Vibrator Maker Gets Too Close To Customers


Photo: Emily Berl, for The Guardian

A Canadian vibrator manufacturer has been fined a total of C$4 million – to be paid to customers at rates up to C$10,000 each – for using a smart app to track user activities including body temperatures and vibrator rates. We-Vibe was sued in an Illinois court class action suit, The Guardian reported today (March 14). (Beware, indeed, the ides of March!)

In what could be termed a royal cock-up, the company’s parent, Standard Innovations, was ordered to shell out when it was learned that its sex toy was designed to enable clients to, as The Guardian put it, “keep their flame ignited – together or apart” via use of a blue tooth connection. Unfortunately, security issues made it possible for anyone within range to use a separate blue tooth device to take control of the vibrator, potentially leading to more than slightly embarrassing outcomes for intended or accidental users of the toy.

As bad or worse, the device allows information to be sent back to the company about users’ activities – representing the ultimate invasion of the bedroom.

You’d have thought, that somewhere along the design-and-manufacturing path on this product’s road to market, someone would have realized its potential downside. Or was this a Canadian version of “boys will be boys?”



Uber A Marriage-Wrecker? French Court Will Decide


A French businessman who was cheating on his wife – or so she suspects, and thinks she can prove – learned about his straying ways after he borrowed her iPhone to schedule an Uber. When he hung up, the app didn’t, and continued sending reports on his whereabouts to his wife’s phone. As a result, the French paper/website Le Figaro, reported recently, she filed for divorce.

Rightly enough, the allegedly cheating husband believes, Uber should pay what he’s suing the company for: $45 million. (How, in such a case, such a number is decided upon, is a mystery!)

His claim is that the app, “not the whole cheating thing,” as The Daily Dot put it, ) led to the wife’s divorce appeal.

Le Figaro was able to duplicate the “problem” on iPhones – and no such “fault” has been found to affect Android phones, news that no doubt comes as a relief to owners (or borrowers) of phone using that operation system.

Uber hardly surprisingly, would no doubt be laughing at the lawsuit, which it has no intention of settling. But fighting lawsuits is expensive, and a distraction from business-as-usual.

(What was I saying?)

The Daily Dot said the case will have an initial court hearing late this month, with the French government – meaning taxpayers who support the government – picking up their side of the tab. The husband will be responsible for his share of the costs.


Man Steals $4.8m from Boss, Puts $1m of it Into in-app Buys


After embezzling some $4.8 million from his employer over the course of seven years, a California man who then had more money than he knew what to do with squandered $1 million on in-apps buys – purchases tied to the playing Game of War, a mobile strategy game for Apple devices. It’s likely that, after he’s sentenced in May, 2017, Kevin Lee Co will have an ample amount of prison time to regret his actions. He was convicted earlier this year on charges of wire fraud and money laundering, according to the BBC.
Mr. Co had worked for a distributor of Caterpillar equipment for two years when, in early 2008, after being named head of the accounting department, he devised a scheme to skim the money from the company’s accounts. His account grew progressively richer until March, 2015, when his fleecing was discovered.
Aside from his Game of War in-app buys, Co reportedly spent heavily on luxury cars, plastic surgery and season tickets for two San Francisco-based sports teams.

‘Probably bet on them, as well!

Name Mixup Results In Erroneous Cremation

There are some mistakes one simply can’t recover from. Cremating the wrong person is one of them.

That happened recently in Los Angeles when someone failed to match the coroner’s case number to the individual about to be cremated and … the wrong guy with the same name was done for, forever.

One Jorge Hernandez died of a drug overdose earlier this month. His family was planning a private viewing and a funeral.

Another Jorge Hernandez, who was indigent, was the one who was supposed to be cremated.

Understandably, the family of the cremated man were stunned by what happened..

“The department is profoundly sorry for any additional discomfort that this has caused the loved ones of Mr. Hernandez,” said Armand Montiel, speaking for the coroner’s office. The chief medical examiner delivered a personal apology to the family, he said.

Family members weren’t comfortable with that.

“Sorry doesn’t bring him back. This was really upsetting,” said Mary Lou Diaz of her nephew’s cremation. “I know they have bodies stacking up but there needs to be accountability here.

“We thought, ‘No, this isn’t happening. They have to be wrong,’ ” she said. “It was devastating. There was no goodbye. There was no closure. The whole family has been affected by this double tragedy.”

The incident occurred as the coroner’s office is trying to reduce a major backlog in cases caused by staffing shortages. The backlog has sparked complaints from families and law enforcement officials.

Luis Carrillo, an attorney for Hernandez’s family, said a lawsuit is being planned.

“The coroner’s office is chronically understaffed and underfunded, so errors get made and this has a very real impact on their survivors,” he said. “There was apparently no supervisor double-checking on the bodies before cremation.”

Carrillo said Hernandez’s mother, Mirna Amaya, was particularly hit hard by the mistake. “She wanted photos of his peacefully resting in his coffin,” Carrillo said. “She is so distraught she had to seek medical treatment.”

Coroner’s records show Hernandez’s death was an accidental drug overdose, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The coroner’s office’s accreditation with the National Assn. of Medical Examiners was due to expire Aug. 24 but remains active pending the results and report of an inspection Oct. 17.

To keep its full, five-year accreditation, the office must be completed within 90 days in 90% of cases. However, an office with some shortcomings can receive provisional accreditation for a year. Such accreditation is not legally required but provides a guarantee of quality and bolster its credibility in court.

Officials have blamed staffing and budget shortages, broken equipment and the difficulty in recruiting and training highly skilled employees for massive backlogs on autopsies and testing. County supervisors have boosted funding and is in the process of hiring 22 additional employees.

But as of Sept. 21, toxicology and other tests had not been completed on more than 1,500 bodies — an improvement over June, when the figure was 2,100.

In 2015, the L.A. coroner’s office completed 81% of its cases within the 90-day window; the rate dropped to 78% between June 2015 and June 2016. As of last month, nearly 1,500 cases remain incomplete after 90 days, including roughly 570 that have lingered for more than 150 days.

Montiel said the coroner’s office has a strict policy requiring staffers to check the name and the coroner’s case number to make sure there are no misidentifications. He said this system has generally worked.


Hot Pepper Causes 2.5cm Rip In Man’s Esophagus


Louisiana pepper breeder/grower Tony Primeaux handles some hot ones. (Photo: Lee Celano/The Daily Advertiser via AP)

(This post appeared earlier — yesterday — on my other blog,

A 47-year-old man recently attempted a rather silly, super-spicy feat – eating a hamburger covered with a ghost pepper puree. The ghost pepper measures a scary 1 million units on the Scoville heat unit (SHU) scale, a per-mass measure of capsaicin, the chemical compound that makes some peppers spicy-hot.

By way of comparison, a bell pepper measures 0 on that scale. A jalapeno comes in at between 3,500-10,000 units; a Serrano and a Peperoncino score in the range of 10,000-30,000 units, and both Cayenne and Tabasco peppers range from 30,000-50,000 units – about as high as most people care to experience. (Police pepper spray, by the way, comes it at around 5,000,000 SHU – Scoville Heat Units.)

(I thought my mouth was on fire once when I took a bite out of an Habanero, AKA Scotch Bonnet chili – 100,000 -350,000 heat units – I’d found on sale at a London street market. As quickly as I could, I went into a pub and ordered a pint of beer, as beer is rumored to cut the effect of heat in food, or peppers. Alternatively, the beer may just make you forget about the pepper’s burning sensation!)

An article in The Washington Post said that peppers that pass the 1 million SHU mark are called superhot; as a rule they are reddish and puckered, as though one of Satan’s internal organs had prolapsed. To daredevil eaters of a certain stripe, the superhot peppers exist only to challenge.

When consumed, ghost peppers and other superhots provoke extreme reactions.

“Your body thinks it’s going to die,” as Louisiana pepper grower Ronald Primeaux told the AP in October. “You’re not going to die.”

The Washington Post’s Tim Carman described eating a pea-sized chunk of the pepper, sans seeds, in 2012. “It was as if my head had become a wood-burning oven, lighting up my tongue and the interior of my skull,” he wrote. “Milk provided little relief, until the burn began to subside on its own about 10 minutes later.”

Primeaux, who hopes to claim the world’s hottest title through cultivating his Louisiana Creeper variety, said, “When you put one of these in your mouth, it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame,” in his interview with the AP. “A bear is chasing you. You’ve just been in a car wreck. You just got caught speeding, and a cop is giving you a ticket.”


Pepper breeder/grower Tony Primeaux with some of his plants. (Photo: Lee Celano/The Daily Advertiser via AP)

That truly seemed to be the sensation experienced by the unnamed 47-year-old reported on in The Journal of Emergency Medicine. For him, “ingesting the pepper burger was less a bear chase and closer to an attack,” The Post article said.

As physicians at the University of California at San Francisco reported in the case study reported on in The Journal of Emergency Medicine article, he consumed the burger and attempted to quench the heat in his mouth with six glasses of water. When that failed the man began to vomit, which gave way to abdominal pain. He dialed emergency help.

At the emergency department, he received Maalox and painkillers. After his condition worsened, doctors moved him to the operating room, where they discovered a “2.5-cm tear in the distal esophagus,” about one inch, as the case report authors noted. The force of the vomiting and retching led to a rare diagnosis of Boerhaave’s syndrome; these spontaneous tears in the esophagus can be fatal if they are not diagnosed and treated.

“The rupture was as a result of the forceful vomiting and retching,” said UC San Francisco clinical fellow and study author Ann Arens, in an email to The Washington Post, “as a result of eating the hamburger with the ghost pepper puree.”

In this case, surgeons were able to repair the man’s throat. “He remained intubated until hospital day 14, began tolerating liquids on hospital day 17,” they wrote, “and was discharged home with a gastric tube in place on hospital day 23.”

The researchers concluded the case study with a warning.

“Food challenges have become common among social media, including the infamous cinnamon challenge,” they wrote, referencing the spice fad that was popular in early 2012. (When eating a heaping spoonful of cinnamon went wrong, it led to emergency calls and at least one collapsed lung.)

“When people ask me whether it is safe to try the ‘spicy food challenges’ I generally take a Nancy Reagan stance,” said Arens, “and say ‘Just Say No.’ But if you really just can’t help yourself, I would recommend just starting with a taste.”


Don’t Eat This ANYWHERE: KFC-Scented Sunscreen



This photo has NOTHING to do with this article — except insofar as the person depicted is clearly baffled by something — perhaps the idea of a KFC-branded sunscreen.

Who comes up with these ideas?

In order to trade on the popularity of one of its two styles of fried chicken, KFC USA, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands (Yum! ??) recently gave away 3,000 bottles of Extra Crispy Sunscreen – SPF 30 with a fried chicken scent. (Or, as CBS News put it, “fowl-smelling.”) Consumers snapped up the full production run within two hours of the product being announced on a KFC website, the company reported.

“We’ve had a lot of fun with our Extra Crispy Colonel campaign this summer, and the sunscreen idea seemed like a natural fit,” spokeswoman Kasey Mathes told USA Today.

The news site added that the campaign “dovetailed with KFC’s latest TV ad campaign featuring actor George Hamilton, noted for his deep, continuous suntan, as the Extra Crispy Colonel.”

Now, in that spirit, Mathes says, according to USA Today, “many fans around the country who claimed a bottle at a special web site can be living the ‘extra-crispy lifestyle’.”

Deli Market News reported that “KFC says more than 50 percent of Americans are oblivious to the difference and existence of two separate fried chicken recipes through the company – Original Recipe and Extra Crispy. Extra Crispy Chicken and Tenders are very crunchy and juicy, as well as cooked to a golden brown and hand-breaded,” the Deli news site said.

It promised to follow up, “as the public clucks out their answer,” to see if “chicken-smelling lotions be the next meat-induced craze to strike consumers.”

Given that The Associated Press has reported that samplers of the product around its henhouse failed to detect a chicken aroma from the product, that isn’t likely. Which, all things considered, is probably a blessing!

KFC stressed on its ‘extra-crispy’ web site that this sunscreen is NOT edible. The company hasn’t announced any plans to produce more of the product – no doubt a relief to the CBS presenter who declared the whole idea to be “offal”.

E-Cigs – ‘Vapes’ – Pose Their Own Risks


The past few years have seen a great – somewhat frightening – increase in the number of teens and young adults attracted to the supposedly innocuous practice of smoking electronic cigarettes – ‘vapes’, as they are commonly referred to, because they don’t generate actual smoke, but water vapors laced with nicotine and who knows what else.

Because they deliver lower of doses of known-to-be-harmful nicotine, vapes have, since they were introduced in 2004, appealed to people who wanted to quit smoking regular cigarettes and viewed them as a tempering-off approach, potentially leading to total cessation of smoking.

That sometimes works; often, though, it doesn’t.

But worse than wanna-be ex-smokers taking up vapes is the fact that significant numbers of teens have done so, too. Some just think it’s a cool thing to do. Others see it as a way of sharing an experience with friends, as reported recently by (The article, quoted below,was written by teen reporters from The Mash, a weekly publication distributed to Chicagoland high schools.)

“Hinsdale Central senior Cameron Anderson didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she picked up the seemingly harmless device. She said she was at a party at the end of last school year when she decided to try an electronic cigarette out of boredom.

“I really liked vaping at the time because of the intimacy we all had while sharing this one vape,” Anderson said.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use of e-cigarettes by middle and high school students nearly tripled from 2013 to 2014, creating a “vape culture” among today’s young people. Sherry Emery, a senior research scientist currently examining youth and adult smoking behaviors at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said she thinks that teens are attracted to vaping because it’s a novelty.

“They’re teenagers. They’re going to do stuff,” Emery said. “They think it’s fun and exciting.”

Tricks of the trade

In Emery’s opinion, vaping comes with an “artisanal creativity” that includes everything from flavor combinations and fashionable devices to vape tricks and competitions.

Anderson recalled that at the party, she was initially attracted to the games that involved vaping.

“They looked like they were having a good time doing vape tricks together,” Anderson said.

Popular tricks include blowing smoke into an “O” shape and exhaling smoke through the nose. Social media sites such as Instagram and YouTube can serve as platforms for online vape-trick competitions and publicizing electronic cigarette use.

Amanda Mendez, a senior at Christ The King Jesuit College Prep, also has noticed the obsession with vape tricks.

“It’s crazy­—you will see so many Snapchat stories full of kids in the locker room or even the bathroom showing off tricks,” Mendez said.

Tricks and novelty aside, Dean Kostopoulos, who graduated from Naperville North last spring and has several friends who vape, said the attraction isn’t complicated: Teens think vaping is fun.

“Everyone feels like (vaping) is a more healthy way to smoke, but it’s more for the thrill of it,” Kostopoulos said. “Everybody thinks it’s cool.”

Easy access

Not only do many teens find them cool, but e-cigarettes are also very accessible. In Illinois, a person must be 18 years of age to purchase cigarettes, both traditional and electronic. However, e-cigs easily can be obtained by teens younger than 18 from online vendors.

And e-cigs aren’t just easier for minors to purchase; they’re also easier to conceal. Mendez said that due to the discreet appearance of e-cigs, students rarely get caught at school. Many vaping devices are designed to look like pens: compact, shiny and inconspicuous. In fact, some devices such as Cloud 2.0 and microG are marketed as unnoticeable.

“The pens tend to be made out of the same material as ordinary writing pens,” Mendez said.

According to Naperville North dean Jim Konrad, the consequences for possession of electronic cigarettes are the same as for possession of combustible cigarettes: suspension. But Konrad said he hasn’t run into many issues with student use of tobacco products.

“To be honest, we don’t have a lot of smoking violations here,” Konrad said.

Of the few violations Konrad has witnessed, one student was actually using an electronic cigarette with parental permission as a less harmful alternative to other substances.

“If the kid is going to be using something extreme or a vapor pen, obviously we’re going to choose the vapor pen as the healthier alternative,” Konrad said.

Risky business

Some use e-cigs because they think vaping is a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, and research from institutions like the Roswell Park Cancer Institute suggests that may be true. But according to Jidong Huang, another senior research scientist at UIC, the comparison shouldn’t be between electronic and combustible cigarettes or other substances, but between teens who vape and teens who don’t.

“The question is, ‘Is vaping better than not using any products?’ “ Huang said. “And the answer is no.”

Some consequences of adolescent vaping are obvious. The morning after vaping with friends at a party, Anderson said she woke up with chest pain and a sore throat. For the next month, her laugh came out as a wheeze.

“I promised myself I would never do it again in hopes that my laugh would return back to normal so I didn’t sound like a broken tuba,” Anderson said.

But some of the effects of adolescent vaping aren’t as noticeable. According to Emery, electronic cigarettes renormalize smoking, an act that has become less and less socially acceptable over the past 20 years. In actuality, electronic cigarettes have the potential to act as a gateway to combustible cigarettes.

“It makes the act of smoking less unappealing,” Emery said. “A lot of people report that while they enjoy vaping, they find themselves needing a certain level of nicotine. Vaping isn’t always going to satisfy their needs.”

Aside from nicotine, Emery explained that the products don’t have clear standards and may contain heavy metals.

“There’s a lot of variability in the safety of the components,” Emery said

Beyond that concern, vaping devices are compatible with marijuana, cocaine, THC liquids and other drugs, making substance abuse easier and less publicly recognizable for teens and young adults. The devices’ lack of transparency creates a danger for users who may not be completely aware of what’s inside the electronic cigarette.

Despite these concerns, Emery said fewer people are worried about vaping because it seems like the least problematic of many dangerous options.

“You could kind of throw your hands up in the air and say, ‘Well if (teens) are going to do something, it might as well be this,’ because it is less harmful (than other drugs), probably,” she said. “It’s all appealing to the things teens want to do. Be creative and experiment and be a bit edgy.”

In May of this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule extending its authority to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco, among others. This historic rule helps implement the bipartisan Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 and allows the FDA to improve public health and protect future generations from the dangers of tobacco use through a variety of steps, including restricting the sale of these tobacco products to minors nationwide.

“We have more to do to help protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine, especially our youth. As cigarette smoking among those under 18 has fallen, the use of other nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, has taken a drastic leap. All of this is creating a new generation of Americans who are at risk of addiction,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “Today’s announcement is an important step in the fight for a tobacco-free generation – it will help us catch up with changes in the marketplace, put into place rules that protect our kids and give adults information they need to make informed decisions.”

A recent survey supported by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows current e-cigarette use among high school students has skyrocketed from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015 (an over 900 percent increase) and hookah use has risen significantly. In 2015, 3 million middle and high school students were current e-cigarette users, and data showed high school boys smoked cigars at about the same rate as cigarettes. Additionally, a joint study by the FDA and the National Institutes of Health shows that in 2013-2014, nearly 80 percent of current youth tobacco users reported using a flavored tobacco product in the past 30 days – with the availability of appealing flavors consistently cited as a reason for use.

Before this new rule, there was no federal law prohibiting retailers from selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco or cigars to people under age 18. Today’s rule changes that with provisions aimed at restricting youth access, which go into effect in 90 days, including:

  • Not allowing products to be sold to persons under the age of 18 years (both in person and online);
  • Requiring age verification by photo ID;
  • Not allowing the selling of covered tobacco products in vending machines (unless in an adult-only facility); and
  • Not allowing the distribution of free samples.

The actions being taken by the FDA will help prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers, evaluate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are made, as well as communicate their potential risks.

The rule also requires manufacturers of all newly-regulated products, to show that the products meet the applicable public health standard set forth in the law and receive marketing authorization from the FDA, unless the product was on the market as of Feb. 15, 2007. The tobacco product review process gives the agency the ability to evaluate important factors such as ingredients, product design and health risks, as well as their appeal to youth and non-users.

Under staggered timelines, the FDA expects that manufacturers will continue selling their products for up to two years while they submit – and an additional year while the FDA reviews – a new tobacco product application. The FDA will issue an order granting marketing authorization where appropriate; otherwise, the product will face FDA enforcement.