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26 Feb 22:37

We’re Not Eating Cereal, And It’s Hurting Kellogg The Most

by Laura Northrup

It’s not surprising that sales of breakfast cereal are falling: Americans, as a whole, are starting to eat breakfast on the move, cut carbs, and many people are fearful of genetically modified corn and wheat. If we do sit down and eat breakfast, we’ll scramble some eggs or microwave some oatmeal.

Sure, there’s one cereal cafe in the world, but overall the trends are going against cereal. Kellogg’s was one of the companies that pioneered the food, making corn into flakes so they could serve a light breakfast at the Kellogg family’s health resort in Battle Creek, Michigan.

This week, Bloomberg Businessweek asks: why is Kellogg all soggy now, performing worse than its competitors in the cereal business? Companies like General Mills are hurting, but doing better overall. Some experts blame this on miscalculations, like alienating core customers of its organic brand, Kashi. While sales of frozen waffles and pancakes are doing well overall, Kellogg’s Eggo brand is not.

You may remember back in 2009, when Consumerist accidentally created a national media frenzy by pointing out that Eggo waffles were in short supply. While the official company line is that rounds of cost-cutting around that time had nothing to do with a Listeria-related recall and flooding at the plant that cut back on the company’s waffle-producing capacity, insiders pointed out to Businessweek that a lot of institutional knowledge about how to run facilities walked out the door when the company cut back on staff.

What’s the way forward for Kellogg? They’re trying to turn Special K into a health brand rather than a brand for ladies on diets, and try to get Kashi’s healthy cred back.

Who Killed Tony the Tiger? [Bloomberg Businessweek]

26 Feb 20:08

Macy’s Tries Again To Win Back Trademarks From Man Who Resurrected Astro Pops And Hydrox

by Mary Beth Quirk

When Macy’s Inc. swallowed up a slew of department stores across the land — from Marshall Field’s to Filene’s, Abraham & Straus to Jordan Marsh — it rebranded many of them, turning the formerly regional chains into Macy’s stores. But in a new lawsuit brought by the company that echoes a suit from 2011 that was slated to come to trial soon, Macy’s says the California company behind the resurrection of Hydrox and Astro Pops is infringing on trademarks it held for many of those recognizable brand names.

Macy’s first filed suit against Strategic Marks LLC — a company Consumerist profiled last year looking at founder Ellia Kassoff’s efforts to revive beloved brands like Hydrox, RocketPops and Marshall Field’s through trademark acquisitions — in 2011 [PDF], alleging then that the company was infringing on eight of its “heritage” trademarks under the Lanham Act, including: Abraham & Straus, A&S, The Broadway, Jordan Marsh, Bullock’s, Robinsons-May, Filene’s and The Bon Marché (via the National Law Journal).

That case was set to go to trial this month, when Macy’s filed a second suit on Feb. 9 [PDF], adding more brands to the list and naming Kassoff as a defendant. Those additions to the list are as follows: Marshall Field’s, Burdines, Foley’s, Goldsmith’s, Hecht’s, I. Magnin, Kaufmann’s, Lazarus, Meier & Frank, Rich’s, Strawbridge’s and Stern’s.

Macy’s alleges that Strategic Marks infringed on its trademarks once again when it began selling T-shirts and candy under those 12 additional brands last month.

In 2010, Strategic Marks had applied to register for trademarks for some of those names to be on clothing sold online and potentially in pop-up stores in the future, “using typestyles which are intentionally identical to those used by Macy’s,” the suit says.

But Strategic Marks has countersued, claiming that Macy’s had abandoned the trademarks, and citing the Lanham Act again. Under that act, a mark is considered abandoned if it isn’t used in the three years. In fact, claims Strategic Marks, Macy’s is the one doing the infringing on the marks it obtained, by selling vintage brand T-shirts and tote bags on

In a Feb. 5 press release, Kassoff said: “Macy’s had not used most of these trademarks in over 15 years and, by law, they lose them if not used in three years or more.”

That echoes the sentiments Kassoff expressed to Consumerist back in June of last year (we reached out to Kassoff today seeking comment on the latest lawsuit, but have not heard back).

“They weren’t using these trademarks,” he told Consumerist back then, claiming, “We have proof they weren’t using these trademarks… Macy’s went to the Trademark Office and said, ‘No, no! These are ours! These are ours! We started it! This has our heritage! It’s our heritage!’ And the Trademark Office said, ‘Sorry, but you’re not using it. You haven’t used it in years.’”

For the original trial that was scheduled March 2, Macy’s was planning to have its associate general counsel testify about the history of the brands and trademarks. The company claims it didn’t abandon those marks, pointing to products on its website that use the “heritage” names and citing examples of some stores that continued to operate under their original names for years. Kassoff claims that those products started popping up after he’d laid claim to the unused trademarks

U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti in the Northern District of California vacated the trial for the first case after taking over both cases earlier this month. The next hearing is now scheduled for March 6.

Macy’s Fights for Old Retailer Names [The National Law Journal]

25 Feb 23:32

It’s Very Gross And Very Dangerous When Dogs Eat Diapers

by Laura Northrup

Ginger the dog died  after eating part of a baby's diaper.

Ginger the dog died after eating part of a baby’s diaper.

The very thing that makes disposable diapers so useful–their super-absorbency–can make them deadly to pets. While nobody goes around giving diapers to their dog as a chew toy, animals do have a gift for rifling through the trash, and one thing they can find there are diapers. KKTV in Colorado interviewed one family whose dog died after eating some of the absorbent material in a diaper.

The dog was kind of listless one evening, and they found her dead on the floor the following morning. What had happened? There was fluffy material around that looked like wall insulation, but there were no walls torn open where the dog could have eaten insulation. Finally, they discovered the answer: there was part of a diaper along with some dog vomit under a piece of furniture.

Material that absorbs liquid expands when it does so, since that’s how the laws of physics work. What seems to have happened here is that the dog shredded a diaper and ate some of the dry absorbent material inside. It came into contact with liquids in her digestive system and expanded, causing internal injuries.

“Don’t let dogs eat diapers” might seem like common sense, but pet owners that KKTV interviewed were surprised that there is no specific warning explaining the dangers of ingesting a diaper on the package. It’s not just diapers for babies, either: tampons, for example, are made out of different material but are also designed to expand when they come in contact with liquid, and can cause internal injuries.

11 CFA Investigation: Diapers Can Be Deadly For Pets [KKTV]

25 Feb 22:40

New Products: Girl Scout Cookie Ice Cream Bars, Taco Bell Sauce Packet Chips

by Laura Northrup

This week, we learned about two exciting products from different food outlets. One is being test-marketed, and the other is in grocery and big-box stores across the land. What they have in common is taking a familiar and beloved product and translating it into a different but perfectly logical format. Those products? Girl Scout Thin Mints ice cream bars, and Taco Bell hot sauce tortilla chips.


Doritos themselves were invented out of the waste products of a Mexican(ish) restaurant at Disneyland, so it’s not surprising that Taco Bell might try to sell its own chips. These are based on the three levels of hot sauce flavors available at Taco Bell, Mild, Medium, and Hot. The tipster who reported their existence to Brand Eating described them as “like Doritos covered in Taco Bell sauce.” I’m not sure what else anyone would have expected, but that sounds nice if you happen to like Taco Bell sauce. The 2-ounce bags are taller and narrower than a normal snack-size chip bag, shaped more like hot sauce packets.


When it’s time for dessert, take a trip over to Target or Shop-Rite, the two stores that we know for sure carry Good Humor’s Thin Mint bars. The idea makes delicious sense: chocolate and mint are perfect together, and other brands have made their own ice cream flavors containing shredded Girl Scout cookies.

A package will set you back less than a box of Girl Scout cookies will, too: a 6-pack costs $3.50 at Shop-Rite.

25 Feb 21:25

Lawsuit Claims Thousands Of Dogs Became Ill Or Died After Eating Purina’s Beneful Kibble

by Ashlee Kieler
A California lawsuit alleges that Beneful-brand dog food has led to illness and death in thousands of dogs.

A California lawsuit alleges that Beneful-brand dog food has led to illness and death in thousands of dogs.

A recently filed lawsuit claims that instead of containing nutrient-rich, high-quality ingredients, Nestle Purina PetCare Company’s most popular brand of dog food includes toxins that have led to serious illness or death for thousands of dogs.

The potential class action [PDF], filed in a federal court in California earlier this month, claims that Purina’s Beneful brand of dry dog food contains substances that are known to be toxic to animals and can lead to internal bleeding and other serious health issues for pets.

The California man who filed the lawsuit against Purina alleges that less than a month after beginning to exclusively feed his dogs Beneful dry kibble, all three became ill and his 8-year-old English Bulldog eventually died.

“Post-mortem veterinary examination revealed signs of internal bleeding in the dog’s stomach and lesions on his liver,” the lawsuit states. “[The man] is currently awaiting the results of post-mortem toxicology testing on Dozer.”

The man’s two remaining dogs are still ill and undergoing medical testing.

A lawyer for the plaintiff tells NBC News that because of home renovations the dogs were kept in separate areas, meaning the only constant condition was the Beneful food they consumed.

The lawsuit alleges that the illnesses experienced by thousands of dogs across the country were a result of toxins in Beneful such as, but not limited to Propylene glycol and Mycotoxins.

Propylene glycol, the lawsuit states, is an automotive antifreeze component that is a known animal toxin. However, the substance is also an FDA-approved food additive for humans.

As for Mycotoxins, the lawsuit states they are a group of toxins produced by fungus that occurs in grains.

Purina-produced dog food named in the lawsuit includes Purina Beneful Healthy Weight, Purina Beneful Original, Purina Beneful Incredibites, Purina Beneful Healthy Growth For Puppies, Purina Beneful Healthy Smile, Purina Beneful Healthy Fiesta, Purina Beneful Healthy Radiance, and Purina Beneful Playful Life.

Keith Schoop, an executive with Purina PetCare, tells the St. Louis Business Journal that the lawsuit is “without merit” and that the company plans to vigorously defend itself.

“Like other pet foods, Beneful is occasionally the subject of social media-driven misinformation,” Purina’s rep says. “The incredible power of the Internet is sometimes used to spread false information. On-line postings often contain false, unsupported and misleading allegations that cause undue concern and confusion for Beneful consumers.”

Still, the California man claims that his story is similar to more than 3,000 complaints filed by consumers over the past four years.

According to the lawsuit, consumers reported their pets displayed symptoms such as stomach and related internal bleeding, liver malfunction or failure, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, seizures, bloating and kidney failure shortly after eating Beneful.

“After opening a new bag of Playful Life by Beneful my dog was horribly sick,” a complaint cited in the California lawsuit states. “He was vomiting, diarrhea, lethargic, wheezing and couldn’t walk or eat. We rushed him to the vet where he was put on steroids, IV to re-hydrate and antibiotics. He almost died. He was there for four days…This past Monday we started him back on Beneful (the same bag). He was worse than before in just hours. We got him to the hospital and the vet got him on an IV and flushed his system. He was sure it was this Lot of food.”

Other consumer complaints cited in the lawsuit detail the thousands of dollars pet owners have spent to determine what made their dogs sick.

“My 1 1/2 year old dog has been suffering with vomiting, diarrhea, lethargic and no desire to eat for the last three weeks,” a complaint states. “We’ve been back and forth to the vet and vet hospital many times. I’ve spent over $6,000 on overnight stays and exploratory surgery…My dog had been home for four days and all he was eating was chicken cheerios, yogurt and pumpkin. Last night he ate Beneful and today we are back to square one…This food should not be on the market!!”

The class action suit seeks unspecified damages and restitution for dog owners who bought the dog food and “incurred any out-of-pocket costs due to illness, injury or death of their dog resulting from the ingestion of Beneful.”

Lawsuit Claims Purina’s Beneful Is Poisoning, Killing Dogs [NBC News]
Lawsuit alleges Purina’s Beneful can harm, kill dogs [St. Louis Business Journal]

26 Feb 13:58

911 operator who told teen to ‘stop whining’ now out of job

by wtopstaff

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A 911 dispatcher who told a 13-year-old girl to “stop whining” as her father lay dying in a hit-and-run crash on a Maryland highway is out of the job.

Anne Arundel County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Russ Davies says the dispatcher no longer works for the department. The dispatcher’s name was not released.

The Feb. 1 incident triggered an investigation after the dispatcher told the girl to stop whining. The 911 call came in after a car hit 38-year-old Rick Warrick of Washington and his fiancée as they changed a tire along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Warrick’s 13-year-old daughter was in the car with her younger brother and called 911. The teen gave the dispatcher information but struggled to remain calm. She pleaded with the dispatcher to “hurry up” and send help, but the operator said he needed the exact location of the crash. At one point, the dispatcher interrupts the girl.

“OK, let’s stop whining. Let’s stop whining, it’s hard to understand you,” he says.

The dispatcher sounds frustrated when the girl asks him to send help quickly. At one point he asks if there’s someone else he can talk to.

Warrick was killed in the crash. His fiancée, Julia Pearce, 28, was seriously injured.

After the incident, Davies told The Associated Press the dispatcher should have handled the call differently.

The post 911 operator who told teen to ‘stop whining’ now out of job appeared first on WTOP.

25 Feb 14:44

Fairfax County Animal Watch - Washington Post

Fairfax County Animal Watch
Washington Post
The following incident was reported by the Animal Control Division of the Fairfax County Police Department. For information, call 703-246-2253. Cold kitten rescued: Tysons Corner Mall, 2 p.m. Feb. 13. An officer captured a kitten that was stuck on a ...

and more »
25 Feb 16:09

Hero Sets Record By Eating 182 Slices Of Bacon In Five Minutes

by Mary Beth Quirk

Listen, not everyone can throw arterial caution to the wind, so when someone does go above and beyond the usual bacon intake to prove themselves a hero in the pork-eating world, it must be noted. I salute you, guy who ate 182 slices of bacon in five minutes, because there is no way I will ever be you.

Of course, competitive eating is not for everyone, even those who really, really, really like eating delicious foods such as bacon.

But it was all in a day’s greasy work for competitive eating champion Matt “Megatoad” Stonie, who crammed a world record amount of bacon into his stomach in just five minutes during a contest sponsored by Smithfield Foods in Dayton, FL recently, reports WXIA.

The event kicked off the Smithfield Pig Out Chase, which is an amateur eating competition with various events leading up to an “ultimate eating showdown” that will take place in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The previous bacon record was set in 2010 with just 54 pieces of bacon in five minutes.

“I’m a huge bacon fan, so I jumped at the chance to team up with Smithfield to set the bacon-eating world record,” our brave hero says. “As one of the youngest competitive eaters on the circuit, I’m always looking to push myself so I aimed to eat 150 slices, but when I passed that and got to 182 slices, I knew it must be because I’m fueled by bacon!”

His stomach has been tested before and won accolades for making room for other foods, as well. According to Major League Eating, Megatoad is ranked second overall and has the record for eating the most gyros, birthday cake, frozen yogurt and pumpkin pie.

Man eats 182 slices of bacon in one sitting [WXIA]

25 Feb 15:52

Can A Website Get You Out Of A Traffic Ticket?

by Laura Northrup

It’s scary to get a traffic ticket, especially if you drive for a living or there’s a hike to your insurance on the line that you can’t afford, not to mention paying the fine. It makes sense to pay a service advertising that it can help get you out of a ticket for a modest fee that’s less than your fine. Or does it?

Instead of going to traffic court, California lets people make their plea in writing: it’s called a trial by written declaration. However, this isn’t the equivalent of hiring a lawyer. When you pay a site like, you’re effectively paying for some expensive form letters.

That’s what CBS Sacramento learned when a truck driver who used the site to get a red light camera ticket dismissed worried that he was paying $250 for something that couldn’t possibly help. The site promises a partial refund of $100 if a customer’s ticket isn’t dismissed, but keeps the $150 “document processing fee.” That fee goes toward…hitting “print” on a computer, apparently, since the site admits that what they do is choose from a “library of stock defense templates” and send the appropriate one to the court. They aren’t lawyers, but also claim that they don’t represent themselves as one.

The problem, consumer reporter Kurtis Ming points out, is that the company brags that it has helped more than 50,000 drivers on its website. Yet they don’t actually keep track, and have no way to know how many customers they’ve really helped.

Call Kurtis Investigation: Can Websites Fight Traffic Tickets? [CBS Sacramento]

25 Feb 14:51

Anthem Hack Included Personal Information For 78.8 Million Customers & Employees

by Ashlee Kieler


Nearly three weeks removed from the detection of a massive data breach, health insurer Anthem Inc. is releasing more details about the scope of the hack, including the fact that personal information for about 78.8 million was compromised.

The Wall Street Journal reports of the 78.8 million people affected by the breach, 60 million to 70 million are current and former employees and customers going back as far as 2004.

Anthem, the owner of Blue Cross and Blue Shield in 14 states and Medicare and Medicaid plans, says some of the breached data belongs to consumers who were enrolled with Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurers outside of Anthem’s coverage area, but had used their coverage in one of the states where Anthem is the BCBS provider.

The Indianapolis-based insurer says that compromised records for around 14 million people are incomplete, So far, the company has been unable to identify where those consumers were enrolled, but believe it is unlikely they were active customers.

While compromised information includes names, birthdays and Social Security numbers, there is no evidence showing medical information or financial details such as credit-card or bank-account numbers were involved in the hack.

Previously, the company announced it would offer all current – and anyone who has been an Anthem customer since 2004 – two years of free identity-theft protection services.

Anthem faces multiple investigations by the FBI, federal healthcare agencies and state insurance commissioners, the Times reports.

“We appreciate the identity-protection services being put into place by Anthem, but reviewing the scope and implications of this event will be a long process,” Monica J. Lindeen, Montana’s commissioner of securities and insurance and president of the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners, said following the breach.

As part of state and federal investigations, commissioners are looking into whether Anthem took sufficient security measures to safe-guard that information.

Industry analysts said last week that the outcome of those inquiries could lead to government sanctions like fines or suspension from key programs like Medicare Advantage or bidding for state Medicaid contracts.

Anthem first spotted the breach internally. They then brought it to the attention of the FBI and hired a specialist cybersecurity firm to help investigate. In a statement at the time, Swedish called it a “very sophisticated external cyber attack.”

The company, formerly known as Wellpoint, is the second largest health insurer in the country and currently covers 37.5 million Americans. They operate a wide variety of plans and brands, particularly Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The company has launched a dedicated website for sharing information about the breach, though at the moment it only contains the statement from Swedish and a brief FAQ.

Anthem: Hacked Database Included 78.8 Million People [The Wall Street Journal]

25 Feb 12:17

Va. police to be allowed drones, with limits

by Max Smith

RICHMOND — After a two-year moratorium on drone use by Virginia law enforcement, the General Assembly is set to send the governor a bill allowing drone use only with a warrant or the permission of a property owner.

There are exceptions for training exercises, if someone is in immediate danger, or in the cases of Amber Alerts, Senior Alerts or Blue Alerts. Blue Alerts are issued for suspects believed to be dangerous who have killed or seriously injured a police officer.

There are also exceptions for drone use in certain circumstances by the National Guard and at Wallops Island.

The bill bans state agencies from using weaponized drones, but it does not regulate private drone use.

The post Va. police to be allowed drones, with limits appeared first on WTOP.

25 Feb 10:17

After years without, Virginia hangs its hat on new state songs

by Max Smith

WASHINGTON — After more than 15 years without a state song, Virginia is on track to get a new one. Two, actually.

The House of Delegates approved a Senate bill Tuesday that designates “Our Great Virginia” the “traditional” state song, and “Sweet Virginia Breeze” the “popular” song of the commonwealth.

The old song, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” became the song emeritus in 1997 after complaints that it included racist language.

A number of proposals for a new song had come up in the years since, but until now none had stuck.

Other Virginia state symbols include the official bat (Virginia Big-eared), insect (Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly), dog (American Foxhound), beverage (milk), fleet (replicas of the Susan Contant, Godspeed and Discovery on display in Williamsburg) and fossil (Chesapecten Jeffersonius – an old scallop).


Sweet Virginia Breeze:

Our Great Virginia:

The post After years without, Virginia hangs its hat on new state songs appeared first on WTOP.

25 Feb 07:09

Is your pup in pain? More pet owners turn to acupuncture for treatment

by Rachel Nania

WASHINGTON — In a small room on the second floor of Friendship Hospital for Animals in Northwest D.C., 12-year-old Hurricane is confronted by a box of needles. But the black and tan canine isn’t at the vet’s office for shots — he’s receiving his first acupuncture treatment.

“I just want him to relax a little bit, to let him know he’s not getting vaccines or anything like that today,” says veterinarian Nicole Karrasch as she massages the pup. “And actually, he’s a little bit sensitive in a spot that’s common for a lot of our older guys. Plus, he was hit by a car as a puppy, so I expect him to have a little bit of chronic pain from that.”

For the past several months, Karrasch has seen a steady stream of four-legged patients at the clinic to receive the treatment that uses small needles to alleviate pain and tackle a variety of conditions, including neurological, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.

Often Karrasch says, clients turn to acupuncture because they’re looking for a way to reduce the amount of medication they give to their pets.

“If [the pet] doesn’t really do well with [certain medicines], acupuncture is a way to control their pain in a way that doesn’t have almost any side effects,” says Karrasch, who also practices clinical medicine and anesthesiology at Friendship.

Over the years, animal acupuncture has grown in popularity. In 1974, a group of veterinarians in the U.S. formed the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society and administered the first veterinary acupuncture certification exam in 1975.

Since then, the group has grown from 80 members to more than 1,800. Karrasch, who recently obtained her certification, say vets see a lot of appeal in animal acupuncture — and the continuous wait list for the course is proof.

“It’s very safe; we can do it on almost all of our patients and we can treat a lot of different problems with it,” she says.

After his initial massage, Karrasch encourages Hurricane to lie down. He’s reluctant at first, but eventually gives in and flops to the floor.

“The most important thing is that [the pets] are comfortable and that they trust me,” she says.

Karrasch opens a pack of sealed needles and begins to insert them into a few specific areas along Hurricane’s body. She explains that she is targeting points associated with certain muscles, nerves and blood vessels. Stimulating these points allows the nervous system to modulate itself.

Hurricane doesn’t seem to mind the needles going under his fur. In fact, he’s pretty much unaware of the whole procedure.

“If you’ve ever had acupuncture, it feels a little tingly. Some people describe it as kind of a zinging sensation, so it can be a little bit of a different sensation, but it’s not unpleasant,” Karrasch says.

However, after a few minutes pass, Hurricane obviously feels something. He rolls over on his back and relaxes completely. The back half of his body even slides off the bed and onto the floor.

Karrasch says some dogs react like Hurricane, but not all. Other pets might feel a little bit achy after acupuncture from the release of inflammatory substances housed in the muscles.

“But then we expect to see improvement the next day and every day for the next three days,” Karrasch says. “I see anything from just improved mobility — better neurologic function; you know, less tripping or falling — to one dog that went home and played ball for the first time in her life after her first acupuncture session.”

Most pets receive acupuncture weekly until ideal results are reached. Then they come for maintenance therapy, which can be as infrequent as every six to 12 weeks.

Karrasch, who spends two days a week conducting acupuncture sessions at the clinic, says some owners find acupuncture’s price tag more appealing than bills associated with traditional therapies. She says pet owners can expect to pay a fee similar to the cost of a routine exam, but without the additional tests, medications and supplies added to the final bill.

Karrasch says modern medicine is helping humans live longer, and it’s doing the same for pets, thus opening the doors and minds to alternative and complementary therapies.

“We’re doing a great job with preventive medicine and controlling infectious disease — pets are living longer and we want them to be comfortable, so we’re having to deal more with problems like arthritis and back pain and potentially neurologic dysfunction.”

Interested in acupuncture for your animal? Friendship Hospital for Animals will host a free educational event on the topic on Wednesday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. as part of its Client Education Series. The hour-long class, led by Dr. Nicole Karrasch, will include complimentary drinks, light fare and, of course, treats for pets. 

The post Is your pup in pain? More pet owners turn to acupuncture for treatment appeared first on WTOP.

24 Feb 20:28

No jail for Va. day care operator where 2 died in fire

by wtopstaff

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — The operator of an unlicensed day care center in Lynchburg where two children were killed in a fire has received a suspended jail sentence.

Media reports say Doris Diggs Lee Thompson pleaded guilty Tuesday to operating the unlicensed day care center. The 55-year-old Lynchburg woman had seven children in her care when the fire started last September in her home.

Suffering fatal injuries in the fire were 21-month-old Kayden Rain Curtis and 9-month-old Dakota Aubrey Penn-Williams. Another child was left in critical condition but survived.

Thompson was sentenced in Lynchburg Circuit Court to 12 months in jail. The jail term was suspended under a plea agreement.

The prosecutor called the deaths tragic and the negotiated plea in the best interests of all parties.

The post No jail for Va. day care operator where 2 died in fire appeared first on WTOP.

24 Feb 18:38

Officials say nesting eagles near Manassas Airport are safe - Inside NoVA

Inside NoVA

Officials say nesting eagles near Manassas Airport are safe
Inside NoVA
For years, Manassas residents and area bird watchers have enjoyed seeing bald eagles nest on a piece of city-owned property near the Manassas airport. Recently, some area residents were alarmed when they saw “for sale” signs pop up on property near ...

24 Feb 19:02

Dish Says Sony’s Streaming Service Will Be Real Substitute For Cable

by Chris Morran

sonyawesomeJust a few weeks ago, Dish launched its Sling TV streaming service which some hailed as a cord-cutter’s dream, but which is honestly more targeted at people who want only the most basic cable TV access without having to deal with cable companies. Dish’s founder (and soon-to-return CEO) recognizes Sling’s limits and says that Sony’s forthcoming streaming service is likely to be the real marketplace disruptor.

In a call with investors earlier this week, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen — who will soon return to the CEO seat of the company he founded after Joe Clayton retires — admitted that because Sony is not currently a player in the pay-TV market, its TV service will be something that consumers could reasonably ditch their cable package for.

“When Sony launches their product, that will really be a replacement [for pay-TV],” he explained, according to “Because Sony isn’t an incumbent of the current environment, I think that will really impact the MVPD [multichannel video programming distributor; basically, cable TV] market.”

“They’re more apt to be disruptive,” said Ergen. “We’re just interested in incremental business.”

The Dish founder clarified that this isn’t to downplay Sling’s importance. In his view, Sling isn’t intended to be a replacement for cable packages but is “part of a strategy to distribute video on a more mobile… wireless basis,” adding “that’s the way the next generation is going to watch television.”

And he may have a good point, as many young consumers have grown up watching programming on-demand on their tablets, computers, and phones, and may not have the same ties to traditional live TV that older generations have.

So a product like Sling would give someone what the ability to bring a bit of live TV with them everywhere without having to buy a separate pay-TV package, but people who want the cable TV experience from someone other than their pay-TV provider may want the Sony service, which is rumored to be more robust and more expensive than Sling.

As always, much of this is speculation. Until Sony actually goes live with their service, we won’t know.

24 Feb 17:44

Girl Scouts Cookie Oven Is A Real Thing You Can Use To Stuff Your Face With Homemade Thin Mints

by Mary Beth Quirk

(Wicked Cool Toys)

(Wicked Cool Toys)

For many, Girl Scout cookie time is the most magical time of the year — the boxes come a’tumbling off the cookie wagon, bringing mouthfuls of sugary joy for as long as they last in the hands of greedy customers, and all is well… at least for a little while. But what if you could make your own Girl Scout cookies at home, no matter the season?

Bring on the calories, because that’s exactly what is now possible with a new Girl Scouts cookie oven. No, it doesn’t bake Girl Scouts, it bakes some of the trademarked goodies you usually have to get through your local scout/purveyor.

According to Toymaker Wicked Cool Toys in a press release (PDF), the new oven is safe for kids to use as well as adults. Because let’s face it, there are going to be plenty of adults into this thing.

“The Girl Scouts Cookie Oven lets aspiring bakers experience the hands on fun of making their own Girl Scouts cookies,” the company says. “A real working oven, it comes complete with tolls and mixes that allow girls to make cookies that look and taste just like the real thing.”

The starter kit comes with a Thin Mints cookie mix and a few tools, with additional mixes available for the Peanut Butter Sandwich, Trefoils, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Coconut Caramel, Chocolate Chip, Sugar and Oatmeal from $6.99 to $14.99 for deluxe refill packs. Sure, your cookies might

There’s no telling whether or not these will taste exactly like your favorites — and let’s face it, no one wants to put the Girl Scouts totally out of business. But it’ll probably do in a pinch, otherwise known as the moment you can’t stand one more minute of the day without a Thin Mint in your mouth.

The oven will hit shelves at toy stores this fall and will set cookie lovers back $59.99 for the chance at DIY cookie joy.

24 Feb 14:24

Recreational Marijuana Is Now Legal In Alaska — With Some Restrictions

by Mary Beth Quirk

Alaska became the third state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana as of today — but only if you can figure out a way to get your hands on some without actually buying it from someone else. Smoking, growing and owning marijuana is all cool under the new law, but handing over money for the stuff or smoking it in public places is still illegal.

While pot is still outlawed by the federal government, anyone over the age of 21 in Alaska can own up to an ounce of marijuana and can grow up to six plants (three can be flowering), reports Reuters.

If you can figure out a private exchange without money getting involved, that’s legal too.

Alaskan officials and the state’s regulatory board still have some things to figure out under the law, including a definition of public places where toking isn’t allowed. State regulators will have to have final rules drawn up to address taxation and marijuana sales by Nov. 24, with applications for business licenses not getting accepted for another year.

In the meantime, the police have been issuing information on how they’ll enforce the new law, which narrowly passed the state legislature in November.

“Ultimately the concern of the police department is the safety and health of our public,” Anchorage police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said. “We want to make sure that people are not operating their vehicle impaired or under the influence of marijuana.”

Oregon will be next, after voters approved a similar measure, though residents will have to wait for July before the drug becomes legal.

Alaska allows recreational marijuana as campaign spreads [Reuters]

23 Feb 20:18

FTC: No Scientific Proof That Mosquito Shield Bands Actually Work

by Laura Northrup

k2-_8f643c17-8fa7-4ca3-a907-44c2301139cb.v1Mint oil smells very nice, but the marketing materials for Viatek’s Mosquito Shield Bands claimed that the plant substance can do more than perfume the air. Their plastic bands were supposed to use the oil to create a 5-foot mosquito-free zone around the wearer. Do they work? No, the Federal Trade Commission says. Not really.

You can still find the bands for sale at Walmart or Home Depot, where a ten-pack will set you back twenty bucks or more. The claim is that a fresh band can keep mosquitoes away for as long as 5 days straight. Cool idea, but the FTC has charged the company with making deceptive and unsubstantiated claims about the bands, selling them as a pest control solution without actual evidence that they work. “Defendants do not possess, and did not possess at the time they made the representations, competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate” what they claimed in advertisements the bands were able to do, the FTC wrote in its complaint.

Back in 2003, a predecessor company of Vivitek was found to have marketed different pest control device by making inaccurate claims in its advertising, and the company is charged with violating that order as well.

Charging a company with making outlandish ad claims is just the first step: the case will go through the federal courts. The FTC filed its charges at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

FTC Charges Company, Owner with Deceptively Marketing Mosquito Repellent Wristbands [FTC]

23 Feb 19:39

Target Reduces Free Shipping Requirement To $25, Now Cheaper Than Walmart & Amazon

by Ashlee Kieler

Consumers no longer have to drop $50 to qualify for free shipping on In an attempt to stay competitive with other online retailers, the big box store reduced the minimum requirements for free shipping to $25.

TechCrunch reports that Target’s reduction now makes the retailer’s free shipping requirement $10 less than it is on Amazon and $25 less than Walmart.

Target says that the changes were made after customers responded well to the retailer’s free shipping special during the 2014 holiday season. That special resulted in an estimated 40% sales increase during the fourth quarter of the year.

The price reduction is just the latest shipping change for Target.

Last year, the company announced it would open two fulfillment centers in Tennessee and Pennsylvania in order to accommodate growing online sales.

According to Target, nearly two-thirds of orders placed online already quality for free shipping. The company also claims that 60% of items on Target’s website are less than $25.

TechCrunch reports that Target’s reduced free shipping minimum could spur competitors to also lower their costs.

Currently, Walmart requires orders to be $50 or more in order for customers to qualify for free six- to eight-day shipping.

Amazon, which offers free shipping on millions of products to Prime members, requires other customers to make orders of $35 or more in order to qualify for free shipping.

The e-tailer did make changes to its shipping requirements earlier this year that allows Amazon Seller-fulfilled items with free shipping to be available for free Super Saver shipping. The move made nearly 3 million additional items eligible for free shipping. Undercuts Amazon And Walmart With New Free Shipping Minimums [TechCrunch]

23 Feb 18:09

West Coast Port Workers Have Contract, Backlog Will Take 2 Months To Clear

by Laura Northrup

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association have come to an agreement over a new five-year contract for port workers. This ends their nine-month dispute and a slowdown of traffic at ports that has affected everyone from auto workers in Ohio to fast food fans in Venezuela. The U.S. Secretary of Labor stepped in to help the two sides come to an agreement, and now everyone is working hard to clear the backlog.

A little less than half of all imports that come to the United States by sea enter the country through ports affected by this dispute, including the super-busy ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Now it’s like shipping companies have turned on a “firehose,” the CEO of the port of Long Beach told Bloomberg Business. Yet it will still take a while to put out the fire: he told CNBC that it will take about two months to catch up with the backlog, since unloading slowed since fall 2014.

There are more jobs than usual posted in union halls, and presumably plenty of overtime to go around as all parties try to clear the backlog. Ships full of toys and car parts are quite literally lined up off the coast.

West Coast Ports Face Several Months’ Backlog [Wall Street Journal]

24 Feb 19:40

Follow Up: Dogs Sickened By Caffeine Pills in N. Arlington

by wtopstaff

NoDoz caffeine pill (image via Wikimedia Comons)Two dogs were hospitalized last month after eating sausages left on the ground on N. Columbus Street near Lee Highway. The Animal League of Arlington now knows what made them sick: caffeine pills inserted into the sausages.

AWLA spokeswoman Kerry McKeel said in an email this afternoon that the two dogs displayed “restlessness, accelerated heart rate and distended abdomens” when brought to local veterinary hospitals, but were released the next day without lingering side effects.

After conducting a toxicology report the raw sausage AWLA recovered on the sidewalk of the 2200 block of N. Columbus Street, the organization determined caffeine pills were the cause of the dogs’ health issues.

It remains unclear whether the dogs were intentionally or accidentally poisoned, but if it’s found that the person who left the sausages did so intentionally, he or she could face up to a year of jail time for animal cruelty, McKeel said.

McKeel said last month dog owners should “be cautious when walking their dog and to be cognizant of anything they’re eating.”

Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to call AWLA at 703-931-9241.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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24 Feb 11:40

Virginia game, fisheries department recruiting officers

by wtopstaff

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is recruiting up to three dozen conservation police officers.

Conservation police officers have full police authority. They primarily enforce laws governing fishing, wildlife and boating laws. They patrol areas around the state using off-road vehicles, mountain bikes and a variety of watercraft.

Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent and be at least 21 years old by the date of hire. A strong interest in hunting, fishing and boating are a plus.

Applications will be accepted until March 13.

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24 Feb 08:01

Barry Manilow farewell tour hits Verizon Center

by Jason Fraley
WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Barry Manilow

Jason Fraley | February 23, 2015 11:52 am

WASHINGTON — He sang about the Copa … Copacabana.

But soon, Barry Manilow is at Verizon … Verizon Center. Manilow’s “One Last Time” farewell tour stops here March 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $19.75 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his smash hit “Mandy” in 1975.

WTOP caught up with Manilow to discuss his long career.

“They’ve become more than just pop ditties,” Manilow says. “When I hit ‘Mandy’ or ‘Could it Be Magic’ or ‘I Write the Songs’ or ‘Copacabana,’ for me, it becomes memories about this young guy who didn’t know what was about to happen to him.”

Manilow estimates he’s played in D.C. about 25 times, including a 1975 show at The Cellar Door, where  he came out for a sound check but was stunned to find no piano. He had to cancel the show.

On another occasion, he played at the MCI Center — now the Verizon Center — which had just opened. Unfortunately, there were only two restrooms in the entire arena.

“They were crossing their legs for my entire show,” he jokes.

Now, Manilow is excited to be coming back to the nation’s capital, though he thinks music has changed over the years, shifting to more dance-oriented records.

“I do what they call music and lyrics; isn’t that odd?” Manilow jokes. “I can’t get enough of ‘Uptown Funk.’ It’s unbelievable. But I do miss a song that’s got a beautifully written lyric and a beautifully written melody. It seems to have taken a nosedive. I guess people call it old-fashioned, but to me, I like feeling something. … Not just music that makes me tap my toes. I do miss that kind of songwriting.”

Listen to our full interview with Barry Manilow below:

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Barry Manilow

Jason Fraley | February 23, 2015 11:52 am

The post Barry Manilow farewell tour hits Verizon Center appeared first on WTOP.

23 Feb 15:07

Pet of the Week: Little Gal

by Rachel Nania

WASHINGTON — Little Gal is a ray of sunshine on a cold, grey day. This darling 3-year-old, wire-haired terrier mix is everything you could want in a canine companion: cheerful, playful, and affectionate.

She loves toys and can keep herself entertained by tossing them around. Then, she’ll climb in your lap for a good cuddle session and give you lots of canine kisses.

Because Little Gal has been treated for heartworms, her activity should be limited for a while; then, once she’s been given the veterinary “green light,” she can run around to her heart’s content.

If you’re looking for a loveable pint-size pup, stop by the Washington Animal Rescue League and visit with Little Gal.

About WARL: Founded in 1914, the Washington Animal Rescue League is the oldest animal shelter in Washington D.C. Its mission includes rescuing, rehabilitating and finding homes for animals who have no where else to go. The League also supports animals through affordable veterinary care, community outreach and education. Learn more about the Washington Animal Rescue League at

If you are thinking of adding a furry friend to your family, check out these other great shelters in the area.


Humane Society of Charles County

(301) 645-8181

71 Industrial Park Dr. PO Box 1015 Waldorf, Md. 20604

Humane Society of Charles County offers a low cost spay/neuter program to the public. Please call or visit our website for more information. The shelter is also looking for more foster parents to help its animals.

Prince George’s County Humane Society
(301) 262-5625
P.O. Box 925 Bowie, Md. 20718

Prince George’s County Humane Society is also looking for foster parents. For more information, contact the organization.

PAW – Partnership for Animal Welfare
(301) 572-4729
P.O. Box 1074 Greenbelt, Md. 20768

Paws Animal Kingdom
(301) 920-2318
P.O. Box 11531 Takoma Park, Md. 20912

Montgomery County Humane Society
(240) 773-5960
14645 Rothgeb Dr. Rockville, Md. 20850

The Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County
(301) 740-2511
12 Park Ave. Gaithersburg, Md. 20877


Washington Humane Society
(202) 576-6664
1201 New York Ave. NE 20002

ASAP – Alliance for Stray Animals and People
(202) 331-1330
P.O. Box 65438 Washington, D.C. 20035-5438

Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue
(202) 575-2210
Approved applicants may attend monthly adoption meets that are usually held at the house of a volunteer in either Northern Virginia or Southern Maryland.

Lucky Dog Animal Rescue
(202) 741-5428
Lucky Dog is a foster home organization and does not run a dedicated housing facility.

Northern Virginia

A Forever Home
(703) 961-8690
A Forever-Home is a non-profit dog rescue group that operates in the Northern Virginia/Washington Metropolitan area.

Lab Rescue of L.R.C.P.
(301) 299-6756
Lab Rescue of the LRCP is a volunteer driven, non-profit organization that rescues, fosters and places homeless, abused, and/or abandoned Labrador Retrievers.

FOHA – Friends of Homeless Animals
(703) 385-0224
All visitors must speak to a Friends representative prior to receiving directions to their shelter location.

SPCA of Northern Virginia
P.O. Box 100220 Arlington, Va. 22210-3220

Animal Welfare League of Alexandria
(703) 746-4774
4101 Eisenhower Ave. Alexandria, Va. 22304

Animal Welfare League of Arlington
(703) 931-9241
2650 S. Arlington Mill Dr. Arlington, Va.

Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation
(703) 295-3647
P.O. Box 223953 Chantilly, Va. 20153

HART – Homeless Animal Rescue Team
(703) 691-HART
P.O. Box 7261 Fairfax Station, Va. 22039-7261

King Street Cats Rescue and Adoption
(703) 231-7199
25 Dove St. Alexandria, Va. 22314

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

The post Pet of the Week: Little Gal appeared first on WTOP.

23 Feb 12:08

DC’s panda cub Bao Bao turns 18 months old, nears milestone

by wtopstaff

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Zoo’s panda cub Bao Bao (bow-bow) turned 18 months old Monday and neared a major milestone.

Eighteen months is the age panda cubs stop nursing and start living separately from their mothers.

The zoo says Bao Bao began the weaning process naturally a few months ago, and is eating significantly more bamboo and other solid foods. Bao Bao spends about six hours each day apart from her mother, Mei Xiang (may-SHONG’). She also eats separately from her mother.

The zoo’s panda team expects the weaning process will be finished in early March, and that Bao Bao can begin living on her own.

Bao Bao was born Aug. 23, 2013 at The National Zoo. She’s only the second panda born at the zoo to survive to her first birthday.

The post DC’s panda cub Bao Bao turns 18 months old, nears milestone appeared first on WTOP.

23 Feb 11:03

Va. wildlife center to release bald eagle on Tuesday

by wtopstaff

WAYNESBORO, Va. (AP) — A bald eagle is returning to the wild after undergoing rehabilitation at the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

The center says the young adult eagle will be released on Tuesday at Chippokes Plantation State Park in Surry County. It will be the center’s first bald eagle release of the year.

A group of hunters found the eagle down in woods in Surry County on Dec. 20, 2014. The center says eagle had two large puncture wounds on its right shoulder and chest. The wounds are consistent with a fight with another eagle.

Last year, a record 11 bald eagles were released by the center.

The post Va. wildlife center to release bald eagle on Tuesday appeared first on WTOP.

23 Feb 10:22

Herring touts nation’s first Animal Law Unit

by wtopstaff

WASHINGTON — Virginia’s attorney general has received an award for the commonwealth’s efforts to curb animal abuse, and he’s using the occasion to draw attention to a new unit he created for the purpose.

The office of Attorney General Mark Herring received the Humane Law Enforcement Award for its role in shutting down and successfully prosecuting a cockfighting ring in Wise County, Virginia, and Kentucky last year.

Last month, Herring’s office says, he announced the creation of the nation’s first Animal Law Unit, to assist local and state law enforcement with efforts to combat animal abuse and fighting rings.

“Our office doesn’t have any additional authority to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty and animal crimes,” Herring says.

But it does train law enforcement and local animal cruelty agents across the state, and guide them in how to go after animal-abuse cases.

“We’re going to make sure that prosecutors and law enforcement around the state know that we’re here to assist,” Herring says.

WTOP’s Kathy Stewart contributed to this report.

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23 Feb 17:10

CJ Finz brings southern-style seafood to Downtown Manassas -

CJ Finz brings southern-style seafood to Downtown Manassas
Chris Sellers and John Kibben opened their first restaurant, C.J. Finz Raw Bar & Grille in Downtown Manassas at 9413 West Street, on February 11, offering residents a taste of Southern-style seafood. According to Sellers, their inspiration for the ...

22 Feb 22:00

How I upgraded my garden’s ugly drip system with a sexy OpenSprinkler

by Cyrus Farivar

After a few hours of work alongside an electrical engineering buddy this week, my home garden drip system became powered by a Raspberry Pi. I can control the entire thing locally from my iPhone and, to be frank, it’s pretty flippin’ cool.

For some background, I’m a very lazy gardener. When my wife and I bought our house in 2012, our horticultural mission was Hippocratic (do no harm). In other words, we wanted—at the very least—to not kill the plants we inherited from the previous owners. So while some people relax when they do weeding or other green thumb-related activities, we find it tedious and uninspiring. I’m the guy who jumped at the chance to review the Estonian-made Click and Grow.

But our house came with a pre-installed drip system (if keeping score at home, it's an Irritrol RD-600). It has a crazy-looking dial interface, and after consulting with friends, I decided it was best to just leave it alone. If the plants didn’t die, then that meant everything was working properly. Such was life for our first 18 months, until I discovered OpenSprinkler.

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