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    Hormel Foods recalls canned pork and chicken products

    The products may be contaminated with pieces of metal

    Hormel Food of Fremont, Neb., is recalling approximately 228,614 pounds of canned pork and chicken products.

    The products may be contaminated with foreign matter, specifically pieces of metal.

    There have been reports of minor oral injuries associated with consumption of the products.

    The canned pork and chicken products were produced on February 8 through February 10, 2018. The following items, produced February 8 – 10, 2018, are being recalled:

    • 12-oz. metal cans containing “SPAM Classic” with a “Best By” February 2021 date and production codes: F020881, F020882, F020883, F020884, F020885, F020886, F020887, F020888 and F020889.
    • 12-oz. metal cans containing “Hormel Foods Black-Label Luncheon Loaf” with a “Best By” February 2021 date and production codes F02098 and F02108.

    The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 199N” on the bottom of the can, were shipped throughout the U. S. and to Guam.

    What to do

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

    Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Consumer Hormel Foods at (800) 523-4635.

    Hormel Food of Fremont, Neb., is recalling approximately 228,614 pounds of canned pork and chicken products.The products may be contaminated with forei...
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    Model year 2016-2018 Chevrolet Cruze LS vehicles recalled

    The vehicles may leak gasoline following a rear-impact crash and a rollover

    General Motors is recalling 111,966 model year 2016-2018 Chevrolet Cruze LS vehicles, equipped with a gasoline engine and a tire inflator kit instead of a spare tire.

    The vehicles may leak gasoline following a rear-impact crash and a rollover.

    A fuel leak, in the presence of an ignition source, increases the risk of a fire.

    What to do

    GM will notify owners, and dealers will install a lock-ring on the fuel tank that will shield the fuel tank vapor pressure sensor from damage in a rear-impact crash, free of charge.

    The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020. GM's number for this recall is 18159.

    General Motors is recalling 111,966 model year 2016-2018 Chevrolet Cruze LS vehicles, equipped with a gasoline engine and a tire inflator kit instead of a...
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    Federal agency urges banks to compete with payday lenders

    Office of the Comptroller of the Currency asks banks to make small-dollar installment loans

    The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has gone on the record to formally urge U.S. banks to begin offering small-dollar installment loans to consumers.

    The OCC did not specifically mention payday loans, but it is clear that its purpose is to provide consumers a “responsible” alternative.

    “Millions of U.S. consumers borrow nearly $90 billion every year in short-term, small dollar loans typically ranging from $300 to $5,000 to make ends meet,” Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting said in a statement. “Consumers should have more choices that are safe and affordable, and banks should be part of that solution.”

    With a typical payday loan, a consumer borrows a few hundred dollars to meet an unexpected expense. The loan is due within two weeks and costs a fee, based on the amount borrowed.

    Critics of the payday loan industry say the majority of borrowers cannot repay the entire loan in just two weeks, and therefore have to take out another loan, paying another fee that often adds up to a triple-digit interest rate.

    Contrasts with CFPB position

    While the current leadership at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has said it intends to unwind the Payday Lending Rule, which would require lenders to make sure the borrower can repay the loan, the OCC is pushing to provide payday loan customers another option.

    In doing so, it's winning praise from the Pew Charitable Trusts, which cites its own research as showing that, given the opportunity, eight in 10 payday loan borrowers would prefer to borrow money from their banks or credit unions.

    "The position outlined by the Comptroller is a welcome step that should help pave the way for banks to offer safe, affordable small-dollar installment loans to the millions of Americans that have been turning to high-cost nonbank lenders,” said Nick Bourke, director of Pew’s consumer finance project.

    Six times cheaper than a payday loan

    Pew said banks should be able to offer an alternative to payday loans by using automated underwriting and origination. It says these small loans can be profitable while charging prices six times lower than average payday loans.

    “If banks begin offering these loans according to strong safety standards, it could boost financial inclusion and be a game-changer for the millions of Americans who use high-cost loans today,” Bourke said.

    Bourke says it's more likely that some banks will begin offering alternatives to payday loans, now that the OCC has given its blessing and removed a lot of the regulatory uncertainty that might have prevented them from entering the market.

    The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has gone on the record to formally urge U.S. banks to begin offering small-dollar installment loans to...
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      FBI recommends rebooting internet routers to counter Russia-linked malware

      The malware is capable of collecting personal information that passes through infected routers

      The FBI is urging consumers to reboot their routers to mitigate the risk of being exposed to a major malware attack with ties to foreign cyber actors.

      The agency recommends that “any owner of small office and home office routers” reboot their device. As many as 500,000 devices in 54 countries were impacted by the malware, known as “VPNFilter” -- an infection that can interrupt internet access, siphon information from users, and use devices to spread malware.

      “VPNFilter is able to render small office and home office routers inoperable,” the FBI said in a statement. “The malware can potentially also collect information passing through the router. Detection and analysis of the malware’s network activity is complicated by its use of encryption and misattributable networks.”

      Known affected routers

      Here is a list of known affected devices, according to Symantec:

      • Linksys (models E1200, E2500 & WRVS4400N)

      • Mikrotik RouterOS Versions for Cloud Core Routers (versions 1016, 1036 & 1072)

      • Netgear (models DGN2200, R6400, R7000, R8000, WNR1000 & WNR2000)

      • QNAP (models TS251 & TS439 Pro)

      • Other QNAP NAS devices running QTS software

      • TP-Link R600VPN

      Rebooting a router

      The FBI has reportedly seized a domain that was controlling the malware, which makes rebooting an effective way to thwart VPNFilter. Rebooting a router will temporarily disrupt the malware and may also help government teams “identify and remediate the infection worldwide,” according to the Department of Justice.

      For most devices, rebooting requires unplugging the device for at least 10 seconds, plugging it back in, and then waiting approximately 30 seconds before restarting the device.

      As another precaution, the FBI is recommending that users upgrade to the latest firmware and use original, secure passwords.

      The FBI is urging consumers to reboot their routers to mitigate the risk of being exposed to a major malware attack with ties to foreign cyber actors....
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      Starbucks to close 8,000 stores Tuesday for anti-bias training

      The company is taking the next steps to help combat racial bias

      On Tuesday afternoon, 8,000 Starbucks locations across the country will be closed for employee anti-bias training. 

      Approximately 175,000 employees will receive the training, and participating stores will close around 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. local time. However, the majority of the 7,000 licensed stores -- most of which are run in airports, grocery stores, and hotels -- should remain open all day.

      The coffee chain’s top executives contacted leading bias training experts to conduct the day’s session, as they look to promote a more positive attitude towards diversity. Employees in each store will break into groups and be taught by virtual guides: Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz, CEO Kevin Johnson, and musician and activist Common. Participants will be asked to share their own experiences, as well as watch a film about bias.

      Moreover, the training will help employees focus on both racial bias and its origins in public places in the United States. Leading experts and researchers have developed the training, such as Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Heather McGhee, president of the public policy organization demos.

      “Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in the right direction that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities,” Johnson said.

      Why diversity training?

      News of diversity training comes after two African American men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks in April.

      The two men had asked for the code to use the bathroom -- without placing an order -- and the store manager called the police. Both men were arrested for trespassing, and told the police they were waiting for their friend.

      Following the incident, video footage circulated wildly across social media, and Starbucks found itself the subject of much public outcry. Johnson described the event as both “disheartening” and “reprehensible,” and is looking to accomplish three things.

      “First, to once again express our deepest apologies to the two men who were arrested with a goal of doing whatever we can to make things right,” Johnson said in a statement. “Second, to let you know of our plans to investigate the pertinent facts and make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again. And third, to reassure you that Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.”

      Moving forward

      In addition to the racial bias training, Starbucks also recently announced that it will be opening its cafes and bathrooms to both paying and non-paying customers. Previously, language on the issue was particularly ambiguous, and store managers were ultimately left to make the final decisions. Now, Starbucks has implemented its own broader policy.

      “We are committed to creating a culture of warmth and belonging where everyone is welcome,” the company said in a statement.

      More training sessions are coming in the near future, though it is uncertain right now whether stores will be closed.

      The company will also be releasing its training materials to the public following the initial session on Tuesday in hopes that it will be helpful to other businesses.

      On Tuesday afternoon, 8,000 Starbucks locations across the country will be closed for employee anti-bias training. Approximately 175,000 employees will...
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      Common supplements provide no health benefit, study says

      Researchers say there is no harm or benefit in taking multivitamins, Vitamin C, or Vitamin D

      A new study suggests that three of the most popular vitamins and supplements provide no consistent health benefits, nor do they cause harm.

      Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto came to this conclusion following a review of existing data on the most commonly consumed supplements -- multivitamins, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D.

      The review showed no advantage or added risk when it came to preventing heart attacks, strokes, cardiovascular disease, or premature death.

      However, folic acid supplements and B-vitamins paired with folic acid supplements might help reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke. The authors said this finding was primarily drawn from a Chinese study included in the research.

      Niacin (B3) and antioxidants showed a very small effect which might signify an increased risk of death -- however, this finding was a "very small signal," said lead author David J.A. Jenkins.

      "We were surprised to find so few positive effects of the most common supplements that people consume," said Dr. Jenkins. "Our review found that if you want to use multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium or vitamin C, it does no harm -- but there is no apparent advantage either."

      Rely on a healthy diet

      Based on the results of the study, the researchers say consumers should try to rely on a healthy diet to get their vitamins and minerals instead of relying on supplements.

      The authors recommend eating a more plant-based diet with less processed food.

      "In the absence of significant positive data -- apart from folic acid's potential reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease -- it's most beneficial to rely on a healthy diet to get your fill of vitamins and minerals," Dr. Jenkins said. "So far, no research on supplements has shown us anything better than healthy servings of less processed plant foods including vegetables, fruits and nuts."

      Consumers are advised to talk to a medical professional before ceasing supplement consumption or buying recommended vitamins, since participants involved in some of the studies may not be representative of the general population.

      "These findings suggest that people should be conscious of the supplements they're taking and ensure they're applicable to the specific vitamin or mineral deficiencies they have been advised of by their healthcare provider," Dr. Jenkins said.

      The study has been published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

      A new study suggests that three of the most popular vitamins and supplements provide no consistent health benefits, nor do they cause harm. Researchers...
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      New plant-based charcoal lighter arrives just in time for the summer grilling season

      Backyard burgers don't have to taste like an oil refinery

      Now that the Memorial Day weekend has officially launched the summer cookout season, consumers will be headed for their backyards in greater numbers to fire up the grill.

      Scientists at the University of Georgia (UGA) say there is now an environmentally friendly alternative to pouring standard petroleum-based lighter fluid over charcoal briquettes. They say they have developed a plant-based lighter fluid that lights the briquettes just as well but doesn't leave that oily residue flavor on your burgers.

      UGA teamed with a private company, ESCOGO, to produce EcoGreen Charcoal lighter, which is now being sold nationally through retailers like Home Depot and Target. The original formula was developed to light lump coal. It's been modified to make it effective in lighting charcoal briquettes.

      “They had a product that worked great on lump charcoal but briquettes are much denser and the fluid would burn off before getting the briquette hot enough to ignite,” said Dan Geller, a research engineer in UGA’s College of Engineering. “We needed a product that burned really well and one that met the strict air quality concerns for volatile organic compounds.”

      Had to be competitively priced

      The product also had to be economically priced to compete with other options available on the market. Consumers who want to avoid petroleum-based lighters often use an electric coil to light the charcoal. Other options include stacking the briquettes in a metal cylinder “chimney” and lighting newspaper at the bottom of it.

      Besides sometimes leaving an unpleasant taste on the grilled food, petroleum-based lighter fluid falls under lighter fluid regulations in some jurisdictions because of its potential to contribute to photochemical smog.

      The researchers developed an alcohol-based alternative after performing trials on more than 100 different formulas. They say they settled on an organic, all-natural list of ingredients that were a by-product of fermentation.

      “We looked at a lot of different options that would burn, that we could buy in large volume, and that were natural byproducts of other industries,” said Geller. “This really was a classic engineering design problem because we were trying to figure out a way to meet all these specific constraints.”

      The Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, a Georgia state agency, provided funding for the project. Without it, ESCOGO co-founder Rick Huszagh said the company would not have had the budget to develop the new product.

      Now that the Memorial Day weekend has officially launched the summer cookout season, consumers will be headed for their backyards in greater numbers to fir...
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      Tesla Model 3 travels 606 miles on a single charge

      However, the vehicle wouldn’t recharge after it ran out of power and had to be towed away

      Over the weekend, two men in Denver set the unofficial record for the longest range in a Tesla Model 3 to date by traveling 606.2 miles on a single charge.

      Sean Mitchell, president of the Denver Tesla Club, and YouTube host Erik Strait set the hypermiling record on a mile-long loop near the Denver Airport which featured an elevation change of only ten feet.

      The men maintained an average speed of between 20 and 30 miles per hours and didn’t use the vehicle’s air conditioning in order to maximize the car’s energy efficiency. Mitchell noted that the temperature in the cabin rose to a stifling 108 degrees.

      The trip totaled 32 hours and nearly doubled the 310 mile range rating given to the Model 3 by the EPA. The previous hypermiling record was 560 miles, according to Electrek.

      After the Tesla’s battery died, the men placed the vehicle on a supercharger overnight. The next day, Mitchell confirmed that the Model 3 would no longer accept a charge and had to be towed to Tesla Service Center.

      “Service Center is not open today so status of #Model3 has to wait until tomorrow,” Mitchell tweeted on Sunday. “I’ve been assured the best hands will look into tomorrow.”

      The trip received praise from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, but it’s not yet clear what caused the issue.

      Over the weekend, two men in Denver set the unofficial record for the longest range in a Tesla Model 3 to date by traveling 606.2 miles on a single charge....
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      Fuel prices dip on surprising build in supplies

      Have we seen the highest gas prices of the year?

      Motorists who felt pain at the gas pump over the Memorial Day weekend might feel a little better when the Independence Day holiday rolls around in early July.

      The price of fuel may have peaked on Friday, when it hit a multi-year high national average of nearly $3 a gallon. Today, the national average price of regular gas has dipped slightly to less than $2.97, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey.

      The survey shows the price of premium gas has remained stable at around $3.50 a gallon and the price of diesel fuel has drifted slightly lower to $3.21 a gallon.

      Motorists can thank a surprising increase in U.S. oil supplies, reported last week, and Saudi Arabia's announced decision to increase output to make up for OPEC shortfalls from Iran and Venezuela. The result was a significant drop in crude oil prices on world markets over the weekend.

      U.S. oil falls below $70

      U.S.-produced West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude has fallen below $70 a barrel, trading today at less than $67 a barrel. Brent crude was trading at $75.51, the lowest since May 8.

      Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, says he thinks retail gas prices may have peaked on Friday. He says the normal pattern is for fuel prices to slowly sink after Memorial Day. This year, he says it looks like OPEC will help by keeping oil prices from going higher.

      Oil prices began their drop last week when the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a surprising increase in U.S. oil stockpiles for the previous week. Supplies grew by 5.7 million barrels. U.S. producers exported less oil than forecast while refiners increased their imports.

      Highest and lowest prices

      Drivers in the West – Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah – are paying some of the highest prices for gas. They're joined by two Northeastern states – Massachusetts and Pennsylvania -- where the average price at the pump ranges from $3.12 to $3.15 a gallon.

      The cheapest fuel is still found in the Southeast and portions of the Midwest. The average price of regular gas in South Carolina is $2.64, making it the lowest in the nation. The average price in Mississippi is $2.65, while Alabama and Louisiana both have statewide averages of $2.66.

      Motorists who felt pain at the gas pump over the Memorial Day weekend might feel a little better when the Independence Day holiday rolls around in early Ju...
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      GM recalls vehicles with driver's seat belt issue

      The driver's seat belt pretensioner cable may become fatigued or break

      General Motors is recalling about 23,000 model year 2015-2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500s, 2500s and 3500s, and Tahoe Police Pursuit and Special-Service vehicles.

      The flexible steel cable connecting the driver's seat belt to the outboard side of the seat may be repeatedly bent over the seat side shield as the driver enters and exits the vehicle causing the cable to fatigue and separate.

      If the pretensioner cable becomes fatigued or breaks, the driver may not be properly restrained in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the pretensioner cable and seat side-shield, free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020. GM's number for this recall is 18156.

      General Motors is recalling about 23,000 model year 2015-2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500s, 2500s and 3500s, and Tahoe Police Pursuit and Special-Service vehi...
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      Merrick Pet Care recalls Good Buddy and Backcountry treats

      The products may contain elevated levels of thyroid hormone

      Merrick Pet Care of Amarillo, Texas, is recalling beef dog treats that may contain elevated levels of a naturally-occurring beef thyroid hormone.

      Dogs consuming high levels of beef thyroid hormone may exhibit increased thirst and urination, weight loss, increased heart rate and restlessness.

      One consumer complained that dog’s health was temporarily affected while eating the recalled product, but improved after discontinuing consumption of the treat.

      The following beef treat products, sold in the U.S. through pet specialty, grocery and online retailers, with limited distribution in Canada, are being recalled:

      ItemUPCBest Before Date Range
      Castor & Pollux Good Buddy Prime Patties Real Beef Recipe 4 oz.7808725108065/1/2017 - 9/1/2019
      Castor & Pollux Good Buddy Sausage Cuts Real Beef Recipe 5 oz.7808725107455/1/2017 - 9/1/2019
      Merrick Backcountry Great Plains Real Beef Jerky 4.5 oz.0228087861605/1/2019 - 9/1/2019
      Merrick Backcountry Great Plains Real Beef Sausage Cuts 5 oz.0228087860475/1/2017 - 9/1/2019
      Merrick Backcountry Great Plains Real Steak Patties 4 oz.0228087860785/1/2017 - 9/1/2019

      The production codes are on the lower back of the treat bag.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products may contact the firm at 800-664-7387 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, by email at customerservice@merrickpetcare.com, or online at www.merrickpetcare.com/customerrelations.

      Merrick Pet Care of Amarillo, Texas, is recalling beef dog treats that may contain elevated levels of a naturally-occurring beef thyroid hormone.Dogs c...
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      Continental Tire recalls Conti Hybrid HS3 tires

      Tire cords may be visible through the innerliner

      Continental Tire the Americas is recalling 655 Conti Hybrid HS3 tires, size 11R22.5 Load Range G, with tire identification numbers (TIN) A33TKWUX and DOT date codes of 0918 through 1118.

      Cords may be visible through the innerliner.

      Tires with visible cords through the innerliner may have a sudden loss of air, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Continental Tire will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires, free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Continental Tire customer service at 1-888-799-2168.

      Continental Tire the Americas is recalling 655 Conti Hybrid HS3 tires, size 11R22.5 Load Range G, with tire identification numbers (TIN) A33TKWUX and DOT d...
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      Volkswagen recalls Atlas vehicles

      The fuel tank may leak

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 278 Volkswagen Atlas vehicles.

      The fuel tank may leak fuel due to a manufacturing error. A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source can increase the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel tank, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin June 15, 2018.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 20AW.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 278 Volkswagen Atlas vehicles.The fuel tank may leak fuel due to a manufacturing error. A fuel leak in the pre...
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      The Weekly Hack: Nihilist Arby’s account falls victim to teenage hacker demanding $130

      In a week of poetic hacks, Nihilist Arby’s portfolio went dark and a phone-tracking service for cops had its servers broken into

      Nothing matters and Arby’s wants your money, according to the regular, depressing message delivered by the parody Twitter account Nihilist Arby’s. Or, in the Nihilist account’s own words: “Do drugs. Punch a stranger. Make love to your cousin. Enjoy Arby's. Arby's doesn't judge. Arby's doesn't care.”

      Punk bassist and humor-writer Brendan Kelly amassed 345,000 followers with his weekly Tweets parodying Arby’s and life itself. But for a page that regularly reminds fans that they will one day die and nothing is permanent, it’s somewhat poetic that every single Tweet on the Nihilist Arby’s account was recently deleted by a teenager trying to extort Kelly for a grand total of $130.

      Kelly told PR Week on Thursday that he could no longer access his account after hackers logged on and changed his password. He later learned that his account information had been sold on a message board.

      With his entire portfolio offline, Kelly got some unexpected help from the real Arby’s.

      The fast-food chain, which has 827,000 followers on Twitter, offered to contact a Twitter representative to help Kelly get his account back, explaining in an interview with PR Week that people had mistakenly assumed Arby’s was behind the attack.

      "We never want to be a brand that comes in and sends a cease and desist and tears it down because it has such a big fan base,” an Arby’s spokesman said. Twitter reportedly went to work on the case, and the Nihilist Arby’s page now appears to be restored, with the satirical Tweets back online.

      “Did I die? Whatever. it was pretty much the same, honestly,” Nihilist Arby's told fans yesterday.

      It’s not the first time that Nihilist Arby’s has received help from the non-Nihilist one. The chain several years ago surprised Kelly with a delivery of free sandwiches and a therapy puppy.

      Grades and lunch money

      Speaking of teenage hackers, high school students in Michigan were caught hacking the school district's computer system in an attempt to change their grades and give themselves more lunch money.

      In a message to parents, the school district said that its investigation into the matter was still ongoing and that it would be working with forensic data experts to understand the full extent of the hack.

      “Though we encourage our students to take responsible action, sometimes they make choices that do not reflect our guiding principles,” a message reads on the school’s website.

      Law enforcement’s phone-tracking company of choice

      Those who have served time, or have a loved one currently serving time, have probably heard of Securus Technologies, one of the few companies that controls phone communications and sometimes even in-person visitations between inmates and the outside world.

      What Securus does with all that phone data has remained somewhat unclear until recently. It turns out that the company also offers law enforcement a service that allows them to surreptitiously track the location of nearly every cell phone in the country, according to data recently uncovered by the New York Times.

      As Securus now faces a potential Senate investigation for helping police spy on phone locations without a court order, an independent hacker took it upon himself to show just how unstable Securus’ own cybersecurity is.

      The site Motherboard is reporting that a hacker showed them stolen data -- such as usernames, passwords, and internal company files -- that they obtained by breaking into the Securus servers.

      BMWs

      Security researchers recently found flaws in the software of BMWs that could allow hackers to remotely gain access to the automaker’s luxury vehicles.

      The findings by the Keen Research Group come at a time when consumer groups and safety researchers have expressed concerns about the security of the software that powers cars, both self-driving vehicles and normal ones. Experts and the industry itself have repeatedly described modern cars as “computers on wheels,” with Blackberry estimating that more than 100 million lines of code powers the average sedan.

      Researchers at the Keen Research Group studied BMWs, they wrote in their report, because its vehicles are now often “equipped with the new generation of ‘Internet-Connected’ Infotainment systems.”

      “While these components have significantly improved the convenience and performance of customers’ experience, they have also introduced the opportunity for new attacks,” the researchers explain.

      After publishing their technical report describing over a dozen vulnerabilities related to the technology, BMW announced it would use a software “patch” to fix the problem, which was also developed by the Keen Research Group. Consumers are invited to visit the dealership so they can receive the software upgrade.

      Rather than try to hide the findings, BMW announced that it is honoring the Keen Research Group for their work and plans more partnerships in the future.

      "In response to what has become a race between technological progress and new, presently unknown attack scenarios, the BMW Group has launched a comprehensive cybersecurity action plan, which includes tests conducted both internally by the BMW Group and with the help of independent institutions," the company said.

      Nothing matters and Arby’s wants your money, according to the regular, depressing message delivered by the parody Twitter account Nihilist Arby’s. Or, in t...
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      NTSB releases report on fatal self-driving car crash in Arizona

      Investigators say Uber’s software didn’t immediately identify Elaine Herzberg as a pedestrian

      The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a preliminary report regarding the Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona.

      The report lays out the details the NTSB has gathered since the crash, which occurred on March 18. The report does not delve into probable cause, but it confirms that the sensors on the vehicle worked as expected.

      The problem, says the NTSB, was that Uber’s software became confused by the pedestrian. Uber’s sensors spotted Elaine Herzberg about six seconds prior to impact -- enough time for the vehicle to brake and avoid hitting the woman. However, the system had a hard time figuring out what she was.

      Emergency braking disabled

      At the time of the crash, Herzberg was dressed in dark clothing and pushing a bicycle with no side reflectors. Herzberg didn’t look in the direction of the oncoming vehicle “until just before impact.” Toxicology test results of the pedestrian came back positive for marijuana and methamphetamine, the report noted.

      "As the vehicle and pedestrian paths converged, the self-driving system software classified the pedestrian as an unknown object, as a vehicle, and then as a bicycle with varying expectations of future travel path," the report says.

      It wasn’t until 1.3 seconds before impact that the vehicle’s self-driving system "determined that an emergency braking maneuver was needed to mitigate a collision," NTSB explained.

      However, automatic emergency braking maneuvers in Uber’s Volvo XC90 were disabled while the car was in self-driving mode in order to “reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior.” The system is not designed to alert the driver that braking is needed.

      Uber safety driver Rafaela Vasquez intervened “less than a second” before impact by grabbing the steering wheel. She hit the brakes less than a second after impact. Vasquez told investigators she had been “monitoring the self-driving system interface” before the crash, not looking down at her phone as a video released by Tempe police appeared to show.

      Uber scaling back self-driving programs

      The NTSB is continuing to collect information on the fatal crash, including the Uber self-driving system, the Volvo’s operator interface, the operator, the operator’s cell phones, the pedestrian, and the road.

      After the crash, Uber suspended its autonomous vehicle testing and Arizona governor Doug Ducey -- who had initially welcomed Uber’s test program to the state “with opens arms and open roads” -- revoked the company’s permission to test vehicles in the state.

      Yesterday, Uber announced it was shuttering its test program in Arizona. The company said its self-driving program would be “limited” in the months to come.

      “We’re committed to self-driving technology, and we look forward to returning to public roads in the near future,” Uber said in a statement. “In the meantime, we remain focused on our top-to-bottom safety review, having brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture.”

      The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a preliminary report regarding the Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a pedestrian i...
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      New York City to consider a ban on plastic straws

      The growing issue of plastic pollution has led to the proposed legislation

      On Wednesday, Democratic City Council Rafael Espinal introduced a bill that would ban plastic straws and stirrers in all venues across New York City. Everywhere from coffee shops and bars to restaurants and stadiums would no longer provide customers with plastic straws.

      Plastic pollution has been a growing concern in New York, as well as in other parts of the country, and under Espinal’s legislation, plastic would be replaced with metal. People with disabilities or medical conditions would not be subject to the proposed law, but for all others, breaking the law would result in a $100 fine.

      “One place in Brooklyn reported using 1.5 million straws throughout the year,” Espinal said. “It’s important for New Yorkers to understand that the plastic straw is not a necessity; it’s more of a luxury, and our luxury is causing great harm to other environments.”

      If the law passes, New York would join Malibu, Seattle, and Miami Beach in other states that have already banned plastic straws. Internationally, Vancouver has voted to ban plastic straws, while Scotland and Taiwan aren’t far behind permanent bans. Additionally, New York would become the largest city in the world to ban plastic straws thus far.

      Environmental consequences push the bill

      According to Eco-cycle, Americans use approximately 500 million straws per day - which is roughly 1.6 straws per person per day. On that same note, up to 12 million metric tons of plastic end up in oceans each year.

      The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) supports Espinal’s bill, with Executive Vice President John Calvelli reporting that plastic straws are one of the top ten sources of beach litter. “The sad thing is that probably by 2050 there will be more plastic, by weight, in the ocean, than fish,” he said.

      WCS has created its own campaign -- Give a Sip -- to highlight the environmental damages of disposable straws.

      “Through local field research, policy initiatives, and public outreach, our team seeks to protect and restore threatened species and critical habitats, encourage smart ocean planning to ensure a safe place for wildlife in our busy waters, and build ecological resilience in nearshore and river habitats,” the Give A Sip website reads.

      The Give A Sip campaign reports that 71 percent of seabirds and 30 percent of sea turtles have been found with plastic in their stomachs. In Spain this past April, a dead whale washed onto shore with over over 60 pounds of garbage -- primarily consisting of plastic -- in its body.

      “I’ve become more concerned about single-use plastic, when we have a federal government rolling back any environmental progress that we’ve made in the last eight years,” Espinal said. “It’s important that our cities take the lead. All plastic, whether it be a bag or a straw, is having a detrimental impact on our environment. It’s easy to drink your iced coffee or cocktail at night without a piece of plastic in it.”

      Other attempts to curb plastic

      Straws are the latest piece of plastic legislators are going after in an attempt to reduce pollution; however, efforts have been far more successful abroad than here in the U.S.

      In February, the government of Taiwan announced that it will be banning most single-use plastic items -- such as straws, bags, and cups -- by 2030. Similarly, Scotland announced that it will be banning cotton-tipped plastic ear swabs and straws by 2019. The UK recently banned microbeads -- the small plastic beads commonly found in exfoliants and other body washes.

      Stateside, two Hawaii hotels -- the Modern Honolulu and the Hilton Waikoloa VIllage -- stopped serving guests drinks with plastic straws. The hotels will now be serving drinks straw-less, unless guests request a straw, in which case it will be a paper straw. Portland farm-to-table restaurants have followed suit, as did restaurants in Davis, California.

      Perhaps the biggest name to ban straws as of late is McDonald’s. The fast food giant will start phasing out straws in 1,300 of its U.K. restaurants starting this May and replacing them with paper straws. Moreover, the company will not be handing out straws to every customer; instead workers will keep them behind the counter and give them to customers upon request.

      In regards to banning straws in NYC, Espinal is confident his bill will prove to be beneficial for New Yorkers, unlike Governor Cuomo’s April 2017 proposal to instate a five-cent charge on each plastic bag used by consumers throughout the state.

      “I don’t believe there are any huge obstacles,” Espinal said. “It’s not like plastic bags, where consumers felt it was important for them to carry out their groceries. A straw is not a necessity for most New Yorkers, so I think this is more of a change of thinking.”

      On Wednesday, Democratic City Council Rafael Espinal introduced a bill that would ban plastic straws and stirrers in all venues across New York City. Every...
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      DOJ to investigate Bitcoin price manipulation

      Lack of regulation within the cryptocurrency market makes it susceptible to fraud

      The U.S. Department of Justice has reportedly launched a probe into potential price manipulation techniques among Bitcoin traders.

      Sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that the DOJ is specifically focusing on illicit methods used to distort markets such as “wash trades,” where bad actors trade with themselves to create the illusion of market demand, and “spoofing,” the practice of flooding the market with fake orders to artificially influence price.

      The individuals noted that the cryptocurrency market is an easy target for fraud since it is largely unregulated and unmonitored. Cryptocurrency markets also tend to be volatile, which can make fraud-derived prices difficult to distinguish from natural trends.

      This particular investigation concerns manipulation of Bitcoin and Ether, the report said. Publication of the report caused the value of Bitcoin to drop by nearly 5 percent, to below $7,500.

      The Justice Department is conducting its investigation with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

      Cracking down on cryptocurrencies

      This isn’t the first time the government has attempted to crack down on illegal practices within the cryptocurrency space.

      In March, the SEC issued a statement saying that “if a platform offers trading of digital assets that are securities and operates as an ‘exchange,’ as defined by the federal securities laws, then the platform must register with the SEC as a national securities exchange or be exempt from registration.”

      “The federal regulatory framework governing registered national securities exchanges and exempt markets is designed to protect investors and prevent against fraudulent and manipulative trading practices,” the statement said.

      Last year, the SEC warned celebrities against endorsing ICOs without proper disclosure.

      “Celebrities who endorse an investment often do not have sufficient expertise to ensure that the investment is appropriate and in compliance with federal securities laws,” the SEC said in a statement. “Investment decisions should not be based solely on an endorsement by a promoter or other individual.”

      The U.S. Department of Justice has reportedly launched a probe into potential price manipulation techniques among Bitcoin traders. Sources familiar wit...
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      Jury hands Apple a victory over Samsung in patent dispute

      Samsung has been ordered to pay Apple $539 million

      A federal court jury, deliberating in a long-running patent dispute, has ruled that Samsung must write Apple a very large check.

      When he introduced the iPhone in 2007, the late Steve Jobs made a point of saying Apple had been careful to cover its new product with patents. Jobs, the co-founder and CEO of Apple, was reportedly furious when the market was soon flooded with competing smartphones using Google's Android operating system.

      In particular, he accused Samsung of ripping off the iPhone's design and features. The two companies have been in court ever since.

      The California jury determined that Samsung owes Apple $539 million for infringing upon five company patents. Most of the damage award covers three Apple patents for the iPhone design. The rest of the award covers two utility patents.

      Awards damage increases from $399 million

      The verdict came in a retrial that Samsung had lost, which required it to pay Apple $399 million. The jury hearing the most recent case increased the damages.

      “Today’s decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favor of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages,” Samsung said in a statement. “We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that does not hinder creativity and fair competition for all companies and consumers.”

      In that 2016 case, the court ruled that damages from patent infringement should be based on the portion of the device that infringed on the patents, not the profit from the entire device, as Apple had argued.

      But Samsung has not always been victorious over Apple when the two have ended up before the Supreme Court. Last year, the high court declined to hear Samsung's appeal of a 2014 lower court ruling which had found that it infringed on some Apple design patents.

      According to technology publisher CNET, the latest jury verdict cements the importance of smartphone design.

      A federal court jury, deliberating in a long-running patent dispute, has ruled that Samsung must write Apple a very large check.When he introduced the...
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