Schick Is Entering The Shaving Club Business

Desiree Martin / AFP / Getty Images

It’s not easy being “the Pepsi of razors.” Just ask Schick, which has long stood in the five-o-clock shadow of razor giant Gillette. That alone was complicated enough, but the emergence of popular subscription-model startups like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s only made things harder for Schick.

So when Gillette announced earlier this month that it was revamping its razor subscription service, it was only a matter of time before Schick would follow with its own announcement. On Wednesday, Schick started accepting subscriptions to its new shave plan. “Get Schick with a click,” it beckoned the stubble-ridden masses.

That’s not all slick Schick has up its sleeves. Its new shaving club service also offers a new blade, the Schick “Hydro Connect,” that fits on Gillette’s handles for less than Gillette’s product.

“More than ever before, consumers expect access to exceptional products when they want it, how they want it, without having to sacrifice comfort and protection,” said Adel Mekhail, the Americas vice president of Schick’s parent company Edgewell Personal Care, in a statement.

Edgewell Personal Care

Under Schick’s shaving plan, consumers can directly order either three or five-blade “Hydro Connect” refills that work with Gillette’s Mach 3 or Fusion handles and arrive every month or as infrequently as once every nine months, according to the website. Refills start at $7 for three blades.

Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

Gillette recently announced an upgrade to its subscription service, now called Gillette On Demand. Now, in addition to subscribing for regular multipack refills, consumers can also get a single refill by texting “BLADES” to a number. Gillette added the option to better compete with leading shave clubs, which subscribers complain commit them to buying too many blades.

A 2015 Nielsen Homescan study found that 41% of men who decided to leave traditional shave clubs said they were receiving more blades than they needed, the company said in a statement.

Gillette declined to comment on specific legal issues that Schick’s razor may pose, but said that it would defend its intellectual property if needed.

“Our job is to make sure that they are not confused, and they can find the blades they trust,” it said. “As we always do across our products and brands, we will continue to protect our intellectual property as necessary through appropriate steps.”

@dollarshaveclub / Via

Online sales of men’s grooming products reached $826 million in 2016, the majority of which consisted of men’s razors and blades, according to a May Euromonitor report.

Gillette owner Procter & Gamble led the men’s grooming industry in 2016 with a value share of 27%. But Dollar Shave Club, acquired by Unilever in 2016 for about $1 billion, continues to dominate the online sales market with more than 3 million subscribers and annual sales of $204 million.

According to Euromonitor, “The nature of this category is changing as both of the country’s leading shave clubs are starting to focus increasingly on non-shaving products and the benefits of frequently switching razors instead of seeking to compete primarily through low price.”

LINK: Gillette Starts Knife Fight With Dollar Shave Club Over Razor Patent

Source: Schick Is Entering The Shaving Club Business

Pearl Parties Are About To Change

A direct marketing company whose salespeople have found massive success on Facebook Live says it will stop providing dollar valuations for the pearls its hosts pluck from oysters during the livestreams.

Pearl experts told BuzzFeed News that the valuations used by Vantel Pearls misleads consumers into believing their pearls are worth more than they really are. The chart claimed the cheap commercially grown freshwater pearls being sold by Vantel could be worth $100 or more, citing data from a non-existent pearl industry association.

Vantel now says it will ditch the chart.

Vantel Pearls

Instead of giving buyers a dollar value during the live streams, hosts will now discuss the “meaning” of the color of each pearl, Vantel founder Hartel Cabral told BuzzFeed News.

“The value chart was a general guide and we created it based on input from our pearl vendors,” she said. “It was meant as a guide … It now emphasizes the color of our pearls. We’re shifting form dollar values to the meaning of the pearl colors.”

Vantel has been around for decades, with its sales staff running parties in suburban living rooms. But in 2016, the company experienced explosive growth after its hosts began running virtual sales parties over Facebook Live, with some being viewed by tens of thousands of people at a time. Business boomed, but so did customer complaints.

One disillusioned customer told BuzzFeed News that pearl jewelry bought from the company, which can cost up to $148, has been appraised by jewelers to have a value of just $8, with the pearls worth pennies.

Experts with the Cultured Pearl Association of America and the British Pearl Association, two industry groups, told BuzzFeed News that Vantel Pearls’ valuation chart was misleading — both because there is no universal way to value a pearl, and because National Pearl Association of the United States, cited as the source of the data, doesn’t exist.

“That was input from our vendors,” said Hartel Cabral about the association cited in the value chart. “We’ve since moved away from that.” She declined to disclose the names of the vendors, saying she’d be “giving away” her business.

Hartel Cabral said the new tool for discussing the meaning of the pearls will be ready to distribute to consultants in June.

Vantel Pearls / Via

Hartel Cabral defended the company’s freshwater pearls, saying they are “incredible,” “gorgeous” and have excellent shape and luster, which makes them worth their estimated value in the chart.

“It’s not that those values are incorrect,” she said. “It’s that we feel there are so many factors that determine the value of the pearl. Size and color are just two determinations but luster and shape are several things that determine the value of the pearl. Shifting from the dollar value to these values helps us standardize whats going on across the nation.”

LINK: Pearl Parties Are Taking Over Facebook Live, But Buyer Beware

Source: Pearl Parties Are About To Change

These Moms Are Sharing Scary Stories Of Fidget Spinner Injuries

Three days before her 5-year-old son swallowed a loose part of his fidget spinner, Johely Morelos showed him the story of a Texas girl who was sent to the hospital after choking on a detachable part of her spinner.

Three days before her 5-year-old son swallowed a loose part of his fidget spinner, Johely Morelos showed him the story of a Texas girl who was sent to the hospital after choking on a detachable part of her spinner.

Johely Morelos

“I showed him pictures and said, ‘Never put that in your mouth,'” Morelos, a 23-year-old mom in Albany, Oregon, told BuzzFeed News. “I guess he didn’t listen that well.”

Morelos’ son, Cayden, was playing with a fidget spinner while she was running an errand at Walmart. Morelos’ sister was babysitting, but that didn’t stop him from popping a part loose and putting it into his mouth.

Cayden was rushed to their local hospital, whose staff couldn’t remove the part from his chest.

He had to be transported to a hospital in Portland to have the disc surgically removed.

He had to be transported to a hospital in Portland to have the disc surgically removed.

Johely Morelos

“It was super scary,” said Morelos. “When they were putting a tube down his throat, he was throwing up blood. It was really scary for me to see he was in pain.”

After two hours of surgery, Cayden woke up with a swollen lip and sore throat. Morelos said the next day he was back to normal as if nothing had ever happened.

Now Morelos, along with a leading child safety advocacy group, is saying fidget spinners should be recalled and required to have a choking hazard warning.

Now Morelos, along with a leading child safety advocacy group, is saying fidget spinners should be recalled and required to have a choking hazard warning.

Johely Morelos

“If it is releasing small parts it should be recalled because it doesn’t have warnings on the packaging,” Nancy Cowles, the executive director of Kids in Danger, told BuzzFeed News.

Any toys marketed toward children must comply with federal small parts regulations, which require manufacturers to put a label on products that pose choking hazards.

A small part that can pose a choking hazard is any object that fits into a cylinder that is 2.25 inches long by 1.25 inches wide, which is about the size of the fully expanded throat of a child under 3 years old.

A small part that can pose a choking hazard is any object that fits into a cylinder that is 2.25 inches long by 1.25 inches wide, which is about the size of the fully expanded throat of a child under 3 years old.

Consumer Product Safety Commission / Via

Scott Wolfson, a spokesperson for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates product safety, told BuzzFeed News that the agency is following up on the case of a 10-year-old girl in Texas who choked on a fidget spinner part, as well as other cases of children swallowing the loose discs.

“Choking risks to children are traditionally a priority for our agency so we take that very seriously,” said Wolfson. “It’s early in the process for us but we’re taking the issue seriously. We would encourage anyone that has an incident to use to report it right away.”

None of Amazon’s 10 best-selling fidget spinners include a choking hazard warning in their product descriptions as of Wednesday.

None of Amazon's 10 best-selling fidget spinners include a choking hazard warning in their product descriptions as of Wednesday.

Missouri-based mom Carol Woods told BuzzFeed News that her 3-year-old son was injured by a loose piece from this spinner last Tuesday. This time, though, it was stuck on his finger.

Missouri-based mom Carol Woods told BuzzFeed News that her 3-year-old son was injured by a loose piece from this spinner last Tuesday. This time, though, it was stuck on his finger.

Carol Woods

“[Charlie] had the little bearing on his middle finger,” she said. She described the stuck piece as a “flimsy piece of metal.”

“Mommy, I can’t get it off,” she recalled her son saying.

The mom attempted to remove it. “We tried everything and it began to bend and cut into his skin the more we messed with it,” she said.

She took her son to urgent care and, when they couldn’t help, to the ER. Once there, she said, it took “two to three different tools before [the bearing] was cut off.”

She took her son to urgent care and, when they couldn’t help, to the ER. Once there, she said, it took “two to three different tools before [the bearing] was cut off.”

Carol Woods

“I’ll tell ya, it took some muscle,” she said on its eventual removal. She said the whole ordeal was “awful” and “pretty scary.”

She wants other parents to be “more aware” of potential risks. “I think it would be nice to know that these bearings can come out, when [kids] drop it,” she said.

Joan Lawrence, who leads regulatory affairs for the Toy Association, which represents the toy industry, told BuzzFeed News that parents should never give children under 3 years old any items that have small parts, as many fidget spinners do.

“Buy toys from a reputable toy retailer — one you know and trust,” she added. “Those retailers will be selling product that has been tested and complies with strict US toy safety standards. When a toy craze like the spinners hit, you may be tempted to buy one for your child when you see a street vendor has them, but the safety of products sold outside a reputable retailer cannot be verified.”

Parents can also test the product at home by dropping the toy on the ground to see if any small parts easily come loose, Cowles with Kids in Danger added.

“If you can break it, your child can break it,” she said.

LINK: Amazon’s 20 Best-Selling Toys Include 15 Fidget Spinners And 4 Fidget Cubes

LINK: We Tried Fidget Spinners

Source: These Moms Are Sharing Scary Stories Of Fidget Spinner Injuries

Trump Is Under Pressure To Deliver On Obama's Student Loan Forgiveness

Mike Theiler / AFP / Getty Images

Danielle Ramos got the phone call in January: the thousands of dollars she’d taken out in student loans to attend a now-defunct for-profit college were going to be forgiven. The American Career Institute had fallen apart during her time there, and Ramos never finished her degree. The credits she earned didn’t even transfer to community college.

The Education Department, faced with evidence that ACI had systematically misled its students, decided to wipe away Ramos’s loans — and those of 4,500 other students across five ACI campuses.

But a new president has since taken office, and so has a new education secretary. Ramos had been told in January her loans would be forgiven within 90 to 120 days, but 90 days later, she’d heard nothing. Then, the 120-day deadline passed. Still nothing.

Ramos, a single mother, began to worry. When she checked with Navient, her loan servicer, they told her nothing had changed and her debt was still owing. She had obtained a two-year pause on loan repayments, but that was now over, meaning she would soon have to start repaying her $15,000 in loans, plus $2,000 in interest that had slowly built up.

The January call — and its promise of debt forgiveness — was in doubt.

“When I got that call, I was just ecstatic,” Ramos told BuzzFeed News. “But then nothing happens, and there’s a new president, and a new Department of Education, and what if they’re going to change their minds? Can they do that?”

As her new administration gets to work, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is facing mounting pressure to make good on an Obama-administration promise: to forgive the loans of thousands of students who had been defrauded by their schools. Those schools include ACI and another controversial for-profit chain, Corinthian Colleges, which at its peak enrolled more than 100,000 students nationwide.

ACI students are a special case, because thousands of them were automatically granted debt forgiveness by the government. The evidence that ACI had misled students was so strong, the department said, that eligible students would not even have to submit applications alleging they had been defrauded.

But there is no indication that any ACI students have yet received loan forgiveness, said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in a letter last week to Education Department undersecretary Jim Manning.

ACI students told the Massachusetts attorney general that they had been misled about the school’s quality and accreditation. One student said they had gone most of the course without a certified teacher; another said her teacher had been arrested for drugs partway through the course, then replaced four different times over the span of 7 months.

“It was a total nightmare,” one student wrote in a complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Hundreds of borrowers, Healey said, told her office that they have yet to receive a loan discharge — despite what she called “extreme financial distress.”

In fact, current and former Education Department employees have told BuzzFeed News that it appears the process of forgiving the loans of defrauded students has virtually ground to a halt in the Trump era. Claims are sitting untouched, they said, and many of those that have been approved — like Ramos — have not seen their loans cancelled.

Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat, called for answers on “stalled student debt relief” in a statement last week, noting the thousands of students still left waiting after the 120-day deadline had elapsed.

“The Department must uphold its responsibility to provide relief for the students whose lives were disrupted by fraudulent institutions,” he said.

The Education Department did not respond to five requests for comment from BuzzFeed News. Last month, a department official told Politico that the department is conducting a “full review” of the borrower defense program, but “has not stopped approving borrower defensed repayments.” The official would not say how many claims have been approved.

The rule allowing students defrauded by schools to have their loans cancelled was one of the signature pieces of the Obama administration’s education legacy — a consumer protection regulation that was part of a wider battle against for-profit colleges.

Ramos’s claim against her now-shuttered school was one of scores that were approved at the tail end of the Obama era, when officials rushed to approve debt forgiveness requests before Trump took office. The cost of loan forgiveness at ACI alone, according to the Massachusetts attorney general, would total $30 million.

Source: Trump Is Under Pressure To Deliver On Obama’s Student Loan Forgiveness

Target Settles Hacking Investigation With Promise To Boost Cybersecurity

AP/Steven Senne

Target has reached an agreement to settle a multi-state investigation into a 2013 data breach that affected the payment information of more than 41 million customer payment accounts — one of the biggest hacking attacks in U.S. history.

As part of the settlement, Target promised a revamp of its data security practices, and agreed to pay $18.5 million to a number of state attorneys general.

“Today’s settlement with Target establishes industry standards for companies that process payment cards and maintain secure information about their customers,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. “People must remain vigilant about activity on their credit and debit cards as it’s not a matter of if but when you are going to be a victim of identity theft or a security breach.”

AP/Phil Coale

The probe, led by the Illinois and Connecticut Attorneys General, found that hackers broke into Target’s computer system using credentials stolen from a third-party air ventilation vendor in November 2013.

A weakness in Target’s system allowed the attackers to then access its customer service database and install software that would capture customer data, which included shoppers’ names, phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, and payment information.

“We’ve been working closely with State Attorneys General for several years to address claims related to Target’s 2013 data breach,” Target told BuzzFeed News in a statement. “We’re pleased to bring this issue to a resolution for everyone involved.”

Target’s CEO at the time, Gregg Steinhafel, resigned in the fallout from the breach. The company was also sued in a class-action lawsuit that is currently under appeal.

AP/Michael Dwyer

The settlement, embedded below, requires Target to develop and maintain an information security
program that is “reasonably designed” to protect consumer information and designate someone to ensure this program and information encryption policies are followed.

While Attorneys General who participated in the investigation tout the settlement’s tough requirements for improved data security, some industry experts told BuzzFeed News the settlement at minimum formalizes existing standards.

“Everything listed is pretty much standard operating procedure and not onerous,” Craig Spiezle, the executive director of the Online Trust Alliance/Internet Society, told BuzzFeed News. “The settlement fine is on the low side, all things considered.”

Davi Ottenheimer, who develops security products with MongoDB, told BuzzFeed News that the settlement terms don’t clearly lay out an enforcement plan and are redundant.

Retailers must already comply with industry payment security standards that are audited by independent firms and subject to fines. Ottenheimer, who previously worked as a security auditor, said that the enforcement action does not address the failures of the company’s auditing process, which should have spotted its security weaknesses.

“If the auditors who did the work did a poor job, this Attorney General document should speak to that,” he said. “You can’t be healthy if you don’t have good doctors. It doesn’t talk about the doctors at all. It’s just number 10 be healthy, number 11 be healthier.”

Here’s the full settlement:

LINK: Target CEO Resigns In Wake Of Massive Customer Data Breach

LINK: Target CMO Acknowledges Culture Crisis After Employee Rant Posted On Gawker

LINK: Saks Fifth Avenue Exposed Personal Info On Tens Of Thousands Of Customers

Source: Target Settles Hacking Investigation With Promise To Boost Cybersecurity

The FBI And Defense Department Are Investigating America's Biggest Psychiatric Hospital Chain

The UHS-owned Shadow Mountain Behavioral Health facility in Oklahoma.

Rosalind Adams / BuzzFeed News

America’s largest chain of psychiatric hospitals is the target of a multi-agency federal investigation into whether it systematically holds patients longer than necessary to maximize revenues — an allegation two nurses at one of its facilities raised following a protest at its headquarters last week.

According to three sources with direct knowledge of the investigation, officials are examining whether Universal Health Services directs its hospitals to hold patients for as many days as their insurer agrees to pay for, regardless of actual medical need. The probe has been ongoing since at least 2013, when the Department of Health and Human Services issued subpoenas to 10 of UHS’ psychiatric hospitals.

But BuzzFeed News has exclusively learned that the investigation has since broadened to include the FBI and the Department of Defense, which is scrutinizing UHS’s billings to Tricare, the insurance plan for active military and their families. UHS, a $12 billion company, made nearly one third of its revenues last year from government insurance providers such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Officials working on the current investigation continue to seek witnesses to any alleged fraudulent activity. “Putting together a successful prosecution will require the testimony of patients, intake coordinators, nurses, social workers, providers, and executives,” said one agent on the case.

The allegations against the company were raised during its shareholder meeting last week — both by the nurses who protested outside the event, and by an investor in the room. The New York City Comptroller’s office, representing pension funds that own more than $25 million in UHS stock, cited ongoing investigations into the company when calling for it to abandon its shareholder voting system. An investment group for the union coalition Change to Win also voiced similar governance concerns in a 12-page letter to shareholders before the meeting.

The multiple-class voting system gives CEO and Chairman Alan Miller more than 80% of voting power, despite owning less than 15% of its total shares, the Comptroller’s office complained.

“Insiders have total control of Universal Health Services, despite owning just a small fraction of the company,” NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer told BuzzFeed News in a statement. ”That puts every investor — including the New York City Pension Funds — at risk. From federal criminal investigations to damning exposés, it’s clear why shareowners are calling for change.”

The proposal was rejected by more than 90% of votes cast.

As the shareholder meeting proceeded, nurses from a nearby UHS-owned facility in Pennsylvania staged a protest outside, complaining of issues including understaffing and unsafe working conditions. A recent OSHA citation that found its workers are exposed to “serious physical injuries such as from bites, bruises or strains, sprains” underscored the employees’ concerns (UHS is contesting the findings).

Two nurses from the facility, Brooke Glen Behavioral Hospital, said they had direct experience with the company holding patients longer than necessary to collect higher insurance payments. They recalled telling doctors that patients were safe to be discharged, but that the doctors would ask when their “last covered day” was — the last day Medicare, Medicaid, or their private insurance would pay for — and discharge them then, regardless of their condition.

“They have lives and jobs,” said Brandi George, a nurse who has worked at the hospital for three years, after beginning as a mental health technician. “And there’s no good medical reason for keeping them.” Since the nurses take extensive notes on patient conditions, doctors would sometimes have to come up with new notes to explain the extended times, they said, such as a change in medication.

“If they’re on Medicare or Medicaid, they’ll milk it,” said Valerie Riling, who has worked at the Brooke Glen for nearly two years. “We’re not doing right by our patients.”

“They’ll admit people just to fill a bed,” said George.

Nurses protesting outside the UHS headquarters last week.

Cora Lewis / BuzzFeed News

In December, a BuzzFeed News investigation into UHS reported that staff in at least 14 of its hospitals said they were directed not to release patients until they had run through all available insurance funds. Often, the instruction came in the form of the coded phrase “don’t leave days on the table,” said employees.

Last month, physicians at a UHS facility in Oklahoma — a 15th facility — also told BuzzFeed News they were pushed not to release patients until their insurance days were up, especially when the hospital was operating below capacity. That hospital has also been plagued by riots and safety issues, the investigation reported.

Since psychiatric hospitals are reimbursed for each day that a patient stays, extending patients’ stays can drive up a hospital’s revenues. But billing for treatment that is not medically necessary can constitute fraud. And for patients themselves, who are needlessly held in locked facilities, the experience can be devastating.

UHS has said it “absolutely rejects” BuzzFeed News’s reporting and that it does not manipulate a patient’s stay for financial gain. The company said its record of quality of care “speaks for itself” and that has consistently received high satisfaction marks from patients.

An FBI spokesperson declined to confirm or deny the investigation into UHS but said that, in general, the bureau actively pursues allegations that hospitals admit or hold patients who do not need treatment in order to maximize profits.

In such instances, a hospital will “ignore the recommendations of its own clinicians to discharge patients, pressure the clinicians to keep patients in a hospital as long a patient’s insurance policy will pay for treatment, or employ clinicians who are complicit in the scheme,” said John Althen, an FBI spokesperson.

Cora Lewis / BuzzFeed News

Some of UHS’ psychiatric hospitals also have dedicated military units, which treat post-traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related issues. A spokesperson for the Department of Defense said it does not acknowledge or discuss ongoing investigations, but two former employees at Salt Lake Behavioral Health told BuzzFeed News they have been interviewed by a Department of Defense investigator about operations within that hospital’s military unit.

At least one in ten of the company’s psychiatric facilities nationwide is now under government scrutiny. Part of the investigation has been referred to the criminal frauds section of the Department of Justice, and in 2015, the probe was expanded to UHS as a corporate entity.

UHS has described the civil investigation in filings to investors as a “False Claims Act investigation focused on billings submitted to government payers in relation to services provided at those facilities.” It has not provided any details about the criminal investigation nor has it disclosed that the Department of Defense is among the agencies investigating the company.

UHS did not respond to requests for comment but in a statement to BuzzFeed News last year about the investigation, UHS said that it “takes these matters very seriously and is cooperating with all agencies involved.” It added, “Investigations such as these are an unfortunate but common reality facing the healthcare industry.”

UHS has previously faced government litigation for similar issues. In 2012, UHS settled a lawsuit that the government filed against one of the company’s youth facilities in Virginia. A federal complaint alleged that the hospital was delaying the release of patients who no longer needed care in order to increase Medicaid payments, deliberately provoking patients so that their reactions would warrant longer stays, and even altering therapists’ records to justify longer stays.

UHS did not admit to any of the allegations. It paid just under $7 million dollars and agreed to close the facility as part of its settlement with the government.

Source: The FBI And Defense Department Are Investigating America’s Biggest Psychiatric Hospital Chain

Here's How Trump's Student Loan Proposals Could Affect You

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Deep cuts to the federal student loan program in the budget proposal President Trump plans to release Tuesday — some $143 billion over 10 years — would hit graduate students hard, increasing both their monthly loan payments and the time it takes for their loans to be forgiven.

Trump is also calling to end Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a federal program introduced by the Bush administration where loans for students who go on to work in government or for non-profits are forgiven after 10 years of income-based payments, instead of the current 20. The cut would not impact students who are already enrolled in income-based repayment.

Though the proposals would mean an increased burden for graduate students, it’s less obvious what it would mean for undergraduates, who make up the vast majority of student loan borrowers. Some details of the proposed loan program were reported by the Washington Post last week.

The administration’s proposals are essentially a wish list sent to Congress, and many pieces are not likely to pass.

Trump’s budget also eventually eliminates the federally-subsidized Stafford loan program, which provides low-income students loans at lower interest rates — meaning many poor borrowers would be saddled with higher interest rates than they face now. The Trump budget offers no explanation for the cuts besides calling them “inefficient.”

The proposal does, however, allows low-income undergraduates to use Pell Grants year-round, a longtime rallying cry of many left-wing advocates who say it is important for students who want to take extra summer classes and remedial courses.

Trump’s budget proposal is an opening gambit in a long negotiation with Congress. The cuts to public service loan forgiveness and the elimination of subsidized loans, for example, may not make much headway in the House and Senate. But his income-based repayment plan could be enacted through an executive order.

Under the Trump plan, graduate students would have to pay 12.5% of their salaries for 30 years — a significant burden compared to the current Obama administration plan, under which they pay 10% of their income for just 25 years.

“It would be very rare for someone to have debt forgiven under [these] new terms,” said Jason Delisle, a fellow at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “Which should be the goal for graduate school debt.”

Like graduate students, undergraduates will have to pay a higher percentage of their income every month than under the Obama administration’s plan — 12.5% instead of 10%. But their loans would be forgiven after just 15 years of payments, instead of 20 — a significant difference for borrowers with high loan balances or people who make so little that they do not have to make monthly payments on government-subsidized student loans.

“Looking at the budget, it’s pretty clear that the Trump administration is trying to help undergraduates,” said Alexander Holt, an independent education consultant in Washington, D.C. “He’s doing it with the savings from pulling back benefits from graduate students.”

The difference between offering forgiveness at 15 and 20 years can be drastic, said Holt. “It can be an incredible thing for struggling borrowers,” he said. “I’m still a little confused why nobody on the left is praising this.”

But low-income borrowers would be hurt by the loss of the subsidized Stafford loan program, said Ben Miller, an analyst at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, who said the Stafford cuts are the “most worrisome” part of the budget proposal. It’s unclear, Miller said, whether many borrowers would be better off making larger payments for a shorter term, as Trump’s income-based plan envisions.

“There’s not really any winners here,” he said. “It’s a question of who loses the most. Ultimately, what’s being proposed here is to take tens of billions of dollars from the student loan program.”

Source: Here’s How Trump’s Student Loan Proposals Could Affect You

Yale Graduate Students Shut Down Streets At Commencement

Cora Lewis / Via Cora Lewis

More than a thousand graduate students and their supporters protested outside Yale’s commencement on Monday, with police barricades separating the demonstrators from graduating students and their families.

The protesters criticized Yale administrators for opposing the unionization of its grad students, but cheered on the undergraduates as they arrived for the event.

“We’re very proud of our beloved graduates,” said Emily Sessions, a PhD candidate and member of Yale’s academic worker union. “I love teaching and the work I do, but it’s still real work, and we should be able to negotiate a contract to spell out the terms of that work.”

Some protesters remembered talking the undergraduates through biology problems; others had graded their history papers just weeks prior. Now, they filled blocked-off streets adjacent to the graduation ceremony, seperated from their former students by lines of law enforcement, motorcycles and cop cars.

Earlier this month, a protest organized by the graduate student union led to 23 arrests after demonstrators blocked three traffic intersections, the New Haven Register reported.

Yale’s graduate student union, a local chapter of the UNITE HERE union, has been asking the university to negotiate a contract for its members since it held successful union elections in February.

“Yale strongly values freedom of expression and respects the protesters’ right to demonstrate, but does not tolerate disruption of university events and activities or interference with speakers,” the university said in a statement prior to the march. “The university regrets the union’s efforts to seek media attention by interfering with the day-to-day activities of our community.”

While the government body that oversees union elections certified Yale’s vote last winter, the university has appealed the decision, taking issue with how the vote was carried out. Professors and law students have claimed that refusing to negotiate while the appeal is pending is illegal.

Delaying the creation of a graduate student union could end up preventing it entirely. A 2016 decision by the National Labor Relations Board said graduate students could be considered both workers and students, making them elligible for unionization and setting off a flurry of organizing activity at campuses nationwide.

But with President Donald Trump expected to appoint new conservative members to the Board, last year’s ruling could be overturned, halting union efforts among graduate students at all private universities.

Public university graduate students have been permitted to unionize for years.

On Monday, Yale’s protesters were joined by pro-union graduate students from Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Connecticut, The New School, and New York University, all of whom have faced opposition to their own union drives.

Lena Eckert-Erdheim, a PhD candidate in History and Local 33 member at Yale, said that the union “fully expects Yale will do the right thing and come to the table — and not wait for Trump to bail them out.”

By marching on Commencement Day, when thousands of parents, donors, and Yale community members descend on New Haven, the union made its organizing more visible, according to Julia Powers, a PhD candidate in comparative literature at Yale. Both the union and the university handed out information leaflets throughout the day, and the union kept up its encampment at the college’s central Beinecke Plaza, where students have been on hunger strike for weeks.

Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry released a statement of support on Monday morning, noting that the University of Chicago, Tufts University, Boston University, and Georgetown have all agreed to negotiate with their graduate worker unions.

“Yale University President Salovey has put Yale’s reputation at risk, setting it apart from peer institutions by not recognizing workers’ rights to collectively bargain,” she wrote, calling the obstruction “unlawful” and “contrary to Yale’s stated mission.”

Source: Yale Graduate Students Shut Down Streets At Commencement

We Tested Coffee Chains To See Who Has The Most Caffeine

Who is the king of caffeine? We lab tested the coffee from four national chains — Starbucks, McDonald’s, 7-Eleven, and Dunkin’ Donuts — to see who packs the most caffeine into a cup. And the winner is…

Who is the king of caffeine? We lab tested the coffee from four national chains — Starbucks, McDonald's, 7-Eleven, and Dunkin' Donuts — to see who packs the most caffeine into a cup. And the winner is...

7-Eleven / Via Facebook: 7Eleven


The convenience store chain beat out its competitors, having the highest average caffeine level among the two dozen medium cups of brewed coffee we tested from outlets in New York and San Francisco.

The testing, done by Labdoor, showed an average of 280 milligrams of caffeine in every 7-Eleven cup. Starbucks came in second with an average of 267 milligrams, McDonald’s McCafe had 227 milligrams, and Dunkin’ Donuts came in last with 220 milligrams per cup.

“What we saw was quite a spread in caffeine content in all these chains,” said Dan Mark, the research director for Labdoor. But once you factor in the variation between individual cups, the differences between the chains aren’t huge, he said.

“Statistically, they’re all kind of overlapping. If you go to any one of these single chains and grab a medium cup of coffee you can expect around 250 milligrams of caffeine.”

7-Eleven told BuzzFeed News that the variability in caffeine concentrations may be a result of the company choosing regional coffee offerings.

“We understand we have customers in different areas looking for different products,” it said. “Therefore, we focus on developing local and regional coffee, along with various other local and regional 7-Eleven offerings, to meet the needs of our customers in those locations.”

But Labdoor’s study shows while 7-Eleven may have won out its competitors in terms of its average caffeine level, it was not as consistent as Starbucks.

7-Eleven’s levels ranged from 19 to 22 milligrams of caffeine per ounce of coffee across its New York stores, while McDonald’s coffee ranged from 10 to 17 milligrams per ounce at its New York and San Francisco stores. Dunkin’ Donuts New York stores varied from 16 to 20 milligrams of caffeine in each ounce of coffee.

@kyliejenner / Via

But Starbucks’ caffeine concentration was consistently 17 milligrams an ounce of coffee, with one store as an outlier at 16 milligrams per ounce, across all six New York and San Francisco stores tested by Labdoor.

Dunkin’ Donuts told BuzzFeed News that the caffeine concentrations in New York “are representative of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.”

“We work very closely with our franchisees to ensure that every pot of coffee brewed meets our national standards, and plan to follow up with our San Francisco area restaurants regarding the results,” the company said.

Starbucks and McDonald’s did not respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment.

Getty Images / Tim Boyle

Caffeine levels can vary between different chains, different cities, and even between different cups at the same store, because of how coffee is made. It means lab testing can tell only part of the story.

“There is actually a lot of rich chemistry that goes on in coffee and really the caffeine content of a single coffee is going to depend a lot on its preparation — the temperature of the water, the pressure if you’re using any sort of fancier system, water quality as well,” said Mark, the Labdoor research director. “So there’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes here.”

Coffee is a complex product with about 1,000 compounds that occur naturally and through the roasting process, said Joseph DeRupo, a spokesperson for the National Coffee Association.

“Coffee is an agricultural product after all and the the level of caffeine from bean to bean no less cup to cup can vary widely because of natural circumstances,” he said.

A single cup of coffee could have higher or lower concentrations of caffeine depending on the tree variety, region, and the climate. Brewed coffee can also be more or less caffeinated depending on its preparation and brewing process, including how many spoons of coffee are used, which DeRupo says is “a very personal decision.”

DeRupo suspects that Starbucks had the most consistent level of caffeine across its stores because it may have more intensely trained staff “so variability is reduced as a result.”

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LINK: Dunkin’ Donuts Is Totally Obsessed With Sweet, Flavored Coffees

Source: We Tested Coffee Chains To See Who Has The Most Caffeine

AT&T Workers Launch Massive Strike


More than 35,000 AT&T employees walked off the job Friday after contract negotiations stalled with the telecom giant over issues of off-shoring, pay, and benefits.

The unionized workers are asking that AT&T commit to bargaining that covers rising healthcare costs, job security against outsourcing, and fair scheduling policies. They also object to changes to the company’s commission policy that they said have reduced their pay.

Represented by the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the workers plan to strike for three days, beginning with picket lines Friday afternoon in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other cities across the country.

“This is a warning to AT&T,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President of CWA District 1 in a statement. “There’s only one way out of this now — a fair contract.”

The employees primarily staff the company’s retail stores and call centers, but include some technicians and wireless workers from DirectTV, an AT&T subsidiary. A spokesperson for AT&T, Marty Richter, said the company “is prepared, and we will continue working hard to serve our customers.”

“What’s most important is we’re all family, whether you’re a union member or not,” he wrote in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “Like any family we have our disagreements but we’ll sort them out.”

Richter said the striking workers represent less than 14% of the company’s total workforce. He wrote that “a strike is in no one’s best interest” and that “it’s baffling as to why union leadership would call one.”

AT&T, the country’s largest telecom, employs more than 200,000 workers. Richter said that some striking employees “average from $115,000 to $148,000 in total compensation” and that the company has reached 29 agreements since 2015 covering over 128,000 employees.

“We’re confident we can do the same here,” he wrote.

This is the largest strike since 39,000 Verizon workers, also represented by CWA, struck last year.

Source: AT&T Workers Launch Massive Strike