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27 Apr 15:17

Pilgrim’s Pride Recall: 4.5M Pounds Of Chicken Products May Contain Plastic, Wood, Rubber, Metal

by Mary Beth Quirk

pilgrimsIn yet another example of unexpectedly crunchy, contaminated food, Pilgrim’s Pride is busy getting the news out about a recall of more than four million pounds of pre-cooked poultry products that could contain unwanted additions like plastic, wood, rubber, or metal bits.

The company is pulling 4,568,080 pounds of fully cooked chicken products over the concern that they could contain extraneous, inedible materials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced.

The products were sold in stores under the Gold Kist Farms, Pierce, and Sweet Georgia brands, and were produced on various dates between Aug. 21, 2014 and March 1, 2016.

And while there’s a very long list of products involved in the recall, as one might expect with more than four million pounds of products getting yanked, unless you’re in the food service industry and purchasing 30- or 20-pound boxes of nuggets, you probably don’t have these products at home — Pilgrim’s shipped the products to grocery stores and institutions like schools. If you do find one of these products in your home, throw it out or return it to the point of purchase.

The company learned about the problem after customers complained about finding plastic in the nuggets, FSIS says, but there haven’t been any confirmed reports of health problems related to the chicken products thus far.

Click here for a full list of the products included in the recall.

Pilgrim’s Pride is far from the first food company to issue a recall over chicken with an extra, awful crunch: Perdue and Tyson Foods have both had their share of contaminated chicken nuggets in the recent past.

27 Apr 15:25

At least 52 People Hospitalized, 13 Dead In California After Overdosing On Counterfeit Painkiller

by Chris Morran

Norco is a brand name for a prescription opioid painkiller that combines acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Unscrupulous jerks are also selling fake Norco that contains the powerful opioid fentanyl, resulting in dozens of hospitalizations and and least 13 deaths from overdoses in California, and that’s only in the last few weeks.

Late last week, the Sacramento County Division of Public Health released an update on fentanyl-related overdoses in the area, confirming that 52 people had been hospitalized, including 12 deaths since late March.

An April 20 report from officials in neighboring Yolo County put the total at 53 hospitalizations and 13 deaths, and advises anyone in the region to not take any prescription pill they didn’t receive from a pharmacist or directly from their physician — not out of legal concerns, but so you don’t die.

The Associated Press is reporting the current total of fentanyl-related deaths in the region as 14.

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the fake Norco is spreading west into the San Francisco Bay Area, where hospitals have treated at least seven patients who unwittingly took fentanyl.

Fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths have become a growing problem nationwide, and the CDC says the drug is responsible for the highest rise in death rates in recent years. The drug — which can cause significant central nervous system and respiratory depression — is increasingly being added to heroin, resulting in overdose and death.

“The distribution of counterfeit tablets represents a major public health threat given the potentially lethal nature of the tablets,” writes the CDC. “Health care providers should be aware of this and other concurrent outbreaks and notify local poison centers and health departments of suspected cases. Collaborative efforts among public health, medical, and law enforcement officials are essential for a rapid and effective response.”

27 Apr 16:47

Chipotle To Expand Chorizo, Consider Loyalty Program To Bring In New And ‘Lapsed’ Customers

by Laura Northrup

Last year, Chipotle’s food-safety crisis led the burrito eatery’s business to plummet, with same-store sales plunging as low as 37% in December 2015. In 2016, though, there have been no reported outbreaks, and the company has been mailing and texting out coupons to draw old and new customers. The massive giveaways of food are now over, and the chain is moving on to new promotional methods, including buy one, get one free entrées and potentially a loyalty program.

Executives shared this information during the company’s quarterly earnings call, and they were the side helping to some dismal numbers. Customers have been returning to Chipotle, and a recent survey performed by stock analysts showed that customers who used the freebie coupons were more likely to return to the restaurant more often for meals that weren’t free. The company gave away a total of six million free burritos and burrito bowls to customers who texted in or received coupons in the mail. One million more customers cashed in coupons for free chips and guacamole or salsa.

Comparable restaurant sales weren’t as bad as they were during the worst of the food safety crisis, but they still weren’t great. Comparable restaurant sales fell 29.7%, but comparable restaurant transactions were only down 21.1%, since “transactions” also includes customers who were just there to cash in their freebies.

The company also plans to roll back some of the changes it made to help with food safety. Customers didn’t react well to lettuce that was pre-shredded in a central kitchen, so restaurants have returned to shredding lettuce and slicing bell peppers in-house.

Blanching fresh vegetables (dipping them in boiling water to sanitize them, then immediately into cold water) has been a helpful food safety precaution, and customers are actually complaining less about the steak now that it’s pre-cooked before being grilled.

The chain kept expanding, too, opening 58 new restaurants in the first three months of the year. They plan to open as many as 235 restaurants in calendar year 2016.

To keep customers coming back more often, the company plans what it calls a “limited-time frequency program” this summer, rewarding customers for stopping by often, and perhaps bringing back what the executives have come to call “lapsed” customers who haven’t been back recently.

The food safety crisis delayed expansion of chorizo, a chicken-pork spiced sausage that has been tested in Kansas City but hadn’t rolled out elsewhere. Expect to see chorizo elsewhere soon, though the executives didn’t specify where.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. Announces First Quarter 2016 Results [More Numbers]

28 Apr 12:00

5 Things We Learned About The $300 Billion Painkiller Industry

by Ashlee Kieler

Relieving pain isn’t a simple issue of taking a pill and feeling better. It’s a complicated cornucopia of treatments ranging from over-the-counter remedies to holistic healing to prescription medications, with some $300 billion a year spent each year on painkillers in the U.S. alone.

Treating pain is also risky business, with studies showing that consumers often aren’t aware of what’s in the over-the-counter medications they take, resulting in deaths from something as seemingly innocuous as kids-formula acetaminophen.

At the same time, there is growing concern about the overuse of prescription painkillers, with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently urging doctors to give some thought to how generous they are with their prescription pad, saying that the overprescription of opioids is a “key driver of America’s drug-overdose epidemic.”

In the current issue of Consumer Reports, our colleagues take an in-depth look at the current state of painkiller use and abuse. Here are just some of the key takeaways:

1.) Prescription painkiller overuse and abuse is rampant: Every day, more than 1,000 Americans are treated in emergency rooms for misusing opioid painkillers like Percocet and Vicodin.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 14,000 Americans died of overdoses involving prescription opioids in 2014 alone.

2.) Addictive drugs can hijack your brain: Because our brains are hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid danger, CR reports that patients using painkillers are more susceptible to becoming hooked on the drugs.

As many as one-in-four people taking a prescribed opioid for several months or longer struggles with addiction, according to the CDC.

3.) The federal government is finally taking notice: In March, the CDC issued its first-ever guidelines to physicians for prescribing opioids for chronic pain. The advisory suggests doctors consider non-drug and non-opioid medications for these patients, before resorting to opioids.

When opioids are the only option, the CDC recommends doctors only prescribe the lowest effective dose possible.

Additionally, the Food & Drug Administration has created an initiative aimed at curbing inappropriate prescriptions of the drugs. The plan includes changes to the regulation and approval of opioid drugs, along with new, more apparent warning labels.

4.) Over-the-counter pain medication has its own problems: According to CR, about 17 million Americans take either one aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen each day for pain relief. While these medications may not contain opioids, they continue to pose threats to one’s health.

Taking too much or taking them too often can cause bleeding in the intestines, kidney failure, heart attacks, stomach ulcers, and stroke. Aspirin may cause stomach bleeding even at low doses.

Medications like Advil and Aleve can actually trigger headaches if you take them more than a few times in a week.

5.) A cool sensation is not the same thing as cooling: There are plenty of over-the-counter creams and patches that, when applied, result in a warming or cooling sensation. But CR says it’s just the result of inflammation from either capsicum (used in warming products) or menthol (used in cooling treatments). It’s a distraction from your pain, but is it actually doing anything?

“There’s little evidence they actually address the underlying pain,” explains CR, “though some people still might find relief. This isn’t the same as using ice, which can reduce inflammation.”

28 Apr 13:22

Owner Of Radisson Hotel Chain Purchased By Chinese Conglomerate

by Ashlee Kieler

Just weeks after China’a Anbang Insurance Group bowed out of its bid for the Starwood Hotel brand, another Chinese hotel group has gobbled up a different group: Carlson Hotels, the operator of the Radisson chain. 

Carlson announced Wednesday that it had finalized a deal to sell itself to HNA Group, a division of HNA Group Co.

Under the agreement, for which a purchase price was not disclosed, the companies say they will be able to more rapidly expand their respective chains.

“We look forward to working within HNA Tourism Group, a greatly respected global enterprise, in what will be an exciting new chapter in the history of Carlson Hotels,” David P. Berg, Carlson Hospitality Group chief executive officer, said in a statement. “As part of HNA Tourism Group, Carlson Hotels will have an opportunity to advance our commitment to providing guests with hospitality world-wide.”

Carlson currently operates 1,400 hotels in 115 countries and employs about 90,000 people.

The Carlson deal, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to close in the second half of 2016.

28 Apr 13:49

Comcast Officially Acquires DreamWorks For $3.8B

by Kate Cox

The rumors are true: Comcast’s media empire is getting a new addition in the animation department.

Comcast is, of course, not just a cable and telecom behemoth; they are also NBCUniversal, film and TV giant. And now Universal is picking up DreamWorks Animation for even more than $3 billion the rumor mill guessed earlier this week.

The move brings family-friendly franchises like Shrek, Madagascar, and How To Train Your Dragon under the NBCU umbrella, as well as classics like Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer… and positions Universal Studios, with all its subsidiaries, in prime position to compete with Disney/Pixar for those lucrative movie and merch dollars.

“DreamWorks Animation is a great addition to NBCUniversal,” Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, said in a statement. “[DreamWorks has] created a dynamic film brand and a deep library of intellectual property.”

And really, it is all about that back-bench and licensing: “DreamWorks will help us grow our film, television, theme parks and consumer products businesses for years to come,” Burke said.

After the merger is completed, pending regulatory review, DreamWorks co-founder and CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg will transition to chairman of DreamWorks New Media — which we mention because it is made up of two companies called NOVA and AwesomenessTV, which is apparently a real thing and not an idea cooked up by a middle-schooler.

28 Apr 15:25

Thieves Ram SUV Into Paris Chanel Store, Make Off With Designer Handbags

by Mary Beth Quirk

The lure of luxury goods can be very strong, but thieves in Paris took that desire for designer products to an extreme, police say, using a sports utility vehicle to ram their way into a Chanel boutique, ransacking the store and fleeing on scooters with a “quite significant” haul.

Police say the burglars slammed into metal shutter protecting the front of the store with a stolen Jeep Cherokee early Thursday morning, The Wall Street Journal reports, at a time when police patrols in the city are typically ending their night shift and returning to their stations.

After raiding the store and grabbing a bunch of bags, the robbers set fire to the vehicle in an effort to get rid of evidence, and fled on scooters, police said. It’s unclear how many people were involved or the value of the stolen goods, with police noting that the haul was “quite significant.”

“These criminals generally dump the products on black markets at a fraction of their official price,” a police officer said.

Burglars Ransack Chanel Boutique in Paris [The Wall Street Journal]

28 Apr 18:44

Language Creation Society: Paramount Does Not Own Klingon Language

by Chris Morran

As we reported earlier this month, Paramount Pictures is trying to block a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film based, in part, on the studio’s claim that it actually owns the copyright on the Klingon language. Now the Language Creation Society has chimed in on the case, making the argument that Paramount can’t claim ownership on a fictional language.

While Klingons have been part of the Star Trek universe since the original TV series, the actual Klingon language was not created until 1984 for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, produced by Paramount.

“Given that Paramount Pictures commissioned the creation of some of the language, it is understandable that Paramount might feel some sense of ownership over the creation,” writes the LCS in a brief [PDFKlingonamici] filed yesterday with the federal court hearing the case. But, feeling ownership and having ownership are not the same thing.”

While Paramount has long asserted its ownership over the Klingon language, and official books published by groups like the Klingon Language Institute, have licensed the language from the studio, this is believed to be the first time Paramount has made a claim to ownership in a legal proceeding.

In its brief, the LCS contends that Klingon is no longer used solely within the context of a fictional universe, noting that Microsoft’s Bing search engine, allows users to translate text to and from Klingon.

“The popular television show The Big Bang Theory featured Klingon dialogue at several points, with one episode even featuring a game of Klingon Boggle,” adds the LCS. “Similarly, Klingon was substituted for Hebrew as a gag in the hit television show Frasier. A Swedish couple spoke their marriage vows in Klingon during a traditional Klingon wedding ceremony. Even foreign governments have seen fit to provide official statements in Klingon.”

In addition to arguing that a movie studio can not lay claim to an entire language known by millions of people throughout the world, the brief points out that Paramount cites “no authority supporting their assertion that Klingon (or any language) can be copyrighted.”

While you can try to trademark a single word or short phrase, U.S. copyright law, the LCS say it “does not give the copyright holder the right to exclude others from making use of the ideas or concepts themselves.”

The LCS says that works written in Klingon — or any other constructed language (or “conlanguage”) — are deserving of copyright protection. So the dialog in a Star Trek script would be covered, or a story written in Klingon, but that doesn’t mean the entire language can be copyrighted.

“Allowing copyright claims to a language would create a monopoly on use extending far beyond what is needed to protect the original work or to claim credit for the language’s creation,” writes the group in a blog post from today. “The potential threat of a lawsuit for merely using a conlang, or creating new works to make it more accessible, has a chilling effect; it makes conlangers, poets, authors, educators, and others less likely to build on and enjoy each others’ work, to the detriment of conlanging in general.”

27 Apr 19:50

Girls Scouts Want To Know How Pallets Of Girl Scout Cookies Ended Up At Discount Stores

by Chris Morran

The only place you’re supposed to be able to get Girl Scout cookies is from the scouts, so how did a bunch of discount stores in South Carolina end up selling these treats at upwards of 90% off?

WSPA-TV in Spartanburg, SC, recently looked into this mystery and found that the stores had purchased them from a wholesaler, who had apparently gotten the cookies from an affiliated baker as a donation after the conclusion of the most recent Scouts sales season.

The Scouts tell WSPA that the cookies were donated in “good faith and consistent with past practices to a domestic hunger-relief charity,” not with the intention of them then being resold to at a discount retailer.

Sales of the coveted cookies are generally restricted to the troops, who are expected to learn lessons of responsibility and leadership through the process. Additionally, heavily discounted offseason sales of the cookies may make the treats less attractive when the season rolls around again.

“If the public thinks that they can buy discounted cookies after our cookie sale is over, then it could harm the programs that are available to girls,” explains one regional Scouts exec.

The store chain that sold the cookies is apparently removing the product from shelves, though the owner maintains that he did nothing wrong.

“It is not uncommon for manufacturers to get rid of any overage or overstocked items at the end of a season. This is how stores like ours survive, by purchasing these items at a drastically reduced rate and selling them to the consumers at a discount,” writes the owner, who says “this circumstance is not different from many others where we provide items at prices so much lower than all of our competition that it is mind boggling to some.”

25 Apr 19:49

Dog euthanized after being found in trash bag in Nokesville - Inside NoVA


Inside NoVA

Dog euthanized after being found in trash bag in Nokesville
Inside NoVA
Animal control officers released this stock photo of a Chihuahua/Pomeranian-mix. The dog found injured in Nokesville likely looked like this dog when it was healthy. Posted: Monday, April 25, 2016 2:24 pm | Updated: 3:41 pm, Mon Apr 25, 2016.

and more »
26 Apr 23:12

Fairfax abortion clinic's license suspended by Virginia health department - Washington Post


Fairfax abortion clinic's license suspended by Virginia health department
Washington Post
RICHMOND — Virginia has temporarily suspended the license of a Fairfax abortion clinic whose owner has a decades-long record of violations and criminal charges stemming from substandard care in multiple states. The state Department of Health found 26 ...

and more »
27 Apr 14:52

Louisiana flare, fun coming back to Manassas for 'Cajun Occasion 2' - PotomacLocal.com


Louisiana flare, fun coming back to Manassas for 'Cajun Occasion 2'
PotomacLocal.com
The celebration — Okra's Cajun Occasion 2 — invites residents to the lawn of the Manassas Museum where they can be with family and friends, listen to live music, and treat themselves to a bounty of Louisiana fare. “This is the kind of thing where ...

27 Apr 17:19

Prince William County community calendar, April 28-May 4, 2016 - Washington Post


Washington Post

Prince William County community calendar, April 28-May 4, 2016
Washington Post
Manassas farmers market Thursday 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Loy E. Harris Pavilion, 9201 Center St., and Saturday 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Parking Lot B, West Street (next to the train station visitors center), Manassas. 703-361-6599. visitmanassas.org. Civil War talk ...
Yard Sale Rules in the Manassas AreaPatch.com

all 5 news articles »
25 Apr 14:01

15 Types Of Frozen Vegetables Sold At Costco, Meijer Recalled Over Listeria Concerns

by Ashlee Kieler

For the second time this month packages of frozen vegetables sold at national retailers has been recalled for possible listeria contamination. CRF Frozen Foods issued a recall of fifteen frozen vegetable products sold at Costco and Meijer stores over the weekend. 

According to a notice posted with the Food and Drug Administration, the recall covers certain True Goodness by Meijer, Wellsley Farms Organic, Organic By Nature, ad Schwan’s frozen vegetables.

Washington-based CRF Frozen Foods says it is recalling the products as a precaution after determining they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. So far, no illnesses have been reported as a result of eating the vegetables.

The products were sold between Sept. 13, 2015 and Marc 16 in 35 states and Canada. Consumers are urged to take the packages back to the store where they were purchased for a refund or discard them.

Affected products can be identified by the UPC and Use By Date on the back of the plastic package:

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 8.31.23 AM

25 Apr 14:10

Burger King Will Sell Chicken Fries In Ring Form

by Laura Northrup

Have you ordered Burger King’s chicken fries and wished that they could be rounder? No, neither has anyone else, but the fast food chain is putting Chicken Fries Rings on the menu anyway as a limited-time item and a new variation on their Chicken Fries franchise. There have been flavor variations, including Fiery, Jalapeno, and Buffalo fries, but this marks the chain’s first variation on shape in the Chicken Fries line.

Burger_King_Chicken_Fries_Rings

The suggested price for chicken rings will be $2.89 for six pieces. IF you want to obey your chicken craving at a much lower price, Burger King is also reviving its 10 nuggets for $1.49 deal, perhaps reviving another round of the Nugget Wars with McDonald’s.

Burger King didn’t announce an end date for the either the discount nugget deal or for the run of Chicken Fries, but the latter will most likely end when the run out, or be extended indefinitely if they build the same kind of loyal following that the original Chicken Fries did.

At least with these fried rings, the chain doesn’t have a phrase it’s weirdly enamored with, like when they launched onion rings in 1974 by repeating the phrase “French fryin’ legion” in print advertisements, trying to make it a thing. It did not become a thing.

(Paxton Holley)

(via BurgerBusiness)

25 Apr 15:25

Trademark Office Takes Dispute Over “Scandalous” Trademarks To Supreme Court

by Chris Morran

While the law prohibits the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from registering “immoral, deceptive, or scandalous” or disparaging trademarks, a federal appeals court recently ruled that this law is too restrictive and unconstitutional. Now the USPTO is asking the nation’s highest court to chime in on an issue that could impact countless rejected or cancelled trademarks, including that of the Washington Redskins.

This specific case involves the trademark for rock band The Slants. All members of the Oregon-based group are Asian-American and they are fully aware that their band name is also used as a pejorative. In fact, the band argues that the name was chosen, in part, to offer a multilayered play on race, culture, and music.

When the band tried to trademark the “Slants” name with the USPTO, the application was rejected because of the Lanham Act’s prohibition on registering “immoral, deceptive, or scandalous” marks, along with any that may “disparage… persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.”

Because rejecting or canceling a trademark application doesn’t prevent the applicant from using that mark — it just means there are no protections against someone else using the same name — courts had previously held that the Lanham Act was not overly restrictive of the First Amendment right to free expression.

But in Dec. 2015, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 70-year-old law was indeed an overreaching form of content-restriction on the part of the government. That, by deeming something offensive or disparaging — and thus unable to be trademarked — the government is expressing its disapproval of a name or term.

“When the government discriminates against speech because it disapproves of the message conveyed by the speech, it discriminates on the basis of viewpoint,” read the majority opinion in that case. “The legal significance of viewpoint discrimination is the same whether the government disapproves of the message or claims that some part of the populace will disapprove of the message.”

Last week, the USPTO petitioned [PDF] the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming that the Lanham Act’s disparagement provision “does not prohibit any speech, proscribe any conduct, or restrict the use of any trademark. Nor does it restrict a mark owner’s common-law trademark protections.”

Instead, contends the USPTO, the law merely directs the Trademark Office to deny the benefits of registration to such marks.

“The court of appeals disregarded this Court’s teaching that, when Congress does not restrict private speech or conduct, but simply offers federal benefits on terms that encourage private activity consonant with legislative policy, it has significant latitude to consider the content of speech in defining the terms on which the benefits will be provided,” explains the petition.

The Supremes are not obligated to take up this matter. If they choose to deny the petition, it means the appeals court ruling stands, giving other holders of canceled trademarks the opportunity to have their applications reconsidered.

Perhaps the most well-known of these disputes involves the Washington Redskins. The NFL team, which had successfully weathered previous attempts to have its trademark — viewed by many as offensive to Native Americans — canceled, but in 2014 the USPTO decided that the mark was in violation of the Lanham Act. That decision was upheld in 2015 by a U.S. District Court judge.

As mentioned above, the cancelation of the team’s trademark doesn’t mean it would have to change its name. It would just mean that anyone could use the name, including loudmouth little kids from Colorado:

25 Apr 17:12

Does Paying With Cash Increase Your Emotional Investment In A Purchase?

by Chris Morran

Say you go to the store with a friend and you each buy the same lamp for $150. The only difference is you pay in cash and your pal pays with plastic. The dollar amounts are the same, the purchased product is identical, but a new study finds that your levels of emotional investment in that lamp are likely different.

This is according to researchers from the University of Toronto, the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, who recently published their findings in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Over the course of four tests, the researchers compared the post-transaction connections of shoppers who made purchases with debit or credit cards with those who went the cash/check route. In the end, they found that cash-payers had an increased emotional attachment to their purchase, that they were less likely to consider the alternatives they didn’t go with, and were more likely to be a repeat buyer.

For example, subjects of one study were each sold mugs for two dollars, with half directed to pay in cash while the other half were required to use credit or debit cards. When the subjects were later asked to sell those mugs back, the cash-payers asked for an average of $6.71 while those who paid using plastic only sought an average of $3.83.

Subjects in a second test were given either $5 in cash or a $5 voucher, then asked to donate those funds to one of three charities, none of which were known to the subjects in advance. They were subsequently questioned about their feelings of connection to their chosen charity and those who used cash expressed a slightly higher level of connection.

They were also asked about their sense of connection to the charities they didn’t choose. Here, the cash-users felt significantly less connected to the non-chosen alternatives than the plastic-users.

It’s worth noting that these subjects, unlike those in the mug test, were not using their own money, so it appears their sense of connection/disconnection may be related to the method of purchase.

“The form of payment clearly influences the subsequent value of the purchase to the consumer, even when the objective monetary cost remains constant,” conclude the study. “Using cash or check seems to increase the psychological ‘pain’ or sacrifice of the act and creates more affinity with the product or brand.”

26 Apr 13:38

Washington Redskins Also Petition Supreme Court To Hear Trademark Appeal

by Chris Morran

Last week, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office petitioned the Supreme Court to chime in on a case involving the trademark application for a rock band with a racially charged name. Any SCOTUS ruling in that case would have an impact on the similar ongoing dispute over the trademark for the NFL’s Washington Redskins, but rather than hope for a favorable result with that petition, the football team has filed one of its own.

Yesterday, the team — whose trademark was canceled in 2014 after a USPTO board review determined it violated the Lanham Act’s prohibition against registering scandalous and disparaging marks — filed its own petition [PDF], arguing that the anti-disparagement clause of the law is unconstitutional and that the team’s right to due process was violated.

In July 2015, a U.S. District Court sided with the government and upheld the trademark’s cancelation, noting that removing trademark protection “does not restrict the public debate on public issues as the mark owner is still able to use the mark in commerce.”

Canceling a trademark does not prevent the team from using the Redskins name. It just means that the team no longer has control over how the name is used by others.

However, shortly before Christmas 2015, a federal appeals court ruled against the USPTO in a case involving the trademark application for Oregon-based rock band The Slants.

The group — which currently consists of an all Asian-American lineup — came up with the name knowing full well that it is sometimes used as a racial epithet. The Trademark office has said that the Lanham Act prevents the agency from registering the mark.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the band, deeming the law’s prohibition against disparaging remarks as overly restrictive of free expression. That is the decision being appealed to SCOTUS by the Trademark Office.

The Redskins — whose appeal of the District Court ruling has yet to be heard by the Fourth Circuit — argue in the petition that the ruling in the Slants case was the correct reading of the law, and that the nation’s highest court “should grant this petition to consider this case as an essential and invaluable complement to” the Slants dispute.

The team contends that by combining the two cases into one mega-trademark dispute before the Supremes, the court would be considering a fuller picture of the issue instead of focusing solely on the questions presented in the USPTO petition.

For example, the Slants case involves a denied trademark application, as opposed to the NFL team’s trademark, which existed for decades before being canceled. The team contends that, by canceling the mark now — some 50 years after approving it — the USPTO is depriving the trademark holder of due process because of the “loss of critical evidence and the death of key witnesses.”

Just as in the USPTO petition, there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will choose to hear this petition. It may choose to hear the Slants case, but not the team’s since that has yet to be heard by a federal appeals court, or it could decide to deny both petitions.

26 Apr 15:10

Mitsubishi Admits Falsifying Fuel Data On Some Vehicles For Nearly 25 Years

by Ashlee Kieler

Automaker Mitsubishi recently admitted to fudging fuel mileage data for more than 600,000 vehicles sold in Japan, leading to an ongoing probe by U.S. regulators. Those investigators may now have a lot more paperwork to sift through, after Mitsubishi’s latest revelation.

The New York Times reports that an internal investigation by Mitsubishi found that the carmaker has used unapproved fuel testing methods for the vehicles sold in Japan for the last 25 years.

The unapproved method measured the effect of deceleration during fuel-economy testing. The method, which tends to give a more flattering mileage rating, is approved in the United States but not in Japan.

Different countries require different tests for fuel economy. For example, the U.S. requires more highway driving in tests, while Japan requires more stop-and-start city driving, the Times reports.

For now, there’s no evidence that Mitsubishi cars in the U.S. include the same fuel inaccuracies as the 625,000 small cars sold in Japan, which included some vehicles manufactured for Nissan.

According to Mitsubishi tire pressure data was manipulated to make mileage appear 5% to 10% better than it actually was for 157,000 Mitsubishi eK wagon and eK Space light passenger cars, and 468,000 Dayz and Dayz Roox vehicles produced for Nissan Motor Co.

Japanese regulators announced in 2007 that they were chaining fuel-economy test standards. Mitsubishi says it had new manuals printed, but that development ignored them, the Times reports.

While it’s unclear just how many vehicles and models might be affected by the expanded falsified fuel ratings, it could reach into the millions.

“I’m truly sorry that customers were led to buy vehicles based on incorrect fuel-efficiency ratings,” Mitsubishi’s president, Mitsubishi CEO Tetsuro Aikawa said at a news conference on Tuesday. “All I can do is apologize.”

Aikawa says the company is unaware who ordered the cheating, but that the investigation is ongoing.

In fact, the Associated Press reports that the carmaker has arranged for a panel of three lawyers to continue investigating the issue from on outsider’s point of view. The group is expected to have a report completed within three months.

Mitsubishi Says It Cheated on Fuel Tests for Decades [New York Times]
Mitsubishi Motors says false mileage tests done since 1991 [The Associated Press]

26 Apr 16:16

Why Hershey Is Betting Its Future On Dried Meat Bars

by Chris Morran

After making untold billions of dollars as probably the brand name most associated with chocolate in America, Hershey is quickly trying to position itself as something other than a purveyor of sweets. After last year’s acquisition of the Krave line of beef jerky products, Hershey is hoping that folks will gobble up its upcoming dried meat bars.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the bars — combining all the taste of beef jerky, but presumably without the dental workout — will carry the Krave brand, but they and other healthier products may be the future of the nearly 125-year-old company.

1. Chocolate is slowing, while meat snacks are growing

While chocolate itself is not inherently unhealthy, its association with and use in candy bars, cookies, desserts, cakes, and (is anyone else getting really hungry) has often made it one of those “no more” ingredients when people try to eat healthier. Thus, chocolate sales have slowed in the U.S. since 2010, with the market’s annual growth rate at only 4%.

Compare that to the more than 10% growth rate for meat snacks during the same time period. Granted, meat snacks are starting from a significantly smaller base, but it’s hard to deny that a growing number of people are interested in snacking on protein.

2. Making beef jerky cool

Though plenty of women enjoy beef jerky and similar snacks, most of these products have been marketed squarely at men, with packaging evoking rodeos, the wild west, the open range, and a general sense of manly man-ness.

But that’s begun to change in recent years with more gourmet brands like Krave, with packaging and marketing that isn’t gendered and flavors — like Basil Citrus Turkey and Chili Lime Beef — intended to appeal to tastebuds rather than just dudes looking to gnaw on dried meat for a while.

Hershey tells the Journal that it’s trying to get over the “dried meat” stigma with the upcoming bar form of its Krave products.

“We aren’t going out there saying it is a meat bar,” explained a Hershey exec. “It’s not just beef jerky in a bar in your mouth.”

3. Dressing up for a sale?

The Hershey brand is known worldwide, and the company is currently valued at around $14 billion, but that’s just a fraction of the size of a snack giant like Mondelez ($66 billion) or PepsiCo ($149 billion), which would seem to make Hershey prime for a takeover.

Thus far, the company’s majority stakeholder — the Hershey Trust Co. — has brushed off outside interest in a takeover, but some snack industry watchers believe that the move toward non-traditional snacks is about more than reaching health-minded consumers.

Some believe Hershey’s effort to foster the development of non-chocolate treats may be intended to provide the company with a more diverse lineup of products to make Hershey more attractive to potential suitors.

In addition to the Krave meat products, Hershey is testing out vegetarian bars and a new line called SoFit that uses protein-coated sunflower seeds and almonds.

26 Apr 16:29

NatureBox Expands From Podcast Ads To Store Shelves At Target

by Laura Northrup

NatureBox, a subscription box offering curated selections of healthy(ish) snacks, is a company that you may not be familiar with…unless you’re a fan of podcasts, in which case you’re probably tired of hearing about NatureBox, since they’re a frequent advertiser in that medium. Now the company is reaching out to the rest of the population in a partnership with Target, putting its snacks on store shelves.

Target is working to expand its grocery business, and also to change its food offerings to have less packaged food and more fresh and healthy items: think organic snack foods and craft beer. The company specifically, um, targeted healthy snacks in its quest for more young adult shoppers. NatureBox fits right into that idea, offering snacks that are minimally processed, though whether they’re healthy or not depends on your definition of “healthy.”

The bags, which vary in size according to snack type, will cost $3.99 to $4.99 each. NatureBox will not only make money with retail sales, but promote their subscription business, where five bags for $19.95 or 10 bags for $32.95.

(via Supermarket News)

FURTHER READING:
Subscription Snack Showdown: Graze vs. Naturebox [Lifehacker]

26 Apr 16:30

1-in-4 Photographers, Florists, Limos & Caterers Jack Up Prices When You Say “Wedding”

by Ashlee Kieler

The average wedding may now run you in excess of $31,000, but are you being billed extra for the event just because it’s a wedding? A new report claims that some event vendors charge customers extra when they hear the word “wedding.”

A secret-shopper investigation by our colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports for the upcoming June issue found that many vendors charge higher rates or tack on a “wedding surcharge” for their services.

The secret shoppers – which contacted 40 vendors in 12 states — were deployed in an effort to determine if going over budget was simply a result of consumers’ poor planning or being overcharged by wedding vendors.

As part of the investigation, pairs of shoppers called the same photographers, florists, limousine services, caterers, and other party vendors at least a week apart and got comparative estimates for a wedding and a 50th anniversary party that were identical in every other respect.

Perhaps unsurprisingly in more than a quarter of the cases (about 28%), vendors quoted higher prices for the wedding than for the anniversary party.

For example, limousine companies and photographers surveyed by the shoppers were more likely than other service providers to charge more simply because the event was a wedding.

In one case, CR found that a photographer in Atlanta charged $300 per hour for a Saturday night wedding in mid-October, but charged just $150 per hour for a 50th wedding anniversary at the same time.

Similar discrepancies were found when shoppers looked at caterers for the events.

While providing vague catering budgets for both the wedding and anniversary to the vendors resulted in similar proposals from the caterers, looking at catering menus in general showed a greater difference in pricing.

For example, a New York-area wedding banquet starts at $125 per person in January and February and $140 per person in May to October. Other events, such as a party or meeting, scheduled at the same time had a starting price of $55 per person.

Shoppers also found that several vendors and industries included built-in gratuities of as much as 26% on top of their standard cost.

A hotel in St. Louis imposes a 24% taxable service charge and a 5% taxable event charge on wedding booked at its facility. Those charges are in addition to the 10.179% sales tax that’s applicable to any party. In the end, an $18,000 wedding reception at the hotel balloons to $25,584 affair, an increase of 42%, according to CR.

While the report found that the costs can quickly add up when it comes to planning a wedding, shoppers also found that some vendors were willing to work with them on prices.

The caterer in New York said they would allow couples to use the standard banquet menu — depending on availability — to decrease the price per plate by almost $70.

Negotiating with vendors is often the only option couples have when trying to keep their costs down. But it’s not one that is always used, CR points out.

A recent survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that consumers usually don’t exercise their bargaining clout, and instead choose to take on debt for their big day.

The survey of 464 Americans who’d had a wedding reception in the last five years found that while 78% of newlyweds budgeted for their reception, nearly about 61% went over budget said they had overspent by at least 20%.

So how did couples make up the difference between their budget and their actual costs? Almost 41% said they withdrew from savings; 11% took out a loan from a bank or credit union; and 9% withdrew some money from a 401 (k) or 403(b), or IRA.

“If you’re planning a wedding, you need to be aware that you may be paying a premium for products and services in some cases,” Tobie Stanger, senior editor at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “You may not think to bargain, but you should. While our findings aren’t enough to indict an entire industry, they’re a warning to wedding shoppers to read fine print, ask smart questions, and negotiate before signing anything.”

Consumer Reports offers several tips for consumers planning a wedding, including always negotiate, choose a low-demand season, day, or time-of-day for the event, and compare catering options carefully.

For additional tips on how to make sure your wedding day goes off without a hitch — and is affordable, check out Consumerist’s “How Not To Suck” wedding series:

How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 1: The Most Expensive Steps
How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 2: The Stuff People Pay Too Much For
How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 3: The Costly Little Extras
How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 4: The Honeymoon
How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 5: Spending Your Wedding Cash 

26 Apr 18:25

5 Things We Learned About Pay Phones & Why They Continue To Exist

by Ashlee Kieler

When was the last time you used a pay phone? Given that just about every American old enough to say “hello” now has a cellphone, you’d be forgiven for thinking these once-vital telecom totems had gone the way of the telegraph. But there are still hundreds of thousands of pay phones out there, waiting to be used by people without any other options available.

That’s not to say pay phones are easy to find — they no longer cover the walls at train stations, airports, and bus terminals, and they aren’t generally found in booths at hotels or restaurants — but don’t be mistaken, they are still connecting people.

In fact, the Los Angeles Times reports that while those relics of yesteryear may be declining in numbers — replaced with super-fast public WiFi hubs in the case of New York City — those left on the streets (or in office buildings) are still operational, and maybe even making money for their owners.

Here are five things we learned from the L.A. Times’ report on pay phones.

1.) They still exist – This might go without saying, but pay phones are still in operation all around the United States. While their numbers may be a fraction of what they were in their heyday, they continue to offer to connect one caller to another via a landline.

Still, the phones are becoming a rare sight. For example, the statewide number of pay phones in California has declined more than 70% since 2007 to just 27,000.

In other parts of the country, it’s even rarer to spot a pay phone in the wild. Last year, the Springfield News-Leader reported that the number of pay phones in Missouri had decreased 97% in the past 15 years, from 56,645 in 1999 to just 1,345 in 2015.

According to the American Public Communications Council, there are fewer than 500,000 pay phones in the entire United States, and about 1.7 billion calls are placed annually.

2.) Pay phones can actually be profitable – Companies that operate pay phones say they keep the booths and steel boxes running because they’re bring in money — just not a lot.

Michael Zumbo, president of the telecommunication firm PTS, tells the L.A. Times that if three $0.50-calls are made per day — or about 1,095 calls each year — the phone is making enough money to be sustainable.

Despite profitability, many companies are getting out of the pay phone game. AT&T sold off its last pay phones in 2008, while Verizon — which once operated around half a million pay phones nationwide — sold its last 50,000 to Pacific Telemanagement Service in 2011.

3.) Operators set the price – While there was once a time when you knew that using just about any pay phone would cost you $.25 for a few minutes of a local phone call, the actual rate for using the device is not set by any regulation, but by the owner of the pay phone. The going rate is currently about $0.50 for a local call, but additional costs are applied for calls to outside of area codes.

The APCC notes that all operators are required to have cost information either posted at every pay phone or available via toll-free numbers.

4.) They are regulated — Just like other outlets in the communications industry, pay phones are regulated by public utilities commissions.

For example, the California Public Utilities Commission is tasked with checking out pay phones to ensure they are in working order. If a phone is deficient, the operator has a certain amount of time to bring it into compliance.

5.) Pay phones are still good in an emergency — We take cellphones for granted; even if we’re caught in an emergency without one, surely someone around will lend you theirs for a moment.

But when you’re truly stranded, or in an area without a reliable wireless signal, it doesn’t hurt that there are still these reminders of a pre-cellphone era — and that we can still use them.

All 911 calls are free from pay phones which makes them valuable asset when an emergency occurs and you’re without other phone options.

Pay phones are relics, but there’s still demand for them [The Los Angeles Times]
Dialing out: The decline of Springfield’s pay phones [Springfield News-Leader]

26 Apr 19:56

There’s A New Line Of Beverage-Flavored Pop-Tarts For Some Reason

by Laura Northrup

Like Oreos, M&Ms, and numerous snack foods before them, Pop-Tarts have introduced seasonal novelty flavors meant to draw sales and free publicity. Now flavors have gone from vaguely fruit-like to bizarre with the announcement of a line of toaster pastries flavored like soft drinks. Sounds refreshing.

Sure, it’s all sugar and flour, but these aren’t just generic “root beer” flavoring like other cookies and candies have released recently. Kellogg’s teamed up with the Dr Pepper Snapple Group to sell branded Orange Crush and A&W Root Beer Pop-Tarts.

(PRNewsFoto/Kellogg Company)(PRNewsFoto/Kellogg Company)

You’ll be able to buy them in actual stores starting next month, and the “The Frosted A&W Root Beer and Frosted Crush Orange varieties are so different from our fruity and dessert-type tarts, and this is our first beverage-inspired flavor,” the director of marketing for Pop-Tarts said in a statement. “We’re excited to welcome them to our Pop-Tarts family!”

Maybe the soft drink tarts were developed first, but another beverage-inspired flavor, pink lemonade, is already on store shelves.

26 Apr 21:13

RadioShack Names Second CEO Since Bankruptcy, 10th In Last 10 Years

by Laura Northrup

Michael Dunn
RadioShack is importing its new CEO from Australia. Their original post-bankruptcy leader quit back in January, and the new president and chief executive officer will take over at the beginning of May. He previously worked at Target Australia (which, confusingly, is not affiliated with the U.S. retailer Target) and was in charge of e-commerce at Sears Canada. [Press Release] [Fortune]
26 Apr 22:38

Sports Authority Will Liquidate, Sell Some Stores To Competitors

by Laura Northrup

When Sports Authority filed for bankruptcy protection last month, the company hoped that it might be able to survive the process, re-organizing its debts and keeping some of its stores open. Today in bankruptcy court, a company attorney told the judge that Sports Authority will not continue, and there are prominent but unnamed companies that may purchase some of the chain’s remaining 300 or so stores. The bankruptcy auction will be on May 16.

It’s possible that selling the stores could keep them open and keep some retail workers employed. However, the sporting goods retail business is not one that most companies would be interested in pursuing right now. Competitors might be interested in buying stores to expand into areas where they don’t have a presence, but they could also buy stores just to close them and eliminate their local competition.

Liquidators will also be bidding, and their goal is simple: to sell the store’s inventory and fixtures and get as much money for them as possible. Sports Authority would prefer to sell a large number of stores to a single owner that will keep them open, but that will depend on how the bidding goes.

Sports Authority already announced that it would close and liquidate the contents of 140 of their stores across the country. The sale of merchandise and leases from those stores, along with the offers it has received for remaining stores before official bidding begins, come to about $100 million. The company has more than $1.1 billion in debt.

Sports Authority Abandons Hope of Reorganizing and Opts for Liquidation [Wall Street Journal]

25 Apr 12:46

Expand Your Board Game Collection With Today's Amazon Gold Box

by Shep McAllister

If your board game collection has been gathering dust, you can freshen it up with over 70 discounted strategy games on sale in today’s Amazon Gold Box.

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25 Apr 13:10

Amazon's Running a Huge Womens' Wear-To-Work Apparel Sale, Today Only

by Shep McAllister

Today only, Amazon’s running a huge sale on womens’ work apparel, ranging from socks to slacks to blazers to dresses. Prices start at under $10, so head over to Amazon before the best stuff starts selling out.

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25 Apr 13:56

Today's Best Deals: Board Games, Pressure Cooker, Hard Drive Enclosures, and More

by Shep McAllister
25 Apr 12:30

These 100+ Restaurants Will Give You Free Food On Your Birthday

by Eric Ravenscraft on Lifehacker, shared by Shane Roberts to Deals

Who doesn’t like free food, especially on your birthday? Of course, it’s hard to know just what place is gonna have the best goods. Unless you check out this list, of course.

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