1. Home
  2. News
  3. 2017
  4. February

Current Events in February 2017

Browse Current Events by year

2017

Browse Current Events by month

Get trending consumer news and recalls

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

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

    Witnesses describe heavily-armed police presence invading Standing Rock protest

    One officer is heard asking another to pose for a photograph with a protester who says his hip is broken

    Numerous law enforcement agencies descended on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation Thursday to evict the self-styled water protectors who had camped out for months in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

    The target of the federal and local agencies is the Oceti Sakowin camp, which is directly next to the reservation but on land that authorities claim belongs to the Army Corps of Engineers. While many protesters have agreed to cross the frozen Cannonball River to the reservation side, others have pledged to passively resist the federal orders and remain at Oceti Sakowin until the end.

    The Army Corps of Engineers, which late last year promised to open a new environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline and began that review process this month, has since abandoned those plans, and on February 7 granted Energy Transfer Partners its necessary easement to drill under Lake Oahe. At the same time, the Corps also issued a February 22 deadline for people to leave the Oceti Sakowin camp, citing spring flooding. 

    Arrests began Wednesday as promised, but police left before the Oceti Sakowin camp was cleared, reports on the ground indicate. Late Thursday afternoon, heavily armed police entered Oceti Sakowin again and finished their raid. Footage posted by protesters and independent media shows law enforcement pointing guns at a tipi and at a person kneeling in prayer. Witnesses say that veterans, reporters, and water protectors are all being swept up in arrests.

    “The people are unarmed, singing and praying in front of police with guns drawn,” writes Ruth Hopkins, who has been covering the #NODAPL environmental and spiritual movement for Indian Country Today. 

    Citizen journalist says officers broke his hip

    On Wednesday afternoon, one person filming from the front lines of the police raid, from a public Facebook account called Eric Poemz, captured himself getting tackled by law enforcement officers.

    Before his arrest, Eric Poemz was filming officers as they blocked the road. Facing the line of officers, Poemz tells them he is unarmed and repeatedly tries convincing them to join his cause. He notes that they do not have identification badges on. "By law, you're supposed to have a badge on, and none of you do."

    Later, one officer in particular captures his attention. "You're an honorable man,” Eric Poemz tells the officer. “I know you have a job to do and a family to provide for. But why do it protecting oil? That’s all we're trying to do, sir, is protect the water. I know you're looking at me and you just shook your head, ‘Yes,’ because I know you have a heart you have a soul.”

    "Why don’t you be honorable and set down your badge now, in front of 6,100 people,” Poemz adds, referencing the number of people watching his live stream. 

    But whatever perceived connection he finds with the officer vanishes as people are suddenly seen running, and the phone appears to land roughly on the ground. Suddenly, the video’s narrator is screaming in pain and telling the officers on top of him that he has a broken hip. 

    The officers agree to call an ambulance for him but reprimand Poemz for being there. “You had a deadline and you violated it,” one cop says, referencing the federal eviction deadline. 

    "Nice and comfy"

    Another cop then sounds as if he is taking a photograph of Poemz, and asks a fellow officer to pose with him. A voice is heard saying: "I’m going to get a picture of you two, you want to lay down nice and comfy next to him or should we get him up? He says he has a broken hip."  

    The officers later promise to get him help but not without lecturing him, revealing yet again a deep ideological divide between the protesters and law enforcement. "Listen, if you quit playing games, we're not here to hurt you, just cut your stupid shit,” an officer says. 

    "My hip is probably broken, sir, I’m not playing,” Poemz responds. 

    "If that’s the case you’ll get medical attention, you’ll be treated with respect, so why don’t you start treating us with some respect? You've been disrespecting this whole area, you've been disrespecting your state and us for six months. Knock it off."

    On the telephone, Morton County Sheriff’s spokesman Rob Keller tells ConsumerAffairs he does not know why an officer would pose for a picture next to an injured person being arrested, but he would not comment on the specifics of the video because he says he had not yet viewed it.

    In an email, Morton County spokesman Maxine Kerr offers this explanation: “It is very difficult to tell who is being told to lie down and be comfy. It is typical for LE (law enforcement) to try to make injured arrestees comfortable until the ambulance arrives. Sometimes LE does have a picture taken with an arrestee if it is a mass arrest to help document arresting officers. However, photos like this were not done yesterday because there were not that many arrests and LE clearly knew who was doing the arrests.” 

    It's not clear whether the officers came from Morton County or a different local agency, as officers from other municipalities and neighboring states were also participating in the raid. 

    Limited coverage of casino arrests and raid

    Mainstream news presence at the raid itself appeared to be minimal, as any person who remains at the Oceti Sakowin camp risks arrest. A small, nonprofit news site called Unicorn Riot was live-streaming the raid. Mainstream news networks, however, have for the most part remained in a separate staging area that is approved by law enforcement, reporters on the ground say.

    “They had little tents set up in their microwave trucks [trucks that broadcast television news],” says Dennis Ward, a reporter with Canada’s Aboriginal News Network, describing the media staging area. “By the time people actually did anything yesterday all of those microwave trucks were gone.”

    Ward says his own network also had media credentials which would have allowed him and his coworkers to report from the protected staging area. But they instead opted to report from the camp itself, sleeping in their news truck over the course of eight days.  

    The Standing Rock Sioux’s Prairie Knights Casino, where people for months have huddled in the lobby to take a break from the cold, has become another unlikely battle ground between protesters, media, and police. On Wednesday night, after eight days of reporting from the Oceti Sakowin camp, Ward says he and his crew booked a hotel room at the casino. As they enjoyed a warm dinner, Ward says, a group of law enforcement suddenly approached a table of people eating next to them and escorted them all outside to make arrests.

    “It looked like the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs],” making the arrests, Ward says, though, with so many agencies swarming, “it’s getting hard to tell who’s who down here.” Why the diners next to him were getting arrested remained unclear, Ward says. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which had announced earlier this month that it was sending agents to evict protesters from the encampments, has not yet returned a message from ConsumerAffairs.

    In another confrontation in the casino lobby Wednesday, captured and posted on Facebook, a group of officers surrounded two men and accused them of passing something to each other. "We got a call from security and surveillance saying we've seen you guys passing something around,” an officer says. The officers order one of the men, who claims to be a veteran, to turn around so they can arrest him. The vet raises his arms but hasn’t yet turned his back when the officers suddenly shoot him with a Taser gun.

    Federal authorities and local police promised to return to the Oceti Sakowin camp Thursday morning to finish their so-called clean-up. By the afternoon, water protectors watching the camp from across the Cannonball River, safely on the reservation side, reported that authorities had entered Oceti Sakowin and were making more arrests of the protesters who remained in passive resistance.

    “They have entered camp.. Sound cannon, weapons, helicopters, snipers, heavily armed (LIVE ROUNDS),” says one post.  “Many arrest are happening. I stayed as long as I could & hold it down for the people.” The Seattle Times reported on Thurday that a total of 39 hold-outs had been arrested. 

    Numerous law enforcement agencies descended on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation Thursday to evict the s...
    Read lessRead more

    Warm temperatures, not just drought, are shrinking the Colorado River, study says

    The lifeblood of the Southwest is losing its flow

    The American Southwest as we know it today would not exist without the Colorado River. Spanning 1,450 miles through the region, the river irrigates farms, creates hydro-power, provides drinking water to millions and is a source of fun and beauty in federally-recognized recreation areas and parks along the route.

    “We couldn’t inhabit the Southwest, with its large areas of desert, without a big river running through the middle of it,” according to to the author of a two-year-old report which found that the river is responsible for $1.4 trillion worth of economic activity.

    All of which is to say, government agencies need to act fast if they want to preserve the economy of the Southwest. New research from the University of Arizona and Colorado State University shows that warming temperatures are causing the Colorado River to shrink.

    A 21st-Century Decline

    In the 21st century, from 2000 through 2014, the river’s flow reached only 81 percent of its 20th century average, the researchers found. They attributed that change in flow to warming temperatures, saying this is the first study of its kind to trace a direct link between global warming and the decreased Colorado River flow.

    "The future of Colorado River is far less rosy than other recent assessments have portrayed,” co-author Bradly Udall told ScienceDaily. “A clear message to water managers is that they need to plan for significantly lower river flows." 

    Not that previous assessments of the Colorado River have actually been rosy. A longtime drought has diminished water in the region since 2000. Government officials and researchers have warned that the agriculture industry will need to dramatically cut back on its water usage in the years to come as a result. And the Bureau of Reclamation this month forecast that there is a 34 percent chance the river will not be able to fulfill the needs of all the states depending on it in 2018.

    But the drought has only accounted for two-thirds of the river’s decline, according to the latest research from the Colorado and Arizona researchers. The remaining third of the loss, they say, is literally caused by climate change.

    Warmer temperatures have been causing the moisture in the river basin’s waterways to evaporate, according to their research. The findings mean that even an end to the drought may not restore the river to previous levels. “We can’t say with any certainty that precipitation is going to increase and come to our rescue,” Udall explained in another interview.

    Conservationists sue to prevent drilling

    Yet even as farmers, the real estate industry, and consumers anticipate cutbacks, conservationists worry that other industries may want to build new infrastructure along the Colorado River Basin and get their share. The Bureau of Land Management’s resource management plans currently allow for oil and gas drilling in the Colorado Basin area.

    Last fall, the Center for Biological Diversity threatened to sue the BLM if the agency would not promise to block all new oil and gas development in the upper basin of the river. Part of the concern, Center for Biological Diversity attorney Wendy Park tells ConsumerAffairs, is that fracking or drilling in the basin would require companies “to use tremendous amounts of water,” water she worries would likely come from the Colorado River.

    But there have been some hopeful developments. Since being threatened with the suit, the BLM has agreed to do a new evaluation into the effects of industry in the region, called a programmatic biological opinion, which Park anticipates will be ready in the spring. 

    The American Southwest as we know it today would not exist without the Colorado River. Spanning 1,450 miles through the region, the river irrigates farms,...
    Read lessRead more

    Get trending consumer news and recalls

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

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

      Judge refuses to release jailed Volkswagen executive

      Oliver Schmidt awaits trial on 11 felony counts, other VW execs remain in Germany

      Volkswagen has paid billions of dollars in fines, penalties, and buyback costs related to its "dirty diesel" scandal. But that's not much help to Oliver Schmidt, a VW engineer who at one time headed the automaker's emissions compliance department.

      Schmidt, 48, has been in jail in Detroit awaiting trial on 11 felony counts, and a federal judge Thursday refused to release him on bond, saying he presented an extreme flight risk. Schmidt was arrested at Miami International Airport Jan. 7 as he attempted to fly home to Germany after a family vacation. He faces up to 169 years in prison if convicted. 

      Other VW executives have been warned to stay in Germany, where they are safe from arrest and extradition, at least for now, since Germany rarely extradites its citizens to foreign countries.

      Schmidt was allegedly the author of a damning memo written in April 2014 when researchers at West Virginia University discovered that VW diesels exceeded federal standards and used a software program to reduce emissions when a car was being tested, Automotive News reported.

       “It should first be decided whether we are honest. If we are not honest, everything stays as it is,” Schmidt allegedly wrote to a colleague.

      Schmidt is only the second VW employee to feel the brunt of the scandal. James Liang, a Volkswagen engineer based in California, entered a guilty plea last September to conspiring to defraud regulators. He has been cooperating with investigators and is scheduled to be sentenced in May.

      Volkswagen has agreed to pay $4.3 billion in fines to various U.S. agencies as well as conducting a recall and buyback program that is expected to push the total cost in the U.S. and Canada beyond $23 billion.

      Volkswagen has paid billions of dollars in fines, penalties, and buyback costs related to its "dirty diesel" scandal. But that's not much help to Oliver Sc...
      Read lessRead more

      Calphalon recalls cutlery knives

      The blade on Contemporary Cutlery knives can break during use

      Calphalon Corp., of Atlanta, Ga., is recalling about 2 million Contemporary Cutlery knives sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The blade on knives can break during use, posing a laceration hazard.

      The company has received 27 reports of finger or hand lacerations including four injuries requiring stitches. In addition, the firm has received about 3,150 reports of broken knives.

      This recall involves Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery carving, chef, paring, santoku and utility knives sold individually and in sets made between August 2008, and March 2016.

      The following models are included in the recall:

      Product

      Item

      Item Number

      Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

      4.5" Parer

      KNR10045C

      Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

      7" Santoku

      KNR0007C

      Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

      Contemporary Paring Knife Set

      1821332

      Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

      5" Santoku

      KNR0005C

      Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

      8" Chef Knife

      KNR4008C

      Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

      Fruit/Vegetable Set - 3.5" parer & 6" utility

      KNSR002C

      Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

      Carving Set - 6" fork & 8" slicer

      KNSR0102C

      Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery 21-piece set

      3½" parer, 5" boning knife, 5" santoku, 5½" tomato/bagel knife, 6" fork, 6" utility, 7" santoku, 8" bread, 8" chef’s knife, 8" slicer, 10" steel, kitchen shears, 8 steak knives, and knife block

      1808009

      Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery 17-piece set

      4½" parer, 6" utility, 7" santoku, 8" bread, 8" chef’s knife, 8" slicer, 10" steel, kitchen shears, 8 steak knives, and knife block

      1808008

      Calphalon Contemporary SharpIN Cutlery 14-piece set

      4.5" Parer, 6" Utility, 8" Bread, 8" Chef's Knife, 8 Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, Sharpening Knife Block

      1922890

      Calphalon Contemporary SharpIN Cutlery 15-piece set

      4.5" Parer, 6" Utility, 7" Santoku, 8" Bread, 8" Chef's Knife, 8 Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, Sharpening Knife Block

      1922971

      Calphalon Contemporary SharpIN Cutlery 18-piece set

      4.5" Parer, 5" Boning, 5.5" Tomato, 6" Utility, 7" Santoku, 8" Bread, 8" Chef's Knife, 8" Slicer, 8 Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, Sharpening Knife Block

      1932810

      Calphalon Contemporary SharpIN Cutlery 20-piece set

      4.5" Parer, 5" Boning, 5" Santoku, 5.5" Tomato, 6" Fork, 6" Utility, 7" Santoku, 8" Bread, 8" Chef's Knife, 8" Slicer, 8 Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, Sharpening Knife Block

      1922976

      The knives, manufactured in China, were sold at J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s and other stores nationwide and online at www.Amazon.com from September 2008, through December 2016, for $25 for a single knife to $300 for a knife block set.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled cutlery and contact Calphalon for a replacement cutlery product.

      Consumers may contact Calphalon at 800-809-7267 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.calphalon.com and click on “Customer Support” at the bottom of the page then “Recalls” for more information.

      Calphalon Corp., of Atlanta, Ga., is recalling about 2 million Contemporary Cutlery knives sold in the U.S. and Canada.The blade on knives can break du...
      Read lessRead more

      Before planning retirement, decide what you want retirement to be

      How you spend retirement will determine how much money you need

      With the leading edge of the huge Baby Boom population entering their retirement years, retirement planning is a big deal. But this phase of life can take many forms.

      Planning to tour the country pulling an Airstream trailer? Your needs will be different than if you plan to launch a new career in retirement.

      When talking about retirement, the discussion almost always starts with money. Not going to work every day means you won't be bringing home the same sized paycheck. So the first question is how you will make up the difference.

      Can't depend completely on Social Security

      Social Security will provide a source of monthly income, but not a very big one. You'll likely need other sources of income, such as a pension – which is pretty rare these days – or a retirement savings account.

      According to the Labor Department, fewer than half of Americans know how much they need to save for retirement, but in fairness that number is hard to pin down until you decide how you plan to spend retirement.

      If you plan to downsize, moving into a home that you can purchase with no mortgage, in a low cost-of-living area, you'll need less money each month than if you plan to spend half the year traveling.

      That said, it is easy to underestimate your needs. The government says you'll probably need 70% of your pre-retirement income to keep up.

      Is a part-time job the answer?

      That's why a growing number of early Baby Boomer retirees are still working in some form or another. After a successful career, they have a lot of knowledge and expertise. Often, their former employers are eager to tap into that on a part-time basis.

      Of course, after 40 or more years working in a profession or at a job you really didn't like, the prospect of continuing it, even on a part-time basis, might not seem that attractive. But many retirees take the opportunity to try their hand at something new. The website NewRetirement.com has some advice for finding the right fit.

      Growing optimism

      The good news is people approaching retirement are a lot more optimistic today than they were just after the Great Recession. A new study by T. Rowe Price shows 47% of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers believe their ideal retirement is “very attainable,” suggesting they have either given it serious thought and have their ducks in a row or have no idea of what's involved.

      The subjects in the study were mostly investors, suggesting they have been building wealth. When it comes to visualizing their retirement years, the majority see it as “a time to relax.” Only 38% plan on “reinventing themselves.”

      With the leading edge of the huge Baby Boom population entering their retirement years, retirement planning is a big deal. But this phase of life can take...
      Read lessRead more