1. Home
  2. News
  3. 2007
  4. May

News in May 2007

Browse by year

2007

Browse by month

Get trending consumer news and recalls

    By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

    FDA Issues Flu Vaccine Guidelines

    Feds hope technology will produce enough vaccine

    With health officials expressing concern there wont be enough vaccine available in the event of a flu pandemic, the U.S. Government is counting on technology and innovation to increase supplies.

    The Food and Drug Administration has issued final recommendations to increase production and enhance distribution of safe and effective influenza vaccines for both seasonal and pandemic use.

    FDA continues its commitment to help increase the supply of influenza vaccines and support the development of new approaches to vaccine production, said Jesse L. Goodman, M.D., M.P.H., director of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER).

    Having additional manufacturers of licensed influenza vaccines will enhance the capacity to produce more doses of seasonal influenza vaccines, as well as contribute to the nation's pandemic preparedness, one of our top priorities.

    In March 2006, FDA issued two draft guidance documents for public comment one for seasonal influenza vaccines and another for pandemic influenza vaccines. The draft documents outline specific approaches for manufacturers to develop new vaccines that are safe, pure, and potent. The final guidances reflect public input, including vaccine companies and public health officials, the agency said.

    Both guidances recommend using recent technologies such as cell culture and recombinant manufacturing to enhance the development and evaluation of vaccines. They also recommend adding substances that improve the immune response from the vaccine.

    The plans describe conventional and accelerated approval pathways to get vaccines licensed faster. Under the plan, companies selecting the conventional pathway must provide clinical evidence that the vaccine prevents influenza.

    Adequate and well-controlled clinical trials are also required for accelerated approval but companies may use a biological indicator such as immune response to the vaccine to predict effectiveness, an approach that may reduce the vaccine's development time. Further clinical studies are then required to verify the vaccine's clinical benefit.

    The guidelines tell manufacturers they should submit a new Biologics License Application (BLA) for the initial licensure of a pandemic or seasonal influenza vaccine to ensure that each pandemic and seasonal vaccine has its own trade name and labeling.

    For companies with U.S. licensed seasonal influenza vaccines, the pandemic guidance outlines the regulatory pathway for obtaining licensure for a new pandemic vaccine in which the manufacturing process is the same as for the seasonal vaccine.

    For manufacturers developing vaccines using a new manufacturing process, both guidance documents explain the process for obtaining licensure using the accelerated approval pathway.



    FDA Issues Flu Vaccine Guidelines...
    Read lessRead more

    Two U.S. Companies Recall Melamine-Tainted Feed

    Finding Takes Heat Off China, Blamed for Thousands of Animal Deaths

    China, it turns out, isnt the only country that spikes its feed products with the industrial chemical melamine.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting livestock and fish/shrimp feed manufacturers about a voluntary recall of U.S.-made products used in feed production because several have been found to contain melamine and related compounds.

    The finding is likely to relieve some of the pressure on China, which has been roundly condemned for being lax, and even corrupt, in its food safety practices. Earlier this week, China's former food and drug safety chief was sentenced to death for what was termed "massive corruption."

    The severe sentence was seen as a sign that the Chinese government wanted to make a strong statement about its determination to clean up shortcomings in its health and safety policies.

    The feed ingredients were made by Tembec BTLSR Inc. of Toledo, Ohio and Uniscope, Inc. of Johnstown, Colo. Both U.S. firms have instituted recalls of the tainted products.

    Tembec, a contract manufacturer for Uniscope, makes AquaBond and Aqua-Tec II, which it distributes for Uniscope. Uniscope makes Xtra-Bond using ingredients supplied by Tembec. All of the products are binding agents that are used to make pelleted feed for cattle, sheep, and goats, or fish and shrimp.

    The companies have confirmed that Tembec added melamine as part of the formulation of the products to improve the binding properties of pelleted feed. Melamine is not approved as an additive for animal or fish/shrimp feed.

    The companies have stopped adding melamine to the feed products, the agency said.

    Based on the levels of melamine and related compounds in the initial ingredients, FDA estimated the probable level of melamine and related compounds in livestock feed as less than 50 parts per million (ppm) based on the recommended mix rate of two to four pounds of binding agent per ton of livestock feed.

    The estimated levels in fish and shrimp feed are less than 233 ppm and 465 ppm, respectively, of melamine and related compounds. The estimated levels of melamine and related compounds vary in the livestock feed and the fish and shrimp feed because of differing levels of melamine in the binding agents used for each type of feed.

    FDA said it is advising feed manufacturers and others who mix their own feed not to use these products, and to contact the manufacturers. FDA advises feed manufacturers to recall finished feed that is made from AquaBond or Aqua-Tec II due to the estimated levels of melamine and related compounds in the finished products.

    FDA believes that no recall is warranted of the finished feed made from Xtra-Bond based on the estimated levels of melamine and related compounds in the finished product and based on currently available data and information.

    The estimated melamine levels in feed made with these binding agents are similar to the levels discussed in the interim safety/risk assessment of melamine and related compounds made available by FDA earlier this month.

    In that assessment, federal scientists determined that, based on currently available data and information, the consumption of pork, chicken, domestic fish, and eggs from animals inadvertently fed animal feed contaminated with melamine and its analogues is very unlikely to pose a human health risk.

    FDA officials said the risk from the melamine is extremely small. The interim safety/risk assessment concludes that in the most extreme risk assessment scenario, when scientists assumed that all the solid food a person consumes in an entire day contained melamine and the melamine compound cyanuric acid in equal amounts, the potential exposure is about 250 times lower than the dose considered safe.

    Translated to consumption levels, this means that a person weighing 132 pounds would have to eat more than 800 pounds per day of food containing melamine and its compounds to approach a level of consumption that would cause a health concern, the FDA said.

    While that may be true for humans, melamine in pet food products is suspected of killing or injuring thousands of dogs and cats.

    FDA is encouraging domestic feed suppliers to be vigilant in quality control in their supply chain and to monitor for any improper additives, including melamine and its analogs.

    The Tembec and Uniscope products also reportedly contain a urea formaldehyde resin-type ingredient, a raw ingredient used to make the binding agent in these products. FDA said it is investigating this use of the urea formaldehyde resin-type ingredient in the Tembec and Uniscope products, and will take appropriate regulatory action if warranted.



    Two U.S. Companies Recall Melamine-Tainted Feed...
    Read lessRead more

    Get trending consumer news and recalls

      By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

      Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

      Childrens Metal Jewelry Sold at Limited Too and Justice Stores

      May 31, 2007
      Tween Brands Inc. is recalling about 103,000 sets of children's metal jewelry sold at Limited Too and Justice Stores.

      The jewelry contains high levels of lead which can cause adverse health effects and is toxic if ingested by young children.

      Some of the recalled necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and charms are metallic, multi-colored, and have High School Musical or pictures of High School Musical actors printed on them. Others have frogs, hearts, stars, dogs with dog bones, flowers, and monkeys that hang from silver, black or brown chains or cords.

      The items were sold at Limited Too and Justice retail stores nationwide, the Limited Too catazine (catalog), and at www.limitedtoo.com from September 2005 through May 2007 for between $2 and $10.

      Consumers should immediately take this recalled jewelry away from children and return it to any Limited Too or Justice stores for a full refund and a coupon for a 15 percent discount off a future purchase.

      Consumer Contact: For additional information, call Tween Brands at (800) 934-4497 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firms Web sites at www.limitedtoo.com and www.justicejustforgirls.com.

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

      Childrens Metal Jewelry Sold at Limited Too and Justice Stores...
      Read lessRead more

      IRS Warns Of Virus Email Scam


      The Internal Revenue Service says theres a new email scam making the rounds, masquerading as a stern warning from the tax collection agency. Those who click on an email attachment with the bogus message will unleash a nasty virus on their computers.

      The e-mail purporting to be from IRS Criminal Investigation falsely states that the person is under a criminal probe for submitting a false tax return to the California Franchise Tax Board.

      The e-mail seeks to entice people to click on a link or open an attachment to learn more information about the complaint against them. The IRS warned people that the e-mail link and attachment is a Trojan Horse that can take over the persons computer hard drive and allow someone to have remote access to the computer.

      The IRS urged people not to click the link in the e-mail or open the attachment.

      Similar e-mail variations suggest a customer has filed a complaint against a company and the IRS can act as an arbitrator. The latest versions appear aimed at business taxpayers as well as individual taxpayers.

      The IRS said it does not send out unsolicited e-mails or ask for detailed personal and financial information. Additionally, the IRS never asks people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

      Everyone should beware of these scam artists, said Kevin M. Brown, Acting IRS Commissioner. Always exercise caution when you receive unsolicited e-mails or e-mails from senders you dont know.

      Recipients of questionable e-mails claiming to come from the IRS should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the e-mails. Instead, they should forward the e-mails to phishing@irs.gov.

      More Scam Alerts ...

      IRS Warns Of Virus Email Scam...
      Read lessRead more

      Meat Packer Clashes With Feds Over Inspections

      USDA Won't Let Packer Test for Mad Cow Disease

      Normally, its the government that presses for more inspections while industry that drags its heels, but just the reverse is true when it comes to a meat packer in Kansas.

      Creekstone Farms wants to test all of its cows for Mad Cow Disease but the U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to stop them.

      Under current regulations, USDA tests less than one percent of all slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal if meat from affected animals is ingested by humans. To prevent that, Creekstone Farms has announced its intention to test every cow moving through its plant.

      But the federal government has taken the company to court to try to stop it.

      Why?

      For one thing, testing all of its cattle could give Creekstone Farms an advantage over larger meat packers, who havent even considered such a move. If Creekstone can advertise the fact that 100 percent of its beef is tested, competitors worry they could lose market share.

      USDA also argues that expanding the use of the test could lead to inaccurate results. A number of false positive readings, the agency says, could do the industry harm.

      Though a federal judge ruled on behalf of Creekstone, USDA has said it would appeal. That means the meat packer will not be able to begin administering the tests until the appeals process is exhausted.

      A Poor Record

      USDA and the beef industry dont exactly have a stellar record when it comes to protecting consumers from Mad Cow Disease.

      A 2005 report by the consumer group Public Citizen found more than 800 Mad Cow safety violations at U.S. meat packing plants. More than half the violations (460) occurred because slaughter plants did not have an adequate plan for dealing with BSE in their plants food safety plan, as required by the USDA, the analysis shows.

      Of those 460 violations, 60 percent described plans that contained no mention of Mad Cow Disease at all.

      There have been three known cases of cows infected with Mad Cow Disease in the U.S. since 2003. The disease originated in Europe, killing several consumers in Britain. Last year U.S. health officials confirmed that a Saudi-born man living in Virginia had a human form of mad cow disease, most likely from eating contaminated beef as a child.



      Meat Packer Clashes With Feds Over Inspections...
      Read lessRead more

      China Sentences Its Former FDA Head to Death

      Survey Finds Safety of Chinese Toys Improving

      When the former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was caught violating the law, he was charged with two misdemeanors. When the former director of China's State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) was convicted on corruption charges, he was sentenced to death.

      Zheng Xiaoyu and his family and associates allegedly took bribes amounting to more than five million yuan, about $650,000 in U.S. terms.

      In October 2006, former U.S. FDA head Lester M. Crawford pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest charge and making false financial disclosures to the U.S. Senate and the Executive Branch. He was sentenced to three years probation.

      Prosecutors said Zheng, 63, took the bribes to approve faulty medicines, including a bad batch of antibiotics that killed six patients and sickened 80.

      The harsh sentence is seen as a signal that the Chinese government is serious about cleaning up the widespread corruption that is beginning to give the rapidly-developing nation a black eye in the global marketplace.

      The safety of Chinese food and drugs is a growing concern, highlighted by the recent pet food poisonings that killed and sickened thousands of animals in the U.S. and elsewhere and the discovery that Chinese toothpaste sold in Latin America might be contaminated with a poisonous chemical.

      Toy Safety

      Meanwhile, a Chinese government study found that 23% of toys made in China failed to meet quality and safety standards.

      The products were not intended for export, although China is among the world's biggest exporters of children's toys and clothing, as well as inexpensive household products. Many of the products recalled each year by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission are made in China.

      In the latest survey, the government said many toys had small parts that could easily be swallowed by infants, sharp edges that could cut children or other obvious defects.

      In 2004, a rash of infant deaths was blamed on fake milk powder sold by several manufacturers in Anhui province. An inspection this year found 95% of milk-powder companies met government standards.



      China Sentences Its Former FDA Head to Death...
      Read lessRead more

      Camshaft Flaw in New Tundra Pickup

      The camshaft can crack and fail

      Some of the giant Toyota Tundra pickup trucks have a flawed camshaft which can crack and fail.

      Toyota Motor Corp. reports 20 engine failures in the truck and the automaker said it is trying to track down other trucks at risk for the problem.

      Toyota has found the flawed camshaft in a limited number of 5.7-liter, V-8 engines installed in early versions of the Tundra.

      Toyota calls the Tundra its most important product launch ever and the engine problems come as the Japanese automaker faces pressure to maintain its reputation for quality in the face of a stretch of fast growth that has made it the world's largest automaker.

      Toyota engineers have determined that a flaw in the casting of a still-undetermined number of Tundra camshafts which were manufactured for Toyota's Alabama engine plant by an outside supplier caused the engine failures.

      "The supplier has made changes and we think the problem is solved," a Toyota spokesman said. Toyota would not identify the component supplier.

      In cases in which a Tundra camshaft fails, Toyota is replacing the truck engine at no charge, according to the spokesman.

      The automaker does not plan to inspect every Tundra pickup for the flaw. The spokesman said Toyota is confident that the company can identify what it expects will be a small number of trucks at risk for developing the camshaft problem.

      "We're still trying to get our arms around how many could have been affected," he said.

      The 5.7-liter V-8 -- the largest engine made by Toyota -- has accounted for more than 70 percent of the new Tundra sales since the truck launched in February.

      Toyota, which overtook General Motors Corp. as the world's largest automaker in the first quarter, sold more than 37,000 of the new Tundra trucks in the first three months of the year in the United States.

      The truck, which is being built at a new Toyota assembly plant in San Antonio, Texas, takes aim at a profitable niche still dominated by the Detroit-based automakers.

      Toyota has marketed the new Tundra as a full-size work truck fully competitive with the offerings from its Detroit rivals, including Ford Motor Co.'s market-leading F-series trucks.

      Toyota held back the launch of the new Tundra until February in order to produce enough of the 5.7-liter, V-8 engines to meet expected demand.

      The Tundra also received four-star safety ratings in U.S. government crash safety tests, a lower rating than Ford's competing F-150.

      Camshaft Flaw in New Tundra Pickup...
      Read lessRead more

      "Fountain of Youth" Purveyor Fined

      Promoters Sold Supposed Human Growth Hormone

      Two operations that marketed oral sprays that were supposed to help users lose weight, reverse the aging process, and prevent or treat diseases have settled Federal Trade Commission charges that their claims were bogus.

      The FTC alleged that these businesses falsely claimed the sprays were a fountain of youth, containing or causing the body to produce human growth hormone (HGH). The FTC also accused one company and owner of sending illegal spam messages.

      One group of defendants will pay $172,500 for consumer injury.

      The defendants marketed their oral sprays on Web sites and in emails, making false claims, such as:

      LOSE WEIGHT WHILE YOU SLEEP without DIETING or EXERCISE

      Experience up to an 82% IMPROVEMENT in body fat loss while erasing 10 YEARS in 10 WEEKS!

      The defendants claimed the sprays would counter symptoms of aging and prevent, treat, or cure diseases and medical conditions associated with aging. The marketing pitches for the sprays referred to clinical studies and prestigious publications to give credibility to their claims.

      In fact, the FTC alleged that those claims were unproven and untrue. The FTC charged that the sprays did not contain HGH, or cause the body to increase production of HGH, and did not offer anti-aging, weight loss, or disease prevention effects.

      Consumers bought the sprays from the defendants Web sites. The sites assured consumers that the sites were safe with the message:

      NOTE: To ensure your personal privacy, all of the information that you submit to us after this point will be secured using SSL encryption technology.

      However, the FTC charged that encryption technology was not used, making the credit card information submitted for payment vulnerable to capture while in transit.

      Court orders against all of the defendants prohibit misrepresentations in marketing food, drugs, devices, services, or dietary supplements, including misrepresentations about the product benefits, misrepresentations about studies and research, and representations made without possessing competent and reliable scientific evidence. The orders also prohibit misrepresenting the security of Web site pages.

      The order entered against John A. Brackett, Jr. and his company, Pacific Herbal Sciences, Inc., also prohibits violations of the CAN-SPAM Act. The FTC charged that much of these defendants e-mail violated the CAN-SPAM Act by falsely identifying the sender, using deceptive subject headings, failing to include a mechanism for consumers to decline to receive future emails from the sender, and not disclosing the senders physical postal address.

      Some of the e-mails sampled from the FTCs spam database included forgery of ftc.gov and uce.gov email addresses, making it appear the e-mails were coming from these legitimate sources.

      The order also entered a $762,000 monetary judgment, suspended based on their financial disclosures. The order entered against Lei Lu and his companies, Natural Health Product, Inc. and New Star Marketing Group, Inc., requires them to pay $172,500 for consumer injury. The rest of their $2,218,261 monetary judgment is suspended, also based on their financial disclosures. For both monetary judgments, if it is found that the defendants lied about their financial status, then they will be liable for the full judgment amount.



      'Fountain of Youth' Purveyor Fined...
      Read lessRead more

      Are Your Pets Disaster-Ready?

      Pets Can't Plan Ahead; That's Why There Are Humans

      By Gina Spadafori
      Universal Press Syndicate

      Disaster preparedness is so easy to let slide. We get all worked up after something like the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina or even a false alarm like the turn of the century's perceived threat to our computer systems.

      We read up, we stock up, we move on. And then, we forget. In a pinch, we take the can opener out of the emergency kit and don't replace it. We rotate the food and water into our kitchen cupboards, but we don't buy anything new to rotate into the supplies in the garage.

      It's human nature, of course, to react to immediate threats and to put off preparing for something that might never happen.

      If you're one of those people who figured your pets into your disaster planning after 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, good for you. Now it's time to review those plans. If you've never done any disaster planning, for you or your pets, this is a good time to start.

      Hurricane and tornado season are at hand in many parts of the country. But no matter where you live, there could be a crisis heading your way, and your pets are counting on you.

      Start your preparations with something you've probably already taken care of, by making sure your pets have ID.

      Most animals will survive a disaster, but many never see their families again because there's no way to determine which pet belongs to which family if the animals go missing, a common occurrence even under normal circumstances. That's why dogs and cats should always wear a collar and identification tags. Add a microchip, too.

      Once your pet has up-to-date ID, it's time to collect some equipment to help you cope in case of an emergency. A big storage bin with a lid and handles is an ideal place to keep everything you need together and on hand.

      Keep several days' worth of drinking water and pet food as well as any necessary medicines, rotating the stock regularly. For canned goods, don't forget to pack a can opener and a spoon. Lay in a supply of empty plastic bags, along with paper towels, both for cleaning up messes and for sealing them away until they can be safely tossed.

      For cats, pack a bag of litter and some disposable litter trays.

      Even normally docile pets can behave in uncharacteristic ways when stressed by an emergency, which makes restraints essential for the safety of pets and people alike. For dogs, leashes should always be available.

      Shipping crates are probably the least-thought-of pieces of emergency equipment for pets but are among the most important. Sturdy crates keep pets of all kinds safe while increasing their housing options. Crated pets may be allowed in hotel rooms that are normally off-limits to pets, or can be left in a pinch with veterinarians or shelters that are already full, since the animals come with rooms of their own.

      The final item of restraint for dogs and cats: a soft muzzle, because frightened or injured pets are more likely to bite. And don't forget to put first-aid supplies in your disaster kit, along with a book on how to treat pet injuries.

      You may never have to pull out your disaster kit, but it's always good to be prepared.

      Free Brochure

      The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (in cooperation with the American Kennel Club, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society of the United States) has put together a free emergency preparedness brochure for pet lovers.

      The brochure can be downloaded and printed out on your home computer or ordered by phone. Visit www.ready.gov or call 1-800-BE-READY for more information. -- G.S.


      Q&A

      Barking dog? Talk to your neighbor

      Q: I've had it. I can't even step out of my own back door without the neighbor's dog barking at me. I've screamed at the dog, and it won't shut up. The neighbors leave it out all day when they're at work. I suppose I should be happy the thing doesn't bark all night, but shouldn't I be able to enjoy my own backyard in peace? -- W.F., via e-mail

      A: Yes, you should, and you shouldn't have to ask for quiet, either. But since your neighbors appear to be oblivious to the problem, you'll need to work with them on a solution.

      I always get barking-dog letters in the late spring, when people want to enjoy their backyards and find they can't because of a neighbor's yapper. In the last few months, I found myself in the same position. My kind neighbors took in a train wreck of a stray dog with all kinds of behavior problems.

      I could barely take a breath in my own home without Mango piping up. She barked -- a high-pitched, ultra-annoying staccato -- from the minute they left for work until they came home and took her inside.

      So I piped up myself and talked to the neighbors, again and again. They were understanding and cooperative. And finally, a combination of keeping the dog in a different part of the yard, using a citronella-spray no-bark collar and just letting Mango settle in brought down the barking to acceptable levels.

      I recognize, though, that not every neighbor is as willing to work on a problem as mine are. I realize, too, that some neighbors are not safe to approach on a matter of potential conflict. For these, it may be prudent to collect some information on how to keep a dog quiet, along with a note explaining that you and the other neighbors are asking for the pet owner's help. And then mail them the package.

      The authorities traditionally consider barking dogs a low priority. Although you can escalate your complaints through law enforcement or legal channels, it's always better to try to get the neighbor to fix the problem first.

      The Denver Dumb Friends League has an excellent fact sheet covering why dogs bark and how pet owners can choose effective solutions. You can find it in the pet behavior section at www.ddfl.org. -- Gina Spadafori

      (Do you have a pet question? Send it to petconnection@gmail.com.)


      ABOUT PET CONNECTION

      Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.

      On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dog cars," and a weekly drawing for pet-care prizes. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to petconnection@gmail.com or visiting PetConnection.com.


      PET BUY

      Hale Pet Doors a hearty choice

      Pets come in all shapes and sizes, so it only makes sense that pet doors would, too. Ready-made doors, however, don't usually come in a wide range of sizes, and can have limited features and little or no adaptability.

      Hale Pet Doors makes ready-made and custom doors for installation in walls, doors, patio sliders, windows, glass, motor homes and screens. They come in sizes for the tiniest cats all the way up to the tallest giant-breed dogs. The flaps are made of high-quality vinyl that holds up well to heavy use and fastens securely, thwarting bad weather and small pests. The frames are made of extruded aluminum and come in four colors.

      Hale Pet Doors are sturdy, infinitely customizable and come in sizes to suit any pet. They are adaptable to any kind of climate and about as attractive as a pet door can be.

      Prices start as low as $90, but can go as high as just over $1,000 for the largest sizes and greatest level of customization.

      More information on Hale Pet Doors is available at www.halepetdoor.com, or by calling 1-800-646-4773. -- Christie Keith


      ON GOOD BEHAVIOR

      Among dogs, a sniff is just a 'hello'

      Normal greeting behavior for people may be a handshake or a hug, but among dogs it's a sniff in places that people would consider rude. Owners who don't know acceptable canine behavior often scold their pets for this normal behavior with another dog. Scolding confuses your dog, inhibits his social skills and creates tension with his own species.

      If you take your friendly, socialized dog to dog parks, let him greet other dogs in a normal, natural manner -- with sniffing in private places. If you must, just look away. If your dog then starts humping another dog, you do need to interrupt that behavior.

      Humping, especially in altered pets, is not a display of affection or a desire to mate. It's about dominance. Police this bullying behavior by not allowing it to continue, while praising normal, friendly canine behavior -- such as sniffing.

      (Animal behavior experts Susan and Dr. Rolan Tripp are the authors of "On Good Behavior." For more information, visit their Web site at AnimalBehavior.net.)


      PET Rx

      New test detects kidney disease early

      If a pet's body had a picture window for internal health, the view would look directly at the kidneys. Did you know that the kidneys filter the entire blood volume every 30 minutes? Toxins in the blood can damage the kidneys during the filtration process, a danger recently revealed when pets consumed contaminated foods and went into renal failure.

      Conventional urine tests -- measuring urine-specific gravity, BUN, creatinine -- don't detect damage until about 70 percent of kidney function is lost.

      To catch kidney disease in its earliest stages before too much kidney function has been lost, there is a new urine test available to veterinarians called the E.R.D. (Early Renal Damage), from the Heska Corp.

      Testing for albumin in the urine, this ultra-sensitive test takes less than five minutes to run. Available for both dogs and cats, the test is not only useful in detecting kidney damage from many common diseases, but also an excellent monitoring tool to gauge severity of disease, treatment success and progression of kidney damage.

      Unlike a wound that heals, kidney damage is irreversible. That means the earlier you catch the loss of renal function, the better off your pet will be. With early detection, there are steps you can take to limit further kidney damage, minimize normal wear and tear to the kidneys, or begin treatment.

      If the test is normal, you have peace of mind. If it's positive, your veterinarian has a number of treatment and management options available.

      For more information, talk with your veterinarian. -- Dr. Marty Becker


      PETS BY THE NUMBERS

      Pets should be for life

      With kitten season at hand, it's important to remember that adopting an animal is about more than taking home an adorable fuzzy baby. When you look at the list of why cats end up homeless, you'll realize that most of the reasons could have been avoided if people considered whether they really could handle another pet -- or any pet at all:

      1. Too many in house

      2. Allergies

      3. Moving

      4. Cost of pet maintenance

      5. Landlord issues

      6. No homes for littermates

      7. House soiling

      8. Personal problems

      9. Inadequate facilities

      10. Doesn't get along with other pets

      Source: National Council on Pet Overpopulation Study and Policy


      PETS ON THE WEB

      Blogs bark loudest during food recall

      Itchmo.com, a Web log for Seattle-area dog owners written by Ben Huh, was just cruising along comfortably with a reasonable local following. And then the pet-food recalls started.

      Huh, a dog lover and journalist, started devoting all of his free time to covering the story. His Itchmo.com site soon became one of the handful -- including PetConnection.com -- that suddenly became a must-read for pet lovers trying to keep up on the recalls. These sites attracted the attention of national media as well as pet lovers and broke several stories along the way that kept the issue percolating. The Pet Food Tracker (petfoodtracker.blogspot.com) and The Pet Food List (www.thepetfoodlist.com) posted recall notices sometimes days before the FDA did.

      "Itchmo" is Huh's term for a dog's "scratch me more" look. The site retains that whimsy and, as the urgency of the pet-food recall eases, Itchmo.com is returning to a lively mix of news and entertainment for dog lovers everywhere. -- Gina Spadafori


      Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to petconnection@gmail.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.

      COPYRIGHT 2007 UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

      Are Your Pets Disaster-Ready?...
      Read lessRead more

      Contact Lens Solution Linked to Eye Infections

      "Complete MoisturePlus" Recalled After Study Finds Rising Infection Rate

      Federal health officials are warning that a contact lens solution made by Advanced Medical Optics -- "Complete MoisturePlus" -- has been linked to a rare but serious eye infection that can cause blindness.

      It's the second scare linked to the product in less than a year.

      The company recalled 2.9 million packets of the solution last November after it found bacterial contamination in three lots sold in Japan. That recall included 183,000 units sold in the U.S.

      At the time of the earlier recall, the company blamed it on a water-borne organism that got into some solution at the company's plant in China. The plant was temporarily shut down and the company insisted there was no problem with the lens solution's formula.

      In the latest case, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it had found 138 "culture-confirmed" cases and has interviewed 46 patients in an investigation that covered 35 states and Puerto Rico.

      Ironically, Advanced Medical Optics has been exploring the possibility of buying rival Bausch & Lomb Inc. which last year recalled its "MoistureLoc" contact solution, which was also linked to a serious eye infection in some users.

      Of the cases identified by the CDC, 36 of the victims wore soft contacts and 21 reported using the Advanced Medical Optics product.

      CDC epidemiologist Sharon Roy said consumers should stop using the product and discard it, along with their lens case and their current pair of contacts.

      The organism involved is Acanthamoeba. It can cause a serious infection of the cornea. While such infections are quite rare, officials say they have been seeing a rising number of infections in recent years.

      Acanthamoeba is commonly found in water, soil, sewage systems, cooling towers, and heating/ventilation/air conditioning systems. The infection it can cause -- Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) -- is usually found among individuals who improperly store, handle and disinfect their lenses, swim or shower while wearing their lenses or come into contact with contaminated water.

      "While AMO continues to work with the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to further assess the data, it is acting with an abundance of caution to voluntarily recall Complete MoisturePlus from the market," the company said.

      What To Do

      Contact lens wearers should immediately consult a physician if they have any of the following symptoms: eye pain, eye redness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, sensation of something in the eye, and excessive tearing.

      The symptoms, which can last several weeks to months, are not the same for everybody. Early in the infection, the symptoms of AK can be very similar to the symptoms of other more common eye infections but AK may eventually cause severe pain and possible vision loss with some patients requiring a corneal transplant if untreated.

      Consumers who believe they are in possession of the recalled product should discontinue use immediately and call 1-888-899-9183.

      Chicago Cases

      The CDC was alerted to the problem by research conducted in the Chicago area at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where two researchers tracked 67 cases of the outbreak in the Chicago area since June 2003. Charlotte Joslin and Elmer Tu wrote a paper on their findings. It was accepted Friday for future publication in the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

      The two are professors of ophthalmology at UIC. They speculated that the rising infection rate is linked to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandate to get certain harmful chemicals out of the water supply.

      Since the EPA issued its mandate, doctors have been warning their patients to avoid showering while wearing contacts and to be careful not to come into contact with tap water while handling the lenses.



      Contact Lens Solution Linked to Eye Infections...
      Read lessRead more

      Connecticut Sues Best Buy

      State Charges Stores with Deceiving, Overcharging Customers

      Best Buy used in-store computer kiosks to deceive consumers about product prices and overcharge them, according to a lawsuit filed by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) Commissioner Jerry Farrell.

      Best Buy operates an internal site accessible only at kiosks in its stores. The site is virtually identical to BestBuy.com, the company's web site, except for listing in-store instead of online prices.

      Consumers access information at the in-store kiosk by clicking on a tab labeled "BestBuy.com," even though they are not connecting to the Internet site.

      Since 2005, the company's stores have pledged to match any lower online price, including from their own Internet site. Many Best Buy salespeople falsely told consumers searching for or seeking to confirm lower online prices that the kiosk connected them to BestBuy.com, the lawsuit charges.

      When the site displayed the higher in-store price, salespeople allegedly suggested that consumers, who thought they were viewing BestBuy.com, previously misread the lower online price or the online price had expired.

      "Best Buy gave consumers the worst deal --- a bait-and-switch-plus scheme luring consumers into stores with promised online discounts, only to charge higher in-store prices," Blumenthal said.

      "The company commonly kept two sets of prices --- one on its Internet site and an often higher set on its in-store, look-alike, available on kiosks. The in-store site was an Internet look-alike, commonly with higher prices, which were charged to consumers," he said. "Best Buy broke its promise to give the best price -- an Internet version of bait-and-switch - a technological bait-and-switch-plus.

      "It is extremely unfortunate that this company misled consumers as to what the 'best buy' actually was," said Farrell. "Putting into their stores a kiosk that led shoppers to believe they were getting the online price when that was far from certain, seems to have been an intentional effort to mislead. I hope that this lawsuit, filed under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, puts retailers on notice that purposeful efforts to mislead consumers will be met by equally purposeful and vigorous enforcement of the law."

      In reaction to Connecticut's investigation, Best Buy in March added a banner to its in-store site reading "This Kiosk Reflects Local Store Pricing," but Blumenthal and Farrell said the kiosks remain deceptive.

      The kiosk's appearance remains virtually identical to BestBuy.com; customers still access information by clicking a tab marked "BestBuy.com."

      "The store's minor changes to its kiosks -- made in response to my investigation - are inadequate and incomplete," Blumenthal said. "The in-store kiosks are still mislabeled 'BestBuy.com,' falsely leading consumers to believe they are connecting to the Best Buy Internet web site."

      Connecticut Sues Best Buy: Best Buy used in-store computer kiosks to deceive consumers about product prices and overcharge them, according to a lawsuit....
      Read lessRead more

      Chinese Toothpaste Scare Spreads to Canada

      Some Chinese Toothpaste May Contain Poisonous Chemical

      The toothpaste scare that has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration scrambling to check all toothpaste imports has spread to Canada.

      Chinese toothpastes labeled Mr. Cool and Excel contain diethylene glycol, a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze. The discovery alarmed Panama officials because that same ingredient killed 51 Panamanians a year ago after it was found in Chinese-imported cough syrup.

      In response to Chinese shipments of poisonous toothpaste found in Central America, the Caribbean and Australia, the U.S. has decided to check all toothpaste shipments from China.

      Canadian officials are considering taking similar actions.

      Although neither of those products have been licensed in Canada, officials warned that they may still be on the market.

      It is possible that these products could be purchased by Canadians traveling abroad, or have been brought into Canada through personal importation, or purchased over the Internet, said Renee Bergeron, Health Canada spokeswoman.

      Health Canada is monitoring this issue and will take the appropriate compliance and enforcement action if the product is found to be on the Canadian market, Bergeron continued.

      Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not said whether any tainted tubes may be in the U.S., a recent story by ConsumerAffairs.com found illegally imported toothpaste being sold in in discount stores.

      Our story found 17 tubes of illegally imported toothpaste being sold in D.C.-area discount stores. The tubes were all manufactured in other countries and are not intended for sale in the U.S. One illegal tube of toothpaste was from China.

      Imported toothpaste found in D.C.-area stores

      The tubes are illegal because they do not follow the FDAs over-the-counter drug labeling requirements. Two tubes didnt even list all the ingredients while many of the others are in foreign languages.

      After almost three weeks of ignoring many of our questions, the FDA told ConsumerAffairs.com that companies who manufacture, market and distribute the toothpastes could all face prosecution for selling the illegal products.

      Over-the-counter drug products that do not comply with FDA labeling requirements are misbranded and may also be unapproved new drugs, both of which violate the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, FDA spokeswoman Veronica Castro wrote in an e-mail.

      Enforcement regarding products that violate the FDCA include regulatory correspondence, seizure, injunction, and in some cases criminal prosecution.

      Most of the illegal tubes were common U.S. names designed for foreign use.

      Colgate representative Tom Paolella, said regardless of the tubes origin, all their products are safe.

      Crest representatives have not returned two phone calls and two e-mails.

      The worst retail offender was discount store chain, National Wholesale Liquidators, which has not returned two e-mails and does not answer the phone.

      When shopping at discount stores, consumers should ensure the product has the over-the-counter drug facts labeling that includes: a list of active ingredients, a description of the products use, warnings, directions, a list of inactive ingredients and a toll-free phone number.

      Correction:

      Yesterday, ConsumerAffairs.com reported in some versions of an earlier story that the recent Chinese shipment of toothpaste killed 51 Panamanians. In fact, it was cough syrup distributed last year. We regret the error.



      Chinese Toothpaste Scare Spreads to Canada...
      Read lessRead more

      Americans Alarmed about Dependence on Oil Imports, High Gas Prices

      Survey Finds Support for Tougher Fuel Economy Standards


      In a recent national survey commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), a large majority of Americans expressed great concern about the nation's dependence on oil imports.

      They see this dependence as increasing gas prices, threatening future gas supplies, and funding terrorism.

      This concern about oil dependence is a major reason why a large majority of Americans support increases in federal corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE) -- by one mpg per year over the next ten years -- even when these higher standards increase the price of cars.

      Surprisingly, there is significantly more support for these increases in the auto-dependent North Central region of the country than in the other three regions. Legislation in both houses of Congress, which is gaining support, would mandate these improvements, annually reducing gas consumption by 46 billion gallons and saving more than $125 billion at current prices.

      At the same time, most Americans greatly overestimate the nation's domestic oil reserves and ability to substantially increase production.

      More than half (55%) of Americans mistakenly believe the nation holds more than twenty percent of the worlds oil reserves. In fact, the U.S. has less than 3% of this oil. Those who overestimate domestic oil reserves also are most likely to think we can produce enough oil to reduce our dependence on oil imports.

      Fuel-Saving Tips

      As well as supporting increases in CAFE, Americans can reduce the nation's dependence on oil imports by taking fuel-saving actions. Two of the most effective, which don't involve changes in driving, are replacing dirty air filters and making sure tires are aligned.

      Drivers who take these two steps can reduce their gas consumption by nearly 20%, effectively reducing the price of gas by over $.50 per gallon. A recent analysis released by CFA reveals that consumers are paying $1,000 more annually for gasoline than five years ago.

      Oil Imports

      Americans are aware of the nation's dependence on oil imports. When asked what percentage of the oil consumed in the United States is imported from other countries, more than two-thirds gave percentages between 40 and 80, and only 14% said less than 40. The actual percentage is a little more than 60.

      Over four-fifths (84%) of Americans are concerned about this oil import dependency, with more than one-half (52%) expressing great concern. When asked why they were concerned, large majorities expressed concern about future gas prices and supplies, and funding unfriendly foreign governments and terrorism, with majorities expressing great concern about each.

      "Americans clearly understand the relationship between oil imports and not only future price hikes but also funding of terrorism," said Stephen Brobeck, CFA's Executive Director. They are also clearly feeling the pinch of rising gasoline prices, added Brobeck, since average household expenditures on gasoline have increased $1,000 over the past five years.

      Auto Fuel Efficiency

      The survey asked three kinds of questions about the public's support for mandated increases in motor vehicle fuel efficiency (CAFE). In response to a question about "supporting required increases in motor vehicle fuel economy," four-fifths (80%) said yes.

      In response to a question about support for specific legislation requiring auto companies to increase new car gas mileage by about one mile per gallon a year for ten years, over four-fifths (81%) said they favor, with over half (55%) saying they favor strongly.

      Then in response to the same question, with a statement that the legislation would "increase the cost of cars somewhat," but these costs would be offset by lower costs from lower gas consumption, support for the legislation remained high, at 73% (with 41% strongly favoring it).

      Surprisingly, there is significantly more support for these increases in the auto-dependent

      North Central region of the country than in the other three regions. In the region stretching from Ohio to the Dakotas and from Minnesota to Missouri, where the facilities of U.S. auto companies are disproportionately located, 88% of Americans support CAFE increases compared to only 82% support in the Northeast, 78% support in the South, and 79% support in the West.

      The legislation moving through Congress (S.357, Inouye-Stevens in the Senate and H.R.1506, Markey-Platts in the House), which aims to increase new vehicle fuel efficiency by 10 miles per gallon in ten years, sets appropriate goals for increasing CAFE standards.

      "Support for the legislation mandating higher fuel economy is very strong and undoubtedly related to concern about oil import dependency," said Travis Plunkett, CFA Legislative Director. But the devil is in the details, Plunkett cautioned. Unless the standards are mandatory for at least a decade and the criteria for evaluating progress thereafter rigorous, we could end up where we have been for the past decade, stuck in neutral.

      Too Optimistic

      Slightly more than half of Americans (51%) think "we can produce enough new oil in the U.S. to reduce our dependence on oil imports, with 46% disagreeing.

      This optimism is clearly related to the widespread belief that the nation contains far larger oil reserves than it in fact has. More than half (55%) of Americans think we hold at least one-fifth of the world's oil, with nearly one-third (32%) thinking we hold over 30%. Only 3% of Americans think that we hold less than 5% of the world's oil reserves, which is the correct answer, since the nation holds less than 3% of the world's oil reserves.

      Domestic U.S. oil reserves equal just three years of current annual U.S. consumption and 12 years of current annual U.S. production.

      Those who overestimate our oil reserves tend to be the most optimistic about domestic production. Well over half of those who believe we have at least 20% of the world's oil think we can cut oil import dependence through increased U.S. production. But only one-fifth (20%) of those saying we hold less than 5% of the world's oil reserves think we can reduce oil dependence through domestic production.

      "Most Americans are sorely misled when it comes to how much oil America controls. If they truly understood how little we have, they would know we cannot drill our way out of oil dependency. The only way to energy independence is through greater efficiency and alternative fuels," said Mark Cooper, CFA's Director of Research.

      To appreciate the tough spot we are in, added Cooper, if we compare our remaining reserves in the U.S. to current levels of consumption and production, we find that proven reserves equal just three years of current consumption and just 12 years of current production.

      Americans Alarmed about Dependence on Oil Imports, High Gas Prices...
      Read lessRead more

      Detroit Fights Back Against Higher Mileage Standards

      Ad Campaign Targets Soccer Moms, Pick-Up Owners

      By Joe Benton
      ConsumerAffairs.com

      May 24, 2007
      Big automakers are striking back over the Memorial Day weekend at efforts in Congress to impose higher mileage standards.

      Despite rising gas prices and growing public concern about climate change and dependence on foreign oil, the auto industry will set out to convince Americans they should oppose dramatically higher fuel economy requirements.

      The Detroit Big Three along with Toyota Motor Corp. will spearhead a print and radio advertising campaign warning consumers that fuel regulations under consideration by the U.S. Senate will lead to higher vehicle prices and smaller and less safe vehicles.

      The ads feature rural pick-up owners and SUV-driving soccer moms in a effort to make the case that a Senate proposal would limit consumer choice and tie the hands of automakers.

      The Senate is scheduled to vote sometime in June on a bill that would require automakers to raise fuel economy 40 percent by 2020 to a fleet wide average of 35 miles per gallon for passenger cars and light trucks.

      The ad campaign coincides with the highest gasoline prices on record as many American are choosing to stay at home for the Memorial Day weekend rather than pay $3.35 and more for a gallon of regular.

      The automakers are counting on getting a better hearing from minivan owners and truck lovers than they have among political leaders and environmentalists.

      The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade association that represents General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG, Toyota, BMW and four other automakers will kick off the campaign with two radio ads in more than 10 states urging people to contact their representatives in Congress to oppose "extreme fuel economy mandates."

      The radio campaign will cost in excess of $1 million for ads to be run in Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all states with high percentages of truck and SUV owners.

      The alliance also plans a Web site that will offer people a toll-free phone number that connects to members of Congress as well a way to send an e-mail to their Congressional representative.

      GM and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler are sending letters to retirees, employees and dealers warning them of the downside of dramatically higher fuel economy standards.

      GM will also launch a Web effort and Ford also plans some "grassroots communication with our employees and some retirees," according to a Ford spokesman.

      One radio ad features a couple of farmers talking about buying a new pick-up against a backdrop of cackling chicken. "You might want to do that fast," one says, adding the new fuel standards "are going to really jack up the price."

      The second ad focuses on people who could lose the ability to pick larger and safer vehicles if new rules pass. "Congress is about to pass a law that's going to make it harder and harder to find bigger cars. the response: "Why can't they let me make the choice? I'm all for better fuel economy, but for me safety is my top concern."

      See what's free at AOL.com.
      Detroit Fights Back Against Higher Mileage Standards...
      Read lessRead more

      FDA Bans Toothpaste from China after 51 Deaths in Panama

      Foreign-Made Toothpaste Found in Many Discount Stores

      The Food and Drug Administration said it is blocking all shipments of toothpaste from China after reports of contaminated toothpaste entering Panama.

      The toothpaste containted diethylene glycol, the same poison that the Panamanian government mistakenly mixed into cold medicine last year, killing at least 100 people. The poison, falsely labeled as glycerin, also originated in China.

      However, a ConsumerAffairs.com investigation reveals the FDA's action may be too little too late and that importers still may be able to sneak tubes past FDA inspectors.

      ConsumerAffairs.com recently discovered illegal tubes of toothpaste being sold in discount stores in the Washington, D.C. area.

      The tubes were manufactured in other countries and not intended for sale in the U.S. We found 17 different tubes of all makes being illegally imported from countries such as India, Peru, South Africa, Thailand and China.

      Although most of the tubes appear safe for use, none of them followed the FDAs fluoride toothpaste labeling requirements. Two tubes didnt even list all the ingredients.

      The FDA is focusing on the issue after Panama discovered diethylene glycol, a potentially dangerous chemical used in antifreeze, in tubes branded Mr. Cool and Excel.

      Imported toothpaste found in D.C.-area stores

      These efforts will not affect major brands such as Crest and Colgate as their U.S. products are made in the U.S. However, many of the illegal tubes we discovered were Crest and Colgate, manufactured overseas and illegally imported. Although the Crest and Colgate tubes failed the FDAs labeling requirements, they all contained the FDAs fluoride dosage requirement, making them safe for use.

      Regardless of the country where we manufacture it, Colgate toothpaste is made in strict adherence to our global safety and quality standards, Colgate spokesman Tom Paolella wrote in an e-mail.

      The FDAs increased scrutiny will likely be aimed at knock-off brands.

      The one illegal tube of toothpaste we discovered from China is called Classic and is packaged in colors and a font similar to that found on Crest products. It does not contain diethylene glycol, but appears to be many years old and does not have the correct labeling.

      When shopping at discount stores, consumers should ensure the product has the drug facts labeling that includes: a list of active ingredients, a description of the products use, warnings, directions, a list of inactive ingredients and a toll-free phone number.

      FDA's Problems

      The toothpaste alert follows Congressional and Government Accountability Office charges that the FDA is not doing enough to protect American citizens from dangerous foods and drugs.

      While FDA spokeswoman Veronica Castro did confirm that it was in fact illegal for those tubes of toothpaste to be sold in the U.S., the agencys spokespeople, including Castro, refused to say whether the manufacturer, distributor, importer or store would be held legally liable.

      Agency spokespeople also refused to say what penalties might be applied and how the tubes made it past the FDAs import inspectors. Agency spokespeople then refused to say why they refused to comment.

      Fluoride a Concern

      Some of the stores where we found illegally imported toothpaste

      The primary concern with foreign toothpastes is the level of fluoride.

      Much of the water consumed in the U.S. is fluoridated, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But in many other countries, particularly poorer countries, there is limited or no fluoridation. Because of that, individual countries may require more fluoride in their toothpaste a recipe that could be detrimental for Americans.

      Fluoride can be found naturally and artificially in many of the products consumers eat and drink everyday and generally, those levels of fluoride are considered safe for the body and healthy for teeth, Lydia Hall, American Dental Association spokeswoman, said.

      But too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis, Castro wrote in an e-mail. Fluorosis usually afflicts infants and children. It destroys enamel and gums. In severe cases, which are very rare in the U.S., it can lead to a crippling skeletal breakdown in both children and adults.

      The FDA requires that fluoride toothpaste manufacturers include a list of active ingredients, a description of the products use, warnings, directions, a list of inactive ingredients and a toll-free phone number. These drug facts requirements are identical to those found on the back of any over-the-counter medication, Castro wrote.



      FDA Bans Toothpaste from China after 51 Deaths in Panama...
      Read lessRead more

      Anti-Spyware Bill Passes House

      Bill Bans Consumers from Suing Spyware Distributors


      The House of Representatives has passed a bill designed to toughen penalties on spyware vendors and criminalize the act of installing potentially dangerous software on a user's machine.

      But the bill must pass the Senate as well, and Congress' record of crafting useful legislation to combat Internet threats is mixed at best.

      The House cleared the "Internet Spyware Prevention Act" (aka "I-SPY") on a voice vote on May 22. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who sponsored the bill along with Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), hailed it as a success for consumers.

      "[I-SPY] is a bipartisan measure that identifies the truly unscrupulous acts associated with spyware and subjects them to criminal punishment," Lofgren said. "It targets the worst forms of spyware without unduly burdening technological innovation."

      I-SPY prohibits "intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization, or exceeding authorized access, by causing a computer program or code to be copied onto the protected computer, and intentionally using that program or code" in order to obtain personal information, which the bill defines as a Social Security number, bank account number, credit card number, and so on.

      The bill also authorizes disbursements of $10 million a year through 2011 to the Justice Department, in order to fund efforts to combat spyware, phishing, and pharming.

      Lofgren, who represents tech-heavy San Jose, California, won the support of the software industry for the bill. A competing bill, the "Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act (aka the SPY Act)," mandated that companies create clear, upfront disclosures of any software they wanted to install on a user's machine, which vendors objected to as overly burdensome.

      Although clear disclosures of potential spyware seems like a win for users, the SPY Act also preempted state-level antispyware laws, limiting venues of redress to state Attorneys General and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In addition, it contained many exemptions that could enable security vendors to install spyware on users' machines and monitor their activities.

      Consumers Can't Sue

      Both I-SPY and the SPY Act prevent individual legal actions against spyware purveyors. If I-SPY becomes law, cases such as the Sony rootkit scandal could not be pursued in civil court, or as part of a class action suit.

      Lawsuits filed against Sony in New York, California, Texas, and other states caused bad publicity for the company and forced it to settle the cases for millions of dollars.

      Congress' previous benchmark for legislation against Internet threats, the CAN-SPAM Act, was widely derided as a failure when it came to stopping spam, with spam traffic actually increasing since the act's passage in 2004.

      With the Senate currently occupied with battles over funding the Iraq war and passing immigration reform, the possibility of getting a companion bill to I-SPY passed are chancy at best. And given the bill's potential restrictions on consumer redress for spyware threats, many in the security sector believe it may be best for Congress to "first do no harm," and let existing laws, better user education, and stronger security products do the job of combating spyware.

      New Anti-Spyware Bill Passes House...
      Read lessRead more

      Bush Pick to Head Safety Agency Withdraws

      Baroody Spokesman Blames "Smear Campaign" for Lobbyist's Retreat

      President Bushs pick to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission succumbed to pressure from Democratic Senators and consumer advocates who vehemently apposed having an industry lobbyist head the consumer agency.

      Just one day before the Senate Commerce Committee was set to vote on Bushs controversial pick, Michael Baroody, the executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers withdrew.

      It became clear that he wasnt going to get the vote, so I think he realized there just wasnt any point in going forward, Hank Cox, NAM spokesman and Baroodys self-described close friend, said somberly.

      Bushs nomination drew so much heat because Baroody has virtually built his career around fighting against consumers' rights for the benefit of industry.

      His nomination to this critical post was astoundingly inappropriate and would have put American families at further risk because of his interest in weakening safeguards against potentially dangerous products, Joan Claybrook, president of the nonprofit consumer watchdog group Public Citizen, said in a prepared statement.

      Within days of Bushs nomination, Democratic Senators showed dismay that Bush would pick someone with Baroodys background.

      Even an ex-CPSC commissioner couldnt believe it. This had shock and awe written all over it, Ann Brown, who chaired the commission from 1994 to 2001 said. He was the worst possible choice to lead the CPSC.

      Cox said some Senators lied in their smear campaign against Baroody.

      The unprincipled smear campaign waged against Mike, aided and abetted by unethical release of his financial records, was inexcusable, NAM president John Engler said in a prepared statement.

      The financial records Engler refers to is a $150,000 severance NAM was set to give Baroody if he became the CPSCs chairman. That sum would have legally been considered excessive and would have precluded Baroody from partaking in any actions involving NAM a rarity at the agency.

      In a prepared statement, the White House said it is reluctantly accepting Baroodys withdrawal.

      We are disappointed he will not have the opportunity to strengthen the CPSC's ability to protect American consumers, according to the statement.

      In the likely event Baroody would not have won the vote before the Commerce Committee, Bush still would have had the opportunity sneak Baroody in through a recess appointment. Recess appointments are generally reserved for emergencies. However, Bush has frequently relied on it to get controversial nominations into high level posts.

      Cox said Baroody did not want it to come to that.

      Mike Baroody has been in town (Washington, D.C.) almost 40 years and he is a man of dignity and character.

      Consumer advocates are pleased with the outcome, but are concerned about the future of the commission.

      No Quorum

      The good news is that the Bush administrations candidate has been withdrawn, Consumer Federation of America spokesman Jack Gillis said. The bad news is that this agency remains leaderless and without a quorum of commissioners.

      The CPSC needs at least three commissioners to perform regulatory activities and to levy fines. The commission has not had three commissioners since former chairman Hal Stratton, another Bush appointee, abruptly resigned July 15, 2006 to become a lobbyist.

      According to the Consumer Product Safety Act, which created and governs the CPSC, the two remaining commissioners can continue their regulatory activities for six months after a vacancy has been created. After those six months, their powers are stripped until the President fills the vacancy and as of Jan. 15, 2007, that has been the case.

      If Bush takes as long as he did last time to find a replacement, the commission will remain powerless for another six months.

      Regardless, Consumer advocates and Brown are still hailing this a success.

      Not having a quorum is definitely better, Brown said. Not that we want to be down a commissioner, but who knows how long he wouldve been in there. Possibly well into the next administration.

      The Baroody nomination drew attention to the important mandate of the CPSC to be the nations strongest advocate for consumers and the safety of their products, Sally Greenburg, senior product safety counsel for the Consumers Union wrote in an e-mail. We urge the administration to look for a candidate with the qualifications to further that mission.

      Now there needs to be some pressure on the White House to nominate a qualified candidate, Brown said.

      For months, CPSC spokespeople have assured ConsumerAffairs.com that no new regulations were being held up by the lack of a quorum. But CPSC spokesperson Julie Vallese changed her tune today.

      The time is coming where the lack of a quorum may start holding things up, she said.

      Vallese said nothing is being held up currently, but thats not going to last forever. In the coming months, things are going to come up for a vote.

      Vallese wouldnt say what regulation is soon to be pending a vote, however, the agency is currently working on:

      • A rule that would limit the percent of lead found in childrens jewelry.
      • Legislation that would make upholstered furniture less flammable.
      • Updated design legislation for portable generators.
      • Safety standards for all-terrain vehicles.

      Bush Pick to Head Safety Agency Withdraws...
      Read lessRead more