In Lexington, KY, Hot Dogs to Stay Cool Thanks to New HVAC System

Air Conditioner Unit

On Monday, June 29, the Humane Society in Lexington, KY, will get a brand new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system thanks to an outpouring of donations from the community.

According to WTVQ, the Lexington Humane Society asked for $35,000 in donations on Monday, June 22 to replace its 20-ton air conditioning unit after the system broke down — completely and beyond repair. By 11 p.m. that same day, more than $33,000 had successfully been raised.

The unit, which was 10 times the size of ordinary air conditioning units, mostly covered the Humane Society’s dog kennel. Without it, temperatures and humidity quickly rose within the Old Frankfort Pike shelter, putting the more than 400 animals housed within at great risk.

“It’s a hefty, hefty, hefty budget,” Ashley Hammond, the Humane Society’s Director of Community Outreach, said. “It is something obviously that we did not expect to have to pay.”

The old air conditioning unit had been about 10 years old, which is near the end of the typical air conditioner’s lifespan. Experts recommend having all HVAC equipment inspected by a professional once it reaches 10 years of age.

To help give the donations a kick-start, Fayette Heating and Air donated the first $10,000 dollars toward the Humane Society’s new air conditioner. Bret Melrose, Fayette Heating and Air’s President, said he made the call to donate so much to the Humane Society due to an awareness of how costly a new HVAC system can be.

“In our line of business and taking care of this kind of equipment, it’s very expensive, it’s not easy,” Melrose said. “When you get hit with a capital expenditure like this that you’re definitely not expecting, it’s something that we have to reach out and help.”

Thanks to the generosity of people like Melrose and the surrounding community, the four-legged residents of the Lexington Humane Society will be able to stay cool and comfortable throughout the hottest days of the summer.

Is A Top Secret Amazon App About To Disrupt The Shipping World?

Hands typing on the laptop
If a top-secret Amazon program comes to market, then package delivery might be the next industry to face a serious disruption.

FedEx recently posted a less-than-stellar quarterly earnings report, and now the shipping company faces a threat from their own customers. Online retail superstore Amazon is developing a new crowd-sourced delivery scheme, in which retail stores or private individuals would deliver packages on the eCommerce company’s behalf.

Internally, Amazon reportedly refers to the experimental mobile app with the code name “On My Way,” although it’s release date is unknown. The “consumer-powered” delivery service would pay retailers with physical storefronts to hold packages for customers, while also paying everyday people a fee per parcel they deliver. Currently, Amazon ships an estimated 3.5 million packages every day.

The same week Amazon’s new program was reported, FedEx Executive Vice President Mike Glenn made a statement outlining the entry challenges companies would face trying to compete in the shipping industry, like controlling transportation costs and building consumer trust. And experts say the timing of his statement was not a coincidence.

“Research has indicated time and time again that a uniformed person with proper identification showing up at your doorstep is an important issue for customers,” Glenn said in a conference call. “Consistency of customer experience is very critical in that regard.”

Although FedEx is one of the big three in the delivery industry, the company has showed signs of trouble in recent years. In 2013, FedEx revenues grew just 3.7% to $44.2 billion following revenue growth of 8.6% in 2012. The company’s latest quarterly earning report shows a loss of $895 million on total revenues of $12.1 billion.

Amazon has already experimented with paying stores like 7-Eleven to rent locker space for package pickup in their stores. And although the eCommerce giant is being tight-lipped about its new mobile app, experts say Amazon is looking towards the success of Uber and similar crowd-sourcing startups.

New Study Finds Subsidized Weatherization Programs Aren’t As Efficient As They Should Be

Solar panel installation
Energy-saving appliances have become the focus of many renovation and repair projects for homes and businesses alike, with a multitude of tax benefits and promises of lower energy bills. But what happens if these savings don’t actually pay off like they’re supposed to?

According to a paper recently published by researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago, it seems that many energy efficiency programs — especially those backed by federal and state subsidies — aren’t actually effective when it comes to reducing household energy consumption.

Many of these programs focus on weatherizing houses by providing subsidized home repairs that focus on insulation; the programs may focus on small projects like sealing up cracks along windows, or they may provide help for major projects like furnace replacements.

In theory, these programs should result in lower energy consumption, especially for low-income households, and the programs are often based on concrete research that has proven the effectiveness of energy-efficient appliances. An old water heater, for example, can account for 30% of a home’s entire energy bill; replacing it with a new water heater can result in hundreds of dollars saved each year.

In reality, however, these programs end up failing and costing the government more money in the long run, contrary to what they’re supposed to do. But, as the Wall Street Journal and Vox both note, this isn’t because the programs or appliances are deficient.

Instead, consumers end up falling into what the WSJ calls an “energy efficiency gap” because they’re more likely to “[pass] up investments that reduce their fuel and electric bills” after taking advantage of subsidized insulation and repair projects.

Rather than continuing to turn down their thermostats or spending a bit more on energy-efficient lightbulbs, homeowners are actually more likely to develop habits that result in increased energy consumption after they take part in subsidized energy savings programs.

To use Vox’s explanation, “engineering studies might not always capture the messiness of the real world… and there are all sorts of human behaviors that might reduce the effectiveness of efficiency investments” — not to mention plenty of “irregularly shaped” homes that don’t provide the maximum insulation, or appliances that are installed improperly.

In one respect, the recent findings are positive: energy-efficient appliances are, after all, as efficient as they claim to be. However, understanding how these appliances work in the real world may end up being the more difficult task.

You Won’t Believe Who Finally Joined Instagram

smartphone with social media bubbles (like, tweet, friend, share
A timeless fashion icon will finally get the digital makeover she deserves. This summer, one of the most iconic figures in American history will debut a revamped social media presence targeting the next generation of Americans. Yes, it’s official: Barbie is the latest breakout Instagram star.

In June, toy maker Mattel rolled out a new Barbie “Fashionistas” line, which features 23 new dolls with eight skin tones, 22 hairstyles, and 23 hair colors. The campaign is an attempt to make Barbie more culturally diverse for the 21st century.

The company has already introduced a new wave of television ads, the medium where most of Barbie’s advertising budget has been spent in the past. Starting this June, Mattel is also updating the toy’s social marketing strategies to re-brand her for modern kids. A Barbie style-focused profile on Instagram has already collected more than 815,000 followers, who share photos of the doll doing yoga and wearing new outfits.

In just the last two years, the number of marketers who say that Facebook is either “critical” or “important” to their social marketing strategies has surged 83%. In addition, YouTube is the most common “fave” media outlet among young people between the ages of eight and 11, and so Mattel has hired YouTube “influencers” to promote the new Barbie line.

Social media experts define influencers as social media users with massive followings, especially among young people, and who often act as digital trend setters. They also monetize their social media presence by serving as brand partners for companies eager to connect with younger consumers, like Mattel hopes to do with Barbie.

“Using YouTube influencers to get girls to connect in the space of fashion and style was a great addition to how we’re talking to girls,” said Evelyn Mazzocco, Senior Vice President and Global Brand Manager for Barbie.

Mazzocco hopes the new Barbie campaign will “empower girls” to express themselves, and of course, sell more toys. In 2014, Barbie lost her spot as the #1 most popular toy for girls to a powerful newcomer in the industry — “Frozen” toys and dolls.

Video: Social Media Users Burning Confederate Flags

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The tragic massacre of nine Charleston citizens in a historic black church has reignited a controversy over the confederate flag, which still flies at full mast outside the South Carolina state capital. The debate over the confederate flag has burned for decades, with some calling the rebel flag a harmless symbol of southern heritage, and others calling it a symbol of hate on par with the Nazi swastika.

N.A.A.C.P. National President Cornell William Brooks said after the killings that the Dixie flag is nothing more than an “emblem of hate.” Now, activists and their supporters are using social media to further that message, spreading hashtags like “#takedownthatflag.”

So-called internet “hacktivists” are often criticized for armchair activism, following the path of least resistance. But social media is increasingly integrated with offline protests, such as the popular hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which went viral earlier this year.

Some online activists are taking a page from the digital marketing playbook and reaping the benefits of social media marketing. Content creation is an increasingly popular strategy for marketers, with 92% calling it “somewhat” to “very” effective.  So in addition to tweets and hashtags, others are creating video and photo content of themselves burning the confederate flag.

The #BurnThatFlag stunt recalls the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge; by creating short videos and photos of flag burning, social media activists provide fuel for the content fire. Nearly 27 million pieces of content are shared online daily, and media outlets are always thirsty for click-ready content.

Plus, educators like Edward E. Baptist, a history professor at Cornell University, have been using their Twitter feeds to give impromptu micro-lectures about the true legacy of the confederate flag.

Baptist tweeted, “The stars and bars was also a symbol of terror: of the violent intimidation of African Americans who dared assert their rights.”

South Carolina lawmakers are taking notice of the spreading outrage; this week they overwhelmingly voted to open debate on the issue.

South Carolina Law Requires Police to Wear Body Cameras But Prohibits Releasing Its Footage

police
Governor Nikki Haley (R) of South Carolina recently signed into law a bill that would require all law enforcement agencies in the state to wear body cameras. However, the footage from the cameras will not be made available to the public.

Al Jazeera America reports that on June 10th, Haley signed the bill in a public ceremony in North Charleston, South Carolina, the site of the shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed African American man who was shot eight times in the back by police officer Michael Slager. The shooting occurred on April 4th and made national headlines after a bystander recorded it on his mobile phone and released it to the public. The incident prompted national outrage and lead to the firing and arrest of Slager, who was subsequently indicted on murder charges.

In response to the shooting, Haley signed the June 10th law in order to allay concerns about future police misconduct. However, in what some critics call a contradictory move, the state’s House of Representatives included an amendment prohibiting any footage from these cameras from being released to the public, even in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Observers critical of the amendment, such as Jay Bender, an attorney with the South Carolina Press Association, claim that it totally defeats the purpose of the law.

“That’s a cop cover-up bill,” Bender said. “It’s to protect cops from the public finding out about their misconduct.”

Although the law permits the police to release footage if it so chooses to, Bender is skeptical police departments will if the footage incriminates officers. “They always release video that seems to exonerate the cop,” he said. “They will never release a video that shows misconduct.”

However, Haley is more optimistic about the law’s effectiveness, claiming that it is a major step in the right direction.

“This is going to strengthen the people of South Carolina,” Haley said. “This is going to strengthen law enforcement, and this is going to make sure that Walter Scott did not die without us realizing we had a problem.”

Victoria Middleton, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Carolina, also acknowledges the need for privacy regarding body camera footage, stating that victim’s rights are at stake, not just police officer’s.

“There does need to be some respect for privacy, especially of victims,” Middleton said. “If they’re going into a situation in a house where there are minors there or if there are other people being attacked who are not involved in the incident, the video really will have the potential to invade other people’s privacy.”

“All across the US and internationally, citizens are demanding more accountability from law enforcement agencies,” said Jubal Ragsdale, President of 10-8 Video LLC, a supplier of police body cameras an in car video equipment. “This includes wanting officers to have video of their citizen encounters. While I support an individual’s privacy when video is taken inside the home, any video in public should be available. This would allow the public to see events from the officer’s point of view.”

Can You Ever Trust Good News About Chocolate?

chocolate

Not only does chocolate taste delicious and help release pleasure-causing endorphin molecules, new evidence suggests it could be good for your heart, too. A study published on Monday, June 15 in the medical journal Heart claims that regular chocolate eaters reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes in comparison to those who rarely or never eat chocolate.

For the study, researchers with the University of Aberdeen tracked about 20,000 U.K. adults for 12 years. And fortunately for chocolate lovers, it’s not the only study to find a link between consuming chocolate and heart health benefits.

“The group with the greatest benefit generally ate 16 to 100 grams per day,” head author Phyo Myint wrote. The average Hershey bar contains 43 grams of chocolate.

While chocolate fans might be ready to run and share the good news, top fitness programs and health experts urge caution about the new study. Although there’s no reason to doubt the new study, just a few weeks ago media outlets were burned by a fraudulent chocolate study that was simply too good to be true.

“The truth is we can all benefit from taming our sweet tooth with a nutritious version of chocolate, cacao, or a natural sweetener like stevia,” says Lindsey Catarino, MBA, Independent Team Beachbody Coach, Certified PIYO Trainer. “All of these studies about healthy chocolate really don’t hold up to the science of feeding your body for performance and health. I get my chocolate fix daily from a product that I love called Shakeology. When you find the right one, you won’t even miss chocolate.”

On March 29 earlier this year, researcher Johannes Bohannon sent out a press release touting the incredible weight loss benefits of chocolate. After media outlets the world over repeated his claims, Bohannon revealed in May that the entire episode was a hoax. Bohannon said he was angry about shoddy reporting of medical studies and wanted to expose a gullible media.

“Which is to say: It was terrible science. The results are meaningless,” revealed the mad scientist.

Of course, that doesn’t mean every new health study should be disregarded. As in fitness and dieting, it’s all about careful moderation.

JoAnn Manson is a division chief at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and she says that while “Chocolate can be part of a healthy diet,” her new research calls into question its heart benefits.

California Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Affordable Housing Requirement

Street of residential houses
With the state facing an unprecedented affordable housing crisis, California’s Supreme Court ruled to uphold San Jose’s controversial affordable housing requirement, saying cities and counties have the right to require housing developers to sell some housing at below-market rates.

According to a June 15 LA Times article, the unanimous decision came after court justices reviewed study after study showing the severe lack of affordable housing throughout the state, especially in the coastal regions. Today, the average home in California costs a stunning $440,000 — more than twice the national average.

“It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with California’s current housing market that the significant problems arising from a scarcity of affordable housing have not been solved over the past three decades,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote in the decision. “Rather, these problems have become more severe and have reached what might be described as epic proportions in many of the state‘s localities.”

Local governments like the City of Los Angeles may now require developers to sell a certain percentage of their housing units below the average market rate when the developer obtains a building permit. This also allows for more economically diverse housing developments rather than developments that segregate higher-income residents from lower-income residents.

In San Jose, the law states that new home builders and developers building 20 or more housing units must offer 15% of these units at below-market rates. Alternately, they can choose to pay into a city fund for affordable housing.

“Our market is completely different than in California’s, of course. We have areas where we offer different price points from the low $100k’s and up, allowing for a diversity of products to a range of buyers,” said Lorie Parker from Synergy Homes. “The top quality we offer in our end product is the same no matter what price range we are building in. It is well known that particular areas drive building costs. We work hard to price ourselves in all areas to offer product to any qualified buyer.”

While real estate groups and the state home building industry sued the city of San Jose five years ago for its affordable housing ordinance, it’s not the only place in California that requires developers to provide affordable places to live. The LA Times reports that almost 200 other cities and counties throughout California have made similar provisions.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo welcomed the news with feelings of vindication. However, he also expressed disappointment that his city was unable to build more affordable housing throughout the last five or six years, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

“It’s a sigh of relief, but we wish we had the money six years ago,” Liccardo said. “It just meant that affordable housing did not get built. We could have had many hundreds of affordable units in place for our fast-growing population.”

3 Things You Haven’t Thought of to Increase Profit

Grilled BBQ T-Bone Steak
With competition in the restaurant industry constantly on the rise, many restaurants are looking for ways to get a leg up on their competitors. They do this by offering unique dining experiences, low prices, or added values to purchases. We’ve taken a look at three possibilities to consider to get your customers to stay longer, and ultimately spend more.

Invest in an outdoor bar.

One of the things that will be great for business is an outdoor bar. On average, 43% of people ages 25-34 will spend more money and time at an outdoor bar, according to a study. For many customers, an outdoor bar is just a great way to balance time with friends with time outdoors. With so much time spent in stuffy offices or cars, it’s great to get outside every once in a while. Avoid any pest problems with mesh retractable screens and you’ll be golden!

Consider a pet-friendly patio. 

More and more restaurants are becoming pet-friendly, with the idea being that people will enjoy their experience more, and return again and again, if they have their favorite pooch with them. Dog owners tend to worry when they aren’t at home to look after their pet; when restaurants welcome dogs, their owners will ultimately spend more money. Many states have already started allowing this — California, Florida, Maryland, New Mexico, and New York among them. With rules to satisfy non-pet owners as well, this could be a key to increasing business.

Do something truly unexpected.

If you’re pressed for ideas and decide on a gimmick in order to drum up business, it’s likely that it will fall flat. Most people can tell when they’re being played, and they won’t take kindly to publicity stunts and cheap updates. Think outside the box and do something truly unexpected. Whether it’s a unique dining experience, or just exceptional service, invest in what you need to do to make customers come back.

These Baby Goats in Onesie Pajamas Will Totally Make Your Day

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Images of baby animals aren’t exactly rare on the internet, but the latest viral video making the rounds may have you counting goats instead of sheep.

Two baby goats, Winnefred and Monty, are seen frolicking around Sunflower Farm Creamery in Cumberland, Maine. While that on its own might not sound too interesting, here’s what is: those goats are wearing tiny sets of onesie pajamas.

The animals’ pajama party is captured in a one-minute video, which has been viewed on YouTube more than one million times.

In the video, one of the kids wears a blue striped pajama set while the other sports a pair covered in cartoonish-looking strawberries. They hop around the barn and leap into a stack of hay, seeming to have a good time in their jammies.

The hit video prompted a local news station to visit the farm, and the owners even encouraged visitors to see the goats live at the farm or check out the webcam feed on their website.

When they’re not making viral videos, the goats on the farm make milk, which goes into products like cheese, caramel and fudge sold by the creamery.

Approximately 61% of Americans said they don’t have enough options when it comes to their sleepwear, so maybe some could take a cue from these goats and throw on a pair of onesie pajamas.

Footed pajamas for adults have made a comeback as of last year when “Suitsy” was introduced by entrepreneur Jesse Herzog. Designed to look like a suit, the one-piece garment zips up the front and goes virtually undetected as pajamas in public, according to one man who wore the $400 Suitsy for four straight days.

Herzog referred to his famous (or infamous) onesie as “a revolution in apparel for the modern gentleman.” Men’s fashion authority GQ, meanwhile, said it was something that had “gone too far” and advised those interested in Suitsy to just buck up and get a real suit.