered Flickr user, go here, and click “Join Group?” up on the top right. Choose your best photos, then click “send to group” on the individual images you want to add to the pool.

Delta Hands Over 7-Year-Old Passenger To Wrong Person

Fri, 2014-08-22 16:07

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

Delta has got some explaining to do. Not only did the airline hand over a 7-year-old unaccompanied traveler to the wrong person when she arrived at her destination, but that wrong person happened to the mother who recently got out of jail for kidnapping and beating the girl back in 2008.

The young girl, who has been in her father’s custody in Ohio since her mom was convicted six years ago, was flying to Houston to visit other relatives. These family members were the ones Delta was supposed to hand the youngster over to. Instead, it was the mom who picked up her daughter at the airport.

The dad says he didn’t even know that his the girl’s mom had been released from prison.

“Delta has pretty much admitted that their policy has been, has not been followed,” his attorney tells WCPO-TV. He also says the local police are investigating whether or not the mom violated the terms of her parole.

Delta says it is “conducting its own investigation” and that “Delta’s unaccompanied minor handling protocols are thorough and we will be looking to see if procedures were properly followed in this instance.”

90,000 Pounds Of Caesar Salad Kits Sold At Sam’s Club Recalled Because Listeria Isn’t A Tasty Ingredient

Fri, 2014-08-22 15:31
caesar

(Coyoty)

When you’re in a rush and don’t have time to gather all the ingredients to a salad, grabbing a pre-made kit might seem like a convenient and healthy idea. That is unless that salad kit comes with a little something extra – let’s say, maybe, listeria. Doesn’t sound so appetizing, now does it?

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service announced that APPA Fine Foods has recalled approximately 92,657 pounds of fully cooked chicken Caesar salad kit products because they might contain listeria monocytogenes contamination.

The 11-ounce clear plastic salad kits were shipped nationwide to Sam’s Club stores and sold in 6.5-pound boxes labeled “APPA Fine Foods/Sam’s Club Daily Chef Chicken Caesar Salad Kit.”

Testing of the kits found that only the chicken has the potential to be contaminated with the listeria.

So far, there have been no reports of illness associated with the kits. Listeria, which can cause fever, muscle aches and gastrointestinal symptoms, is especially dangerous for those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women and newborns.

Affected kits were marked with the codes 141851, 141922, 141951, 141991, 142021, 142201 or 142131 and with use-by dates of 8/14/14, 8/21/14, 8/27/14, 9/1/14, 9/3/14 or 9/17/14. The also include the establishment number “P-21030″ inside the USDA mark of inspection.

California Firm Recalls Chicken Caesar Salad Kits For Possible Listeria Contamination [USDA]

Marketers Think It’s Time To Prepare Your Batches Of Halloween Cards

Thu, 2014-08-21 23:20

How early is “too early” for a store Halloween display? It used to be that seeing Halloween candy and merchandise on the shelves in July shocked us, but it no longer does. Are retailers wearing us down? Will they begin to stock costumes and pumpkin spice flavored foods even earlier, pairing Fourth of July and Halloween items as Halloween and Christmas are inevitably paired now?

Meanwhile, here are two lovely displays of Halloween merchandise out in store before anyone could possibly want them.

halloween_creep

Reader Dave sent along this picture from Walgreens: those nests look tasty, but still, it’s too early.

cards

How about some greeting cards? Randy took these pictures at CVS. Not only are marketers still trying to make Halloween cards into a thing, but you can buy them more than two months in advance.

4 Reasons Consumers Union Has Asked The FCC To Block The Comcast/TWC Merger

Thu, 2014-08-21 22:51

(Consumerist's own Chris Morran)

(Consumerist)

The full regulatory approval process for the Comcast/TWC merger has months left to go, but we’re getting down to the wire on one part of it: the deadline for public comments is Monday. Our colleagues down the hall at Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, have now officially asked the FCC to block this thing, and with good reason.

In their petition (PDF), Consumers Union sets out their arguments for why allowing Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable would hurt consumers. In a word, it’s all about competition, and the near-complete absence of it.

1.) Making Comcast bigger reduces other pay TV companies’ ability to compete. Sure, sure, Comcast and TWC don’t comepete geographically — but that doesn’t mean anyone else does, either. The lack of competition, combined with Comcast’s sheer size, gives them both the ability and the incentive to mess with other pay TV providers’ access to the content they own.

2.) A post-merger Comcast will have enough leverage to stifle online competition. Call this the Netflix problem. Content isn’t just for cable and broadcast networks anymore; it’s from online services, too. And by letting traffic bottleneck or trying to keep subscribers using their set-top tech, Comcast can keep consumers in their ecosystem… and lock the new tech guys out.

3.) The bigger Comcast gets, the more it controls what content viewers can see — and can lock out diverse content. It’s not just cloud-based, online, or streaming services that Comcast can control access to. It’s good old TV, too. Post-merger, Comcast would be the cable provider for 16 of the top 20 media markets in the country. They would have power to carry or to decline to carry programming to over 30 million consumers. Spanish-language channels in your city not willing or able to pay skyrocketing carriage fees? Too bad for viewers.

4.) When there’s no competition, consumers get rotten service. Everyone hates their cable companies’ customer service, but they put up with it because there’s nowhere else to go. Just this month, we’ve heard and seen several recordings that show just how bad bad can be. But if Comcast is the only internet provider in town, they have no reason to get better.

Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “This mega merger would give Comcast unprecedented power to raise prices, limit choices, and stifle competition, which would seriously hurt consumers.” She continued, “If this deal goes through, we can expect to be hit with more skyrocketing bills and worse service as Comcast gains even more control over what we see online and on TV. The two companies have failed to demonstrate how the merger would serve the public interest. The benefits they claim are overstated, or elusive, or don’t depend on a merger, and they are far outweighed by the harms.”

If you want to file your own comment with the FCC, they’re taking them through August 25.

Nestle Implements Tougher Animal Welfare Standards For Thousands Of Suppliers

Thu, 2014-08-21 22:05
(Adam Fagen)

(Adam Fagen)

Several months after workers at one of its dairy suppliers were charged with animal cruelty after being caught on camera abusing cows, Nestle says that it is taking steps to ensure that the animals in its supply chain are treated properly.

The world’s largest food and beverage company unveiled a number of new animal welfare standards that its 7,300 suppliers – and their suppliers – must meet, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Under the new guidelines, Nestle’s suppliers of dairy, meat, poultry and eggs are required, among other things, to provide more space for farm animals, minimize pain in veterinary practices and welcome independent auditors.

Officials with Nestle say the Responsible Sourcing Guidelines extend to the companies that suppliers buy from, as well; meaning the new standards will reach “hundreds of thousands of farms around the world.”

“We know that our consumers care about the welfare of farm animals and we, as a company, are committed to ensuring the highest possible levels of farm animal welfare across our global supply chain,” Benjamin Ware, the company’s Manager of Responsible Sourcing, said in a news release.

In order to ensure that new standards are being met, Nestle commissioned an independent auditor to visit suppliers.

If a violation is found the company will work with suppliers to improve the treatment of animals and ensure standards are implemented correctly. If the supplier can not meet the requirements despite Nestle’s assistance they will no longer provide goods to the beverage and food maker.

Nestle teamed up with the World Animal Protection NGO to craft the tighter requirements.

Over the past several years, several companies, including Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Safeway, have pledged to take animal welfare seriously. In most cases, the commitment came in the form of vowing to phase out pork suppliers that use gestation crates.

Nestle announces new animal welfare standards [The Los Angeles Times]

Watch Suspected Scammers Install And Harvest Data From ATM Skimmers

Thu, 2014-08-21 21:57

plaidskimmerguySkimmers are devices that very bad people attach to unattended credit card readers such as bank ATMs, public transit kiosks, post office kiosks, or gas pumps. They capture card numbers, and sometimes a hidden camera captures PINs, so scammers can clean out victim’s bank accounts. Of course, ATMs have their own security cameras, which catch images of the scammers at work. Like this footage from a recent skimmer installation at Navy Federal Credit Union branches in northern Virginia.

Police released 10 minutes’ worth of footage of ATM skimmer footage, which is interesting mostly because of how normal the “installers” look. If you didn’t know better, you might assume that the men are just reaching in their bags or pockets to get their cards or locate a check that needs depositing. From the lobby camera and from inside the ATM, the installation of skimmer equipment just looks like regular business. At least, until the guy in the plaid shirt sticks his tongue out in concentration. Usually that doesn’t happen while depositing a check.

There’s no sound on the videos, so you can watch them at work if that’s what you’re into.

If you recognize anyone in the video, contact the Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131.

Police: Reston Bank Hit With ATM Skimmer Device [Reston Now]

U.S. Copyright Office Agrees: Monkey Self-Portraits Are Public Domain

Thu, 2014-08-21 21:45

monkeyselfieIn news that will disappoint monkey photographers nationwide, a draft report from the U.S. Copyright Office seems to make the regulators’ opinion pretty clear on the question of who holds the copyright for a photo — or any work — created by an animal.

This issue recently made headlines because of an ongoing dispute between professional photographer David Slater and the folks at Wikimedia, the organization behind Wikipedia.

A few years back, Slater traveled to Indonesia and attempted snap some photos of macaque monkeys. One of these monkeys snatched a camera of Slater’s and began taking photos with it. Most were worthless, but the above photo — a self-portrait taken by the monkey — looks like it could have been taken by a professional.

The photo was eventually uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, a library of public domain photos. Slater has repeatedly tried to claim copyright and asked for the photo to be removed, but Wikimedia claims that the monkey is the photographer, and since non-humans can’t hold copyright, the photo is in the public domain.

And that seems to be the standing of the U.S. Copyright Office. In its vast, 1,200-page draft of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition [PDF], it states:

“The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or the deposit copy(ies) state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit.”

It then gives several examples of things that will not register a copyright for, and right at the top of the list is “A photograph taken by a monkey.”

Other examples:
• A mural painted by an elephant.
• A claim based on driftwood that has been shaped and smoothed by the ocean.
• A claim based on cut marks, defects, and other qualities found in natural stone.

So, at least according to U.S. regulations, it doesn’t matter that the monkey took the photo with his camera. It just matters that the monkey took the photo.

We’re not lawyers, but it seems like Slater might have been able to argue his case better if he’d claimed that he deliberately gave the camera to the monkey, as that implies some sort of artistic intent. But even that would be a tough claim to make, as elsewhere the Compendium has prohibitions against registering claims for things like animal choreography.

The monkey selfie case is more like a roommate writing a poem on your computer without your permission. Just because it’s your computer doesn’t suddenly make it your poem. But because the “author” in this case was a monkey, then his creation is apparently free for everyone to use.

[via ArsTechnica]

The World’s Most Expensive Coffee Goes Through An Elephant Before It Gets To The Cup

Thu, 2014-08-21 21:12
(analogkid281)

(analogkid281)

We are all mature adults, so I’m sure you can handle the news that the No. 1 most expensive coffee in the world first passes through an elephant as a No. 2. That, and we’ve all heard of those civet cat coffee beans, so now we can just move on and talk about expensive caffeine. And poop. Poop.

The stuff’s called Black Ivory, and it’s made by a Canadian businessman in Thailand’s Golden Triangle region, reports Michael Sullivan on All Things Considered.

The Arabica beans come from hill tribes in the north of Thailand, and involve a long drying process and “precise” roasting process. They’re then mashed up with some fruit and fed to elephants from the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (at no harm to the elephants).

Then you’ve gotta wait a few days — Poor elephant! Days?!? — and play the “find the beans in this dung” game. The beans are then scrubbed and washed before they’re made into coffee.

So why elephants instead of cats?

“They eat a lot of grass and a lot of green, leafy matter. A herbivore, to break that down, utilizes fermentation to break down that cellulose,” the entrepreneur says. “Fermentation is great for things like wine or beer or coffee, because it brings out the sugar in the bean, and it helps impart the fruit from the coffee pulp into the bean.”

He says that process gets rid of the bean’s bitterness, making his coffee different from the rest.

When Sullivan tried a $70 serving of the stuff at a hotel and shared it with others, everyone seemed to enjoy the No. 2 brew. And that bitterness? Not there, Sullivan says.

One woman who doesn’t even drink coffee seemed to enjoy it as well.

“It’s sort of fruity,” she said. “Well, OK, it’s raisin-y to me. I normally describe drinking coffee as a bit like drinking puddle water. But it hasn’t got that horrible muddy water flavor afterwards, which is really nice. I really like it.”

No. 1 Most Expensive Coffee Comes From Elephant’s No. 2 [All Things Considered]

Brita Recalls Hello Kitty, SpongeBob, Dora, Ninja Turtles Water Bottles Because Kids Don’t Like Lacerated Lips

Thu, 2014-08-21 20:53

Brita has recalled four children-themed water bottles featuring Hello Kitty, SpongeBob Square Pants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Dora the Explorer.

Taking a drink of water should be a pain-free experience – I mean it’s just water, right? That might not be the case when it comes to a set of Brita’s children-friendly water bottles that have the potential to create a painful situation by cutting drinkers.

After receiving 35 reports of lids breaking or cracking, Brita announced earlier this week that it is recalling kid-centric bottles featuring white lids with fold-up straws and filters, NPR reports.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, lids on the four recalled hard-sided plastic water bottles, which hold up to 15-ounces of liquid, may break into pieces with sharp points, posing a laceration hazard.

So far, no injuries have been reported involving the water bottles.

The recall covers four hard-sided plastic water bottles of varying colors featuring cartoon characters.

Affected water bottles include:
• Hello Kitty in pink with UPC code 60258-35914
• Dora the Explorer in violet with UPC code 60258-35883
• SpongeBob Square Pants in blue with UPC code 60258-3588
• Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in green with UPC code 60258-35882

Consumers who own any of the potentially hazardous bottles are urged to stop using them and contact Brita at (800) 926-2065 to receive a postage-paid package to return the bottle for a full refund.

The bottles were sold from June 2013 to July 2014 at a variety of retailers including Walmart, Target and Amazon.com.

Brita Recalls Kids’ Water Bottles Over Risk Of Cutting [NPR]

Some Moron Just Paid $5K To Buy A 12-Year-Old $1,600 Judgement Against Kim Kardashian

Thu, 2014-08-21 20:44

kkardIt’s a common practice for businesses to sell off uncollected bills and judgements to collections agencies, but those collectors usually only pay a fraction of the face value of the debt, knowing they are taking on the risk that it may never be paid or only partially paid. But slap a sorta-celebrity’s name on that debt and you’ll apparently attract a different type of debt collector.

The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reports on the odd case of a $1,605.73 judgement [PDF] against Kim Kardashian from 2002 for an alleged dental bill from when the current Mrs. Kanye West was the essentially unknown daughter of OJ Simpson attorney Robert Kardashian and stepdaughter of olympic athlete Bruce Jenner.

The dentist, who was apparently never able to collect on the judgement, recently put the debt up for sale on an auction site specializing in such things. Not only was this the first time that a debt had sold for a profit on the site, it brought in the hefty sum of $5,000 — three times the original value of the debt, and $1,500 more than the total, interest-included present value of the debt.

According to the auction listing, the debt can still be collected until Oct. 2022, and Law Blog points out that this deadline could be extended for 10-year periods in order to allow the debt to keep accruing interest. So eventually the buyer may have a judgement that turns a profit (if it’s ever collected; Kim K’s lawyers deny that she ever visited this dentist).

While the debt will continue to earn interest, what remains to be seen is whether or not the public’s interest in the Kardashians will wax or wane in the next eight years… though we have a hunch which direction that arrow is pointing.

Comcast Hoping Free Campus Cable Will Stop Cord-Cutters Before They Start

Thu, 2014-08-21 20:06

(bluwmongoose)

(bluwmongoose)

With their ever-changing schedules, yearly changes of living situation, it’s easy for a college student to realize there’s little value in a pricey pay-TV package they may rarely ever get to use. Throw in HD wireless devices and ready access to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu — hell, even Crackle — over public WiFi and you’ve got a petri dish for growing an entire generation of consumers who have no need to 13 Discovery Channels and 27 variations on Nickelodeon. That’s why, in the hopes of getting the hook into students before they learn they can live without MTV’s new Tuvan throat singing channel, Comcast has partnered with a handful of colleges to include a cable package in the cost of room and board for students.

According to Variety, the package won’t be the oversized slate of hundreds of channels you skip over trying to find something, anything to watch. Instead it will be an 80-channel package that can also be streamed to computers, tablets and smartphones.

The program is launching this fall at a handful of schools scattered around the mid-Atlantic and New England, from tiny Bridgewater College in Virginia to Drexel University in Comcast’s home turf of Philadelphia to Emerson College and, Lasell College, and MIT in the Boston area.

“Xfinity on Campus lets students watch TV on their own terms,” a Comcast exec explains to Variety. “With this younger generation, more and more viewing is happening away from the traditional TV set and we have evolved our products and services to better engage them.”

The real test will come when this younger generations graduates into low-paying jobs and has to make the choice between paying a pile of chase for cable or paying less than $10/month for a streaming service.

Money might prove more addictive to some than the tantalizing lure of being able to watch a has-been/never-was celebrity overshare live on Bravo.

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