Posts tagged with "Executive Order"

‘Cold case’: FTC said to be investigating McDonald’s broken McFlurry machines

September 6, 2021

The feds have had it with McDonald’s broken McFlurry machines, reports the New York Post.

The Federal Trade Commission is said to be investigating why the burger chain’s ice cream machines break down so often—a matter that’s become the butt of late-night TV jokes and viral social media posts.

The FTC contacted McDonald’s franchise owners this summer seeking information on what the problem is with the chain’s ice cream machines, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, September 1—citing a letter from the FTC and sources familiar with the matter.

When reached for comment by The Post, representatives for the FTC declined to comment.

The broken machines have drawn the ire of franchisees, who say it leaves them unable to serve milkshakes, soft cones; and the preeminent McFlurry, a cup of ice cream blended with candy and cookies.

The machines require a nightly automated heat-cleaning cycle that can take up to four hours, the Journal reported; and the cleaning cycle can fail, which makes the machines unusable until a repair technician can fix them.

The dysfunctional machines make treats that account for about 60% of the chain’s dessert sales in the United States, the Journal reported, citing a consumer survey by research firm Technomic.

And the repeated breakdowns rub customers the wrong way, spurring some to even pen petitions calling for action.

We are tired of being the butt of late night jokes. So are our customers and crews,” The National Owners Association, a group of franchisees, said in a May message to owners, according to the Journal.

Some franchise owners aren’t waiting for the corporate bosses to do something. Instead, they’re reportedly paying on their own to train staff on how to fix the machines.

Others have reached out to the machine’s manufacturer, Taylor Commercial Foodservice, which says the machines, themselves, are fine.

“A lot of what’s been broadcasted can be attributed to the lack of knowledge about the equipment and how they operate in the restaurants,” a Taylor representative told the Journal.

When working with dairy products, “you have to make sure the machine is cleaned properly. The machines are built up with a lot of interconnecting parts that have to operate in a complex environment and manner,” the representative added.

“There is no reason for us to purposely design our equipment to be confusing or hard to repair or hurt our operators.”

One startup, called Kytch, has tried to help franchisees address the problem by building a device that mounts on the ice cream machines and alerts owners about a breakdown through real-time text and email alerts.

The company told the Journal that its devices can prevent damage to the machines and help franchisees keep them running.

At one point, McDonald’s franchisees in 30 states used Kytch’s devices, the company told the Journal, but then McDonald’s told franchisees that the devices aren’t sanctioned and that they could pose a safety hazard, which Kytch denies.

“Nothing is more important to us than delivering on our high standards for food quality and safety,” the corporate parent reportedly said to franchisees, “which is why we work with fully vetted partners that can reliably provide safe solutions at scale.”

Kytch responded in May with a lawsuit that accused Taylor, a separate repair company authorized to work on the ice cream machines and a McDonald’s franchisee of conspiring to steal Kytch’s technology and replicate its device.

This is a case about corporate espionage and the extreme steps one manufacturer has taken to conceal and protect a multimillion-dollar repair racket,” attorneys for Kytch wrote in the complaint in California Superior Court in Alameda County. The case is pending.

But Taylor denied it had a copy of Kytch’s device or that it wanted to steal the startup’s technology.

“This is a case of a hacker—Kytch—incredibly accusing the hacked—Taylor—of theft,” lawyers for Taylor said in a court filing.

The Tennessee-based franchisee who was named in the suit also denied the allegations.

In an interview with the Journal, Kytch co-founder Jeremy O’Sullivan then accused Taylor of infringing on McDonald’s franchisees’ rights to alter and repair their ice cream machines.

Taylor responded by saying that owners are allowed to repair equipment as they see fit, but that the warranty on the machines isn’t valid if they fix them on their own, according to the Journal.

According to the Post, the FTC’s interest in the matter may stem from the Biden administration’s previously announced efforts to crack down on various manufacturers of products ranging from phones to farming equipment. Critics have alleged that major manufacturers of such products restrict customers from fixing the products themselves.

In July, Biden signed an executive order directing agencies to take the matter on, saying at the time in a fact sheet that Americans should be able to repair good they purchased on their own.

At the root of the FTC’s inquiry is how McDonald’s reviews suppliers and equipment, including the ice cream machines, and how often restaurant owners are allowed to work on their machines. The FTC inquiry is preliminary, and “the existence of a preliminary investigation does not indicate the FTC or its staff have found any wrongdoing,” the agency’s letter reportedly said.

In a statement, McDonald’s said it “has no reason to believe we are the focus of an FTC investigation.”

Research contact: @nypost

Education Department writes to Texas and Florida governors—backing schools amid mask mandate fight

August 17, 2021

On Friday, August 13, the U.S. Department of Education sent letters Friday to the Republican governors of Texas and Florida, as well as Florida school administrators, amid an escalating battle between the White House and state officials over school mask guidance as the Delta variant of COVID-19 surges, reports CNN.

In the latest letters to Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona stressed that their respective states’ school mask policies go against “science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19” and sharply voiced the Biden administration’s support for the states’ educators.

Cardona wrote to DeSantis that he is “deeply concerned” by the governor’s executive order, issued last month, directing health and education departments to leave it to parents to decide if students wear masks. Cardona also took aim at the recent threat from the governor’s office that the state board of education could move to withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who disregard his executive order, which effectively prohibits mask mandates.

“The Department recognizes that several school districts in your State have already moved to adopt such policies in line with guidance from the CDC for the reopening and operation of school facilities despite the State level prohibitions. The Department stands with these dedicated educators who are working to safely reopen schools and maintain safe in-person instruction,” Cardona wrote in the letter, which was also addressed to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

In Texas, Abbott prohibits mask mandatesbut two judges there have issued restraining orders temporarily blocking the enforcement of his order. Cardona sent a similar warning to Abbott and the state’s education commissioner, Mike Morath, underscoring that “Texas’s recent actions to block school districts from voluntarily adopting science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are aligned with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts these goals at risk and may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by Federal law.”

Cardona’s direct messages come as President Joe Biden and members of his administration have specifically targeted the governors of Florida and Texas for standing in the way of mask and vaccine requirements—pointing to the extraordinary number of COVID cases and hospitalizations in their states.

CNN’s requests for comment from the offices of both governors and state education commissioners were not immediately returned Friday.

In Friday’s letter to DeSantis and Corcoran, Cardona pointed to how Florida school districts can use funds from federal COVID relief for educators’ salaries, noting that “any threat by Florida to withhold salaries from superintendents and school board members who are working to protect students and educators (or to levy other financial penalties) can be addressed using ESSER funds at the sole and complete discretion of Florida school districts.”

In the letter to the Florida Association of School Administrators on Friday, Cardona further emphasized the administration’s support for the state’s educators: “I want you to know that the U.S. Department of Education stands with you. Your decisions are vital to safely reopen schools and maintain safe in-person instruction, and they are undoubtedly in the best interest of your students.”

Research contact: @CNN

Biden to target consolidation and aggressive pricing in rail and maritime industries with executive order

July 9, 2021

The Biden Administration will push regulators to confront consolidation and perceived anticompetitive pricing in the ocean shipping and railroad industries as part of a broad effort to blunt the power of big business to dominate industries, according to a person familiar with the situation, The Wall Street Journal reports.

As part of a sweeping executive order expected this week, the Administration will ask the Federal Maritime Commission and the Surface Transportation Board to combat what it calls a pattern of consolidation and aggressive pricing that has made it onerously expensive for American companies to transport goods to market.

The Administration says the relatively small number of major players in the ocean shipping trade and in the U.S. freight rail business has enabled companies to charge unreasonable fees.

In the case of the seven Class 1 freight railroads, consolidation has given rail carriers monopoly power over sections of the country where theirs are the only freight tracks, the person said.

According to the Journal, the executive order will encourage the STB to take up a longstanding proposed rule on so-called reciprocal or competitive switching—the practice whereby shippers served by a single railroad can request bids from a nearby competing railroad if service is available.

The competitor railroad would pay access fees to the monopoly railroad, but could win the shipper’s business by offering a lower price, using the rival railroad’s tracks and property.

The STB proposed a competitive switching rule in 2016, but hasn’t yet acted on it.

“The consolidation brought about much-needed rationalization in the system 25 years ago, but the net result is a lot of shippers who are subject to a market-dominant railroad,” said a government official briefed on the White House’s proposal for the STB.

But a move to mandate switching would guarantee a battle with the freights and the railroad trade association, the Association of American Railroads, which has long opposed the policy.

“Competition remains fierce across freight providers, and any proposal mandating forced switching would put railroads—an environmentally friendly option that invests $25 billion annually in infrastructure—at an untold disadvantage,” Ian Jefferies, chief executive of the railroad association, said Thursday. “Such a rule would roll back the foundational market-driven principle that keeps the industry viable, reduce network fluidity, and ultimately undermine railroads’ ability to serve customers at a time when freight demands have dramatically increased.”

The call to crack down on ocean carriers and freights is one facet in a multipronged executive order that will be one of President Biden’s most sweeping unilateral moves on economic policy to date, the Journal says.

The Democratic president is trying to blunt big business while introducing more competition in areas across the economy. The result, the administration contends, will be more leverage for smaller companies and individual workers, and less ability for a few huge companies to dictate terms for the economy at large.

Among other things, the executive order will call on the Federal Trade Commission to adopt rules that curtail noncompete agreements. The White House said roughly half of U.S. private-sector businesses use noncompete agreements, affecting an estimated 30 million people.

“He believes that if someone offers you a better job, you should be able to take it,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.

The executive order will also call on the FTC to ban unnecessary occupational licensing requirements.

“While occupational licensing can serve important health and safety concerns, unnecessary or overly burdensome licensing can lock people out of jobs,” Psaki said, adding that the White House estimates about 30% of jobs in the U.S. require a license.

What’s more, in its actions targeting the transportation sector, the administration is highlighting what it calls the dangers of consolidation. Three alliances control 80% of the shipping market, the person familiar with the executive order said.

The White House says that dominance has come at a cost for American exporters, allowing the companies to extract higher rates. For U.S. importers, the consolidation has given carriers leverage to raise fees like those for demurrage, essentially late fees on shipments that aren’t picked up from freight terminals on time.

The order will ask the maritime commission to crack down on such fees, and to take all other steps to protect American exporters from high fees. The order also asks the commission to work with the Justice Department to enforce its actions. The commission and the Justice Department are expected to sign a new memorandum of understanding to improve their cooperation on such investigations soon, the person said.

Maritime Commission Chairman Dan Maffei said recently that the commission’s ability to address issues such as container shortages and surging rates may be limited if the cause is the surge in demand as the global economy rebounds from the coronavirus pandemic. The commission is limited in its options unless it finds evidence of intentional manipulation of prices, he has said.

Research contact: @WSJ

Dorsey says Trump is the ‘twit’ for trying to control social media platforms

May 29, 2020

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey doesn’t scare easily—even when confronted by a raging U.S. president who is threatening to sign a vindictive executive order—meant to hobble Dorsey’s ability to monitor his own platform and correct deceptive posts.

Twitter became the target of the president’s fury after the social media site added a disclaimer to two tweets riddled with inaccuracies that were written and posted by @realDonaldTrump on his feed early last week, The Daily Beast reports.

The first reaction of the POTUS, according to the news outlet, was to try to bully the site by threatening to close down social-media companies that he thinks “show bias” against conservatives—and it was reported late Wednesday, May 27, that he planned to sign  an executive order intended to remove important legal protections from sites like Twitter and Facebook.

In a series of tweets, Dorsey wrote that Twitter will “continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.”

He added: “This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves.”

Despite his new intention to fight disinformation, this week Dorsey denied a widower’s request to remove Trump tweets that baselessly suggested Lori Klausutis was murdered in 2001 by her boss, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Blood, sweat, and tears: Reopening gyms is tearing a South Florida city apart

May 21, 2020

Gym rats in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are earning a reputation as municipal pests, now that their patience is running out and they want to get back to the athletic club, The Daily Beast reports.

For two months, Ken Averett Clark couldn’t lift weights at his local gym in Fort Lauderdale—the city with the third-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida. But by late Monday, May 18, the buff 55-year-old was closing in fast on pumping iron in public once again.

“For me, going to the gym is one of the pillars of my mental and physical health,” Clark told The Daily Beast. “I really feel like there is something missing in my life. I understand some people see it as a luxury that I can do without, and could do a home exercise regimen. For me, it’s not the same.” 

On Friday, May 15, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis decided that exercise junkies like Clark could return to their workout spaces—announcing that commercial health clubs were among the nonessential businesses that would reopen this week with new safety precautions.

But there was one major problem, The Daily Beast notes: Trantalis’s move to reopen gyms came in spite of officials in Broward County—which includes the city—insisting gyms remain closed, at least for now.

At a Monday afternoon press conference in a hotel lobby attended by more than two dozen people, Trantalis asserted that Florida Governor. Ron DeSantis’ executive order allowing gyms to reopen trumped Broward’s directive. “It is our position that gyms can be opened,” Trantalis told reporters. “There is a dispute between the county and the city with regard to that order. As far as we are concerned, we should be able to resolve it by tomorrow.”

When asked if Fort Lauderdale gym owners who moved forward with reopening should be concerned about being shut down or arrested by county law enforcement, Trantalis replied, “No one is going to be arrested.”

But Broward Vice Mayor Steve Geller told The Daily Beast it was “possible” Broward code enforcers and sheriff’s deputies would go to Fort Lauderdale to make sure gyms remain closed until the county says otherwise. County Commissioners voted to send the city a warning letter on Tuesday. “We don’t need to have a confrontation,” Geller said. “I am sure we can work it out. This requires compromise from both parties and not just the county giving in.”

In the Sunshine State, working on one’s summer body is the stuff of obsession. Last week, more than two dozen people performed squats and push-ups sans face masks outside a courthouse in Clearwater, a city in central Florida, as part of a reopening protest. The gym crowd, in other words, is starting to get fed up, and health experts worry that could turn gyms into high-risk contamination zones even as the state’s COVID-19 outlook remains murky at best.

Still, there are Floridians who prefer safety to squatting. Stephanie Lavender, a 56-year-old artist and designer, told The Daily Beast that she was shocked and disappointed Trantalis was moving to reopen gyms ahead of the county’s timeline. “When this first started, the mayor took initiative when others did not,” she told The Daily Beast. “Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach were among the first cities to do stay-at-home orders and then required masks. I felt safe.” 

She also questioned how gyms would be able to keep equipment clean after every use. “Gyms have the most touch points, even more than a restaurant or bar,” Lavender said. “And people are breathing hard. It’s a strong exhale. I know we have to get back to normal, but this doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the reopening.”

Meanwhile, between May 16 and May 19, Fort Lauderdale recorded 22 new coronavirus cases—bringing the city’s total to 1,465. Overall, Broward saw its total number of cases jump by 121 over the same three-day period. Those are relatively modest totals, but the city’s proximity to the state’s number one hot zone—in Dade County, currently beginning its own reopening process—was not exactly cause for reassurance.

Clark, who is a member of Powerhouse Gym, said he would likely wait a week until after his health club reopened to resume his workout routine. A realtor and a professional actor, Clark said he polled people on his Facebook page about gyms reopening. “I got about 60 responses and almost every single one of them was no,” he said. “I was surprised.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Trump signs executive order to keep meat processing plants open

April 30, 2020

Without stringent safety and sanitation measures and testing in place, the United Foods and Commercial Workers International Union worries that its 1.3 million members nationwide will be “dead meat,” following President Donald Trump’s executive order this week.

The president signed an executive order on April 28, compelling the nation’s meat packing plants—many of which have closed because of COVID-19 outbreaks among workers—to stay open as part of “critical infrastructure” in the United States, administration officials told ABC News.

The five-page order is two-pronged, the network news outlet said—quoting a senior administration official who commented, “from a [Defense Production Act] standpoint, it mandates that critical food supply operations stay open” and second, “from a liability standpoint, we will issue guidance coming from (the Department of Labor) that will provide additional liability protections.”

ABC said it was unclear what the liability protections might involve.

Trump told reporters on Tuesday he would be signing the order, but didn’t provide many details.

“We’re going to sign an executive order today, I believe. And that will solve any liability problems where they have certain liability problems,” the president said. “And we’ll be in very good shape. We’re working with Tyson, which is one of the big companies in the world. And we always work with the farmers. There’s plenty of supply, as you know. There’s plenty of supply. It’s distribution. And we will probably have that today solved. It was a very unique circumstance, because of liability.”

Trump was referring to Tyson Food, which suspended operations of its largest pork production plant last week. Smithfield Foods, Inc. also suspended operations at some of their plants.

Government officials in the Midwest had been urging the administration to use the Defense Production Act to deem the plants critical.

Senator Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican who rarely spurs the administration to take action, wrote to the president Monday to push him to invoke the Defense Production Act to address the “on-farm and on-ranch livestock emergency” in order to “help keep food production plants open safely.”

However, according to a press release Tuesday from the United Foods and Commercial Workers International Union, at least 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have been confirmed dead and “at least 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have been directly impacted by the virus.”

The union wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence last week urging the White House coronavirus task force to prioritize the safety of grocery workers and those workers in meat processing plants.

“At the same time, we have heard both federal and state elected leaders refer to these workers as essential, yet they are not being provided the essential protections they need to do their jobs safely. For the sake of these essential workers’ lives, and the safety of our food supply, this must change immediately, and we must prioritize the safety and protection of all grocery workers and workers in meatpacking and food processing plants,” the letter said.

An administration official told ABC News that they were considering providing some guidance for those workers who are most at risk from severe complications from COVID-19.

“For example, for a processing plant worker that is over 65, or one that has pre-existing health conditions that put them at a greater risk, we would work with the Department of Labor to issue guidance strongly suggesting they stay at home,” the official said.

Research contact: @ABC

Trump says he’s looking ‘very seriously’ at ending birthright citizenship

August 23, 2019

The United States is the homeland of any baby born on its soil, according to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

But that did not stop President Donald Trump from saying on August 22 that his administration was “very seriously” considering an executive order that would end birthright citizenship, according to a report by The Hill.

“We’re looking at that very seriously,” Trump told a White House press gaggle before he left for a Kentucky rally. “Birthright citizenship, where you have a baby on our land—walk over the border, have a baby, congratulations, the baby’s now a U.S. citizen.”

“We are looking at birthright citizenship very seriously,” he added. “It’s, frankly, ridiculous.”

The president proposed ending the practice that grants citizenship to those born in the United States during his 2016 presidential campaign. He revived the idea last October, saying he would sign an executive order to enact the change.

It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump said at the time during an interview with Axios.

Numerous lawmakers, including several Republicans, quickly pushed back on the idea and argued Trump lacked the authority to make such a change using an executive order, The Hill reported at the time. They cited that birthright citizenship is a right enshrined under the 14th Amendment.

Trump responded to the criticism by saying birthright citizenship would be ended “one way or another,” The Hill reported.

The move is simply another tactic being used in Trump’s war on immigration. The Trump administration announced earlier Wednesday it would unveil a new rule that would allow migrant families to be held indefinitely, ending a procedure known as the Flores Settlement Agreement that requires unaccompanied minors to be held no longer than 20 days.

Research contact: @thehill

In a gift to his base, Trump says he will nullify ‘birthright citizenship’

October 31, 2018

In a direct gift to his political base just a week before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump says he is preparing an executive order to end birthright citizenship in the United States, according to an October 30 report by The New York Times.

According to a same-day story by Axios, “This would be the most dramatic move yet in Trump’s hardline immigration campaign, this time targetinganchor babies’ and ‘chain migration.’ And it will set off another stand-off with the courts, as Trump’s power to do this through executive action is debatable to say the least.”

Playing fast and loose with the truth, the president told Axios, “We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

In fact, dozens of other countries, including Canada, Mexico, and many others in the Western Hemisphere, grant automatic birthright citizenship, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that supports restricting immigration.

Doing away with birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants was an idea that Trump pitched as a presidential candidate, the Times reported—but there is no clear indication that he would be able to do so unilaterally, and attempting to would be certain to prompt legal challenges.

Indeed, to outlaw birthright citizenship, the POTUS would have to find a way around the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Amendments to the Constitution cannot be overridden by presidential action, the Times noted— and can be changed or undone only by overwhelming majorities in Congress or the states, with a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or through a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of state legislatures.

But some conservatives argue that the 14th Amendment was meant to apply only to citizens and legal permanent residents—not immigrants who are present in the country without authorization.

Whether or not the idea is legal or actionable the president is accomplishing what he thinks needs to be done in the next seven days—appealing to a base of voters who are key to Republican domination in the U.S. Congress.

Research contact: @juliehirschfelddavis