Thursday, May 8, 2014

Snapchat Settles With FTC Over False Marketing, Lax Security

Snapchat Settles With FTC Over False Marketing, Lax Security

Snapchat Settles With FTC Over False Marketing, Lax Security

Posted: 08 May 2014 11:15 AM PDT

Snapchat is getting a slap on the wrist from the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly deceptive marketing and a security breach earlier this year that compromised the data of 4.6 million of its users. The startup, which in the past has said that the photo messages people send on its service "disappear forever," agreed to settle with the FTC over allegations that its app didn't perform as advertised.

According to the FTC complaint, videos sent through Snapchat were easily accessible by the recipient by plugging a phone into a computer, even though such videos are supposed to disappear in seconds. The complaint also alleges that some iPhone users could take a screenshot of a photo they had received without alerting the sender that the screencap was taken. Snapchat also tracked geolocation information of Android users, a violation of its own privacy policy, according to the complaint.

More serious was the way Snapchat handled users’ phone numbers. According to the FTC, Snapchat accessed the names and phone numbers of its users' friends without telling them on Apple devices until iOS 6 was introduced. Security lapses in Snapchat's "Find Friends" feature led to people inadvertently sending snaps to strangers using numbers that didn't belong to them. "Find Friends" security flaws also allowed attackers to compile a database of 4.6 million users' names and phone numbers and post it online in January.

Snapchat, which has not formally admitted any wrongdoing, will be subject to a number of privacy requirements over the next 20 years. The company will have to be more transparent in explaining to users how their messages can be accessed, and it must launch a wide-ranging privacy program to ensure users' data is protected. Snapchat will be subject to privacy reviews every two years to assess its compliance with the FTC's rules. Violation of the agreement could result in fines of up to $16,000 per transgression.

In a blog post, Snapchat said that most of the issues the FTC has brought to light have already been addressed. "While we were focused on building, some things didn't get the attention they could have," the company wrote. "One of those was being more precise with how we communicated with the Snapchat community. Even before today's consent decree was announced, we had resolved most of those concerns over the past year by improving the wording of our privacy policy, app description, and in-app just-in-time notifications."

Today, Snapchat's privacy policy is pretty clear about just how "ephemeral" the service is: "There may be ways to access messages while still in temporary storage on recipients’ devices or, forensically, even after they are deleted. You should not use Snapchat to send messages if you want to be certain that the recipient cannot keep a copy."

Getting dinged by the FTC has become something of a rite of passage for social startups. Twitter and Facebook are currently serving similar 20-year sentences under the government agency's watchful eye.

REVIEW: tUnE-yArDs Capitalizes on Cultural Tourism, With Mixed Results

Posted: 08 May 2014 11:09 AM PDT

This post is in partnership with Consequence of Sound, an online music publication devoted to the ever growing and always thriving worldwide music scene.

Merrill Garbus plays fast and loose with cultural signifiers, and her band name alone indicates an antagonistic bent with its case-shifting approximation: tUnE-yArDs. For her third official album, Nikki Nack, Garbus ventures even farther down her multi-colored, veering rabbit hole, picking up where her 2011 sophomore effort, w h o k i l l , left off, but not necessarily achieving the same success. Her proper debut, BiRd-BrAiNs,was initially released on Marriage Records and then reissued by 4AD in 2009, but it was w h o k i l l that racked up critical approval and a cult following for Garbus’ quirky, vibrant vocal layering and flashy pop mosaics.

Even in the three years that have passed since then, the lens of critical examination has shifted a bit, or perhaps, become more nuanced. One of the touchstones that Nikki Nack evokes in my mind again and again is Paul Simon’s Graceland (1986). That Simon’s classic record drew heavily on South African pop was part of its appeal, but if it came out in 2014, conversations about cultural appropriation would be rampant. In the same way, listening to Nikki Nack is sometimes an uncomfortable experience, and descriptors like “pseudo-tribalism” easily surface even on cursory listens. Where does influence end and appropriation begin? In many senses of that dichotomy, it probably depends on the listener. But African pop’s euphoric groove is almost impossible to confuse with anything else, and most of the album relies on the foundations of that tradition.

“Rocking Chair” specifically suffers from the feeling that it’s a track crafted to assume the easy longevity of actual heritage folk tracks, but it feels stiffly studied instead of free-flowing from an actual shared vernacular. She glibly mixes folksy fiddles and a hoarse, hollow well of vocal yelps that feel unnatural in their guttural phrasing. She’s faced cultural tourism critiques before for her face painting, and even for w h o k i l l track “Gangsta”, which tackles gentrification and stereotypes with a rather heavy hand, as does Nikki Nack’s “Left Behind”. A line goes, “We said we wouldn’t let them take our soil,” which feels more than a little rich from a white woman raised in New England. Sure, these lines can easily be mythology and not autobiography or realism, but the record routinely engages in this kind of odd projecting.

The attempt that Nikki Nack makes to grapple with serious social issues is strangely belied by the album’s collage-like feel and carefree elements. For instance, album closer “Manchild” asserts, “I mean it/ Don’t beat up on my body,” potentially addressing issues of domestic violence and that gruesome ilk. But the track is buoyed by cowbell and tinny click-snap beats and seems ill-fitted for its subject matter. Earlier on the album, “Real Thing” contains the lyrics “I come from a land of slaves/ Let’s go Redskins, let’s go Braves,” which conflates a series of intensive racial issues in America into a neat, flippant phrase that seems to value end rhyme over its own endgame. Is this her attempt to bring attention to these inequalities and the capitalistic support of stereotypes by American sporting complexes, or simply to rhyme two problematic examples? Time and time again, all the finesse and flex of the album’s distinct harmonies and intricate structures are undercut by clunky and even bizarre diction. Often the rhymes feel too dead on, like end couplets were adopted simply to follow the pattern with no real ear for grace.

It’s odd, because in some ways, this is the kind of art that many of us have been crying out for — art that actively engages with social issues and seeks to confront or assert liberal stances instead of juggling the same eros and alcohol-fueled ideas. But her focus also strays. An odd one-minute-plus mid-album skit called “Why Do We Dine on the Tots” relates a cannibalistic tongue-in-cheek short story done with the same funny voices many of us adopt to read books to our favorite kids. It’s an embarrassing, albeit brief, moment in a record fraught with other flawed lyrical flubs.

But even after all these observations, the way the record sounds is almost enough to keep the jagged edges from sticking in your craw. Lead single “Water Fountain” is hookier than a DJ Mustard radio smash, and even if it unnaturally contains the phrase “ride the whip,” it’s impossible to shake the handclap rhythm that jitters its way right under your skin. The evolving orbit of “Look Around” is another high point, undulating through the adoration of a stable lover. Its tightly packed harmonies are grated through distortion, but the crisp backbone of vocal acrobatics is Garbus’ strongest asset. “Stop That Man” and the other album single, “Wait for a Minute”, are other bright spots, expanding into dream pop territory and the crossbreed form of alt-R&B that the last five years have manufactured. When the record hits, it hits so cleanly and sweetly that superlatives spring to mind unbidden. But the record’s highs simply can’t balance out, or make up for the lows.

Parts of Nikki Nack are interesting, deeply beautiful, and insanely catchy. Other parts are painful to listen to given their overt blindness to the nuances of holding conversations like the ones she attempts to initiate. Regarding her conversations with others who questioned why she was traveling to Haiti, Garbus herself writes that she went to “situate myself in a non-western musical tradition." Then, indicates that her listener was shocked by writing, simply, the word “Pause.” Too bad she gives herself the credit for innovation in the silence that ensues, instead of considering it’s her audience that is skeptical of such open cultural tourism.

Essential Tracks: “Water Fountain”, “Stop That Man”, and “Wait for a Minute”

More from Consequence of Sound: 10 Albums and Books That Make a Perfect Fit

More from Consequence of Sound: Watch: Dave Grohl takes a shot of Jäger, performs "Monkey Wrench" on top of a bar

House Republicans Question Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger

Posted: 08 May 2014 10:57 AM PDT

Some of the toughest questions at a House hearing on the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable came from an unlikely source Thursday: free-market, anti-government-intervention, Tea Party Republicans.

The biggest critics of the proposed merger since it was announced earlier this year have been left-leaning consumer rights groups, open-Internet advocates and liberal lawmakers like Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). But Thursday’s hearing of the House Judiciary Committee hearing saw a different cast of doubters.

Self-described "free market advocate" Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) repeatedly questioned Comcast executive vice president David Cohen on whether the combined company would increase bills and limit choices for pay TV customers, especially in rural and Hispanic households. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) questioned Comcast's choice last August to cut a network, RFDTV, that serves primarily rural audiences that carry programming designed to appeal specifically to rural communities. Reps. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) and Joe Garcia (R-Fla.) homed in on how the merger would affect local businesses in their districts, while Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) said he worried the merger would create "more of an in balance with already left-of-center media environment."

And Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) worried that a combined Comcast-Time Warner Cable would be in a position to discriminate against conservative programming, particularly Glenn Beck’s show.

But perhaps the most tense moments came courtesy of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who seemed well versed on Comcast's cloud-streaming products and questioned the viability of existing anti-trust law to address the issues of "market access" raised by a merger. Existing law addresses “market power that distorts but it doesn't talk about market access that promotes,” Issa said. Under existing rules, Comcast and Time Warner Cable executives can just "check the boxes" and get the merger approved, but in a world in which customers are streaming traditional cable shows via broadband and saving those shows to a "cloud," those laws aren’t sufficient, Issa said. He called for "legislative reform to really tie in what the FCC is doing under net neutrality… and do more to make sure there's access to the consumer."

Farenthold also raised questions about content discrimination, but focused specifically on Spanish-language programming. "I don't want to sound hostile to this merger—I think this government needs to stay out of the business world as much as possible," Farenthold said. "But how do we know you won't discriminate against other programming?"

Repeatedly pressed by Farenthold and other lawmakers about the prospect of Comcast, which also owns NBC Universal, discriminating against competing content, Cohen said such discrimination doesn’t and won’t happen.

"We do not," he said. “Laws exist that prevent that."

Cohen also said Comcast has an incentive to grow its subscriber base, regardless of whose content subscribers are watching.

“It's not a zero sum game,” he said. “Just because we add one of these new networks doesn't mean we're not getting new customers."

Farenthold said a combined Comcast-Time Warner Cable would serve 91% of Hispanic households in the U.S. and easily dominate the only other local cable competitor in his hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas. Currently, Time Warner Cable currently does not carry the most popular Hispanic sports network in the country, Univision—perhaps, Farenthold suggested, because it competes directly with its own Spanish-language network, Telemundo. He also said that since Time Warner Cable is the only cable option in Corpus Christi that owns the rights to rebroadcast the Astros baseball games, "there's not a lot of incentive" to allow the competing cable company, Grande, to access to that popular programming.

Smith and Garcia also brought up similar issues, both referencing testimony from the founder and chairman of RFDTV, a rural interest network that receives very high Nielson ratings in markets from Kentucky to New Mexico. RFDTV chairman Patrick Gottsch testified that Comcast had refused to continue to rebroadcast its channel in August last year, without explanation.

Matthew Polka, the President and CEO of the American Cable Association (ACA), which represents small local and regional cable companies, testified that the merger would have an immediate and negative impact on small, regional and rural cable operations’ ability to compete. After a merger, small, independent cable operations would have to pay more for programming, Polka said. A combined Comcast-Time Warner Cable will be able to use its size to "drive down" those costs and either provide customers with more channels, offer lower prices, or both, he said.

Cohen, who remained calm and collected throughout the questioning—and even repeated a few jokes he made during the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing last month—got slightly flustered during Farenthold's questioning.

"Let me—let me respond to that," he said, repeating an argument he had made in his initial testimony that "there is no evidence that a cable company controlling 30% share of cable customers can control the market." By hour four of the marathon hearing, Cohen’s voice was growing hoarse as he patiently answered dozens of questions, drawing on the same talking points.

“I think the big winner here is consumers,”Cohen said repeatedly. “Our primary focus will be on consumers.”

A Modern Workshop to Promote an Ancient Craft

Posted: 08 May 2014 10:54 AM PDT

It seems like a counterintuitive idea: help a desperately poor community by enabling it to enter the luxury market. But that’s what has brought David Adjaye, an architect known for his celebrity homes, libraries and important musems, and the high end-but-humanitarian fashion retailer Maiyet together with two villages of desperately poor weavers in India.

Varanasi, in India’s northeastern state of Uttar Pradesh has been famous for its silk-weaving artisans for hundreds of years. Or at least, that’s what it used to be famous for. As machine looming has become more sophisticated and globalization has opened up other suppliers, especially in China, the Varanasi weavers have found the market for their goods shrinking, and many have fallen into poverty.

One solution might be to find new markets for these high end silks among well-heeled consumers with a conscience in the West. But for the silks to be attractive to really wealthy customers the quality has to be consistently skyscaper high, and as the weavers fall further into poverty, their product becomes less and less luxurious. Many of them work out of their homes and when roofs leak or structural damage goes unfixed, the silks can be ruined. They also have children at home, and one mishap can ruin many hours of work.

So Nest, a foundation that supports craft as a method out of poverty hired Adjaye to create a workshop for the weavers. Maiyet, a luxury brand that gets all its goods from artisans in emerging economies believes it can find buyers for the silks. “This wasn’t just about making a building,” says Adjaye. “It was about using architecture to create mobility and to create philanthropy within a craft that was disappearing.”

Work began on the Varanasi workshop in April. When completed it will have a workspace big enough for 120 weavers, a separate wing for women who do jobs that are ancillary to the weaving process, a child care center and rooms that can be used for the community as other needs arise, such as a medical clinic or a town hall. Most of the weavers are men and most of the finishers are women, so the workshop needs to accommodate both sexes, but the Muslim women cannot work in the same space as the men, so Adjaye planned his design around a separation of the genders.

The team has vertiginously high hopes for the project. Since it will bring Muslim and Hindu workers together into one space, they hope the two groups will find they have much in common as they ply their craft. They also have high commercial ambitions. “The idea is to create a distinction between handmade silk and a machine-made silk,” says Adjaye, who compares the silks to handmade Italian leather goods or an Hermés Kelly bag. He designed an exhibition space/showroom with them in mind. “If a brand like Hermés or Yves St. Laurent wants to come, they can see the collection and look at the the skill base.”

Adjye’s trademark, if he has one, is to metabolize the traditions and culture of his clients or end-users in his designs. The workshop is inspired by the Buddhist-Moghul-Hindu architecture of the region. And it’s in the same red clay color as the local buildings. “I’m trying to bring in this idea of weaving to the way the layers of the building are working,” says Adjaye. “And in certain details, like ventilation for the façade. I'm trying to speak about region and also about the idea of the craft. “

In the meantime the architect has been learning a lot about high end silk. “I’ve bought loads for my wife,” he says. “I’ve probably overdone it. “

Strong Earthquake Shakes Mexico City

Posted: 08 May 2014 10:51 AM PDT

(MEXICO CITY) — A strong earthquake on the Pacific coast of Mexico shook the capital on Thursday, sending frightened office workers streaming into the streets away from high-rise buildings.

The 6.4-magnitude temblor in southern Guerrero state had an epicenter about 9 miles (15 kilometers) north of Tecpan de Galeana and about 171 miles (277 kilometers) southwest of Mexico City, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The quake had a depth of 15 miles (23 kilometers). There was only mild shaking in the resort city of Acapulco, according to an Associated Press reporter there. The USGS downgraded the magnitude from 6.8.

Carmen Lopez, an elegantly dressed businesswoman from Michoacan, was leaving a downtown Mexico City office building when the ground began to sway. She dashed across the street to a leafy median as light poles swayed violently above her.

“That was just too scary,” said Lopez, as she quickly started dialing her cellphone to alert friends and family.

Behind her, thousands of people poured out from neighboring office buildings, following pre-planned evacuation routes to areas considered safe from any potential of falling glass.

Mexico City is vulnerable to distant earthquakes because much of it sits atop the muddy sediments of drained lake beds. They jiggle like jelly when the quake waves hit.

A 7.2-magnitude quake with an epicenter about 40 miles (66 kilometers) from Thursday’s quake shook central and southern Mexico on April 18.

A magnitude-8.1 quake that killed at least 6,000 people and destroyed many buildings in Mexico City in 1985 was centered 250 miles (400 kilometers) away on the Pacific Coast.

Cats 24/7 Is a TV Channel That Gives You What You Really Want

Posted: 08 May 2014 10:48 AM PDT

Television is great and all. True Detective, Mad Men, Game of Thrones and the like are making us rethink what a TV show can do. But sometimes, isn't all you want just more cats? Like, all day, every day? is a free television streaming service with hundreds of free channels. And they just launched Cats 24/7, which gives you exactly what its name describes. Every hour is filled with felines, from documentaries on big cats to YouTube-friendly cartoon skits and parodies. Shows include "Famous Felines," "Scaredy Cats," "Cats Gone Viral," and many, many more.

It's pretty light fare—no one's going to mistake this for a cat HBO. But we do have a few suggestions. Real Cats of Orange County would be a smash hit, as would Kitten Survivor. Catnip could make a great name for a sexy all-cat drama.

3 Next-Gen Plug-In Cars That Could be Game Changers

Posted: 08 May 2014 10:38 AM PDT

The biggest complaints about electric cars are that they’re too expensive or have limited driving range, or that don’t have enough space for hauling gear or a family.

In one way or another, all of these issues are being addressed in forthcoming new versions of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, and a new plug-in hybrid Chrysler Town & Country—yep, a minivan—planned to hit the marketplace in the near future.

The Next Nissan Leaf
The second version of the Nissan Leaf, introduced in early 2013, addressed the sticking point for a lot of drivers who weren’t yet convinced to bite on an EV: By dropping the Leaf’s base price by over $6,000, Nissan was able to make a purely electric-powered car affordable, starting at under $19,000 once incentives were factored in.

The third-generation Leaf, due to hit the marketplace sometime around 2017, as reported by Automotive News, is expected to have a dramatically improved battery and therefore, a dramatically improved driving range. The goal is for the next the Leaf to have a driving range of 186 miles before needing a charge, up from 73 miles originally and 84 miles on a full charge for the 2014 version. If and when that happens, Nissan will be able to make a much stronger argument that the Leaf is truly affordable and practical.

The Next Chevrolet Volt
Car and Driver offers a sneak peak of the new plug-in hybrid Volt, which is expected on the market for the 2016 model year—and which gives drivers improvements in electric driving range and a cheaper base price to boot. Not long ago, General Motors announced that the price of the next Volt would start at around $30,000 before incentives, around $10,000 less than the original model. The driving range when powered strictly by battery, meanwhile, is expected to jump from 38 miles today to 50 to 60 miles in the forthcoming Volt—though likely only for a 2016 Volt with an optional more powerful (and more expensive) battery.

The Plug-in Chrysler Town & Country
Bigger, heavier cars need more power to operate, which makes the prospect of a battery-powered large vehicle problematic. The lithium batteries now in use are exceptionally heavy, and bigger vehicles would require bigger, heavier batteries—which in turn would weigh the cars down further. At some point, the math doesn’t add up, with prices for larger hybrids and EVs getting so high as to become impractical. That’s why the vast majority of EVs (and hybrids for that matter) are on the small size, and why they employ as many technologies and strategies as possible to keep their weight down.

Nonetheless, Fiat Chrysler just announced plans for a plug-in hybrid minivan, a first-of-its-kind Town & Country model that’s expected to get an astounding 75 mpg, available for purchase around 2016. Chrysler anticipates its lineup will include a full-size plug-in hybrid crossover SUV by that time as well.

What’s curious is that Chrysler’s announcement comes at a time that, as USA Today noted, many automakers are pulling the plug on fuel-efficient hybrid versions of big SUVs such as the Cadillac Escalade and Chevy Tahoe due to poor sales and lack of interest from buyers. The most common reason cited for the failure of such models is that they were just too expensive to justify the bonus of getting a few more miles to the gallon.

The takeaway for Chrysler is that the next-generation large hybrids it’s rolling out must be vastly more fuel efficient than their traditionally-powered counterparts (that looks to be the case, with the 75 mpg figure), and they must avoid being astronomically expensive (we’ll have to wait and see).

PACs Can Take Bitcoin, Regulator Says

Posted: 08 May 2014 10:38 AM PDT

Political candidates and committees can accept contributions in the form of bitcoin, a regulator said Thursday, the first time the digital currency has been formally blessed for political spending.

The Federal Election Commission unanimously agreed that political committees can legally accept bitcoin donations under $100, acknowledging that the digital currency counted as a broadly defined "contribution." Responding to an inquiry from the Make Your Laws PAC, the commission said political committees could accept a limited bitcoin donation as long as it could identify the donor. In the opinion, which amounts to a guideline but not a law, the FEC also said political action committees could invest in bitcoin as they might stocks.

But the FEC stopped short of allowing PACs to spend bitcoin, requiring instead that PACs convert them into dollars first first. The FEC is notorious for its gridlock and lax enforcement of existing campaign finance regulations, and its decision doesn’t necessarily mean political committees won’t test and stretch the limits by using bitcoin for more political spending.

Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic appointee, told the Washington Post that the $100 limit—a figured proposed in the Make Your Laws inquiry—facilitated the decision.

“The $100 limit was really important to us,” said said. “We have to balance a desire to accommodate innovation, which is a good thing, with a concern that we continue to protect transparency in the system and ensure that foreign money doesn’t seep in.”

9 Printers That Actually Won’t Drive You Insane

Posted: 08 May 2014 10:35 AM PDT

Without question, the printer is the most despised product in any home or office. Too many morning routines have gone from coffee and meetings to paper jam fixes and emergency ink cartridge purchases.

We've had enough.

We gathered specifications, features, and expert reviews for over 700 printers in order to pick three safe bets in three categories: home, small business, and photo. Yes, we'd all love to pretend printers never existed: but for now, we're stuck with the damn things. We might as well make the best of it.


The best home printers are like great NFL kickers: consistent, low-drama, and reliable in the clutch. Even if the occasional attempt comes out looking a little wobbly, it's the end result that's important.

Epson Expression Home XP-410 – The Old Stand-By

The XP-410 is the ideal pick for customers who only print 10-15 times per year—a product with surprisingly high print-quality for such a low price. Granted, none of its specifications are particularly impressive (and the cartridges aren't cheap), but like your dad’s 20-year-old pick-up, it'll get the job done, and done well, even if it's covered in cobwebs for half the year.

Canon Pixma MX922 – The Jack-of-All-Trades

Powerful enough to serve a home office but compact enough to slide into a file cabinet, the MX922 is a home printer designed to do a little of everything. It's a bit slow (at 15 pages per minute, half the average) but given its price, print-quality, and jack-of-all-trades capabilities, it's worth a serious look.

Brother MFC-J4610DW – The Household Prodigy

Technically marketed as a small business choice, the MFC-J4610DW is a sneakily good pick for your house. It's got almost all the capabilities of an efficient company printer at a price point friendly to consumers (though its copying speed is a tad slow). Snap it up today as a family device, then turn it into your office printer once you finally start that homemade ice cream business you've always dreamed about.

Small Business

When you bought your first home printer, you correctly tuned out the Best Buy sales rep as he prattled on about auto-duplexing, monthly page counts, and low-vs-high speed print settings. Well wake up, Gutenberg: this stuff actually matters for small businesses.

HP Officejet Pro 276dw MFP – The Start-Up

With a sub-$400 price tag, you might expect the 276dw to come with a catch, but HP's popular Officejet proves to be a feisty little printer, particularly with scanning (an above-average 4,800 vertical dots per inch) and faxing (a respectable 4 seconds per page). That said, if you have some serious, high-volume printing needs, consider a more expensive option.

OKI MC362w – The IPO

Like a regular-sized Quiznos sandwich or grande Starbucks coffee, the MC362w is medium-priced, medium-featured, and above all, safe. Nothing about this $500 all-in-one printer will surprise you—either good or bad. But in the world of scanning, copying, and photo-printing, that's high praise.

HP LaserJet Pro MFP M521dn – The Fortune 500

It's a pricey pick, but it boasts impressive stats in both speed (42 pages per minute) and max monthly duty (75,000 pages). If your small business tends to go through paper like beach balls at a One Direction concert, snap this printer up now.


Unlike basic text printing—where speed, collation, and duplexing are critical—photo printing is all about quality, making 3/4 of a standard office printer's capabilities irrelevant. Here are three solid printers designed specifically for producing quality photos, rather than reams of black-and-white text.

Canon Pixma MG5420 – Mr. Finger Paint

For the real penny-pincher, the MG5420 is a good photo-oriented, bargain bin fall-back, capable of printing a decent shot from Senior Prom next to that eight-page English final. Dig up a little loose change from the couch, then order one for you and one for your date.

Canon Pixma iP8720 – The Art Major

The iP8720 is the MG5420 with a better smile, five years more work experience, and a Master's degree from a modest state university. You wouldn't guess it at a glance, but the iP8720 prints a fine-looking image, likely worth the extra $100-$200 above its cheaper, simpler brother.

Epson Stylus Pro 3880 – Picasso

Experts say the 3880 produces great quality for the money, particularly for the aspiring novice photographer looking to turn pro. If you're selling your images for money, this is a good place to start. If all you do is post beach pics of your kid on the family fridge, save your money.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

Congress Subpoenas Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki

Posted: 08 May 2014 10:28 AM PDT

The House Committee on Veterans Affairs voted Thursday to subpoena Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs after reports called the department’s hospital administration practices into question.

The House vote comes amid mounting pressure on Shinseki to retire after reports surfaced that 40 veterans died while waiting to see doctors in Arizona, and that the VA had a secret list of 200 veterans who waited more than 200 days for treatment. The American Legion and the Concerned Veterans of America, two of the nation’s largest veterans groups, as well as Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Jerry Moran of Kansas have called for Shinseki to resign in the wake of those reports. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stopped short of calling for Shinseki's resignation, but did say that "a change of leadership might be a step in the right direction."

The Shinseki scandal is one of the few brewing in Washington that might actually claim a head or two. Unlike Republicans’ calls for Secretary of State John Kerry to resign over a controversial statement about Israel and Attorney General Eric Holder to leave for his role in the Fast and Furious arms tracking scandal, there's a decent shot Shinseki could be forced to step down over the VA mess. And while the GOP focuses its firepower on investigations over partisan issues like Benghazi, political targeting at the IRS and the Keystone Pipeline, there are many Democrats who have expressed serious concerns about Shinseki's leadership at the VA. Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, for example has openly pondered Shinseki's exit, and my colleague Joe Klein has been calling on Shinseki to go for more than a year.

Shinseki, though, isn’t heading for the exists any time soon. He told the Wall Street Journal this week that he would respond to an ongoing independent investigation when it issues its final report. "I'm very sensitive to the allegations," he told the Journal. However, he may have to come up with answers sooner than that if he gets dragged before angry congressional committees.


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