Follow us:
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. 2007
  4. August

News in August 2007

Browse by year


Browse by month

Get trending consumer news and recalls

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

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

    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 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...
    Read lessRead more

    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...
    Read lessRead more

    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...
    Read lessRead more

    Get trending consumer news and recalls

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

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

      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

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

      Toe-Space Electric Heaters Recalled...
      Read lessRead more

      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

      "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 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...
      Read lessRead more

      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. 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 and 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

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

      '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

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

      'Aloha Breeze' Portable Electric Heaters...
      Read lessRead more

      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...
      Read lessRead more

      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...
      Read lessRead more

      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...
      Read lessRead more

      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

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

      Gerber Pocket Knives...
      Read lessRead more

      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....
      Read lessRead more

      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...
      Read lessRead more

      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 ...
      Read lessRead more

      VW Recalls 2003 Audi A4 and A6

      Volkswagen of American is recalling 34,358 of the 2003 model year Audi A4 and Audi A6 sedans

      Volkswagen of American is recalling 34,358 of the 2003 model year Audi A4 and Audi A6 sedans equipped with 1.8 liter turbo, 1.8 liter V6 or 3.0 liter engin..

      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'...
      Read lessRead more

      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...
      Read lessRead more

      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'...
      Read lessRead more

      IRS Warns About New Email Scam

      Email says you're under investigation

      August 27, 2007
      If you receive an email from the Internal Revenue Service saying you are under investigation, dont panic. The IRS says its the latest scam designed to fool people into downloading a program making their computers vulnerable to hackers.

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

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

      The IRS urged people not to click the link in the e-mail or open the attachment. Similar e-mail variations suggest a customer has filed a complaint against a company and the IRS can act as an arbitrator.

      The latest versions appear aimed at business taxpayers as well as individual taxpayers.

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

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

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

      The IRS also sees other e-mail scams that involve tricking victims into revealing private personal and financial information over the Internet, a practice that is known as phishing for information.

      The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration work with the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and various Internet service providers and international CERT teams to have the phishing sites taken offline as soon as they are reported.

      Since the establishment of the mail box last year, the IRS said it has received more than 17,700 e-mails from taxpayers reporting more than 240 separate phishing incidents. To date, investigations by TIGTA have identified host sites in at least 27 different countries, as well as in the United States.

      Other fraudulent e-mail scams try to entice taxpayers to click their way to a fake IRS Web site and ask for bank account numbers. Another widespread e-mail tells taxpayers the IRS is holding a refund (often $63.80) for them and seeks financial account information.

      Still another email claims the IRSs anti-fraud commission is investigating their tax returns.

      More Scam Alerts ...

      IRS Warns About New Email Scam...
      Read lessRead more

      Erectile Dsyfunction Affects All Ages

      Most men don't talk about it, which only makes things worse

      A few months ago I was at a party and, as it reached the early hours of the morning and just I and a few other hard-drinking males remained, I somehow got onto the subject of impotence.

      An eerie silence fell over the room and as I related some of my personal experiences with this affliction I half-expected everyone to start laughing. Instead something else happened - whether moved by my own account or by the copious ammounts of alcohol consumed, one by one, each of the men in the room cautiously admitted that they'd also had similar troubles at some point in their lives.

      While each of them was careful to make it clear that everything was in working order now, I felt almost like a priest as they confessed their imperfect virility for the very first time.

      Impotence and erectile dsyfunction are somewhat taboo topics in the modern world. In a world where sex is the predominant theme of most commerce, entertainment and bar room banter, to admit that you might not be always up to the job is tantamount to doubting your right to exist.

      Replacing a fuse and carrying logs is all well and good but the inability to get an erection puts your manhood in serious question. Yet with around 30 million men reporting dsyfunctional erections (and how many more staying quiet?), it's something that most men face at one time or another.

      Impotence vs. ED

      To be clear, impotence refers to the inability to get any kind of erection, even during sleep. There can be solid medical reasons for this, including the side-effects of medications (such as anti-depressants, in particular) and in this case it's definitely worth getting a professional opinion.

      Erectile dsyfunction, on the other hand, refers to the inability to get a full erection on demand or losing the erection halfway through sexual intercourse. Talk about frustrating.

      A few years ago a girlfriend finally convinced me to give up traveling for a while and move in with her. It seemed like a dream rest cure until after a few days I found that man's best friend was letting me down and the bed became a torture chamber.

      I started going for morning runs to get the blood flowing, adopting a vegetarian diet to make sure my veins weren't being blocked up by saturated fats and even sneaking a look at the lingerie advertisements in my girlfriend's fashion magazines in the morning to get me in the mood.

      Nothing helped.

      In desperation, I spent hours on the Internet researching ancient herbs that purported to help with problems of virility and headed down to the health food shop to see what was on offer. Although pretty poor at the time, I spent most of what meager income I had on packets of Korean ginseng, packets of Ginko Biloba and an African herb called Yohimbe - the latter prompted some promising tingles but caused such palpitations of the heart that I almost called an ambulance.

      So much for alternative health, at least on this occasion.

      I eventually found a cure but I'm going to make you wait until the end of the article to find out what it was.

      The Pharmaceutical Solution

      In any case, according to the likes of Pfizer with their best-selling drug, Viagra, impotence and erectile dsyfunction should be a thing of the past. Having isolated the active components that stimulate blood flow to the penis, all our troubles should be over. And Viagra does, in fact, work.

      Head to any red light zone in South East Asia and outside the bars and discos where old Americans and Europeans go to pick up girls half their age or less, you'll see vendors touting Viagra pills alongside cigarettes and chewing gum.

      Independent drug manufacturers weren't slow to realise the potential and for a while Asian-produced copies of Viagra were the No. 1 export item for the average traveler with space in his backpack.

      So why is there still any problem? If popping a pill is all it takes we should all be living in a world of great sex and guaranteed erections, right?

      Well, aside from the risk of having a heart seizure if you're prone to any cardiovascular issues, Viagra is a perfect example of the modern world's urge to treat the symptom and not the cause.

      According to Darwin and any scientist who believes that life on this planet has been going on for rather a long time, sex has long been an essential component of evolution. Our bodies are designed to have sex, reproduce and have a good time along the way.

      Impotence is rarely a problem amongst animals so why should it be any different with human beings?

      Just for fun, yesterday I walked into town to see how often I'd get exposed to sexual imagery in the course of a half an hour walk. I'd barely stepped outside the apartment where I was staying before I saw a billboard where the advertisers had come up with the ingenious strategy of placing a beer bottle next to a rather prominant cleavage. The word "association" becomes redundant.

      Then I passed a newspaper stand where there were no less than 7 men's magazines for sale, each with a super model in a bikini on the cover. They were outnumbered only by the magazines focusing on cars and motorbikes and all but one of them again had a girl in a bikini sprawled on top of the hood.

      Just as I was about to conclude that drinking and driving really is all it takes to get laid, a car passed playing Snoop Dogg's rap about turning a girl into his sex slave. Damn, you need to be a gangsta rapper, too.

      In any case, you don't need me to let you know that sex is a more likely candidate to make the world go round than love but it is striking how little we really understand it.

      If we were to go by the lyrics of the songs in the charts and the passionate scenes that we see in Hollywood flicks, sex would seem something like a performance or a contest between two highly-skilled opponents.

      Devastating looks are a prerequisite to good sex, it would seem, and the whole deal is to give maximum performance, conquer your opponent and generally score lots of points in the arena of the bedroom.

      Small wonder that so many people find real sex to be so utterly bewildering, challenging and utterly out of their depths. But instead of rushing to pop a pill, you could pause to go a little deeper into the mysteries of physical intimacy and burst some of the sex myths that are so abundant in our society.

      These myths are hardly ever challenged as, whilst we pride ourselves in living in a free, open-minded country, most people are far too embarrassed to ever talk about it.

      Nothing Lasts Forever

      Take the myth of the ever-hard erection, for instance. Most men, including myself a few years ago, see a wavering of their erection and assume they're on the slippery slope to impotence. They do all they can to rise to the occasion, putting all the pressure they can on their libidos to perform and often completely withdraw from their partner in the process.

      Their girlfriend ends up feeling ignored, shunned or left out in the cold and the beautiful dance of two bodies in the night becomes the frenzied efforts of one guy to maintain his image of a virile lover.

      The truth is, just like everything else in life, erections come and go.

      Sexual passion comes in waves and the only way to really make love is to go with the flow. If the feeling isn't there or it drops for a few minutes or hours, it's completely okay.

      Ask most women and they'll tell you that if from the moment they meet for coffee that evening, the guy is completely focused on getting to the point of penetration, then the thrill is gone anyway. The whole expectation of the key moment kills the passion.

      In a relaxed setting, making love can be just kissing, giving massage or even talking while spenting time together naked.

      How did I solve my erectile dysfunction problem? Part of the cure was in realizing it wasn't exactly a problem in the first place - at least not as much as all the nervous energy I put into worrying about it.

      The more I worked it up in my head, the more fearful I became that it would never get better. I began to imagine a life of not being able to maintain any kind of relationship and the stakes on performing well the next time I was in bed soared to dizzy levels.

      Instead of sharing a beautiful moment with a loved one, sex became the Million Dollar Question and, unsurprisingly, with so much pressure placed on the act, it just got worse and worse.

      The Solution

      Finally, one day I just broke down and told my girlfriend just how bad I felt about it and how I'd understand if she wanted me to move out and find a real man instead. She, in turn, looked at me disbelievingly and told me she imagined it was something she was doing wrong or that I no longer found her attractive.

      We continued our mutual confessions for another few minutes before we were interrupted by an unexpected resurgence of a third party. All it took was some communication, honesty and allowing myself to just surrender to how I was feeling.

      Of course, in a society where obesity is steadily becoming the norm, where almost no one walks when they could drive and where our diets are programmed in chemical flavoring laboratories, it's no surprise that our natural vitality and virility have decreased.

      We take medications that affect our libidos, flood our brains with thousands of sexual images from every form of media and whilst we may think about sex most of the time, we rarely talk about it.

      So if you do find yourself suffering from erectile dysfuncion, it's not a bad idea to make sure you're getting enough exercise and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.

      More importantly, though, you need to make sure you're relaxing enough. Cut down on the pornogaphy and spend some quiet time every day to unwind. Go easy on the alcohol; it doesn't help. Getting into yoga, meditation or just giving yourself a foot massage before going to sleep at night might be all it takes for you to get out of your stress routine and back into your body.

      The next step is to communicate with your partner.

      Vulnerability vs. Virility

      There are few things more attractive to a woman than a man who is able to be vulnerable. It's by admitting your fears and weaknesses that you show your real strength and courage instead of the act of the man who can, ready to rise to any challenge.

      Alternatively, you might find that there are issues in your relationship which are blocking the flow of passion - maybe you forgot her brithday and she still hasn't forgiven you for it...'s Dr. Henry Fishman agrees.

      "Erectile dysfunction is common, tough to talk about, and may be in your head, not your groin," he said. "While you should have it checked out by a doctor, being relaxed, talking about it and being in a loving relationship can help a lot of men get active again," he said.

      "Talking through the problem with a friend, loved one or therapist can help, in addition to popping pills," Fishman added.

      Another stumbling block can be condoms.

      While the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is suing Pfizer for allegedly promoting the spread of HIV by encouraging Viagra-fuelled recreational sex (since when did sex become a bad thing?), condoms can really cut off the sensation for some men.

      But provided you're in a long-term relationship with a trusted partner, you could consider alternative methods of natural contraception such as the Bioself method and abandon the rubber.

      Fishman, however, isn't so enthusiastic.

      "The Bioself is simply a method to measure changes in body temperature, the so-called basal body temperature method for determining when a woman is fertile," he said.

      "It is cheap, non-invasive, and has no side effects. But it is also time consuming, very inaccurate, and a poor method of providing birth control. It leads to lots of unwanted pregnancies," Fishman cautioned.

      If all of that fails and you're climbing up the wall in desperation, well, there's always Viagra but don't make it your first choice.

      The libido and sexual strength do decrease with age (remember those golden teenage years when you were probably too immature to get much action anyway?) but there's no reason why most people under the age of at least 40 should need to turn to the chemicals.

      And for those over 40? Believe it or not, many men (even including some who are not in Congress) enjoy a vigorous sex life well into their 60s, 70s and beyond. Aging and death aren't the same, even though one eventually leads to the other.

      In fact, older men have more reason to be careful with drugs than their sons and nephews. Stay fit, eat sensibly, go easy on the alcohol and talk to your doctor -- and your mate -- if you feel you need an extra boost in the virility department.

      Erectile Dsyfunction Affects All Ages...
      Read lessRead more

      Krasdale, Red Flannel Dog Food Recalled

      Salmonella contamination a threat to dogs and humans alike

      Mars Petcare U.S. has recalled two brands of its dry dog food because of potential salmonella contamination.

      The Franklin-Tennessee pet food company this week recalled five-pound bags of its Krasdale Gravy dry dog food -- sold in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania -- and 50-pound bags of its Red Flannel Large Breed Adult Formula dry food sold in Pennsylvania.

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tested more than 150 sub-samples of the companys pet foods. Two of those samples tested positive for salmonella: one from the Krasdale Gravy dry food and another from the Red Flannel Large Breed Adult Formula dry food.

      Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems, the FDA said.

      Pets with Salmonella infections may become lethargic and have diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will also have decreased appetite, fever, and abdominal pain. Dogs that ate the recalled foods and have these symptoms should see a veterinarian.

      The FDA warned that Salmonella can be transferred to people handling pet food, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands.

      The pet foods involved in this recall are:

      Product: Krasdale Gravy dry dog food
      Size: Five-pound bag
      UPC Code: 7513062596
      Best By Date: July 16, 2008 & July 17, 2008
      Best By Date Location: Back of bag
      Distribution: Stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania

      Product: Red Flannel Large Breed Adult Formula dry dog food
      Size: 50-pound bag
      UPC Code: 4286900062
      Best By Date: July 12, 2008
      Best By Date Location: Back of bag
      Distribution: Stores in Reedsland and Richlandtown, Pa.

      Pet owners with questions about the recalled product can contact Mars Petcare US, Inc. at 866-298-8332.

      Krasdale, Red Flannel Dog Food Recalled...
      Read lessRead more

      Comcast Cuts Off Heavy Internet Users

      Customers complain bandwidth limits are secret

      Comcast has warned broadband Internet customers across the country to curb their downloading or wind up on the curb.

      The company has a bandwidth limitation that, if broken, can result in a 12-month suspension of service. The problem, according to customer complaints, is that the telecom giant refuses to reveal how much downloading is too much.

      The company, which a few years ago advertised the service as unlimited has an acceptable use policy which enforces the invisible download limit.

      The 23-part policy, states that it is a breach of contract to generate levels of traffic sufficient to impede others' ability to send or retrieve information. But nowhere does it detail what levels of traffic will impede others.

      Michael, of Speedway, Ind., uses Comcast Internet to transfer large work files while his son uses it for school research. In 2004 he received letters threatening to disconnect his Internet if he doesn't restrict his bandwidth.

      Unfortunately, neither the letter, the AUP, the Comcast websites, nor any printed Comcast materials specify what those bandwidth usage limitations are, Michael wrote to Essentially, what they are doing is drawing an invisible line, then threatening to disconnect anyone who crosses it.

      "I am more than willing to curb my usage to meet any limitations set by Comcast...if only they would actually make those limitations available to their subscribers, he said. has received several complaints from onetime Comcast customers whose service was interrupted by the phantom policy. One of them is Frank Carreiro, a West Jordan, Utah computer technician who has led the charge for hundreds of consumers with his Comcast Broadband dispute blog.

      Carriero received a phone call from Comcast in December 2006 warning him that if he didn't cut back on his usage, they were going to cut his service. When he contacted customer service to see what he could do, they had no idea what he was talking about and even suggested it was a prank call.

      One month later, he woke up to no Internet. When he called Comcast, they informed him he would be without service for 12 months.

      For the next few months, he, his wife and his six children were without Internet until DSL came into their neighborhood.

      Comcast told Carreiro he was downloading 200-300 gigabytes per month. He said he and his family download a lot of data but could never have used that much. So when he got his new service, he began tracking his use using two independent data logs.

      We haven't broken 50 Gigs a month yet and we tried, Carreiro wrote in an e-mail. I've even built a server for family photos to be shared and still we're not breaking 50 Gigs.

      Carreiro said he has spoken to hundreds of people in 15 states in the past five months who have had their Internet privileges revoked by Comcast. But Comcast spokesperson, Charlie Douglas, said only .001 percent of Comcast's customers ever horde too much bandwidth.

      Carreiro, whose neighbors have also lost their Internet, doesn't agree.

      If it's so low, why do I have a couple of people right down the street who have had their Internet taken away? Carreiro asked.

      Douglas said the company shuts off people's Internet if it affects the performance of their neighbors because often many people will share a connection on one data pipe.

      If customers want a more dedicated stream, they can order Comcast's business account which costs roughly $1,500 per month, Douglas said.

      Carrerio agreed that download restrictions for residential accounts are necessary to keep the Internet running smoothly. But he said Comcast should reveal what the restrictions are, as most other Internet providers do.

      Some Internet providers charge customers based on how much they wish to download every month. Carreiro's current provider has a 100-gigabyte cap.

      Douglas refused to reveal Comcast's bandwidth ceiling and would not say on the record why they keep it a secret.

      Comcast Cuts Off Heavy Internet Users...
      Read lessRead more

      Soft Drink Sweetener Linked to Diabetes in Kids

      Researchers zero in on high fructose corn syrup

      Researchers have found new evidence that soda pop sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup may contribute to the development of diabetes, particularly in children.

      In a laboratory study of commonly consumed carbonated beverages, the scientists found that drinks containing the syrup had high levels of reactive compounds that have been shown by others to have the potential to trigger cell and tissue damage that could cause the disease, which is at epidemic levels.

      The syrup, commonly called HFCS, is a sweetener found in many foods and beverages, including non-diet soda pop, baked goods, and condiments. It is has become the sweetener of choice for many food manufacturers because it is considered more economical, sweeter and easier to blend into beverages than table sugar.

      Some researchers have suggested that high-fructose corn syrup may contribute to an increased risk of diabetes as well as obesity, a claim the food industry disputes. Until now, little laboratory evidence has been available on the topic.

      In the current study, Chi-Tang Ho, Ph.D., conducted chemical tests among 11 different carbonated soft drinks containing HFCS. He found "astonishingly high" levels of reactive carbonyls in those beverages.

      These undesirable and highly-reactive compounds associated with unbound fructose and glucose molecules are believed to cause tissue damage, says Ho, a professor of food science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. By contrast, reactive carbonyls are not present in table sugar, whose fructose and glucose components are bound and chemically stable, the researcher notes.

      Reactive carbonyls also are elevated in the blood of individuals with diabetes and linked to the complications of that disease. Based on the study data, Ho estimates that a single can of soda contains about five times the concentration of reactive carbonyls than the concentration found in the blood of an adult person with diabetes.

      Ho and his associates also found that adding tea components to drinks containing HFCS might help lower the levels of reactive carbonyls.

      The scientists found that adding epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a compound in tea, significantly reduced the levels of reactive carbonyl species in a dose-dependent manner when added to the carbonated soft drinks studied. In some cases, the levels of reactive carbonyls were reduced by half, the researchers say.

      People consume too much high-fructose corn syrup in this country, says Ho. Its in way too many food and drink products and theres growing evidence that its bad for you.

      The tea-derived supplement provides a promising way to counter its potentially toxic effects, especially in children who consume a lot of carbonated beverages, he says.

      But eliminating or reducing consumption of HFCS is preferable, the researchers note. They are currently exploring the chemical mechanisms by which tea appears to neutralize the reactivity of the syrup.

      Hos group is also probing the mechanisms by which carbonation increases the amount of reactive carbonyls formed in sodas containing HFCS.

      They note that non-carbonated fruit juices containing HFCS have one-third the amount of reactive carbonyl species found in carbonated sodas with HFCS, while non-carbonated tea beverages containing high-fructose corn syrup, which already contain EGCG, have only about one-sixth the levels of carbonyls found in regular soda.

      In the future, food and drink manufacturers could reduce concerns about HFCS by adding more EGCG, using less HFCS, or replacing the syrup with alternatives such as regular table sugar, Ho and his associates say.

      Researchers have found new evidence that soda pop sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup may contribute to the development of diabetes, particularly in ch...
      Read lessRead more

      Honda's Immaculate Airbag Deployment

      Lemon of the Week

      It was a pleasant evening and a nice conversation. A young woman and her boyfriend were sitting in a nearly-brandpnew 2006 Honda Civic.

      The driver started the Honda, shifted the transmission into reverse, the passenger door closed and the Honda airbags exploded into the faces of the two young people sitting in the front seats.

      That is the stuff that the Lemon of the Week award was designed to honor.

      Rosemary, the mother of the young woman driving the Honda Civic, told us that daughter's boyfriend was talking to his brother, his brother closed the passenger side door and the airbags went off.

      Honda first said the airbags went off because the door was shut too hard, Rosemary told Then they said it was an immaculate deployment and they don't know why they went off. Either way, they are not covering it, she said.

      When she bought the Civic for her daughter, Rosemary paid $7,500.00 for a down payment and wrote a monthly payment check for $299.

      After the immaculate airbag deployment, she asked for a new Civic, having the same balance as we have right now with the same payments.

      Honda offered to sell us a 2007 Accord for a good price because they redesigned the 2008. What a deal. Our balance will be higher, we will have an additional year of payments and our payment would be $16.00 more per month, Rosemary complained.

      The 2006 Civic now has a record because of the airbag deployment that will cause interested buyers to look elsewhere. We are fully aware it will have a ding on Carmax because of the deployment, other dealers have confirmed this, she said.

      Numerous other consumers have reported problems with Honda airbags.

      But all is not lost. Rosemary's daughter's 2006 Honda Civic wins the lemon of the Week award for the immaculate deployment of the car's airbags.

      Honda first said the airbags went off because the door was shut too hard, Rosemary told Then they said it was an immaculate deployment...
      Read lessRead more

      Data Breaches Endanger NY, CA Retirees

      Consultant's bungling, printer's errors put retirees at risk

      by Martin H. Bosworth

      August 24, 2007
      The last thing you want to worry about when enjoying your golden years is the possibility of identity theft or fraud, but two data breaches this week have left thousands of pensioners and retirees in that exact position.

      A laptop containing data on 280,000 New York City retirees was stolen from a consultant to the city's Financial Information Services Agency (FISA) on August 23. The unidentified consultant reported that the laptop was stolen when he brought it to a Korean restaurant at roughly 8:20 pm, and could not confirm that the data was encrypted.

      The consultant was employed by CGI AMS, a Canadian information and technology services company hired by the city to evaluate the city's pension payments system.

      City Comptroller William Thompson, who oversees the city's pension payroll, said he was "outraged" by the theft and that CGI AMS should foot the bill for notifying and protecting any affected city retirees.

      "Our pensioners should not be victimized by an absence of judgment by this consultant," Thompson said in a statement. "Providing these credit protection measures, no matter what the cost, will give our pensioners the peace of mind they deserve that we are employing all means possible to protect their assets."

      FISA also said it was conducting an internal investigation of the incident, and police are currently looking for the suspected thief.

      CalPERS' Calamity

      A day earlier, officials at the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) announced that they had mistakenly published the Social Security numbers of 445,000 state retirees on brochures announcing an upcoming election. Some of the brochures contained full numbers, others only partial numbers.

      The breach occured when the printer accidentally added the numbers to the brochures' address boxes, even though the printing system had alerts designed to detect and prevent publication of Social Security numbers.

      CalPERS' spokepersons said the breach is causing them to perform a thorough top-to-bottom review of their security procedures to prevent another occurrence, but has not said it would provide credit protection to any affected individuals.

      CalPERS also downplayed the incident, saying that the numbers could not be easily identified, making them harder to use.

      Accidental printings of Social Security numbers have become a frequent cause of data breaches in recent months. In January 2007, Wisconsin's Department of Revenue accidentally printed up tax forms with visible Social Security numbers on the front page for 17,000 citizens.

      It was later revealed that the printing agency and the Department of Revenue tried to keep the breach quiet, but went public after angry residents contacted the media about the incident.

      And in November 2006, a printing contractor hired by Chicago's school system accidentally sent out personal information on 1,740 employees, mistaking them for health care providers. The information included names, addresses, and Social Security numbers, any combination of which could easily be used by thieves to steal someone's identity or gain access to their finances.

      Data Breaches Endanger NY, CA Retirees: Two data breaches this week have left thousands of pensioners and retirees in that exact position....
      Read lessRead more

      FDA Proposes New Sunscreen Rules

      But critics say the new rules don't go far enough

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed a new regulation that sets standards for formulating, testing and labeling over-the-counter sunscreen drug products with ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B protection, but stops short of addressing some longstanding consumer complaints.

      For more than 30 years, consumers have been able to identify the level of UVB protection provided by sunscreens using only sunburn protection factor or SPF values, said Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs.

      Under today's proposal, consumers will also now know the level of UVA protection in sunscreens, which will help them make informed decisions about protecting themselves and their children against the harmful effects of the sun.

      Sunlight is composed of the visible light that we can see, and ultraviolet light that we can not. There are two types of UV light, UVA and UVB. UVA light is responsible for tanning and UVB for sunburn. Both can damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer.

      The proposed regulation creates a consumer-friendly rating system for UVA products designed to help consumers identify the level of UVA protection offered by a product. The FDA proposal provides a ratings system for UVA sunscreen products on a scale of one to four stars.

      One star would represent low UVA protection, two stars would represent medium protection, three stars would represent high protection, and four stars would represent the highest UVA protection available in an OTC sunscreen product.

      If a sunscreen product does not provide at least a low level of protection, FDA is proposing to require that the product bear a "no UVA protection" marking on the front label near the SPF value.

      Ratings would be derived from two tests the FDA proposes to assess the effectiveness of sunscreens in providing protection against UVA light.

      The first test measures a product's ability to reduce the amount of UVA radiation that passes through it. The second test measures a product's ability to prevent tanning. This test is nearly identical to the SPF test used to determine the effectiveness of UVB sunscreen products.

      In addition, a Warnings statement in the Drug Facts box will be required of all sunscreen product manufacturers. The warning will say: UV exposure from the sun increases the risk of skin cancer, premature skin aging, and other skin damage. It is important to decrease UV exposure by limiting time in the sun, wearing protective clothing, and using a sunscreen. The warning is intended to increase awareness that sunscreens are only one part of a sun protection program.

      Many consumers incorrectly believe that the only way to protect themselves from skin damage caused by the sun is to apply sunscreens, said Douglas Throckmorton, M.D., deputy director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. The labeling being proposed today strengthens the existing labeling for sunscreens by educating consumers on the added importance of limiting their time in the sun and wearing protective clothing as part of a sun protection regimen.

      "Snake oil"

      The new rules follow a lengthy campaign by consumer advocates for more accurate labeling of sunscreen products. Last year major sunscreen makers were hit with a class action lawsuit by consumers who complained they were lied to.

      Sunscreen is the snake oil of the 21st Century and these companies that market it are Fortune 500 Snake Oil salesmen, said Samuel Rudman, a New York attorney. False claims such as 'sunblock' 'waterproof" and 'all-day protection' should be removed from these products immediately."

      Parents, especially, have been defrauded into believing the false labeling and advertising claims of these products. They have sent their children to play or swim in the sun, believing that slathering them with one of these products specifically marketed for children provides protection, when it does not, said Mitchell Twersky, another New York attorney. And the guys who are marketing these products know their claims are false, he added.

      The new FDA rules do not address the concerns highlighted in the suit.

      When finalized, the proposed regulation would amend the existing OTC sunscreen rule published in 1999 that established regulations related to UVB light and mandated that OTC UVB sunscreen products be labeled with a SPF. FDA also is amending its existing 1999 rule to increase the SPF from SPF30+ to SPF50+. Previously, FDA had recognized SPF values up to 30+. Under the proposed amendment, the range would be SPF2 to SPF50+. SPF50 provides more UVB protection than lower SPF values. Additionally, the proposed rule:

      • revises the existing SPF (UVB) testing procedures;

      • allows new combinations of active ingredients; and

      • asks for comments on the issue of nanoparticles.

      FDA is accepting comments on the new rule for 90 days until November 26, 2007.

      FDA Proposes New Sunscreen Rules...
      Read lessRead more

      Class Action Against eBay

      Suit alleges deceptive auction practices

      A class action lawsuit alleges that eBay deceived customers whose auctions did not start when their listing was submitted and who paid for but did not receive the full duration of auction time that they selected.

      "eBay has been deceiving millions of consumers over the years by claiming their auctions start when submitted, when in reality they do not begin for at least several hours, and up to 24 hours," said attorney John Fabry.

      "However, the clock starts running on your selected auction time even though eBay hasn't posted it yet."

      The suit focuses on violations of various provisions of California statutes intended to protect consumers, as well as common law.

      The suit seeks injunctive relief and damages for the customers who make up the class. It is estimated that there are millions of eBay consumers that have been affected by eBay's course of conduct.

      Class Action Against eBay...
      Read lessRead more

      Appeals Court Shreds Out AT&T Arbitration Clause

      Finds cell phone contracts that deny consumers the right to sue "unconscionable"

      In a major victory for consumers, the 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has allowed a class action lawsuit against AT&Tto proceed, labeling restrictions in the company's contracts "unconscionable."

      The court threw out the provision in Cingular/AT&T contracts that prohibits consumers from joining in class action suits, saying the waiver is unenforceable under California law.

      The ruling is the latest in a series of federal court decisions that have held the class action waiver to be unenforceable.

      The class action waivers -- also known as "forced arbitration clauses" -- are despised by consumer advocates who say their only purpose is to render consumers powerless to defend themselves against huge corporations.

      Or as blogger Rob Beschizza put it, the contracts "represent, in black and white, everything that's rotten about the relationship between company and consumer."

      "These are often designed to deprive the buyer of as many rights as possible, and the argument over their legality goes on and on. This was one such example, seeking to replace the legal system with a corporate Monkey Court," Beschizza said.

      The ruling gives the go-ahead to a class action consumer suit claiming Cingular Wireless service deteriorated after the mobile phone carrier was fully acquired by AT&T Inc. in 2004.

      "Hopefully the trend will continue uninterrupted in the courts of other states, said William Weinstein, lead plaintiffs attorney in the case.

      The 9th Circuit said its decision is consistent with at least 10 other cases that have come before federal courts in the state. Several of them have involved AT&T/Cingular Wireless.

      A similar suit is currently pending in Washington state.

      Appeals Court Shreds Out AT&T Arbitration Clause...
      Read lessRead more

      Capital One Shuts Down GreenPoint Mortgage Unit

      Mortgage meltdown claims another victim

      The mortgage meltdown has claimed yet another casualty, as Capitol One announced it is shuttering its GreenPoint Mortgage wholesale lending unit. GreenPoint will close all 31 of its branches in 19 states, and its headquarters in California, Capital One said.

      The McLean, Virginia-based lender also announced it was cutting 1,900 jobs across the board in an effort to cut costs. Capital One had already announced its plans to cut 2,000 jobs earlier in the year.

      Capital One bought GreenPoint Mortgage for $13.2 billion in 2006, at the tail end of a five-year housing boom that saw record home prices and loans across the country. The closing of the unit will cost Capital One $860 million after taxes, according to the company.

      Although Wall Street was expecting better trading today due to positive reports from retailers, the financial markets still showed nervousness in the face of another example of the mortgage meltdown's ripple effect across the global economy.

      Lenders who specialized in "creative" and "nonconforming" loans with higher interest rates and steep payment increases have been downsizing or declaring bankruptcy in droves, leading to a global "credit crunch" as the markets pull back from lending and consumers stop borrowing.

      In Capital One's case, the GreenPoint mortgage unit specialized in "jumbo" mortgages that went well beyond the limits approved by government-backed lenders such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

      Capital One specifically targeted borrowers classified as "alternative-A" or "Alt-A," who had credit scores higher than those typically in the subprime lending bracket, but not quite good enough to qualify for prime lending interest rates.

      Alt-A borrowers accounted for 15 percent of all new mortgages in the first half of 2007.

      No Stranger To Strange Practices

      Capital One's focus on "alternative" lending practices isn't limited to its mortgage dealings. For many years, the company refused to report the available credit limits of cardholders to the credit bureaus, in order to keep customers who may have gotten better interest rates elsewhere stuck with their Capitol One card.

      The omission of credit limits would prevent lenders from knowing how much credit the borrower was using, depressing their credit scores and reducing their ability to qualify for better loans and rates.

      Capital One recently agreed to start reporting its borrowers' credit limits to the bureaus, but simultaneously raised the interest rates on many accounts, enraging longtime customers who were promised fixed interest rates for the life of their credit card balance. has been flooded with complaints regarding the sudden interest rate hikes and general bad customer service of Capital One.

      The company is notorious for blitzing consumers' credit reports with inquiries in search of new customers, and time will tell if it chooses to follow a similar path back into the lending business once the mortgage meltdown comes to an end.

      The mortgage meltdown has claimed yet another casualty, as Capitol One announced it is shuttering its GreenPoint Mortgage wholesale lending unit....
      Read lessRead more

      New Jersey Man Cited For Exploiting Foreclosure Victims

      Scam allegedly targeted consumers who had just lost their homes

      The State of New Jersey has filed suit against a Gloucester County businessman who allegedly collected tens of thousands of dollars in surplus funds after misleading homeowners who had just lost their homes to foreclosure.

      The state said the complaint against against Samuel E. Goodwin, III is the first action filed under the states Consumer Fraud Act to address deceptive practices in the area of surplus funds recovery.

      Surplus funds are the monies remaining after the foreclosure sale takes place and mortgage, tax and other legal obligations have been paid. Homeowners in foreclosure can claim surplus funds by filing a simple form available from the Superior Court Trust Fund Unit and after paying nominal fees totaling less than $100.

      Goodwin allegedly charged homeowners 15% to 65% of the total surplus funds to which they were legally entitled by misleading the homeowners into believing that the process to recover the funds was complicated and could not be filed by the homeowners on their own.

      The state alleges that in one instance, Goodwin received approximately $79,000 in surplus funds for making the application for release of such funds.

      Because of the ongoing subprime mortgage crisis, an increasing number of homeowners are facing foreclosure. These individuals can be a ripe target for those who would exploit their misfortune for profit, Attorney General Anne Milgram said. Consumers who have lost their homes in foreclosure need and deserve all of the surplus funds to which they are entitled.

      We continue to educate consumers about the surplus funds process and to alert them to deceptive practices, said Acting Consumer Affairs Director Stephen B. Nolan. The Division will vigorously pursue those who would take advantage of vulnerable consumers. Anyone going through the foreclosure process is urged to get all the facts about how the process works and to be suspicious if anyone unexpectedly offers to help with obtaining surplus funds.

      The states complaint, filed in State Superior Court in Gloucester County, alleges that Goodwin, who maintains business addresses in Gloucester City and Woodbury, violated the states Consumer Fraud Act by the following:

      • Misleading consumers into believing that he is a practicing attorney;

      • Leading consumers to believe that the surplus funds application is a complicated process that requires his expertise and assistance;

      • Leading consumers to believe that they could not make a pro se application for surplus funds;

      • Aggressively pursuing and pressuring consumers into retaining his services and executing documents;

      • Orally representing a surplus funds allocation between himself and the consumer, and then preparing written documentation that increases his share of the surplus funds recovery;

      • Charging consumers varying percentages for the recovery of surplus funds when the same application process applies to all consumers;

      • Recovering amounts ranging from $8,900 to $79,000 as a result of making a surplus funds application on behalf of consumers; and

      • Failing to disclose to consumers the actual charges incurred in connection with the filing of a surplus funds application.

      In addition, the state seeks restitution for affected consumers, maximum civil penalties, reimbursement of its attorneys fees and costs and compliance with the Consumer Fraud Act.

      New Jersey Man Cited For Exploiting Foreclosure Victims...
      Read lessRead more

      Wal-Mart Pulls Dog Treats Made in China

      But no official recall yet for Bestro Chicken Jerky Strips

      Wal-Mart Pulls Dog Treats Made in China: Wal-Mart has quietly pulled dog treats made in China, Bestro Chicken Jerky Strips, from its store shelves...

      Many Facebook Users Compromise Own Identities

      Careless consumers make identity theft easy, study finds

      Not all case of identity theft come from stolen notebook computers or vulnerable computer networks. Computer security firm Sophos says many members of the social networking site Facebook fail to take simple steps to guard against identity theft.

      Compiled from a random snapshot of Facebook users, Sophos's research shows that 41 percent of users, more than two in five, will divulge personal information - such as email address, date of birth and phone number - to a complete stranger, greatly increasing their susceptibility to ID theft.

      The Sophos Facebook ID Probe involved creating a fabricated Facebook profile before sending out friend requests to individuals chosen at random from across the globe.

      To conduct the experiment, Sophos set up a profile page for 'Freddi Staur' (an anagram of 'ID Fraudster'), a small green plastic frog who divulged minimal personal information about himself. Sophos then sent out 200 friend requests to observe how many people would respond, and how much personal information could be gleaned from the respondents.

      Freddi may look like a happy green frog that just wants to be friends, but actually he's happy because he's just encouraged 82 users to hand over their personal details on a plate, said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

      While accepting friend requests is unlikely to result directly in theft, it is an enabler, giving cybercriminals many of the building blocks they need to spoof identities, to gain access to online user accounts, or potentially, to infiltrate their employers' computer networks.

      Among the findings of the Sophos Facebook ID probe:

      • 87 of the 200 Facebook users contacted responded to Freddi, with 82 leaking personal information (41% of those approached)

      • 72% of respondents divulged one or more email address

      • 84% of respondents listed their full date of birth

      • 87% of respondents provided details about their education or workplace

      • 78% of respondents listed their current address or location

      • 23% of respondents listed their current phone number

      • 26% of respondents provided their instant messaging screenname

      In the majority of cases, Freddi was able to gain access to respondents' photos of family and friends, information about likes/dislikes, hobbies, employer details and other personal facts.

      In addition, many users also disclosed the names of their spouses or partners, several included their complete rsums, while one user even divulged his mother's maiden name - information often requested by websites in order to retrieve account details.

      What's worrying is how easy it was for Freddi to go about his business. He now has enough information to create phishing emails or malware specifically targeted at individual users or businesses, to guess users' passwords, impersonate them or even stalk them, Cluley said.

      Most people wouldn't give out their details to a stranger in the street, or even respond to a spam email, yet several of the users Freddi contacted went so far as to make him one of their 'top friends'. People need to realise that this is still unsolicited communication, despite it occurring within Facebook, and users must employ the same basic precautions - such as not responding in any way - to prevent exposure to wrongdoers.

      As well as the successful friend requests, a number of users unwittingly enabled Freddi to gain access to their profile information simply by sending response messages such as "Who are you?" and "Do I know you?" back to his Facebook inbox.

      Sophos experts note that users' profiles can be protected from such exposure by adjusting the privacy controls within their Facebook account settings.

      It's important to remember that Facebook's privacy features go far beyond those of many competing social networking sites, Cluley said. This is about the human factor - people undoing all that good work through carelessness and being preoccupied with the kudos of having more Facebook friends than their peers, which could have a serious impact on business security, if accessed in the workplace.

      Computer security firm Sophos says many members of the social networking site Facebook fail to take simple steps to guard against identity theft....
      Read lessRead more

      Internet Addiction Redefined, Treatment Outlined

      Study finds 10% of all Internet surfers suffer from addiction

      Is your first craving in the morning for your computer mouse instead of a cup of coffee? Do you obsessively check email in the middle of the night?

      If so, you may be among the ten percent of all Internet surfers afflicted with Internet addiction disorder, a pathological condition that can lead to anxiety and severe depression.

      To better diagnose and treat Internet addiction, Dr. Pinhas Dannon, a psychiatrist from Tel Aviv Universitys Sackler Faculty of Medicine, recommends that it be grouped with other extreme addictive disorders such as gambling, sex addiction, and kleptomania.

      A senior lecturer at Tel Aviv University, Dr. Dannon is known for work in the area of gambling and addiction, a major research focus for him since 1995. His first article on kleptomania was published in 1996.

      He will present his new research findings on addiction at the National Gambling Councils meeting in Las Vegas this November.

      Internet addiction is currently classified by mental health professionals as an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a mild to severe mental health condition that results in an urge to engage in ritualistic thoughts and behavior, such as excessive handwashing or, in the case of the Internet, Web surfing.

      But we are saying that we need to look at Internet addiction differently, reports Dr. Dannon on behalf of his colleagues from Tel Aviv University and the Be'er Ya'acov Mental Health Center.

      Internet addiction is not manifesting itself as an urge. Its more than that. Its a deep craving. And if we dont make the change in the way we classify Internet addiction, we wont be able to treat it in the proper way, he said.

      Two groups are at greatest risk from Internet addiction disorder, Dr. Dannon warns. The first are teenagers. But more surprisingly, the second are women and men in their mid-50s suffering from the loneliness of an empty nest.

      The symptoms of Internet addiction in both groups are vague and are often difficult to diagnose. Sufferers may experience loss of sleep, anxiety when not online, isolation from family and peer groups, loss of work, and periods of deep depression.

      Treating Internet addiction can be done effectively, believes Dr. Dannon, only if the condition is treated like any other extreme and menacing addiction.

      For example, a clinician could use talk therapy or prescribe medication such as Serotonin blockers and Naltrexone, which are also effective against kleptomania and pathological gambling.

      No less important, Dr. Dannon stresses, is that mental health practitioners in schools and workplaces should be made aware of the risks of Internet addiction. Workshops on these risks should be held in both milieus, he advises.

      Dr. Dannon and his colleagues have recently reported their findings in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology; and have since waged a mini-campaign around the world to warn doctors about the dangers associated with excessive Internet use.

      Their research on gambling addiction has been used to educate American doctors taking the annual Continuing Medical Education test taken before the doctors can renew a license to practice medicine.

      According to Dr. Dannon, Internet addicts are inevitable and a product of modernization.

      They are just like anyone else who is addicted to coffee, exercise, or talking on their cellular phone. As the times change, so do our addictions.

      Internet Addiction Redefined, Treatment Outlined...
      Read lessRead more

      'Work at Home' Scams Spreading

      What sounds like an easy way to make extra money usually is anything but that

      An Arkansas court has fined a woman $1.3 million for running an envelope stuffing scam one of a number of work at home schemes that target people looking for a little extra income.

      Customers paid $99 to be part of the program and were led to believe they would receive $10 for every advertisement they mailed out for the company. Arkansas officials say some were not paid at all, or were paid much less than they expected.

      Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said work at home schemes are becoming an increasing problem and urged consumers to use caution when considering any such offer.

      What to Look For

      While these scams can take many forms, McDaniel said they have some common characteristics.

      Bogus job offers almost always require the "employee" to deposit checks, money orders, or accept funds wired into his or her own personal bank account or credit card account, then keep a commission and wire the balance somewhere else, often to places outside of the United States.

      Some victims of these scams have also been asked to process packages or perform certain tasks, such as envelope stuffing.

      Whether the task is stuffing envelopes or forwarding checks, the net result is the same for the consumer, who almost always ends up losing a lot of money and getting a lot of trouble for their effort, said McDaniel.

      Victims, who are promised big returns for performing tasks, often pay up front costs and never receive a dime in return; while others later learn that the money they are transferring is stolen, making them party to illegal activities.

      More Scam Alerts ...

      'Work at Home' Scams Spreading...
      Read lessRead more

      Pfizer Hit With Second Data Breach In Two Months

      Outside contractor loses laptops containing personal data

      by Martin H. Bosworth

      August 16, 2007
      In its second disclosure of a data breach in as many months, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer revealed that laptops containing personal data on 950 contractors for Pfizer were stolen from the car of employees for outside contracting firm Axia.

      The theft took place on May 31, but Axia did not inform Pfizer until June 14.

      The missing laptops contained names, complete home and business addresses, land and cellular telephone numbers, and Social Security numbers.

      Attorney Bernard Nash, representing Pfizer, revealed the breach in communications with Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, copies of which were posted publicly by New London, Connecticut newspaper The Day.

      The package also included copies of the breach disclosure letter Pfizer sent to affected individuals.

      Pfizer did not offer an explanation in the letter as to why the Axia employees had the information, though Nash said the laptop data was backed up to Axia's main computer system.

      Predictably, Pfizer said that the stolen laptops were password-protected, and that there was no indication that the stolen data had been used for fraud or identity theft.

      Pfizer and Axia are also providing a year of free identity protection services to affected customers through Identity Safeguards, an identity protection and recovery company based in Oregon.

      "Pfizer and Axia are committed to maintaining the confidentiality and security of data," Nash wrote. "Pfizer is working with Axia to improve data security protections, and will apply the lessons learned from this incident to its work with other contractors, and its own employees as well."

      The Axia data breach follows Pfizer's disclosure that an employee had accidentally shared data on 17,000 current and former Pfizer workers over a peer-to-peer file sharing network. Attorney General Blumenthal had criticized Pfizer for not disclosing the breach to consumers until June 1, even though the breach itself took place on April 18.

      In follow-up correspondence on the earlier breach, Blumenthal reiterated his concern that the slow pace of notification would increase consumers' risk of exposure to identity theft.

      "The sooner consumers are notified that their personally identifying information is at risk, the sooner they can respond to prevent further harm," Blumenthal wrote.

      Pfizer claimed that the breach investigation was "complex and multifaceted," and differing "work streams" of the investigation prevented it from providing a specific timeline of the investigation and why it took so long to notify consumers.

      Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer revealed that laptops containing personal data on 950 contractors for Pfizer were stolen from the car of employees for outside ...
      Read lessRead more

      Common Flame Retardant May Be Killing House Cats

      Houshold furniture, canned cat food implicated in thyroid disease

      A mysterious epidemic of thyroid disease among pet cats in the United States may be linked to exposure to dust shed from flame retardants in household carpeting, furniture, fabrics and pet food.

      Humans may also be at risk, although more research is needed to determine if there is a link.

      Thats the conclusion of scientists who are reporting their study in Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal from the American Chemical Society.

      Janice A. Dye, DVM, Ph.D., at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and colleagues from there as well as Indiana University and the University of Georgia, report evidence linking the disease to exposure to environmental contaminants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which the researchers found to be elevated in blood samples of hyperthyroid cats.

      Their findings were based on analysis of blood samples from 23 pet cats, 11 of which had the disease, termed feline hyperthyroidism (FH). PBDE levels in the hyperthyroid cats were three times as high as those in younger, non-hyperthyroid cats.

      Concerns about the possible health effects of PDBEs arose in the late 1990s, and studies have reported that PDBEs cause liver and nerve toxicity in animals.

      FH is one of the most common and deadly diseases in older cats, and indoor pets are thought to be most at-risk. For starters, cats ingest large amounts of PBDE-laden house dust that the researchers believe comes from consumer household products.

      Dye, a toxicologist, began by hypothesizing that prolonged contact with certain polyurethane foams and components of carpet padding, furniture and mattresses would pose the greatest hazard for developing FH.

      In addition, the researchers suspected that diet might be another risk factor for developing FH. To see if a link existed, they analyzed PBDE content in several cat food brands.

      Canned Food Higher in PBDE

      Their analysis found that PBDE content of canned fish/seafood flavors, such as salmon and whitefish, was higher than dry or non-seafood canned items. Based on the analysis, they estimate that diets based on canned food could have PBDE levels 12 times as high as dry-food diets.

      The researchers indicate that pet cats might be receiving as much as 100 times greater dietary PBDE exposure than American adults.

      With their meticulous grooming behavior, cats may ingest large amounts of dust that collects on their fur.

      Our results showed that cats are being consistently exposed to PBDEs, Dye said. Because they are endocrine-disrupting agents, cats may well be at increased risk for developing thyroid effects.

      The danger of contracting feline hyperthyroidism might be greater in America, where people have the highest reported PBDE levels worldwide, the study said.

      Also, by the late 1990s, North America accounted for almost half of the global demand for PBDEs from commercial materials like furniture or upholstery, the report added.

      The epidemic of hyperthyroidism in cats began almost 30 years ago, at the same time that PBDEs were introduced into household materials as a fire-prevention measure. Although the disease was first discovered in the U.S., it has since been diagnosed in Canada, Australia, Japan and many parts of Europe.

      Humans Also at Risk

      Hyperthyroid disorders have also increased in humans former President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush have the disorder, and even Millie, their Springer Spaniel, contracted it.

      Symptoms of the syndrome in cats include weight loss, an increase in appetite, hair loss and irritability. Cats and humans are the only mammals with high incidences of hyperthyroidism, Dye said.

      The study concludes that hyperthyroid cats could serve as modern-day versions of the canaries in the cage that alerted coal miners to poisonous gas.

      While the link between hyperthyroidism in cats and their elevated PBDE levels requires additional confirmation, it is clear that house cats may be able to serve as sentinels for indoor exposure to PBDEs for humans who share their houses, said Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., a co-author of the study.

      No link between human hyperthyrodism and PBDE exposure has been established, Birnbaum noted, adding that some ongoing studies do suggest such a connection. Although several states have banned use of certain PBDEs in commercial products, there are no regulations limiting PBDE content in foods, according to Birnbaum.

      A mysterious epidemic of thyroid disease among pet cats in US may be linked to exposure to dust shed from flame retardants in household carpeting, furnitur...
      Read lessRead more

      Nokia Joins Battery Recall

      Cell phone batteries can overheat and catch fire

      Its not just overheating batteries in notebook computers you have to worry about. Lithium-ion batteries in cell phones also pose a potential fire hazard, and phone maker Nokia has recalled 46 million such batteries.

      The batteries, identified as BL-5C, were produced by Matsushita Battery Industrial company of Japan from December 2005 to November 2006. Nokia said a fire hazard potentially exists when the batteries short circuit during recharging. Nokia is offering its customers replacement batteries.

      A year ago Sony was forced to recall more than 10 million notebook computers after it was determined the lithium-ion batteries that powered them could present a fire hazard. In some cases consumers posted videos online showing their laptops bursting into flames.

      A year ago reported on two outdoorsmen whose vehicle was destroyed by fire when a Dell laptop computer in the vehicle burst into flames.

      Twelve months later the computer battery recalls continued, with Sony recalling another 1,400 laptop batteries made for Toshiba.

      As for the cell phone batteries, Nokia says the chances of a fire are remote. A spokesman notes there have been 100 reported problems out of 300 million batteries sold.

      To see if your cell phone is included in the recall, check the Nokia Web site..

      Nokia Joins Battery Recall...
      Read lessRead more

      Whose Fingers Are Doing the Walking?

      Small businesses targeted by Yellow Pages advertising scams

      Every business owner considers whether an advertisement in the Yellow Pages is needed and will be worth the cost. But while advertising is essential, no business wants to be billed for an ad it didnt need or authorize.

      Just ask Dee, of Phoenix, Arizona. Her Hallmark store received a call from a sales representative of The Official Yellow Pages, owned by Thompson Hill Publishing, Inc.

      Our assistant manager was emphatic that she was not authorized to make advertising decisions, says Dee. Two months later we received a call from the Thompson Hill Publishing collection agency telling us that we owed $487.95 for an ad.

      Dee continued, We asked to see a contract and they advised us that they can legally charge us without a contract if the amount is less than $500.00. They insisted we pay the bill or they would use it to hurt our credit rating.

      According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Thompson Hill Publishing has a pattern of complaints from consumers who report misleading sales calls.

      For instance, the Buffalo, New York, BBB processed over 400 complaints against Thompson Hill Publishing in just a 12-month period. The majority of the complaints relate to sales tactics used by the company.

      Dee joins a long list of business owners who have reported Yellow Page problems. I had my own issue when a salesman from Yellow Book USA called about advertising for my personal consumer advocacy site,. I told him that I did not want to place an ad.

      So imagine my surprise when a display ad appeared in their book.

      This was followed by monthly bills and finally a call from Tiffany, a collections coordinator for Yellow Book USA.

      Tiffany calmly explained that they had a contract with my signature, and now there were late fees because I hadnt made a payment. I kept Tiffany on the phone while she e-mailed me a copy of the contract.

      I asked her to open the attachment so that she could see what I was seeing. It was obvious that there was no signature. Additionally, although the signature line was blank, someone else had filled in the remaining portion of the contract.

      How does an unsigned, unauthorized contract lead to a $500 advertising bill?

      We dont know how it happened, said Maria Mitchell, Assistant Vice President of Yellow Book USA. It certainly isnt the norm, but with over 8,000 employees, mistakes do happen. Our goal is to help business owners, not harm them.

      In my case, Yellow Book USA quickly responded to my complaint, apologized, and wiped out all the charges.

      Dont cash that check

      Yellow Page companies are notorious for using activation check schemes. Typically the business receives a small check that, when deposited, triggers a monthly payment for advertising.

      The "contract" is in the fine print on the back of the check. Endorsing and cashing the check validates the supposed contract.

      In many cases, the advertising is described as an Internet ad and the business owner has no idea where they can even see it.

      Numerous states including Kentucky, Missouri and Oregon have taken action against such companies.

      Travis Ford, Consumer Education Coordinator of the Office of Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, told "We are very interested in any complaints businesses may have about directory advertising, their billing practices or their collections tactics. Any suspicious behavior should be reported to your state's attorney general."

      Misleading mailers

      Cheri of Santa Cruz, California, received what she thought was a notice from her local AT&T Yellow Pages.

      The mailer asked if I wanted to renew my ad, so I signed and returned it. Shortly after that, I received the legitimate renewal notice from AT&T and realized my mistake, Cheri said.

      She now has a bill for $298.00 for an ad somewhere on the Internet.

      Rogue companies and fly-by-night directories often use mailers that appear to be an invoice or renewal notice from your local Yellow Pages. However, even if the mailer includes a dollar amount there is a huge difference between an invoice and a solicitation, especially when it involves the U.S. Postal Service.

      According to U.S. Postal Department regulations, any solicitation must include the following:


      But, even if the mailer says, THIS IS NOT A BILL, if you sign and return it, you can be billed later.

      Whose fingers are doing the walking?

      Business owners often fall victim because they associate their local Yellow Pages with the walking fingers logo.

      I paid $304.50 to what I thought was the local yellow pages, complained Hal of South Beach, Florida. The walking fingers emblem with the Yellow Pages name was the same as what is on our local phone book.

      What Hal and many others didn't know is that the walking fingers logo is in the public domain and can freely be used by anyone in the U.S.

      As for the phrase, Yellow Pages, that is a generic term that can be used by your local phone company, a website, or a scammer sitting in an apartment.

      More Scam Alerts ...

      Every business owner considers whether an advertisement in the Yellow Pages is needed and will be worth the cost but no business wants to be billed for an...
      Read lessRead more

      Mattel Recalls Millions of Chinese-Made Toys

      Hazards include lead paint, magnets that can be swallowed

      For the second time in a month, U.S. toy maker Mattel, Inc. is recalling millions of Chinese-made toys because they contain lead paint or small magnets that can be swallowed by children.

      Mattel today recalled 9.5 million magnetic toys in the United States --18.2 million worldwide -- and more than two-hundred thousand die-cast toys. Some of the magnetic toys included in todays massive recall include Polly Pockets play sets and Batman action figures.

      The action comes less than two weeks after the toy giant recalled nearly one million Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and other toys made in China that contained lead paint.

      The United States banned the use of lead paint in toys nearly 30 years ago because its toxic if ingested by young children.

      This is also the latest in a string of recalls involving tainted or defective Chinese-made products, including tires, toothpaste, seafood and ingredients used to make pet food.

      An investigation by earlier this summer also revealed that 96 percent of all toys recalled during the first part of the year were made in China.

      The toys included in todays recall are:

      • About 253,000 die-cast Sarge toys from the CARS vehicle line that contain lead paint. These are 2 inch toy vehicles that look like military jeeps. They were sold individually or in sets of two at retailers nationwide from May 2007 through August 2007. Mattel said it has not received any reports of injuries associated with the toys;

      • About 7.3 million Polly Pocket play sets sold nationwide from May 2003 through November 2006. These play sets have small magnets inside the dolls and accessories the can come loose and choke young children. Mattel recalled about 2.4 million of these play sets on November 21, 2006. Since that time, the company has received more than 400 reports of magnets in the toys coming loose. It also received three reports of serious injuries involving children who swallowed more than one magnet. All three children suffered intestinal injuries that required surgery;

      • About one million Doggie Day Care play sets. These play sets have small magnets inside the toys that can fall out and pose a choking hazard to children. The recalled play sets include: Doggie Day Care Coco, Doggie Day Care Crockett and Baby, and Doggie Day Care Ice Cream with Ranger. They were sold nationwide from July 2004 through August 2007. Mattel has received two reports of magnets coming loose, but no injuries have been reported;

      • About 683,000 Barbie and Tanner play sets. These plays set have a small magnet inside the scooper accessory that can come loose and choke a child. Mattel has received three reports of magnets coming loose, but no injuries have been reported. The recalled play sets are model numbers J9472 and J9560 and were sold nationwide from May 2006 through August 2007;

      • About 345,000 Batman and One Piece magnetic action figure sets sold nationwide from June 2006 through June 2007. The action figures have magnets inside the accessories that can fall out and be swallowed by a child. The recalled toys include: The Batman Magna Battle Armor Batman figure with model number J1944; The Batman Secret ID figure with model number J5114, and One Piece Triple Slash Zolo Roronoa figure with model number J4142. Mattel has received 21 reports of magnets falling out of the toy figures. There are no reports of injuries associated with these toys.

      Mattels Chairman and Chief Executive Office apologized to parents.

      "The safety of children is our primary concern, and we are deeply apologetic to everyone affected," Robert A. Eckert said in a written statement. "Mattel has rigorous procedures, and we will continue to be vigilant and unforgiving in enforcing quality and safety.

      "We don't want to have recalls, but we don't hesitate to take quick and effective action to correct issues as soon as we've identified them to ensure the safety of our products and the safety of children," he said.

      The company said it discovered the lead paint in the Sarge vehicles during an ongoing investigation that followed its recall earlier this month.

      Mattel learned the Chinese company that made the die-cast toy -- Early Light Industrial Co., LTD, (Early Light) -- subcontracted the painting to another Chinese vendor. That company, Hong Li Da (HLD), used paint supplied from an unauthorized third-party supplier instead of the products supplied by Early Light.

      Mattel said its taken steps to prevent that from happening again.

      "We have immediately implemented a strengthened three-point check system, Jim Walter, senior vice president of Worldwide Quality Assurance for Mattel, said in a written statement. First, we're requiring that only paint from certified suppliers be used and requiring every single batch of paint at every single vendor to be tested. If it doesn't pass, it doesn't get used.

      "Second, we are tightening controls throughout the production process at vendor facilities and increasing unannounced random inspections. Third, we're testing every production run of finished toys to ensure compliance before they reach our customers."

      He added: We've met with vendors to ensure they understand our tightened procedures and our absolute requirement of strict adherence to them.

      Mattel said the company has stopped selling the recalled products, told its retailers to pull them from the shelves, and made a production change.

      The company said parents should immediately take the recalled toys away from their children and call its toll-free number for a free replacement product. That number is (888) 597-6597.

      A complete list of the recalled toys is posted on Mattels Web site or the Consumer Product Safety Commissions Web site:

      Chinese Suicide

      In related news, the co-owner of the Chinese company that made the Sesame Street and other recalled toys that contained lead paint apparently committed suicide over the weekend.

      A state-run newspaper reported that Cheung Shu-hung -- co-owner of Lee Der Industrial Company -- committed suicide at a warehouse apparently by hanging himself.

      The paper reported that shortly after the recall, Chinese officials temporarily banned Lee Der Industrial from exporting products. The newspaper said its common for disgraced officials in China to commit suicide.

      Mattel Recalls Millions of Chinese-Made Toys...
      Read lessRead more

      Kentucky Woman Blames Purina for Her Dogs' Deaths

      Company defends its actions but breeder cites autopsy results

      For the past year, professional dog breeder Julie N. has waged a one-woman campaign against pet food giant Nestl Purina.




      Shes convinced the companys food contributed to the recent and mysterious deaths of three of her healthy dogs -- two Bichon Frise and a Labrador Retriever.

      And this spunky Harlan, Kentucky woman has evidence that suggests Purinas products might be the culprit in the death of at least one of her dogs.

      Im not going away, says Julie, who fed her dogs Purina One, Purina ProPlan and Purina Dog Chow. I want justice for my dogs and peace of mind for myself.

      Julies nightmare started last July when her 12-year-old Labrador Retriever, Stryker, suddenly died of liver complications.

      He was a healthy dog, she says, but then his liver just shut down.

      One month later, Julies puppy, Beeble, unexpectedly died.

      She was a healthy 12-month-old Bichon Frise. But then she suddenly started drinking excessive amounts of water, was vomiting, and became very lethargic.

      Julie immediately took Beeble to the veterinarian.

      He put her on antibiotics, but that night she had a seizure. She also had a difficult time breathing. She was so weak that she couldnt hold up her head.

      Julie rushed Beeble back to the vet.

      And he admitted her and put her on IVs. Beeble also had some nasal discharge and our vet checked her for canine flu. But she passed those tests.

      Beeble died on August 17 four days after she started IV treatments.

      Theres no reason that puppy should have died, Julie says. Her parents had genetic clearance. She was a perfectly healthy dog.

      Deaths Come In Threes

      Theres an old saying that deaths come in threes. And thats what happened with Julies dogs.

      On October 26 -- two months after Beebles death -- another one of her dogs died. In this case, it was Julies eight-year-old Bichon Frise, Kayla.

      Kayla was a healthy female who did pet therapy. But then she started drinking enormous amounts of water. At first, I thought she might have diabetes. But the tests were negative on that.

      What caused Kaylas death?

      What about Beeble and Stryker?

      And what role did Purinas foods play in their deaths?

      Julie says she may never know why Stryker died. At the time, we didnt do an autopsy because we just thought it was old age. But she vowed to found out why Beeble and Kayla died.

      I dont want anybody else to go through the same pain that Ive gone through, she says. These are my children. They were here after my dad passed away and when my brother was ill. They were my babies all my dogs are my babies.

      Julie, however, didnt test Purinas food for possible toxins.

      Her dogs died months before Menu Food recalled 60 million containers of melamine-tainted food. That action -- the largest pet food recall in U.S. history -- occurred in March 2007.

      Thousands of dogs and cats that ate the contaminated food suffered kidney disease or died.

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered melamine in the imported wheat gluten and rice protein used to make the pet food. FDA officials traced the source of that chemical contamination to two now-defunct companies in China.

      It didnt dawn on me to save the food so I could have it tested, Julie says, unable to hide the regret in her voice. And Purina told me to throw the food away.

      She did, however, have autopsies performed on Beeble and Kayla at the University of Tennessees Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Knoxville.

      I wish we would have done the same with Stryker, she says of the Lab that was titled in obedience. But like I said, we just thought he died from old age. I dont think that anymore ... I think theres something wrong with the dog food.

      According to Beebles autopsy report, thats possible.

      Pathologists at the University of Tennessee discovered problems with the puppys liver that were consistent with exposure to a hepatotoxin such as aflatoxin.

      Aflatoxins are poisons produced by fungus or mold. These toxins are often found in corn and other agriculture crops and commonly cause liver disease.

      But how could Beeble become exposed to -- and ingest -- aflatoxins?


      The aflatoxins could have come from the (dog) food, Beebles veterinarian, Douglas Mickey, told He reviewed Beebles and Kaylas autopsy reports and -- with Julies permission -- agreed to discuss them with us.

      Aflatoxins are known to be found in moldy grains, like corn that would be in dog food, he said, adding: If youre asking me if theres a possible connection between the pet food and Beebles death, the answer is: you cant rule that out.

      Aflatoxins in pet food have contributed to the deaths of more than 100 dogs in recent year, including:

      • The deaths of 25 dogs in 1999. In that case, Doane Pet Care recalled more than one million bags of corn-based dry dog food tainted with aflatoxins. Fifty-four brands of dog food, including OlRoy, were part of that recall;

      • The deaths of 100 dogs in 2005. In that instance, Diamond Food recalled some of its pet food because the moldy corn in the products contained aflatoxins.

      Kaylas Death Remains A Mystery

      Aflatoxins, however, did not play a role in Kaylas death, Dr. Mickey said. That dog didnt die from anything in her food.

      Her death remains a medical mystery.

      Kaylas autopsy report revealed she had multiple organ mineralization, which Dr. Mickey said was likely caused by an adrenal problem.

      But (the pathologists) couldnt pinpoint on the autopsy what caused the mineralization of all those organs, Dr. Mickey said. It would be consistent with adrenal or kidney problems, but her adrenal glands and kidneys were fine.

      Kaylas death has puzzled everyone who has looked at it.

      Everyone, that is, except Julie.

      Despite the autopsy report, shes convinced Purinas dog food contributed to Kaylas death.

      And she says a recent investigation -- about the mysterious reproductive problems several Newfoundlands across the country have encountered -- confirmed her belief.

      Our investigation revealed that healthy Newfoundlands -- in Idaho, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- had suddenly stopped getting pregnant or -- if they conceived -- delivered deformed and dead puppies.

      All these gentle giants had previously delivered healthy litters, their breeders said. They were all two to five-years old, which veterinarians say is the best age for dogs to deliver healthy litters.

      None of the dogs were related a factor that could have caused genetic problems. And nothing in the breeders protocols had changed.

      The only factor the Newfoundlands had in common was their food: They all ate Purina dog food.

      After I read your story, I was convinced that there was a link between the deaths of my dogs and what happened to those Newfoundlands, Julie says. What got me with your stories was how those breeders talked about the mummified fetuses (deceased puppies) their dogs had delivered. In Kaylas autopsy report, it talks about the mineralization of all her internal organs.

      That made me think that theres a connection with those stone puppies and my dogs internal organs turning to stone.

      Dr. Mickey, however, said theres no correlation.

      Its not the same thing, he said. Kayla apparently had adrenal problems ... thats a metabolic disease.

      I think they now realize something is wrong with their food.

      If thats the case, Julie wonders why Purina is finally taking her concerns seriously.

      In just the past two weeks, the pet food makers insurance company has requested copies of her dogs medical records and autopsy reports.

      But when they called, they wanted me to know that my dogs deaths had nothing to do with the recall because they died before that action was announced, she says. I told them that stuff from China (melamine) could have been in the food long before anyone knew.

      Purina, she says, downplayed her concerns when she first contacted the company last fall right after Kayla became sick.

      One lady kept saying shed never heard of any adverse effects from the companys food. Purina also kept sending me letters (of condolences) and samples of their stinking food. That made me ever madder. I dont want their food. Ill never feed Purina again to my dogs. I cook for my dogs now and theyre much healthier.

      Julie no longer recommends Purina to her customers, either.

      Ive gone as far as to state in my puppy contract that if you feed Purina products, I have a right to void the health guarantee on the dogs, she says, adding her pups cost $1,000 to $1,500.

      Of Purinas latest interest in her dogs deaths, Julie says: I think they now realize something is wrong with their food.

      Purina Defends Its Products and Actions

      A spokesman for Purina denied that assertion, saying theres nothing usual about his companys recent actions in Julies case.

      He says it demonstrates Purinas commitment to its customers.

      Weve been in contact with this consumer since last September and since weve worked with her that long, we like to follow up on the process, said spokesman Keith Schopp. We would want to gather the appropriate documents and any other records that we could look at and then take the appropriate action.

      As part of our standard operating procedure, he added, we would initiate a claim and investigate a matter further if a consumer requested compensation above product replacement.

      Schopp said he hadnt seen Beebles autopsy report, which stated the puppys liver problems were consistent with exposure to aflatoxins.

      But there are no aflatoxins in our products in the United States, he said. Our veterinarians, however, would like to look at that autopsy report and talk her vet.

      What about a possible connection between Julies concerns and those raised by the Newfoundland breeders?

      Schopp said theres no link. This consumer is not reporting any reproductive issues.

      He also defended his companys response to Julies concerns.

      Weve expressed our sympathy for the loss of her dogs and told her that we want to find out more about her situation, he said.

      What does Julie want from Purina?

      The main reason I contacted them was because I didnt want any other dogs to die, she says. I wanted them to test the food and to apologize.

      Julie says she didnt wage this battle against the St. Louis-based company for financial gain even though her vet bills total more than $2,750.

      Im not out for money. I just dont want anyone else to go through a dogs mysterious death.

      Kentucky Woman Blames Purina for Her Dogs' Deaths...
      Read lessRead more

      Gilchrist & Soames Recalls Toothpaste

      Small tubes were given away to guests at hotels worldwide

      Another company has recalled Chinese-made toothpastes because the products contain the poisonous chemical, diethylene glycol (DEG).

      Indianapolis-based Gilchrist & Soames, which supplies toiletry products for the hotel industry worldwide, today recalled its 0.65 ounce tubes of toothpaste manufactured in China by Ming Fai Enterprises International Co., LTD.

      The action comes after independent tests showed some samples of the toothpaste contained DEG, which is found in antifreeze and can be toxic to the kidneys and liver.

      Its also the latest in a series of recent recalls involving Chinese-made products, including other brands of toothpastes that contained DEG, toys made with lead paint, shoddy tires, and melamine-tainted ingredients used to make pet food.

      Gilchrist & Soames said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was not aware of any reports of poisonings in the United States from the tainted toothpaste.

      The company said it's notifying guests around the world who received the complimentary toothpaste -- including those in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom -- to immediately throw away the product. It also ordered its hotels around the globe to destroy any remaining tubes of the toothpaste.

      The company said it started testing the products for possible DEG contamination after receiving an FDA alert on June 1 about contaminated toothpastes made in China.

      The fifth round of our independent lab tests showed the presence of DEG in some samples at levels exceeding FDA guidelines from one of our China suppliers, Kathie De Voe, president of Gilchrist & Soames, said in a written statement.

      We immediately began the process of initiating a voluntary recall of our complimentary-sized (.65oz/18ml) Gilchrist & Soames toothpaste. We want to ensure that any contaminated toothpaste is safely disposed of and/or destroyed.

      De Voe said Gilchrist & Soames also stopped all outgoing shipments and quarantined all of its Made in China toothpaste after it received the FDA alert.

      The company said its working with the FDA and authorities in Europe on the recall.

      Hotel guests with questions about this action can contact the company at 1-866-587-6542.

      Gilchrist & Soames Recalls Toothpaste...
      Read lessRead more

      FDA Warns Against Red Yeast Rice Products

      Dietary supplement promoted on the Internet contains dangerous substances

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to buy or eat three red yeast rice products promoted and sold on Web sites.

      The products, promoted as dietary supplements for treating high cholesterol, may contain an unauthorized drug that could be harmful to health.

      The potentially harmful products are: Red Yeast Rice and Red Yeast Rice/Policosonal Complex, sold by Swanson Healthcare Products, Inc. and manufactured by Natures Value Inc. and Kabco Inc., respectively; and Cholestrix, sold by Sunburst Biorganics.

      FDA testing revealed the products contain lovastatin, the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Mevacor, a prescription drug approved for marketing in the United States as a treatment for high cholesterol.

      This risk is even more serious because consumers may not know the side effects associated with lovastatin and the fact that it can adversely interact with other medications," said Steven Galson, M.D., M.P.H., director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

      These red yeast rice products are a threat to health because the possibility exists that lovastatin can cause severe muscle problems leading to kidney impairment. This risk is greater in patients who take higher doses of lovastatin or who take lovastatin and other medicines that increase the risk of muscle reactions.

      These medicines include the antidepressant nefazodone, certain antibiotics, drugs used to treat fungal infections and HIV infections, and other cholesterol-lowering medications.

      FDA has issued warning letters advising Swanson and Sunburst Biorganics to stop promoting and selling the products. Companies that do not resolve violations in FDA warning letters risk enforcement actions, such as an injunction against continuing violations and a seizure of illegal products.

      The warning letters state that the products Red Yeast Rice, Red Yeast Rice/Policosonal Complex, and Cholestrix, sold on the firms websites, are unapproved new drugs that are marketed in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

      FDA advises consumers who use any red yeast rice product to consult their physician if they experience problems that may be due to the product.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers not to buy or eat three red yeast rice products promoted and sold on Web sites. ...
      Read lessRead more

      Prius Owners Report More Unintended Acceleration Incidents

      Toyota denies the problem exists, but consumers say otherwise

      The Toyota Prius Hybrid continues to generate complaints of unintended acceleration episodes suggesting the possibility of a serious flaw in the vehicle's computer system, electronic controls or software program.

      Toyota service technicians have dismissed the dangerous events as driver error or nothing more than a floor carpet jamming accelerator pedal.

      ConsumerAffiars.Com readers who have experienced these harrowing events disagree.

      Last week, we reported the story of a brand-new Prius with only 600 miles on the odometer that suffered from uncontrollable acceleration on a freeway near Everett, Washington.

      Now, Ben in Walnut Creek, California writes: I had a very similar case with the Prius owner you mentioned in your lemon of the week. Ben said he was coming up on a red light and there was a large crease or bump in the road."

      "When my Prius hit the bump in the road the traction control systems kicked in, and at the same time the brakes felt unresponsive and the car felt as if it was accelerating or lunging forward, he said.

      Ben said the he almost rear-ended the car in front of him. first reported the unintended acceleration problem with the Prius early last year, when one of the popular hybrids rampaged out of control on a Michigan highway, endangering the driver as well as those nearby.

      At the time, the incident was the second known incident involving uncontrolled acceleration in the computer-controlled Prius. The driver of the 2005 Prius, Herbert of Battle Creek, Michigan, experienced a probable software problem.

      He found it necessary to speed up while passing a slower vehicle on the highway. The problem began after he passed the slower car and tried to slow down.

      "I let off the accelerator and pressed the brakes several times, but the vehicle continued to accelerate under full power," Herbert said at the time.

      Toyota recalled the Prius hybrids to examine the software but the unintended acceleration reports are continuing.

      Twice, on July 29, 2007, our 2006 Toyota Prius took off like a rocket in circumstances just like Herbert's wild ride in Michigan last October, Irwin in Studio City, California writes.

      His Toyota service manager told Irwin that no one has ever had this problem before and Toyota is unable to recreate the unintended acceleration.

      The service technician was either uninformed of intentionally misleading his customer, since has received -- and published -- numerous such complaints.

      And while the Toyota service manager may not be familiar with the problem, Marvin in Los Lunas, New Mexico certainly is.

      I have had an incident of acceleration, beyond what was commanded, in my Toyota Prius two times. The cause is unknown, he wrote.

      "In each case, the vehicle was accelerating at a rate below maximum and went to and stayed at maximum without driver command. Marvin told

      A simple touching of the lever that disengages the cruise control caused the system to immediately go back to a normal condition with the cruise control off, Marvin told us.

      Marvin said he is a qualified professional engineer and systems analyst. His work has involved automobiles as well as aircraft and industrial systems.

      I can assure you, Marvin told, that the incidences that I had did not involve mechanical sticking or jamming of the accelerator pedal because of a piece of carpet. It was not driver error.

      In Marvins opinion, the problem may be in the cruise control system itself, either a mechanical, electronic or electrical problem in the cruise control system.

      The problem could easily cause a serious accident if the driver, caught unaware, did not take immediate remedial action, according to our reader in New Mexico.

      Toyota did not respond to requests for comment.

      Prius Owners Report More Unintended Acceleration Incidents...
      Read lessRead more

      FDA Takes Action Against Iowa Dairy

      Illegal residues of drugs found in the dairy's cows

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it found residue of illegal drugs in cows at an Iowa dairy operation.

      The agency said it has filed an complaint and sought a permanent injunction against Ysselstein Dairy Inc., of Rock Valley, Iowa, and its owner and president, Sjerp W. Ysselstein.

      The FDA said it is concerned about the sale of animals for human food that may contain illegal levels of animal drugs because of the potential for adverse effects on human health.

      The FDA approves new animal drugs with requirements, including a specified time period to withdraw an animal from treatment prior to slaughter, to assure that a drug has been depleted from edible tissue to a level safe for humans.

      Ysselstein Dairy produces milk for human consumption and sells dairy cows for slaughter for human consumption.

      The injunction is based on nine illegal residues in the edible tissue of seven dairy cows sampled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service between July 21, 1992, and March 10, 2006. The drug residues found by FSIS included antibiotics such as tetracycline, sulfadimethoxine, flunixin, oxytetracycline, and penicillin at levels not permitted by the FDA.

      Under the terms of the Consent Decree, the dairy and Ysselstein must implement systems for identifying animals, keeping records, drug control, drug accountability, and drug residue withdrawal control.

      The decree also provides for the dairy and Ysselstein to pay a fine for each day they fail to comply with the decree and for each animal that they sell or deliver for sale in violation of the decree.

      FDA Takes Action Against Iowa Dairy...
      Read lessRead more

      Cheap Jewelry: Hazardous to Children's Health

      Parents shouldn't rely on government inspectors

      While the Consumer Product Safety Commission continues to recall children's jewelry containing lead almost every week, consumer advocates are urging parents to use caution when purchasing any cheap jewelry and to consider discarding any that may already be in the home.

      A sample testing by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) revealed that 20 percent of children's jewelry contains unsafe levels of lead. Other tests by state officials in Maryland, Ohio and Massachusetts suggest even higher percentages.

      A June 29 article by revealed 96 percent of the toys recalled from January 2007 to July were Chinese imports and most were lead-laden trinkets.

      "Parents should stay away from cheap jewelry, absolutely. And I would advise parents to throw away any cheap jewelry unless they are sure it comes from the U.S. or a more developed country," Sally Greenberg, Senior Product Safety Counsel for the Consumers Union, the nonprofict publisher of Consumer Reports, wrote in an e-mail.

      Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety for the nonprofit consumer advocacy group, Consumer Federation of America, suggested parents obtain a home lead test if they want to purchase and keep any cheap jewelry.

      "I don't like to make blanket statements, but certainly, there's been a lot of relatively inexpensive jewelry that does contain high levels of lead," Weintraub said. "A parent needs to think very, very carefully if they do want to purchase such a product and what I would suggest is that if they do decide to purchase, you could buy lead test kits and you could swipe it and test it to see if there's a high level of lead."

      Lead test kits can be purchased online for about $10.

      "Parents need to get on the CPSC website and see if the product has been recalled or not," Weintraub continued. "If it does turn out that the jewelry does contain high levels of lead, they should confiscate it immediately and wipe down other toys or other jewelry that may have come in contact with it because it's possible that there is lead dust."

      Product recalls are also listed on

      Current Recalls

      Recalls of lead-tainted children's products this year include:

    • AAFES 'Soldier Bear' Toy Sets
    • AAFES Expands Recall of Lead-Contaminated Toys
    • "Accessories" Silver Stud Earrings sold at Kmart
    • Accessories Palace Children's Necklaces
    • Boyds Collection Toy Drums
    • GeoCentral Childrens Butterfly Necklaces
    • Children's Necklaces, Charm Bracelets
    • Children's Horseshoe, Dice Rings
    • Children's Metal Jewelry
    • Children's Turquoise Rings
    • Claire's Stores Necklaces
    • "Claudia Jublot" Rings Sold at Big Lots!
    • Dollar General Metal Key Chains
    • Dollar Store "Rachael Rose Kidz" Rings
    • "Essentials" Children's Jewelry
    • "Kidsite" Jewelry Sold at Kmart
    • Limited Too, Justice Stores Metal Jewelry
    • Mood Necklaces
    • Dollar Store "Rachael Rose Kidz" Rings
    • Religious Fish Necklaces
    • Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella Earrings
    • U.S. Toy Co. Children's Butterfly Necklaces
    • Lead poisoning can lead to respiratory failure, seizures, hearing loss and death.

      Long-term exposure has been linked to behavioral problems and other neurological deficiencies. If children suck on the jewelry, they are at particular risk because it's more likely for the lead to enter their bloodstream where even small amounts accumulate for many years.

      The CPSC is considering new rules that will require products contain no more than .06 percent lead.

      Acting CPSC Chairman Nord has "made it a priority that during this time of last week the staff work toward presenting a package to the Commission for a vote on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking," agency spokesman Scott Wolfson said.

      Congress last week gave the agency the authority to pass new regulations even though it has only two commissioners.

      "Ideally, we'd like to get it to zero," Weintraub said. "It's not always possible because of environmental factors and others. ... It's a very, very significant reduction that would greatly reduce harms caused to consumers."

      With the commission's last week to pass regulation, it's possible the proposed rule could be voted on and made law within the next six months.

      CPSC Not Equipped

      Weintraub and Greenberg agreed that even with more vigorous government rules, the agency is not equipped to tackle the inspections.

      "CPSC only has 15 people doing imports inspections," Greenberg wrote. "The big toy companies must impose third-party testing and frequent inspections, not leave it to Chinese factories to approve for safety. The government should have independent certification that toys and kids' products are lead free, and we need more inspectors at the ports."

      "These manufacturers need to test their products for lead and then have a certificate that it meets the standard and also a label saying that it meets the standard," Weintraub said. "A test also needs to be done by an independent third party."

      Many importers and local retailers have strict lead restrictions for children's jewelry. But a New York Times article on Monday suggested Chinese manufacturers, who are often chosen based on the lowest bid, submit an initial batch with very low levels of lead. Then in later batches, use dangerous levels of lead, which is often a cheaper substitute for more durable metals.

      "There needs to be tests at different stages in the manufacturing process," Weintraub said.

      She also said the manufacturer, local toy company and importer, to some extent, should all be held liable for selling potentially deadly toys.

      "They need to make sure that the products they sell meet the standards no matter where they are made or who makes them," Weintraub said.

      A sample testing by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) revealed that 20 percent of children's jewelry contains unsafe levels of lead. ...
      Read lessRead more

      Lowe's Outdoor Lounge Chairs

      August 9, 2007
      Garden Treasures Cloud 9 Beyond Chairs sold at Lowe's stores are being recalled.

      The chair can break when in the reclined position, posing a fall hazard to consumers.

      L G Sourcing, Inc., the importer, has received seven reports of the chairs breaking when in the reclined position, resulting in minor injuries such as bruising to the back, hips, shoulders, arms and a torn ligament.

      This recall involves the Garden Treasures Cloud 9 Beyond outdoor lounge chairs. The chairs are tan in color, have a light steel frame, cloth seat, a pillow at the headrest and an adjustable sun visor.

      The chairs were sold at Lowe's retail outlet stores nationwide from December 2006 through April 2007 for about $60. They were manufactured in China.

      Consumers should stop using the chairs immediately and return them to any Lowe's retail outlet to receive a full refund.

      For additional information, contact L G Sourcing, Inc. toll-free at (866) 493-6560 anytime, or visit

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

      Lowe's Outdoor Lounge Chairs...
      Read lessRead more

      Online Job Postings May Lead To Phone Scam

      Job-seekers need to be careful when listing contact info

      Job hunters who have posted their resumes on sites like and have been getting unusual phone calls that may be a sign of a lar..

      Kerry Vows Action to Get Flaming Fords Off the Road

      Senator: "Unacceptable" that numerous recalls have not solved problem

      In response to a series, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is calling on Ford and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to get fire-prone vehicles off the road. 

      "It's unacceptable that these dangerous cars remain on the road and it's obvious that NHTSA needs to do more and work with Ford to fully fix this problem," Kerry, who sits on the subcommittee that has jurisdiction over NHTSA, wrote in an e-mail.

      In a series of stories, has detailed the repeated government recalls of Ford vehicles in response to a rash of fires in Ford cars, trucks and vans.

      After each recall, NHTSA and Ford representatives cheer "mission accomplished" while hundreds of consumers continue to file complaints with

      "NHTSA can try to declare this issue solved as many times as they want, but it doesn't change the fact that there's a lack of resources and will to deal with serious consumer issues like this one," Kerry wrote. "Consumers need more than a passive '9 to 5' approach from the very agency that is supposed to keep them safe."

      Since 1999 Ford and NHTSA have recalled more than a dozen models totalling 10.5 million vehicles.

      The problem is thought to be centered in a cruise control switch which can short-circuit when it comes in contact with engine fluids. The switch is always powered, which explains why many of the complaints are from consumers whose vehicles catch fire in their driveway or garage. The explosive fires often spread to nearby vehicles and buildings.

      "On Oct. 30, 2004, my 2002 Crown Victoria caught fire and burned itself, my husband's truck (parked behind it) and our home to the ground," wrote Stacey of Martin, Ga.

      Most consumers are left with nothing but ashes and many say Ford won't even return phone calls, let alone make restitution.

      Action Promised

      But Kerry, who responded quickly despite a Congressional recess, vowed to look closer into NHTSA'a involvement.

      "I'll work with my colleagues to push NHTSA to aggressively tackle this problem until an appropriate standard of safety on our roads is achieved," Kerry wrote.

      Other senators who sit on the Senate Surface Transportation subcommittee with Kerry did not respond to requests for comment. Those not responding include the committee's chairman, Frank Lautenberg, (D-N.J.) as well as members Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), ranking member Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.).

      Representatives from the House Transpotation Committee, which has NHTSA jurisdiction on the House side, also failed to respond to a request for comment on what they plan to do to resolve the problem and protect consumers from similar incidents.

      Latest Recall

      The latest recall will begin on August 13. Vehicle owners will have the cruise control switch, also called the speed control switch, deactivated as an interim repair. When new parts are available, which is expected in October.

      Recalled Models

      Models recalled in the latest round-up include:

      • Bronco, 1993
      • Crown Victoria, 1992-1998
      • E150, 1992-1993 and 1997-2002
      • E250, 1992 -1993 and 1997-2003
      • E450, 2003
      • Explorer, 1991-2001
      • Explorer Sport, 2001-2002
      • Explorer Sport Trac, 2002-2002
      • F150 Lightening, 2003-2004
      • F150, 1993
      • F250, 1993
      • F350, 1003
      • F450m 1995-2002
      • F53 Motor Home, 1995-2002
      • Ranger, 1995-2002
      • Taurus, 1993-1995
      • Lincoln Mark VII, 1993-1998
      • Lincoln Town Car, 1992-1998
      • Mercury Capri, 1994
      • Mercury Grand Marquis, 1992-1998
      • Mercury Mountaineer, 1999-2001

      Black Eye

      The long-running series of destructive fires -- and Ford's stonewalling of its customers -- has given the company a black eye as it struggles to remain in business.

      No one really knows how much property damage, catastrophic financial loss and personal deaths and injuries have been caused by the fires.

      On Friday, April 6, 2007, at around 850 in the evening, my 18-year-old daughter had gotten into our 1994 Ford Explorer, cranked it up, turned on the heater, backed up in the driveway, and called my wife complaining about smoke coming out of the air conditioning vents, 1994 Ford Explorer owner Shelton of Parrish, Fla., wrote

      "She said something was glowing from under the right front of the car. She got out of the car while it was starting to catch fire, he wrote.

      After the local fire department extinguished the blaze, the 1994 Ford Explorer was a complete loss, with damage to the driveway as well.

      Ford told Shelton in a letter that there was nothing the company could or would do beyond the warranty period, according to a copy of the letter provided by Shelton:

      Dear Shelton,

      Our records indicate that you contacted the Ford Customer Relationship Center and our Customer Care Representative advised you that there is no assistance beyond warranty and there is no recall pertaining to the fire.

      At this time we are unable to provide you with an alternate response. If any additional information regarding this matter should become available in the future, please let us know.

      Shelton said he is not a greedy man. He was only asking Ford for the value of his 1994 Ford Explorer and damages to the driveway.

      "My daughter narrowly escaped the fire," he wrote. But he considers himself lucky. "If she had been driving down the road minutes later, she would have died as a result of the fire."

      After more than 150 reports to of Ford trucks catching on fire for no apparent reason, many readers and owners of the Ford trucks have adopted a new self-defense tactic: they no longer park the vehicles near their house or in their garage.

      Finally, in Flower Mound, Texas at 12:00am June 13, 2007 Charlene was woken up by a strange sound and a glow in my home. I looked out the front door to see what it was. I was not prepared for the inferno of fire that had in gulfed my 2000 Ford Expedition in my driveway, she said.

      I then woke my husband by screaming that we had to get our 3 year old daughter from upstairs and get out of the house because the flames were reaching our eaves of the house.

      Thank God for the Flower Mound Fire Department, Charlene said.

      Kerry Vows Action to Get Flaming Fords Off the Road...
      Read lessRead more

      Videos May Not Be Good For Baby

      "Educational" videos may dumb down baby, researchers warn

      Many a dutiful parent plops their infant in front of educational DVDs in the belief they are giving them a leg up on getting into Harvard. But a new study suggests they could be having the opposite effect.

      Researchers at the University of Washington and Seattle Childrens Hospital Research Institute say parents should probably limit the amount of time they expose their children to DVDs and videos such as Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby.

      Rather than helping babies, they say, the overuse of such productions actually may slow down infants eight to 16 months of age when it comes to acquiring vocabulary.

      The scientists found that for every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants understood an average of six to eight fewer words than infants who did not watch them.

      Baby DVDs and videos had no positive or negative effect on the vocabularies on toddlers 17 to 24 months of age. The study was published today in the Journal of Pediatrics.

      The most important fact to come from this study is there is no clear evidence of a benefit coming from baby DVDs and videos and there is some suggestion of harm, said Frederick Zimmerman, lead author of the study and a UW associate professor of health services.

      The bottom line is the more a child watches baby DVDs and videos the bigger the effect. The amount of viewing does matter.

      Co-authors of the study are Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrics researcher at Seattle Childrens Hospital Research Institute and a UW professor of pediatrics, and Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of the UWs Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.

      The paper is part of a larger project looking at the trajectory of media viewing in the first two years of life and examining the content of what is being watched and its effects on young children. A paper published last spring by the same researchers showed that by 3 months of age 40 percent of infants are regular viewers of television, DVDs or videos and by the age of 2 this number jumps to 90 percent.

      For both papers, the researchers conducted random telephone interviews with more than 1,000 families in Minnesota and Washington with a child born in the previous two years.

      Television, DVD and video viewing were divided into four categories: baby DVDs and videos; educational TV programs, DVDs and videos such as Sesame Street, Arthur and Blues Clues; childrens non-educational television shows and movies such as Sponge Bob Square Pants, Bob the Builder and Toy Story, and adult television such as The Simpsons, Oprah, and sports programming.

      The researchers found no positive or negative effects on infants of either age group from viewing educational and non-educational media or adult television programs.

      The results surprised us, but they make sense. There are only a fixed number of hours that young babies are awake and alert. If the alert time is spent in front of DVDs and TV instead of with people speaking in parentese that melodic speech we use with little ones the babies are not getting the same linguistic experience, said Meltzoff, who is the Job and Gertrud Tamaki endowed chair in psychology at the UW.

      Parents and caretakers are the babys first and best teachers. They instinctively adjust their speech, eye gaze and social signals to support language acquisition. Watching attention-getting DVDs and TV may not be an even swap for warm social human interaction at this very young age.

      Old kids may be different, but the youngest babies seem to learn language best from people, Meltzoff said.

      In my clinical practice, I am frequently asked by parents what the value of these products is, said Christakis. The evidence is mounting that they are of no value and may in fact be harmful. Given what we now know, I believe the onus is on the manufacturers to prove their claims that watching these programs can positively impact childrens cognitive development.

      As part of the telephone interviews, which took about 45 minutes to complete, a standard inventory for measuring infant language development was used. Parents of the 8 to 16 month olds were asked how many of a list of about 90 words their child understood. Typical words on this list included choo choo, mommy and nose. Parents of the 17 to 24 month olds were asked how many words on a similar list they had heard their child use. Typical words from this list were truck, cookie and balloon.

      Parents also were asked about how often they read books or told stories to their children. Daily reading and storytelling were associated with slight increases in language skills, not a surprising finding since both activities foster language development, Zimmerman said.

      The researchers believe the content of baby DVDs and videos is different from the other types of programming because it tends to have little dialogue, short scenes, disconnected pictures and shows linguistically indescribable images such as a lava lamp. By contrast, childrens educational programs, which make up the largest viewing category at this age, are, crafted and tested to meet developmental needs of preschool children.

      We dont know for sure that baby DVDs and videos are harmful, but the best policy is safety first. Parents should limit their exposure as much as possible, said Zimmerman. Over the course of childhood, children spend more time watching TV than they do in school. So parents need to spend as much time monitoring TV and other media viewing as they do in monitoring their childrens school activities.

      The researchers believe more research is required, particularly to examine the long-term effects of baby DVDs and videos on childrens cognitive development.

      Zimmerman and Christakis are the authors of the book The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Kids and Meltzoff is co-author of The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us about the Mind.

      The study was primarily funded by the Tamaki Foundation with additional support by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation.

      Videos May Not Be Good For Baby...
      Read lessRead more

      Flaming Ford Scandal Disgraces Ford, Feds

      Ford Stonewalls Its Devastated CustomersNHTSA Fails In Its Mission to Protect the Public

      With its latest recall, the Ford Motor Co. has recalled almost 11 million cars and trucks since 2005 because of a clear danger that the vehicles could erupt in flames without warning.

      But as the piecework recalls trickle out from the federal agency charged with the responsibility of protecting consumers from faulty automotive products, Fords keep burning, sometimes destroying homes and other vehicles while Ford denies responsibility and tells its customers to call their insurance company.

      Federal regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have repeatedly closed the books on Ford fires, declaring their mission accomplished.

      In the massive recall of August 2006, NHTSA proclaimed: With the three recalls Ford has announced, all of the models that Ford built ... that exhibit the factors that can cause the switch to fail resulting in a fire while the ignition is in the off position will be candidates for a free remedy.'

      On May 10, 2007, Mathew saw his Ford erupt into flames in Carmel, California.

      It started under the hood and spread throughout the rest of the vehicle, our carport and other vehicle. The fire department was called and responded immediately. The result was the complete destruction of the Ford as well as our adjacent 2001 Cheverolet Tahoe.

      Not far away in Walnut Creek, Michael saw his Ford on fire.

      I looked out the front window and a thick cloud of smoke was coming out from under the hood. I grabbed a fire extinguisher and rushed out to the vehicle. I could not open the hood or get too close to the vehicle due to the flames and smoke that was pouring out, he said.

      At the time of the 2006 recall, a NHTSA spokesman described the probe as "one of the most exhaustive investigations that we've ever done" and said the agency did not expect any additional recalls.

      Flaming Fords

      • Last Friday, August 3, Ford announced it was recalling as many as 3.6 million cars, truck, and vans because a switch that deactivates the speed control can overheat and catch fire according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (Unfavorable news often is released on Friday afternoon, when it is least likely to be noticed by a public focused on the upcoming weekend).

      • In August 2006, Ford and NHTSA recalled the 1994-2002 F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 F-Super Duty trucks, 2000-2002 Excursion SUVs, 1994-1996 Econoline vans and 1996-2002 E-450 vans, and 1998 Explorers and Mountaineers.

      • In September 2005, Ford recalled 3.8 million pickups and SUVs from the 1994-2002 model years, including the top-selling F-150 pickup, because of the concerns over engine fires. The recall was the fifth-largest auto industry recall in U.S. history.

      • In January 2005, Ford recalled nearly 800,000 pickups and SUVs from the 2000 model year because of similar issues.

      Roughly 20 million of the defective switches are installed in vehicles but investigators said they did not detect similar problems in non-Ford vehicles.

      Wrong Again

      But the bureaucrats at NHTSA have been wrong each time they proclaimed the problem solved. None of the earlier recalls included every Ford that might catch fire.

      On March 13, 2007 David was driving through Lynchburg, Virginia.

      I was driving down the road when the 1991 Ford Explorer I was driving caught fire. The door locked and I had to climb out the rear window. It burned and cracked the windshield the heat was so intense, he wrote ConsumerAffair.Com.

      The most recent recall covers 16 models and brands of Ford cars, sport utility vehicles and trucks from model years 1992 to 2004.

      The models include the Ford Ranger, Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, Lincoln Town Car, Lincoln Mark VIII, Ford Taurus SHO, Mercury Capri, Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer, Ford Explorer Sport and Explorer Sport Trac, Ford E-150-350, Ford E-450, Ford Bronco, Ford F-150 Lightning, some models of F-Series trucks and Ford F53 Motor Home chassis.

      The recall brings the total number of Ford vehicles identified as potential fire hazards to almost 11 million since 1999.

      Ford's spinmasters proclaimed that the latest recall was needed "to address customer concerns" stemming from previous recalls involving the switch.

      Gail saw her Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer erupt in flames on March 29, 2007. My son brought it home from work, and 10 minutes later a neighbor came to our door saying it was on fire.

      We were barely able to get out of our house because of the thick, black smoke blowing up our driving and into the house. I ran out with my son, and the fire was coming out of the hood and then from under the hood. Gail wrote.

      Another few minutes and our house would have been gone. Our garage door caught on fire but the Firemen put out the fire before it went into the rest of the house.

      The steering column is melted, she said.

      Ford claims that none of the vehicles involved in the latest recall have experienced an abnormal number of fires. That may be but has received more than 150 complaints of fires in Ford trucks and cars since the recall last August that was supposed to remedy the problem once and for all.

      One Small Switch

      The culprit in all this is a small switch that shuts off the cruise control when the driver firmly steps on the brakes. The switch is located under the hood of the vehicle and is attached to the brake master cylinder on one end and wired to the cruise control on the other.

      The switch is powered at all times, even when the vehicle is turned off. In some cases fluid leaking the switch could cause it to short-circuit, which can cause a fire. Most of the fires occur when the vehicle is parked and unattended.

      A Mercury Grand Marquis caught fire on June 11, 2007 in Fallbrook, California.

      Well my 1994 Mercury Grand Marquis burst into flame after sitting idle for about 3 hours destroying the car and damaging one next to it, Ivan told

      The latest recall will begin on August 13. Vehicle owners will have the cruise control switch, also called the speed control switch, deactivated as an interim repair. When new parts are available, which is expected in October.

      Recalled Models

      Models recalled in the latest round-up include:

      • Bronco, 1993
      • Crown Victoria, 1992-1998
      • E150, 1992-1993 and 1997-2002
      • E250, 1992 -1993 and 1997-2003
      • E450, 2003
      • Explorer, 1991-2001
      • Explorer Sport, 2001-2002
      • Explorer Sport Trac, 2002-2002
      • F150 Lightening, 2003-2004
      • F150, 1993
      • F250, 1993
      • F350, 1003
      • F450m 1995-2002
      • F53 Motor Home, 1995-2002
      • Ranger, 1995-2002
      • Taurus, 1993-1995
      • Lincoln Mark VII, 1993-1998
      • Lincoln Town Car, 1992-1998
      • Mercury Capri, 1994
      • Mercury Grand Marquis, 1992-1998
      • Mercury Mountaineer, 1999-2001

      Black Eye

      The long-running series of destructive fires -- and Ford's stonewalling of its customers -- has given the company a black eye as it struggles to remain in business.

      No one really knows how much property damage, catastrophic financial loss and personal deaths and injuries have been caused by the fires.

      On Friday, April 6, 2007, at around 850 in the evening, my 18-year-old daughter had gotten into our 1994 Ford Explorer, cranked it up, turned on the heater, backed up in the driveway, and called my wife complaining about smoke coming out of the air conditioning vents, 1994 Ford Explorer owner Shelton of Parrish, Fla., wrote

      "She said something was glowing from under the right front of the car. She got out of the car while it was starting to catch fire, he wrote.

      After the local fire department extinguished the blaze, the 1994 Ford Explorer was a complete loss, with damage to the driveway as well.

      Ford told Shelton in a letter that there was nothing the company could or would do beyond the warranty period, according to a copy of the letter provided by Shelton:

      Dear Shelton,

      Our records indicate that you contacted the Ford Customer Relationship Center and our Customer Care Representative advised you that there is no assistance beyond warranty and there is no recall pertaining to the fire.

      At this time we are unable to provide you with an alternate response. If any additional information regarding this matter should become available in the future, please let us know.

      Shelton said he is not a greedy man. He was only asking Ford for the value of his 1994 Ford Explorer and damages to the driveway.

      "My daughter narrowly escaped the fire," he wrote. But he considers himself lucky. "If she had been driving down the road minutes later, she would have died as a result of the fire."

      After more than 150 reports to of Ford trucks catching on fire for no apparent reason, many readers and owners of the Ford trucks have adopted a new self-defense tactic: they no longer park the vehicles near their house or in their garage.

      Finally, in Flower Mound, Texas at 12:00am June 13, 2007 Charlene was woken up by a strange sound and a glow in my home. I looked out the front door to see what it was. I was not prepared for the inferno of fire that had in gulfed my 2000 Ford Expedition in my driveway, she said.

      I then woke my husband by screaming that we had to get our 3 year old daughter from upstairs and get out of the house because the flames were reaching our eaves of the house.

      Thank God for the Flower Mound Fire Department, Charlene said.

      Flaming Ford Scandal Disgraces Ford, Feds...
      Read lessRead more

      Consumers Want Allstate Records Kept Public

      Insurer Asks Court to Seal Documents in Katrina Lawsuit

      Consumer advocates are asking a New Orleans federal court to keep public key documents from a Hurricane Katrina-related lawsuit against Allstate Insurance Company.

      The groups want to ensure that Allstate cannot seal court records that reveal the claims practices and policies it used to leave homeowners empty-handed after Hurricane Katrina.

      Representing Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), a consumer watchdog group, Public Justice, a national public interest law firm headquartered in Washington D.C., today filed an opposition to Allstate's motion to "seal" the trial exhibits in Weiss v. Allstate, the case of a New Orleans couple who earlier this year won a $2.8 million verdict against Allstate for illegally refusing a hurricane-related claim. The parties subsequently settled; the terms are confidential.

      The insurance company has asked the court to either return or seal the trial exhibits. Those documents include Allstate's manual for handling claims and an operational guide for subcontractors engaged to work on Katrina-related damage.

      Opposing Allstate's request, FTCR says the trial exhibits "provide insight into Allstate's decision-making process" and that denying public access to them "would directly impede FCTR's mission of educating the public about insurance practices and abuses."

      FTCR, which has fought for comprehensive insurance reforms in California and nationwide, says Allstate and other insurance companies have accepted premium payments from customers like the Weisses for years, only to deny or drastically reduce property owners' claims when catastrophe strikes.

      "It appears that Allstate devised its claims-handling process to avoid paying claims to homeowners and did so at the very same time homeowners were, quite literally, stranded and desperate due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina," said Michael Lucas, a Public Justice attorney.

      "These records shed light on Allstate's behavior after Hurricane Katrina and Allstate is afraid of the public scrutiny," Lucas said.

      "Allstate doesn't want anyone to know the internal procedures by which it delays and denies the claims of Katrina survivors and other policyholders in the wake of a disaster," said FTCR's Harvey Rosenfield, author of California's insurance reform initiative, Proposition 103.

      "These documents may embarrass Allstate, but that's no reason to keep them secret. The law says they must remain public."

      Last month, the Consumer Federation of America criticized AllState Insurance, accusing the carrier of unjustifiably raising home and automobile insurance rates relative to the amount paid out in claims, using questionable practices to settle claims, and attempting to shift costs to taxpayers.

      Consumers Want Allstate Records Kept Public...
      Read lessRead more

      Old Make-Up Can Harbor Bacteria

      Food isnt the only product that needs an expiration date. Dermatologists say your old makeup may be causing you blemishes or even worse it could lead to a dangerous infection.

      Food isn't the only product that needs an expiration date. Dermatologists say your old makeup may be causing you blemishes or even worse it could lead to a..

      Stolen Laptop Leads To Data Breach At VeriSign

      A laptop containing extensive personal information on an undisclosed number of VeriSign employees was stolen from an employee's car on July 12. The information included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, telephone numbers, and salary records.

      VeriSign, which manages the usage and sale of Internet addresses such as ".com" and ".net," and offers security certification for Web sites, has not publicly disclosed the breach as of yet.

      But a writer for the WizBang blog obtained a copy of the letter sent to VeriSign employees informing them of the theft, and published excerpts on the site.

      "We have no reason to believe that the thief or thieves acted with the intent to extract and use this information; the police have indicated that there may be a connection to a series of petty thefts in the neighborhood," the letter reads in part. "The laptop was fully shut down and requires a username and password to log on to the Windows application. To our knowledge, the thieves do not have the password."

      Of course, if the laptop's sole protection is requiring a password and username to get through, that pretty much guarantees hackers will have access to the data in short order, since anyone with even the most basic computer skills can extract data in such an instance.

      The data was also unencrypted, apparently violating VeriSign's security policies. The Register's John Leyden obtained a statement from VeriSign that claimed the unidentified employee had "left the company."

      "The Company has a policy on how to manage laptops that contain sensitive information and company data - which in this case was not followed," the company said in its statement. "Going forward, we will continue to review our security procedures to prevent future human errors of this type."

      Although data breaches caused by laptop thefts are an embarrassment for any company, it's a particular cross to bear for VeriSign, as the company's security certifications are used by millions of Web sites the world over.

      The Mountain View, California-based company recently disclosed that it spent $570,000 in the first six months of 2007 to lobby Congress on issues of Internet security, privacy, and taxation issues.

      In its employee letter, VeriSign offered a year of free credit monitoring from Equifax for any affected individual, and recommended placing fraud alerts on credit accounts to watch for signs of fraud or identity theft.

      A laptop containing extensive personal information on an undisclosed number of VeriSign employees was stolen from an employee's car on July 12....
      Read lessRead more

      Capital One Hikes Interest Rates, Agrees to Disclose Credit Limits

      Watch What They Do, Not What They Say

      Like a three-card-monte dealer, Capital One is enticing consumers hoping to better their credit scores while jacking up interest rates for its long-time customers, even those with sterling credit and a good repayment record.p>

      Capital One says it will begin reporting its cardholders' credit limits to the three national credit bureaus -- a step that could boost the FICO credit scores of some of its 50 million customers by 40 to 80 points or more within a few months.

      The higher FICO scores would allow Capital One cardholders to qualify for lower mortgage interest rates when they buy or refinance homes and, one would think, help them get or retain a low interest rate on their credit card.

      Not so.

      Over the last few months, Capital One cardholders have been receiving notices that their interest rate is going up -- way up.

      "I have had a Capital One credit card for over 5 years that was supposed to be fixed at 9.9% FOR LIFE. Now they tell me they are changing it to 15.49% variable. Did I die or something?" Galen of McMinnville, Ore., complained to

      Galen's complaint is similar to those of hundreds of other consumers who received an impersonal card telling them that, for business reasons, Capital One was raising their interest rate.

      The notice makes no attempt to appear personalized and does not imply the customer is at fault. It's strictly a "business decision," the card states.

      "I have never been late, always paid well above the minimum every month and considered them a reputable company," Galen said. "What's in my wallet? Certainly not Capital One from now on. I just pulled my $15K balance and put it in B of A at 2.99% for the next few months."

      Galen is not alone. Many of the affected consumers have shown no hesitation in dropping Capital One and successfully applying for a card from another bank.

      An attorney who frequently writes for had the same experience. She promptly applied for, and received, an Advanta card with 0% interest for 15 months and 7.99% thereafter. But, having read the fine print, she selected a pair of shoes from the Capital One premium catalog before canceling her account.

      FICO Fuss

      Whether or not Capitol One's sudden change of heart regarding credit scores was motivated by its desire to counter the uproar over its sudden interest rate hikes, the decision resolve an issue that has irked consumer advocates for years.

      Capital One has long been pilloried for withholding its customers' credit limits in its regular reports to Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the three national credit bureaus.

      Many cardholders aren't aware of it but their credit scores can be artificially depressed if creditors do not report their maximum credit limits. That's because Fair Isaac assigns a heavy weight -- 30 percent of a person's entire score -- to what is known as "utilization" of available credit.

      In other words, those who have a high credit limit but don't actually charge all that much would get a higher FICO score than those who are chronically bumping into their ceiling.

      If Capital One hoped consumer advocates would bury it in garlands, the response may have been disappointing. The typical reaction could be summed up as, "About time."

      Or, as Travis Plunkett, legislative director for the Consumer Federation of America, said in a San Francisco Chronicle article, it's a shame that "so many people were put at a disadvantage by their own credit card company."

      Capital One Hikes Interest Rates, Agrees to Disclose Credit Limits...
      Read lessRead more

      Massive Ford Recall to Fix Fire Hazard

      Despite Earlier Recalls, Fords Have Continued to Burn

      Ford Motor Co. is recalling as many as 3.6 million cars, truck, and vans because a switch that deactivates the speed control can overheat and catch fire...

      Daimler Completes Sale of Chrysler

      What can you say? It just didn't work out

      The great 1998 merger between Germany's DaimlerBenz and the U.S.'s Chrysler that was going to change the auto industry forever is over.

      The German automaker, which became DaimlerChrysler A.G., has unloaded its unprofitable U.S. venture, which never lived up to its goal of leveraging the German company's reputation for quality with Chrysler's extensive dealer network in the United States.

      "It was an ill-fated partnership that didn't seem to make sense then or now," one analyst said. The company produced such trouble-prone models as the Dodge Durango and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

      Private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP has taken over 80.1 percent ownership of the Chrysler group and the German company DaimlerChrysler has retained 19.9 percent.

      DaimlerChrysler will work with Cerberus to loan Chrysler's automotive business $2 billion in order to keep the automaker in business. DaimlerChrysler will provide $1.5 billion of the loan and Cerberus $500 million. A DaimlerChrysler statement characterized the loan as a strong sign of overall determination to make sure that Chrysler has a good start as a successful standalone car company.

      DaimlerChrysler, however, has hedged its bet, retaining the right to sell the seven-year loan after the first year.

      Chrysler, plagued with slumping sales and quality issues, is trying restructure its way to profitability after a $680 million loss last year. It hopes to cut 13,000 jobs in North America, build more fuel-efficient vehicles and step up sales outside the U.S.

      The split comes as other automakers are ramping up development on a global scale. Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, Peugeot Citroen and even Alfa Romeo are expanding rapidly into new markets, following the lead of such Asian manufacturers as Toyota, Honda and HyundaiKia.

      Chrysler officials plan a celebration at the company headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan to mark the change -- though whether there's anything to celebrate remains to be seen.

      "They can call it a celebration if they want. That's a term you hear more and more at funerals these days," a Wall Street analyst quipped.

      Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda said the newly-private company will bring a "laser-like focus" to its business, free of stock-market pressure to show short-term gains.

      DaimlerChrysler will continue to be officially known as DaimlerChrysler until a shareholders meeting in Germany when the company name is likely to be changed to Daimler AG. The shareholders are to decide on the change at an extraordinary shareholders' meeting in Berlin on October 4, 2007.

      Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler AG and head of the Mercedes Car Group said "Today marks a new chapter in the history of our company. Based on the clearly defined strategies in our Mercedes Car Group, Truck Group, Financial Services business divisions and for vans and buses, and our company's healthy balance sheet, we have every reason to move confidently into the future."

      Daimler Completes Sale of Chrysler...
      Read lessRead more

      States Recall Chinese Tires

      Federal Recall Stalled as Importer Runs Low on Cash

      Once again, states appear to be out in front of federal regulators when it comes to safety. Without waiting for Washington, 24 state attorneys general have issued recalls of an estimated 270,000 tires, imported from China, that may be unsafe.

      The tires are among those imported by Foreign Tire Sales, of New Jersey, and manufactured by Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Company Ltd. Sold under the brand names of Compass, Westlake and YKS, the tires are designed for use on SUVs, trucks and vans.

      The head of the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told a Senate committee last month that federal safety regulations are not adequate to deal with motor vehicle equipment importers refusing to recall defective products.

      Tires made by Hangzhou Zhongce were imported to the U.S. by Foreign Tire Sales but the New Jersey company says it is unable to conduct a thorough recall because of a lack of money.

      State officials said they decided to act now, without waiting for federal regulators.

      We believe that some of these potentially dangerous tires were sold in Eastern Washington and encourage all Washington drivers to check their vehicles, said Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said.

      If you have any of these tires, immediately contact the dealer where you made your purchase and have them thoroughly inspected. Dont drive long distances and be careful not to overload your vehicle, he warned.

      Foreign Tire Sales filed a Defect and Non-compliance Report with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on July 2, 2007, saying the tires may not meet the minimum specifications provided to the tire manufacturer.

      Affected tires lack gum strips, an important part of a tire related to the prevention of thread separation. Tire treads could separate, creating a potential safety hazard on the road. At least one serious accident has been caused by such an occurrence with these tires.

      The potential for harm is great for consumers who may have purchased these tires, said Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler. Consumers who believe they own the affected tires should have them inspected by their tire dealer as soon as possible and contact our office.

      The tires were sold from 2002 to 2006. The states are still trying to determine whether additional potentially unsafe tires may have been distributed by other U.S.-based distributors or if other brand names were involved, McKenna said.

      What To Do

      Heres how to check your vehicle:

      Examine the sidewall of your tires for the brand name, size, model and DOT number. Brand names included in the recall are Westlake, Compass and YKS.

      Specific tire numbers and sizes affected by the recall:

      • LT235/75R-15 CR861 CR857
      • LT245/75R-16 CR860 CR861 CR857
      • LT225/75R-16 CR 861
      • LT265/75R-16 CR860 CR861 CR857
      • LT235/85R-16 CR860 CR861 CR857
      • LT31X10.5R-15 CR861 CR857

      The letters "DOT" certify compliance with all applicable safety standards established by the Department of Transportation. Adjacent to this is a tire identification or serial number. This serial number is a code with up to 11 digits that are a combination of numbers and letters.

      If the DOT number contains "FTS" as part of the number, the tire may be subject to recall. Affected tires also will contain a tire size starting with "LT," as well as a DOT number that starts with "7D" and ends in either "02," "03," "04," or "05."

      Importer Faces Bankruptcy

      The New Jersey importer earlier said it would be able to replace about ten percent of the tires before running out of money and declaring bankruptcy, the company's lawyer said.

      Once FTS has replaced as many of the tires as it can, the company will have to declare bankruptcy, according to Lawrence Levigne, the attorney representing FTS. He said the tire importer estimated that it has enough funds to replace about 10 percent of the 450,000 tires that may be defective.

      New Jersey authorities joined federal highway safety officials to demand information from the tire importing company about the tires it bought from a Chinese manufacturer and sold to U.S. distributors.

      Levigne said the company would comply with the subpoena issued by the state Attorney General's Office.

      The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ordered the recall, which includes light truck radial tires imported between 2002 and December 2005. The brands involved are Westlake, Telluride, Compass and YKS.

      The tires, made by China-based Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co., have an insufficient or missing gum strip, a rubber feature that helps prevent steel belts inside the tire from separating or from damaging the rubber.

      FTS alerted NHTSA to the problem in an official document filed in June. NHTSA responded by ordering a recall. Failure to recall the tires could result in fines for the importer, NHTSA reminded in a letter faxed to the company yesterday.

      "At the risk of putting ourselves out of business, this company did the right thing and we reported the problem," said Levigne, who faults NHTSA for not doing more to help the company correct the problem.

      Heather Hopkins, a spokeswoman for NHTSA, responded that NHTSA does not have the resources to help companies carry out recalls even if it puts the company at an extreme financial hardship.

      "We don't have the mechanism to pay for a business to continue being in business," she said.

      Associate Administrator for Enforcement Daniel C. Smith wrote FTS President Richard Kuskin stating that, The Safety Act does not provide for any exceptions to the notification and remedy requirements based on the financial impact on the manufacturer. A company that chooses to import motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment into this country accepts the same responsibility for compliance with the Safety Act as any other manufacturer.

      Owners of tires carrying the Westlake, Compass Telluride and YKS (or a combination of these names) should check the sidewall of their tires for the DOT number. If the DOT number contains FTS as part of that number, the tire may be subject to this recall.

      If the tire does not contain FTS in the DOT number it is not part of this recall.

      The affected tires will also contain a tire size starting with LT. If the tire size does not show LT, it is not part of the recall. The affected tires have DOT numbers that start with 7D and end in either 02, 03 04 or 05. No other tires are involved in the recall.

      State Subpoena

      The State of New Jersey issued a subpoena to FTS earlier. Assistant Attorney General Anne Milgram said New Jersey wants to coordinate with the offices of Attorneys General of other states and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

      We need to know exactly how many tires were sold, the identity of the purchasers and how consumers are going to be notified that they are riding around on tires that might fall apart and cause serious injury, or, in at least one instance, cause death, Milgram said. This is a critical public safety issue that affects consumers throughout New Jersey and the United States, and we will do everything we can to protect people from harm.

      The subpoena seeks information regarding the locations to which the tires were shipped, the identity of consumers who might be using them, FTS knowledge that the tires might be defective, and information about the recall.

      FTS bought light truck radial tires from Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. of China from 2002 and 2006.

      Chinese Denial

      The Chinese manufacturer of the light truck tires has now denied it supplied faulty products and accused its FTS of making the claim to gain an advantage in an unrelated dispute.

      "We have not found the faults cited by FTS," Hangzhou Zhongce said in a written statement. It said its tires met U.S. safety standards and FTS' specifications.

      "We believe this is merely an effort by FTS to stir up a fuss due to this lawsuit," the tire manufacturer said.

      States Recall Chinese Tires...
      Read lessRead more

      Skin Cancer Rates On The Rise

      Dermatologists Offer Tips on Protecting Yourself

      While overall cancer diagnosis has been declining for decades, doctors say the incidence of melanoma the most serious form of skin cancer has steadily increased in the United States.

      From 1995 to 2004, melanoma has increased by more than 1 percent per year in this country in sharp contrast to overall cancer rates that have steadily decreased by 0.6 percent per year during this time.

      Key findings from a program designed to increase sun-safe behavior in children could play an important role in decreasing melanoma in future generations, health professionals say.

      Researchers at a dermatology conference today presented a summary of recently published research on the rising incidence of melanoma and trends in sun exposure.

      While the increase in melanoma rates from 1995 to 2004 was not specific to one age group, we did notice an increase in the youngest age group (from ages 15 to 30) and in the age 60 and older age group, said Dr. Martin A. Weinstock, professor of dermatology and community health at Brown University.

      One possible explanation could be more exposure to UV radiation which we know is the most preventable risk factor for melanoma.

      What To Do

      Researchers recommend that people of all ages follow these tips:

      • Generously apply sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 that provides broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Re-apply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. Look for the AAD Seal of Recognition on products that meet these criteria.

      • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, where possible.

      • Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the suns rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

      • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun which can increase your chance of sunburn.

      • Protect children from sun exposure by applying sunscreen.

      • Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that includes vitamin supplements. Dont seek the sun.

      • Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like youve been in the sun, consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.

      • Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

      According to current estimates, there will be about 108,230 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in 2007 48,290 noninvasive and 59,940 invasive.

      Youth and Sun Exposure

      One population-based study published in the September 2006 issue of the journal Pediatrics found that although there was not a significant change in the proportion of youths that reported getting sunburned from 1998 to 2004, there were some interesting distinctions between the younger and older youths.

      For example, the 16-18 age group had more sunburns during that time period compared to the 11-13 and 14-15 age groups including an increase in the reported number of sunburns over the six-year study period. In 2004, 70 percent of the 16- to 18-year-olds reported getting sunburned, an increase from 64 percent reported by this age group in 1998.

      In contrast, the study found that the younger age groups (ages 11-15) reported fewer sunburns and a decrease in the number of sunburns from 1998 to 2004.

      The study did not provide a definitive explanation as to why the younger age groups had fewer sunburns than their older counterparts, but one possible reason is that younger adolescents are more responsive to parental guidance than older teens who tend to be influenced more by their peers, Weinstock said. This trend, however, is worth noting in future public education campaigns geared toward teens and adolescents.

      Another study published in the January 2007 issue of the journal Pediatrics found that a multi-component community-based intervention successfully increased sun-protection behaviors in adolescents entering 6th to 8th SunSafe in the Middle Years program, designed as a randomized, controlled trial.

      The intervention used a broad range of role models including school personnel, coaches, pediatricians, teen peer advocates and lifeguards who actively encouraged adolescents to practice proper sun protection in different environments.

      The study found that there was significant improvement in the areas of the body protected by sunscreen, clothing or shade in the adolescents in the 10 communities randomly selected for the intervention versus those in the control towns, said Weinstock.

      From previous research, we know that compliance with sun-protective behaviors goes down between 6th to 8th grades. I think this study demonstrates that a multi-component program which involves a variety of people influential to this age group can have a positive impact on sun protection behavior and should be considered a model for future educational efforts aimed at adolescents.

      Adults and Sun Exposure

      Adults also failed to heed the warnings of dermatologists when it comes to practicing proper sun protection.

      A new article published in the June 1, 2007, issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDCs) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report presented data showing an upward trend in the incidence of sunburns in U.S. adults.

      From 1999 to 2004, there was a 2 percent increase in the number of adults 18 years and older who reported getting sunburned (32 percent to 34 percent, respectively). While this represents only a slight increase, Weinstock pointed out that the data demonstrates that the occurrence of sunburns in the adult population is not decreasing.

      Dermatologists are concerned that melanoma and other skin cancers will continue to increase as long as sun exposure does, said Weinstock. Since we know that overexposure to UV radiation is the most preventable risk factor for developing skin cancer, its critical for dermatologists to emphasize that people should practice proper protection when engaging in outdoor activities.

      For more information about skin cancer, visit and click on SkinCancerNet.

      Skin Cancer Rates On The Rise...
      Read lessRead more

      Runaway Acceleration Problem Plagues Prius Owners

      Lemon of the Week has received repeated reports of the Prius hybrid running amok and this week a brand-new Prius with only 600 miles on the odometer wins our Lemon of the Week award.

      Much to the dismay of smug Prius owners, who refer to themselves as Prians, the little car can sometimes take off almost on its own, a lot like a horse in a high country meadow after chewing bad grass.

      That is just what happened to a reader in Washington state. Tina reported that her Prius suffered from uncontrollable acceleration on a freeway near Everett, Washington.

      As I attempted to merge into heavy traffic, Tina told us, I accelerated up the on ramp and was attempting to place the car between two vehicles going at a rate of approximately 50 miles per hour. The car lunged forward and would not slow down without repeated pumping of the brakes.

      Our reader left the freeway as soon as she could weave her way through heavy traffic still unable to disengage the Prius throttle.

      She turned the Prius off with the power button while sitting on the high speed freeway off ramp. Knowing that this was an unsafe place to leave the car, she headed for a nearby parking lot after regaining her confidence.

      Tina noticed a foul odor that she assumed was rising from the overheated Prius brakes and called her Toyota dealer.

      Despite the problems with uncontrolled acceleration, the Toyota service department asked Tina to drive the Prius to them.

      On the way to the dealership, the computer display malfunctioned.

      But the Toyota service department diagnosed the problem with the runaway Prius as nothing more than a carpet jamming the accelerator pedal or driver error.

      The dealer insisted that he did not know of any other similar incident despite repeated reports and complaints of unintended acceleration with the Prius..

      Now Tina is stuck with a Toyota Prius she cannot trust and that makes her Prius the Lemon of the Week.

      Runaway Acceleration Problem Plagues Prius Owners...
      Read lessRead more

      Fisher Price Recalls 1 Million Toys

      Toys Made in China Contain Lead-Based Paint

      China is again at the center of a nationwide recall.

      This one involves nearly 1 million Fisher-Price toys pulled off the market late Wednesday because they may contain excessive levels of lead paint. Lead is toxic and can cause serious health effects if ingested by children.

      The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall of 976,000 Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and other childrens toys imported from China by Fisher-Price. The East Aurora, New York, company sold the toys at retailers nationwide between May and August 2007.

      The toys -- sold alone or as part of a set -- have a date code between 109-7LF and 187-7LF on the product or packaging.

      The recalled toys include Elmo Light Up Musical Pal, Big Bird Light Up Musical Pal, Dora's Talking House, Go Diego Go Antarctic Rescue, and Sesame Street Birthday Figure Pack. (A complete list of the recalled toys is below).

      Examples of recalled products

      Recalled Products

      33662 Elmo Light Up Musical Pal
      33664 Big Bird Light Up Musical Pal
      39038 Elmo Tub Sub
      87946 Elmo Keyboard
      90609 Elmo Collectible
      90612 Zoe Collectible
      90614 Big Bird Collectible
      93068 Elmo Boom Box
      93307 Press N Go Elmo
      93492 Cookie Saxophone
      93615 Splash Tub Puzzle

      B7554 Count To Beat Elmo
      B7987 Elmo In The Giggle Box
      B9620 Dora's Talking House
      C6908 Dora, Backpack, Perrito Figure Pack
      C6909 Diego Figure Pack
      C6911 Boots, Tico Figure Pack
      G5112 Sing With Elmo's Greatest Hits
      H2943 Grow With Me Elmo Sprinkler
      H3344 Birthday Dora
      H5570 Elmo & Pals (Elmo, Zoe, Bigbird)
      H4628 Water Fun Tote
      H8237 Blue 3 Pack Figures In Tube
      H9124 Chef Dora
      H9186 Giggle Grabber Ernie

      J0338 Diego Talking Field Journal
      J0344 Go Diego Go Deep Sea Rescue
      J0346 Go Diego Go Talking Rescue 4 X 4
      J5936 Giggle Grabber Chef Cookie Monster
      J6537 Sesame Street Giggle Toolbelt
      J6763 Royal Boots And Tico
      J7983 Sesame Street Tub Pots & Pans
      J9692 Dora's Talking Pony Place
      K3414 Diego - Talking Gadget Belt
      K3580 Fairytale Adventure Dora
      K4140 Toucan Motorcycle Rescue

      L3194 Surprise Inside Diego Eggs
      L3488 Sesame Street Birthday Figure Pack
      L3507 Sesame Street - Super Boom Box
      L5202 Birthday Dora
      L8905 Pablo & Pals
      M0352 Dora Figures Diego & Bear
      M0527 Sesame Street Giggle Doodler
      M2051 Lets Go Rescue Center
      33663 Ernie Light Up Musical Pal
      34658 Elmo Stacking Rings
      39054 Sesame Street Shape Sorter
      90267 Ernie Splashin' Fun Trike
      90611 Cookie Collectible
      90613 Ernie Collectible
      90745 Construction Playset
      93107 Action Fire Engine
      93308 Rev & Go Cookie Monster
      93493 Elmo's Guitar
      93780 Music And Lights Phone

      B7888 Shake, Giggle & Roll
      B7989 Silly Parts Talking Elmo

      C6910 Swiper Figure Pack
      G3825 Dora Talking Vamonos Van
      G9717 Giggle Doodler
      H3343 Cousin Daisy
      H5569 Elmo & Pals (Elmo, Cookie, Ernie)
      H4187 Dora Figures In Tube
      H8236 Dora 3 Pack Figures In Tube
      H8238 Sponge Bob 3 Pack Figures In Tube
      H9125 Bedtime Dora
      H9188 Giggle Grabber Oscar The Grouch

      J0343 Go Diego Go Antarctic Rescue
      J0345 Go Diego Go Mountain Rescue
      J5935 Giggle Grabber Soccer Elmo

      J6762 Queen Mami
      J6765 Prince Diego
      J9518 Sesame Street Giggle Drill
      K0617 Twins Nursery
      K3571 Go Diego Go Mobile Rescue Unit
      K4139 Go Diego Go Dinosaur Rescue
      L0305 Dora Figure

      L3215 Sesame Street Elmo Jack-In-The-Box

      L5813 Diego Tub Trike
      M0351 Dora Figures Dora & Kitty
      M0524 Go Diego Go Talking Gadget
      M0732 Dora's Talking House
      M2052 Fairytale Castle

      The CPSC said it has not received any reports of injuries associated with these recalled toys, but warned consumer to immediately take them away from children.

      Wednesdays announcement comes on the heels of several recalled items imported from China this year, including melamine-tainted ingredients used to make pet food, tires, fish, and other toys.

      In June, for example, RC2 Corp. recalled about 1.5 million "Thomas & Friends" wooden railway toys because the surface paints contained lead.

      A investigation also revealed that 96 percent of the recalled toys in 2007 were imported from China.

      Consumers with questions about this latest toy recall can contact Fisher-Price at (800) 916-4498 or visit the companys Web site at

      China is again at the center of a nationwide recall. This involves nearly 1 million Fisher-Price toys pulled off the market because they may contain excess...
      Read lessRead more