Reps for the chain tell Consumerist there will be an announcement later today at the El Pollo Loco in Manteca, CA, where the incident occurred. Both the customer and the franchise owner are supposed to be on hand when the restaurant provides him with the money he lost on that April evening.
For those coming late to the story, here’s what happened. The customer had been saving up money in order to move to the area to be closer to family. He pulled into the El Pollo Loco to get some food, but as he exited his truck he accidentally dropped the wad of cash on the ground next to his truck.
The drop was spotted by a man in a nearby car who jumped into action the moment the customer went inside the building, swooping in to pick the money up off the ground. But rather than flee the scene like a decent criminal — or return the money to the first man like a decent human being — this second man went inside the El Pollo Loco and ordered some food for himself, which he then ate while the other man began to panic.
In spite of a $1,300 reward being offered for the return of the money — and security footage of the incident being posted online — it appears that the thief has not been apprehended.
If we get any additional information about today’s announcement, we’ll update here.
When UPS Teams Up With USPS, Your Package Magically Travels To 29 States And Back-And-Forth Through Time
At the bottom of this post is a partial screengrab of the mess Jocelyn found when she tracked her package online. It had been shipped using UPS Mail Innovations, which combines the worst of both companies.
“It shipped from Shutterfly on June 3, and was first processed in Auburn, WA,” writes Jocelyn. “The next couple check-ins were all in the next couple days, June 4th and 5th, as it made its way from WA to Fontana, CA. Then, suddenly, the package went back in time, and somehow managed to visit nearly half the states in the US within a 24-hour time period.”
That list continues to get larger. In the short time between receiving Jocelyn’s e-mail and checking out the tracking info for ourselves, dozens of new entries were added.
It’s obviously a glitch, and Jocelyn is more amused at the silliness of this error than she is worried about her package bouncing around like it’s trapped in a TARDIS that’s gone haywire.
“I’m not actually concerned about the package getting to me,” she admits. “I bet it will be at my house in the next couple days. But I definitely seem to have run into some strange glitch.”
“Hey there, friend. What kind of dog is that you have, the one that just left a poo on the ground that you’re refusing to scoop up? Very interesting — and what’s his pedigree? Nice. Since you aren’t picking it up, I’ll just report your details to the town officials who will find your address so I can mail the poo right back to you. It’ll be like it was never even gone.” That’s the plan of action in one town across the pond, and it’s proving helpful.
You know, we get it. Poop is gross, and (most) people want nothing to do with it, much less have the desire to scoop it up. But that’s the responsibility dog owners take on by the act of owning a pooch. A Spanish town has had enough with forgetful/lazy/sneaky owners who refuse to scoop their own poo, and have developed a somewhat ingenious plan, reports The Local.
Here’s how the poo sting goes down: Volunteers patrol the town of 10,000 on the outskirts of Madrid, cruising for negligent dog owners. Instead of jumping out of the bushes and screaming at them, however, the volunteers strike up a friendly conversation like the one above.
“They’d ask them what the dog’s name and pedigree was. With that information they could find out the address of the pooch’s owner from a registered pet database we have,” a town hall spokesperson said.
The stalwart volunteers would then scoop the poop, box it up and deliver it on the door step of the offending pet owner with a warning, all while a camera person films the entire thing.
As a result, the town estimates that the amount of feces littering the streets has dropped by 70%.
“We didn’t have volunteers tallying up the poo before and after the campaign; our results are based on what neighbours have told us,” the town hall spokesperson told The Local. ”We’re not sure either whether the volume of poo has gone down because they’re more afraid of getting their dogs’ excrement delivered back to them than of being fined.”
Spanish town mails dog poo back to owners [The Local]
The Travel Hoodie Pillow is exactly what this world needs: a travel pillow that not only doesn’t look like a travel pillow and you can carry it around incognito, but lets you put a hood over your face, blocking your eyes from the light and from the curious stares of people who don’t understand why you’re wearing a sweatshirtless hood.
According to Amazon reviewers, the travel hoodie pillow has one flaw: you have to inflate it. This means that you either need to walk around all pillowed up, stuff the travel pillow in your bag, or sit there in your plane or bus seat huffing and puffing like you’re blowing up water wings before you just settle down to sleep.
Maybe you do all of your napping at home, but still want the light-blocking effect of a hood over your face. The HoodiePillow pillowcase has you covered. Or has your forehead and eyes covered, at least.
HoodiePillow® [Official Site] (via Laughing Squid – thanks, Dirk!)
Consumerist reader Jen and her family have been using Sprint’s ancient Nextel network for some time, as it was the only option in their remote locale. But now that the plug is being pulled on that network, Jen is facing a bit of a dilemma. She’d like to upgrade to an iPhone, and a friend recently gave her an old AT&T iPhone, but Jen didn’t know if she’d be able to bring that phone over to a new carrier without getting locked into a new contract, especially given the general lack of service in her area. And so she decided to head over to Best Buy to check out the prepaid phone offerings.
“As we looked over the pay-as-you-go rack, an employee on his way past us stopped to ask if he could be of service,” she tells Consumerist. “We told him of our plight, and he immediately said, ‘I probably shouldn’t be sending you ‘out of store,’ but your best bet is to go to a local AT&T store and have them unlock the phone for you. You should be able to then use a no-contract plan while you decide if you want to wait for the newest model and commit to a contract plan.’”
That’s exactly what Jen had been trying to figure out, and she didn’t have to even buy anything or ask whacky questions like Amy Poehler.
This employee’s manager would probably be ticked off to hear this story, but if Best Buy is truly going to position its staffers as experts on these matters, then managers will have to realize that sometimes an actual expert is going to give advice that might result in the customer going elsewhere.
Of course, if the recent changes to the DMCA hadn’t made it against the law for customers to unlock their own wireless devices without permission from the carrier, that employee might have been able to help her then and there, and maybe she would have bought some new accessories for her pre-owned phone.
Our readers generally love Amazon Prime, but complain about the regional delivery services that Amazon contracts with in some areas in order to make that fabulous free two-day delivery possible. Carriers that include Ontrac and Ensenda seem to get the job done okay most of the time. When things go wrong, though, customers who had the wacky assumption that “out for delivery” meant their packages would actually be delivered get upset.
Reader Jen, for example, waited all day at home for her package. She found that it had been marked “delivered” in the online tracking information, but certainly hadn’t been delivered. Does that sounds familiar? It might. No one even knocked on her door or left her a “sorry we missed you!” slip if they happened to stop by while she was in the shower, which is always what seems to happen.
I was expecting a package I ordered from Amazon to be delivered yesterday. The shipper is Ontrac and when it didn’t arrive I double checked the tracking information and it was marked by [OnTrac] as delivered, the only problem is that it wasn’t there. I have yet to receive it and will update you when I know what is going on.
It should be noted that I was home ALL day yesterday and that there was never a knock at the door. I checked several times throughout the day and nothing all day. I live in a very small apartment and always hear a knock.
Jen notes that the package was in the system as “out for delivery” just five miles from her home yesterday morning.
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, along with John McCain of Arizona, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn, and Mark Udall of Colorado, have introduced a second stab at the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act (yes, it spells COINS), which would promote and ease in the distribution of dollar coins. It also sets a timetable for dollar coins to replace Federal Reserve Notes of the same denomination.
According to the Act, the Federal Reserve would be allowed to continue putting $1 bills into circulation for four years after the law goes into effect or when the rate of $1 coins being put into circulation passes the $600 billion/year threshold, whichever comes first.
For one year following that point, the Fed may continue to put dollar bills into circulation, but may not order any new dollar bills be printed.
As in previous attempts to push similar legislation through, backers cite decades of Government Accountability Office reports showing that because coins are more durable than printed money, the initial costs to mint new coins would ultimately be offset by anywhere from $200-500 million/year savings. Harkin points to Canada’s decision to replace its printed dollars with coins, saying that the savings ended up being ten times larger than initially projected.
Even after dollar bills are taken out of circulation, they would continue to hold their status as legal tender.
“The benefits of the dollar coin have long been recognized by reputable sources such as the GAO as a smart investment for our country,” said Harkin in a statement. “The experiences of countries around the world reveal that transitioning to dollar coins will generate significant savings to taxpayers without disrupting businesses or consumers. I am hopeful that this bipartisan legislation will continue to gain traction in Congress.”
In a 2011 GAO report on the subject, researchers wrote that one of the biggest roadblocks to the adoption of a dollar coin is resistance to change (pun intended) and lawmakers’ and regulators’ hesitance to simply pull dollar bills from circulation.
It cited similar pre-transition worries in Canada and the UK that ultimately proved to be much ado about very little.
“Officials from both countries told GAO that this step was essential to the success of their transition and that, with no alternative to the note, public resistance dissipated within a few years,” reads the 2011 report.
Harkin and McCain first gave the COINS Act a shot in 2012, but like many pieces of legislation, it died in committee.
There’s been a bit of a back and forth between the courts and the White House recently over who can buy what kinds of emergency contraception, or the morning after pill. The Food and Drug Administration had approved the one-pill brand name Plan B for any women 15 or older, which didn’t apply to other forms. But now a federal appeals court says girls of any age can buy two-step generic versions without prescriptions while the federal government appeals a judge’s ruling that any females can get Plan B, regardless of age.
The order issued by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan pertains to the two-pill versions and said they can be sold immediately to any women without any restrictions. The court didn’t grant those same unrestricted privileges for Plan B’s one-pill form, however, and didn’t explain why the two-pill versions are allowed now, reports the Associated Press.
Previously, an FDA spokesperson had said there wasn’t enough data out there to show that females of any age could responsibly take the two-pill form without a healthcare provider stepping in with guidance.
Both opponents and proponents of emergency contraception are reacting to the court’s order. The director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity sees the ease of access to drugs as a problem.
“Our reaction in general is a concern for the safety of young girls and the rights of parents,” she said.
On the other side, the president of the Center for Reproductive rights called the order a “historic day for women’s health.”
“Finally, after more than a decade of politically motivated delays, women will no longer have to endure intrusive, onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions to get emergency contraception,” she said in a statement.
The government is reviewing the order, and has two weeks to decide whether or not to appeal the decision.
Court to allow girls to buy morning-after for now [Associated Press]
If you’re like most Consumerist readers, you’re probably Internet-savvy enough to carefully screen what you say on Facebook, and to use filters when you have something more colorful and interesting to post. Now that everyone from your grandmother to your niece’s cat are on using Facebook, though, everyone could use a reminder of how to set up your privacy settings, how to change who sees a given post, and how to make sure those settings are still arranged how you want them.
Last year, a study by our data-crunching cousins down the hall at Consumer Reports estimated that 12 million Americans are happily Facebooking away without ever looking at their privacy settings. Sorry to be rude, but if you’re one of them: what is wrong with you?
If you haven’t checked your privacy settings and don’t know what all of the little globe and pencil icons mean, it’s okay. To help the non-checkers on the Internet, Consumer Reports made this handy video showing you how to check and modify your privacy settings.
Don’t be like Facebook employee/founder sibling Randi Zuckerberg. Control who can see your stuff on Facebook.
How to protect your privacy on Facebook, step by step [Consumer Reports]
On the low end of the customer service representative spectrum there are those company stooges who seem to not give a rat’s patootie whether or not your problem is solved. In the middle, there are your pleasant, efficient CSRs who can handle customers with aplomb and resolve issues tidily enough. And then, oh then, there are those CSRs on the high end of the spectrum, the ones we love the best.
Up there yonder in Canada, Andrew was wondering if he could possibly be removed from the Shoppers Drug Mart mailing list. It was a simple request, because, you see, his name is Andrew, and not a stranger named Matthew, reports The Star.
As a bit of a joke, he pondered in his request whether perhaps the mail was going to the right place — maybe this Matthew used to live there, or he does live there… in the future.
Naturally, I can draw one of two conclusions from this: 1) that Matthew is a previous resident of this address …
Or 2), and I may be going out on a limb here, Matthew is a future resident of this address, and seemingly against the laws of causation, your computer system has this information and prematurely mailed an advertisement to him before he’s actually lived here.
Unbeknownst to him, the CSR, Mark, who received his missive is a part-time fiction author with a soft spot for sci-fi. As such, he penned quite a response:
Thank you for writing us. We apologize if you have been receiving mail from Shoppers Drug Mart that was addressed to another customer. Unfortunately, we cannot comment on any research projects that we may currently be conducting. However, we would appreciate it if you could provide us with some additional information that would help us determine when the mailer you received was sent. Could you please let us know if it contained any of the following advertisements?
1) Now at Shoppers Drug Mart: Everexis
Cure any disease instantly with Everexis! Great for headaches, colds, cancer and more! With no known side effects, nothing can possibly go wrong!
2) 20X The Points on Meat Products
Got the Everexis munchies? Fill your strange and unspeakable hunger and get 20X The Points!
3) 20% Off Everexis Antidote
Everexis left you slow, lumbering, and quick to anger? Take the Everexis antidote. It hasn’t been fully tested, but it certainly can’t make things any worse!
4) Hide in a Shoppers Drug Mart Refugee Shelter
With over 1,200 locations still standing across Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart is the ideal place to hold up and hide from the hoard. Ration Nativa Cheese Puffs and Life Brand Vitamins while you wait for rescue! Blood samples will be required for admittance.
5) Wheat, Glorious Wheat
Exclusively at Shoppers Drug Mart! Rebuild society with wheat, a traditional nonsynthetic foodstuff from the before-times. Act fast, as quantities are extremely limited.
Andrew tells The Star he didn’t realize what he had, at first.
“[The email] read like customer service speak,” he said. “I actually closed it and put it aside. I looked it again and I said, ‘Oh my god, this is hilarious.’ ”
For his part, Mark is a bit surprised at all the attention his response has garnered.
“First, I thought it would be one person reading a joke and a little bit delighted to have it. I didn’t expect to be about 30,000 people reading a joke. And the other thing is I’m leaving the country in two months so I thought the consequences wouldn’t be too bad.”
His employers are pleased at the reaction as well, giving Mark a pat on the back for his creativity and customer service win.
“While [Mark's] response may not have appealed to everyone, we are glad that Andrew took it in the same lighthearted way in which it was crafted. At the end of the day Andrew is a more satisfied customer (which makes us happy),” a spokeswoman said.
But wait — did he get off the mailing list or not? If so, and this “Matthew” fellow does live in the future at the same address, will he be upset at not receiving his flyers anymore? We still have so many questions. Someone call Doctor Who, we need to borrow the TARDIS, stat. Either that or the Delorean will do.
*Thanks for the tip, Beverly!
Bloomberg reports that Apple has teamed up with a company called Brightstar (which runs trade-in programs for AT&T ad T-Mobile) to start the service with a dual purpose — to keep customers using Apple stuff, and to get refurbished Apple products on the market in developing countries.
If the Apple program works like the AT&T one run by Brighstar, a trade-in for an iPhone 4 or 4S could net the customer as much as $200. The hope on Apple’s part is that the customer will then use that money to get a new iPhone and not a competitor’s device like a Samsung Galaxy S4.
The rear-end of the trade-in is that the bought-back Apple products will then be refurbished and resold in emerging markets, where Apple’s traditionally higher-end products have faced competition from lower-priced alternatives. Bloomberg’s source on the trade-in program says all re-purchased phones will go overseas.
The source also says that the trade-ins will only be available at Apple retail locations. Depending on where you live, that’s good or bad news. If you live near an Apple store, you can go there and get paid for your old device instantly; no shipping and waiting. But if you don’t live near an Apple store, your only option is through your carrier or another service that offers trade-ins.
Some victims of the alleged scam tell the Philadelphia Daily News they paid $21,000 for a full-season rental in Wildwood, NJ, a favorite destination point for recent high school grads in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
When some of the renters went to check out the place on Memorial Day weekend, they found evidence that the landlord had been crashing there, including food in the cabinets, clothes strewn about the place… and two newborn kittens on the kitchen floor.
The young women who had rented the place describe the condition of the property as “disgusting and frankly unlivable,” and they weren’t alone in that opinion, as the police later slapped the property with violations and deemed it uninhabitable.
Meanwhile, the landlord tells the Daily News that this is all just a matter of “perception,” because he apparently doesn’t know what that word means.
Complicating matters is that the “landlord” doesn’t own all the properties he’s renting out in the area. Some of the rental homes he’s advertising are properties he’s renting and subletting. Prosecutors say that at least one of them is a bank-owned property.
In addition to lawsuits — like the one filed on behalf of renters who lost $14,622 when they were bumped from a summer rental that the landlord didn’t own — the man has been arrested and charged with theft by deception. Authorities say he collected $75,000 worth of rent for properties he didn’t own or for properties that renters couldn’t access or inhabit.
Whether you actually read the labels on food or not, they exist to inform consumers of exactly what they’re about to eat. But that isn’t much help if you don’t understand why something is labeled a certain way in the first place. For example, the United States Department of Agriculture is planning on requiring beef that’s been mechanically tenderized to be labeled as such. Okay, great! But why should you care either way?
The USDA is proposing that mechanically tenderized meat — 26% of all beef sold in the nation — be labeled as such, over food-safety concerns. See, while tenderizing meat can result in a delicious eating experience, the process of forcing hundreds of tiny sharp points into it can also force bad things like E. coli deep inside the meat, where the heat of cooking doesn’t always kill it, explains USA Today.
Under the USDA’s proposal, not only would the label inform customers that they’re buying a product with the potential to carry a foodborne pathogen, it would also include instructions on how to properly cook it to avoid ingesting dangerous substances. Intact cuts like steak are usually safe after cooking just the outside of the meat, but bacteria can be folded into beef when it’s ground or otherwise cut up and reformed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that there have been five such E. coli outbreaks that were linked to mechanically tenderized beef, sickening 174 people and killing four.
And since you can’t use the ol’ eyeball test to detect whether or not meat has been mechanically tenderized, the USDA sees this new label requirement as quite necessary.
“When people buy cube steak, you see the marks where the machinery has cubed up the steak,” said USDA Undersecretary Elisabeth Hagen. “When people buy ground beef, they know they’re getting ground product. But when people order this product, they don’t know. And certainly, when people are ordering in a restaurant, they don’t know they’re ordering this product.”
Some stores already note this on product labels — at Costco, labels read “blade tenderized” on beef that’s undergone such a process. The new rules, announced today, would require all such products to be labeled as such. They’ll also and include a note that they should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees, and allowed to sit for three minutes after it’s taken off the heat.
Here’s the thing about Paula Deen: Anyone who’s watched her cooking on TV knows that the woman loves, and we mean loves to add dabs, globs and ginormous pats of butter to many of her recipes. So while we were momentarily confused by her paid endorsement of a diabetes management program, she’s back to doing what she does best — butter, by way of slapping her face and name on her very own butter brand to be sold at Walmart.
We welcome you back, Paula, to your true self, and that is in no way sarcasm. If you’re going to position yourself as a healthy, diet-conscious cook and then you come out with a product like butter, well, that’s weird. But Deen has made her way up through the ranks of celebuchefs on the calorie-laden, butter-filled recipes she loves best, so this is a natural progression.
But wait, this isn’t just regular butter, points out Eater — it’s something called “finishing butter.” Ostensibly, that would mean you’ve got a starter butter, a middle butter and then at the end, more butter.
Deen says these butters ”let cooks bring a wonderful fresh butter taste to various dishes while just adding butter to the end of the cooking process,” and they come in five flavors, y’all: Southern Grillin’Butter, The Lemon Dill Butter, The European Style Butter, Sweet Citrus Zest Butter and Garden Herb Butter .
She made the talk show circuit yesterday, using butter at the end of the recipe instead of sticking it in at the beginning, because as she said on Today: ”I know you’re going to find this heard to believe, but I’ve been trying to cook with less butter…I’m trying not to use butter during the cooking process. I wait til the end, and then I put the finishing butter on it.”
That being said, butter is butter, no matter how, when or where you stick it. So embrace the butter, Paula. We can buy that a lot easier than you as a “healthy” cook.
The Guardian was the first to report that the NSA had obtained a court order [full text] in April of this year that requires Verizon to provide information on an “ongoing, daily basis” about all telephone calls in its systems. Since the vast majority of Verizon customers are not terrorists, this means that the NSA is using the warrant to collect info without regard to their being a suspect or being tied to any illegal activity. The warrant has an end date of July 19, says The Guardian.
Info handed over to the NSA includes the numbers of both parties on a call, location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls.
So what you’re talking about isn’t included, but who, where, and for how long is covered.
Because all of this info is considered metadata, the NSA did not need to seek out individual warrants but could request a blanket warrant that covers the entire customer base.
Obviously, and for good reason, this has a lot of people unhappy.
In response, a White House official tried to defend the NSA’s action without actually confirming it is going on, telling the Wall Street Journal, the collected data “allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.”
The Journal has also reportedly seen an internal Verizon memo from Tuesday where the company’s general counsel states that employees must comply with warrant requests.
Sen. Diane Feinstein, who heads up the Senate Intelligence Committee tried to downplay the issue, telling The Guardian that this is old news.
“As far as I know, this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the [foreign intelligence surveillance] court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore, it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress.”
Half of one percent is a very small amount, to state the extremely obvious. It can make a big difference in an annual budget, though, for a city that raises sales tax rates by half a percent. That’s fine, as long as merchants don’t do anything silly like charge higher city tax rates outside of the city limits. Like, for example, the car rental counters at the airport in Sacramento, California.
The airport is technically outside of the city limits, where sales tax is 8%. For some reason, though, they charged customers the 8.5% city of Sacramento rate instead. That’s really just pennies per customer, but the companies may have overcharged every customer for two months. That adds up. The real problem is this: who gets to keep the money?
Apparently, no one noticed the discrepancy until an annoyed customer contacted consumer justice crusader Kurtis Ming at Sacramento’s Channel 13. That customer, who sounds a lot like most of our readers, argued with Avis employees over the extra 29 cents on his car-rental bill because he knew that the airport is outside of the city, and the higher tax rate was wrong. The Avis employees disagreed with him, but ultimately came around after CBS called.
The car-rental places, Avis/Budget and Hertz, say that they got the tax-calculation data from the state Board of Equalization, or what other governments would call the “tax department.” The BOE tells CBS 13 that neither the rental place nor the city get to keep the extra money. If it isn’t refunded to customers, the state gets to keep it.
Both companies told Kurtis that the overcharges were a mistake, and they would send customers refunds. The airport businesses aren’t the first to be caught charging too much sales tax, but the others are now back to the correct county, not city rate.
Wells Fargo To Pay $38.5 Million In Response To Claims It Neglected Bank-Owned Homes In Minority Neighborhoods
The discrimination complaint, filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance with the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, came on the heels of a 2012 NFHA study that claimed Wells Fargo and other large mortgage servicers were giving preferential treatment to bank-owned properties in areas with a higher concentration of white residents, while allowing homes in non-white neighborhoods to fall into disrepair.
When lenders foreclose on a property, they are obliged to maintain it, but the NFHA study alleged that bank-owned properties in non-white communities were 42% more likely to have more than 15 maintenance problems, and 82% more likely to have broken or boarded-up windows than foreclosed homes in predominantly white areas.
$27 million of the total payout will go to provide funds in 19 metropolitan areas — Atlanta; Baltimore; Baton Rouge/New Orleans; Charleston, SC; Chicago; Oakland; Dallas; Denver; Dayton, OH; Grand Rapids, MI; Indianapolis; Miami; Milwaukee; Orlando; Philadelphia; Toledo, OH; and Washington, DC. — to encourage homeownership, “neighborhood stabilization, property rehabilitation, and development in communities of color.”
In addition to the $27 million to NFHA and its associated groups, Wells has agreed to fork over $11.5 million to HUD to support development in 25 additional metro areas: Austin, TX; Bakersfield, CA; Detroit; Fort Lauderdale; Fresno, CA; Houston; Kansas City, MO; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Memphis; Modesto, CA; New York City; Phoenix; Riverside, CA; Sacramento; San Antonio; San Diego; San Jose, CA; Santa Ana, CA; St. Louis; Stockton, CA; Tampa; Vallejo, CA; Virginia Beach; and West Palm Beach.
Funds will be managed by the NFHA and 13 local non-profit fair housing organizations in these areas. According to a statement from these groups, the money will be disbursed through a variety of grants for things like down-payment assistance for people looking to buy, or for renovation efforts for those homes that languished in foreclosure.
“Many neighborhoods across the country have been seriously damaged by the foreclosure crisis, including the impact of REO [Real-Estate Owned] homes on property values, curb appeal, and tax revenue for schools,” said Shanna Smith, CEO of the NFHA. “Our joint efforts will help lay the foundation for the industry to get some of those neighborhoods back on their feet.”
In addition to the money, Wells Fargo, which does not admit any actual culpability in this issue, has agreed to implement best practices for the maintenance and marketing of its REO properties, which will be monitored by a third party to ensure that the servicer is maintaining and marketing these properties properly.
The bank has also promised to give a higher priority to owner-occupants than real estate investors when it comes to actually purchasing REOs, by extending its current Homeowner Priority period from 12 to 15 days. Furthermore, each time the price is dropped on a REO property, Wells Fargo will start the clock on a new five-day Homeowner Priority period.
“Other banks should follow Wells Fargo’s lead and engage in broad relief to communities damaged by the foreclosure crisis,” adds Smith. “This is a huge step in the right direction and more is needed to get our neighborhoods, especially communities of color, back on their feet.”
I remember watching the movie Casino for the first time, where there’s an intricate scene involving card cheats who are trying to pull a fast one over the casino by way of some kind of electronic signals sent with the tap of a finger. “Wow!” I thought. “That’s so high-tech! Good thing Ace (Robert De Niro’s character) is so wily!” Now just imagine those guys had Google Glass — Ace would not be pleased. As such, New Jersey regulators (and other lawmakers around the country) are preparing against a potential for Glass gadgetry to enhance gambling.
Obviously, casinos don’t want gamblers to have any edge over the house, because that could mean putting a big hole in their profits. Someone could invent a card-counting app, or simply record the habits of dealers and formulate a sneaky plan to game the system.
Casinos also say that just the presence of the eyewear might make others feel like there’s something shifty going on that they’re not a part of, and lose confidence in the whole set-up. Bad for morale, all that.
Regulators in the Garden State have granted Atlantic City’s casinos the power to ban Google Glass from the gambling floor to ward against those scenarios, reports pressofAtlanticCity.com.
Those itty bitty Web cameras and wireless computers could even allow cheaters to peek at someone else’s hand during a poker game, says the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
“For example, if these eyeglasses were worn during a poker game, they could be used to broadcast a patron’s hand to a confederate or otherwise be used in a collusive manner,” the division warned in a newly issued advisory to the casino industry.
A spokesman for Caesar’s has already banned Glass from gambling floors and showrooms at its casinos nationwide, which is huge as the company is the largest of its kind in the world.
“We’ve taken the action because gaming regulations across the nation ban the use of computers or recording devices while gambling,” he said. “In some states, in fact, such usage is considered a crime and subjects the user to arrest.”
One casino security expert says he thinks New Jersey is the first jurisdiction in the nation to implement a formal action against the eyewear, but Google aficionados will likely find their computer eyewear isn’t welcome elsewhere: Pennsylvania’s state regulators have a plan to advise its 11 casinos that an existing prohibition against gamblers armed (or eyed?) with electronic devices at table games also apply to Google Glass, while Mohegan Sun in Connecticut also bans such devices on the casino floor.
In addition to Caesars Entertainment properties, MGM Resorts in Las Vegas has told security workers to ask patrons to take off the specs before they start to gamble.
Regulators say Atlantic City casinos can ban Google glasses with cameras [thepressofAtlanticCity.com]
Casinos ban gamblers from using Google Glass [Associated Press]
Additionally, the “Breakfast After Midnight” name is losing the “Breakfast” qualifier and becoming simply “After Midnight,” as customers at the participating franchises will have both a selection of breakfast and non-breakfast items to choose from.
“Our customers want convenience around the clock, and we’re making it easier to eat at McDonald’s with more 24-hour restaurants open than ever before,” reads a company statement.
McDonald’s doesn’t say exactly which markets will get the late-night mixed menu first, but the Chicago Tribune reports that it’s being tested in parts of Delaware, Texas, and Illinois.
Earlier this year, a McDonald’s franchisee explained to BurgerBusiness.com about the difficulties of serving both a lunch and breakfast menu at the same time.
“[T]here are some capacity issues. We only have so much toaster space and so much grill space,” he explained at the time. “Unlike a lot of breakfast QSRs, we still cook our product on a grill. Many of the pretenders are doing a ton of prep in microwaves. For instance, go into a Dunkin’ Donuts or a Starbucks, who are chasing breakfast, and you don’t find a grill or oven or fryer.”
In April, McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson told CNBC that all-day breakfast was not beyond the realm of possibility.
McDonald’s expanding breakfast after midnight [Chicago Tribune]
You’re sleepy, you’re drooping, you need something to perk you up and make you pay attention. Oh look, there’s an energy drink touting a long list of “special” ingredients — that must be the magic answer? Well, not really, says one study: Even though energy drink makers might brag about awakeamine, dontfallasleepaurite or other “special” proprietary concoctions designed to keep you peppy, energy drinks don’t work any better than ordinary caffeine at helping people pay attention.
LiveScience takes a look at the study, where researchers monitored participants’ brain activity while they performed a task designed to require attention. Energy drinks are often downed by truck drivers going long distances who definitely don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel, or college students trying to remain focused on studying for The Big Exam. So paying attention is important to consumers who buy those drinks by the bajillions (rough estimate).
Some participants drank 8 ounces of water before the task, others water with caffeine and then a third group guzzled water mixed with 5-Hour Energy. All caffeinated drinks were adjusted so they had equal amounts of caffeine per pound of participants’ body weight, and each drink was blue.
Those who had consumed caffeinated drinks were able to respond quicker to the task — a change in letters on a computer screen — than those who just drank plain water. But there wasn’t any difference in brain activity between those who had straight caffeine and those who had 5-Hour Energy.
“A lot of people take the energy drinks because they think they have that extra boost over caffeine,” said one researcher, noting that the study shows “there’s really no difference.”
The only advantage, really, of 5-Hour Energy over say, a cup of coffee, is that the caffeine comes in a concentrated amount, making it easier and faster to swill at will. That ability to deliver high doses of caffeine is exactly why lawmakers and the Food and Drug Administration have been taking a closer look at the safety of energy drinks in general.
Buzz on Energy Drinks: No Better Than Caffeine [Live Science]