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    Pet Owners Blame Nutro Products for their Dog's Illnesses

    Menu Foods Phases Out Chinese Ingredients


    A California pet owner is furious that Nutro Products continues to claim its dry dog foods are safe.That companys senior dry food, she says, nearly killed her two dogs.

    In another development, Menu Foods said it is phasing out ingredients from China until it is assured they're safe. Chinese ingredients have been blamed for the wave of pet poisonings across the country.

    I cannot even begin to describe the hell our pets have gone through, Cynthia H. of West Hills, California, says of her six-year-old Pomeranian, Killer, and her nine-year-old American Eskimo-Sheltie mix, Juliet. This has been weeks of vomiting and diarrhea and illness -- skin infections, bladder infections, not eating, lethargy -- basically, they were poisoned by this bad food.

    Cynthia says shed just started feeding her dogs Nutro Maxs Senior Dry food around the first of this month, and chose that brand because it wasnt included in the nationwide recall of more than 60 million containers of pet foods.

    Thats the irony of the whole thing. This food was something new that I started feeding them because of the pet food recall. I was being very careful not to give things on that recall list.

    Since March, 18 companies have recalled more than 5,600 pet food products. That action came after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed two ingredients used to make the products -- wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate -- were tainted with melamine and melamine-related compounds.

    Melamine is a chemical used to make plastic and fertilizers. It is not approved for use in pet or human food.

    The FDA also discovered the Chinese companies that exported those ingredients to the United States intentionally spiked the products with melamine to increase the protein content.

    Thousands of dogs and cats that have eaten the contaminated pet food have suffered kidney problems or died.

    In Cynthias case, her dogs became sick shortly after they started eating Nutro Maxs dry food. And their symptoms mirror those in pets that have eaten the tainted -- and recalled -- foods.

    Juliet got sick first, Cynthia says, adding she bought the Nutro Max dry food in April, but didnt start feeding it to her dogs until May. And she has been very ill for nearly three weeks. Shes had bloody diarrhea, repeated vomiting, and her system also started shutting down, resulting in a bad bladder infection. She has also been on two different types of medications.

    Cynthias Pomeranian experienced similar problems.

    He has vomited and had severe diarrhea for more than a week. His system started to shut down, and he ended up with a serious skin infection. Hes still on antibiotics and is not yet well.

    Both dogs, she says, were also extremely lethargic.

    I was down at the vets office with both of them and I didnt think theyd come back. Theyve been through hell.

    Is it possible that anything besides of the food made the dogs sick?

    No way, Cynthia says.

    My dogs have been incredibly healthy dogs. Theyre indoors dogs and only go outside with me supervising them. Theres nothing else they could have gotten into; theres nothing else that could have done this to them.

    She adds: I just know it happened because of the food.

    Her vet agrees. She concurred with me that I should stop feeding them Nutro Max.

    Contacted FDA

    To protect other dogs from getting sick, Cynthia contacted the FDA and Nutro Products with her concerns about the dry food.

    I filed a compliant with the FDA, but theyre being very unresponsive. I called the Los Angeles office in Orange County and got a call back from someone in Arizona. Apparently, Los Angeles got a lot of bad pet food and there are a massive amount of people calling the FDA office in Orange County.

    Orange Countys FDA office wanted samples of the food and they were going to send someone over to my house to pick it up, she adds. But they havent called me in three weeks. I thought there should be some urgency because this stuff is still on the shelves.

    Deaf Ears

    How did Nutro Products respond?

    My concerns fell on deaf ears, Cynthia says. I did speak to someone in their corporate office and they kept saying that they feel their dry food is safe. They are also refusing to do anything for anyone. And Im out $500 in vet bills.

    Cynthia isnt the only pet owner who has contacted ConsumerAffairs.com with concerns about Nutros dry food.

    Consider some of the similar complaints weve received in the past few months:

    • Kevin S. of Roseville, California, wrote: I have to put down my dog of six years today as she has the same symptoms as the other animals that have eaten contaminated foods. I realize that there has been no official recall of dry dog food, but my dog has only eaten two products in her life, Nutro Max dry dog food and Purina Beggin Strips. Please stop this nightmare and help keep other animals safe for this tragic event. I have spent over two thousand dollars attempting to save my dog. Today is her last day as she is being put to sleep this afternoon.

    • Bonita L. Wachs of Germantown, Wisconsin, told us: My three-year-old Shih Tzu became very ill in the fall of 2006. She was extremely thirsty, drank excessively, lost her appetite, lost weight, had diarrhea and vomiting, was lethargic, and was very ill. She refused to eat her food, but, as many owners did, we forced her to eat the food she didn't want. She developed a high level of glucose in her urine and a urinary tract infection.

    "The vet was stumped with her condition. I had asked if it could be her dry dog food -- Nutro Max. The vet said that was a good brand and did not think so. In the spring, when the pet food scare was in full force, I called the service line and reported my dogs illness to the company. They said they had not had any problems with the dry food or Nutro treats, but would document my complaint. I switched to Purina dog food back in January, and now my dog is clear of glucose in her urine. The vet is still stumped, but happy she is well. Molly had a rough few months, and we have a few hundred dollars in vet bills. We pray there is no physical damage to her kidneys.

    • Angelique of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told us: My dog (only four-years-old) died within 4 days of me buying a new bag of Nutro Max dry dog food. This is not on the list of recalled foods, but this was the only major change in his diet and he was never out of my sight. He was fine on Sunday until 2 a.m. when he started having diarrhea,vomiting, lethargy, bloody diarrhea, and by the time I took him to the hospital at 1 p.m. the next day he was in shock. His system shut down and he died at around 4:30 p.m. This needs to be stopped. The company refuses to acknowledge there is a problem, but if you search on the Internet you will find many people saying the exact same thing happened to them. This food needs to be recalled now.

    No Response

    ConsumerAffairs.com tried to reach Nutro Products, but the company did not return our calls.

    A press release on the companys Web site, however, states: Nutro wishes to reassure its customers that Nutro's dry dog and cat foods are safe to feed their petsand none of Nutro's dry pet foods are involved in the latest dry pet food recall announcements involving contaminated rice protein from China.

    The press release also states: None of Nutro's dry dog or cat foods have been involved in any of the melamine related recallsand an independent testing laboratory has tested the rice protein used in Nutro's dry pet foods and no melamine was detected.

    In the current environment, we want to communicate frequently with our customers about Nutro's products and reassure you that our dry dog and cat foods are safe.

    Cynthia vehemently disagrees. And she plans to continue warning other pet owners about Nutros dry dog food.

    This food was supposed to be safe and it isntit nearly killed our two dogs.

    Menu Foods Makes a Change

    In related pet food recall news, Menu Foods announced this week that it will no longer source vegetable proteins --like wheat gluten or rice protein concentrate -- from China until those ingredients are deemed safe.

    Menu is phasing out all ingredients from China until such time as Menu and its customers are convinced of their safety, attorney David Lillehaug told ConsumerAffairs.com on Tuesday.

    Menu isnt the only pet food manufacturer taking this stance against China.

    Royal Canin USA announced last week that it will no longer source vegetable proteins from that country.

    More about the Pet Food Recall ...



    Pet Owners Blame Nutro Products for their Dog's Illnesses...
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    Image Spam On The Rise

    Unpleasant Surprises Await Those Who Take the Bait


    It's said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and nowhere is that more evident than for spammers who have replaced their mangled offers of Viagra and charitable Nigerian enterprises with pictures of hot women in stilettos.

    But make no mistake -- the picture may be prettier, but it's a bigger risk than ever.

    Image spam is a prime cause of the overall rise in spam traffic over the last few years, with image spam climbing from 5 percent of to 40 percent of all spam in just the last year, according to the Symantec security firm.

    The reason is simple -- as antispam filters get stronger and more capable of recognizing the typical "word salad" that makes up a spam e-mail, spammers are using images that are harder for filters to parse, and thus easier to get through to your inbox.

    As CSO's Scott Berinato put it, "The conceit behind image spam is graceful in its simplicity: Computers cant see...Parsing an image can confound a filter because it sees only noise millions of 0s and 1s in no discrete pattern."

    Researchers for the Secure Computing security company recently publicized findings on an even more devious version of image spam. Rather than attaching spam images to an e-mail, spammers use popular photo and image hosting sites to host their spam images, and embed them directly in the e-mail, making it all the easier to get past a spam filter and into an unwitting reader's inbox.

    Spammers Turn to Sex

    It's another old truism that sex sells, and image spammers are taking full advantage. The latest scam involves sending unwitting users a "girl finder" spam that purports to open a link to an online prostitute locator.

    The e-mail itself is harmless, but by getting users to click on it, they open themselves up to potential spam attacks in the future.

    Graham Cluely of security firm Sophos told Information Week that "[p]eople need to learn that responding to unsolicited e-mails only encourages the spammers to send even more spam -- something none of us really want."

    Image spam scams aren't limited to e-mail. The recently-discovered Pykse.A virus worm attacks users of the Skype PC-calling service through its embedded instant messaging program. The user gets a picture of an attractive model, but clicking on the image downloads the worm to wreak havoc on the user's PC.

    How To Protect Yourself

    • Don't open e-mails unless they're from people you know. If it comes from an unfamiliar address and contains an image, the good odds are that it's probably spam. E-mails purporting to be from your bank or PayPal are invariably "phisher" e-mails designed to get you to open the link and provide your financial information. Move any unfamiliar e-mails to your spam or junk folders until you have verified they're safe.

    • Disable graphics in e-mails you receive. Most e-mail services such as Microsoft Outlook 2007 and Mozilla Thunderbird automatically prevent graphics from showing in e-mails you receive unless you click on them or enable the graphics yourself. While this can slow things down a bit, it also reduces the chances that you will be caught clicking on a piece of image spam. You can also configure your e-mail account to only receive plain text, blocking rich text and graphics altogether.

    • Use multiple e-mail accounts. Setting up e-mail accounts for specific needs (One for business, one for personal use, one for shopping and offers) reduces your exposure to spam, and setting up e-mail messages by category can help push spam to your junk folder faster. Web-based e-mail services such as ConsumerAffairs.org, Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail have built in antispam and image-blocking tools to prevent any unpleasant surprises when reading your mail.

    Image Spam On The Rise...
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      Toothpaste from Foreign Lands Illegally Imported, Sold in U.S.

      Foreign-Made Toothpaste May Contain Dangerous Levels of Fluoride

      In what appears to be yet another hole in the Food and Drug Administrations safety network, ConsumerAffairs.com has found illegal tubes of toothpaste, intended for sale in foreign countries, in U.S. discount stores.

      Like over-the-counter medication, the great majority of toothpastes are subject to labeling requirements because they contain fluoride, a cavity-fighting ingredient that can be dangerous in high doses.

      Because of this, only tubes that meet the FDAs guidelines are allowed to be sold in the U.S. But a quick glance at seven Washington, D.C.-area discount and dollar stores found 17 tubes of toothpaste not intended for sale in the United States.

      The finding coincides with reports that potentially deadly toothpaste manufactured in China was exported to Panama. The toothpaste contained a deadly chemical that is being blamed for 51 deaths in the Central American country.

      Although ConsumerAffairs.com did not find the same toothpastes that were shipped to Panama, we did discover Chinese-manufactured toothpastes that are not intended to be sold in the U.S.

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

      No Comment

      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.

      No Drug Facts

      None of the foreign-manufactured tubes of toothpaste met the FDAs labeling requirements. Two tubes didnt list any ingredients at all.

      Although many of the tubes ConsumerAffairs.com discovered appear to be safe and most met the FDAs fluoride requirement, it can be difficult to tell since much of the packaging is not written in English.

      American Brands

      Familiar American brands such as Colgate and Crest manufacture many of the foreign tubes discovered.

      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.

      Crest ignored our inquiry and did not return two phone calls and two e-mails.

      Although many of the illegal toothpastes were limited to small local discount stores, one chain, National Wholesale Liquidators, had a dozen different kinds of illegal tubes for sale. National Wholesale Liquidators did not return two e-mails. Repeated phone calls to the phone number on the company's website were not answered.

      Castro said consumers should ensure that the toothpaste has the drug facts labeling before they buy it.



      Toothpaste from Foreign Lands Illegally Imported, Sold in U.S....
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      Debt Collectors Cash In On Uninformed Consumers

      Collectors sometimes purchase old debts that aren't legally collectable

      Some consumers across the country are being contacted by a company called Midland Credit Management and told the company has purchased their Citibank USA credit card debt. In some cases, the consumers are being offered a discount to settle the debt.

      Some people will undoubtedly just send them a check. I called the company and asked for the fraud department and stated I was giving them one chance to verify before sending everything to my Attorney General's office, Richard Gunter, a ConsumerAffairs.com reader, said.

      Gunters suspicions were aroused because he didnt have a Citibank USA account, and hadnt for over two decades.

      After speaking with someone at Midland Credit Management and disputing the charge, he said he was promised the account would be deleted. Indeed, a week or so later Gunter said he received a letter telling him he, in fact, owed no money.

      Midland Credit Management is a subsidiary of Encore Capital Group, a publicly traded company. It makes money by approaching banks and credit card companies and purchasing their charged off -- or, bad debt -- for pennies on the dollar. Since the credit card company considers the account uncollectible, it's only too happy to get something for it.

      Why would Encore Capital and its subsidiaries, like Midland Credit Management, pay good money for bad debt? Because chances are, if consumers are pressured to pay it, many will, even if the creditor is not legally allowed to sue.

      For the first three months of 2007, Encore Capital Group reported gross collections of $90.5 million, earning a profit of $5.7 million.

      When banks charge off debts, its usually because they consider it uncollectible. While the debt remains valid, the legal remedies to collect it have dimished. Often, the statute of limitations has expired. When that happens, the creditor is no longer able to take the borrowers to court, but unless consumers know this when the new bill collector calls, they are likely to quickly fold under heavy collection pressure.

      Its not illegal to collect debt whose statute of limitations has expired, as long as the debt collector is complying with the law, said Craig Shapiro, an attorney with Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates in Chicago. They cant threaten to sue or threaten to garnish the consumers wages, for example, because they dont have that right.

      What To Do

      What should a consumer do when contacted by a debt collector who claims to have purchased the consumers debt from another lender?

      The first thing they should do is demand proof that the claim is legitimate, Shapiro told ConsumerAffairs.com.

      For starters, they should require, in writing, the name and address of the original debt holder, the account number, the date of the last transaction, and the amount of the original debt. As consumers, they have a right to that information.

      If the statute of limitations has expired on a debt, it cannot be entered on the consumers credit report. If the new creditor threatens to report non payment to the credit agencies, it is a violation of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.

      Each state has its own statute of limitations on old credit card debts. The statute of limitations refers to the period after which creditors cannot sue you to collect the debt. The length of time is calculated from your last payment date or last activity date, which is why it is important for consumers to receive that information from the debt collector.

      Consumers who pay the debt, no questions asked, are likely paying money they are not legally required to pay. Gunter says a little skepticism is a healthy thing.

      It just looked weird to me because they offered a 25 percent discount for immediate payment, he said. Anyone with a Citibank card may have paid it thinking they were getting a good deal.

      Debt Collectors Cash In On Uninformed Consumers...
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      Credit Tips And Tricks


      Although we've made great strides in educating consumers as to the ins and outs of credit over the last few years -- how credit reports work, how to get and understand your credit score, and how to pay off credit card debt smartly -- many people still don't understand the intricacies of the plastic they may use on a daily basis.

      Much of this is due to the credit industry itself, which thrives on ensuring people use plastic for almost every purchase without knowing why. Much of it is due to poor financial literacy and education provided by parents and schools. And much of it is because these things are just naturally confusing.

      So with that in mind, here are some of the questions I get asked most frequently:

      Q. I have debt on a few different credit cards, and/or debts from auto or student loans. What should I pay off first, and why?

      A. These represent two kinds of debt -- secured and unsecured. Unsecured debt is debt that isn't backed by anything and can be a lot riskier for lenders, while auto, home, and some personal loans are considered secured debt, because they're backed by material assets like your house or car.

      Because unsecured debt is riskier, it tends to carry higher interest rates, so the longer you let that pile up, the higher your interest will go and the longer it will take to pay off.

      Although it may seem intuitive to pay off your smallest debts first and get them out of the way, credit expert and "CreditBloggers" author Emily Davidson argues that you should go after the largest debt with the highest interest rates first.

      "Consumers don't need to worry about paying off low-interest accounts like auto, home and student loans until they have all their other debts paid off and have built up some savings," Davidson told ConsumerAffairs.com. These loans help boost credit scores and are relatively inexpensive to carry for long periods of time."

      "Let's say someone has a credit card with a $5,000 balance and a 20% APR (Annual Percentage Rate), another credit card with a $2,000 balance and a 12% APR and a $10,000 auto loan with an 8% APR," Davidson said. "They should pay the minimum due for each account every month and then put as much as possible toward the 20% APR card. When that account is paid off, move on to do the same with the 12% card."

      Q. I've paid off my credit card(s) and don't plan on using them again. Should I cancel them?

      A. Credit experts are divided on this question. Some, like Davidson, feel that canceling unused accounts harms your credit score, because it reduces your overall access to credit, which is one of the factors used in calculating your score. Lots of open accounts with no balances, or very low balances, indicates someone who is financially responsible enough to have credit but not use it too frivolously.

      Others feel that too many open accounts leaves you open to identity theft, as thieves can get access to your information and start making charges on credit accounts you may have forgotten about. Your best bet is to cancel things like store credit cards or gas cards, and retain credit cards, but keep your balances clear or minimal.

      Q. How many free credit reports can I get in a year? I'm told you can get one or three. Which is it?

      A. Both. All Americans can now order free credit reports directly from the three major bureaus--Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. You can order one report from each bureau per year, for a total of three. So you can order a report from Equifax, one from Experian, and one from Trans Union.

      Your best bet is to stagger your orders to get one every four months, in order to track progress you've made in paying off loans and checking for changes to your information.

      The only legitimate place to order your free credit reports is from the AnnualCreditReport.com Web site, calling 877-322-8228, or filling out the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mailing it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

      Other sites may advertise "free" credit reports, but look out! They may also trick you into paying for credit monitoring services you don't need.

      Q. Will "opting out" of credit offers hurt my credit score?

      A. "Opting out" enables you to stop receiving prescreened offers for credit in your mailbox. These prescreened offers are from companies, creditors, and banks that conduct inquiries into consumers' credit on a regular basis. Inquiries that you make for credit are considered "hard" inquiries and may hurt your credit score if you make too many in too short a time, but prescreened offers are "soft" inquiries and generally have no effect on your credit score directly, and neither does opting out of receiving them.

      Lenders such as Capitol One often blitz consumers' credit accounts with dozens of inquiries in short spans of time. These offers often end up in the wastebasket, which in turn can increase your vulnerability to identity theft, as crooks "dumpster dive" to get access to your information. This can hurt your credit if thieves open up accounts using information from unwanted credit solicitations, so it's best to restrict credit inquiries to the ones you make yourself.

      To opt out of unsolicited offers, visit OptOutPrescreen.com or call 1-888-567-8688.

      Q. My bank just reduced my credit limit and charged me a late fee, even though I paid my balance on time! Can they do that?

      A. Unfortunately, yes. That small fine print on the back of your credit card agreement -- the "terms and conditions" -- can be changed at will, any time the bank likes, with no previous notification.

      Credit card agreements are notorious for being written in such dense, complex terms that Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), who recently chaired hearings on abusive credit card practices, said they were written at a "twenty-seventh grade level." These agreements can be used to justify levying fees of almost any kind, changing your credit limit, increasing your interest rate, and so on.

      Consumer advocates have lobbied Congress seeking greater transparency in credit card fees and writing credit card agreements on an eighth-grade level, clearly enumerating the terms and conditions of the agreement you're getting into when you sign up.

      Q. The interest rate and penalty fees on my credit cards is killing me! How can I lower them?

      A. The crippling interest rates on many credit cards comes from lenders being based in states with lenient laws governing lending, such as Delaware and South Dakota. It can be nigh impossible to pay off even a moderate balance with an interest rate of 29 percent, but there are ways to ease the burden slightly.

      Lenders compete furiously for new customers, so try negotiating with several banks to open new credit cards and take advantage of low introductory interest rates. This won't help you pay off your debt completely, since you're just transferring it from one card to another, but it can net you a low interest rate for a brief period of time that can help you pay off that balance faster.

      Be careful -- once that "teaser" rate's period is over, you may be in even worse straits, so do your research thoroughly to make sure you get the best deal.

      Telling your bank that you're considering transferring your card balance to another card can also entice them to lower your interest rate or waive penalty or late fees. This can be risky, as it often depends on the bank's policies and the attitude of the customer service representative you're dealing with.

      One customer representative for a major credit card company said, "I waive a lot of late fees and overlimit fees and credit back residual finance charges quite often. The girl who sits next to me almost never gives back full fees, but likes to offer to fix half of the problem."

      Your own income and credit history can also determine your likelihood of scoring a better interest rate.

      "If you have a long, good history with the company, they're more likely to be flexible with you," the representative told ConsumerAffairs.com. "Same if you're a new customer. But if you've been with them for only a year and a half and you've made three late payments, you're probably screwed."

      Consumer don't need to worry about paying off low-interest accounts like auto, home and student loans until they have all their other debts paid off and ha...
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      FDA Issues Safety Alert on Diabetes Drug Avandia

      Studies Find Increase in Heart-Related Deaths

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety alert on diabetes drug Avandia today after studies found an increase in heart-related deaths among patients taking the drug.

      The consumer group Public Citizen said it has warned FDA repeatedly about the dangers of the drug.

      "The New England Journal of Medicine study just released showing a 43 percent increase in heart attacks in people using Avandia should come as no surprise either to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or to Glaxo," said Sidney Wolfe, MD, Director of the Health Research Group at Public Citizen.

      "In animal studies done prior to its approval, one of the most constant findings was damage to the heart, and within the first six years of approval there have been 689 cases of heart failure reported to the FDA in patients using the drug," Wolfe said. "In addition, there have been reports of anemia which, along with heart failure, increases the risk for a heart attack."

      But FDA was more cautious in its description of the risk, calling it "potential."

      "Safety data from controlled clinical trials have shown that there is a potentially significant increase in the risk of heart attack and heart-related deaths in patients taking Avandia. However, other published and unpublished data from long-term clinical trials of Avandia, including an interim analysis of data from the RECORD trial (a large, ongoing, randomized open label trial) and unpublished reanalyses of data from DREAM (a previously conducted placebo-controlled, randomized trial) provide contradictory evidence about the risks in patients treated with Avandia," the agency said.

      FDA said that patients who are taking Avandia, especially those who are known to have underlying heart disease or who are at high risk of heart attack should talk to their doctor about the latest study.

      Last Choice

      Public Citizen said the drug should be a "last-choice" option.

      "Despite prior knowledge of serious cardiac problems, the FDA has failed to require Glaxo to adequately warn about the dangers of this drug that should be, at best, a last-choice treatment for Type II diabetes," Wolfe said. "In addition to the accumulating evidence of its risks, it is not even as effective as other diabetes drugs in lowering blood sugar or hemoglobin A1C, a measure of glucose control."

      "Because of inadequate warnings about Avandia and massive advertising campaigns, its popularity has grown so that 11 million prescriptions were filled for the drug in the United States in 2006 alone," Wolfe noted. He urged patients to avoid the drug.

      FDA Still Studying

      FDA said it was still analyzing the data and has not "confirmed the clinical significance of the reported increased risk in the context of other studies."

      FDA noted there is "inherent risk associated with switching patients with diabetes from one treatment to another even in the absence of specific risks associated with particular treatments" and said for that reason it is not asking GlaxoSmithKline to take any specific action at this time.

      "FDA is carefully weighing several complex sources of data, some of which show conflicting results, related to the risk of heart attack and heart-related deaths in patients treated with Avandia," said Steven Galson, M.D., M.P.H., director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "We will complete our analyses and make the results available as soon as possible. FDA will take the issue of cardiovascular risk associated with Avandia and other drugs in this class to an Advisory Committee as soon as one can be convened."

      Approved in 1999

      Avandia was approved in 1999 for treatment of type 2 diabetes, a serious and life threatening disease that affects about 18 to 20 million Americans. Diabetes is a leading cause of coronary heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and limb amputation.

      Since the drug was approved, FDA has been monitoring several heart-related adverse events (e.g., fluid retention, edema and congestive heart failure) based on signals seen in previous controlled clinical trials of Avandia alone and in combination with other drugs, and from postmarketing reports. FDA has updated the product's labeling on several occasions to reflect these new data, most recently in 2006.

      The most recent labeling change for Avandia also included a new warning about a potential increase in heart attacks and heart-related chest pain in some individuals using Avandia. This new warning was based on the result of a controlled clinical trial in patients with existing congestive heart failure.


      FDA Issues Safety Alert on Diabetes Drug Avandia...
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      FTC Urged to Crack Down on Enviga

      Calorie Burning and Weight Loss Claims Disputed


      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should take enforcement action against Coca-Cola and Nestl for their unlawful deceptive advertising for Enviga, their green-tea-flavored diet soda, according to a complaint filed with the agency today by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

      At issue is the claim that Enviga burns more calories than the five calories per can it delivers, which, CSPI says, strongly implies weight loss. CSPI is separately suing Coke and Nestl in federal court on the same issue but says that shouldnt stop the FTC from cracking down immediately on the false advertising.

      The companies deny that Enviga is positioned as a weight-loss product, but the Enviga web site tells a different story, according to CSPI.

      There, Enviga is much smarter than following fads, quick-fixes, and crash diets and is another way to keep those extra calories from building up. It is described as the calorie burner that invigorates your metabolism and provides negative calories.

      The companies have largely based those claims on a Swiss study they funded. Subjects in that test were given the equivalent of three cans worth of Envigas key ingredients: an antioxidant found in green tea called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), caffeine, and calcium.

      An initial abstract of the study which involved only 31 lean subjects and lasted only 72 hours indicated that, on average, the participants expended extra energy. But surprisingly, the full study, published in the February issue of the journal Obesity, disclosed that six participants actually expended less energy.

      "Hucksterism"

      When the study was published, The Obesity Society, the sponsor of the journal, issued a press release stating, This was a very small sample demonstrating a very small effect. ... Far more extensive studies are needed before any claim for efficacy in human weight management can or should be made on the basis of this study.

      If one accepts the companies logic at face value, one in every five Enviga drinkers is likely to gain, not lose, weight, said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. Thats not to say Enviga will make you fat, but theres certainly no basis for a weight-loss claim. Its hucksterism. Its illegal. And Coca-Cola and Nestle should be made to follow the law.

      As weak as the Swiss study is, most of the other studies are even less encouraging, according to CSPI. In two longer studies, the combination of EGCG and caffeine did not increase energy expenditure or body weight any more than a placebo.

      Because there is inadequate substantiation of the claims in Envigas marketing and advertising, the companies should be prohibited from making them and should pay fines and sponsor corrective advertising, says CSPI.

      Enviga drinkers are being suckered into paying a premium for calorie-burning benefits they are not receiving, according to the filing. Enviga costs around $1.39 a can. Though the companies claim a calorie-burning effect can be obtained from only one can, elsewhere they indicate that the maximum effect would be gained by drinking three cans, or more than $4 worth, of Enviga per day.

      The FTC already maintains that claims of weight loss without the need for extra physical activity or consuming fewer calories are inherently deceptive. (One Coke executive made the astonishing claim to USA Today that Enviga can replace walking up the stairs.) And, in a 2003 report on combating weight-loss fraud, the FTC found that claims that a product causes everyone to lose weight are also deceptive.

      CSPI says Envigas advertising runs afoul of the FTCs findings on both of those counts.

      If you want a lighter wallet, drink Enviga, said Jacobson. If you want a lighter you, drink water.

      --30--

      The Federal Trade Commission should take enforcement action against Coca-Cola and Nestl for their unlawful deceptive advertising for Enviga, their green-te...
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      GM Promises "Star Treatment," Dumps Old OnStar Subscribers

      Existing Customers Abandoned as GM Rolls Out New Ads

      As the Onstar sun sets for 500,000 loyal General Motors customers, the stars are coming out to promote the feature on GM's new-car line-up.

      The odd constellation of events takes a little explaining, but you can talk til the stars go dim and it won't satisfy owners of older GM cars who are being abandoned by the switch from analog to digital transmission.

      Why would a company walk away from 1/8 of its existing customers? Talking out of one side of its mouth, GM blames it on the government while on the other hand it launches a glitzy new ad campaign aimed at attracting new OnStar customers.

      Although GM gives the impression that OnStar is some kind of unique Star Tech technology, in reality it works through the nation's network of cell towers in pretty much the same manner as an ordinary cell phone.

      Currently, FCC rules require that cell towers support both digital and analog signals. But as of 2008, the cell towers will no longer have to support analog so OnStar is hanging up on the 500,000 of its 4 million OnStar customers who have older analog units.

      Consumers with a 2003, 2004, or 2005 vehicle will need to update their OnStar system. An adapter will cost approximately $200. Those whose vehicles are a 2002 or older are simply out of luck; there is no adapter available.

      Customers are blazing mad, but GM is going merrily on its way, signing the Deutsch advertising agency to put together a new OnStar ad campaign that features a galaxy of celebrities like Tiger Woods and Kelly Ripa touting the theme that having OnStar is like getting star treatment.

      Star Treatment

      New 30-second and 60-second spots will hit the nation's airwaves tomorrow as part of a nationwide "branding effort," ad execs say. The spots close with the tag: "Get the OnStar treatment, no matter who you are."

      The automaker spent $80 million advertising OnStar last year, according to Nielsen Monitor, and is expected to exceed that figure this year. That's certain to further inflame angry GM motorists, who are already feeling they've gotten the bum's rush instead of the star treatment.

      Many motorists think GM could -- and should -- offer them a free or cut-rate digital upgrade that would keep their service working. It's not as though it's free -- customers pay a monthly fee in addition to the upfront cost. The typical annual subscription costs $199.

      GM, supposedly desperate to sell cars, could not even be bothered to offer a rebate on a new car for existing OnStar customers.

      Those who bought a GM car because of OnStar's much-touted safety features are particularly irate.

      "I shouldn't have to sell my car to get a piece of safety equipment to work," said a San Diego Pontiac owner. "if my air bag or seat belts stopped working GM would figure a way to upgrade the airbags and seat belts."

      False Advertising

      Barbara of Derry, New Hampshire, thinks GM is guilty of false advertising because she wasn't informed that the service had a sunset date.

      "I purchased my SAAB 9-3 in the fall of 2002. At no time during the sale was I informed that within 5 years of owning the vehicle I would no longer have access to OnStar."

      Unlike Tiger Woods and Kelly Ripa, many GM customers -- like Gordon of Kennett Sq., Pennsylvania -- aren't young, vigorous multi-millionaires.

      Gordon, who is 91, bought an OnStar-equipped Saab in 2001 and says the safety feature enables him to drive to doctor appointments and run other essential errands.

      "I may have to give up driving or curtail my visits to the doctors offices. I certainly can't afford to spend thousands for a new car. My whole lifestyle will be changed in the few years I have left," Gordon wrote.

      Gordon also thinks GM knew -- or should have known -- it was selling obsolescent technology.

      "I am sure that in late 2001 GM/Saab/OnStar were well aware of the analog/digital fiasco. The prospective buyer should have been informed. Silence is golden...at least for GM," he said.

      Unlocking Doors

      In the past, GM has put heavy emphasis on OnStar's safety features, airing dramatic commercials of the "I've fallen and I can't get up" genre -- e.g., mothers calling for help as their vehicle sinks into a lake or after it has rammed another vehicle.

      The new ad campaign plays up convenience features.

      In one spot, Tiger Woods rushes to his Buick and, using a cell phone, asks OnStar to open his door remotely so he can remove his Nike shirt, Advertising Age reported.

      To demonstrate "On Demand Vehicle Diagnostics," Kelly Ripa, driving her Yukon Danali, discovers through OnStar that she didn't replace her gas cap. In an even sillier spot, Jimmy Kimmel calls OnStar to report his Pontiac Solstice stolen, then is embarrassed to discover that the valet is delivering it to him.

      As expected, GM dealerships shrug and say there's nothing they can do -- unless, of course, you'd like to buy a new car.

      Lawsuits Planned

      Some soon-to-be-abandoned OnStar subscribers are suing GM because the automaker refuses to offer an upgrade for their system. Most of the suits charge the automaker knew for years that the analog network would eventually be shut down but did nothing to inform consumers of that.

      "I was told that GM chose not to offer an upgrade but I was invited to purchase a new car," Don of St. Louis wrote ConsumerAffairs.com. "No discount on the car, but 2 years free of OnStar by GM."

      "What a slap in the face," Don said.

      In a given month OnStar receives 900 automatic airbag notifications, helps with 500 stolen vehicles, connects 15,000 emergency calls, provides 44,000 remote door unlocks, takes 25,000 roadside assistance calls, receives 5,500 good Samaritan calls, offers 32,000 remote diagnostics and facilitates 12.6 million hands-free calls.

      GM Promises...
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      Safety Of Chinas Seafood Questioned

      Contaminants Found in Samples Studied by Researchers

      It may have started with pet food, but now the safety of a wide variety of food products from China is coming under close scrutiny.

      A new study published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry found samples from Chinese markets that contained concentrations of contaminants high enough to pose threats to human health.

      China has become the worlds largest producer and exporter of fish and fish products.

      Organochlorine pesticides such as DDT can accumulate in top predators, including humans. Though these pesticides were officially banned in 1983, China had been using them for decades prior to the ban. Twenty-five years later, there is evidence that new sources, particularly of DDT, may be present and contaminating seafood, researchers say.

      The current study focused on seafood from markets in 11 coastal cities in Guangdong Province.

      The last two decades have witnessed explosive economic growth in that province. Rapid industrialization, urbanization, and conversion of agricultural lands to commercial use have accelerated the environmental deterioration in this region.

      Samples of shrimps, crabs, and mollusks were analyzed for 21 organochlorine pesticides. Of those, DDT and HCH (hexachlorocyclohexane) were detected most frequently and measured at the highest concentrations.

      These highest concentrations were observed in mollusks, specifically oysters, mussels, and squid. Concentrations of DDT in some of this seafood were high enough to pose human health threats. Other organochlorine pesticides present were at concentrations high enough to pose human cancer risks.

      The studys researchers said further research was urgently required to identify the new sources of organochlorine pesticide contamination, so the food safety issues could be dealt with. Human health risk assessments are required to determine potential risks from local and overseas consumption and potential limits that should be imposed on such consumption.

      China exports 3.2 million metric tons of seafood products, which is 10 percent of the global export volume. Exports primarily go to Japan, Korea, Canada, the United States, and the European Union.



      A new study published in ETC found samples from Chinese markets that contained concentrations of contaminants high enough to pose threats to human health....
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      New York Sues Dell on Consumer Fraud Charges

      Dell Accused of False Advertising, Failure to Provide Services

      New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo has filed suit against Dell, one of the worlds leading computer companies, and Dell Financial Services, LP (DFS).

      At Dell, customer service means no service at all. Dells consumers were intentionally misled, and they had to pay for that privilege. I hope this lawsuit sends a message to companies large and small that delivering a product is simply not enough the promises they make must be delivered as well, Cuomo said.

      The lawsuit accuses Dell and DFS of engaging in bait and switch financing tactics and failing to provide their customers with adequate customer service.

      It also charges Dell and DFS with perpetuating numerous other deceptive business practices relating to their technical support services, promotional financing, rebate offers, and billing and collection activity.

      DFS is a joint venture between Dell and CIT Bank, which offers financing to consumers for their Dell purchases.

      Poor Tech Support

      According to court papers, Dell deprived consumers of the technical support to which they were entitled under their warranty or service contract by:

      • Repeatedly failing to provide timely onsite repair to consumers who purchased service contracts promising onsite and expedited service;

      • Pressuring consumers, including those who purchased service contracts promising onsite repair, to remove the external cover of their computer and remove, reinstall, and manipulate hardware components;

      • Discouraging consumers from seeking technical support; those who called Dells toll free number were subjected to long wait times, repeated transfers, and frequent disconnections;

      • Using defective refurbished parts or computers to repair or replace consumers equipment.

      "No Interest" Promises

      The lawsuit accuses Dell of luring consumers to purchase its products with advertisements that offered attractive no interest and/or no payment financing promotions. In practice, however, the vast majority of consumers, even those with very good credit scores, were denied these deals.

      In a classic bait and switch scheme, DFS instead offered consumers financing at high interest rates, which often exceed 20%. Dell and DFS frequently failed to clearly inform these consumers that they had not qualified for the promotional terms, leaving many to unwittingly finance their purchase at high interest rates.

      The lawsuit also alleges that DFS incorrectly billed consumers on cancelled orders, returned merchandise, or accounts they did not authorize Dell to open, and then continually harassed these consumers with illegal billing and collection activity.

      Although many consumers repeatedly contacted Dell and/or DFS to advise them of the errors, DFS did not suspend its collection activity and Dell failed to expeditiously credit consumers accounts, even after assuring consumers it would do so.

      As a result, many consumers have been subjected to harassing collection calls for months on end and have had their credit ratings harmed.

      In filing the lawsuit, Cuomo seeks to require Dell and DFS to pay restitution to aggrieved consumers, pay civil penalties, and adopt measures to ensure that they do not engage in deceptive, illegal, and fraudulent practices in the future.

      New York Sues Dell on Consumer Fraud Charges...
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      People to People Executive Sentenced to Prison

      Financial Director Convicted of Embezzling $148,000

      A federal judge has sentenced the former financial director of People To People International to 20 months in prison for stealing $148,144 from the non-profit organization founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

      U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple also ordered David E. Schlotzhauer of Leawood, Kansas, to pay $128,144 in restitution.

      In a plea agreement reached in February 2006 with the U.S. Attorneys Office, Schlotzhauer admitted that he embezzled thousands of dollars from the organizations checking account and used its credit card for personal use.

      Prosecutors say the scheme lasted two years -- from 2001 to 2003.

      One of those thefts occurred on August 13, 2003. In that case, Schlotzhauer admitted that he wrote an $18,125 check on People To People Internationals checking account to his wife identified in court records as Kathleen P. Zimmerman. Schlotzhauer then transported the money from Missouri to Kansas action that led federal prosecutors to charge him with interstate transportation of stolen property.

      This check was fraudulently issued by defendant on his employers -- People International -- bank account as part of a scheme devised by defendant to defraud the employer, according to the plea agreement.

      Specifically, defendant fraudulently caused checks to be issued on his employers account for his own personal purposes and fraudulently used the company credit card to pay personal expenses.

      Loss Amount Disputed

      While federal prosecutors say People to People International lost $148,144, Schlotzhauer has contended the loss is much less around $70,000.

      That dispute surfaced again during Thursdays hearing, according to The Kansas City Star.

      Schlotzhauer and his accountant argued the loss to the Kansas City-based non-profit group is much less than the governments calculations because some of the missing funds were loans approved by the organizations president, Mary Eisenhower, President Eisenhowers granddaughter.

      Eisenhower testified her organization does not make loans to employees, according to The Kansas City Star.

      The newspaper also reported that Schlotzhauer used the money he embezzled from People To People to pay the taxes on his Johnson County, Kansas, home and an attorney to represent him on a personnel matter. In addition, prosecutors said he used the organizations credit card for such personal expenses as golf equipment, ski lessons, and a youth sports camp.

      The attorney for People To People International, Don Lolli, declined to comment on the sentencing when contacted today by ConsumerAffairs.com.

      Schlotzhauers attorney did not return our call today.

      People to People International sponsors student exchange programs and other peace initiatives in 135 countries.

      Marketing Tactics Questioned

      The company that markets People to Peoples Student Ambassador programs came under fire last year for sending letters to the parents of deceased children stating their teenagers were named for educational trip overseas.

      In one case, that marketing company -- the Ambassador Group of Spokane, Washington -- sent a letter to parents in Florida stating a teacher, former Student Ambassador, or national academic listing, named their daughter for one of these expensive trips abroad.

      Their daughter, however, died in 1992. She was 18 days old and suffered multiple birth defects.

      The marketing company also sent a letter in September 2005 to an Iowa mother --whose infant son died in 1993 -- stating her child was named for a 20-day trip to Europe.

      The Iowa Attorney Generals Office criticized that letter, saying it misled parents into believing that their child was selected on merit when that is not the case, and that parents may be manipulated into making substantial expenditures they might otherwise decline to make.

      Assistant Attorney General Steve St. Clair added: The letter raised concerns that parents were being led to believe that their child had been chosen for an honor based on recommendations or academic performance, criteria that could not possibly have applied to the infant who died years ago at seven weeks of age.

      Iowa officials did not take issue with the merits of the Student Ambassador trips, which cost an average of $5,000. That offices investigation focused on the organizations letter and its marketing tactics.

      During an interview last year with ConsumerAffairs.com, Eisenhower said called the situation in Iowa devastating.

      I was mortified when that happened. Ive lost a baby so I know how devastating that is.

      What happened in Iowa was an unfortunate mistake caused by a mailing list, Eisenhower said. It was human error, and it unfortunately caused people to doubt our mission. We are sincerely sorry people feel misled or hurt. Believe me, nobody wants to dupe anybody.

      Eisenhower said her organization donated $5,000 to the Iowa SIDS Foundation and $20,000 to Blank Childrens Hospital in honor of the baby who died.

      After the Florida incident, Eisenhower told ConsumerAffairs.com: We all feel very badly that this has happened. This was a matter of human error. It was a mistake and were trying to make it right. Our intent is to spread happiness--not to hurt people.

      When asked what action her organization will take in the wake of the Florida incident, Eisenhower referred questions to the president and chief executive officer of the for-profit company that markets the Student Ambassador programs.

      Thats Jeffrey D. Thomas, president and CEO of the publicly-traded Ambassador Group, Inc. (EPAX). He also lists his title as CEO of People To People, which Eisenhower says he has contractual authority to do.

      Were trying to work out a solution with the family in Florida, Thomas told ConsumerAffairs.com last year. He declined to elaborate.

      Thomas said a list service his company used provided the name of the Florida child. He also said People To People changed the wording of its letter.

      Weve moved quickly to make sure this doesnt happen again. Weve changed the letters wording so that there will be no way people can misconstrue anything about how we came to get their childs name. Our letter wont say their child was named or nominated unless we can trace the source. The letter will talk about the benefits of the program.

      He added: This is devastating. And were investigating how it happened. Our goal is to do the right thing and were working to get this fixed.

      Shortly after that interview, though, ConsumerAffairs.com learned the parents of a deceased cat received that same letter from People To People.

      The Parents of Earl Gray received a letter--dated October 4, 2006--stating their son was eligible for a trip to Europe and named for this honor by a teacher, former Student Ambassador or national academic listing.

      Earl was the couples all white, one-eyed, cat.

      But he died ten years ago and is buried in the couples back yard. He was 14 years old, about the age at which students start getting letters from the organization.

      Earl was a smart cat, joked his owner, Susan G. of Cabot, Arkansas. And as an all white cat he might have fit right in going bobsledding in Austria.

      Weve gotten a few laughs from this, she said, adding this is second letter she and her husband have received from the organization in the past two years. But then I thought of all the real people who are getting these letters and knew how excited their kids would be. And then I read about the parents whod lost a child and received one of these letters. That just broke my heart.

      -

      People to People Executive Sentenced to Prison...
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      Study Warns of Dangerous Chemicals in Child Car Seats


      An Ann Arbor-based environmental group says some child car safety seats are much better than others when it comes to exposing children to potentially dangerous chemicals.

      Car seats save lives. Its absolutely essential that parents put their children in them while driving, said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Centers clean car campaign director. However, some car seats are safer than others when it comes to chemical composition. Healthycar.org makes it easy for parents to choose the least toxic car seat for their child.

      The center tested 62 models of safety and booster seats for chemicals including bromine, chlorine, lead and heavy metal allergens,substances which have been linked to major health problems such as liver, thyroid and developmental problems in children,according to the center

      Children have the highest exposure and are the most vulnerable population in terms of exposure to chemical-laden dust and inhaling toxic fumes, since their systems are still developing.

      The Ecology Center is the same group that recently released the consumer guide to toxic chemicals in cars and they used the same research methodology to test child car seats.

      The new study found that the best seats had no brominated flame retardants, no PVC and low levels of other chemicals tested.

      While more than 40 percent of seat cushions tested contained no brominated flame retardants and 77 percent of the seats were free of PVC-plastic, more than 33 percent of all seats tested had one or more components which contained higher levels of toxic chemicals.

      A complete ranking of all of the car seats that were tested can be found on the web site.

      While there are numerous substances in car seats that can lead to health and environmental problems, the Ecology Center selected those for testing with known toxicity, persistence, and tendency to build up in people and the environment.

      Study Warns of Dangerous Chemicals in Child Car Seats...
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      GE Recalls Dishwashers Due to Fire Hazard

      Brands Include Eterna, GE, GE Profile, GE Monogram, Hotpoint, Sears-Kenmore

      May 16, 2007
      GE is recalling about 2.5 million dishwashers because of a fire hazard.

      The company said that liquid rinse-aid can leak from its dispenser onto the dishwasher's internal wiring which can cause an electrical short and overheating, posing a fire hazard.

      GE has received 191 reports of overheated wiring including 56 reports of property damage. There were 12 reports of fires that escaped the dishwasher. Fire damage was limited to the dishwasher or the adjacent area. No injuries have been reported.

      The recall includes GE built-in dishwashers sold under the following brand names: Eterna, GE, GE Profile, GE Monogram, Hotpoint, and Sears-Kenmore. The dishwashers were sold in white, black, almond, bisque and stainless steel. The brand name is printed on the dishwasher's front control panel. The following model and serial numbers can be found inside the dishwasher tub on the front left side of the dishwasher.

      BrandModel Numbers Must Begin WithSerial Numbers Must Begin With
      EternaEDW20, EDW30SS, TS, VS, ZS, AT, DT, FT, GT, HT, LT, MT, RT, ST, TT, VT, ZT, AV, DV, FV, GV, HV, LV, MV, RV, SV, TV, VV, ZV, AZ, DZ, FZ, GZ, HZ, LZ, MZ, RZ, SZ, TZ, VZ, ZZ, AA, DA, FA, GA, HA, LA, MA, RA, SA, TA, VA, ZA
      GE and GE ProfileGHD50, GSD40, GSD41, GSD43, GSD46, GSD4910Z, GSD4920Z, GSD4930Z, GSD4940Z0, GSD50, GSD51, GSD521, GSD522, GSD523, GSD531, GSD532, GSD533, GSD535, GSD536, GSD55, GSD56, GSD57, GSD58, GSD59, GSDL3, GSDL6
      GE MonogramZBD3500Z0
      HotpointHDA3400F, HDA35SS, TS, VS, ZS, AT, DT, FT, GT, HT, LT, MT, RT, ST, TT, VT, ZT, AV, DV, FV, GV, HV, LV, MV, RV, SV, TV, VV, ZV, AZ, DZ, FZ, GZ, HZ, LZ, MZ, RZ, SZ, TZ, VZ, ZZ
      GE and GE ProfileGHD35, GSD21, GSD2200D, GSD2200F, GSD2200G, GSD2201F, GSD2220F, GSD2221F, GSD2230F, GSD2231F, GSD2250F GSD23, GSD26, GSD27, GSD3115F, GSD3125F, GSD3135F, GSD3200G, GSD3210F, GSD3220F, GSD3230F, GSD33, GSD341, GSD342, GSD343, GSD345, GSD3610F, GSD3620F, GSD3630F, GSD3650F GSD37, GSD381, GSD382, GSD383, GSD385, GSD391, GSD392, GSD393, GSD4525F, GSD4535F, GSD4555F, GSDL122F, GSDL132F, GSDL24, GSM2100F, GSM2100G, GSM2100Z0, GSM2110D, GSM2110F, GSM2130D, GSM2130F
      Sears-Kenmore363.1438, 363.1447, 363.1445, 363.1448, 363.1457, 363.1467, 363.1475, 363.15161792, 363.1517, 363.1521, 363.1527, 363.1528, 363.1531, 363.1532, 363.1546, 363.1547, 363.1548, 363.1556, 363.1565, 363.1567, 363.1617, 363.1655SS, TS, VS, ZS, AT, DT, FT, GT, HT, LT, MT, RT, ST, TT, VT, ZT, AV, DV, FV, GV, HV, LV, MV, RV, SV, TV, VV, ZV, AZ, DZ, FZ, GZ, HZ, LZ, MZ, RZ, SZ, TZ, VZ, ZZ

      The dishwashers were sold at department and appliance stores from September 1997 through December 2001 for about $400.

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled dishwashers and contact General Electric for a free repair, a $150 rebate towards the purchase of a new GE dishwasher, or a $300 rebate towards the purchase of a new GE Profile or GE Monogram dishwasher.

      Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact General Electric toll-free at (877) 607-6395 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Saturday. Consumers also can visit the firm's Web site at www.geappliances.com

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

      GE Recalls Dishwashers Due to Fire Hazard...
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      IBM Contractor Loses Employee Data


      Corporate giant IBM has been touting its services as a data security vendor and consultant in recent years. It was among the companies hired by TJX to investigate the company's breach of 46 million customers' credit and debit card data in late 2006.

      So it was a black eye on several levels when the company announced that a contractor had misplaced a data tape containing personal information on an unverified number of current and former IBM employees. The missing data tape contained such information as names, addresses, and Social Security numbers.

      The unidentified vendor allegedly lost the tapes in transit to IBM's headquarters in Armonk, New York.

      IBM put out an ad in a local paper asking for help in locating the tape, and began notifying affected individuals early last month.

      Following the standard response to data breaches, IBM spokespersons said that there was no evidence the data had been misused, but said the company would provide a free year of credit monitoring to all affected individuals.

      IBM had just unveiled a new suite of security and compliance products designed to track potential problems and generate compliance with regulatory measures such as Sarbanes-Oxley -- an announcement overshadowed by news of the data breach.

      Outsourcing business tasks to third parties is a common cause of data breaches.

      Many large companies and government agencies have contracted business processing tasks to smaller companies or third-party vendors, only to bear the burdens when the companies misplace data tapes, laptops, or other equipment containing personal information.

      Most recently, Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), a technology company hired by Georgia's Department of Health to process health care claims and billing for the state, lost data discs containing information on 2.9 million members of the state's Medicare and child health care programs. The disc was lost while being shipped from ACS offices in Atlanta to Maryland.

      IBM Contractor Loses Employee Data...
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      Senate Bill Would Curb Abusive Credit Card Practices

      By Martin H. Bosworth
      ConsumerAffairs.com

      May 16, 2007
      Two Democratic Senators have introduced legislation that they say would rein in the most abusive practices of the credit card industry by limiting interest rate hikes and curbing punitive fees that can prevent consumers from ever paying off their debt.

      The "Stop Unfair Practices In Credit Cards Act" was introduced on May 15 by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

      Credit card issuers too often sock consumers with sky-high interest rates and excessive fees, making it harder and harder for families to climb out of debt, Levin said. The goal of this legislation is to put an end to unfair and abusive credit card practices that outrage so many American families."

      "We have to fight for those who have not hired dozens of lobbyists to make sure that American consumers are not getting ripped off and are fully informed of how these companies are manipulating their financial security," McCaskill said.

      The act's provisions include:

      • Prohibiting interest charges on any portion of a credit card debt which the card holder paid on time during a grace period.

      • Prohibiting added "trailing interest" charges on credit card debt which the card holder paid on time and in full.

      • Preventing the charging of interest on credit card transaction fees, such as late fees and over-the-limit fees.

      • Restricting the charging of repeated overlimit fees for a single instance of exceeding a credit card limit.

      The bill also requires that cardholder payments be automatically directed to the credit line with the highest balance, and prevents fees from being levied if a payment was late due to a card issuer's action.

      The Consumer Federation of America's Travis Plunkett called the act important legislation will stop credit card companies from using a variety of traps and tricks that harm consumers and illegitimately pump up profits.

      Owning a credit card company is often a license to steal," said Ed Mierzwinski of U.S. PIRG, "But Senator Levins legislation makes him the new sheriff in town. His bill bans some of the most unfair credit card company practices that strip money out of consumer pocketbooks and wallets.

      Levin chairs the Permanent Investigations Subcommittee, which McCaskill serves on, and held hearings earlier in the year blasting banks and credit card issuers for inscrutable agreements, cryptic practices, and sky-high interest rates.

      Representatives from Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase were thoroughly grilled on their business practices during the hearing, with many promising to end practices such as "universal default" in order to avoid regulatory action.

      Levin had earlier requested a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on credit card fees and disclosure statements. The GAO report found that penalty fees for credit cards had nearly doubled from $13 in 1995 to $34 in 2005, and that credit card disclosures were written at a level much higher than the average American could understand, with important information often buried deep in agreements that readers would miss.

      Senate Bill Would Curb Abusive Credit Card Practices...
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      Miami Tops Road Rage Survey

      NY, Boston, Los Angeles, DC Close Behind

      Miami has the meanest drivers in the country and the highest rate of road rage followed closely by New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC.

      The "In the Driver's Seat Road Rage Survey" was conducted by Prince Market Research for AutoVantage, a Connecticut-based automobile membership club offering travel services and roadside assistance.

      From January to March, more than 2,500 drivers who regularly commute in 25 major metropolitan areas were surveyed by telephone to rate road rage and rude driving.

      Miami came out on top with the rudest drivers for the second straight year.

      The nicest drivers are found in Portland, Pittsburgh; Seattle-Tacoma, St. Louis and Dallas-Fort Worth according to the survey.

      People participating in the survey were asked to rate drivers who ran red lights, slammed on their brakes, talked on cell phones, tailgated or engaged in other common road rage and bad driving traits.

      According to the survey, St. Louis drivers were the least-likely to swear at another driver, while Portland drivers were the least likely to tailgate.

      The most frequent cause of road rage cited in the survey was impatient motorists. Drivers also cited poor driving in fast lanes and driving while stressed, frustrated or angry.

      "The best piece of advice is to take a deep breath. Slow down, be aware and be careful," AutoVantage spokesman Todd Smith said, adding the aim of the survey is to increase driver safety across the nation.

      The list, ranked from those reporting the most incidents of road rage to the fewest:

      1. Miami

      2. New York

      3. Boston

      4. Los Angeles

      5. Washington, D.C.

      6. Phoenix

      7. Chicago

      8. Sacramento, Calif.

      9. Philadelphia

      10. San Francisco

      11. Houston

      12. Atlanta

      13. Detroit

      14. Minneapolis-St. Paul

      15. Baltimore

      16. Tampa, Fla.

      17. San Diego

      18. Cincinnati

      19. Cleveland

      20. Denver

      21. Dallas-Ft. Worth

      22. St. Louis

      23. Seattle-Tacoma

      24. Pittsburgh

      25. Portland, Ore.

      Miami Tops Road Rage Survey...
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