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I used to do a weekly newsletter that had quite a following. But it got too much for me to juggle, so I let it slip. But now, as possibly a step towards re-establishing it, I want to start a Cool News Roundup, highlighting stuff from the past week or so and/or relevant older articles that may be of interest, as well as action alerts. My personal biases will of course come into play: science, Jewish issues, history, etc. will often be part of what I highlight.

Now in theory I have more time to do the newsletter because I am not officially unemployed. Of course, I have many other things I am doing that take up my time and so I am amazed how quickly my week has filled up with meetings, appointments, etc. So I am a little behind on this issue of the newsletter. But here we are.

Let me know what you think!

So, below the dingleberry thingie, let's begin.

CONSUMER ALERT: 1800Flowers Ripoff Report

As Mother's Day approaches, I want to bring this to people's attention. Apparently 1800flowers is NOT the place to go for flowers. Poor quality and outright scams seem their habit. Find out more at Ripoff Report and at Consumerist.

It is worth also noting that according to the Better Business Bureau,  both 1800Flowers AND ProFlowers get very low marks for customer service, but I don't specifically know about any outright scams being carried out by ProFlowers like the scams 1800Flowers has done.

One alternative for flowers: Organic Bouquet

One alternative for chocolates (these are REALLY good, but not cheap): Lagusta's Luscious

On a related note: Sophi Tranchell: Divine Chocolate's radical boss

And of course there are local businesses.

CONSUMER ALERT: The Big Bad Banks (an update)

Too big to fail has tended to coincide with too big to give a crap about customer service. Most of the banks that our tax money bailed out also were the very same backs with the worst scandals and the worst customer service records.

What has changed since the bail out?

The banks that were good back then, like TD Bank, are still good now. Both in terms of investment return and in terms of customer service, TD Bank remains one of the best out there. It never needed a bail out because it maintained good banking practices all along.

On the other hand, two of the worst banks that got our tax money for bailouts remain lousy: Citibank and Bank of America. These two banks maintained the WORST POSSIBLE banking practices and so have the most customer service complaints and represent lousy investments. Quite honestly, Bank of America and Citibank really should have both failed...they are THAT BAD. Bank of America can't even get basic math right! Major accounting errors, fraud, and lousy customer service CONTINUE to plague both Citibank and Bank of America.

On the other other hand, Wells Fargo seems to be the ONLY "too big to fail" bank we bailed out that seems to have learned some lessons. Their customer service ratings have greatly improved since the bad old days of bailouts, and they seem to have at least some what improved their banking practices. I do not know if their improvement was due to a genuine change of heart or simply realizing that bad baking practices were bad business. But Wells Fargo has come a long way while Citibank and Bank of America remain at rock bottom.

Credit Unions and smaller banks have started prospering. TD Bank remains rock solid and never had to be bailed out. Wells Fargo was crap and had to be bailed out but seems to have learned some lessons. Bank of America and Citibank remain likely to fail because they don't seem to have learned any lessons from the crash. When looking at your own finances, the stability and quality of your bank can make a big difference. When Bank of America can't even get its accounting right it is well past time to move your money.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE:

A look at what North American History could have looked like: Turning Historical Bias on its Head

Reclaiming History: May 3, 1970--The Gathering Storm

POLITICAL NEWS:

Congressman Joe Garcia (FL-26) defending Medicare:

America’s Top 10 Corporate Tax Dodgers: (and companies I will avoid in response!)

1. General Electric
2. Boeing
3. Verizon [Note: due to rude and aggressive behavior as well as actual trespassing, my building has banned FIOS reps from entering our building]
4. Bank of America [Note: BoA also ranked as the US bank with the WORST customer service, as I discuss above]
5. Citigroup [Note: ALSO one of the banks rated as having the WORST customer service]
6. Pfizer
7. FedEx [Note: I prefer the USPS anyway!!!]
8. Honeywell
9. Merck
10. Corning
THIS...IS...INSANE: US Supreme Court allows Christian prayer at town meeting

Here is a statement on this very disturbing decision from Americans United, the organization that filed the suit:

In November, Americans United took an important legislative prayer case to the US Supreme Court. We brought suit in Galloway v. Town of Greece on behalf of two town residents, Susan Galloway, who is Jewish, and Linda Stephens, an atheist. They objected to their town board’s practice of inviting clergy to open meetings with predominantly Christian prayers that left them feeling unwelcome and alienated.

 Today, in a disappointing 5-4 decision, the high court ruled that opening prayers at town council meetings do not violate the Constitution, even if they routinely promote Christianity.  The court said that the content of the prayers is not significant as long as they do not denigrate non-Christians or proselytize.

This ruling is out of step with the realities of modern-day America. In a country where pluralism and diversity are expanding every day, a Supreme Court decision that gives the green light to ‘majority-rules’ prayer at local government is exactly what we don’t need.

 Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens are disappointed as well.  This morning, AU's lead attorney in the case, Ayesha Khan, spoke with both plaintiffs.  Susan said, “I’m very disappointed that the Supreme Court chose to ignore the rights of millions of Americans who don’t wish to be subjected to sectarian prayers before government meetings.”  Linda added, “Government is supposed to represent everyone, not just those who believe in God. I’m deeply saddened, but so thankful that AU was by our side every step of the way.”

Here at Americans United, we will monitor the implications of this case very closely.  The court’s decision does not extend beyond the legislative process, but we know that today’s ruling is just the tip of the iceberg of Religious Right efforts to promote Christianity in all aspects of public life. We also know that some local officials will inevitably decide that they can offer any sort of coercive prayer or even full-blown religious services before government meetings.

 Government should not be in the business of forcing faith on anyone, and now everyone who attends local town board meetings could be subjected to the religion of the majority – will all civic functions be next?

Simply put, liberals are fairer than conservatives: Cognitive Bias: do both sides do it? Yes. Does one side do it more? Significantly.

America's addiction to prisons: Incarceration nation

Want to push America away from right wing extremism? THIS is a critical step for ALL of us: Three Seats to Flip: Taking back the Wisconsin State Senate

Fighting Racism goes viral: 'We are all monkeys'

HEALTH, SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS:

An excellent YouTube resource: Science Democrats

From Keep Antibiotics Working: (via email)

Consumers Continue to be Impacted by Foster Farms Salmonella Outbreak
 

As you likely recall, an antibiotic-resistant salmonella [sic] outbreak linked to a California poultry farm, Foster Farms, broke out in October 2013. Officials within the Department of Agriculture declined to ask the company to issue a recall and six months later, people are still getting sick from the tainted chicken.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 524 people have become ill from eating Foster Farms tainted chicken, mostly in California. Fortunately, no one has died, but this remains a serious outbreak due to the fact that the outbreak strains have been resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics and 37 percent of those infected have been hospitalized, a higher rate than normal for Salmonella. The CDC has also warned that this outbreak may be spreading its resistance to other disease causing bacteria.

The Foster Farms Salmonella outbreak is to be a major discussion topic at the CDC's 63rd Annual Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference, which is being held this week in Atlanta.  The program on April 29 features a presentation "Multistate Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella Heidelberg Infections Linked to Foster Farms Brand Chicken."

A new target for treating Osteoporosis? Intriguing but having worked on TGF-beta I know it is involved in MANY aspects of life and so may be too broad a target. Nevertheless, could be the fist step in new treatments: Protein could bring hope to brittle bone disease

Autism Awareness month is over, but thought I'd keep the awareness going. Here is a great video from Asperger'sExperts.com that my son found helpful:

RANDOMNESS:

This week's moment of jbou: "The universe does not punish, it teaches. The universe is an abusive boyfriend."

An African Proverb (from BBC News):

“When death wants to take a little dog, it prevents it from smelling even excrement”
--An Igbo proverb sent by Ihunegbo Oluchi in Enugu, Nigeria
Mathematicians answering the tough questions : How to win at rock-paper-scissors

Uh-oh. The vampires may have it right: New blood 'recharges old brain', mouse study suggests

Lost in translation: eating scalding puppies

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Progressive Blogging New York: Write Now NY Find me on Linkedin.

    by mole333 on Tue May 06, 2014 at 11:41:15 AM PDT

  •  Interesting collection of stories. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333, AnnieR, FarWestGirl

    Thanks.

    Not only is chicken a concern to the CDC, I haven't been able to force myself to eat it after I read about the disgustingly lax cleanliness standards at processing plants. The problem is, pizza is getting tiresome.  

    Diaries are funny things Sam. Type one letter and you never know where you might end up. My apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien.

    by Caddis Fly on Tue May 06, 2014 at 12:30:53 PM PDT

  •  Mostly my diet (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333

    consists of lots of nuts, some vegetables (not cooked), some fruits, the above mentioned pizza and an occasional steak or can of chili.

    As far as falafels go, I don't know if I've had a "real" one or would recognize it if I had. Sorry, my fault, not the falafels.

       

    Diaries are funny things Sam. Type one letter and you never know where you might end up. My apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien.

    by Caddis Fly on Tue May 06, 2014 at 01:07:32 PM PDT

  •  Hi Mole (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caddis Fly, mole333

    I have been disappointed so many times in the 25 plus years I have lived in NYC  when it comes to guacamole. It is always such a let down.  Union Market makes a good guacamole and so does a Mexican taco joint in my neck of the 39th. There is a Dominican place we order from and I've also had decent guacamole from there but that is very hit or miss.

    It's kind of sad that Chipotle is on my top five NYC guacamoles.  At least things are kind of improving in terms of Mexican food. It's one of the few things I miss about California.

    •  Heh (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fisher1028

      Chipotle!

      I usually prefer making it myself...though it is also hard to find good avocados here!

      Mostly it is hard for me to get beyond the whole rice filling in the burritos...best burritos I have ever had were the chicken burritos at Alberto's. SOLID chicken and tasty as can be.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Progressive Blogging New York: Write Now NY Find me on Linkedin.

      by mole333 on Tue May 06, 2014 at 07:18:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree. I also think avocados (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mole333

        are a problem.  For a long time grocers seemed confused by them and many still don't know how to tell whether one is ripe. My favorite guacamole story is a friend of mine (another transplant) went to one of the finer East Village restaurants back in the 80s and was excited to see guacamole on the menu. When he got it it turned out to be a few pieces of avocado and three lonely chips.

        A friend of mine who never left Ca likes to tell me, "here the avocados fall from the trees and rot in the streets."

  •  I just ate dinner (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333

    But all this talk about Mexican food is making me hungry.  I had my first burrito from Chipolte a couple of weeks ago.  My 15 year old nephew dragged me there.  I'll probably never get one again.  First, it was too big and I could only eat half of it and then there was the pains it gave me afterwards.  

    I'd rather make my own, with my own meat so I know where it comes from.

    Never be afraid to voice your opinion and fight for it . Corporations aren't people, they're Republicans (Rev Al Sharpton 10/7/2011) Voting is a louder voice than a bullhorn but sometimes you need that bullhorn to retain your vote.

    by Rosalie907 on Wed May 07, 2014 at 05:25:05 PM PDT

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