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.
Congressman Joe Garcia (FL-26) defending Medicare:
America’s Top 10 Corporate Tax Dodgers: (and companies I will avoid in response!)
1. General ElectricTHIS...IS...INSANE: US Supreme Court allows Christian prayer at town meeting
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]
7. FedEx [Note: I prefer the USPS anyway!!!]
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.Simply put, liberals are fairer than conservatives: Cognitive Bias: do both sides do it? Yes. Does one side do it more? Significantly.
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?
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.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
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."
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:
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”Mathematicians answering the tough questions : How to win at rock-paper-scissors
--An Igbo proverb sent by Ihunegbo Oluchi in Enugu, Nigeria
Uh-oh. The vampires may have it right: New blood 'recharges old brain', mouse study suggests
Lost in translation: eating scalding puppies