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Lumber Liquidators Promises To Sell Vinyl Flooring Free Of Potentially Dangerous Chemicals

Tue, 2015-11-17 19:35

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 1.31.45 PMLumber Liquidators has had a tough time in the news cycle lately, what with two separate federal investigations: one alleging that some of their products give off potentially dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde, and another over allegedly illegally imported hardwoods. In an apparent effort to ease concerns over what its products are made from, the company is now promising to only sell vinyl flooring free of reprocessed plastics, which could contain potentially harmful chemicals.

Lumber Liquidators announced on Tuesday that it is adopting new standards, and won’t sell vinyl flooring made with reprocessed plastic, as well as limiting lead in flooring to less than 100 parts per million. It’ll be the first retailer to make such a pledge.

Though it might sound like a good idea — recycling old plastic into new products seems harmless enough — experts say that the end product can often be contaminated with lead, cadmium, brominated flame retardants, phthalates and other toxic chemicals. This is a result of the global trade in plastic waste, which often includes wire and cables from old electronics.

According to the Mind the Store Campaign (a project by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families) which worked with the retailer to develop its new flooring standards, the Ecology Center in Michigan found that lead was present at elevated concentrations in at least 69% of the inner layers of flooring it tested from six different retailers.

The new standards are expected to be phased in over the next year.

“Lumber Liquidators is committed to setting the highest standards for the sourcing of flooring products,” said Jill Witter, Chief Compliance and Legal Officer of Lumber Liquidators. “We are pleased to work with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families on this initiative, as part of our ongoing efforts to lead the industry forward with responsible sourcing practices.”

RadioShack Starts Black Friday On Wednesday Because Why Not

Tue, 2015-11-17 18:18

(cmorran123)Let’s get this out of the way: RadioShack still exists. While the chain declared bankruptcy and sold or liquidated all of its stores, they sold the brand along with about half of their leases to lender Standard General. That leaves about 1,700 SprintShack-owned stores with their doors still open and stocked with gadgets to sell, some of which may not even be Sprint mobile phones.

While the chain is opening on Thanksgiving Day for a few hours, as they did last year under the old ownership, they’re trying to attract attention by declaring that the shopping holiday actually opens for them on Wednesday. Sure, why not?

“We know the past year has been difficult on the RadioShack community, with our shelves recently missing that one-off electronics component, cable or connector you needed or that mini-drone you were searching for,” new CEO Ron Garriques said in the company’s holiday press release. “But now we are stronger than ever and fully restocked with over 20 million new units and proud to return to our roots as the neighborhood source for affordable and cutting edge electronics.”

In other words: RadioShack has stuff again, and some of that stuff is drones. Please come visit.

Check with your local store, but it will probably be open a little longer on Wednesday to accommodate that Black Wednesday sale, and stores will also be open from 8 AM to 1 PM on Thanksgiving Day. We’re not sure who wants to be at any electronics store at 8 AM on Thanksgiving Day, but apparently there is someone who does.

New York State Sues DraftKings & FanDuel Over Alleged Gambling, False Advertising

Tue, 2015-11-17 18:08

draftkingsOne week after concluding that, according to New York state law, daily fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel are unlicensed gambling operations, the state has filed lawsuits against both companies, seeking to stop them from offering their service to New Yorkers.

This morning, the office of NY attorney general Eric Schneiderman filed complaints against DraftKings [PDF] and FanDuel [PDF], alleging violations of state laws that prohibit the promotion of gambling and “repeated or persistent fraudulent conduct.”

The complaints claim that these sites run “casino-style gambling operation[s]… where bettors can wager up to $10,000 per ‘line-up’ and enter for a chance to win jackpots of more than $1 million.”

Combined, the two companies have spent nearly $100 million on advertising this year. DraftKings ads promote the site with statements like, “It’s the simplest way of winning life-changing piles of cash,” while FanDuel likes to say, “anybody can play, anybody can succeed.”

But prosecutors contend that daily fantasy is just a new wrinkle on the very old art of sports gambling, and that the fact that players are gambling on statistics instead of individual game outcomes is also nothing new.

“Bookmaking operations in jurisdictions with legal gambling like Nevada have long accepted sports proposition or ‘prop’ bets (to bet on game statistics and milestones) and parlay bets (to simultaneously bet on several, independent variables in a single wager),” read the complaints.

The state points out that, for all the distance these sites try to put between their operations and terms like “gambling” and “betting,” they also advise their users to use the same information used by traditional sports bettors.

On the DraftKings website, the company notes that “Player props are also an excellent source of information for daily fantasy owners. Props are Vegas’s best guess for a player’s production—basically their projection for him in fantasy.”

Similarly, the FanDuel site tells users that “By taking into account over-under lines, as well as money lines and player props, FanDuel players gives [sic] themselves more opportunities to win.”

To the state, this is an acknowledgement that daily fantasy is “akin to sports prop betting.”

The lawsuits note that one of the five states where daily fantasy was already barred is Washington, where the definition of gambling is identical to New York’s, which states that a contest is gambling if it depends on either a “future contingent event not under [the bettor’s] control or influence” or is a “contest of chance.”

In defending their operations, DraftKings and FanDuel have maintained they are not games of chance, but contests of skill. But in a memorandum of law [PDF] filed with these complaints, the state argues that this ignores the “future contingent event” part of the gambling definition.

It gives the example of two people playing chess and wagering each other on the outcome of their game versus two people watching that chess match and placing wagers on the results. The spectators may be making their decision based on the players’ respective skills, history, and other data, but they have no way of controlling who wins and loses.

In such a case, contends the state, “the degree of talent or knowledge a bettor displays in making a prediction is irrelevant.”

Applying this to daily fantasy, prosecutors explain that “A DFS player can try to make an informed guess of how particular athletes might perform, but no DFS player can (legally) influence how those athletes will perform.”

Once a fantasy contestant selects their lineup, “he is a spectator whose fate is determined by the combined performance of real athletes competing in real-world games,” according to the state.

The lawsuits also take issue with the sites’ “anyone can win” advertising, and point to the companies’ own data to show that the vast majority of players lose money.

In 2013 and 2014, 74% of the people who spent the most money on FanDuel lost money. During those same years, 89.3% of all DraftKings players had an overall negative return on investment on the site.

By allegedly misrepresenting that a casual player is likely to win a jackpot and that daily fantasy is not gambling, the state argues that these sites have engaged in deceptive acts and practices in violation of the state’s general business law.

We’ve reached out to both DraftKings and FanDuel for comment. Both sites say that statements are forthcoming.

Delta No Longer Allowing Large Animals To Be Flown As Checked Baggage

Tue, 2015-11-17 17:51
(Belinda Hankins Miller)

Flying your favorite furry friend on Delta Air Lines is about to get a little less convenient, and more expensive, starting next year, as the carrier announced that it will no longer allow travelers to ferry their pets from one place to another as checked baggage. 

The airline announced Tuesday that starting March 1, 2016 Delta will only allow bigger animals to be flown on its cargo service. Delta will contact customers with bookings after March 1 that are known to include pets as checked bags.

There are a few exceptions to the new policy: members of the military with active transfer orders, as well as service and emotional support animals can continue to be flown as checked baggage.

Small dogs and cats, those that fit in a pet carrier under a seat, can continue to fly in the cabin with their owners — for a fee, of course.

“Many of us at Delta are pet lovers and we know that they are important members of the family,” Bill Lentsch, Senior Vice President – Airport Customer Service and Cargo Operations, said in a statement. “This change will ultimately ensure that we have a high-quality, consistent service for pets when their owners choose to ship them with Delta Cargo.”

Passengers planning to fly their larger pets with the cargo service should be prepared to jump through a few hoops and pay a bit more for the option.

Pets shipped via the cargo service require a separate booking, which cannot be done for domestic bookings until 14 days before departure.

Dropping off your pet for the trip can also be an issue, as the airline requires the animals to be delivered and retrieved directly from the cargo location.

Additionally, Delta can’t guarantee that pets will be placed on the same flight as their owners, which means travelers may have to return to the airport.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the cost for shipping a pet can be a bit pricey, with rates ranging from $193 to $1,481.18.

The change comes after the airline has faced several issues related to the deaths or misplacement of pets on their flights.

[via The Atlanta Journal Constitution]

Man Facing Assault Charges For Allegedly Throwing Sandwich At A Fellow Restaurant Patron

Tue, 2015-11-17 17:34

(Alan Rappa)Food fights are always hilarious in movies and on TV, but lest you get the urge to use your meal as a weapon against your fellow diner, take heed: you could end up facing assault charges if that brawl leads to police involvement.

A Virginia man has been charged with assault after an altercation at a pizza restaurant, according to the Fairfax City police department (via the Associated Press), though the alleged crime did not involve an actual pizza.

Police say a drunken New Jersey man winged a sandwich at another man and then drove away. The victim wasn’t injured in the incident, so it’s my guess that this was not a piping hot meatball sub we’re talking about. Instead, he tailed the suspect until police arrived and pulled the alleged sandwich thrower over.

It’s unclear what started the dispute in the first place, but the suspect was charged with assault and battery, driving under the influence of alcohol and refusal of a blood and breath test. In a perfect world, wasting a perfectly good sandwich would also be included.

Here’s Why You Should Meet Your New Puppy In Person First

Tue, 2015-11-17 17:08

puppers_photoIt’s frustrating when you want a specific type of pet, and there aren’t any available near you. However, one family learned the hard way that it’s can be unwise to order a puppy from an unverified breeder on the other side of the country. They found a cute puppy and sent cash, then came to realize that they were sending money after a puppy that wasn’t real.


The website they bought the pup through seemed real enough, and the seller even sent videos of the dog napping and playing with her littermates. Wanting to cuddle her through the screen didn’t bring her into reality, though. They first sent $655 as a deposit and shipping fee.

Then a company claiming to be a delivery service contacted the family and demanded $980.76 in life insurance for the dog. Life insurance? There are risks to transporting flat-nosed canines in hot weather, but the dog was coming from Pennsylvania.

That’s when a strange response came from the website that he bought the puppy from, which had since disappeared.

When CBS Sacramento got involved, the breeder reacted poorly, later issuing a refund.

I have decided not to give you any details of where the puppy is exactly…This is just sick and ridiculous of your business organization… so you better watch out

Do you know what’s sick and ridiculous? Demanding more and more money from someone whose daughter has already fallen in love with an imaginary puppy.

Call Kurtis: My $1,600 Purebred Puppy Never Showed Up [CBS Sacramento]

N.J. Mall Decides Not To Charge Admission To Santa’s Lap After All

Tue, 2015-11-17 16:28

(Consumerist reader Lindsey)When something is free one year and then comes with a fee the next, you better believe there are going to be customers who notice. As such, the management company at a New Jersey mall has backed off its experiment to charge visitors for the privilege of meeting (or even seeing) Santa Claus after parents complained that access to St. Nick’s lap should be free for everyone.

The Grinch’s heart must have grown three sizes a bit early, as the mall’s higher-ups announced later on Monday that parents wouldn’t have to pay a minimum of $35 for the right to bring their kids to see the big guy.

In a statement (warning: link contains video that autoplays) that calls last year’s “Adventure to Santa” display “wildly successful,” again, a display that was free, mall management says it decided to bring back the “interactive journey” this season.

After going on a bit about the “immersive” 17-20 minute attraction, the mall says it’s had a change of heart.

“In the spirit of the holiday season, we want to keep things festive and bright,” management said. “We have heard and value our loyal customers’ feedback and as a result, have decided to remove the photo package purchase requirements.”

Though it’s common practice to charge parents a fee for photos or videos to commemorate the visit, many were upset that even sitting on St. Nick’s lap to bend his ear would cost money. And because Santa’s house has no windows at this mall, children wouldn’t be able to catch a glimpse of the Big Guy without paying up first.

“I find it classist and it creates a divide between children during a holiday which is supposed to be about equality and giving and having everyone participate in the joy of Christmas,” one customer told the Philadelphia Inquirer before the mall backtracked.

Tyson Recalls 50,000 Pounds Of Chicken Wings Because They Don’t Smell Right, Could Cause Illness

Tue, 2015-11-17 16:08

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 9.58.58 AMIf those Tyson hot wings sitting in the freezer don’t smell quite right, then they might be part of the company’s latest recall of more than 50,000 pounds of cooked chicken wings that could cause people who eat them to become sick. 

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced Tuesday that Tyson Foods recalled 52,486 pounds of Any’tizers Hot Wings after receiving several consumer complaints that the product had an “off odor” and consumption led to mild illness.

The recall covers 28-ounce bags of “Tyson Any’tizers Fully Cooked Hot Wings Chicken Wing Sections Coated With A Flavorful Hot, Tangy Sauce,” with use by/sell by dates of Oct. 24, 2016 and Oct. 25, 2016.

Products can be identified by the establishment number “P-13456” inside the USDA mark of inspection, as well as on the back of the bag above the heating instructions.

While FSIS has not confirmed any adverse reactions, such as illness, from consuming the products, customers are advised to not to eat the chicken. Instead, they should either throw the bags away or return them to the store where they were purchased for a refund.

AAA: Gas Could Fall Below $2 Per Gallon Nationwide Just In Time For Christmas

Tue, 2015-11-17 15:42

(beebo wallace)While we’re not sure how Santa Claus will be able to bring this present down the chimney, everyone with a car could be getting something very special this year: AAA says the national average for a gallon of gas could fall below $2 just in time for Christmas.

Pump prices have been falling for 11 days straight around the country, according to a recent report from AAA, bringing today’s national average price to $2.16 per gallon. Prices will likely keep on going down and could hit under $2 for the first time since 2009 by the time you’re plucking presents from under the tree.

Gas is getting cheaper these days as the price of crude oil has remained low compared to years past, resulting in national averages that are down by $0.74 per gallon year-over-year. Price discounts will also likely continue as refinery production in the Midwest recovers, and individual refineries return from scheduled maintenance to continue production.

If you live in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana or Michigan, you may have already experienced discounts due to recent refinery restarts, AAA notices.

Gas prices usually decline during the month of November in any case, as it’s the time of the year when refinery maintenance wraps up.

Some drivers won’t even have to wait for the holidays: 11 states are already hitting under $2 on average, with South Carolina ($1.91), Alabama ($1.92) paying the nation’s lowest averages. It’s still pretty expensive elsewhere, with the highest gas prices in Hawaii ($2.86), California ($2.80), Nevada ($2.67), Washington ($2.52) and Oregon ($2.41).

Uber Now Offering Last-Minute NFL Tickets, Rides To Games — In Jacksonville

Tue, 2015-11-17 15:26

Earlier this fall, Uber began a two-month, Saturdays-only test allowing passenger to watch college football games while on the move in Nashville, Detroit, Atlanta and Houston. Now the company is one-upping itself by providing last-minute tickets to riders wanting to see a professional football game — as long as they live in Jacksonville and want to see the currently 3-6 Jaguars. 

The ride hailing company announced Monday that it would dip its toes a bit further in the sports arena via a partnership with the Jaguars, Bloomberg reports.

Through the deal, Uber will offer discounted game-day tickets along with rides to Jaguars games.

“For last minute-decision makers not wanting to miss out on the excitement at EverBank Field, it’s a cost-effective choice to get downtown and into the game,” Chad Johnson, Jaguars Senior Vice President of Sales and Service, said in a statement.

Tickets will be available through the Uber app on game day starting Nov. 19. Fans can purchase up to four lower-level tickets at a “promotional price” and will be billed directly through Uber.

Bloomberg reports that while the deal could likely boost Uber’s revenue, it could also help the Jaguars, which have one of the lowest resale prices for tickets in the NFL and haven’t had a winning season since 2007.

Uber Will Sell Cheaper, Day-Of Tickets to Jaguars Home Games [Bloomberg]

Phone Companies Can Filter Out Robocalls, They Just Aren’t Doing It

Tue, 2015-11-17 14:00

Even in an age when everyone has Caller ID on their cellphones and landlines, when more than 200 million numbers are listed on the national Do Not Call Registry, our phones are still inundated with unwanted auto-dialed and prerecorded calls. And though state and federal regulators regularly shut down illegal telemarketing operations, it can seem like a game of Whac-A-Mole, with new robocallers popping up to replace the old ones.

There are a number of ways to use technology to reduce the number of annoying robocalls you receive, but U.S. phone companies have generally left it up to consumers to defend themselves against the telemarketing onslaught, rather than implementing ways to prevent most robocalls from getting through in the first place.

Telecoms Charge For Limited Blocking

If you want to block robocalls on your landline service from AT&T or Verizon, your options are limited and expensive:
•Call Block/Anonymous Call Rejection: For $8.50/month, you can block 10 numbers and all anonymous callers. It not only costs a lot, but it means you’ll have to constantly be updating your blacklist.

• Landline Service: Blocking either 6 or 12 numbers (depending on service area) will run you $6/month. If you also want to block anonymous numbers, that costs another $6.
• FiOS VoIP Service: Verizon doesn’t charge FiOS customers for either service, but puts a 100-number limit on the blacklist.

Pre-empting unwanted calls was the intention of the Do Not Call list — shifting the burden to telemarketers to not bother consumers in the registry — but most irritating robocalls are done by scam artists or fly-by-night businesses that don’t really care whether or not you asked to not be called.

Consumer complaints about unwanted calls dominate gripes filed with the Federal Trade Commission every year, and not just because folks are being interrupted in the middle of watching Jeopardy. The FTC estimates that $350 million a year is lost to phone scams.

A new report [PDF] from our colleagues at Consumers Union looks at the various ways phone companies could be proactively trying to rein in robocalls — if they ever get around to it.


Nomorobo was the winner of the FTC’s first competition to create a viable service for blocking robocalls.

It’s a filter — no device needed — that creates a “blacklist” of phone numbers reported to the FTC as Do Not Call violators, and numbers that consumers indicate are connected to robocallers.

Right now, Nomorobo only works on VoIP telephone service; not good for those still on traditional landlines or who have gone cellphone only, but great for the millions of Americans who get their landline service through their cable or Internet provider.

When someone calls your number, Nomorobo rings simultaneously on your home phone and on the Nomorobo servers. If the service IDs the incoming number as a robocaller, it ends the call after one ring.

In an effort to gather more likely robocall numbers, Nomorobo also collects information about phone calls made to numbers that were abandoned after receiving too many unsolicited calls. Since the only people calling these numbers are probably going to be robocallers, this system is able to add to the Nomorobo blacklist.

One of the problems that comes up all the time with tracking down robocallers is “spoofed” numbers — when the info that shows up on your Caller ID has nothing to do with the person calling you.

Spoofing is not, by itself, illegal. In fact, there are justifiable, good reasons — like preventing a stalker or an abusive spouse from knowing your location — for wanting to hide your information. It’s only when spoofing is used to commit fraud or otherwise perpetrate a crime that it becomes illegal.

Nomorobo owner Aaron Foss says his algorithm can help ID spoofers by identifying reporting trends from the service’s users.

“A robocaller might spoof a random number but when that fake number starts calling 5,000 people in an hour, well, humans don’t call like that,” he explains.

If a legitimate caller is flagged as a potential robocaller, that caller will have to enter a number to prove they are human before the call can be connected.

This feature may be a minor impediment to major telephone companies implementing Nomorobo or something similar. One of the telecom industry’s most common arguments against proactive, widespread robocall blacklists is that they might inadvertently block allowed robocalls, which include school closing notifications and emergency alerts.

Moffat says Nomorobo addresses this concern by whitelisting these numbers so that they are not blocked by the “prove you’re a human” numerical code requirement.


Primus — not the band behind Pork Soda (though that would be awesome) — is an independent Internet and phone provider for hundreds of thousands of folks in Canada. It’s also the company behind something called Telemarketing Guard, which Primus Canada has made available to its customers for free since 2007.

The Guard is a filter that aims to head off blacklisted numbers so that they never ring on your end. If a number has been identified by some users as a robocaller, but the verdict is still out, the number is greylisted, which has two facets. First, the caller is asked to press a number and say their name before the call is put through. If that happens, then the recording of the caller’s name is played for the recipient, who then can decide to answer the call, block the number, or have it go to voicemail.

Primus says the Guard has not just cut down on annoying calls to consumers who use it, but that offering the service has made good business sense for the company because nearly 9-in-10 Primus Canada customers have cited the Guard as the main reason to retain their service.

In 2013, in response to a Senate committee question about why American phone companies had not adopted the Primus Canada Guard or Nomorobo, trade group USTelecom mentioned [PDF] that Nomorobo can block calls because it’s not a phone service provider, and Primus — owned by a Virginia-based company — is only using the Guard north of the border, possibly because FCC rules would have forbidden the company from using it stateside.

But as noted in the Consumers Union report, the FCC said earlier this year that it’s okay for U.S. phone service providers to offer services like these.


“The phone companies could be doing so much more to stop robocalls from harassing their customers,” said Maureen Mahoney, Policy Analyst with Consumers Union and author of the report. “But so far they’ve just been passing the buck and making excuses.”

According to the report, the major roadblock to putting robocall filters in place is the phone companies’ inaction.

Nomorobo’s Foss says his VoIP call-filtering system could be used on landlines and wireless phones; it would just require the phone companies to switch on simultaneous ringing for these types of lines. However, he acknowledges that old copper-line networks — some of which have reportedly fallen into disrepair — may not be up to the task.

Henning Schulzrinne, former Chief Technology Officer of the FCC, echoes this sentiment in the report, noting that, “Older landline systems may not support simultaneous ringing or carriers may choose not to enable the feature.”

USTelecom contends that even if you got it Nomorobo to work, “it is not clear whether it could be accomplished while still being able to offer a… solution on a cost effective basis to end users.”

It’s understandable that telecoms would want to remain neutral with regard to call-blocking. By doing nothing, they can avoid the potential problems that could occur when an important, legitimate emergency call gets blocked.

But a look at the numbers shows that something has to be done to curb these calls. In addition to the huge volume of complaints filed with the government every year, more than 550,000 people have signed on to Consumers Union’s End Robocalls petition asking AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink to give customers the ability to block these calls.

“Robocalls are more than just a nuisance,” explains Mahoney. “They can cost consumers real money when they are used to commit fraud. It’s clear that the technology exists to dramatically reduce these unwanted calls. Now it’s up to the phone companies to show they are serious about solving this problem by offering free call-blocking tools to their customers.”

Rdio Will File For Bankruptcy, Sell Smoldering Remains To Pandora

Tue, 2015-11-17 00:08

(Brad Smith)RIP, Rdio: the music streaming service tried its best to compete with bigger streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music. After the company files for bankruptcy, though, competitor Pandora has offered $75 million in cash for its intellectual property and some employees. What about the customers? They could come along as part of a separate transaction.

Rdio tried to survive with multiple competitors, including Apple Music, which had a similar price point but was already installed on hundreds of millions of phones. Rdio’s advantage has been that it operated in more countries than competitors, notably the massive developing market of India. The company tried offering lower-cost plans everywhere, but wasn’t able to recover and capture market share.

Rdio has assets that Pandora doesn’t. It’s an on-demand streaming service where customers choose what they want to listen to or pick a curated playlist; Pandora’s main service plays random-seeming songs based on the songs that you’ve liked in the past.

When Rdio declares bankruptcy, Pandora has agreed to bid $75 million in cash for some of its assets. Presumably, the company wants Rdio’s technology so they can offer an on-demand service and sell subscriptions to people who want to play non-random music sometimes. Maybe they simply want to buy up Rdio’s intellectual property and hire key employees so the big streaming companies can’t.

Rdio is shutting down and Pandora is buying up the scraps [The Verge] Has A Bunker Full Of Gold, Silver, And Food In Case Of Financial Collapse

Mon, 2015-11-16 22:57

(Great Beyond)When the global financial system collapses, don’t fret: you’ll still be able to shop on We’re not quite sure how that will happen, but the company’s early adoption of Bitcoin as a method of payment could be one clue. What you need to know, though, is that the company will keep paying its employees thanks to its bunker of silver, gold, and food.

No, CEO Patrick Byrne is not kidding when he says that the company is prepared for banks to shut down. It happened in 1933, and almost happened during the economic meltdown of 2008. What would you do without access to your bank accounts for a week? Today, when some people rarely even carry cash, we might be in a lot of trouble collectively as a society when it comes to paying for things like fuel and food if banking systems were down for even a week or two.

Unless you work at Overstock. The publicly-traded company has disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has about $6 million of gold and $4.3 million worth of silver that could be divided up and used for payroll (probably small coins) and also a 30-day supply of food. It’s all stashed in an undisclosed location, and the company thinks of it as an insurance policy.

Ultimately, what it comes down to is that Overstock’s CEO doesn’t trust our current monetary system. That’s why the company is taking two tactics that seem like they wouldn’t have much in common: they both exist outside of government-administered currency and standard central banks. Has $10 Million In Gold And Silver Hidden Somewhere In Utah [Buzzfeed]

Please Stop Spreading Pyramid Schemes Around Facebook

Mon, 2015-11-16 22:29

(Love Over Lenses)Gift exchanges can be super fun: it’s great to receive a present that you didn’t anticipate at all. However, an attempt by either a well-meaning person or a gift-hogging trickster began on Facebook recently, and zapped quickly around the world. One scheme, called the “Secret Sisters Gift Exchange,” promises thirty-six gifts in your mailbox after you mail out only one, but reality doesn’t work that way.

This scheme also has a variation for parents, where participants send out children’s books to one person on the list and receive as many as thirty-six books back.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has really taken up this cause on Facebook: they’re the experts, since in decades past people used the mail to send their chain letters. (That’s how people circulated advance-fee frauds, too.) In days past, these schemes may have circulated to solicit postcards, cash, or just letters so children could receive some mail.

The USPIS explains why pyramid schemes are a terrible idea unless you are literally the person who started the chain. Note: we are not encouraging you to start a pyramid scheme or chain letter.

Consider a typical pyramid that involves six individuals in the chain. By the time you’ve reached the fourth level of participation, nearly 1,300 recruits must be onboard. Today, social media might make that a bit easier in than days past, which required chain letter-type solicitations by mail. However, upon reaching the sixth level of participation, you’d have to attract more recruits than could be seated in Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

By the seventh level, you’d need more participants than folks living in Anchorage, AK. The ninth level requires you to recruit all of Houston, Tx and the Washington Metro area combined—and you still wouldn’t have enough participants.

The 11th round requires everyone in the United States to join in, if the promise is to be fulfilled.

I don’t care how many Facebook friends you have: you can’t convince everyone in the United States to mail a children’s book or a $10 gift to a random stranger. As it happens, though, these chains are also against Facebook’s terms of service, which bar users from passing around chain letters or other misleading and illegal schemes.

Don’t hit “share.” Don’t say, “LOL, you never know!” as you put your own kid’s name and home address on the list and send it out to strangers. Don’t perpetuate pyramid schemes.

Secret Sisters Gift Exchange [Snopes]
Secret Sister Gift Exchange – Don’t pay or yule be sorry [FTC]

FAA: You Don’t Need To Pay Someone To Register Your Drone

Mon, 2015-11-16 22:12

(Northwest dad)When you go to register your car, you don’t shop around at different companies and then pay one to perform that service. The Federal Aviation Administration wants you to know you don’t have to fork over cash to register your drones, either.

There’s no need to enlist a private company to handle drone registration, the agency said today in a statement.

At least one company has started offering a service to help drone owners comply with the FAA’s requirement that owners register their unmanned aerial vehicles. But even the FAA doesn’t know yet how it’ll deal with registrations, so don’t pay anyone anything for such a service.

“Owners should wait until additional details about the forthcoming drone registration system are announced later this month before paying anyone to do the work for them,” the agency said today.

There’s a task force on the case right now with a Nov. 20 deadline to make recommendations on how to handle the registration process. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has asked the group to make the process a simple, easy one to complete.

Why DraftKings And FanDuel Are Exempt From Online Gambling Laws: Pro Sports Wanted It That Way

Mon, 2015-11-16 21:30
(C x 2)

Daily fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel are basically everywhere lately. Not only are the ads for both companies a constant during every sports broadcast of any kind, but also there’s constantly news about FBI investigations, states trying to shut them down, or even John Oliver roasts.

The sites exist due to a loophole in the 2006 law that prohibits online gambling. That law, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, was written and passed in order to knock out online poker and other forms of gambling in the United States.

The UIGEA specifically has a set of exemptions in it for “fantasy or simulation sports,” which is how FanDuel and DraftKings justify their existence. However, the original text of the bill, introduced to the House of Representatives almost exactly ten years ago by Iowa Rep. Jim Leach, did not contain that language. The text was changed along the way, in committee, to include the exemption at the core of so much trouble today.

But the law was passed in 2006, and those sites first launched in 2009 and 2012 respectively. That means they weren’t lobbying for that outcome, because they didn’t exist yet. So… who was? Where did it come from?

The answer is perhaps somewhat predictable: from entrenched sports leagues, who were starting to see that fantasy sports could be lucrative.

As the New York Times and Los Angeles Times reported back when the law passed in 2006, professional sports organizations — particularly the NFL and MLB — were working hard a decade ago to protect their interests in Washington.

The LA Times wrote at the time that almost 13 million people regularly played fantasy football, and a specialist told the paper that “it’s fairly clear from the correspondence related to the bill that an NFL lobbyist was, in fact, very active in the effort to get this bill passed.” The NFL at the time denied launching an explicit effort to get the exemption added, but a spokesman for the league did say that fantasy football had never been considered gambling, to that point, and signs indicated that the league preferred to keep it that way.

Major League Baseball also put their oar in, as the NYT reported. Baseball’s popularity was way down from its heyday, by the early years of this century, and it turned out that online fantasy baseball was a great way to keep interest in America’s pastime floating.

Rep. Leach, the bill’s author, told ThinkProgress earlier this year that when he wrote and introduced the UIGEA, he never foresaw or intended the enormous industry that has resulted.

Instead, the bill was packaged and promoted as part of an “American Values Agenda” that the Republican party was, at the time, trying to move through Congress — and also an attempt to recover face from an earlier attempt to pass a similar bill that ended in drama and scandal.

“My intent in initiating the law was to constrain a growing gambling ethos in America that could bring the casino to the home, the work station, college dorm, even the treadmill. My concern was that a savings and investing country could too easily become a country where too many would bet wantonly on unrealistic hopes of obtaining a big payoff,” Leach told ThinkProgress.

But Congress is a game of compromise; it takes more than one vote to pass a bill. “A number of Members indicated they couldn’t support it if it didn’t make a minor exception for fantasy sports,” Leach told ThinkProgress, saying that was why he agreed to add the exemption.

He added that the major sports leagues supported the bill because it would somehow protect the integrity of their games and avoid incentivizing players, referees, or other related persons from “attempting to make money by improperly influencing the outcome of games,” somehow.

“The assumption was that while unconstrained Internet gambling could change the nature of America’s savings and investment patterns, fantasy sports would be a ‘de minimus’ footnote. No one ever conceived of it becoming a large scale activity or that it could transition into one-day contests,” Leach concluded.

Clearly, it was an oversight a huge number of other people made, too.

Meanwhile, the fight continues. On Friday, DraftKings and FanDuel asked the state supreme court to make New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stop making them stop operating in the state. Today, DraftKings filed a motion asking for a restraining order against the AG’s office, to prevent the cease & desist order from the state from being carried out.

A spokesman for the company said in a statement, “We believe this [restraining order] is necessary and warranted to protect DraftKings’ business while we pursue our legal action to prevent the New York Attorney General from denying New Yorkers the right to continue playing the daily fantasy sports games they love.”

McDonald’s Might Replace Dollar Menu With “McPick 2” Micro Menu

Mon, 2015-11-16 21:20

From all-day breakfast to tests of a $4.99 build-your-own combo meal bag, McDonald’s has pulled out nearly all the stops when it comes to getting customers inside the Golden Arches. Today, the fast food giant announced its latest initiative, a new take on the Dollar Menu: “McPick 2.” 

The new offering, the company’s latest attempt to distance itself from the long-standing Dollar Menu, lets diners pick two pre-selected products from a list of items for $2, the Associated Press reports.

The McPick 2 menu includes just four options: a McDouble, a McChicken, small fries and the company’s new mozzarella sticks.

Deborah Wahl, senior vice president of marketing for the U.S., said the McPick platform was designed to give people options and drive customers into stores.

Franchisees recently voted to make the micro-menu available at a national level, setting in motion a five-week test starting Jan. 4.

After the five-week test, McDonald’s could change the details of the menu, but the company says it plans to stick with the “McPick” concept and name.

This, of course, isn’t the first time the fast food company has tried another reiteration of the Dollar Menu.

Back in 2012, the company tried the “Extra Value Menu” that offered items for a range of prices. When that didn’t catch on, it tried the “Dollar Menu & More” option in 2013.

McDonald’s reveals new deal to replace Dollar Menu [The Associated Press]

Pizza Hut Delivery Guy Comforts Customer After She Takes A Spill

Mon, 2015-11-16 21:01

(Adam A. Koch)When you’re home alone, perhaps the thought has crossed your mind: “What happens if I hurt myself and no one is here to help me?” In the case of one Pizza Hut customer in Arizona who fell while waiting for her order, help came in the form of a pizza delivery man.

The 69-year-old woman lives with her daughter and son-in-law, who had gone out for dinner last week, reports the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon News. She was reaching for her purse to fetch payment for her Pizza Hut order when she caught her toe on a drop cloth and fell to her floor, landing on her face.

“I tried to relax but I landed on my chest or nose. This is a very hard tile floor,” she says. “There was blood everywhere. I was in a lot of pain. I knew I was hurt.”

She called her daughter, but didn’t want to call an ambulance because she was worried her insurance wouldn’t cover it. Despite her pain, she crawled over to the screen door to unlock it for the delivery man. When he arrived, he offered to wait with her, she said.

“I was crying the whole time,” she recalled. “Trevor offered to put the wings in the fridge and get me water. He sat next to me and was very calm. He told me he plays softball and knows what it’s like to get hurt.”

Her daughter called and the delivery man answered, explaining who he was and saying he wouldn’t leave the woman by herself.

“He was so calm and relaxed. I thought, here’s this stranger in my house,” her daughter said. “He could have done anything. But he stayed next to her on the couch. I was so thankful.”

When the woman’s daughter and son-in-law got home, the Pizza Hut worker helped them get her in the car to take her to the hospital. As it turns out, she’d broken her humeral neck at her shoulder and arm joint.

In the end, the delivery guy refused to take the tip she offered him.

“It’s the human thing to do. I just happened to be there,” he said.

Special delivery: Pizza Hut driver comforts customer in distress [Apache Junction/Gold Canyon News]

Indiegogo And Brookstone To Team Up To Make Even More Cool, Useless Gadgets

Mon, 2015-11-16 20:49

(Michael Gray)In decades past, if you wanted to find gadgets that solve problems you never realized existed until just now, you had to leave your house and go to a Brookstone store, or send away for a catalog. Today, you can surf gadgets that are so fresh that they don’t really exist yet on crowdfunding sites, and Brookstone is teaming up with crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to give inventors logistical support, and perhaps improve Brookstone’s pipeline of fresh new ideas.

As we’ve seen in many cases of crowdfunded projects that didn’t work out on this site, the world is full of creative people, but the part where you actually manufacture and ship a new product is really difficult, especially for first-time entrepreneurs. Brookstone, meanwhile, is a company that already has relationships with manufacturers of unusual things.

“Engineering, packaging, retail and wholesale distribution-these are the things at which Brookstone is expert,” Brookstone’s CEO said in a statement. “The job of the Brookstone Launch program is to speed up development and delivery time, and to help Indiegogo campaigners realize the most opportunities from their ideas.”

Items produced through the partnership will then be sold in Brookstone stores, presumably benefiting everyone involved.

Indiegogo Forms New Partnership With Brookstone [Crowdfund Insider]

Those Gas Pump “Anti-Skimming” Stickers Are Really Just Pointless Decoration

Mon, 2015-11-16 20:41

Hey ID thieves! Did you break a security sticker while installing a card-skimming device on a gas pump? No problem. You can buy 500 replacement stickers for only $69.More than four years ago, a number of gas stations in the U.S. started slapping stickers on gas pump credit card readers in an effort to cut down on illegal card skimmers that steal customers’ payment info. And almost immediately, these same gas stations showed they had no idea what to do with these stickers. A new report shows that not only do some companies not really care about these stickers, but that anyone can buy them.

NBC Los Angeles recently investigated a viewer’s complaint about a broken security sticker at a gas station in Burbank. The customer noticed that the sticker on her pump had been breached, causing the previously solid red background to read “VOID OPEN” in big white letters.

“When I went in to go tell the person who was working, I saw other stickers had been ripped off or said ‘Void’ on them as well,” she recalls. “I told him and he said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.'”

The manager told NBC that it was just an oversight and one of his employees had forgotten to change some old stickers.

Reporters found similar broken, voided, and peeling stickers at other stations in the area.

This nonchalance about the stickers is cause for concern when you consider the widespread problem of card-skimming at gas stations.

When Florida regulators did a spot check of gas pumps in the state, they turned up 103 skimmers. Even though that’s a small percentage of all the pumps tested, if you think about the number of people who use a single gas pump in a day and then multiply that by 103, and then figure that on a national level, you see how big the problem could be.

Of course, it’s not as if a clean security sticker is any guarantee that someone hasn’t cracked the seal and installed a skimmer. As NBC learned, anyone can purchase a pack of 500 of these seals for $69 from a site linked to by the National Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, the folks who co-created this program in the first place.

Big chains like Shell, Chevron, and Texaco may use branded versions of these seals that are more difficult to copy, but that only matters if you know that these chains only use branded seals. If a skim-scammer were to crack open a Chevron-branded sticker, install his skimmer, then place a generic seal on top of it, most drivers would be none the wiser.

And, as explained in a statement by Chevron, only Chevron-owned stores get the branded stickers free of charge. Independently owned Chevron stations have to pay for theirs (but they get a discount).

The chains maintain that these stickers are only really for the customers’ benefit, and that the real security is the locks on the pumps. That may be true, but if you’re going to put on a show for your customers, at least put on one that doesn’t look like a crime scene.

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