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Current Events in August 2007

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    Acetaminophen: Widely Used but Dangerous in Large Doses

    The Healthy Geezer

    Q. What is acetaminophen and why do I see it listed on so many products in my medicine cabinet?

    Acetaminophen is the most widely used pain-reliever and fever-reducer in the world. It is contained in more than 100 products. Tylenol is the best known over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen product.

    It is also a component of well known prescription drugs such as Darvocet and Percocet. Acetaminophen also is known as paracetamol and N-acetyl-p-aminophenol (APAP).

    Acetaminophen is available without a prescription. Follow the directions on the package label carefully. If your doctor prescribes it for you, the prescription label will tell you how often to take it.

    Taking too much acetaminophen can lead to liver damage. The risk for liver damage may be increased if you drink three or more alcoholic drinks while using medicines that contain acetaminophen.

    The maximum daily dose of acetaminophen is 4 grams in adults. The toxic dose of acetaminophen after a single acute ingestion is about 7 grams in adults. The at-risk dose may be lower in some susceptible populations, such as alcohol abusers.

    When dosing recommendations are followed, the risk of liver toxicity is extremely small.

    Acetaminophen is one of the most common pharmaceutical agents involved in overdose, as reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

    Widespread use causes problems

    One of the problems with acetaminophen is its widespread use. You have to check your medicine cabinet to see what products contain acetaminophen. Then, if youre taking more than one medication, be sure you dont exceed the maximum daily dose.

    Adults should not take acetaminophen for pain for more than 10 days without talking to a doctor. Acetaminophen should not be taken for high fever, for fever lasting more than 3 days, or for recurrent fever without a doctor's supervision.

    There are basically two types of over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. Some contain acetaminophen and others contain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Examples of OTC NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen sodium (Aleve), and ketoprofen (Orudis).

    NSAIDs are associated with stomach distress. You should talk to your doctor before using NSAIDS if you are over 60, taking prescription blood thinners, have stomach ulcers or other bleeding problems.

    NSAIDs can also cause reversible damage to the kidneys. The risk of kidney damage may increase in people who are over 60, have high blood pressure, heart disease or pre-existing kidney disease, and people who are taking a diuretic.

    You should talk with your healthcare professional if you have questions about using an OTC medicine before using it in combination with other medicines -- either OTC or prescription medicine. Combining prescription medicines and OTC medicines can lead to problematic drug interactions.

    All older adults should consult their doctors before taking any OTC medication or herbal product.

    Often, older adults use many drugs at the same time, including prescription and OTC drugs. They also process drugs differently than younger adults. This is why older adults need to be especially careful about drug-drug interactions.

    If youre a senior, talk with your doctor about all of the drugs and herbal health products you take. He or she can tell you whether you are at risk for having a bad reaction from taking an OTC drug.

    All Rights Reserved © 2007 by Fred Cicetti

    Acetaminophen: Widely Used but Dangerous in Large Doses...

    AT&T Slammed Over Rebate Policies

    Consumers looking for rebate get a debit card instead

    Consumers enticed by rebate offers often end up disappointed, either by the hoops they must jump through to receive it, or by what the actual rebate turns out to be.

    AT&T rebates are often frustrating on both counts.

    I converted to AT&T because of their rebate of $100, Robert, of Morris Plains, NJ, told ConsumerAffairs.com. But what I got was a Visa card with a lot of restrictions that expires in 4 months. AT&T is a real scammer.

    Robert is not alone in his complaint. In California, a group of consumers sued the telecom giant in 2006 over that very issue.

    The suit, brought under California's consumer protection laws, states that the cell phone company promised to pay rebates to people who bought cell phones, and advertised discounted prices that reflected the promised rebate.

    But instead of getting a rebate check, purchasers received a "VISA Reward card" that can only be used under numerous restrictions and for a limited period of time. By the time consumers found out they were not getting a rebate check, it was too late to cancel Cingular's wireless service without paying anEarly Termination Fee of $175.

    In their intense marketing for cellular services, cell phone companies make price the paramount focus, said Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights' Harvey Rosenfield, one of the lawyers in the case.

    Cingular told consumers that they would ultimately pay a discounted price, once the rebate was received. In some cases, consumers were led to believe the phone would be 'free' -- that it would end up costing them nothing after the rebate," he said.

    "But instead of getting money back, consumers get a VISA Reward card. Purchasers never got the promised discount. None of this was made clear to consumers. This deceitful practice hurts consumers and other cell phone companies that advertise honestly.

    Cinglular/AT&T did its best to derail the suit, moving it from state to federal court, but in July of this year a federal judge ruled the case may proceed.

    Meanwhile, in North Carolina AT&Ts DSL rebate policies drew the fire of state Attorney General Roy Cooper.

    Cooper said hes extracted an agreement from AT&T to improve the way it provides rebates after his office received 16 complaints from angry consumers in the Tar Heel state.

    Cooper says AT&T has agreed to provide rebates to eligible customers within 60 days of receiving the forms and investigate customer complaints, keeping detailed records of them.

    AT&T Slammed Over Rebate Policies...

    'Aloha Breeze' Portable Electric Heaters

    August 30, 2007
    "Aloha Breeze" electric heaters are being recalled because they can overheat, creating a fire hazard.

    Aloha Housewares has received seven reports of heaters melting, smoking or catching fire, including one report of minor property damage. No injuries have been reported.

    The recalled electric heaters are white-colored with the name Aloha Breeze printed on the front. The recall includes model number 05226 with date codes of 07/05, 08/05 and 11/05. The model number and date code are printed on the silver label located on the bottom of the heater.

    About 280,000 of the heaters were sold at Wal-Mart stores nationwide from July 2005 to July 2007 for about $15. They were made in China.

    Consumers should stop using the recalled heaters immediately and contact the firm for instructions on receiving a free replacement.

    For additional information, call Aloha Housewares at (800) 295-4448 between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or send an e-mail to ahitexaslg@aol.com.

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

    'Aloha Breeze' Portable Electric Heaters...

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      Toe-Space Electric Heaters Recalled

      August 30, 2007
      Berko Electric is recalling about 84,000 Toe-Space electric heaters because of a fire hazard. If the fan stops working and the heater continues to run, the unit can overheat.

      Berko, now known as Marley Engineered Products, has received 29 reports of fires resulting in property damage. No injuries have been reported.

      The recall involves electric, toe-space heaters typically installed in kitchens and bathrooms at floor level in the recessed space under cabinets. The recall includes Berko Electric catalog numbers TS, TS-1 and TS-1A and Emerson Electric "Chromalox Comfort Heating" and "Environmental Products" catalog number KSH2000.

      The heater is controlled by a wall thermostat or a thermostat mounted on the front of the heater. The heater has a removable, black metal grille that measures 23 1/2 -inches wide and 3 1/2 -inches tall with five sets of openings, each with seven horizontal louvers.

      The heaters were sold by Berko Electric wholesale distributors nationwide from 1972 through February 1985 and Emerson Electric wholesale distributors from 1980 through February 1985 for between $70 and $170.

      Consumers should immediately turn off the heater at the thermostat and, if possible, at the homes circuit breaker or fuse. Consumers should contact Marley to determine if they have a recalled heater and for further instructions.

      Consumer Contact: For additional information, call Marley at (800) 642-4328 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firms Web site at www.berkomep.com/ts.htm.

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

      Toe-Space Electric Heaters Recalled...

      Escape from Cell Phone Purgatory

      How to get out of your cell phone contract without paying a termination fee

      Let me ask you a question. If you had a choice, which would you rather do -- have a tooth pulled or try to get out of your cell phone contract early without paying a fee?

      Thats what I thought. Open wide!

      A typical cell phone early termination fee (ETF) can cost $175.00 to $250.00 per line, and that's just from the carrier only. If you signed up through certain dealers -- such as a kiosk in a mall -- its possible they have an additional ETF, as high as $400.00 per line.

      Bailing out of your contract early is easy, if you want to fork over the cash. However, try to leave without losing your wallet and it's another story.

      ConsumerAffairs.com receives many complaints from people like Gary and Christina.

      I have requested that they [Sprint] terminate my cell phone contract early without charging me the $400.00 in penalties because they [are] providing very poor service, wrote Gary, of Daniels, West Virginia. They tell me that I can either put up with their poor service until my contract expires, or ... pay a termination fee of $400.00.

      In addition, Christina, of Baltimore, wrote, My husband and I began experiencing a very high amount of dropped calls on our Nextel mobile phones. Finally after 4 months of not being able to make a cell call without it being dropped, I called to cancel. Nextel is refusing to credit the early termination fee.

      Just like Gary and Christina, many consumers are under the impression that a carrier must let you out of your contract if the service isnt up to par. However, the contract says otherwise. In fact, a cell phone contract will go to great lengths to stipulate that the service is not guaranteed to work.

      But what if you move out of the service area?

      Once again, the carrier is not required to let you off without paying the ETF. Some customer service reps will waive the fee as a courtesy but much depends on which rep answers the phone. Call your carrier numerous times if needed and be prepared to back up everything you say.

      The Internet is filled with ways to avoid paying the early termination fee, but the majority of ideas are at best unethical and at worst illegal. Nevertheless, there are a few ways to get out without losing a small fortune, and do it in an ethical manner.

      The materially adverse change clause

      It is an understatement to say that your contract is tipped in favor of your carrier; it's not tipped -- it's turned on its head in favor of the carrier. However, the news is not all bad: all major carriers have what is called the material adverse change clause.

      That clause provides that, in effect, if your carrier adds a new charge to your plan, they have changed the terms of your contract. They must give you notice and then youll have at least 14 days to bail out without paying an ETF. If you continue to use your service beyond the get out date specified by your carrier, that is an indication (called negative option) that you accept their changes.

      As more people have become aware of this clause, carriers have grown stricter in what they consider a materially adverse change. You might have to ask for a supervisor and read to them the exact wording of your notice. Make sure to use the words materially adverse.

      In any event, this clause alone gives you a good reason to read every notice sent to you -- promptly. If you miss the notice and the 14 days passes, you're out of luck.

      Transfer the contract to someone else

      You can legally skip-out on the termination fee by transferring your contract to someone else, as long as you follow the rules set forth by your carrier. All major carriers allow a transfer of contract, but the carriers differ in their protocol for transfer.

      For example, although the new account holder will not need to pay an activation fee, he or she will need to pass a credit check and in some cases, sign a new contract.

      It doesnt matter if the account holder has six months or 18 months left on their contract, the person assuming the contract will need to sign a one-year contract, said Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Georgia Taylor.

      AT&T has a similar policy. Even if the account holder has only a month remaining, the receiving account holder must sign an 11-month contract from the date the transfer takes place.

      Transferring your account can be a great way to avoid the ETF and, thanks to the Internet, youre not stuck with finding someone local to take over the contract.

      Websites have popped up for the sole purpose of helping to find interested parties. Both CellSwapper.com and CellTradeUSA.com can help consumers who want to get out of their contract, as well as consumers who are looking to take over an account.

      The cellular carrier will handle much of the transfer and its important to follow their instructions to the letter. Furthermore, before turning your phone over to someone else, ask your carrier how to wipe out your personal data on the phone.

      You can also download instructions on how to erase phone data by visiting WirelessRecycling.com.

      Escape from Cell Phone Purgatory; How to get out of your cell phone contract without paying a termination fee...

      Windjammer Still Taking Wind Out Of Vacationers' Sails

      Unpaid crews leave ships grounded, customers angry

      Windjammer Barefoot Cruises is being bought out by a private equity firm to save it from financial collapse, as complaints from unpaid workers and angry customers left at the dock have continued to pound the troubled family-owned cruise business.

      Labor disputes grounded two of the four ships in the company's fleet over the past week, leaving vacationers stranded and out thousands of dollars for vacations they can't take, or forced to put up with substandard conditions and shortened vacation times.

      Scott from Troy, Michigan, and his wife Robynne booked a cruise on the Windjammer vessel Polynesia from August 5 to 11 to celebrate their wedding anniversary and his birthday. When they arrived in Aruba to board the ship, it was nowhere in sight, and they found other frustrated customers with no information as to what happened.

      "In the meantime we checked into the dump they put us up in until the ship arrived. The experience is what we signed up to, not just the fact of being in Aruba," said Scott to ConsumerAffairs.com.

      "The meal plan that was provided was also far short of what the cruise was to provide," Scott said. "As another way to appease the travelers a cheap tour was offered. After being forced to stay on Aruba for two extra days, most of us had seen plenty of the island and being locked up in a bus for three hours was not acceptable. In short we paid for a 6 night/5 day cruise on the Polynesia. Because of the situation we only received a 4 night/3 day cruise."

      Frustrated travelers flooded online sailing and cruise forums with tales of shoddy ship maintenance, lack of food and amenities, and crew members who had not been paid for as long as three months.

      Private equity firm TAG Virgin Islands is purchasing the troubled Miami-based company from the investment trust that administers it on behalf of the Burke family, descended from Windjammer founder Michael Burke, who built the company from a sailboat he purchased in 1947.

      TAG Virgin Islands has publicly stated it would pay the workers, but the Wall Street Journal reported on August 23 that many crew members had yet to be paid fully.

      Windjammer had previously attempted to expand its offerings by purchasing and refurbishing a vessel called The Discoverer, renamed the La Mer, and selling timeshares of the vessel to customers. But the vessel never set sail, and Windjammer was forced to backtrack and offer alternative options for angry investors.

      Windjammer enjoys a devoted following by cruise enthusiasts, who love the company's laid-back style and cruise itineraries that go off the beaten path, but the recent troubles have soured some travelers on the idea of using the company again.

      Wrote poster "flgator1" on the JammerBabe.com forum, "I too have hoped and prayed WJ would pull through this and sincerely hope under new leadership they rise to the top form I have experienced on my one and only sail. Sorry- I don't have the extra cash to support a company that cannot fulfill it's customer obligations, nor am I going to ask my friends to take that risk."

      Windjammer Still Taking Wind Out Of Vacationers' Sails...

      eBay Ignores Scam Victim

      Arkansas Attorney General intervenes, prevents loss of $9,500

      Alice Medlock of Van Buren, Arkansas, was helping her son buy two jet skis for $9500 on eBay. However, she very nearly lost the $9,500 to a scammer using the online auction service to fleece the unwary.

      Medlock said she contacted the seller, who listed her name as "Debra Rose."

      Through a series of email exchanges, Rose told Medlock that she would send her the titles, pay for the shipping, provide a tracking number, and accept payment for the watercrafts through eBay.

      Shortly thereafter, Alice received an email invoice that appeared to be from eBay. The invoice instructed her to transfer $9500 from her bank to an ING Direct account in Minnesota, and after the wire was complete, the seller sent her pictures of the certificate of titles in the name of Debra Rose, a Web address for the shipper and a tracking number.

      It all looked very legitimate, but it wasnt.

      But by the time Medlock began to smell a rat, she had transferred the money.

      In most cases, victims are simply out of luck at that point. However, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniels office was able to contact the bank that had received the wire transfer and stop it from being forwarded to the scammer.

      Where was eBay in all of this? According to Medlock, they were no help at all.

      I can tell you that I am very disappointed in eBay, but I am very impressed with the manner in which the Attorney General assisted me in getting my $9500 returned, said Medlock.

      EBay never responded to my five emails concerning this fraudulent transaction until the day after my money was returned, and then it was to tell me they were not liable.

      Scams like this one are all too common and all too convincing, said McDanial. Worse yet, there are usually many victims involved because the criminals commit one crime, like identity theft, in order to perpetrate another one, like the auction scam.

      More Scam Alerts ...

      eBay Ignores Scam Victim...

      Zip Codes, Property Value, May Predict Obesity Rates

      Higher net worth may mean healthier diet, more time to exercise

      Neighborhood property values predict local obesity rates better than education or incomes, according to a study from the University of Washington being published online this week by the journal Social Science and Medicine.

      For each additional $100,000 in the median price of homes, UW researchers found, obesity rates in a given ZIP code dropped by 2 percent.

      The study, based on analyses of responses to a telephone survey conducted in King County, Washington by the local health department and the federal Centers for Disease Control, found six-fold disparities in obesity rates across the Seattle metropolitan area. Obesity rates reached 30 percent in the most deprived areas but were only around 5 percent in the most affluent ZIP codes.

      "Obesity is an economic issue, said Dr. Adam Drewnowski, director of the UW Center for Obesity Research and leader of the study. Knowing more about the geography of obesity will allow us to identify the most vulnerable neighborhoods.

      Working with the local health agency, Public Health-Seattle & King County, the researchers aggregated multiple-year data from Washington state's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to analyze data for more than 8,000 respondents.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use the same data to map rising obesity rates in the United States at the state level. However, unlike most states, Washington codes the BRFSS data by the respondents ZIP code, which permits more detailed analyses of local obesity rates at a finer geographic scale. Other information about the ZIP code areas was provided by data from the U.S. Census.

      Residential property values were used as a proxy measure of ZIP code socioeconomic status. Incomes are not the same as assets and wealth, said Drewnowski. The chief financial asset for most Americans is their home.

      Area prosperity can also be a good predictor of access to healthy foods, or opportunities for exercise.

      The UW study was the first to examine obesity rates by area-based indexes of poverty and wealth across a metropolitan area. Previous studies have found higher obesity rates among racial and ethnic minorities and groups of lower education and incomes.

      Analyses of the same BRFSS data for King County showed that obesity rates were higher for African-Americans (26 percent) than for whites (16 percent), and were higher for people with annual incomes below $15,000 (20 percent) than for those with incomes above $50,000 (15 percent), all consistent with national trends.

      These disparities were much lower than those dependent on ZIP codes and geographic location. The study concluded that social and economic disparities were more important in predicting obesity than previously thought.

      Well-known maps of rising obesity rates in the United States, also based on BRFSS data, showed only small differences among the poorest and the richest states.

      Those maps were used to support that argument that the obesity epidemic did not discriminate," said Drewnowski. "Our research shows that geography, social class, and economic standing all play huge roles in the obesity problem. Some of the most disadvantaged areas -- those hardest hit by low income, low education, and low property values -- are also the ones most affected by the obesity epidemic."

      Zip Codes, Property Value, May Predict Obesity Rates...

      Problems Found With Wing Bolts On Four U.S. Planes

      Newer Boeing 737s inspected after China Airlines crash

      The same loose wing bolts believed responsible for the China Airlines plane fire have been found on four similar planes in the United States.

      The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered airlines to inspect their Boeing 737s after the China Airlines flight exploded just after landing in Okinawa Aug. 20. Although all 165 passengers and crew members escaped, Japanese investigators blamed a misplaced bolt for the blaze.

      They theorized that a loose bolt dislodged during landing when the slat panels at the front of the wing moved to slow the planes speed. The suddenly-dislodged bolt, propelled like a bullet, then punctured a wing-borne fuel tank.

      After the Okinawa incident, the FAA ordered all U.S. airlines to inspect their Next Generation 737s (built after 1998) within 24 days. That window was reduced to 10 days after the four loose bolts were found.

      Airlines that fly the planes most frequently are AirTran, Alaska, American, ATA, Continental, Delta, and Southwest. Most of the 783 flying in the U.S. are operated by Southwest, which has already finished inspecting the 277 in its fleet.

      More than 1,500 Next-Generation 737s have been sold to foreign-flag carriers, according to Boeing. The manufacturer is considering a redesign of the bolt in an effort to keep it from coming off.

      According to the FAA, one of the four U.S. airliners that had loose wing bolts already had a damaged fuel tank.

      In addition to its order for immediate inspections of Next-Generation 737s, the FAA has also told airlines to re-examine its wing bolts after every 3,000 hours of flight time. That ruling could change after an alternate solution is found.

      Problems Found With Wing Bolts On Four U.S. Planes...

      FTC Clears Oil Industry of 2006 Price Gouging Over Strong Dissent

      In strong dissent, one commissioner finds "disturbing conduct"

      The Federal Trade Commission has cleared the U.S. oil industry of charges of price gouging during the spring and summer of 2006 by a vote of 4-1.

      The FTC blamed market forces for gasoline price increases in 2006, according to a report sent to President Bush by the federal antitrust regulators.

      The report said U.S. pump prices leaped as high as $3.02 a gallon in August of 2006 because of consumer demand, the rising cost of crude oil and ethanol, refinery outages and capacity reductions stemming from the transition from the fuel additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether to ethanol.

      "Our targeted examination of major refinery outages revealed no evidence that refiners conspired to restrict supply or otherwise violated the antitrust laws," the FTC report stated.

      But FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz issued a dissenting statement charging that the oil industry, which posted record profits in 2006 should not view the findings "in any way a vindication of its behavior."

      The "investigation found price gouging by refiners under the Congressionally mandated definition and beyond that, disturbing conduct by even more petroleum companies. But the question you ask determines the answer you get, Leibowitz said in his dissent.

      Leibowitz said the FTC simply developed a "theoretical model for why gasoline prices likely increased" and noted that a separate investigation into gasoline pricing after hurricanes Katrina and Rita did find examples of price gouging by refiners.

      The majority of the FTC commissioners described the investigation as intensive and supporting the conclusion that the increases did not stem from violations of the antitrust laws.

      The news release announcing the findings stated that the agencys economists regularly scrutinize price movements in 20 wholesale regions and approximately 360 retail areas across the country and FTC attorneys and economists initiate law enforcement investigations in response to suspect pricing episodes as they are identified.

      FTC Clears Oil Industry of 2006 Price Gouging Over Strong Dissent...

      Gerber Pocket Knives

      August 29, 2007
      Gerber Legendary Blades is recalling about 154,000 of its EAB (Exchange-A-Blade) pocket knives.

      During use, the back of the blade of the knife can slide past the blade support, posing a laceration hazard to consumers.

      Gerber has received eight reports of individuals cutting themselves while using the knife, including several who required stitches.

      The recall involves Gerber EAB Pocket Knives, model numbers 22-41548, 22-41548CDIP, 22-01548W and 22-41548W. The knives are small, folding utility knives that can be clipped to the owners pocket. The knives are marked with the Gerber trademark.

      The knives were sold at retail stores nationwide, including Wal-Mart, and through on-line stores from September 2006 through August 2007 for about $11.

      They were manufactured in China.

      Consumers should stop using the recalled knives immediately and contact Gerber to receive instructions on how to return the knife for a free replacement knife.

      Consumer Contact: For more information, contact Gerber Legendary Blades toll-free at (877) 204-5510 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday or visit the firms Web site at www.gerbergear.com.

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

      Gerber Pocket Knives...

      Taiwan's Acer Buys Gateway, eMachines

      Deal creates a new No. 3 in the U.S. computer market

      There's a new No. 3 in the U.S. personal computer market. Taiwan's Acer is buying Gateway Inc. for $710 million, edging past China's Lenovo Group which bought IBM's PC business two years ago.

      Acer said it will maintain Gateway and eMachine as separate brands in the U.S., at least for now.

      Gateway bought eMachines Inc. in 2004, creating what was then the third-largest PC maker in the American market, behind Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

      For Gateway, the sale is a bitter acknowledgement of defeat in its long-running struggle to catch up with Dell and HP. Founded in 1985, Gateway and Dell pioneered the concept of direct-to-consumer PC sales but Dell opened up a lead that Gateway was never able to close.

      Size is everything in the personal computer business. Larger manufacturers are able to buy components for less, enabling them to undercut their smaller rivals.

      Acer president Gianfranco Lanci said that, at least initially, he would fold Gateway's supply chain in Acer's, taking advantage of expanded buying power, but would keep Gateway operating as a separate company.

      Acer has not sold computers under its own name in the U.S. since the mid-1990s, though it has manufactured machines sold under other brand names in the U.S. market.

      Gateway bought eMachines Inc. in 2004, creating what was then the third-largest PC maker in the American market, behind Dell and Hewlett-Packard....

      Canon, Casio, Fujifilm, Nikon Top J.D. Power Camera Study

      Study finds only average brand loyalty in point and shoot sector

      The Fujifilm Finepix F series leads the point and shoot segment and the Nikon D series ranks highest among digital single lens reflex (DSLR) models, according to study.

      The study, which has been completely redesigned for 2007 to better assess satisfaction drivers and market trends, examines camera model lines in four body-style segments: point and shoot, premium point and shoot, ultra slim and digital single lens reflex (DSLR).

      In each segment, four factors are measured to determine customer satisfaction: picture quality, performance, operation, and appearance and styling.

      Point and Shoot

      The Fujifilm Finepix F series ranks highest in the point and shoot segment with an index score of 749 on a 1,000-point scale, performing particularly well in all drivers of customer satisfaction. The Kodak Z series and Canon PowerShot A series follow in the segment rankings with index scores of 744 and 739, respectively.

      Among premium point and shoot cameras, the Canon PowerShot SD series ranks highest with 829 points. The series performs particularly well in all factors that drive overall satisfaction. The Panasonic DMC-FZ series (785) and Kodak Z series (783) follow in the segment.

      Ultra Slim

      In the ultra slim segment, the Casio Exilim Zoom series leads with 802 points, performing particularly well in operation as well as appearance and styling. The Canon PowerShot SD series (796) and the Kodak V series (787) follow in the segment.

      With a an index score of 822, the Nikon D Series leads the DSLR segment, receiving notably high ratings from customers in all four factors.

      Brand Loyalty Important

      The study finds that across all segments, brand loyalty positively affects customer satisfaction. Loyalty rates among owners range from 48 percent in the point and shoot segment to 67 percent in the DSLR segment. Coincidently, overall satisfaction improves across this same range, from 727 points in the point and shoot segment to 801 in the DSLR segment.

      The relationship between owner satisfaction and brand loyalty is critical to manufacturers in this highly competitive market, said Steve Kirkeby, executive director of telecommunications and technology at J.D. Power and Associates.

      A 10-point improvement in overall satisfaction can lead to a 1-percentage-point improvement in brand loyalty, particularly within the point and shoot, premium point and shoot and ultra slim segments.

      The percentage of camera owners who say that they would recommend their current model ranges from an average of 88 percent among point and shoot camera owners to 95 percent, on average, among DSLR owners.

      The range of actual recommendations made in the past 12 months averages from 5.3 among point and shoot camera owners to nearly 8.6 from DSLR owners.

      Additionally, 36 percent of all camera owners report that they give strong consideration to recommendations from friends and family, which illustrates that positive word of mouth can prove beneficial as far as generating new sales.

      DSLR Owners Prolific

      The study also finds that DSLR camera owners take more than twice the amount of pictures per month than do owners in any other segment.

      Overall, camera owners take an average of nearly 140 pictures per month, while DSLR camera owners take nearly 400 images per month.

      The DSLR segment is particularly intriguing, as single lens reflex camera owners have typically tended to be professional photographers and sophisticated amateurs, said Kirkeby.

      Now that technology has simplified use of DSLRs, they are becoming more popular among mainstream photo enthusiasts who can now share and display photos much more efficiently than in the past. This evolving demographic will continue to complicate marketing and customer loyalty initiatives in this extremely competitive segment.

      The study is based on responses from more than 7,500 consumers who purchased a digital camera between June 2006 and May 2007.

      Canon, Casio, Fujifilm, Nikon Top J.D. Power Camera Study ...

      Smoking Turns On Genes -- Permanently

      Other genes, those involved in DNA repair, were switched off permanently

      While smoking is no longer considered sexy, it may prove a permanent turn-on for some genes.

      Research published in the online open access journal BMC Genomics could help explain why former smokers are still more susceptible to lung cancer than those who have never smoked.

      A Canadian team led by Wan Lam and Stephen Lam from the BC Cancer Agency in British Columbia, Canada, took samples from the lungs of 24 current and former smokers, as well as from non-smokers who have never smoked. They used these lung samples to create libraries using a technique called serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE), which helps to identify patterns of gene activity.

      Only about a fifth of the genes in a cell are switched on at any given time, but environmental changes such as smoking lead to changes in gene activity.

      The researchers found changes that were irreversible, and some changes that were reversed by stopping smoking.

      The reversible genes were particularly involved in xenobiotic functions (managing chemicals not produced in the body), nucleotide metabolism and mucus secretion. Some DNA repair genes are irreversibly damaged by smoking, and smoking also switched off genes that help combat lung cancer development.

      The researchers identified a number of genes not previously associated with smoking that are switched on in active smokers. One example is CABYR, a gene involved in helping sperm to swim and associated with brain tumors, which may have a ciliary function.

      "Those genes and functions which do not revert to normal levels upon smoking cessation may provide insight into why former smokers still maintain a risk of developing lung cancer," according to Raj Chari, first author of the study. The study is the largest human SAGE study reported to date, and also generated a large SAGE library for future research.

      Tobacco smoking accounts for 85 percent of lung cancers, and former smokers account for half of those newly diagnosed with the disease.

      Smoking Turns On Genes -- Permanently...

      America Keeps Getting Fatter, Study Finds

      Mississippi again the fattest state, Colorado the leanest

      Obesity rates for U.S. adults rose in 31 states last year, a study finds. Twenty-two states experienced an increase for the second year in a row; no states decreased.

      Mississippi is the most obese state in the Union for the third year in a row. More than 30 percent of its adult population can now be classified as obese, according to the report.

      Colorado was the leanest state again this year. However, its adult obesity rate increased over the past year from 16.9 to 17.6 percent.

      Ten of the 15 states with the highest rates of adult obesity are located in the South. Rates of adult obesity now exceed 25 percent in 19 states, an increase from 14 states last year and 9 in 2005.

      In 1991, none of the states exceeded 20 percent.

      The fourth annual "F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America" survey was published by the Trust for Americas Health (TFAH). A new public opinion survey featured in the report finds 85 percent of Americans believe that obesity is an epidemic.

      The report also finds that rates of overweight children, ages 10 to 17, ranged from a high of 22.8 percent in Washington, D.C. to a low of 8.5 percent in Utah. Eight of the ten states with the highest rates of overweight children were in the South.

      There has been a breakthrough in terms of drawing attention to the obesity epidemic. Now, we need a breakthrough in terms of policies and results, said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH. Poor nutrition and physical inactivity are robbing America of our health and productivity.

      The F as in Fat report contains rankings of state obesity rates and a review of federal and state government policies aimed at reducing or preventing obesity.

      Other Key Findings

      • Twenty-two percent of American adults report that they do not engage in any physical activity. Mississippi has the highest rate of inactivity at 31.6 percent and Minnesota had the lowest rate of inactivity at 15.4 percent.

      • Seventeen states require their school lunches, breakfasts and snacks to meet higher nutritional standards than the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires (6 states enacted new laws in 2006-07).

      • Twenty-two states have set nutritional standards for foods sold in vending machines, la carte, in school stores, or in bake sales in schools (9 states enacted new laws in 2006-07), and 26 states limit when and where these foods may be sold on school property beyond federal requirements (6 states enacted new laws in 2006-07).

      • While every state has school physical education requirements, many are limited in scope or are not enforced.

      • Sixteen states screen students body mass index (BMI) or fitness status and confidentially provide information to parents or guardians (8 states enacted new laws in 2006-07).

      Obesity an "Epidemic"

      The report also contains a national opinion survey conducted for TFAH by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Inc. from July 12-16, 2007 (with a +/-3.1 percent margin of error).

      Key findings about governments role, school lunches, physical education and body measurement include:

      • Eighty-one percent of Americans believe that the government should have a role in addressing the obesity crisis. Majorities strongly support government working on proposals to expand education programs about healthy living, provide low-cost access to exercise programs, and reduce the marketing of unhealthy foods.

      • Fifty-five percent of parents with children under 18 believe lunches provided in schools are not nutritious enough. Sixty-six percent of Americans rated proposals to establish higher nutrition in school lunches as very useful.

      • More than two-thirds of Americans believe children do not participate in adequate amounts of physical activity during the school day or engage in enough physical activity outside of school. More than 70 percent of Americans rated proposals to increase physical education in schools as very useful.

      • Sixty percent of Americans favor a proposal to measure students BMI annually and confidentially provide this information to parents or guardians.


      TFAH recommends a comprehensive approach for helping individuals make healthy choices including support from families, communities, schools, employers, the food and beverage industries, health professionals, and government at all levels.

      Some key recommendations include:

      • Think big. The federal government should develop and implement a National Strategy to Combat Obesity. This plan should involve every federal government agency, define clear roles and responsibilities for states and localities, and engage private industry and community groups.

      • Make healthy choices easy choices. Federal, state , and local governments should develop and implement policies that give Americans the tools they need to make it easier to engage in the recommended levels of physical activity and choose healthy foods, ranging from improving food served and increasing opportunities for physical activity in schools to requiring restaurants and food companies to provide better and more readily accessible information about the nutritional content of their products to securing more safe, affordable recreation places for all Americans.

      • Improve your bottom line. Federal, state, and local governments should work with private employers and insurers to ensure that every working American has access to a workplace wellness program.

      • Escalate research on how to promote healthy choices. Public health officials have identified a number of strategies to help encourage people to make healthier decisions about nutrition and activity, however, much more research needs to be done about how to effectively promote healthier habits.

      Obesity rates for U.S. adults rose in 31 states last year, a study finds. Twenty-two states experienced an increase for the second year in a row; no states...

      Credit Crunch 'Bigger Threat Than Terrorism'

      Survey of economists finds rising fear of credit market collapse

      Years of reckless lending policies have created a situation in which the greatest threat to the U.S. now is from a credit market collapse, not terrorism. So says a survey of 258 members of the National Association for Business Economics.

      Financial market turmoil has shifted the focus away from terrorism and toward subprime and other credit problems as the most important near-term threats to the U.S. economy, says Carl Tannenbaum, NABE President and Chief Economist, La Salle Bank/ABN-AMRO.

      However," he added, "these concerns appear to be somewhat transitory, as the five-year outlook for housing remains positive.

      But in the latest survey, conducted July 24-August 14, 2007, fewer than 20 percent of NABE members surveyed listed terrorism and the Middle East as their top concern in August, compared to 35 percent in March.

      Meanwhile, 18 percent of those surveyed pointed to the effects of the subprime debacle as their biggest concern, and the related issue of excessive household and/or corporate debt was cited by another 14 percent.

      Responding to a series of questions first asked in the August 2005 Policy Survey, more NABE members now view the recent housing boom as a credit-induced bubble. Just over 29 percent now call the boom a serious national bubble, compared to only 14 percent two years ago.

      Virtually all of this increase came from the group of respondents who previously ascribed the trend to local bubbles, the group says.

      The percentage citing easier credit standards as the number one or number two causes for the housing boom jumped to 64 percent from 34 percent in 2005.

      Just over 60 percent of NABE members polled agreed that the new mortgage lending rules issued by federal banking regulators are necessary and appropriate; however, among these supporters a vast majority - over 90 percent - also termed the action a little late.

      Credit Crunch 'Bigger Threat Than Terrorism'...

      Study Finds Viagra Increases Release of 'Love Hormone'

      Impotence drugs may do more than increase blood flow to sexual organs

      Researchers have found that Viagra stimulates production of oxytocin, the so-called "love hormone" or "cuddle chemical.

      It's the first indication of a chemical mechanism through which impotence drugs may have physical effects besides increasing blood flow to sexual organs, says Meyer Jackson, a physiology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

      Oxytocin is released by stimulation of the posterior pituitary gland, a small structure directly underneath the brain that regulates hormone levels in response to neural signals, Jackson said.

      Oxytocin plays several important roles in social interactions and reproduction, including triggering uterine contractions and lactation. It is also released during orgasm and has been linked to sexual arousal.

      The hormone release is regulated by an enzyme that acts like a braking system, limiting release by dampening neural excitation of the cells. This same enzyme, phosphodiesterase type 5, also limits blood flow by contracting the muscles around blood vessels.

      In both places, sildenafil works by blocking this enzyme, essentially releasing the brakes, explains Jackson. In blood vessels, relaxing smooth muscle increases blood flow, which corrects erectile dysfunction, and in the posterior pituitary, the cells become more responsive.

      "The same stimulation will produce more [oxytocin] release." He says, "I think this is a missing link in terms of trying to sort out the issues around whether there are additional effects of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors," which include Viagra, Levitra and Cialis.

      In the study, appearing in the Journal of Physiology, the scientists measured oxytocin released from rat pituitaries in response to neural stimulation. When the pituitaries were treated with sildenafil, they responded to the stimulation by releasing three times as much oxytocin as they did without the drug. Importantly, the drug had little if any effect on hormone release in the absence of stimulation, Jackson says.

      "Erectile dysfunction drugs do not induce erections spontaneously, they enhance the response to sexual stimulation," he says. "The same thing is happening in the posterior pituitary -- Viagra will not induce the release of oxytocin on its own, but it will enhance the amount of release you get in response to electrical stimulation."

      Though he doesn't think his findings raise any significant safety issues related to Viagra use, he does think it provides strong rationale for studies of additional effects and new potential uses.

      "A big question raised by our study is, will sildenafil do the same thing to the nerve terminals that release oxytocin [in the brain]," he says. The cells that supply oxytocin to the pituitary come from a brain structure called the hypothalamus, which also sends hormones throughout the brain.

      Though sildenafil's effects on these pathways are still unknown, work by other researchers has shown that oxytocin-sensitive cells in the brain play a role in the neural control of erectile responses, suggesting that Viagra and its kin may work through multiple channels.

      The famous blue pills could have other uses as well. Oxytocin has been linked to the ability to make strong social bonds, while sildenafil was recently shown to improve hamsters' abilities to adjust the timing of their internal clocks to overcome simulated jet lag.

      "This is one piece in a puzzle in which many pieces are still not available," Jackson says. "But it raises the possibility that erectile dysfunction drugs could be doing more than just affecting erectile dysfunction."

      Study Finds Viagra Increases Release of 'Love Hormone'...