Current Events in December 2016

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    Students gain an average of 10 pounds while pursuing a four-year degree, study finds

    Researchers say that providing interventions could help improve health outcomes

    Going to college to earn a bachelor’s degree can be an arduous journey. It involves hours of study and preparation for papers, tests, and presentations, and oftentimes proper nutrition and health can be sacrificed along the way.

    Researchers from the University of Vermont say that although the idea of the “freshman 15” has been put aside, students are walking away from college with extra weight that may be cause for alarm. They say that health practitioners should focus on policing the problem throughout the school years to ensure the health of students.

    “Our study shows that there is concerning weight gain among college students that happens over all four years they are in college,” said Lizzy Pope, lead author of the study. “These findings suggest that health practitioners should not limit their programming to just to that first years, but extend it over all four years of the college experience.

    Overweight and obese rates go up

    For the purposes of the study, the researchers measured students’ weight and body mass index (BMI) at the beginning and end of their first and second semesters of school, and once again at the end of their senior year. Students’ average weight when they left for college was 147 pounds, but by the time they graduated it had increased to an average of 157 pounds.

    The weight difference might not seem drastic, but the BMI numbers that the researchers collected give a more detailed picture. At the beginning of the study period, when students were just leaving for college, 23% of participants were either overweight or obese. By the time the study ended, that number had increased to 41%, representing an increase of 78%.

    Pope points out that any extra weight gained during the college years translates to greater health risks. Diseases and conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and psycho-social distress can all be connected to weight gain, and mortality rates double by age 30 if an individual is obese.

    Exercise and eating right

    When researchers broke down the numbers, they found that roughly a third of additional weight was gained by participants during the first year. They also found that the student lifestyle may not be conducive to countering weight gain through physical exercise; only 15% of participants in the sample met a target goal of exercising five times a week for 30 minutes. Fruit and vegetable intake was also below recommended levels, suggesting the need for some intervention on these fronts.

    "This study and earlier ones suggest that college students are prone to weight gain that can impact their health in the present and even more significantly in the future. An important element of any strategy to stem the obesity epidemic would be to target this population with behavioral interventions over all four years of their college careers," said Pope.

    The full study has been published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

    Going to college to earn a bachelor’s degree can be an arduous journey. It involves hours of study and preparation for papers, tests, and presentations, an...

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      A retail hiring bust in November

      Hiring in the sector was at a six-year low

      November was not -- to put it gently -- a good month for hiring by the retail sector.

      An analysis of employment data by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas says employment in the sector was down 9.3% from a year ago, growing by just 371,500 jobs last month. That's the lowest November employment increase since 2010.

      October was equally anemic with the addition of 150,300 retail positions, 23% lower than in October, 2015.

      All told, retail job gains for October and November were down 14% from the same period the previous year, totaling 521,800.

      The toll of online shopping

      “As more and more shoppers move online, there is less need for extra workers in the brick and mortar stores,” said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger. “Even on Black Friday, once notorious for early morning mob scenes at department stores, a growing number of Americans are staying home and finding great deals on the internet.”

      In fact, Adobe Digital Insights reports online orders on Black Friday shot up nearly 22% -- to roughly $3.3 billion in sales.

      Seasonal hiring may be in retail, but it is picking up elsewhere. That's particularly true for transportation and warehousing, where 96,200 workers were added in October and November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

      Ain't over 'til it's over

      “Holiday job seekers should not stop looking for opportunities, even though it is December,” Challenger noted. “They must cast a wider net to include employers outside of the retail sector. However, even retailers continue to add throughout the holidays as high turnover in the industry requires nearly-constant recruiting activities.”

      Last December, retailers added 134,500 workers.

      November was not -- to put it gently -- a good month for hiring by the retail sector.An analysis of employment data by outplacement firm Challenger, Gr...

      Deep River Snacks recalls Sour Cream & Onion Kettle Chips

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Deep River Snacks is recalling certain Sour Cream & Onion Kettle Chips.

      The buttermilk powder used in the seasoning may contain traces of Salmonella.

      No illnesses or adverse health effects resulting from these events have been reported to date.

      The following product, distributed nationally through retail and foodservice outlets, is being recalled:

      Item DescriptionSizeUPCBest By Dates
      Deep River Snacks Sour Cream & Onion Kettle Chips2oz85066800049811/9/16 to 6/2/17
      Deep River Snacks Sour Cream & Onion Kettle Chips5oz85066800099311/9/16 to 6/1/17
      Deep River Snacks Sour Cream & Onion Kettle Chips - EXPORT5oz85066800099311/5/16 to 4/13/17

      The item UPC number can be found on the back of the bag underneath the bar code.

      The best by date is printed on the front of the bag, in the upper right quadrant near the Deep River Snacks logo. The best by date is printed in the format: DD MMM YYYY (e.g. 10 DEC 2016).

      What to do

      Customers who have purchased the recalled product should immediately discontinue use of it.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at 860-434-7347, Monday through Friday between 9am – 5pm (EST). 

      Deep River Snacks is recalling certain Sour Cream & Onion Kettle Chips.The buttermilk powder used in the seasoning may contain traces of Salmonella....

      An oil pipeline leaks in North Dakota and experts aren't surprised

      More than 176,000 gallons of crude oil recently leaked into a North Dakota creek, keeping up a troubling pattern

      On December 6, as protesters near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation celebrated a victory against the Dakota Access Pipeline and vowed to continue fighting the project, North Dakota state health workers were about 200 miles away, cleaning up oil leaked from another pipeline.

      A landowner in Belfield, North Dakota noticed the spill the previous day, according to the Bismarck Tribune, as the pipeline operator Belle Fourche Pipeline Co, said its own equipment had failed to detect the leak. Officials estimated that spill affected 2.5 miles of the Ash Coulee Creek, a tributary that feeds into the Little Missouri River.

      So far, more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil have leaked from the pipeline, North Dakota officials announced on Monday.

      The timing might seem fateful, given that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s primary concern about the Dakota Access Pipeline is that it would be built under a body of water, one that similarly feeds into the Missouri River. But people who study energy infrastructure say such news is unfortunately not a surprise or a rarity. It’s simply the cost of doing business with fossil fuels, and part of the reason why the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protests have gained widespread support from environmentalists and green think tanks.  

      "Pipelines are like every other piece of physical infrastructure in the world, which means that they fail, and they fail surprisingly often, definitely more often than people think,” Eric de Place, policy director for the think tank the Sightline Institute, tells ConsumerAffairs. "It drives home the fact that over time, we know, just from observed evidence in the world, that physical pipelines corrode, leak, decay, and the monitoring equipment that companies use is not foolproof."

      Documenting the risks of oil spills and pipelines

      Researchers are still trying to determine the full cost of such leaks. One study authored by Duke University researchers this past April found that toxins linked to oil development were present in North Dakota’s soil and waterways at levels above what the federal government has deemed safe. The researchers linked the contamination to oil spills. "We found even if you take away the spill water," Avner Vengosh, the study’s lead author, told InsideClimateNews, "you still left behind the legacy of radioactivity in the soils.”

      Nationwide, the research on pipeline safety and oil spills is equally troubling. An analysis two years ago by the Center for Biological Diversity, using publicly available data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, says that there have been nearly 8,000 “significant” pipeline incidents since 1986, resulting in $7 billion in damage, 500 deaths, 2,300 in injuries and an untold long-term impact on the nation’s waterways.

      “Pipeline leaks are common and incredibly dangerous, and the Dakota Access pipeline will threaten every community it cuts through,” Randi Spivak, a program director with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a recent press release.

      Oil surplus

      De Place, the Sightline Institute policy director, who documents the risks of fossil fuel extraction in his own research, points out that the United States is already awash with crude oil. In fact, a worldwide surplus of crude has sent oil prices tumbling and recently lead members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to agree to production cuts, the first deal of its kind in eight years.

      "We don’t have a problem where we're running out of oil and we don't know what to do next. We've got the opposite,” de Place says. "My view is that there is no need for additional crude oil infrastructure. We have all of the crude oil infrastructure that we will ever need in this country. What we need to do is make sure the infrastructure is safe, well-regulated and well-protected.”

      On the other hand, de Place joins the chorus of other environmental researchers who say that the only real long-term solution to concerns about oil spills is to phase out production of fossil fuels altogether. “The whole nature of crude oil transport involves risk...there’s going to be spills, there’s going to be environmental impacts, which is why I think the protest at Standing Rock was so on point.

      "You cannot build this and guarantee it will operate safely. You just can’t."

      On December 6, as protesters near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation celebrated a recent victory against the Dakota Access Pipeline and vowed to continue...

      Feds make another attempt to speed up Takata recalls

      Only a quarter of current Takata airbag recalls have been completed

      Federal safety regulators are trying to speed up repairs for the millions of cars recalled because of defective Takata airbag inflators that can rupture and spew deadly shrapnel when they're deployed.

      The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today issued what's called the "Amended Coordinated Remedy Order." It sets deadlines for when automakers must have replacement parts available for customers. The airbags have been blamed for 11 deaths and about 180 injuries in the United States.

      “NHTSA is doing everything possible to make sure that there are no more preventable injuries or deaths because of these dangerous airbag inflators,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “All vehicle owners should regularly check their vehicles for recalls at and go get them fixed at no cost as soon as replacement parts are available.”

      Of course, the problem is that many thousands of consumers have done just that, only to be frustrated when their dealer was unable to make the repairs because of lack of parts. NHTSA has also been frustrated by the delays and has tried to speed things up previously but says that, this time, it aims to get results.

      46 million

      “The amended order will speed up the availability of replacement air bags, and continues to prioritize the highest risk vehicles to protect the traveling public,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. 

      The latest order was issued to Takata and the 19 affected automakers. It requires replacement parts to be obtained on an accelerated basis and made available first to the riskiest vehicles.

      The order sets new requirements for automakers to certify to NHTSA when they have obtained a sufficient supply of replacement parts to begin repairs. It builds on the "Coordinated Remedy Program" initiated in November 2015, incorporating the additional tens of millions of inflators recalled or scheduled for future recall since that date, most of which were included in the May 2016 recall expansion, NHTSA said.

      At last count, there were about 46 million recalled Takata airbag inflators in 29 million vehicles in the U.S. Another NHTSA order issued in May 2016 requires automakers to recall an additional batch of inflators over the next three years, ultimately recalling nearly 70 million inflators in 42 million vehicles. 

      NHTSA has committed to seeking a 100 percent recall completion rate, but as of Dec. 2, automakers reported they have so far repaired approximately 12.5 million inflators, roughly a quarter of the total number currently on the recall list.

      "Ultimately all frontal Takata inflators using non-desiccated phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate (PSAN) will be recalled," NHTSA said.

      What to do

      The full list of vehicles that are currently affected or will be affected by future Takata recalls is available here.

      Note that even if your vehicle is on the list of cars that will eventually be recalled, it may not yet have been recalled. To check the current status, jot down your VIN number, then use NHTSA's VIN look-up.

      Manufacturers are obligated to notify you by mail when your car is recalled. You should then contact your dealer to arrange for repairs. Note that the dealer cannot complete the recall until the parts are in hand. 

      Don't ask your dealer to disable your airbag. It's illegal to do so and most experts say the protection offered by the airbag outweighs the slight risk of the inflator rupturing in a crash. 

      Federal safety regulators are trying to speed up repairs for the millions of cars recalled because of defective Takata airbag inflators that can rupture an...

      Blood pressure app didn't do the job, feds charged

      FTC puts the cuffs on Instant Blood Pressure app

      A company that sold an app called Instant Blood Pressure has agreed to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint that it deceived consumers with claims that its app was as accurate as a traditional cuff. The FTC also charged that the company posted positive reviews of the app and gave it five stars in app store reviews.

      Aura Labs, Inc., has agreed to stop making such claims and, in settling an FTC complaint, has also agreed not to post endorsements of its products without disclosing connections the endorser has with the company, the FTC said.

      That's not quite how the company is spinning the settlement on its website, however. 

      "AuraLife never claimed that the Instant Blood Pressure app’s performance characteristics were equivalent to that of a conventional blood pressure cuff," the company said in a prepared statement. "The Commission does not dispute that AuraLife’s current, smartphone-based blood pressure product does, in fact, provide estimates of blood pressure to the performance characteristics published by the company," Aura Labs says.

      Aura Labs also puts the best possible light on a judgment of $595,945.27 levied against the company. The penalty was suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay, but the "full amount will become due, however, if they are later found to have misrepresented their financial condition," the FTC said. 

      In its statement, Aura Labs says it "would not have agreed to settle this matter had any payment been required."

      Replace traditional cuffs

      In marketing the app, Aura and Archdeacon claimed that it could be used to replace around-the-arm cuffs and would be just as accurate as the traditional device, the FTC charged. To use the app, users put their right index finger over the phone’s rear camera lens and held the base of the phone over their heart. 

      In reality, however, blood pressure readings reported by the IBP app were significantly less accurate than those taken with a traditional blood pressure cuff, the FTC said

      AuraLife now says it "never claimed that the Instant Blood Pressure app’s performance characteristics were equivalent to that of a conventional blood pressure cuff." But the FTC argues that the device could be dangerous to consumers.

      “For someone with high blood pressure who relies on accurate readings, this deception can actually be hazardous,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “While the Commission encourages the development of new technologies, health-related claims should not go beyond the scientific evidence available to support them.”

      According to the FTC’s complaint, Aura sold the Instant Blood Press (IBP) app through Google Play and Apple’s App Store for between $3.99 and $4.99. Between June 2014 and June 2015, sales of the app totaled more than $600,000, according to the agency.

      A company that sold an app called Instant Blood Pressure has agreed to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint that it deceived consumers with claims t...

      States where drunk driving will cost you the most

      Besides huge fines, your insurance rates could skyrocket

      Got a lot of holiday parties on your calendar this month? There are plenty of good reasons not to over-indulge at the punch bowl, especially if you plan to drive yourself home afterward.

      Not only is impaired driving extremely dangerous to you and others on the road, but a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) ticket is costly. A study by the personal finance site NerdWallet shows it's more costly in some states than others.

      It should first be noted that alcohol was a contributing factor in 41% of fatal crashes on New Year's Day in 2015 and 44% on Christmas last year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says speed is always a major factor, and an impaired driver is more likely to have a heavy foot.

      Unpleasant consequences

      When a police officer pulls you over and tickets you for DUI, you could face a lot of unpleasant consequences, including an expensive fine and even jail. Should you be in an accident where alcohol was a factor, you could face more serious criminal charges and even higher fines.

      But NerdWallet says there is another financial cost of a DUI ticket – what it does to your insurance rates. Nationwide, just one DUI conviction will raise your auto insurance rates an average of 62%. If you're speeding, tack on another 14%.

      North Carolina is the toughest state

      North Carolina is the toughest state on drunk drivers. There, a DUI conviction can raise your insurance rates 362%, from $872 to $4,077 a year. A simple speeding ticket can make your rates go up 62%.

      At the other end of the scale, a DUI ticket is less costly in a handful of states. In Louisiana, rates will go up around 17%. The same infraction in Maryland will raise rates 19%, and in Utah the mark-up is around 21%.

      The authors of the study point out that you might not see the rate hikes immediately. Rather, they'll show up in your bill when your policy comes up for renewal.

      If your license is suspended after a DUI conviction, keep in mind that your insurance company might not even give you the option of renewing it.

      So during holiday merry-making, it's always prudent to limit your alcohol intake, or use a designated driver, taxi, or ride-sharing service to get home.

      Got a lot of holiday parties on your calendar this month? There are plenty of good reasons not to over-indulge at the punch bowl, especially if you plan to...

      At Standing Rock, a mighty fortress grew

      People of all faiths, ethnicities, tribes, and beliefs came together to work as one

      From Palestine to Standing Rock We Are United. Juntos Protejamos. Mni Wiconi. Artwork and signs of solidarity from all over the world decorated the fence and the main entrance, where volunteer security guards welcomed a line of cars that grew increasingly longer each day. At nightfall, Sioux elders invited anyone who wanted to join in prayer around a sacred fire. But the Suburbans, stadium lights, and police could still be seen in the distance, tiny figures on a hill called Turtle Island, which the Standing Rock Sioux say is a sacred site where people are buried.  

      Directly outside the camp, four Humvee vehicles and one large military troop carrier, like something you would see on the nightly news from the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, were parked at a barricade on the highway road to the north, cutting people off from the only direct route to the state capital. In the southern direction, the rural road stretched for eight miles before the nearest convenience store and hotel, frozen over after a recent blizzard.

      Even as a makeshift city rapidly grew on this swatch of federal land next to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and garnered worldwide support and donations, people were isolated. Nobody who chose to camp in this desolate, freezing tent city in North Dakota had anything but each other.

      No emergency services

      Shortly before a blizzard hit western North Dakota in early December, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple announced that no state emergency services would be sent to the encampments on federal land where thousands of people vowed to stay through winter. Piling on threats that everyone here was trespassing, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said they would fine anyone who attempted to bring in supplies.
      For the people at Oceti Sakowin, the most populous of the three camps that the Standing Rock Sioux had organized to fight construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe, their source of drinking water, that only meant there was more work to do at the camp. People weren’t leaving, and many "weekend warriors" were only more inspired to come.
      “There’s one thing the Governor of North Dakota forgot’re dealing with indigenous people, bro,”  said Shiye Bidzil, a water protector, as the protesters call themselves, in a public video he posted to the thousands of people who follow his coverage of the pipeline standoff on Facebook. "We have survived for millennia, for centuries, and we never needed that technology that you guys rely on for so much.”

      At Oceti Sakowin, volunteers unloaded U-Haul moving trucks full of 2x4 studs for framing the structures that they'll use to get through the harsh North Dakota winter. People at the donation camps sorted through blankets and canned food, while others split massive amounts of firewood brought in by logging trucks, keeping the sound of chainsaws running throughout the day. Medics worked all night at an emergency tent lined with linoleum floors, part of an encampment that also offered midwife services, mental health, an herbalist, and cots for people who were injured or in need of massages.

      Women from Wisconsin assessed people’s temporary shelter for construction crews and housed anyone who was unprepared for the weather in communal tents or the public food kitchens, which doubled as free-for-all sleeping areas at night. Young people dug snow and used firewood to build barriers around the many Tipi tents at the camp so that the elderly people inside would not have piles of snow at their feet when they stepped outside. Helicopters swarmed low above the land as an Indigenous activist group taught new visitors how to peacefully protest.

      Several drone photographers said they captured photographs of what appeared to be snipers in the hills. Federal informants were likely embedded in the camp and recording anything being said, attorneys who camped at Oceti Sakowin's legal tent warned. A street medic taught people how to remove tear gas from someone’s eyes should they get gassed, and an army veteran shooting photographs at the barricade out on the main highway road insisted that anyone still here on Sunday would be shot with rubber bullets.

      Eviction Day

      Eviction day, or the day when the United States Army Corps of Engineers said everyone had to leave, was coming the following Monday. "Whatever happens, happens. We’ll see,” said a 26-year-old man from the Pueblo nation in Arizona, standing outside of a warm makeshift house in Oceti Sakowin complete with a solar panel and shingles on the roof.

      Late Sunday afternoon, with eviction day looming, clergy from over a dozen faiths shared a stage with Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the spiritual leader of the Sioux tribe, and took turns leading people in prayer. A Catholic priest apologized for all the pain his religion had caused. A Muslim imam recalled how oil prices were the driving force behind the CIA’s decision to overthrow the Iranian government in 1953. Thousands of military veterans wandered the camp and listened. After the prayers, Sioux leaders asked the estimated 10,000 to 16,000 people there to join hands around the entire perimeter of Oceti Sakowin, a difficult task given the camp’s size.

      As the army vets, clergy, hippies, American Indians, medics, cooks, and others slowly formed a massive hand-holding circle, the tension that had been building up that weekend broke into an unexpected celebration. Energy Transfer Partners’ application to build  underneath Lake Oahe had been denied, word quickly spread. The United States Army Corps of Engineers said the company would need to explore another route for the crude oil pipeline, one that didn’t impact the Standing Rock Sioux’s water. Many people broke down in tears and hugged.

      What happens next is unclear, and many water protectors say they will not leave. But the announcement symbolized a hopeful victory at an environmental standoff that American Indians say has grown bigger than any other they have seen in their lifetime.

      A melting pot at the local casino

      All rooms are booked at the reservation casino and hotel eight miles south of the Oceti Sakowin. Christmas songs blare on the loudspeakers in the parking lot, and the stench of cigarettes grows stronger the closer to you get to the hotel lobby. Due to excessive loitering, says a sign taped to the front door, anyone who isn’t a registered guest may be kicked out. But young people in dreadlocks huddle by the casino bar anyway, taking a break from the harsh weather.

      Curtis Muhammad, a longtime civil rights activist from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, is in the lobby, waiting to make a presentation for the Sioux. Joined by the Asian American Alliance, Muhammad says he wants American Indians to make refuge space available for minorities, the way they did years ago when blacks escaping slavery from the Underground Railroad needed a place to hide. “We expect that Trump is going to make a lot of us criminals just for being black, and we’re going to need a place to go,” he says.

      Levi Medicine Horn, a cultural preservation specialist from South Dakota whose job is to survey sites for the Sioux nation, is thrilled to see all of the outsiders who have descended on the reservation. American Indians have been fighting oil pipelines for years, he says. Foreshadowing the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota set up a “spirit camp” along the path of the Keystone XL Pipeline several years ago. The camp is still there, he says.

      Keystone XL united Native Americans and farmers against the project, leading to the creation of an environmental group called the Cowboy and Indian Alliance. But even that unifying campaign hasn’t attracted the international following that the #NODAPL fight has.

      Horn leases part of his own land to farmers, and he says he recently lost a client who was angry to learn that he had occasionally joined the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline when his work brought him to North Dakota. The farmer criticized him for depending on fuel to power his truck while fighting an oil pipeline. He argues back to such criticisms: Between fuel or clean water for your children, you choose fuel?

      The Origins of #NODAPL

      The Standing Rock Sioux leaders and tribal elders say they tried to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from passing under Lake Oahe several years ago, but the #NODAPL movement in its current  form began last spring, when Standing Rock Sioux tribal historian LaDonna Brave Bull Allard invited people to set up a prayer and resistance camp on the land she owned, a site now called the Sacred Stone Camp. The Oceti Sakowin camp, on land below Sacred Stone, is the easier of the two to access by car and is the location that has drawn thousands more to the cause, by some estimates as many as 16,000 people on a given weekend. 

      Opposite the river of Oceti Sakowin is the Rose Bud camp, a smaller tent city where the United States Army Corps of Engineers has deemed people are allowed to protest in a “Free Speech” zone.

      “I was asked, When do you consider this pipeline issue to be over?” Allard wrote online, shortly after the Corps said it would not grant Energy Transfer Partners an easement under Lake Oahe. “I said, when every pipe is out of the ground and the earth is repaired across the United States. I am not negotiating, I am not backing down. I must stand for our grandchildren and for the water.”

      Daily life at a tent city in the snow

      Every night on the land, people fall asleep to the sound of drums and songs from the Sacred Fire, a plaza that functions as the downtown of the functional if sometimes disorganized city that Oceti Sakowin has become. Tribesmen invite everyone to the prayers and offer messages of unity. Mni Wiconi, Lakota for “Water is Life,” is the camp’s primary rallying cry. Tribal elders say they will not tolerate any racism, misogyny, or anything else that will divide the people here. One man sings a song by the fire on Sunday afternoon about the women at the camp: “Legal Girls, Media Girls, Medic Girls, Teacher girls, Dog-bitten and Maced girls, I love No DAPL Girls.”

      When there are no prayers, the sacred area becomes a spot where day-to-day needs are taken care of. Whoever drives the black Ford Fusion needs to move their vehicle; a woman needs a ride to Bismarck to catch a bus at 3 in the morning; we have found a pair of lost keys; and if you have been arrested please meet with the attorneys at the central dome today; are just some of the nonstop announcements made on the microphone in between sermons and prayers.

      The line for coffee around the prayer circle is slow, but people are in good spirits while they wait. One man in line says he was not planning to drive to North Dakota until he saw a woman crying outside of the grocery store in Montana where he works. She wanted to come to Oceti Sakowin but needed a ride. He will probably lose his job whenever he makes it back, he cheerfully says. A Unitarian minister from Wyoming, also waiting for coffee, says she is not afraid to get arrested for civil disobedience, considering such an arrest the mark of a true minister.

      Many of the so-called weekend warriors who come here briefly are not used to cold weather, or do not fully understand what they are getting into when they set up summer tents on the frigid North Dakota land. So Fawn Youngbear Tibbetts, an environmental activist and organizer from the Anishinaabe Nation in Wisconsin, works every day to assess the sleeping arrangements and will not let anyone sleep in a simple summer tent if she can help it. “We have some experience lasting the winter,” she says while taking a brief break from work. “So we came out here to establish our camp and also help everybody else get winterized.”

      Tibbetts is not exaggerating. She recounts how several years ago, a mining company expressed interest in Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills, land that environmentalists warned was home to a complex ecosystem and also culturally significant to the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. To protest the mining operation, Tibbetts and others set up a tent city called the Penokee Hills Harvest Camp and stayed there for four years, surviving the bitter winter in wigwams and other weather-proof outdoor housing. Much like today, the protesters in 2014 were warned that they could not camp on public land. They ignored the government's demands to leave.

      Finally, iron ore company Gogebic Taconite abandoned its plans last year. “We inhabited the site,” Tibbetts says.

      While many people stay warm in Tipis, it takes up to eight weeks to fulfill an order for the appropriate liner for these traditional tents. And yurts, another tent structure that can survive brutal winters, cost as much as $3,000. To respond to the growing need for warm tent housing, a Seattle carpenter named Paul Cheyok'ten Wagner invented the Tarpee, a Tipi-like structure that only costs $650 and is kept warm via a wooden stove, designed with a steel plate at the top to radiate more heat.
      “It’s actually really quite ingenious,” Tibbetts says. She houses people in her camp's own Tarpee but also lists the many other communal tents where people can stay if necessary. The huge influx of people requires her to stay vigilant about checking on people’s temporary shelter. “It’s powerful to be in a big group like this. Yeah, there are all these little camps, but we are all working together. We’re all supporting each other.”

      A slippery hill by the main entrance is "Media Hill," where journalists register to get laminated press passes and people can actually get a cellphone signal. Young children ride their sleds down Media Hill as their parents watch them from the top.

      Next to the warm media registration tent, a musician from Seattle rides a stationary bicycle, which is attached to a generator so that people can charge their cell phones by riding the bike. He came here with a group of friends but opted to stay when they left, he says through short breaths. Like many others at the camp, who are technically trespassing by staying here, he has asked not to be named.

      Not far from the sacred fire, Winona Kasto, a woman from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, cooks two 50-gallon pots of soup every day, made from buffalo meat that she prefers to leave unseasoned.

      Her soup is popular because it is made with love, she says, and because the buffalo are pickier eaters than other mammals, eating flowers and other "medicine" from the ground. Her camp has doubled in size as people realized that Kasto needed a larger kitchen to accommodate all of the people who want to eat buffalo soup from Winona’s Kitchen, as a sign posted on her camp’s main Tipi calls the site. At a fire around Winona’s Kitchen on Saturday night, young doctors talk about the impressive medical care that they have witnessed here at Oceti Sakowin.

      "What they're trying to do here is community medicine really,” says Revery Barnes, a Cuba-trained doctor from San Francisco who now works at a hospital in South Los Angeles. She has come to drop off supplies and help people at the medic camp for a few days. Being a doctor at a hospital is like working in an assembly line, she says, but the unpaid doctors and medics at Oceti Sakowin give patients the kind of care she would like to see in the real world.

      “They’re trying to decolonize medicine. They’re trying to give patients options. This is what we think you have, and we have this herbalist to talk to, we have these herbalist services, we have a pill for you in Western medicine, but if you just want to sit here and talk, we can do that too,” she says.

      The visiting doctors ask for a picture with Kasto before they must return home in several days. “Winona is Lakota for gathers people woman,” Kasto tells the group, getting a big laugh from everyone.

      Preparing for eviction day 

      Even though many people say they are inspired about what the resistance camp has become and are happy to be here, concerns about the police and National Guard presence hang over the camp. Over Thanksgiving weekend, when thousands of people came for the holiday, a group of activists organized a "direct action" protest on the front lines to remove burned-out trucks that authorities had set up as a barricade. “Folks have a right to be on a public road,” Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, told reporters at the time.

      Officers responded by shooting the protesters with high-pressure water hoses. The Morton County Sheriff’s office also shot tear gas grenades, rubber bullets, and other weapons into the crowd, causing a 21-year-old woman named Sophia Wilansky to suffer devastating injuries to her arm. Vanessa Dundon, another water protector on the bridge, was shot in the eye with a tear gas canister and will likely be blind in that eye as a result, according to a page trying to raise money for her surgery.

      Over the course of the standoff, the Morton County Sheriff's office has repeatedly used violent, heavy-handed tactics to clamp down on peaceful protestors, according to a lawsuit filed by The National Lawyers Guild this month. (Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier has denied the allegations that his officers' actions were unwarranted, telling the local news channel that “we will continue to enforce the law and urge those lawful protesters to isolate those who are unlawful.")

      Concerns about police violence are what inspired thousands of veterans to descend on Oceti Sakowin last weekend, setting up military tents that will be left for people staying at the camp to sleep in once the vets leave. During their brief stay, thousands of the veterans were housed in a local community center to stay warm.

      “Never, in my 81 years, [have I] seen police treat protesters like this,” says Byron Jolly, a former police officer and sheriff as well as a Korean war veteran. He gets through the snowy, slippery Oceti Sakowin campgrounds on an all-terrain tracked wheelchair called a TracFab. “And then they said they want protesters to leave here for their own protection so we don’t freeze. But they’ll sprinkle them with water in sub-zero temperatures, eh? So you figure it out. Do they mean that? Hell no. They just want us gone.”

      The campgrounds are crowded on Sunday afternoon with veterans of all ages and clergy who answered a call for support from Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the Sioux spiritual leader. Wearing a traditional headdress with a black leather jacket and boots equipped with snow chains, Chief Looking Horse says he has asked people from all nations and religions to stand with the Sioux in solidarity.
      “It’s the responsibility of the people to say water is life,” he says. For the following three hours, clergy from the Unitarian, Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist churches, and Jewish and Muslim temples, give speeches and prayers. Leaders of tribes that used to be at war with the Sioux now speak about solidarity and protecting water for everyone. 

      “We want to be on the love train and the justice train with them as they struggle against these corporate foes,” said Dr. Cornel West, the Baptist preacher, Princeton professor, and civil rights activist. “I call them foes, not enemies, because they’re human beings, too. They’re just too greedy. They’re just too short-sighted. They’re just too narrow in their spirits and cannot embrace the land and the people and the air, and in the end they could destroy the very planet itself.”

      After the prayers, the Sioux elders say that they had originally planned to perform a direct action, or a civil disobedience protest, along the police barricade. But, they say, they have changed their minds. To keep the mood prayerful and peaceful, they instead tell everyone to join hands and make a circle around the entire camp.

      People are trying to close gaps in the large circle and are slowly making their way around Oceti Sakowin when news spreads that the Corps has rejected Energy Transfer Partners’ application for an easement under Lake Oahe. (Because Lake Oahe is a dam that the Corps created from the Misssouri River, the Corps requires companies to seeking to build under its project to get additional permits).

      The young veteran next to me breaks down crying as she hugs a friend. The Sioux leaders return to the stage where the solemn praying took place and now play celebratory music on the drums as reporters crowd around and shoot photographs. Many people pack up their cars, so they can leave before the next snowfall, and they honk and cheer at the new line of cars waiting to enter Oceti Sakowin. Military veterans lead a march along the road outside, where the barricade still stands but the Humvee vehicles have left. But even this celebration will be short-lived. Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners released a statement Sunday night suggesting that they planned to drill under Lake Oahe anyway, describing the Corps’ decision as purely political.

      A long road ahead

      Reaction to the news has been mixed. Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II went on NPR to say that protesters achieved their goal “and it is time now for them to enjoy this winter with their families.” But other leading activists -- people like Sacred Stone Camp founder Dona Brave Bull Allard -- have vowed to stay. On Tuesday, as another blizzard hit the camp and temperatures dropped into the negatives, the local casino opened its doors to people so they could take indoor shelter, and Winona Kasto, the popular cook who fed everyone buffalo soup, posted online that she would be making food at the casino for people who could not afford the buffet.

      “People keep asking when are you going to go,” said Fawn Youngbear Tibbetts, the woman who helped fend off the mining company in Wisconsin and is now helping the people at Standing Rock learn how to camp for a long winter. “We’ve fought mining companies, we’ve fought Exxon, we’ve fought nuclear waste repositories. It’s something we always do,”  she said on Sunday, recounting the many environmental causes that Native Americans have led over the years. “But this is really historically different because of the amount of people working together. What you have are warring tribes, that haven’t talked to each other in 500 years, coming together in solidarity and in prayer.”  

      Not everyone can stay there forever, but she predicts that many people will continue to leave and return until the fight  here is over. “All water is sacred. We have fights at home, so we’re going back and forth,” she says.


      Photo credits: Amy Martyn and M. Aaron Martyn

      The makeshift city at Oceti SakowinFrom Palestine to Standing Rock We Are United. Juntos Protejamos. Mni Wiconi. Artwork and signs of solidarity from...

      Washington state sues Monsanto over use of PCBs

      The suit alleges that the company knew the dangers of PCBs but produced and sold them anyway

      The state of Washington has taken aim at Monsanto – the agrochemical company that has caught the ire of millions over its use of biochemicals. According to a report from Consumerist, the state has sued the company because of its decades-long use of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

      PCBs were banned in 1979 after they were found to be toxic, but Washington officials say Monsanto was aware of their harmful effects well before that time and continued producing them anyway, leading to the pollution of state waterways. Washington Governor Jay Inslee says the chemical is so pervasive that it can be found nearly everywhere.

      “Monsanto is responsible for producing a chemical that is so widespread in our environment that it appears virtually everywhere we look — in our waterways, in people and in fish — at levels that can impact our health. It’s time to hold them accountable for doing their fair share as we clean up hundreds of contaminated sites and waterways around the state,” he said.

      Prior knowledge of dangers

      In its lawsuit, the state spells out the negative effects that PCBs can have on the environment and people. “In humans, PCB exposure is associated with cancer as well as serious non-cancer health effects, including injury to the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, endocrine system and other health effects. In addition, PCBs harm populations of fish, birds and other animal life,” the complaint states.

      It goes on to say that Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of PCBs for over 40 years, between 1935 and 1979. It alleges that the company knew the chemicals were toxic but “concealed these facts and continued producing PCBs until Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act,” which banned PCB production in 1979.

      As evidence, the state points to a 1967 company memo where company officials stated that there was “no practice course of action that can so effectively police the uses of the products to prevent environmental contamination.” Still, it continued to manufacture and push sales of the chemicals for more than a decade.

      Profits over people

      The suit cites another report that makes it clear that Monsanto put profits before the health of citizens. In a report to the Corporate Development Committee, Monsanto says that discontinuing production of Aroclor – the brand name under which PCBs were sold – was unacceptable, saying that “there is too much customer/market need and selfishly too much Monsanto profit to go out.

      If successful in its suit, the state will look to claim hundreds of millions in damages. Damages will be assed based on the damage done to natural resources, the economic impact made on the state and its residents, and any future costs associated with the presence of PCBs.


      Update: In a statement emailed to ConsumerAffairs, Scott S. Partridge -- Vice President of Global Strategy at Monsanto -- defended the company and addressed the lawsuit:

      “This case is highly experimental because it seeks to target a product manufacturer for selling a lawful and useful chemical four to eight decades ago that was applied by the U.S. government, Washington State, local cities, and industries into many products to make them safer," he said. 

      "PCBs have not been produced in the U.S. for four decades, and Washington is now pursuing a case on a contingency fee basis that departs from settled law both in Washington and across the country. Most of the prior cases filed by the same contingency fee lawyers have been dismissed, and Monsanto believes this case similarly lacks merit and will defend itself vigorously."

      The state of Washington has taken aim at Monsanto – the agrochemical company that has caught the ire of millions over its use of biochemicals. According to...

      Net Neutrality's days may be numbered

      Likely nominee to head the FCC has been a foe of commission 'over-reach'

      Net neutrality is one of those issues that might start a bar-room brawl in Washington, D.C., but it's not something that gets the blood boiling in most precincts of the country. Nevertheless, it and related measures handled by the Federal Communications Commission are pocketbook issues that aren't far behind the price of gas and mortgage rates for American families.

      The Obama Administration's FCC has taken an activist stance on Internet matters, choosing to apply regulations to what had for most of its life been a Wild West sort of place, where just about anyone could do just about anything.

      Most notably, and most controversially, the FCC in March 2015 voted 3-2 to declare that broadband service was a utility and could therefore be regulated. It imposed rules designed to prohibit carriers from treating some traffic differently from others. 

      One of the dissenting votes came from commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican who is generally considered to be the leading candidate to head the commission when the Trump Administration rolls into town. Pai has opposed much of what the FCC has done under current chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat.

      Though a Republican, Pai was nominated to the FCC by President Obama in 2011. A Harvard Law graduate, he is the son of immigrants from India and grew up in Parsons, Kansas. 

      "Days are numbered"

      He is particularly dismissive of the net neutrality regulations and in a speech last week said the rule's "days are numbered."

      "I’m hopeful that beginning next year, our general regulatory approach will be a more sober one that is guided by evidence, sound economic analysis, and a good dose of humility," Pai said in his speech to a Free State Foundation luncheon, arguing that the net neutrality rules were adopted without any evidence that they were needed.

      "There was no evidence of systemic failure in the Internet marketplace.  As I said at the time, 'One could read the entire document . . . without finding anything more than hypothesized harms.'  Or, in other words, public-utility regulation was a solution that wouldn’t work for a problem that didn’t exist."

      Besides net neutrality, Pai is thought to be unsympathetic to plans to break cable systems' monopoly on set-top boxes and to outlaw local regulations banning municipal broadband networks.

      Pai singled out the set-top box proposal, which he said was being formulated in the dark.

      "Right now, the FCC provides information selectively to favored insiders.  To give one example, if you are in the good graces of the FCC’s leadership, you can receive detailed information about the set-top box proposal.  But if you aren’t, you’re left in the dark," he said.

      Net neutrality is one of those issues that might start a bar-room brawl in Washington, D.C., but it's not something that gets the blood boiling in most pre...

      How pets can improve the lives of people with mental illness

      Companion animals are often central members of patients' social circles, study finds

      Pets often bring immeasurable joy to those who care for them, but their role doesn’t end there. Studies have shown that pet ownership can help the elderly, teach kids compassion, and improve the well-being of the whole family in households with autistic children.  

      Now, a new study says that pets can help people manage their mental disorders. Findings published in the journal BMC Psychiatry suggest that cats, dogs, birds, and other pets provide their owners with a source of calm. In some cases, pets even serve as a distraction from symptoms of mental illness.

      "The people we spoke to through the course of this study felt their pet played a range of positive roles, such as helping them to manage stigma associated with their mental health by providing acceptance without judgment," said lead author Helen Brooks, from the University of Manchester.

      Unconditional support

      Researchers spoke with more than 50 adults with long-term mental conditions and found that pets were often integral members of participants’ social networks. Sixty percent of the patients placed pets in their central social circle, above family, friends, and hobbies.

      “Pets provided a unique form of validation through unconditional support, which [the patients] were often not receiving from other family or social relationships,” Brooks said in a statement. She added that pets were also particularly useful during times of crisis.

      For those with mental illness who hear voices or experience suicidal thoughts, pets can be a welcomed distraction. One patient gave a prime example of pets' ability to drown out symptoms in saying, “I’m not thinking of the voices, I’m just thinking of the birds singing.”  

      "You just want to sink into a pit and just sort of retreat from the entire world, they force me, the cats force me to sort of still be involved with the world,” said another participant.

      Pets' role in care plans

      But despite the positive role that companion animals often play, Brooks said pets weren’t considered in the individual care plans for any of the patients.

      "These insights provide the mental health community with possible areas to target intervention and potential ways in which to better involve people in their own mental health service provision through open discussion of what works best for them,” she said.

      Pets can be valuable in the management of mental illness and should therefore be brought up in discussions about care plans, Brooks and her colleagues concluded. Finding what works best for patients is key, and the study suggests that pets can provide a constant source of calm, support, and distraction for some individuals.

      Pets often bring immeasurable joy to those who care for them, but their role doesn’t end there. Studies have shown that pet ownership can help the elderly,...

      Consumer group warns of counterfeit items on eBay

      Group says fake microSDHC cards pose a threat to consumers' data

      Buyer beware is good advice to consumers in general, but especially when purchasing items online from an individual or company you know little about.

      The Counterfeit Report, a consumer watchdog that focuses on knock-off products, has warned that many counterfeit microSDHC memory cards are showing up on eBay, posing a threat to unsuspecting consumers.

      The group says it purchased 175 counterfeit microSDHC cards from sellers on eBay. It says all the cards were tested and held only a fraction of their stated capacity.

      When the counterfeit memory cards reach their actual capacity, they overwrite and erase existing data.

      For its part, eBay has clear rules against selling counterfeit items. If the item bears a logo company logo, the seller must have permission from the company to sell it.

      Policy against counterfeits

      “We don't allow replicas, counterfeit items, or unauthorized copies to be listed on eBay,” the company said in a policy statement. “Unauthorized copies may include things that are bootlegged, illegally duplicated, or pirated. These kinds of things may infringe on someone's copyright or trademark.”

      But The Counterfeit Report maintains knock-offs are finding their way to eBay, requiring consumers to be extra careful. And in the case of the counterfeit memory cards, it says determining the fake from the real thing is often difficult.

      The micro SD trademark is owned by SD-3C, LLC, which licenses it only to authentic conforming products.

      “The removable micro SD memory storage card is an amazing, convenient and trouble-free storage device,” the group said in a release. “When it works, it is unnoticed. When you get a fake, it will be the very core of your frustration, despair and pain – and your data may be gone.”

      Meanwhile, The Counterfeit Report called on eBay to notify buyers when they may have purchased a counterfeit product. Consumers who think they may have purchased a counterfeit product on eBay should notify the company at (866) 540-3229. Consumers may also open a refund claim under eBay's "Money Back Guarantee."

      Buyer beware is good advice to consumers in general, but especially when purchasing items online from an individual or company you know little about. Th...

      The incredible shrinking Sears

      The retailer is closing more stores to cope with mounting losses

      Sears Holdings, which operates both Sears and Kmart department stores, reported third quarter earnings that were a disappointment to just about everyone, including Sears Holdings executives.

      The company reports a net loss in the third quarter of $748 million. In the third quarter of 2015, the company lost $454 million.

      While all brick-and-mortar retailers have struggled with the changing consumer landscape, Sears appears to have had a particularly hard time coping.

      "We remain fully committed to restoring profitability to our company and are taking actions such as reducing unprofitable stores, reducing space in stores we continue to operate, reducing investments in underperforming categories and improving gross margin performance and managing expenses relative to sales in key categories," company CEO Edward Lampert said in a statement.

      Getting small

      In fact, Sears is responding to its market challenges by getting smaller. In a conference call with analysts following the earnings release, chief financial officer Jason Hollar said closing stores was just one way the company is trying to cut its losses.

      “Focusing on our product categories, over the past several years, we have significantly reduced the size of our consumer electronics business, which has experienced operating losses,” Hollar said.

      He also said that in the prior three months, Sears had reduced the size of its pharmacy business which operates in some Kmart stores.

      “This business is composed of a number of profitable pharmacies and a number of unprofitable pharmacies,” Hollar said. “As we optimize our pharmacy footprint to generate better operating results, we are also mindful that the pharmacy category is instrumental in the lives of many of our members.”

      Turnaround possible?

      JC Penney went through a similarly painful period a few years ago and in recent months has appeared to make some headway in the marketplace. So is there hope for Sears, one of the oldest names in American retail, to turn things around?

      The headline on a Salon piece about Sears – “Sears Death Watch Update” – isn't particularly reassuring. The piece notes this is Sears' 20th straight quarterly loss and that key executives have recently left the company.

      A Business Insider article calls Sears “The Titanic of Retail,” noting that the company is shuttering 64 Kmart stores this month, at the height of the holiday season.

      The publication quotes Neil Saunders, the CEO of the retail consulting firm Conlumino, as saying the money Sears is raising through the sale of assets is not being used to grow the company, but simply to “prop up an ailing and failed business."

      Sears Holdings, which operates both Sears and Kmart department stores, reported third quarter earnings that were a disappointment to just about everyone, i...

      Tax records: What to keep and for how long

      No need to be a paperwork pack-rat

      What must I keep? What can I toss?

      Questions about how long to keep tax returns and other documents face many taxpayers at this time of year.

      As a general rule, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recommends holding on to copies of tax returns and supporting documents at least three years. However, there are some that should be kept up to seven years in case a taxpayer needs to file an amended return or if questions arise. That includes records relating to real estate after you've disposed of the property.

      Even though you don't need to send them to IRS as proof of coverage, it's a good idea to keep health care information statements should with other tax records.

      These include records of any employer-provided coverage, premiums paid, advance payments of the premium tax credit received, and type of coverage. Three years after you file your tax return is the recommended time for keeping these records.

      How to store

      Whether your tax records are paper or electronic, the IRS says you should be sure they're kept safe and secure -- especially any documents bearing Social Security numbers. It's also a good idea to scan paper tax and financial records into a format that can be encrypted and stored securely on a flash drive, CD or DVD with photos or videos of valuables.

      Records to be saved include those that support the income, deductions and credits claimed on returns. You'll need them if the IRS asks questions about a tax return or to file an amended return.

      Cleaning house

      When records are no longer needed for tax purposes, make sure they are destroyed properly to prevent the information from falling into the hands of identity thieves.

      If disposing of an old computer, tablet, mobile phone, or back-up hard drive, keep in mind it includes files and personal data. Removing this information may require special disk utility software.

      What must I keep? What can I toss?What must I keep? What can I toss?Questions about how long to keep tax returns and other documents face many...

      Taylor Farms Northwest recalls meatloaf products

      The product contain milk, fish, beef and pork not declared on the labels

      Taylor Farms Northwest of Kent, Wash., is recalling approximately 79 pounds of meatloaf products.

      The Turkey Meatloaf with Kale contains milk and fish (anchovies), allergens not declared on the label.

      The Homestyle Meatloaf contains beef and pork, which are not declared on the label.

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

      The following items, produced on December 4, 2016, are being recalled:

      • 20 units of 16-oz. aluminum loaf pans with plastic lids containing 1 piece of “Turkey Meatloaf with Kale” with a sell by date of 12/10/2016.
      • 59 units of 16-oz. aluminum loaf pans with plastic lids containing 1 pieces of “Homestyle Meatloaf” with a sell by date of 12/10/2016.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 34834” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in Oregon and Washington.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Kerri Tate at (253)-548-5174. 

      Taylor Farms Northwest of Kent, Wash., is recalling approximately 79 pounds of meatloaf products.The Turkey Meatloaf with Kale contains milk and fish (...

      Masterbuilt recalls LP gas smokers

      The smoker’s gas hose can disconnect posing a fire hazard

      Masterbuilt Manufacturing of Columbus, Ga., is recalling about 41,300 Masterbuilt 7-in-1 smokers sold in the U.S and Canada.

      The smoker’s gas hose can disconnect posing a fire hazard.

      The company has received five reports of the PVC gas hose becoming disconnected during use, including one report of property damage from a fire. There have been no reports of injuries.

      The recalled Masterbuilt 7-in-1 smoker comes in green or stainless steel with a Cabela’s logo, or black with Masterbuilt logo. The three-piece cylindrical body design consists of a lid, center body, and base which sits on the LP gas burner stand.

      It also has a porcelain flame disk bowl, water bowl, cooking grates, 10-quart pot and basket, thermometer, burner, a PVC hose and weighs about 32 pounds.

      The smokers, manufactured in China, were sold at Army, Air Force Exchange, Cabela’s, Gander Mountain and other stores nationwide and online at from April 2011, to October 2016, for about $150 to $200.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled smoker and contact Masterbuilt for a free replacement rubber LP gas hose.

      Consumers may contact Masterbuilt at 800-489-1581, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or online at and click on Support then choose Contact on the upper right hand corner of the page for more information.

      Masterbuilt Manufacturing of Columbus, Ga., is recalling about 41,300 Masterbuilt 7-in-1 smokers sold in the U.S and Canada.The smoker’s gas hose can d...