Ford sets 2021 for driverless cars; Kindred closing 37-bed Texas hospital; and the summer news slowdown brings our most ridiculous KFC roundup so far: #ChipGate!

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 2:51 p.m.

FORD announced plans today to begin mass production of fully autonomous vehicles in 2021 for ride-hailing or ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft. The cars will be built with no steering wheel, gas or brake pedals. To advance its plan, the automaker, a major employer in Louisville, said it’s investing in or collaborating with four start-ups; doubling its Silicon Valley team, and more than doubling its Palo Alto campus in the valley. “The next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile, and we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago,” said CEO Mark Fields (video, above, and press release). In Louisville, Ford employs nearly 10,000 workers at truck and vehicle assembly factories. More about Ford’s local operations.

KINDRED is shuttering a 37-bed hospital outside Houston in Baytown, Texas, and has notified the state Workforce Commission that it’s eliminating all 33 jobs there during a two-week period starting Oct. 3. The notification letter called the closure a “strategic decision.” Kindred still will have nine long-term care hospitals in the Houston area, including Kindred Hospital Bay Area (Houston Chronicle).

Texas Roadhouse logoTEXAS ROADHOUSE: Good luck finding the love of your life with this Craigslist Missed Connections advertisement in the Phoenix area. Yesterday (apparently) at 3:30 p.m., a man visited one of the four East Valley Texas Roadhouses for a birthday dinner. (At 3:30 p.m.? Was this an early-bird special?) “I walked in,” he writes, and saw a waitress, “the most amazing woman. She had long curly black hair, eyes that were to die for. The most beautiful face I have ever seen. . . . As I was leaving, I said, ‘I’m getting too old.’ I wish I had said something else. I hope you see this.” Problem is, he didn’t say which of the four restaurants he visited (CraigsList).

KFC: August is usually one of the slowest news periods of the year because so many people are on vacation — not making news. This brings us to the following three stories about Yum’s enormous fried chicken chain:

A vexed vegan

In Australia yesterday, crates of live chickens reportedly fell off the back of a moving truck and landed on a KFC restaurant’s doorstep in Bacchus Marsh, about 45 minutes northwest of Melbourne. The aftermath was captured on video by a woman named Jessica Carter, who said she was walking nearby when she noticed a commotion there.

Australian dead chickens
Still photo from video.

(The headline over the story suggests it might never have been published but for Carter’s dietary practice: “Chickens fly off truck, land at KFC, captured on film by vegan.”)

Carter said injured and dead birds were crammed into cages while passersby quipped that those who survived would likely end up at the KFC anyway. She was appalled (The Age).

You say maggot, we say corn borer

Meanwhile, over in the U.K.’s Birmingham, the fast-chicken chain has reportedly apologized to a diner whose daughter found what KFC says was likely a corn borer in an order of, well, corn. Her mother said it looked like a maggot, however.

Jennifer Henderson said she bought the corn for her 18-month-old daughter at the restaurant in Barnes Hill. After finding the corn borer/maggot, she returned the food to the manager, who told her the corn had arrived at the restaurant frozen, according to the Birmingham News.

Corn border caterpillar
A corn borer.

“I said that they have to cook the food and wrap it up,” she told the News. “This is disgusting and unhealthy. They offered me a free meal, which I refused. I said I feel sick, as my baby daughter could’ve eaten it.”

A KFC spokesperson told the newspaper: “This is a corn borer and on very rare occasions this can happen when dealing with fresh, natural produce. We are really sorry for Jennifer’s experience and offered her a refund” (Birmingham News).

The #ChipGate scandal

Finally, also in the U.K., but this time is way-southern England, the Glouchester newspaper asks: “Remember that abandoned KFC story?

Neither does Boulevard.

In any case, here’s the paper’s account: “When the chips are down and it comes to turning stories about nothing into light-hearted tongue-in-cheek Internet gold, we like to think we have it covered.” (Boulevard notes “chips” is what Brits call french fries.)

The original story about an abandoned KFC meal dumped in a street in Cheltenham “set the Internet alight,” the paper strains to insist, and was picked up by national news media.

But now, in the latest development, there’s a new story allegedly gone viral about another discarded order of KFC french fries, this time in Somerset, 76 miles southwest of the first outrage in Cheltenham. The fries were abandoned late Sunday morning on top of a car. Complete with a photo, Somerset Live wrote about the case under an absurdly straightforward headline: “Chips thrown on car in Frome near bed and breakfast.” (If geography really matters to you, Frome is 33 miles northeast of Somerset.)

From there, the story was picked up on social media, and was soon trending on Twitter and Facebook with hashtags including #PrayForSomerset, #PrayForFrome, #BrokenBritain — and, of course, #ChipGate:

Boulevard is now launching an urgent hashtag of its own: #PrayForRealNews.

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