TIME Saving

Only Suckers Abide by Food Expiration Dates

CNN Newsouce

Date labels on food were created with consumer safety in mind. But some of the labels result in confusion—and tons of perfectly safe food tossed out for no good reason.

We hear regularly that Americans waste a colossal amount of food. One popular factoid has it that we wind up throwing out 25% of the food that comes into our homes. Over the years, experts have pointed out that Americans aren’t really trying to be wasteful; instead, we’re often misled by confusing expiration dates, or rather what we think of as expiration dates. Sites such as ShelfLifeAdvice.com try to clarify the meaning of terms such as “use by” and “sell by,” with the general takeaway being that you shouldn’t necessarily toss food out when the date stamped on a product has passed.

We Americans are hardly alone in the widespread practice of unknowingly wasting food—and in wasting it directly because of confusing labels. Reuters reports that researchers in Europe are presenting a paper on Monday arguing that it might be best for some labels—specifically the “best before” guideline—to be eliminated for certain products. The poor understanding of food labels is credited as part of the reason that an estimated 100 million tons of food is wasted annually in Europe, and that some 30% to 50% of food that winds up in supermarkets is thrown out.

Whereas the “use by” label is applied to foods that pose a health risk if consumed beyond the date listed, “best before” guidelines tend to be an indication of quality. Many foods stamped with “best before” dates have extremely long shelf lives—canned foods can be fine for years—and they can be eaten safely long beyond the date listed. It’s just a matter of their quality supposedly diminishing once that date has passed. Consumers often don’t make this distinction, and simply throw food away as soon as it seems to have “expired.”

When viewed on a global scale, food waste is not simply a monetary issue, but an environmental and humanitarian one as well, so officials in Europe are reconsidering the usage of “best before.” For many foods, it may be best to get rid of the label entirely.

TIME housing

Apartments are Driving the Housing Recovery, Not the Suburbs

Retail and Apartment Construction Ahead of Building Permits Data
Subcontractors work at the Donohoe Construction Co. Bentley retail and apartment building under construction in Washington on May 14, 2014. Bloomberg/Getty Images

The momentum in the housing market is back. But it's apartment-building that's driving construction

U.S. home construction is surging back to pre-recession levels, but it’s not because people are building traditional suburban homes.

It’s because apartment building is on the rise.

Home builders began construction on 1.07 million homes in April at an annualized rate, up 13.2 percent from March, the Census Bureau said Friday. That’s the highest rate of home construction since November of last year, and the last time housing construction hovered consistently in the over 1 million homes-per-month annualized range was early 2008.

But homebuilding looks very different than it did six years ago. Today, apartments and condominiums are driving construction, instead of all-American white picket fence homes. In April, construction on structures with 5 units or more increased 42.9 percent compared with the month before, while construction on a classic single-family homes rose a measly 0.8 percent. It’s part of a new trend of young people moving to cities and raising demand for apartment units and rentals.

“It’s been a consistent story,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist with real estate firm Trulia. “Not only is multi-unit construction a larger share of overall starts than it was during and before the bubble, but a higher share of those multi-unit starts are intended for rent as opposed to condos.”

Rentals are in high demand as more people chose to live in densely populated cities and find it difficult to obtain a mortgage. In the first quarter of 2014, 93 percent of multi-family homes started in April were intended for rent, compared with around 60 percent during the pre-recession housing bubble, according to Census data.

During the recession, a lot of young people found themselves jobless and living at home. But as the recovery has picked up pace, young people have gotten jobs and are ready to move out. Much of the multi-unit construction is due to young people re-entering the workforce and renting their own flats. Plus, mortgage standards remain pretty tight after the recession, making it harder to buy a house.

Whatever the reasons, single-family, suburban homes simply aren’t the economic force they were before the recession.

 

TIME technology

Here’s the World-Class Designer Google Just Hired to Save Glass

Google has been putting a lot of effort into making Google Glass seem like a fashionable device and not a vaguely creepy gadget for geeks. The wholesome Mother’s Day ad was a solid first step. Now, the company is handing the reins to a master designer and marketer who will be tasked with making Glass appealing to the masses.

Ivy Ross, a former executive at Mattel, Disney and Calvin Klein, will be heading up the Google Glass project starting next week. Ross knows how to design products that people actually want to buy—at Mattel, she led design for all girls’ toys worldwide. Unlike Glass, though, Barbie has never been banned from bars or gotten anyone assaulted (to my knowledge).

Ross addressed the polarizing nature of Google’s latest device in a Google+ post announcing her new role. “I look forward to answering the seemingly simple, but truly audacious questions Glass poses: Can technology be something that frees us up and keeps us in the moment, rather than taking us out of it?” she wrote.

Google is gearing up to release Glass as a widely available consumer product soon. Though the device is technically still in beta, it’s on sale on Google’s website while supplies last.

TIME marketing

Heathrow Airport Getting a ‘Terminal Samsung Galaxy S5′

Terminal 5 in one of the world’s busiest airports will soon be rebranded “Terminal Samsung Galaxy S5”

For two weeks starting on May 19, Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport will be rebranded top to bottom, name and all, to promote Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 smartphone.

In addition to providing Galaxy S5 phones for travelers to try out while passing through the terminal, Samsung is rebranding everything brandable with its logo and images of its flagship mobile device, including, the company says in a press release, “the signage, wayfinding, website and every single digital screen at the UK’s newest terminal” (emphasis ours).

This is, Samsung notes, the first time Heathrow has allowed a brand to completely takeover Terminal 5, which is one of the least surprising things about the campaign.

Weary travelers might fear Samsung Galaxy S5 overload—especially if (can you imagine?) the terminal sees some kind of massive multiday layover situation—but if the intercom announcers start periodically squawking “DRRROOOOOIIIID” it will all have been worth it.

[Android Central]

TIME Energy drinks

Lithuania Is Banning Red Bull for Some Reason

U.S. Forces Prepare To Withdraw From Iraq After 8-Year Presence
U.S. Senate Majority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) holds up a can of Monster energy drink as he testifies during a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee July 31, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Bummer, brah

Lithuania’s parliament voted on Thursday to ban the sale of high-caffeine energy drinks to minors, as companies like Red Bull and Monster face increased scrutiny in the European Union.

The small Baltic country’s legislation prohibits drinks that contain 150 milligrams of caffeine per liter to be sold to minors, reports the Wall Street Journal. Monster Energy and Red Bull have 338 milligrams and 319 milligrams of caffeine per liter, respectively, according to caffeineinformer.com.

Lithuania’s law could have a large impact on industry sales: a European Food Safety Authority study found in 2013 that adolescents are far more likely to consume energy drinks than adults, with 68 percent of Europeans aged 10 to 18 years old drinking them.

Other countries are cracking down, too: the U.K. will require companies to label drinks with more than 150 milligrams per liter of caffeine, and German regulators have called for tighter energy drink controls.

And in the United States, legislators in Chicago, Maryland sought to introduce restricting sales to minors, but both efforts failed to take hold. Red Bull and Monster were questioned in Senate hearing last summer over allegations they were targeting youth.

The energy drink market has boomed over the past 10 years, with global energy-drink sales more than quadrupled to $27.54 billion in 2013, according to research firm Euromonitor. Red Bull, based in Austria, has a 31.5 percent global share, and California’s Monster has 14 percent.

[WSJ]

 

TIME Autos

The Incredibly Simple Way to Get Drivers to Buy Fuel Efficient Cars

Japan Nissan
Itsuo Inouye—AP

The secret lies in making it crystal clear how much they’ll save in gas costs over the long haul.

In every car dealership, a new vehicle for sale is required to have an EPA car label slapped on the window. The labels are loaded with numbers and ratings and have a dozen different features, including the estimated fuel economy (with city and highway breakdowns), the estimated annual fuel cost for operating the car, a fuel economy and greenhouse gas rating, a smog rating, and a smartphone QR code that can be scanned for additional information.

But a new study by Duke University researchers makes the case that one critical bit of information is missing from the labels. The labels today show how many gallons of gasoline a vehicle uses over the course of 100 miles of driving, and they also provide an estimate for annual fuel costs, based on a rate of $3.70 per gallon and 15,000 miles of driving per year. Researchers say it would be helpful—for consumers and the environment alike—to do some more math for potential buyers and show how much owners can expect to spend on gas for the long haul. Like, say, 100,000 miles.

In the study, participants were presented with a variety of different scenarios and asked to pick the vehicle they preferred. For instance, one group was asked to choose either: Car A, which costs $18,000 and $20 in gas over 100 miles of driving; or Car B, which costs $21,000 and $16 in gas over 100 miles of driving.

Another group was asked to choose either: Car A, which costs $18,000 and $20,000 in gas over 100,000 miles of driving; or Car B, which costs $21,000 and $16,000 in gas over miles of driving.

Both scenarios are essentially the same: The upfront costs and fuel economy in Car A and Car B are the same in both scenarios. But guess which scenario resulted in way more consumers choosing Car B, the more fuel-efficient and cost-effective option? Yep, the second hypothetical, which did the long-term math for consumers and demonstrated that an owner would save $1,000 over the course of 100,000 miles by choosing Car B over Car A.

In fact, in the many scenarios presented—including several instances when the vehicle with better mileage didn’t pay for itself in gas savings—would-be buyers were most likely to select the more fuel-efficient vehicle when the costs were shown over the course of 100,000 miles. That doesn’t mean that the average consumer would actually buy a fuel-efficient vehicle if it didn’t make financial sense.

“People are very sensitive if the vehicle paid for itself or not,” Adrian Camilleri, one of the study’s authors, said in a phone interview. “People don’t like cars that don’t pay for themselves. But they show the greatest interest in more fuel-efficient cars when they’re shown the gas costs over 100,000 miles.”

Overall, in the sum total of all scenarios—including, again, some in which the more fuel-efficient car didn’t pay off—among the participants who selected the more fuel-efficient car, 61.6% did so when shown the gas costs over 100,000 miles, versus 46.6% when gas costs were simply shown over 15,000 miles, like they are currently on new-car EPA stickers. Specifically, when given costs over 100,000 miles, participants chose the more fuel-efficient model 87% of the time when it paid for itself, versus 36% when the gas costs savings didn’t pay off. But when shown costs over 15,000 miles, participants chose the more fuel-efficient model 73% of the time when it paid for itself, versus only 20% when the fuel-efficient car didn’t pay off.

What may come as somewhat of a surprise is that showing consumers gas costs over 100,000 miles significantly increased the odds of someone choosing the car with better mileage even when the choice didn’t result in an overall cost savings. “What we found is that many people want to buy more fuel-efficient cars when they’re close to paying for themselves,” said Rick Larrick, a Duke management professor and one of the authors of the study, published in the spring issue of the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing. “That’s when their sense of environmentalism kicks in. They might not be willing to pay a large premium, but they realize how close the difference gets when they see gas costs over 100,000 miles.”

Larrick said that consumers may also do a little more math for themselves and see that if they drive the car well over that marker—the life of many cars nowadays extends well over 200,000 miles nowadays, after all—that the vehicle with better mileage will, in fact, make more sense financially.

As for the EPA stickers, Larrick thinks that instead of adding the estimated gas costs over 100,000 miles to the already clogged label, it would be best to substitute it in there for one or more of the other fuel cost data points. “They already have the annual fuel costs and the amount drivers would save over five years compared to the average vehicle, which is pretty redundant,” said Larrick. “There’s a way to simplify this. The cost over 100,000 miles is just a more important metric.”

TIME justice

GM to Pay Record $35 Million Fine Over Ignition Switch Recalls

Gary Pittam performs a recall service on a Chevrolet Cobalt at Al Serra Chevrolet in Grand Blanc
Gary Pittam performs a recall service on a Chevrolet Cobalt at Al Serra Chevrolet in Grand Blanc, Mich., April 17, 2014. John F. Martin—General Motors/Reuters

The federal government struck a $35 million settlement with General Motors after the company failed to act for 10 years on an ignition switch defect that led to the death of at least 13 people and recall of approximately 2.6 million vehicles

General Motors will pay $35 million to settle a federal probe into its 10-year delay of recalls related to an ignition switch flaw, the Department of Transportation announced Friday. The switch problem led to the death of at least 13 people and recall of approximately 2.6 million vehicles.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said GM’s fine was the highest civil penalty amount ever paid as a result of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation of violations stemming from a recall. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx touted the fine while pushing for reform legislation that would increase his ability to send a stronger message.

“Safety is our top priority, and today’s announcement puts all manufacturers on notice that they will be held accountable if they fail to quickly report and address safety-related defects,” said Foxx in a statement. “While we will continue to aggressively monitor GM’s efforts in this case, we also urge Congress to support our GROW AMERICA Act, which would increase the penalties we could levy in cases like this from $35 million to $300 million, sending an even stronger message that delays will not be tolerated.”

“We have learned a great deal from this recall,” said GM CEO Mary Barra, who took the helm in January, in an open statement. “We will now focus on the goal of becoming an industry leader in safety.”

GM began recalling vehicles earlier this year over problems with the company’s ignition switches, which would shut off while driving, disabling airbags and even anti-lock brakes and power steering if the key was too heavy. However, it was later revealed that GM employees knew of the problems as early as 2004.

The NHTSA reviewed in 2007 and 2010the non-deployment of airbags in certain afflicted models, but decided that the agency did not have the data required to open an investigation at that time. NHTSA responded only after GM announced a recall in February and later criticized GM for failing “to advise” NHTSA of the defect during its earlier reviews.

In addition to the record fine, GM agreed to provide NHTSA with full access to the results of its internal investigation into its recall process.

GM also said Friday that it plans to produce enough repair parts by October to repair the majority of vehicles involved in the ignition switch recalls.

TIME Markets

WWE Is Taking a Beating—And Not the Fake for TV Kind of Beating

WWE Network logo at 2014 International CES at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on Jan. 8, 2014 in Las Vegas.
WWE Network logo at 2014 International CES at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas on Jan. 8, 2014 in Las Vegas. Ethan Miller—Getty Images

Shares in WWE plummet 50 percent

The publicly traded company World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE, took a substantial hit Friday as investors reacted to a dismal earnings outlook, sending shares plummeting 50% in premarket trading.

The news comes a day after WWE and NBC Universal announced a deal to carry WWE programs Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown on the USA and SyFy networks, respectively.

The company is transitioning from pay-per-view to a business model built on broadcast cable deals and online streaming; WWE hopes to capitalize on the roughly half of U.S. households with broadband it estimates WWE fans. The company estimates that globally it will need to add 1.3 to 1.4 million subscribers to offset cannibalization of its pay-per-view services.

 

 

 

TIME Fast Food

Here’s Where You Can Order the New McDonald’s Burger With Guacamole

McDonald's Same Store Sales Up 7.1 Percent In January
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

McDonald's franchises in Denver, Colorado are experimenting with a "Guacamole Burger"

Is it a burger, or is it a burrito? It’s more like a “burgerrito.”

McDonald’s is adding guacamole to a new burger sold at select franchises. Available in Denver, Colorado, the Guacamole Burger sports a Hass avocado guacamole, pico de gallo, lettuce and white Cheddar and is served on a shiny artisan bun.

The burger is priced on the higher end at $4.79. But at the locations where it’s available in Denver, guacamole can be added for 89 cents to any sandwich, and diners can also order a guacamole dip, CBS reports. And crispy or grilled chicken versions of the Guacamole Burger are also available.

McDonald’s has tried guacamole on its Chicken Flatbreads in 2010, according to Burger Business, and it is among the toppings offered at the “build your own burger” program in southern California.

The fast food giant may be heading into uncertain territory, however: Chipotle announced in April that items like guacamole were placing a heavy burden on its expenses.

[Burger Business]

 

TIME Video Games

PlayStation 4 Just Outsold Xbox One for the Fourth Month in a Row

Sony's PlayStation 4 (upper-left) and Microsoft's Xbox One (lower-right). Sony, Microsoft

April 2014 Xbox One sales declined significantly in the U.S., week by week.

Sony’s PlayStation 4 has once more tipped the scales — by how much we’re not certain, since we don’t have official figures — to assume the number one sales spot in the U.S., says retail tracker NPD. This makes April the PS4’s fourth dominant month in a row.

The Xbox One placed second, with 115,000 units sold, according to Microsoft, which notes the One has outsold the original Xbox 360 by 76 percent for both of those systems’ first six months in market.

Indeed, NPD says that to date, sales of PS4 and Xbox One hardware are more than double the sum total of PS3 and Xbox 360 hardware sales in their respective first six months.

That, for all the misleading doomsaying about Microsoft’s less-well-selling new console, is at least a preliminary indication of a far more robust appetite for next-gen set-tops than anyone expected, and positive news for gaming from a purely economic standpoint. And while I don’t read as much into year-on-year increases (or decreases), it’s worth noting that April 2014’s spending on hardware, new physical software (doesn’t include digital) and accessories was up by 17 percent over April 2013’s. All in all, a good month for the games industry viewed monolithically.

Here’s NPD’s list of bestselling physical software, with the caveat that SKUs are combined for multi-platform games, and it doesn’t include digital sales.

1. Titanfall (360, Xbox One, PC)
2. Call of Duty: Ghosts (360, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Wii U, PC)
3. NBA 2K14 (360, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, PC)
4. Minecraft (360)
5. LEGO The Hobbit (360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4, 3DS, Wii U, PS Vita)
6. The LEGO Movie Videogame (360, 3DS, PS3, Wii U, Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita)
7. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (360, PS3, DS, 3DS, PS4, Wii U, Xbox One, PS Vita, PC)
8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (PS4, 360, PS3, Wii U, 3DS)
9. Grand Theft Auto V (360, PS3)
10. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (360, PS4, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PC)

NPD adds that Yoshi’s New Island (3DS), Infamous: Second Son (PS4), MLB 14: The Show (PS3), Kinect Sports Rivals (Xbox One) and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfares (360) rank in the top 10 if you list software without SKU combinations.

While the Wii U doesn’t seem to be registering here, NPD says its software sales were up year-on-year by over 80 percent. And while Microsoft’s selling fewer Xbox Ones than Sony is PS4s, it’s still leading in software sales across the Xbox platform, according to Microsoft, selling 2.6 million units (I assume that’s across physical and digital, but Microsoft doesn’t specify). Of that, the Xbox One accounted for 447,000 and the Xbox 360 2.2 million, “totaling 53 percent of the total software market share,” again, according to Microsoft. Microsoft adds that the Xbox 360 is still the dominant seventh-gen console, selling 71,000 units in April.

Let’s shift gears and consider a few contextual points.

As noted last month, the numbers don’t mean precisely what they seem to (though sales numbers rarely do). But the picture this month is a trifle clearer than last. Gamasutra reminds us, for instance, that on Microsoft’s recent earnings call, CFO Amy Hood admitted Xbox One console supply was outpacing consumer demand. And here’s Gamasutra’s take: “This is a situation that did not appear to exist during the early days of the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, which reputedly saw slower, supply-constrained beginnings.”

That said, it remains a truism, however bored some are of hearing it at this point, that Sony’s PlayStation 4 is available in far more countries than Microsoft’s Xbox One (72 versus 13 at last count). That’s not an attempt to excuse the unit sales disparity, which is substantial and important in its own right, but it is an attempt to factor in the broader reality. Yes, potential buyer demographics veer and lurch wildly from country to country for more or less obvious reasons (population differences chief among them), and it’s certainly not the case that all the countries Microsoft isn’t in automatically account for all of that 2 million (or more) sales gulf. But it’s also baldfaced nonsense to suggest Sony and Microsoft are competing on precisely equal terms. I doubt anyone disagrees the PS4’s outperforming by wide margins, but the points aren’t mutually exclusive.

In any event, as Gamasutra further notes, Microsoft clearly seems to be having problems maintaining next-gen momentum: 115,000 units sold in April is a significant downturn from 311,000 units sold in March. Respawn’s Titanfall was supposed to energize the console, and it did to an extent in March, but not enough to give Microsoft the edge it’s been looking for over Sony: the lion’s share of Titanfall sales in April were for Xbox 360.

That edge may have instead arrived this week, however, with a $100 price drop and Microsoft’s excision of its motion-sensing Kinect camera from a new $399 SKU that’ll consist of the Xbox One alone (you can still buy the Xbox One with Kinect for $500, but it seems likely the bulk of Microsoft’s June hardware sales and future ones besides — the new SKU goes live on June 9 — are going to be Kinect-less).

Conventional wisdom holds that Sony’s been winning because the PS4 is less expensive and perhaps a shade more powerful (that’s the perception I’d wager most have, rightly or wrongly, reading article after article about this or that multi-platform game running at lower frame rates or pixel counts on Microsoft’s Xbox One). Microsoft just solved its price-perception problem. The questions remains whether it can mitigate this performance-perception one.

Its software lineup’s appeal, built largely on multi-platform games at this stage, is arguably on par with Sony’s, and its Xbox Live online community was one of the Xbox 360’s crown jewels, so there’s incentive from that angle for all those Xbox 360 gamers — who’ve outnumbered PS3 gamers by millions in the U.S. for years — to follow the Xbox platform’s flightpath, if only for social network reasons.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser