Child Protection Advocacy Group Rejects Facebook Privacy Lawsuit Settlement, Asks Court To Reconsider

Facebook is notorious at this stage for playing fast and loose with users’ privacy. In 2013, the social sharing behemoth faced and settled a class-action lawsuit regarding its privacy practices. Today, one of the advocacy groups awarded a share of the settlement has reversed their stance, refused the payment, and is asking the court to reconsider the deal.

The suit, Fraley v. Facebook, charged that Facebook had used members’ likenesses and action without consent–including minors between ages 13 and 17. Facebook settled for $20 million, part of which was to be refunded to affected members of the plaintiff class (i.e. people on Facebook) as damages, and part of which went to nonprofit groups that are “involved in educational outreach that teaches adults and children how to use social media technologies safely, or are involved in research of social media, with a focus on critical thinking around advertising and commercialization, and particularly with protecting the interests of children.”

One of these groups, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, announced today that they are refusing their share of the payment, and urging the court to reconsider the settlement.

The CCFC filed an amicus letter (PDF) explaining their decision and calling on the court to reject the settlement “because it is bad for children.” The settlement is so bad, the letter goes on to say, that it is “worse than no settlement at all.”

The $290,000 payment the CCFC rejected is equal to about 90% of their annual operating budget. Organization director Dr. Susan Linn said that the group “could do a lot of good” with that money, but “we cannot benefit from a settlement which conflicts with our mission to protect children from harmful marketing.”

In their letter, the CCFC explained why the settlement is such a negative outcome for the junior Facebook set. First, they say, the privacy protections are opt-in rather than opt-out–so by default, no teenager will have them enabled.

Secondly, in order for the privacy protections to work, a teenager would either have to confirm that their parents are not on Facebook, or to connect with their parents as their parents (confirm the relationship) on Facebook. As we all know, high-school kids always love telling the complete truth online, and they also love bringing their parents into their digital social spheres at all times.

The CCFC actually knows something about kids, and writes, “Few children will identify parents who are on Facebook or indicate that their parents are not on Facebook.” But even if their parents are Facebook users, and the teens are willing to admit it, “few parents will take–or even know about–the additional steps required to disable Sponsored Stories.”

Parental competence aside, the CCFC adds, it doesn’t matter, because if Facebook continues using minors’ images in their ads without parental consent, they’re violating the laws of California, New York, Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Public Citizen, another advocacy group, has filed an appeal to the settlement on the grounds that it violates those seven states’ laws.

Last year in the wake of the Fraley lawsuit and settlement, Facebook changed its privacy policy to indicate that all users’ images and content could be used in advertising. For users under age 18, the policy now says, “you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to the terms of this section (and the use of your name, profile picture, content, and information) on your behalf.”

Not sure if that’s quite good enough? Neither is the FTC. As of last September, the federal agency was looking into it.

Facebook Deal on Privacy is Under Attack [New York Times]

Facebook social ads settlement under fire from children’s advocates [Chicago Tribune]

by Kate Cox via Consumerist

When Schools Take Snow Days, Who Gets Hurt? Milk Companies

There are effects of snow days that are obvious, like parents scrambling for childcare and the need to make up days later in the year. One effect that isn’t so obvious is the effect that schools shutting down might have on dairy companies. Yes, those little milk cartons add up.

This came to the attention of reporters as Dean Foods reported its quarterly earnings. Recent wintery weather nationwide has affected the company’s sales, since schools and other institutions are a large part of the company’s sales. Americans are consuming less cow’s milk overall, and not putting little cartons in kids’ hands at lunchtime for a few days in different regions can add up.

Dean Foods is crying over all of that spilled business, since they lost a big client last year: Walmart. Their sales should straighten back out if schools have to make up their snow days.

When Snow Closes Schools, Milk Sales Take a Spill [Bloomberg Businessweek]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

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Don’t Threaten To Burn Down Applebee’s Just Because They Won’t Refund Your Meal From 2 Nights Before

Word to the wise, don’t threaten to burn down a restaurant days after you’ve eaten there. You won’t receive the refund you want and you’ll end up in jail. Just ask a New Jersey man, he knows how it goes.

Managers at an Applebee’s in Vineland, New Jersey called police on Feb. 2 after a man allegedly threatened to burn down the restaurant, reports.

The man reportedly entered the restaurant complaining about his Applebee’s experience two days earlier, saying he did not enjoy his meal and didn’t appreciate the way he was treated by staff.

When managers told the man he could not be reimbursed for the meal, he became enraged.

After the man threatened to burn down the restaurant and made other disturbing comments, managers called local police. The man left the restaurant and was located in a nearby city where he was arrested on two counts of terroristic threats. He was later released on summons.

So, remember, if you don’t like your meal, it’s better to say something while you’re actually eating it.

We can’t run this story without including this incredibly relevant, NSFW clip from Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle:

Millville man threatens to burn Applebee’s down after refund denial []

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

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El estado de Google + #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

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Yes, Your Valentine’s Day Flowers Might Be Late Because Of The Weather

Florists have a rare convergence of crappy conditions for this Valentine’s Day, typically their busiest day of the year. As snow and ice smack the East Coast, many businesses have concluded that they’d rather send their employees home safe to their loved ones than deliver dead plants to their customers’ loved ones.

Weather conditions in Raleigh, North Carolina are especially dire. That’s why one florist went right to local news and told them: nope, he’s not making deliveries tomorrow. Yes, he explained, many florists do about a third of their business for the year on the holiday. Doesn’t matter. Safety is more important, and the owner doesn’t want to make any deliveries tomorrow.

“For the safety of the drivers, we’re deferring our deliveries until Saturday and Monday,” he explained to WRAL. “We’ve got to call all our customers back and get permission to deliver Saturday or Monday.”

Up in Roanoke, Virginia, florists still plan to make deliveries if they can. The weather situation adds an extra step to the usual busy holiday, though: florists now need to call every orderer and re-check to make sure that the recipient will actually be around. Maybe they stayed home from work. “You have to call all those people who’ve already ordered to find out if they’re going to be at work or where they’re at,” explained one probably very busy florist to the Roanoke Times.

Raleigh florist delaying Valentine’s deliveries to keep drivers safe [WRAL]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

L’Oréal Says It Will Phase Out The Use Of Plastic Microbeads In Its Beauty Products

Earlier this week New York State Attorney General Eric. T Schneiderman and other lawmakers proposed a ban on plastic microbeads in personal hygiene products, saying the beads can end up polluting our waterways, and urged companies to join the fight. L’Oréal says it’s been keeping an eye on the research as well, and will now start to phase out the plastic beads in its products.

It won’t be easy, but the company says it’s starting the process.

“It requires the analysis and identification of viable alternative(s) that can meet any criteria (including human and environmental safety, efficacy, sustainable sourcing of the raw material and overall costs,” a company rep said in a statement (via

The phasing out will start with Biotherm this year, followed by its Body Shop products in 2015 and the rest of the company’s products in 2017.

Schneiderman lauded the news in a statement today, saying that the beads are accumulating in “alarmingly high levels” in New York waterways, at the expense of wildlife and public health.

“I applaud L’Oréal for quickly deciding to discontinue the use of microbeads in its products. Cooperation from the cosmetics industry signals a critical step toward protecting and preserving our environment,” he says in the statement. “We hope that other companies will take similar action to combat this emerging threat to our wildlife and public health.”

Proctor and Gamble, Unilever and Colage-Palmolive have all recently said they’d phase out the use of microbeads in their products as well.

You can follow MBQ on Twitter and she won’t pollute your waterways: @marybethquirk

L’Oréal announces microbead wipeout following NY proposed ban []

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

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City Doesn’t Believe Man About Suspicious $800 Water Bill, Now He Owes $76,000

A New Jersey man says that when the water bill on his rental property jump from an average of $200 to $800 in a single billing cycle, the city said nothing was wrong, leaving him to chalk it up to a careless tenant who must love long showers. But no non-whale tenant in the world could explain how his next bill soared up to $76,000.

The man tells the South Jersey Times that the previous $800 bill had originally been flagged by the city for investigation. The city later determined that the amount, even though it was four times higher than the bills had been for this property in the past, was accurate.

Three months later, the property owner gets his next quarterly bill. This one is 95 times the size of the last bill — $76,052.40.

The homeowner says he had been paying around $1,000/year for water service to this property, meaning he is being charged for 76 years’ worth of water in only three months.

“I’ve been telling them there’s something wrong, and they’ve been telling me no,” he explains to the Times. “Well, there’s definitely something wrong now. I don’t think you can dispute this one.”

It’s possible this is a computer glitch, a meter issue, or a massive leak that has yet to make itself apparent. These are all things that one would think the city would want to figure out and resolve ASAP. Sadly, our experience with covering these sort of water billing mistakes is that the city or utility company will drag its feet and become incredibly defensive.

For example, there was this Atlanta resident in 2012 whose monthly water bill started climbing up from less than $100 to $500 to $758 to more than $1,100. The city sent out a leak-detection expert who found nothing, but her bill suddenly dropped back to $175… before being hit with a new $6,700 bill a month later. All the while, the city insisted that everything with her meter was fine and that it would take weeks, maybe months to work through the process of determining whether this was an error or if she was secretly operating a Sea World in her basement.

Then there was the NYC resident whose bill skyrocketed from $62 to $1,400 after the city installed a new meter. Rather than come out and check on this obvious mistake made by its own employees (or a manufacturer’s equipment error), they wanted to charge the homeowner $180 just to have her case reviewed.

And last year, a California woman was billed for $2,700 worth of water, nearly 50 times larger than her average monthly bill. Even after the local media caught onto her story, the city would only knock her bill down to around $500.

You can now follow Chris on Twitter: @themorrancave

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

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Hola: Una infografía sobre el consumo de datos móviles en el Mundo (y previsión). Un saludo You will find more statistics at Statista

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Kid Now Has Great Story Of How A Bowling Alley Worker Saved Him From Pin Resetting Machine

You think bowling alley employees are there just to spray shoes and come running when you start shrieking that a pin is stuck? Well, maybe most of the time, but one worker in Wisconsin added “lifesaver” to his resume after rescuing a toddler who was stuck in the pin resetting mechanism.

A 23-year-old student and employee at a bowling alley in Eau Claire, Wisc. (shoutout to my little bro’s alma mater, what what) was about to leave after finishing up his shift, reports The Leader-Telegram, when he heard people shouting.

A young boy had wandered down a lane to check out the pins and apparently no one saw him. He triggered a laser that sets the reset mechanism in motion, as it would when a ball passes by. A mechanical arm dropped down and pulled the boy into a pit behind the lane, along with downed pins, while a pin setter descended to collect the pins still standing.

The worker sprinted toward the child while bystanders stopped bowling and watched in silence, one bowler said.

“Everyone had stopped bowling,” a witness said. “Then we saw this little guy on his hands and knees near the pin area … then the little kid was dragged into the pit, and we were watching the pin setter come down.”

“Everyone was gasping. This kid was in really serious trouble,” he added.

The employee was able to hit the kill switch to stop the machinery in time to reach the boy and try to coax him out of the pit.

“He was crying and didn’t want to move, but it didn’t look like he’d been hurt,” he explained. “I slid him towards me on his belly a little bit,” he said.

It’s a good thing the employee was slim, he says, as his narrow build helped him work around the machinery and pull the boy free. The boy’s family was grateful, he says, as one would be if their child had almost been swallowed by a pin machine.

“They did say, ‘Thank you. We’re sorry about that,’ ” the worker said. That better have been an effusive thank you, because you did a good thing, young sir. Nay, a great thing.

You can follow MBQ on Twitter if you’re a fan of tweets about her cat: @marybethquirk<

Bowling alley worker rescues toddler from pin machinery [The Leader-Telegram]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Thaw Out Some Frozen Iced Coffee Concentrate

Sure, you associate the brand Old Orchard with frozen fruit juices. It makes sense, what with the word “Orchard” right in its name. You know what else is a berry that grows on a plant, though? Coffee.

So maybe people shouldn’t be surprised to spot frozen iced coffee concentrate in plastic cans, right there on the juice shelf. In with the juices. Even if it isn’t really juice. [The Impulsive Buy]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

How To Build An Urban Igloo With Cat Litter Buckets

This is someone else's non-urban igloo, but you get the idea. (Keltose)

This is someone else’s non-urban igloo, and we have no idea if they used kitty litter buckets but you get the idea. (Keltose)

Look outside. Do you see snow? If you do, you’re also seeing the building blocks of your future fun. When you find yourself bouncing off the walls of your home with cabin fever after all the snow has finally stopped falling, simply grab a couple kitty litter buckets and make yourself an igloo.

Just because you’re not an Eskimo doesn’t mean you can’t build your own igloo, which is basically the best snow fort ever. All you need is a space to build it, lots of snow, 150 snow bricks and your own roasty-toasty body heat to keep it insulated and warm, notes Modern Farmer.

Modern Farmer spoke with an urban igloo enthusiast who, as it goes with enthusiasts, knows all about building these things.

“Traditional igloos are built with already compressed and packed snow; the kind of rock hard snow that snow plows love to encase your car in,” he says. But you can do it with loose snow, too.

1. Pick a spot: You’ll need somewhere big enough to set up your igloo, so either a nice yard or a park. Draw a circle in the snow about 7 feet wide, or as big as it needs to be for two adults to stand together in. Because everyone knows igloos are more fun with friends.

2. Commit to making 150 snow bricks: Well-packed bricks of snow are a must. Use a sturdy square bucket, like an empty (and washed out) 35-pound cat litter container. Fill it with snow, making sure to pack it tightly as you go. Turn the bucket upside down and bang the side to free the snow. It’s important to let each brick rest for 10-30 minutes so it won’t crumble when you start to build.

“You will be tempted to start building your igloo right away, but you need to resist that temptation,” warns the urban igloo enthusiast. “An igloo with a weak foundation will just not work.”

3. Start building the igloo’s main body: Lay the bricks down along the circle you so helpfully drew for yourself. To make sure it’s stable, keep it circling in on itself, unlike a brick house. Bricks should be as tightly spaced as you can get them, and then fill in the cracks with loose snow to make the rings level. You’ll need to tilt the blocks slightly inward to create that dome shape.

4. Cap it: Frozen blocks will need to be cut with a serrated knife or similar to fit the curve of the igloo. Enlist your tallest friend to top it all off with a single block on top. Thank him/her for being so tall and helpful.

5. Make an entryway: Igloos are much better when you can get inside them, so use a snow saw if you have it, or a serrated knife because you probably don’t, to cut out a doorway that’s big enough for you to crawl through it. This step must be last or your igloo risks being unstable.

6. Brag to all your friends and take selfies inside the igloo: I added this step myself because it’s totally what I’d do once I finished building an urban igloo. While holding a cup of hot cocoa, obviously.

You can follow MBQ on Twitter if you want to find out if she ever builds an igloo or just talks a big talk: @marybethquirk

How to Build an Urban Igloo [Modern Farmer]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Facebook Now Allows Users To Customize Gender Description

The new options available to Facebook users who do not identify as strictly male or female.

The new options available to Facebook users who do not identify as strictly male or female.

In a response to requests from users whose gender identity may not fall within the traditional male/female mold, Facebook announced this afternoon that users will now have the ability to list a customized gender on their Facebook profiles.

“[W]e want you to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self,” writes the website on its own Diversity page. “An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just ‘male’ or ‘female.’”

Facebook, in collaboration with Network of Support, has added an extensive list of new options for users to describe themselves.

Clicking on the “Update Info” button on your Facebook profile page brings up the gender options. When users select “Custom,” they can choose from any of the following: agender, androgyne, androgynous, male to female, pangender, trans, trans female, trans male, trans man, trans person.

Though you can type whatever description you want into the custom gender field, only the above-listed options will be accepted at this time.

Users can also choose which gender pronouns — he/she/they — should be used to reference them in the future.

Because some people may not want everyone in the world to be privy to their gender identity, Facebook allows each user to control the audience with whom they want to share their custom gender.

“We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way,” explains the site.

You can now follow Chris on Twitter: @themorrancave

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Ohio Likely To Become First State To Prohibit E-Cigarette Sales To Minors

E-cigs are still in a strange regulatory no-man’s-land. They’re kind of like regular cigarettes, but they’re also kind of not. Can you use them in places where smoking’s not allowed? Do they fall under current laws restricting the sale of tobacco products to minors? Nobody really knows, yet. Nobody, that is, except the state of Ohio, where a bill regulating e-cigarette sales is now sitting on the governor’s desk.

As the reports, the bill banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors succeeded in the Ohio state Senate this week, after passing the House in November. If the governor signs the bill into law, Ohio will become the first state to pass legislation restricting e-cigarette sales. (New York City regulates where they can be smoked, but not to whom they can be sold, and Los Angeles is considering a city-level sales restriction.)

The bill adds a provision for “alternative nicotine products” to Ohio’s restrictions on the sale of tobacco to minors. It forbids anyone under eighteen years of age, unless accompanied by an adult parent, spouse, or guardian, from purchasing, ordering, using, consuming, or possessing “cigarettes, other tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, or papers used to roll cigarettes.” The penalty for selling e-cigarettes to minors would be $1000 per violation.

The bill–supported by the Lorillard Tobacco Company, among others–met with opposition from the American Lung Association and American Cancer Society because of the new legal categories created for alternative nicotine products and electronic cigarettes. The new product category isn’t taxed at the same deliberately discouraging rate as tobacco products, and advocacy groups argue that encourages the use of e-cigs.

E-cigarettes are still somewhat of an unknown quantity as a nicotine-delivery product, but some have proven to be unsafe in other ways–namely, by exploding.

Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine was one of the attorneys general from 40 different states and territories that co-signed a letter asking the FDA to regulate e-cigarette sales at a federal level last year.

Bill to ban electronic cigarette sales to youth: How they voted []

by Kate Cox via Consumerist

Don’t Order Last-Minute Flowers: Make Chocolate-Dipped Bacon Roses

bacon_rosesMaybe your planned flower delivery is delayed. Maybe the nasty weather has you stranded at home and unable to head outside to shop for gifts to mark the holiday. Or maybe you have a package of bacon and some toothpicks sitting around the house and some time to kill. It doesn’t matter. You don’t need a justification to make bacon roses. You don’t even need a holiday.


Foodbeast and Popsugar teamed up to make this video guide. They also have a recipe page, but there are very few ingredients here. Just bacon, chocolate, and maybe a dollar-store plastic rose to steal the stems from.

How to Make Chocolate-Dipped Bacon Roses, Because ‘Murica [Foodbeast]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Forget About Norovirus — There Are Caribbean Cruise Deals To Be Had

With all the snow hitting the mid-atlantic region, we’re dreaming of warm, sunny days in the Caribbean. Taking that beautiful vacation on a cruise ship might not sound like the best idea, what with all the recent problems: norovirus and crippled ships (“poop cruise” anyone?). But if you’re looking for a good deal you might just find the best on a cruise, thanks to an overabundance of ships now sailing the area.

Cruise lines added four new ships since November, three of which will sail the Caribbean year-round, leading to bargains for those looking to sneak away from the snow and cold winter temperatures, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Prices have dropped 7.7% since December and average ocean-view and balcony cabin prices on the six major North American lines have dropped $49 over the past month. Even an inside cabin could be snagged for $22 less than normal.

Just be aware, earlier this year at least two cruises cut their journeys short because of illness sweeping the ship decks.

But if you’re looking to purchase for future trips, you won’t get such a great deal. Prices for trips in November and December are up $2 to $45 from last month, says cruise analysts.

To combat Caribbean fatigue, cruise companies are introducing new destinations and amenities.

Royal Caribbean Cruise’s new Quantum of Seas comes equipped with a skydiving simulator and a bumper car pit. Just this week, cruise guests visited the newly constructed port of call near Trujillo, Honduras.

Cruise lines are also reportedly weighing options to send ships abroad to other warm destinations in the Mediterranean or Asia.

If you’re itching to get out of the cold, deals on cruises are likely to continue in the coming months.

A Caribbean Crowded With Ships Means Discounts for Cruise-Goers [Bloomberg Businessweek]

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

McDonald’s Answer To Simple Sauce Question Shows Why People Hate Marketing Execs

Though it was never as popular as BBQ or sweet and sour, McDonald’s hot mustard dipping sauce (not to be confused with honey mustard) for its McNuggets had been an option for decades (and wasn’t so bad when used in combination with the BBQ sauce, according to someone I know who looks a lot like me). Last week, some readers wrote in saying they were being told that McD’s had stopped offering hot mustard, so we sent off a one-sentence comment request to the company… We shouldn’t have been surprised by the nonsense response we eventually received.

In our experience, most companies would have responded to the question of “are you no longer serving X?” in a reasonable amount of time and would have likely said something like “After much consideration, blah blah…” But McDonald’s isn’t most companies.

No, we waited nearly a week for a response, which came down in the form of the following statement attributed to a McDonald’s Marketing Manager whose name we won’t mention because if his friends knew he said things like this they would want to whip him with a wet towel:

“The bold kick and flavor of the Habanero Ranch dipping sauce recently made its debut on the McDonald’s menu, beating out Hot Mustard, Sweet Chili, and Chipotle BBQ for a final spot on the sauce line up. Customers love the Habanero Ranch sauce, which is also found on McDonald’s Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder and Southwest Premium McWrap.”

So… that’s a yes? A maybe? Wait — is this just a pre-roll ad for McDonald’s new bold Habanero Ranch sauce that plays before the actual response comes?

You can now follow Chris on Twitter: @themorrancave

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Chobani Yogurt Meant For Olympic Athletes Will Go To Food Pantries Instead

Winner of a gold medal in good publicity

Winner of a gold medal in good publicity

The brave, chilly athletes representing the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia certainly need their protein. That’s why Chobani, maker of tasty strained yogurt products, was sending a large shipment of the stuff to Team USA in the Olympic Village. U.S. officials and Chobani lost their standoff with Russian bureaucracy, though, and the yogurt will not be allowed to enter the country.

This dispute isn’t something new that popped up during the Olympics. Russia imposed an embargo on U.S. dairy products three years ago. In order to get an exception to import the yogurt, Chobani was supposed to get certifications that the company insists aren’t needed. Unable to obtain them in time, Operation Creamy Greek Yogurt came to an end. Even the intervention of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) couldn’t free the yogurt before the end of the Games.

What happens to the dairy products, which are currently chilling in refrigerated storage at Newark Liberty Airport? They’ll be distributed to food banks in New York and New Jersey.

The most important thing is that the 5,000 cups of yogurt will not be going to waste. Ordinary people who are struggling deserve yogurt, too. Maybe the donations will feed a future Olympic athlete.

Chobani to donate Olympic team’s yogurt to food banks [Politico]

Read more: #ixzz2tE9evYjt

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Farmer Makes His Own ‘Field Of Dreams’, Plops $20K Ice Skating Rink In The Middle Of His Land

If there’s a disgraced hockey team from days of yore that were lost and wandering in a cornfield for eternity, or maybe a pair of figure skaters who threw their performance and are doomed to regret it in the afterlife, they’ll be happy to know there’s a place for them to go, a la Field of Dreams: A farmer in Minnesota (because of course) has built his own ice skating rink in the middle of his land.

This isn’t just a field flooded with water that’s frozen over, reports CBS Minnesota. Nope — it’s the real, $20,000 deal. The farmer paid a hefty sum to set up the rink with professional boards, glass and lights, and do it up right. And it’s totally worth it, he says.

“Needed a place to skate other than the rink in town. Needed a little more ice time, so we thought ‘Why not get some buddies together and build our own rink?’” he explained. He figured if he built it, they would come.

And while he hasn’t said if any athletic ghosts have ventured onto the ice, it’s paying off — this way he doesn’t have to pay $100 for ice time, and eventually he hopes to start hosting hockey leagues.

“Got about five of us together and it took us about 20 hours because we didn’t know what we were doing,” he said. “It’s our rookie season, but next year we will have it done in about five or six hours.”

He wanted to save his friends and family money and give them much needed ice time (because again, this is Minnesota, so, hockey).

“We work on a bunch of stuff like stick handling and stuff like that,” the farmer’s son says.

The warming house? A pole barn. Time to clean the ice? He attaches a broom to his bobcat (machine, not feline) and his Zamboni is a PVC pipe attached to a hose.

It can get too cold to skate after dark, but the neighbors say the weather hasn’t kept the kids away.

“The kids love it. You have to keep an eye on them to make sure they are still the right color and not frozen,” one neighbor says.

Don’t worry too much, folks. We Northern folks have an extra layer under our skin to keep us warm in the winter. At least that’s what Wisconsinites learn growing up.

Follow MBQ on Twitter if you don’t mind hear overbearing love of Aaron Rodgers: @marybethquirk

If You Build A $20K Ice Rink On A Farm, They Will Come [CBS Minnesota]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Verizon Raises Some Data Caps, Finally Gives $10/Month Discount For Early Upgrade Program

Here are the new monthly data costs for the various Verizon Wireless tiers. These prices are in addition to the monthly phone/text charges associated with each device.

Here are the new monthly data costs for the various Verizon Wireless tiers. These prices are in addition to the monthly phone/text charges associated with each device.

T-Mobile gave up on phone subsidies altogether last spring, and in December AT&T finally dipped its toe into those waters by offering discounts to people who own their phones or are part of its AT&T Next early upgrade program. Verizon, the wireless industry’s most expensive carrier, had refused to budge, but today showed the first signs that it might be open to change.

This morning Big V announced, MORE Everything, a slightly complicated shift in the pricing of its data plans that increases monthly data allotments, but only for subscribers who had been paying for 2GB/month or fewer. Those with plans of 4GB or more will continue to pay top dollar, though they can get a $10/month discount for being part of the Verizon Edge early upgrade program (more on that toward the bottom of the story).

For example, a VZW customer with a current $100/month plan that gets her 2GB will now have access to up to 3GB/month for the same price. A customer with a 1GB/month limit for $90 will now receive double that allotment (2GB/month) without a rate increase.

In addition, the company is introducing minimal data plans for people whose smartphone use is limited. $55/month will get a user 250MB/month and $70 pays for 500MB.

Customers who want further discounts on their phones will need to be part of Verizon’s Edge early upgrade program, which we chided back in July for failing to provide any monthly savings to customers, even though Edge members are required to pay full sticker price for their phones.

In the wake of AT&T’s decision to reward customers who pay for their own phones with a discount, Verizon has finally done the same, though the savings are only $10/month, 2/3 of what AT&T offers to its Next members.

“A $10 discount might seem like a deal, but given that device subsidy fee is usually around $15 to $20 in your monthly, Verizon is still taking advantage of its customers in the upgrade plan,” writes GigaOm’s Kevin Fitchard.

Additionally, AT&T extends that discount to any customer with an unsubsidized phone. Verizon’s offer is currently only available to customers in the Edge program.

This may be a blown opportunity for Verizon, who could have siphoned off a large number of unhappy Sprint customers by allowing them to bring their phones to a compatible network and receive a discount.

Verizon subscribers curious to see how their plans are affected can click here for more info.

You can now follow Chris on Twitter: @themorrancave

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Kroger Sued Over Labeling Of “Simple Truth” Chicken

simpletruthbird As we’ve discussed before, many commonly used food labels like “organic” and “natural” can mean very little and are often just marketing lingo. Now the folks at Kroger are facing a potential class-action lawsuit that could determine whether its Simple Truth products lives up to the promises on the label.

Reuters reports that the suit was filed earlier this week in Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County. It alleges that California consumers have been misled by Kroger’s claims that the chickens used for Simple Truth poultry products are raised “in a humane environment” and “cage free,” when in fact — according to the complaint — these birds are raised in the same close confines that are standard for most chickens from large poultry farms.

“Looking to profit from growing consumer awareness of, and concern with, the treatment of farm animals raised for meat production, Kroger engaged in a deceptive and misleading marketing scheme to promote its ‘Simple Truth’ store brand chicken as having been sourced from chickens raised ‘cage free in a humane environment’,” reads the complaint.

The Kroger website for Simple Truth products states that its standards for organic livestock are that “Producers must meet animal health and welfare standards, may not use antibiotics or growth hormones, must use 100% organic feed, and must provide animals with access to the outdoors.”

As is the case with most “free range” claims, it’s this “access to the outdoors” requirement that is the most problematic, as such labeling only mandates that the birds have some form of access to an outdoor area. There are currently no standards for the size of that exterior space or for the size of the door leading from the cage to the outdoors.

A rep for Kroger tells Reuters that, “What we have on our Simple Truth chicken label is information for our customers that we believe is accurate, and we intend to vigorously defend our label.”

Simple Truth chickens are produced for Kroger by poultry giant Perdue. The Simple Truth line of products, which encompasses everything from coffee to produce to steak, is usually sold at a premium to customers of the supermarket chain.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

GM Recalls 778K Vehicles After Fatalities Caused By Ignition Switching Off For No Reason

No one wants their car to switch off while driving down the highway. That’s why General Motors announced Thursday that it’s recalling nearly 778,000 compact cars.

The recall comes after reports of five frontal impact crashes and six fatalities related to ignition switch failure in the 2005 to 2007 Chevrolet Cobalts and 2007 Pontiac G5s, The Detroit News reports. Both the models are discontinued.

The ignition switch may fail by switching out of the run position if a key rink is carrying added weight, the vehicle goes off road or experiences some other jarring event, GM reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Additionally, the timing of the movement from the run position could interfere with the sensing algorithm resulting in airbags not deploying in a crash.

Officials with GM say they are aware of 17 additional crashes involving frontal impact and non-fatal injuries where the airbags did not deploy.

“All of these crashes occurred off road and at high speeds, where the probability of serious or fatal injuries was high regardless of airbag deployment. In addition, failure to wear seat belts and alcohol use were factors in some of these cases,” Alan Adler, GM spokesman, says.

In all, GM is recalling 619,122 Cobalts and G5s’ in the United States, as well as 53,310 vehicles in Canada and 6,130 in Mexico.

Owners of the two cars are urged to take non-essential items off their key ring and visit a dealer to have the ignition switch replaced.

Last summer, GM recalled 7,000 vehicles and the NHTSA investigated an addition 400,000 vehicles for airbag problems.

GM recalling 778K vehicles to replace ignition switches after fatal crashes [The Detroit News]

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

16 People Rescued From Roller Coaster Stuck 60 Feet In The Air During A Downpour

It’s one thing — albeit a potentially terrifying thing — to be stuck on a roller coaster at any height for any length of time in even the best of weather. But when you’re strapped in at 60 feet during a chilly downpour for more than an hour, well that just sounds like the suckiest of awfully bad experiences.

Rescue workers were called in to help 16 people stuck on Busch Gardens’ newest coaster, the Cheetah Hunt ride, and it wasn’t an easy task.

“They were at an angle probably 30 degrees, so just unbuckling them caused anxiety for both the passengers and our people, but (we) were able to put a nice harness on them, get them into the buckets, and lower them down to the ground,” the Tampa Fire special operations chief told USA Today (warning: link has auto-play video).

The conditions didn’t make it any easier, as heavy rains poured down on the heads of what we can only imagine must’ve been some pretty miserable people.

No one was hurt during the ordeal, despite enduring the cold, soaking rain for more than an hour.

“They walked away under their own power and they are at a hospitality place within Busch Gardens,” said a Tampa Fire Rescue information officer last night.

Busch Gardens has engineers working now to figure out what caused the ride to malfunction, and it’ll stay closed until the investigation is through.

6 rescued from stuck roller coaster in Florida [USA Today]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Click On The Link In That ‘Funeral Notice’ E-mail At Your Own Risk

Most e-mail scams try to take advantage of consumers’ curiosity, which is why phishing messages promising sex and/or porn still dominate the scam spam landscape. But some online jerks are trying to tap into an equally primal, but less crude, instinct by sending out fake funeral notices in the hope that people won’t be able to keep themselves from clicking away.

According to the FTC, consumers are now complaining about scam e-mails with “funeral notice” in the subject line.

“The message appears to be from a legitimate funeral home, offers condolences, and invites you to click on a link for more information about the upcoming ‘celebration of your friend’s life service,’” writes the FTC. “But instead of sending you to the funeral home’s website, the link downloads malware to your computer.”

Installed malware can then do any number of nasty things to your PC — copy your passwords, steal files, turn your computer into a spam-sending machine. In fact, according to, it was an e-mail malware attack that first gave hackers access to Target’s internal network, eventually leading to the theft of personal and financial information for more than 100 million shoppers.

So if you receive an unexpected funeral notice, don’t click on any links in the e-mail, says the FTC. Instead, contact the funeral home directly or check with others to verify the information.

In general, the FTC makes the following suggestions for avoiding malware:

To reduce your risk of downloading unwanted malware and spyware:

•Keep your security software updated.

•Don’t click on any links or open any attachments in emails unless you know who sent it and what it is.

•Download and install software only from websites you know and trust.

•Make sure your browser security setting is high enough to detect unauthorized downloads.

•Use a pop-up blocker and don’t click on any links within pop-ups.

•Resist buying software in response to unexpected pop-up messages or emails, especially ads that claim to have scanned your computer and detected malware. That’s a tactic scammers use to spread malware.

•Back up your data regularly.

You can now follow Chris on Twitter: @themorrancave

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Man Stuffing Steak And Lobster Down Pants At Safeway Is Hilarious Again: Amber Alert Is Off

safewayGood news if you like to laugh at people stuffing frozen meat and seafood down their pants! It turns out that the suspect in Tuesday’s steak-and-lobster-down-pants incident may not have carjacked and kidnapped an older man and a teenage girl. That’s what witnesses thought they saw, prompting an Amber Alert on the vehicle, but no one has reported anyone matching that description missing. [San Francisco Chronicle]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Update: Faux Burger King Resurrected As Actual Burger King

This is how the BK sign looked hours after local media began inquiring about the restaurant's authenticity.

This is how the BK sign looked hours after local media began inquiring about the restaurant’s authenticity.

A quick update to last week’s story about the Pittsburgh fast food joint with the Burger King sign, Burger King menu, Burger King uniforms, but not Burger King food. It is apparently set to rise from the ashes and be reborn as… an honest-to-goodness BK.

The restaurant had stood as a legitimate Burger King for quite some time, with a number of Consumerist readers telling us they had popped into this location for the occasional Whopper over the years.

Then a couple weeks back, customers started noticing that the food wasn’t quite what it was supposed to be. To-go orders came in plain brown paper bags; fries in unbranded paper cups; sodas in white polystyrene cups. Either Burger King was trying to rebrand itself by going all-generic or something fishy was up.

A curious news team from WPXI-TV was first shooed off the property when they tried to get to the bottom of the story, but were then told by a manager that the restaurant was “in transition” to becoming an independent fast food operation, in spite of the fact that everything still read “Burger King” to customers.

Within a few hours, the outdoor sign was removed and the city’s health officials said the business would be at least temporarily shut down while it looked into the name-change matter.

Then yesterday, a Pittsburgh-area BK franchisee announced that his company, which runs nearly 60 Burger Kings in the region, had taken ownership of this location, returning a proper BK to the people of Pittsburgh’s South Side.

“We have cleaned the restaurant from top to bottom,” said the new owner, who also declared that the eatery would go through a redesign in the months to come.

You can now follow Chris on Twitter: @themorrancave

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Lawyer Brings Back Free Divorce Contest For Yet Another Valentine’s Day

If there’s one day that’s even more painful than all the rest when you’re in a bad relationship, it’s Valentine’s Day. Everyone around you is smooching under flowery bowers of love with little birds chirping and singing and you’re arguing under a freeway underpass about who bought toilet paper last and besides, it was the wrong kind of toilet paper and I don’t love you anymore. Here’s where a free divorce might be nice.

For the second year in a row, a Detroit divorce lawyer is holding a contest to decide who out there deserves a free divorce for Valentine’s Day, he explains to Last year the contest did well, he explains, with more than 1,000 people applying, 400 of which weren’t even Detroit residents (which is a requirement for the contest).

“People want to move on,” he says of unfortunate souls stuck in bad situations. “I’m trying to help them have a very happy Valentine’s Day for 2015 by taking care of their past and putting an end to that in 2014.”

The main reason behind this act of goodwill — besides the inevitable publicity bonanza — is that some people just can’t afford to cut their ties.

“I’m hearing stories about people that don’t have the money to get divorced,” he explains, as all contestants have to write up the reasons they deserve the divorce. “Some of them don’t even have the money to move out so they’re living with the person that they can’t stand.”

Oh but why, why spoil the day filled with heart candies and flowers and lovey dovey cuddle bunnies (no I don’t understand Valentine’s Day, yes I’m an old bitter lady)? Why does it have to be this day of all days?

“Because Valentines’ Day is a tough day for people that are in a relationship that they don’t want to be in,” he says. It’s not easy though, as he says he thought he’d heard everything before, but some of the things people said last year, “they were truly heartbreaking.”

For those interested in the Detroit area, all it takes is filling out a simple form on his website.

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Follow Mary Beth on Twitter (but now that she’s not always very interesting): @marybethquirk

Southfield Attorney Giving Away Free Divorce for Valentine’s Day []

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist