Current Events in December 2012

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    How would going over the fiscal cliff affect you?

    A 'fiscal cliff calculator' helps you figure it out

    After every government official and politician appearing on the Sunday talk shows agreed Republicans and Democrats are hopelessly deadlocked on any effort to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, it hardly created a ripple on Wall Street today.

    Either the market has priced in the effects of across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts or concluded it doesn't matter nearly as much as a breathless media has made it out. It's useful to remember that the term “fiscal cliff” was coined by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who believes the combination of tax hikes and spending cuts would deal a severe blow to four years of Fed monetary policy.

    Fiscal cliff calculator

    But how, exactly, would it affect you? The folks at CreditCards.com have devised a fiscal cliff calculator they say will tell you. Users of the calculator type in their income, then select their exemptions and filing status. The calculator computes their combined federal income and Social Security taxes under current rates, and the larger, "post-cliff" tax bill using rates scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1.

    "We wanted to give people a tool that would help them cut through the complexity of the tax changes," Editor-in-Chief Daniel P. Ray said.

    To try it out, we selected a family of four with a combined household taxable income of $72,000. The couple files jointly and under current law pays $8,809 in federal taxes. Once tax rates revert to their pre-2002 levels, they would pay $11,432.

    Assuming they receive 26 paychecks per year and 100 percent of their taxes are covered by withholding, their paychecks would decline by almost exactly $100.

    Another example

    Let's look at another example – a single person just out of college earning $18,000 working in a retail job. Currently they pay $1,566 a year but after going over the cliff their tax bill would be $2,331. Again, assuming 26 paychecks per year, that's $29.42 less per paycheck.

    Now let's look at an upper income couple with no children, with a taxable income of $262,000. Under the current law they pay $62,360 but that increases to $72,992 after the cliff. That works out to $10,632 more – a $408 drop in take-home pay.

    While people at the higher end of the income scale will face the biggest tax hikes under the fiscal cliff scenario in dollar terms, many lower-income earners will see larger percentage increases.

    There are some among both the Republican and Democrat camps that have suggested it might not be so bad to go over the cliff. Last week former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said the fiscal cliff presented liberals with the best deal they could ever expect – a return to the Clinton era tax rates and steep cuts in Pentagon spending, which he said Republicans would never agree to if it were brought to a vote.

    After every government official and politician appearing on the Sunday talk shows agreed Republicans and Democrats are hopelessly deadlocked on any effort ...

    Groups want Nickelodeon to nix the junk food ads

    Disney has nutrition standards and so should Nick, critics argue

    It's time for Nickeloden to fall into line behind Disney and start applying some minimal nutrition standards to its ads, programs and -- most particuarly -- to its iconic characters such as Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants, health groups insist.

    More than 55 health groups and 30 prominent nutritionists, physicians, and other experts want Nick's parent company Viacom to implement strong nutrition standards for the foods marketed to kids on Viacom's various channels and that bear images of its characters.

    The company has taken some small steps in the right direction, including a vague policy to limit the licensing of Nick characters to healthier food products, the groups said.

    However, SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer are still used to promote unhealthy foods like imitation fruit snacks, Popsicles, PEZ candy, Cheese Nips crackers, and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Nickelodeon, NickToons, and Nick Jr. recently have advertised unhealthy foods like Cocoa Puffs, Air Heads candies, Chuck E. Cheese's, and Fruit Roll-Ups.

    Disney's new standards

    The Walt Disney Company earlier this year announced new nutrition standards that it is expected to apply to all its marketing.

    "We appreciate Nickelodeon's efforts to promote healthy lifestyles to children," wrote the groups in a letter to Viacom Inc. president and CEO Philippe Dauman and Nickelodeon president Cyma Zarghami. "However, such efforts are insufficient given the magnitude of the problem.

    "Your PSAs, philanthropic activities, and partnerships with children's groups do not counterbalance the effect of Nickelodeon's core business and children's exposure to food marketing. The mix of Nickelodeon's marketing remains out of balance, doing more to promote unhealthy than healthy eating," the letter said.

    The letter was coordinated by a coalition called the Food Marketing Workgroup. Led by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and Berkeley Media Studies Group, the coalition includes the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, Environmental Working Group, and others.

    "Nickelodeon prides itself on responsible programming for kids, but how can a program be responsible, if the ads during that program are irresponsible?" asked CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. "Feeding kids healthfully is tough enough without Nickelodeon letting its programming and characters be used to market foods that promote obesity, diabetes, and other health problems in children."

    Should Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants really be hawking junk food to young children?That's the question raised by more than 55 health gr...

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      Lawmakers want feds to respect state marijuana laws

      Proposed legislation would prevent pre-emption of legalization in Colorado and Washington

      Last month voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana for recreational use in those two states. But federal statutes still outlaw possession of the drug and the feds could take a hard-nosed approach to enforcement.

      Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would force the U.S. government to stand aside and not enforce the federal laws regarding marijuana in those states. The legislation, H.R. 6606, has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee where its future is uncertain.

      Co-sponsors

      The measure is sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO).While the bill has nine co-sponsors. Two of them, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), did not seek re-election and will not be in the next Congress. Other co-sponsors include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Jarad Polis (D-CO).

      Specifically, H.R. 6606 would amend the U.S. Controlled Substances Act to provide that federal law shall not preempt state marijuana laws. The U.S. Justice Department went to court to challenge Arizona when it enacted its own immigration law. Many believe it will do the same in the case of the two states' marijuana laws.

      "I am proud to join with colleagues from both sides of the aisle on the 'Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act' to protect states' rights and immediately resolve any conflict with thefederal government," DeGette said in a statement. "In Colorado we've witnessed the aggressive policies of the federal government in their treatment of legal medicinal marijuana providers. My constituents have spoken and I don't want the federal government denying money to Colorado or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens."

      Colorado is moving ahead

      Polis, one of three members of the Colorado delegation to back the measure, says Colorado officials and law enforcement are already working to implement the will of Colorado voters and the U.S. government should not interfere.

      “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in Congress and officials in the administration to deliver clear guidance that ensures the will of the people is protected," he said.

      House Bill 6606 states: "In the case of any state law that pertains to marijuana, no provision of this title shall be construed as indicating an intent on the part of the Congress to occupy the field in which that provision operates, including criminal penalties, to the exclusion of State law on the same subject matter, nor shall any provision of this title be construed as preempting any such State law."

      While it is unlikely that members of Congress will address this measure in the final days of the 112th session, the lawmakers says they plan to reintroduce the measure in 2013.  

      Last month voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana for recreational use in those two states. But the laws could ...

      The shifting landscape of retirement planning

      With longer lifespans and a turgid economy, planning is more important

      Americans are living longer. That's the good news. You'll probably need more income and assets in retirement to support yourself during those extra golden years. That's the bad news.

      Before the financial meltdown of 2008, financial planners encouraged future retirees to be ambitious in their retirement plans, suggesting it would be necessary to set aside a large investment portfolio in order to have a comfortable retirement. But those expectations have changed somewhat as the Great Recession and its aftermath have changed the financial landscape.

      Over the last four years consumers have concentrated more on paying down debt than accumulating savings. Some have seen big drops in household incomes. Others have diverted income to help support adult children who are struggling. So starting or maintaining a retirement plan has been something of a challenge lately.

      Retirement timeline

      In its advice about retirement planning, the U.S. Labor Department suggests starting with a retirement timeline. Plot out on paper the important milestones as you approach your "golden years." At age 50, for example, you should start making catch-up payments to your retirement accounts, which may have been neglected in recent years.

      At age 59 ½ you can begin making withdrawals from your retirement accounts without penalty, but you should resist the urge. Leaving that money in a tax-deferred account to continue to grow will mean more money when you really need it.

      At age 62 Americans are eligible to begin drawing Social Security benefits, but the monthly amount is less than if you wait an additional four years until you are 66. Keep in mind that if you start drawing benefits at age 62, not only is the check smaller, the amount you earn, if still working, can impact the tax you'll pay on benefits. Waiting until age 66 means there are no limits on additional income.

      If you were born between 1943 and 1954 you will be eligible for full Social Security benefits at age 66. At age 70 1/2 you must begin making minimum withdrawals from your retirement accounts; otherwise you will face a heavy tax.

      Measure assets

      Without considering Social Security or other pension benefits, take a look at what assets you have that can be converted to cash at some point to help supplement retirement. If you own a home with a mortgage, that could be a liability going into retirement. While everyone needs a place to live, eliminating a monthly mortgage payment in retirement is almost like increasing tax-free income.

      If there is a way to pay off your mortgage by the time you retire, it may be prudent to do so. The government's FHA program also offers a reverse mortgage option. Those with significant equity in their homes may be able to qualify for a reverse mortgage allowing them to live in their homes the rest of their lives without making payments.

      How is your retirement money invested? You want to keep it safe but you also want a reasonable rate of return. Keeping it in certificates of deposit, for example, may not result in much growth at all. Here, you may need the advice of a financial adviser.

      Stay diversified

      Experts recommend that you spread your money among a range of investments so that your money is "diversified." In addition, most experts add that you should not only invest among categories but within each major category as well.

      For instance, your risk of losing money is less if you buy shares in several mutual funds investing in various types of assets, such as large company stocks, small company stocks and bonds. Even investing in just one mutual fund will help you to diversify compared to investing in individual securities on your own, since mutual funds, by their nature, allow you to invest in a collection of stocks, bonds, and other financial instuments.

      Financial planners believe that diversifying your investments helps reduce risk as markets move up and down. For example, in 1980 when some certificates of deposit (CDs) were paying 12 percent, stocks were barely holding their own; but in 1999 most stock prices were rising fast, and CDs were paying five percent.

      Too much money in one type of investment is always a bad idea and puts your money at risk. For example, many American workers are holding a lot of their employers' stock in their retirement accounts. This ties both your current paycheck and your retirement savings to one employer's success...or failure. This can be risky.

      Investments can make money two ways – through capital appreciation and through dividends. That means the value of the stock goes up while it also pays out a quarterly dividend, which can then be reinvested. Many financial advisors like dividend-paying stocks for precisely that reason.

      Once you begin your retirement plan, consider it a work in progress and one that should be revisited on a regular basis.  

      Americans are living longer. That's the good news. You'll probably need more income and assets in retirement to support yourself during those extra golden ...

      Study: Most Americans don't walk 10 minutes a day

      Researchers suggest more 'active transportation' could improve health

      Three generations ago, a majority of Americans walked to get where they were going. Cars were rare and some roads were little more than dirt paths.

      Fast forward to America today, which struggles with rising obesity and cardiovascular health issues – and fewer than 25 percent of Americans walk, bike or use any other form of “active” transportation.

      Could there be a connection?

      “We knew that many studies have demonstrated that physical activity can help prevent a variety of conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and serum lipid abnormalities—all risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease,” said lead study author Gregg Furie, M.D. of the Yale School of Medicine, who specializes in adult primary care medicine.

      Active transportation

      However, the majority of previous studies done on physical activity primarily focused on its use in recreational activity or leisure time activity, he noted. He set out to measure the effects of activity as part of a daily routine. Active transportation is one of the main ways people do that.

      Active transportation refers to any form of human-powered transportation, most commonly walking and cycling, but also using a wheelchair, in-line skating or skateboarding. The study’s researchers suggest active transportation is “an untapped reservoir of opportunity for physical activity for many U.S. adults.”

      The study found that most Americans don't even walk 10 minutes a day.

      “That’s a pretty low rate,” said Furie, “and we need to increase that level.”

      Health benefits

      There are many good reasons to walk whenever possible. The study found that people who engaged in active transportation on average had lower body mass indexes and lower odds of hypertension, compared to those who didn’t.

      The study identified reasons why government policies and infrastructure, along with “built environment interventions,” should allow and encourage active transportation. Communities that do so may promote dedicated bicycle lanes and routes, educate residents about bike and motor vehicle road-sharing, provide bicycle storage, and integrate public transportation for both pedestrians and cyclists.

      Not surprisingly, the U.S. has one of the lowest rates of active transportation in the world, according to James F. Sallis, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego.

      “This is not an accident. U.S. transportation policies and funding prioritize travel by car, unwittingly discouraging active travel. This situation is made worse by land use and zoning policies that separate residential and commercial zones to the extent that it is not feasible to walk for daily needs.”

      The study is reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

      Three generations ago, a majority of Americans walked to get where they were going. Cars were rare and roads where little more than dirt paths.Fast forwa...

      Feds nail pushers of bogus credit repair services

      The court found the defendants in violation of a prior court order

      A federal judge -- acting on charges by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) -- has come down hard on a credit repair operation for violating a previous court order that required the defendants to stop promoting bogus credit repair products and services to consumers.

      The defendants, Kevin Hargrave and Latrese Hargrave and the companies they control -- BFS Empowerment Financial Services Inc., Help My Credit Now Credit Services Inc., and Kevtrese Enterprises Inc., were ordered to pay $6.4 million to the FTC within 30 days and permanently shut down their credit repair business.

      Earlier order violated

      The court found that despite entry of a January 2010 order that barred the Florida-based defendants from deceptively marketing credit repair services, the defendants continued to violate the FTC Act and the Credit Repair Organizations Act by claiming that they could permanently remove negative information from consumers’ credit reports, even when the information was accurate.

      The court also found the defendants in contempt for charging a $250 “enrollment fee,” in violation of the advance fee prohibition of the prior order.

      The civil contempt order was issued on November 19, 2012, by Judge Marcia Morales Howard of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division.

      The court also issued a modified final order that permanently shuts down the defendants’ credit repair operations and bans them from selling or providing any credit repair products or services, or from assisting others to do so.

      The January 2010 order resulted from a complaint the FTC filed against the Hargrave defendants in October 2008 as part of a federal and state law enforcement sweep against credit repair operations that allegedly deceptively marketed their services.

      According to the complaint, the defendants advertised on the Internet and radio stations and charged $250 to $270 per person and $450 per couple for purported credit repair services, requiring half or all of the charge to be paid in advance. In their advertisements, defendants touted that they “specialize in erasing bad credit!”     

      They kept on doing it -- and now they're paying for it. A federal judge -- acting on charges by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) -- has come down hard ...

      Sitting may be more hazardous than you think

      Working out after a day in front of the computer doesn't reduce health risks

      You'd better sit down for this news. On second thought, maybe you had better stand up.

      Previous studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time, such as working at a desk, can be detrimental to your health. One study, in fact, called it more dangerous than smoking.

      But perhaps you thought you could compensate for that by going to the gym after work or taking part in athletic activities on the weekend. Not so, say two new studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and Diabetologia, a diabetes journal.

      Activity levels mattered little

      The studies looked at people who spend long hours sitting at a desk, mostly for work activities. Some of the people led very sedentary lives but others maintained a moderate to high level of physical activity during their non-sitting time. The researchers were surprised to find that the health results were not all that different.

      Scientists have determined that after just an hour of sitting, the body's production of enzymes that burn fat plunges dramatically. Sitting for extended periods of time can slow your metabolism rate and reduce levels of “good” cholesterol in the blood. That could be a precursor to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

      Cardiologists say your body doesn't burn as many calories when you are seated. Your body goes into storage mode and stops working at peak efficiency. Standing up, even if you aren't moving about, helps.

      It's no secret that the rise in obesity has coincided with more sedentary jobs, prompting some workplaces to offer on-site health sites where workers on break can exercise. But the key to improving the health of desk bound workers, health experts say, is to get them to stand up.

      Office furniture is changing

      It's not surprising, then, that office furniture designers and manufacturers have begun turning out a wide array of “upright” workstations, where an employee stands before an elevated work surface containing the computer monitor, keyboard and mouse. Most are adjustable so they can be modified to the height of the individual user.

      Many businesses have begun offering stand-up workstations to their employees and some even sit astride a slow-moving treadmill. A worker standing at a desk can slowly walk several miles during an average workday.

      The business sees it as an investment in employee health, resulting in fewer sick days and expensive medical treatment later on. For the employee, it may be an easy way to help with weight control while on the job.

      You'd better sit down for this news. On second thought, maybe you had better stand up.Previous studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time, ...

      Airtrade fined for code-share disclosure rules violation

      The ticketing concern has once again failed to provide complete carrier information to purchasers

      Online ticket agent Airtrade is being fined $150,000 for failing to tell consumers outright when flights were being operated under a code-sharing arrangement. As it levied the penalty, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) also ordered the company to cease and desist from future violations.

      It was Airtrade’s second violation of the code-share disclosure rule in the past two years.

      “When passengers book air travel, they have the right to know which airline will be operating their flight,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We will continue to take enforcement action when an airline or ticket agent violates our code-share disclosure rule.”

      Full disclosure required

      Under code-sharing, an airline will sell tickets on flights that use its designator code but are operated by a separate airline. DOT’s rule requires airlines and ticket agents to disclose to consumers, before they book a flight, if the flight is operated under a code-sharing arrangement.

      The disclosure must include the corporate name of the transporting carrier and any other name under which the flight is offered to the public. When tickets are purchased on the internet, code-share information must be easily viewable on the first display of a website following a search for flights corresponding to a desired itinerary.

      Previous action

      In a consent order issued on April 26, 2011, DOT assessed a $50,000 penalty against Airtrade for violating the code-share disclosure rule on its Internet web site. At that time, the company appeared to have corrected its Website to comply with the rule.

      However, a follow-up investigation by DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that, for a period of time after the first violation, Airtrade once again failed to properly disclose code-sharing arrangements when advertising code-share flights operated on behalf of a major air carrier by a regional air carrier.

      Airtrade did not display the corporate names of the transporting carriers or any other names under which those flights were sold to the public during the flight selection and booking process. As a result, consumers were unable to immediately learn the identity of the airline that would actually operate the aircraft on which they would be flying.  

      Online ticket agent Airtrade is being fined $150,000 for failing to tell consumers outright when flights were being operated under a code-sharing arrangeme...

      Warning: E15 fuel may harm your vehicle's engine

      Fuel blend is only approved for a small number of engines

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved the use of E15 gasoline -- a blend of 15 percent ethanol in a gallon of gasoline. While that may be good news for the nation's farmers, AAA warns that could be bad news for your vehicle's engine.

      The auto club went public with its concern because of a survey showing 95 percent of consumers have not heard of the new fuel blend. At the same time, only five percent of cars on U.S. highways have been approved by their manufacturers to use the fuel.

      “It is clear that millions of Americans are unfamiliar with E15, which means there is a strong possibility that many motorists may improperly fill up using this gasoline and damage their vehicle,” said AAA President & CEO Robert Darbelnet. “Bringing E15 to the market without adequate safeguards does not responsibly meet the needs of consumers.”

      Not many vehicles can handle it

      The problem is that only about 12 million out of the more than 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads today are approved by manufacturers to use E15 gasoline, based on a survey conducted by AAA of auto manufacturers. AAA automotive engineering experts also have reviewed the available research and believe that sustained use of E15 in both newer and older vehicles could result in significant problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false “check engine” lights for any vehicle not approved by its manufacturer to use E15.

      Currently almost all gasoline sold at service stations contains 10 percent ethanol. Congress passed the law mandating the additive as a means to stretch the nation's gasoline supplies. But many automobile engines don't run as well on the fuel.

      In addition, marine engines have trouble with the fuel blend. Many marinas now sell more expensive gasoline that does not contain the additive.

      Other ethanol critics decry the use of the corn-based additive as a fuel, charging that it diverts corn away from food production and drives up prices. Farmers, however, dispute that and farm state lawmakers have championed the use of ethanol.

      Voided warranties

      AAA says eight automakers -- GM, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo -- have specifically warned that the use of E15 does not comply with the fuel requirements specified in their owner’s manuals and may void warranty coverage.

      The only vehicles currently approved by automakers to use E15 are flex-fuel models, 2001 model-year and newer Porsches, 2012 model-year and newer GM vehicles and 2013 model-year Ford vehicles. And these approvals extend only to cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles (SUVs).

      The use of E15 is expressly prohibited in heavy-duty vehicles, boats, motorcycles, power equipment, lawn mowers and off-road vehicles.

      “The sale and use of E15 should be suspended until additional gas pump labeling and consumer education efforts are implemented to mitigate problems for motorists and their vehicles,” Darbelnet said. “Consumers should carefully read pump labels and know their auto manufacturer’s recommendations to help prevent any problems from E15.”

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved the use of E15 gasoline – a blend of 15 percent ethanol in a gallon of gasoline. While th...

      Hotel operators warned about 'drip pricing'

      Price quotes that exclude 'resort fees' and other mandatory surcharges may be deceptive

      Have you ever found what you thought was a good hotel price online and -- as you went through the reservation process -- seen the ad-on prices piling up?

      The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken a close look at the practice and warned 22 hotel operators that they may be violating the law by providing a deceptively low estimate of what consumers can expect to pay for their hotel rooms.

      Drip pricing

      The warning letters  cited consumer complaints that surfaced at a recent conference the FTC held on “drip pricing,” a pricing technique in which firms advertise only part of a product’s price and reveal other charges as the customer goes through the buying process.

      According to the FTC letters, “One common complaint consumers raised involved mandatory fees hotels charge for amenities such as newspapers, use of onsite exercise or pool facilities or Internet access -- sometimes referred to as ‘resort fees.’ These mandatory fees can be as high as $30 per night, a sum that could certainly affect consumer purchasing decisions.”

      The warning letters also state that consumers often did not know they would be required to pay resort fees in addition to the quoted hotel rate.

      Upfront information

      “Consumers are entitled to know in advance the total cost of their hotel stays,” said Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “So-called ‘drip pricing’ charges, sometimes portrayed as ‘convenience’ or ‘service’ fees, are anything but convenient, and businesses that hide them are doing a huge disservice to American consumers.”

      The letters strongly encourage the companies to review their Websites and ensure that their ads do not misrepresent the total price consumers can expect to pay.   

      Have you ever found what you thought was a good hotel price online and -- as you went through the reservation process -- found the ad-on prices piling up?...

      Ford Recalls 2013 Escape, Fusion Models to Fix Fire Hazard

      Company responds to reports of overheating and engine fires

      Ford is recalling 2013 Ford Escape SE and SEL models equipped with the 1.6-liter engine and 2013 Ford Fusion SE and SEL models equipped with the 1.6-liter engine. The recall follows consumer reports of engine fires.
      Ford estimates that there are approximately 73,320 Escapes and 15,833 Fusions with the 1.6-liter engines, most of them in the U.S. The issue does not affect 2013 Escape or 2013 Fusion models with other engines.
      The problems is not related to a series of fires in F-150 pickup trucks and other vehicles that led to the recall of millions of vehicles nearly a decade ago.
      Customers driving 2013 Escape vehicles equipped with the 1.6-liter engine and 2013 Fusion models equipped with the 1.6-liter engine are advised to contact their dealer as soon as possible to arrange for alternative transportation at no charge. Repair procedures are not currently available.
      Ford is voluntarily recalling these vehicles because of reports of engine overheating, resulting in engine fires while the engine is running. No injuries have been reported.

      Warning signs

      Some drivers who have experienced high engine temperatures followed by engine fires say that theirclusters have shown the message “Engine Power Reduced to Lower Temps” or “Engine over temp, stop safely.”  Some also indicated that their instrument clusters sounded a chime and illuminated a red light.
      Drivers who see any of these indications should safely pull off the road as soon as possible, turn off the engine and exit the vehicle. Ford said it will compensate owners for costs tied to overheating as well.
      “We have identified an issue and are taking actions in the best interest of our customers,” said Steve Kenner, director of Ford’s Automotive Safety Office. “It is important that affected customers not ignore this recall and contact their dealer as soon as possible. While we recognize the inconvenience recalls cause our customers, we are taking these actions on their behalf to help ensure their safety.”
      Ford is working on a repair procedure. When parts are available, the company will notify customers so they can schedule a service appointment with dealers.
      Meanwhile, Ford is advising affected owners to contact a Ford dealer as soon as possible for alternative transportation at no cost to the customer; U.S. owners also may call 866-436-7332 and Canadian customers also may call 888-222-7814 for details on securing alternative transportation.

      Affected models

      Customers can see if they are affected by the recall by:
      • Checking their 17-digit VIN, located on a label on the driver door opening, at the base of the windshield on the driver’s side of their vehicle, or on their vehicle registration. In vehicles with 1.6-liter engines, the eighth character will be “X” on Escapes or “R” on Fusions;
      • Logging onto Ford.com, click “View Notices and Recalls” in the “Support” tab and input their VIN to determine if their vehicle is part of the recall;
      • Calling 866-436-7332 in the U.S. or 888-222-7814 in Canada; or
      • Contacting a Ford dealer

      Ford is recalling 2013 Ford Escape SE and SEL models equipped with the 1.6-liter engine and 2013 Ford Fusion SE and SEL models equipped with the 1.6-liter ...