Los 6 sistemas planetarios de Internet #infografia #infographic #internet

Hola: Una infografía sobre los 6 sistemas planetarios de Internet. Vía Un saludo

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DropBox Jumps On Forced Arbitration Bandwagon, But Offers Online Opt-Out

Here's what the online opt-out form looks like. Just be sure to fill in all the relevant info and submit within 30 days of accepting the new Terms of Service.

Here’s what the online opt-out form looks like. Just be sure to fill in all the relevant info and submit within 30 days of accepting the new Terms of Service.

Another company is taking the coward’s way out of resolving legal disputes with its customers by tweaking its Terms of Service to take away users’ rights to take the company to court and to prevent multiple users from having their complaints heard as a group. This time, it’s online storage service Dropbox, which is currently notifying users of the bad news.

In a new blog post, Dropbox details the latest changes to its ToS, including the forced arbitration clause.

“Arbitration is a faster and more efficient way to resolve legal disputes,” lies Dropbox, “and it provides a good alternative to things like state or federal courts, where the process could take months or even years.”

Thank you Dropbox for unburdening consumers of their statutory right to seek legal redress in a court of law! It’s like you read our minds. We’d all much rather be heard by a paid arbitrator in a process that is heavily unbalanced in favor of businesses.

But Dropbox must have sensed that maybe some sticks in the mud would want to retain their ability to file a legal claim just in case they are screwed-over by a company in which users entrust huge amounts of sometimes personal data. Thus, it is giving users 30 days (from the day on which they agree to the new Terms) to opt out of the arbitration clause.

And unlike other companies that require customers to send in very specifically worded letters to very specific mailing addresses, Dropbox has created an online opt-out form that only takes a few seconds to fill out.

Reminder: You only have 30 days from the date you agree to the new Dropbox terms (or 30 days from the start of service for users who sign up after the new terms go into effect) to file the opt-out request.

If you don’t opt out, what rights are you giving up?

From the new Dropbox Terms of Service that go into effect on March 24:

We Both Agree To Arbitrate. You and Dropbox agree to resolve any claims relating to these Terms or the Services through final and binding arbitration, except as set forth under Exceptions to Agreement to Arbitrate below…

Arbitration Procedures. The American Arbitration Association (AAA) will administer the arbitration under its Commercial Arbitration Rules and the Supplementary Procedures for Consumer Related Disputes. The arbitration will be held in the United States county where you live or work, San Francisco (CA), or any other location we agree to.

Arbitration Fees and Incentives. The AAA rules will govern payment of all arbitration fees. Dropbox will pay all arbitration fees for claims less than $75,000. If you receive an arbitration award that is more favorable than any offer we make to resolve the claim, we will pay you $1,000 in addition to the award. Dropbox will not seek its attorneys’ fees and costs in arbitration unless the arbitrator determines that your claim is frivolous.

Exceptions to Agreement to Arbitrate. Either you or Dropbox may assert claims, if they qualify, in small claims court in San Francisco (CA) or any United States county where you live or work. Either party may bring a lawsuit solely for injunctive relief to stop unauthorized use or abuse of the Services, or intellectual property infringement (for example, trademark, trade secret, copyright, or patent rights) without first engaging in arbitration or the informal dispute-resolution process described above.

No Class Actions. You may only resolve disputes with us on an individual basis, and may not bring a claim as a plaintiff or a class member in a class, consolidated, or representative action. Class arbitrations, class actions, private attorney general actions, and consolidation with other arbitrations aren’t allowed.

The tl;dr version: You can only bring a lawsuit in small claims court. All other disputes must be handled in binding arbitration. And all complaints — no matter how many people are impacted — are handled on an individual basis.

Companies like Dropbox repeat the nonsensical idea that arbitration is actually pro-consumer because it’s faster than the court system. But since when is faster always better?

With arbitration, you might be gaining a degree of expediency, but it’s coming at the cost of justice. This is especially true in cases where large numbers of consumers are affected.

The ban on class-action lawsuits means that each customer’s dispute must be arbitrated on its own. So even though Dropbox will have to go through the hassle of dealing with each instance of a dispute, the total number of customers who will be willing to enter into the arbitration process is inevitably only a fraction of the total number of affected customers.

Forced arbitration clauses have been on the rise since the 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in AT&T v Concepcion, in which the telecom giant successfully argued that the inclusion of a few words about binding arbitration buried in the back of a massive contract were sufficient for taking away a customers’ right to sue or seek a class action against the company.

Since then, dozens of major companies — from banks to wireless companies to e-commerce and cable TV — have either added such clauses or tweaked existing language to reinforce how few rights their customers have.

The folks at Public Citizen have been keeping track of many forced arbitration clauses in this online Rogues Gallery of businesses.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Was Massive Beef Recall Caused By Dairy Cows With Eye Cancer?

We know that millions of pounds of beef that came through a California slaughterhouse and meat processing plant have been recalled because the plant “processed diseased and unsound animals.” Well, okay, but what does that mean? We don’t know that for sure yet, but the Village Voice talked to one rancher whose entire 2013 output is part of that massive recall.

Hannah Palmer Egan wanted to know: what “disease” did those animals have? What, exactly, made them unfit for human consumption?

Bill Niman of BN Ranch used the plant, Rancho Feeding Corp., for the slaughter of his cattle, and has spoken to other local people in the industry. He points out that Rancho happens to process retired dairy cows, which tend to be older and thus sicker than the relative youngsters raised for meat. One disease that’s obvious to inspectors and should be obvious to farmers is ocular squamous cell carcinoma. Simply put: cancer eye. (Click here for pictures, but don’t say you weren’t warned. You’ll see why these tumors should be obvious to farmers before they send the cows for slaughter.)

This cancer exists in a variety of animals–people get it, too–but is common in certain breeds of cattle for some reason that farmers would really, really like to figure out and prevent.

Niman wonders whether dairy farmers sent over cows with cancer eye, and the proper procedure wasn’t followed. A USDA veterinarian is supposed to check whether the cancer has spread and how far, and determine whether the cancer-free parts of the cow’s body can still be butchered and sold. A longtime USDA inspector told Egan that if the process isn’t followed precisely, that renders the whole carcass “unfit for human consumption.”

Other experts–who, for transparency’s sake, are small-scale butchers and farmers–point out that while the huge recall figures make us picture Dumpsters full of beef heading for the incinerator, most of the meat in these recalls has already been distributed and won’t be recovered.

The “disease” could be ocular cancer, or could be something else. We don’t know, because the USDA won’t elaborate yet, Rancho’s lawyers quite understandably won’t let employees talk to the media.

The recall probably won’t hurt Nestlé so much in the long run, but Niman says that losing all of his 2013 beef could destroy his business. Rancho handled slaughter for many small-scale meat producers in the Bay Area, who will have to haul their animals to more distant slaughterhouses if the facility shuts down.

Rancho Feeding Recall: Why Sick Dairy Cows Might Be to Blame [The Village Voice]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Mapa de las Redes Sociales 2014 #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía con el Mapa de las Redes Sociales 2014. Vía Un saludo

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10 curiosidades sobre YouTube #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía con 10 curiosidades sobre YouTube. Vía Un saludo

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Another Ignorant Restaurant Employee Assumes That Only Blind People Have Service Dogs


Just let Truman do his job.

How many times do we have to go over this? When someone enters a business with a dog and says, “This is my service dog,” the correct answer is not “You aren’t blind!” Yet a Texas Marine veteran says that he was asked to leave a restaurant because he brought his service dog in training into the establishment.

By federal government definition, a service animal can only be a dog (although guide horses are a thing) and the animal has to perform a physical function, not just provide emotional support. Some services are highly specialized and dogs train in puppyhood. Others, like supporting and redirecting a person with post-traumatic stress disorder, are things that a dog can be trained to do later in life. People can train their own dog if they have one, or adopt one from a shelter.

The dog’s breed or size isn’t important, which seems to lead to much of the confusion in these cases. PTSD dogs aren’t necessarily the familiar German Shepherd Dog or Golden or Labrador retrievers that work as guide dogs that most people are used to. They can be teeny terriers or muscular pit bulls, but they’re all able to behave themselves in public. In this case in Texas, the service dog is a Doberman, and is still in training.

His owner is a Marine veteran who served in the Gulf War, and says that the dog helps him to go out in public in spite of his post-traumatic stress disorder. (Many of the news stories about incidents like this feature combat veterans, but civilians can experience severe PTSD and benefit from service dogs, too.)

The Marine says that at the restaurant, a man emerged from a back office and kept asking whether he could see. He was then asked to leave because of his “attitude.”

If a person enters your establishment with a service dog, you can ask what task the dog performs for the person. You cannot ask what the person’s disability is, or why they require a service dog.

ADA Requirements: Service Animals

Restaurant refuses to seat Marine veteran because of his service-dog-in-training [Marine Times]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Síndrome de Asperger #infografia #inforaphic #health

Hola: Una infografía sobre el Síndrome de Asperger. Un saludo

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Ventajas del marketing móvil para pymes #infografia #infographic #marketing

Hola: Una infografía sobre ventajas del marketing móvil para pymes. Un saludo

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Anatomía de los influencers en Pinterest #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía con la Anatomía de los influencers en Pinterest. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ift.tt/1f5i0wP Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Could GM’s Potentially Fatal Ignition Issue Have Been Fixed Seven Years Ago?

nhtsagrab General Motors recently recalled nearly 800,000 vehicles over concerns about possible ignition switch failures; a defect that may have resulted in multiple deaths. But a recently discovered report shows that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was informed about the possibility of a problem back in 2007.

The New York Times has a copy of a crash report filed in 2007 by a NHTSA investigator tasked with looking into the cause of a crash that took the lives of two teenagers in a 2005 Chevy Cobalt.

In the accident, the Cobalt ran off the road and into a clump of trees. Both the driver’s and passenger’s seat airbags failed to deploy “as a result of the impact with the clump of trees, possibly due to the yielding nature of the tree impact or power loss due to movement of the ignition switch just prior to the impact,” explains the investigator in the report [PDF]. The passenger was killed in the accident and a second passenger in the back seat of the vehicle during the crash later died at the hospital.

The investigator’s hypothesis is in line with GM’s recent explanation for the mass recall, which stated that the use of heavy key rings could cause the cars to turn off and thus prevent airbags from deploying.

As part of the report, the investigator looked at information stored on the Cobalt’s Event Data Recorder (aka EDR or “black box”) that keeps track of the vehicle’s various systems while in operation.

When the investigator got to the time of the actual accident, the information on the EDR “indicated that the vehicle power mode status was recorded as ‘accessory,’” indicating that the ignition switch was not in the “on” position at the time of final impact. “It is possible the ignition switch could have been knocked to the ‘accessory’ position by the driver’s leg or knee at the time of the vault. This investigation revealed that inadvertent contact with the ignition switch or a keychain in the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt can in fact result in engine shut-down and loss of power.” (bolded for emphasis)

To back up this statement, the investigator cited and attached an existing GM service bulletin from 2005 titled, “Information on Inadvertent Turning of the Key Cylinder, Loss of Electrical System.”

“The bulletin indicates that there is a potential for the driver to inadvertently turn off the ignition due to low ignition key cylinder torque/effort,” reads the 2007 report. “The bulletin indicated this was more likely to occur if the driver is short and has a large and/or heavy key chain attached to the ignition key. The bulletin indicated the condition was documented to occur when a driver’s knee contacted a key chain while the vehicle was turning and the steering column was adjusted all the way down.”

Additionally, the investigator says that a search of the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation “revealed at least six complaints… relating to the engine shutting off and loss of power in Chevrolet Cobalts when the ignition switch or key chain was contacted by the driver.”

While the report cautiously admits that none of this is conclusive evidence that the keychain or some incidental contact with the ignition switch resulted in the airbags failing to deploy, a safety consultant who formerly worked as NHTSA’s senior enforcement lawyer tells the Times that the report “should have raised all kinds of red flags… It seems pretty poor that they didn’t put two and two together.”

For its part, NHTSA responds that “The special crash investigation report did not determine the cause for the air bag nondeployment or that the failure to deploy was the result of a vehicle design defect or noncompliance with federal motor vehicle regulations.”

Former NHTSA chief Joan Claybrook says that the purpose of crash investigations and reports isn’t to determine whether there is a defective part in a vehicle, but to provide information up the food chain so that others can digest the data and decide how to act.

Claybrook, who ran the agency in the late ’70s and early ’80s, says that a well-researched and detailed report like the one involving the Cobalt crash should have been a “gift” to NHTSA, but that it looks like this wealth of information “fell into a deep hole… It is outrageous that they did nothing.”

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

The DOT Wants To Know: Should Cell Phone Calls Be Allowed On Planes?

Back in December when the Federal Communications Commission announced it would start investigating whether or not it’s a good idea to lift the ban on cell phone calls on planes — from a technological point of view — the Department of Transportation was all, “Hold on, we’re going to look into this too.” The DOT is now turning to the public to hear your thoughts.

Anyone who wants to read and chime in on the 22-page proposal can head to the DOT’s official commenting system set up for just that purpose by clicking here .

“While the department does not oppose the use of cellphones and other mobile devices for mobile wireless data services, such as sending and receiving text messages and e-mail, there is concern that the pervasiveness of in-flight voice calls could create an oppressive environment for passengers, especially on long-haul flights,” the department said.

A full 76% of our readers who took a poll in December asking the same question the DOT is now throwing up for discussion were against the idea. Again, this will only be an issue if the FCC first lifts the ban after investigating whether or not it could interfere with wireless networks on the ground.

If the FCC does decide to lift the 1991 ban, then the DOT could swoop in with its own regulation against cell phone use or potentially set up other roadblocks.

It’s unclear when everything will be sorted out, but the FCC is collecting comments through March 17, while the DOT will hear you out until March 22.

Thus far there are more than 1,200 comments to the FCC, most of which are against the idea of their neighbors yakking away like there’s no one else on the plane or possibly, the world. You can click here and scroll down to “13-301 Expanding Access to Mobile Services Onboard” to comment on the FCC’s proposal.

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Cómo usan Internet los internautas mexicanos #infografia #infographic

Hola: Una infografía sobre cómo usan Internet los internautas mexicanos. Vía Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ift.tt/1e0jDAm Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

Las misteriosas similitudes entre la esclavitud y la gestión moderna #infografia #infographic #rrhh

Hola: Una infografía sobre las misteriosas similitudes entre la esclavitud y la gestión moderna. Un saludo Source: TopManagementDegrees.com

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Proposed Kansas Bill Banning Municipal Fiber Expansion Has Met Its Doom

A proposed law in Kansas that would have prevented the expansion of publicly-owned fiber broadband networks in the state is very thoroughly dead, according to one of the bill’s biggest opponents.

The protectionist bill, created by cable lobbyists, sought to prevent the expansion of publicly-owned or -maintained broadband networks–like, say, the Google Fiber already in place in the Kansas City area.

As Ars Technica reports, the bill is on hold for the time being and may not ever surface again. It was scheduled for a hearing in a state Senate committee, but the hearing was canceled and, as a state senator put it, it has “lost its momentum at this time.”

The president of the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association told Ars Technica that it is now “highly unlikely” that the KCTA will continue to pursue the bill this session.

Joshua Montgomery, owner of a small ISP in Kansas and one of the bill’s chief opponents, had a more colorful take, Ars reports: “We stabbed it and shot it and hanged it and dissolved it in hydrofluoric acid, and flushed it down the toilet. It’s dead,” Montgomery told Ars. “We are on top of it. We are not going to let it come back up. I think we did really kill the entire issue for at least a year.”

At the very least, then, Kansas gets to table the issue for a while. Hopefully, though, the issue really is as much of an ex-bill as Montgomery claims.

“It’s dead”: Kansas municipal Internet ban was “stabbed, shot, and hanged” [Ars Technica, via DSL Reports]

by Kate Cox via Consumerist

Las adquisiciones de las tecnológicas más caras #infografia #infographic

Hola: Una infografía sobre las adquisiciones de las tecnológicas más caras. Un saludo

TICs y Formación http://ift.tt/1jlDlXO Via Alfredo Vela y www.bscformacion.com

¿Deben preocuparse los inversores de FaceBook? #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

Hola: Una infografía que plantea si ¿Deben preocuparse los inversores de FaceBook? Un saludo Source: FinanceDegreeCenter.comArchivado en: Infografía, Redes Sociales, Sociedad de la información Tagged: FaceBook, Infografía, internet, redes sociales, tic, Web 2.0.

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Customer Lawsuit Blames Dunkin’ Donuts For Burns From Hot Apple Cider Spill

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In the kind of story about fast food liquids we have never, ever heard before, a Dunkin’ Donuts customer is suing a franchisee and the company claiming she was badly burned after hot apple cider from the chain spilled on her.

The Star-Ledger cites a report (paywall) that says a 24-year-old New Jersey woman says back in September 2012, she was sitting in her car in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot after purchasing the cider. That’s when the lid allegedly came loose and the drink spilled.

She says she has permanent scarring on her thighs as a result of the incident, despite the fact that she was treated at a special burn center. Her lawsuit says she might still need more surgery.

And while yes, one can probably expect that the “hot” drink they ordered will be hot, her lawyer says the “temperature exceeded reasonableness and posed a safety hazard.”

I was just kidding about never hearing about this before, considering a similar lawsuit going on against McDonald’s right now, not to mention a slew of other recent cases and of course, the Hot Liquid Incident that started them all back in 1992.

You can follow MBQ on Twitter where she will never tweet while drinking hot liquids: @marybethquirk

NJ woman sues Dunkin’ Donuts after getting burned when hot cider spilled [The Star-Ledger]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Chiropractor Thinks 2-Year-Old McDonald’s Happy Meal Will Convince People To Avoid Fast Food

This 2-year-old Happy Meal looks only slightly less unappetizing than it did when it was purchased, and it's not because of some secret ingredient. (via Omaha.com)

This 2-year-old Happy Meal looks only slightly less appetizing than it did when it was purchased, and it’s not because of some secret ingredient. (via Omaha.com)

Once again, someone is amazed (astounded! mind-blown!) by the fact that a McDonald’s Happy Meal, if left untouched and exposed to the air for a few years, will not rot or become overrun with mold. This time, it’s a chiropractor in Nebraska who thinks that displaying an ancient cheeseburger and fries in his office will help convince people that fast food is bad for them. Except he’s wrong, at least about why the Happy Meal still looks recognizable after all this time.

“We have it on a glass platter so everyone can see it,” the chiropractor tells Omaha.com. “Its been exposed to the air, and it’s still intact. There are so many preservatives in these processed foods that it will never mold.”

Never? Ever? Shocking!

We’ve covered these “oh my gawd, McDonald’s doesn’t rot!” claims before, and everything we’ve learned over the years is that the intact appearance of ancient fast food burgers isn’t the result of some miraculous anti-rotting preservative or food chemistry voodoo, but the shape and size of the food, along with how it’s stored.

See, the mere passage of time doesn’t cause old food to rot and grow mold. For that, you need to throw in bacteria, spores… and perhaps most importantly, moisture.

Each of the food components in a Happy Meal — the beef patty, the fries, the bun — are reasonably dry to begin with, and they all have a lot of surface area through which any remaining moisture can evaporate.

If you then keep these same items in a dry area and away from creatures (including humans) that might try to eat them, chances are they will just keep on being dried-out versions of the foods they once were.

People expect the bread to get moldy because they have probably seen countless old half-finished loaves of sliced bread turn green in the bag. But that plastic bag is probably keeping moisture inside the slices, allowing for mold to grow. Put a hamburger bun in the open air for a few weeks and you could end up with a bread hockey puck that is inedible but which isn’t overrun by fuzzy mold.

Back in 2010, the folks at SeriousEats put several burger-related hypotheses to the test by allowing both McDonald’s burgers and homemade burgers age under various conditions — stored on a plate in the open air, no wrapper; homemade bun; toasted bun; stored in the fast food wrapper; no salt added; etc. — and spent 25 days monitoring the sandwiches for rot and mold growth.

None of the beef patties turned rotten during this time period. Some of the larger burgers showed evidence of mold growth on the patty, but the smaller patty — the kind you’d see in a Happy Meal — did not grow mold because it dried out much faster than the larger patties.

In fact, the only way the SeriousEats testers could get the burgers to grow mold like one would expect was to store them in plastic sandwich bags. That resulted in moldy buns after about a week.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

One In Every 13 Words On Twitter Is The Kind We Can’t Use In This Post

So that's what those birds are saying! (petesimon)

So that’s what those birds are saying! (petesimon)

Scientific research is the most fun when it can tell us something about our f*&%@*# selves. Oh, pardon me, I was just writing as one might on Twitter, where apparently one in every 13 words is the kind we can’t use in polite company, much less in this post. Hi, Mom!

Swear words your mother would most definitely have washed your mouth out with are all the rage over on Twitter, according to researchers at Wright State University in Ohio, in a new study.

There’s a favorite of those 13, of course, reports the New York Daily News, and it’s the one that starts with an “f” and rhymes with “Watch-out-for-that-flying-thing-you-better-duck.”

Then of course, there’s the “s” word, the “a” word that is actually ass, which we can type here, actually.

The researchers looked a random one-month sample of 51 million tweets — only in English — from 14 million users. Using those tweets they pulled together swears, taking into account Internet variations of swears that substitute symbols like “@” for a letter. Because then you’re being nice instead of naughty, obviously.

The most popular days to swear like a sailor are Mondays (tell me about it), Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Apparently the looming weekend makes everyone a lot happier, go figure.

“Because of social media, people don’t see each other. They can say things they wouldn’t say in the physical world,” the paper’s lead author says.”

And as for the kinds of people bleeping up a storm — men are more likely to have pottymouths than women, but yet both genders will more often use curse words when speaking to someone of the same gender.

This doesn’t mean we’re all a bunch of cranky brats, however, because you could be just like, “I effing love cheese so effing much!” and that would be a happy, positive thing. Also a true one.

You can follow MBQ on Twitter where she won’t offend your mother with her language (well, not too often): @marybethquirk

Twitter users let the swear words fly: study [New York Daily News]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

There’s A Secret Sochi Starbucks For NBC Staff Only, And It’s On Lockdown

Not an NBC employee. (1yearofmylife.wordpress.com)

Not an NBC employee. (1yearofmylife.wordpress.com)

NBC, the TV network with the exclusive rights to air the Olympics in the United States until about 500 years past Ragnarok, has a secret weapon as they cover the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. That amazing secret is a secret, free, staff-only Starbucks.

Here’s the thing with coffee at the Olympics: since McDonald’s is a sponsor, they’re the only company allowed to sell cups of coffee. McDonald’s coffee is nice and all, but it’s not the same if you’re an espresso addict. So we hear.

The mysterious Starbucks is deep inside NBC’s offices in Sochi. At the beginning, NBC employees (there are 2,500 of ‘em in Sochi) were able to smuggle drinks out to their friends who work for other media outlets. NBC set up the coffee stand, flying in baristas from the new Starbucks outlets in Russia, all of which are hundreds of miles away from Sochi. They could freely carry their green-and-white cups around the area, inspiring envy. Then it all stopped. Well, the coffee kept coming, but the Starbucks went on lockdown.

Was there some kind of terrorist threat? No. lockdown is to protect the rest of Sochi from learning that there’s a Starbucks at all. After the Wall Street Journal published an article about the secret shop, though, baristas began to crack down on coffee for others…and coffee smuggled out of the NBCplex for non-employees. The Wall Street Journal stuck with this story, letting the world know that customers were no longer allowed to take their cups out of the Starbucks area, and baristas ordered them to either consume their drinks on the premises or pour them out. Harsh.

Now employees who want their drinks to go can walk around with them in a more generic cup: the coffee clearly isn’t from McDonald’s, but not advertising Starbucks, either.

Here’s a picture from inside the Starbucks, original source unknown:


NBC’s ‘Secret’ Starbucks Goes on Lockdown [WSJ]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Steve Jobs, John Lennon And Dora The Explorer On The List For Future Postage Stamps

Business titans of our time, brilliant musicians that changed the world forever, and a curious toddler with a talking backpack and wide, creepily blinking eyes. What do Steve Jobs, John Lennon and Dora the Explorer have in common? They’re all going to end up on U.S. postage stamps.

That beloved trio, plus Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Charlton Heston, Jimi Hendrix, Wilt Chamberlain and others are among the lineup of commemorative stamp subjects the Postal Service has on deck for this year and the next couple of years down the line.

Usually the stamp subjects are a closely guarded secret in order to maximize the buzz factor when the USPS announces them. But the Washington Post says it got ahold of the entire list of subjects. Some of those are in design while others are still waiting for approval from the USPS art staff.

Don’t set your heart on that Dora stamp quite yet, however, as the USPS’ executive director for stamp services and corporate licensing notes that subjects are “subject to change” at any time.

It’s worth noting that if the John Lennon stamp happens, a whole new can of worms could be opened. Having a Brit on a stamp would violate a rule that only Americans are allowed to appear on stamps.

Check out the full list below, via the Washington Post or click here .

Postage stamp subjects approved by U.S. Postal Service

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Fitbit Voluntarily Recalls Rash-Inducing Force Wristbands

fitbit_rashSince the first reports of contact dermatitis caused by Fitbit Force movement trackers surfaced on the company’s forums (and gained publicity when Consumerist broke the story last month) customers have asked that the company recall the trackers. Fitbit has been happy to refund customers who have skin problems and send their trackers back. Today, the company announced that they’re recalling all Force wristbands.

This recall is voluntary, not prompted by the FTC. The company won’t state how many trackers they’ve sold or how many people have experienced rashes. A spreadsheet maintained by the vocal group of users on the Fitbit forums shows more than 500 documented cases of skin irritation resulting from Fitbit use.

Here’s the statement that Fitbit sent to Consumerist:

We wanted to provide an update on our investigation into reports we have received about Force users experiencing skin irritation.

From the beginning, we’ve taken this matter very seriously. We hired independent labs and medical experts to conduct a thorough investigation, and have now learned enough to take further action. The materials used in Force are commonly found in many consumer products, and affected users are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to these materials.

While only a small percentage of Force users have reported any issue, we care about every one of our customers. We have stopped selling Force and are in the process of conducting a voluntary recall, out of an abundance of caution. We are also offering a refund directly to consumers for full retail price. We want to thank each and every member of the Fitbit community for their continued loyalty and support. We are working on our next-generation tracker and will announce news about it soon.

Fitbit Force [Return Information]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

FCC Wants First-Responders To Know Exactly Where 911 Calls Are Coming From

No one wants to be in a position where calling 911 is necessary, but if the situation does occur we’d all like to think first-responders could easily find us. But that’s just not the case now that more consumers are using cell phones to make emergency calls. Especially when those calls are being made indoors, out of the view of GPS satellites.

Of the 400,000 emergency calls made each day, nearly three-quarters are made with a cellphone. While it’s easy for 911 dispatchers to locate someone outside on a cellphone, pinpointing the location of someone inside a tall office building is more difficult, if not impossible.

The Federal Communications Commission recently announced a proposed requirement on wireless carriers and 911 dispatchers to improve indoor location accuracy, The Washington Post reports.

Currently, mobile devices can pinpoint a caller’s general location, but if you’re calling from a multi-story building there’s a chance first-responders are wasting time looking on other floors.

The proposed requirement aims to ensure that during the first 30 seconds of a 911 call dispatchers can pinpoint a caller’s location within 50 meters. Officials are hopeful that 80 percent of all wireless 911 calls will benefit from the new location capabilities in five years.

The FCC is looking at two ways to determine a caller’s precise location.

Wireless companies could use assisted GPS, which combines GPS location information with data from the cellular network. Another option is to use AFLT, a new technology which triangulates your position on the basis of your distance from multiple cell towers.

While the proposal would make significant progress in improving standards for indoor 911 calls, it has drawn criticism from regulators and the wireless industry.

FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly is worried about how the proposal would affect consumer privacy. During a recent FCC meeting he said citizens should not have to worry about being tracked by law enforcement or other government entities in non-emergency situations.

Additionally, wireless carriers are pushing back, saying the FCC deadline of five years is impossible to reach.

New FCC proposal would require pinpoint location accuracy for 911 calls [The Washington Post]

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

The Tales Of Two Stolen Cars That Both Showed Up After Decades Away From Home

While going about my daily rounds on the Internet, there are constantly new and surprising little tidbits popping up, usually unrelated. Which is why it’s kind of nutty to hear that two separate car theft cold cases have suddenly been solved this week, decades after the cars were stolen, with both vehicles reappearing far from home.

The car version of Homeward Bound stars not fuzzy little pets wending their way across the great American countryside, but a 1957 Chevrolet and a 1965 VW Beetle.

First, Sir Beetle The Lost: This 1965 Volkswagen was reported stolen from Tennessee in the 1970s, reports ClickOnDetroit.com, and has shown up now in — you got it — Detroit. Because the source link, see?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said officers in that city were checking documents on the car while it was being shipped from Michigan to Finland, and realized it had been reported stolen in 1974.

“Part of safeguarding our nation is to make sure that all exports are legitimate and lawful,” said Acting Port Director Marty Raybon. “Recovering a vehicle reported stolen 40 years ago is a testament to the vigilance and attention to detail on the part of CBP.”

The car and its parts for restoration have been seized by CBP, and it’s unclear if anyone is in hot water for this 40-year-old crime.

Then there’s Mr. “I Once Was Lost But Now I’m Found” Chevy: This 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air has a history of being pilfered, reports the Santa Rosa Press Democrat — it was stolen twice in the early 1980s and is one of the most droolworthy cars among collectors.

This week, after 30 years away and four other owners, it’s finally home in Northern California after being rescued from a container bound for Australia. And as a bonus, it’s been fully restored since the last time it was stolen in 1984.

“Somebody put a whole lot of work and money into that car,” the owner, its owner, a 65-year-old told the paper. “It was all disassembled and put back.”

The California Highway Patrol notified the man a few weeks ago that U.S. Customs inspectors had found the hot wheels at the Port of Los Angeles, bound for Down Under.

And oddly enough, its vehicle identification number was on file with the National Insurance Crime Bureau, so it’s mystifying how the Department of Motor Vehicles has allowed it to be passed from one owner to another without any red flags being raised. The CHP says it’d been through four owners during its time away.

The owner said he’d long given up being reunited with his vehicle — he couldn’t spot a mid-50s Bel Air on the road without wincing, the Press Democrat says.

But it sounds like having it back in all its newly-restored glory is going a long way to ease that past pain.

“There’s all kinds of chrome added under the hood,” he said. “The headers look brand spankin’ new. The tires, they look like they haven’t even been around the block.”

“I imagine somebody in Australia must be awful upset,” he added.

Stolen VW Beetle found in Detroit after 40 years [ClickOnDetroit]

Stolen Chevy returned to owner 30 years later [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Safeway’s “Gluten Free” Shelf Labels Could Use Some Work

We commend Safeway for making it easier for customers with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity to find products that they can eat on the store shelves. However, it’s probably not such a good idea to just go around printing any old shelf tags on the “Gluten Free” paper once you run out of other paper.

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Is Amazon Prime Price Hike In UK A Sign Of Things To Come?

Last month, Amazon revealed that after nearly a decade of charging $79/year for its Amazon Prime service, it was mulling over the possibility of adding anywhere from $20 to $40 to that amount. Now comes news out of Europe that the online giant is increasing Prime rates for customers in the U.K. and Germany.

The justification for the Prime price hike — going from £49 ($81) to £79 ($131) in the U.K., and from €29 ($40) to €49 ($67) in Germany — is that customers in these countries will now have access to Amazon’s LOVEFiLM streaming collection as part of their Prime membership. Previously, Prime only included expedited shipping and access to the Kindle Lending Library.

Of course, Prime members in the U.S. have had access to streaming video content for quite some time, and it was offered at no additional cost beyond the $79 annual fee.

And it’s worked out well for the company. In its recent quarterly earnings report, Amazon says there are now “tens of millions” of Prime members around the world. The company has never provided specific numbers on Prime subscribers.

Keeping that many people happy requires investment in content. Amazon said it recently increased its Prime video library in the U.S. from 33,000 titles to 40,000, and it is currently in the process of launching a second series of original shows. It also requires investment in technology in order to deliver quality streams across numerous platforms.

It’s possible that the price increases overseas are just bringing fees up to the same profit level Amazon makes off U.S. Prime members, but it seems more likely that it’s an indicator of changes to come stateside.

What may be biting Amazon in the butt is its annual fee model. People see headlines about $20 or $40 price increases and — understandably — their immediate response is often a negative reaction. Whereas, were Amazon talking about going from $6.59/month (the current level, if you broke it down into monthly payments) to $8.25 or $9.92 a month, people may not be so quick to charge the Amazon gates with torches and pitchforks.

What’s interesting about the European price increases is that Amazon is allowing people to lock in existing rates if they sign up in the next couple weeks. Additionally, it is continuing to offer LOVEFiLM as a standalone streaming service for customers who don’t want to pay for the Prime benefits.

Amazon will have to raise the price for Prime at some point (or begin offering tiers of Prime service) and some members will undoubtedly quit the program, whether out of anger or because they don’t see the value in Prime anymore. But if Netflix could make it through the whole Qwikster debacle, which saw the company split its DVD and streaming services and effectively doubled the monthly rate for customers who wanted both, Amazon will probably survive a Prime price increase.

[via GigaOm]

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Study: Chemical Banned For Decades Still In Yellow Clothing, Paper In “Worrisome” Levels

Yellow dyes and pigments are under the lens. (SOBPhotography)

Yellow dyes and pigments are under the lens. (SOBPhotography)

A new, unpublished study is turning the spotlight onto a chemical that was banned in the United States 35 years ago, but is still present today in everything from yellow clothing, to yellow paper and other consumer products using yellow pigments. Researchers say traces of polychlorinated biphenyls — or PCBs — are leaching out of everyday products found around the globe.

But if PCBs are banned, how can this be possible? That’s because PCB-11, the form of the chemical found in yellow dyes, inks and paints, is an unintentional byproduct of pigment manufacturing, explains Scientific American, and therefore is exempt from U.S. laws regulating the compounds.

PCB-11 showed up in almost all samples of paper products sold in 26 countries and clothing sold here in the U.S., the researchers say in the study, which is undergoing peer review and is expected to be published this year.

Although it doesn’t accumulate in the human body or waterways like other PCBs, it’s still a matter of concern, the study’s authors say.

“It’s out there in levels that are worrisome,” said Lisa Rodenburg, an associate professor of environmental chemistry at Rutgers University and senior author of the study. “Even at the parts per billion levels, if you find it in almost everything you test, that means people are in almost constant contact.”

There are no studies on the health effects due to coming into contact with trace amounts of PCB-11, unlike the old, banned PCBs which have been linked to reduced IQs, cancer and suppressed immune systems.

However, because it’s showing up in so many products used by people, that seems to indicate that people are constantly exposed to PCB-11, which allows for it to show up in tests. The study found that all 28 samples of non-U.S., ink-treated paper products, including advertisements, maps, postcards, napkins and brochures, contained PCB-11 in the parts-per-billion range. U.S. paper products had PCB-11 in 15 of the 18 paper products tested.

Furthermore, all the 16 pieces of clothing tested that are sold in the U.S. contained PCB-11, mostly kids’ items bought at Walmart but manufactured overseas.

“PCB 11 is ubiquitously present as a by-product in commercial pigment applications, particularly in printed materials,” the authors say in the draft of the new study.

Federal regulations “recognize that some products (e.g., pigments and dyes) contain inadvertently generated PCBs,” an Environmental Protection Agency spokespersons said.

These compounds can be excluded and aren’t regulated “as long as they are reported to EPA and the PCB concentrations do not exceed specified limits,” she said, adding that the EPA is looking into any potential risks from PCB-11.

The study’s lead researcher notes that while we still don’t know what effect there could be, if any, from PCB-11 exposure, the fact that it appears to be everywhere is a cause for concern.

That idea is echoed by Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany-SUNY.

“Everyone has ignored the lower chlorinated congeners, primarily because they are not persistent and are relatively easily metabolized in the human body,” he explained to Scientific American, adding that it’s a “very real and important issue.”

“If they are in the air and one breathes them in every day, there will be continuous exposure to what I suspect are very toxic substances,” he explained.

Meanwhile the paint industry is paying attention, says the vice president at the American Coatings Association, which represents paint manufacturers.

“We’ve been aware of it and we’ve alerted the pigment manufacturers, but as of right now, it’s an unavoidable byproduct in these pigments.”

You can follow MBQ on Twitter if you want, PCB-free: @marybethquirk

Yellow Pigments in Clothing and Paper Contain Long-Banned Chemical [Scientific American]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Big Banks Don’t Want To Be Transparent About Checking Fees If Little Banks Don’t Have To Be

If we were to play a word-association game with the nation’s largest banks, we’re sure that terms like “fair” and “equitable” would be right on the tip of peoples’ tongues. And because big banks always play fair with everyone else, they are asking that their checking-account fees not be put under the regulatory microscope if smaller banks’ fees aren’t going be subject to the same scrutiny.

Bloomberg reports that the banks are attempting to put up a fight against proposed regulations that would require banks to include detailed breakdowns of their revenue (about $30 billion a year) from fees on customers’ accounts in the public quarterly reports they file with the FDIC.

The banks’ argument? That it’s unfair because banks with assets under $1 billion are exempt from the reporting requirement.

And even though the total amount of fees taken in by big banks is significantly larger, small banks are more reliant on these fees.

The original regulation had indeed included smaller banks, but Bloomberg’s sources claim that the little institutions were able to put up enough of a fuss to get the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to agree to the $1 billion ceiling for exemptions.

But even then, the operators of mid-sized banking operations are calling for that exemption threshold to be increased to $10 billion.

“The information-gathering effort put forth in the notice represents the latest in a long line of new regulatory burdens faced by these institutions,” wrote a VP for the Independent Community Bankers of America trade group in a recent letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

One of the main goals of the new requirement was to provide the public and the CFPB with regular, detailed information about bank account fees. The Bureau maintains that having this data would allow it to better understand and regulate controversial issues like overdraft fees.

A CFPB report from last June found that the average consumer was spending some $225 a year on overdraft fees and that these fees alone accounted for 60% of banks’ fee-based revenues each year.

It’s the CFPB’s plan to use the data for analytical purposes that has the larger banks questioning whether the bureau has legal authority to change the requirements of the quarterly FDIC Call Reports.

Last year, trade groups for the nation’s biggest banks complained to the regulators that this data demand “would be a major diversion from the existing purposes of the Call Report.”

Another gripe with the small-bank exemption is that it eliminates almost 90% of all U.S. banks from the additional reporting requirement; a decision which one economist says “leaves a huge gap in the data.”

So the question remains as to whether or not it would still be valuable to have the data from the few larger banks if the many small banks are not included. Perhaps that’s why the CFPB says it is continuing to study the matter and may consider other regulations.

Regardless of the fate of this fee-transparency requirement, it seems like an inevitability that the CFPB will continue to push for continued reform on fee transparency, especially when it comes to overdrafting. And given how much banks could lose if customers were to opt out of overdraft protection en masse, expect financial institutions to keep fighting any new regulation.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Girl Scout Provides One-Stop Shopping By Selling Cookies Outside Medical Marijuana Clinic

Kids should always listen to their parents when they talk to them about drugs. And in the case of one 13-year-old Girl Scout who’s probably racking up cash for cookies, it’s a good thing she listened to her mother when she suggested she set up shop outside a San Francisco medical marijuana clinic this week.

Because the movies tell me that when people smoke “the reefer” they sometimes get a little hungry and want to “munch” on things, the idea of drumming up business where there will surely be many marijuana users is pretty darn smart.

The business savvy mom says that her two middle-school-aged daughters have sold Girl Scout cookies outside California medical marijuana dispensaries before, though this is the first time she’s helping with her 13-year-old’s stand outside this particular business.

She set up shop this week, reports Mashable, and the patients have been coming out in force: She sold 117 boxes of cookies outside the clinic just on President’s Day, which is about 37 more boxes than she sold during the same time period outside a Safeway the next day.

And for any naysayers out there railing against her parenting methods, the mom says she usually has her girls try selling cookies at different spots around San Francisco so they can learn about new areas while they peddle their wares. She adds that it’s a good way to start the conversation with her kids about drugs, and explain that some people use marijuana as medicine.

“You put it in terms that they may understand,” she says. “I’m not condoning it, I’m not saying go out in the streets and take marijuana [...] It also adds a little bit of cool factor. I can be a cool parent for a little bit.”

The dispensary is all for it and gave permission to the group as soon as the mom called to ask permission.

“It’s no secret that cannabis is a powerful appetite stimulant, so we knew this would be a very beneficial endeavor for the girls,” a staff member at the clinic told Mashable. “It’s all about location, and what better place to sell Girl Scout cookies than outside a medical cannabis collective?”

And lest any fellow Girl Scouts are wondering how these girls are getting away with it, the Girl Scouts of Northern California are totally fine with it.

“Girls are selling cookies, and they and their parents pick out places where they can make good sales,” the director of marketing and communications for Girl Scouts of Northern California explained. “The mom decided this was a place she was comfortable with her daughter being at.”

“We’re not telling people where they can and can’t go if it’s a legitimate business,” she added.

Funnily enough, it’s a different story in Colorado, where marijuana is legal for recreational use now as well. When a Photoshopped pic of three scouts selling cookies outside a medical marijuana clinic supposedly in Colorado surfaced, that state’s Girl Scout organization put the kibosh on the idea.


The Girl Scout and her mom will be back to selling Thin Mints outside the clinic tomorrow afternoon.

You can follow MBQ on Twitter if you don’t mind her wishing constantly that there were Girl Scout cookies outside her place of business too: @marybethquirk

A Savvy Girl Scout Is Selling Cookies at a Cannabis Clinic in San Francisco [Mashable]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Consumerist Friday Flickr Finds

Here are eight of the best photos that readers added to the Consumerist Flickr Pool in the last week, picked for usability in a Consumerist post or for just plain neatness.

Our Flickr Pool is the place where Consumerist readers upload photos for possible use in future Consumerist posts. Want to see your pictures on our site? Just be a registered Flickr user, go here, and click “Join Group?” up on the top right. Choose your best photos, then click “send to group” on the individual images you want to add to the pool.

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Early Birds Beware: Buying Tickets To Europe Too Far In Advance Could Cost You

Planning a trip abroad? We’ve always been told that buying airfare far in advance was the best way to snag a good deal, but what if we told you that you could purchase significantly lower airfare just two months before your trip? You’d think we’re crazy. But we’re not.

Some travelers have a tendency to book international tickets months and months in advance, but depending on where you’re going, waiting until a month or two before departure could score you the best price.

A new analysis of million of searches made by U.S. travelers on the travel website Kayak found that the average fare for a flight from the U.S. to Europe will vary by $256 from when a ticket is first offered to when the plane actually takes off, Quartz reports.

The cheapest flights from the U.S. to Europe were found just 53 days before departure. The best deal for a flight from the U.S. to Africa was found a mere 33 days before takeoff.

Not all international destinations are so welcoming of short lead times. According to Kayak, flights to South America were cheapest when booked 162 days before the date of departure. By comparison, if you buy those tickets to South America super-early (9-10 months in advance), expect to pay 20% more than you would have if you purchased them around the 5-6 month mark.

If you’re planning to travel to Asia the conventional wisdom of purchasing far in advance still holds true. The best deals on flights were found 270 days, or nine months, before departure.

But don’t wait too long to buy your tickets. Fares jumped significantly during the week of departure. Fares from the U.S. to Europe increase by 15% in the week before departure.

Here’s why you shouldn’t buy a US-to-Europe flight more than two months in advance [Quartz]

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist