Today In How Not To Tweet: Using Mandela’s Death To Plug A Movie

No need to write a eulogy for the man. Everything you need to know about Mandela can be found at your local art-house cinema.

No need to write a eulogy for the man. Everything you need to know about Mandela can be found at your local art-house cinema.

South African freedom fighter and that country’s first black president Nelson Mandela passed away today at the age of 95. What better way to pay tribute to the man than by shilling for the newly released movie about his life?

That seems to be the addlepated thought behind this Tweet from entertainment biz scribe Nikki Finke.

“R.I.P Nelson Mandela, subject of Weinstein Co’s Idris Elba-starrer ‘Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom’ which opened Nov 29 and has awards buzz,” reads the Tweet, which instantly drew a massive backlash from a number of Finke’s more than 200,000 followers.

Rather than pull the Tweet or issue an apology, Finke just continues to dig in her heels with follow-ups like this one, which reads, “I write about the entertainment biz. And that movie is a wonderful tribute to Nelson Mandela since it’s based on his autobiography.”

We get that Finke writes about the movie industry, so it isn’t completely inappropriate to mention the movie. But what really seems to poke people the wrong way is her inclusion of things like the release date, its supposed “awards buzz,” and — in what comes across like a blatant advertisement for the movie and its award campaign — the name dropping of The Weinstein Company, followed by a Tweet about Mandela with a quote straight from Harvey Weinstein himself… because in this time of remembering one of the most prominent political and cultural figures in modern history, the person with the most important opinion of Mandela is a Hollywood movie producer.

Perhaps Finke is taking the old “no such thing as bad publicity” line with this obvious attempt to curry favor from a potential advertiser, what with her new website set to launch in the not so distant future.

At least she didn’t try selling copies of the DVD

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Comunidades en Google + #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

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Conoce a tua alumnos dentro de FaceBook #infografia #infographic #socialmedia #education

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Distribución por edades en FaceBook – Twitter – Linkedin #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

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What Is An 834 Transaction, And Why Should I Care?

Sample 834 data. It's not supposed to be diagonal, don't worry.

Sample 834 data. It’s not supposed to be diagonal, don’t worry.

The good news is that, the health insurance marketplace for states that haven’t set up their own exchanges, is now up and functional. Well, the front end is working. Now that eligible people in need of insurance are able to log in and sign up, the next step is for the site to send their information over to the health insurance companies. That’s where things might go very wrong.

That’s what an “834″ is: the type of secure electronic transaction that the federal site sends over to insurers. It identifies a customer, sends over personal information, and tells the company what plan to enroll them in. Simple enough. Insurance companies are already receiving calls from people who think they’re enrolled, but their purported insurer has no record of them.

If consumers and insurance companies are already having 834 problems, imagine what it will be like when all of these policies are supposed to go into effect in January. How many people will think they’re insured when they aren’t, due to 834 errors?

Well, we don’t know. That’s because the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs, refuses to give the error rate to reporters. Individual stories of errors are filtering through to the press, though: incorrect enrollments, dependents coded as additional spouses, and people enrolling and leaving the same plan multiple times in each day.

Right now, insurance companies are able to hand-check forms as they come through, but as enrollments pick up later this year that may not be feasible. What then? The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says that its site will stop sending over garbled information every night by then. We’ll find out when it happens: just make sure to follow up and make sure that any plan that you enroll in has your correct information before it goes into effect. That’s the case for any other health insurer, even the one that your own employer enrolls you in, though.’s Mysterious New Number: ‘834’ [ProPublica]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

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Non-Vegan Fake Mozzarella Cheese And 3 Other Foods That Should Not Exist



Who would eat blueberry cereal that contains no blueberries? What about onion rings that aren’t made of onions? We live in a sad world where non-dairy (but not vegan) imitation mozzarella cheese shreds haunt our grocery aisles, and Mrs. Butterworth’s pancake syrup contains no butter.

Our sibling publication Consumer Reports rounded up several of these scary food-like substances for us all to marvel at.

It’s hard to figure out what the target market for Tropical Pizza Topping is. One would think that an imitation mozzarella cheese based on substances like partially hydrogenated soybean oil might appeal to vegans or people who are allergic to milk, but Tropical is out of the question for them: it contains the milk protein casein. That does mean that the cheesy shreds are okay for people who are lactose-intolerant, as we discussed in a recent post about non-dairy creamer.

How about breakfast? Kellogg’s Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats sounds tasty, but doesn’t contain any actual blueberries. Never mind those round blue fruit things that you see on the box. The little blue shreds are, as far as we can tell, grain and sugar nuggets dyed with blue and red food coloring and doused with “natural and artificial flavors.” They taste nice, but aren’t blueberries. At least the Mini-Wheats contain wheat and sugar and are quite mini, so three-quarters of the product name is accurate.

No one ever said that Mrs. Butterworth brand “pancake syrup” actually contains butter, but the word is right there in the name. Why? Manufacturer Pinnacle Foods told Consumer Reports that the product did once include 2% butter, back in the ’70s. However, it still contains no maple, which is why you should leave Mrs. Butterworth and her [high fructose] corn syrup concoction on the shelf. Unless you’re allergic to maple or have some other very, very good reason.

Wise Onion Rings aren’t a complete lie: there is onion in there. No, not in the rings themselves. Those are made from corn and tapioca starches and other ingredients that aren’t onions. The flavoring

Know of any foods that shouldn’t exist that Consumer Reports missed? Let us know.

Food fake-out [Consumer Reports]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

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Sriracha Vodka Is Here To Chili Up Your Booze

SRIRACHAVODKASriracha mania continues nationwide. The newest product with the flavor of spicy chili to hit the market? Vodka. We were ambivalent about the idea until we saw UV Vodka’s serving suggestion on their site: use in Bloody Marys. Hmm. Sounds good, whether that’s before or after you add the cheeseburgers to your tomato-based mixed drink. [UV Vodka via Jezebel ]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

All Americans Want For Christmas Is A Radio Station That Plays Holiday Tunes Constantly

While you probably work with that guy who just can’t wait to start blasting Christmas music right after Halloween, many radio stations switch to an all-holiday format right after Thanksgiving. And despite the inevitable Grinches bah humbugging* at the first strains of “All I Want for Christmas,” that trend isn’t going to change as it’s paying off for radio stations.

Whether you love Mariah Carey or not (and you’re probably at least humming her signature Christmas tune right now, aren’t you? Come on, give in) there are plenty of Americans ready to get their holiday on as soon as possible, reports Nielsen.

Radio stations that switch to the All Christmas, All The Time format near Thanksgiving in 2021 saw a 71% mdday surge in listeners compared to their average ratings.

At night when it’s time to get extra jolly, ratings more than doubled, points out Nielsen: “During the course of the holiday ratings season, nights saw a 129 percent lift and — hold onto your eggnog — a 582 percent lift on Christmas Eve.”

That’s compared ton an average nighttime average, when the number of listeners tuning into normal radio stations in any 15-minute period was about 291,700.

The whole thing peaks on Christmas Eve, naturally, with 28.4 million Americans tuning in to an All Christmas format station last year in the top 48 markets.

What are we listening to the most? We’re a nation of varied interests across many genres, according to the report, ranging from the most-played new release of “Let It Snow” by Rod Stewart to that treasured favorite, “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby.

It also varies by geography. For example in New York City, the most-played song last year was the aforementioned “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Ms. Carey (I probably am responsible for at least 143 of those plays). In Los Angeles, “Feliz Navidad” ruled the airwaves.

It’s worth reading Nielsen’s entire report, if only for phrases like “hold onto your eggnog.” And if you’re not humming a holiday tune by the end, I shall pronounce you positively Scroogean.

*Yes, I realize the Grinch did not say bah humbug. THAT WE KNOW OF.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas [Nielsen]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Century 21′s ‘Delivery Landing Pads’ Will Give Amazon’s Flying Robot Army A Place To Call Home

The future of delivery is not teleportation or 3D printing but rather a sky full of autonomous drones that know where we live, what we buy, and what we want for Christmas, and which will surely someday decimate our numbers by blacking out the sun. So it only makes sense that these doomsday devices should have a pleasant place to land while they silently learn our ways and calculate how best to defeat us in the inevitable war. That’s why Century 21 has unveiled the C21 Delivery Landing Pads, so that our future flying overlords will know exactly which homes are most willing to do their bidding… or something like that.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

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Microsoft Developing A “Smart Bra” To Tell Women It’s Time To Step Away From The Fridge

Microsoft's intelligent brassiere design.

Microsoft’s intelligent brassiere design.

On the one hand, who hasn’t wished someone could jump in and say “Stop, you don’t want to eat that” somewhere in the middle of the fifth bowl of [insert your own guilty pleasure]? On the other hand, we sincerely hope that if Microsoft ever does introduce its “smart bra” — designed to help women from overeating in times of stress — that there’s a garment for men, too. Because goodness knows, we all need comfort food at one point or another. And also don’t tell me what to eat.

Because everything these days has to be a “smart” something, a team of researchers at Microsoft have been working on a prototype of a smart bra embedded with sensors that track the wearer’s heart activity, so that it can monitor her emotional moods and essentially intervene when she’s stressed out and tempted to overeat, reports CNN.

Once those sensors detect a looming episode of overeating, they signal the woman’s smartphone which will then flash a warning telling her to back away from the fridge and make better diet decisions. Which, again, not sure it’s cool for a bra to be telling people how to live their lives, but then again, if people want that help, sure, give it.

At the base of this effort is research that many people — male and female! — go for calorie-laden foods when they’re stressed out, sad, discouraged or otherwise testy. Comfort food is comforting, after all.

So why aim for women and not men? Simply because at the moment, a bra works best with the research.

“First, we needed a form factor that would be comfortable when worn for long durations,” said scientists the research paper (PDF). “The bra form factor was ideal because it allowed us to collect (electrocardiogram data) near the heart.”

Participants in the research were women in the UK who said that having someone or something intervene helped them know what triggered their binge eating.

The bra seemed to work well when it came to detecting its wearers’ emotional highs and lows, but it’s not likely we’ll be seeing this on the market any time soon: The sensors need to be recharged every three or four hours, which makes it a pretty inconvenient garment for all-day wear.

That, and Microsoft has no plans for a smart bra, a spokesman told CNN.

“The bra sensing system is just one instance of a class of work from a group of Microsoft researchers that is focused on the broader topic of affective computing, or designing devices and services that are sensitive to people’s moods and react accordingly,” the spokesperson said. “While we will continue our research in affective computing, Microsoft has no plans to develop a bra with sensors.”

So what about say, smart boxers/briefs for men tempted to indulge too much? It could happen, at least in research terms.

“We will continue to explore how to build a robust, real-world system that stands up to everyday challenges with regards to battery life, comfortability, and being suitable for both men and women,” the researchers said in the paper.

Microsoft developed a ‘smart’ bra [CNN]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Waitress Who Claims She Got Anti-Gay Receipt May Not Have Donated Money As Promised

The receipt on the left is the version the waitress posted to Facebook, which shows no tip and a note saying the customers disapprove of the waitress' "lifestyle." On the right is a copy of the receipt provided by the customers to NBC News, which they claim shows they left a 18% tip.

The receipt on the left is the version the waitress posted to Facebook, which shows no tip and a note saying the customers disapprove of the waitress’ “lifestyle.” On the right is a copy of the receipt provided by the customers to NBC News, which they claim shows they left a 18% tip.

The saga continues for the New Jersey waitress who became Internet-famous when she claimed she’d been stiffed on a tip by diners who voiced disapproval of her sexual orientation on their receipt, an allegation that has subsequently been discredited. Now comes news that the waitress, an ex-Marine, may not have made good on her promise to donate the money she received from supporters to the Wounded Warrior Project.

After her story went public, but before the family accused of leaving that note released evidence demonstrating that they did indeed leave a tip, the waitress promised that she would donate the thousands of dollars she’d received in the wake of the supposed incident to Wounded Warrior.

Since then, not only have the maligned diners denied her allegations, but there have been multiple reports of the waitress having a history of making up rather large lies, like telling co-workers that her home had been severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy, or when she reportedly shaved her head and told friends she had brain cancer.

So a reporter for Bridgewater Patch decided to check with the folks at Wounded Warrior to see if the waitress had indeed made good on her promise to donate the money she’d received.

But a rep for the organization was unable to find any donations listed under the waitress’ name, or anything under the ZIP code for her home or the restaurant where she works (and from which she is reportedly suspended). It is possible that the donation could have been made under a different name or from a different address.

Neither Bridgewater Patch nor were able to reach the waitress or media reps for Wounded Warrior to get a comment about the status of the promised donations.

This is probably not the last we’ve heard about this story…

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

This Diamond Ring Might Be A Good Deal If You Don’t Mind Incurring The Wrath Of Sauron

Can someone please help a guy out and buy the $1,800 engagement ring he’s selling on Craigslist so he won’t have to cast it into the fiery pit from whence it came? Because we’ve seen how tough it is to get into Mordor (you can’t just walk into that place, you know) and we wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Some unfortunate soul apparently had a tough time with the engagement ring’s former owner, writing in the Craigslist ad (H/T to HuffPo) that it’s a great ring in 14K white gold in “like new condition.” But there’s just this one thing: “Only worn for a short period by Satan herself.”

On that note, its next owner should be warned that the Eye of Sauron could follow wherever this ring goes, it seems.

Warning: ring may be cursed as it tends to leave a path of destruction behind it. Possible events associated with this ring include but are not limited to: damage sustained to house, vehicle, heart, downed powerlines, fallen trees, and swarms of locus. I would highly recommend taking action to counter the whirlwind of bad mojo that surround this piece of jewelry. Should consider having curse removed by voodoo priest or something before presenting to loved one. Other than that a very nice piece of jewelry.

That’s a pretty long laundry list of bad things but hey, it’s a very nice piece of jewelry! Do buy it soon, someone, because he doesn’t want any more bad luck and would “rather have cash.”

And if that’s not enough to convince you, consider his potentially bleak and fiery future: “If not sold by Christmas I plan to throw it into the fires of Mordor.”

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Just don’t expect any help from Gandalf because we’re pretty sure he’s busy with The Hobbit right now.

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Los Angeles Might Treat Sale Of E-Cigarettes Like Regular Smokes

Jenny McCarthy, the latest sorta-famous person from the '90s to shill for electronic cigarettes.

Jenny McCarthy, the latest sorta-famous person from the ’90s to shill for electronic cigarettes.

It’s not just has-been actors like Stephen Dorff and Jenny McCarthy who smoke electronic cigarettes. They have become increasingly popular not just with smokers trying to quit but with people who want the fun of smoking without the whole “ashtray lung” after effect. Additionally, e-cigs don’t come with most of the pesky sales limitations of their tobacco counterparts, making them easier to buy and sell for some folks. But if the Los Angeles City Council gets its way, electronic cigarettes will soon be treated exactly the same as the unplugged versions.

The L.A. Times reports that the City Council voted unanimously last night to approve a new law that would subject e-cigarettes, which allow the user to inhale a vapor instead of tobacco smoke, and other “vaping” products to the same restrictions as tobacco.

So no more selling the devices out of street kiosks, ice cream trucks (Wait — this is something that happens?) or self-service displays.

Another law being considered by the city would ban the use of e-cigs in the same places where it’s a no-no to light up a real cigarette, which would put an end to vaping in restaurants, parks, among other locations.

This is just the latest move in the push-back to the growing e-cig business, expected to reach $1.7 billion in sales this year. In September, Attorneys General from 37 states (plus Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) wrote to the FDA asking it to regulate these products like it does tobacco, especially with regard to how e-cigs are marketed toward children.

But the folks in L.A. don’t have the patience for the snail-paced FDA or a logjammed legislature to get around to dealing with what they view as a serious problem.

“It’s a very sinister approach to a very sinister product,” L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell tells the Times. “We don’t want to wait for the feds to do something.”

In addition to the marketing issues regarding e-cigarettes, there have been numerous reports of fires caused by the devices, including a recent house fire in Idaho tied to an exploding e-cig. It’s believed that many of these incidents involve people whose smoking devices over-charged because they were either plugged in too long (some e-cigs reportedly continue taking a charge when the battery is full) or tried to charge the e-cig via a computer or motor vehicle.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Start Working On Your Blizzard Orders, Manhattan: You’re Getting Your First Dairy Queen

There’s a blizzard heading your way, Manhattan. Ha ha, not that kind with boring, tasteless snow! The kind you can order at Dairy Queen with your choice of candy or nutty additions. The New York City borough has never had a Dairy Queen before, but the time is nigh — doors should be open and blizzards will be a’churning this spring. [via Eater]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Split Your Amazon Transaction And Use Up That Old Visa Gift Card

5282cd542cdcae43fc13a139Do you have an old prepaid debit card or major credit card-branded gift card sitting around? Maybe it’s sitting around because it has a balance on it that’s too small to be very useful, yet not such a small amount that you’re willing to throw it away. Here’s a novel solution: use it to split a transaction on Amazon.

“But Consumerist!” you say. “Amazon doesn’t let customers split transactions!” No, officially you can’t do that. That’s because there’s a sneaky way to do it: using the card balance to buy an online gift card and e-mailing it to yourself. Reader Dom recently blogged about this concept, and shared it with us in case any of our readers might find it useful during the holiday season.

This is also a useful tip if you’re splitting the cost of an expensive gift. Have one person send the other an e-gift card for half of the cost, then simply apply it to the overall order.

Also, we’d like to point out that the review page for Amazon gift cards makes for some strange and boring reading. 28,376 people have felt the need to express themselves about the experience of buying an Amazon virtual gift card.

How to use a gift card to make partial payment on [Bright Bacon]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Maker Of Wildly Popular Flashlight App Failed To Tell Users It Was Sharing Their Location Info

androidflashlight Most of us have had the bright idea to use our smartphones as flashlights when searching underneath the couch or in the backseat of a dark car. And many millions of people have downloaded flashlight apps that maximize the light coming out of their devices. Most of those people probably never even considered that a flashlight app would be doing anything other than turning on the phone’s lights, and certainly not transmitting location data to third parties.

The Brightest Flashlight Free app for Android has been downloaded at least 50 million times since first becoming available in 2011, and has an impressive 4.8/5 star rating from more than 1 million users. But according to the Federal Trade Commission, the makers of the app deceived consumers by not fully disclosing how the app collected and shared geolocation data.

“While running… the application also transmits, or allows the transmission of, data from the mobile device to various third parties, including advertising

networks,” reads the original FTC complaint [PDF]. “The types of data transmitted include, among other things, the device’s precise geolocation along with persistent device identifiers that can be used to track a user’s location

over time.”

And though the app’s permissions screen does say give it the ability to access the device’s precise location (when GPS is turned on) or approximate location (over the wireless network), the FTC alleges that nothing in the company’s privacy policy or End User License Agreement (EULA) made it clear that this information was being shared with third parties.

The privacy policy for the app states that the developer “may collect, maintain, process and use diagnostic, technical and related information, including but not limited to information about your computer, system and application software, and peripherals, that is gathered periodically to facilitate the provision of software updates, product support and other services to you.”

This policy is restated in the EULA (to which the user must agree). According to the FTC, these statements fail to “adequately disclose to consumers that

the Brightest Flashlight App transmits or allows the transmission of device data, including precise geolocation along with persistent device identifiers, to third parties, including advertising networks.”

What’s more, the FTC claims that whether or not the user accepted the terms of the EULA, the app transmitted location data for the device:

While the “Refuse” button, described in Paragraph 11, appears to give consumers the option to refuse the terms of the Brightest Flashlight EULA, including the terms relating to the collection and use of device data, that choice is illusory. Based upon the statements made in the EULA… consumers would not expect the application to operate on their mobile devices, including collecting and using their device data, until after they have accepted the terms of the EULA. In fact, while consumers are viewing the Brightest Flashlight EULA, the application transmits or causes the transmission of their device data, including the device’s precise geolocation and persistent identifier, even before they accept or refuse the terms of the EULA.

The FTC alleges that failing to disclose the sharing of location info with third parties and the app’s collection and sharing of data regardless of whether the user had agreed to the EULA is deceptive marketing, as this is information that consumers should have been made aware of before installing the app.

“When consumers are given a real, informed choice, they can decide for themselves whether the benefit of a service is worth the information they must share to use it,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But this flashlight app left them in the dark about how their information was going to be used.”

The app developer has reached a settlement deal [PDF] with the FTC that prohibits them from misrepresenting how consumers’ information is collected and shared and how much control consumers have over the way their information is used. Any personal information collected from users up until this point must also be deleted.

The settlement requires the developer to provide a just-in-time disclosure that fully informs consumers when, how, and why their geolocation information is being collected, used and shared, and will not be able to do so without users’ affirmative express consent.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Man Learns That Spitting On The Sidewalk In Minneapolis Will Earn You A $115 Fine

Suck that saliva back into your cheeks if you’re taking a stroll in Minneapolis, or its sister city St. Paul, for that matter. There’s a law on the books there against spitting in public places, and yes, it’s enforced, as one guy found out recently when he hocked a loogie on the sidewalk.

USA Today [warning: source link has an auto-play video] spoke to a man gobsmacked by the $115 citation he received from cops after spitting on the sidewalk. There he was, just going to get some pizza with his pals when he felt the need to eject saliva from his person. Police gave him the ticket, which comes with a misdemeanor fine for spitting on sidewalks, buses or public areas.

It’s not like he’s going to rage against the machine for punishing his perhaps overly-active salivary glands.

“It’s a little wacky,” he admits. “I mean what can you do though, it’s the law. You’re supposed to obey the law of the land.”

While he knows he might have to spit again some time in the future, he’s not going to let this happen again.

“For spitting I guess i’ll have to bring a bag or something and spit it in it, I don’t know,” he admits.

Sounds like a man with a plan. Or maybe just wait to spit until you’re somewhere acceptable to do so? Either way, model citizen here, folks.

Man fined $115 for spitting on sidewalk [USA Today]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Wendy’s Employee Arrested After Dropping Joint In Customer’s Burger

It’s one thing to get caught smoking marijuana on the job. It’s another to be caught because a customer finds a partially smoked joint in her hamburger.

Police say that’s what happened last month in Lovejoy, GA, where a customer noticed a distinct odor to her drive-thru burger order.

“When she opened it, she discovered a partially smoked marijuana cigarette,” a police lieutenant tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Not exactly pleased with her unexpected topping, the customer took the burger back to the Wendy’s and complained to the manager, who then contacted the police.

The lieutenant says the employee fessed up when confronted with the tainted food: “She had been smoking while she worked. When she was fixing the burger, part of the marijuana fell into the burger.”

Police charged the 32-year-old employee with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, and the AJC reports that she has subsequently been fired from her job.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Rustoleum NeverWet More Like “SlightlyLaterWet”

splashA waterproofing treatment that perfectly repels water, turning it into tiny beads that roll off the surface? We’re sure that people could think of many wonderful uses for such an item, from waterproofing hiking boots to covering their roommate’s towel with the stuff. Alas, Rust-Oleum NeverWet isn’t bad, but not quite as advertised.

At least the product’s ads make the way that things are supposed to work look really, really pretty.

Our colleagues over at Consumer Reports put on their (non-waterproof) lab coats and got to work testing. They slathered NeverWet on a variety of surfaces: cloth, wood, plastic, paper, just about every surface possible. (Unlike one tester on YouTube, they did not try to apply it to water.)

The coating does work exactly as advertised, but not for long. It’s more like SoonWet, our sibling publication observed dryly. The coating doesn’t last long, can rub off using only a finger, and doesn’t adhere well to plastic and glass at all.

Claim check: Rustoleum NeverWet [Consumer Reports]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Phone Scammers Tell Woman They Have Her Dad Hostage (Spoiler: They’re Lying)

Phone-based scammers have traditionally employed techniques that either prey upon a victim’s greed — “You’ve won a new car! Just pay the taxes to us now and it’ll be yours” — or protective instincts — “Your grandson is in a hospital in Belarus and needs money ASAP to get treatment” — but these criminals are increasingly using fear to wring cash out of unsuspecting folks.

A few months ago we told you about scammers calling in bogus bomb threats to retail stores, demanding money to not set the (nonexistent) devices off. Now comes the story of a Pennsylvania woman who was conned out of $1,000 by a caller who claimed he was holding her father hostage.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 23-year-old woman recently received a call on her cellphone.

“We have your dad hostage,” screamed the voice on the other end of the line. “Leave work right now.”

The caller told her that he and her father had been in a car accident, but that her dad had refused to provide insurance information or be cooperative. And so the caller had taken him hostage and claimed to be holding him hostage at gunpoint until he received $1,000 to pay for damage to his vehicle.

“I had to swear that if I wept or cried or got anyone’s attention, they would come to my house and kill my family,” she recalls. “I had to continue to talk to him.”

She was told to leave work and go to a MoneyGram wire transfer location, where she was to send the money to a woman in Puerto Rico. Not knowing what else to do, she followed their instructions.

After the money had been wired, the caller instructed the woman to go to a nearby hospital and circle around the building without parking. He did not make good on his promise to let her speak to her father, and the illusion of the scam came crashing down when the caller said that her dad had driven away in his truck… because he doesn’t own a truck.

“Now I am thinking, this is a scam,” she tells the Inquirer.

And she was right, as her pops had not been in any sort of auto accident or taken hostage. He’d been safely working away at his job, which she would have found out had the scammers not been so successful in keeping her on the line.

Police believe the same caller recently failed at a similar shakedown attempt with another area woman, and say this type of scam has been popping up all over the region, with some 100+ victims up in the Boston area.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Topless Woman Who Chased Peeping Tom Through Kohl’s Is A Hero, A Gosh Darn Hero

When you see something, you should say something. But one woman took that to great, heroic lengths when she noticed a man with his phone under her dressing room door, filming her while she was trying on bras at Kohl’s. She started screaming and chased him through the store — all while topless.

The woman tells KCTV-5 in Kansas City that she saw the man’s hand under the dressing room wall while he lay on the floor, filming her.

She didn’t want him to get away, so instead of just yelling and staying put, she took action — sprinting from the dressing room with her hands covering her breasts as she ran.

“I followed him. I shouted, ‘Stop! Help me!’ I just screamed and chased him topless through the store,” she said. “I know I shouldn’t be chasing someone … I was just enraged. I was at a store in a very private place, and I was enraged and I wanted to get the phone.”

She realized when she hit the front doors of the store that she should probably not take her mad dash outside while half-clothed.

“At that point, I just started crying because I was so upset that he was getting away. When you feel violated, what you really want is for justice to be done,” she says.

Other shoppers had witnessed the chase and helped by going after him outside, and police caught up to the suspect and arrested him three blocks from the store. He’s been charged with breach of privacy, but that’s not enough, explains the victim.

“He is clearly mentally ill, and he clearly needs treatment and he needs to go into the system … so he can get his treatment,” she said.

We salute you, brave lady with no care for her own personal dignity. I’m not sure I could be so courageous in the face of general mortification.

Topless woman sprints through store to help catch peeping Tom [KCTV-5]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Boarded-Up But Open Sears Cited For Urban Blight

Rioters destroyed storefronts in downtown Oakland, California five months ago, filling the area with sadness and boarded-up windows. All of the businesses have fixed up their public faces except one. One retailer’s huge building still has boarded-up windows and looks abandoned. Local residents call the blighted storefront “depressing,” and the city issued a citation for “blight.” The blighted business? Sears.

It’s easy to make fun of Sears, and we often do. In this case, the issues are much more complex than just assuming that Sears doesn’t care about its stores. A whole building of broken windows is a bigger problem than a few stained carpets or empty racks here and there.

The real problem is Sears’ legacy. Specifically, that huge building that a very different company called Sears, Roebuck & Co. built in the 1930s. Yes, technically Sears Holdings and Sears Roebuck are the same company, but every American consumer knows that they aren’t really the same company at all.

Oakland Sears still hasn’t repaired windows [San Francisco Chronicle]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Ginormous Hack Targets 2 Million Accounts Spread 93,000 Websites Worldwide

About two million people should be checking your social media accounts and anything else one might have a login and password for: Hackers have snagged usernames and passwords for millions of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo and other sites accounts, according to a new report.

Researchers at cybersecurity firm Trustwave say the ginormous data breach happened because of keylogging software maliciously installed on a whole lot of computers worldwide, reports CNNMoney.

The malware simply boosted login details for various websites over the past month and had been sending that information to servers controlled by the attackers.

In late November researchers were able to get a lock on the server, which is in the Netherlands. Once they were in they discovered account information for more than 93,000 websites. Yes, 93,000 — that’s a lot more than just Facebook.

Of course social media was a target hit hard by the hackers, with the below numbers showing just how widespread the attack was:

• 318,000 Facebook accounts

• 70,000 Gmail, Google+ and YouTube accounts

• 60,000 Yahoo accounts

• 22,000 Twitter accounts

• 9,000 Odnoklassniki accounts (a Russian social network)

• 8,000 ADP accounts (ADP says it counted 2,400)

• 8,000 LinkedIn accounts

Any company involved in the breach has been notified by Trustwave. So should you be worried about your account? ADP, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all said they’ve notified any users affected and reset passwords if their accounts were compromised.

“We don’t have evidence they logged into these accounts, but they probably did,” said John Miller, a security research manager at Trustwave.

The trouble might not be over yet — the hack started Oct. 21 and could still be going, as researchers haven’t been able to track down other similar servers to the one they cracked in the Netherlands.

If you’re still worried run your antivirus software and make sure your security patches are up to date on all your Internet browsers, Adobe and Java.

2 million Facebook, Gmail and Twitter passwords stolen in massive hack [CNNMoney]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

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