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    AT&T Agrees to Comply with Pennsylvania's Do Not Call Law

    The agreement ends an investigation

    AT&T Corp will pay fines and investigation costs to resolve complaints from dozens of consumers who claimed that the telecommunications company violated Pennsylvania's "Do Not Call" law by illegally calling their homes to sell its long distance telephone services.

    Attorney General Tom Corbett said under the legal agreement , the company will pay nearly $35,000 in fines and investigation costs and comply with Pennsylvania law prior to conducting any future telemarketing activities within the Commonwealth.

    The agreement ends an investigation into claims that AT&T Corp. violated Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and the Telemarketer Registration Act during its telemarketing campaign.

    According to Bureau of Consumer Protection agents, between November 2002 and June 2004 Pennsylvania consumers across 24 different counties claimed that AT&T representatives contacted them at home to sell long distance telephone service plans even though the consumers' names, addresses and telephone numbers were properly registered on the state's "no call" list.

    Under the Telemarketer Registration Act, businesses and telemarketers as of November 1, 2002 are required to purchase the "no call" list and properly process the names and telephone numbers to ensure that those on the registry are not contacted.

    In addition, businesses conducting telemarketing sales campaigns are prohibited from contacting consumers until the list is obtained and properly adapted to their internal calling systems.

    Dozens of consumers officially registered on Pennsylvania's "no call" list filed complaints claiming that they received multiple calls from AT&T offering them discount long distance service plans.

    According to the complaints, consumers reminded AT&T telemarketers that they were on the state's "no call" list and should not be contacted. They also requested that their telephone numbers be placed on AT&T's internal "no call" list.

    The company is accused of falsely telling consumers that they were allowed to contact residents because:

    • Pennsylvania's "no call" list did not exist.
    • The consumer's name was not on the list.
    • They were trying to save the consumer money.
    • Pennsylvania's "no call" list did not apply to telephone companies.
    • The telemarketing calls were generated outside of Pennsylvania.
    • It takes 30 days for the state's list to be active and 90 days to update the company's internal list.
    • The consumer was not on AT&T's • no call• list.

    Several consumers also claimed that the company blocked its telephone number disabling their caller ID systems in violation of state law.

    A total of 250 consumers filed complaints claiming that they received calls from AT&T but were unsure if the telemarketers were calling on behalf of AT&T Corp, AT&T Wireless, AT&T Broadband or Universal Card Services. Approximately 60 calls were traced to telemarketers with AT&T Corp.

    "A business that makes two or two million calls to sell its goods or services to Pennsylvanians is required to comply with the 'no call' law," Corbett said. "Our residents were given the legal right to take steps to stop telemarketers from contacting them at home and it's my job to enforce that right."

    AT&T Corp. claimed that one of its telemarketers experienced computer problems that resulted in numerous calls being placed to consumers whose names were legitimately registered.

    AT&T Agrees to Comply with Pennsylvania's Do Not Call Law...
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    Honda FourTrax ATV

    April 14, 2005
    Honda is recalling its 2004-2005 FourTrax All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). The steering rods can separate, causing the driver to lose steering control. This could cause the ATV to crash and pose a risk of serious injury or death.

    Honda Foreman - Other models not shown
    Honda has received 27 reports of steering rod separation. No injuries have been reported.

    The recall includes 2004-2005 FourTrax Honda ATVs. The ATVs are red, olive, yellow or blue and have Honda written on the fuel tank. The following models are included in recall:

    YearModel No.Model NameVIN Range
    2004TRX350TERancher ES478TE244*44300003 through 478TE244*44310382
    TRX350TMRancher478TE240*44300006 through 478TE240*44310445
    TRX350FERancher 4x4 ES478TE254*44300010 through 478TE254*44323289
    TRX350FMRancher 4X4478TE250*44300005 through 478TE250*44315544
    TRX400FARancher AT478TE290*44000055 through 478TE290*44019249
    TRX400FGARancher AT GPS478TE294*44000016 through 478TE294*44008055
    2005TRX250TERecon ES1HFTE214*54500014 through 1HFTE214*54510334
    TRX250TMRecon1HFTE210*54500010 through 1HFTE210*54509249
    TRX350TERancher ES1HFTE244*54400001 through 1HFTE244*54412240
    TRX350TMRancher1HFTE240*54400001 through 1HFTE240*54410980
    TRX350FERancher 4x4 ES1HFTE254*54400001 through 1HFTE254*54415180
    TRX350FMRancher 4x41HFTE250*54400001 through 1HFTE250*54416860
    TRX400FARancher AT1HFTE290*54100005 through 1HFTE290*54115657
    TRX400FGARancher AT GPS1HFTE294*54100004 through 1HFTE294*54103423
    TRX500TMForeman1HFTE314*54000012 through 1HFTE314*54002112
    TRX500FMForeman 4x41HFTE310*54000015 through 1HFTE310*54002715
    TRX500FEForeman 4x4 ES1HFTE317*54000026 through 1HFTE317*54003486
    TRX500FAForeman Rubicon1HFTE260*54400010 through 1HFTE260*54402169
    TRX500FGAForeman Rubicon GPS1HFTE264*54400012 through 1HFTE264*54400555
    TRX650FARincon 4x41HFTE280*54000009 through 1HFTE280*54011239
    TRX650FGARincon 4x4 GPS1HFTE284*54000002 through 1HFTE284*54002521

    The model numbers can be found on the identification label located on the left side of the frame down tube. The VIN number is stamped on the front side of the frame.

    The ATVs were sold at Honda motorcycle dealers nationwide from August 2003 through February 2005 for between $3,600 and $8,000.

    Consumers should stop using the recalled ATVs immediately. Registered owners of the vehicles will be notified directly by American Honda about the recall. All recalled vehicles will be repaired free of charge.

    Consumer Contact: For more information, consumers should call Honda toll-free at (866) 784-1870 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, or visit their Web site at www.powersports.honda.com.

    The recall is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

    Honda FourTrax ATV...
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    GM MasterCard Data May Have Been Breeched

    At least 180,000 consumers who used their General Motors MasterCard to make purchases from Polo Ralph Lauren may be at risk of identity theft. British financial giant HSBC is notifying the cardholders that criminals may have obtained access to their credit-card information.

    Details of the incident are sketchy, but HSBC has advised the consumers that they should replace their credit card to minimize the risk.

    The theft is thought to have taken place more than a month ago and may have involved other credit-card issuers as well. Only California requires financial and database firms to notify consumers when their data is stolen, although Congress is holding hearings on the issue this week.

    Visa USA Inc. said in a statement that it was aware of the incident and said it is working to "monitor and prevent card-related theft."

    HSBC said it was sending letters to 180,000 holders of cards branded by MasterCard and GM. The British bank manages more than six million GM-MasterCard branded cards in circulation.

    GM MasterCard Data May Have Been Breeched...
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      Former USDA Inspector Questions Mad Cow Testing

      The government covered up mad cow disease, inspector says

      A former U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector is claiming that his government covered up mad cow disease, years before a case turned up in Canada. In a CTV.ca interview, Lester Friedlander said he was "forced out" from his job as head of inspections at a large Philadelphia meat packing plant in 1995 after blowing the whistle on what he called unsafe practices.

      Friedlander said he knows USDA veterinarians who sent suspect cow brains to private laboratories that confirmed bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) -- commonly known as mad cow disease -- but that USDA laboratories cleared the samples.

      He said there was pressure from Washington for veterinarians to "look the other way."

      Canadian cattlemen are still seething about the U.S. embargo of Canadian cattle instituted in 2003 after a single infected cow was found. Since then four others have been found in Canada.

      With 120 million cattle in the United States and 15 million in Canada, the Canadians are suspicious of U.S. claims that the U.S. herd is clear of the deadly infection.

      Friedlander alleges the department tried to hide mad-cow cases because "at one time, the United States was exporting to over 90 countries. If mad cow disease is found in the United States, look at the economic impact it would have on the whole country," CTV.ca reported.

      Michael Hansen, a scientist with the Consumers Union in Washington, said there is suspicion surrounding the testing of three suspected cases of mad cow in U.S. cattle. He said the tests came back negative but that the USDA used a rapid test based on immuno-histochemistry, which is considered less reliable than other tests.

      A study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis three years ago concluded there was a 20 per cent chance that mad cow was likely to be found in U.S. cattle.

      The U.S. border was set to reopen to young Canadian cattle March 7 tbut a U.S. cattlemen's group went to court and obtained an injunction blocking the action.

      In Canada, a group representing 100,000 farmers filed a $7 billion class-action lawsuit against the Canadian federal government, claiming that gross negligence allowed BSE to devastate the cattle industry.

      Former USDA Inspector Questions Mad Cow Testing...
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      Previous Data Thefts Unreported

      ChoicePoint, LexisNexis Didn't Notify Consumers About Earlier Breeches

      April 14, 2005
      Evidence continues to mount that personal information on millions of Americans, stored in massive computer databases, is not only at risk, but that much of it may have already been stolen. The latest revelation has rocked LexisNexis, which now concedes that cyber-criminals have been rifling its files for at least three years, with consumers blissfully in the dark.

      A LexisNexis executive, testifying before a Congressional committee this week, said there has been at least one data break-in that was never reported to the public. Earlier, the data management firm revised its estimate of the number of compromised computer files from 32,000 to 310,000.

      ChoicePoint Inc. conceded under questioning that it too suffered breaches before passage of a California law in 2003 that requires companies doing business in the state to notify consumers that their data might be at risk, officials said.

      Since they were not legally obligated to do so, the companies chose not to alert the public in those cases.

      The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based privacy watchdog, has renewed its call for federal regulation of data brokers, saying there is too much secrecy surrounding their practices and too little accountability. EPIC said in the LexisNexis case, databases had been fraudulently breached 59 times using stolen passwords, allowing access to addresses, Social Security numbers, and other sensitive information.

      Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has sponsored a bill that would establish a national notification law, similar to the state law already in effect in California. She has introduced similar bills several times in past sessions, with no success.

      More than 20 states are studying California's statute and considering enacting similar legislation.

      Kurt Sanford, LexisNexis President and CEO for U.S. Corporate and Federal Markets, told Congress that an earlier, unreported break-in occurred prior to 2003. He did not give details or estimate how many personal files might have been compromised.

      The issue of consumer privacy and data brokers took center stage earlier this year when Georgia-based ChoicePoint revealed that data thieves had used phony accounts to access the most sensitive financial information on hundreds of thousands of consumers nationwide. Officials at EPIC say the issue is not security, but privacy.

      In testimony to the California Senate Banking Committee, EPIC West director Chris Hoofnagle argued that even if commercial data brokers could securely sell personal information, that would not address the underlying issue of whether the information should be sold in the first place. EPIC urged California lawmakers to act quickly to limit commercial data brokers' collection and sale of personal information.

      ChoicePoint, LexisNexis Didn't Notify Consumers About Earlier Breeches...
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      The Importance of Warming Up

      The older you get the more important it is

      Warming up before exercise works and the older you get the more important it is.

      I know -- you're too busy and it's not that important.

      Wrong. Warming up slowly increases your body temperature, which increases the flexibility of muscles, ligaments, tendons and cartilage and leads to fewer strains, sprains and tears.

      Warm-up movements also activate the fluids in your joints, reducing friction and wear and tear. Warming up gives your heart time to push blood and nourishment into your muscles and gives your heart time to adjust.

      Sudden exercise can lead to heart attacks.

      The older we get the more important warming up is because we have less supple tissues, less joint fluid and weaker hearts. Warming up can include stretching but it's not the same.

      Warming up means gently using your workout muscles enough to sweat a bit and raise your body temperature, like walking for five to ten minutes before you jog.

      Warming up slowly increases your body temperature, which increases the flexibility of muscles, ligaments, tendons and cartilage and leads to fewer strains,...
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      Allergy Myths

      There are lots of myths out there. Here are a few of the most common

      Allergy Myths | Dr. Henry Fishman on Health and Medicine..

      Penicillin Allergy Widespread

      Penicillin is the number one drug allergy in the world

      So you need an antibiotic and think you are allergic to penicillin. What should you do?

      Well, first, talk to you doctor about being tested. After all, penicillin is the number one drug allergy in the world. About ten percent of folks who take the drug become allergic.

      They can develop a slight rash or more serious problems like anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction.

      But penicillin allergy often goes away with time. Ten years after a serious reaction only around one prevent of people are still allergic. If you think you allergic, tell your doctor.

      You should stay away from penicillin and wear an identification bracelet.

      Usually you can find a substitute. But sometimes you need penicillin and nothing else will do. For example, penicillin is used to treat certain kinds of meningitis, heart valve infection, urinary tract infection and advanced syphilis.

      If you think you need it and are allergic ask about a skin test. There are two kinds. Your doctor will know the right one for you.

      Penicillin Allergy Widespread | Dr. Henry Fishman on Health and Medicine...
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      Warning: Toxic Blogs

      Many blogs house nasty viruses

      Blogs, or online journals, have become a popular feature of the Internet, allowing readers to swap information and opinions. But a computer security firm warns that some blogs are also sharing nasty viruses.

      Websense, which provides Internet management solutions for businesses, says blogs are increasingly being exploited as a means to distribute malicious code and keylogging software. To date, Websense Security Labs says it has discovered hundreds of instances of blogs involved in the storage and delivery of harmful code.

      According to the firm, cyber-criminals are taking advantage of blog sites that allow users to easily publish their own web pages at no cost.

      It says blogs can be attractive vehicles for hackers for several reasons, since blogs offer large amounts of free storage, they do not require any identity authentication to post information, and most blog hosting facilities do not provide anti-virus protection for posted files.

      In some cases, the culprits create a blog on a legitimate host site, post viral code or keylogging software to the page, and attract traffic to the toxic blog by sending a link through spam email or instant messaging (IM) to a large number of recipients. In other cases, the blog can be used as a storage mechanism, keeping malicious code that can be accessed by a Trojan horse that has already been hidden on the user's computer.

      For example, on March 23, 2005, Websense Security Labs issued an alert detailing a spoofed email message that attempted to redirect users to a malicious blog which would run a Trojan horse designed to steal banking passwords.

      In this situation, the user received a message spoofed from a popular messaging service, offering a new version of their IM program. Upon clicking the link, the user was redirected to a blog page which was hosting a password-stealing keylogger. When predetermined banking websites were accessed, the keylogger (bancos.ju) logged keystrokes and sent them to a third party.

      "These aren't the kind of blog websites that someone would stumble upon and infect their machine accidentally. The success of these attacks relies upon a certain level of social engineering to persuade the individual to click on the link," said Dan Hubbard, senior director of security and technology research for Websense, Inc. "In addition, the blogs are being utilized as the first step of a multi-layered attack that could also involve a spoofed email, Trojan horse, or a keylogger."

      Warning: Toxic Blogs...
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      Virginia Sentences Spammer to 9 Years

      Defendant Free on Bond Pending Appeal of Nation's Harshest Anti-Spam Law

      Jeremy Jaynes has earned a spot in the legal history books, becoming the first to be convicted of felony spamming. Loudoun, Virginia, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Horne sentenced Jaynes to nine years in prison Friday but deferred execution of the sentence pending appeals.

      In freeing Jaynes on bond pending appeal, Judge Horne noted the lack of precedent on Virginia's ultra-tough felony spam law, which could well be invalidated on appeal.

      I don't believe that a person should go to prison for a law that is invalid, Horne said.

      Jaynes' attorney, David Oblon, raised questions about the law in a post-trial hearing. In particular, Oblon questioned whether Jaynes, a North Carolina resident, could be imprisoned by Virginia merely because he sent the spam to customers through America Online, an Internet service provider based in Virginia.

      At the sentencing hearing, Oblon argued that his client deserved a lenient sentence because he may have assumed that his actions in North Carolina would not be subject to Virginia's felony spam law, which was enacted in 2003.

      Virginia law prohibits spam with falsified routing information that prevents recipients from knowing how to contact the sender.

      Oblon also argued that a nine-year sentence was unduly harsh because Virginia sentencing guidelines would permit a sentence of less than nine years even for violent crimes such as manslaughter. Jaynes, a former Eagle Scout, had a clean criminal record before his November conviction, Oblon said.

      Virginia Attorney General Judith Williams Jagdman said the tough sentenced was "a victory for all citizens of the Commonwealth and consumers nationwide who are plagued by spam. She said her office is preparing to prosecute accused spammers from Texas and Colorado.

      Virginia Sentences Spammer to 9 Years...
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      Cell Phone Charity A Scam, Oklahoma Charges

      Even the most charitable-sounding appeal can turn out to be a wrong number

      Even the most charitable-sounding appeal can turn out to be a wrong number. In Oklahoma, a charity operation collecting used cell phones for battered women has been charged with fraud, with authorities charging it duped thousands of well-meaning Oklahomans.

      Domingo Frias-Payan, 24, and Heather Frias-Payan, 25, owners of Oklahoma City-based Save a Life Give a Phone Foundation, Inc., are charged with one felony count of racketeering and 11 counts of violating the Oklahoma Solicitation of Charitable Contributions Act.

      Domingo Frias-Payan was also charged with one count of violating the Oklahoma Securities Act and one count of offering forged or false instruments for record. The state also filed a separate civil action asking the court for a temporary injunction prohibiting the company from conducting business while the state seeks legal remedies to permanently shut down the allegedly fraudulent business.

      "Our investigation determined and we allege that cell phones solicited on behalf of battered women's shelters, domestic violence victims, the elderly or disabled were actually sold for the couple's personal profit," Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said.

      "Preliminary numbers show the couple solicited about 100,000 cell phones on the premise that the phones would be distributed to these vulnerable groups for emergency use. We allege that only about 300 phones were actually donated and the others were sold for about $1.2 million, which was deposited into accounts controlled by the couple."

      The attorney general's office alleges the Frias-Payans were misleading in their solicitations by failing to disclose to donors that only a small portion of the cell phones would actually be donated.

      "These people were bold in their solicitations," Edmondson said. "They allegedly called on individuals, businesses, cell phone companies, cities and even police departments for donations. In all, Save a Life received used cell phones from businesses or individuals in 41 different states."

      Edmondson alleged the couple also falsely represented that donations to Save a Life would be used to maintain a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

      "The only shelter run by the defendants has been shut down because it was not licensed and operated in violation of municipal ordinances," Edmondson said. "The couple allegedly required residents to either pay $125 per month or work four hours a day in a telemarketing boiler room soliciting cell phones and donations."

      The attorney general said a boiler room refers to a facility equipped for telemarketing solicitation calls.

      The state's complaint also alleges a violation of the Oklahoma Securities Act. According to the complaint, a woman formerly employed by Domingo Frias-Payan paid him $4,500 in exchange for stock in the company. Frias-Payan allegedly never issued stock certificates to the employee and has not refunded the employee's money.

      The final alleged violation stems from Domingo Frias-Payan's failure to properly register as a charity with the Oklahoma Secretary of State's Office.

      "We allege Frias-Payans represented through telephone solicitations, in print and on the Internet that donations made to Save a Life would be distributed and used to help others," Edmondson said. "After the Frias-Payans became aware of our investigation, they added a disclaimer to the Save a Life website saying that a portion of the proceeds were donated to charity. It's a little late for that."

      According to the state's complaint, the couple also did business as Domingo Group Telecom, Inc., Givafon, Inc., and Recycleable (sic) Cellular Network, Inc.

      Edmondson said his Consumer Protection Unit is continuing its investigation to determine the exact number of donated phones and contributions.

      In Oklahoma, a charity operation collecting used cell phones for battered women has been charged with fraud, with authorities charging it duped thousands o...
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      Cell Phone Users Interrupt Sex for Phone Calls

      Fourteen percent of the world's cell phone users report that they have stopped in the middle of a sex act to answer a ringing wireless device

      Fourteen percent of the world's cell phone users report that they have stopped in the middle of a sex act to answer a ringing wireless device, Ad Age repor..

      FDA Opens Breast Implant Review

      Silicone breast implant safety being debated once again

      The Food and Drug Administration's advisory panel on General and Plastic Surgery Devices meets this week to review data on the safety of silicone breast implants. The panel will vote Tuesday on Inamed Corporation's application for approval, and on Wednesday on Mentor Corporation's application.

      "This is the third time both companies have applied for FDA approval" said Dr. Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families. "The first unsuccessful effort was in 1991, so the companies have had more than enough time to study these products? Why have they provided no long-term safety data?"

      Both companies applied for FDA approval again in 2002-3, but Mentor withdrew its application when Inamed's implants were not approved in January 2004.

      When the FDA refused to lift restrictions on the sale of silicone gel-filled breast implants at that time, the FDA explained their decision was based on concerns about rupture, unknown complication rates, and the long-term safety of silicone in the body.

      Last week, the FDA publicly released its scientific review of the companies' applications. The group says the reviews indicate that FDA scientists found that the industry data are insufficient to answer many of their concerns. In addition, it points to data it says reveal significant problems with the devices.


      The FDA's probability analysis, provides several estimates based on industry data. Assuming that implants, like other products, are more likely to break as they get older, the most realistic estimate indicates that three-quarters of implanted women will have at least one ruptured implant within a decade of receiving the devices.

      Specifically, these data estimate that 93% of breast cancer reconstruction patients should expect at least one broken implant, 38% of augmentation patients, and 66% of women who replace previous breast implants with new ones.


      Approximately one in four women have silicone leaking outside their scar tissue capsules, and silicone seepage increases over time.

      When that happens, women are more likely to report breast hardness, fatigue and other auto-immune symptoms, and, perhaps, auto-immune diseases.

      Other problems include painful hardening of the breast, changes in nipple sensation, dying breast tissue, and other complaints.

      Long-Term Safety

      While the data submitted by the manufacturers did not provide evidence of long-term safety, other researchers have conducted studies that indicate increased risks:

      National Cancer Institute researchers found that women with implants were twice as likely to die of brain cancer, three times as likely to die of lung cancer, and four times as likely to commit suicide, compared to other plastic surgery patients.

      FDA scientists studied women who had silicone breast implants for at least six years, and found that women with extracapsular silicone leakage were significantly more likely to report a diagnosis of painful and debilitating diseases such as fibromyalgia.

      A Canadian study found that women with breast augmentation were more likely to be hospitalized compared to other women of the same age in the same communities, and augmentation patients also had more medical visits.


      Breast implants interfere with the detection of breast cancer. A study published in the January 2004 of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that mammograms missed 55% of breast cancers in women with breast implants, compared to 33% in women without implants.

      After hearing the manufacturer's data at the 2003 October panel meeting, advisory panel chairman Dr. Thomas Whalen wrote a letter to the FDA dated October 31 where he noted that mammography was a key concern, writing that "[t]here is at least one facet of long-term danger that was established during the panel -- specifically the obscuration of surrounding normal breast tissue to mammographic detection of breast cancer."

      Toxic Chemicals

      An article published in the Annals of Bioanalytic Chemistry reported alarmingly high levels of a dangerous form of platinum in children born to women with breast implants. Platinum is a known toxic chemical.

      FDA Opens Breast Implant Review...
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      Inflation Pressure Building

      High gas prices pushing up inflationary pressures

      The latest economic data from the U.S. Government does little to reassure consumers, who are already coping with record high gasoline prices. And one private economist says inflationary pressures that appeared at the end of last year are becoming more pronounced.

      "While Newton may have concluded that what goes up must come down, we are still waiting for his law of gravity to be proved in the oil market," said Joel Naroff, of Naroff Economic Advisors. "Right now, what goes up must go up even more and that is creating real hardship for many people and businesses. With prices for energy so high for so long, spending is being cut and that is lowering estimates for economic growth."

      The sudden and rapid rise in fuel prices, says Naroff, is like a tax. Consumers have less money to spend on other things. Adding to the economic uncertainty, the rise in oil prices is beginning to have a ripple effect through the economy.

      "Businesses are also being pressured by rising energy prices and feel they can only swallow so much of it. As a result, they're now beginning to look for ways to raise prices. So the consumer is not only paying more at the pump, but soon will be paying more everywhere," Naroff told ConsumerAffairs.com.

      The inflation alarm bells have been ringing at the Federal Reserve for the last couple of months. At its latest meeting, March 22, the Fed's Open Market Committee formally recognized the potential of inflation.

      "The Fed's rate setting committee did what was expected: It raised the funds rate one-quarter percent. But in its closely watched statement, it noted that 'pressures on inflation have picked up in recent months and pricing power is more evident,'" Naroff said.

      So, while inflation creates a drag on the economy, making consumer goods and services more expensive, it will likely make borrowing money more expensive too. Naroff said he expects interest rates will continue to creep higher, especially long term rates like mortgages.

      Inflation Pressure Building...
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      What's Inside MySpace.com?

      Murdoch's Latest Media Marvel May Be His Biggest Yet

      What started out as a "place for friends" has grown into the definitive social-networking phenomenon.

      The MySpace Web site hosts millions of pages, with new users signing up in droves. One industry poll claimed that MySpace had 12 billion unique page views in Oct. 2005, twice that of Google's 6.6 billion.

      MySpace is the hot spot for teens and young adults, and a powerful new tool for music and media artists to market their wares to a hungry audience with lots of disposable income.

      The company is fueled by advertisers eager to reach the teens and young adults who are the most prized demographic in the advertising universe, resulting in huge profits for company founders Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe. It seems to be the perfect model for making money off the Web in a post-tech boom world.

      But where did it come from? How did MySpace go from being virtually unknown to a buyout opportunity for Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp? What's the story behind the meteoric rise of the company?

      From Boom To Bust And Back Again

      MySpace's story began in 1999, with Anderson and DeWolfe meeting while working for Xdrive, a start-up company that provided free online storage space for photos, music, and files.

      In 2001, with the tech bubble bursting and their fortunes failing, Anderson and DeWolfe left to form their own company, ResponseBase, an "e-mail list broker" that sold lists of e-mail subscribers to other companies for marketing purposes.

      ResponseBase built its lists primarily from the e-mail addresses of current and former Xdrive users. The "MySpace" name seems to have evolved from "freediskspace.com," similar to Xdrive's initial business plan.

      The ResponseBase messages were often considered spam, with many domains and list managers blocking the mailings when users complained about receiving advertisements without their permission.

      Even worse, the emergence of tough new anti-spam laws in California (where ResponseBase was located) and on the federal level, ResponseBase's revenue was in jeopardy. DeWolfe and Anderson needed a new source of cash.

      Enter Brad Greenspan, Internet "boy wonder" and then-CEO of eUniverse, an online "entertainment network."

      Greenspan excelled in utilizing online advertising -- including what many critics called extensive adware and spyware programs -- to get his content onto users' computers. It seemed like a match made in Heaven, and eUniverse agreed to purchase the ResponseBase assets in Sept. 2002.

      But by 2003, Greenspan would be out of the picture, and his former company's troubles would be just beginning.

      In The Intermix

      On Oct. 31st, 2003, Greenspan suddenly resigned from eUniverse after the company was forced to restate its earnings for most of 2002 and 2003. SEC filings from that year show that Greenspan was even asked to repay a bonus of $42,500 he received when the company's earnings goals were revised.

      In 2004, eUniverse renamed itself as "Intermix Media," and MySpace reemerged as a "social networking site," complete with DeWolfe as CEO.

      The company experienced explosive growth, due largely to the immense popularity of MySpace, and Intermix's experience with targeted online advertising, which often took the form of downloads and adware that showed up on users' computers.

      The usage of adware would come back to haunt Intermix in 2005, when New York state attorney general Elliot Spitzer launched a high-profile lawsuit against the company for deceptive advertising practices, including installing new programs without a user's consent, and making them extremely difficult to remove.

      Intermix agreed to settle the lawsuit without admitting fault, to the tune of $7.5 million. Greenspan himself ponied up $750,000 to settle charges that he had directed Intermix employees to ensure the adware downloads were hard to remove from computers.

      Murdoch Enters the Space

      Meanwhile, Greenspan's former company had attracted the attention of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

      The huge amount of advertising potential in MySpace and Intermix's other media sites was too much for the news baron to resist, and he bought out Intermix for $580 million in cash in July of 2005.

      "We see a great opportunity to combine the popularity of Intermix's sites, particularly MySpace, with our existing online assets to provide a richer experience for today's internet users," Murdoch said at the time.

      Greenspan promptly fired back, claiming that Intermix's principal stockholders had rushed to dump their shares during the course of Spitzer's investigation, and then sold Intermix to Murdoch's NewsCorp at a much lower price, all while pocketing millions of dollars in stock options.

      Greenspan's Web site, "Intermixedup.com," is full of charges of insider trading and shady business on the part of Intermix and NewsCorp. Greenspan also claims that it was his "leadership and direction as CEO" that led to MySpace's success.

      MySpace and Marketing

      None of this really means much to the average MySpace user, to be sure. But one common thread in the company's history, from Xdrive to NewsCorp, is the practice of targeting particular users with specific advertisements.

      MySpace's privacy and terms of use policies grant it extensive control over the media posted to its site, though it has altered these terms somewhat to accommodate the many recording artists and bands that use MySpace to communicate with fans and sell their music.

      Even with that, much of what a MySpace member posts to the site becomes the property of the company, to be sold to other companies and advertisers at their whim.

      Online journalist Trent Lapinski has extensively investigated the origins and history of MySpace, and he noted that the key to MySpace's success wasn't just advertising, but demographics.

      In his view, NewsCorp was more interested in the potential advertising treasure trove of the MySpace "target demographic" -- the coveted 16-to-35 year old market.

      "Unlike some sites, MySpace has always also been a part of an advertising company so they have always designed their site with the intention of advertising," he has said. "Essentially, MySpace users are filling out marketing profiles that are mined by the company that are then presented as these people's personal Web pages."

      However, all of this marketing madness and heavy emphasis on youth advertising carries a price, and MySpace has come under fire for enabling sexual predators and pedophiles to track down potential victims through the site.

      On March 13th, 2006, Chris DeWolfe announced plans to improve the security features of MySpace to prevent underage teens from accessing it as readily, and impose stronger measures against misuse of the site for criminal purposes.

      Money Talks

      Beyond the demographic targeting-advertising connection, the genius of MySpace is that virtually all of the "content" is free; it's provided by the users themselves.

      "To a newspaper/television baron like Murdoch, this is a dream come true," said a media executive familiar with Murdoch's modus operandi. "Accustomed to spending megabucks to produce news and entertainment products, Murdoch must marvel at being able to sit back and watch the audience entertain itself, in effect."

      While it is far from the only community site -- the Web has been full of them since its inception -- MySpace is perhaps the first to be controlled by experienced mass-media marketers who understand the connection between building the audience your advertisers are seeking at the lowest possible cost.

      There are those in the traditional media world who will tell you that Murdoch's arrival in the U.S. is responsible for the rising tide of sensationalism in print and television.

      But media theorists have for years preached the message that the most effective media are those that, in essence, reflect and "validate" the lives of their audience. Whether it's Fox News, "American Idol" or MySpace.com, it's a media model that sells and it's not likely to go away anytime soon.

      Hey, let’s walk the grounds of memory lane a little bit. If you remember, before there was something called Facebook there was something called Myspace....
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      Watch That Peanut Butter!

      April 8, 2005
      The threat of severe allergic reactions by children is a danger that is very real and ever present and one that we cannot ignore. While it may seem that severe allergic reactions are becoming more common, the reality may simply be that diagnosis and awareness have increased. It really doesnt matter. The point is that anyone who has children or works with children must become knowledgeable about minimizing risk and reacting quickly and correctly if a crisis occurs.

      One of the most lethal allergens is that preschool staple, peanut butter. This seemingly innocuous substance is positively lethal to those who are allergic to it. There are many other common allergies that pose a risk of death and are not likely to be outgrown. They include allergies to tree nuts, shellfish, cow's milk, eggs and fish.

      The deadly risk comes from the reaction called anaphylaxis -- difficulty breathing, swelling of the mouth and throat, a drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness -- sometimes to the point of a coma and death. As little as one-fifth to one-five-thousandth of a teaspoon of the offending substance has caused death.

      According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, five percent of children have food allergies. One percent of the American population -- three million people -- are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, the most virulent allergy.

      Anaphylaxis doesnt usually occur the first time a person eats a particular food, but after exposure to an allergin to which he or she has been sensitized. Allergic children may break out in hives if they so much as kiss someone who has eaten a peanut or if they merely touch a surface -- like a table or doorknob -- where peanuts or peanut butter have been. Peanut protein survives for six months.

      Not only is the peanut protein long-lived, but the peanut allergy can survive death. A man who received a liver and kidney transplant inherited a peanut allergy from the donor, a 22 year-old who had fallen into a coma and died after eating satay sauce.

      Several months after the transplant, the recipient suffered a skin rash and difficulty breathing after eating peanuts. Doctors traced the newly developed allergy to blood cells primed to recognize the allergins that were passed along with the liver.

      A 1992 Johns Hopkins study involving 13 children, six of whom died and seven of whom nearly died, recommended that epinephrine, a form of adrenaline, be kept available in schools and day care centers. These recommendations have been incorporated in settlement agreements negotiated between child care centers and the Department of Justice under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

      As announced in an October 1998 Justice Department press release, staff at La Petite Academy will administer epinephrine to children who experience life-threatening allergic reactions to foods such as peanuts or bee stings.

      The agreement with La Petite Academy, which operates more than 750 day care centers (one in D.C., 14 in Maryland, and 35 in Virginia), also contained a provision modeled after an earlier agreement with KinderCare, the nation's largest child care.

      Schools, day care centers, churches and private child care workers should be aware of the risk, have epinephrine on hand and train workers and volunteers in its use. Those who fail to do so may face serious legal consequences if a child dies as a result of their failure to do so.

      One of the most lethal allergens is that preschool staple, peanut butter. This seemingly innocuous substance is positively lethal to those who are allergic...
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      Experts: Skip The Cough Medicine

      Americans spend $3.5 billion annually on over-the-counter cough remedies, but experts say much of this money is wasted.

      Guidelines released by the American College of Chest Physicians earlier this year indicate that many of the "active" ingredients in cough remedies may be ineffective, reports the May issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

      There are many nonprescription cough medicines, but most contain the same types of active ingredients in a limited number of strengths and combinations. Here are the four main ones:

      • Expectorants work by thinning mucus. Studies of their effectiveness vary, and the ACCP "cough committee" didnt endorse them.

      • Suppressants work by dampening the cough reflex. They provide short-term relief for chronic bronchitis symptoms, but arent as effective on coughs caused by colds.

      • Decongestants work by constricting blood vessels, which shrinks swollen membranes and allows more air to pass through nasal passages. Decongestants can be effective in the short run, but they can cause side effects, and you can become dependent on decongestants in the form of nose drops.

      • Antihistamines help regardless of whether a cold or allergies is responsible for the cough.

      So what should you take?

      The new guidelines advise forgetting the cough and cold medicine and buying an allergy medicine instead.

      Choose one that combines an older antihistamine (like brompheniramine, diphenhydramine, or chlorpheniramine) with a decongestant.

      On the other hand, if you think a cold or cough medicine works, it probably wont hurt you to stick with it, even if what youre paying for is a placebo effect rather than a proven remedy, according to the Harvard Health Letter.

      Guidelines released by the American College of Chest Physicians earlier this year indicate that many of the "active" ingredients in cough remedies may be i...
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      Title Insurance Fraud on the Upswing

      At least ten states are investigating alleged title insurance fraud

      At least ten states are investigating alleged title insurance fraud. Investigations involve not only a number of America's top title insurance companies bu..