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27 Jul 13:51

Bad News: Security Hole Can Let An Attacker Take Over Your Android Phone With A Single Text

by Kate Cox

It’s a bad news Monday for up to 950 million — yes, that’s almost 1 billion — Android device owners worldwide. A vulnerability that would let a hacker take over your phone remotely has been announced, and it’s a doozy.

The damage travels by text, Forbes reports, and takes advantage of a weakness in a piece of code called Stagefright.

Stagefright is a tool Android uses to play back media — any text you get that’s an MMS (as opposed to an SMS) is played back to you using Stagefright. Any app that can read your text messages sits on top of that code, from Google Hangouts to your pre-installed default “Messaging” program.

Joshua Drake, the security researcher who discovered the flaw, told Forbes that the only thing a hacker would need to send out exploitations would be phone numbers. Attackers could then send messages to those numbers with bad code packaged in that would allow them to access the receiving device and steal data.

The level of access attackers would gain would allow access to files stored on SD cards as well as on the phone memory. Attackers could also turn your phone into a bug, remotely recording audio and video without your knowledge. Bluetooth access is also hackable via Stagefright. All versions of Android from 2.2 and up are considered vulnerable.

If that sounds terrifying, well, it kind of is. And then it gets worse. The exploit isn’t like a virus-laden e-mail attachment; you don’t actually have to try to view the media in order to be affected. Merely looking at the message in some apps is enough.

And then there are the apps where you don’t even have to open the message: for folks who use Google Hangouts to read their texts, Hangouts would open and access the exploit code “immediately before you even look at your phone… before you even get the notification,” Drake told Forbes, adding that it’s possible then to delete the message before the user even receives an alert, making the attack completely silent.

The good news is, after Drake reported his findings, Google has verified and corrected seven security holes. But here’s the bad news: Google doesn’t update Android phones directly. Service providers do. So Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and other, smaller carriers all have to push patches to their own Android customers… and they are not known for doing so quickly.

Drake will be speaking about his process for discovering vulnerabilities in Android at the Black Hat InfoSec conference in Las Vegas next week.

Stagefright: It Only Takes One Text To Hack 950 Million Android Phones [Forbes]

27 Jul 13:30

Oh Great, Here’s Another Halloween Candy Display In July

by Laura Northrup

Just in case you thought it might be some kind of fluke that Walgreens had their Halloween candy out on July 21, we assure you that Walgreens isn’t alone in this sort of wacky midsummer merchandising. Nope: John sent along this photo taken in a Giant Eagle store of a display of seasonally-themed M&Ms and Snickers bars.


The date this was taken: July 23. We know that you have to fill those seasonal sections up however you can, retailers, but can’t we at least have summer until the end of July?

We’ve already seen pumpkin spice food items creeping into stores as early as mid-July. How can we convince retailers to respect the sanctity of seasons?

27 Jul 13:30

Fiat Chrysler Receives Record $105 Million Fine For Failure To Address 23 Recalls

by Ashlee Kieler

For the second time this year, federal regulators have handed down a record-setting fine to an automaker for failing to properly report and investigate possible defects. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration levied a $105 million fine against Fiat Chrysler, following months of investigations into the car maker’s leisurely pace in fixing more than 11 million vehicles connected to 23 safety recalls.

The $105 million civil penalty surpasses the previous record-making $70 million fine regulators imposed on Honda earlier this year for failing to report faulty airbags, the New York Times reports.

“This civil penalty puts manufacturers on notice that the department will act when they do not take their obligations to repair safety defects seriously,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Sunday.

The $105 million penalty includes a $70 million cash penalty, $20 million to be spent on meeting performance requirements, and a $15 million penalty to be assessed if an independent monitor discovers the company has other violations of safety laws.

As part of the agreement, Fiat Chrysler admitted to violating federal rules requiring timely recalls and notifications to vehicle owners, dealers and regulators.

“We also accept the resulting consequences with renewed resolve to improve our handling of recalls and re-establish the trust our customers place in us,” the company said in a statement.

Under the consent order, the company must allow outside oversight of its safety practices. General Motors recently agreed to similar conditions following an investigation into its long-delayed ignition switch defect.

Additionally, the company must buy back nearly 500,000 vehicles with defective suspensions that can cause drivers to lose control.

The NYT reports that owners of more than one million Jeeps with rear-mounted gas tanks that are prone to fires will be given an opportunity to trade in their vehicles at rates above market value. It was this 2013 recall that spurred NHTSA’s review of the company’s many recalls.

The agency and Chrysler have been involved in a bit of back-and-forth with regard to the Jeep vehicles with rear-mounted fuel tanks that sit too low and put the vehicle at risk of catching fire if involved in a rear-end collision.

For nearly three years, Chrysler has maintained that the millions of Jeeps do not have a safety defect. However, safety documents show that the issue has resulted in nearly 75 deaths.

During the summer of 2013, the car manufacturer and NHTSA agreed to a remedy for the issue that involved equipping vehicles with a trailer hitch that could reduce the risk of fires. Since then regulators have shared this displeasure with Chrysler’s slow pace at providing fixes for owners.

NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind said the hefty fine was a direct result of Fiat Chrysler’s prolonged failure to adequately identify and address recalls.

“Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers, and the driving public, at risk,” he said.

The fine comes less than a month after regulators held an unusual public hearing to discuss the company’s process for investigating and fixing recalls. During the hearing, NHTSA officials  agreed that the company failed its duties related to the recalls.

Fiat Chrysler Faces Record $105 Million Fine for Safety Issues [The New York Times]

27 Jul 10:37

Manassas City panhandlers: Not on this corner

by Kathy Stewart

WASHINGTON — The City of Manassas is set to rein in panhandling especially at intersections that are deemed dangerous.

Potomac Local reports that the Manassas City Council is expected to vote Monday, July 27 to restrict 16 intersections in the city so people will no longer be able to stand on the median at the intersections and beg for money.

The 16 intersections have been ranked the most dangerous when it comes to crashes, injuries and property damage.

  • Liberia Avenue at Centreville Road
  • Liberia Avenue at Euclid Avenue
  • Liberia Avenue at Signal Hill Road
  • Liberia Avenue at Prince William Parkway/Wellington Road

    The city of Manassas is cracking down on its panhandlers at various intersections in the city. (Thinkstock)

  • Liberia Avenue at Mathis Avenue
  • Liberia Avenue at Richmond Avenue
  • Prince William Street at Grant Avenue
  • Church Street at Grant Avenue
  • Nokesville Road at Godwin Drive
  • Mathis Avenue at Sudley Road
  • Sudley Road at Digges Road
  • Sudley Road at Plantation Lane
  • Centreville Road at Breeden Avenue
  • Ashton Avenue at Cockrell Road
  • Ashton Avenue at Godwin Drive
  • Centreville Road at Kincheloe Drive

Manassas City is following other regions which are cracking down on panhandling.  Last year, Prince William County re-classified panhandling as “aggressive and dangerous solicitation,” making it a more serious offense and increasing the fines and penalties.

The post Manassas City panhandlers: Not on this corner appeared first on WTOP.

26 May 15:22

Hot Topic enters agreement to buy ThinkGeek parent company Geeknet Inc.

by Lee Hutchinson

comments are fun

Online geek-y retailer ThinkGeek and its parent company Geeknet Inc. are in the process of being acquired by Hot Topic, a popular mall-based retailer best known for selling vampire T-shirts and other faux-goth-pop accoutrements. According to a press release issued this morning, Hot Topic will be picking up all of Geeknet’s outstanding shares of common stock for $17.50 per share, and the company will also be fronting about $37 million in cash. The total value of the transaction will be $122 million.

Geeknet CEO Kathryn McCarthy said in the press release that the move would enable Geeknet and ThinkGeek to bring its products to the attention of new consumers, as well as to "expand [its] product offerings to keep up with industry and customer demands."

Geeknet’s shareholders appear to be onboard with the purchase, with the press release noting that a contingent of shareholders holding about 21 percent of the company’s common stock have agreed to go along with the offer.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

24 Jul 19:54

Today In Weird Clothing Trends: Wearing Jeans Infused With Jade To Beat The Heat

by Mary Beth Quirk

Because no one likes having heavy fabric clinging to sweaty, suffocating legs when it’s hot outside, many people turn to a clothing innovation known as “shorts” to give those limbs some breathing room when the weather is hot. But over in China, Lee jeans has decided to push another option — denim infused with crushed jade stones, a method that theoretically keeps wearers cooler.

The Jade Fusion line launched in Hong Kong in May and is now spreading to the rest of China, reports Bloomberg, where customers may have a hard time getting their hands on a pair, as they’ve sold out in the first seven weeks.

Here’s how it works: The jade fabric pulls sweat away from the body, where it quickly dries, creating a cooling sensation, Stephen Dull, vice president of strategy and innovation for VF Corp, the parent company of Lee, explained to Bloomberg. Or as the brand calls it, “denim refreshment.”

“It’s not magic,” Dull said. “But it takes away of a lot of the smelly, icky, sweaty, sticky feeling you get when you wear denim in the heat.”

This is part of Lee’s efforts to get people out of their soft and stretchy yoga pants and other leisure wear that’s become popular and back into jeans, even when it’s a bajillion degrees outside and the last thing you might want is heavy fabric smothering your legs into a sweaty denim hell.

For now the Jade jeans are only going to be sold in China, Lee says. But who knows, the gemstone jean craze could eventually make its way to America. Not everyone likes wearing shorts no matter how hot it is, after all. Especially when the bright glow of pale legs finally seeing the light of day after a long winter in the dark is not something every person is uncomfortable inflicting on the world.

Forget Shorts, Jeans Made With Jade Help Chinese Beat the Heat [Bloomberg]

24 Jul 20:06

DC Animal Watch - Washington Post

DC Animal Watch
Washington Post
These cases were handled by the Washington Humane Society, which operates its shelter at 7319 Georgia Ave. NW, and the District's, at 1201 New York Ave. NE. For information or assistance, call 202-723-5730 or go to

24 Jul 12:50

Pulled over: What are your rights?

by Nick Iannelli

WASHINGTON — Millions have seen the video from Texas where driver Sandra Bland is pulled over by a trooper and refuses to leave her vehicle before the two become entangled in a physical confrontation.

It has led to a nationwide question about the constitutional rights of drivers during a traffic stop.

“The officer does not have the right to order you to do certain things, like stop smoking,” says Georgetown University law professor Paul Rothstein.

In the Texas dashcam video, Bland is told to put out her cigarette.

According to Rothstein, officers can only command drivers to do such a thing if their actions are interfering with the officer’s questions. For instance, a driver can be forced to stop talking on a cellphone.

Police officers cannot search a driver’s trunk or his personal belongings without probable cause, but they do have the right to order a driver to leave his vehicle.

“It’s a question of officer safety because if you are still sitting in the car, you might reach for a weapon or something like that,” Rothstein says.

But even if an officer is clearly doing something unconstitutional, some experts advise drivers to listen to the command and do what they are told.

“My suggestion would be to comply on the street, contest in the court. You can always hash that out in front of a judge,” says former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey.

The post Pulled over: What are your rights? appeared first on WTOP.

23 Jul 22:26

Our Nightmare Is Over: Betty Crocker Rainbow Chip Frosting Is Back In Stores

by Laura Northrup

(Betty Crocker)

(Betty Crocker)

If you’re a food company and there’s a Facebook group where more than 16,000 people ask you to bring back a discontinued product, you should probably pay attention. Betty Crocker’s rainbow chip frosting disappeared from stores last year, and we heard from heartbroken and chip-less readers. Now the frosting is back on store shelves, and they have been vindicated.

Rainbow chips vs. rainbow sprinkles might seem like a minor distinction, but the flavor and texture is very different, and the chips version looks much cooler.

“General Mills/Betty Crocker have discontinued Rainbow Chip Frosting and are trying to substitute some Rainbow Sprinkle inferior frosting to consumers,” Kristi wrote to us back in February of 2014, with sprinkle scorn leaking out between her words.

“Even if you don’t bake, I bet if you ask anyone you know –– what is their favorite store bought, canned icing/frosting for cakes? –– the rainbow chip icing would be in the top two,” Beth wrote to us last fall.

Activism from these readers and from many, many other fans of the product finally paid off: it’s back in stores. Technically, its return was announced back in May, but it’s finally appearing in stores. The company even honored the creator of the biggest petition about the frosting with a do-over of his birthday party because he had to suffer without Rainbow Chip frosting. We are not making any of this up.

In what’s sure to be a fascinating case study for marketing students someday, members are showing their status as frosting-owners and showing their support by…posting selfies where they hold frosting cans, or just pictures of the cans as evidence.

Congratulations, Rainbow Chip fans. Enjoy your colorful treats, and savor your victory.

Bring Back Rainbow Chip Frosting [Facebook]

23 Jul 18:14

Thousands Of Pigs Left Homeless Amid Craze For Tiny Pet Swine

by Mary Beth Quirk

Whether it’s kittens, lizards, puppies or cockatoos, humans just love their pets. But often when one species has a spike in popularity, many pets are left without homes once the craze dies down, and folks realize it’s not always easy raising an animal. You know, because animals have a tendency to eat a lot, and grow, things many pig owners weren’t expecting when they bought their pets.

The teacup pig fad isn’t entirely new, points out the Associated Press, having first popped up a few decades ago, only to be revived now and then. The trouble is, breeders and online sellers employ a tricky tactic, telling would-be pet owners that if they feed their new porkers only a certain amount, they won’t get much bigger after they turn one, and will stay small.

Many times that just isn’t true, and the animals demand more and more food, growing larger and larger. If they don’t eat enough, and eat the proper food for, they’ll starve.

One former pet owner found that out the hard way when the mini pig she brought home started raiding her kitchen and digging through the trash. She’d been told by a breeder to only feed it a half-cup of food twice a day. When she took him to the veterinarian, the doctor said her piglet was acting up because he was starving.

She’d been told he would only grow 12 inches tall, but instead, he grew to 20 inches and 180 pounds. Her husband couldn’t handle it anymore she says, telling her, “Either the pig goes or I go.”

The pig ended up at a rescue home, something that’s been happening a lot these days. Shelters are becoming overcrowded, and some sanctuaries have had to put limits on how many pigs they can take.

“There are not enough homes out there anymore. These pigs are in big trouble,” the operator of Lil’ Orphan Hammies pig rescue told the AP.

She’s saved 1,000 pigs since the rescue started 23 years ago, and gets 20 calls a day from people trying to find a new home for their pigs.

It’s definitely not easy out there for a pet porker: Anna Key, vice president of the North American Potbellied Pig Association, estimated that 90% of pigs adopted in the U.S. end up at a rescue or a sanctuary.

Though breeders claim restricted diets can keep pigs tiny because they’re learning to eat less (which sounds awful), rescues say they’re just getting emaciated and losing muscle mass.

“I have never seen a full-grown, healthy, 35-pound pig live to maturity,” the owner of a Pennsylvania farm rescue told the AP.

Pet porkers pack rescues as trendy teacup pigs fatten up [Associated Press]

22 Jul 14:23

Prince William County community calendar, July 23-29, 2015 - Washington Post

Prince William County community calendar, July 23-29, 2015
Washington Post
“Visual Expressions” exhibit Paintings by members of the Visual Expressions Arts and Craft Group at the Four Seasons Active Adult Community in Dumfries. Through July 31. Manassas City Hall, The Hall, 9027 Center St., Manassas. 703-257-8200. Free.

23 Jul 21:11

'We are shocked by these failures.' Pentagon cites ineffective testing in ... - Washington Post


'We are shocked by these failures.' Pentagon cites ineffective testing in ...
Washington Post
A Defense Department review of how an Army laboratory in Utah distributed scores of live anthrax samples to facilities across the United States and overseas found that ineffective irradiation and testing procedures have been used there for a decade ...
Pentagon: Poor testing led to Army shipping live anthraxUSA TODAY
Pentagon probe of anthrax samples sent to labs in US and abroad finds faulty ...Reuters
Pentagon: No "root cause" of live anthrax shipmentsWJXT Jacksonville
Yahoo News
all 22 news articles »
23 Jul 17:07

15 things to do in the DC area on the weekend of July 24-26 - Washington Post (blog)

15 things to do in the DC area on the weekend of July 24-26
Washington Post (blog)
The weekend's best bets in nightlife, festivals, music, sports and many other events around the Washington area. British singer Sam Smith has his voice back and sounds good as new. He'll be crooning at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Friday night. (Photo ...

23 Jul 17:07

Strangers Pitch In To Keep Woman’s Car From Being Towed While She’s In The ER With Infant Son

by Mary Beth Quirk

You know the feeling — you’ve only got a little time left on the parking meter but you’re stuck somewhere, forcing you to face either a parking ticket, or even worse, having your car towed. One woman who was unable to feed the meter after spending hours in the ER with her infant son reached out to her fellow mothers, and was rewarded with an outpouring of generosity from total strangers.

A Toronto woman had to rush her six-week-old son to the hospital recently, and didn’t think she’d be too long, so she put enough money in the parking meter to cover her car for four hours, The Canadian Press reports.

But when she had to wait three hours to even see a doctor, she realized the meter would soon expire. So she reached out to a Facebook group for local mothers, asking whether anyone knew if her car would be ticketed or towed.

Strangers answered her, and also showered her post with offers to stop by and fill up the parking meter for her.

“I’m not far. I can go put change in it for you in about an hour on my way back home if you are still there,” one wrote.

“I live not too far from the hospital. Will head over now and top up the meter for you!” another added.

Nine hours later, she picked up her car to find that there were still five hours left on the meter, and that her Facebook feed had exploded with messages from people she didn’t know, wishing her and her son well.

“I was completely overwhelmed. I was completely grateful,” she said. “It made a very tough and stressful situation a lot easier for me. It made me able to focus on my son’s needs rather than having to worry about my car being towed.”

She adds that hundreds of mothers have been asking for updates on her son’s condition, as well as offering parking passes for her to use on her next trip to the hospital. She says now she’s inspired to return the favor, and will be keeping in touch with those who reached out to her.

That feeling you’re having? It’s the warm fuzzies. Feels nice, doesn’t it?

Strangers stop woman’s car from being towed during infant son’s hospital visit [The Canadian Press]

23 Jul 17:29

Costco Cuts Back On Chilean Salmon In Favor Of Antibiotic-Free Fish

by Chris Morran

Amid concerns of antibiotics overuse contributing to the development of drug-resistant superbugs, American consumers are increasingly demanding antibiotic-free meat and fish. That’s bad news for Chilean salmon farmers who are facing a bacterial outbreak and treating their fish with record levels of antibiotics — and losing the business of Costco and others.

Chile is the world’s second-largest producer of salmon, pumping out 895,000 metric tons of the fish in 2014. At the same time, Reuters reports that salmon farmers in the South American nation used 1.2 million pounds of antibiotics (up 13% from the previous year) in an effort to fight off the Piscirickettsiosis (or SRS) bacteria, which causes lesions, hemorrhaging, swollen kidneys and spleens, and ultimately death in infected fish.

While the farmers insist that the fish treated with the antibiotics are safe, U.S. retailers — especially Costco — are moving away from Chilean salmon.

Costco purchases some 600,000 pounds of salmon each week to fill its warehouse stores around the country, and until recently 90% of that came from Chile.

But in recent months, the company has moved to cut that by more than half to 40%. The majority (60%) of Costco’s salmon will be coming toward Norway, which produces more salmon (1.3 million metric tons in 2013) and uses virtually no antibiotics (2,142 lbs. total in 2013).

And Costco is just the latest to look for alternatives to Chile. Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s have already phased out antibiotic-treated Chilean salmon.

“The whole industry is starting to shift,” explains the Costco exec who oversees fresh foods to Reuters. “If I was to ask you your biggest concern on produce, you might say pesticides. When we ask people in protein, generally it’s going to be hormones or antibiotics.”

The situation in Chile is slightly different from the usual debate about antibiotics in farm animals. In most cases here in the U.S., cows, pigs, and chickens are provided continual, low-dose amounts of antibiotics, primarily for growth promotion.

Following recent guidance to drug-makers from the Food and Drug Administration, farmers now claim they use the drugs for “disease prevention,” even though this prophylactic, sub-therapeutic approach to antibiotics is exactly the kind of practice that physicians and scientists say engenders the development of drug-resistant pathogens.

But in Chile, the farmers claim that the antibiotics to prevent SRS infection are medically necessary.

“This is only something given to sick fish so they don’t die. It’s not something preventive,” the CEO of salmon producer Camanchacha tells Reuters.

And much like farm animals are weaned off antibiotics to minimize the chance of drug residues in meat products, the Chilean salmon go through a detox period before being harvested. And the FDA says its inspections since Oct. 2014 of these fish have not turned up any unapproved drug residues.

However, the issues of drug residues is different from the conversation about drug-resistant pathogens. Even though the fish may be cleansed of the antibiotics by the time they hit store shelves, the constant use of the drugs in salmon farms still can result — and has resulted — in the development of resistant bacteria.

In 2014, a Chilean government report noted antibiotic-resistant strains of SRS turning up in the country’s salmon farms. And they will likely continue to pop up so long as farmers keep using the same antibiotics.

Farmers say that without a vaccine to treat SRS, they have no choice but to continue with the antibiotics treatments.

Addicted to antibiotics, Chile’s salmon flops at Costco, grocers [Reuters]

23 Jul 16:05

Yellowstone Park Officials Reminding Visitors Not To Get Too Close To Animals Just To Get A Good Selfie

by Mary Beth Quirk

That question your parents asked you at least once in your life is coming into play now at Yellowstone National Park: officials are warning visitors not to get too close to wild animals to get a good selfie, even if everyone else is doing it.

The thing about wild bison is, they’re wild, and as such, very unpredictable, park officials are now reminding visitors. The fifth person to be injured this year in the park after a confrontation with wild animals was trying to take a selfie with one of the huge beasts near a trail on Tuesday, reports CNN.

She and her daughter turned their backs on the bison, which was about six yards away, in order to grab a photo with it, the National Park Service said.

“They heard the bison’s footsteps moving toward them and started to run, but the bison caught the mother on the right side, lifted her up and tossed her with its head,” the park service said in a statement Wednesday. The woman had minor injuries.

Despite the fact that they’d read warnings about getting too close to wild animals, the family saw other people close to the bison so they decided that meant it was safe, a ranger said.

“The family said they read the warnings in both the park literature and the signage, but saw other people close to the bison, so they thought it would be OK,” the ranger said. “People need to recognize that Yellowstone wildlife is wild, even though they seem docile. This woman was lucky that her injuries were not more severe.”

Park authorities tell visitors to keep at least 25 yards between themselves and large animals like bison, and a full 100 yards away from bears and wolves.

“Bison can sprint three times faster than humans can run and are unpredictable and dangerous,” park officials warn.

Bison attacks woman who was trying to take selfie with it in Yellowstone Park [CNN]

23 Jul 15:20

Police: Man Who Called 9-1-1 Lied About Having Chest Pains, Just Wanted Help Fixing His AC

by Mary Beth Quirk

Despite the plethora of services that are available these days at the touch of a button, there are still those who seem determined to stick with calling 9-1-1 — even when there’s no actual emergency. Police in Pennsylvania say a man who called complaining of chest pains was fit as a fiddle, and actually just needed help fixing his air conditioning.

During a conversation with a police dispatcher, the 27-year-old also said he was having difficulty breathing, according to a criminal complaint cited by the Smoking Gun. But when emergency medical personnel arrived at his apartment, he “related to them that he was fine and did not have any medical issues,” the complaint says. “However he was having issues with his air conditioning and asked if they could fix it.”

Paramedics didn’t stick around to tinker with his AC, and instead notified 9-1-1 that the call had been bogus, leaving for a “pending true medical emergency.”

The complaint says the man has made “false/misleading/non emergency calls” on more than 60 occasions over the last three years. He was arrested last December for prior 9-1-1 calls, though criminal charges were later withdrawn as part of a plea deal, wherein he wasn’t supposed to make such calls anymore

He’s been accused of obstructing emergency services and disorderly conduct, and is scheduled to appear in court in August on the two misdemeanor charges.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of people misusing the 9-1-1 system when they found something in their life was amiss: There was the man who called 9-1-1 a dozen times claiming he was overcharged for beer; people who called police because Facebook was down; a man who called 9-1-1 repeatedly because his wife threw his beer away and the Subway customer who called emergency services when he got the wrong sauce on his flatizza. And that’s just to mention a few.

Cops: Man Called 911 To Get Help Fixing His AC [The Smoking Gun]

23 Jul 12:30

Campbell Soup Company Climbs On Bandwagon, Will Eliminate Artificial Colors And Flavors By 2018

by Laura Northrup

Joining competitors in the packaged food market like General Mills, Nestlé USA, and Kraft and chain restaurants like Subway, Panera, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, Campbell Soup Company announced this week that it will stop using artificial colors and flavors in all of its products sold in North America in 2018.

Food companies have noticed where the public’s taste is headed, and that’s toward products that are all “natural.” As consumers learned when Starbucks briefly switched to a “natural” red food coloring made from red insects and switched back after the Frappuccino-drinking public collectively said “ew,” the sources of those natural colors aren’t always palatable to consumers.

The company recently reorganized itself, attempting to become relevant to consumers. You’re probably more familiar with brands like Pepperidge Farm and SpaghettiOs, but Campbell also owns a few brands in the natural and organic sector, like vegetable and juice company Bolthouse Farms and the baby food brand Plum Organics. They also recently acquired Garden Fresh Gourmet, a company out of Michigan that makes salsa and hummus.

The company is giving itself a few years to find alternatives to current ingredients that don’t meet the “natural” standard, and the deadline they’ve set is the end of the fiscal year in 2018. That’s almost exactly three years from now: be prepared for some of the familiar flavors of your childhood to change. Maybe.

Campbell to Cut Artificial Flavors, Colors by End of 2018 [Bloomberg]

23 Jul 03:53

Fairfax County dog’s injury investigated as possible bear attack

by wtopstaff

WASHINGTON — Animal Control officers in Fairfax County are investigating whether a dog was injured by a bear this week in the Great Falls area.

According to the Fairfax County Police Department, a veterinarian treating the dog called the county on Tuesday to report the dog’s injury.

“Without a witness, it is hard to say exactly what happened to cause the dog’s injury, but in an abundance of caution, animal control and wildlife management personnel remind residents to keep their pets contained to their property and monitor their time outdoors,” Katherine Edwards, Ph.D., Certified Wildlife Biologist for Fairfax County, said in a news release.

Be Aware of Wildlife: Take Precautions

— FairfaxCounty Police (@fairfaxpolice) July 22, 2015

Cameras will be set up Thursday in the wooded area near River Park Lane, and will be monitored for “unusual wildlife activity.”

The post Fairfax County dog’s injury investigated as possible bear attack appeared first on WTOP.

22 Jul 19:58

Giant panda Mei Xiang celebrates 17th birthday at National Zoo

by Jason Fraley

WASHINGTON – Forget, “Don’t feed the animals.” Let them eat cake!

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is celebrating a big birthday Wednesday.

Giant panda Mei Xiang just turned 17 years old.

The zoo delivered her a frozen cake to celebrate.

Don’t worry, the treat was “panda friendly.”

The zoo tweeted the announcement Wednesday afternoon:

It’s Mei Xiang’s 17th birthday! She got a panda-friendly frozen cake to celebrate. #WeSaveSpecies

— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) July 22, 2015

The post Giant panda Mei Xiang celebrates 17th birthday at National Zoo appeared first on WTOP.

22 Jul 17:00

Reston Pet of the Week: Gidget

by wtopstaff


Meet Gidget, this week’s Pet of the Week who needs a home.

Here is what her people at Lab Rescue of LRCP have to say about her:


Gidget is a 2-year-old spayed chocolate female. She is a very sweet girl that loves her older, smaller canine brother. She always wants to play. She just gives so much love.

She will let you know when she needs to go outside to potty by barking. She is crate trained and potty trained. Gidget is unknown around cats and is approved for kids 10 and up.

Gidget weighs 57 pounds and is up to date on shots. This dog is approved for homes with adults and/or kids ages 10 and up.

This dog is available for adoption from Lab Rescue LRCP. The rescue has about 50 dogs available for adoption at any given time.

If you are interested in adopting, please visit and complete an adoption application. Within a few days of submitting an application you will hear from an Adoption Coordinator who will guide you through the adoption process.

An adoption fee is charged to cover the cost of veterinary care and a house check is required.

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week?

Email with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet.

Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

The post Reston Pet of the Week: Gidget appeared first on WTOP.

22 Jul 17:27

Fairfax County Animal Watch - Washington Post

Fairfax County Animal Watch
Washington Post
No incidents were reported by the Animal Control Division of the Fairfax County Police Department. For information, call 703-246-2253. FAIRFAX CITY. The following incidents were reported by the animal control section of the Fairfax City Police Department.

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22 Jul 19:57

Court: You Have No Right To Privacy When You Butt Dial Someone

by Mary Beth Quirk

Today in issues we never thought a court would weigh in on: if you accidentally pocket dial someone, pulling the move we all know as “butt dialing,” don’t expect anything you say during the call you don’t know you’re making to stay private.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Kentucky ruled yesterday [PDF] that a person who butt dials another party during a conversation doesn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

This, because everyone knows about such accidental calls and there are a lot of ways to prevent such a thing from happening. That means anyone who happens to be listening in on the call that came in on their phone isn’t violating privacy laws by recording that conversation, the three-judge panel determined.

Why did this issue end up in court? Some quick background, via Courthouse News: James Huff, the former chairman of the Kenton County, Ky. Airport Board — which oversees the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport — had sued an executive assistant after she recorded a conversation about board matters.

While at a hotel in Bologna, Italy, he’d tried to call the executive assistant but had the wrong number. He put the phone into his suit pocket, and then accidentally called the right number. Unaware that she was on the line, he had a private conversation with the board’s vice chairman, Larry Savage, about possibly replacing then-CEO Candace McGraw.

Court documents say the assistant answered and could hear the two talking, but couldn’t make out exactly what they were saying. She said “hello” a few times, but no one heard her. At some point she realized what was going on, and said she “believed that she heard James Huff and Savage engaged in a discussion to discriminate unlawfully against McGraw and felt that it was her responsibility to record the conversation and report it through appropriate channels,” the ruling states.

She took notes and recorded a portion of the 91-minute conversation on her iPhone, which continued as Huff later spoke to his wife in their hotel room.

The assistant then took the audio and summary of the conversation to other members of the Airport Board. Huff and his wife sued the assistant in December 2013, charging that she had violated a federal wiretap act that makes it illegal to intercept electronic or oral communications intentionally.

A district court ruled in the assistant’s favor, finding that the Huffs lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy because Huff had placed the call himself. The Huffs then appealed.

In Tuesday’s decision, Judge Danny Boggs noted that butt dialing is akin to keeping your curtains wide open in your home — there’s no rule that says people can’t look inside.

“…[E]xposure need not be deliberate and instead can be the inadvertent product of neglect,” he wrote in the ruling. “Under the plain-view doctrine, if a homeowner neglects to cover a window with drapes, he would lose his reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to a viewer looking into the window from outside of his property…the doctrine applies to auditory as well as visual information.”

To rub salt in Huff’s wound, the judges cited his own testimony wherein he admitted that not only was he familiar with the idea of the butt dial, he’d done it in the past.

Boggs added that Huff could’ve locked his phone with a passcode or used “one of many downloadable applications that prevent pocket-dial calls,” and yet, he didn’t.

The panel reversed the part of the district court’s decision regarding the wife, finding that she did have a reasonable expectation of privacy while talking to her husband.

“The district court’s holding would logically result in the loss of a reasonable expectation of privacy in face-to-face conversations where one party is aware that a participant in the conversation may have a modern cellphone [sic],” Boggs wrote. “As nearly every participant in a conversation is a potential cellphone [sic] carrier, such a conclusion would dramatically undermine the protection that Title III grants to oral communication.”

Otherwise, the assistant and Huff could’ve conspired to have the phone on and send the conversation with his wife to the assistant. Neither one would’ve violated Title III wiretap act, because no “oral communication” was intercepted.

“But the law does not support this conclusion,” the judge wrote.

It’s worth noting that the phrase “butt dial” isn’t anywhere in the three-judge panel’s decision, except where it cites an article about how to prevent butt dials as an example of what Huff could’ve done:

“These include locking the phone, setting up a passcode, and using one of many downloadable applications that prevent pocket-dials calls, see, e.g., Will Verduzco, “Prevent Unwanted Butt Dialing with Smart Pocket Guard,” xdadevelopers, Apr. 15, 2014, available at (reviewing a smartphone application designed to prevent pocket-dial calls from occurring) (last visited July 8, 2015)

6th Cir. Rules on Privacy of ‘Pocket-Dials’ [CourthouseNews]

22 Jul 18:53

Florida Officials Warning People Not To Pet Armadillos Amid Spike In Leprosy Cases

by Mary Beth Quirk

In case you didn’t hear it from us the first time we mentioned it, petting armadillos could give you leprosy. Yes, seriously, you can get leprosy in the United States, and Florida health officials want to make sure you avoid it: experts in that state are warning residents to resist stroking the little armored creatures, due to a recent uptick in leprosy cases.

They might look cute in their armored suits, but being adorable doesn’t prevent armadillos from spreading the disease, Florida health and wildlife experts say, so curb that itch to caress the next one that crosses your path.

Just this year, nine cases of leprosy have been reported in Florida residents, says the state’s Department of Health, and all of the cases this year involved people who had direct contact with armadillos. Usually anywhere between two and 12 cases are reported each year. Those who develop clinical illness can experience a bunch of symptoms, including infections to their skin, nerves and mucus.

“Hansen’s disease, formerly known as leprosy, is caused by Mycobacterium leprae bacteria,” which has also been found in nine-banded armadillos, a department spokesperson told First Coast News (warning: link contains autoplay video).

It’s not always the armadillo’s fault, as the disease can be transmitted from person-to-person through sweat, after “extended close contact with an infected person, such as living in the same household,” the health department spokesperson explained.

However, there’s a low risk of contracting leprosy from armadillos, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: about 95% of people are resistant to infection. But it can happen, especially if you spend a lot of time with one.

“Teach your kids to stay away from them. Don’t try to pet them and don’t try to grab them,” a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission advised.

Health experts: Steer clear of armadillos [First Coast News]

22 Jul 01:02

Local horses left by dead couple need new home

by Max Smith

WASHINGTON — Two small horses left behind by a couple found dead in the Potomac River need new guardians. And the rescue that is trying to help has gotten an overwhelming response.

Karen Edens, with the Two Hearts Mini and Draft Rescue in Stafford, says friends of Charlie Zintner and Missy Smarr reached out to her to help find shelter for Josie and Justin.

“I picked them up on Sunday, and it’s been crazy ever since,” Edens says.

Also on Sunday, Edens posted on Facebook that she wanted to find a home for the horses. The story of how Zintner, 58, and Smarr, 55, left their beloved horses has sparked lots of interest.

“I’m not even sure how it happened, because I didn’t put names,” Edens says. “I just put Josie and Justin are in the rescue, [and] about their parents being in a terrible accident, and it just mushroomed from that.”

Authorities began searching for Zintner and Smarr on July 8 after a report that they had not returned to a Stafford marina. Their boat was found empty, and their bodies were found the next day. All signs say their deaths were accidental, according to Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police.

“There’s something tragic behind these horses, and that is what’s making people interested,” Edens says. “I get horses from New Holland, I get horses from the kill buyers, and they just don’t have the stories that these two have.”

Justin is a dark-hued Bay Quarter horse with a white nose. He’s about 13 hands high, or just over four feet. Josie is a tan-colored Palomino Tennessee walker who is closer to 14 hands, or four feet, eight inches.

Two Hearts is a small, private rescue in Stafford that only cares for about five horses at a time. Edens is reviewing the references of three people who have offered to adopt Josie and Justin together.

“We really try to get the best possible home for the [horses], but it’s not just these guys that need homes, it’s the other ones we have, too,” she says.

And if you have pets, include them in your will. “Because these guys had nowhere to go, and I know their owners loved them terribly,” Edens says. “But it would have been nice if [the horses] would have gone to a place they wanted them to go, and not where we think they want them to go.”

The rescue is accepting donations to help care for Justin and Josie and other horses.

The post Local horses left by dead couple need new home appeared first on WTOP.

21 Jul 22:45 Opens To The Public Today, Discounts More If You Buy More Stuff And Waive Returns

by Laura Northrup

launchIt’s easy to compare Jet, an e-commerce site that held its virtual grand opening today, to Amazon. The startup wants to be compared to and compete with Amazon: its founder’s last venture, Quidsi, sold household goods through the sites,, and, and ended up acquired by Amazon.

The expensive part of an e-commerce business is purchasing and storing the actual items that you plan to sell, and Jet is getting around that by using “partner” retailers all over the country for many items. Imagine if Amazon had started up with its Marketplace in place: it would have been able to expand its inventory without investing money in buildings or in inventory.

benchmarkComparisons to Amazon are inevitable, and even the site’s prices know this: all prices are benchmarked against the Everything Store’s price for the same item, with Jet’s price shown as a discounted version of Amazon’s.

One of Jet’s secrets is that they’ll be using a fancy version of drop shipping, which they’re calling “concierge” service. You might see something for sale on the site at a competitive price. The Wall Street Journal reports that’s because if you order certain items, Jet will actually be ordering them for you from other sites instead of shipping them out of their own inventory or their partners’.

Stranger still, the concierges at Jet may, when possible, use affiliate links that earn them a small percentage of the purchase price back. It’s as if they were using eBates while shopping for the entire country. Customers can also use these affiliate links themselves, shopping on other sites and earning “Jet cash” that can be used on the site.

Have you tried Jet yet? Membership in the site costs $50 per year, but the first three months are free. They apparently really, really want to take as much business as possible away from Amazon. If you want to share your experiences, whether they’re good, bad, or boring and ordinary, you know where to find us. Uses Clever Tactic to Save Money [Wall Street Journal]

21 Jul 21:10

Longest-Running Pizza Hut Restaurant Set To Close After 55 Years

by Ashlee Kieler

A Google Maps image shows the store front of the longest-running Pizza Hut restaurant in the U.S., which is set to close on Sunday.

A Google Maps image shows the store front of the longest-running Pizza Hut restaurant in the U.S., which is set to close on Sunday.

A slice of Pizza Hut’s cheesy pie-filled history is set to devoured this weekend, as the company prepares to close its longest-operating restaurant in the U.S.

The location, which has been in operation for nearly 55 years in Manhattan, KS, will close its doors for the last time on Sunday, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

Pizza Hut began serving piping hot pies to customers in 1958 in Wichita, KS, just down the road a few hours from Manhattan – home of Kansas State University.

The owner of the restaurant, who operates several other Pizza Hut locations in the area, said closing was the “toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life,” but that he finally acknowledged that the financial side of the business outweighed its historical significance.

The man tells the Capital-Journal that the restaurant, built in Manhattan’s Aggieville entertainment district in 1960, simply wasn’t designed to handle the changing pizza habits of customers, who now favor delivery.

“If you had asked me in 1960, how long the Aggieville store would have lasted, I doubt I would’ve said almost 55 years,” the owner said. “No one here even knew what a pizza was! Imagine that! But I don’t think I would have guessed how big Pizza Hut – and Manhattan and Fort Riley and Kansas State – would get either.”

While the closure of the longest-running Pizza Hut is historically significant for the chain, it represents an incredibly small fraction of the company’s more than 11,000 restaurants.

Nation’s longest-running Pizza Hut in Manhattan to close Sunday [The Topeka Capital-Journal]

21 Jul 21:01

Do You Have A Secret For Cooking A Well-Done Burger That Doesn’t Taste Like A Hockey Puck?

by Chris Morran

To all the burger buffs out there: When you’re cooking your favorite sandwich and someone asks for their burger to be cooked well-done, do you ostracize them and declare them unwelcome on your lands until they apologize, or do you have a go-to method for cooking a non-pink patty that you’re not ashamed of?

If so, we’d love to hear from you for an upcoming project on burgers and the many opinions surrounding them.

So whether you keep your burger moist by putting a frozen pat of butter in the middle, or you marinate the beef before cooking, or you’ve mastered some special broiler/oven combination, let us know at with “WELL-DONE DONE WELL” in the subject line.

Try to be as specific and precise as possible. If you use a specific cut of beef, or grind your own at home, give us as many details as you can in case we want to replicate it. Even if you’re using someone else’s recipe, just point us to it. We’re not making a cookbook, just trying to get a sense of the different ways a well-done burger can be made more palatable.

21 Jul 20:05 Sues Sheriff For Persuading Visa, MasterCard To Stop Serving Site

by Chris Morran

Just a sampling of the adult-entertainment listings on Backpage for the Chicago area.

Just a sampling of the adult-entertainment listings on Backpage for the Chicago area.

Earlier this month, the sheriff of Cook County, IL, persuaded both Visa and MasterCard to end their relationships with online classifieds site, alleging the site is known to “promote prostitution and facilitate online sex trafficking.” Today, the website fired back with a lawsuit against the sheriff.

Backpage has continued to offer adult-oriented classified ads for escorts and massages, even as competitors like Craigslist no longer include dedicated sections for these types of services. The site has been repeatedly accused of abetting sex trafficking, but has survived legal efforts to censor the user-generated ads.

However, the Wall Street Journal reports that Backpage believes Sheriff Thomas Dart’s efforts to eliminate Visa and MasterCard as payment options for advertisers on the site are tantamount to government censorship of protected free speech.

“Sheriff Dart’s actions to cripple and all speech through the site are an especially pernicious form of prior restraint,” reads the complaint, filed in a federal court in Chicago. “He has achieved his purpose through false accusations, innuendo, and coercion.”

Backpage seeks damages to make up for the revenue it’s losing by not being able to accept these cards.

“Our goal is to ensure that one elected official, particularly a county sheriff, cannot dictate what speech is or is not appropriate,” the site’s general counsel tells the Journal.

American Express, which has long avoided associations with adults-only merchants like strip clubs, had already ended its relationship with Backpage for advertising in the adult section of the site.

The sheriff’s office unsuccessfully sued Craigslist in 2009, claiming its adults-only ads were a public nuisance. This time, Dart says he isn’t trying to censor anyone; he just doesn’t want credit card companies to facilitate potentially illegal transactions.

“It is regrettable that Backpage has dedicated so many resources to lawyers and lobbyists when they could be partnering with law-enforcement to seek justice for sex trafficking victims,” a statement from the sheriff’s office to the Journal read.

While Backpage has received support from some in the media for its previous First Amendment fights, others are applauding the recent decisions by Visa and MasterCard.

“Other businesses should act just as boldly to stop their brands from being associated with a website that reportedly generates millions of dollars every month through online ads for adult entertainment,” reads a recent opinion piece from the Seattle Times editorial board. “[S]exual exploitation of anyone, especially children, should not be as easy to purchase as a book on or takeout from Jimmy John’s.”

21 Jul 19:19

eBay Will Send Your Full Name, Location, And Phone Number To Any Auction Bidder Who Asks

by Laura Northrup

Reader A. is a full-time eBay seller, who recently listed and sold a pricey item for a relative, splitting the proceeds. Relatively early in the auction, something happened that surprised and upset A: one of the bidders requested his contact information on file from eBay, which included his phone number and the city and state where he lives. eBay automatically sent it to the bidder without consulting him. Why?

Maybe this is well known to frequent eBay sellers, but A. does this full time and no customer had ever requested his information before. Here’s the e-mail that he received. The information that’s redacted is his city and phone number provided to eBay, as well as the bidder’s own contact info. This included his full name, too, but did not include either party’s street address.


While neither party necessarily knew that the information that the other had provided to eBay was up-to-date or even real, A. was still uncomfortable and worried. Like many eBay sellers, he runs his business out of his home. Especially if the seller lives in a small town or has an uncommon name, it’s very easy to find someone’s street address. It’s even easier if the seller is listed in the phone book and you have their home address.

It would be a safe assumption that the item up for auction was somewhere in his home, and he began to worry that someone might be on their way to steal the item–which was out of sight, but also highly portable.

The item was rare and valuable enough (the final bid had four figures) that someone breaking into his home was a reasonable fear. Putting it in a bank vault wouldn’t prevent someone from coming to visit while A. was or wasn’t home.

It’s awkward to discuss this situation without mentioning what the item was, or its approximate price, but A. is worried that eBay could shut down his account or otherwise punish him for complaining about this privacy issue publicly. Yet he wants to warn other eBay sellers that this could happen to them, too.

After A. brought this issue to us, we took it to eBay. We just wanted to know why this is an okay thing to do. Releasing the contact information for a winning bidder in an auction or the purchaser in a fixed-price listing is necessary, but why are they releasing sellers’ contact information to bidders when it’s early in the auction?

Typically the seller shouldn’t have anything to worry about, as we only allow members of eBay to request contact information. We allow any transaction partner (including a bidder) to request the buyer/seller’s contact information. This includes a phone number, and the address. This is for all members of the site, and something we’ve found be very helpful overall. There’s not a way to opt out of this as we expect it of everyone on the site, namely because we’re only a venue and don’t buy or sell the item directly.

eBay does acknowledge that users could misuse this information, especially phone numbers, and instructs members to…contact their phone company or the police if they have any issues.

Please be aware that we can’t take action on communications that happen outside the eBay system, so if you do have an issue with your trading partner’s phone call, we recommend you contact your phone company to report any harassment. If you receive calls that threaten your property or personal safety, you might also want to report the incident to your local law enforcement agency.

Well, okay, but is it possible to opt out and keep random bidders from getting your contact information? No. eBay won’t let you do that. You can use a service like Google Voice or Skype to mask your phone number, giving that number to eBay instead.