Current Events in July 2015

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2015

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    EPIC establishes Martin H. Bosworth Advocacy Fund

    The fund will support efforts to protect American consumers' privacy rights

    The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) today announced the establishment of the Martin H. Bosworth Memorial Advocacy Fund, made possible by an initial donation from James R. Hood, founder and former CEO of ConsumerAffairs.com. Bosworth was the managing editor of the site at the time of his death in 2010.

    “Martin Bosworth was passionate about protecting consumers’ privacy rights, as are we,” said Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of EPIC, a Washington, D.C., non-profit that works to protect privacy, freedom of expression, democratic values and to promote the Public Voice in decisions concerning the future of the Internet.

    “This grant will help support our efforts before the Federal Trade Commission as we work to protect the privacy rights of American consumers,” said Rotenberg.

    EPIC has brought successful complaints to the Federal Trade Commission concerning the business practices of Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and WhatsApp, among others.

    EPIC recently filed an FTC complaint charging that Uber’s plans to track users and gather their contact list data is an unfair and deceptive trade practice. EPIC asked the FTC to halt the proposed changes.

    It was exactly the kind of story Bosworth would have relished, Hood said.

    “Martin was like a force of nature in his zealous reporting on behalf of consumers,” he said. “He was an outstanding researcher and reporter and a powerful champion of consumers’ need and right to enjoy secure and private transactions in all areas of their lives.”

    Bosworth was 35 when he died at his home in Los Angeles in February 2010.

    The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) today announced the establishment of the Martin H. Bosworth Memorial Advocacy Fund, made possible by an in...

    Researchers find that aspirin can be effective at fighting mesothelioma

    This commonly used drug inhibits inflammation that leads to certain cancers

    For those of us who have the occasional headache, aspirin can be a real live-saver; the latter part of that statement could be more accurate than you think, though. Researchers from the University of Hawaii Cancer Center have found that aspirin has the ability to deter the growth of mesothelioma, an asbestos-based cancer that claims thousands of lives every year.

    Malignant mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer that can be contracted if a person is exposed to asbestos and asbestos-like fibers such as erionite. These fibers often become stuck in different organ linings of the body and cause the cells around them to die due to inflammation to the area. If this is not treated promptly, mesothelioma develops and is often fatal.

    Inhibiting cancer growth

    Researchers have found that aspirin can help avoid this process by inhibiting the inflammation that occurs before mesothelioma fully forms. In particular, it blocks the inflammatory effects of a certain molecule named “High-Mobility Group Box 1” (HMGB1). Scientists from the University of Hawaii tested how effective aspirin was at blocking this molecule by testing it in mice.

    “HMGB1 is an inflammatory molecule that plays a critical role in the initiation and progression of malignant mesothelioma. Inhibiting HMGB1 dramatically reduced malignant mesothelioma growth in mice and significantly improved survival of treated animals," said Dr. Haining Yang, who is an associate professor in the Thoracic Oncology Program at the UH Cancer Center.

    Many professions, such as construction workers, fireman, or industrial workers, have a high risk of being exposed to asbestos in their everyday lives. Scientists believe that if these individuals that are at a high risk of asbestos exposure were to take aspirin regularly, then there would be a reduced risk of mesothelioma forming in their bodies. Of course, proper safety precautions must be taken to avoid asbestos exposure. Aspirin would simply act as another safety mechanism.

    Mesothelioma currently claims nearly 3,200 lives every year in the U.S. By figuring out precisely how aspirin blocks HMGB1, researchers hope that they may be able to develop a way to fight this deadly disease, and other cancers as well. The full study has been published in Cell Death and Disease. 

    For those of us who have the occasional headache, aspirin can be a real live-saver; the latter part of that statement could be more accurate than you think...

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      Airlines' service, competition under the microscope in probe

      Justice Department suspects 4 major carriers have engaged in collusion

      Plenty of people have come to the defense of U.S. airlines after it was disclosed last week that American, United, Delta, and Southwest are targets of a Justice Department investigation.

      All four carriers have confirmed that they are cooperating with a government probe into charges that they have colluded with one another on routes and fares, in a bid to boost profits.

      It's true that the airlines are now turning a profit, thanks in large part to a host of new fees, but industry analysts insist the profits are hardly excessive.

      "For the first time in history we've had air fares rising in real terms on a consistent basis," Airline Weekly Managing Partner, Seth Kaplan told CNBC last week.

      Past awful performance

      Kaplan says airlines' profit margins only look rich compared to how awful they performed in the past. Still, for consumers who have found air travel has become more uncomfortable and expensive as the number of airlines has declined, it's not hard to believe government investigators might be onto something.

      Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said he finds news of the probe “alarming,” and worries that “jaded” consumers will look for alternate transportation or just stay home.

      "If not for the radical consolidation we have seen in the airline industry in the last few years, we probably would not even be having this conversation,” Dow said. “Now that 4 carriers control 85% of domestic routes, collusion is a thought that's constantly going to be in the back of the minds of federal regulators.”

      Airlines trying to limit foreign competitors

      As the federal investigation gets cranked up, it has been revealed that three of the airlines – United, American, and Delta – have asked the U.S. government to block expansion into U.S. markets of three Persian Gulf Airlines – Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar Airlines.

      In an interview with NPR Monday, U.S. airline officials charged that the three foreign carriers are subsidized by their governments and enjoy an unfair advantage against U.S. airlines – a charge denied by the Persian Gulf carriers.

      Timothy Clark, CEO of Emirates Airlines, told the network the way to win in the marketplace is not to stifle competition but to provide better service.

      “Investing in product, investing in comfortable seats - it's not difficult, gentlemen, making the consumer enjoy their products,” Clark told NPR.

      Path to profitability

      Part of the path to profitability for U.S. carriers has involved reducing the number of flights, cramming more seats into existing flights and requiring passengers to pay extra for things that were once provided as a courtesy. Dow believes there is a better way and it involves more competition, not less.

      "Congress has a remedy at its fingertips: make adjustments to airport financing so that individual airports can raise funds to expand terminal space and allow new carriers into their markets,” he said. “More competitors significantly lessens the possibility that collusion can occur, and the pressures upon prices and service would be tremendously favorable to travelers, and therefore the broader economy.”

      Plenty of people have come to the defense of U.S. airlines after it was disclosed last week that American, United, Delta, and Southwest are targets of a Ju...

      Feds charge Lifewatch, Inc., with running "free medical alert" scam

      Robocalls allegedly promise a free medical alert system that is anything but free

      The Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General are charging a New York company, Lifewatch, Inc., with using illegal and deceptive robocalls to trick older consumers into signing up for medical alert systems with monthly monitoring fees ranging from $29.95 to $39.95.

      Last year one of Lifewatch’s telemarketing firms, Worldwide Info Services, agreed in a settlement to be banned from making robocalls or engaging in other deceptive conduct.

      Now the FTC and Attorney General allege that Lifewatch knew of, and is responsible for, the illegal activities in that case, and that Lifewatch simply continued its telemarketing campaign using a variety of other telemarketers after Worldwide was shut down.

      “Some scammers won’t take a hint,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When we sued Lifewatch’s telemarketers for making deceptive robocalls, they just continued the same illegal practices with new telemarketers. The FTC and the Florida Attorney General won’t be deterred, and will continue to work together to stop illegal robocalls.”

      Lifewatch, Inc., is not affiliated with Lifewatch Services, Inc., of Rosemont, Ill., officials of that company noted.  

      Consumers bombarded

      According to the joint complaint, since 2012 Lifewatch has been bombarding consumers – primarily elderly ones – with millions of unsolicited robocalls.

      These calls are often placed to consumers whose numbers are on the National Do Not Call Registry, and typically use fake, “spoofed” caller ID information. They also use pre-recorded messages, including one supposedly from “John from the shipping department of Emergency Medical Alert,” to falsely tell the consumers that a medical alert system has been purchased for them, and they can receive it “at no cost whatsoever.”   

      Consumers who press a number to speak with a live operator are told that even though the system costs over $400, they will get it for free. However, the telemarketers refuse to answer questions about who bought the system for them, and tell consumers the offer is only good for one day. Telemarketers often use the well-known phrase, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” or tell consumers they may have seen the product on television, to add an air of legitimacy to the sales pitch.

      Eventually, consumers are told they will be responsible for a monthly monitoring fee and that they must provide their credit card or bank account information. They often also are told that they will not be billed until they receive and “activate” the system, although they actually are charged almost immediately.

      Those who later realize they have been tricked discover that it is very difficult to cancel, and are told they have to pay to return the system or pay a $400 penalty, according to the complaint.

      Many of the consumers the defendants called have fixed or limited incomes or rely on family members or health professionals to make financial decisions on their behalf, the complaint states.

      The agencies are seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the defendants’ use of illegal robocalls and deceptive telemarketing claims, as well as funds for eventual restitution to victims.

      The Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General are charging a New York company, Lifewatch, with using illegal and deceptive robocalls to tri...

      Massive payday loan fraud scheme halted

      The defendants are banned from consumer lending industry

      The operators of a payday lending scheme that allegedly bilked millions of dollars from consumers have been put out of business.

      According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Timothy A. Coppinger, Frampton T. Rowland III, and their companies targeted online payday loan applicants and -- using information from lead generators and data brokers -- deposited money into those applicants’ bank accounts without their permission.

      The defendants then withdrew reoccurring “finance” charges without any of the payments going to pay down the principal owed. The court subsequently halted the operation and froze the defendants’ assets pending litigation.

      The FTC’s complaint charges that the defendants told consumers they had agreed to, and were obligated to pay for, the unauthorized “loans.” To support their claims, the defendants provided consumers with fake loan applications or other loan documents purportedly showing that consumers had authorized the loans. If consumers closed their bank accounts to stop the unauthorized debits, the defendants often sold the “loans” to debt buyers who then harassed consumers for payment.

      The defendants also allegedly misrepresented the loans’ costs, even to consumers who wanted the loans. The loan documents misstated the loan’s finance charge, annual percentage rate, payment schedule, and total number of payments, while burying the loans’ true costs in fine print.

      Settlement terms

      Under the proposed settlement orders, the defendants are banned from any aspect of the consumer lending business, including collecting payments, communicating about loans, and selling debt. They are also permanently prohibited from making material misrepresentations about any good or service, and from debiting or billing consumers or making electronic fund transfers without their consent.

      The orders extinguish any consumer debt the defendants are owed, and bar them from reporting such debts to any credit reporting agency, and from selling or otherwise benefiting from customers’ personal information.

      The defendants are:

      • Coppinger and his companies -- CWB Services LLC, Orion Services LLC, Sandpoint Capital LLC, Sandpoint LLC, Basseterre Capital LLC, Basseterre Capital LLC, Namakan Capital LLC, and Namakan Capital LLC; and
      • Rowland and his companies -- Anasazi Services LLC, Anasazi Group LLC, Vandelier Group LLC, St. Armands Group LLC,; Longboat Group LLC, doing business as Cutter Group, and Oread Group LLC, d/b/a Mass Street Group.

      The settlement orders impose consumer redress judgments of approximately $32 million and $22 million against Coppinger and his companies and Rowland and his companies, respectively. The judgments against Coppinger and Rowland will be suspended upon surrender of certain assets.

      In each case, the full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

      The proposed orders are subject to court approval.

      The operators of a payday lending scheme that allegedly bilked millions of dollars from consumers have been put out of business. According to the Federal...

      The rise in home prices shows no signs of abating

      May marked the 39th straight month of gains

      Be it ever so humble or not, the price of a home was up once again on both a year-over-year and month -over-month basis.

      CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) which shows that home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, rose 6.3% in May from the same month in 2014. This represents 39 months of consecutive year-over-year increases in home prices nationally.

      On a month-over-month basis, home prices nationwide -- including distressed sales -- increased by 1.7% from April.

      Distressed sales include short sales and real estate-owned (REO) transactions.

      “Mortgage rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans remained below 4% through May, helping to fuel home-purchase activity,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Our homes-for-sale listing data shows that markets with high demand and limited supply, such as San Francisco, are recording double-digit appreciation rates over the past year."

      Moving toward their peaks

      Including distressed sales, 33 states and the District of Columbia were at or within 10% of their peak prices in May. Ten states and DC reached price peaks not seen since January 1976. They include Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont.

      Excluding distressed sales, home prices were up 6.3% in May 2015 compared with May 2014, and 1.4% month-over-month. Only Massachusetts and Louisiana (both -0.2%) showed year-over-year depreciation May.

      “The rate of home price appreciation ticked up in May with gains being fairly widely distributed across the country. Importantly, higher home prices over the past couple of years have spurred increases in new single-family construction,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “Sales of newly built homes during the first five months of 2015 were up 23 percent from a year ago, and as rising values build equity for homeowners, we expect to see more existing homes offered for sale in the coming year.”

      Report highlights

      • Including distressed sales, the 5 states with the highest home price appreciation were: South Carolina (+10.3%), Colorado (+9.8%), Washington (+8.8%), Florida (+8.7%) and Nevada (+8.3%).
      • Excluding distressed sales, the 5 states with the highest home price appreciation were: South Carolina (+9.6%), Colorado (+9.2%), Florida (+8.9%), Washington (+8.5%) and Oregon (+7.9%).
      • Including distressed sales, only 5 states experienced home price depreciation including: Massachusetts (-4.8%), Connecticut (-1.8%), Maryland (-1.5%), Mississippi (-1.4%) and Louisiana (-0.8%).
      • Including distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the national HPI (from April 2006 to May 2015) was -8.4%. Excluding distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change for the same period was -4.7%.
      • The 5 states with the largest peak-to-current declines, including distressed transactions, were: Nevada (-32.9%), Florida (-28.8%), Rhode Island (-27.5%), Arizona (-26%) and Maryland (-23.1%).
      • Of the top 100 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) measured by population, 92 showed year-over-year increases. The 8 CBSAs that showed year-over-year declines were: Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. (-1.8%); Boston, Mass. (-4.8%); Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn. (-0.32%); Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, Mass. (-2.9%); Camden, N.J. (-0.96%); New Orleans-Metairie, La. (-6.4%); Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville, Md. (-0.31%) and Worcester, Mass.-Conn. (-6.6%).

      Looking ahead

      The CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates home prices -- including distressed sales -- will increase by 0.9% month-over-month from May 2015, to June 2015, and by 5.1% on a year-over-year basis from May 2015, to May 2016. Excluding distressed sales, home prices are projected to increase by 0.8% month-over-month from May 2015, to June 2015, and by 4.7% year-over-year from May 2015- to May 2016.

      The CoreLogic HPI Forecast is a projection of home prices using the CoreLogic HPI and other economic variables. Values are derived from state-level forecasts by weighting indices according to the number of owner-occupied households for each state.

      Be it ever so humble or not, the price of a home was up once again on both a year-over-year and month -over-month basis. CoreLogic reports its Home Price ...

      Mayo Clinic: 1 in 4 one-time painkiller prescriptions become long term

      Patients at risk of dependency urged to avoid opioid drugs

      Drugs prescribed by doctors to relieve pain often end up becoming the object of abuse as users quickly become addicted.

      It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012. By contrast, about 467,000 are addicted to heroin.

      The problem is opioids perform an important function in healthcare. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, they reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion.

      Since almost all addiction to painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet start with a legitimate prescription, doctors at the Mayo Clinic wondered how many first-time users of an opioid drug went on to become long-term users. When they investigated, they discovered it was 25%.

      Risk factors

      The researchers found some patients are more likely than others to develop a dependency on prescription painkillers. Past or present nicotine use and substance abuse are top risk factors for long-term use of opioids, but lead author Dr. W. Michael Hooten, an anesthesiologist at Mayo Clinic, says all patients should proceed with caution when offered opioid painkiller prescriptions.

      “From a patient perspective, it is important to recognize the potential risks associated with these medications. I encourage use of alternative methods to manage pain, including non-opioid analgesics or other non-medication approaches,” he said. “That reduces or even eliminates the risk of these medications transitioning to another problem that was never intended.”

      To reduce addiction, Hooten says it's important to identify who is most likely to end up using painkillers for long periods of time and prescribe alternatives for dealing with their pain.

      Because nicotine use and substance abuse are top risk factors for long-term use of opioids, Hooten suggests that physicians should be particularly careful about prescribing the painkillers to patients with these histories.

      It's in our heads

      The interesting question is what causes this apparent connection. Hooten says that the science shows it’s all in our heads.

      He points out the neurobiology related to chronic pain, chronic opioid use, and addiction is similar. For example, when nicotine hits the brain it activates receptors in a way very similar to how opioids and chronic pain may activate them.

      When people start taking opioid drugs for long periods of time, Hooten says it can actually make them more sensitive to pain and increase their dependence.

      The risk of addiction is not the only health threat from opioid dependence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 40 people die every day from overdoses of prescription pain relievers like Vicodin, methadone, OxyContin, and Opana. The agency says the death toll from overdoses of prescription painkillers has more than tripled in the past decade.

      "The increased use of prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons, along with growing sales, has contributed to the large number of overdoses and deaths," the CDC said.

      Drugs prescribed by doctors to relieve pain often end up becoming the object of abuse as users quickly become addicted. It is estimated that between 26....

      A plateau in job openings

      There wasn't much change between April and May

      The number of job openings held fairly steady during May.

      According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were roughly 5.4 million on the last business day of May -- the highest since the series began in December 2000, and the same as the month before.

      Job openings

      The job openings rate for May was 3.6%, with the number of openings little changed for total private and government. Job openings increased in nondurable goods manufacturing and in state and local government. Job openings were little changed in all 4 regions.

      The number of job openings (not seasonally adjusted) rose over the 12 months ending in May for total nonfarm, total private and government. Industries that saw the largest increases were retail trade, professional and business services, and health care and social assistance. Job openings decreased over the year in mining and logging and in arts, entertainment, and recreation.

      The number of job openings increased over the year in the South, Midwest, and West regions.

      Hires

      The number of hires was 5.0 million, the same as April, with the hires rate at 3.5%. The number of hires was little changed for total private and government in May, with little change in the number of hires in all industries and regions over the month.

      Over the 12 months ending in May, the number of hires (not seasonally adjusted) was little changed for total nonfarm, total private, and government. At the industry level, hires increased in federal government. Among the industries, the number of hires fell over the year in mining and logging.

      The number of hires was little changed over the year in all four regions.

      Separations

      Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Total separations is referred to as turnover. Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee. Therefore, the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs. Layoffs and discharges are involuntary separations initiated by the employer. Other separations includes separations due to retirement, death, and disability, as well as transfers to other locations of the same firm.

      There were 4.7 million total separations in May, about the same as in April. The separations rate was 3.3%. The number of total separations was little changed for total private and government, and in all industries and regions over the month.

      There were 2.7 million quits in May, unchanged from April. The quits rate in May was 1.9%. The number of quits was little changed for total private and government over the month.

      The number of quits was little changed in all industries and in all four regions in May. The number of quits (not seasonally adjusted) increased over the 12 months ending in May for total nonfarm and total private, and was little changed for government. Over the year, quits increased in health care and social assistance and in accommodation and food services.

      The number of quits was little changed in all four regions.

      There were 1.7 million layoffs and discharges in May, about the same as in April. The layoffs and discharges rate was 1.2%. The number of layoffs and discharges was little changed over the month for total private and government, and in all four regions. Seasonally adjusted estimates of layoffs and discharges are not available for individual industries.

      The number of layoffs and discharges (not seasonally adjusted) was little changed over the 12 months ending in May for total nonfarm, total private, and government. The number of layoffs and discharges increased over the year in federal government, but decreased in real estate and rental and leasing.

      There was little change in layoffs and discharges over the year in all four regions.

      In May, there were 391,000 other separations for total nonfarm -- about the same as in April. Over the month, the number of other separations was little changed for total private at 324,000 and for government at 67,000. Seasonally adjusted estimates of other separations are not available for individual industries or regions.

      Over the 12 months ending in May, the number of other separations (not seasonally adjusted) was little changed for total nonfarm, total private, and government. Other separations increased in federal government, but decreased in accommodation and food services and in state and local government.

      The number of other separations was little changed in all four regions.

      The complete report is available on the BLS website.

      The number of job openings held fairly steady during May. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were roughly 5.4 million on the la...

      Want a promotion at work? Shape up!

      A new survey says you may be the reason it isn't happening

      What kind of employee are you? Slacker? Tardy? Slovenly? A freak?

      Or, do you come in early and leave late, hit every deadline and are loved by your clients?

      Your answers may explain while you languish in your cubicle, while those around you are movin' on up.

      A national survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder found that provocative clothing, a disheveled appearance and unprofessional haircut are just a few of the things that cause employers to think twice before promoting workers. Behaviors such as exhibiting a negative attitude, consistently arriving late or gossiping can also work against them.

      Attitudes toward appearance

      When asked which aspects of a worker’s physical appearance would make them less likely to promote that person, employers were most out of favor with provocative attire (44%) and wrinkled clothes or shabby appearance (43%). Other answers include:

      • Piercings outside of traditional ear piercings: 3%
      • Attire that is too casual for the workplace: 27%
      • Visible tattoos: 27%
      • An unprofessional or ostentatious haircut: 25%
      • Unprofessional or ostentatious facial hair: 24%
      • Bad breath: 23%
      • Heavy perfume or cologne: 21%
      • Too much makeup: 15%

      Behavioral blockades

      Employers said certain behaviors hurt an employee’s chances for promotion, with poor attitudes and consistent tardiness taking the top spot. Among them:

      • Having a negative or pessimistic attitude: 62%
      • Regularly showing up to work late: 62%
      • Using vulgar language: 51%
      • Regularly leaving work early: 49%
      • Taking too many sick days: 49%
      • Gossiping: 44%
      • Spending office time on personal social media accounts: 39%
      • Neglecting to clean up after himself/herself: 36%
      • Always initiating non-work-related conversations with co-workers: 27%
      • Taking personal calls at work: 24%
      • Taking smoke breaks: 19%

      “In addition to on-the-job accomplishments, employers also take attitude, behavior and appearance into consideration when deciding who deserves to move up in the ranks,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “While your work performance may be strong, if you’re not presenting yourself in a professional manner, it may be preventing your superiors from taking you seriously.”

      What kind of employee are you? Slacker? Tardy? Slovenly? A freak? Or, do you come in early and leave late, hit every deadline and loved by your clients? ...

      Volkswagen recalls Passats with braking issue

      The brake line at the left rear wheel area may not have been properly tightened

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 62 model year 2015 Passat manufactured May 18, 2015, to May 21, 2015.

      The brake line at the left rear wheel area may not have been properly tightened. As a result, it may leak brake fluid, causing a reduction in braking performance, lengthening the distance needed to stop the vehicle and increasing the risk of crash.

      Volkswagen has notified owners, and dealers will tighten the brake line fitting, free of charge. The recall began on June 11, 2015.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-822-8987. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 47M3.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 62 model year 2015 Passat manufactured May 18, 2015, to May 21, 2015. The brake line at the left rear wheel area...

      Stella & Chewy's recalls dog and cat food products

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Stella & Chewy's is recalling some of its dog and cat food products.

      The recall was prompted by a positive test confirming Listeria monocytogenes in Chewy's Chicken Freeze-Dried Dinner Patties for Dogs, 15-ounce, Lot #111–15.

      There have been no reported pet or human illnesses associated with this recall.

      Fthe following dog food products are being recalled:

      Product Description

      Size

      UPC

      Lot #

      Use By

      Freeze-Dried Chewy's Chicken Dinner for Dogs

      15 oz.

      186011000045

      111-15

      4/23/2016 and 4/26/2016

      Freeze-Dried Chick, Chick, Chicken Dinner for Cats

      12 oz.

      186011000434

      111-15

      4/29/2016 and 5/3/2016

      Carnivore Crunch - Turkey Recipe

      3.25 oz.

      186011001103

      111-15

      5/3/2016 and 5/4/2016

      Frozen Duck Duck Goose Dinner Morsels for Dogs

      4 lb.

      186011001394

      111-15

      4/21/2016

      Frozen Chewy's Chicken Dinner Morsels for Dogs

      4 lb.

      186011001387

      111-15

      4/21/2016

      Frozen Surf 'N Turf Dinner Patties for Dogs

      6 lb.

      186011000533

      111-15

      4/21/2016

      Frozen Chewy's Chicken Dinner Patties for Dogs

      6 lb.

      186011000120

      111-15

      4/21/2016

      Frozen Chewy's Chicken Dinner Patties for Dogs

      3 lb.

      186011000038

      111-15

      4/21/2016

      While the following cat food products have not tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, the company says they are being recalled “in an abundance of caution:”

      Product Description

      Size

      UPC

      Lot #

      Use By

      Freeze-Dried Chick, Chick, Chicken Dinner for Cats

      12 oz.

      186011000434

      104-15

      4/23/2016

      Freeze-Dried Tantalizing Turkey Meal Mixers

      18 oz.

      186011000229

      105-15

      5/3/2016

      Freeze-Dried Tantalizing Turkey Meal Mixers

      9 oz.

      186011000205

      105-15

      5/3/2016

      Freeze-Dried Chick, Chick, Chicken Dinner for Cats

      12 oz.

      186011000434

      109-15

      4/29/2016

      Carnivore Crunch - Chicken Recipe

      3.25 oz.

      186011001080

      110-15

      5/3/2016

      Freeze-Dried Tantalizing Turkey Meal Mixers

      18 oz.

      186011000229

      113-15

      5/3/2016

      Freeze-Dried Chewy's Chicken Dinners for Dogs

      15 oz.

      186011000045

      114-15

      4/26/2016

      Freeze-Dried Tummy Ticklin' Turkey Dinner for Cats

      12 oz.

      186011000663

      114-15

      5/4/2016

      Freeze-Dried Tummy Ticklin' Turkey Dinner for Cats

      12 oz.

      186011000663

      115-15

      5/4/2016

      Freeze-Dried Salmon & Chicken Dinner for Cats

      12 oz.

      186011000403

      107-15

      4/23/2016

      Customers who purchased these products should dispose of it or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact Stella & Chewy’s customer service, at 888-477-8977 M-F 8:30 am - 5 pm (CST), or by email at info@stellaandchewys.com.

      Stella & Chewy's is recalling some of its dog and cat food products. The recall was prompted by a positive test confirming Listeria monocytogenes in Chew...

      Food industry already moving past trans fats

      But industry expert says consumers should closely read labels over next three years

      Last month's announcement from federal regulators that they are ending the use of trans fats in food products brought a cheer from health advocates. But how do companies that produce food products plan to cope?

      Food scientists say the food industry should be able to make a smooth transition away from the substance.

      On June 16 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final determination, removing partially hydrogenated oils (PHO), the primary source of artificial trans fats in processed food, from the “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) list of human food ingredients.

      Food manufacturers will have three years to completely phase it out. The FDA said it took the action based on a review of the scientific evidence.

      “The FDA’s action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans," said FDA's Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, M.D. "This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

      There has always been some trans fat in food because small amounts form naturally in meat and dairy products. The natural form is not the issue.

      Extends shelf life

      Instead, the new regulation is aimed at the artificial trans fats that the food industry has used for decades to keep food from going bad and add to a product's shelf life, both in the supermarket and in consumers' pantries.

      "If you take oils naturally found in nature, especially the ones that have a lot of unsaturated fats, they are unstable in food products and get rancid," said Fadi Aramouni, professor of food processing and food product development at Kansas State University. "Years ago, the food industry developed a process to hydrogenate these fats.”

      By adding hydrogen to oils at high temperatures, the process makes the oil more solid and a lot more stable, and in the process forms what we call trans fat.

      “The trans fat, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, are used in a lot of formulations and actually give the food product a little better texture and better taste," Aramouni said.

      Raises cholesterol levels

      As a result, food manufacturers began using trans fat in more and more processed foods like baked goods, frozen foods, and snack foods. Then, in the 1990s, clinical studies began to show that trans fat raises the "bad" LDL cholesterol and lowers the "good" HDL cholesterol in blood, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. Subsequent research found that trans fat also stiffens arteries and may increase the risk of diabetes.

      While food companies now have three years to remove trans fat from their products, Aramouni says most companies have already made the adjustment. In other words, the food you buy today doesn't contain much trans fat.

      "When the FDA required labeling of trans fat in 2006, a lot of companies moved away from using the product," Aramouni said. "Many big oil suppliers developed types of oils that are stable without being hydrogenated, which is done by changing the fatty acid composition of these oils.”

      The American Bakers Association says its member companies have been dropping trans fat from its products over the last decade. Still, the trade group was pleased the FDA is giving it three years to complete the process.

      “This action provides bakers and other food makers adequate time to further formulate to other, healthier alternative[s], as well as address a number of practical challenges including packaging changes and availability,” the group said in a statement.

      Substitutes

      Food companies are still adding oil to their products, but many of the types now in use are stable without having trans fat in them. Some companies started using unsaturated fats or natural oils again, incorporating antioxidants to help maintain the shelf life.

      As a result, Aramouni says he doesn't think the ban will be much of a problem for the food industry, since most companies have already made the transition. At the same time, he says consumers should be aware of what they're getting.

      Under current nutrition labeling regulations, a product containing less than half a gram of trans fat can claim zero trans fat in the product. That requires a closer reading of product labels. Aramouni says consumers need to read the ingredients list, which requires the food to list any partially hydrogenated oils it contains.

      Last month's announcement from federal regulators that they are ending the use of trans fats in food products brought a cheer from health advocates. But ho...