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01 Sep 21:02

McDonald’s Franchisees Vote In All-Day Breakfast, Will Start October 6

by Laura Northrup

After months of speculation, testing, and fretting over egg shortages, the day is finally here: McDonald’s franchisees have cast their votes, and all-day breakfast is going nationwide. Maybe they’ll use up those margarine stashes more quickly than anticipated. The menu varies slightly according to whether the restaurant is in a “biscuit market” or a standard breakfast market, but the important part is that it’s breakfast. All day.

“This is the consumers’ idea. This is what they want us to do,” the president of McDonald’s USA told the Wall Street Journal, forgetting that not everything that consumers want is necessarily good for us. Franchisees actually led the charge for the menu change, which is a brilliant plan since it makes more items available without adding any different ingredients or equipment to the restaurant. No wonder franchisees, who have complained that the McDonald’s menu is too expansive, think it’s a great idea.

All-day breakfast has been successful in test markets, and is a much-anticipated change. It’s also the biggest change to the menu since the McCafé concept came out six years ago.

McDonald’s is on its social media game today, searching way back in Twitter and answering people who posted about all-day breakfast in the past. Whether it was to praise a test market or whine about how McMuffins disappear at 10:30, the McDonald’s social media team wanted to share the good news. The notes are posted so that everyone who follows McDonald’s can see them, and they include really excellent animated GIFs.

They found tweets dating back to 2007.

.@_johnlee_ You open on 10/6? Asking for a McMuffin. Hoping to do lunch, but available all day. #AllDayBreakfast pic.twitter.com/CePWF5aXf8

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

.@i_aint_yer_pa Ok, here’s the play… #AllDayBreakfast on 10/6, #AllDayBreakfast on 10/6… ready? Break(fast)! pic.twitter.com/KD1WVRyxyR

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

.@Bogie We see a McMuffin and a Hash Brown in your future. Specifically, on 10/6 and after 10:30am. #AllDayBreakfast pic.twitter.com/DtTAzDdBjJ

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

.@lafauce Breaking news! McDonald’s replies to California man’s tweet from 2008 with #AllDayBreakfast announcement! pic.twitter.com/Grc2It08uJ

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

.@Gergie The p̶r̶o̶f̶i̶t̶ prophet has spoken, #AllDayBreakfast starts 10/6! pic.twitter.com/mm9HkNxeBI

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

.@rhysparry We’re reprogramming our breakfast technology. New directive: #AllDayBreakfast, executing 10/6! pic.twitter.com/G5KlitWZtw

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

.@laurencj We love a good life hack: With this one simple trick, anyone can have #AllDayBreakfast starting 10/6! pic.twitter.com/LPzcYTQ9BI

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

Not that responding to more recent ones wasn’t cool too.

.@Traphik Hope you’re still sitting down cause our #AllDayBreakfast is going nationwide on 10/6. pic.twitter.com/bEti02p4rq

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

.@StereoKicks @Jakesims Gotta new jam for you called #AllDayBreakfast & it starts 10/6.🎶 pic.twitter.com/oLh1T6vLpv

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

.@TheGabbieShow Technology is amazing. I mean, #AllDayBreakfast starts on 10/6? What will they think of next?! pic.twitter.com/t3tp4tDhFn

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

.@TheGabbieShow Technology is amazing. I mean, #AllDayBreakfast starts on 10/6? What will they think of next?! pic.twitter.com/t3tp4tDhFn

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

Of course, it’s smart to engage with celebrities when launching a big social media campaign, and celebrities tweet about fast-food breakfast too:

.@chrissyteigen Sorry, our Sausage McMuffin was on a shoot for #AllDayBreakfast but all yours starting 10/6. pic.twitter.com/LFV70VrVDp

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

.@Sinbadbad 'Bout time to take #AllDayBreakfast nationwide starting 10/6. You in? pic.twitter.com/VwojyWzSgD

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

.@Lolojones The 10:30 sprint ends 10/6 with #AllDayBreakfast. Pass it on. pic.twitter.com/rKS5NtVWEy

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

.@JackAllTimeLow #AllDayBreakfast nationwide starting 10/6. Epic just got more epic-er. pic.twitter.com/zgY2tw1DGf

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

And TV shows.

.@etnow No more test. #AlLDayBreakfast nationwide starting 10/6. From sun down to moon up. pic.twitter.com/NGENDYCKup

— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2015

01 Sep 18:13

7-Eleven Expands Delivery Service To Three More Cities, Still Doesn’t Include Slurpees

by Ashlee Kieler

Two months after 7-Eleven announced that lucky (maybe) residents of San Francisco and Oakland could have microwaved burritos and other convenience store fare (no Slurpees, though) delivered right to their home, the company has expanded the service. While the expansion still doesn’t include the on-demand delivery of sugary Slurpees, it does include three additional service areas: Chicago, Los Angeles and certain parts of New York.

A spokesperson for 7-Eleven tells The Associated Press that Slurpees are best “consumed immediately” and won’t be available for delivery through the service just yet. However, DoorDash – the company that actually delivers the goods – says it is working on a way to get the slushy treats to consumers’ doors without melting.

7-Eleven’s delivery service is expected to expand to Washington, D.C., and Boston in the coming months.

7-Eleven expands home delivery in several cities [The Associated Press]

01 Sep 16:57

Scientists Working Hard To Save Us All From Rapidly Melting Ice Cream Cones

by Mary Beth Quirk

It’s a hot day, you’ve got a cool treat — it’s inevitable. That ice cream scoop, once so perfect in its rounded form, is going to melt, forcing you to fight the age-old battle against drips with your tongue as your only weapon. Take heart, dessert warriors: there are scientists out there who are trying to help us all, by developing an ice cream that takes a bit longer to melt.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have taken on the task of preventing ice cream from dribbling down your arm so it can instead get into your mouth, reports Public Radio International in a recent segment of “The World” available online.

“We’re not talking about ice cream that doesn’t melt at all, we’re talking about ice cream that melts more slowly than you would typically expect from a scoop of ice cream sitting on top of an ice cream cone for example,” Kate MacPhee, a professor of biological physics in the Institute of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems at the University of Edinburgh told The World.

The team is working with a protein called BsIA that binds together air, fat and water in ice cream in what they call a “bacterial raincoat” to keep it frozen longer. The naturally-occuring protein adheres to fat droplets and air bubbles, making them more stable.

“That’s what you have in ice cream,” says MacPhee. “You have an oil and a sugar-syrup mixture, and you have air in there to keep it light and allow you to scoop it up, and you also have the solid surfaces, which are the ice crystals in there, so our protein can stabilize all of those.”

When the ingredients are stabilized by this bacterial raincoat, it slows the melting process and prevents gritty ice crystals from forming (like in freezer burn, perhaps) so your ice cream will be even smoother and creamier and still hold up for as much as 10 minutes longer than usual on a hot day. That’s good news when it comes to doing the laundry.

“We can predict then that children should be able to get all the way through an ice cream cone without it dribbling all down the sides, which I think will be a bonus to parents all around the world,” MacPhee adds.

Yes, ah, parents. They’re the only ones who have to worry about huge chocolate ice cream stains ravaging a pair of new white shorts after deciding that yes, a double scoop is necessary even when it’s 100 degrees and there are no clouds in the sky.

A newer, slower melting ice cream cone is coming soon [PRI.org]

01 Sep 16:33

Analyst: Best Buy’s Prices Now Much Closer To Amazon’s

by Ashlee Kieler

When looking for the best deal on electronics consumers used to flock to a little chain called Best Buy, but over time Amazon – with the growing convenience of shopping from home, speedy deliveries and discounts – has crowded into the electronic store’s customer pool. Now, after years of playing catchup, it appears that Best Buy has closed the pricing gap with its online rival.

That’s according to a new report based on price checks at both stores conducted by SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Barron’s reports.

The price checks of 50 accessories and larger ticket items found for the first time that both retailers were charging virtually the same prices.

“In the past, we’ve seen a gradual tightening of the spread between the two retailers,” David Magee, managing director for SunTrust Robinson Humphery, said. “This time, the basket totals were essentially at parity.”

Magee goes on to explain that the pricing parity is another important step in Best Buy’s turnaround efforts.

As Consumerist reported last month, the electronics retailer has turned a corner by getting back to what executives called the basics: offering advice, service and convenience at competitive prices.

The company has also benefited from its new mini-store concept and deals with tech companies such as Apple.

The retailer was the first non-Apple entity to sell the Apple Watch, and recently it announced it would expand the availability of the smart watch to all of its stores in the U.S.

Additionally, Best Buy announced last week that it has officially become an Apple authorized reseller. While the company has sold Apple products for years, they weren’t an official location for service for Apple products until recently.

Best Buy Achieves Price Parity With Amazon For First Time: SunTrust [Barron’s]

01 Sep 16:28

Following Deaths, FDA Warns Makers Of Powdered Caffeine That Their Products Are Dangerous

by Chris Morran

Last summer, two young adults died after ingesting powdered caffeine, leading the Food and Drug Administration to warn consumers of the potential hazards of the popular stimulant while public health advocates called for a ban on the powdered product. Now the FDA is taking things to the next level and warning caffeine manufacturers that their products are “dangerous and present a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury.”

The FDA announced today that it has sent letters to five different companies, letting them know that continued sale of their products as “dietary supplements” with their current labeling and usage instructions could result in seizure by the agency.

One of the repeated themes in the letters is the potency of powdered caffeine and the difficulty consumers have with measuring amounts recommended on product labels.

For example, one product label provides the following instruction: “As a dietary supplement, take 50 to 200 mg up to three times daily. Use an accurate milligram scale for measurement.”

First, the FDA notes that most consumers don’t have scales precise enough to accurately measure this tiny amount. And if you want to take a volumetric approach to measuring, you get into sizes like 200mg of the powder equaling about 1/14 of a teaspoon, which is not an option you find on the measuring spoons in most kitchens.

Other products were cited for instructing users to ingest a “rounded 1/32 teaspoon,” which is both a imprecise measurement and an uncommon measuring spoon size.

And if users of these products do turn to common measuring devices they run the risk of doing real damage says the FDA.

“A single teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine is roughly equivalent to the amount in 28 cups of coffee,” writes the agency. “Consuming as little as one teaspoon of caffeine has been associated with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and heart palpitations.”

Make the common mistake of confusing a teaspoon and a tablespoon and you’re tripling the amount of caffeine ingested. The FDA says this level of consumption has been associated with symptoms including chest pain, hypokalemia, elevated blood glucose, tachycardia, bigeminy, agitation, respiratory alkalosis, irregular heartbeat, and death.

Another problem with some powdered caffeine products is the size of the packaging. Given the small amount of caffeine per recommended dose, a 10 kg package contains around 50,000 servings. One product was sold in a 25 kg package, equivalent to anywhere from 125,000 to 500,000 servings of that particular product.

The companies have 15 days to reply to the FDA with details of how they are planning to address the violations cited in the warning letters. If violations continue, the FDA could take further action and seize products.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has petitioned the FDA to ban the retail distribution of powdered caffeine, says today’s FDA announcement is a first step in the right direction.

“Pure caffeine never should have been sold to consumers,” says CSPI Regulatory Affairs Director Laura MacCleery in a statement. “A teaspoon is a fatal dose for a child, and two teaspoons would kill most adults. FDA has clear authority to ban such a hazardous product and should do so.”

01 Sep 13:00

Store-Brand Frozen Corn Recalled For Potential Listeria Contamination

by Laura Northrup

Time to check your frozen vegetable stash: bags of frozen corn sold as store private-label brands that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes have been recalled by the company that packaged it. Some of the corn was distributed to Save-A-Lot discount grocery stores and to Market Basket stores, but two of the brands were not exclusive to any one retailer.

No illnesses have been reported: the pathogen turned up during routine testing in Tennessee. Affected corn may have been distributed to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Here are the affected brands:

Wylwood (Save-A-Lot) and Market Basket corn was distributed in 1-pound bags, with a “best before” date of June 2017.

ucm460637

ucm460636

Bountiful Harvest and West Creek corn was distributed in 2.5-pound bags, with a “best before” date of June 2017.

ucm460639

ucm460638

If you have the product in your home, throw it away, and contact the company, Bonduelle USA, at 1-877-990-2662 if you want a refund.

Experts recommend heating food to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, which does kill Listeria. Freezing does not kill the bacteria, which is why it’s been such a nefarious presence in ice cream and in frozen vegetables this year.

Listeriosis is especially dangerous to people who are very young, people who are elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Bonduelle USA Recalls Frozen Corn Because Of Possible Health Risk [FDA]

31 Aug 20:40

Three Mopeds Stolen, Hit-And-Run Sends Car 15 Feet: Manassas Crime Report - Patch.com


Three Mopeds Stolen, Hit-And-Run Sends Car 15 Feet: Manassas Crime Report
Patch.com
Other vehicle damage, man assaulted and a rape arrest in daily police reports from Manassas City Police. By Greg Hambrick (Patch Staff) August 31, 2015. ShareTweetGoogle PlusRedditEmailComments0. Three Mopeds Stolen, Hit-And-Run Sends Car 15 ...

01 Sep 01:26

Manassas Teen Impersonating Officer Tries to Pull Over Real Officer, Police Say - NBC4 Washington


NBC4 Washington

Manassas Teen Impersonating Officer Tries to Pull Over Real Officer, Police Say
NBC4 Washington
An 18-year-old with blue flashing lights mounted in a car tried to pull over a driver -- who turned out to be a real police officer, Prince William County police say. An off-duty police officer was traveling along Sudley Manor Drive early Sunday ...
Police: Manassas teen impersonates officer, tries to stop real copRichmond.com

all 78 news articles »
31 Aug 21:14

Tennessee Authorities Investigating Allegations Of Animal Cruelty At Chicken Farm Dumped By Tyson, McDonald’s

by Mary Beth Quirk

Last week, Tyson Foods and McDonald’s said they were cutting ties with a poultry farm in Tennessee that was accused by an animal rights group of mistreating and abusing chickens. Authorities in that state now confirm they’re looking into the allegations of criminal animal cruelty by operators of the farm.

Tyson sourced the meat it sold to McDonald’s for chicken McNuggets from the farm in question. Last week the company announced it would no longer get its chickens from the Tennessee Farm, after Mercy for Animals published undercover video footage that reportedly showed chickens being beaten and stabbed with a pole that has a spike on it, as well as sick and deformed chickens mixed in with healthy birds in a huge, over-crowded holding area.

Mercy for Animals had asked Tennessee authorities to prosecute the owners of T&S Farm for violation of state laws prohibiting animal cruelty.

“The case is currently under investigation,” said Colin Johnson, assistant district attorney for Obion and Weakley County, where the farm is located, in a statement to USA Today.

Both McDonald’s and Tyson issued statements last week decrying animal abuse.

“We believe treating animals with care and respect is an integral part of a responsible supply chain and find the behavior depicted in this video to be completely unacceptable. We support Tyson Foods’ decision to terminate their contract with this farmer,” McDonald’s said at the time. “We’re working with Tyson Foods to further investigate this situation and reinforce our expectations around animal health and welfare at the farm level.

Tenn. authorities investigating ex-McDonald’s chicken supplier for cruelty [USA Today]

31 Aug 13:00

Nestle Says There’s No Place For Forced Labor In Cat Food Supply Chain

by Laura Northrup

After American consumers learned about horrible working conditions and trafficked workers on some fishing vessels out of Thailand, class action lawsuits began, accusing American, European, and Thai companies of benefiting from deplorable working conditions farther up their supply chain. One of the companies accused, the Swiss conglomerate Nestle, says that “forced labor has no place in [their] supply chain” for Fancy Feast cat food.

In an e-mail to the Associated Press, the company didn’t deny the allegations, but did explain that its suppliers are supposed to respect human rights, and the company has worked to eliminate all forced labor from its global supply chain.

The initial class action complaint points out that while cans of Fancy Feast do say that the fish comes from Thailand, it does not specify “Made in Thailand out of fish that may have been caught by men and boys trafficked from poorer neighboring countries and forced to work punishing hours while motivated by fear.” Cat food cans are small, so the print would have to be very tiny.

While the class actions are federal, they only accuse the companies that have allegedly benefited from slave labor of breaking the law in California, a state with strong consumer protection laws without equivalents in other states.

Nestle: Forced labor has no place in our food supply chain [AP]

31 Aug 15:13

Maryland ranked among nation’s worst states to drive

by wtopstaff

WASHINGTON — Nothing about driving in this area is tremendous, but a new survey says Maryland is one of the worst places of all.

Bankrate.com’s ratings took into account factors such as the number of fatal crashes; car thefts; car repair costs; gasoline spending; insurance premiums; and commute times, and found Maryland the fourth-worst state in the country to drive in.

Specifically, Maryland has the longest average commute in the U.S. (30 minutes, about 6 minutes above the national average), as well as the 11th-highest insurance premiums. It also ranked above average in repair costs, rate of car thefts and annual gas spending.

Maryland did, however, have the sixth-lowest rate of fatal crashes in the country — 0.83 deaths per 100 million miles driven.

The best state on Bankrate’s list is Idaho, with low gas and insurance costs, below-average thefts and short commutes. The worst? Louisiana, mostly due to high fatal-crash rates and the country’s highest insurance rates.

Virginia ranked 19th. Bankrate says insurance premiums in the commonwealth are low, while theft and fatal crash rates, “relatively mild.” But gasoline spending, commute times and repair costs were all above average.

This isn’t the first time this area has ranked highly — or lowly — as a place to drive, though other studies, some looking at different factors, have placed D.C. at the top.

The post Maryland ranked among nation’s worst states to drive appeared first on WTOP.

31 Aug 01:13

White House renames Mount McKinley as Denali on eve of trip - Washington Post


White House renames Mount McKinley as Denali on eve of trip
Washington Post
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will change the name of North America's tallest mountain peak from Mount McKinley to Denali, the White House said Sunday, a major symbolic gesture to Alaska Natives on the eve of President Barack Obama's ...

and more »
30 Aug 19:09

Cat knocks over candle, destroys Md. home

by wtopstaff

WASHINGTON — A Suitland home caught fire Sunday morning after a cat knocked over a lit candle.

The cat accidentally knocked over a candle on a mattress, setting fire to a home on the 2100 block of DuPont Ave. in Suitland.

Prince George’s County Fire said there were no injuries reported, but the family will have to find another place to live in for a while.

The flames caused $50,000 in damage.

Mark Brady, a spokesman for Prince George’s County Fire and Rescue, tweeted a photo of the burnt home:

@PGFDPIO this was a 1-story with basement single family home. Photo by PGFD AFC TJ James pic.twitter.com/kMkz7XobC3

— Mark Brady (@PGFDPIO) August 30, 2015

The post Cat knocks over candle, destroys Md. home appeared first on WTOP.

29 Aug 10:50

How school kids are getting those reduced school lunches

by wtopstaff

WASHINGTON– In early August, five federal workers were accused of submitting false information so their kids could qualify for free and reduced school meals.  What’s more, all five worked for the General Accountability Office—the very federal agency charged with ferreting out waste, fraud and abuse in government.

According to Prince George’s County prosecutors, the accused GAO workers had household incomes between $55,000-$78,000. The children of the five workers attend Prince George’s County schools. This case raises questions about how the school lunch program is administered, and who makes sure that the applications that parents submit are accurate.

Chuck Young, Managing Director of Public Affairs for the GAO, explains that schools are responsible for administering the program. In some cases, if members of the family are enrolled in other “means-tested” programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, they may be enrolled automatically in the school meal program. If not, they may submit an application.

Marla Caplon, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Montgomery County Schools, says that when families apply they are asked for information about their household income. However, they may not have to provide proof of income. But, Caplon says, there are those who are selected for verification.

“Once a year, beginning October 1st, the federal government requires us to do a random verification,” she says, but the sample size is just three percent of all the processed applications.

There’s another way that kids who may not qualify for free and reduced meals would get them, but it’s not a result of any sort of fraud. It’s part of something called “Provision 2.”

Kaya Henderson, Schools Chancellor for the District of Columbia, says it comes into play when a high number of students in a given school qualify for the free and reduced meals. Under Provision 2, the entire school population may be deemed eligible for the benefits.

“The only downside to that—if there is any downside–is that kids who need reduced lunch and kids who don’t need it will all eat for free. But we’d rather do that than to exclude kids who really need it because their parents haven’t filled out the paperwork.”

School officials say that the aim of the Free and Reduced Meals, or FARMS program, is to make sure that no child goes hungry. But the GAO began looking into the program after Congressional leaders expressed concern about possible overpayments of benefits.

Chuck Young, with the GAO, points out that in May of this year, the USDA released a study on the issue. A look at the 2012-2013 school year indicates up to $850 million dollars in overpayments were made. Young says the USDA is working to curb the overpayments by calling for increased certification.

WTOP reporter Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

The post How school kids are getting those reduced school lunches appeared first on WTOP.

26 Aug 16:51

Meet the Humvee’s replacement: Oshkosh’s L-ATV

by Sean Gallagher

There may soon be a whole lot of used Humvees on the market—or in the scrapyard. The US Army has picked its replacement for the aging vehicle originally designed as a Cold War replacement for the Jeep—and it comes from Wisconsin. Eventually, the Army and Marine Corps could buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles over the next 25 years, spending over $30 billion.

In a move that will undoubtedly spur a spate of protests and political backlash from a heavily lobbied Congress, the US Army has awarded the Defense Department's multibillion dollar Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program contract to the contender from Oshkosh Defense, beating out the other finalists in the program, which started in November of 2006—Lockheed Martin and the Humvee's manufacturer, American General. The initial "low rate" order for 16,901 vehicles for both the Army and Marine Corps is worth $6.7 billion.

Oshkosh's winning design is called the L-ATV (for "Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle"). It includes innovations that were added to the Humvee during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including remote-operated weapons turrets (with heavy machine guns, automatic grenade launchers, and anti-tank missiles), and electronic warfare gear to jam remote controls for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It will also be a rolling network unto itself, equipped to generate up to 10 kilowatts of "exportable" power for Army and Marine Corps communication and computer gear, with HF, VHF, UHF, and SATCOM onboard as well as a vehicle intercom system. There's also a centralized onboard computer system powering "smart displays" for the soldiers or Marines it carries. The L-ATV will also be equipped with a variety of surveillance and threat sensors—including a shot locator system, long-range surveillance cameras, and low-light and infrared camera systems.

The L-ATV can be transported by heavy-lift helicopter or by the Marine Corps' landing craft, but it's a much bigger payload than the Hummer, with a curb weight nearly three times that of the older vehicle: about 14,000 pounds, compared to the Humvee's 5,900 pounds. That extra mass is a combination of armor, electrical power and additional horsepower. Oshkosh won partially because of the proven performance of its M-ATV, a mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle it sold to the military as an urgent replacement for Humvees and trucks damaged by IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the L-ATV also has better fuel efficiency than the Humvee, and its suspension system allows for 70 percent faster off-road speeds.

The Oshkosh Defense L-ATV, center, alongside its competitors from American General (left) and Lockheed Martin (right) for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program.

4 more images in gallery

Being that this is one of the biggest vehicle buys the military will make this century, there's a certain amount of dissatisfaction amongst the companies on the teams with losing bids. Army Program Executive Office Combat Support & Combat Service Support Chief Scott Johnson told Defense News that "there is no expectation of a protest," but that may be wishful thinking, regardless of how hard the program worked to ensure avoiding protest problems like those that have plagued the Air Force's KC-X tanker program and other big procurements over the past few years. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, appeared in his statement on the deal yesterday to be preparing for battle on behalf of Lockheed Martin—mostly because Lockheed's entry would have been built in Arkansas. “I am disappointed the Army did not select Lockheed Martin to build the JLTV," he said. "Camden is a first-rate facility and the people who work there are some of the best in the world, I know they would have put their hearts and souls into this project. I am confident the work and infrastructure Lockheed Martin put in place to bid on this project will bring other economic benefits. And as Lockheed Martin explores their next steps, we stand ready to assist them however we can."

Oshkosh and the Army, it seems, may need a different sort of (metaphorical) armor before any JLTVs roll off the assembly line.

27 Aug 14:35

Every week is Shark Week: Discovery launches network for virtual reality video

by Megan Geuss

Discovery VR

3 more images in gallery

On Thursday, Discovery Communications, the parent company of the Discovery Channel, launched Discovery VR, an all-virtual-reality network of videos.

On Discovery VR's website you'll find 360° videos that can be viewed through a browser, on iOS or Android, or through Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR. Discovery VR says that support for the Oculus Rift is coming soon.

Currently the platform has three Mythbusters shark dive videos and clips from the network's shows Gold Rush and Survivorman. There are also four shows that are less brand-based. In one, skateboarders tackle San Francisco's windy Lombard Street, and in another, a pro surfer gives a five-minute surf lesson. Or, you can simply take a walk through a Pacific Coast beach or through California's iconic Muir Woods.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

28 Aug 15:55

Class Action Suit Alleges Nestle Benefits From Fishing Vessel Slavery To Make Fancy Feast

by Laura Northrup

(eren {sea+prairie})

If they knew, cats would probably prefer to catch their own fish. (eren {sea+prairie})

Last week, we shared the news that a Costco customer had filed a class action lawsuit against the warehouse retailer, claiming that they sell shrimp benefiting from slave labor. Now cat owners have filed a similar lawsuit against Nestle, parent company of Fancy Feast cat food, claiming that the company uses mistreated and enslaved workers to catch fish destined for cat food cans.

Lawsuits regarding the treatment of workers in the seafood industry seem to have their roots in a recent New York Times investigative report about the terrible conditions for workers on Thai vessels that catch forage fish far from the shore. These small fish become food for our pets, for meat animals like pigs, and for the fish being raised on seafood farms.

The ships operate so far from land that mistreatment of workers is a serious problem: the Thai government isn’t even aware that some of the vessels exist. Non-governmental organizations and even the U.S. Department of Labor agree that seafood imported from Thailand is likely to benefit from slave labor at least in part.

“Knowing that the much of the fish sold in Nestlé’s pet food is likely the product of
slave labor is material to consumers not wishing to support slave labor with their purchasing power,” the plaintiff’s attorneys say in the initial complaint. As much as cat owners joke about being enslaved by their pets, the cats themselves probably wouldn’t appreciate it, either.

Class Action Filed against Nestlé for Slave Labor, Human Trafficking Used to Produce Top-Selling Pet Food [Hagens Berman]
‘SEA SLAVES’: THE HUMAN MISERY THAT FEEDS PETS AND LIVESTOCK [New York Times]

28 Aug 15:30

10 Things We Learned About The Structured Settlement Purchase Industry

by Ashlee Kieler

Report after report finds that payday lenders, auto title loan firms and pension advance operations unfairly target vulnerable consumers with high fees and questionable terms, but a new investigative piece from The Washington Post shows that are some lesser-known, but very lucrative players offering quick cash to vulnerable consumers: structured settlement purchasing companies.

The Washington Post details how this industry has settled into impoverished areas of Maryland, buying hundreds of thousands of dollars in structured settlement payments for pennies on the dollar, sometimes with very negative financial outcomes for struggling, disabled consumers.

Here’s how it works: when a consumer sues a company or an individual and wins their case, they are often provided some kind of settlement.

Traditionally, these settlements are paid in an immediate lump sum. But in some cases, a structured settlement may be agreed upon. The consumer then receives regular payments for a set time period. Such settlements can be structured to last decades, and for the victims of childhood lead poisoning, an injury that can cause life-long mental impairment, a structured settlement can provide long-term stability.

They may sound uncommon, but these structured settlements are big business. Insurance companies have committed an estimated $350 billion to the settlements since 1975.

As a result, a secondary market has sprung up in which firms compete to purchase the rights to those payments in exchange for providing a cash lump sum that is less than the total value the consumer would be entitled to for the life of the settlement.

Those who support this market contend the companies provide needed funds to help cash-strapped people buy homes, go to schools and pay medical bills. But consumer advocates argue the companies are turning a profit at the expensive of very vulnerable populations.

We really recommend that you head over and read the entire report from the Post, but here are the 10 things we learned from the exposé:

1. Though the cause of the phenomenon is in dispute, Baltimore seems to have become a something of a hotbed for companies seeking to buy structured settlements from disabled persons – especially those affected by childhood lead poisoning. Such injuries can lead to life-long mental impairment, which may affect the consumers’ ability to understand the deals they are making with structured settlement buyers.

2. While Maryland signed the Structured Settlement Protection Act into effect in 2000 to better protect consumers, critics say the measure is failing, with companies finding loopholes that put consumers at risk. The bill outlines several requirements that must be met before payments can be signed away, including a stipulation that sellers speak to an independent advisor before selling their payments. But, as the Post shows, these meetings sometimes provide little help to the seller.

3. One such independent advisor tells the Post that he generally doesn’t go “over the terms of the contract. That wasn’t my function. I don’t think any of the other lawyers do that, or else they would never get any repeat business.” His advising was mostly done over the phone and took less than a minute.

The Post reports that some independent advisors, while they don’t work for a purchasing company, often deal with the same businesses over and over, cultivating close relationships. Critics say this presents a conflict of interest that puts consumers at risk.

4. While there are several settlement purchasing companies in the state and across the U.S., the Post focuses on one that appears to operating heavily in Baltimore: Access Funding.

A review of court records, interviews with industry insiders and victims, found that since 2013 Access Funding has filed nearly 200 structured settlement purchases in Maryland. A majority of those cases involved victims of lead poisoning. In all, the sample of cases reviewed by the Post found Access Funding petitioned to purchase $6.9 million worth of future payments for just $1.7 million.

5. In 52 of those deals, the Post found that on average Access Funding paid just 33-cents on the present value of a dollar, or sometimes less. In one case a 24-year-old lead victim sold nearly $327,000 worth of payments for less than $16,200 — or about 9-cents on the dollar.

6. Another example includes an entire family that had been awarded settlements related to lead paint poisoning. In all, the family relinquished $435,000 of their settlement for about $54,000 – or less than 20-cents on the dollar – to Access Funding.

7. Perhaps the most heartbreaking case reported by the Post is that of Vincent, a 25-year-old who grew up in a house that doctors called a “lead pit,” with the level of lead in his blood stream often being three times that of what is considered “elevated.” One medical professional couldn’t determine whether the man was “severely disabled” or just “generally disabled” as a result.

As with other examples cited by the Post, the man sold some of his payments to Access Funding. According to the Post, in an affidavit written by the company and signed by the man in 2013, he sold $90,000 of his settlement for $26,000 to “purchase a vehicle.” The money, the affidavit said, would also be used to “look for work and also need furniture, clothes, school supplies for my young daughter.” But the man doesn’t have a daughter, he has a son. And he doesn’t have a driver’s license.

After that settlement, the man attempted to complete two other sales, one that was eventually dismissed. As with the previous deals, the affidavits included perplexing statements, such as the man didn’t want to incur costs of renting any longer, or that he wanted to make a purchase of a home. However, he had just purchased a home and hadn’t needed to pay rent for months.

In all, he was willing to let go $663,000 of his lead paint settlement for just $50,000. When asked about the settlements by a Post reporter, the man asked “what settlement.”

8. While all of these deals must receive the approval of a court, the Post points out that Maryland law doesn’t require the settlement recipient to show up in court. As a result, many cases take just minutes to become finalized. In fact, one judge has overseen 160 petitions from Access Funding, approving the requests almost 90% of the time.

9. An executive for Access Funding defended the company’s affidavits and petitions.

“What we do is provide equity for those people to buy homes,” he said, noting that the company had no reason to think those who had signed onto deals were impaired or unable to understand what they were doing.

The man says the company doesn’t target lead victims and that Baltimore’s glut of lead-paint lawsuits has artificially inflated the company’s business in the city. Still, he tells the Post that he would welcome stricter legislation and oversight, simply so the company can secure themselves “in the future from any potential questions like this again, so we can say, ‘No, that’s not us.’”

10. Lawmakers are attempting to put an end to these situations by calling for tighter restrictions on the structured settlement purchasing industry. The Post reports that following its exposé on the industry, Members of the House of Delegates and Attorney General ­Brian E. Frosh pressed for increased scrutiny of these transactions.

How companies make millions off lead-poisoned, poor blacks [The Washington Post]
Md. lawmakers want tougher legislation for settlement purchases [The Washington Post]

28 Aug 14:46

California Senate Approves Bill To Regulate E-Cigarettes Like Traditional Tobacco Products

by Ashlee Kieler

ecigEight months after the California Department of Health declared that e-cigarettes were a threat to public health, the state’s lawmakers are taking steps to ensure the devices are regulated much like their traditional counterparts.

The California State Senate on Thursday passed several bills that would put more regulations on the use and sale of electronic cigarettes, similar to the way in which traditional tobacco products are regulated in the state, Reuters reports.

Among that measure’s provisions are bans on where the devices could be used – essentially prohibiting their use in any places that cigarettes are already banned – and stricter packaging requirements, specifically ensuring they are sold in child-resistant packages.

Additionally, the bill would require businesses to obtain a special license to sell the products, much like they must do with traditional tobacco items.

According to the Health Department’s report earlier this year, the number of stores peddling e-cigs quadrupled between 2011 and 2013 and now includes more than 7,000 retailers.

It also pointed to rising use among the younger generations, saying it could help to addict future generations to nicotine. Citing a state survey of 430,000 middle and high school students in 2013, it points out that 6.3% of seventh-graders, 12.4% of ninth-graders and 14.3% of 11th graders had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

The bill, which passed the Senate on a 25-12 vote, must still get approval from the State Assembly before it could become law. A similar measure previously passed the Senate but later died in an Assembly committee, Reuters reports.

Another measure approved by the Senate on Thursday would increase the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21 from 18. That bill was also re-introduced recently after failing earlier this year.

The flurry of bills regulating e-cigarettes could be a direct response to the Health Department’s report meant to urge lawmakers to regulate the devices and make residents aware of the health risk associated with vaping.

The report found that e-cigarettes generally contain nicotine, drawn into the lungs after it is heated in a flavored liquid – sometimes in flavors like cotton candy and an assortment of fruits that might be appealing to younger consumers. The vapor used in the devices has also been found to contain some formaldehyde and other chemicals, such as benzene and acetaldehyde.

Thus far, California is the biggest state to take such a stance against e-cigarettes, with Alaska as the only other state with a public-education campaign warning about their dangers.

Advocates of the e-cigarette industry have, of course, opposed the California bills and health reports.

Reuters reports that many makers and distributors of the products continue to opine that the devices are a safer alternative to smoking.

Bill to regulate e-cigarettes clears California legislative hurdle [Reuters]

28 Aug 14:22

Google Chrome Will Block Flash Ads, Auto-Playing Videos Starting Sept. 1

by Mary Beth Quirk

If you hate the blast of noise and music that hits your ears every time an auto-playing video unexpectedly goes off on a web page you’ve just opened, rejoice: Google Chrome will be blocking all Adobe Flash content deemed not central to a web page starting Sept. 1.

This means auto-playing ads and videos (on non-video websites) will be automatically on pause by default until a user decides to play them, reports Ars Technica, noting that Chrome had a Flash-blocking feature that rolled out in beta earlier this year.

Back then, Google said the reason for blocking Flash was battery life, as auto-playing ads eat up a lot of CPU time. It’ll also help cut down on malware that’s spread through malicious Flash ads, something Flash has become notorious for.

In August, Yahoo had to remove malware from its advertising network that used Flash , and Facebook and Firefox also want to just put Flash out of its misery already after other security holes were identified in July.

Your ears will get a rest, but advertisers are sure to be ticked off by the move. While YouTube has been using HTML5 by default since the beginning of this year, most online advertisers still use Flash, even on mobile (though iOS has never supported it and Android killed support for it off in 2011).

Google automatically converts most Flash ads on its AdWords network to HTML5, notes Ars, but other sites will just stop accepting Flash ads altogether. Amazon already made the move to ban Flash ads as of Sept. 1, saying that the change “ensures customers continue to have a positive, consistent experience across Amazon and its affiliates, and that ads displayed across the site function properly for optimal performance.”

Google Chrome will block auto-playing Flash ads from September 1 [Ars Technica]

28 Aug 13:59

Chicago Target Could Be Company’s First To Serve Alcohol To Shoppers

by Ashlee Kieler

Who needs to tote around a cup of coffee or soft drink while browsing the aisles of their local big box retailer when they could have a glass of wine in hand instead? While shopping and drinking can certainly be a dangerous combination for some people (not myself, of course), that could be the next step for Target.

The Los Angeles Times reports a Target store in Chicago could be the company’s first to serve boozy beverages to shoppers, after the company applied for two different liquor licenses in the city.

The first license is rather standard and would allow the company to sell packaged liquor – much like other retailers already do.

The second application would allow the company to serve beer, wine and spirits in the store, potentially giving customers the chance to take a break between the grocery section and the shoe department for a little mid-shopping spree libation.

The Times reached out to Target for comment on the possibility that it could soon be employing a mixologist in Chicago, but hadn’t heard back yet.

Serving alcoholic drinks isn’t a new concept for retailers. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, the city is already home to several markets that serve booze including a Standard Market and Plum Market. A new Whole Foods also has a full service bar for downtown workers and shoppers.

Chicago appears to be a hotbed for companies branching into the boozy market. The area is now home to the first Taco Bell to serve adult beverages.

In other areas of the country retailers have latched onto the idea of serving mid-shopping drinks, as Crain’s points out. Grocery stores including Whole Foods, H-E-B and Hy-Vee all have stores that offer bars and prepared food.

Cocktails at Target? It could happen in Chicago [The Los Angeles Times]

28 Aug 10:47

Caught on video: men fighting on the back of a firetruck in Southeast DC - Washington Post


STATter911

Caught on video: men fighting on the back of a firetruck in Southeast DC
Washington Post
Three men were caught on video as they fought on the back of a D.C. firetruck, stepping on big hoses used to battle fires. No one was seriously hurt, although police said one of the young men suffered some abrasions. It began Thursday afternoon in ...
Fight breaks out on top of firetruck in Southeast DC (Video)WTOP

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27 Aug 18:30

Healthy Paws: Bringing Home (a Human) Baby

by wtopstaff

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a new column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

So your furry child is about to have a human child to contend with… how do you get your fuzzy companion to adapt and accept this attention-needy kid? How do you come to terms with the fact that try as you might, you really may not be able to play with your cat or walk your dog nearly as much?

Hopefully the tips below will give you something to help the transition and give you a few things to think about when considering human child/fur-child families:

Pregnancy Considerations

  • Research has shown that moms who have pets while pregnant and children exposed to pets from birth to age one have lower risk for certain allergies and asthma!
  • Toxoplasma transmission from cats gets a lot of attention… but Toxoplasma is a very rare disease in indoor cats (especially if your house doesn’t have a rodent problem and you don’t feed your cat a raw-meat diet.) We’ve been asked by pregnant moms about Toxoplasma antibody testing of cats to help determine risk, unfortunately that doesn’t tell us a whole lot about the presence of Toxoplasma in the gut — and is truly a poor test in determining risk of transmission to humans. Likely, a better way is to do several fecal parasite screens during pregnancy to see if the cat is shedding the Toxoplasma cysts in their feces. Additionally, the cysts shed in the feces take 48 hours to become infective — if the litter box is cleaned daily there is almost no risk of transmission. Please note that a pregnant woman is much more likely to get Toxoplasma from undercooked meat and from gardening (secondary to feral or outdoor cats defecating in the garden) than from her indoor cat. Now, we still don’t recommend pregnant women clean out the litter box — but know the real risk of transmission from an indoor cat is very low.
  • Start working with Fido on any behavior training as early as possible! Knowledge of basic commands will be very beneficial once the baby arrives (i.e. sit, stay, and even hand targeting). If you have an anxious or fearful pet, start working with a behaviorist to help address those problems well in advance of your baby’s arrival for a smoother introduction.
  • If your pet currently eats in an area that will be accessible to the child once he/she starts moving around the house, it’s best to move the feeding station ahead of time to an area that will be off-limits to the baby.
  • Cats can also be trained for the impending situation of a human child and creating an environment around the house where the cat can feel safe (i.e. perches, hideaways) will give the cat places to escape to. Move litter boxes out of the way — but not too out of the way — and out of reach of little baby hands!
  • Understand that despite our best efforts to keep up those long walks, attention and bonding time we have with our pet that there probably will be less time for that (and that is okay!). Do the best you can and if possible, try to plan and practice for changes in your routine. If your pet is social, he or she may enjoy going to doggy daycare or having a puppy playdate a few times a week to get out some extra energy.  

Baby’s Almost Here!

  • Getting your pets used to some of the new smells can be helpful. Washing your hands every so often in baby soap, applying a small amount baby powder or baby oil to your skin will help them acclimate to some of the new smells in the house.
  • Getting your pets used to new noises can also be helpful — play recordings of crying, cooing and giggling babies. Use the rocker, play with some of those noisy toys and turn that baby swing on every now and then. Use positive reinforcement for good, calm behavior during these activities.

Bringing the Baby Home – The Introduction

  • If you have a hospital or out-of-home birth, and it’s possible to take a swaddle cloth home to have your pet sniff ahead of time, that is often advisable.
  • If you have a home birth, the choice to keep your pet home with you during labor or have them boarded or stay with a friend/relative is a toss up. You know your pet’s personality best and often the strength and type of human-animal bond that exists between you and your pet is the biggest determinant.
  • A lot of how kids and pets get along together is shaped by how you work with your child to interact with your pet. Start early with appropriate behavior and pet interaction and never leave your child alone or unattended with your pet.
  • Introducing your pet to your baby should be done in a calm, relaxed manner; and positive reinforcement for good behavior goes a long way.
  • Be sure to have a good understanding of dog and cat body language and make sure that you intervene (i.e. remove child) and do not encourage continued interaction when your pet is displaying overt signs of stress.

And for those of you pet owners who don’t have human children — please be sure to enjoy your night’s sleep for us… one of these days our own kids will grow up and sleep all night and maybe even past 6:30 a.m. (at least we hope so!)

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

The post Healthy Paws: Bringing Home (a Human) Baby appeared first on WTOP.

27 Aug 14:32

Pet coyote caught in Md., euthanized

by wtopstaff

WASHINGTON — A coyote being kept as a pet was captured near a restaurant in North Beach, Maryland on Wednesday, NBC Washington reports.

Animal control caught the coyote running around near Neptune’s just after 8 a.m. It was wearing a blue collar, which led police to its owner, NBC Washington reports.

It is illegal to own a coyote in Maryland.

Police said the coyote’s owner got the animal from Virginia as a puppy. The animal had to be euthanized, police said, due to the possible risk of rabies exposure.

Police told NBC Washington that the charges were pending against the owner.

The post Pet coyote caught in Md., euthanized appeared first on WTOP.

27 Aug 21:40

Cascadian Farms Recalls Frozen Green Beans From 2014 For Possible Listeria

by Laura Northrup

We have really terrible news for anyone out there who was planning to make a turkey bacon and green bean sandwich on whole wheat or multi-grain bread, even though that has probably never been a sandwich that a real person would eat or make. All three of those foods have been recalled in the last few days, now including green beans from Cascadian Farm.

These beans may potentially be contaminated with Listeria bacteria, and the affected products are more than a year old. Freezing doesn’t kill Listeria, and it causes an illness that can potentially cause severe illness, death, stillbirths, or miscarriages. No one has reported any illnesses, and the contamination was found when one package was tested.

Here’s what you need to look for: recalled packages will have “better if used by” dates of 10APR2016 and 11APR2016. They were manufactured in March 2014, and sold nationwide sometime after that.

Consumers should throw away the frozen beans and call Cascadian Farms for replacement veggies at 1-800-624-4123. You can also call that number if you have any questions about products you own or about this recall.

General Mills Voluntarily Recalls a Limited Quantity of Frozen Cascadian Farm Cut Green Beans [FDA]

27 Aug 18:59

Tesla Model S P85D Breaks Consumer Reports’ Ratings System

by consumerist.com

This story was first published by our sister publication Consumer Reports.

The all-wheel-drive Tesla Model S P85D sedan performed better in our tests than any other car ever has, breaking the Consumer Reports Ratings system.

The P85D is brutally quick, with instant acceleration. The car’s thrust is forceful and immediate. Its near-instant g-forces can otherwise be achieved only by leaping off a building—literally.

That this electric car accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds without an engine’s roar makes it frighteningly eerie in its silent velocity. It’s so explosively quick that Tesla has created an “insane” driving mode.

With a six-figure price tag, the P85D is expensive, meaning its virtues will be experienced by a rare few. But its significance as a breakthrough model that is pushing the boundaries of both performance and fuel-efficiency is dramatic (even more so because it is coming from the factory of an American startup company). The Model S precedes additional electric cars coming from Tesla Motors. The Model X crossover is due to arrive in 2016, followed in 2018 by a more attainable compact sedan, named Model 3, targeted to start at about $35,000.

teslaonthetrack

The P85D also has better braking and handling than our top-scoring standard Model S. And yet it’s more energy-efficient, getting the equivalent of 87 mpg.

Despite its sharper focus on performance, the P85D also maintains its practicality and luxury.

In rating it, however, we faced a quandary: The Tesla initially scored 103 in the Consumer Reports‘ Ratings system, which by definition doesn’t go past 100. The car set a new benchmark, so we had to make changes to our scoring to account for it. Those changes didn’t affect the scores of other cars.

To be clear, the Tesla’s 100 score doesn’t make the P85D a perfect car—even at $127,820. It has imperfections. The interior materials aren’t as opulent as other high-ticket automobiles, and its ride is firmer and louder than our base Model S.

teslainterior
What’s more, a lengthy road trip in an electric car with a 200-plus mile range can be a logistical hurdle if a quick-charging station isn’t along your route.

It’s also important to note that our Rating doesn’t include the Tesla’s reliability. The Model S has average reliability, according to our owner-survey responses.

That said, the Tesla Model S P85D is an automotive milepost. It’s a remarkable car that paves a new, unorthodox course, and it’s a powerful statement of American startup ingenuity.

Check out more photos from the Consumer Reports test track:

teslacurve

tesladash

teslatop
teslarear

teslatesting

teslatrack

27 Aug 16:42

House Couple Was Buying To Tear Down Over Fire Hazard Concerns Catches Fire While They Sign Deed

by Mary Beth Quirk

Sometimes, bad things happen pretty much exactly when you’d expect them to, in a bit of unfortunate happenstance. Does it make you mad? Yes, maybe, but it was just meant to be. To wit: a couple in Pennsylvania who were buying a vacant house next door to tear it down because they were worried it was a fire hazard were proved correct when the home did, indeed, catch on fire… while they were signing the papers to become the owners.

The couple were at the county courthouse putting pen to paper on the dead, reports the Associated Press, citing the Somerset Daily American (paywall site).

The house in question sits a few feet from their home, so if it went up in flames, the fear was that a fire could spread to the couple’s home pretty quickly. They wanted to buy it and get rid of it to ensure that didn’t happen.

A neighbor called 9-1-1 about the fire yesterday afternoon, and the fire department quickly extinguished flames on the first floor. Fire officials have since determined that the origin was suspicious.

The woman told the paper that the vacant home had “been sitting empty for a couple years. We didn’t even know about the fire until the fire department was called.”

‘Fire hazard’ home burns as couple signs deed to buy it [Associated Press]

27 Aug 14:58

Walmart Opens Holiday Layaway Program Two Weeks Early, Reduces Minimum Cost For Eligible Items

by Ashlee Kieler

Thinking about getting a jump on your holiday shopping? So is Walmart, apparently. The company announced today that it will open its seasonal layaway program early and lower the price for eligible items.

Reuters reports that Walmart’s annual holiday layaway program would be available starting August 28, two weeks earlier than last year and nearly two months before the big box retailer allowed customers to put away gifts when it first brought back the program in 2011.

The earlier start date for the 2015 layaway program coincides with Walmart’s made-up occasion, “Toy Week” – an attempt to capitalize on the soon to launch Star Wars toy line, Anne Marie Kehoe, vice president of toys, says.

In addition to starting the holiday shopping season earlier, the retailer announced it would revamp the layaway program by lowering the price for individual eligible items to $10 from $15.

In all, the company will make 40,000 items available under the program, which allows people to pay for holiday gifts and other products in installments.

Walmart will also give customers longer to pay their layaway balance, increasing the time frame from 60 days to 90 days.

“In the five years we’ve been offering this holiday layaway program we’ve discovered that customers use it for a whole host of reasons, from being able to better budget their money and avoiding credit card fees,” Kehoe said.

Wal-Mart boosts holiday layaway, eyeing Star Wars toy launch [Reuters]

27 Aug 13:35

Two Passengers Arrested After Pepper Spray, Razor Come Out During Fight On JetBlue Flight

by Mary Beth Quirk

You’ve probably had that feeling: the one where the plane has landed, and it’s only a matter of minutes before you’re standing up, walking down that aisle and finally getting off. But police say that moment got a bit too testy after a JetBlue flight coming from Jamaica landed at John F. Kennedy Airport yesterday morning in New York, when two female passengers got in a brawl.

According to the New York Daily News, a woman who had a window seat (we’ll call her Passenger 1) apparently tried to climb over another passenger sitting next to her (we’ll call her Passenger 2) just after the flight had touched down.

Passenger 2 pushed Passenger 1 away after she climbed over her, prompting Passenger 1 to then punch the other woman in the face, according to a Port Authority spokesman.

When another passenger tried to break it up, Passenger 1 swiped him with an eyebrow razor, cutting his elbow.

In the ensuing melee, Passenger 2 reportedly pulled out a can of mace and sprayed it at the other woman, effectively giving everyone around them a dose of chemicals as well, police said.

Port Authority police arrived on the scene and arrested both women. Several others were treated for difficulty breathing, the spokesman said.

Passenger 1 was charged with assault, criminal possession of a weapon and criminal mischief, while Passenger 2 was charged with with possession of tear gas. It’s still unclear how she was able to get the mace on the plane in the first place, officials said.

JetBlue confirmed the incident in a statement:

“On August 26, a customer disagreement occurred shortly after flight 960 arrived at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport from Kingston, Jamaica. Law enforcement were called and met the aircraft.”

Two women brawl on plane at JFK, leaving good Samaritan slashed with razor, passengers sickened with pepper spray: cops [New York Daily News]

27 Aug 17:18

Police: Girl sexually assaulted inside Manassas Walmart - W*USA 9


W*USA 9

Police: Girl sexually assaulted inside Manassas Walmart
W*USA 9
A 12-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a man inside of a Walmart in Manassas on August 21, according to Prince William County police. Loading… Post to Facebook. Police: Girl sexually assaulted inside Manassas Walmart A 12-year-old girl was ...
Suspect Sought in Wal-Mart Sexual AssaultPatch.com

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