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Wil Davis, of the Gary Jet Center closes a panel on the outside of the Boeing 737-800 shortly before takeoff Friday Dec. 15, 2006. | Andy Lavalley/Post-Tribune

The Federal Aviation Administration, according to a Reuters report, has ordered an inspection on more than 1,000 Boeing 737 registered in the United States. The target of the inspection is the tail planes, which may contain a faulty part that could lead to a loss of control.

"We are issuing this AD (airworthiness directive) to prevent premature failure of the attach pins, which could cause reduced structural integrity of the horizontal stabilizer to fuselage attachment, resulting in loss of control of the airplane," the FAA said in the directive early Monday.

In the directive, the FAA said the inspection order was "prompted by reports of an incorrect procedure used to apply the wear and corrosion protective surface coating to attach pins of the horizontal stabilizer rear spar."

According to the report, first in the Wall Street Journal, 1,050 U.S. carrier aircraft are effected and it may cost up to $10.1 million across the fleet - $9,627 per aircraft. It applies to the following models:

  • 737-600
  • 737-700
  • 737-700C
  • 737-800
  • 737-900
  • 737-900ER

Boeing 737-800 crashed in Bali will be cut apart for removal

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McDonald's customer service is under fryer. | Getty Images

A Wall Street Journal report out Thursday morning says that McDonald's, fresh off recent earnings report disappointments, is focusing on customer service as the central cause of the chain's woes.

The report says Oak Brook-based McDonald's had a recent webcast for owners claiming that 20 percent of customers were dissatisfied with the level of customer service companywide. From the Journal (paywall):

In a webcast McDonald's executives held with franchise owners last month, the company said 1 in 5 customer complaints are related to friendliness issues "and it's increasing," according to a slide from the presentation reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The webcast identified the top complaint as "rude or unprofessional employees."

One slide said that complaints about speed of service "have increased significantly over the past six months." Another mentioned that customers find service "chaotic."

"Service is broken," said a slide from part of the webcast delivered by Steve Levigne, vice president of business research for McDonald's USA.

The site customerservicescorecard.com shows reason for McDonald's to be concerned. The site, based off customer feedback, rates restaurants on various categories and criteria. On the final score, the highest of which is 200, Mcdonald's comes in at 36.85 - ranking somewhere between "terrible" and "disappointing.'

The company had been concentrating recently on new products to carry business. Despite some significant uptick thanks to a poor economy, Fish McBites don't seem to be enough to soothe a fed-up customer base.

As recently as last June, McDonald's ranked last in customer service in the fast food industry, including by a wide margin in this unscientific Sun-Times poll.

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The Al's Beef combo - sausage and beef sandwich - will soon be clogging arteries and warming hearts on the West Coast. | Sun-Times file

It's about time the outside world finally realized what makes Chicago great and steals the secret ingredient - the beef sandwich.

Al's Beef, a Chicago institution for 75 years, is heading west - to San Jose, specifically. The San Jose Mercury News reports that a horde of Midwesterners has been clamoring for hot beef sandwiches for a while and Al's is finally succumbing to pressure:

The first California location will open in meat-loving San Jose on Monday, April 15, with plans for a major Southern California expansion next.

The secret recipe for what's often called one of the nation's top sandwiches was concocted in 1938 by Al Ferreri and his sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Chris Pacelli Sr. The shops stayed in the family until 1999, when longtime customer Dave Howey (not to worry; he's half-Italian) bought Al's to preserve this regional specialty.

"When you eat it here, it's going to be just like eating in Chicago," owner Dave Howey says. "The bread is crucial, or the sandwich will dissolve."

The rest of Al's roasted and encased meat specialties will be making the trip as well. So much for that California healthy cuisine thing. But Chicago gets Lagunitas Beer, so it's at least a fair trade. Though, really, you can't have one without the other.

If you want water with your Maker's Mark, you'll have to add it yourself. The company announced it's changing the decision to water down its bourbon - a decision that drove people to drink, or rather not to.

Below is the statement the company tweeted out explaining how water back is the only additional water in their bourbon:

You spoke. We listened.

Dear Friends,

Since we announced our decision last week to reduce the alcohol content (ABV) of Maker's Mark in response to supply constraints, we have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans. We're humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker's Mark. While we thought we were doing what's right, this is your brand - and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.

You spoke. We listened. And we're sincerely sorry we let you down.

So effective immediately, we are reversing our decision to lower the ABV of Maker's Mark, and resuming production at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof). Just like we've made it since the very beginning.

The unanticipated dramatic growth rate of Maker's Mark is a good problem to have, and we appreciate some of you telling us you'd even put up with occasional shortages. We promise we'll deal with them as best we can, as we work to expand capacity at the distillery.

Your trust, loyalty and passion are what's most important. We realize we can't lose sight of that. Thanks for your honesty and for reminding us what makes Maker's Mark, and its fans, so special.

We'll set about getting back to bottling the handcrafted bourbon that our father/grandfather, Bill Samuels, Sr. created. Same recipe. Same production process. Same product.

As always, we will continue to let you know first about developments at the distillery. In the meantime please keep telling us what's on your mind and come down and visit us at the distillery. It means a lot to us.

Sincerely,

Rob Samuels Bill Samuels, Jr
Chief Operating Officer Chairman Emeritus
rob@makersmark.com bill@makersmark.com

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Image via WebProNews.com

AOL's DailyFinance reported Monday evening that Chicago-based deals site Groupon is holstering its weapons when it comes to firearms-related promotions.

In a statement emailed to AOL site Daily Finance, spokesperson Julie Mossler pointed to the company's desire to take stock of what it offers in its daily deals model:

"All scheduled and current gun-related deals featured on Groupon North America, including shooting ranges, conceal-and-carry and clay shooting, have been placed on hiatus while we review internal standards that shape the deal inventory we feature. The category is under review following recent consumer and merchant feedback."


Daily Finance reported that at least one Texas gun store owner is fired up and calling for a boycott of Groupon over the perceived slight against the second amendment and law-abiding gun owners. Michael Cargill, the owner of Austin's Central Texas Gun Works, is looking to rally the troops and get in Groupon's collective face:

"I'm asking everyone in the Second Amendment community to boycott Groupon, because the message they're sending is, 'Look, we do not want to support law-abiding citizens taking time out of their schedule to learn the safety surrounding firearms.' "

Reaction on social media ranged from the predictable - railing on both sides of the gun debate, accusing the company of mucking with the Constitution or congratulating it for taking a stand - to those who were basically just surprised to learn Groupon had gun deals.

Groupon had come under some criticism for its firearms offerings following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. The company did not supply further statement late Monday upon a request from a Sun-Times reporter. No further details on the decision or CEO Andrew Mason's role in the move were made public.

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By Sun-Times Tech Reporter Andy Ihnatko

A calm and sober commentary on the denigrate to the Instagram terms of service -- sorry, grammar fiends, but "update" seems like too positive a word -- will follow after a bit of business:

Told you so told you so TOLLLLLD you so told you soooo...

And here I invite you to imagine me singing and doing a smug little dance in my office. It is the signature dance of someone who uses Facebook as infrequently as a person with nieces and nephews under the age of 45 can get away with. The singing is in the key of one who never used Instagram much to begin with and stopped entirely once the company had been acquired.

Yes, it's beneath me.

I apologize.

Continuing.

Once again it bears repeating that an agreement with any tech company for any service -- free or paid -- is no different from an agreement with any other kind of madman. At best, they're going to stick to the original terms. But it's likely that at any point, they're going to alter your deal...and it'll never ever be altered to tilt things in your favor.

Here's the new "Take the Princess and the Wookiee to my ship" section from Instagram's new TOS which goes into effect in January:

"To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf."


What does that actually mean? The real answer is on a whiteboard somewhere inside the Menlo Park headquarters of Facebook, Instagram's parent company. Everything else is open to speculation. It seems to me that this new wording translates roughly to Instagram allowing the familiar social features of other companies' services and apps to support Instagram.

Example: Your friend is using a Foursquare-style app; the app has access to all of his Instagram friends; app tells him "Oh! You know, your friend Bonfiglio Mertz was here in Deep Ellum two months ago and he posted three photos from this particular bar..." The app is probably supported by ads and that ad system might be clever enough to pull in content related to paid sponsors.

And at some point this idea goes far enough along at Instagram HQ that some lawyer decides that Instagram's current TOS is vague enough on that point that maybe they should slip in an update. And because nobody in the room at the time has ever used the Internet before, nobody wonders what will happen when someone discovers the change.

It's also a smart thing for Instagram to put into place if they intend to expand the service beyond its original "snap a photo, make it look like hell with arty filters, and then share it with friends" scope. Facebook allows you to "like" commercial products and insert them into your timeline; if Instagram wants to extend the "Corporations are people" idea to their own social network, then that's another smart reason for the company to amend their TOS. Copyright law for commercial usage of images is nonlinear, and most of the photographers I know apply a "if it's in my shot and has a Social Security number, try to get a signed waiver from it" policy.

This isn't, in fact, terribly far away from Facebook's existing content policy. Section 10 of Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities makes plain that they're going to try to make as much hay as possible from the content you choose to post. However, that same policy also says: "This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it."

This limits Facebook's ability to change the obvious and traditional nature of your relationship with the service; they can't sell a photo of your puppy to a pet food company as a stock image because Facebook's license to that image ends when you remove it from the service.

But as worded, yes, your Instagrammed photos can now be used in third-party ads without your consent and without compensation. Would they sell your photos? Naw. But how about an electronic billboard in Times Square advertising a dodgy life insurance plan, where the background is a slideshow of hourly Instagram photos tagged "Family"? That seems like an idea that would come up in a spitballing session. It makes sense; it might sell and there'd be nothing in Instagram's TOS to prevent Instagram from moving forward.

It's slightly baffling that Instagram allowed this mess to happen because we've seen this exact same scenario play out over and over again, since the development of the first services that allowed users to post their own content.

Initially, these services would include a functionally-harmless, yet absolutely imperative, section that granted the company a license to copy, retransmit, and repurpose your content. Why would they want that power? Well, because the service is on a huge server farm and they need the legal authority to move your photos from one spot to another. They also need the authority to allow other users to manipulate and download your images, even if you've flagged your cute ocelot photo with the necessary permissions.

So! Someone at the company cuts and pastes in some legal boilerplate, she updates the TOS, goes out for a long lunch, and returns to find that her wing of the office has been sacked and set on fire. This is why Google and other services present their TOS in its usual impenetrable legalese, but with asides of Plain English that clarify, and limit, their powers to just those things that allow them to operate the service and deliver content. Twitter's TOS is annotated, in fact, to make their intentions clear.

Instagram clearly botched this one. The new terms were due to become active in mid-January. There's little doubt in my mind that the company will backpedal and release a revision to the revision that limits Instagram's new rights to just what they actually need in order to pull off what they've got planned. God knows what that might be.

There are a bunch of important takeaways, however.

First and foremost, never forget that when you're using an Internet service you're almost always a product and not a customer. When Facebook paid a billion dollars for Instagram, it wasn't because they wanted to become benefactors...the Medicis of food photos and images of dogs wearing funny hats. It's because there was money to be made. More often than not, the "deal" struck between the user and the provider is balanced. Google Maps is an awesome app, and the more I use it, the more information Google collects about traffic and roads and the more valuable the product becomes. But that balance can change in an instant.

Secondly, the agreement you strike with a service is always transferrable. If you've granted BongoDrive.SE perpetual rights to the photos and data you upload to the service and the they go out of business, then whoever buys the company's assets will own it instead. And because the TOS is subject to amendment, they can do whatever they want with that stuff.

In Instagram's case, it was like Mother Kate's All-Natural Free-Trade Save The Trees-Brand Tooth-Cleaning Powder being bought by an immense health and beauty conglomerate. They don't care about producing a natural product with low environmental impact. They want the brand and the customers.

I was never a fan of Instagram. I liked its simplicity; I just didn't need to start feeding yet another social network, thank you very much. If you're thinking of jumping ship, I have to recommend Flickr. Yup, they were bought by Yahoo! a few years ago. But if the company damaged the service, it was only because they barely seemed to be aware that it existed. That's relatively benign, compared with Facebook seeking to recoup their billion-dollar investment and sorting Instagram's membership by weight and the likely amount of marbling in their meat.

Fortunately, the wheel's turned. They've released a terrific new Flickr mobile app that's everything it should have been in 2008. It even includes Instagram-style filters. But please, I beg of you...don't use them.

Maybe Flickr's best feature is the fact that it's been around for eight years and has firmly locked its identity as "a social service for photos." They went through their own TOS-mageddon a long time ago. Their rights to your images are clear and fair.

But remember what I said. It's still a service owned by a company, and its the nature of a company to keep rooting around sofa cushions for loose change. That circumstance is bad enough when you're the one losing his or her quarters and dimes. And it's worse when a company like Facebook keeps treating you like the sofa.

UPDATE: Instagram says "not so fast!" Co-founder Kevin Systrom blogs on TOC clarification and correction.

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Josh Cunningham of Morgan Park flies in for a shot against Notre Dame. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media


Here are some of the stories that caught our attention during the work day for December 4, 2012.

• Chicago Public Schools released its findings on the number of children in each school, figures that will help determine which schools will be closed or consolidated after the CPS ignores the pleas of parents. [Sun-Times]

• Mayor Emanuel's digital billboard plan got the rubber stamp approval from his minions was approved by the City Council. [WBEZ]

• Speaking of Mayor Emanuel, he doesn't care about the head of a firm with a big O'Hare contract being tied to the mob because the idea of such a thing happening in Chicago, of all places, is just preposterous. [Sun-Times]

• This year's New Years Eve penny rides on the CTA will be free this year, covered by beer megacorp MillerCoors though given the quality of the CTA lately, Malort would have been a better choice. [RedEye]

• A bill to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver's licenses sailed through the state senate today. [Sun-Times]

• Former Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica was sentenced to four months of court supervision after being found guilty of criminal damage because he defaced campaign signs of his opponent in the 2010 election which Peraica lost. Let this be a lesson to other politicians: keep arguments with opponents confined to the bottomless pit of despair that is the Internet, where they belong. [Sun-Times]

• The city has quickly reached an agreement with the bartender beaten by former Chicago cop Anthony Abbate so it can ask the presiding judge to set aside the ruling a jury recently made. [CBS 2]

• It's like Yelp!, except for dirty massage parlors! [CSJ]

• NPR has a fantastic feature about renowned local reissue label Numero Group and its numerous compilations which any of you should feel free to buy me for Christmas. [NPR]

• EVERYBODY PANIC!!!! Bears Edition as Brian Urlacher may be done for the year. [Sun-Times]

• BRIGHT ONE: Carol Marin, one of the three Sun-Times reporters who helped push the David Koschman case, shares why Christmas is no joyful time for Nancy Koschman. [Sun-Times]

• FINALLY: Stop Tweeting from the toilet. [France 24]

Jon Stewart's The Daily Show was the latest media to address the demise of Hostess and it's iconic Twinkie brand.

Stewart, though, was far from nostalgic about the passing of Twinkie. While he spent time Tuesday night defending the unions vilified for their part in the end of the company, he was less than charitable for the junk food cake with 37 questionable ingredients:

In case you've been in a cave, gorging on Ho-Hos and Ding Dongs for the last couple of weeks, the Hostess saga has played on in a tale of labor unrest, liquidation and overly hyped angst about vanishing snack cakes, hoarded and sold for hundreds of dollars on eBay.

Americana, circa 2012.

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Rich Hein/Sun-Times


Here are some of the stories that caught our attention during the work day for November 27, 2012.

• Stuff got real when then Blue Line had a major malfunction earlier today, the second straight day the line had experienced significant delays. And it comes a day after Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters during a press conference that if commuters didn't like the new higher pass rates for the CTA, they could just drive. While the comment has been taken out of context and blown out of proportion a little bit, it still reeks of tone-deafness, particularly given the number of slow zones and CTA construction issues that already exist. [Sun-Times; Gapers Block]

• Christopher Vaughn, found guilty of murdering his entire family earlier this year, was sentenced to four life sentences today for the crimes. [Sun-Times]

• The Florida man accused of stabbing a Bears fan visiting Jacksonville for the Bears-Jags game earlier this fall now has a March trial date. [FOX 32]

• A Sun-Times investigation shows that a guy who sells t-shirts that say "Boobies Rock" is - shockingly- actually just defrauding those who think they're contributing to a charity. [Sun-Times]

• The latest gun control battle: Illinois and concealed carry because we don't have enough gun problems. [WBEZ]

• For once, an alderman wants to put a vote on hold after last-second information was introduced into a three-tower development in Wolf Point. No idea where this thinking was a few years ago on the parking meter vote. [Sun-Times]

• Harley-Davidson's River North spot is being stalked by Shake Shack because heaven forbid this city ever get a damn Waffle House. [Crain's]

• In Soviet Russia, airplane rides YOU from Midway to Branson to see Yakov Smirnoff. [Chicagoist]

• The night Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones formed the Voltron of blues at Checkerboards Lounge. [Sun-Times]

• BRIGHT ONE: Rick Morrissey says no Heisman for Notre Dame's defensive star Manti Te'o. [Sun-Times]

• TO DO: Sudoku; Weather (In a word: chilly); Transit (in a word: clear ... for now)

• FINALLY: The Chinese obviously didn't learn their lesson years ago from that "retractable Capitol Hill dome" story. The Onion has once again duped a Chinese paper, this time the Communist Party's The People's Daily which congratulated North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as being named The Onion's "Sexiest Man Alive." [Yahoo!; The Onion]

The news Friday that iconic brand Hostess is moving to liquidation, the product of a poor economy and labor unrest, reaction ran the gamut.

From fans lamenting the loss of Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, to concern for the 18,000 workers losing jobs, to, well, political theories, the internet was abuzz with the news.

Here's a look at what people had to say on the Sun-Times Facebook and Twitter pages and elsewhere online. There's also a few bonus moments of great moments in Twinkie movies history. And the answer to just what Twinkies are made of, anyway.

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