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    Tropicana to Change Labeling of Fruit-Flavored Drinks

    Very Little Fruit in Tropicana Fruit Drinks

    Tropicana Peach Papaya drink has no peach juice and no papaya juice. In fact, the very small amount of juice in the drink is pear juice from concentrate.

    While it's not adding any fruit, at least the company will make some changes to its labels, which will help consumers understand the drink is a flavored drink and not 100 percent juice. In response, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and two private lawyers have agreed to drop a lawsuit against Tropicanas parent company, PepsiCo.

    The lawsuit was originally filed by attorneys Mark Cuker and William Riback on behalf of a New Jersey consumer who purchased Tropicana Peach Papaya. CSPI, which in May announced its intention to use litigation more often to stop deceptive food labeling practices, joined the Tropicana case earlier this year.

    The new label will identify the product as Peach Papaya flavored juice drink/from concentrate with other natural flavors, and will drop the phrase Made with REAL Fruit Juice.

    The company will also do so for its Tropicana Strawberry Melon, which contains no strawberry juice or melon juice.

    There are important differences between real fruit juice on the one hand, and sodas and fruit-flavored drinks on the other, said CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner. Tropicana Peach Papaya and Tropicana Strawberry Melon simply are not 100 percent juice, and this settlement will help make that more clear.

    Were open to listening to legitimate concerns and this seemed like a reasonable concern, said Danielle Vona, director of juice and juice drinks, Pepsi-Cola North America. We want to take every opportunity we can to provide consumers with nutrition information about our products.

    The labels will still depict pictures of peaches and papayas. The actual ingredients of the drink are water, high-fructose corn syrup, filtered pear juice from concentrate, citric acid, phosphoric acid, potassium citrate, ascorbic acid, sodium polyphosphates, natural flavors, potassium benzoate, gum arabic, potassium sorbate, xanthan gum, ester gum, calcium disodium EDTA, yellow 6, and red 40.

    These changes will help consumers understand that the juice drink is only juice-flavored, with very little real juice, said Cuker. We are happy that PepsiCo agreed to these labeling changes and that we did not need to move forward with litigation.

    As part of this settlement, PepsiCo has agreed to make a $100,000 donation to the American Heart Association for its work in New Jersey, Riback added.

    In May, PepsiCos Quaker Foods unit agreed to resolve a similar dispute involving the labeling of several varieties of instant oatmeal and grits. New labels on those products make the words artificially flavored more prominent.

    Tropicana to Change Labeling of Fruit-Flavored Drinks...
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    Iowa Sues Vision Improvement Technologies

    "See Clearly Method" doesn't work, suit charges

    Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Vision Improvement Technologies, Inc., a Fairfield, Iowa, company that sells a so-called natural vision improvement kit called the "See Clearly Method."

    "We allege that the company made dramatic claims for its product that it could not substantiate," Miller said, "including representations that consumers who used the method could quickly and easily free themselves of having to wear glasses or contact lenses."

    The lawsuit described the "See Clearly Method" as a kit of manuals, charts, video-tapes and audio-tapes demonstrating eye exercises and other techniques. The company allegedly sold tens of thousands of the kits for about $350 apiece.

    "We allege that Vision Improvement Technologies uses a combination of misleading and unfair marketing tactics to sell their kits," Miller said. "The alleged illegal tactics include exaggerated claims of effectiveness, false implications of scientific validity, and misleading consumer testimonials in advertising."

    The lawsuit also alleges that a so-called "risk-free" 30-day trial period is deceptively presented and ends up obligating many consumers to pay hundreds of dollars apiece for a product that did not help them.

    "Our suit asks the court to halt the unfair and deceptive practices, assess civil penalties, and provide appropriate reimbursement for consumers," Miller said.

    The lawsuit alleges that Vision Improvement Technologies (VIT) has sold the "See Clearly Method" nationwide since 2001, through radio, television, and print ads, and a web site, www.seeclearlymethod.com. Advertisements invited consumers to call a toll-free number for a free informational video, but consumers who called were urged to order the entire kit, which retailed for about $350, on a 30-day trial basis.

    According to the lawsuit, the company has shipped out as many as 5,000 to 10,000 kits a month. About half of the consumers who received the kit returned it within the 30 days and were not obligated to make the full payment, but many who did not return it within the 30 days still sought a refund for various reasons.

    "See Clearly Method" eye exercises and "techniques" included, for example, focusing eyes using special charts or props, facing a bright light with eyes closed at a distance of a few inches, covering eyes with hands for sustained periods, and applying hot and cold wash cloths over closed eyes.

    The lawsuit alleges that consumers have complained that they were misled about how well the "See Clearly Method" worked, the total price they would be charged, and how easy it would be to back out of the purchase.

    The suit says that VIT had set up a refund system that required consumers to phone VIT representatives and get a specially assigned authorization number. However, the suit alleges, many consumers who tried to avoid a charge of about $350 to their credit card complained that they tried to call in and get the special number, but were forced to spend very long periods on hold (20 or 25 minutes or more), or left repeated messages that VIT staff never responded to.

    "We allege that many consumers who sought to take advantage of the 30-day 'risk-free' trial period found that rejecting the product was no easy matter," Miller said.

    The suit noted that the company says its "See Clearly Method" is based in part on the work of William H. Bates, who promoted similar ideas and techniques in the early 1900s. But the suit alleged that Bates's ideas have been dismissed by mainstream eye care professionals for decades.

    "It is particularly important that a company be able to substantiate that its product works when there are so many challenges to the principles and techniques supposedly undergirding the claims," Miller said. "Iowa law requires a seller to be able to substantiate such ambitious claims, but we allege this company could not do so."

    The lawsuit also alleges:

    • Advertisements featured testimonials from people with undisclosed connections to the company, and ads continued using "no more glasses" testimonials, even after the people making such claims had quit using the product and were wearing glasses most of the time.

    • The "See Clearly Method" was claimed to have a scientific foundation, but in fact the only study testing the Method was performed by people with an ownership interest in the Method and was not conducted in accordance with scientific standards.

    • The company told consumers that their names and addresses would not be shared except for purposes considered by company doctors to be compatible with the "See Clearly Method," but, in fact, customer lists were rented out for unrelated marketing purposes.

    • The See Clearly Method was advertised as safe, easy, and even fun, without disclosing that some of the primary eye exercises could produce headaches, and did in fact produce headaches in some users.

    • VIT claimed that it received letters every day from satisfied consumers who had enjoyed tremendous improvement in their vision, but, in fact, positive letters were relatively scarce and were far outnumbered by letters from unhappy customers.

    • Although the See Clearly Method was promoted as an easy and effective way to rid oneself of glasses or contacts, a number of VIT employees and their families continued to rely on corrective lenses, a fact which was not disclosed to potential customers.

    The suit said the "See Clearly Method" materials have sold at different prices at different times, including for $379.89 during much of 2004, and $358.95 as of April 2005. The suit noted that 575 Iowans purchased the See Clearly Method between January 1 and August 27, 2004. About half of them apparently returned the product to the company.

    Miller said: "Our fundamental allegation is that the defendants represent that the See Clearly Method is generally effective in improving eyesight, that many or most Method users can reasonably expect to discard corrective lenses, and that the Method is scientifically grounded. We allege these representations lack substantiation, and are false."

    Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Vision Improvement Technologies, Inc., a Fairfield, Iowa, company that sells th...
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    Sprint, Nextel Complete Merger

    Sprint and Nextel have officially completed their $35 billion merger

    Sprint and Nextel have officially completed their $35 billion merger, although subscribers won't see the effects for at least the next few weeks. Sometime next month, subscribers will be able to switch from one provider to the other without paying cancellation fees. 

    Also, customers whose plans include free in-network calling will be able to call free to both Sprint and Nextel customers sometime next month, the company said.

    The merger solidifies Sprint Nextel's hold on the #3 position among U.S. wireless carriers with 44 million subscribers. It trails No. 2 Verizon Wireless, with 45.5 million subscribers, and No. 1 Cingular Wireless, with more than 50 million subscribers.

    The merger creates a company with 80,000 employees nationwide. In a blow to the Kansas City area, where Sprint has been located since its founding, the new entity's headquarters will be in Reston, Va., where Nextel got its start. The new company will maintain its operations center in suburban Overland Park, Kansas.

    Sprint Nextel will concentrate on the wireless business, selling off the local telephone businesses Sprint operates in 18 states. The local telephone business has been steadily losing subscribers while Sprint and Nextel have each grown their wireless businesses nearly 10 percent in the eight months since the merger was announced.

    Sprint Nextel's combined networks cover approximately 268 million people.

    Sprint was founded in 1899 by Cleyson Brown under the Brown Telephone Company name in the small town of Abilene, Kansas. It was a landline telephone company that operated as a competitor to the Bell System. In the mid 20th century, Brown changed its name to United Utilities. That company changed its name to United Telecommunications in 1972, as it began to offer a more diversified product range.

    In 1986, the company launched its long distance services under the Sprint brand name. As more people became familiar with the Sprint name, the company changed its from United to Sprint Corporation in 1992.

    In 1995, the company began to offer wireless service under the Sprint PCS brand.

    NEXTEL was founded as FleetCall in 1987, promoting its "push-to-talk" feature. It changed its name to NEXTEL Communications in 1993.

    Sprint, Nextel Complete Merger...
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      U.S. Lags in Broadband Access

      FCC Paints a Rosy Picture But America Ranks 16th Worldwide

      Despite a rosy picture painted by the Federal Communications Commission, America's access to affordable, high-speed Internet lags far behind the rest of the digital world.

      A report released by Free Press, the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union shows that a recent FCC assessment of broadband Internet access is misleading and glosses over serious problems behind an ever-widening digital divide.

      "Despite claims to the contrary, the digital divide in America remains large and will continue to grow unless some real changes are made," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. "By overstating broadband availability and portraying anti-competitive policies as good for consumers, the FCC is trying to erect a faade of success. But if the president's goal of universal, affordable high-speed Internet access by 2007 is to be achieved, policymakers in Washington must change course."

      A July 2005 report from the FCC hailed recent progress in improving broadband access in the United States. But upon closer scrutiny, the claims made in the report and a subsequent op-ed by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin published in the Wall Street Journal are, at best, wildly optimistic.

      "Broadband Reality Check," a new report by Free Press research fellow S. Derek Turner, calls into question the FCC's conclusions. Among its findings:

      • The FCC overstates broadband penetration rates. The FCC report considers a ZIP code covered by broadband service if just one person subscribes. No consideration is given to price, speed or availability of that connection throughout the area.

      • The FCC misrepresents exactly how many connections are "high-speed." The FCC defines "high-speed" as 200 kilobits per second, barely enough to receive low-quality streaming video and far below what other countries consider to be a high-speed connection.

      • The United States remains 16th in the world in broadband penetration per capita. The United States also ranks 16th in terms of broadband growth rates, suggesting our world ranking won't improve any time soon. On a per megabit basis, U.S. consumers pay 10 to 25 times more than broadband users in Japan.

      • Despite FCC claims, digital divide persists and is growing wider. Broadband adoption is largely dependent on socio-economic status. In addition, broadband penetration in urban and suburban in areas is double that of rural areas.

      • Reports of a broadband "price war" are misleading. Analysis of "low-priced" introductory offers by companies like SBC and Comcast reveal them to be little more than bait-and-switch gimmicks.

      • The FCC ignores the lack of competition in the broadband market. Cable and DSL providers control almost 98 percent of the residential and small-business broadband market. Yet the FCC recently eliminated "open access" requirements for DSL companies to lease their lines, rules that fostered the only true competition in the broadband market.

      "The FCC is trying to put the best face on this problem it can, but the people who can't afford or don't have access to high-speed Internet know the truth," said Mark Cooper, research director of the Consumer Federation of America. "Affordable high-speed Internet means stronger economic growth, more educational opportunities and exposure to diverse points of view. If the FCC continues to ignore reality, the gap between the haves and have-nots will become too wide to bridge."

      The three groups call on Congress to take notice of these alarming trends and enact clear policies that will free the broadband market from domination by a handful of large cable and telecommunications companies.

      Their recommendations include ensuring open access to all high-speed communications networks, removing restrictions on public entities that seek to offer broadband services to consumers, and opening up more of the broadcast spectrum for wireless Internet applications.

      "Fudging the facts won't provide high-speed Internet access to those who need it most," said Jeannine Kenney, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union. "If the FCC is content to let cable and phone companies control the broadband market, then consumers need a third option wireless broadband that is less expensive and which doesn't depend on DSL or cable modems. It offers the best and perhaps now the only way to close the digital divide."

      U.S. Lags in Broadband Access...
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      Cell Phone Customers Held Captive by Termination Fees

      Nearly half of U.S. cell phone customers would switch or consider switching cell phone service

      Nearly half of U.S. cell phone customers would switch or consider switching cell phone service carriers to get a lower rate and better service if they didn't have to pay an average penalty of $170 to cancel their service contract, according to a new economic analysis and survey released today by U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group).

      "Consumers are captives locked in a cell by early termination fees preventing them from shopping for better or cheaper cell phone service," said Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director. "No cell phone company has to honor its promises if its customers can't afford to shop around because of unfair penalties."

      The report's release coincides with a review by the Federal Communications Commission, of a petition from the cell phone industry that, if granted, could preempt, or eliminate, state oversight of Early Termination Fees.

      The fees range from $150- $240 depending on the company. The report also follows last week's Nextel/Sprint merger approval, leaving just four companies to provide more than 80 percent of the cell phone service in the U.S.

      The report is a follow-up to a March 2005 MASSPIRG report: "Can You Hear Us Now." That survey of 874 Massachusetts cell phone customers found that 42 percent of consumers reported having a billing problem with their provider and 68 percent reported dropped calls and other quality problems.

      "Not only does this new survey find that more than three out of four Americans want these unfair fees eliminated, but our economic analysis also shows that when you combine the penalties some consumers have paid with the benefits others have lost or can't afford, these penalties have cost consumers more than $4.6 billion in the last three years," said Mierzwinski.

      The new report, "Locked in a Cell: How Cell Phone Early Termination Fees Hurt Consumers" includes analysis of a phone survey conducted by the polling firm IPSOS North America of 1000 U.S. households in July 2005. Key findings include:

      • Nearly half (47 percent) of cell phone customers would "switch cell phone companies as soon as possible" or "consider switching cell phone companies" if early termination fees were eliminated.

      • More than one out of three (36 percent) of the respondents replied that the early termination fee had prevented them from switching.

      • Nearly 9 out of 10 (89 percent) of the consumers agreed that the early termination fee is "a penalty to discourage switching cell phone companies".

      • Combining the actual costs incurred by the 10 percent of consumers who switched in the past three years ($2.5 billion) with the potential benefits others have lost or can't afford ($2 billion), cell phone early termination fees cost consumers more than $4.6 billion from 2002 to 2004.

      • More than three out of four (77 percent) of the consumers either strongly support (57 percent) or support (20 percent elimination of the early termination penalties.

      In response to consumer lawsuits in several states, including California, Florida and Illinois, challenging these early termination fees as unfair, US PIRG says the cell phone industry has petitioned the FCC to treat ETFs not as penalties designed to restrict consumer choice, but as a part of the rates that the companies charge their customers for cell phone.

      "If the FCC were to grant the industry's petition, then the cell phone industry would try to have state laws inappropriately preempted from applying to early termination penalties," said Mierzwinski. "In short, the wireless companies want to stifle competition rather than compete for the customer's business."

      U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and 14 other members of Congress sent a joint letter today to FCC members saying they "strongly urge you to deny" the petition and "urge you not to take any action that would preclude states from enforcing their own laws to protect consumers from unfair and anti-competitive business practices."

      Cell Phone Customers Held Captive by Termination Fees...
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      NHTSA Investigates Uncontrolled Acceleration in Toyotas

      August 11, 2005
      The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an investigation of several Toyota models because of uncontrollable and unintended acceleration while the vehicle is in reverse.

      The agency has received 13 reports of accidents because of the uncontrollable acceleration.

      NHTSA has received complaints involving the Camry, Solara, Lexus, ES, ES 300, ES 330 losing throttle control while the vehicle is reversing out of a driveway. The vehicles were all manufactured between 2000 and 1005.

      There have so far been no fatalities associated with the problem.

      A defect investigation often but not always leads to a vehicle recall.

      NHTSA Investigates Uncontrolled Acceleration in Toyotas...
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      Automakers' Strategies Aggravate Global Warming

      Hybrid Sales Fail To Halt Rise In Carbon Burdens, Report Warns

      August 11, 2005
      Despite growing concern over global warming, major automakers still pursue product strategies that make the problem worse, a New York environmental organization says.

      Through 2003, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions -- a primary cause of global warming -- from U.S. cars and light trucks have increased 25 percent above the 1990 level. Both the total CO2 emissions and the average emissions per vehicle continue to rise, according to a new report from Environmental Defense.

      Analyzing federal data, the report examines what's behind the growing global warming pollution from cars.

      Among the six largest automakers, who account for 87 percent of U.S. sales, Nissan's new fleet-average CO2 emissions rate increased the most, rising 8.4 percent between 1990 and 2003. Ford's performance was second worst, with its average CO2 emissions rate rising 7.7 percent. DaimlerChrysler's rose by 6.8 percent and GM's did by 6.3 percent.

      Even as they pioneered hybrid-electric cars Honda's and Toyota's product strategies were still damaging overall, with their new fleet-average CO2 emissions rates rising 5.7 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, between 1990 and 2003.

      "What is remarkable is that we see no decline in automotive carbon burden trends over the past several years," said Environmental Defense automotive expert Dr. John DeCicco, lead author of the report. "Emissions keep rising despite factors that many people think should lower them, including market forces from higher gasoline prices and advances in technology such as hybrid-electric vehicles."

      General Motors and Ford still have the largest total new fleet CO2 emissions.

      "An automaker's carbon burden is the product of its sales and the average CO2 emissions rate of the vehicles it sells," explained Dr. DeCicco. "The greater a firm's carbon burden, the greater their responsibility for helping solve the problem." Over their lifetime, GM's model year 2003 vehicles will emit 6.4 million tons of carbon annually, the biggest carbon burden among automakers.

      Mainly because of its sales success, Toyota's total carbon burden rose substantially, increasing the company's responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Although the Toyota's fleet-average CO2 emissions rate worsened by 2.9 percent, less than other major automakers, it still reflects a harmful trend.

      "While the company cultivates a green image, Toyota is merely staying on top in what remains a race to the bottom in this crucial area of environmental performance," said Dr. DeCicco.

      A major factor for automotive CO2 emissions is the steady rise of light trucks in each company's product mix. The report finds no evidence that this trend is tapering off. Trucks comprised a staggering 74 percent of DaimlerChrysler's model year 2003 light vehicle sales and truck fractions continue to rise for all automakers. Because they are held to a lax fuel economy standard, new light trucks emitted 38 percent more CO2 per mile than new cars in 2003.

      "The auto industry is a massive roadblock to climate protection because of their emphasis on inefficient trucks combined with opposition to meaningful policies to cut their carbon burdens," said Kevin Mills, director of Environmental Defense's Clean Car Campaign.

      The report compares automakers' hybrid offerings to their broader product strategies and reveals that showcasing a few green products does little to protect the planet. Having reneged on its pledge for across-the-board improvements in the efficiency of its sport-utility vehicles, Ford would have to sell over 650,000 vehicles that cut CO2 emissions as much as the Escape Hybrid just to compensate for the increase in the company's new fleet-average CO2 emissions rate between 1990 and 2003.

      "Automakers should support a national greenhouse gas cap in order to create a context in which greener vehicles will flourish," said Mills.

      "The market alone can't solve global warming and even the best technology is worthless without the right policy," noted Dr. DeCicco. "Automakers hold the key to open the door to the political commitment needed for true progress."

      Automakers' Strategies Aggravate Global Warming...
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      Surveys Often Not What They Seem

      Free Gifts Don't Materialize, Unexpected Charges Do

      Lots of consumers think they can make money or get valuable prizes by taking surveys. Others, well, they just like to answer questions or want to contribute something to the world of marketing.

      Unfortunately, surveys can wind up being very expensive. They're sometimes an identity theft ruse. Other times, they're a means of signing you up for something you didn't know you were buying.

      "Member's Edge LLC put charges on my phone bill saying I filled out a survey that gave them permission to do so," Lynn of Penfield, New York, said. "I started to fill out a survey and when it asked for a credit card number I stopped and got out of there."

      "It was supposed to be for a FREE $250 gift certificate if I filled out this form. I called when I got my phone bill and told them to get this off of my bill and again this month there are MORE charges. They said it is for some email service which we NEVER ordered or wanted. They get your phone number and charge it to your phone bill," Lynn said.

      The same thing happened to John of Cheektowaga, N.Y.

      "I called to inquire why my telephone bill had been charged $15.40 a month. It happened twice and apparently a 3rd charge is in transit. I was told that when I was completing a survey for a chance to win a $50 merchant gift card that I was automatically enrolled in Members Edge - an email service. The representative told me that she would cancel my account but that there are no refunds," John said in a complaint to ConsumerAffairs.com.

      "When I explained that I had never been to the website nor activated an Email account, the representative told me that I was SOL (shit out of luck - her words). I regularly take surveys online and have never had an experience like this before."

      By Phone

      Some survey scams start with a telephone call. "Nick called and asked if I would like to take part in a survey. For my participation, he would send me two free DVD's," said Chris of Portland, Oregon.

      "Once the brief survey was completed he told me that he would be sending me two free copies of 'Girls Gone Wild' and all I had to pay for these 'free' DVD's would be the shipping. He said that he would have to verify my age and this is done by credit card. I hung up."

      "I asked him, 'Do you really think I would give my credit card to some stranger who calls me?' He replied, 'Yeah, people do it all the time.'"

      By Mail

      "I received a "survey" from Columbia House through the mail. The cover letter reads that you can get 5 DVDs for 49 cents apiece with free shipping," said Kay of Enid, Oklahoma. "Nowhere in this letter does it say that you must join the club and be obligated to buy more DVDs."

      "There is no 'reward' for filling out the survey. The offer is the same for everyone, survey or not, even though the front of the packet reads, 'As a result of your participation [in the survey], you can choose 5 dvds for just 49 cents each,'" Kay said.

      "This packet is so misleading it's maddening. It's trickery of the worst sort. I wasn't stupid enough to fall for it, but many people might be."

      Internet Surveys

      Sandra of San Antonio ordered textbooks from TextbookX.com. "Then I received a bill from Simple Escapes in the amount of $29.85," she said.

      "I do not recall ever signing up for this service, but did do a survey about my purchase that may have been the cause of this charge. I never authorized this charge. The only company that had my credit card number was Textbookx.com."

      Pam of Batesville, Indiana was booking at the Bed Bath and Beyond website when she came across an offer for free $50 gift card just for filling out a survey.

      "I thought, wow I love their store, that would be great," Pam recalled. "The so-called survey was a hoax! It was nothing but questions about if I would be interested in this credit card or that insurance company, or books or sunglasses and everything under the sun."

      "To top it off, I keep getting calls from salesmen on a daily basis. We have a unlisted phone number. Guess it's not unlisted anymore because Bed Bath and Beyond sold my personal information to who knows! I'll never shop in that store or trust them again!"

      Debra of Commerce, Georgia, says she takes Internet surveys everyday, sometimes as many as 50 surveys a day. Her luck ran out in May. "I was doing a survey, I was led to believe that this Sprint cell phone was my gift for finishing the survey, that all I would have to pay was shipping and handling," she said.

      "UPS delivered this phone to my house. I made a 16-second call and the next day I received a bill for $84.44. Now I have received another bill for $50.67 which totals $135.11 for a phone that I believed was free."

      John of Chicago thought he would get a free computer for answering a few questions. "Freegiftworld said to answer a few survey questions and get a $500.00 gift from Dell. Then it wants me to buy into four other companies for monthly prescriptions," John said.

      Marie of Laurel, Maryland, had hoped to become an author with the Dell laptop she hoped to receive.

      "I received an email from Incentiverewardcenter that if I participated in their survey and signed up for offers from two of their sponsors that they would send me a Dell Laptop as a gift and that all I needed to do once I received it was to answer a survey for Dell and the laptop would be mine to keep," she said.

      "I participated in their survey, signed up for two of their offers (Book of the Month Club which requires me to buy 15 books at regular club price over the next 2 years and Simply White teeth whitener.) I had to pay in advance with my credit card to be eligible."

      "I have rushed home each day since I completed this offer expecting to have my laptop waiting for me and have been constantly disappointed each day," said Marie. "The thousands of ideas that I have of things that I want to write about are trapped in my head and I have nowhere to put them because I have been lied to."

      Philip of Mojave, California, had a similar experience: "I tried to earn a free iPod from freeipod.com. The initial deal was to sign up with three of their sponsors, complete a survey, and earn a free iPod. After doing this, I was then directed to sign up with two more of their sponsors."

      "So I did, and to my surprise, there was ANOTHER survey, then a direction to sign up with two more or their sponsors, which I ignored. I went to the next page, and was informed that all I had to do now, was to have five friends sign up and complete offers, and I will get my iPod," Philip said.

      "Last month I did a survey for Auto Advantage and they said thank you for doing the survey, and that I will get a card for my car, to use for either repairs, or whatever I need it for," said Deborah of Kansas City. "They also told me that would I get a package kit from them, including a $40.00 gas card to pay for the gas." She received nothing.

      "Make Money at Home"

      Patricia of Jacksonville, Florida, was unemployed when she saw a Gozings Survey ad promising she could be paid for taking surveys.

      "First 30 minutes are free. Then they charge $2.97 for the next three days. Then if you decide to stay you would be charged $19.99 every month. I decided within 30 minutes I did not want this membership," she said.

      "They charged me for two at $2.97 each. Very misleading. Thought I only signed up for one," she said.

      Some consumers go so far as to pay for survey software, hoping it will guide them to lucrative big-buck surveys. It didn't work out that way for Ginger of Quinton, Alabama.

      "I purchased the Opinion Paycheck online survey software for $25.00. When it was downloaded, half of the links they provided me were dead. They promise to pay you cash ranging from $4-$25 per survey. Most of the surveys don't pay cash, they offer you prizes. Also the surveys aren't completed until you sign up for trial memberships," Ginger said.

      "I filled out a survey that promised $10.00. After I filled it out it asked me to sign up for a membership, I checked "no" and it said my survey payout was $0.00."

      Danielle of San Francisco paid Survey Platinum $34.95 for access to paid survey websites. "Their policy was that if after 75 days you did not earn your $34.95 back from doing surveys that you would get a refund," she said.

      "So on October 10, 75 days later, I emailed them for a refund because I only made $5. They told me to check their refund policy, which changed without notification. Now it says that after 90 days all sales are final," Danielle said.

      Vacuum Cleaners

      Not all survey problems involve the Internet.

      "Two young men came to my door in the early evening stating they were doing a survey," Dena of Spencer, Wyoming, said. "One was supposed to be an intern learning the ropes and the other the teacher. They asked if they could ask me a few questions to which I responded yes. They also asked if I would look at a product and give my opinion of the presentation."

      "Much to my surprise, once they got in my house they began to set up a Kirby vacuum display! The '"teacher' left and the 'intern' gave his pitch." The pitch went on for more than an hour.

      "After asking them to leave at least 3 times and saying I wasn't interested, had no money, and would not buy a vacuum, the price came down to a whopping $1100! I said no one more time and after taking 30 minutes to pack up they finally left."

      The Jaguar Experience

      Not all survey outrages involve supposed freebies, work-at-home scams or door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen. Some are aimed at upscale consumers who've just dropped tens of thousands of dollars for a new luxury car, like Todd of New London, North Carolina.

      "After leasing a Jaguar, I was sent a customer satisfaction survey. As I was not very satisfied with the leasing experience, the survey reflected my displeasure. The next time I spoke with the dealership, Bob Dunn Jaguar, I was berated by the salesman for the poor marks I gave him on the survey," Todd said.

      "Following the next service, I received and filled out another customer satisfaction survey. Again I gave them a below-average rating. Again I was berated by someone, this time from the service department. When I refused to spend time discussing the survey, I was told that they would no longer service the vehicle ... which is under warranty."

      Wait, it gets worse.

      "After contacting the Jaguar customer service center, I was then informed that the dealership would service the vehicle, but that I had been banned from their property. Now the only way to get my car serviced is to find a third party to drive it in to Bob Dunn Jaguar, or I could choose to take it to another dealership myself," Todd said.

      "Obviously the results of my survey and my name went directly to Bob Dunn Jaguar. Moral of the story... don't fill out customer surveys, unless you plan to give out high marks."

      Surveys can wind up being very expensive. They're sometimes an identity theft ruse. Other times, they're a means of signing you up for something you didn't...
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      Aspiring Writers Trash PublishAmerica

      Want to be a published author? All it takes is money

      Aspiring Writers Trash PublishAmerica about Paying to Play for Prose, War of Words, A "Travesty" of Revenge, Dropping Dimes on a Dream Deferred...

      Realtors See Market Coasting For The Rest Of The Year

      The people who sell real estate for a living predict a soft landing

      A runaway real estate market this year has many economists and even Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan fretting about the housing bubble. But the people who sell real estate for a living predict a soft landing for the red-hot market, not a crash that could wipe out homeowners' gains of the last three years.

      The Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates for the 10th consecutive time today, lifting its short-term rate target to 3.5% from 3.25% and signaling that more increases are to come. The Fed ist rying to deal with strengthening economic growth, a slightly less favorable inflation picture and still-low long-term interest rates.

      The housing market is probably close to a peak right now in terms of sales activity, but there is tremendous momentum," said David Lereah, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. "Sales are expected to coast at historically high levels into next year, but they will trend slightly downward.

      In other words, much of the years market gain has already been achieved. Lereah predicts existing-homes will end the year up 2.9 percent to 6.98 million units, while new-home sales will rise 4.8 percent to 1.26 million this year. Total housing starts -- single-family and multifamily -- should grow by 3.2 percent to 2.02 million units in 2005, the highest since 1978; single-family starts are projected to set a record of 1.67 million.

      Home sales should be fairly stable in the near term, Lereah predicts.

      Is now the time to buy? Its not often a real estate agent counsels patience, but thats exactly what it sounds like NAR President Al Mansell, a Salt Lake City broker, is doing.

      "It's a great time to sell, but it may be a better time to buy about a year from now when the market should come closer to balance, he said.

      Mansell says the risk in waiting is not that home prices will escalate, but that interest rates will be higher, making the cost of financing a home higher. But consumers who plan to put a sizable amount down might not be affected all that much.

      It all gets down to a buyer's needs, resources and time horizons, Mansell said.

      The national median existing-home price for all housing types is forecast to rise 10.5 percent in 2005 to $204,600, while the median new-home price should increase 5.2 percent to $232,400.

      The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is projected to rise slowly to 6.2 percent in the fourth quarter, and reach 6.6 percent by the end of 2006.

      Realtors See Market Coasting For The Rest Of The Year...
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      The Web's A Dangerous Place

      Consumer Reports Has Some Tips to Reduce the Risk

      Home Internet users have a one in three chance of suffering computer damage, financial loss, or both because of a computer virus or spyware, according to the conclusions of the 2005 Consumer Reports State of the Net survey of online consumers.

      The survey found that viruses, spyware and phishing are on the rise; but that spam is easing.

      Despite the fact that consumers spent more than $2.6 billion over the past two years for protection software, more than $9 billion was spent on computer repairs, parts, and replacement because of viruses and spyware. The unsettling findings are contained in the September issue of Consumer Reports.

      The nationally representative survey of more than 3,200 households with at-home Internet access indicate that the Internet is no longer the urbane information motorway it was five years ago. An individual consumer now faces assaults through e-mail, Websites, messaging services, and downloads. Among CR's survey findings:

      • 64 percent of survey respondents said they had detected viruses on their computer in the past two years.

      • 52 percent reported a spyware infection in the past six months; of those, 18 percent reported having had an infection so serious that they had to erase their hard drives.

      • Nearly 20 percent of spam recipients said spam interfered with their browser.

      • 17 percent of respondents said they don't use antivirus software.

      • 13 percent said that the need to avoid spam and email scams had induced them to shop online less; but, about 1.2 million online households helped keep spammers in business with purchases of products or services advertised through spam.

      • 10 percent of respondents with high-speed broadband access said they don't have firewall protection that would block online intruders. Nationally, that's the equivalent of 3.6 million unprotected households.

      • 6 percent of respondents had submitted personal information in response to a phishing scam. Financial losses were rare - only .5 percent - but expensive, costing $400 on average, and a few topped $1000.

      • Macs are safer than Windows PCs for some online hazards. Only 20 percent of Mac owners surveyed reported detecting a virus in the past two years compared with 66 percent of PC owners.

      • 8 percent of Mac users reported a spyware infection in the last six months vs. 54 percent of Windows PC users.

      Help Is on the Way

      Consumer Reports notes that the most immediate help for consumers is from some leading Internet service providers, notably AOL and EarthLink. They, along with MSN and others, provide antivirus protection and filter out spam and phishing e-mail before it reaches the user.

      Computer users who take the right precautions can greatly reduce exposure to online hazards. The experts at Consumer Reports recommend the following 13 steps and practices to safeguard computer security.

      1. Upgrade the operating system -- Windows XP users should enable automatic updates and install Service Pack 2. Mac users should update with the Software Update Control Panel.

      2. Use a firewall. Windows XP has one built-in and a router most likely has one built-in.

      3. Adjust browser security settings to medium or higher.

      4. Consider an ISP or e-mail provider that offers security.

      5. Use antivirus software.

      6. Use more than one antispyware program, which can boost coverage.

      7. Regularly back-up personal files which safeguards data in case of a security problem.

      8. Beware while browsing. Be wary of ad-sponsored or "free" giveaways. They probably include spyware.

      9. Avoid short passwords to foil password-cracking software.

      10. Use e-mail cautiously -- never open an attachment unless you were expecting it.

      11. Use multiple e-mail addresses so you can drop one when it attracts too much spam.

      12. Take a stand - don't buy anything promoted in a spam message.

      13. Look for secure Websites that show an icon of an unbroken key or a lock that's closed at the bottom of the page. Also the Web address should begin with "https:" when entering personal data.

      Tests and Ratings

      Consumer Reports also tested and rated antispam, antivirus, and antispyware programs. Among the various products tested, CR recommends Allume Systems SpamCatcher 4 ($30) and MailFrontier Desktop ($30) as the best choices among those tested as add-on antispam programs. Users running an older version of Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail should consider upgrading to Microsoft Outlook 2003 or Apple OS 10.4 Mail.

      Among antivirus programs, CR recommends Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2005 ($50) and Kaspersky Lab Anti-Virus Personal 5.0 ($35) for consumers that have no antivirus programs. CR also notes that Alwil Avast Antivirus offers free full-featured protection and is easy to use but offers limited support.

      For an excellent main antispyware program with real-time protection, the experts at CR recommend Microsoft AntiSpyware. This free program is beta version and Microsoft says it will offer the final version to licensed Windows users.

      The Web's A Dangerous Place...
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      Consumer Agency Trashes Trudeau's "Natural Cures" Book

      The New York State Consumer Protection Board is warning consumers about Trudeau

      The New York State Consumer Protection Board is warning consumers that a fast-selling book by Kevin Trudeau does not contain the "natural cures" for cancer and other diseases that Trudeau is promising in a nationwide television ad campaign.

      The board says Trudeau is not only misrepresenting the contents of his self-published book, he is also using false endorsements to encourage consumers to buy 'Natural Cures They Don't Want You to Know About.'

      'This book is exploiting and misleading people who are searching for cures to serious illnesses,' said CPB Chairman Teresa A. Santiago. 'What they discover is page after page after page of pure speculation -- not the cures for cancer and other diseases that are promised.'

      These false endorsements extend to Trudeau's television infomercials, Santiago said, citing in particular the infomercial featuring the former Tammy Faye Bakker (now Messner). She appears in Trudeau's infomercial because she is suffering from a recurrence of cancer.

      The ad gives the false impression that Messner opposes chemotherapy in favor of the 'natural cures' in Trudeau's book. A representative for Messner said that is not true and that she is starting chemotherapy again.

      'We're asking Mr. Trudeau to pull this ad -- not only because of the misleading 'endorsement' by Tammy Faye -- but also because Mr. Trudeau advertises so-called 'cures' that are not even mentioned in his book,' said Santiago. In his infomercial with Messner, Trudeau cites only one specific cancer 'cure' -- a 'serum' allegedly invented by a New York City zoologist in the 1960's.

      'As unbelievable as it seems, the key to stopping many cancers has been around for over 30 years,' Trudeau said before claiming the government banned this serum. Although he mentions this anecdote in his television ad, there is nothing about this in his book, Santiago noted.

      Consumers in across the country are complaining that the book is just another commercial for Trudeau's website and monthly newsletters. Throughout the book, readers are told that the cures they are looking for, in many cases, are available if they spend more money and subscribe to Trudeau's newsletter or his website. Both cost $71.40 per year or $499 for a 'lifetime membership.'

      'This is not a matter of 'free speech' as Mr. Trudeau claims: if you advertise the contents of a book, it had better contain what has been promised,' said Santiago.

      On the back jacket, Trudeau begins a list of endorsements with a quotation from Dr. Herbert Ley, a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But Ley never endorsed or even read Trudeau's book because he died on July 22, 2001.

      The book also has a quotation from Dr. My Haley, widow of 'Roots' author, Alex Haley. Dr. Haley said her quotation (''it would be hard these days to find a better read') was not meant to be an endorsement of the book's health claims. Instead, Dr. Haley said she was only suggesting that the book was 'an exciting read.'

      'The hypocrisy surrounding this book and its advertisements is galling because people with real illnesses are being misled,' said Santiago. 'This book and its marketing machine are a cynical attempt by Mr. Trudeau to cash in on his legal troubles with the federal government.'

      Last year, Trudeau agreed to pay $2 million and to stop marketing 'coral calcium' as a cure for cancer to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ('FTC').

      The FTC sued Trudeau largely on the grounds that Trudeau could not substantiate his advertising claim that coral calcium can cure and prevent cancer. It is one of at least 10 products that Trudeau has sold or promoted before the government has leveled fraud charges.

      In addition, Trudeau pleaded guilty in 1990 to larceny in a Cambridge, Mass., state court after being charged with depositing $80,000 in worthless checks. The following year, he also pleaded guilty to credit card fraud in federal district court in Boston, resulting in prison term of nearly two years. The federal charges involved the use of credit-card numbers from customers of a memory-improvement course Trudeau was promoting at that time.

      'Trudeau cannot hide behind his frequent claims that this book simply contains his opinions and that the government is trying to censor him,' said Santiago. 'Throughout the book, Trudeau tries to fool readers into thinking he knows the cure for specific diseases when all Trudeau really offers are different theories on what causes an illness or a disease.'

      Another example, she said, is Trudeau's June 2005 newsletter, which carries the headline: 'The Natural Way to Cure Cancer.' In that newsletter, Trudeau wrote, 'The cure for cancer is: simply stop doing the things that are causing the cancer!'

      Among Trudeau's recommendations and 'opinions' are:

      • Breast milk has been poisoned by exhaust fumes from jets (p. 80)

      • People should not use antiperspirant or deodorant (page 135);

      • 'All tap water is poisonous' (page 144)

      • Microwave cooking poisons food --and causes cancer (page 145)

      • Baby food is 'poisonous;' (page 145);

      • 'Vaccines are some of the most toxic things you can put into your body' (page 131. Despite that statement, Trudeau's newsletter praises Jonas Salk and his vaccine for curing polio);

      • Avoid hot tubs, saunas and swimming pools (page 155);

      • Wear white ('The closer you get to white, the more positive energy you bring into your energetic field.' Page 167)

      • Driving in traffic causes stress and stress causes cancer;

      • Sunscreens cause cancer (page 152);

      • Eat only organic food and 'do not eat any food produced or sold by a publicly traded (page 142); and,

      • Don't take prescription or non-prescription drugs (This recommendation is cited throughout the book. Trudeau's website, however, recommends that drugs be used to cure TB and Parkinson's. In one commercial, Trudeau concedes that drugs and surgery are necessary when an illness is too advanced.)

      Consumer Agency Trashes Trudeau's 'Natural Cures' Book...
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      Florida Motorcycle Deaths Soar After Helmet Law Repeal

      The number of fatal motorcycle accidents increased more than 81 percent

      Motorcyclist deaths in Florida have rapidly increased since Gov. Jeb Bush signed a law in 2000 repealing the state's mandatory motorcycle helmet law.

      The number of fatal motorcycle accidents increased more than 81 percent in the three years after the repeal took effect according to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

      Throughout the country fatal motorcycle accidents increased 48 percent, in large part because of the growing number of aging baby boomers riding powerful motorcycles.

      Deaths among Florida riders 21 and under nearly tripled after 2000. Riders younger than 21 are still required by state law to wear helmets.

      ''The numbers are pretty compelling that Florida has paid a high price,'' said Rae Tyson, a spokesman for the federal agency. ``There is enough here for any state contemplating a repeal to realize there are serious consequences.''

      While the report suggests that some of the increase in motorcycle deaths can be attributed to increased ridership in the state, critics of the Florida helmet law repeal point out that the non-helmeted fatality rate per 10,000 registered motorcyclists increased from 0.7 fatalities in 1998 to 6.1 in 2002.

      Medical costs for motorcycle riders involved in accidents in Florida followed the increase in fatalities. In 1998 and 1999, the acute care hospital charges for head-brain-skull principal injury cases per 10,000 registered motorcycles were $311,549 and $428,347 respectively.

      The comparable figures for 2001 and 2002 were $605,854 and $610,386, adjusted for inflation.

      The motorcycle group that successfully lobbied legislators in 2000 to lift the helmet requirement contends that NHTSA is biased against riders who do not use helmets. The group argues that the increase in deaths can be largely attributed to the increasing popularity of motorcycle riding.

      The lengthy study was conducted for NHTSA by Preusser Research Group, a Connecticut research firm that specializes in transportation and highway safety issues.

      The study does not fully blame the increase in deaths on riders without helmets, noting that alcohol use and speed also likely played a role.

      Florida Motorcycle Deaths Soar After Helmet Law Repeal...
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      Acupuncture and Knee Pain

      Can acupuncture help relieve knee pain?

      Can acupuncture help relieve knee pain? According to an article published in the journal Lancet, Doctors divided about three hundred people with osteoarthritis of the knees into three groups.

      One received acupuncture, a second fake acupuncture and the third no acupuncture.

      The patients were allowed to use anti-inflammatory and other pain medicines during the study. After a couple of months, the acupuncture group did the best. About half had a 50 percent reduction in pain and stiffness versus 28 percent of the fake acupuncture group and 3 percent of the untreated group.

      Those in the acupuncture and fake group also took a lot less pain medicine. Six months after the treatments stopped everyone felt about the same.

      Conclusions. The jury is still out on acupuncture and knee pain. Some studies show it helps but other dont. Its probably worth a try along with exercise, stretching, heat and pain medicine.

      Acupuncture and Knee Pain | Dr. Henry Fishman on Health and Medicine...
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      Ameriquest Faces Blizzard of Suits and $325 Million Settlement with States

      30-State Task Force Alleges Deceptive Sales Practices

      Ameriquest, the nation's largest subprime lender, faces numerous lawsuits filed by customers who said the subprime lender charged them excessive fees or changed the agreed-upon terms on refinancing loans when they arrived to sign the final documents.

      The company disclosed last week that it had reached a tentative $325 million settlement with a task force of 30 state attorneys general over allegations of deceptive sales practices.

      At least eight of the pending lawsuits are seeking class-action status.

      Earlier this week, President Bush nominated Ameriquest founder Roland Arnall as the next ambassador to the Netherlands.

      Arnall and his wife, who live on a 10-acre estate in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, contributed $5 million to a pro-Bush committee in 2003 and chipped in $1 million for Bush's second inauguration party, The Los Angeles Times reported.

      Arnall also is a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, a foreign policy group that advocates a hard line against Islamic terrorists.

      Ameriquest, founded by Arnall as Long Beach Savings in 1979, has faced off with consumer activists, regulators and private litigants in a series of disputes over its lending practices dating to 1996. The company has paid millions of dollars in restitution and for borrower education, and it has adopted a series of "best practices" improvements to its operating policies.

      In a case filed in Boston, borrowers said their loan fees and interest rates differed from what they had agreed to when they negotiated to refinance their homes, often to pay off household debts. California-based Ameriquest, the suit said, then ''uniformly promised" to refinance them a second time, sometimes within months, ''on more favorable terms," to recoup additional fees.

      According to MortgageDaily.com, Ameriquest's parent company, ACC Capital Holdings Corp., is the nation's largest subprime lender, based on $82.7 billion in mortgage volume in 2004, including $3 billion in Massachusetts. Subprime loans are for people with credit scores too low for them to qualify for a traditional mortgage.

      The litigation parallels charges being brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly and officials in 29 other states. Investigators found Ameriquest used ''bait and switch" tactics in often unsolicited phone calls to potential customers, did not disclose steep penalties charged for paying loans off early, and falsified borrowers' incomes to ensure they would qualify for the loan, The Boston Globe reported.

      Reilly's office said it has received 133 complaints about Ameriquest since 2002.

      In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, ACC Capital disclosed it set aside money for a tentative settlement with the states, but the company said there is ''no assurance such an agreement will be reached." Reilly's office said, ''any resolution will require a significant payment by Ameriquest, including restitution to harmed consumers."

      In July, Connecticut's Department of Banking reached a $7 million settlement with Ameriquest and two other ACC units, Argent Mortgage Co. and Town & Country Credit Corp. The company agreed to reimburse 350 customers whose loan fees exceeded limits set by state law by $3,000, on average, state officials said.

      Ameriquest Faces Blizzard of Suits and $325 Million Settlement with States...
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      FCC Clears Sprint, Nextel Merger

      The Federal Communications Commission has unanimously approved the $36 billion union

      The Federal Communications Commission has unanimously approved the $36 billion union between wireless phone providers Sprint and Nextel. With the Justice Departments failure to find any anti-trust issues to pursue, the FCC action was the final hurdle for the deal, which solidifies Sprints position as the U.S. third largest wireless company.

      The FCC said the merger would lead to better service and a faster rollout of advanced services. In fact, the only condition the commissioners placed on their approval was Sprints commitment to begin offering service in the 2.5 (GHz) band by 2009.

      The new company, which will be called Sprint Nextel, also intends to spin off to its shareholders Sprint's local telecommunications business following the merger.

      Executives at both Sprint and Nextel said the merger combination will allow Sprint Nextel to:

      • Offer digital wireless service in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Sprint Nextel and its affiliates and partners cover a total domestic population of 262 million.
      • Provide consumers more choice through investments in wireless multi-media, web browsing, messaging, gaming and music on the go.
      • Provide integrated wireless and IP-based wire line solutions to business.
      • Improve customer service and sales performance through joint capabilities.
      • Invest to deploy next-generation wireless data services.
      • Improve wireless network quality and coverage.

      FCC Clears Sprint, Nextel Merger...
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      Uninsured Kids Likely To Go Without Any Medical Care

      August 4, 2005
      A study by two research groups finds more than one-fifth of uninsured children in New York went without medical care for an entire year, while in Florida the percentage was even higher one out of four. Conversely, 92 percent of the insured New York Children, and 88 percent of Floridas insured children received care during the same period, according to the research.

      Uninsured children in New York were 12 times more likely not to receive needed medical care than New York children with insurance, while in Florida, they were 20 time more likely to go without medical care. The research was prepared by analysts at the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, located at the University of Minnesota, and the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.

      The research also showed that in New York state, as well as nationally, more than seven in ten uninsured children are eligible for low-cost or free health care coverage through Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), but are not enrolled. There are more than 335,000 uninsured children in New York who are likely eligible for Child Health Plus, the state's low-cost or free health care coverage plan for children.

      Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) and the Child Health Now! Coalition, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Covering Kids & Families Initiative, have kicked off a series of local events that will take place in New York City and across the state to enroll eligible uninsured children in Child Health Plus.

      New York City is one of six cities in the United States selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for an enhanced outreach campaign targeting families with uninsured children.

      Similar efforts are being carried out in Florida.

      "It is disturbing to know that children are not receiving the health care they need. They're even missing out on annual checkups that will prevent them from developing more serious medical conditions down the road," said Jodi Ray, Project Director for Florida Covering Kids & Families. "We owe it to the parents of these children to let them know that coverage is available for many uninsured children."

      Uninsured Kids Likely To Go Without Any Medical Care...
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      Alternatives to Loyalty Cards

      Retail Chains Largely Mum About Their Policies

      As we explored in our previous article on loyalty cards, there are dangers in giving up too much information just to get a discount from your favorite supe..

      FDA Urged to Crack Down on Tuna Mercury Levels

      "Time to Stop Protecting Fishermen's Profits, Start Protecting Children"

      The Food and Drug Administrations advisory urging limits on how much tuna children and some women should eat fails to provide adequate protection against mercury poisoning, according to an independent group studying the issue. The Mercury Policy Project says one out of 20 cans of white, albacore tuna should be recalled as unsafe for human consumption.

      "Our test results confirmed what FDA has known for well over a decade: white tuna has much higher mercury levels than light tuna, with samples at the 1 part per million FDA action level. This is the level FDA uses to recall fish from the marketplace," said Michael Bender, the groups director.

      "FDA's own food safety committee recommended that the Agency revise its advisory, but FDA has failed to act because of undue influence by industry," said Bender. "FDA should stop protecting the fishing industry's profits and start protecting children."

      Methylmercury -- the organic form mercury assumes in fish -- is a potent neurotoxin that poses the greatest risk to the developing fetus, infants, and young children. The latest data from the CDC indicates that 5.6 percent of women of childbearing age in the U.S. have unsafe mercury levels that may place the developing fetus at risk.

      Canned tuna is consumed in 90 percent of American households and accounts for over 20 percent of US seafood consumption.

      What should consumers know when they head down the tuna aisle at the supermarket?

      They need to know that white tuna has between three to five times as much mercury, on average, as the light can tuna, Bender told ConsumerAffairs.com. This has been demonstrated, not only by the testing that weve done, at Consumers Union, but also the testing that FDA did.

      "Pregnant women and young children should be advised to avoid consuming albacore white tuna, as the Rhode Island Department of Health recommends," Bender added.

      Albacore accounts for about one-third of all canned tuna sold in the U.S. The independent testing found that mercury levels in white canned tuna averaged over 0.5 ppm.

      How much fish a person can eat before exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) "virtual safe limit," called a reference dose (RfD), depends on body weight and mercury content of the fish. For example:

      • A 22 pound toddler eating only 2 ounces of tuna per week with a 0.5 ppm mercury concentration would have an intake over 4 times the EPA's RfD, according to the group.

      • If a woman with a typical weight of 132 lbs eats 12 ounces of canned tuna per week (the limit advised by FDA) with a 0.5 ppm mercury concentration, she will exceed by 4 times the EPA's RfD.

      • An 88 pound child consuming one 6 ounce can of tuna with a 0.5 ppm mercury concentration weekly would be exposed to 3 times the EPA's RfD standard.

      FDA Urged to Crack Down on Tuna Mercury Levels...
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      Celebrex Gets Black Box Label

      Similar warnings have been mandated for ibuprofen and naproxen

      Celebrex, the only COX-2 painkiller still on the market in the U.S., will carry the Food and Drug Administrations toughest warning. The FDA has announced the drug will carry a so-called black box on its label, warning consumers of increased cardiovascular risks.

      Similar warnings have been mandated for ibuprofen and naproxen.

      Celebrex has been under close scrutiny since late last year, when Merck withdrew another COX-2 drug, Vioxx from the market. The FDA then asked Pfizer to take similar action with its COX-2 drug, Bextra.

      "We have worked closely with the FDA to ensure that Celebrex's label provides physicians and patients with the information they need to make the most appropriate and most informed treatment decisions," said Dr. Joseph Feczko, Pfizer's chief medical officer.

      The new warning on Celebrex's label will recommend the drug be prescribed at the lowest dose and shortest time possible. Doctors are also being cautioned that Celebrex should not be used following heart bypass surgery.

      While toughening the warning label, the FDA has approved the use of Celebrex for treatment of ankylosing spondylitis, a rare form of arthritis in the spine. It continues as an approved pain reliever for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

      Pfizer says the recommended dose for Celebrex is 200 mg daily for osteoarthritis and 200 mg to 400 mg daily for adult rheumatoid arthritis. For the management of the signs and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis, the recommended dose of Celebrex is 200 mg daily in single or divided twice per day doses.

      In a way, the black box warning marks a victory for Pfizers strategy of keeping Celebrex on the market. The pharmaceutical company came under strong pressure late last year to withdraw the drug, as Merck had done with Vioxx. A Toronto newspaper published documents in which Canadian health officials blamed Celebrex for 14 deaths in Canada.

      But Merck took a major financial hit when it withdrew Vioxx and Pfizer seemed determined to avoid that fate. In December company executives strongly defended Celebrex, but pulled all radio and TV advertising for the drug.

      Celebrex Gets Black Box Label...
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