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Friday, October 20, 2017


That's Not Champagne! I'm Calling My Lawyer!
Wine connoisseurs already know this - technically, to be called "champagne," it must come from the Champagne region of France. Everything else must legally be called sparkling wine. It seems nobody knows this better than Canadian Danel Macduff. He was on a Sunwing Airlines flight to Cuba and ordered champagne. But he was served what he calls a cheaper sparkling wine. He seems to feel this is worthy of launching a class-action lawsuit against the airline. Sunwing calls the lawsuit frivolous saying Macduff took its marketing materials too literally: It promised "champagne vacations" and "champagne service," which it says were describing the overall "level of service" one would receive. A lawyer for Macduff retorts that it's really not at all "about the pettiness of champagne versus sparkling wine" but instead about the "consumer message." Lawyer Sebastien Paquette said, "You're trying to lure consumers by marketing something, and you're not giving them that something ... It's a dishonest practice." In the meantime, Sunwing is still pouring the bubbly, but has wiped the promise of "champagne service" from its marketing and advertises "sparkling wine" online. Paquette also claims some 1,600 people want to join the suit, which has not yet been "certified," which would set it on course for trial. Oh, and adding insult to injury - the "champagne" was reportedly served to Macduff in a plastic cup. (BBC)

Eye Drops Are Way Too Big! Who Knew?
It's the great eye drop conspiracy! I'll bet when you put in eye drops, a bunch spills out and runs down your face. That's not on accident. A ProPublica investigation on how billions of health care dollars are wasted each year, finds that eye drops are way too big - some of them more than twice what the eye can actually hold - resulting in drainage and waste. A lot of waste, considering US drug companies made $3.4 billion last year on drops for dry eyes and glaucoma alone. Not only are users paying for the drops that end up wiped on a tissue, but the waste can have a serious impact on patients like Gregory Matthews, who has glaucoma and sometimes runs out of drops before his refill is available. Using eye drops consistently is important for glaucoma patients, because they help keep blindness at bay. Making matters worse? Smaller drops are possible. In the early 1990s, a "microdrop" was developed, and studies conclusively found patients were able to administer it safely and effectively, leaving no waste. But it never came to market, and experts say that's because drug companies are greedy and more concerned with profits than patients. The same size bottle of eye drops could now last up to twice as long if microdrops were used. (Newser)

Where Have All the Insects Gone?
Does it seem like there's fewer squished bugs on your windshield these days? Researchers say there appears to have been a steep and extremely worrying decline in insect populations in recent decades. In a study published in the journal Plos One, researchers say testing carried out over 27 years at 96 nature reserve sites in Germany found a reduction in flying-insect numbers of more than 75% between 1989 and 2016. The "overall pattern of decline in insect diversity and abundance" is alarming, not least because many plants rely on the insects for pollination, and many kinds of mammals, birds, and reptiles rely on insects for food. "Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth, [but] there has been some kind of horrific decline," says researcher Dave Goulson of Sussex University. He continues, "We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects, then everything is going to collapse." Researchers say the causes of the alarming decline aren't entirely clear, though climate change, widespread pesticide use, and the changes to the landscape made by industrial-scale agriculture have probably played a role. (Plos One)

Things at Blue Apron Not Working Out So Well
Things at Blue Apron aren't going so well. The meal-kit seller company is cutting about 320 jobs, less than four months after it went public. New York-based Blue Apron, which had nearly 5,400 employees in June, says the layoffs represent about 6% of its workforce - mostly from its corporate offices and warehouses where its meal kits are packed and shipped. A big part of the reason - Amazon. You probably know the online giant recently bought Whole (Paycheck) Foods, and is testing its own meal kits. And supermarket operator Albertsons recently bought rival Plated and plans to sell kits at its 2,300 stores. Too bad if you bought Blue Apron Holdings Inc. stock. It's down about 50 percent since shared began trading on the stock market at the end of June. (Newser)

The Great White North Bans Burkas
It appears we have the very first "burka ban" in North America. Quebec's National Assembly passed Bill 62 this week, and while the law banning facial coverings doesn't specifically mention burqas or niqabs, those have certainly been the main point of debate. The new law applies to both public workers - teachers, doctors, and more - and people receiving public services - including, potentially, public transit riders. A 21-year-old woman who wears a niqab says the ban will force her to stay home instead going to the library or hanging out at the mall with friends because she doesn't have a car. She said, "It will just block me from the rest of the world." The ban will take effect in July. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says the law is about "identification and safety." "We are in a free and democratic society. You speak to me, I should see your face, and you should see mine. It's as simple as that." But critics say the law unfairly targets Muslim women and is simply an attempt to gain votes ahead of next year's elections. The National Council of Canadian Muslims calls it "ugly identity politics," and the council's Ihsaan Gardee says it's "a made-up solution to an invented problem." Meanwhile, Bulgaria, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Bavaria in Germany have passed similar burka bans. (Reuters)

Too Soon?
A Las Vegas Halloween display - featuring a front yard full of tombstones, one for each of the victims in the Las Vegas massacre - was taken down Wednesday after it sparked outrage online. The makeshift cemetery was spotted outside a house in North Vegas, with social media users posting pictures of it on Tuesday night. A large banner, with the words #vegasstrong on the front, was all that remained the next day. While some were quick to blast the homeowners for the "ghoulish" decorations, most people have been sympathetic - with many referring to the display as a "tribute" rather than a stunt. One Facebook user posted: "Honestly, I don't think this person meant any disrespect to the victims since the #vegasstrong banner is there." Reporters could not reach the owners of the home, but neighbors said they likely had the best intentions. (New York Post)

What the What?
A woman who breastfed a puppy and even fertilized one of her eggs with a dog cell has won a prestigious art prize. Slovenian artist Maja Smrekar conducted her bizarre projects while living in seclusion with her dogs as part of her "K-9 Topology" art experiment. She underwent systematic breast pumping in order to trick her body into producing breast milk before breastfeeding a puppy during the piece. She also took a fat cell from another dog and used it to "fertilize" one of her eggs using a method similar to IVF. If it makes you feel better, biologically speaking, there was absolutely no way the egg could have become an embryo, which would have been impossible even if a sexual cell from a dog was used. Despite it being all creepy and downright disturbing, the critics loved it, and so awarded her the "Golden Nica" at Prix Ars Electronica in Austria. Kind of a big deal in the art world. Smrekar created a video which shows her breastfeeding dogs, sleeping naked next to them and performing the fertilization. Yeah, it's a bit NSFW. (Metro)

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