Follow us:
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. 2018
  4. February

News in February 2018

GOP making another attempt to overturn Obamacare

After legislative failures, Republican lawmakers are turning to the courts again

After trying and failing twice last year to overturn the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Republican leaders are turning once again to the courts.

GOP representatives from twenty states have joined together to sue the U.S. government, claiming the health care law is unconstitutional.

Republicans made this argument once before, stating that the individual mandate for consumers to buy health insurance is unconstitutional. But the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law, finding that the fine consumers faced for not buying insurance was actually a tax.

Last year, the Trump Administration removed the fine for not buying health insurance, so Republicans argue that the removal of the threat of that "tax" now makes the law unconstitutional.

Removing the fine a key issue

According to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the high court pinned its Obamacare ruling on the "tax." Now that the provision has been removed, Paxton says the law doesn't meet the constitutional standard.

“Obamacare’s irrational design wreaks havoc on health insurance markets,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. “Obamacare causes premiums to rise and coverage to fall, forcing Wisconsin and other states to take extreme, costly measures to protect their citizens’ health and pocketbooks."

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) brought the original court challenge to Obamacare in 2012. While the Constitution does not allow Congress to force individuals to purchase a product, the court narrowly interpreted the penalty for not purchasing health insurance as a tax, which Congress is authorized to levy.

Senate refused to repeal

The GOP-led House had no difficulty passing legislation last year that repealed Obamacare, but the measure faced obstacles in the Senate, where Republicans held only a two seat advantage. A handful of Republican lawmakers balked at repealing a law that resulted in more consumers being covered by health insurance.

The final attempt failed in late July when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was battling cancer, dramatically returned to the capital to cast a deciding vote to allow a vote on the Senate's latest effort -- a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

But on Twitter, McCain made clear he was only voting to allow debate on the GOP bill. He wasn't going to support the measure itself.

After trying and failing twice last year to overturn the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Republican leaders are turning once again to the cou...

Get trending consumer news and recalls

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

    Congressional Democrats launch effort to restore net neutrality

    A resolution of disapproval would overturn the FCC's rollback

    Congressional Democrats have formally taken the first step to overturn the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) rollback of net neutrality.

    Lawmakers in the House and Senate have introduced a resolution of disapproval to negate the FCC order, which was published last week in the Federal Register.

    Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the Senate version, which would restore the Obama Administration's FCC Open Internet Order prohibiting internet service providers from blocking, slowing down, or discriminating against content online.

    “President Trump and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai might want to end the internet as we know it, but we won’t agonize, we will organize,” Markey said. “I urge my Republican colleagues to join the overwhelming majority of Americans who support a free and open internet."

    One vote short

    Senate Democrats will need at least one more Republican vote. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) has said she will support Markey's resolution, but Democrats will need 51 votes to prevail.

    The task may be harder in the House. So far, supporters of the resolution of disapproval say they have 150 votes. They need 213 to prevail.

    “Today millions of Net Neutrality supporters from across the country are putting lawmakers on notice: You have to choose whether you side with big phone and cable lobbyists or with the majority of people in the United States — both Republicans and Democrats — who want to restore Net Neutrality protections," said Sandra Fulton, government relations director at the Free Press Action Fund.

    'Radical rewiring of the internet'

    Fulton called the FCC's reversal of net neutrality "a radical rewiring of the internet" that hands control of the network to a few powerful internet service providers.

    "The FCC repeal blatantly ignored the fact that the 2015 rules were working for everyone, as broadband investment and deployment continued under the Title II-based protections the Pai FCC struck down," Fulton said.

    A Congressional resolution of disapproval would be the fastest way to restore the principal of net neutrality, but the clock is ticking. The measure would have to pass both houses of Congress within 60 days of the Order being published in the Federal Register.

    Backers of net neutrality are also using the courts in an effort to restore the rule through a series of lawsuits against the FCC. On February 22, 23 state attorneys general filed suit, calling the net neutrality rollback illegal.

    Congressional Democrats have formally taken the first step to overturn the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) rollback of net neutrality.Lawmake...

    Google updates users on their ‘right to be forgotten’ requests

    The company says it’s taken care of 2.4 million URLs so far

    In a landmark May 2014 edict, the European Court of Justice gave internet users a huge plum when the court established the “right to be forgotten,” permitting Europeans to request any information about themselves be delisted from search results.

    Now, four years later, Google reports it’s made good on requests covering 2.4 million URLs.

    In a report released Monday, Google further fleshed out that metric by saying those requests comprise only 43.3 percent of the URLs it has reviewed. The company claims that deciding what to delist is problematic.

    “Search engines like Google must consider if the information in question is ‘inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive’—and whether there is a public interest in the information remaining available in search results,” said Michee Smith, Google’s product lead on the project.

    The tech company also published a draft of a research paper called Three Years of the Right to be Forgotten, which it submitted for peer review to the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium. The research annotates Google reviewers’ analysis of the ways Europeans are using their “right to be forgotten.”

    What are users asking to be removed?

    Consumers have a large role to play when it comes to their right to be forgotten. In addition to making the initial request, users also need to decide which information they want filtered out of search results.

    Google says there have been two dominant requests from consumers. The number one request – 33 percent – is tied to social media and directory services containing personal info.

    The second dominant request – 20 percent of the requested URLs – is connected to news outlets and government websites, usually those related to a requester’s legal history. The remaining 47% of Google’s delisting requests is comprised of miscellaneous content across the internet.

    Included in each request set is data pertaining to:

    • Personal information: contact info, addresses, or images and videos

    • Sensitive personal information: medical status, sexual orientation, creed, ethnicity, or political affiliation

    • Professional information: work address, contact information, or neutral stories about their business activities

    • Personal or professional wrongdoing: convictions of a crime, acquittals, or exonerations

    • Political information: criticism of a requester’s political or government activities, or information about their platform

    Who’s making the requests?

    Private individuals account for 89 percent of the requests. Minors, corporations, government officials, and non-government public figures (like a popular actor or musician) account for the bulk of the remaining 11 percent.

    While Google’s effort appears proactive, the company didn’t take on this project willingly and was concerned that the European court’s decision might spread to other countries. There was also a hiccup along the way when the company released an earlier transparency report that contained source code, which revealed information it had previously refused to make public.

    In a landmark May 2014 edict, the European Court of Justice gave internet users a huge plum when the court established the “right to be forgotten,” permitt...

    Netflix to add around 700 original movies and shows to its lineup this year

    The company says it will spend $8 billion on original content

    Netflix plans to spend around $8 billion this year on original TV shows and movies in an effort to boost its subscriber numbers.

    The increased production budget was revealed on Tuesday by CFO David Wells at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in California.  

    Last year, the company spent around $6 billion on original content and ended the year with 117.6 million subscribers worldwide. This year, the company plans to spend even more on original content, as well as increase its marketing budget to $2 billion (an increase from $1.3 billion in 2017).

    Content driving growth

    Netflix’s business model of using original content to increase its number of subscribers isn’t new, but it continues to be effective.

    “Let’s continue to add content -- it’s working, it’s driving growth,” Wells said at the conference.

    The increased focus on marketing doesn’t necessarily mean the streaming service will be focusing less on the quality of the content it produces. “We used to think every incremental dollar was best spent on content,” Wells told Variety. Now the company thinks “marketing is a multiplier on the content spend.”

    For help producing its upcoming original content, the company is bringing on big names like Duncan Jones, Ryan Murphy, Mark Millar, Martin Scorsese, David Ayer, Will Smith, and others.

    Netflix will spend a fairly large portion of its $8 billion budget on international Netflix programs. The company plans to include shows from 80 countries outside of the United States, including the German psychological thriller “Dark.”

    Of the company’s plans to diversify its content offerings, Wells explained, “People don’t care where the stories come from. We’re about having the best content. We don’t necessarily have to do it ourselves.”

    Netflix plans to spend around $8 billion this year on original TV shows and movies in an effort to boost its subscriber numbers.The increased productio...

    New Fed Chair says rates will rise as needed to fight inflation

    The fairly obvious statement sent the stock market into tailspin

    Newly installed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says he and other Fed members are watching inflation closely and will hike interest rates as needed this year to keep it under control.

    The stock market took that to mean that there is a possibility of four or more rate hikes in 2018, not the three that have been priced into stocks.

    As Powell made those comments to the House Financial Services Committee, stocks plunged in a broad sell-off, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down nearly 300 points.

    Powell's comments might have spooked investors, but they held some good news for consumers. The new Fed Chairman said the economy is doing very well -- so well that rates might have to rise a little more than anticipated.

    Brake pedal on the economy

    The Federal Reserve uses its discount rate as sort of a brake pedal on the economy. When the economy begins to heat up, prices tend to rise. While some inflation is good, the Fed will raise rates to keep inflation from rising too much.

    "The economic outlook remains strong," Powell told lawmakers. "The robust job market should continue to support growth in household incomes and consumer spending, solid economic growth among our trading partners should lead to further gains in U.S. exports, and upbeat business sentiment and strong sales growth will likely continue to boost business investment."

    But Powell says the new tax law, passed in December, is adding stimulus to an already healthy economy. That could make the economy grow even faster and make inflation more of a threat. If it does, he says the Fed will respond accordingly.

    Rates rise slowly

    When the Fed hikes its discount rate, it does so slowly. Since it began the process at the end of 2016, it has raised the rate by 25 basis points, or a quarter of a percent, each time. The current rate is at 2 percent, which is still very low on a historical basis.

    The stock market reacted badly to the possibility that the rate might rise 1 percent this year instead of 0.75 percent because even slightly higher borrowing costs can make a company less profitable.

    But the discount rate also directly affects consumers, since it is used to set a bank's prime rate and is the basis for variable rate consumer credit, including credit cards.

    The average credit card rate is already at or near record highs, so consumers carrying a large balance could see their interest charges rise, albeit slightly, later this year.

    Newly installed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says he and other Fed members are watching inflation closely and will hike interest rates as needed...

    Allen Sports recalls folding bicycles

    The bike’s frame can break, causing the bicycle to collapse

    Allen Sports of Portsmouth, N.H., is recalling about 150 UltraX and Ultra1 folding bicycles.

    The bike’s frame can break during use causing the bicycle to collapse, posing a fall hazard to consumers.

    The firm has received two reports of the frame breaking causing the rider to fall. No injuries have been reported.

    This recall involves Allen Sports model Ultra1 and UltraX carbon fiber folding bicycles. “ULTRA X” or “ULTRA ONE” are printed on the bicycle’s frame.

    Both bicycles were sold in black, have 20 speeds and wheel sizes of 451MM. The Ultra One weighs about 21 pounds and the Ultra X weighs about 18 pounds.

    The bikes, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold online at Amazon.com and eBay from May 2014, through July 2017, for between $500 and $4,000.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bicycles and email Allen Sports at customerservice@allensportsusa.com with photo of the bicycle to receive full refund instructions.

    Consumers may contact Allen at 800-722-5536 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at customerservice@allensportsusa.com and online at www.allensportsusa.com and click on “Important safety notice on Allen Sports Ultra1 and UltraX Folding Bicycles” for more information.

    Allen Sports of Portsmouth, N.H., is recalling about 150 UltraX and Ultra1 folding bicycles.The bike’s frame can break during use causing the bicycle t...

    Toyota recalls model year 2017 Tundras

    The rear split bench seat may move in a crash

    Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 8,769 model year 2017 Toyota Tundras.

    One of the rear split bench seat leg brackets may not have been properly tightened to the vehicle's floor pan, possibly allowing the seat to move in a crash, increasing the risk of injury to an occupant.

    What to do

    Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will tighten the five seat leg bracket bolts, as necessary, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin March 12, 2018.

    Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-888-270-9371. Toyota's number for this recall is J0I.

    Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 8,769 model year 2017 Toyota Tundras.One of the rear split bench seat leg brackets may not have b...

    Court rules FTC can continue its data-speed lawsuit against AT&T

    A Monday court ruling restores the FTC’s regulatory authority over large internet service providers

    An appeals court has determined that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the authority to carry out its case against AT&T for allegedly throttling data on unlimited data plans of millions of consumers.

    The issue began back in October 2014 when the FTC filed a lawsuit against AT&T claiming that the company marketed its data plans as “unlimited”, but ultimately throttled speeds once customers hit certain thresholds such as 5GB within a month.

    "In 2011, AT&T began reducing the data speed for its unlimited mobile data plan customers—a practice commonly known as 'data throttling'. For example, if a customer with an unlimited mobile data plan exceeded a certain usage limit, AT&T would substantially reduce the speed at which the customer’s device would receive data for the balance of the customer’s billing cycle,” the FTC said.

    “Customers experienced reduced speed when they exceeded the preset limit, regardless of actual network congestion. AT&T did not apply the data-throttling practice to customers on tiered plans," the agency added.

    The wireless company countered that the FTC didn’t have the power to regulate the practices of common carrier services.

    ‘Unfair and deceptive’

    The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reached its decision to grant the FTC authority to punish AT&T on the basis that the carrier’s acts were “unfair and deceptive” to consumers, Reuters reported.

    The ruling, however, exempts “common carriers,” which AT&T argued that it is. That notion was dismissed by the court.

    “Permitting the FTC to oversee unfair and deceptive non-common-carriage practices of telecommunications companies has practical ramifications,” said Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown in a published court summary.

    “New technologies have spawned new regulatory challenges,” McKeown continued. “Reaffirming FTC jurisdiction over activities that fall outside of common-carrier services avoids regulatory gaps and provides consistency and predictability in regulatory enforcement.”

    FTC Chair Maureen Ohlhausen called the ruling “good news for consumers” and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai said the decision “reaffirms that the Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police Internet service providers after the Restoring Internet Freedom Order takes effect."

    “In the months and years ahead, we look forward to working closely with the FTC to ensure the protection of a free and open internet,” Pai said in a statement.

    An AT&T spokesman said the court decision “does not address the merits of the case” and that it is “reviewing opinion and continues to believe we ultimately will prevail.”

    An appeals court has determined that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the authority to carry out its case against AT&T; for allegedly throttling data...

    Apple is giving its employees their own health clinic

    ‘AC Wellness’ will launch later this Spring in California

    Without any fanfare, Apple has quietly rolled out a website trumpeting a new healthcare initiative called the AC Wellness Network that will service the company’s 80,000 U.S.-based employees and their families.

    “AC Wellness Network believes that having trusting, accessible relationships with our patients, enabled by technology, promotes high-quality care and a unique patient experience,” a message on the website reads.

    The company calls its plan “a unique concierge-like healthcare experience,” and provided details on the kinds of health professionals it wants to hire for those clinics. “Candidates must have an appreciation for the patient experience and passion for wellness and population health — integrating best clinical practices and technology in a manner that drives patient engagement.”

    Those jobs include:

    • Behavioral health partners who will work with physicians to help patients improve health and wellness through sustainable behavior change;

    • Clinical exercise coaches who will help craft fitness programs for patients, especially those with cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic diseases and disorders;

    • Wellness physicians focused on holistic-driven care, with an emphasis on preventing future disease; and

    • Care navigators who will serve as the first point-of-contact for the clinic’s patients and help establish its concierge service model.

    Apple’s primary care group will start off with two clinics, both in Santa Clara County, California, home to the tech giant. At present, there are no additional details for the health clinics at the company’s other campuses.

    Company site healthcare continues to grow

    Offering employees on-/near-site healthcare is on the rise; it’s estimated that 30 percent of companies with 5,000+ workers offer the perk. Included on that list are corporations like Goldman-Sachs, USAA, Mars, and Capital One Financial.

    Other corporations have also moved to build a better healthcare system for employees, but not necessarily with on-site clinics like Apple’s. Amazon recently announced a partnership with Berkshire-Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase to develop its own healthcare plan.

    Walmart also inked deals with niche healthcare providers like the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo to aid its 1.1 million employees in need of heart care and organ transplants.

    Without any fanfare, Apple has quietly rolled out a website trumpeting a new healthcare initiative called the AC Wellness Network that will service the com...

    Consumers find supermarkets doing the best job among retailers

    Among supermarkets, Publix tops an annual customer satisfaction survey

    What's the best grocery chain? It's a matter of opinion, of course, but the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Retail report finds consumers give Publix the highest marks when it comes to satisfaction.

    Among supermarket chains, Publix increased its position by two percent over 2016 with a top score of 86. That not only beat all other supermarkets, it was also the highest score of any company in the retail category. Trader Joe's was not far behind, earning a score of 85.

    "While Trader Joe's was unable to sustain its record-high score from last year, customer satisfaction with the grocer is still extremely high for a brick-and-mortar retailer, on par with Amazon's score in the internet retail category," said David VanAmburg, Managing Director at ACSI.

    Whole Foods held its previous position at 81, but ACSI says its position may change under its new ownership by Amazon. But since the online retailer acquired Whole Foods at mid-year, and only recently rolled out deliveries, ACSI concludes it is too early to tell what effect it's going to have.

    Walmart, meanwhile, had the lowest score among supermarkets -- a position it's held the previous 12 years.

    Pharmacies

    When it comes to large chain pharmacies, consumers give the highest marks to Kmart and Kroger, neither of which is a pure play drug store. They tied in that category with a score of 80.

    CVS was third at 78, its best ever showing, while Walgreens and Rite Aid both scored 77. As in the supermarket category, Walmart brought up the rear with a score of 75.

    "CVS was one of only two large chains to improve, gaining three percent over its 2016 score," VanAmburg said. "The health care retailer may be trying to preempt the Amazon threat, shoring up both customer and employee satisfaction ahead of its planned merger with Aetna."

    Department stores

    Among department stores, consumers appear to prefer discount clubs. Costco led the category with a score of 83, followed by Sam's Club and BJ's, tied at 80.

    Target lost ground from 2016, dropping to 77 to tie Dollar Tree, which was also down from 2016. Sears, which closed 400 stores last year, fell five percent to 73.

    Overall, the retail industry earned a customer satisfaction score of 78.1 last year, nearly the same as the year before. The takeaway from all of this is that savvy retailers are making moves to keep Amazon at bay. ACSI says some sectors are doing it better than others.

    VanAmberg points to supermarkets as examples of how retailers are using customer satisfaction as a way to win consumers' loyalty and ward off Amazon's push into new retail areas.

    What's the best grocery chain? It's a matter of opinion, of course, but the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Retail report finds consumer...

    Model year 2018 Toyota Tundras and Sequoias recalled

    The vehicle's electronic stability control system could be deactivated

    Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 64,901 model year 2018 Toyota Tundras and Sequoias.

    Electrical interference within the power supply circuit may cause the vehicle's electronic stability control system to be deactivated, increasing the risk of a crash in certain conditions.

    What to do

    Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will update the vehicle's software, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin March 12, 2018.

    Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-888-270-9371. Toyota's number for this recall is J0H.

     

    Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 64,901 model year 2018 Toyota Tundras and Sequoias.Electrical interference within the power suppl...

    Supreme Court hears case challenging public employee union fees

    A non-union worker argues that mandatory union payments violate First Amendment rights

    Employees who belong to a labor union know they will have to pay dues to support the union's collective bargaining efforts.

    But what about non-union employees? Should they have to pay a monthly fee to support those efforts as well? That's what the U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide.

    The high court heard arguments Monday for and against a challenge to laws in a number of states that require people who work for state and local governments, but aren't union members, to pay a monthly fee to the public employee union that represents other government workers.

    Arguments for and against

    The rationale for the law is that non-union employees benefit from the union's collective bargaining efforts and therefore should pay something to support it. Opponents argue that being required to pay so-called agency fees to a union with whom it might not agree violates a worker's rights to free speech and free association.

    At stake are millions of dollars that public employee unions use to negotiate contracts and participate in electoral politics. About half the states have agency fee laws covering nearly five million public employees.

    The plaintiff is an Illinois state employee who declined to join the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Nonetheless, he is required to pay the union a $50 monthly fee to negotiate on his behalf.

    2016 case

    His challenge is similar to one the court heard two years ago, but split 4-4. There were only eight voting justices because of the death of Justice Anton Scalia. The court now has its full nine justice panel, with last year's nomination and confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch.

    Losing the case would be a severe setback to public employee unions, which are among the largest and most powerful of labor organizations. Government data shows organized labor has been in a slow decline over the last few decades.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the union membership rate was 10.7 percent last year. That compares to 20.1 percent in 1983, the first year statistics were kept.

    Employees who belong to a labor union know they will have to pay dues to support the union's collective bargaining efforts.But what about non-union emp...

    New home sales drop sharply in January

    But there may be a silver lining to the government's latest data

    Sales of new single family homes plunged 7.8 percent from December to January, dashing hopes that a surge of homebuilding might alleviate a growing housing shortage.

    The U.S. Census Bureau report shows the number of new homes sold was also down one percent from January 2017. The results mean it is even harder to enter the housing market since there are fewer homes to choose from. Inventories of existing homes have consistently declined over the last two years as well.

    LendingTree Chief Economist Tendayi Kapfidze believes rising mortgage rates may be starting to affect sales. With the median price of a new home at $323,000, higher rates would contribute to higher monthly payments. Not surprisingly, it was the more expensive homes that remained on the market last month.

    "Homes above $500,000 fell back to 16 percent of sales in January," Kapfidze said. "In December, sales above $500,000 were 22 percent of sales, the highest proportion since the sales price breakout began in 2002."

    Shifting to less-expensive homes

    "This is disappointing given the importance of new construction in powering overall home sales," Joseph Kirchner, Ph.D., senior economist at realtor.com, told ConsumerAffairs.

    "Today's report provides further evidence that builders are slowly shifting toward more moderately priced homes. The drop in sales may be due to saturation in the upper price range of the market, which should compel builders to follow the market and build more moderately priced homes."

    That would be a positive development since the housing shortage is worst in the entry-level segment, with fewer homes that first time buyers can afford. If there is a shift in the making, the new tax law may be responsible.

    The biggest drop in sales came in the Northeast, where home prices and taxes tend to be very high. Kapfidze says that's evidence of the new tax law's ill effects on the housing market, reducing the value of homeowner tax deductions in high tax states.

    But if homebuilders conclude they are going to sell fewer expensive homes, they might begin putting up more less-expensive homes, which they've avoided in recent years because profit margins are lower.

    Kapfidze says the tax law just might make these cheaper houses more profitable for builders. He says the reduction in corporate taxes and other real estate developer friendly tax breaks should increase builder profit margins by 10 to 20 percent.

    Sales of new single family homes plunged 7.8 percent from December to January, dashing hopes that a surge of homebuilding might alleviate a growing housing...

    Hyundai recalls model year 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport vehicles

    The steering wheel may separate from the steering column

    Hyundai Motor America is recalling 43,941 model year 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport vehicles.

    The steering wheel assembly may break, possibly resulting in the steering wheel separating from the steering column while the vehicle is being driven.

    A steering wheel separation while driving can cause a loss of vehicle control and increase the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will check the production lot number of the steering wheel assembly, replacing it as necessary, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin March 16, 2018.

    Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 173.

    Hyundai Motor America is recalling 43,941 model year 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport vehicles.The steering wheel assembly may break, possibly...

    Lexus vehicles with possible fuel pump issue recalled

    The fuel pump cover could suffer a fatigue crack

    Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 9,905 model year 2016-2018 Lexus GS F, model year 2018 LC500, and model year 2015-2018 Lexus RC F vehicles, equipped with 5.0L V8 2UR-GSE engines with two high pressure fuel pumps.

    Specific operating conditions may result in damage to the pulsation damper in one of the high pressure fuel pumps, possibly causing a fatigue crack in the fuel pump cover.

    A cracked cover may leak fuel, which, in the presence of an ignition source, can increase the risk of a fire.

    What to do

    Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will replace the high pressure fuel pumps, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin April 2, 2018.

    Owners may contact Lexus customer service 1-800-255-3987. Toyota's numbers for this recall are J2B and JLB.

    Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 9,905 model year 2016-2018 Lexus GS F, model year 2018 LC500, and model year 2015-2018 Lexus RC F veh...

    Airbnb adding hotels, luxury properties to its site

    The company wants to become more of a full-service travel booking site

    Airbnb has announced that it will expand its selection of travel accommodation options available to customers to include hotels, new housing categories, and a loyalty program.

    The new plans for the 10-year-old company were announced Thursday by co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky at an official Airbnb event.

    The plans include the incorporation of a tiered program, which starts with Airbnb Plus -- a category for higher-end homes that are vetted by the company to ensure they meet certain requirements.

    “Every Airbnb Plus home is one-of-a-kind, thoughtfully designed, and equipped with a standard set of amenities -- whether you’re in a private room or have the entire place to yourself,” reads the website for Airbnb Plus.

    All Airbnb Plus homes are visited by a human inspector “to ensure comfort, consistency, and design,” the site says. “They are checked for 100-plus things that guests told us they love, from must-have amenities to the art on the walls.”

    Chesky also unveiled a new brand called Beyond by Airbnb -- a separate platform comprised exclusively of mansions and penthouses that will open this spring. This luxury tier of properties will include “custom-designed trips of a lifetime” at the “world’s finest homes, custom experiences, and world-class hospitality.”

    Recognizing hotels

    In a marked shift from its former stance as a rival of hotels, Airbnb announced that it’s officially recognizing hotels on its platform.

    Hotels and bed and breakfasts were previously allowed to be listed on the site, but now the company will be giving these properties official classification. Airbnb hopes this will make it easier for customers to find those listings through online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline.

    Additionally, the company will roll out a rewards plan called “Superguest” that will offer benefits to frequent customers. Superguests will get benefits such as flight upgrades, discounts, and benefits. Airbnb will launch the new rewards program this summer following a pilot with 10,000 guests.

    Airbnb has announced that it will expand its selection of travel accommodation options available to customers to include hotels, new housing categories, an...

    Amazon gives the green light for more Amazon Go stores

    Seattle, Los Angeles are the next moves in the company’s cashier-less experiment

    The plans for Amazon Go, Amazon’s revolutionary convenience store, just ramped up further with up to six more storefronts expected in 2018, according to a Recode report.

    The company will keep its brick-and-mortar experiment close to home, adding more in Seattle where the first location opened, last month, with the next stop likely being Los Angeles.

    Amazon Go is another peg in the company’s effort to flip the way people shop. With its sights set on a piece of the $550 billion U.S. convenience store niche, the move builds on Amazon’s jump into the grocery world’s fray with its purchase of Whole Foods, as well as the rollout of 13 physical bookstores.

    True get-it-and-go

    In what may sound like The Jetsons-meet-shoplifting, Amazon’s Just Walk Out Technology allows shoppers to scan their phone when they enter the store, grab what they want, and walk out without having to stop at a cash register to pay.

    Artificial intelligence charges the customer’s credit card every time an item is picked up. If you change your mind and put it back on the shelf, the software removes it from your account.

    Amazon doesn’t see this ingenuity of Amazon Go as another competitor to full-service stores like Wal-Mart but rather an automated convenience store stocked with snacks, ready-prep meals, day-to-day basics, and beer & wine.

    Still, it won’t be putting its toe in this water alone. Kroger announced that it has plans for its initiative called Scan, Bag, Go at 400+ locations by the end of 2018.

    While Kroger’s move seems like Amazon is entering a dogfight, the plans for Amazon Go are a little more deliberate with the goal of finding out if a cashier-less experience is even viable. The company’s announcement to expand implies initial trials are going as planned, but those have all been in Amazon’s backyard in Seattle. Greenlighting metros outside its comfort zone appears to be a move toward finding out how the rest of the world will react.

    Are jobs at risk?

    As of 2016, there were more than 3.5 million cashiers in the United States making an average of $20,180 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics had already projected that about 30,000 of those would go away by 2026, but digital shopping forays like Amazon’s and Kroger’s may grow those numbers higher if the technology behind Amazon Go catches on.

    However, Amazon’s thrown a towel over that crystal ball, saying Go’s technology won’t eliminate jobs, but rather change jobs its employees do. “We’ve just put associates on different kinds of tasks where we think it adds to the customer experience,” Gianna Puerini, the executive in charge of Amazon Go, told the New York Times.

    Those job tasks will likely shift toward restocking Go’s shelves and assisting customers with any technical issues or pointing them in the right direction. Although the store’s concept is “cashierless,” someone will be needed to check I.D.s before taking beer or wine home.

    The plans for Amazon Go, Amazon’s revolutionary convenience store, just ramped up further with up to six more storefronts expected in 2018, according to a...

    Model year 2018 Toyota Camrys with V6 engines recalled

    Fuel delivery pipes may not be properly connected to the fuel hoses

    Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 11,807 model year 2018 Toyota Camrys equipped with V6 engines.

    The vehicles' fuel delivery pipes may not be properly connected to the fuel hoses in the engine compartment.

    The improperly connected hoses may leak fuel, which, in the presence of an ignition source, can increase the risk of a fire.

    What to do

    Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the fuel pipes for the correct installation, correcting them as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin March 30, 2018.

    Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-888-270-9371. Toyota's number for this recall is J0G.

    Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 11,807 model year 2018 Toyota Camrys equipped with V6 engines.The vehicles' fuel delivery pipes m...

    Triple T Specialty Meats recalls chicken salad

    The products may be contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium

    Triple T Specialty Meats of Ackley, Iowa, is recalling approximately 20,630 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken salad.

    The products may be contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium.

    The following ready-to-eat items, produced between January 2, 2018, and February 7, 2018, are being recalled:

    • 3950 lbs. of two 5 lb. bags with “CHICKEN SALAD, PACKED FOR FAREWAY WHOLESALE COMPANY” on the label with a pack date of 01/02/18.
    • 1250 lbs. of two 5 lb. bags with “CHICKEN SALAD, PACKED FOR FAREWAY WHOLESALE COMPANY” on the label with a pack date of 01/03/18.
    • 3700 lbs. of two 5 lb. bags with “CHICKEN SALAD, PACKED FOR FAREWAY WHOLESALE COMPANY” on the label with a pack date of 01/12/18.
    • 2010-lbs. of two 5 lb. bags with “CHICKEN SALAD, PACKED FOR FAREWAY WHOLESALE COMPANY” on the label with a pack date of 01/19/18.
    • 3660-lbs. of two 5 lb. bags with “CHICKEN SALAD, PACKED FOR FAREWAY WHOLESALE COMPANY” on the label with a pack date of 01/24/18.
    • 2770-lbs. of two 5 lb. bags with “CHICKEN SALAD, PACKED FOR FAREWAY WHOLESALE COMPANY” on the label with a pack date of 01/31/18.
    • 3290-lbs. of two 5 lb. bags with “CHICKEN SALAD, PACKED FOR FAREWAY WHOLESALE COMPANY” on the label with a pack date of 02/07/18.

    The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-21011” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to Fareway grocery stores in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

    The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert for these products earlier this week.

    What to do

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

    Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Jolene Heikens at (641) 847-0031.

    Triple T Specialty Meats of Ackley, Iowa, is recalling approximately 20,630 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken salad.The products may be contaminated with...

    Twitter cracking down on spam bots with new rules

    The company says it will be limiting the use of automation

    Twitter says it’s taking aim at spam bots and automated accounts by making it harder for people to simultaneously tweet the same message to multiple accounts by using third-party apps.

    The company has made changes to Twitter and TweetDeck to limit coordinated posts across several accounts. Particularly aggressive retweeting will also be considered spam.

    In a blog post published Wednesday, Twitter’s trust and safety manager Yoel Roth explained that the changes are being implemented to “stay ahead of malicious activity targeting the crucial conversations taking place on Twitter.”

    With the new rules, the company aims to prevent users from creating or controlling accounts in an organized fashion to achieve a particular goal -- for example, by making a specific point of view appear to have more support than it actually does.

    Public service-related tweets still okay

    While the site is cracking down on spam bots, it will still allow content to be posted to accounts using an authorized app to broadcast public service-related information such as weather alerts, RSS feed updates, and more.

    “As a sole exception to this rule, applications that broadcast or share weather, emergency, or other public service announcements of broad community interest (for example, earthquake or tsunami alerts) are permitted to post this content across multiple accounts who have authorized an app,” Roth wrote.

    The new rules will go into effect starting March 23. Any developers who don’t update their apps in time risk having their applications and/or accounts suspended.

    Twitter says it’s taking aim at spam bots and automated accounts by making it harder for people to simultaneously tweet the same message to multiple accoun...

    VW recalls model year 2017-2018 Tiguan Limited vehicles

    The vehicles may have the wrong front driver airbag

    Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 3,768 model year 2017-2018 Tiguan Limited vehicles.

    The front driver air bag installed on the vehicles may not be intended for use in vehicles sold in the U.S.

    In the event of a crash, the incorrect airbags may not protect the driver as intended, increasing the risk of injury.

    What to do

    VW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the steering wheel and front driver air bag module, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin April 10, 2018.

    Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 69V2.

    Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 3,768 model year 2017-2018 Tiguan Limited vehicles.The front driver air bag installed on the vehicles may not...

    AT&T reveals 5G plans for three U.S. cities in 2018

    Dallas, Atlanta, and Waco will be among the first metros to benefit from the high-speed wireless service

    AT&T has pegged Dallas, Atlanta, and Waco as the first of 12 metro areas to receive its new 5G wireless service this year. That trailblazing move makes the company the only U.S. carrier to roll out plans for the high-speed technology in 2018, according to its announcement.

    “After significantly contributing to the first phase of 5G standards, conducting multi-city trials, and literally transforming our network for the future, we’re planning to be the first carrier to deliver standards-based mobile 5G – and do it much sooner than most people thought possible,” said Igal Elbaz, senior vice president, Wireless Network Architecture and Design. “Our mobile 5G firsts will put our customers in the middle of it all.”

    AT&T’s news comes on the heels of a Trump administration announcement that a nationwide 5G network is near the top of its wish list. Such a centralized network would make it easier to safeguard the country’s wireless systems from Chinese spying and economic threats. China is considered by many to be the chief malicious rogue in the digital information world.

    The need for speed continues

    Having access to 5G (fifth-generation) service raises the playing field for everyone. This upgrade brings with it three new, significant features: the ability to move more data with greater speed, the power to connect more devices at the same time, and more responsive access with lower latency.

    Just how fast will 5G go? In layman’s terms, almost 100 times faster than the current average internet speed. You’ll be able to download a 100 GB 4K movie in under four minutes and a 50 GB game in less than two minutes.

    Smartphones aren’t going to be AT&T’s first touchpoint, though. The company’s initial plans are built around a device called a "puck" that will act like a mobile hotspot and make it possible for consumers to connect existing devices to the enhanced 5G network.

    Unfortunately, consumers who want to take advantage of 5G for their smartphone will likely need to buy a new device when the technology fully rolls out. If you remember the changeover from 3G to 4G, your 3G phone didn’t support 4G. The shift to 5G will likely produce the same limitation and an upgraded phone will be necessary to support both 4G and 5G.

    AT&T; has pegged Dallas, Atlanta, and Waco as the first of 12 metro areas to receive its new 5G wireless service this year. That trailblazing move makes th...

    Bitcoin remains volatile but its value is rising

    One trader credits fading regulatory concerns

    The cryptocurrency roller coaster continued this week, with some digital currencies regaining value after steep January sell-offs.

    After falling to below $7,000, the value of Bitcoin surged past $12,000 this week before settling at just above $11,000 in early Wednesday trading. The currency logged an all-time high of just under $20,000 in December.

    More volatile than the stock market, cryptocurrency values tend to swing wildly based on perceptions and enthusiasm. All through 2017, the value of Bitcoin went straight up.

    Those who got in before the end of last summer have remained in profitable positions despite the recent steep drops. More recent investors have suffered significant losses, at least on paper.

    In January, international regulators began expressing concerns about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. South Korea and China, in particular, threatened to regulate trading.

    Also last month, most credit card companies issued rules barring customers from using credit cards to buy cryptocurrencies, a practice that had alarmed economists and regulators alike. It was at about that time that Bitcoin's value began to drop.

    Regulatory fears are fading

    Wall Street trader Brian Kelly, author of the book "The Bitcoin Big Bang," says the regulatory fears are fading. In an interview with CNBC, Kelly noted that Wyoming has recently passed a bill relaxing securities laws pertaining to cryptocurrencies.

    The South Korean government, in something of an about-face, said it would take a more supportive stance regarding cryptocurrencies as long as they were "normal" transactions.

    In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Monday, John Rainey, chief financial officer at PayPal, said he believes Bitcoin has a future as an option for payments. But Rainey told The Journal that Bitcoin's current volatility makes it risky for merchants, who could lose their entire profit margin if the currency value did not remain stable.

    Not ready for prime time

    “The technology, there has real merit to it," Rainey told the publication. "I do think, though, it will be years down the road before we see the kind of ubiquity and acceptance that makes it a form of currency that is used every day.”

    At the same time, U.S. regulators may be hardening their stance. As we reported Monday, key members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have indicated they are willing to consider measures to regulate cryptocurrencies.

    According to Coindesk, the principal exchange where Bitcoin trades, the cryptocurrency is up 85 percent from its early February lows. But it also notes some Bitcoin traders aren't convinced the rally is real and that the currency remains caught up in a "bigger downtrend."

    The cryptocurrency roller coaster continued this week, with some digital currencies regaining value after steep January sell-offs.After falling to belo...

    Uber launches Express Pool in more cities

    The service offers lower fares for customers willing to walk and wait

    Today, Uber is launching a new spin on its ride-hailing service called Express Pool -- a service for passengers who don’t mind commuting with strangers or being picked up and dropped off at specified locations.

    The new service lets customers book rides with other passengers heading in the same general direction, making it more efficient by minimizing the number of deviations a driver must make.

    Discounted rides

    In exchange for walking a few blocks to a specified pickup and dropoff location, Express Pool riders can enjoy lower fares. The service’s fares are up to 50 percent cheaper than standard shared Pool rides and up to 75 percent cheaper than UberX fares.

    The service is Uber’s first big project in three in a half years and has undergone a lengthy trial period.

    Express Pool had been running as a pilot for the past few months in San Francisco and Boston, but today it will roll out in six new cities -- Philadelphia, Washington D.C, Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Diego. More cities will be added in the coming months.

    Time efficiency

    Although riders will have to walk to a nearby pickup spot and wait a few minutes prior to the start of the trip, Uber believes these two additional actions will ultimately save drivers and riders time and frustration.

    The goal of specified pickup locations is to cut down on travel time and make Uber rides even more efficient than the company’s current UberPool model, in which drivers often find themselves driving in circles to pick up additional passengers.

    While Uber’s new service may sound similar to a bus, the company says there are few key differences.

    “We don’t think that this is at all like a bus,” said Ethan Stock, Uber’s director of product for shared rides, noting that Express Pool’s routes aren’t set in stone the way bus routes are. Rides are dependent on what riders are requesting in specific areas.

    “Three of the fundamental things about how buses work is they have fixed pickup and drop-off spots, a fixed route, and a fixed time schedule that they’re operating on. Everything about the Express Pool product is dynamic.”

    Additionally, each five-seat vehicle can only transport a limited number of passengers, unlike a high-capacity bus.

    Today, Uber is launching a new spin on its ride-hailing service called Express Pool -- a service for passengers who don’t mind commuting with strangers or...

    Model year 2018 Ford Escapes and Lincoln MKCs recalled

    Incorrect front brake hoses may chafe against other components

    Ford Motor Company is recalling 88 model year 2018 Ford Escapes and Lincoln MKCs.

    The vehicles may be equipped with incorrect front brake hoses that may chafe against other components, possibly resulting in a brake fluid leak.

    A brake fluid leak may lengthen the distance needed to stop the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the brake hoses, replacing any that are incorrect, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin March 5, 2018.

    Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 18S04.

    Ford Motor Company is recalling 88 model year 2018 Ford Escapes and Lincoln MKCs.The vehicles may be equipped with incorrect front brake hoses that may...

    NEMO Equipment recalls Stargaze Recliner Chairs

    The straps on the chair seats can fail, posing a fall hazard

    NEMO Equipment of Dover, N.H., is recalling about 15,500 Stargaze Recliner chairs.

    The straps on the chair seats can fail, posing a fall hazard.

    The firm has received one report of a chair breaking. No injuries have been reported.

    This recall involves the Stargaze Recliner, Stargaze Recliner Low, and Stargaze Recliner Luxury lifestyle camping chairs.

    These portable swinging and reclining outdoor chairs have an aluminum frame and black and gray monofilament mesh seat, and weigh between five and seven pounds.

    They were sold in four colors: birch leaf green, graphite, verdigris (teal) and Sedona (red), and come in a black, padded carrying case, and are used as a portable seat for camping and outdoor activities. The model name is printed on the pocket on the inside right side of the seat. The NEMO name and logo is attached to the back of the seat as a stitched logo.

    The chairs, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at REI from October 2017, through December 2017, for between $180 to $220.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chairs and contact NEMO Equipment for a free replacement chair.

    Consumers may contact NEMO Equipment at 800-997-9301 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at journey@nemoequipment.com or online at www.nemoequipment.com and click on Recall Safety Information for more details.

    NEMO Equipment of Dover, N.H., is recalling about 15,500 Stargaze Recliner chairs.The straps on the chair seats can fail, posing a fall hazard.The...

    Night Hawk Frozen Foods recalls frozen beef patties

    The products contain milk, an allergen not declared on the label

    Night Hawk Frozen Foods of Buda, Texas, is recalling approximately 167 pounds of frozen beef patties and gravy.

    The products contain milk, an allergen not declared on the label.

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

    The following heat-treated, but not fully-cooked, frozen items produced on November 8, 2017, are being recalled:

    • 8.75 oz. board cartons labeled as “NIGHT HAWK BEEF PATTY ‘N GRAVY, CHARBROILED BEEF PATTY and GRAVY, POTATO ROUNDS and SWEET CORN.”

    The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 2117” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in Louisiana and Texas.

    What to do

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

    Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Michelle Anselment at (512) 295-4166 X 107.

    Night Hawk Frozen Foods of Buda, Texas, is recalling approximately 167 pounds of frozen beef patties and gravy.The products contain milk, an allergen n...

    Toyota Sequoias and Tundras recalled

    The vehicles have seat and stability control issues

    Toyota Motor North America is recalling approximately 8,800 model year 2017 Tundras and roughly 65,000 model year 2018 Sequoias and Tundras.

    Model year 2017 Tundra

    In vehicles with second row seats , there is a possibility that one or more of the bolts attaching the left rear seat to the floor may not have been properly fastened.

    A seat with improperly fastened bolts may lead to an increased risk of injury in the event of a crash.

    What to do

    Toyota dealers will properly tighten the bolts at no cost to customers. All known owners will receive a notification by first-class mail starting in the middle of March.

    Model year 2018 Sequoia and Tundra

    There is a possibility that a vehicle diagnostic function may unnecessarily turn off the Vehicle Stability Control System and affect other systems. If this occurs, warning lights and messages will be displayed, and a warning chime will sound.

    Turning off Vehicle Stability Control could increase the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Toyota dealers will update the software in an electronic control unit at no cost to customers. All known owners will receive a notification by first-class mail starting in the middle of March.

    Owners with questions regarding either recall may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331.

    Toyota Motor North America is recalling approximately 8,800 model year 2017 Tundras and roughly 65,000 model year 2018 Sequoias and Tundras.Model year...

    Belgian judges demand Facebook destroy data it collected on non-users

    Facebook, which faces 100 million euros in fines, defended the practice

    In Europe, where consumers are protected by tougher privacy and data regulations than they are in the United States, judges have once again ruled that Facebook is breaking the law.

    A court in Belgium on Friday ordered Facebook to stop tracking and recording the browsing habits of non-users, “as it does not bring its practices in line with Belgian privacy legislation.”

    The Belgium verdict follows a ruling against Facebook in Germany last Monday.  In the latter case, a Berlin judge ruled that eights clauses in Facebook’s terms of service are illegal and that Facebook’s default privacy settings do not give users adequate consent or allow them to easily opt-out.

    “Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy center and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register,” an attorney with The Federation of German Consumer Organisations,  the organization that brought the lawsuit against Facebook,  said in a statement.

    Facebook says they plan to appeal the Berlin court’s decision.

    Facebook ordered to publicize judgment

    In the Belgian verdict, judges ordered Facebook to destroy data that they determined was “illegally obtained” and publicize the court’s unflattering findings about itself.

    The judges not only demanded that Facebook publish “the entire 84-page judgment on its website,” but also stipulated that Facebook publish a portion of the judgement in Dutch-language and French-language Belgian newspapers.  

    Facebook, which has so far given no indication that it plans to follow the order, faces fines of 250,000 euros a day or a max-out of 100 million euros for not complying.

    “The cookies and pixels we use are industry standard technologies and enable hundreds of thousands of businesses to grow their businesses and reach customers across the EU,” Facebook’s public policy spokesman Richard Allan told TechCrunch in a statement.

    “We require any business that uses our technologies to provide clear notice to end-users, and we give people the right to opt-out of having data collected on sites and apps off Facebook being used for ads.”

    Tracks non-users

    Facebook’s use of tracking codes through social plug-ins, commonly known as “cookies,” allows the social media giant to sell targeted advertising. The cookies work by collecting the browsing habits of consumers, even those who do not use the social media site or who have cancelled their accounts.

    “This does not only concern Facebook users, but almost all internet users in Belgium and Europe,” Belgium's Privacy Commission, the agency that filed suit against Facebook, explains on its website.

    Belgian watchdogs have been fighting the practice since 2015 with a civil suit and subsequent judgement which orders Facebook to stop invisibly tracking consumers or face hefty fines. But Facebook fought the ruling  with the argument that the Belgian courts did not have jurisdiction over its business because Facebook’s Europe office is headquartered in Ireland.

    Facebook’s appeals have been repeatedly shot down by the Belgian courts trying to crack down on the company. Much like the recent ruling in Germany, a report commissioned by the Belgian Privacy Commission in 2015 determined that Facebook’s privacy settings do not give users informed consent and that its terms of service violate European consumer privacy laws.

    Higher European standards irk companies

    While Facebook does allow users to opt-out of the tracking cookies, that this option is only available for people with a Facebook account,  not non--users. “The current practice does not meet the requirements for legally valid consent,” the Belgian Privacy Commission report said.

    The European Union considers data protection to be a fundamental right and places broad regulations on the tech, financial, and advertising industries over how they handle data.

    But tech giants have bristled at European attempts to regulate data collection and other aspects of their businesses. Last summer, European regulators fined Google a record 2.4 billion euros after finding it was manipulating search results in a manner that promotes its own shopping services over competitors. It was the largest antitrust fine implemented to date by the European Union.

    Google responded by offering concessions, such as opening its “shopping” search results to competitors, but it also appealed the ruling in September.

    In Europe, where consumers are protected by tougher privacy and data regulations than they are in the United States, judges have once again ruled that Face...

    Amazon to offer perks to Prime members who shop at Whole Foods

    The Amazon Prime credit card will give members 5 percent back on Whole Foods purchases

    Since purchasing Whole Foods in 2017, Amazon has made several changes to the way the high-end grocery retailer does business, including slashing the prices of some Whole Foods bestsellers and offering free two-hour delivery to Prime members in select cities.

    Now, Amazon has announced that Prime members will get 5 percent back at Whole Foods when using their Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature credit cards. Customers with the non-Prime version of the card will earn 3 percent back.

    The cashback incentives are already available at Amazon.com. The perks were launched in the hope of encouraging spending on Amazon and fueling purchases of Amazon’s $99 per year Prime membership, as well as encouraging Prime members to shop at the Whole Foods.

    Extending the perks to Whole Foods shoppers will be the first time Amazon has offered 5 percent back on purchases made outside its website.

    Amazon’s latest move since acquiring Whole Foods falls in line with CEO Jeff Bezos’ ultimate vision for Prime, which he has previously said is to make its selection of rewards and offerings so plentiful that it simply becomes “irresponsible” for consumers not to sign up.  

    Amazon cardholders who earn rewards at Whole Foods stores can choose to convert them into a statement credit or redeem them online to make purchases on Amazon or other eligible sites.

    Since purchasing Whole Foods in 2017, Amazon has made several changes to the way the high-end grocery retailer does business, including slashing the prices...

    Albertsons seeks merger with Rite Aid

    The deal follows last year's collapse of the Rite Aid-Walgreens merger

    Grocery chain Albertsons and drug retailer Rite Aid have agreed to a merger, greatly expanding the footprint of the struggling pharmacy chain.

    When Walgreens' proposed acquisition of rival Rite Aid fell through last year because of regulatory resistance, Walgreens agreed to purchase about 2,000 Rite Aid locations, leaving Rite Aid a much smaller company.

    But the proposed deal with Albertsons would suddenly make Rite Aid a lot larger.

    Besides the stores bearing the Albertsons name, the company operates Jewel-Osco, Shaw's, Safeway, Vons, and Acme stores. Most of the grocery store pharmacies will be re-branded as Rite Aid, the two companies said. Stand-alone Rite Aid stores will continue to operate with few, if any changes.

    'Powerful combination'

    Once the merger takes place, there will be nearly 4,900 company locations, with 4,350 pharmacy counters and 320 clinics across 38 states and Washington, D.C.

    "This powerful combination enables us to become a truly differentiated leader in delivering value, choice, and flexibility to meet customers' evolving food, health, and wellness needs," said Rite Aid CEO John Standley, who will become CEO of the combined enterprise. Albertsons CEO Bob Miller will become chairman.

    The deal would reverse Rite Aid's shrinking footprint. The new company will reportedly be ranked first or second in 66 percent of the top metropolitan areas in the United States and in 70 percent of pharmacy locations. Standley explains that the merger will strengthen both companies' positions on the West Coast and in the Northeast.

    "The combined platform positions Rite Aid to capitalize on our pharmacy expertise and expand and enhance our pharmacy footprint," he said. "We are confident that delivering improved customer experiences and value will drive growth and profitability while creating compelling long-term value for shareholders."

    The merger will have to pass muster with government regulators, but analysts say it should not encounter the same difficulties the Walgreens merger did, since the two companies are not direct competitors.

    Grocery chain Albertsons and drug retailer Rite Aid have agreed to a merger, greatly expanding the footprint of the struggling pharmacy chain.When Walg...

    Most New Yorkers must overspend on housing

    A survey shows millennials are the most likely to go over their housing budgets

    Housing costs have risen sharply in the last decade, especially in expensive markets like New York City.

    A new report from StreetEasy, a division of real estate marketplace Zillow, shows New Yorkers now pay 1.3 times more for housing in absolute terms than average Americans. To meet these high prices, 31 percent of New Yorkers must go over their initial budgets, whether buying or renting.

    However, homeowners are more likely to overspend, with 37 percent exceeding their initial home budget, compared to 27 percent of renters.

    According to the data, millennials are the generation most likely to go over their housing budget, with 45 percent opting for a more expensive home. Thirty percent of Gen Xers exceeded their housing budget, while only 19 percent of baby boomers did.

    Big spending millennials

    Millennials are also most likely of all the generations to consider buying a home right away. StreetEasy Senior Economist Grant Long says many young New Yorkers moved to the city to take advantage of its high salaries. They're finding those salaries aren't always high enough.

    “Despite facing rising housing costs and budgeting constraints, aspirations of owning a home remain high in the city, particularly among millennials," Long said. "While New Yorkers’ widespread desire to remain in the city is encouraging, the region’s continued success depends on maintaining an adequate supply of affordable homes that fit the priorities of its growing workforce.”

    New York is not the only expensive housing market to face this problem. In 2016 the Home Value Forecast, produced by Pro Teck Valuation Services, traced San Francisco's skyrocketing real estate values to its economic prosperity.

    As it recovered from the Great Recession, the city created 500,000 new jobs, many of them paying big salaries. But the recession and resulting housing crash resulted in a plunge in home building activity in the region, where land is at a premium.

    A half-million new jobs and almost no expansion in housing inventory resulted in a housing market where the average home lists for $1.2 million, and there is no shortage of buyers.

    Focusing on the basics

    With rising real estate values, New Yorkers looking to buy or rent a home are focusing on the basics, not the amenities. When asked to pick what they were looking for in a home, a majority said safety and access to public transportation were the most important features.

    Most New Yorkers -- 57 percent -- would recommend life in the Big Apple, but those who own a home are most likely to feel that way. The survey found renters to be significantly more likely to say living in New York is unaffordable.

    Housing costs have risen sharply in the last decade, especially in expensive markets like New York City.A new report from StreetEasy, a division of rea...

    Public health alert issued for Fareway Chicken Salad

    The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

    The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a public health alert for varying weights of Fareway Chicken Salad sold in plastic deli containers with a Fareway store deli label.

    The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

    The problem was discovered following reports of illness in Iowa.

    The item, produced between December 15, 2017, and February 13, 2018, was sold at all Fareway grocery stores in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota.

    What to do

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

    The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a public health alert for varying weights of Fareway Chicken Salad sold i...

    Winter Olympics and cryptocurrency faced hacks last week

    The Air Force, meanwhile, underwent an intentional hacking operation

    Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security warned Americans at the Olympics that the event was vulnerable to hacking. As if on cue, the website that hosted the event went down on opening day, among other notable hacks that took place.

    Cryptocurrency

    Do you go directly to your country’s government website to get information about what’s going on in your country? That’s adorable. It’s also apparently putting you at risk of becoming a cryptocurrency miner.

    A hack that affected thousands of websites, including USCourts.gov, the United Kingdom's information commissioner page and numerous Canadian government sites, caused visitors’ computers to mine cryptocurrency on behalf of hackers last weekend.

    It’s not the fault of the government websites themselves, but a popular browser plug-in called Browsealoud, which is used on thousands of web pages. Hackers compromised the code by tweaking it so that any computer that came across it would generate the cryptocurrency called Monero. Motherboard described the breach as the largest cryptocurrency hack to date.

    Winter Olympics

    On February 9, the day of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony, the event’s web page went down for several hours, impacting visitors’ ability to get tickets or access important event information, among other problems. Officials have not released much information about what happened, but independent experts are piecing it together.

    Cyber security experts said a computer virus called the “Olympic Destroyer” was likely used in Friday's attack and was designed to delete critical system files on computers, or essentially knock vulnerable computers offline. Experts also said the hackers appeared to have previously compromised the main IT service provider for the Winter Olympics.

    The site CyberScoop is reporting that the same malware behind Friday’s attack had previously hacked other computer systems belonging to the IT firm Atos, which is hosting the Pyeongchang games on its “cloud” infrastructure.

    Cryptocurrency (again)

    An Italian coin exchange last Friday posted a notice that hackers had stolen 17 million units of its Nano coins.

    Air Force (but on purpose)

    For the second year in a row, the Air Force has invited hackers to come aboard. The agency on Thursday completed its 20-day Hack the Air Force 2.0 security initiative, a challenge in which security researchers are paid to find vulnerabilities in the agency’s digital assets.

    "This is the first time that we've had Department of Defense personnel on site in a live hacking program," one expert told eWEEK. Researchers were paid a total of $103,883 for identifying 106 valid vulnerabilities. Last year, for the inaugural Hack the Air Force program, over $130,000 in cash was doled out.

    DNC sued for more information about previous hack

    BuzzFeed News is reportedly suing the Democratic National Convention in an attempt to glean more information about the Russian hacking interference that has been the party’s major talking point since Trump was elected into office.

    The news organization says in court that the political party has not complied with a subpoena they filed for more information about the infamous DNC hack of 2016, citing privacy concerns.

    Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security warned Americans at the Olympics that the event was vulnerable to hacking. As if on cue, the websit...

    Pilgrim's Pride recalls ready-to-eat chicken patties

    The product may contain extraneous materials

    Pilgrim’s Pride of Waco, Texas, is recalling approximately 101,310 pounds of ready-to-eat breaded chicken patties.

    The product may be contaminated with extraneous materials -- specifically rubber.

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

    The the following item, produced and packed on September 6, 2017, is being recalled:

    • 30-lb. boxes with six 5-lb. clear bags containing “GOLD KIST FARMS, Fully Cooked Whole Grain Home-Style Breaded Chicken Patties,” with a case code of 72491050xx and a product code of 665400.

    The recalled product, bearing establishment number “P-20728” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to institutions nationwide.

    What to do

    Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but dispose of it or return it to the place of purchase.

    Consumers with questions may contact James Brown, consumer relations manager at Pilgrim’s Pride at 1-800-321-1470.

    Pilgrim’s Pride of Waco, Texas, is recalling approximately 101,310 pounds of ready-to-eat breaded chicken patties.The product may be contaminated with...

    Specialized Bicycle Components recalls bicycles

    The fork on the bicycle can break and cause the rider to lose control

    Specialized Bicycle Components of Morgan Hill, Calif., is recalling about 6,100 bicycles sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

    The fork on the bicycle can break and cause the rider to lose control, posing a crash hazard.

    The firm has received one report of cracking in the fork. No crashes or injuries have been reported.

    This recall involves all model year 2018 Specialized Allez (Base), Allez Sport, and Allez Elite road racing bicycles. The recalled bicycles have an alloy frame and composite fork.

    “Specialized” is printed on the downtube, “Allez” is printed on the bottom of each fork leg and “FACT” is printed on the inside of the left fork leg.

    Model

    Colors

    2018 Specialized Allez

    Gloss Rocket Red/Tarmac Black combination, Satin Black/Charcoal Clean combination

    2018 Specialized Allez Sport

    Gloss Cosmic White/Satin Black combination, Satin Navy/Gloss Nordic Red combination

    2018 Specialized Allez Elite

    Gloss Light Blue/Rocket Red, Satin Black/White Clean

     

    The bicycles, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at authorized Specialized retailers nationwide from July 2017, through December 2017, for between $750 and $1,200.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bicycles and contact an Authorized Specialized Retailer for instructions on how to receive a free installation of a new fork.

    Consumers may contact an Authorized Specialized Retailer directly or Specialized Bicycle Components, Inc. toll-free at 877-808-8154 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, by email at ridercare@specialized.com or online at www.specialized.com and click on “Safety Notifications” for more information.

    Specialized Bicycle Components of Morgan Hill, Calif., is recalling about 6,100 bicycles sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.The fork on the bicycle ca...

    Intel faces 32 class-action lawsuits over Spectre and Meltdown chipset vulnerabilities

    Two securities lawsuits and 30 customer lawsuits have been filed

    Back in January, information emerged that a design flaw in certain Intel computer processor chips could put consumers at risk of having personal data stolen by hackers. On Friday, Intel Corp. revealed that it’s facing 32 class-action lawsuits in connection with the security flaws in its chips, dubbed Meltdown and Spectre.

    “As of February 15, 2018, 30 customer class action lawsuits and two securities class action lawsuits have been filed,” Intel said in an SEC filing today.

    Most of the lawsuits claim that users were harmed by Intel’s “actions and/or omissions” related to the flaws. Intel says the 30 customer lawsuits are seeking “monetary damages and equitable relief.”

    The two securities lawsuits “allege that Intel and certain officers violated securities laws by making statements about Intel’s products and internal controls that were revealed to be false or misleading by the disclosure of the security vulnerabilities.”

    Intel said in a regulatory filing that it wasn’t able to estimate the potential financial loss that may arise from the growing number of lawsuits. The company also noted that it disputes the claims from all 32 lawsuits and intends to defend them “vigorously.”

    "Given the procedural posture and the nature of these cases, including that the proceedings are in the early stages, that alleged damages have not been specified, that uncertainty exists as to the likelihood of a class or classes being certified or the ultimate size of any class or classes if certified, and that there are significant factual and legal issues to be resolved, we are unable to make a reasonable estimate of the potential loss or range of losses, if any, that might arise from these matters," Intel said.

    Initial updates reduced performance

    Fixes were issued for most computing devices that were made vulnerable to cyber attack because of the flaws, but some patches reportedly put devices into an ‘unbootable state’.

    Security experts previously said that Intel would likely face lawsuits from consumers claiming that the patches slowed down computers and forced them to buy new hardware. Some said that big customers would also seek compensation from the company for any software or hardware fixes they make.

    Back in January, information emerged that a design flaw in certain Intel computer processor chips could put consumers at risk of having personal data stole...

    Scans of FedEx customers' passports found on unsecured server

    Documents had been collected by Bongo International, now part of FedEx

    As many as 119,000 FedEx customers may have been compromised when scans of passports and other documents were left on an unsecured Amazon cloud server.

    Researchers from Kromtech Security Center said they discovered the documents on February 5. They said the documents belonged to citizens from a number of countries, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, China, Kuwait, and Japan.

    An analysis revealed that the documents had been collected by Bongo International, a company that supports retailers in North America with international shipping. FedEx bought Bongo International in 2014.

    “After a preliminary investigation, we can confirm that some archived Bongo International account information located on a server hosted by a third-party, public cloud provider is secure,” FedEx said in a statement. “The data was part of a service that was discontinued after our acquisition of Bongo. We have found no indication that any information has been misappropriated and will continue our investigation.”

    Kromtech researchers said the documents it found on the server were dated between 2009 and 2012. The company said the data could have been out there for years and that anyone using Bongo's services during that time might have compromised their identities.

    Bongo International, now known as FedEx Cross Border, started in 2007 as a package forwarding service for international consumers who wanted to purchase items from U.S.-based websites that did not offer international shipping.

    As many as 119,000 FedEx customers may have been compromised when scans of passports and other documents were left on an unsecured Amazon cloud server....

    Chrysler recalls model year 2017-2018 RAM trucks

    The Brake Transmission Shift Interlock pin may stick in the open position

    Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 180,462 model year 2017-2018 RAM 1500, 2500, 3500, 3500 Cab Chassis, 4500 Cab Chassis, and 5500 Cab Chassis vehicles, all equipped with a column shifter.

    Pushing the brake pedal for prolonged periods when the vehicle is running and in PARK may cause the Brake Transmission Shift Interlock (BTSI) pin to stick in the open position.

    With the pin in the open position, the transmission can be shifted out of PARK into any gear without pushing the brake pedal or having the key in the ignition.

    Being able to shift the transmission without pushing the brake pedal and/or without a key in the ignition can increase the risk of an unintended vehicle rollaway that may result in personal injury or a crash.

    What to do

    Chrysler will notify owners and dealers will update the Body Control Module software. Dealers will also test the BTSI operation, replacing the solenoid as necessary.

    The recall is expected to begin March 30, 2018.

    Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is U11.

    Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 180,462 model year 2017-2018 RAM 1500, 2500, 3500, 3500 Cab Chassis, 4500 Cab Chassis, and 5500 Cab Chassis vehicles, al...

    Facebook funded many of the experts who stood behind Messenger Kids

    The company donated money to at least 7 members on its advisory board

    Most of the experts who vetted Messenger Kids -- Facebook’s messaging platform geared specifically toward children under 13 -- received funding from the social media giant.

    When the app was first launched back in December, Facebook emphasized that it had worked closely with leading experts in the field of child development in order to protect its youngest users.

    However, many of the organizations and experts that vouched for the app’s safety received funding from Facebook, WIRED reports.

    "At least seven members of Facebook's 13-person advisory board have some kind of financial tie to the company," the report said.

    Reviewers were given previous donations

    At the time of the app’s release, the company asserted that Messenger Kids would be filling “a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want.”

    Facebook said the app was created with the help of input from more than a dozen experts, associations like National PTA and Blue Star Families, and conversations with thousands of parents.

    But most of the experts who helped “co-develop” the controversial app have previously received funding from Facebook, sparking even more concern over whether the app is as safe for kids as Facebook claims.

    The National PTA said Facebook donated money for the first time in 2017, which it used to fund a survey and roundtables. Facebook also donated “small amounts” to Blue Star Families, as well as several other organizations with representatives on the board that favorably evaluated the app.

    Advocates call for app to shut down

    Since it was first rolled out in December 2017, the app has faced widespread criticism from many parents and child advocates. In an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, nearly 100 child health experts called for the app to be shut down.

    "We are writing to urge you to discontinue Messenger Kids, Facebook's first social media app designed specifically for children under the age of 13," the letter from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood read.

    Encouraging children as young as six to join social media is likely to create problems, not fill a need, the experts argued.

    In addition to the developmental issues that have been linked to screen time and social media use by young children, the experts argue that those under the age of 13 “aren’t old enough to navigate the complexities of online relationships or protect their own privacy.”

    The app is still available and has been rolled out to even more users. Starting today, Android users can download Messenger Kids.

    Most of the experts who vetted Messenger Kids -- Facebook’s messaging platform geared specifically toward children under 13 -- received funding from the so...

    McDonald's promises to slim down its Happy Meal

    The menu for children will offer more balanced meals and simplified ingredients

    McDonald's has announced an initiative it calls a "commitment to support families" that includes revisions to its Happy Meal menu for children.

    Fairly or unfairly, McDonald's -- and fast food in general -- has received a lot of the blame for childhood obesity. The fast food chain has taken steps in recent years to improve nutritional information about its food and make it more transparent.

    The Happy Meal, a favorite among a couple of generations of children, has also undergone significant changes. McDonald's says it's about to undergo even more. The company says it will improve the Happy Meal in 120 markets, providing more balanced meals and simplified ingredients. It says the changes will be in place by 2022.

    More choices to consumers

    "Given our scale and reach, we hope these actions will bring more choices to consumers and uniquely benefit millions of families, which are important steps as we build a better McDonald's," said Steve Easterbrook, McDonald's President and CEO.

    The original Happy Meal offered up a hamburger, fries, and a soft drink. In recent years, McDonald's has introduce alternative Happy Meal combinations that replaced the fries with fruit and the soft drink with water.

    McDonald's says by the end of 2022, its goal is to have at least 50 percent of Happy Meals in each market meet the company's new Global Happy Meal Nutrition Criteria of less than or equal to 600 calories; 10 percent of calories from saturated fat; 650mg sodium; and 10 percent of calories from added sugar.

    At the moment, a reported 28 percent of Happy Meal combinations in 20 major markets meet that criteria.

    U.S. restaurants will see the changes first

    The changes will be accelerated in the U.S. By June, the company expects to have 100 percent of its Happy Meal combinations weigh in at under 600 calories.

    As an example, McDonald's points to a new grilled chicken Happy Meal entree. It says McDonald's restaurants in Australia are experimenting with new vegetable and lean protein options. McDonald's locations in France are considering adding new vegetables to the menu.

    The company is also pledging to simplify ingredients by getting rid of artificial flavors and colors. It also plans to reduce the use of artificial preservatives where it’s possible. The company notes that it removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets served in the U.S. in 2013.

    The changes are generally being applauded by health advocates. American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown praised the move and urged other fast food restaurants to take similar steps.

    "Restaurant offerings and advertising practices play a significant role in driving consumer demand for healthy menu items," Brown said. "We believe the entire restaurant industry can help achieve the American Heart Association’s goals to improve heart health by making healthy menus the norm for kids’ meals."

    McDonald's has announced an initiative it calls a "commitment to support families" that includes revisions to its Happy Meal menu for children.Fairly o...

    West Elm recalls glass tables

    The tempered glass top can shatter unexpectedly

    West Elm, a division of Williams-Somona, of San Francisco, Calif., is recalling about 5,400 Jensen rectangular glass top tables.

    The tempered glass top can shatter unexpectedly, posing a laceration and injury hazard.

    The firm has received nine reports of the glass table top shattering. No injuries have been reported.

    This recall involves West Elm Jensen rectangular glass tables with a solid wood A-frame base and a clear glass top.

    The table measures 76 inches long by 36 inches wide by 30 inches high.

    Only rectangular tables with SKU number 4737003 or 7912629 printed on the table’s packaging are included in the recall.

    The tables, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at West Elm stores nationwide, West Elm’s catalog and westelm.com from September 2014, through December 2016, for between $480 and $600.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled tables and contact West Elm to receive a free replacement table top. All known purchasers are being contacted directly by the firm.

    Consumers may contact West Elm toll-free at 833-216-6974 from 7 a.m. to midnight (ET) daily or online at www.westelm.com and click on Safety Recalls for more information.

    West Elm, a division of Williams-Somona, of San Francisco, Calif., is recalling about 5,400 Jensen rectangular glass top tables.The tempered glass top...

    Toyota recalls Camry and Lexus RC F, GS F and LC 500 vehicles

    The vehicles have fuel pipe, hose and pump issues

    Toyota Motor North America is recalling approximately 11,800 model year 2018 Toyota Camrys and roughly 9,900 model year 2015 - 2018 Lexus RC F, model year 2016 – 2018 Lexus GS F and model year 2018 Lexus LC 500 vehicles.

    Camry

    During the assembly of the Camrys, the fuel pipes and the fuel hoses in the engine compartment may not have been properly connected. This condition could lead to a fuel odor or fuel leak which, in the presence of an ignition source, could increase the risk of a fire.

    What to do

    Toyota dealers will inspect the fuel pipes and hoses, and if necessary, properly connect them at no cost to customers.

    All known owners will receive a notification by first class mail by late March.

    Owners may contact customer service at 1-800-331-4331

    Lexus RC F, GS F and LC 500

    There is a possibility that the cover of one of two high pressure fuel pumps could become damaged over time and lead to a fuel leak. A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source can increase the risk of a fire.

    What to do

    Lexus dealers will replace both high-pressure fuel pumps with improved ones at no cost to customers.

    All known owners will receive a notification by first class mail starting in early April.

    Owners may contact customer service at 1-800-255-3987.

    Toyota Motor North America is recalling approximately 11,800 model year 2018 Toyota Camrys and roughly 9,900 model year 2015 - 2018 Lexus RC F, model year...

    YouTube TV adding more channels, expanding to new markets

    The price for service goes up $5 starting next month for new subscribers

    YouTube TV, Google’s internet TV streaming service, announced that it has added more cable channels to its basic monthly package.

    Starting today, members can view programming from Turner networks including TBS, TNT, CNN, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, truTV, and Turner Classic Movies.

    However, with the addition of new channels comes a slight increase in price for new customers. The company confirmed that the price of its core monthly package will increase from $35 to $40 a month starting March 13 for new subscribers.

    Those who sign up for service before the 13th will be able to keep the old rate of $35 a month.

    The company also added that customers can expect even more channels to be added to the lineup “in the coming months.” Sports fans will soon be able to watch programming from NBA TV and MLB Network. NBA All Access and MLB.TV will also be available for an additional monthly fee.

    Expanding to new markets

    In its announcement, the company also said it would be launching YouTube TV access in many new markets in the U.S.

    “While we started out in just five markets and expanded to over 80 from there, we’re thrilled to announce that we are taking YouTube TV to over 85 percent of U.S. households, with the most live local broadcast stations in markets where YouTube TV is available,” YouTube said.

    Google’s TV streaming service for cord cutters will be launched in 18 new markets, including Lexington, Dayton, Honolulu, Richmond, Mobile, and Syracuse. To see the full list of locations where YouTube TV is available, click here.

    YouTube TV, Google’s internet TV streaming service, announced that it has added more cable channels to its basic monthly package.Starting today, member...

    Here’s how much consumers will spend on Valentine’s Day in 2018

    This year's spending came close to the 2016 record-high of $19.7 billion

    Consumers in the U.S. are projected to spend a near-record amount on gifts this Valentine’s Day, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

    The average shopper will spend $143.56 on Valentine’s Day gifts like jewelry, flowers, candy, and dinner -- an increase from last year’s $136.57.

    This year, the total estimating spending haul will hit $19.6 billion, with jewelry purchases accounting for a majority of that figure (an estimated $4.7 billion).

    Spending on food and entertainment options are projected at $3.7 billion, followed by flowers ($2 billion), clothing ($1.9 billion), and candy ($1.8 billion).

    Millennials will spend most

    More than half of U.S. consumers (55 percent) plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day in some way this year, according to the survey of 7,277.

    “Americans are looking forward to pampering and indulging their loved ones with flowers, candy, dinner and all of the other Valentine’s Day stops,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “With the holidays behind them and the winter months dragging along, consumers are looking for something to celebrate this time of year.”

    The average person will spend $88.98 on gifts and treats for their significant other, $25.29 on other family members like parents or children, and $4.79 on coworkers.

    Millennials aged 25-34 are projected to spend more than any other age bracket, dropping an average of $202.76. Millennials are also most likely (41 percent) to give a “gift of experience,” such as tickets to a concert or sporting event compared to 24 percent in other age groups.

    Some consumers look to splurge on themselves

    The NRF estimates that about three in 10 adults (27 percent) don't plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day but still plan on doing some shopping, either on a special gift for themselves or on anti-Valentine’s Day gifts.

    “Valentine’s Day has become a holiday consumers take advantage of not only to spoil their loved ones but themselves,” Prosper Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said.

    “Shoppers should look out for deals on everything from candy to date-night dinner packages in the coming days, leaving plenty of options for those looking to make the occasion truly special.”

    Consumers in the U.S. are projected to spend a near-record amount on gifts this Valentine’s Day, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Fed...

    Inflation picked up steam in January

    The cost of consumer goods increased above expectations last month

    The cost of living rose more than expected last month as consumers had to pay more for food and gasoline.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.5 percent despite most economists predicting a smaller 0.3 percent rise. With the volatile food and energy sectors removed, prices rose a more modest 0.3 percent, which was still a little higher than expected.

    The government numbers show prices crept higher through a broad section of categories, including housing, gasoline, apparel, medical care, and food.

    Consumers with investments in the stock market are taking another beating today, since the markets equate rising inflation with higher interest rates. Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, says rising prices make the Federal Reserve more likely to increase the number of interest rate hikes this year.

    "If this does mean higher rates, consumers will need to take extra care to monitor the effects on credit cards and home equity line of credit rates, both of which are sensitive to Fed hikes," Frick told ConsumerAffairs. "And those shopping for a house will need to factor in potentially higher mortgages rates, which are influenced by 10-year Treasury yields."

    Monitor rates on credit cards

    At the same time, even rising interest rates are not likely to be very high. Until recently, the Fed kept its key interest rate at near zero percent. Even after a few price hikes, rates are still historically low.

    "The greater danger may be to workers, who are still waiting for a strong rise in wages," Frick said. "If fears of higher inflation -- and inflation is still just rising at a moderate rate -- cause the Fed to raise rates more to cool down the economy, a big wage bump may not materialize.”

    The 0.5 percent rise in January's CPI follows a 0.3 percent increase in December and 0.2 percent increase in November. Averaged out for a 12-month period, inflation is running at 2.1 percent, just slightly above the Fed's target of 2.0 percent.

    Despite the overall increase, the price of a few things actually went down last month. Natural gas prices were down the most, falling 2.6 percent.

    The cost of living rose more than expected last month as consumers had to pay more for food and gasoline.The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the Con...

    Poppin recalls Pitch rolling chairs

    The seat plate can break and detach from the seat base

    Poppin Inc., of New York, N.Y., is recalling about 2,800 Pitch rolling chairs.

    The seat plate can break and detach from the seat base, posing a fall hazard.

    The firm has received five reports of the seat plate mechanism detaching from the seat base. No injuries have been reported.

    This recall involves Popping Pitch model rolling chairs upholstered in fabric and was sold in five colors: Red (model #: 103772), Blue (model #: 103767), Dark Gray (model #: 103769), Khaki (model #: 103771), and Dark Blue (model #: 103768).

    The chair has a chrome-plated base, five roller wheels and measures about 33 inches tall and 25.5 inches wide.

    The Poppin logo and model number are printed on the chair’s seat plate underneath the chair.

    The chairs, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Poppin showrooms nationwide and online at www.poppin.com from March 2016, through September 2017, for about $400.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chairs and contact Poppin for a free repair, including a new seat plate mechanism and installation.

    Consumers may contact Poppin toll-free at 888-676-7746 from 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email retrofits@poppin.com or online at www.poppin.com and click on Recall Information at the bottom of the page for more information.

    Poppin Inc., of New York, N.Y., is recalling about 2,800 Pitch rolling chairs.The seat plate can break and detach from the seat base, posing a fall haz...

    Unilever puts pressure on tech giants to clean up their content

    The company says it doesn’t want to advertise on online platforms filled with ‘toxic’ content

    Unilever has threatened to pull ads from Facebook, Google, and other online platforms if the tech giants don’t do a better job of controlling the spread of what the company calls “toxic” online content.

    In a speech delivered Monday at the annual Interactive Advertising Bureau conference in California, Keith Weed, chief marketing officer at Unilever, called on technology companies to step up their efforts to improve transparency and consumer trust.

    "We need to redefine what is responsible business in the digital age because for all of the good the tech companies are doing, there's some unintended consequences that now need addressing," Weed said.

    Some of those unintended consequences include facilitating the spread of fake news and illegal content, he noted.

    Rebuilding trust

    Unilever -- which makes Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Dove soap, and more than 1,000 other brands worldwide -- is one of the biggest online advertisers, and digital advertising on platforms like Facebook and Google accounts for a significant portion of its ad spend.

    But the company says it does not want to advertise on platforms that are rife with abusive, divisive, and unethical material. Unilever says consumer trust in social media platforms is waning due to the perceived lack of effort on the part of tech giants to keep out this “toxic” content.

    In his speech, Weed argues that some online platforms are “sometimes little better than a swamp,” though he stopped short of mentioning any specific companies.

    “2018 is either the year of tech-lash, where the world turns on the tech giants — and we have seen some of this already— or the year of trust. The year where we collectively rebuild trust back in our systems and our society,” he said.

    Improving the industry

    The company says it has already offered solutions to tech companies and wants to work with them to improve the industry.

    “Unilever will not invest in platforms or environments that do not protect our children or which create division in society, and promote anger or hate,” Weed said. “We will prioritize investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society.”

    In a statement on Monday, one Facebook spokeswoman said that the platform “fully supports Unilever’s commitments and [we] are working closely with them.”

    "Keith has always pushed us and the industry to be better," Google said in its own statement. "There is nothing we take more seriously than the trust and safety of our users, customers and partners, and we will continue to work to earn that trust every day."

    Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook is flawed and vowed to make “fixing Facebook” his personal goal for 2018. Several changes -- including showing users more local news and less commercial content on their News Feeds -- have already been rolled out to users.

    Google has announced that a new task force will be dedicated to policing extremist content on YouTube in 2018.

    Unilever has threatened to pull ads from Facebook, Google, and other online platforms if the tech giants don’t do a better job of controlling the spread of...

    Volkswagen recalls model year 2014-2018 Audi RS7s

    The tire information label contains incorrect information

    Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 3,543 model year 2014-2018 Audi RS7s.

    The tire information label on these vehicles incorrectly lists the combined maximum weight as 1146 lbs/520 kg, when the correct combined maximum weight is actually 992 lbs/470 kg.

    These vehicles, therefore, fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 110, "Tire Selection and Rims."

    If operators were to load the vehicle based on information on the tire information label, they could overload the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Audi will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tire information label, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin April 8, 2018.

    Owners may contact Audi customer service at 1-800-253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 44N9.

    Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 3,543 model year 2014-2018 Audi RS7s.The tire information label on these vehicles incorrectly lists the combin...

    Chrysler recalls model year 2017 Dodge Caravans and Jeep Wranglers

    The vehicles' brake switches may malfunction

    Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 39,456 model year 2017 Dodge Caravans and Jeep Wranglers.

    The vehicles' brake switches may malfunction, keeping the brake lights illuminated and/or allowing the vehicle to be shifted out of the PARK position without the brake pedal being pushed.

    Having the brake lamps continuously illuminated or being able to shift the vehicle out of PARK when the brake pedal is not pressed (and the ignition is in the RUN mode) can increase the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the brake switches, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin March 30, 2018.

    Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is U09.

    Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 39,456 model year 2017 Dodge Caravans and Jeep Wranglers.The vehicles' brake switches may malfunction, keeping the b...

    Battery packs for Fujitsu notebook computers and workstations recalled

    The lithium-ion battery packs can overheat

    Fujitsu America of Sunnyvale, Calif., is recalling about 6,400 battery packs used in Fujitsu notebook computers and workstations sold in the U.S. and Canada.

    The lithium-ion battery packs can overheat, posing burn and fire hazards to consumers.

    The company has received one report of a battery fire in Canada.

    This recall involves Panasonic lithium-ion battery packs for these Fujitsu notebook computers and workstations: CELSIUS H720, LIFEBOOK E752, E733, E743, E753, P702, P772, S710, S752, S762, T732, T734, and T902.

    Recalled battery pack product numbers are CP556150-03, CP579060-01 and CP629458-03. The product and serial numbers are printed on a white sticker on the battery.

    Serial numbers included in the recall are:

    Recalled Battery Pack Part and Serial Numbers

    Product Number (P/N)

    Serial Numbers

    The first 7

    characters

    The last 7

    characters

    CP556

    150-03

    Z130119

    All

    Z130120

    000038Z

    - 004207Z

    Z130131

    - Z130205

    All

    CP5790

    60-01

    Z130129

    All

    Z130130

    All

    Z130131

    000089Z -

    000662Z

    Z130221

    All

    Z130304

    000045Z -

    000563Z

    001210Z -

    001963Z

    002302Z -

    002847Z

    Z130306

    000017Z -

    000524Z

    CP6294

    58-03

    Z130301

    - Z130407

    All

    The battery packs, manufactured in China, were sold online at www.shopfujitsu.com from July 2012, through December 2017, for about $170 for the battery pack sold separately, and between $1,100 and $2,900 for the battery packs sold with Fujitsu notebook computers and workstations.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled battery packs, power off the laptop, remove the battery and follow instructions to obtain a free replacement battery pack.

    Until a replacement battery pack is received, consumers should use the laptop by plugging in AC power only.

    Consumers may contact Fujitsu at 800- 835-4878 or 800-8FUJITSU from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at http://www.fujitsu.com/us/support/products/computing/notebooks/battery-recall/2018.html for more information.

    Fujitsu America of Sunnyvale, Calif., is recalling about 6,400 battery packs used in Fujitsu notebook computers and workstations sold in the U.S. and Canad...

    Olympics opening ceremony hit by cyber attack

    Officials confirm that there was an attack but won’t reveal who was responsible

    Olympic officials have confirmed that a cyber attack took place during the 2018 winter games, Reuters reports.

    PyeongChang organizers say that someone compromised services, leading to a temporary shutdown of internet and wifi during the opening ceremony, but they won’t say where the attacks originated.

    “All issues were resolved and recovered yesterday morning,” organizing committee spokesman Sung Baik-you told reporters. However, the source of the attack is being kept under wraps.

    Officials know the culprit

    Sung said that investigators know the cause of the attack but are “not going to reveal the source” after talking to the International Olympics Committee. The attack did not compromise any critical part of Olympic operations, organizers noted.

    “Maintaining secure operations is our purpose,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams said. “We are not going to comment on the issue. It is one we are dealing with. We are making sure our systems are secure and they are secure.”

    In response to whether or not organizers knew who was behind the attack, Adams said, “I certainly don’t know. But best international practice says that you don’t talk about an attack.”

    Russia, which has been formally banned from the Winter Olympics over its doping program, has already tried to get ahead of speculation that Russia-based hackers may have been behind the attack.

    “We know that Western media are planning pseudo-investigations on the theme of ‘Russian fingerprints’ in hacking attacks on information resources related to the hosting of the Winter Olympic Games in the Republic of Korea,” the nation’s foreign ministry said. “Of course, no evidence will be presented to the world.”

    Sung says investigators know who was responsible, but have no plans to reveal the source.

    “We know the cause of the problem but that kind of issue occurs frequently during the Games. We decided with the IOC we are not going to reveal the source (of the attack),” he said.

    Vulnerable to hacking

    Cybersecurity experts have warned that PyeongChang is a target for hacking. The Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to Americans in Pyeongchang to be mindful of so-called “cyber activists” and cyber criminals.

    “At high-profile events, cyber activists may take advantage of the large audience to spread their message,” the warning says.  “Cyber criminals may attempt to steal personally identifiable information or harvest users’ credentials for financial gain. There is also the possibility that mobile or other communications will be monitored.”

    Last month, experts revealed that they found early indications of attacks in the months leading up to the games in the form of malicious emails sent to Olympic officials.

    Olympic officials have confirmed that a cyber attack took place during the 2018 winter games, Reuters reports.PyeongChang organizers say that someone c...

    Model year 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell vehicles recalled

    The vehicle can suffer reduced or a complete loss of, power

    American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 471 model year 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell vehicles.

    The fuel cell control unit (FC-ECU) may misinterpret a small cell voltage drop, causing the vehicle to have reduced or a complete loss of power, increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Honda will notify owners, and dealers will install a software update, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin February 26, 2018.

    Owners may contact Honda customer service at 1-888-234-2138. Honda's number for this recall is R0L.

    American Honda Motor Co. is recalling 471 model year 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell vehicles.The fuel cell control unit (FC-ECU) may misinterpret a small cell...

    Google raises the security bar for websites

    Sites not using HTTPS will be flagged as ‘not secure’ starting this summer

    Google ratcheted up the importance it places on security today. The company announced that it will begin marking all non-HTTPS sites as “not secure” in its Chrome browser starting in July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68.

    In layman’s language, HTTPS is the protocol over which data between your computer and the website you’re connected to is sent. The “S” means the connection is “secure” and that any communication between you and the website is encrypted and less prone to attack.

    The most common uses of HTTPS have been for sites who deal in the exchange of money with services such as online shopping or online banking.

    Google’s makes good on its promise

    Starting in 2015, Google began its watchdog campaign to make security a key component of its Chrome browser. At that time, the company’s audit found that 79 of the worldwide web’s non-Google sites did not use HTTPS as its default protocol. Many of those sites had no encryption at all or used outdated versions. Some of the biggest offenders at the time included Wired.com, IMDB.com, and the New York Times, which has since moved to secure its site.

    Google’s evangelism and tenacity have paid off. Its latest scorecard shows reports that 81 of the top 100 sites used HTTPS by default, with 68 percent of Chrome traffic on both Windows and Android protected and 78 percent of Chrome traffic on Chrome OS and Mac protected.

    “Chrome’s new interface will help users understand that all HTTP sites are not secure, and continue to move the web towards a secure HTTPS web by default,” said Emily Schechter, Chrome Security Product Manager.

    Does this affect you?

    If you’re one of the 56 percent of users who prefer the Chrome browser over other options, then it’s likely that you’ll be seeing notifications for websites not using the HTTPS protocol starting in July.

    However, Schecter says that other groups may be more affected by the change. At a 2016 developer summit, she pointed out that business owners who run their own website can benefit from converting to the HTTPS protocol.

    “HTTPS is easier and cheaper than ever before, and it unlocks both performance improvements and powerful new features that are too sensitive for HTTP,” she said.

    Most hosting companies offer site security for $15 or less a year. There’s even an organization -- LetsEncrypt.org -- funded by the likes of Chrome, Facebook, Shopify, and Cisco, that offers trusted certificates for free.

    Google ratcheted up the importance it places on security today. The company announced that it will begin marking all non-HTTPS sites as “not secure” in its...

    Lifestyle emerges as main motivation for buying a home

    Thanks to the new tax law, tax breaks are less important

    It may only be February, but the spring home buying season is getting underway. If you're trying to sell your home this year, it may be helpful to understand who is doing the buying and why.

    It can no longer be assumed that homebuyers are motivated by tax reasons. The tax breaks for homeownership aren't nearly what they once were, thanks to the new tax law passed in December.

    The National Association of Realtors (NAR), a group with a big stake in consumers continuing to purchase homes, has released new research that shows "an overwhelming majority" of renters aspire to own a home.

    But the primary motivation is no longer to save money on taxes. Rather, renters say they want a home of their own for lifestyle reasons.

    Life changes

    Renters who are making a change in their lives -- getting married, starting a family, or retiring -- are most likely to say they'd like to purchase a home. Those who report an improvement in their financial situation also express a desire to own the roof over their heads.

    But it's not just people changing their lifestyle who are entering the housing market in greater numbers -- it's also people who want to enhance their lifestyle, and increasingly they see a home of their own as a way to do that.

    NAR research shows singles have emerged as a strong segment of the homebuying market -- in particular, single women. While married couples remain the largest segment of the homebuying public, single women are second, making up 18 percent of total sales. That’s far ahead of single men, who buy seven percent of homes.

    Sense of fulfillment

    In an interview with the Washington Post, author Meghan Daum suggests single women often gain a sense of fulfillment from homeownership the way other women might do so through having a family. She says women she knows would rather decorate and furnish their homes than shop for clothes.

    “It’s not that you’ve given up on your appearance, but somehow it’s so much more interesting to think about the aesthetics of your space than the aesthetics of yourself,” Daum told the Post.

    While singles are making up a growing segment of homebuyers, NAR's chief economist Lawrence Yun still expects millennial couples to drive the housing market in 2018. This group is benefiting from an improved economy, but Yun says it still faces challenges.

    "With prices and mortgage rates also expected to increase, affordability pressures will persist," he said. "That is why it is critical for much of the country to start seeing a significant hike in new and existing housing supply. Otherwise, many would-be first-time buyers will be forced to continue renting and not reach their dream of being a homeowner."

    It may only be February, but the spring home buying season is getting underway. If you're trying to sell your home this year, it may be helpful to understa...

    Olymel S.E.C. recalls pork products

    The imported products did not undergo federal inspection

    Olymel S.E.C./ L.P., of Alberta, Canada, is recalling approximately 4,618 pounds of raw intact pork products.

    The products were imported from Canada did not undergo federal inspection upon entry into the U.S.

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

    The following items, produced from January 22, 2018, through February 5, 2018, are being recalled:

    • 50-lb. cases containing “OLYMEL FRESH PORK BELLY SKINLESS” with case code of 0627F, a best before date of 02-19-2018 and Canada 270A.
    • 26-lb. cases containing “OLYMEL FRESH PORK BACK RIBS” with a case code of 2952F, a best before date of 02-21-2018 and 02-22-2018 and Canada 270A.
    • 74-lb. cases containing “OLYMEL FRESH PORK LEG” with a case code of 0112F, a best before date of 02-20-2018 and 02-21-2018 and Canada 270A.
    • 61-lb. cases containing “OLYMEL PORK SIRLOIN BONELESS” with a case code of 4328F, a best before date of 02-21-2018 and Canada 270A.
    • 61-lb. cases containing “OLYMEL FRESH PORK BELLY SKINLESS” with a case code of 0521F, a best before date of 01-29-2018 and 01-31-2018 and Canada 270A.
    • 30-lb. cases containing “WILLAMETTE VALLEY MEAT COMPANY PORK FEET WHOLE” with USDA EST. 21134 and pack date of 1/30/18.

    The recalled products were shipped to retail and restaurant locations in Oregon and Washington, and exported to a Department of Defense Commissary in Japan.

    What to do

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

    Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Richard Vigneault at (514) 497-1385.

    Olymel S.E.C./ L.P., of Alberta, Canada, is recalling approximately 4,618 pounds of raw intact pork products.The products were imported from Canada did...

    Nissan Juke Nismo RS vehicles recalled

    Brake fluid may leak into the brake booster

    Nissan North America is recalling 415 model year 2015-2017 Nissan Juke Nismo RS vehicles.

    Due to a problem within the brake master cylinder, brake fluid may leak into the brake booster, reducing brake performance.

    If brake fluid leaks into the brake booster it can lengthen the distance needed to stop the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will replace the brake master cylinder, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin March 19, 2018.

    Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-647-7261.

    Nissan North America is recalling 415 model year 2015-2017 Nissan Juke Nismo RS vehicles.Due to a problem within the brake master cylinder, brake fluid...

    Airlines suing Washington state over new sick leave law

    The suit argues that the law is unconstitutional for Washington-based airline employees

    A group of airlines including Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines is suing Washington state over its mandatory paid sick leave law.

    Airlines for America argues that the new sick leave law, which went into effect Jan. 1, goes against the federal Airline Deregulation Act and could increase costs and delays for travelers due to overlapping regulations and requirements.

    "Airlines cannot operate their nationwide systems properly if flight crews are subject to the employment laws of every state in which they are based, live, or pass through," the airlines said in a statement.

    Inconsistencies

    The trade group argues that imposing the new sick leave law on Washington-based pilots and flight attendants is unconstitutional because they spend most of their working hours outside of the state.

    In 2016, Washington voters adopted the Paid Sick Leave Act, which established a statewide minimum wage and required employers to provide dedicated paid sick leave to every employee.

    The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma Tuesday, said that at least six other states and 30 cities have paid sick leave laws.

    "A flight crew departing from SeaTac International Airport, landing in Portland International Airport, and continuing to San Diego International Airport is subject to three different paid sick leave laws in a single duty period, each with its own accrual, compensation, reporting, and leave requirements," the group explained.

    The group says the new law will make it harder for employers to spot fraud and abuse of sick leave policy since it restricts when employers can demand medical documentation for sick leave. They say this will lead to more employees calling in sick, which will in turn result in more flight cancellations or delays.

    "We know there's a lot of passion and concern about the sick leave law, so we're not surprised by this action today," said Tim Church, a spokesperson for Washington's Department of Labor and Industries.

    A group of airlines including Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines is suing Washington state over its mandatory paid sick leave law....

    Dunkin’ Donuts announces eco-friendly switch to paper cups

    The switch will remove a billion foam cups from landfills each year, the company says

    Dunkin’ Donuts announced that it will start phasing out its controversial foam cups and replacing them with double-walled paper cups.

    The Massachusetts-based coffee company will begin the process in New York and California this spring, with a targeted completion date of 2020.

    "Transitioning away from foam has been a critical goal for Dunkin' Donuts U.S., and with the double-walled cup, we will be able to offer a replacement that meets the needs and expectations of both our customers and the communities we serve," the company said in a statement.

    Reducing waste

    By ceasing the use of styrofoam cups, the company estimates it will remove a billion of them each year from the waste stream. Dunkin’ says it uses about two billion cups per year.

    Foam packaging decomposes slowly and often ends up in oceans, posing a health hazard to marine life and other animals that ingest it. Environmentally-concerned consumers have pushed for the cups to be banned for years.

    The company said it has been searching for a replacement to its foam cups for at least six years. The new cups will be recyclable, double-walled paper cups certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard, which means the paper is responsibly sourced.

    Dunkin’ isn’t the first chain restaurant to take steps to become greener. Starbucks uses paper cups, and McDonald’s said last month that it would use only recycled or other environmentally friendly materials for its soda cups, Happy Meal boxes, and other packaging by 2025.

    Dunkin’ Donuts announced that it will start phasing out its controversial foam cups and replacing them with double-walled paper cups.The Massachusetts-...

    Toyota recalls vehicles with airbag sensor issues

    The side/curtain shield airbags and/or the front airbags may not deploy

    Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 48,672 model year 2016 Toyota Prius and Lexus RX 350, RX 350 F Sport, RX 450h F Sport and RX 450h vehicles, and model year 2015-2016 Lexus NX 200T, NX Turbo and NX 300h vehicles.

    The airbag pressure sensors and/or the acceleration sensors may fail causing the side/curtain shield airbags and/or the front airbags to not deploy in the event of a crash.

    Failure of airbag deployment in a crash can increase the risk of injury.

    What to do

    Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will replace the sensors as necessary based on their serial numbers, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin March 12, 2018.

    Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331. Toyota's numbers for this recall are JLA, J0F.

    Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 48,672 model year 2016 Toyota Prius and Lexus RX 350, RX 350 F Sport, RX 450h F Sport and RX 450h veh...

    Congress reportedly close to two-year budget deal

    The proposed agreement would avert another government shutdown

    In a surprise development, Congressional negotiators are said to be close to an agreement on a two-year budget deal.

    After an impasse over a three-week spending measure forced a brief government shutdown last month, there was widespread concern that another shutdown loomed on February 8 -- tomorrow -- when the temporary authorization expires.

    The Congressional blog Roll Call cites staff members from both parties as saying the two sides are closing in on a deal that would raise discretionary spending levels by nearly $300 billion over two years, while providing more money for the government's non-military programs.

    An agreement would prevent another government shutdown that would close national parks and furlough hundreds of thousands of government workers. A shutdown would also interrupt the Internal Revenue Services' (IRS) processing of tax returns, just as the tax season gets underway.

    If negotiators are successful in resolving all outstanding issues, Capitol Hill sources tell Roll Call that a vote could come this afternoon.

    'Significant progress'

    Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) took to the Senate floor to fan the optimism, saying negotiators are making "significant progress."

    “The Republican leader and I have been working together quite productively,” he said.

    Any success would likely add a bit of calm to the financial markets, which have been marked by extreme turbulence over the last several trading days. If Republicans and Democrats can agree on spending caps, the two sides say the Senate would likely throw in a suspension of the debt ceiling -- another showdown Congress faces each year.

    Instead of shutting down the government, a failure to raise the debt ceiling could mean the U.S. government might default on its debt, sending interest rates skyrocketing.

    More domestic spending

    The crux of the deal taking shape in Washington appears to be increases in domestic programs championed by Democrats, including new funding for programs to counter opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

    However, the rising optimism is being countered by an unexpected complication. Any spending agreement must be signed by the President to become effective, and President Trump has said he would prefer to shut down the government if the legislation fails to address illegal immigration.

    Trump has said he supports granting legal status and a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants, but he also wants changes to the legal immigration system and a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in return.

    In a meeting with law enforcement officials and lawmakers, Trump said he would "love to see a shutdown" if Congress doesn't advance immigration reform.

    In a surprise development, Congressional negotiators are said to be close to an agreement on a two-year budget deal.After an impasse over a three-week...

    Acing the interview is the first step to getting a job

    Experts say just be yourself, but use caution when salary comes up

    Even though the economy created 200,000 new jobs in January, that doesn't guarantee that job seekers will be able to land one of them.

    People in search of a job still have to apply and then go through the job interview process before being offered a position. Since employers are mindful of the high costs of hiring the wrong person, the job interview is more thorough than it once was.

    One of the most important things to do in a job interview is to show confidence, according to Toastmasters International, an organization that trains public speakers.

    Toastmasters suggests job applicants spend time researching the company they are interviewing with and practicing answers for anticipated questions.

    Just be yourself

    Toastmasters member and career coach Jennifer Blanck advises job applicants to be relaxed during the job interview and, above all, just be themselves.

    "If you're not being authentic, you won't know if you're the right fit," Blanck said. "Remember, it's just as important for you to decide whether you fit in as it is for your potential employer to decide. If the interviewer is uncomfortable with the real you, then it's a good indication that you should keep looking."

    Blanck says it's also important to make a good first impression. Arrive for the interview early, dress appropriately, turn off your cell phone, stay focused on the interview, and actively listen to the interviewer.

    At some point, the interviewer may bring up salary. This is where some jobseekers become a deer in the headlights.

    Wait before negotiating

    If the offered compensation falls short of expectations, is it appropriate to negotiate? Many career counselors suggest waiting until a firm offer is extended before broaching that issue.

    Paul McDonald, senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half, says employers are bringing up salary expectations earlier in interviews to streamline the hiring process.

    If that happens, a job applicant must be ready to respond. But McDonald advises caution.

    "First and foremost, avoid negotiating any part of the compensation package until after you've received a formal offer," he said. "Second, don't go into a negotiation without practicing the conversation in person with a trusted friend or mentor. Someone who has been in your position can help you prepare for the unexpected and make a stronger case."

    How do you know if the salary offer is fair? McDonald says two things should guide it -- the skill levels required to do the job and the competition for people with those skills.

    Researching market conditions and finding out what others in similar positions are paid will help you negotiate from a position of strength.

    Even though the economy created 200,000 new jobs in January, that doesn't guarantee that job seekers will be able to land one of them.People in search...

    Waymo and Uber meet in court to settle allegations of stealing trade secrets for self-driving cars

    The proceedings kicked off Monday with each company’s opening statements

    Almost a year after Waymo first filed suit against Uber, opening statements have been given in a legal case between the driverless technology companies.

    Attorneys for Waymo -- the self-driving car unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet -- said that Uber saw Google’s driverless technology as a threat and wanted to catch up by any means necessary. The company alleges that Uber tried to accomplish this by stealing Waymo’s trade secrets.

    "They decided to win at all costs," Waymo attorney Charles Verhoeven told the jury on Monday. Uber’s former CEO "Travis Kalanick made a decision that winning was more important than obeying the law."

    “There will be documents ... internal documents from Uber where the CEO of the company said ‘we want their cheat codes’,” he added.

    Uber attorney Bill Carmody called the accusations “quite a story” and argued that it’s not clear that Uber ever recieved or used the eight alleged trade secrets Waymo asserted that it had received. He also argued that it’s not clear if the trade secrets are actually trade secrets.

    “I want to tell you right up front. It didn’t happen, there’s no conspiracy, there’s no cheating, period end of story,” Carmody said. The reason, he said, is that what Waymo claims are trade secrets are not trade secrets, but common knowledge.

    Waymo’s claims

    Waymo claims Anthony Levandowski, an engineer that formerly worked with both Uber and Waymo, stole 14,000 "highly confidential" files from Waymo that helped Uber develop its own technology. Uber says the claim is "baseless."

    “Waymo wants you to believe that Anthony Levandowski got together with Uber as part of some grand conspiracy to cheat and take trade secrets,” Bill Carmody said in his opening statement. “But like most conspiracy stories, it just doesn’t make sense when you get the whole story.”

    Carmody honed in on the fact that despite the downloads by Levandowski, Google’s proprietary information was never acquired by Uber.

    “There is no connection whatsoever between any files he downloaded ... and what’s in here,” he said while pointing to a Lidar sensor designed by Uber. The Lidar sensor is a light-based sensor that is crucial to autonomous driving and central to the case.

    "There's not a single piece of Google proprietary information at Uber," he said. "Zero, period."

    If Uber is found to have stolen the files, the company may be forced to stop its driverless-vehicle program and pay Waymo about $2 billion in damages.

    The trial began on Monday and is expected to last at least three weeks.

    Almost a year after Waymo first filed suit against Uber, opening statements have been given in a legal case between the driverless technology companies....

    iPhones headed for a chip change in 2018

    Apple to drop Qualcomm baseband chips and go exclusively with Intel

    While Qualcomm’s chip relationship with the iPhone goes back to 2011, Apple started splitting its baseband chip orders with Intel and Qualcomm when the iPhone 7 was released in 2016.

    However, reports are now circulating that Apple may switch from Qualcomm-based chips to Intel ones altogether. Some Apple watchers consider this a big gamble because of differences in performance. In tests performed by Cellular Insights, the iPhone 7 Plus using the Qualcomm modem “had a significant performance edge over the iPhone 7 Plus with the Intel modem.”

    While Apple never disclosed its reasons for limiting the Qualcomm modem on the iPhone 7, those familiar with the situation feel it was an effort to level the performance playing field between the Verizon/Sprint and the AT&T/T-Mobile versions of the phone. Now, with only one supplier, the iPhone’s performance might be slower with the Intel chip, but at least it should be consistent and without any speed comparisons like it faced when Qualcomm was a co-supplier.

    What’s the real backstory on why Apple is changing chip makers?

    Apple and Qualcomm have been embroiled in a legal spitting match for more than a year, according to several reports. The squabbles started when Qualcomm accused Apple of sharing its proprietary code with Intel. At the same time, Apple alleged that Qualcomm overcharged for chips and refused to pay the tech giant promised rebates.

    Qualcomm sits on a treasure trove of patents -- more than 130,000 of them -- and they’re the kinds of things that make phones run. If you want to manufacture a phone that has the ability to send and receive data or one capable of a high-speed internet connection, you more than likely have to get a license from Qualcomm.

    However, to get that license, the company charged Apple as much as a 5 percent royalty on the average selling price of its phones. That means Apple handed over as much as $40 to Qualcomm on an $800 iPhone.

    Apple got tired of paying a royalty it considered unfair and asked Qualcomm to give them a break on standard-essential patents. When things didn’t go Apple’s way, the company decided to wage war and Qualcomm retaliated in kind. Patent validity, anti-trust, vindictive marketing campaigns -- no threat was left off the table.

    Apple sued Qualcomm for a billion dollars in the U.S., plus another $145 million in China. The company even raised the bar another couple of notches with 20 filings in federal court alleging that there was “mounting evidence of Qualcomm’s perpetuation of an illegal business model that burdens innovation.”

    It may not be a great time for Qualcomm to be bullish

    To make matters worse, four global regulators have fined Qualcomm in the last three years. In the latest instance in January, the European Commission slapped the company with a $1.23 billion fine and said its practices prevented competitors, such as Intel, from supplying 4G LTE radios to Apple for five years.

    The immediate impact of Apple’s supposed shift from Qualcomm to Intel was felt by all three players at the close of business on Monday. Intel shares were down 3.53 percent; Apple shares were down 2.5 percent; and Qualcomm shares fell by 6.57 percent.

    Reuters also reports that rival Broadcom Ltd made a $121 billion “best and final offer” to acquire Qualcomm Inc, raising further questions about the company’s ability to see its way clear from all its entanglements.

    While Qualcomm’s chip relationship with the iPhone goes back to 2011, Apple started splitting its baseband chip orders with Intel and Qualcomm when the iPh...

    John Deere recalls ZTrak riding mowers

    The blades can continue to rotate when the operator leaves the seat

    Deere & Company of Moline, Ill., is recalling about 3,700 John Deere ZTrak riding mowers sold in the U.S and Canada.

    The mower’s blades can continue to rotate under power when the operator leaves the seat, posing a laceration risk to the user or bystander.

    No incidents or injuries have been reported.

    This recall involves John Deere model Z335M, Z345M, Z345R, Z355R, and Z375R residential ZTrak riding mowers.

    The model number and “John Deere” are printed on the front of the green and yellow colored riding lawn mowers.

    The serial number begins with 1GX and is printed on the rear frame of the machine near the engine.

    The serial numbers of the affected mowers are within the following range:

    Serial Number Ranges

    1GX335MB+++080001 – 080545

    1GX335MC+++080001 – 080020

    1GXZ345B+++064067 – 064200

    1GX345MB+++080001 – 081117

    1GX345MC+++080001 – 080095

    1GX345MD+++080001 – 080010

    1GX345ME+++080002 – 080112

    1GXZ345R+++064384 – 064764

    1GX345RB+++080001 – 080491

    1GX345RC+++080001 – 080020

    1GX345RE+++080001 – 080064

    1GXZ355R+++064088 – 064253

    1GX355RB+++080001 – 080206

    1GX355RC+++080001 – 080010

    1GX375RF+++080001 – 080327

    1GX375RG+++080001 – 080025

     

    The mowers, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at John Deere dealers and on HomeDepot.com from August 2017, through December 2017, for between $2,600 and $3,500.

    What to do

    Consumers should stop using the recalled riding mowers and contact an authorized John Deere dealer for a free repair. John Deere is contacting purchasers of the recalled lawn mowers directly.

    Consumers may contact Deere & Company at 800-537-8233 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (ET) or online at www.deere.com and click on Product Recall Information on the drop-menu under Parts & Service for more information.

    Deere & Company of Moline, Ill., is recalling about 3,700 John Deere ZTrak riding mowers sold in the U.S and Canada.The mower’s blades can continue to...

    Report shows antipsychotics still misused in U.S. nursing homes

    An advocacy group claims the drugs are being used to control patients

    The latest data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) shows the use of antipsychotics in U.S. nursing homes has decreased significantly in recent years, but misuse of the drug still remains widespread.

    A report and video from Human Rights Watch (HRW), based on the updated CMS data, says the use of antipsychotic drugs in long-term nursing home patients decreased “from about 24 percent in late 2011 to under 16 percent last year” with decreases reported in all 50 states.

    However, the report estimates that 179,000 nursing home patients are given powerful antipsychotics every week with no diagnosis to warrant the drug’s use -- sometimes without consent from the patient or their families.

    ‘Chemical restraints’

    The report, titled “‘They Want Docile’:How Nursing Homes in the United States Overmedicate People with Dementia”, is based on HRW visits to more than 100 facilities nationwide and over 300 interviews with residents, family members, staff, government officials, and healthcare advocates.

    It finds that despite rules against the misuse of drugs to control the behavior of older people with dementia, overmedication of nursing home patients remains a serious problem.

    “People with dementia are often sedated to make life easier for overworked nursing home staff, and the government does little to protect vulnerable residents from such abuse,” said Hannah Flamm, the report’s lead author.

    “All too often, staff justify using antipsychotic drugs on people with dementia because they interpret urgent expressions of pain or distress as disruptive behavior that needs to be suppressed,” she said.

    The report says even when facilities were found to have used medication to make life easier for staff or to discipline residents, they were rarely punished.

    Sedative effect

    Dr. Jerry Gurwitz, chief of geriatric medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, says the decrease in use of antipsychotics is dramatic, but wonders if nursing homes might be finding other medications to “sedate their patients into passivity.”

    Antipsychotic drugs are associated with a nearly doubled risk of death for elderly people with dementia, the report warns. Due to their risks, advocacy groups want the drugs to be phased out.

    “Antipsychotic drugs alter consciousness and can adversely affect an individual’s ability to interact with others,” HRW said. "They can also make it easier for understaffed facilities, with direct care workers inadequately trained in dementia care, to manage the people who live there."

    “There’s been sensational change, yet there’s space for greater change,” said Dr David Gifford, the group’s vice president. He notes that many of the antipsychotic treatments used in nursing homes can be dangerous to residents if not properly regulated.

    “These types of drugs can also increase the risk of complications in the elderly living with dementia, which is why our members support safely reducing usage through a person-centred approach to care.” he said.

    The latest data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) shows the use of antipsychotics in U.S. nursing homes has decreased significantly i...

    Amazon reports strong fourth quarter, with sales up 38 percent

    A profitable holiday season and Alexa led the way

    In a press release issued yesterday, Amazon reported details of an exceedingly strong fourth quarter. The company announced that its 12-month cash flow increased seven points to $18.4 billion, up more than a billion from the same period a year ago.

    While that -- and the fact that Amazon shares have surged more than 20 percent this year -- seems like a home run, there are financial strategists who are looking at the company with a different point of view.

    "It's very similar to what you'd seen back in early 2013, also in early 2016. When you got this far extended usually there was some sort of setback and a healthy correction that took place," Craig Johnson, Piper Jaffray’s senior technical strategist, told CNBC on Thursday.

    Amazon is no stranger to value resets. At the beginning of 2013, its stock was trading at 160 times forward earning. But the company took a 5 percent hit in April 2013, followed by an additional 7 percent one in August. Similar dips and peaks happened again in 2014 and 2016, but there was always recovery.

    Only time will tell what 2018 holds for Amazon, but its investment in outside-its-box initiatives like healthcare will no doubt be watched with a careful eye by the financial world.

    Has Prime hit its ceiling?

    There’s also some concern that, despite a strong holiday sales season, Amazon’s Prime membership program is showing signs of a slowdown in growth, according to a survey by Morgan Stanley.

    While Prime membership has captured 40% of U.S. households, there’s been no forward movement in that metric for a year, partly because its higher income customers are maxed out and penetrating lower-income households and the seniors market may be a difficult task.

    One hurdle Amazon will have to overcome with its untapped Prime market is the price of membership. In January 2018, the company increased the monthly price of Prime from $10.99 to $12.99, but kept the annual fee at $99 if a customer pays it up front.

    The emergence of Alexa

    Also on Thursday came the news that Amazon plans on hiring 10,000 new employees in 2018 on top of the 566,000 it already has on its payroll.

    Some of that surge in Amazon’s workforce will no doubt ride on the back of their Echo devices with Alexa, its speech recognition system.

    Tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices sold worldwide between Black Friday and the end of the 2018 holiday season, giving that product category its best holiday segment ever.

    Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote hit the top of Amazon’s charts, both in the the company’s own device category and the list of top-selling items from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon.

    Alexa’s skill set has elevated the virtual assistant game, with the Alexa Skills store now offering more than 30,000 skills. In what has the makings of a personal broadcaster, Alexa users can create playlists of news stories, ConsumerAffairs alerts, podcasts, and music, not to mention interactive games like The Match Game and the History Channel’s Ultimate History Quiz.

    “We’ve reached an important point where other companies and developers are accelerating adoption of Alexa,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO. “There are now over 30,000 skills from outside developers, customers can control more than 4,000 smart home devices from 1,200 unique brands with Alexa, and we’re seeing strong response to our new far-field voice kit for manufacturers.”

    In a press release issued yesterday, Amazon reported details of an exceedingly strong fourth quarter. The company announced that its 12-month cash flow inc...

    Economy adds 200,000 jobs in January

    Wages recorded the biggest monthly jump since 2009

    There was good news in January for people with jobs and those trying to find one.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the economy added 200,000 jobs last month while average hourly earnings rose a robust 2.9 percent, the biggest jump since the Great Recession. The nation's unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent.

    "Wage increases may finally be accelerating," economist Joel Naroff, of Naroff Economic Advisors, told ConsumerAffairs. "Payroll gains in the 190,000 range, which we averaged for the past three months, are more than enough to put further downward pressure on the unemployment rate and labor availability and force firms to finally start making decisions on whether they are going to actually pay workers more or keep their newfound tax gains for equity owners and management.”

    The entire report was better than expected. The jobs number was higher than consensus forecasts, while almost no one foresaw the dramatic leap in wages.

    It's an abrupt departure from the last few years. Even as the economy recovered and the labor market tightened, employers seemed reluctant to hand out pay raises. However, a number of major employers began 2018 with announcements of employee bonuses due to the new corporate tax rate.

    Perhaps also helping to boost wages, 18 states have higher minimum wage laws that took effect January 1.

    Broad-based strength

    When it comes to jobs, nearly all sectors showed strength in January. There were 36,000 new construction jobs while factories and other manufacturers added 15,000 workers.

    The service sector showed the biggest increase, adding 139,000 employees. In spite of the normal January layoffs of seasonal employees, the retail sector added 15,000 jobs.

    Even though the unemployment rate remains near historic lows, it doesn't mean everyone is working. The monthly employment report does not count those who have given up on finding a job.

    The BLS report shows the labor force was little changed last month, with a participation rate of only 62.7 percent for the fourth straight month.

    The number of people working part-time, but who want full-time employment, was essentially unchanged at five million.

    There was good news in January for people with jobs and those trying to find one.The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the economy added 200,000...

    National Frozen Foods recalls green beans and mixed vegetables

    The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

    National Frozen Foods Corporation (NFFC) is recalling a limited quantity of Not-Ready-To Eat Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) green beans and IQF mixed vegetables.

    The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

    There has been no report of human illness to date.

    The following products, distributed to foodservice accounts in bulk and packaged containers in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, IL, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington between August 18, 2017, and January 12, 2018, are being recalled:

    Brand Listed on PackagingCommodityNet WeightNFFC Item #
    Customer #
    Lot Information / Code Printed On Packaging
    Bountiful Harvest FoundationsCut Green Beans30 LB.22486-11918
    2229881
    17100903 A02
    Bountiful Harvest OriginalsCut Green Beans30 LB.22486-11908 
    2229871
    17100903 A02
    MonarchCapri Blend20 LB.58108-00602
    670229
    38511 - 7H11G3N
    MonarchCapri Blend20 LB.58108-00602 
    670229
    38511 - 7H11H3N
    NW TreasureCut Green Beans30 LB.62406-90007 
    3828405
    17102603 A02
    Simplot ClassicMeadow Blend32 oz.71179-67166965AUG 081705H
    Sysco ClassicCut Green Beans32 oz.74865-04977
    1435197
    17102703 A03
    Sysco ImperialWhole Green Beans32 oz.74865-24917 
    2101855
    17102703 A03
    (No Brand Name)Cut Green Beans30 LB.15001-0107038627 - 7H28A3N
    (No Brand Name)Cut Green Beans30 LB.15001-0107038627 - 7H28B3N
    (No Brand Name)Cut Green Beans30 LB.15001-0107038627 - 7H28C3N
    (No Brand Name)Cut Green Beans30 LB.15001-0107038627 - 7H28D3N
    (No Brand Name)Cut Green Beans30 LB.15001-0107038627 - 7H28E3N
    Valamont*Cut Green Beans32 oz.72608-1208238474 - 7H08F3N
    ValamontCut Green Beans20 LB.72608-1215038510 - 7H11F3N
    The World's Harvest*Cut Green Beans32 oz.WRH99-FV02138475 - 7H08F3N
    The World's Harvest*Cut Green Beans32oz.WRH99-FV02138475 - 7H08G3N
     

    The codes listed above are printed on the back of the 32-oz. bag or the side of the master case.

    What to do

    Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-800-253-8269, Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (PT).

    National Frozen Foods Corporation (NFFC) is recalling a limited quantity of Not-Ready-To Eat Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) green beans and IQF mixed vege...

    Jaguar XFs with front passenger airbag inflator issue recalled

    The inflators may explode resulting in serious injury or death

    Jaguar Land Rover North America is recalling 16,532 of the following vehicles:

    • Model year 2014-2015 Jaguar XFs originally sold, or ever registered, in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan), and the U.S. Virgin Islands, or "Zone A."
    • Model year 2011-2015 Jaguar XFs, originally sold, or ever registered, in Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, or "Zone B."
    • Model year 2010-2015 Jaguar XFs, originally sold, or ever registered in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming or "Zone C."

    The vehicles are equipped with airbag inflators assembled as part of the passenger front airbag modules used as original equipment or replacement equipment.

    In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the passenger front airbag, these inflators may explode due to propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to absolute humidity and temperature cycling.

    An inflator explosion may result in sharp metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.

    What to do

    Jaguar will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front passenger air bag assembly, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin February 28, 2018.

    Owners may contact 1-800-452-4827. Jaguar's number for this recall is J072.

    Jaguar Land Rover North America is recalling 16,532 of the following vehicles: Model year 2014-2015 Jaguar XFs originally sold, or ever registered, i...

    AT&T: first 5G device won't be a smartphone

    The company plans to produce a device that will work like a 5G modem

    Telecom giant AT&T is moving ahead with plans to develop its 5G wireless network, but company CEO Randall Stephenson says the first device to connect to the super high-speed network won't be a smartphone.

    In a conference call following Wednesday's AT&T earnings report, Stephenson said smartphone manufacturers are still on the drawing board when it comes to making a 5G phone. So Stephenson says AT&T will produce a device, called a "puck," that will act like a mobile hotspot, allowing consumers to connect their existing devices to the 5G network.

    AT&T has not said when the puck would be available or how much it would cost. However, Stephenson says the device will be a way for customers to sample the 5G service before purchasing a 5G smartphone.

    "We're getting the equipment manufacturing moving, we're getting the supply chains moving, we're doing the sell-side acquisition, we're doing all the build type work, but getting the handsets at scale penetrated into the market will slow things down," Stephenson told investors and analysts.

    "So, that's why we're going to be offering pucks in the first part of our deployment in these 12 markets, so it is a mobile solution."

    Will work like a modem

    Stephenson says consumers will be able to use the pucks like a modem. Once connected, they will be able to access the internet using AT&T's 5G network with a full gigabit throughput.

    But Stephenson said he thinks one of the biggest advantages 5G will offer is a huge reduction in latency, the time between an online command is entered and when it is executed. Reducing latency will make 5G more efficient for certain uses, such as virtual reality and self-driving vehicles.

    "People say 5G and you're thinking about speed," Stephenson said. "And speed and throughput are important. But the most important element is latency and having low latency 5G is the first technological innovation that truly gets us to low latency."

    Twelve markets this year

    A month ago AT&T announced that it would deploy 5G wireless service in at least a dozen markets by late 2018, as the first step in a nationwide build out. In December, Verizon also announced it planned to offer 5G wireless service in up to five U.S. markets in 2018.

    Telecom experts say the transition from 4G to 5G will be a fundamental, not incremental, change. Instead of being limited to connecting hundreds of millions of cell phones and tablets used by people, 5G networks will support billions of connected things.

    Stephenson told analysts that once a nationwide wireless 5G network is up and running, it could replace most fiber optic networks.

    Telecom giant AT&T; is moving ahead with plans to develop its 5G wireless network, but company CEO Randall Stephenson says the first device to connect to t...

    Google Flights adds two new features

    The app now predicts delays and shows what's included in economy fares

    Google has tweaked its Google Flights app, adding predictions about airline flight delays and spelling out more clearly what's included in basic economy fares.

    "One of the most stressful parts of traveling happens between heading to the airport and waiting to board your flight, as you start checking to see if your flight is on time," the company writes in its blog. "Flights already shows delays, and now we’re sharing reasons for those delays and delay predictions too."

    Using a machine learning algorithm, the app scans and analyzes historic flight status data and predicts which flights will take off on time and which may be delayed. Google says its Flights app will often have the information before the airlines do.

    While the app will include official announcements from the airlines about the status of flights, it will also offer predictions, which Google says should be 80 percent accurate.

    "We still recommend getting to the airport with enough time to spare, but hope this information can manage expectations and prevent surprises," Google said.

    To access the flight status information, users enter the airline flight number and route and the details will pop up.

    What's included in an economy fare?

    Google Flights will also help travelers sort out the details of rock-bottom fares on three airlines -- United, American, and Delta.

    Because studies have shown that consumers will pick a flight because its fare is as little as $2 cheaper, most airlines just advertise the base fare and put the growing number of fees in the fine print. The Flights app tries to focus attention on the add-on costs, at least for these three major airlines.

    For example, the app will reveal whether a basic economy fare provides space in the overhead storage bin, allows you to select your seat, and what it costs to check luggage.

    Google has tweaked its Google Flights app, adding predictions about airline flight delays and spelling out more clearly what's included in basic economy fa...

    Vornado Air recalls cribside space heaters

    The electric heating element may come in contact with the interior plastic materials

    Vornado Air of Andover, Kan., is recalling about 5,100 Vornado Sunny CS nursery heaters sold in the U.S. and Canada.

    A broken motor mount can allow the electric heating element to come in contact with the interior plastic materials and ignite, posing fire and burn hazards.

    The company has received five reports of the electric heaters catching on fire. No injuries or property damage have been reported.

    This recall involves Vornado Sunny CS (cribside) model EH1-0090 electric space heaters sold in white with an accent of melon and gray colors.

    The heaters measure approximately 12 inches high, 8 inches deep and 11 inches at the base. The controls are mounted in a soft touch panel on the top of the unit with a multi-color display in the center of the control panel. “Vornadobaby” is printed on the side of the heater.

    The Vornado logo is printed on the front center of the unit. The model/type “SUNNY CS EH1-0090” and serial number are printed on a silver decal on the bottom of the unit under the elastic cord wrap.

    The recalled heaters have the numbers 1 and 7 as the fourth and fifth digits of the serial number (XXX17-XXXXXX).

    The heaters, manufactured in China, were sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, buybuy Baby and other stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com, Target.com, Vornado.com and other websites from October 2017, through December 2017, for about $100.

    What to do

    Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled space heaters, unplug them and contact Vornado for instructions on how to receive a free replacement unit, including free shipping.

    Consumers may contact Vornado toll-free at 844-202-7978 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.vornado.com and click on Recalls in the lower right corner of the homepage for more information.

    Vornado Air of Andover, Kan., is recalling about 5,100 Vornado Sunny CS nursery heaters sold in the U.S. and Canada. A broken motor mount can allow the ...

    Rich Products recalls beef meatballs

    The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

    Rich Products of Vineland, N.J., is recalling approximately 3,420 pounds of beef meatballs that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.

    The the following ready-to-eat frozen items, produced on December 17, 2017, are being recalled:

    • 36-lb. cases containing six 6-lb. bags of “Member’s Mark Casa DI BERTACCHI ITALIAN STYLE BEEF MEATBALLS” with a “Best if Used By 17 DEC 2018” label and a lot code of 15507351 on the packaging.

    The the recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 5336” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to distributors in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

    What to do

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

    Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Rich Products customer care at 1-800-356-7094. 

    Rich Products of Vineland, N.J., is recalling approximately 3,420 pounds of beef meatballs that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.The the...

    Toyota recalls Prius and Lexus RX, NX vehicles

    The side and curtain shield air bags and/or front air bags may not deploy

    Toyota Motor North America is recalling approximately 49,000 model year 2016 Prius and Lexus RX vehicles, and model year 2015 – 2016 Lexus NX vehicles in the U.S.

    The vehicles have airbag systems where an open circuit could be created over time.

    Were that to occur, the airbag warning light will illuminate and the side and curtain shield airbags and/or front airbags may not deploy, increasing the risk of injury to occupants in the event of a crash.

    What to do

    Toyota and Lexus dealers will inspect the serial number of the sensors and replace them with new ones, if necessary, at no cost to customers.

    Toyota will notify all known owners by first-class mail starting in late March 2018.

    Consumers with questions may call Toyota customer service

    at 1-800-331-4331, or Lexus customer service at 1-800-255-3987.

    Toyota Motor North America is recalling approximately 49,000 model year 2016 Prius and Lexus RX vehicles, and model year 2015 – 2016 Lexus NX vehicles in t...