New Baggage Scanners May Someday Let You Bring Liquids Through Airport Security

The Transportation Security Administration may be testing new ways to get travelers through security checkpoints more quickly and efficiently by having them remove additional items from their carry-on bags, but the companies that make these devices have developed technology that could eventually save you from having to take out your laptop at the checkpoint or guzzle that bottle of water before you’re forced to throw it out.

Bloomberg reports that at least four companies that make machines used to screen bags at airports are working on new technology that would be able to better detect explosives and ease new security measures such the international laptop ban.

The machines, one of which has passed initial testing in the U.S., differ from the baggage scanners commonly used at airports in that it utilizes computed tomography — or CT — scan technology to create high-definition, three-dimensional views of luggage.

This technology can provide a clearer look into a bag, calculating the densities of objects. This, Bloomberg notes, can allow even small amounts of explosives to be uncovered. Similar machines are already at work in airports, used for the screening of checked luggage.

“CT technology has the potential to significantly improve security as well as the checkpoint experience for travelers,” TSA spokesman Michael England tells Bloomberg. “However, while this technology has shown promise, more testing is needed before it can be rolled out nationwide.”

To do that testing, TSA plans to place two machines at different airports this year to see how they function in actual security lines.

But even if the machines work, they likely won’t be showing up in your local airport anytime soon. With a price tag of hundreds of thousands of dollars per unit, the government would have to spend billions of dollars to place the machines at all U.S. airports, Bloomberg reports.

Still, when the new machines are placed in airports, the manufacturers believe they will enable passengers to keep liquids and electronics inside bags. This would reduce the time spent in security lines as customers wouldn’t have to dig through belongings to remove the items for individual scans.

Source: Consumer Reviews

Online Eyeglass Vendor Who Threatened Customers Arrested Again For Running Another Bogus Store

You may remember the bizarre tale of Vitaly Borker, the man who served three years in prison for trying to boost his Google search ranking by harassing his customers online. Federal prosecutors say he’s back at it, once again selling eyewear on the internet, and allegedly bullying customers who dare to ask for refunds.

According to the Justice Department, Borker has been running a site called, where he allegedly misrepresented the authenticity and quality of the glasses he sold.

Though the site advertised “brand new and 100% authentic” luxury eyewear and marketed itself as “the planet’s biggest online website for designer discount sunglasses and eyeglasses,” customers claim they frequently received damaged and counterfeit items, were refused refunds, charged unauthorized restocking fees, or never sent eyewear for which they had been charged.

Customers who complained or tried to return their purchases for a refund told U.S. Postal Inspection Service that they were allegedly harassed and bullied by Borker, who is accused of using an alias to send customers “abusive emails and text messages.”

He also “insulted customers, called them names, and threatened to refer disputed sales to debt collectors,” prosecutors say.

For example, according to the criminal complaint [PDF], one customer said she complained about receiving a pair of counterfeit, broken Ray-Bans from the site, only to be inundated by phone calls — 35 a day, claims the customer — and a “torrent” of emails that referred to her as a “stupid stupid lady” and a “total degenerate.”

After this customer convinced her bank to freeze the payment to the site, she received an email saying, “[it] could have been done another way but you choose this route… Now sit in what you made.”

She also received a phone call from someone purporting to be a police officer, who told her a “civil harassment suit” had been filed against her by OpticsFast.

Borker has been charged with mail and wire fraud in connection to the alleged scheme.

USPIS worked with prosecutors, and the agency sounds pretty pleased with itself.

“His cool shades couldn’t shield him from the bright light of law enforcement who illuminated his alleged illicit scheme,” said USPIS Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett. “He should have realized he could never outwit Postal Inspectors.”

(h/t The New York Times)

Source: Consumer Reviews

Here’s Some Good News If You Want To Buy A New-ish Used Car

Are you going to be in the market for a car in the near future? If you can accept “new for you” instead of “new” and you don’t have your heart set on a truck or SUV, you may be in luck: Used car dealers are about to find themselves awash in 3- and 4-year-old vehicles.

Why? Because after the last recession, leasing a new vehicle became more popular as manufacturers offered deals and customers shied away from traditional auto loans. As that first major wave of leases expires, these low-mileage cars are being turned back in and going out onto dealer lots.

How many? For an example, the The Associated Press points to Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury sibling brand. In 2014, the brand leased 28,000 Q50 model sedans at low prices, which was more than 75% of the Q50s produced. Since the typical lease for these cars is three years, many of those 28,000 vehicles will be up for sale as used cars. And that’s just one model from one car company.

This all seemed like a good idea at the time, because sedans were holding their value pretty well three years ago. Automakers could collect lease payments for a few years, then turn around and re-sell the vehicle as “certified” to another buyer interested in a new-ish car.

Toyota put the brakes on low-price leasing in 2015, but other automakers didn’t see the leasepocalypse coming until the beginning of 2017. That means that it will still have lots of returned Yarises, Priuses, and Camrys to unload.

“It’s more difficult to get rid of them,” the CEO of Toyota North America told the AP. “You’re going to have very attractive certified used passenger car payments relative to new passenger cars.”

Now, though, car shoppers are more interested in trucks or SUVs thanks to low gas prices, and experts predict that you’ll will be able to get great deals on other kinds of off-lease vehicles in the coming years. If you want a lease on a sedan, those may become more expensive if automakers and dealerships can stifle their impulse to compete with each other.

Source: Consumer Reviews

4 Tips For Maintaining & Repairing Your Gas Grill

Whether you’ve been using it all year or haven’t touched it in months, you should give your grill the once-over before the holiday weekend. Use these maintenance tips to help keep your grill in top shape or to spot problems that aren’t worth fixing.

1. Test for Gas Leaks

Mix a small amount of dishwashing liquid and water in a spray bottle and spray over connections and along the hose. Turn on the tank, or if there’s no tank, the natural gas line. Bubbling along the hose means a new one is needed. If bubbling occurs at the connection, tighten it.

Quick tip: Hairline cracks or tiny holes can be hard to spot by just looking, so soapy water is a must.

2. Check Burner Tubes or Ports

Yellow or uneven flames or heat can mean it’s time to clean the burner tubes or ports (a toothpick can help clear burner holes). But if that doesn’t solve the problem or you spot corrosion or rust, then it’s time for new burners, which usually cost from $40 to $150.

Quick tip: Burners are the most frequently replaced grill part. Before buying new ones, check whether yours are still under warranty. Some are covered for 10 years or longer.

3. Inspect the Firebox

Remove light corrosion with a stainless-steel brush. But extensive rust or cracks means it’s time to buy a new grill.

Quick tip: The firebox often collects grease and food that has dropped through the grates. Clean the drip pan and remove grates and burners to clean the firebox. Your owner’s manual will suggest appropriate cleaning solutions. Replace corroded or cracked drip pans. Don’t try to get away with lining them with aluminum foil, which can cause grease to accumulate and cause a fire.

4. Clean the Grates

Use a stiff wire brush to clean each side, but skip the soap. Porcelain-coated grates require a nylon brush. Ideally you should clean grates before grilling, then oil and clean them right after cooking. Porcelain-coated grates rust only if they chip. Replace them when the coating is chipping or flaking, because it can stick to food.

Quick tip: Grates can be expensive to replace. So before you put money into parts, consider how much you paid for the grill, its age and replacement price, and whether the rest of it is in good shape.

Source: Consumer Reviews

Underpaid & Overstressed: 4 Things Starbucks Baristas Say Is Wrong With The Company

Millions of people count on Starbucks baristas to provide them with a jolt of caffeine each day, but those employees might be the ones truly in need of a little help: Baristas around the country are spilling the coffee beans on their employer, claiming they are overworked and strained thanks in part to the chain’s endless stream of pilot programs and new services. 

Business Insider reports that those behind the counter say they are feeling the pressure from the company’s attempts to bring in more customers via mobile ordering, testing new initiatives, increased food offerings, and limited-time drinks.

While Starbucks says it is striving to improve the working conditions for its partners (the company’s name for employees) and regularly engages with these workers to make their experience better, those actually wearing the green apron say things aren’t improving quickly enough.

From discouraging conversations with customers to understaffing locations, dozens of current and former Starbucks baristas shared with Business Insider just what they think is wrong at Starbucks. Here are 4 things we learned.


One barista says that in the seven years they’ve worked for the company the relationship between employees and customers has changed.

Whereas customers used to be like family to baristas, the employee says it is now frowned upon to stop and have a conversation with a regular.

“And it has sapped just about every last ounce of my energy to know that I am now a hindrance to the Starbucks (corporate America) agenda,” the employee tells Business Insider.


Several baristas say that while they’re often referred to as the most important aspect of the chain, they don’t always feel that way.

With Starbucks offering more and more ways for customers to order drinks and food — from mobile orders to delivery tests to drive thrus — the employees say they are “running around like crazy.”

This is only amplified, employees say, when the stores are understaffed.

“I’ve had people call the store to complain that we seemed rushed and upset. The stress is overwhelming, a current employee told Business Insider. “A four-hour shift is too exhausting at this point, because there’s nobody to help us.”


While the chain offers employees several benefits, such as 401(k) matching and tuition assistance, one barista says employees are just looking for enough money to pay for a place to live and groceries.

One employee tells Business Insider that if given the choice between college achievement programs and high pay, nearly 90% of partners would choose the increased pay.

Another employee referred to the companies as “a cult that pays $9 per hour.”


Despite running the registers, the hot and cold bars, the drive-thru, and making connections with customers, some baristas tell Business Insider they don’t feel like a valued member of the company.

But they don’t feel comfortable voicing those opinions on the company’s surveys of partners for fear of retaliation.

“I and so many other baristas don’t feel secure in our [roles] enough to tell them how we actually feel, because it is not anonymous,” one current barista tells Business Insider of the system that collects partner numbers.

A rep for Starbucks tells Business Insider that the company’s strengths come from its connection to partners, and it knows there is work to be done.

“We know when we exceed the expectations of our people, they, in turn, exceed the expectations of our customers. To us, every voice matters,” the rep said.

Source: Consumer Reviews

Zillow’s “Zestimates” Probably Aren’t The Best Way To Figure Out How Much Your House Is Worth

If you’ve been in the market for real estate lately — or even just idly browsing your old neighborhood from curiosity — you’ve almost certainly seen the “Zestimate” splashed across a property’s Zillow listing. But now, multiple lawsuits are claiming those numbers are so far from realistic that they’re actually harmful, and Zillow itself is launching a contest, hoping to crowdsource a better Zestimate.

The estimates are based on a proprietary formula, Zillow says — publicly available data goes in, magic number comes out. And what happens in between has some homeowners and developers completely confused.

Now, Zillow is under fire for the results that formula gives them. It began with a lawsuit filed by an Illinois real-estate lawyer in early May.

Her suit says that although Zillow cautions users not to take the “Zestimate” as an appraisal, it nonetheless has the same effect: It’s a number “promoted as a tool for potential buyers to use in assessing [the] market value of a given property.” That, the suit claims, meets the Illinois state definition of “appraisal.”

The Zestimate given for her house undervalued it badly, she claims, making it much harder for her to sell. The most recent Zestimate for her property values it at $64,000 less than she paid for it in 2009, despite other similar homes in the neighborhood selling for significantly more.

The difference between Zillow’s estimate and the seller’s actual sale price can, indeed, be pretty wide. For example, on this randomly-picked house outside of Washington, D.C., the gap is nearly $600,000.

A few weeks later, the lawyer dropped her claim but filed a second suit — this time, on behalf of several Chicago-area builders. This one seeks class action status that could “consist of millions of homeowners,” and seeks an injunction preventing Zillow from publishing Zestimates for the time being.

Zillow itself concedes its automated math isn’t perfect. Zestimates are within 5% of the actual sale price about 54% of the time, within 10% of the sale price about 76% of the time, and within 20% about 90% of the time, Zillow told the Washington Post.

But even 5% is still a large amount of money when you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that’s just for the most accurate range. By Zillow’s own figures, 1-in-10 Zestimates are off by more than 20%. That’s like valuing a $200,000 house at less than $160,000 or more than $240,000 — an enormous difference, for buyers and sellers.

The accuracy of estimates also varies hugely by region. MarketWatch reports that the numbers are within 6% of the actual sale price barely 44% of the time. In Washington, the Seattle Times ran the math and figured out that Zillow’s median error rate, applied to Seattle’s median home price, will be off by about $40,000 in either direction.

“We believe the claims in this case are without merit. We always say that the Zestimate is a starting point to determine a home’s value, and isn’t an official appraisal. It’s a computer-automated estimate of your home’s value,” Zillow’s spokesperson said in a statement about the lawsuits.

While Zillow defends the Zestimate, it has nonetheless launched a competition encouraging data scientists to come improve its algorithm.

The Zillow Prize competition takes place in two rounds. From this week until Jan. 2018, teams can enter the public qualifying round by developing a model “to improve the Zestimate residual error.”

The teams with the prototypes that most narrow the gap then advance to the second round, which runs from Feb. 2018 until Jan. 2019. Those 100 teams have to build an actual algorithm to do what the Zestimate does. The winner from that round gets $1 million for their trouble.

“We still spend enormous resources on improving the Zestimate, and are proud that with advancements in machine learning and cloud computing, we’ve brought the error rate down to 5 percent nationwide,” Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief analytics officer (and Zestimate inventor) said in a statement.

“While that error rate is incredibly low, we know the next round of innovation will come from imaginative solutions involving everything from deep learning to hyperlocal data sets — the type of work perfect for crowdsourcing within a competitive environment.”

And although the timing may seem a little convenient in proximity with the lawsuits, Zillow says it’s not. Humphries tells the Chicago Tribune that the company has been planning the contest for a year and it’s unrelated to the recent lawsuits.

Source: Consumer Reviews

How To Check Your Tires Before Heading Out On A Summer Road Trip

A tire check should be part of your pretrip routine because a basic inspection can improve your safety and even help boost your fuel economy. To remind motorists about performing this important review, the tire industry has designated May 28 to June 3 as National Tire Safety Week.

Consumer Reports encourages those traveling over the long Memorial Day weekend to follow these quick tips. Such do-it-yourself checks should be performed monthly, but it’s especially important to do so before embarking on long driving vacations.

A flat tire or other tire problem be an inconvenience when you’re far from home, and the heat that can build up in tires over a long drive at high speeds can exacerbate these problems.

Beyond providing a welcome maintenance reminder, Tire Week has inspired tire sales and rebates. If you need replacement tires, be sure to factor the ratings from CR’s extensive tire tests into your decision.

1. Check Tire Pressure

Proper tire pressure is important because underinflated tires flex more and build up heat that can lead to failure and possibly even an accident.

Underinflated tires are less fuel-efficient and can wear out faster. Tires lose air over time and, consequently, need to be checked and filled periodically. The correct pressure for your tires is usually found on a sticker on the driver’s doorjamb of your car. Consult your owner’s manual for additional information.

You should check pressure when tires are cold, so measure it after the car has been parked for more than 3 hours. If you have a spare tire, check its pressure, too. Pressure should be checked on all tires monthly, not just seasonally.

Don’t rely on your car’s tire-pressure monitoring system to alert you when your tires need air. The system is not a maintenance reminder; it’s designed to alert you that a tire is losing air and needs urgent attention. By the time the TPMS light comes on, your tires are underinflated by 25 percent or more.

1. Check Tread Depth and Worn Spots

To determine whether your tire has enough tread left, or to see if there’s a wear concern, grab a quarter and a penny.

Place the quarter upside down in a groove on your tire. The distance from the coin’s rim to George Washington’s hairline is about 4⁄32 inch. If you see all of Washington’s head in any one groove where a treadwear indicator appears, you might want to start shopping for new tires while you have some seasonal grip left.

Use a penny to check for uneven wear. That can be a sign of misalignment, improper inflation pressure, or aggressive driving. Any major groove worn to 2⁄32 inch, the distance between the top of Lincoln’s head to the edge on a penny, should warrant tire replacement.

2. Check Tire Sidewalls

Cuts and bulges in tires can result from encounters with potholes, curbs, and unfriendly objects in the road. Tires should be replaced if you experience one of these abnormalities.

Some tire retailers offer free road-hazard warranties, and it’s something to look for when shopping for tires.

3. Check the Tires’ Age

Some automobile manufacturers recommend replacing tires after six years even if you haven’t worn them out. CR recommends that any tires more than 10 years old should be replaced, regardless of wear. Every tire has a date code for when it was manufactured. Look for “DOT” followed by several digits on the lower sidewall of your tire. The last four numbers identify when the tire was made. As an example, 2316 would indicate that the tire was manufactured in the 23rd week of 2016.

Many manufacturers put the date code on only one side of the tire, as required by law. This can mean the date code is on the inboard side of the tire, under the car, making it difficult to read. Inside or outside, check that date code: It’s possible that the tires were in inventory for months or longer before you bought them, so going by your purchase date will provide you with only a rough estimate.

4. Don’t Buy Used Tires

Used tires may look fine at a glance, but they could have compromised durability because of misuse in previous service, such as being driven while overloaded or underinflated, or being driven at excessively high speeds. Tires may also have been improperly repaired or damaged when dismounted from the seller’s wheels.

When buying a used car, check out the tires. If they’re worn, use their condition as bargaining chip in your negotiations. Along with the mileage and condition of the car, ask for service records. You may not know the complete history of the tires, but if the rest of the car has been neglected, chances are the tires have been, too.

Source: Consumer Reviews

One IKEA Offers Instructions On How To Turn Those Blue Bags Into Pet Raincoats & Picnic Blankets

While you might be an expert at reusing that blue plastic shopping bag from IKEA by filling it with junk and hiding it in your closet/under your bed, there’s a lot more you can do with it — like turning it into a doggy raincoat or a handy picnic blanket.

Although IKEA has offered a few helpful suggestions for reusing the Frakta bag in the United Arab Emirates in the past, including the aforementioned blanket, a recent promotion in Dubai took it a step further by packaging instructions for anything from a baby bib to an artist’s apron with the bags, reports AdWeek.

“We simply printed a set of lines on the inside of each Frakta bag, turning it from ‘just’ a bag into a product with endless possibilities,” agency Memac Ogilvy & Mather, which came up with the concept, told AdWeek.

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These special bags sold out within a week, but more will be available soon, according to the promotional video.

It’s unlikely that IKEA customers can expect to see these special bags in the U.S. as it seems this was a special promotion run by the ad agency, and not a greater plan by IKEA corporate.

When we asked about plans for similar bags in the U.S. and for a copy of the instructions included in the Dubai promotion, a spokeswoman for the company tells Consumerist that “these ‘new innovations’ are completely outside of our IKEA designs. Therefore we have no instructions to share.”

She clarified that the campaign is not run by IKEA, but that the blue bag is “certainly iconic,” and the company “will have new sustainable IKEA bag designs in the near future.”

Source: Consumer Reviews

Check Grandma’s Freezer For Potentially Listeria-Contaminated Waffles

Thousands of pounds of frozen breakfasts specifically marketed to frail or housebound elderly people and delivered to them through meal programs have been recalled for potential Listeria contamination. People who are elderly or who are already sick are especially susceptible to potentially fatal complications of listeriosis.

The frozen meal recalls are part of the larger Pinnacle Foods waffle recall, which included the well-known Aunt Jemima and Hungry Man brands, as well as store-brand products sold at Save-A-Lot. The waffles are the component that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

What to look for: Frozen breakfasts and other meals that include waffles from the brands Traditions and Golden Gourmet.

• Golden Gourmet Waffles, Turkey Sausage Patty with Sliced Apple Seasoned w/Brown Sugar and Cinnamon with lot codes of 2016355, 2016363, 2016364 and 2016362, and “use by” dates of 06/21/18, 06/28/18, 06/29/18 and 06/30/18.

• Traditions Creamy Chicken Patty & Waffle with Four Seasons Vegetables and Cabbage, with sell by dates of 6/6/2017, 7/13/2017, 8/15/2017, 10/12/2017, 12/21/2017 and 4/11/2018.

• Traditions Creamy Chicken Patty & Waffle with Rib Meat with Cinnamon Flavored Sweet Potatoes and Seasoned Green Beans with sell by dates of 10/12/2017, 11/18/2017, 12/21/2017, 1/26/2018, 1/30/2018 and 3/1/2018.

• Traditions Creamy Chicken Patty & Waffle with Cinnamon Flavored Sweet Potatoes and Four Seasons Vegetables with sell by dates of 12/9/2017, 12/21/2017, 1/26/2018 and 1/30/2018.

• Traditions Turkey Ham & Waffle Cured Turkey Thigh meat Chunked and Formed with Fruit Cocktail and Hash Brown with sell by dates of 12/12/2017, 1/21/2018, 1/30/2018, 3/16/2018, 3/21/2018, 4/3/2018, 4/5/2018, 4/18/2018, 4/26/2018.

• Traditions Oatmeal with Waffle and Sausage Patty with sell by date of 10/14/2017.

What to do: Return the meals to the agency that delivered them or the place of purchase, or throw them away. If you have any questions, call 229-389-2392 for Golden Gourmet products, and 601-420-8847 for Traditions products.

Traditions makes meals for senior nutrition programs like Meals on Wheels, as well as packaged meals for retirement homes, jails and prisons, mental health facilities, and for hospital to give patients when they’re discharged.

Golden Gourmet is a competing company that makes similar meal packages for the same markets.

Home meal delivery programs provide frozen or shelf-stable meals to clients in case of inclement weather or other emergencies, and these are specially designed for elderly clients.

There have been no confirmed illnesses from any of the waffles, but it’s overwhelming to think about how one facility making potentially contaminated waffles branches out across the whole packaged food distribution system, reaching from waffles marketed to small children to nursing homes.

Symptoms of potential infection with Listeria include fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. These are sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, but not always.

Source: Consumer Reviews

American Airlines Passenger Tries To Bite Flight Attendant Before Jumping To Tarmac

An American Airlines passenger has been charged with interfering with flight crew members after he allegedly bit a flight attendant and jumped from the plane to the tarmac at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Thursday. 

WSOC reports that the 22-year-old man was expected in court Friday morning after authorities arrested him shortly following his jump from that plane.

The incident occurred Thursday afternoon when American Airlines flight 5242 from Charlotte to New Bern, NC, was holding near a taxiway, preparing for takeoff.

According to a criminal complaint, the man got out of his seat and tried to open the main aircraft door. When a flight attendant and two other passengers attempted to persuade the man to return to his seat, he allegedly attempted to bite the crew member.

The traveler then opened the galley service door and jumped onto the tarmac, WSOC reports, adding that two airport employees intercepted him before he could run onto the taxiway.

The man has been charged with one count of interfering with flight crew members and could face up to 20 years in prison and fines.

CBS News reports that the flight returned to the gate after the incident where it was re-screened. It arrived in New Bern about an hour and a half after it was originally scheduled.

Source: Consumer Reviews