Tesla Thinks About Building Convenience Stores Around Superchargers

If convenience stores and rest stops evolved around travelers’ need to fuel up, why shouldn’t the same be true for electric vehicles? So it makes sense that Tesla is envisioning a possible future where their supercharger docks are surrounded by other amenities for drivers.

Restaurant Business reports that Tesla executives suggested the idea of a supercharging/rest stop during the FSTEC food-tech conference this week.

The new charging stations would offer customers much of the same things they would get at a traditional gas station: drinks, food, restrooms, and a place to stretch their legs.

The concept makes sense, as charging a Tesla vehicle takes longer than fueling a traditional car, giving drivers ample opportunity to spend a few bucks.

“People are coming and spending 20 to 30 minutes at these stops,” J.B. Straubel, Tesla chief technology officer, told attendees, as reported by Restaurant Business. “They want to eat, they want to have a cup of coffee, and they want to use the bathroom.”

Straubel also showed a photo of what the recharging stations would look like: Much like a regular convenience store.

Straubel didn’t comment on when the stations might materialize, or where they would be located.


Source: Consumer Reviews

Latest Obamacare Repeal Bill Would Gut Medicaid For Dozens Of States; Opposition Rising Inside Senate

The last-ditch proposal to effectively repeal the Affordable Care Act remains deeply unpopular, even while Senate Republicans try to rally the votes to make it happen. And in the midst of all that politicking, a new federal analysis shows that several of the states whose Senators’ votes leadership is trying to curry could be badly hurt by the bill.

Massive Medicaid Cuts

According to an estimate [PDF] from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) that compares current Medicaid funding levels with what would be available under the proposed Graham-Cassidy repeal bill, more than half of the states would see between funding cut by 5%-10% by 2020.

Looking ahead even further, by 2027, 31 states would see a drop in Medicaid funding, with nearly half the country (24 states) experiencing funding decreases of 20% or more.

Those that would suffer the deepest cuts are Connecticut and Maryland, with projected reductions of 52% and 51% respectively.

Others in this group would be Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

On the flip side, a handful of states — all of them among those that have continued to reject the Medicaid expansion and its related federal funds under the ACA — would see huge increases in Medicaid funding.

By 2020 alone, South Dakota would see a 282% increase in funding, followed by a 109% bump in Wyoming, a 59% increase in Alaska, a 55% lift in Montana, 52% for North Dakota, and increases between 10 and 30% in Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

Shift the outlook to a ten-year one, and the disparity becomes even more stark and shocking.

By 2027, CMS estimates, the biggest winners under Graham-Cassidy would be Mississippi residents, who would see a 347% increase in Medicaid funding.

Kansas, with a 234% increase, would also do well enough for itself, and Texas (210%), Tennessee (194%), Alabama (192%), and South Dakota (162%) would also see major funding improvements.

The National Association of Medicaid Directors, which represents the directors of Medicaid programs for all 50 U.S. states, D.C., and all U.S. territories, issued a statement asking the Senate not to move forward on Graham-Cassidy, and instead, to “revisit the topic of comprehensive Medicaid reform when it can be addressed with the careful consideration merited by such a complex undertaking.”

Best Case Scenario?

Axios, which was the first to report on the CMS estimates, notes that these sharp cuts are the are the least bad projection so far, calling the CMS numbers “rosier than other estimates.”

In part because of the projected cuts to Medicaid, several independent analyses are projecting that Graham-Cassidy would cause at least 32 million Americans to lose coverage altogether in the coming decade.

READ MORE: Everyone hates Senate Obamacare repeal bill; Senate plans vote anyway

The Brookings Institute is the most recent think tank to issue a study on the projected outcomes of Graham-Cassidy. The Brookings report finds that in the immediate short term (2018-2019), 15 million people would lose health care coverage.

But It Might Be Doomed Anyway

That’s all the bad news. Here’s the good: It’s looking less likely today than it has all week that Graham-Cassidy will actually come to a vote or become law.

The Graham-Cassidy bill is technically a budget resolution amendment, meaning that it can squeak out of the Senate with a simple majority — 51 votes — as long as it does so by Sept. 30. There are currently 52 Republican members of the Senate, plus Vice President Mike Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote as needed, so the math says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose three votes.

Sen. Rand Paul (KY) has repeatedly and emphatically gone on the record as a “no” to Graham-Cassidy. It’s worth noting that he also opposed the July bill at first, before voting on it anyway, but for now at least folks who are tallying up the votes count him out.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) were two of the three holdouts over the Senate’s July bill. Both opposed it in part due to its severe cuts to Medicaid funding. Although neither has officially yet gone on the record as a “no” to Graham-Cassidy, Collins is publicly leaning against it. Republicans, meanwhile, have been strongly pressuring Murkowski to vote for the bill, but she has as yet not indicated any support for it.

That means all eyes have been on Arizona Senator John McCain, whose dramatic, surprise late-night vote spelled the doom of the Senate Republicans’ last ACA repeal effort in July.

Friday afternoon, McCain issued a statement definitively indicating his opposition to the proposal.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill,” McCain said. “I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it.”

There won’t be time for the Congressional Budget Office to issue an analysis on the bill before the end-of-month deadline, McCain noted, so the Senate “won’t have reliable answers to those questions.”

Hill-watchers generally suspect that McCain’s firm no will give political cover for Collins and Murkowski, at least, to join him — killing the bill.

In the meantime, however, the Senate Finance Committee is planning a hearing on the Graham-Cassidy proposal for Monday afternoon, Sept. 25.


Source: Consumer Reviews

Netflix Pulls Episode Of Children’s Show After Parents Complain About Phallic Image

Kids’ cartoons often have jokes or imagery included just to amuse the parents and babysitters forced to sit through countless replays in the company of a youngster. But some folks weren’t amused that one Netflix animated show included an image that looks very much like a crude sketch of male genitals.

Variety reports that Netflix removed an episode of Maya the Bee from its lineup this week, while the French production company behind the show apologized for the not-so-kid-friendly depiction.

The Show

Maya the Bee — based off a children’s book of the same name — tells the story of the bee as she makes new friends while collecting pollen in the forest.

The show originally debuted in 2012. It is produced by Studio 100, but Netflix distributed the show.

The Scene

The drawing in question appears in episode 35 of the first season. The scene features the titular bee flying near a log. The inside of the log features the phallic-like drawing.

Viewers of Maya the Bee recently brought the image to light, sharing screenshots of the scene on social media.

The Apology

Variety reports that Netflix removed episode 35 of the show this week after concerns were raised about the image. The remaining episodes were still available for consumption.

Studio 100, the producer of the show, also apologized for the incident, noting that it was working to determine who was responsible.

“An absolutely inappropriate image has been discovered in a four-second fly-by scene in one episode of the total of 78 episodes of the series,” Studio 100 said in a statement. “The origin of this image obviously results from a very bad joke from one of the 150 artists working on the production.”

While Studio 100 told Variety it was already exploring legal action against those responsible for the image, the company’s managing director says it has yet to find that person.

“We are desperately searching for the person who did this, but it is a complicated task, considering the large number of people who were involved in France and Asia,” the director said.

Studio 100 also tells Variety that the company has already fixed the episode, recreating the scene and reinserting it in the show. It is currently in the process of delivering the new episode to broadcasters and streaming services.


Source: Consumer Reviews

People Have Finally Figured Out That They Don’t Need To Wait In Line For An iPhone

Apple’s iPhone has been with us for ten years now, and Apple fans have gradually come to realize an important truth. No, not anything about iPhones themselves: They’ve come to realize that they don’t need to actually wait in line overnight on release day to get a device.

One former investment analyst who followed the well-being of Apple told CNBC (warning: auto-play video at that link) that the number of people waiting at the flagship Apple store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan has decreased over the last four releases. While almost 1,900 people were waiting outside the store on release day in 2014, there were 650 in 2015, 400 in 2014, and around 250 people at the door this year.

Around the world, people Tweeting while waiting in line noted that the crowds were tiny compared to years past. One store in Arizona had three people, and the second person in line at another Manhattan store wasn’t even there for an iPhone.

There are two factors here: As more carriers and retailers have iPhones, they’ve become ubiquitous and having the latest one is no longer a status symbol. Apple allows customers to reserve and pay for the phones online, so they can go to the store after work rather than queuing up overnight.

The other factor is that Apple released two phones this year, and Apple’s remaining hardcore, line-waiting fans are most likely going to be outside stores on Nov. 3 waiting to get their hands and their facial recognition patterns on an iPhone X.

Around the world, people just weren’t as excited about the iPhone 8.

The iPhone 8 is apparently a hit in Seattle, though.


Source: Consumer Reviews

L.L. Bean Runs Full-Page Ad You Can Only Read In Sunlight

In a move that simultaneously evokes awww-neat childhood memories of “invisible ink” while also marketing an outdoor lifestyle brand, L.L. Bean has taken out a full-page newspaper ad that can only be read in the sunlight.

To anyone picking up today’s New York Times and seeing the ad while indoors, it’s a largely blank space with just the Bean logo and four words scattered across the page.

“Just bring this outside,” the message instructs.

Once the ad is in sunlight — or really, any UV light — more words printed with special photochromic ink appear, revealing L.L. Bean’s “special invitation.”

The secret message is really just L.L Bean’s new manifesto, including feel-good phrases like “Because on the inside, we’re all outsiders. And if it’s outside, we’re all in.”

Although it’s a neat gimmick, the payoff is a bit of a disappointment compared to the brazenness of the unique technique — but again, people are talking about the ad.

We still can’t help but feel a bit like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, after he finally gets to use his Little Orphan Annie decoder pin to decipher a top-secret message from Annie to her devotees.


Source: Consumer Reviews

More Regular Hotels Discover The Joy Of Charging ‘Resort Fees’ For Normal Amenities

Travelers don’t necessarily expect to see resort fees, or extra expenses added to their bills for things that other hotels include in the bill, when staying at a hotel. It turns out, however, that this is an increasingly common practice. It lets hotels advertise lower rates and impose fees when guests get there.

Urban Facility Fee?

The Wall Street Journal recently looked at the continuing growth of resort fees, and what you might pay at hotels of varying price levels. At a Best Western near Disneyland, you’ll pay an extra $5 per day for the privilege of having a heated pool and spa on the property. The hotel also says that the fee is used for “general upkeep” of the property.

The Crowne Plaza Times Square charges $30 per day, which is says includes paying for the pool, fitness center, internet access, and free drinks for customers. Wait — if you’re paying for them every day, whether you have them or not, aren’t the drinks by definition not free?

Even people who run travel websites can be caught by these fees. Paul English, one of the founders of travel sites Kayak and Lola, stayed at a hotel in San Francisco that charged a $28 “urban facility fee” per night, which includes WiFi, use of the gym, and a discount at the hotel’s restaurant. Even though English wasn’t going to use any of those features, the hotel told him that the fee was still mandatory.

“Full and accurate pricing”

As ridiculous as these fees sound, visitors often don’t know about them until they’re already at the hotel, and they’re increasing. According to Resortfeechecker.com, the number of hotels charging fees is up 26% in just the last year. Almost all of the state attorneys general are now part of an investigation into the practice.

“We want the lodging businesses to simply present their full and accurate pricing right upfront, so the consumer can see what a room will cost them,” District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine told the WSJ.

The hotel industry argues that customers who book directly on their own websites see all of the fees disclosed clearly, and it’s not their fault if third-party booking websites don’t provide their customers with all of the information. Hotels, of course, have a good reason to encourage their customers not to use third-party booking websites, since they have to pay commissions.


Source: Consumer Reviews

Photographer Claims Urban Outfitters, Macy’s Used Tupac Photos Without Permission

The late Tupac Shakur might no longer have any say over how his image is used, but that doesn’t mean you can use a photograph of the famed rapper without getting permission from the photographer.

That’s why both Macy’s and Urban Outfitters find themselves on the receiving end of a federal lawsuit over T-shirts sporting a copyrighted photograph of Tupac.

Photographer Chi Modu filed the lawsuit [PDF] Thursday in federal court in California, accusing the retailers, along with merchandising company Bravado International Group, of copyright infringement for creating and then selling apparel that features his photograph of the late rapper.

According to the lawsuit, the three companies contributed to the infringement of Modu’s copyrights or engaged in one or more wrongful practices when it comes to using his photographs.

Modu — who is a known for “his work depicting prominent figures in the world of hip-hop” — is the sole owner of the photographs used on the shirts and sweatshirts sold at the retailers.

While Modu admits that he and Bravado negotiated an agreement in which the manufacturer would have certain rights in regard to the photos, the agreement expired no later than July 2016.

Modu claims that the merchandise in question wasn’t created until after that date, accusing Bravado or its customers — in this case Macy’s and Urban Outfitters — of continuing to use his photos without permission.

Bravado then allegedly sold the products to third-parties, such as Macy’s and Urban Outfitters, who in return sold the products to customers.

With the lawsuit, Modu is seeking the retailers’ profits from the shirts and unspecified damages.

Not The First Tupac Lawsuit

Modu is not the first photographer to take aim at retailers for allegedly misusing photographs of Tupac.

Back in June, Photographer Danny Clinch filed a lawsuit [PDFaccusing a merchandiser, Forever 21, and Urban Outfitters of copyright infringement for using his photos of the late rapper without permission.

The photos, which were featured in a profile of the rapper in Rolling Stone magazine in 1993 and then again on the magazine’s cover in 1996, were copyrighted by Clinch in 2002, giving him sole discretion on when the picture could be used.


Source: Consumer Reviews

Amazon Wants To Deliver That Shake Shack Burger You Don’t Feel Like Getting For Yourself

Not content with its recent push into groceries with the purchase of Whole Foods, Amazon is now expanding its efforts in restaurant delivery with a new partnership that could allow customers to order from chains like Shake Shack, Chipotle, and Applebee’s online.

Amazon is teaming up with Olo, a company that handles digital ordering and payment technology for about 200 restaurant brands — with 40,000 locations around the country — to beef up its Amazon Restaurants service.

Amazon Restaurants is integrating Olo’s new Rails technology that will allow restaurant operators to list their menus through the platform and take orders through Amazon.

While Olo works with restaurants like Shake Shack, Chipotle, Applebee’s, Denny’s, Five Guys, Jamba Juice, and others, that doesn’t necessarily mean all of those eateries will be available through Amazon Restaurants. At the moment, only Italian chain Bucca Di Beppo has publicly acknowledged it will sign up for Amazon deliveries, notes Bloomberg.

“This integration will enable Amazon Restaurants to onboard new restaurants with ease, as well as quickly add more new choices and delivery options for customers,” the company said in a statement.

As for what’s in this for Amazon, well, that’s pretty clear.

“They’re obviously looking at new business segments — this is a big market for Amazon to get access to,” Olo CEO Noah Glass told Bloomberg.

After launching its restaurant delivery service — for Prime members only — in its hometown of Seattle in 2015, Amazon has slowly expanded Restaurants to more than 20 major cities including New York, Miami, Atlanta, and Las Vegas.

Currently, it requires a $20 minimum delivery — and there may be additional charges for each order, depending on where you get your food from.


Source: Consumer Reviews

Verizon Says Some Cut-Off Rural Customers Can Stay, But They Must Ditch Unlimited Data Plans

Verizon recently notified around 8,500 rural wireless customers — accounting for nearly 20,000 phone numbers — that their service was going to be cut off for good on Oct. 17 because they spent too much time roaming off the Verizon network. Following the negative public reaction to this news, Verizon has decided to give these customers more time to find another wireless carrier or switch over to a Verizon plan with data caps.

Just to recap for those coming in late: Verizon has been targeting groups of rural customers with “unlimited” data plans because these subscribers are using lots of roaming data, even though this data is supposed to be included in the unlimited plan.

Verizon’s argument is that these people are obviously not residing within the Verizon coverage area; glossing over the fact that maybe they are residing in a Verizon zone, but that Verizon’s rural coverage is so spotty that they may have to regularly work or travel through areas without direct access to Big V’s network.

Since 2010, Verizon has participated in partnership program with smaller wireless providers to allow for LTE roaming in rural areas. That was a fine idea for Verizon at the time, since nearly all of its plans had strict monthly data caps. People couldn’t run up too many gigabytes of data on this roaming network without having to pay an overage fee. But now that Verizon is once again offering unlimited data plans, these roaming customers are costing Verizon money.

The original notices sent out in early September gave affected subscribers until Oct. 17 to find a new provider. If they didn’t find one by that time, the customer would not only be without phone service, but they would be unable to later port their old Verizon number over to the new carrier.

Now, Verizon has softened its stance, particularly after rural police officers and first-responders who currently use Verizon responded negatively to this rushed “get off our network” declaration.

Today, the company announced that the affected customers now have until Dec. 1 to find a new provider, giving these subscribers about another six weeks to switch.

Some customers said that they would be left with no viable options if they couldn’t get Verizon service. For them, Verizon is allowing them to stay, but only if they switch to one of three tiered data plans with monthly caps of 2GB, 5GB, or 8GB. Folks must make that decision by Dec. 1 as well.

“Supporting these roaming customers can often be economically challenging, especially supporting those on plans with unlimited data or other high data plans,” reads a statement from Verizon. “However, we are continuing to look for ways to support existing roaming customers with LTE service.”


Source: Consumer Reviews

Gatorade Gets In Trouble For Making “Inaccurate” Anti-Water Statements In Game

Sure, any aspiring track star would love to be just like eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt. But years after Gatorade pushed a mobile gaming app starring the athlete’s character that urged players to “Keep your performance level high by avoiding water,” the company will have to pay $300,000 as part of a settlement resolving allegations that it violated California law by talking smack about H2O.

In a complaint [PDF] filed in California on Thursday, along with the related settlement [PDF], California accused accused Gatorade of violating state law in its free “Bolt!” game “through numerous false and misleading statements and depictions of water.”

The game was available for free on iTunes from 2012 through 2013, as well as for a period of time in 2017. It’s no longer available, but resulted in more than 2.3 million downloads worldwide. More than 70% of users were 13-24 years old.

Anti-water statements

In the game, players controlled a cartoon version of Bolt in a long race. Throughout, water was “inaccurately and negatively depicted as hindering the sprinter’s performance.”

For example, when players touched a Gatorade icon, the Bolt character would run faster and increase their “fuel meter.” When they hit a water droplet, Bolt slowed down and the fuel meter decreased.

“Keep your performance level high by avoiding water” and “grab Gatorade to fill your fuel meter,” the game’s tutorial urged.

Making matters worse, the complaint claims that these marketing messages “courted a youthful demographic that is particularly prone to inaccurate beliefs regarding the nutrition benefits of beverages.”

The lawsuit cites studies that found that so-called “advergames” — downloadable or internet-based videogames that feature a brand-name product within the game — “have a significant impact on consumer behavior not unlike more traditional forms of advertising.”

The complaint claimed that Gatorade’s marketing of the game was false or misleading in at least three ways:

1. “The game falsely depicted water slowing down the athletic performance of the Olympic sprinter, while depicting Gatorade as increasing his speed.”

2. The game’s fuel meter falsely depicted water as decreasing the amount of “fuel” available to the Olympic athlete, while depicting Gatorade as increasing the amount of available “fuel.”

3. The tutorial directly told its users to “Keep your performance level high by avoiding water.”

Settling up

As part of the settlement filed yesterday, Gatorade will pay $300,000, of which $120,000 will be used to fund research or education on water consumption and the nutrition of children and teenagers.

The settlement also requires Gatorade to disclose endorser relationships in any social media posts and prohibits the company from advertising its products in media where children under age 12 comprise more than 35% of the audience. The settlement also prohibits the company from negatively depicting water in any kind of ads.

“Making misleading statements is a violation of California law. But making misleading statements aimed at our children is beyond unlawful, it’s morally wrong and a betrayal of trust,” said Attorney General Becerra. “It’s what causes consumers to lose faith in the products they buy.”


Source: Consumer Reviews