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Guy Who Crowdfunded $55,000 To Make Potato Salad Is Throwing A Huge Potato Party For Charity

Thu, 2014-09-25 18:00

(Kickstarter)

(Kickstarter)

Back when the guy known now as Kickstarter Potato Salad Guy raised about $55,000 for his first-ever attempt at making potato salad, everyone was wondering how in the heck you could possibly make that much potato salad to fulfill rewards for his backers. And now he’s got the answer — he’s going to throw a massive potato party, complete with potato sack races, food vendors and yes, potato salad, all for charity.

Now that he’s gone way past the $10 he sought in crowdfunding, Potato Salad Guy is planning PotatoStock 2014, which will include music, games and food, all with charity in mind, reports the Associated Press.

Sponsors like the Idaho Potato Commission have jumped on board to donate supplies for him and volunteers, so they can make 300 pounds of potato salad to serve at the festivities.

The Ohioan has also teamed up with the Columbus Foundation to start an endowment to aid charities in Columbus that fight hunger and homelessness, reports the Columbus Dispatch, starting with $20,000 in post-campaign corporate donations.

Money from PotatoStock will be added to that as well.

“His fund will have potential way after this potato salad is forgotten,” said the foundation’s director of donors and development.

As for why his quest for potato salad was so popular? It’s just one of those mysteries in the weird, interconnected world we live in, said a Kickstarter spokesman.

“You never know what’s going to take off,” he explained. “This was just the Internet being the Internet.”

Man who raised $55K is throwing potato salad party [The Associated Press]
Face of potato-salad campaign on Kickstarter poised to deliver on public party [The Columbus Dispatch]

Apple May Have Known About iCloud Vulnerability Months Before Nude Photo Scandal

Thu, 2014-09-25 17:54

(Steve)

(Steve)

Immediately after the first huge batch of stolen photos of female celebrities in various states of undress hit the Internet, Apple rushed to defend itself, saying the massive theft was the result of clever guessing and lax security on the part of the affected users. But a new report claims that Apple was warned months earlier that this sort of data theft could happen.

The Daily Dot has obtained e-mails sent in March of this year by a UK software developer to Apple in which he details a way in which iCloud accounts could be compromised.

On March 26, he explains that he was able to get around a security feature intended to prevent hackers from repeatedly entering passwords until finally reaching the right one. These so-called “brute force” attacks are generally stopped by security protocols that prevent a user from logging in after a set number of failed attempts.

But the developer claims he figured out a way to try more than 20,000 different passwords on any iCloud account.

Apple later sent the developer questions about his claims, but it’s not know whether any action was taken in response to his bug report.

There is also the possibility that the vulnerability exploited by the hackers who stole the nude celebrity photos is not exactly the same one as detailed in the developer’s e-mails to Apple.

Apple claims that it has patched the problem that allowed the hackers to steal the photos and other files from iCloud accounts. It has also extended two-factor authentication, which requires that you enter a separate and unique four-digit code sent to the actual device every time you login to iCloud from a new location.

Trucker Abandons Trailer With 350K Pounds Of Raw Chicken After Failed Ransom Attempt

Thu, 2014-09-25 17:27

(Mike Matney Photography)

(Mike Matney Photography)

Warning: If the thought of rotting chicken is something that will put you off your lunch, stop reading now. Because law enforcement near Missoula, MT have quite a bit of a smelly headache to deal with, after a trucker abandoned a trailer packed with 350,000 pounds of raw chicken at a truck stop on Tuesday.

County sheriff’s deputies found the trailer sitting mostly unnoticed at the truck stop, juices dripping out of it and flies gathering at the feast of rancid meat, reports the Missoulian.

The public information officer for the sheriff’s office says the truck and trailer were reported stolen by a freight company in the last few days, after the driver — an employee of the company — texted his bosses saying he’d return the load of chicken if they paid him a ransom.

While the chicken is worth about $80,000, officials say, the company declined to pay up. All that chicken is definitely inedible now.

“I noticed (the trailer) sitting there when I came out Saturday,” said the manager of the truck stop. “I keep an eye on how long trucks have been sitting there. You need to know if someone’s in the truck. In this case, it’s chicken.”

Health officials visited the truck stop yesterday to figure out the best way to get rid of all those smelly carcasses, but have left the trailer shut and haven’t moved it since discovering its cargo.

Our thoughts are with whoever is the first person to pull those doors open. May your nose protection be strong, friend.

35,000 pounds of rotting chickens abandoned at Missoula Wye [Missoulian]

Here’s How You Can Roll Back The Unfortunate iOS 8.0.1 Update

Thu, 2014-09-25 16:58

(Fabien ROCHET)

(Fabien ROCHET)

Millions of people worldwide rushed out to purchase the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus last week, and Apple immediately pushed out an early operating system upgrade to fix a few minor problems with the phones. Unfortunately, this update caused other problems in turn, like, um, losing their cellular service. Or the use of the phone’s thumbprint sensor. You know, minor stuff, but it still moved people to commemorate the update in song.

It requires a few extra clicks to downgrade your phone to a slightly older operating system, but is quite easy. Apple has a page available with software that will roll the iPhone 6 versions back to the first version of iOS 8. Download the software to a computer running iTunes, then roll back the upgrade by using the Shift or Option key.

A variation of this method also works if you updated our older iOS device to the newest operating system because iTunes told you to, and it made your phone slow or glitchy: as of yesterday, the last version of iOS 7 was still downloadable and signed by Apple, and could be installed without jailbreaking or other fun and nefarious methods.

Now, just keep your phone out of your pants pockets, and you’ll be all set.

The Secret To Lowering Your Credit Card Interest Rate (Spoiler: Just Ask)

Thu, 2014-09-25 16:51

(Corey Templeton)

(Corey Templeton)

Are you sick of being slammed with an 18% interest rate on your credit card even though you regularly pay down your balance and don’t miss payments? “How can I possibly get that rate down a few points to make my finances more manageable?” you ask to no one in particular, but that’s a question to ask your credit card issuer because there’s a decent chance they’ll knock down that APR for you.

This is according to the folks at CreditCards.com, who recently found that most credit cardholders don’t ask for lower interest rates, but a majority of those that do ask get some sort of relief.

In a survey of cardholders, only 23% of respondents said they had asked their card issuer for a lower interest rate. But of those people, 65% were granted rate reductions.

But before you go running to your phone to call, you should check with your card issuer to find out what their policy is on rate reductions.

Some banks will simply look at your credit card activity and payment history to decide if you qualify for a rate reduction. So asking for a lower rate won’t have any impact on your credit score.

But some card issuers treat rate-reduction requests like it’s a new credit application, which will likely mean a check of your credit reports. That may mean a slight, temporary ding on your credit score.

If your credit has improved since you initially got the card, a hard inquiry with the credit bureaus shouldn’t be a problem. But if you’ve had some issues with late or missed payments with other lines of credit, the request could backfire.

Speaking of late payments, the CreditCards.com survey found that cardholders had even greater success with asking their banks to waive at least one late payment fee.

Again, only a minority (28%) of all respondents even tried to request a fee waiver from their card issuer, but 86% of those that did were able to get that fee removed.

“We were surprised with the success rate,” said Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com’s senior industry analyst. “It’s probably the best time in years to ask credit card issuers for a break.”

Lawsuit Claims Templeton Rye Misled Drinkers Into Thinking It’s A Bootlegger’s Whiskey

Thu, 2014-09-25 16:51

(Trevor H)

(Trevor H)

I’ve seen enough of Boardwalk Empire to know that [spoiler alert] bootleggers in the Prohibition era liked their booze. So of course, tying in a modern day whiskey brand to guys like Al Capone, who had a taste for whiskey made in Templeton, Iowa, as legend would have it, seems like a smooth move. But a lawsuit filed against Templeton Rye says the whiskey company violated consumer protection laws and misled drinkers by tying in its booze to the town, as it’s actually distilled in Indiana.

A law firm in Chicago filed a class-action lawsuit in Illinois on behalf of “all individuals in the United States who’ve purchased a bottle of Templeton Rye,” reports the Des Moines Register, after reports this summer that the whiskey is made from a stock recipe at an Indiana distillery.

Templeton Rye has been on the shelves since 2006, touting the fact that the founders were inspired by the concoction of Alphonse Kerkhoff dating back to the 1920s in Templeton, a recipe he’s said to have handed down to his successors on a scrap of paper. The company admitted, however, that federal regulations don’t allow it to make the whiskey from that actual recipe.

The lawsuit says that before admitting the Indiana roots of its whiskey, it tried to deceive drinkers into thinking that “the good stuff” was a craft whiskey distilled in Iowa, which the suit says violates the Iowa Consumer Fraud act.

It says that some marketing materials used by the company pushed that link, like a T-shirt that says, “Templeton Rye: Made in Iowa” and a promotional flyer touting a “small-batch rye whiskey made in the tiny town of Templeton.”

“Consumers, seeking an alternative to mainstream, mass-produced alcoholic beverages have purchased hundreds of thousands of bottles of Defendant’s Templeton Rye and have paid a premium price over other whiskeys to obtain those qualities,” the lawsuit said. “Unfortunately, thousands of consumers across the country have been injured by Defendant’s deceptive marketing practices.”

Templeton Rye has said it will start printing labels noting that it’s distilled in Indiana and bottled in Iowa.

Templeton Rye misled consumers, lawsuit says [Des Moines Register]

The Dog That Brings Royal Dutch Airline Passengers Lost Items Is A Fakety-Fake, But He’s Still Adorable

Thu, 2014-09-25 16:16

Sherlock the beagle receives a hug from a little boy after returning the stuffed toy he left on an airplane.

Sherlock the beagle receives a hug from a little boy after returning the stuffed toy he left on an airplane.

Remember the super cute beagle we told you about yesterday? You know, the one that runs around the Amsterdam Airport Schipol returning lost items to Royal Dutch Airline Passengers. Well I am utterly heartbroken (although I should have seen this coming) to report that he’s a fraud. Of course, he’s a living breathing dog, but he won’t be returning your misplaced items anytime soon. Sherlock was used as an illustration of how KLM’s Lost & Found team works to reunite passengers with their belongings. [Factually]

An official with the advertising team behind the video confirmed that Sherlock isn’t a permanent part of the Lost & Found team.

“To launch the team, we decided to give them a helpful mascotte, Sherlock the search dog. With the video we wanted to show that KLM goes above and beyond to return lost items to their owners,” the official with DDB & Tribal said.

Medieval Belgian Town Installing A Beer Pipeline Because — Wait, A Beer Pipeline?!

Thu, 2014-09-25 15:48

(Neilhooting)

(Neilhooting)

Colin “My Waggling Eyebrows Are Hypnotizing” Farrell’s character was so wrong to be cranky about being stuck in Bruges in the movie In Bruges (pronounced “Brooooszh” in my head) — that city is about to be the first in Belgium to install its very own beer pipeline. I repeat: A beer pipeline.

Alas, all of our hopes of a beer sink in every home in Bruges are for naught, my friends — the medieval town in Belgium did approve the construction of a beer pipeline under the city, but only to link its 500-year-old De Halve Maan brewery to a bottling factory nearby that will send its liquid wares out to the far corners of the Earth, reports the AFP.

This will keep about 500 delivery trucks from mucking up the scenic views of the canals and rumbling down the cobblestoned streets, explains the company’s director, Xavier Vanneste, cutting down on about 85% of the total truck traffic.

“The idea is born of environmental and quality of life concerns, and not economic ones,” he explained.

The brewery will be on the hook for the cost of the pipeline, which will actually have four pipes, to help with the breweries efforts to clean and sterilize the pipe after every beer batch, Vanneste explained on the BBC World Service radio program that happened to come on air while I was typing up this story. (Editor’s note: It was really weird how that happened.)

And yes, the idea of thirsty citizens tapping into that pipeline to take a quick sip of beer is “the talk of the town,” he added. But it’s unlikely you’ll succeed.

“We’re quite confident we’ll be able to secure the pipe well enough; if there’s any leak or tapping, we’ll be able to detect it anyway,” he told the BBC.

Belgian beer pipeline to carry booze under Bruges [AFP]

Missing Ketchup Prompts Alleged BB Gun Shooting At McDonald’s Drive-Thru

Thu, 2014-09-25 15:46

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

Everyone knows that ranch is the preferred dipping sauce when it comes to McDonald’s french fries. Okay, fine it might not be for everyone. But no matter what condiment you choose, getting less than you think you deserve doesn’t mean it’s okay to shoot the drive-thru window with a BB gun.

KRCR-TV reports that just such an incident occurred at a California McDonald’s after a couple didn’t receive ketchup with their order.

At around 12:15 a.m. on Tuesday, employees say a red car occupied by a man and a woman left the fast food restaurant upset over ketchup not being included in their order.

Shortly after the couple drove off, employees realized the drive-thru window had been shot out.

Upon police arrival it was determined that the window had two small holes in the glass and a small BB gun projectile was found on the ground near the window. Police also reported that two vehicles in the parking lot were damaged by BB gun projectiles.

About an hour later police officers located the red car in a nearby Walmart parking lot with the man and woman inside.

A search of the vehicle found three BB gun handguns, BB gun projectiles, McDonald’s food packaging and drinks and a McDonald’s receipt for a recent purchase close to the time of the reported shooting.

Both individuals were arrested on unrelated charges, but local officers say they would seek additional charges regarding their suspected involvement in the shooting.

Police: Suspects shot at McDonald’s after ketchup dispute [KRCR-TV]

Report: Apple Will Replace Some Bent iPhones After A “Visual Mechanical Inspection”

Thu, 2014-09-25 15:16

Bending on purpose = no replacement (Unbox Therapy)

Bending on purpose = no replacement (Unbox Therapy)

There’s some good news for people who may have accidentally bent their new iPhone 6/6 Plus phones — emphasis on “accidentally” — Apple will reportedly replace those devices after a Genius conducts a “Visual Mechanical Inspection” to judge whether the phone is bent or not.

This, according to a support chat The Next Web had with an Apple customer service representative (keep in mind this is one conversation, and Apple has yet to officially confirm replacements):

“So does a bent enclosure occurring during normal use fit under warrant?” TNW asked.

“That is 100% up to the Genius that you speak with at the store,” the chat rep reportedly explained. “There is a test called a Visual Mechanical Inspection that the device will have to pass. If it is within the guidelines, they will be abel [sic] to cover it. If not, the replacement would be a paid one.”

As to what those guidelines actually are, the chat rep didn’t divulge that information. But it does seem like things are afoot at Apple during #BendGate:

“Something told me to throw your symptom in the big chat room,” the chat rep added, after TNW passed on a chance to escalate to a supervisor. “Turns out, we’re looking into this with an insane amount of detail.”

Hear that? INSANE.

“Normal use” would likely be things like sticking the phone in your pocket and sitting on it — accidentally! — but would not include say, trying to bend the iPhone 6 on camera just to see if you can do it (spoiler alert: you can). If you find your new iPhone isn’t perfectly on the level, it’s worth checking with Apple to see if you can replace it for free.

Apple support says bent iPhones must pass a visual inspection to qualify for warranty replacement [The Next Web]

Here Are 9 Minutes Of The iPhone-Bending Guy Trying To Bend Other Phones

Thu, 2014-09-25 00:37

Yesterday, Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy planted his flag in the Internet with his video demonstrating that the iPhone 6 Plus does indeed bend. But what about the less-huge iPhone 6 and countless other devices — would they bend too? Today, he found out.

In the above clip, Hilsenteger first tackles the iPhone 6. It seemed to give a little as he attempted to bend it, and he claims to notice a small bend afterward, but there is not the distinct curve that resulted in the 6 Plus. Most importantly, it still worked after being stressed.

Next up was the HTC One M8. You can immediately see the screen beginning to come off the face of the device as he pushes with his thumbs, but it returns to normal afterward. Who knows what would have happened with continued pushing?

Then there was the new Moto X, which didn’t seem to respond to Hilsenteger’s bending attempts at all.

“That baby is solid!” he says after trying to curve the device. “I can’t get anything out of that.”

Finally, he tried to bend a Nokia Lumia phone, and while it emitted a cracking sound at the start, there was no visible bending of the frame or damage to the screen.

Our colleagues at Consumer Reports are also putting the new iPhones to the test, but not with their thumbs. They’re doing it with machines in their labs that they have previously used to test whether other devices bent.

Since science takes time, CR can’t just run the new devices through the machine and spit out results in a few minutes, but here’s an advanced look at the testing:

This Is Probably The Best Pop Song Ever Written About Today’s Failed iOS 8 Update

Thu, 2014-09-25 00:13

The songbook of history is filled with countless odes written in response to this morning’s disastrous update to Apple’s iOS 8 operating system, but this one has to be the catchiest of them all.

The failed rollout of iOS 8.0.1, which was supposed to fix a bunch of stuff and activate some new features but just ended up turning off wireless service and the Touch ID fingerprint sensors for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices, inspired Brooklyn songwriter (the third most popular job in Brooklyn, behind Instagram photographer and unmarried Wall Street twentysomething) Jonathan Mann to pen and record this ditty, which is really much better than it has any right to be.

Enjoy. Or don’t. No one forced you to watch it.

Virgin America Flight Diverted After Passenger Masturbates, Tries To Open Exit Door

Wed, 2014-09-24 23:25
(triterion)

The purple lights are kind of inviting, but come on. (triterion)

A Virgin America flight from Boston to Los Angeles had to stop in Nebraska on the way. Because while self-love is perfectly acceptable and healthy, it should not be attempted on a plane full of people, and followed by an attempt to exit out the emergency door. You know, planes being public and in the air and all.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the Virgin America flight landed Monday morning in Omaha, a following a “medical emergency,” reports NBC Bay Area, but the police report would beg to differ.

Police say a 26-year-old passenger was “masturbating in flight and later tried to open an exit door,” according to the report acquired by NBC Bay Area.

Law enforcement officials boarded the plane and arrested the man, who one passenger said was wearing a hospital bracelet.

Another witness said the man came back from the bathroom and fought with the woman next to him, telling a flight attendant she should move.

“He at that point was fidgeting and began to remove the plastic covering from the emergency exit door and tried to pull to open the door,” the passenger explained. “Fortunately there were a couple of Boston police officers on the flight that were there at that point to help as well.”

Masturbating Passenger Forces Plane to Land in Nebraska: Police [NBC Bay Area]

Retail Experts: Sorry, But Stores Will Open Even Earlier This Thanksgiving

Wed, 2014-09-24 22:49

(smohundro)

(smohundro)

In 2013, we were scandalized that retailers rolled back their opening times, kicking off the Black Friday festivities as early as 6 A.M. on Thanksgiving Day. Not everyone found this idea horrifying, though, because retailers reported record Thanksgiving weekend sales last year. In their desperation to boost sales somehow by the end of 2014, experts in the industry say that America’s retailers are going to ignore that whole idea of a Thanksgiving holiday again this year.

“You’ll see retailers come up with all sorts of tactics. It’s going to be an extremely challenging holiday,” one expert told the Wall Street Journal, striking fear into the hearts of retail workers everywhere. Yes, one of those tactics will be opening early on Black Friday. No retailers have announced their plans yet, but experts told the WSJ that they anticipate some will try the early-opening trick.

Of course, the executives, consultants, and marketers who came up with this nonsense will probably be all cozy around the dining table with their families, but front-line staff won’t be. If, say, the manifesto-writing CEO of Sears Holdings, Eddie Lampert, would pitch in for a little while on Thanksgiving morning at the Kmart store nearest his Miami home, maybe stocking some shelves or corralling carts while being followed by a camera crew, we would be a lot less critical of this whole idea. Providing a turkey dinner last year was really nice, but why don’t the bosses get out there and at least pretend to care?

Expect Retailers to Open Even Earlier This Thanksgiving [Wall Street Journal]

AT&T and Verizon: Data Caps On Home Internet Service Are Great For Everyone (Especially Us)

Wed, 2014-09-24 22:37

(Pam)

(Pam)

Verizon and AT&T are big players (and getting bigger) in broadband landline service, but they seem to take a mobile phone mindset with them everywhere they go. Not only do they think that home broadband doesn’t need to be faster than your phone, but also now they’re saying that data caps on your home internet use are perfectly reasonable, too.

Ars Technica points the way to the filings, which are part of an FCC look into broadband deployment across the United States.

In their reply comments, Verizon (PDF) and AT&T (PDF) stress not only that 4 Mbps is a perfectly acceptable home wired network speed, but also that data caps are reasonable and should not be considered as part of the definition of advanced broadband.

Despite ardently insisting elsewhere that broadband service has nothing in common with utilities and should never ever be treated like one, AT&T went straight to the utility comparison for discussing data caps.

“AT&T is not aware of tiered data plans that actually limit the amount of data a customer can use,” they wrote. “Rather, to the extent providers use tiered data plans, those plans attach different prices to different buckets of data and require that customers who exceed the allowance associated with their chosen plan to pay for their additional usage.”

AT&T might actually not be aware, but as an annual look at data caps shows, at least one company — Charter — actually does cut off users who hit their limits. But AT&T is right that most don’t. They just charge more for each extra megabyte or gigabyte, or bump you up to a higher billing tier.

“In this respect,” AT&T continues, tiered data plans are no different from any other pricing model that relates charges to usage. Simply put, as is the case with countless products and services – electricity, gas, food, water, to name a few – those who use more, pay more.”

Verizon, meanwhile, argues that because broadband adoption has expanded at the same time that usage-based billing has become more common, that the latter cannot possibly be detrimental to the former. (It couldn’t possibly be because if your broadband provider has data caps you don’t like, you can’t just switch to another one, right?)

Since Verizon is also the nation’s largest mobile carrier, it’s unsurprisingly that they draw the direct comparison to cell phone use. “Usage-based billing is the norm for most subscribers to 4G LTE services,” their comment says, “and this service is among the fastest-growing in U.S. history, is experiencing exploding deployment, and is intensely competitive.”

The mobile playing field is indeed intensely competitive between wireless carriers. But it is not at all competitive as compared to traditional home wired broadband.

Both companies conclude that nothing at all needs to change, and that the status quo is a peachy-keen place to be.

AT&T and Verizon each claim repeatedly that bandwidth is a finite resource, that it needs to be metered and meted out to preserve the quality of service for subscribers, and that bandwidth caps are in fact good for consumers because with that higher quality service, subscribers will keep paying them money that they can then use to build more infrastructure.

It’s a fairly spectacularly ballsy argument, but it’s also mostly not true. Not only have studies shown that bandwidth caps are about cash, not congestion, but cable industry and lobby executives have even literally said that it’s not about rationing a resource, but about “how to fairly monetize a high fixed cost.”

AT&T and Verizon don’t like bandwidth caps because they make for more satisfied customers. They like bandwidth caps because every way to nickel and dime a customer who doesn’t have any good competition to jump to is a way to reap profit free from extra costs.

AT&T and Verizon defend data caps on home Internet service [Ars Technica]

Guy Leaves His iPad On A Plane, Gets It Back 10 Days Later With Airline Staff Selfies Included

Wed, 2014-09-24 22:14

(kenfagerdotcom)

(kenfagerdotcom)

Usually when you leave an expensive piece of electronic equipment on an airplane, that’s usual the moment where you bid your device goodbye. But one guy traveling to Iceland on IcelandAir had the pleasant surprise of not only getting his iPad back after it hung out at the Reykjavik Airport for 10 days, but also got a few bonus photos.

Redditor EarlySpaceCowboy writes that he left his iPad on the plane, and came back 10 days later to find that not only would he be reuniting with his device, but he found some fun bonus photos from the staff as well.

It turns out the cleaning crew found his iPad, then apparently passed in to the flight attendants, who gave it to airport police (who did not take a selfie, alas):

“I assume the cleaning staff passed it to the flight attendants who passed it to the airport police. We drove around Iceland for 10 days, so I reclaimed it when flying out,” he writes in the comments.

(EarlySpaceCowboy)

(EarlySpaceCowboy)

(EarlySpaceCowboy)

(EarlySpaceCowboy)


And if anyone is tempted to diss the selfie takers, he doesn’t want that.

“Just to reiterate: This was a great customer experience, I am very happy I got my iPad back and I hope no one gets silly and tries to give these nice employees shit for it.”

Watchdog Says Treasury Dept. Once Again Overpaid GM Execs

Wed, 2014-09-24 22:01

(frankieleon)

(frankieleon)

Under the guidelines for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which invested billions of taxpayer dollars in bailing out the nation’s banks and carmakers, executive pay is supposed to kept to reasonable levels. In the case of General Motors, it pledged to cap salaries at $500,000; not bad for a company that allowed nearly two dozen people to die rather than fix an ignition switch. But the TARP watchdog says that once again the Treasury Dept. has allowed GM to pay execs more than it agreed to.

In her report [PDF] to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) Christy Romero says the Treasury’s Office of the Special Master (OSM) for TARP “significantly loosened” executive pay limits at GM and its financial division Ally, resulting in salaries far in excess of $500,000.

“Year after year, Treasury has loosened executive pay limits, getting further and further away from the President’s announced pay reforms and pay limits used by Treasury in 2009, even as taxpayer losses mount,” writes Romero.

Executive salaries at TARP businesses were supposed to be capped at $500,000, with any additional compensation coming from shares of company stock that couldn’t be paid until taxpayers were paid back.

But the Treasury Dept. has not followed those guidelines, under pressure from GM to offer salaries that are competitive.

“Treasury’s mounting exceptions to its own guideline restrictions on executive compensation resulted… in OSM moving further and further away from the President’s announcement and OSM’s prior guidelines,” reads the SIGTARP report. “Instead of making meaningful reforms to its process, OSM rolled back its application of guidelines aimed at curbing excessive pay, whereby approving high pay driven by Ally and GM’s excessive pay proposals without independent analysis and under an ill-defined, pay-setting process that lacked objective criteria.”

As a result, all of GM’s top 25 execs earned Treasury-approved salaries of at least $1 million in 2013. Additionally, Treasury allowed the number of GM and Ally employees earning more than $500K to triple between 2009 and 2013.

In 2013 alone, OSM approved $3 million in pay raises, ranging from 4% to 20%, for just nine GM employees, most of whom had received raises the year before.

“The pendulum in OSM’s pay decisions has swung too far in the direction of keeping companies competitive, without regard for the fact that the reason to keep companies competitive is so that they can repay taxpayers in full,” writes Romero. “GM and Ally were not repaying taxpayers in full. Rather, taxpayers have suffered billions of dollars in losses on those TARP investments.”

In response, the Treasury takes issue with SIGTARP’s claims of losses, saying that overall, taxpayers have earned back a total of $440 billion on payouts of $425 billion. However, taxpayers did ultimately take a $10.5 billion loss when the government sold off its remaining shares of GM in late 2013.

Other defenders of the pay packages point to job growth from U.S. automakers (and the fact that GM and Chrysler still exist at all) as evidence that the program achieved its long-term goals of supporting American industry.

650,000 Student Loan Borrowers Who Began Repayment In 2011 Have Defaulted On Federal Loans

Wed, 2014-09-24 21:13

The number of students defaulting on some federal loans within three years of beginning repayment has decreased.

The number of students defaulting on some federal loans within three years of beginning repayment has decreased.

Maybe more consumer are realizing the long-lasting negative effects that can come from not repaying their student loans. Or maybe not. we don’t really know why, but we do know that the number of borrowers defaulting on some federal student loans is decreasing.

A new report from the Department of Education [PDF] found a drop in the percentage of borrowers who are defaulting on their student loans in the first years they are due.

Of the more than 4.7 million borrowers who began paying back their student loans in 2011 only 650,000 have defaulted. That number represents 13.7% of borrowers, a full percentage point less than the default rate of those who began repayment the year before.

In all, the default rate dropped for each of the three main college sectors. The default rate was 12.9% for students at public schools; 7.2% for students at private, nonprofit schools; and 19.1% for students at for-profit colleges.

The Department of Education released figures for for-profit, public and private colleges' default rates.

The Department of Education released figures for for-profit, public and private colleges’ default rates.

To arrive at the figures, the Dept. of Education examined the number of borrowers who default on Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program or William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loans within three years of entering student loan repayment – or the cohort default rate (CDR). In this case the figure is based on students who began repaying student loans in 2011.

The Dept. of Education uses the cohort default to determine a school’s eligibility to receive federal financial aid funds. If a school’s CDR is too high, then students of that school are not allowed to participate in the programs.

Any school with a default rate of 30% or more for three consecutive years, or a 40% rate for one year, faces the loss of access to those federal programs.

This year, the Department identified 21 schools that had default rates high enough to lose eligibility for federal aid programs. Of those schools, 20 were from the for-profit sector. Each school will have an opportunity to appeal the loss of funds.

While a decrease in the number of borrowers defaulting on student loans is certainly a welcome improvement, consumer advocates say the number of borrower who have defaulted is way too many.

The Institute For College Access & Success (TICAS) issued a statement [PDF] following the release of the new CDRs, calling on the Dept. of Education to better hold schools accountable for manipulating default rates.

According to TICAS, some schools have combined default data from multiple campuses or have pushed students into forbearance in order to escape sanctions.

“Colleges that manipulate their default rates appear safer than they really are for both students and taxpayers,” Debbie Cochrane, research director for TICAS, says in a statement. “The Department needs to act quickly to ensure that unscrupulous schools aren’t able to evade accountability.”

Despite Lower Rates, More Than 650,000 Defaulted on Federal Student Loans [TICAS]

Three-year Official Cohort Default Rates for Schools [Department of Education]

Texts From Walmart Sent To The Wrong Person Prompt Man To Confess To Murder

Wed, 2014-09-24 20:41

(afagen)

(afagen)

When most people get texts or letters meant for someone else, we either shrug it off or ask whoever it is to stop sending those mistakes. But when Walmart started texting a North Carolina man about prescriptions for someone else, he thought it meant he’d been discovered as a murderer after killing a woman 17 years ago.

Those texts sent to Jane Smith, as we’ll call her, were followed by voice mails and a letter from Walmart as well, reports the Charlotte Observer. And because the man receiving them didn’t know the name of the woman he confessed to killing in Arizona all those years ago, he thought the name in the texts was her.

He told police he was afraid that someone knew, and that they were toying with him. So he drove across the country to Arizona and sought police protection. Once there, he reportedly confessed to an a murder no one had previously tied to him.

“In his own mind … somebody knew what happened after all these years,” a police department spokesman said.

His attorney says his client wants to plead guilty to manslaughter and start his 10-year sentence immediately.

In the meantime, yes, this means Jane Smith’s prescriptions are ready to be picked up and she might have no idea… unless she happens to read the news (again, not the woman’s real name).

Walmart Accidentally Texts Wrong Person About Prescriptions, He Ends Up Confessing To Murder [Charlotte Observer]

Apple Pulls Latest iOS 8 Update After Complaints About Lost Phone Service

Wed, 2014-09-24 20:31

Some iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users were unable to get wireless service on their devices after updating to iOS 8.0.1 (via MacRumors)

Some iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users were unable to get wireless service on their devices after updating to iOS 8.0.1 (via MacRumors)

Thank god no one actually uses smartphones to make calls anymore. Apple has been pushing out an update to its new iOS 8 operating system for iPhones that fixes some bugs from the initial release, but is leaving some people without phone service.

MacRumors.com reports that some iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users who updated to iOS 8.0.1 are complaining — and rightfully so — that their phones now say “No Service” in spite of being in areas served by their wireless carriers. Additionally, users say the Touch ID fingerprint sensor no longer works after the update.

It looks like the connection issue was only occurring with the new devices. Previous generations of iPhones and iPads appear to have been unaffected by the update.

Apple pulled the update and will hopefully be issuing a fix soon.

The 8.0.1 update was intended to offer several improvements, like allowing apps to take advantage of the HealthKit feature, and fixes for bugs involving photo uploading, messaging, and third-party keyboards.

[via GigaOm]

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