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      California passes strict new online privacy law

      The new law will give consumers in the Golden State sweeping control over their personal data

      On Thursday, California legislators passed the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. Under the new law, the data-harvesting practices of Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Uber will be restricted and consumers will have control over their personal data.

      The new law gives consumers the right to know what information these big tech companies are collecting, as well as why they’re collecting it and where it’s being shared. Under the new law, consumers can also choose to bar tech companies from selling their data to third parties, including advertisers.

      The new privacy rules are set to take effect in 2020, but only in the state of California.

      "The state that pioneered the tech revolution is now, rightly, a pioneer in consumer privacy safeguards, and we expect many additional states to follow suit," James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, said in a statement.

      "Today was a huge win and gives consumer privacy advocates a blueprint for success. We look forward to working together with lawmakers across the nation to ensure robust data privacy protections for all Americans,” Steyer added.

      Online privacy protection

      News of the new legislation comes about a month after the European Union implemented strict new privacy rules known as General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.

      However, the Norwegian Consumer Council recently stepped forward with claims that tech firms such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft instituted changes to their user controls that only give consumers “the illusion” of privacy.

      The California Consumer Privacy Act has gotten the support of most privacy advocates, but some have pointed out that there are a few loopholes in the law that could cause problems. For example, the law would allow tech companies or ISPs to charge higher prices to consumers who opt out of having their data sold to third parties.

      "For the first time California is explicitly allowing 'pay for privacy' deals that are in direct contradiction to our privacy rights," Emily Rusch, executive director of the nonprofit California Public Interest Research Group, said in a statement.

      State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D), who supported the law, said paying for online privacy is a “dangerous and slippery slope.”

      California’s new law provides some of the toughest online protections in the country.

      “I think it’s going to set the standard across the country that legislatures across the country will look to adopt in their own states,” said state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D).

      On Thursday, California legislators passed the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. Under the new law, the data-harvesting practices of Amazon, Faceboo...
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      Instagram releases new soundtrack option for Stories

      Users can now add music to their posts

      Instagram just released an update to its app that allows users to add songs -- from artists like Bruno Mars, Dua Lipa, Calvin Harris, or Guns N’ Roses -- to their Stories. The launch comes following Facebook’s new relationship with all major record labels and is expected to make the photo sharing app even more popular.

      The songs will be offered to users directly in the app and will play as background music to whatever picture or video they post to their Stories. Instagram also reported that new songs will be added to the app daily.

      Much like the Sticker feature in Instagram Stories, adding music will work in much the same way. Users can search for any song, artist, or genre, and then drag and drop the song of their choice from the Music “sticker,” and it will then be added to their post.

      The new Music feature will be available for both picture and video posts. Instagram also allows users to scan through the entire song to find the section they want to post in their Stories. Additionally, iOS users can switch to the Music shutter mode in the Stories camera to pick a song prior to taking a picture or video. When watching a Story that has a song, friends will be able to see the song’s title and artist and the song will play automatically.

      “Now you can add a soundtrack to your story that fits any moment and helps you express how you’re feeling,” Instagram writes.

      Instagram reported that artists with rights holders will be properly compensated for their music, though how those payments will work out is still unclear.

      Success of Stories

      This new update to Stories comes on the heels of a big announcement from Instagram.

      Just last week, the company revealed that the app has one billion monthly users. And today, it announced that there are 400 million daily Instagram Story users -- up from 300 million in November and 250 million last year.

      Instagram Stories have taken off recently, as the company continues to add new features, like SuperZoom, Highlights, and the ability to reshare public posts. The number of users utilizing Stories is currently growing six times faster than Snapchat’s whole app. Many believe Snapchat’s redesign -- which was received very poorly by users -- was partly the reason behind the company’s slowest growth rate ever last quarter.

      As for Stories’ new Music feature, it is currently available in select countries -- most likely where the company was able to get licenses for songs -- and it is expected to roll out to more locations soon.

      Instagram just released an update to its app that allows users to add songs -- from artists like Bruno Mars, Dua Lipa, Calvin Harris, or Guns N’ Roses -- t...
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      Adidas warns millions of U.S. customers of potential data breach

      The U.S. website is the likely culprit of the company’s data concerns

      On Thursday, Adidas reached out to millions of customers in the United States to warn them about a potential data breach that occurred within the company’s U.S. website. According to a company statement, Adidas is referring to the situation as a “potential data security incident.”

      “On June 26, Adidas became aware that an unauthorized party claims to have acquired limited data associated with certain Adidas customers,” the company said.

      Based on a preliminary investigation conducted by outside data security firms, the leaked data was limited in nature.

      “The limited data includes contact information, usernames, and encrypted passwords,” the statement said. “Adidas has no reason to believe that any credit card or fitness information of those consumers was impacted.”

      Cause for concern

      Adidas found out about the possible data breach on June 26, and though it informed customers right away, the company is still uncertain when the breach took place.

      “We are alerting certain customers who purchased on adidas.com/US about a potential data security incident,” a company spokeswoman told Bloomberg. “At this time, this is a few million consumers.”

      A data breach -- though not uncommon for major brands as of late -- does have the ability to tarnish the reputation of a company. Based on a recent study by KPMG, 55 percent of global consumers have decided against purchasing something from companies that have had issues with online privacy.

      Moreover, since 2017, several major brands have had issues with matters of data privacy, including Sears, Best Buy, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, and Under Armour -- among countless others. Most recently, Delta Airlines reported a cyber attack that released the payment information for thousands of customers.

      Despite this most recent incident, Adidas is looking to rectify the issue for consumers and is continuing to work to prevent future attacks on data privacy.

      “Adidas is committed to the privacy and security of its consumers’ personal data,” the statement said. “Adidas immediately began taking steps to determine the scope of the issue and to alert relevant customers.”

      On Thursday, Adidas reached out to millions of customers in the United States to warn them about a potential data breach that occurred within the company’s...
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      Consumer group charges big tech of only giving 'the illusion' of privacy

      Norwegian Consumer Council calls out Facebook, Google, and Microsoft

      Just weeks after the European Union enacted sweeping new privacy rules, the Norwegian Consumer Council has issued a report questioning how Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are meeting these requirements.

      In a report entitled Deceived by Design, the group claims the U.S.-based tech firms have instituted changes to their user controls that appear to give consumers more power to protect their privacy, but in fact use default settings and “misleading” wording to accomplish the opposite.

      The report looked at the changes the tech companies made to their sites in April and May, in preparation for Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which recently went into effect. At the time, Facebook was also responding to harsh criticism it received after it revealed that some of its user data had been used for unauthorized political marketing purposes.

      Privacy-friendly settings hard to access

      As examples, the Norwegian report cites some cases of the most privacy-friendly settings being the hardest to access and choices being presented with only two options.

      For example, if a Facebook user disables facial recognition, they are told that Facebook will be unable to prevent someone from using their photo to impersonate them. The report said that is a not-too-subtle attempt to persuade Facebook users not to disable facial recognition.

      In statements to news outlets, the companies named in the report have reaffirmed their commitment to privacy. Google said it is constantly updating its controls in response to user experience tests. Facebook said it had “made its policies clearer, our privacy settings easier to find.” Microsoft said it is committed to GDPR compliance.

      'Vast array of design techniques'

      But the report suggests big technology firms, while giving users more control, take overt steps to try to influence those choices.

      “Providers of digital services use a vast array of user design techniques in order to nudge users toward clicking and choosing certain options,” the authors write. “This is not in itself a problem, but the use of exploitative design choices, or 'dark patterns,' is arguably an unethical attempt to push consumers toward choices that benefit the service provider.”

      The report concludes that the firms' attempts to influence consumer privacy choices cross the line, becoming techniques that could, in some cases, be “deceptive and manipulative.” For that reason, the report questions whether the firms are in actual compliance with Europe's tough, new privacy regulations.

      Just weeks after the European Union enacted sweeping new privacy rules, the Norwegian Consumer Council has issued a report questioning how Google, Facebook...
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      Inflation rises in May, but so do incomes

      An economist says a Commerce Department report shows a still-healthy economy

      Inflation ticked up in May, hitting the Federal Reserve's target of 2 percent for the first time since 2012. But in good news for consumers, a government report shows incomes rose even more.

      The Commerce Department reports the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index rose 0.2 percent last month on the heels of a similar gain in April. In the last 12 months, the PCE price index – which is closely monitored by the Fed – is up 2.3 percent.

      At the same time, consumers' incomes rose 0.4 percent in May, following a 0.2 percent gain in April. Wages were up 0.3 percent and the savings rate climbed to 3.2 percent.

      Healthy expansion

      Robert Frick, corporate economist with Navy Federal Credit Union, says the report paints a mostly upbeat picture.

      “Nothing in the Personal Income and Outlays report this morning casts doubt on the health of the expansion, or on the Fed's plan to raise interest rates two more times this year,” Frick said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. “The good news for American workers is personal income increased as expected, so hope remains that wages— which have been eroded by inflation the last year — will rise above their current level and workers' purchasing power will increase.”

      Frick says the rise in inflation is no cause for concern because it is still at a relatively low rate. Besides, it is only now hitting the level the Fed has decided is healthy for a growing economy.

      Consumer spending was down

      “That consumer expenditures dipped is also not a cause for concern,” Frick said. “That is a particularly volatile figure, and if accurate reflects that consumers are channeling more towards savings, which has been bumping at historically low levels.”

      Consumers also spent less on their utility bills in May, since most areas of the country fell between the heating and air conditioning seasons last month. The savings likely contributed to the increase in savings.

      The report may quell rising concern on Wall Street in recent days that a potential recession is looming. Stocks have fallen in the last week as traders have fretted over the narrowing gap between the yield on the Treasury's two-year and 10-year bonds, a traditional sign of an economic slowdown.

      Inflation ticked up in May, hitting the Federal Reserve's target of 2 percent for the first time since 2012. But in good news for consumers, a government r...
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      Data breach may have exposed the personal information of 340 million people and businesses

      Financial information was not leaked, but a range of personal characteristics were compromised

      A database controlled by a Florida-based marketing and data aggregation company may have been compromised, exposing individual records on nearly 340 million people and businesses.

      Security researcher Vinny Troia found that nearly 2 terabytes of data were exposed, which includes records of 230 million consumers and 110 million businesses.

      "It seems like this is a database with pretty much every US citizen in it," Troia, founder of the New York-based security firm Night Lion Security, told Wired. “I don’t know where the data is coming from, but it’s one of the most comprehensive collections I’ve ever seen.”

      If these estimates are accurate, the leak would be even larger than the Equifax data breach of 2017, which exposed the personal data of around 145 million people.

      Highly personal information

      Although credit card information and Social Security numbers don’t appear to have been leaked, the alleged breach reportedly exposed highly personal information, including phone numbers, home addresses, email addresses.

      It also exposed more than 400 personal characteristics, including interests, habits, if the person owns a dog or cat, and the age and gender of the person’s children. Wired noted that in some cases, the information may have been inaccurate or outdated.  

      Despite the fact that no financial information was included, experts say that the wide range of personal data revealed could still make it possible for bad actors to create a more complete profile of individuals or help scammers steal identities.

      Troia said he informed Exactis and the FBI that he was able to access the database on the internet earlier this month. The data is no longer publicly accessible. Exactis has not yet confirmed the leak.

      A database controlled by a Florida-based marketing and data aggregation company may have been compromised, exposing individual records on nearly 340 millio...
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      Instagram releases new Lite app

      The new slimmed down version of the app will soon be available in several countries

      In an effort to bring Instagram to areas where mobile coverage is spotty or data is expensive, the social media company just released Instagram Lite -- a new version of the app that “takes up less space on your device, uses less data, and starts faster.”

      The app appeared today in the Google Play App Store without any official statement from the company. However, the official description in the App Store describes the app as “small” so that users can save space on their phone and download it quickly.

      According to TechCrunch, Instagram Lite takes up 1/55th of the space of the full app at just 573 KB compared to the 32-megabyte main app. The Lite version allows users to filter and post photos to their feeds, watch Stories, or browse the Explore page. However, it currently lacks the capabilities to share videos or Direct messages with friends.

      Instagram has yet to report if the Lite app will contain ads, as advertisements typically tend to use a lot of data.

      Benefits of the Lite app

      In creating a version of the app that is better suited for emerging markets, Instagram is addressing a number of common issues consumers are facing overseas.

      With the Lite app, users on older phones, phones with less storage, phones operating on slower network connections, or those who can’t afford big data packages can still utilize the features that one billion Instagram users have access to. Additionally, users won’t have to delete anything -- apps or photos -- off of their devices to download the Lite version, or spend tons of time waiting for it to download.

      Instagram Lite was released in testing phases in Mexico this week. As the year progresses, the app will become available in more countries and expand to include both messaging and video posting/sharing.

      “We are testing a new version of Instagram for Android that takes up less space on your device, uses less data, and starts faster,” the company said in a statement.

      The Lite trend

      Recently, many apps have adapted their software to produce new Lite versions.

      Earlier this month, Uber launched Uber Lite in India and boasted about its five-megabyte size and ability to connect users to rides in areas with little to no reception. Similar to Instagram’s new Lite app, Uber Lite is available only for Android users. Upon release, Uber Lite was only available in India, though the company reported that it was working to expand it to other countries.

      In 2015, Facebook launched a lite version of its app, and by 2017, boasted 200 million users. The success of that helped launch Messenger Lite this past April.

      In an effort to bring Instagram to areas where mobile coverage is spotty or data is expensive, the social media company just released Instagram Lite -- a n...
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      Loblaw recalls chicken burgers

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Loblaw Companies Limited is recalling its no name brand chicken burgers that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      Canada's Public Health Agency is investigating an outbreak of human illness.

      The following product, which was sold at retail stores throughout Canada, is being recalled:

      Brand NameCommon NameSizeCode(s) on ProductUPC
      no nameChicken BurgerskgOuter package: 2019 FE 06
      Inner package: 0378M
      0 60383 16636 6

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but discard it or returned it to the where purchased.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (888) 495-5111or by email at customerservice@loblaws.ca

      Photo source: Health CanadaLoblaw Companies Limited is recalling its no name brand chicken burgers that may be contaminated with Salmonella.Canad...
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      Model year 2018-2019 BMW X3 vehicles recalled

      The "Active Lane Keeping Assistant" option may malfunction

      BMW of North America is recalling 51 model year 2018-2019 BMW X3 xDrive30i, X3 sDrive30i, and X3 M40i vehicles with the "Active Lane Keeping Assistant" option.

      The steering wheel may be incompatible with the lane keeping assistant function and may not detect if the driver's hands are off the wheel.

      If the sensors do not properly detect the driver's hands are off the wheel, the driver may not be alerted by one or more warning signals, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the steering wheel, replacing it if necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin July 23, 2018.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.

      Photo source: BMWBMW of North America is recalling 51 model year 2018-2019 BMW X3 xDrive30i, X3 sDrive30i, and X3 M40i vehicles with the "Active Lane...
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      Supreme Court ruling deals major blow to unions

      Non-union employees will no longer be required to pay towards collective bargaining

      On Wednesday, the Supreme Court struck down an Illinois law that required non-union workers to pay fees that go towards collective bargaining. The decision has massive implications on the financial structure of public sector unions and could be devastating to their future outlook.

      Conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority in the 5-4 decision.

      “It is hard to estimate how many billions of dollars have been taken from non-members and transferred to public-sector unions in violation of the First Amendment,” Alito wrote. “Those unconstitutional executions cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.”

      “The First Amendment was meant for better things,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote, in dissent of the decision. “It was not meant to undermine but to protect democratic governance -- including over the role of public-sector unions.”

      Ramifications for unions

      Those in favor of the decision believe that non-union members shouldn’t be responsible for paying a share of union dues that cover the cost of negotiating contracts. However, union members have previously reported that this exact outcome would cut off an income source, as well as diminish their political influence in the 23 states where they advocate for both members and non-members.

      Nearly half of all union members in the United States are government employees, and a recent non-partisan study found that a Supreme Court defeat would eventually cause public employee unions to lose 726,000 members -- which would be a significant blow.

      While Alito noted that unions could “experience unpleasant transition costs in the short term,” he believes labor’s problems aren’t as serious as “the considerable windfall that unions have received...for the past 41 years.”

      Despite being in the minority, Justice Kagan continued to reinforce the implications this decision will have moving forward.

      “There’s no sugarcoating today’s decision,” Kagan wrote. “The majority overthrows a decision entrenched in this Nation’s law -- and its economic life -- for over 40 years. As a result, it prevents the American people, acting through their state and local officials, from making important choices about workplace governance. And it does so by weaponizing the First Amendment, in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in economic and regulatory policy.”

      History in the case

      The debate surrounding the case stems from the decision in the 1977 Supreme Court case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. That ruling decided that non-members of public sector unions cannot be required to pay fees for a union’s political activities, but they can be required to pay “fair share” fees that go towards employee grievances, physical safety, and training.

      The current case began with a lawsuit against an Illinois public sector union filed by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

      Two years ago, the court was locked in a 4-4 standstill on this same issue when it was presented by a group of California teachers who were opposed to paying the fees. Since then, Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court and provided the fifth vote to end the fees.

      “By requiring unions to represent everyone in a collective bargaining unit without ensuring fair contributions for that representation, unions will be forced to do more with much less -- to the detriment of those they represent,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-California). “The decision today is the latest blow in a decades-long, nationwide effort by conservatives to bust unions that advocate for workers and protect them from employer abuses.”

      On Wednesday, the Supreme Court struck down an Illinois law that required non-union workers to pay fees that go towards collective bargaining. The decision...
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      Employers complain of growing 'talent shortage'

      Positions such as electricians, welders, and drivers are going unfilled

      With the unemployment rate hovering just above record lows, employers are complaining that they can't find the talent they need to fill existing jobs.

      But if you spent four years and tens of thousands of dollars getting a college degree, you might not be the workers employers are looking for.

      The latest talent shortage survey from the ManpowerGroup found the most difficult slots for employers to fill are skilled workers, with the shortage at the worst it's been in 12 years.

      In particular, employers said skilled workers -- such as electricians, welders, and mechanics -- are hard to find. They also said many positions as salesmen and drivers are going unfilled.

      College degree not necessary

      Many of the jobs that 46 percent of employers say they can't fill require training, but not a four-year college degree.

      "We continue to see increasing demand for skilled workers across all sectors of the U.S. economy from transport and trade to manufacturing and sales," said Becky Frankiewicz, President of ManpowerGroup North America. "Employers cannot find the people they need with the right blend of technical skills and human strengths and the problem won't fix itself.”

      To fill the gap, the survey found employers are luring retired workers back to their old jobs and recruiting returning parents and part-timers.

      More than half of the companies in the survey said they are investing in learning platforms and development tools to build their talent pipeline. To make their open positions more attractive, 19 percent of employers are offering flexible work arrangements and other modifications to the jobs.

      Increasing salary

      Pay is also improving for many of these positions. According to U.S. News and World Report, the median salary for an electrician in the U.S. was $52,720 in 2016. Electricians are licensed by the states in which they operate after completing a training course. Most require a high school diploma but not an expensive college education.

      “It's time for a new approach to attract, recruit and retain talent,” Frankiewicz said. “Employers need to buy skills where necessary, borrow from external sources and help people with adjacent skills bridge from one role to another.”

      In other words, employers may have to build their own talent pool because the education system isn't providing it.

      As we reported earlier this month, many college graduates struggle to find jobs, even in this tight labor market. Research conducted for the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows the average college graduate who does not leave school with a job will spend 7.4 months looking for one.

      While jobseekers can focus on jobs where a talent shortage exists, the ManpowerGroup urges employers to develop more training programs to cultivate talent, both inside and outside the organization.

      With the unemployment rate hovering just above record lows, employers are complaining that they can't find the talent they need to fill existing jobs.B...
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      Judge dismisses lawsuit against five major oil companies

      Two cities believe the companies should pay for costs related to climate change

      A San Francisco federal judge has ruled in favor of five big oil companies in a lawsuit brought by two California cities, Oakland and San Francisco, over the fossil fuel industry’s responsibility in paying for the cost of climate change.

      Judge William Alsup didn’t dispute the science of climate change, but he said it was a matter of the law. “This order accepts the science behind global warming,” Judge Alsup said in his order. However, “the issue is not over science. The issue is a legal one,” he said.

      Judge Alsup ruled in favor of the defendants -- Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP. The companies argued that the case should be dismissed because the courts were not the proper venue to address climate change.

      “The court will stay its hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches,” Alsup wrote.

      Public nuisance law

      The lawsuits said that Big Oil created a public nuisance and that the companies should pay for sea walls and other infrastructure to protect against the damage from global warming and sea level rise.

      However, if the courts determined that oil and gas production was a public nuisance, it would “invade the prerogatives of Congress and the executive branch,” Theodore Boutrous, the lawyer representing Chevron, said in a hearing.

      “Earlier attempts to use nuisance claims in lawsuits about climate change have been heard under federal law in cases such as American Electric Power v. Connecticut, but none have succeeded,” the New York Times reports.

      “In a unanimous 2011 decision, the Supreme Court said that the Clean Air Act displaced the federal common law of nuisance, leaving enforcement and regulation to the Environmental Protection Agency.”

      Alsup said that although it's "true" that carbon dioxide released from fossil fuels has contributed to global warming, we have all benefited from fuel and coal. “Development of our modern world has literally been fuelled by oil and coal,” he wrote.

      "The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case," Judge Alsup concluded.

      A San Francisco federal judge has ruled in favor of five big oil companies in a lawsuit brought by two California cities, Oakland and San Francisco, over t...
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      Land O’Frost recalls Black Forest Ham

      The package contains labeling discrepancies

      Land O’Frost of Madisonville, Ky., is recalling approximately 4,944 pounds of ham.

      The front of the package is accurately labeled as Black Forest Ham; however the back of the package is incorrectly labeled as Honey Smoked Turkey Breast.

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of the product.

      The following item, produced on April 27, 2018, is being recalled:

      • 1-lb. plastic gas-flushed resealable packages containing a single ham labeled “Land O’Frost PREMIUM Old World Style Black Forest Ham” with Lot 8117D and a sell-by date of August 10, 2018 on the label.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “Est.500K” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to a retail locations in Arizona, California, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

      What to do

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Dar Gautreaux at (800) 762-9865.

      Land O’Frost of Madisonville, Ky., is recalling approximately 4,944 pounds of ham.The front of the package is accurately labeled as Black Forest Ham; h...
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      Toyota recalls Lexus IS and GS vehicles

      The vehicles may develop a fuel leak

      Toyota Motor North America is recalling about 115,000 model year 2006-2013 Lexus IS 350s, model year 2010-2014 IS 350Cs and model year 2007-2011 GS 350s, and GS 450h vehicles.

      The diaphragm material in the fuel pulsation dampers in certain 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engines may harden over time and crack, causing fuel to leak.

      A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source can increase the risk of a vehicle fire.

      What to do

      Lexus notify all known owners and dealers will replace the fuel delivery pipe with a new one containing improved pulsation dampers at no cost.

      Owners may contact Lexus at (800) 255-3987.

      Toyota Motor North America is recalling about 115,000 model year 2006-2013 Lexus IS 350s, model year 2010-2014 IS 350Cs and model year 2007-2011 GS 350s, a...
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      Apple launches special news section ahead of midterm elections

      The tech giant is aiming to present readers with reliable news ahead of this year’s crucial races

      Apple has unveiled a new 2018 Midterm Elections section in Apple News, which gives U.S. readers access to important political content through November.

      The news section will offer coverage from Fox News, Vox, and other selected outlets, along with special exclusives like The Washington Post's Election Now dashboard, a weekly briefing from Axios, and Politico's Races to Watch.

      Apple says the goal of the section isn’t to censor politics, but to present consumers with a selection of top stories from trustworthy sources.

      “Today more than ever people want information from reliable sources, especially when it comes to making voting decisions,” said Lauren Kern, editor-in-chief of Apple News. “An election is not just a contest; it should raise conversations and spark national discourse.”

      “By presenting quality news from trustworthy sources and curating a diverse range of opinions, Apple News aims to be a responsible steward of those conversations and help readers understand the candidates and the issues.”

      Combating false news

      Apple isn’t the first tech giant to implement efforts to fight false news in the wake of the 2016 election and ahead of the November elections. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have also taken steps to stem the spread of misinformation on the web.

      Facebook recently announced that it is expanding the scale and scope of its third-party fact-checking program, which relies on a combination of technology and human editors to make news from less reliable sources less visible. The company also announced that it would begin fact-checking photos and videos in addition to text.

      In March, Google launched a new effort called Google News Initiative, which aims to combat the spread of misinformation during elections and breaking news moments. Google said it was working with Harvard University’s fact-checking organization First Draft for the program, which identifies inaccurate news stories and removes them from Google News rankings.

      Twitter announced earlier this year that it would notify nearly 678,000 users that may have inadvertently interacted with now-suspended accounts believed to have been linked to a Russian propaganda service called the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

      Apple’s news section for the 2018 Midterm Elections is now available to U.S. readers and will remain up through the elections in November.

      Apple has unveiled a new 2018 Midterm Elections section in Apple News, which gives U.S. readers access to important political content through November....
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      PayPal launches Venmo-branded debit card

      Younger, millennial customers are Venmo’s target market

      Venmo has announced that it is launching a new MasterCard debit card that will allow users to make in-store and online payments with their Venmo balance.

      The card, which is issued by the Bancorp Bank, is being rolled out in an effort to expand Venmo’s monetization potential and help the company reach more younger consumers.

      The peer-to-peer payment app says that if a cardholder has a low balance, the card will reload using the user’s preferred funding source. Venmo says its new card will allow up to $400 in daily withdrawals. There’s a $2.50 fee to withdraw money from your Venmo account using an ATM, but no fee to make regular purchases.

      Card purchases will show up on a transaction history in the app, which will give users the ability to split charges among friends. Also within the app, users can deactivate the card when it’s misplaced and then reactivate it when it’s found.

      The card features a vertical design and comes in a choice of six colors -- yellow, pink, blue, green, black, and white. It has a chip for security and an icon near the chip that indicates support for contactless payments.

      Venmo says users can now “get in line” for the card, adding that it’s striving to quickly move people off the waitlist and process applications. There’s no fee to sign up for it, and it should arrive within 5 to 7 days after approval. The card can be used everywhere MasterCard is accepted, but only in the United States.  

      Last fall, PayPal added the ability for Venmo users to shop on the mobile web at almost everywhere PayPal is accepted. In the first quarter of this year, Venmo processed around $12 billion in payments.

      Venmo has announced that it is launching a new MasterCard debit card that will allow users to make in-store and online payments with their Venmo balance....
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      Wells Fargo Advisors settles improper trading charges

      The SEC says the bank pushed investment clients into multiple transactions to reap high fees

      Wells Fargo has agreed to a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), resolving charges that its advisors unit engaged in misconduct in the sale of financial products, known as market-linked investments (MLI), to small investors.

      The SEC said its investigation found that the bank was able to charge large fees by encouraging its retail customers to actively trade the products, even though they are designed to be held until they mature.

      The SEC said that from 2009 to 2013, Wells Fargo Advisors improperly encouraged investors to sell MLIs before maturity, then invest the money in new MLIs. The bank assessed substantial fees on each transaction.

      $4 million penalty

      The bank agreed to pay a $4 million penalty and return money to investors. In a statement, Wells Fargo said it cooperated with the SEC investigation.

      The SEC said the improper activity took place despite bank policies that prohibited it. Investigators point to rules in place barring clients from engaging in short-term trading or "flipping" of assets, but they note that Wells Fargo supervisors routinely signed off on these transactions.

      “It is important that brokers do their homework before they recommend that their retail customers buy or sell complex structured products,” said Daniel Michael, Chief of the Enforcement Division’s Complex Financial Instruments Unit. “The products sold by Wells Fargo came with high fees and commissions, which Wells Fargo should have taken into account before advising retail customers to sell their investments and reinvest the proceeds in similar products.”

      Past transgressions

      This is far from the first time that Wells Fargo has run afoul of financial regulators. In September 2016, bank officials revealed that employees had opened checking and credit card accounts for millions of Wells Fargo customers without their knowledge or permission. The scandal ultimately resulted in a $185 million fine and dozens of lawsuits.

      In the last year, Wells Fargo has been under investigation by regulators and faced lawsuits for the way it conducted its auto loan and mortgages businesses. Last year, the bank faced a class action lawsuit by plaintiffs who said they were charged extra fees when their mortgage applications were denied, even when the denial was due to a bank error.

      The case revolved around rate-lock extension fees -- the fees borrowers pay to "lock in" an interest rate for a specific period of time, usually 30 to 45 days. If it takes longer than that for the loan to be approved, the borrower is charged an extra fee.

      Also in 2017, Wells Fargo revealed that 570,000 consumers who financed auto purchases through the bank may have been sold a collateral protection insurance (CPI) without their knowledge or consent.

      Wells Fargo has agreed to a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), resolving charges that its advisors unit engaged in misconduct in...
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      New home sales jump in May

      But most of the gains were confined to one region

      Sales of new single-family houses rose sharply in May, an encouraging sign for the housing market as it continues to be plagued by a lower-than-normal inventory of available homes.

      In its monthly report, the U.S. Census Bureau said new home sales occurred at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 689,000. That's up 6.7 percent from April and is 14 percent higher than May 2017.

      The median sales price of new houses sold in May was $313,000, the lowest since April 2017. It suggests builders are offering more affordable homes, pulling down the median price. The average sales price was $368,500.

      Homebuilding is still occurring at about half the pace it was before the housing crash a decade ago. Builders say their costs have risen dramatically since then, which has forced them to focus on the high-end, luxury market.

      Better than expected report

      Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist for LendingTree, says the May new home sales report was better than the market expected, but he notes that the improvement was limited to just one area of the country.

      "Sales gains were driven by the South," Kapfidze said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. "An increase of 17.9 percent month-over-month in the South accounted for all the gains. Other regions were lower or flat."

      Kapfidze says rising mortgage rates may have contributed to builders' lower-priced homes selling better than the luxury market. The share of home sales over $500,000 was 15 percent in May, the lowest since February 2015.

      Homebuilders have complained that their labor costs have risen sharply in recent years, while the cost of land has also gone up. They say that it makes it difficult to deliver a new home at a price that is affordable for the typical first-time homebuyer.

      The Census Bureau report shows that the inventory of new homes at the end of May was an estimated 299,000. That represents a supply of 5.2 months at the current sales rate, sharply higher than the 4.1-month inventory supply of existing homes.

      The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported a 0.4 percent decline in existing home sales, with a median sale price of $264,800. It notes total inventory rose 2.8 percent for the month, but that figure was still 6.1 percent lower than a year ago.

      Sales of new single-family houses rose sharply in May, an encouraging sign for the housing market as it continues to be plagued by a lower-than-normal inve...
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      Bumbleride recalls Speed 3-wheel jogging stroller

      The stroller does not meet Canada's sharp edge requirements

      Bumble ride Inc., is recalling approximately 600 Bumbleride Speed 3-wheel jogging strollers.

      The stroller does not meet the sharp edge requirements of the Carriages and Strollers Regulations in Canada as the metal edge of the back hinge located on the right side can be sharp, posing a potential risk of cut or laceration.

      No incidents or injuries related to the use of the jogging stroller have been reported.

      This recall involves Bumbleride Speed 3-wheel jogging stroller. The affected models are folding jogging strollers with Bumbleride imprinted on upholstery in the base of the seat.

      The following model numbers are being recalled:

      Model NamePart NumberSKU Number

      Speed Matte Black

      SP-300BLK

      812812014447

      Speed Maritime Blue

      SP-300MB

      812812014492

      Speed Camp Green

      SP-300CG

      812812014485

      Speed Dawn Grey

      SP-300DG

      812812014454

      Speed Silver Black

      SP-300SVB

      812812014881

      The recalled product, manufactured in Taiwan, was sold throughout Canada between April 2016, and December 2017.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should immediately stop using it and contact Bumbleride Inc. or register on their website to receive a retrofit kit.

      Consumers with questions may contact Bumbleride at (800) 530-3930 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, or by email at info@bumbleride.com.

      Bumble ride Inc., is recalling approximately 600 Bumbleride Speed 3-wheel jogging strollers.The stroller does not meet the sharp edge requirements of t...
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      People's Sausage recalls jerky and meat sticks

      The products were prepared without an approved voluntary grant of inspection

      People’s Sausage of Los Angeles, Calif., is recalling approximately 13,554 pounds of elk, bison and beef jerky and meat sticks.

      The products were prepared without an approved voluntary grant of inspection.

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

      The following shelf-stable items, produced from May 3, 2016, through June 15, 2018, are being recalled:

      • 4-oz plastic bags containing “MONTRAIL BISON WILD STICKS Hot and Spicy” with a use by date from May 3, 2018 to June 15, 2020.
      • 3-oz plastic bags containing “MONTRAIL BISON LLC. Elk Jerky Lemon Chile” with a use by date from May 3, 2018 to June 15, 2020.
      • 3-oz plastic bags containing “MONTRAIL BISON LLC. Elk Jerky Teriyaki” with a use by date from May 3, 2018 to June 15, 2020.
      • 3-oz plastic bags containing “MONTRAIL BISON Elk Jerky Sweet and Spicy” with a use by date from May 3, 2018 to June 15, 2020.
      • 3-oz plastic bags containing “MONTRAIL BISON Elk Jerky Old Fashioned” with a use by date from May 3, 2018 to June 15, 2020.
      • 3-oz plastic bags containing “MONTRAIL BISON LLC. Bison Jerky Lemon Chile” with a use by date from May 3, 2018 to June 15, 2020.
      • 3-oz plastic bags containing “MONTRAIL BISON LLC. Bison Jerky Teriyaki” with a use by date from May 3, 2018 to June 15, 2020.
      • 3-oz plastic bags containing “MONTRAIL BISON LLC. Bison Jerky Sweet and Spicy” with a use by date from May 3, 2018 to June 15, 2020.
      • 3-oz plastic bags containing “MONTRAIL BISON LLC. Bison Jerky Old Fashioned” with a use by date from May 3, 2018 to June 15, 2020.

      The recalled products bearing establishment number “EST. 4160” inside the triangle shaped USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in Montana.

      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 may contact Mark Bianchetti at (213) 627-8633.

      People’s Sausage of Los Angeles, Calif., is recalling approximately 13,554 pounds of elk, bison and beef jerky and meat sticks.The products were prepar...
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      Security researcher says breaking into locked iPhone not that hard

      Apple disagrees, calling the testing 'incorrect'

      Apple's security for its locked iPhones is said to be ironclad, but a cybersecurity expert says it can be circumvented, as long as you have a Lightning cable connecting the phone to a computer.

      As a security feature, an iPhone can only be unlocked if you enter the correct password, and to prevent someone from guessing, the device only gives a user 10 tries. After that, a user is locked out, sometimes permanently.

      The issue was in the news a couple of years ago after police seized the iPhone belonging to a man who murdered co-workers attending a holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif. Apple refused to unlock the phone, forcing authorities to turn to outside experts in an effort to crack the device.

      'Brute force'

      According to Matthew Hickey, a security expert and co-founder of Hacker House, a cybersecurity firm, it's not that hard to open a locked iPhone using a "brute force" method. In a series of tweets, Hickey said that if you connect the phone to a computer using a Lightning cable and enter passwords using the keyboard, instead of typing directly on the phone, you can enter an unlimited number of passwords with no adverse consequences.

      When technology websites began reporting this over the weekend, Apple responded, saying it's not true. Technology site Engadget reports an Apple spokesperson as saying the phones have no vulnerability and the claim that they do is "the result of incorrect testing."

      Hickey, meanwhile, posted a video on Vimeo, demonstrating his methods of cracking an iPhone.

      Apple's security for its locked iPhones is said to be ironclad, but a cybersecurity expert says it can be circumvented, as long as you have a Lightning cab...
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      AT&T managers allegedly encouraged unethical DirecTV Now sales pitches

      Former employees say they were pushed to trick customers into purchasing subscriptions

      Former AT&T employees are speaking out against the company for allegedly pushing unethical sales practices on its sales teams in hopes of getting customers to subscribe to its streaming service, DirecTV Now. The groups says that consumers paid for unexpected services once they were subscribed. The company’s subscription service currently has 1.46 million subscribers.

      According to an investigative report by Hawaii News Now, employees were getting fired for engaging in the very practices that upper management had been encouraging.

      The report details how sales representatives would offer customers a trial service of DirecTV Now and promise to cancel the subscription for the customer prior to the automatic renewal that would cost $35 per month. Cancelling the trial for customers goes against AT&T’s policy, but employees were urged to go ahead with the practice.

      “We were told by managers to cancel it to avoid any future headaches, but a lot slips through the cracks,” said Abraham Buonya, a former AT&T employee and Hawaii’s leading AT&T salesman for two years.

      Getting into trouble

      Though encouraged by upper management to cancel subscriptions -- even though it was against policy -- many AT&T employees say they didn’t always cancel customers’ subscriptions, leading to charges of $35 per month. Some subscribers were paying the $35 for up to seven months, despite not ever using the DirecTV Now subscription.

      In some cases, AT&T sales representatives would allegedly sign a customer up for three DirecTV Now subscriptions on one single account.

      All of this supposedly occurred while AT&T was running a promotion that gave customers the DirecTV subscription for just $10. However, AT&T’s system allowed employees to sign up a single customer for three individual subscriptions on one credit card, thus increasing the total number of subscriptions and meeting the quota placed on AT&T retailers.

      “My manager picked up my iPad, which was signed in under me, made a fake email and then activated a DirecTV Now subscription on the email and then said if I can do it, here you go, you can do the next one,” a fired AT&T employee told Hawaii News Now.

      The former employees say retailers used a similar tactic when customers came in to buy a new phone. Sales representatives would tell the customers that the purchase carried a fee, even though it didn’t. The fee could be waived, however, if the customer agreed to sign up for a trial of DirecTV Now. The trial -- which was $10 -- cost less than the fee, and customers would oftentimes agree to try the service.

      “Last fall, we detected some simultaneous customer orders and cancellations of a free product trial,” an AT&T spokesperson told Hawaii News Now. “We determined some employees had violated our policies and based on our findings we took appropriate action.”

      Why was this so important?

      Because of the tight competition amongst AT&T retailers nationwide, many stores allegedly felt compelled to go to great -- even unethical -- lengths to be the top store. Phones don’t pull in as much of a revenue for AT&T, and so TV sales are an important part of day-to-day transactions.

      Hawaii had been one of the top DirecTV Now subscription sellers in the country, though an employee who asked to remain anonymous said that roughly 90 percent of those sales were done unethically.

      Buonya reported that goals for stores “would be met” no matter how lofty they seemed to employees.

      “They kept pressuring us to do it,” Buonya said. Buonya was among five people at his store that were fired.

      Both current and former AT&T employees are encouraging customers to be extra diligent when reviewing their statements. The phone company also reported they will be reversing unauthorized charges for customers that were affected by these sales tactics.

      “Check your statements,” a current employee said. “I have no doubt that there are still people that are being charged.”

      Former AT&T employees are exposing the company for pushing unethical sales practices on its sales teams in the hope of getting customers to subscribe to i...
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      More oil from OPEC could mean lower prices at the pump

      But rising demand could limit how far prices will fall

      A month ago, the national average gasoline price was pennies away from $3 a gallon. However, the cost of fuel has dropped in the last four weeks, and an OPEC decision could send prices even lower.

      The member nations of the oil cartel have voted to increase oil production by 1 million barrels a day to meet growing demand. As a result, world oil prices have begun falling, lowering the costs for refiners who turn oil into gasoline.

      While that's good news for consumers, Patrick DeHaan, Head of Petroleum Analysis at GasBuddy, said gas prices may not respond immediately.

      "Perhaps eventually, but it will take time for oil production to rise, so in this case we may not see that additional oil until the second half of the summer at best," DeHaan told ConsumerAffairs. "I wouldn’t expect much change just yet."

      Uncertainty remains

      That's because there remains some uncertainty over how much extra oil refiners will see. The 1 million barrels a day is a target, but analysts say not all members will be able to meet it. At the same time, U.S. oil producers are expanding production to take advantage of higher prices.

      OPEC said over the weekend that it could increase production even more than what has been announced in an effort to keep rising energy costs from damaging the world economy.

      Despite recent high prices for oil and the increase in demand for gasoline, motorists have gotten some relief at the gas pump in recent weeks. The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gasoline is $2.84 a gallon, down from $2.89 a week ago and 12 cents lower than a month ago.

      In a statement, AAA said the long-term outlook for consumers is positive. With the increase in crude production, AAA says crude oil prices are expected to decrease, and in turn, lower the cost of producing refined products, including gasoline.

      A month ago, the national average gasoline price was pennies away from $3 a gallon. However, the cost of fuel has dropped in the last four weeks, and an OP...
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      Italian Center Shop brand ground veal recalled

      The product may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7

      Messinger Meats of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, is recalling Italian Center Shop brand ground veal.

      The product may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

      There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

      Italian Center Shop, sold in Alberta, Canada, is being recalled:

      Common NameCode(s) on ProductUPC
      Veal –Ground Alberta 13095

      Best before MA.28.18
      Packed on MA.07.18

      Best before JN.04.18
      Packed on MA.14.18

      Starts with 0 213095

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product, should not consume it, but discard it or return it to the store where purchased.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (587) 273-3838.

      Messinger Meats of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, is recalling Italian Center Shop brand ground veal.The product may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7....
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      The Weekly Hack: In Australia, a paperless real estate transaction may have cost a woman her house

      On futuristic payment platforms, homeowners and cryptocurrency traders watch their money disappear

      Australia is currently in the process of rolling out a new law that requires all real estate transactions -- from mortgage payments to home sales -- to go paperless.

      The online-only property exchange and payment system is run by a company called Property Exchange Australia (PEXA), which is either a government-sponsored monopoly or an important disrupter and leader of the digital revolution, depending on who you talk to.

      But like other digital “disruptors,” the PEXA platform may not be as secure as the company would like the public to believe. Dani Venn, an Australian woman and a former contestant on the reality show MasterChef, recently lost $250,000 after hackers stole the funds she had earned from selling her home.

      Venn had planned to use the proceeds to purchase a new house. Instead, hackers somehow intercepted the payment, leaving the family homeless for the time being.

      PEXA is reportedly trying to help the family, but the company is also denying that it bears any responsibility or liability in relation to the theft. In an interview with a local newspaper, the company claimed that the hacker had gained access to the victim’s money because of a hack on her email account rather than attacking the PEXA system itself.

      But Venn does not buy that story. “I feel I want to pull out all my money from the bank. I don’t trust these big corporations. They don’t care about ordinary Australians,” she told the Sydney-Morning Herald.

      The theft comes just several weeks after another homeowner reported losing more than $1 million from the PEXA system. Independent property brokers in Australia told the paper that the PEXA system does not require users to verify their identity thoroughly enough.

      South Korean cryptocurrency market

      Repeated hacks are taking their toll on the cryptocurrency market. Less than two weeks after a multimillion dollar cryptocurrency theft in South Korea sent the value of Bitcoin tumbling worldwide, a different trading platform in South Korea reported falling victim to a similar attack.

      The South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb on Wednesday announced that about $31.5 million worth of its virtual coins had been stolen. Bithumb, which is the world’s sixth largest cryptocurrency trading platform, promised to compensate all affected customers.

      Still, a refund for victims doesn’t address the underlying security problem facing crypto-traders. “No security measures or regulations can 100% guarantee safety of virtual coins,” a security expert told the Guardian. “It is held anonymously and in lightly secured systems, which makes them an irresistible target.”

      Bitcoin’s value has so far remained steady following the more recent hack, hovering above $6,000.  

      Military contractors

      A group of hackers based in China are going after military contractors in the United States and Southeast Asia, according to the security firm Symantec. The hackers appeared to be interested in learning how affected companies operate.

      Symantec's report follows a Washington Post story last week detailing how a group of hackers backed by the Chinese government accessed 600 gigabytes worth of data that belonged to a United States Navy contractor. The hackers collected declassified but sensitive data, including information on a supersonic missile project, according to the FBI, which is now investigating the breach.

      Though troubling, this has hardly been the worst hack on a government contractor. The news once again highlights security holes that even companies that do military business are apparently not patching.

      Australia is currently in the process of rolling out a new law that requires all real estate transactions -- from mortgage payments to home sales -- to go...
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      Supreme Court rules police need warrant to track your phone location

      Proponents say the decision is a major win for consumer privacy

      The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that law enforcement must obtain a search warrant to get access to cell phone location information.

      The 5-4 decision was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the court’s four other liberal judges.

      The decision is seen as a victory by advocates of increased privacy rights, who argued that protections were needed when the government gets involved with a third party -- like a phone provider -- to obtain information.

      This is seen as a loss by the Justice Department, which argued that an individual’s privacy rights are diminished when it comes to information that has been voluntarily shared with others.

      The background

      The ruling follows a contentious ruling regarding a series of armed robberies that occurred in 2010 and 2011.

      The police got a court order to get access to 127 days of cell phone tracking for a suspect named Timothy Carpenter. The location information found on Carpenter’s phone matched the robbery locations, and that information was used to convict him.

      However, Carpenter appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the police need to first obtain a warrant before getting his location from a cell-phone provider, as is stated in the Constitution.

      Rather than obtain a warrant, which would have required the police to prove to a judge there was probable cause to believe the phone records contained evidence, the police opted to obtain a court order under the Stored Communications Act.

      “The government’s position fails to contend with the seismic shifts in digital technology that made possible the tracking of not only Carpenter’s location, but also everyone else’s, not for a short period of time, but for years and years,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote.

      Present day

      Because of limited technologies seven years ago, the information used at Carpenter’s trial wasn’t as precise as location information taken off phones today. It didn’t log where he was when his phone wasn’t in use or where he was when he sent texts. Police personnel were able to see his location where he made phone calls within a mile to two miles, which worked in their favor in terms of the robberies.

      Last November when this case made its way to the Supreme Court, justices were conflicted on whether they wanted to break with the third-party doctrine, which states that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy when an individual shares information with a third party (phone provider). Under this doctrine, police wouldn’t need a search warrant to obtain the pertinent information.

      However, many justices have noted the stark differences in technology from when these laws were written to the present day. Chief Justice Roberts noted that allowing government access to historical GPS data represented an infringement of Carpenter’s Fourth Amendment Rights.  

      “This is a groundbreaking victory for Americans’ privacy rights in the digital age,” said ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler. “The Supreme Court has given privacy law an update that it has badly needed for many years, finally bringing it in line with the realities of modern life. The government can no longer claim that the mere act of using technology eliminates the Fourth Amendment’s protections.”

      The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that law enforcement must obtain a search warrant to get access to cell phone location information.The 5-4 decision w...
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      Four cups of coffee daily may improve heart health

      A study of mice finds that caffeine can protect heart cells from damage and help them to repair

      A new study finds that drinking four cups of coffee daily could set off a sequence of internal events that could boost heart health, especially in older adults.

      Researchers from Heinrich-Heine-University and the IUF-Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Düsseldorf, Germany found that caffeine levels equivalent to around four cups of coffee protected against heart damage in pre-diabetic, obese mice, and in aged mice.  

      The study of mice found that caffeine induced the movement of a regulatory protein called p27 into mitochondria, which set off certain physiological events that are crucial to enhancing the function of heart cells as well as helping in heart attack recovery.

      Reached in humans by drinking four cups of coffee

      The study authors found that p27 -- an enzyme that normally slows cell division -- promoted migration of endothelial cells into mitochondria, which ultimately helped to protect heart muscle cells from cell death. It also triggered the conversion of fibroblasts into cells containing contractile fibers.

      These tasks are vital to the repair of heart muscle following a heart attack, the researchers explained.  

      "Our results indicate a new mode of action for caffeine, one that promotes protection and repair of heart muscle through the action of mitochondrial p27," said lead author Professor Judith Haendeler, adding that "enhancing mitochondrial p27 could serve as a potential therapeutic strategy not only in cardiovascular diseases but also in improving health span."

      "These results should lead to better strategies for protecting heart muscle from damage, including consideration of coffee consumption or caffeine as an additional dietary factor in the elderly population," Haendeler said.

      The study has been published in the journal PLOS Biology.

      A new study finds that drinking four cups of coffee daily could set off a sequence of internal events that could boost heart health, especially in older ad...
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      Delta Air Lines updates its policy regarding service and support animals

      Other carriers make similar changes following recent incidents

      Beginning July 10, Delta’s new policy regarding support animals will limit each customer to one animal. At the same time, Delta also instituted a ban against pit bull type dogs as service or support animals.

      This move punctuates Delta’s recent policy change that requires passengers flying with service animals to sign a statement that their animal is healthy and well-behaved before they can board a flight.

      "The safety and security of Delta people and our customers is always our top priority," said Gil West, Chief Operating Officer, in the company’s statement on the policy change. "We will always review and enhance our policies and procedures to ensure that Delta remains a leader in safety."

      "Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs," the company added.

      Recent incidents in which several employees were bitten and an increasing number of fliers who insist their pets are service or emotional support animals has become a sore point for airlines. Not only has Delta’s policy changed, but similar changes have been implemented by American Airlines and United Airlines.

      What qualifies as a service animal?

      Delta says it’s had its hands full with what passengers claim to be "comfort" animals. It claims to have seen passengers attempting to fly with turkeys, gliding possums, snakes, and even spiders.

      The Department of Transportation defines a "service animal" under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) as "any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support." The agency created the below video to explain further and provide more information.

      Legally, airlines have the right to ask for documentation to prove that an animal is an emotional support animal. The specifics of that documentation might vary from airline to airline, but according to US Service Animals, passengers should expect to provide proof from a licensed doctor or mental health professional stating that the animal is an essential part of treatment for a disability.

      Beginning July 10, Delta’s new policy regarding support animals will limit each customer to one animal. At the same time, Delta also instituted a ban again...
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      Facebook expands fact-checking program to 14 new countries

      The company will also start fact-checking photos and videos to help fight false news

      Facebook announced on Thursday that it is expanding its third-party fact-checking program to an additional 14 countries to combat the spread of false news on its site.

      In the wake of the 2016 election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has acknowledged that false news and misuse of the social network are among the site’s biggest problems. He vowed to make changes to the site to help stem the spread of misinformation.

      Over the last two years, the company has implemented several strategies to fight false news, including removing fake accounts, hiring “news publisher specialists” to advise on content that appears on the platform, and relying on artificial intelligence to help fact-check more than a billion posts each day.

      Now, Facebook says it is expanding its news fact-checking program to new countries, with “plans to scale to more countries by the end of the year.”

      Reducing false news stories

      Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program, which debuted last spring, relies on organizations like the Associated Press and Snopes to inform the site’s moderators of content that is misleading. Content that is not verified as accurate appears smaller, making it harder to read and easier to miss.

      “We reduce the visual prominence of feed stories that are fact-checked false,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch earlier this year.

      In a blog post announcing the expansion of its fact-checking program, Facebook proclaimed that “the effort will never be finished and we have a lot more to do,” but said that its fact-checking policies can reduce the spread of inaccurate news stories by "an average of 80%."

      Fact-checking photos and videos

      When Facebook first announced the program, it was only available in France. It is now expanding to an additional 14 countries. Facebook also announced that it will start fact-checking photos and videos in addition to text.

      “This includes those that are manipulated (e.g. a video that is edited to show something that did not really happen) or taken out of context (e.g. a photo from a previous tragedy associated with a different, present-day conflict),” Facebook said in a statement.

      The company also announced that it’s partnering with Schema, an open-source framework used for fact-checking. Facebook says the partnership “will make it easier for fact-checkers to share ratings with Facebook and help us respond faster, especially in times of crisis.”

      Facebook announced on Thursday that it is expanding its third-party fact-checking program to an additional 14 countries to combat the spread of false news...
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      AT&T to launch ‘skinny bundle’ service next week

      A small number of channels will be available for as little as $15 per month

      AT&T has unveiled a new video service called WatchTV, a skinny bundle of channels that will be available “on virtually any smartphone, as well as on certain streaming devices.”

      AT&T said Thursday that its new service will feature 31 TV channels, including recently acquired CNN, TNT, and TBS, as well as channels from AMC Networks, Discovery Communications, and Viacom.

      Coming "soon" after launch, AT&T says it will add BET, Comedy Central, MTV2, Nicktoons, Teen Nick and VH1 to its live channel lineup. In addition to live channels, there will be 15,000 movies and TV shows available for on-demand viewing.

      For non-AT&T customers, the package will be available as a standalone service for as little as $15 per month. It will be offered free to AT&T customers with AT&T’s “Unlimited & More" or “Unlimited & More Premium" plans. The new unlimited data plans and WatchTV launch next week.

      Competing with streaming services

      The debut of the new service comes as a growing number of consumers are choosing to drop traditional pay-TV and instead get their entertainment through video-on-demand streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

      The new offering also comes a week after the telecommunications giant closed its deal to acquire Time Warner and renamed the entity WarnerMedia. During testimony related to obtaining regulatory approval for its acquisition of Time Warner, CEO Randall Stephenson noted that traditional cable lost 3 million subscribers on a base of 90 million in 2017.

      AT&T’s new service for cord-cutters will compete with Netflix, Sling TV, CBS All Access, and other streamers, as well as with big cable providers like Comcast and Charter Communications.

      ”We were the first wireless provider to bring entertainment and unlimited data together, and, once again, we’re redefining what that means,” said David Christopher, president of AT&T Mobility and Entertainment, on Thursday.

      “This is no longer about including one channel or service with your wireless plan, but an incredible lineup of content that delivers more of what you care about," Christopher said.

      AT&T; has unveiled a new video service called WatchTV, a skinny bundle of channels that will be available “on virtually any smartphone, as well as on certa...
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      Gaia Ethnobotanical recalls kratom products

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Gaia Ethnobotanical is recalling all kratom (mitragyna speciosa) powder products manufactured, processed, packed, and/or held, from March 18 – 30, 2018.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      The following products, with Lot No.: 0102031800 and Batch No.: 031800, are being recalled:

      LabelSizePackaging
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Bali Gold1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Elephant1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Ganesh MD1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Green Dragon1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Green Horn1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Green Kapuas Hulu1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Green Malay1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Green MD1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Green Thai1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Plantation Green MD1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Plantation Red MD1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Plantation White MD1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Purple 8-11oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Red Bali1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Red Borneo1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Red Dragon1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Red Horn1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Red Kapuas Hulu1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Red MD1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Red Thai1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Super Green Malay1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical White Borneo1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical White Horn1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical White MD1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical White Thai1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Yellow Thai1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag
      Gaia Ethnobotanical Yellow Vietnam1oz, 250g, 1kgPlastic Bag

      The products were distributed via the internet to Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland. Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.

      What to do

      The company is notifying its customers by e-mail and/or telephone to return the recalled products or immediately discard them.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company 24/7 at (702) 996-8523 or by email at fdarecall@gaiaethnobotanical.com or call 24/7 at 702-996-8523.

      Gaia Ethnobotanical is recalling all kratom (mitragyna speciosa) powder products manufactured, processed, packed, and/or held, from March 18 – 30, 2018....
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      Agri Star Meat And Poultry recalls beef pastrami

      Processing deviations may have led to underprocessing of products

      Agri Star Meat and Poultry of Postville, Iowa, is recalling approximately 3,592 pounds of ready-to-eat beef pastrami.

      Processing deviations may have led to underprocessing of products and resulted in inadequate curing.

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

      The following items, produced April 3 – 4, 2018, are being recalled:

      • 21.6-lb. average case weight of fully cooked pastrami that are vacuum-packed using clear plastic and labeled “Aaron’s BEST Beef French Roast Pastrami WATER & CARRAGEENAN PRODUCT.” Both the product and the shipping box display a sticker indicating “BEST BEFORE 09/10/18.”
      • 23.1-lb. average case weight of fully cooked pastrami that are vacuum-packed using clear plastic and labeled “SHOR HABOR GLATT KOSHER Beef French Roast Pastrami WATER & CARRAGEENAN PRODUCT.” Both the product and the shipping box display a sticker indicating “BEST BEFORE 09/11/2018.”

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 4653A” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to distributors in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Washington.

      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 Lisa Beatty at (563) 864-7811 or Yaakov Labowitz at (514) 648-8171 ext. 260.

      Agri Star Meat and Poultry of Postville, Iowa, is recalling approximately 3,592 pounds of ready-to-eat beef pastrami.Processing deviations may have led...
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      Now Real Food Zesty Sprouting Mix recalled

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      NOW Health Group of Bloomingdale, Ill., is recalling NOW Real Food Zesty Sprouting Mix.

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      Approximately 10,000 units of the following product, sold online and in retail stores nationwide since December 2017, are being recalled:

      UPC CodeDescriptionLot NumberBest By Date

      733739

      072719

      NOW Real Food®

      Zesty Sprouting Mix, 16 oz.

      3031259

      (located on back

      of package)

      12/20

      733739

      072719

      NOW Real Food®

      Zesty Sprouting Mix, 16 oz.

      3038165

      (located on back

      of package)

      01/21

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should stop using it immediately and return it to place of purchase for a full refund. A receipt is not required for refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact NOW’s customer service department at (888) NOW-FOODS (888-669-3663) Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (CT).

      NOW Health Group of Bloomingdale, Ill., is recalling NOW Real Food Zesty Sprouting Mix.The product may be contaminated with Salmonella.No illnesses...
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      General Motors recalls model year 2013 Chevy Volts

      The voltage could drop, causing the vehicle to lose propulsion

      General Motors is recalling 3,233 model year 2013 Chevrolet Volts.

      An update to the Vehicle Interface Control Module (VICM) may have disabled the cell balancing function causing a low-voltage condition.

      If the voltage drops, the vehicle may lose propulsion, increasing the risk of crash.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the VICM, 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 18215.

      General Motors is recalling 3,233 model year 2013 Chevrolet Volts.An update to the Vehicle Interface Control Module (VICM) may have disabled the cell b...
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      Texas Natural Meats recalls frozen raw ground beef

      The product be contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O103

      Texas Natural Meats of Lott, Texas, is recalling approximately 489 pounds of frozen raw, ground beef.

      The product may be contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O103.

      The following item, produced on August 8, 2017 and shipped to a retailer who sold the product at a farmer’s market in Roger, Texas, is being recalled:

      • 1.00-lb. bags of “Green Field Farms Rogers Texas Ground Beef.” The recalled product comes in bags displaying the “PRODUCTION DATE 08.08.2017, the “EXPIRATION DATE 08.08.2020”

      The package is labeled “COOK USE ONLY,” with the instruction “DO NOT refreeze after defrosting” and bears establishment number “EST. 34449” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact C.W. Whorton at (254) 584-0115.

      Texas Natural Meats of Lott, Texas, is recalling approximately 489 pounds of frozen raw, ground beef.The product may be contaminated with Shiga toxin-p...
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      Amazon leaked Prime Day 2018 details

      The company accidentally revealed its biggest day of sales

      This morning, Amazon accidentally revealed the date of Prime Day 2018. According to a Prime Day Banner that TechRadar discovered on the Amazon U.K. website, consumers can expect the largest Prime Day to take place mid-day July 16th through July 17th.

      It goes beyond last year’s 30-hour Prime Day, which started the night before at 9 p.m. The reveal of this date also breaks Amazon’s recent pattern of having Prime Day on the second Tuesday in July.

      Amazon started Prime Day in 2015, and the event offers consumers the biggest selection of discounted items -- going above and beyond what’s offered on Black Friday.

      What consumers can expect

      While the dates listed above were for Prime Day in the United Kingdom, the experts at TechRadar believe the times will only be slightly different here in the United States.

      Based on last year’s Prime Day -- which ran from 9 p.m. Eastern and ended at midnight Pacific time, Prime Day 2018 is expected to start midday on July 16th and end on July 17th at midnight, closing out 39 straight hours of sales in the United States.

      Consumers can expect discounts on Prime membership in the days leading up to Prime Day. The discounts offered are only offered to Prime customers, and so Amazon typically promotes the Prime membership as much as possible prior to Prime Day -- at a lower price.

      Customers can also expect deals on Prime Day on Amazon’s most popular products -- the Echo, Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick, Kindles, and tablets. While Amazon does discount these items throughout the year, Prime Day is when consumers see these products at their lowest prices of the year. TechRadar also thinks Amazon will reduce prices of other services like Audible.

      Amazon Marketplace sellers are also expected to be active participants in this year’s Prime Day. Though they’ve been involved in the sales event since its inception in 2015, Marketplace retailers could offer consumers some of the biggest deals and discounts of the sale.

      Marketplace retailers are also featured in nearly every category on Amazon’s website, so users can expect great discounts on everything from beer and wine to TVs, gaming consoles, laptops, baby products, and fashion.

      This morning, Amazon accidentally revealed the date of Prime Day 2018. According to a Prime Day Banner that TechRadar discovered on the Amazon U.K. website...
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      Facebook Groups to test a subscription-based model

      Access to exclusive content will run from $4.99 to $29.99 a month

      Facebook announced on Thursday that it’s giving group administrators the option to charge a monthly subscription fee to users looking for exclusive, members-only content. Subscriptions will run from $4.99 up to to $29.99 a month.

      The social network will test the subscription idea with a handful of its larger groups. Those range from those focused on getting parents of high schoolers in tune with the college application process to a meal-oriented group that posts meal plans and shopping lists.

      "We hear from group admins that they’re looking for ways to help them earn money to deepen engagement with their members and continue to support their communities," said Facebook’s Director or Groups, Alex Deve.

      "Subscription groups align with the experience that we made available to support video creators earlier this year, and is part of our overall approach to helping creators and leaders to financially support the work they do to engage their fans and communities," according to Deve.

      The development of Facebook groups has been a major agenda item for the company. Just last year, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg went on record saying rather than continuing to rely on the platform’s mission to "make the world more open and connected," Facebook would set its sights on giving "people the power to build community and bring the world closer together," with Facebook Groups -- and their billion users -- playing a major role.

      A commitment to content

      Administrators of these exclusive groups have their work cut out for them if they want their members to feel good about ponying up a monthly fee.

      A case-in-point is Sarah Mueller, whose Declutter My Home group was created to inspire others to declutter their homes. Before she knew it, there were 42,599 people in her group taking part in moving her notion forward.

      Now, with her new subscription-based group called Organize My Home, Mueller is committed to galvanizing members to work together on projects, organizing group challenges, holding live Q&A sessions, and offering videos and tutorials to make the group’s $14.95 monthly fee worth its while.

      Free groups aren’t going anywhere

      Until the subscription program takes off or proves itself a flop, Facebook’s free groups will still be around.

      "As we learn from this pilot and understand how group members feel about subscription groups, we’ll continue to improve this experience to help admins offer more to their members and continue to invest in their communities," Facebook’s Deve concluded in the company’s blog post.

      Facebook announced on Thursday that it’s giving group administrators the option to charge a monthly subscription fee to users looking for exclusive, member...
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      Instagram introduces new long-form video feature

      The platform is aiming to dethrone competitors like YouTube

      Instagram, a Facebook-owned social media platform, announced Wednesday that it will be rolling out a brand new long-form, vertical video feature. 

      Called IGTV, the videos will currently live within the Instagram app until it gets its own standalone app in the coming days.

      Though all Instagram users will be able to post to IGTV, the more followers you have, the longer the video you can make. Instagrammers with over 10,000 followers can post videos up to one hour long, which is why the company is targeting celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Selena Gomez to publish content on IGTV.

      Users with under 10,000 followers can post videos up to 10 minutes long. Previously, all users -- regardless of follower count -- were given 60 second Instagram videos.

      As it stands right now, all IGTV videos will be pre-recorded, though a live feature is something the company could develop down the road.

      The future of IGTV

      Instagram has big plans for IGTV, many of which are contingent on how the feature fares with the younger generation. Though the platform currently plans to have two standalone apps, that could very well change should teens adopt it as their go-to social media platform.

      Additionally, users of IGTV can expect the hub to be ad-free -- for now.

      “Ads will not be part of IGTV at launch, but we’ll be exploring and test ways to help creators monetize after launch,” an Instagram spokesperson stated.

      Early comparisons to YouTube

      Right out of the gate, IGTV is being compared to the Google-owned video platform YouTube.

      Prior to the IGTV launch, many Instagram users were linking to long-form YouTube videos in their Instagram stories. This new feature might eliminate the need for that practice.

      “Now, Instagram can keep that in-house, and drive greater engagement and time spent,” said media and technology analyst Rich Greenfield. “I think this is a natural evolution from pictures to video, to stories and now to long-form video to capture as much human attention as possible.”

      Instagram, a Facebook-owned social media platform, announced Wednesday that it will be rolling out a brand new long-form, vertical video feature. Calle...
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      U.S. adults believe 40 percent of the news is false

      Americans are even more likely to believe news found on social media is made up or inaccurate

      A new survey conducted by the Gallup and Knight Foundations finds that Americans believe that 39 percent of the news they see on television, read in newspapers, or hear on the radio is misinformation.

      When taking in news through social media, U.S. adults estimate that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of what they read is either made up or unable to be verified as accurate.

      The survey of 1,440 randomly recruited Americans found that some demographics were more likely than others to believe that the news they consume is “fake.”

      Demographic differences

      Republicans were found to be more likely than Democrats to perceive news from legacy media outlets as misinformation.

      Half (51 percent) of Republicans and 54 percent of self-described conservatives were likely to perceive misinformation when it comes to legacy media, compared with just 23 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of liberals.

      People with a high school education or less believed that roughly 40 percent of traditional media stories are intentionally wrong on some level.

      “The extent to which Americans perceive misinformation in the news environment and their belief in the effectiveness of methods to counteract it are influenced to a large degree by their political leanings and their opinions of the news media more broadly,” the Knight Foundation said in a summary of the findings.

      Combating misinformation

      Seventy percent or more of respondents said that methods to counteract the spread of misinformation, including giving greater prominence to stories from reputable news sources, could be at least “somewhat effective.”

      “These results underscore how a lack of trust in the news media intertwines with perceptions of misinformation,” the Knight Foundation said.

      “Although Americans continue to see the media as playing a critical role in informing citizens in our democracy, the ability of the institution to effectively fulfill that responsibility is hampered when citizens are not confident that the information they receive is accurate.”

      Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it would be taking steps toward combating the spread of inaccurate news on its site by shrinking the visual prominence of news stories found to be inaccurate by Facebook’s third-party fact checkers.

      Twitter said earlier this year that it would notify nearly 678,000 users that may have inadvertently interacted with accounts believed to have been linked to a Russian propaganda service called the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

      A new survey conducted by the Gallup and Knight Foundations finds that Americans believe that 39 percent of the news they see on television, read in newspa...
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      California lawmakers gut state’s net neutrality bill

      State lawmaker Michael Santiago ‘mutilated’ a bill that was previously hailed as the ‘gold standard’ for state-level net neutrality protections

      A Democratic state lawmaker from California “eviscerated” the text of a bill that would have equipped consumers in the Golden State with the nation’s toughest set of state-level net neutrality protections, according to Sen. Scott Wiener.

      Late Tuesday night, Michael Santiago -- an assemblyman from Los Angeles and chair of the Communications and Conveyance committee -- amended bill SB 822 to allow for loopholes that supposedly benefit the telecommunications industry.

      Members of California’s Communications and Conveyance Committee forced a vote on the amendments before the hearing on Wednesday officially began. The amendments passed 8 - 2.

      "It is, with the amendments, a fake net neutrality bill," said Sen. Scott Wiener from San Francisco, who authored the original bill.

      The move comes two weeks after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to eliminate net neutrality rules. The amendments represent a significant blow to Democratic lawmakers who had hoped that California’s strong net neutrality protections would serve as the “gold standard” to replace the rules that the FCC rolled back.

      Loopholes that undermine consumer choice

      Santiago’s edits would allow ISPs to charge any website a fee for consumers to be able to access it. The amendments also allow for privileged content, meaning some content would eat up cellular data while others wouldn’t.

      Privileged content would likely be created by the network’s parent company. This would mean, for example, that Comcast could make it free for consumers to go to NBC’s website while making them use their data to get news from another site.

      The amendments would also allow ISPs to throttle entire classes of applications. For example, providers could throttle all online gaming or all online voice calls.

      Financial ties to AT&T

      AT&T is Assemblyman Santiago’s fifth-largest campaign donor, according to advocacy group Fight for the Future. However, Santiago maintains that his changes to the bill were not influenced by his financial ties to the telecommunications industry.

      “This is the legislative process at work,” Santiago said in a statement. “Any suggestions of actions taken today somehow being otherwise motivated are irresponsible at best and insulting beyond that.”

      Despite his claims, Santiago’s amendments have sparked allegations of corruption from critics.

      “CA - All it took was $29K to buy #NetNeutrality protections away from you,” tweeted Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

      “The weakening of California’s #NetNeutrality bill shows what the forces we are facing are capable of. Every state deserves gold standard rules. That’s why the House of Reps should pass my CRA resolution immediately to reinstate net neutrality nationally,” said Senator Ed Markey (D - Mass.).

      A Democratic state lawmaker from California “eviscerated” the text of a bill that would have equipped consumers in the Golden State with the nation’s tough...
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      Tesla sues former employee, claiming sabotage

      But the ex-employee says he was simply a whistleblower

      Tesla is suing a former employee it claims hacked company systems and revealed confidential information to outside sources. But the ex-employee, Martin Tripp, says he was simply a whistleblower who was alarmed at how CEO Elon Musk was running the company.

      Tesla has been beset by problems in recent months, and on Monday Musk sent an email to employees that appeared to pin some of the blame on an unnamed employee that the executive accused of sabotage. On Wednesday, Tesla filed suit against Tripp without saying whether he was the unnamed employee mentioned in the email.

      The suit accuses Tripp of writing software to hack into the company's system, transferring reams of data to “outside entities.” Among the information taken from the company, the suit alleges there were "dozens of confidential photographs and a video of Tesla's manufacturing systems."

      The suit further claims that the ex-employee wrote computer code that would send Tesla data to people outside the company, in violation of Tesla policy. Tripp is also accused of making false statements about Tesla to the media – in particular, statements about the condition of batteries in some Tesla Model 3s.

      Tripp denies

      In an interview with the Washington Post, Tripp denied that he tampered with Tesla computer systems but confirmed that he gave information to a reporter for Business Insider because he was seeing “some really scary things” going on at Tesla.

      Tripp said he told reporters that he saw “dangerously punctured batteries” being installed in Model 3s. Tesla has denied that charge.

      The Business Insider article using Tripp as a source cast the company in an unflattering light, claiming it was using “an insane amount” of raw materials to make the Model 3, and still couldn't get it right.

      The article claimed internal company documents it received showed that as much as 40 percent of the raw materials going into batteries and driving units had to be discarded or reworked before going to the company's assembly plant.

      At the time, Tesla told the publication that a higher-than-normal scrap rate is to be expected in early stages of the production process. Tesla has struggled to meet production goals for the Model 3, a car it introduced in 2017, requiring customers to place a $1,000 deposit with their order.

      Revenge?

      Tesla's suit against Tripp claims a revenge motivation. It said the former employee became a problem early in his tenure with the company.

      “Within a few months of Tripp joining Tesla, his managers identified Tripp as having problems with job performance and at times being disruptive and combative with his colleagues,” the suit alleges.

      As a result, Tesla says Tripp was reassigned to a new role last month, after which he expressed anger at the company's action.

      Tesla is suing a former employee it claims hacked company systems and revealed confidential information to outside sources. But the ex-employee, Martin Tri...
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      Nearly a quarter-million Chrysler Pacificas recalled

      The vehicle could roll away striking and injuring a bystander

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 240,242 model year 2017-2018 Chrysler Pacificas.

      The Manual Park Release (MPR) plug may be removed without a tool.

      If the MPR is engaged unintentionally, the vehicle could roll away striking and injuring a bystander or cause a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the MPR plug, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin August 3, 2018.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is U50.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 240,242 model year 2017-2018 Chrysler Pacificas.The Manual Park Release (MPR) plug may be removed without a tool....
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      Existing home sales fall again in May

      In the first quarter, home affordability was the worst in a decade

      Sales of existing homes fell again in May, dropping 0.4 percent from April, which was lower than March's sales.

      Existing home sales are now down 3.0 percent from May 2017 and have fallen year-over-year for three straight months, according to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

      NAR's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, says a strong economy and low unemployment rate should translate into robust home sales. Home sales are down, he says, for a number of reasons.

      "Incredibly low supply continues to be the primary impediment to more sales, but there's no question the combination of higher prices and mortgage rates are pinching the budgets of prospective buyers, and ultimately keeping some from reaching the market," Yun said.

      Yun says housing inventory increased slightly in May, but not enough to prevent the median home price from rising 4.9 percent, hitting an all-time high of $264,800.

      Affordability on the decline

      ATTOM Data Solutions, which tracks real estate prices, reports that home prices in the first quarter of 2018 were the least affordable since the third quarter of 2008, just before the market crashed.

      “Slowing home price appreciation in the second quarter was not enough to counteract an 11 percent increase in mortgage rates compared to a year ago, resulting in the worst home affordability we’ve seen in nearly 10 years,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions.

      Meanwhile, Blomquist says home price appreciation continued to outpace wage growth, speeding up the affordability treadmill for prospective homebuyers even without the rise in mortgage rates.

      When the company looked at home prices and wages, it found the median home was unaffordable for average consumers in 75 percent of the measured markets. The least affordable markets in the first quarter were Flint, Mich.; Denver, Santa Fe, and Nashville.

      Another housing crisis?

      Slowing sales and rising prices have prompted some to predict another housing crash, like the one that occurred during the financial crisis. However, economists point out key differences between then and now.

      In the early 2000s, prices were driven higher by easy credit, allowing millions of people who really couldn't afford a home to buy one. Builders stayed busy adding to the inventory.

      When millions of these homeowners defaulted on their loans, it created a wave of foreclosures, resulting in a glut of available homes, causing values to plunge. Economists say that's unlikely to happen now.

      Today, prices are rising because there are not enough homes for everyone who can qualify to buy one, leading to bidding wars in many markets. Inventories of available homes have shrunk because homebuilding is occurring at about half the rate it did before the 2008 housing crash.

      Sales of existing homes fell again in May, dropping 0.4 percent from April, which was lower than March's sales.Existing home sales are now down 3.0 per...
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      GM recalls model year 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1s

      The sensing diagnostic module may not deploy airbags in a crash

      General Motors is recalling 489 model year 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1s.

      Hard braking or acceleration may cause the sensing diagnostic module (SDM) to enter a fault state.

      As a result, the SDM will not provide crash sensing or deploy the necessary air bags in the event of a crash.

      If the air bags do not deploy as designed, the occupants have an increased risk of injury.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will reprogram the SDM with updated software, 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 18195.

      General Motors is recalling 489 model year 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1s.Hard braking or acceleration may cause the sensing diagnostic module (SDM) to e...
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      Disney ups its offer for 21st Century Fox assets

      The company is now in a bidding war with Comcast

      The Walt Disney Company has raised its bid for 21st Century Fox's movie and television assets to $71.3 billion, the two companies announced on Wednesday.

      The new deal increases the value of Disney’s original December 2017 offer from $28 a share at $52.4 billion to $38 a share at $71.3 billion, with a new cash component.

      A representative for Fox said this agreement "is superior to the proposal" from Comcast made earlier this month. The new Fox-Disney deal would let Fox shareholders receive their consideration "in the form of cash or stock,” subject to 50/50 proration.

      Bidding war has begun

      Last week, Comcast put in a competing offer to buy the assets at $35 per share for a total of $65 billion in cash. The offer followed the U.S. Justice Department’s approval of AT&T’s merger with Time Warner.

      Disney has now topped Comcast’s offer.

      In a statement on Wednesday, Fox's Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch said a Fox-Disney combination "will create one of the greatest, most innovative companies in the world."

      "We are extremely proud of the businesses we have built at 21st Century Fox, and firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace at a dynamic time for our industry."

      "We remain convinced that the combination of [Fox's] iconic assets, brands and franchises with Disney's will create one of the greatest, most innovative companies in the world,” Murdoch added.

      Whichever company ends up winning the bidding war for 21st Century Fox will gain control of Twentieth Century Fox Television and Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox 2000 film production studios, and Fox’s 30 percent stake in Hulu.

      Disney CEO Robert Iger Murdoch said in a statement Wednesday that the Fox-Disney combination would allow Disney to create more appealing content, expand its direct-to-consumer offerings, grow its international presence, and "deliver more personalized and compelling entertainment experiences to meet growing consumer demand around the world."

      The Walt Disney Company has raised its bid for 21st Century Fox's movie and television assets to $71.3 billion, the two companies announced on Wednesday. ...
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      Amazon’s ‘Hub’ delivery lockers now available to over 500,000 residents

      The program gives apartment residents another way to receive package deliveries

      On Tuesday, Amazon announced that more apartment dwellers are getting access to its delivery lockers for apartment complexes, called the Hub.

      The Hub is similar to the online retailer’s existing Lockers, which launched in 2011 as an alternative to receiving packages from Amazon at home or work.

      With the Hub, Amazon places a large metal locker in a common area of an apartment complex. When a resident’s order arrives, couriers deliver the package to the on-site Hub where it can be picked up by the resident using an access code.

      Unlike the company’s existing Lockers, residents can have deliveries from any sender sent to the Hub -- orders don’t have to be from Amazon. Residents can pick up their packages 24 hours a day.

      Expanding access

      The e-commerce giant, which quietly launched its Hub program last summer, has announced that the program is now available to over 500,000 residents across the country with “thousands more” gaining access each month.

      The program, “addresses frustrations from property owners, carriers and residents concerning package delivery,” said Patrick Supanc, director, Amazon Worldwide Lockers and Pickup, in a statement.

      The program is intended to eliminate the need for apartment residents to wait for a delivery from building staff or structure their day so that they can be home to receive a package delivery.

      “The Hub simplifies delivery for residents, offering quick and secure access to packages, day or night. For delivery providers, it offers a single, convenient location for package drop-off and gives property managers time and resources back to focus on other priorities,” Supanc said.

      The Hub program is Amazon’s latest effort to combat package theft. Last fall, the company launched Amazon Key, a service that gives delivery personnel access to a consumer’s home. Earlier this year, Amazon expanded its Key service to include in-car deliveries, turning a person’s car into a delivery locker of sorts.

      On Tuesday, Amazon announced that more apartment dwellers are getting access to its delivery lockers for apartment complexes, called the Hub.The Hub is...
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      Model year 2018 Infiniti QX30s recalled

      The right-hand side lower seat belt anchorage may detach in a crash

      Nissan North America is recalling six model year 2018 Infiniti QX30s.

      The bolt securing the right-hand side lower seat belt anchorage may have been incorrectly installed during production. This can result in the lower seat belt anchorage detaching in a crash.

      If the lower seat belt anchorage detaches in a crash, the risk of injury can increase.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will weld in a new retaining plate and secure the seat belt anchorage with a new anchor bolt, free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-867-7669.

      Nissan North America is recalling six model year 2018 Infiniti QX30s.The bolt securing the right-hand side lower seat belt anchorage may have been inco...
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      General Motors recalls vehicles with fuel pump issue

      The high pressure fuel pump may detach from its mounting flange

      General Motors is recalling 848 model year 2018 Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac ATS, Chevrolet Equinox, Malibu & Colorado, and GMC Terrain, Acadia & Canyon vehicles.

      The high pressure fuel pump may detach from its mounting flange, possibly resulting in the pump damaging the high pressure fuel line, and increasing the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the high pressure fuel pump, and high pressure fuel pipe, free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Buick customer service at 1-800-521-7300, Cadillac customer service at 1-800-458-8006, Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020, or GMC customer service at 1-800-462-8782. GM's number for this recall is 18188.

      General Motors is recalling 848 model year 2018 Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac ATS, Chevrolet Equinox, Malibu & Colorado, and GMC Terrain, Acadia & Canyon vehicl...
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      ACLU speaks out against proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger

      The organization said the deal would grant an unprecedented amount of control over local news to one company

      The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is trying to convince federal regulators to block a controversial proposed merger between Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Tribune Media company, the group said on Tuesday.

      The influential organization could add some muscle to consumer advocates’ otherwise uphill battle in convincing a big business-friendly FCC to block the merger.

      The ACLU and others say that the merger, if allowed to go through, would give one corporation an unprecedented amount of control over local media.

      In a comment it submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday, the ACLU argued that neither Sinclair or the Tribune have proven that joining forces would serve the public interest.

      “This proposed merger, which would create the largest television broadcasting company in history, is anticompetitive to its core, in direct contradiction of the Commission's public interest requirement,” the ACLU’s public comment says.

      “Our opposition to the Sinclair merger has nothing to do with where Sinclair sits on the ideological spectrum,” the ACLU adds in a press release. “The problem is that Sinclair’s attempt to acquire Tribune Media would give it control over some 200 TV stations, virtually guaranteeing less viewpoint diversity in local news.”

      Monopolizing local news

      The Sinclair Broadcasting Group is already enormously powerful, owning an estimated 200 local news channels in 100 markets, or a reach that expands into nearly 40 percent of American households. This control was made abundantly clear to viewers in March, when local anchors across the company were required to film a commercial and read the same script warning viewers about “one-sided, irresponsible news sources plaguing our country.”

      If it merges with Tribune Media, Sinclair would reach an estimated 72 percent of American households. Some analysts predict that the $6 billion deal would allow the company to build a conservative network to rival Fox News.

      The FCC under Trump seems poised to allow the merger to happen. Though federal law says that a single broadcasting corporation cannot control more than 39 percent of the marketplace, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is planning a vote in July to lift that cap, Bloomberg News reported last week.

      “This unprecedented concentration of control, which contradicts the FCC’s own policies about how wide a broadcasting company’s reach can be, would stifle the diversity of views in the press that’s essential for a healthy democracy,” the ACLU said.

      While Americans watch less TV news than they used to, those who do tend to prefer local news, according to the Pew Research Center.

      The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is trying to convince federal regulators to block a controversial proposed merger between Sinclair Broadcasting G...
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      Google to fix Chromecast and Google Home bug that reveals users' locations

      Google plans to fix the issue in July

      In the coming weeks, Google plans to fix a bug in two of its most popular devices -- the Google Home and Chromecast. New research found that websites can run a simple script in the background of the devices that collects precise data location when installed on a user’s private network.

      The Google Home serves as both a smart speaker and a home assistant, while the Chromecast is a small electronic device that streams TV shows, movies, and games to a television or monitor.

      According to Tripwire’s Chris Young, there is an authentication weakness that leaks users’ location information that he found to be incredibly accurate. Young says the attacker will ask Google for a list of nearby wireless networks and then send that list to Google’s geolocation lookup services.

      “An attacker can be completely remote as long as they can get the victim to open a link while connected to the same Wifi or wired network as a Google Chromecast or Home device,” Young said. “The only real limitation is that the link needs to remain open for about a minute before the attacker has the location. The attack content could be contained within malicious advertisements or even a tweet.”

      How an attacker can get your location

      Security reporter Brian Krebs explained how Google’s geolocation services can enable an attacker to seize a user’s location.

      “It is common for websites to keep a record of the numeric Internet Protocol (IP) address of all visitors, and those addresses can be used in combination with online geolocation tools to glean information about each visitor’s hometown or region,” Krebs said.

      Krebs noted this kind of data typically doesn’t produce the most precise results; however, that isn’t the case with Google’s geolocation data, which includes sophisticated maps of wireless networks globally that associates Wifi networks with physical locations.

      “Armed with this data, Google can very often determine a user’s location to within a few feet (particularly in densely populated areas), by triangulating the user between several nearby mapped Wifi access points.”

      When the bug will be fixed

      A developer closed the bug issue shortly after Young found it in May, with it being marked as an “intended behavior.” However, when Krebs told Google he’d be writing a report on the issue, the company agreed to work on a fix.

      The company says the issue should be fixed by sometime in July.

      “The implications of this are quite broad including the possibility for more effective blackmail or extortion campaigns,” Young said. “Threats to release compromising photos or expose some secret to friends and family could use this to lend credibility and increase their odds of success.”

      In the coming weeks, Google plans to fix a bug in two of its most popular devices -- the Google Home and Chromecast. New research found that websites can r...
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      Alexa for Hospitality is a concierge in your hotel room

      Marriott is the first to install the service

      Amazon has expanded its Echo smart speaker to the hospitality industry, with Marriott lining up to be the first hotel chain to make Alexa a permanent resident in rooms at select properties.

      Guests will be able to talk to Alexa, getting hotel information, relaying requests to guest services, and accessing a music playlist, among other things. Amazon says its a new way for guests to access services and amenities during their stay.

      For hotels, Alexa will almost be another staff member, answering questions that might go to a concierge and freeing up human staff members.

      “Customers tell us they love how easy it is to get information, enjoy entertainment, and control connected devices by simply asking Alexa, and we want to offer those experiences everywhere customers want them,” said Daniel Rausch, an Amazon vice president. "Alexa for Hospitality makes your hotel stay a little more like being at home and gives hospitality providers new ways to create memorable stays for their guests.”

      Marriott is installing the service in some Marriott Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels, and Autograph Collection Hotels, over the course of this summer.

      Customized for specific hotels

      Individual hotels have already incorporated the Echo into their services, using it to allow guests to voice-control the room's temperature. Alexa for Hospitality is actually designed for the hospitality industry and can be customized for a specific property. Guests can tell Alexa to book a massage in the hotel spa or reserve a tee time at the property's golf course.

      Jennifer Hsieh, Vice President Customer Experience Innovation, Marriott International, says being the first to sign up for Alexa for Hospitality wasn't a difficult decision.

      “So many of our guests use voice technology in their home, and we want to extend that convenience to their travel experience,” she said.

      The system will go up first at Charlotte Marriott City Center and Marriott Irvine Spectrum. After that, Hsieh said Marriott will evaluate feedback from hotel guests to expand the skills, features, and functionality to offer through the service.

      Amazon says the system can also be configured by individual hotels to allow guests to control and adjust in-room devices like lights, thermostats, blinds, and TVs. Other features include Alexa skills like checking airport wait times, playing games, providing a guided exercise workout, and playing white noise at bedtime.

      Amazon has expanded its Echo smart speaker to the hospitality industry, with Marriott lining up to be the first hotel chain to make Alexa a permanent resid...
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      Smoking rate in the U.S. at record low

      But other methods of consuming nicotine are on the rise

      Just 13.9 percent of adults in the U.S. smoked cigarettes last year, according to a government report released Tuesday.

      The new figures represent a decrease from previous years and indicate that the American smoking rate has reached “the lowest level ever recorded.”

      In 2016, nearly 16 percent of adults aged 18 and over smoked cigarettes, according to a previous survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 1965, more than 40 percent of U.S. adults smoked cigarettes.

      Experts say public health campaigns have helped to raise awareness of the dangers of the addictive habit, helping to drive down the overall number of smokers in recent decades.

      Twice as many smoke in rural areas

      The first effort to raise awareness about the adverse health effects of smoking cigarettes was made in 1964, when the Surgeon General released the first government report linking smoking with certain diseases.

      However, anti-smoking campaigns like these tend to reach more city-dwellers than rural adults. Just 11 percent of adults in a metro area of one million people or more smoke, compared to nearly 22 percent in rural areas, the CDC report said.

      Adults in rural areas also "had the highest rates of being obese, having experienced serious psychological distress during the past 30 days, or having diagnosed diabetes," according to the report.

      Swapping smoking for vaping

      Vaping is now the most common method of consuming nicotine among both high school and middle school students, according to the CDC. Around 12 percent of high schoolers used e-cigarettes in 2017, compared to about 3 percent of U.S. adults as of 2016.

      Experts say the decrease in the number of cigarette smokers represents a major public health success. However, federal health officials are now facing the challenge of how to regulate e-cigarettes.

      Although e-cigarettes are touted as products to help adults quit cigarettes, health experts are hesitant to promote e-cigarettes as healthier alternatives to traditional cigarettes. Some evidence has shown that e-cigarette use can lead to other forms of tobacco use among youth, and researchers are still trying to gain a clear understanding of the health effects of vaping.

      "Yes, vaping doesn't have the high levels of tar and soot that are the major contributors to the cigarette lung cancer risk," Dr. Adam Lackey, chief of thoracic surgery at Staten Island University Hospital, told HealthDay News.

      "But you are still inhaling heated chemicals into your body. And you are still getting nicotine, which in and of itself is not particularly healthy, aside from the addiction standpoint."

      With the number of young adult vapers on the rise and the health effects of the practice still being studied, the FDA has ramped up its efforts to crack down on youth access to e-cigarettes.

      Just 13.9 percent of adults in the U.S. smoked cigarettes last year, according to a government report released Tuesday. The new figures represent a dec...
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      Google launches YouTube Music and YouTube Premium in more countries

      The ‘reimagined’ music streaming service comes with free and premium tiers

      Following a soft launch to certain users last month, Google has officially launched YouTube Music and YouTube Premium in 17 countries.

      Google’s new music streaming service lets consumers listen to music in several ways. The first is through a free, ad-supported version, which may be a good fit for people who just want to try out the service.

      For $9.99 per month, users can get YouTube Music Premium. In exchange for the monthly fee, users can enjoy an ad-free experience, as well as mobile app background listening (for audio tracks only), downloads, and offline playback.

      For a slightly higher fee of $11.99 per month, consumers can get YouTube Premium. This service encompasses everything YouTube Music offers, as well as background listening for videos and an ad-free experience across all content on YouTube. Consumers who already have a Google Play Music subscription will get access to YouTube Premium as part of their membership.

      Personalized mixes

      YouTube Music comes with a “reimagined mobile app” and a new desktop interface designed specifically for music.

      After opening the app, users can tell YouTube what artists they like to listen to. Google will use these preferences, as well as the user’s YouTube viewing history, to craft “A Station Built For You,” which features “endless personalized music.”

      The service continually offers new recommendations based on the user’s listening history, location, and activity. Thanks to its intelligent search feature, YouTube Music can perform lyrics-based searches. Type a few lyrics into the search box, and YouTube will return the song that features those lyrics.

      YouTube Music has music videos, official albums, singles, remixes, live performances, covers, and “hard-to-find music you can only get on YouTube,” according to the company.

      YouTube Music and YouTube Premium are now available in 17 countries, including the US, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, South Korea, Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

      Consumers can get the new YouTube Music from the Play Store and App Store today, or sign up for YouTube Premium here.

      Following a soft launch to certain users last month, Google has officially launched YouTube Music and YouTube Premium in 17 countries. Google’s new mus...
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      Winter's Sausage recalls poultry, pork and beef products

      The poultry products were slaughtered under religious exemption, which is not declared on the label

      Winter's Sausage Manufacturing Co., of Eastpointe, Mich., is recalling approximately 28,346 pounds of poultry, pork and beef products.

      The poultry products were slaughtered under religious exemption, which is not declared on the product label.

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

      The recalled items, produced from March 9, 2018, through June 4, 2018, are listed here.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-10158” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations and distributors in Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

      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 Ron Eckert at (586) 777-9080, ext. 224.

      Winter's Sausage Manufacturing Co., of Eastpointe, Mich., is recalling approximately 28,346 pounds of poultry, pork and beef products.The poultry produ...
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      Model year 2018 Chevrolet Sonics recalled

      The driver's seat back frame joint is improperly welded

      General Motors is recalling 71 model year 2018 Chevrolet Sonics.

      A joint in the driver's seat-back frame may not be properly welded, reducing the strength of the seat-back frame.

      The seat-back may fail in the event of a rear-impact crash, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver's seat-back, 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 18178.

      General Motors is recalling 71 model year 2018 Chevrolet Sonics.A joint in the driver's seat-back frame may not be properly welded, reducing the streng...
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      Amazon begins rollout of its Prime Membership price increase

      While some consumers may be turned off, the company hopes improved amenities and add-ons will keep shoppers interested

      Amazon has begun its Prime membership rate hike for its customer base of more than 100+ million. The new rate raises the annual membership by $20 to $119, the program’s first membership price increase in almost four years.

      As is usually the case in situations like this, consumers have to consider the usefulness of the membership program. A new study by EffectiveSpend takes a look at how the new Prime rate will affect consumer shopping behavior.

      In its study, EffectiveSpend surveyed 1,000 Amazon customers whose shopping habits fell into one of three brackets -- Prime Member Loyalists (unlikely to cancel), At-Risk Prime Members (likely to cancel), and Current Non-Prime Members.

      The results? More than half of the respondents -- 54 percent -- felt the value of their membership does not outweigh the cost.

      “This data indicates that customers who drop their Prime membership will be shopping outside of Amazon for more of their higher priced purchases,” said Jared Scott, EffectiveSpends Senior Amazon Strategist.

      “Amazon will still be in their consideration set, but in the absence of their Prime membership benefits, these customers are less incentivized to purchase from Amazon and more inclined to comparison shop on other sites.”

      Scott concluded that despite an “inevitable loss of some of its current Prime members, Amazon is well poised to grow its revenue from its best customers with a better mobile experience and a more sophisticated advertising platform.”

      The consumer’s return on investment from Prime

      Undaunted by a potential loss of Prime members, Amazon head honcho Jeff Bezos appears set on making Prime membership worth every penny. In his recent letter to investors, Bezos glowed about Prime’s growth.

      “In 2017 Amazon shipped more than five billion items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year,” he said.

      Bezos is hoping that Prime loyalists will love the membership plan’s ever-growing list of perks enough to renew.

      Since its last Prime price increase, the company has added Whole Foods to its business family -- with a host of locations in which the grocery chain will deliver directly to customers -- faster shipping via Prime Free Same-Day and Prime Free One-Day, widespread delivery to 8,000 cities and towns, unlimited cloud photo storage, the video-game streaming site Twitch, a seemingly-endless parade of new content on Prime Video like Prime Originals and Thursday Night Football, Prime Wardrobe, and the recent addition of Prime Book Box for kids.

      Amazon has begun its Prime membership rate hike for its customer base of more than 100+ million. The new rate raises the annual membership by $20 to $119,...
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      Audi CEO arrested in diesel emissions cheating investigation

      Rupert Stadler was arrested due to his connection to Volkswagen’s ‘dieselgate’ scandal

      Rupert Stadler, the CEO of Volkswagen’s Audi division, was arrested on Monday over “concerns over potential evidence tampering” in the probe of Volkswagen’s diesel-emissions cheating case.

      The arrest comes one week after the executive’s home was raided by authorities, who afterwards named him a suspect in their investigation into fraud and falsifying public documents in relation to the “dieselgate” scandal.

      Last week, Volkswagen also agreed to pay a fine of about $1.16 billion for failing to properly supervise the staff members who came up with the software used to cheat emissions tests.

      Stadler’s is the highest-profile arrest in the ongoing investigation into Volkswagen’s manipulation of emissions controls, which first came to light in 2015.

      “Munich prosecutors said in a statement Monday that Rupert Stadler, who has worked for Audi parent company Volkswagen since 1990, had been detained because of concerns over potential evidence tampering,” CNN Money reports.

      Ongoing case

      Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to equipping over 11 million of its diesel cars with illegal software to cheat U.S. emissions tests. The scandal has cost the company billions of dollars and has led to the indictment of several top executives.

      "As part of an investigation into diesel affairs and Audi engines, the Munich prosecutor's office executed an arrest warrant against Mr Professor Rupert Stadler on June 18, 2018," the Munich prosecutor's office said in a statement.

      Prosecutors in Munich have ordered that Stadler be detained to prevent him from fleeing, influencing witnesses, or in any way obstructing the investigation.

      A VW spokesperson confirmed to CNN Money that Stadler had been arrested but declined to comment on the investigation. He said the automaker’s board would discuss it later Monday.

      "The principle of the presumption of innocence continues to apply to Mr. Stadler," the spokesperson said in a statement.

      Rupert Stadler, the CEO of Volkswagen’s Audi division, was arrested on Monday over “concerns over potential evidence tampering” in the probe of Volkswagen’...
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      HF Food Distributors recalls sliced cooked ham

      The product did not undergo federal inspection

      HF Food Distributors of Orocovis, Puerto Rico, is recalling approximately 142 pounds of sliced cooked ham that did not undergo federal inspection.

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

      The 1-lb., plastic-wrapped packages of “JAMON COCIDO REBANADO” with a sell by date of “May 25, 00” on the label does not bear an establishment number, mark of inspection, or an ingredients statement.

      The recalled item was shipped wholesale to Head Start centers in Puerto Rico.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Jose Figueroa at (787) 213-7892.

      HF Food Distributors of Orocovis, Puerto Rico, is recalling approximately 142 pounds of sliced cooked ham that did not undergo federal inspection.There...
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      Dave’s Pet Food recalls 95% Premium Beef Canned Dog Food

      The product may contain elevated levels of beef thyroid hormone

      Dave’s Pet Food of Agawam, Mass., is recalling a single lot of Dave’s Dog Food 95% premium beef cans that may contain elevated levels of beef thyroid hormone.

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

      The symptoms may stop when the consumption of these levels is discontinued.

      The Food and Drug Administration analyzed the product after receiving a complaint that four dogs consuming it were found to have low Free T4 (fT4) and Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).

      The recalled product, sold in pet stores and ecommerce sites along the east coast of the U.S., involves a single batch (548 cases) of 13-oz., 95% premium beef dog food with a UPC # of 85038-11167 and a date code of 08/2020.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should stop feeding it to their dogs.

      Consumers who have questions or would like a refund or coupon for replacement product, may call (888) 763-2738, Monday through Friday, between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM (EST).

      Dave’s Pet Food of Agawam, Mass., is recalling a single lot of Dave’s Dog Food 95% premium beef cans that may contain elevated levels of beef thyroid hormo...
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      Model year 2018 Volkswagen Atlas vehicles recalled

      Certain child seats may damage the vehicle's seat belt buckles

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 54,537 model year 2018 Volkswagen Atlas vehicles.

      The owner's manuals provided with the recalled vehicles do not inform customers about the child restraint size limitation/restrictions for the second row center seating position.

      As a result, the center and adjacent outboard seat belt buckles on the second row can become damaged it a child seat base is installed that is wider than 12.6 inches.

      A damaged seat belt buckle can release unexpectedly, increasing the risk of injury in a crash.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the center and left outboard seat belt buckles, and replace them if necessary, free of charge.

      The automaker will also provide an owner's manual supplement addressing child safety and child restraints.

      The recall is expected to begin August 3, 2018.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 69X1.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 54,537 model year 2018 Volkswagen Atlas vehicles.The owner's manuals provided with the recalled vehicles do no...
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      J Bar B Foods recalls beef sausage

      The product contains pork casing, not declared on the label

      J Bar B Foods of Waelder, Texas, is recalling approximately 410,985 pounds of beef brisket smoked sausage.

      The product contains a pork casing, which is not declared on the label.

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

      The following ready-to-eat item, produced from June 21, 2016, to May 29, 2018, is being recalled:

      • 12 oz. vacuum-packed packages of “H-E-B TEXAS HERITAGE SAUSAGE SMOKED WITH NATURAL HARDWOOD BEEF BRISKET.”

      Lot codes, packaging dates and other identifying label information may be found here.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST. 7066” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to retail locations in Texas.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Adam Bosi at (860) 787-7511.

      J Bar B Foods of Waelder, Texas, is recalling approximately 410,985 pounds of beef brisket smoked sausage.The product contains a pork casing, which is...
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      Panera Bread to face jury trial for franchise that added peanut butter to allergic child’s sandwich

      A judge has determined that the family’s lawsuit can move forward

      Panera Bread’s grilled cheese sandwiches don’t come with peanut butter, but as a precaution, Elissa Russo says she advised a Massachusetts store that her daughter has a severe peanut allergy -- twice. She was ordering the meal online and had left warnings about her daughter’s allergy throughout the “comments” sections in the delivery portal.  

      After the food arrived, Russo’s six-year-old took one bite into her grilled cheese and said it tasted funny. Her parents opened the sandwich and saw about two tablespoons of peanut butter inside. The girl was hospitalized and suffered post-traumatic stress from her near-death experience, her family said in 2016.

      Now, the lawsuit that the Russos originally filed two years ago is set to head to a jury after a Massachusetts judge on Thursday rejected Panera Bread’s arguments that it should not be responsible for what happens at its franchise locations.

      “A jury could find that a national chain was negligent based on how a franchise served a child with a food allergy,” the family's attorney told the Boston Globe on Friday.

      Confused by order

      The girl's father John Russo had said that the franchise manager initially blamed a confused worker with a language barrier for the mix-up, but Russo was unconvinced, noting that the word for “allergy” in both Spanish and Portuguese is the markedly similar “alergia.”

      However, at a deposition last year, the worker who was reportedly responsible for making the sandwich said, through a Spanish translator, that she was “really confused” by the online order.

      She admitted to putting peanut butter in the sandwich but portrayed it as a genuine mistake.

      The Russo family is suing both the Panera Bread corporate chain and the owner of the franchise, PR Franchise Group, for negligence, assault and battery, and intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress.

      “This ought to be a warning bell to restaurants that it could be considered civil assault and battery to serve an allergen to someone who has a severe allergy,” the family’s attorney added to the Globe.

      Fatal allergic reactions

      Lawsuits accusing restaurants of poisoning patrons with food allergies typically don’t get very far if the judge presiding over the case buys the food industry's arguments that restaurant patrons are responsible for their own health.

      But in several lawsuits in recent years, people suing restaurants have successfully convinced juries that they or their loved ones had taken extra steps to warn restaurant workers about their allergies, only to get burned anyway.

      In Canada, a hunter said he was assured by his waitress that the cheesecake he wanted did not contain any nuts. His resulting allergic reaction cost the waitress and the local Travelodge $25,000 after a jury determined that the waitress hadn’t bothered to check an ingredients list in the kitchen indicating that the cheesecake contained walnuts.

      And in the United Kingdom, a 38-year-old bar manager was found dead in his home, near a food container that had “no peanuts” written on it. The restaurant he ordered take-out from had switched from using almond powder to a cheaper, peanut-based nut mix in its Tikka Masala and did not tell consumers. Restaurant owner Mohammed Zaman was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison in 2016 for the patron’s death.

      Research has shown that food allergies are on the rise in children. Anecdotally, some parents of children with severe allergies have described facing snarky comments or worse from people who apparently don’t believe that their children’s allergies are real.

      One study in the journal Pediatrics found that “bullying is common in food-allergic children.”

      Panera Bread’s grilled cheese sandwiches don’t come with peanut butter, but as a precaution, Elissa Russo says she advised a Massachusetts store that her d...
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      Kellogg recalls Honey Smacks cereal

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Kellogg Company is recalling 15.3-oz., and 23-oz., packages of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      Kellogg has been contacted by the Food & Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control regarding reported illnesses.

      The following product, which was distributed in the U.S, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, the Caribbean, Guam, Tahiti and Saipan, is being recalled:

      Description (Retail)UPC CodeSizeBEST If Used By Date
      Honey Smacks (with limited distribution outside the U.S.)380003910315.3 ozJUN 14, 2018 through JUN 14, 2019
      Honey Smacks380001481023 oz JUN 14, 2018 through JUN 14, 2019

      The BEST if Used By Date is on the top of the cereal box, and the UPC code is on the bottom.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should discard it and contact the company for a full refund.

      Consumers seeking more information may contact the company at (800) 962-1413 Monday – Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (ET), or online at kelloggs.com/honeysmacksrecall.

      Kellogg Company is recalling 15.3-oz., and 23-oz., packages of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal that may be contaminated with Salmonella.Kellogg has been...
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      Model year 2019 Jeep Cherokees with 2.0L engines recalled

      The valve can drop into the engine cylinder causing engine damage

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 24 model year 2019 Jeep Cherokees equipped with 2.0L engines.

      The vehicles' engines may be missing valve stem keepers, which can allow the valve to drop into the engine cylinder causing engine damage.

      The engines may also have a reversed camshaft cap that can damage the camshaft bearing causing camshaft failure.

      Cylinder damage or camshaft failure can cause the engine to stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and repair or replace the affected engine components, as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin July 14, 2018.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is U52.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 24 model year 2019 Jeep Cherokees equipped with 2.0L engines.The vehicles' engines may be missing valve stem keepers...
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      Comcast has disabled its congestion management system

      Heavy internet users will no longer have their internet browsing speed slowed down

      Earlier this week, Comcast announced that it’s ending its practice of throttling heavy internet users that are clogging the network.

      The company’s congestion management system had been in place for a decade prior to the announcement. However, it had been “essentially inactive for more than a year,” Comcast told the Verge.

      “As reflected in a June 11, 2018 update to our Xfinity Internet Broadband Disclosures, the congestion management system that was initially deployed in 2008 has been deactivated,” Comcast said in a statement.

      “As our network technologies and usage of the network continue to evolve, we reserve the right to implement a new congestion management system if necessary in the performance of reasonable network management and in order to maintain a good broadband internet access service experience for our customers, and will provide updates here as well as other locations if a new system is implemented.”

      Throttling no longer necessary

      Comcast says congestion isn’t as burdensome to its servers and modems as it used to be, so it’s no longer necessary to throttle speeds to slow down heavy internet users.

      Users should be aware that although the company has disabled its throttling system, it will still maintain data caps and charges for overages in 27 states.

      Comcast made its announcement the same day net neutrality regulations were officially repealed. Under the new Restoring Internet Freedom Order, companies may have more freedom to block, speed up, or slow down access to specific online services, or offer premium internet speeds at premium cost.

      At the same time net neutrality rules were rolled back, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also updated its transparency rules. Comcast likely made its announcement in an effort to comply with the new rules.

      Earlier this week, Comcast announced that it’s ending its practice of throttling heavy internet users that are clogging the network. The company’s cong...
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      Verizon unveils new, pricier unlimited data plan

      Customers can get even more high-speed data

      On Thursday, Verizon released a pricer, third-tier unlimited data plan entitled “aboveunlimited.” The new plan joins “gounlimited” and “beyondlimited,” both of which vary in terms of what they offer customers.

      Unlimited data plans have experienced a great deal of evolution over the years. Last year, Verizon broke its unlimited plans into two options for customers, and it ultimately comes down to cost. Now, the company has introduced a third plan into the mix.

      “It’s very simple,” said Ronan Dunne, president of Verizon Wireless. “We’re confident people will enjoy the choice.”

      What “aboveunlimited” looks like

      The “aboveunlimited” plan appears to be designed for users who use a ton of data.

      The plan includes unlimited data for high-definition videos for up to 75 GB of data before Verizon intervenes, as well as 20 GB of mobile hotspot data at LTE speeds, five “TravelPasses” that offer one day of international data usage per month, and 500 GB of Verizon Cloud service. Prices range from $60 to $95 per line.

      With an additional unlimited plan, Verizon is now allowing customers to mix and match between three different tiers for different phone lines on family plans. Under the current system, all lines must be on the same plan. Customers are free to switch back and forth between the tiers as they see necessary, and existing customers can also make the change.

      “When I introduced the Verizon unlimited plan back in February of last year, it was a real reset of the market and a game changer,” Dunne said. “And we said at the time we would continue to evolve and expand that portfolio to broaden out the match with customers.”

      According to Dunne, “aboveunlimited” is geared towards “the person who wants it all.”

      With the announcement of the new plan, Verizon also reduced its charge per line for all three tiers of unlimited plans as a customer adds more lines. For example, with the “aboveunlimited” plan, customers will pay $90 per month per line for two lines, $70 with three lines, and $60 with four lines.

      Market trends

      Verizon didn’t enter the unlimited data market until last February, though other carriers had offered customers unlimited data for some time. When first released, Verizon only offered one unlimited plan. It later expanded to a cheaper, though more restrictive, tier in August.

      At the time of the first unlimited plan release, Verizon was struggling with losing customers. Before unlimited data, Verizon lost a net of 398,000 regular monthly phone customers -- the most it had ever lost in a quarter. In adding the unlimited plan, though one that was pricier than competitors like Sprint and T-Mobile, the company regained 109,000 monthly customers.

      However, the release of this latest unlimited plan comes at a better time for the company. Verizon reported having added 260,000 regular monthly subscribers in the first quarter.

      Despite the positive news, Verizon decided to raise prices of this latest unlimited plan at a time when other cell phone providers are looking to keep customers -- for cheaper. Last week, Sprint introduced a plan that would cost just $15 a month -- with a promise to never go up. T-Mobile offers free Netflix and AT&T throws in HBO with an unlimited plan. However, Verizon is steadfast in its belief that customers are paying for a higher quality provider.

      “There’s been a very positive, consistent trend in the performance of Verizon Wireless over the last few quarters,” Dunne said. “I think it’s fair to say objectively based on our performance since some of our competitors changed their offerings, we’ve not seen any increase in our churn... and we’ve continued to see high levels of customer engagement and satisfaction.”

      On Thursday, Verizon released a pricer, third-tier unlimited data plan entitled “aboveunlimited.” The new plan joins “gounlimited” and “beyondlimited,” bot...
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      Twitter is redesigning its app to highlight breaking news

      Users will soon see more relevant news and events on their timeline

      Twitter announced on Wednesday that it’s rolling out changes to its platform intended to make it easier for users to discover relevant breaking news, events, and stories.

      Users will soon see personalized breaking news and live events at the top of their timelines, eliminating the need to follow hashtags or search for certain accounts in order to get relevant news and stories.

      “We’ve been working to change how you discover all the information around news, events, and stories, and today, we’re sharing a few steps forward,” Twitter said in a blog post. “It’ll be easier to find and follow the big events and stories you care about in your timeline, notifications, and Explore.”

      Personalized news and event notifications

      In the coming weeks, Twitter users will be given the option to receive notifications about breaking news that is relevant to their interests.

      Twitter says it’s experimenting with sending notifications to users based on their interests, which the site will determine based on accounts followed and what a user tweets about. Users who would rather not receive push notifications for personalized breaking news can toggle off these notifications in the recommendations section of Twitter’s settings.

      Redesigned Explore tab

      Additionally, the Explore section of Twitter will soon be organized by topic instead of content type.

      “We heard from you that Explore would be easier to navigate if it was organized by topic instead of content type (video, articles, etc). We’re now experimenting with topic tabs in Explore so it’s easier to see what’s happening in news and entertainment, and what’s most relevant to you,” Twitter said.

      Twitter has also started organizing Moments -- the feature that aggregates world news -- into a vertical display like the Twitter timeline, rather than a horizontal orientation.

      The changes will roll out gradually to iOS and Android users in the U.S. in the coming weeks and months, but Twitter has already launched its change to Moments just in time for World Cup festivities. A specialized version of this feature will be available for sports, which will have video at the top and a live-updating score.

      Twitter announced on Wednesday that it’s rolling out changes to its platform intended to make it easier for users to discover relevant breaking news, event...
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      Comcast makes $65 billion cash offer for Fox

      The offer sets up a probable bidding war with Disney

      Now that a federal judge has cleared the way for AT&T to acquire Time Warner, Comcast is entering the battle to acquire the assets of New Fox.

      Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal, is offering $65 billion in cash, trumping the $52.4 billion bid from Disney, parent company of ABC. Both traditional media companies are eyeing Fox's assets as a rich source of content, both for over-the-air distribution and streaming.

      “Our draft merger agreement differs from the Disney agreement only to reflect the superior terms described in this letter, to adapt the agreement to reflect an all-cash transaction, including no Comcast shareholder vote, and to provide greater certainty by eliminating the need for any 21CF charter amendments,” Comcast said in a letter to Fox principals.

      Bidding war?

      As in a high-stakes game of poker, it's now up to Disney to decide whether to raise the ante, turning the competition for Fox into a bidding war.

      Like AT&T, Comcast is also an internet service provider (ISP), and is well-positioned to get into over-the-top (OTT) content distribution. The company says there are few regulatory hurdles to its proposed deal, especially since many of the Fox assets in question are located outside the U.S.

      However, there are plenty of U.S.-based assets in play. They include Fox's television and motion picture studios, including the FX channel and Fox Searchlight. Both Comcast and Disney would like to get their hands on Fox's foreign satellite holdings, such as Europe's Sky TV, to broaden their international footprint.

      Fox is also trying to sell its stake in the Netflix competitor Hulu, and the rights to some Marvel superhero characters.

      Existing agreement

      Fox and Disney have already reached a deal for the assets, so selling them to Comcast instead would be a complication. Fox has scheduled a shareholder meeting for next month to finalize the Disney deal, though that could be postponed now that a new deal is on the table.

      The driving force behind this sudden wave of media deals is Netflix, the streaming service that now dominates video entertainment. Even though AT&T, Comcast, and Disney are much larger media companies, Netflix spends nearly four times their respective budgets on creating original content. Acquiring a company with vast entertainment production capability is seen as a way to catch up.

      Tuesday's decision by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon to allow AT&T to acquire Time Warner is viewed as a very big green light for more of these kinds of mergers. The judge rejected the government's argument – and that of some consumer groups – that allowing an ISP to control major sources of content would harm consumers.

      Now that a federal judge has cleared the way for AT&T; to acquire Time Warner, Comcast is entering the battle to acquire the assets of New Fox.Comcast,...
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      Report tracks fastest home sales on record in May

      The typical home spent just 34 days on the market

      Homes sold at the fastest rate on record in May, according to real estate broker Redfin.

      The typical home went under contract in just 34 days, two fewer days than in April, which had set the previous record. Denver was the fastest market, with the average listing spending just six days on the market before going under contract.

      With homes selling that quickly, there was very little bargaining on price. The national median home sale price rose to $305,600, up 6.3 percent from May 2017, across the 174 markets that Redfin tracks.

      More than 27 percent of the homes that sold last month went for more than the list price, but another 25 percent of homes sold after dropping the price, the highest percentage since last September. That suggests some markets are hotter than others. In San Jose, Calif., nearly 84 percent of homes sold above the list price.

      "Prices are still increasing, but not at the same rate we saw earlier in the spring," said Redfin senior economist Taylor Marr. "The record percentage of homes sold above list price is at odds with the higher percentage of price drops in May. This tells us that while it's still very much a seller's market, price growth and rising mortgage rates may be pushing buyers to the limit of what they're able to pay."

      Rising interest rates

      After unexpectedly falling in late May, mortgage rates are rising once again. Freddie Mac reports rates have risen to their second-highest level of the year.

      “The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage climbed eight basis points to 4.62 percent, and the Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday raised the federal funds rate by 25 basis points,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “The good news is that the impact on consumer budgets will be smaller than past rate hike cycles. That is because a much smaller segment of mortgage loans in today’s market are pegged to short-term rate movements.”

      Despite some improvement, home inventory levels continue to pose a challenge to buyers. The number of newly listed homes for sale increased 4.3 percent, compared to May of last year, helping to drive a 3.6 percent increase in home sales.

      However, the overall supply of homes fell 5.4 percent during the same time period. While a six-month supply of homes is considered a balanced housing market, Redfin counted only a 2.5-month supply at the end of May.

      Homes sold at the fastest rate on record in May, according to real estate broker Redfin.The typical home went under contract in just 34 days, two fewer...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2018 Jeep Wranglers

      The vehicle could suffer a loss of steering control

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 539 model year 2018 Jeep Wranglers.

      The intermediate steering shaft may not have been properly welded causing a split where the external spline is formed.

      If the weld seam splits, the steering wheel may lose center positioning causing a loss of steering responsiveness and increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and, as necessary, replace the intermediate steering shaft, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin July 14, 2018.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is U48.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 539 model year 2018 Jeep Wranglers.The intermediate steering shaft may not have been properly welded causing a split...
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      Seattle plans to abandon homeless tax following lobbying from Amazon and Starbucks

      The city’s major employers launched a referendum campaign in response to the proposed tax

      Whoever came up with the phrase “Tacoma Aroma” probably wouldn't have predicted that the Washington town famous for unleashing a stinky, sulphur-like smell on all of its inhabitants would one day have some of the highest rents in the nation.

      In 2017, nearly three decades after New Jersey’s Bruce Springsteen publicly complained that the smell of Tacoma made him sick, Tacoma was found by Trulia to have the highest rent appreciation in the entire nation, or a median rent that rose from $1,650 a month in 2016  to $1795 a month last year.

      The reason? A booming tech sector 32 miles away in Seattle, Washington and a massive uptick in rents there to go with it. Tacoma looked relatively affordable by comparison. (It probably doesn't hurt that Tacoma’s leaders and polluting businesses also worked to eliminate the smell over the past few decades).  

      In Seattle, rents have risen nearly 40 percent over the past five years, driven largely by the presence of major employers like Amazon and Microsoft, sending rents and homeless rates in the city and in neighboring towns soaring.

      To those on the Seattle City Council, Amazon’s record-breaking profits, Jeff Bezos’ enormous net worth, and the area’s unprecedented affordable housing shortage and homeless crisis presented an obvious solution: tax big businesses like Amazon to pay for homeless services.

      The Seattle City Council voted unanimously last month to implement a $275-per-employee tax on Seattle companies that earn $20 million or more in profits. City leaders enthusiastically said that the tax would raise $47 million in revenue.

      But now the measure appears destined to fail. After intensive lobbying from the business community, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and seven of Seattle's nine City Council members announced on Monday that they plan to pass a new law to repeal the tax.

      Their about-face comes after Amazon and Starbucks led a $200,000 signature-gathering referendum campaign to get the law overturned. Amazon also suspended plans to expand its campus, a project that was expected to add 7,000 new jobs to the city, as Seattle began debating homeless tax proposals earlier this year.

      A “backroom betrayal”

      The new announcement on Monday marks a significant departure from mid-May, when all nine of Seattle’s City Council had voted to support the tax.

      “It is clear that the ordinance will lead to a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis,” Seattle’s mayor and the majority of City Council members announced in a public statement.

      “We heard you,” they added. “This week, the City Council is moving forward with the consideration of legislation to repeal the current tax on large businesses to address the homelessness crisis.”

      The majority of Seattle’s city council now argues that the tax would hurt businesses and the homeless problem more than it would help, but Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who wants to keep the tax in place, characterised the reversal in an interview with the Seattle Times as a “backroom betrayal.”

      The lobbying campaign and tax fight comes as cities across the continent are offering Amazon tax breaks and other incentives as part of a competition to be the new headquarters of HQ2, the second Amazon campus.

      Rising homeless population

      Though Seattle faces a severe affordable housing shortage, with home price growth more than double that of nearly every other American city, about half of the city’s residents still earn less than $50,000 annually, according to IRS filings.

      Meanwhile, Seattle’s homeless population increased 44 percent in the past two years, and the town and surrounding county have the nation’s third-largest concentration of people sleeping on the streets, according to a count done in 2017.

      In the past, Amazon has agreed to use its resources to open a temporary homeless shelter. When asked by shareholders about the company’s otherwise lack of participation in philanthropy, Bezos responded that "our core business activities are probably the most important thing we do to contribute, as well as our employment in the area."

      Whoever came up with the phrase “Tacoma Aroma” probably wouldn't have predicted that the Washington town famous for unleashing a stinky, sulphur-like smell...
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      One in three adults in the U.S. take medications linked to depression

      Researchers say taking more of these medications increases the risk of the condition

      A new U.S. study shows that more than one-third of American adults take prescription drugs that have the potential to cause depression.

      The researchers found that more than 200 commonly used medications include depression as a possible side effect. The list includes certain proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used to treat acid reflux, beta blockers, painkillers (including ibuprofen), anti-convulsant drugs, ACE inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure, and anxiety drugs. The risk for depression also increases when taking several of these drugs at the same time.

      “The more of these medications you’re taking, the more likely you are to report depression,” says Mark Olfson, author of the study and professor of psychiatry at Columbia University.

      “It was both surprising and worrisome to see how any medications have depression or suicidal symptoms as a side effect, given the burden of depression and suicide rates in the country, said Dima Mazen Qato, an assistant professor and pharmacist at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lead author of the study.

      A look at the study

      The study was published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and featured the results of 26,192 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

      At the time of the survey, all participants listed the medications they were taking and completed a depression screening that measured mood, sleep, and appetite.

      Over one-third of participants were taking medications that had depression as a possible side effect. The goal of the study was to determine whether these individuals were more or less likely to experience depression compared to those who didn’t take any of these medications.

      The study found that not only are individuals on these medications more likely to experience depression, but when taking multiple medications, they are three times more likely to be depressed.

      Fifteen percent of participants who used three or more of these drugs at once were depressed compared to lower rates for those who only used one. Conversely, only five percent of participants who didn’t use any of these medications were depressed.

      Despite the results, the researchers say they didn’t prove the medications cause depression.

      “We didn’t prove that using these medications could cause someone who was otherwise healthy to develop depression or suicidal symptoms. But we see a worrisome dose-response pattern: the more of these medications that have these adverse effects that you’re taking concurrently, the higher the risk of depression,” said Dr. Qato.

      The researchers also accounted for other risk factors that can cause depression when doing the study, including marital status, unemployment, poverty, and medical conditions like chronic pain.

      “The study is an important reminder that all medicines have risks, and most medicines have rare but serious risks -- yet another reason that even commonly used medicines such as beta-blockers or proton pump inhibitors should not be used cavalierly,” said Dr. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

      What the study means for the future

      The researchers hope that the findings from this study urge people to have important conversations with their healthcare providers when taking medication.

      “People should always be ready to ask, ‘What are the risks and benefits of me taking this medication?’” says Don Mordecai, a psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente. “People who don’t have a history of depression and then, suddenly, start to have symptoms of depression should be concerned that it’s potentially due to a side effect, or potentially, an interaction.”

      “With depression as one of the leading causes of disability and increasing national suicide rates, we need to think innovatively about depression as a public health issue,” Dr. Qato said.

      A new U.S. study shows that more than one-third of American adults take prescription drugs that have the potential to cause depression.The researchers...
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      Facebook allowing users to review businesses

      Businesses that receive enough user complaints could be banned from advertising on the site

      In an effort to crack down on bad businesses that lie to consumers, Facebook has launched a tool that will enable users to review businesses after they make a purchase.

      Facebook said in a blog post on Tuesday that it would ban businesses that receive enough customer complaints from advertising.

      “Bad shopping experiences aren’t good for anyone,” Facebook said. “When items take a long time to arrive or don’t meet your expectations, it can cost you time and money. And if these things happen after purchasing something from a business’ ad on Facebook, it can sour your overall impression of Facebook.”

      Reducing advertising abuse

      Companies that fail to “improve customer satisfaction and better meet customer expectations” after receiving feedback could have their ads banned from the platform.

      “We spoke with people who have purchased things from Facebook advertisers, and the two biggest frustrations we heard were that people don’t like ads that quote inaccurate shipping times or that misrepresent products,” Facebook said.

      The new tool is intended to identify and mitigate these common user frustrations by letting people review businesses, with the ultimate goal of “connecting more people with businesses that meet their expectations.”

      Facebook users can leave feedback for ads they’ve recently viewed under the 'Ads Activity' tab, the company said. From there, users can click on the 'Leave Feedback' button and respond to a brief questionnaire that asks for ratings on various ads.

      'We believe this tool will give people more confidence in the businesses they interact with and help hold businesses more accountable for customer experiences they provide,' Facebook said.

      Follows efforts to fight ‘fake news’

      News of Facebook’s new user review tool follows the company’s announcement that it would begin allowing advertising on Marketplace. The company is aiming to provide users with a better ad model “by strengthening privacy and choice, while giving businesses of all sizes new and better tools to help them grow.”

      The company has also taken several steps to keep false news off its platform, as well as give users greater control over what personal data is shared with the site.

      In an effort to crack down on bad businesses that lie to consumers, Facebook has launched a tool that will enable users to review businesses after they mak...
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      ZTE resumes trading after two-month hiatus

      Shares plunged 40 percent after ZTE agreed to pay $1.4 billion in penalties

      Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE announced that it has resumed trading following a two-month suspension, which ended last week.

      Back in April, ZTE was hit with a seven-year ban on buying U.S. components after it was caught illegally trading with Iran and North Korea. The company said the ban would threaten its survival and likely hurt many U.S. companies.

      As part of a deal to keep the company in business, ZTE agreed to pay up to $1.4 billion in penalties to the U.S. government and $400 million in escrow to cover any future violations. ZTE also agreed to replace its management team within 30 days, open itself up to U.S. inspections of its sites, and improve public disclosure of its supply chain.

      The company said in filings on Tuesday that it would restart business operations “as soon as practicable,” but the sales ban will not be lifted until ZTE pays the fines.

      The company added that it would re-publish its first-quarter financial results after assessing the impact of the seven-year ban and the settlement agreement.

      Shares of ZTE Corp reportedly tumbled 42 percent as it resumed trading in Hong Kong following the two-month trading halt, which began April 17.

      “While the nightmare is now over, ZTE will likely have to deal with many changes,” analysts Edison Lee and Timothy Chau at Jefferies told Bloomberg. “We expect significant near-term selling pressure and a volatile stock price.”

      Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE announced that it has resumed trading following a two-month suspension, which ended last week.Back in Ap...
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      Motorists getting early relief from rising gas prices

      A new report predicts more stable oil prices for the rest of 2018

      Consumers who have been squeezed by rapidly rising gasoline prices may soon get some relief.

      A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts the recent spike in world oil prices is pretty much over, with crude oil prices moderating for the rest of 2018. That could keep gasoline prices from going even higher.

      “Oil prices are unlikely to increase as sharply as they did from mid-2017 onward and thus the dampening effect on demand will be reduced,” the IEA said in its report. “Demand might also receive support from measures under consideration in some countries, e.g. Argentina, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Russia and Turkey, to help consumers cope with higher prices.”

      Production is increasing

      The report anticipates increased demand in 2019, but the authors say increased production from non-OPEC countries like the U.S. and Russia should keep demand and supply in balance.

      “As far as supply is concerned, we have revised upwards our estimate for 2018 non-OPEC production growth to 2 million barrels a day, and in 2019 we will also see bumper growth, albeit slightly reduced, of 1.7 million barrels a day,” the authors write. “The United States shows by far the biggest gain.”

      Already, the extra production is paying off for consumers at the gas pump. The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gas is $2.90 a gallon, down four cents in the last seven days. It's still four cents higher than a month ago, when prices surged ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

      An extra $69 a month

      Earlier this week, AAA reported that the rise in fuel prices was costing consumers an average of $69 a month more to fill their tanks. The auto club estimates that gasoline expenses are accounting, on average, for 7 percent of the typical consumer’s 2018 annual income.

      The recent easing of fuel prices has come earlier than expected. Normally, prices rise through the Independence Day holiday before beginning to ease. After Labor Day, refineries return to producing winter grade fuel blends, which cost less.

      Hawaii has the highest average gasoline price in the nation, at $3.73 a gallon, but California is a close second, at $3.71. According to AAA, Mono County, Calif., is the costliest place to fill up, with an average gas price of $4.41 per gallon.

      The cheapest fuel in the nation is found in South Carolina, where the statewide average is $2.57 a gallon.

      Consumers who have been squeezed by rapidly rising gasoline prices may soon get some relief.A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) predi...
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      Consumer prices rise faster than incomes in May

      The inflation rate for the last 12 months is 2.8 percent

      In case you hadn't noticed, inflation is on the rise.

      The government reports the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for May rose 0.2 percent on the heels of a similar increase in April. Over the last 12 months, the inflation rate is 2.8 percent, with prices rising faster than incomes.

      Costs for gasoline and shelter rose fastest during the month. The gasoline index was up 1.7 percent, even as some other energy costs went down. The overall energy index gained 0.9 percent in May.

      The cost of putting a roof over your head, both through rents and purchase prices, rose 0.3 percent last month. Medical costs were also higher, rising 0.2 percent. The index tracking food prices was unchanged.

      Incomes don't keep up

      Consumers' average hourly earnings posted a small increase in May, rising 0.1 percent. This was mostly due to an increase in the real hourly earnings, combined with an unchanged average work week.

      The costs of some things went down in May, but most are not things consumers purchase every month. For example, household furnishings and used cars and trucks cost less in May. Prices for clothing, recreation, and personal care were the same as April.

      While the food index was unchanged in May, food inflation over the last 12 months is running at 2.7 percent. Consumers got some relief last month when they purchased food to prepare at home -- including, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, which dropped 0.7 percent.

      Meanwhile, the index for nonalcoholic beverages rose 0.4 percent last month, with cereal and bakery products prices were essentially unchanged.

      The latest inflation numbers come as the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee begins a two-day meeting in Washington, at which it will consider whether to hike the discount rate again. The consensus among economists is a June rate hike is almost a certainty, and that the May inflation numbers have done nothing to change the equation.

      In case you hadn't noticed, inflation is on the rise.The government reports the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for May rose 0.2 percent on the heels of a s...
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      Ford Explorer and Jeep Cherokee rated 'poor' in passenger side crashes

      Six of eight mid-size SUVs rated 'good' or 'acceptable'

      Six of eight mid-size SUVs earned good or acceptable ratings in the latest round of crash tests, but the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee were cited for “major flaws.”

      The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) passenger-side small overlap test measures how well a vehicle performs when just the front corner of the vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object, such as a tree or utility pole.

      IIHS has rated vehicles in driver-side small overlap crashes since 2012 and has noted vast safety improvements in this area in the years since. The organization launched the same test for the passenger side last year.

      Risk to passengers

      "Although some vehicles in this group offer very good protection, in other models, the airbags, safety belts and structure showed serious deficiencies," said David Zuby, IIHS' chief research officer. "In those SUVs, a front-seat passenger would be at risk of injuries to the head, hip or leg in a right-side small overlap front crash."

      IIHS said the Ford Explorer earned a “poor” rating because the crash “seriously compromised” the vehicle's structure. Tests shows that intrusion reached 15 inches at the lower door hinge pillar and 13 inches at the upper door hinge pillar and the dashboard.

      Following the test, the door sill was moved in six inches toward the crash dummy. Post-crash measures showed a passenger had a high likelihood of suffering injuries to the head and right hip.

      IIHS says the Ford also showed poor structural performance on the driver side tests. It said the automaker is redesigning the Explorer and new models will have improved structural integrity on both the driver and passenger sides.

      Jeep Grand Cherokee issues

      As for the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the passenger-side test revealed a maximum intrusion of 10 inches at the lower door hinge pillar. More alarming, the group said, was the impact to the passenger dummy's head.

      The impact caused it to hit the dashboard hard through the front airbag and then, because the side curtain airbag didn’t deploy and the door opened, it moved outside the vehicle during rebound.

      “Measures from the dummy indicated that right leg injuries would be likely in a crash of this severity, and a head injury would be possible,” IIHS concluded.

      The organization expressed some concern about possible head injuries to a passenger in the Honda Pilot, but overall, the vehicle had good structural performance. The GMC Acadia, Kia Sorento, and Volkswagen Atlas all earned “good” ratings. IIHS said the Acadia had maximum intrusion of just two inches on the right side of the toepan.

      The tested vehicles were all 2018 models, except for the Sorento, which IIHS said had been redesigned for 2019 to improve safety performance in both driver and passenger impact tests.

      Six of eight mid-size SUVs earned good or acceptable ratings in the latest round of crash tests, but the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee were cited f...
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      BMW recalls model year 2009-2013 X5 xDrive 35d diesels

      The engine idler pulley bolt may loosen over time and break

      BMW of North America is recalling 33,214 model year 2009-2013 X5 xDrive 35d diesels.

      The engine idler pulley bolt may loosen over time and break.

      As a result, the vehicle may unexpectedly lose power-assisted steering, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      The remedy for this recall is still under development.

      The recall is expected to begin July 13, 2018.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 33,214 model year 2009-2013 X5 xDrive 35d diesels.The engine idler pulley bolt may loosen over time and break.As...
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      Goodman Food Products recalls fully cooked beef patties

      The product may be contaminated with hard, white plastic

      Goodman Food Products, Texas of Mansfield, Texas, is recalling approximately 34,400 pounds of fully cooked ground beef patties.

      The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials -- specifically hard, white plastic.

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

      The following frozen, fully cooked items, produced on August 2, 2017, are being recalled:

      • 40-lb. cases of “Don Lee Farms FULLY COOKED BEEF PATTY CRUMBLES” with lot code 5886A7214, case code CNG36100 and “Best if used within” date of August 2, 2018.
      • 40-lb. cases of “Don Lee Farms FULLY COOKED HOMESTYLE BEEF PATTY” with lot code 5886A7214, case code CNG38220 and “Best if used within” date of August 2, 2018.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 5886A” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were purchased by USDA Foods for the National School Lunch Program and shipped to institutional locations in Maine and Connecticut.

      What to do

      School nutrition professionals who purchased the recalled products should not prepare or consume them, but discard them or return them to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions may contact Donald Goodman at (310) 674-3180.

      Goodman Food Products, Texas of Mansfield, Texas, is recalling approximately 34,400 pounds of fully cooked ground beef patties.The products may be cont...
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      Ferrari expands recall of vehicles with airbag inflator issue

      The passenger-side front airbag inflator may explode

      Ferrari Ferrari North America has expanded an earlier recall of 1,073 model year 2013 California, 458 Italia, 458 Spider, FF, and F12 Berlinetta vehicles 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, to include an additional 826 of those vehicles.

      The vehicles are equipped with airbag inflators assembled as part of the passenger front air bag modules used as original 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

      Ferrari will notify owners, and dealers will replace the passenger front airbag assembly, free of charge.

      The recall began March 1, 2018 for the original population. The recall will begin in June 2018 for the expanded population.

      Owners may contact Ferrari customer service at 1-866-551-2828. Ferrari's number for this recall is 63.

      Ferrari Ferrari North America has expanded an earlier recall of 1,073 model year 2013 California, 458 Italia, 458 Spider, FF, and F12 Berlinetta vehicles s...
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      Tyson Foods Recalls chicken tenderloins

      The product may be contaminated with pieces of blue and clear soft plastic

      Tyson Foods of North Little Rock, Ark., is recalling approximately 3,120 pounds of frozen breaded chicken tenderloins.

      The product may be contaminated with extraneous materials -- specifically pieces of blue and clear soft plastic.

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

      The the following frozen, uncooked item, produced on May 17, 2018, is being recalled:

      • 12-lb. box containing 3-lb. plastic bags of “UNCOOKED, BREADED, ORIGINAL CHICKEN TENDERLOINS,” with a lot code of 1378NLR02.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “P-746” on the product package, was shipped to food services establishments, nationwide, and was not available for purchase in retail stores.

      What to do

      Institutions that purchased the recalled products should not serve them, but discard them.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact the Tyson Foods call center at (888) 747-7611.

      Tyson Foods of North Little Rock, Ark., is recalling approximately 3,120 pounds of frozen breaded chicken tenderloins.The product may be contaminated w...
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      Amazon expands Prime discount at Whole Foods to 10 more states

      Prime members will receive 10 percent off hundreds of sale items

      Starting June 13, Amazon will be expanding its Prime discount at Whole Foods to 10 more states, including: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington. Amazon previously stated that it will continue to expand these services throughout the year.

      In addition to receiving 10 percent off on hundreds of sale items, Prime members will also receive exclusive offers on many popular products.

      Some of the offers include:

      • $2/lb on organic yellow nectarines and peaches

      • $3/lb on made in-house pork sausage, no antibiotics

      • $9/lb on wild sustainably caught yellowfin tuna steaks

      • Buy one, get one free Annie’s Natural Macaroni & Cheese

      • 4/$5 Essentia Water, 1.5L bottles

      • Self-serve tea cookies by the pound, 50 percent off

      “We’re excited that Prime savings will be available at nearly half of our Whole Foods Market stores this week, giving more Prime members access to great deals just in time for summer,” said A.C. Gallo, president and CEO of Whole Foods. “Based on the positive customer feedback and successes we’ve seen over the past month, we’re accelerating our timeline to expand these savings to all of our U.S. stores.”

      Prime members can also get these savings at Whole Foods Market 365 stores across the country.

      Making the most of your Prime membership

      Prime members that frequent Whole Foods can get these deals at participating stores across the country (or at Whole Foods Market 365 locations), by looking for yellow discount stickers on eligible items. Consumers can sign into the Whole Foods app with their Prime login information and discounts will be applied to orders at checkout.

      Members who opt to have their groceries delivered through the Whole Foods Market stores on the Prime Now can also receive free two-day delivery on orders over $35. Prime member savings and Prime Now grocery delivery is currently available in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco.

      Amazon’s new role in Whole Foods

      Last June, Amazon purchased Whole Foods in a deal valued at $13.7 billion. Many were skeptical about what Amazon’s involvement would mean for the future of Whole Foods -- and the evolving world of grocery shopping.

      “Amazon’s brutal vision for retail is one where automation replaces good jobs,” said Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. “That is the reality today at Amazon, and it will no doubt become the reality at Whole Foods.”

      However, since acquiring Whole Foods, Amazon has been working diligently to make the upscale food chain more accessible -- and affordable -- to the public, and expanding its Prime discounts is one such way of doing that. Amazon also cut prices at many of Whole Foods’ locations, as they look to change the reputation of Whole Foods being too costly for consumers.

      You can see what consumers think about the changes at Whole Foods and learn more about the chain by clicking here.

      Starting June 13, Amazon will be expanding its Prime discount at Whole Foods to 10 more states, including: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi,...
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      Yahoo Messenger shutting down in July

      The company says it plans to focus on building new communications tools that better fit consumer needs

      After 20 years in operation, Yahoo Messenger will be shutting down on July 17.

      The news -- which was announced by Oath, a Verizon subsidiary that owns both Yahoo and AOL -- comes six months after AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) was shut down.

      Competition from messaging apps built by Skype, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook has made it difficult for Yahoo Messenger to stay relevant. Going forward, Yahoo says it will be “focusing on building and introducing new, exciting communications tools that better fit consumer needs.”

      The company is redirecting users to its new group messaging application, Squirrel.

      “There currently isn’t a replacement product available for Yahoo Messenger. We’re constantly experimenting with new services and apps, one of which is an invite-only group messaging app called Yahoo Squirrel (currently in beta),” Oath said.

      Consumers can request access to the beta version of Squirrel here.

      For the next six months, users can download their chat history from Yahoo Messenger by visiting this website, signing in with their Yahoo account, choosing a verification method, and then entering an email address where the download can be sent.

      After 20 years in operation, Yahoo Messenger will be shutting down on July 17. The news -- which was announced by Oath, a Verizon subsidiary that owns...
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      Model year 2013 Suzuki Kizashis and SX4s recalled

      The Transmission Control Module may fail

      Suzuki Motor of America is recalling 5,786 model year 2013 Suzuki Kizashis and SX4s equipped with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

      The Transmission Control Module (TCM) may fail causing a reduction in speed or reduced vehicle acceleration, which could increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Suzuki will notify owners, and dealers will replace the TCM, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin in June 2018.

      Owners may contact Suzuki customer service at 1-800-934-0934. Suzuki's number for this recall is 4005 to 4008.

      Suzuki Motor of America is recalling 5,786 model year 2013 Suzuki Kizashis and SX4s equipped with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).The Transm...
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      Volkswagen recalls various vehicles with possible regulatory issues

      The vehicles may not comply with all applicable regulatory requirement

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 252 model year 2012-2016 Eos vehicles, model year 2012 Passats, model year 2012-2016 CCs, model year 2015 e-Golfs, model year 2011-2015 Touaregs, model year 2012-2015 Tiguans, model year 2011-2016 Golfs and model year 2011-2013 GTIs.

      Modifications made while the vehicles were in an internal evaluation period may cause them to not comply with all of the applicable regulatory requirements. This could increase the risk of a crash, fire, or injury.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will repair the vehicles to make them fully compliant, or will repurchase them if necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin July 13, 2018.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 252 model year 2012-2016 Eos vehicles, model year 2012 Passats, model year 2012-2016 CCs, model year 2015 e-Golfs,...
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      The Weekly Hack: Genealogy website downplays hack of 92 million users

      MyHeritage says that it found ‘no evidence’ that the stolen data was used

      Services that claim to help consumers discover their ancestry have taken off in recent years, but is it wise to trust an online service with your DNA? The genealogy website MyHeritage admitted on Monday that data from more than 92 million user accounts was accessed.

      MyHeritage is characterizing what happened as a “cyber security incident,” the term that has become the corporate world’s phrasing-of-choice to describe an apparent hack.

      The stolen information included email addresses and encrypted passwords, though MyHeritage is downplaying the impact that the hack could have on consumer privacy. “There has been no evidence that the data in the file was ever used by the perpetrators,” the company said in a statement late Monday.

      “We believe the intrusion is limited to the user email addresses...Other types of sensitive data such as family trees and DNA data are stored by MyHeritage on segregated systems, separate from those that store the email addresses, and they include added layers of security,” the company added.

      The breach took place in October 2017 but was not caught until January 4, according to the company.

      MyHeritage, much like competitors 23andme and Ancestry.com, offers a service in which users can submit a saliva sample for DNA analysis. 

      Whether such services can be trusted with saliva samples and DNA information became a concern after police in California captured the so-called Golden State Killer earlier this year. Suspect Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. was arrested in April thanks in part to the genealogy site GEDMatch, authorities said. Police submitted a DNA sample from a crime scene to the site and said that it had matched the suspect’s DNA that they had already taken.

      Ticketfly

      The online ticketing site Ticketfly announced on Thursday that hackers stole the names, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers of 27 million customers, though Ticketfly said that users’ credit card information was safe.

      Ticketfly’s site went briefly offline after it detected the hack. But with the site up and running again, the company is requiring all users to change their passwords as a precaution.

      “Upon first learning about this incident we took swift action to secure the data of our clients and fans,” a company spokesperson told Variety.

      Canadian Banks

      Several weeks ago, Mexico’s biggest banks lost millions of dollars to cyber criminals, and now America’s neighbor north of the border is dealing with its own bank hacking woes.

      Canada’s fourth and fifth largest banks have released statements admitting that so-called “fraudsters” stole personal and financial information belonging to bank customers.

      A spokesman for the Bank of Montreal told Reuters that less than 50,000 customers had their data accessed. Simplii Financial, the other bank that was hacked, said that 40,000 clients had “certain personal and account information” accessed. The banks’ handling of the breach is now being scrutinized by lawmakers.

      “When will the Liberals take action to protect Canadian consumers with a digital bill of rights and stop letting these companies off the hook?,” Canadian Member of Parliament Brian Masse said, pointing to a similar measures that currently protects consumers in the European Union.

      The EU’s data protection laws are generally stricter and more consumer-friendly than those implemented in the rest of the world.

      Booking.com

      Travel site Booking.com wasn’t actually hacked, but hackers are telling the site’s partner properties that attempts were being made to steal hotel cash and data on guests.

      Scammers reportedly sent out emails and texts warning that Booking.com had been hacked. The emails directed recipients to change their password by clicking on a link, which actually exposed all information that customers with hotel reservations had submitted through the site.

      ”...in this case, there has been no compromise on Booking.com systems,” a Booking.com spokesman told the Daily Mail. “This property has been targeted by phishing emails sent by cyber criminals and by clicking on those emails, the property compromised its account.”

      Nevertheless, Booking.com promised to compensate affected customers and hotels.

      Cryptocurrency

      The cybersecurity firm Carbon Black has a new report detailing the full scope of cryptocurrency hacks that have become regular news stories.

      According to company’s new research, cybercriminals stole a total of $1.1 billion in cryptocurrency over the past six months. Their method of choice is the “dark web,” or sections of the internet that are untraceable and only accessible via special software and above-average tech skills.

      In an interview with CNBC, a Carbon Black strategist warns that it is “surprisingly easy” for hackers to steal cryptocurrency.  

      Services that claim to help consumers discover their ancestry have taken off in recent years, but is it wise to trust an online service with your DNA? The...
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      Airline fares rise as fuel charges surge

      Domestic flights are set to spike in the coming weeks

      As a result of the highest fuel costs in the last decade, the country’s top airlines are preparing to raise prices on domestic flights, marking the fourth increase in ticket prices this year.

      Major U.S. airlines are planning a $20 surcharge to each roundtrip ticket. The extra charge will be classified as a “fuel surcharge,” meaning consumers won’t see it on the initial posted ticket price whether they check online, over the phone, or through a travel agent.

      “Consumers will pay more because of higher fuel costs,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst and founder of Atmosphere Research Group. “I think it will affect summer travel for people who have not booked their flights.”

      According to a report by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, airline carriers used 1,434 billion gallons of gas in April this year. Though this was a 2.1 percent drop from March, gas prices climbed 4.5 percent to $2.08. Airlines spent nearly $3 billion on fuel this year, a number that rose 2.5 percent.

      What it means for airlines

      Overall earnings for the country’s publicly traded airlines continue to fall, as they’ve dropped 24 percent since the start of 2018. A spokesperson for the lobbying group Airlines for America noted that revenue for airlines has risen seven percent this year, while fuel prices have also gone up by nearly 10 percent.

      Delta shared publicly this week that second-quarter earnings will be no higher than $1.75 per share, lower than the originally projected $2 per share. The move came just weeks after American Airlines, the country’s number one airline, lowered its projected forecast for the remainder of the second quarter.

      This quarter alone, fuel prices rose 12 percent, and Delta noted it could take up to six months for fares to catch up.

      Adam Hackel, an analyst at Imperial Capital, believes other airlines are likely to follow in Delta’s footsteps. “You’ll certainly see over the next week or two some more revisions as they get fuel fully priced in,” he noted.

      Despite concerns, some airlines seem optimistic. While United Airlines boosted the lower end of its full-year earning target by $7, Allegiant Air said more efficient jets are helping them combat rising fuel prices. CEO Maurice Gallagher told shareholders that the airline is getting 44 percent more flight capacity from each gallon of gas.

      “Given the benefit of better fuel metrics and operational reliability, we will be able (and have been so far) to increase our daily utilization, making our fleet more productive,” Gallagher said.

      Southwest Airlines, which anticipated a drop in ticket sales following a fatal accident earlier this year, also reported revenue passenger miles (the industry’s gauge of demand) increased 4.2 percent this May to 11.7 billion. However, the company is still expecting a nearly three percent drop in operating revenue after that fatal accident.

      What consumers should expect

      In addition to higher fares, consumers should also expect fewer seats available per flight. While Delta is still in the early stages of deciding how many seats -- if any -- they’ll cut moving forward, the decision wouldn’t go into effect until after Labor Day. By reducing the number of seats on each flight, airlines are able to raise fares, should the demand remain.

      Airlines won’t cut down on seats during the busy summer months, so consumers can expect things to be different by summer’s end.

      “There’s still enough time for them to look at it after Labor Day, when you really hit a pretty dramatic off-peak period for this industry,” Hackel said. “The industry is still benefiting from strong travel demand.”

      As a result of the highest fuel costs in the last decade, the country’s top airlines are preparing to raise prices on domestic flights, marking the fourth...
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      The gig economy may not be as widespread as expected

      A recent report identified only 10 percent of Americans are gig workers

      On Thursday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released it’s first in-depth look at non-traditional work in the United States since 2005. It found that traditional jobs still reign supreme.

      For years, Americans have taken advantage of the rise of freelance work and the perks that come along with it -- such as a flexible schedule. This caused policymakers to worry that the traditional workplace, and the associated benefits, would disappear. Proponents and critics have continued to argue over the merits of this “gig economy,” despite an apparent lack of data.

      Based on the survey’s results, only around 10 percent of Americans in 2017 were employed by what the government calls “alternative working arrangements.” This revised number is actually a decline from 2005, when 11 percent of workers worked in an occupation that’s part of the gig economy.

      “I think everybody’s narrative got blown up,” said Michael R. Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

      A look inside the survey

      Despite what appears to be a drop off in alternative working arrangements, Strain noted various factors the survey didn’t take into consideration.

      For starters, the government’s numbers don’t include people who do gig or freelance work to supplement traditional work. The survey also doesn’t consider those who participate in income-generating endeavors, such as renting their homes on Airbnb, which wouldn’t necessarily be considered work.

      A survey done by the Federal Reserve in late May found that nearly one-third of Americans are performing some kind of gig work, either exclusively or in addition to traditional work.

      The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ survey also didn’t factor in companies that subcontract work to employees. In those cases, those employees aren’t considered to be alternative workers, but they do earn less and receive smaller benefits.

      “The questions on our standard surveys don’t probe into the nature of these arrangements,” said Katherine G. Abraham, a University of Maryland economist who served as commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics under Bill Clinton. “We’re not asking the right questions, and they’re hard to answer anyway.”

      Abraham noted many employees tend to struggle to classify the work they do. She said that some Uber drivers might consider themselves employees of the company itself, though they are legally identified as independent contractors. However, she also mentioned that if alternative work was really on the rise, it would’ve shown up in this latest survey.

      “The fact that our last data point on this was in 2005 makes it so hard to figure out what’s going on,” said Martha Gimbel, director of economic research for Indeed. “Measurement is important, and this is why it’s important to fund data analysis.”

      The gig economy in recent news

      Despite this latest survey finding a slight decline in alternative workers, a 2016 report from the Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) found that employers spent $729 billion on contract workers in 2015, with 29 percent of all U.S. workers performing some kind of gig work that year.

      Betterment -- a financial services company -- released a survey in May that showed how the gig economy could potentially change the look of retirement for many people.

      Sixteen percent of survey participants said they would continue in the gig economy after a traditional retirement age. Additionally, many of these individuals find that working in the gig economy is a good way to supplement their income to save for retirement.

      “One in five full-time giggers say they’ll continue to pick up incremental work as their main source of income following retirement,” the authors of the survey wrote. “Twelve percent of side-hustlers will keep a side job as their main source of income after retiring from their traditional nine-to-five.”

      Also this May, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Mark Pocan proposed legislation that they say would strengthen the middle class by severely limiting the gig economy. The lawmakers’ goal is to “restore workers’ rights to bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.”

      As of right now, the bill is simply an idea for the future; it has garnered much support from various labor unions, but it is opposed by many Republicans.

      On Thursday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released it’s first in-depth look at non-traditional work in the United States since 2005. It found that tradit...
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      Facebook bug changed users’ default privacy settings to public

      About 14 million users had their default sharing settings changed for several days in May

      Facebook has revealed that a bug changed the default sharing settings of about 14 million users to “public” for four days last month.

      The bug occured between May 18 and May 22, while Facebook was testing a new feature. In an official Newsroom post, Facebook said that it is currently notifying those affected and asking them to review the posts that they made between those dates.

      "We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts," said Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer.

      "We have fixed this issue and starting today we are letting everyone affected know and asking them to review any posts they made during that time. To be clear, this bug did not impact anything people had posted before -- and they could still choose their audience just as they always have."

      Transparency in handling issues

      After the bug was discovered, Facebook said that it went so far as to change every post made by affected users during that window of time to private -- including posts possibly intended to be shared publicly.

      “The problem has been fixed, and for anyone affected, we changed the audience back to what they’d been using before,” the company said.

      Facebook said that notifying users of the bug is part of its new focus on transparency in the way it handles issues.

      “We’ve heard loud and clear that we need to be more transparent about how we build our products and how those products use your data – including when things go wrong. And that is what we are doing here,” Facebook said.

      Facebook has revealed that a bug changed the default sharing settings of about 14 million users to “public” for four days last month. The bug occured b...
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      U.S. airlines miss the cut for the top 20 best rated international carriers

      Qatar Airways took the top spot in in the AirHelp rankings

      For international travelers, picking the right airlines and passing through the most safe and efficient airports can help determine whether the trip is a success.

      To guide travelers in the right direction, AirHelp, a flight compensatory company, has compiled a ranking of the best airlines and airports around the world, noting that both categories are getting better, mainly due to rising competition for the international travel dollar.

      For 2018, Qatar Airways earns the top spot, followed by Lufthansa and Etihad Airways. Airlines are rated on quality of service, on-time performance, claim processing, and how consumers rate them in online forums.

      Qatar Airways was credited with big improvements in on-time performance and claims the top spot processing, helping it to overtake Singapore Airlines, which dropped to fourth place among 72 airlines for 2018. Worldwide, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, and South African Airways rounded out the top five.

      U.S. airlines not highly ranked

      No U.S.-based airline made the top 10. In fact, the highest ranking domestic carrier is American Airlines, which only earned 23rd place in the international rankings. United is the next highest, coming in at only 37th on the list.

      AirHelp CEO and co-founder Henrik Zillmer says the rankings show that airlines putting passengers first do best in the annual ranking.

      "For too long airlines have focused on cutting corners and costs without regard to the people they serve,” he said. “We're thrilled to see a positive shift in many airlines who are now putting passengers first, and when things do go wrong these airlines are holding themselves accountable by executing the rightfully owed claims quickly and without hassle."

      Follow the leader

      Zillmer said airlines can improve their rankings by following the example of those at the top of the list, such as Qatar Airways, which he said has held down one of the top three spots since 2015.

      Airports appear to be another matter entirely. While Hamad International Airport, Athens International Airport, and Tokyo Haneda International Airport hold down the top three spots, Zillmer says most airports around have some catching up to do.

      "It is clear there is a need for significant improvement, with overbooked flights and cancellations making national headlines month after month, and the consistent mistreatment of consumers," said Zillmer. "It is no wonder most airlines and airports received poor ratings on the AirHelp Score. It is more important than ever for consumers to fight for their air passenger rights."

      To see how ConsumerAffairs readers rate airlines, click here.

      For international travelers, picking the right airlines and passing through the most safe and efficient airports can help determine whether the trip is a s...
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      Senate Democrats urge Paul Ryan to hold net neutrality vote

      Democrats are pushing for a vote on the House floor ahead of Monday’s end to net neutrality rules

      With net neutrality rules slated to come to an end on Monday, Senate Democrats are urging House Speaker Paul Ryan to schedule a vote on the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that could preserve existing net neutrality rules.

      In the letter, all 49 Senate Democrats called on Ryan to allow the House to vote on the bill.

      "The rules that this resolution would restore were enacted by the FCC in 2015 to prevent broadband providers from blocking, slowing down, prioritizing, or otherwise unfairly discriminating against Internet traffic that flows across their networks," the letter said.

      "Without these protections, broadband providers can decide what content gets through to consumers at what speeds and could use this power to discriminate against their competitors or other content."

      Senate voted to save net neutrality

      Last month, the Senate voted to overturn the FCC’s net neutrality ruling by a vote of 52 to 47. However, the vote in favor of the CRA was mostly symbolic. Both the House, which is comprised of a Republican majority, and President Donald Trump need to sign off on the CRA in order for it to take effect.

      House Democrats will need the support of at least 25 Republicans in order to force a vote and pass the resolution. If passed, President Trump would need to provide final executive approval, which isn’t likely since he has said that he agrees with the FCC’s policy.

      Although it may be a long shot, Democrats are still fighting.

      "More than 170 representatives have already indicated their support for the same resolution in the House," advocacy group Demand Progress said. "Two hundred and eighteen signatures are needed in order to force the [Congressional Review Act] resolution to the floor, increasingly within reach following the bipartisan vote in the Senate."

      Protecting the average consumer

      Proponents of net neutrality have called the FCC’s decision “disastrous” for its potential impact on the average consumer and middle-class family.

      “The internet should be kept free and open like our highways, accessible and affordable to every American, regardless of ability to pay,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said. “The repeal of net neutrality is not only a blow to the average consumer, but it is a blow to public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses.”

      Senate Democrats expressed similar sentiments in their letter, which was sent on Thursday.

      "It is incumbent on the House of Representatives to listen to the voices of consumers, including the millions of Americans who supported the FCC's 2015 net neutrality order, and keep the internet free and open for all," the letter said.

      "It is essential that you take this step to protect middle-class families, consumers, farmers, communities of color, entrepreneur, and all who rely on the free and open internet.”

      With net neutrality rules slated to come to an end on Monday, Senate Democrats are urging House Speaker Paul Ryan to schedule a vote on the Congressional R...
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      Mortgage rates fall for a second straight week

      The average rate is at its lowest level in seven weeks

      Mortgage rates have dropped for two weeks in a row, hitting the lowest level in seven weeks, according to Freddie Mac.

      The decline in rates provides a small measure of relief for homebuyers, who have recently faced the twin challenges of both higher home prices and higher  mortgage interest rates.

      Freddie Mac's Primary Market Mortgage Survey shows the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 4.54 percent. That's down from 4.56 percent the previous week but up sharply from the 3.89 percent rate a year ago.

      The average 15-year rate fell even more, from 4.06 percent to 4.01 percent. The five-year adjustable rate mortgage rate also fell, from 3.80 percent to 3.74 percent.

      Homebuyers are taking advantage

      “Homebuyers have taken advantage of the recent moderation in rates, which led to a 4 percent increase in purchase applications last week,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

      “Although demand has remained steadfast against the backdrop of this year’s higher borrowing costs, it’s important to note that the growth rate of purchase loan balances has moderated so far this year – and particularly since March. This slowdown indicates that buyers are having difficulty stretching to keep up with the pace of home-price growth.”

      Prices are rising because demand for homes – particularly lower-priced entry-level homes – exceeds supply. Higher interest rates make matters worse by increasing the amount of the monthly payment, eroding affordability for some would-be buyers.

      The relief from rising rates – modest as it is – comes thanks to the bond market. With recent economic concerns in Italy. Brazil, and Turkey, foreign money has poured into U.S. Treasury bonds, seeking a safe haven. That has eased the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond, which is a key influence on mortgage rates.

      The relief, however, may be temporary. In its Mortgage Rate Trend Index this week, Bankrate found a majority of industry panelists in its survey believe rates will rise over the next week or so. Only 23 percent predicted that mortgage rates would continue to fall.

      Mortgage rates have dropped for two weeks in a row, hitting the lowest level in seven weeks, according to Freddie Mac.The decline in rates provides a s...
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      Kia recalls Fortes & Forte Koups, Optimas, Optima Hybrids and Sedonas

      The front airbags and seat belt pretensioners may not deploy

      Kia Motors America is recalling 507,587 model year 2010-2013 Kia Fortes & Forte Koups, model year 2011-2013 Kia Optimas, and model year 2011-2012 Kia Optima Hybrids & Sedonas.

      The airbag control unit may short circuit, preventing the front airbags and seat belt pretensioners from deploying in the event of a crash.

      If the front airbags and seat belt pretensioners are disabled, there is an increased risk of injury to the vehicle occupants in the event of a vehicle crash that necessitates deployment of these safety systems.

      What to do

      The remedy for this recall is still under development.

      The recall is planned to begin on July 27, 2018.

      Owners may contact Kia customer service at 1-800-333-4542. Kia's number for this recall is SC165.

      Kia Motors America is recalling 507,587 model year 2010-2013 Kia Fortes & Forte Koups, model year 2011-2013 Kia Optimas, and model year 2011-2012 Kia Optim...
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      San Francisco bans sales of flavored tobacco products

      The issue has caused a great deal of debate across the city

      Early this week, San Francisco residents voted to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored vaping liquids. With 99 percent of precincts reporting on the vote, 68 percent voted in favor of the ban and 31 percent voted against it.

      This has been a longstanding -- and expensive -- issue for the city of San Francisco in recent years, as tobacco company R.J. Reynolds contributed nearly $12 million against the proposition. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also contributed more than $3 million in support of it.

      “People really have a big dislike and big distrust for Big Tobacco companies and are not fooled by propaganda and tactics,” said Gil Duran, the spokesman for Campaign Yes on Proposition E.

      A look into the debate

      The legislation was largely supported by public health advocates who believe that flavored tobacco products are appealing to younger generations and could begin encouraging them to use tobacco. A number of public health organizations, including the American Association, American Cancer Society, and American Lung Association, supported the ban, citing their dedication toward protecting the health of the next generation.

      “San Francisco’s youth are routinely bombarded with advertising for flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes every time they walk into a neighborhood convenience store,” the American Lung Association said in a statement. “It’s clear that these products with candy themes and colorful packaging are geared towards teens.”

      “No amount of deceptive advertising will distract from the fact that candy flavors target kids,” echoed Melissa Welch, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. “We believe the success of Proposition E will encourage other cities to follow suit and end the sale of candy-flavored tobacco before nicotine addiction claims a new generation of young people.”

      However, not all of San Francisco’s residents were happy about the vote. Opponents fear the proposition could take business away from local convenience stores and could potentially become more wide-reaching than just San Francisco.

      “Telling adults what they can and can’t do isn’t effective,” opponents stated in an argument to voters before the election, noting that California recently just raised the age to buy tobacco to 21.

      “Big tobacco sees vaping as their future,” said Patrick Reynolds, executive director of the Foundation for a Smokefree America. “They are very afraid this is going to pass and if the voters make an informed decision to side with the health community, it will lead to hopefully a tidal wave of cities doing what SF did because the FDA did nothing. We will start to turn the tide against vaping.”

      A wave of change

      While the San Francisco vote is considered a win by many, the battle over e-cigarettes -- and the ban of flavored tobacco -- certainly isn’t a new one.

      City Council members in nearby Oakland, CA decided to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products late last year, with the ban becoming effective mid-2018. Other Bay Area cities passed similar legislation, including Berkeley, Los Gatos, Palo Alto, and Santa Clara County.

      Moreover, a recent study by researchers from six continents asked legislators to ban flavored versions of e-cigarettes, as well as corresponding advertisements. The group cited growing concerns over teen addiction and future health problems as the primary reasons for proposing legislation.

      “Until recently, the risks of e-cigarettes and their rising popularity with children and adolescents were under-recognized or ignored,” said Dr. Thomas Ferkol, a professor at Washington State University. “Some people truly believe e-cigarettes could be used as a smoking cessation technique, but these products also are an entry to nicotine addiction and tobacco use in young people.”

      Early this week, San Francisco residents voted to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored vaping liquids. With...
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      FCC accused of lying about DDoS attack that took down its comment system

      Investigators will determine why the agency’s system wasn’t available during a public comment period for net neutrality

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is facing more accusations that it lied about being the target of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that temporarily took down a comment section of its website, preventing people from voicing their opinion on net neutrality.

      Last year, on May 7, comedian John Oliver asked viewers to submit comments to the FCC and speak out in support of net neutrality. However, the comment submission section wasn’t available at the time the program aired.

      The FCC said it was because its system was hit by “multiple external distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS)” attacks due to an overwhelming amount of site traffic. Its claim was investigated by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), but no solid evidence or documentation to support the claim has been released.

      Accused of misleading the media

      This week, a report by Gizmodo revealed how David Bray -- the FCC’s chief information officer between 2013 and June 2017 who was responsible for maintaining the comment system -- pushed the narrative that the comments section was taken down due to a cyberattack.

      The report was based on redacted emails received through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by American Oversight. It suggests that Bray tried to push the cyberattack narrative with claims that the public comment system had been the target of a similar attack in 2014. Bray even said former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler didn’t reveal this attack publicly “out of concerns of copycats.”

      Coincidentally, both the 2014 and 2017 comment system outages occured right after Oliver used his HBO show to call on viewers to submit comments to the FCC in favor of saving net neutrality rules.

      No evidence to support DDoS claim

      According to Gizmodo, internal emails revealed that the “FCC conducted a quiet campaign to bolster its cyberattack story.”

      “Internal emails reviewed by Gizmodo lay bare the agency’s efforts to counter rife speculation that senior officials manufactured a cyberattack, allegedly to explain away technical problems plaguing the FCC’s comment system amid its high-profile collection of public comments on a controversial and since-passed proposal to overturn federal net neutrality rules,” the report said.

      “The FCC has been unwilling or unable to produce any evidence an attack occurred -- not to the reporters who’ve requested and even sued over it, and not to U.S. lawmakers who’ve demanded to see it. Instead, the agency conducted a quiet campaign to bolster its cyberattack story with the aid of friendly and easily duped reporters, by spreading word of an earlier cyberattack that never happened.”

      Researchers doubt DDoS attack

      Cybersecurity experts have expressed skepticism over the FCC’s claim that it was the target of a DDoS attack after Oliver’s program aired in May of last year.

      “There don’t appear to be any indications of a DDoS attack in the sensors we use to monitor for such things,” John Bambenek, a threat intelligence manager at Fidelis Cybersecurity, said at the time. “It appears the issue with the FCC is less of a DDoS attack, traditionally defined, and more of an issue of crowdsourcing comments generated by John Oliver and Reddit.”

      “There was no observed dark web chatter about such a DDoS before or after the event and no botnets that I’m monitoring received any commands ordering a DDoS on the FCC’s site,” said Jake Williams, CEO of cybersecurity firm Rendition InfoSec.

      “This is a smoking gun”

      Evan Greer, the deputy director of Fight for the Future, a consumer advocacy group focused on digital rights, described the emails as “a smoking gun.”

      “The FCC lied to reporters, and to Congress, in order to obscure the fact that they utterly failed to maintain a legitimate public comment process, as they are legally required to do, in their net neutrality repeal proceeding. Overseeing the FCC is Congress’ job,” Greer wrote.

      “Voters from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly oppose the gutting of net neutrality,” Greer continued. “No one wants their cable company controlling what they can see and do on the internet. Inaction is unacceptable. Any member of Congress who remains silent and fails to sign the discharge petition should prepare to face the Internet’s wrath come election time.”

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is facing more accusations that it lied about being the target of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack...
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      Trump administration reaches deal with ZTE to lift seven-year ban

      The settlement involves a hefty fine and a U.S.-chosen compliance team

      Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed to CNBC on Thursday that the Trump administration has struck a “definitive agreement” with Chinese telecom company ZTE involving a $1 billion fine and $400 million in escrow.

      The news follows reports that ZTE had agreed in principle to the deal, which would end its seven-year ban on doing business with crucial U.S.-based suppliers including Qualcomm, Corning and Google.

      In addition to the $1 billion penalty, the deal requires that the company change its board of directors and executive team within 30 days. The settlement also includes a U.S.-chosen compliance team.

      "We are literally embedding a compliance department of our choosing into the company to monitor it going forward. They will pay for those people, but the people will report to the new chairman," Ross told CNBC.

      Stringent settlement

      The $400 million in escrow included in the deal is intended to cover any future violations.

      "If they do violate it again, in addition to the billion dollars they are paying us up front, we had them put $400 million in escrow. The total deal is $1.4 billion. That money will be forfeited if they violate anything ... and we still retain the power to shut them down again," Ross said.

      "This is a pretty strict settlement," Ross added. "The strictest and largest settlement fine that has ever been brought by the Commerce Department against any violator of export controls."

      Ross said the settlement serves as a warning to other companies not to mess with U.S. trade policies.

      "This should serve as a very good deterrent not only for them but for other potential bad actors," he said.

      Critics cite national security threat

      Lawmakers from both sides have pointed out that removing the ban could pose a potentially serious threat to national security. Before the deal had officially gone through, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed his concern on Twitter.

      “If these reports are true, @realDonaldTrump has put China, not the United States, first. By letting ZTE off the hook, the president who roared like a lion is governing like a lamb when it comes to China. Congress should move in a bipartisan fashion to block this deal right away,” Schumer tweeted.

      In a statement on Thursday, Schumer said, "When it comes to China, despite [Trump's] tough talk, this deal with ZTE proves the president just shoots blanks."

      Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed to CNBC on Thursday that the Trump administration has struck a “definitive agreement” with Chinese telecom company...
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      BMW recalls model year 2018 BMW M5s

      The engine control unit software may cause the fuel pump to stop

      BMW of North America is recalling 846 model year 2018 BMW M5s.

      In certain driving conditions, the engine control unit software may cause the fuel pump to stop, causing the vehicle to stall which increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will update the engine control unit software, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin July 6, 2018.

      Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 846 model year 2018 BMW M5s.In certain driving conditions, the engine control unit software may cause the fuel pump t...
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      Model year 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan long wheel base vehicles recalled

      The lower ball joint of the front wheels may be loose

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 360 model year 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan long wheel base (LWB) vehicles.

      The nut that holds the lower ball joint of the front wheel on each side of the vehicle may be loose or improperly tightened.

      A loose or improperly tightened ball joint nut can result in the separation of the lower ball joint causing steering, traction or other stability issues, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Volkswagen has notified owners, and dealers will replace the nut on the lower ball joint, free of charge.

      Owners are advised not to drive their vehicle until the recall repair has been performed.

      The recall began May 30, 2018.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 40N4.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 360 model year 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan long wheel base (LWB) vehicles.The nut that holds the lower ball joint o...
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      Cambridge Analytica CEO accused of embezzling $8 million

      The former CEO reportedly withdrew the money from the firm shortly after reports of the Facebook data breach began circulating

      Alexander Nix, the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica, allegedly embezzled $8 million from the company before it shut down and filed for bankruptcy last month.

      Nix is accused of stealing the money after British journalists began reporting on the company’s involvement in the Facebook data sharing scandal, but before the company collapsed, according to the Financial Times.

      Investors who want to rebrand and relaunch the political ad consulting firm are currently trying to get the money back, and Nix has said he intends to repay part of the money.

      Sources say the money was supposedly intended to help get potential successor data firm, Emerdata, off the ground, with one person adding that Nix said the withdrawal was made in exchange for “unbooked services.” 

      Nix appeared before British lawmakers for a second time on Wednesday to testify about his role in the data sharing scandal that exposed the information of millions of Facebook users without their consent. At the session, Nix denied that he had withdrawn the money.

      "The allegation made in that article is false, the facts in that article are not correct," he said.

      Alexander Nix, the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica, allegedly embezzled $8 million from the company before it shut down and filed for bankruptcy last mon...
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      ZTE has agreed in principle to deal that would lift U.S. ban

      The deal would involve a total fine of up to $1.7 billion

      ZTE has agreed in principle to a settlement that would lift a U.S. Commerce Department ban preventing it from receiving crucial parts and components from American suppliers.

      The ban was put in place after ZTE was found to have broken a 2017 agreement by illegally shipping goods to Iran and North Korea.

      The Chinese telecom company halted major operations in May as a result of the seven-year ban imposed in April, which the company called a “death sentence.” Later in the month, however, President Donald Trump tweeted that he was pushing the Commerce Department to work with ZTE to lift the ban.

      On Tuesday, the Commerce Department said that although “no definitive agreement has been signed by both parties,” the tentative deal includes a $1 billion fine against ZTE plus $400 million in escrow in case of future violations.  

      "The Commerce Department plans to amend its 2017 settlement agreement and count the $361 million ZTE paid as a part of that, allowing the United States to claim a total penalty of as much as $1.7 billion, the sources said,” according to Reuters.

      The deal would also require that the company replace its board and executive team within 30 days. The amended settlement agreement has not yet been signed, the sources added.

      Met with concern  

      Chuck Schumer (D - New York) said on Tuesday that the preliminary agreement shows Trump put China first -- a dramatic shift from his “America first” stance.

      “If these reports are true, @realDonaldTrump has put China, not the United States, first. By letting ZTE off the hook, the president who roared like a lion is governing like a lamb when it comes to China. Congress should move in a bipartisan fashion to block this deal right away,” Schumer tweeted.

      Mark Warner (D - Virginia) echoed the concerns previously expressed by lawmakers on both sides when he said that the move would pose a security threat.  

      "If these reports are accurate, this is a huge mistake," he said in a statement. "ZTE poses a threat to our national security. That's not just my opinion – it's the unanimous conclusion of our intelligence community."

      President Trump has said that reviving the embattled company is "reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi."

      ZTE has agreed in principle to a settlement that would lift a U.S. Commerce Department ban preventing it from receiving crucial parts and components from A...
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      BMW recalls model year 2010-2011 BMW 335d vehicles

      The vehicles may suffer an intermittent loss of electrical power

      BMW of North America is recalling 6,591 model year 2010-2011 BMW 335d vehicles with diesel engines.

      The connection of the positive battery cable at the fuse box terminal may degrade over time, possibly resulting in an intermittent loss of electrical power.

      A loss of electrical power to the vehicle can cause the vehicle to unexpectedly stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the positive battery cable connector and secure it with an improved method, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin July 6, 2018. Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.

      BMW of North America is recalling 6,591 model year 2010-2011 BMW 335d vehicles with diesel engines.The connection of the positive battery cable at the...
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      Eddy Packing recalls smoked sausage

      The product may be contaminated with pieces of soft plastic

      Eddy Packing of Yoakum, Texas, is recalling approximately 18,390 pounds of smoked sausage.

      The product may be contaminated with extraneous materials -- specifically soft plastic.

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

      The following ready-to-eat smoked sausage item, produced on March 14, 2018, is being recalled:

      • 10-lb. case of “CARL’S PORK AND BEEF SMOKED SAUSAGE WITH A STICK” with lot code 8073, case code PS9319 and sell by date of March 14, 2019.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST 4800” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to food service businesses in Texas.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Francisco Montejano at 361-293-2361, Ext. 771.

      Eddy Packing of Yoakum, Texas, is recalling approximately 18,390 pounds of smoked sausage.The product may be contaminated with extraneous materials --...
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      Volkswagen recalls Audi S5 Cabriolets with Super Sport seats

      The seat-mounted air bag may deploy improperly

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 548 Audi S5 Cabriolets equipped with Super Sport seats.

      The seat-mounted head/thorax air bag in the front passenger seat may have been folded incorrectly during installation.

      If the air bag was not folded correctly during installation, the seat-mounted air bag may deploy improperly in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Audi will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front passenger seat-mounted head/thorax air bag, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin July 13, 2018.

      Owners may contact Audi customer service at 1-800-253-2834. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 69W6.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 548 Audi S5 Cabriolets equipped with Super Sport seats.The seat-mounted head/thorax air bag in the front passe...
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      Amazon is increasing its investment in India

      The company is investing an additional $2 billion in its battle against Walmart

      Amazon is investing more money in growing its presence in India, a market of 1.3 billion people expected to be worth $200 billion within a decade.

      After having lost out to rival Walmart in the bid to gain a majority stake in Indian e-commerce platform Flipkart, Amazon is increasing its investment in the country from $5 billion to $7 billion.

      “Amazon is betting big on the India market. It is evident that after Walmart’s acquisition of Flipkart, Flipkart’s ability to increase market share and India presence will increase,” a source with knowledge of the development told CNBC affiliate CNBC TV-18.

      Fighting for supremacy in India

      Last month, Walmart agreed to buy nearly 77 percent of Flipkart for $16 billion -- the largest deal in e-commerce to date, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The deal also marked Walmart’s most significant effort to compete with rival Amazon.

      Amazon founder Jeff Bezos reportedly put in a competing offer to take control of Flipkart, but Walmart ultimately beat out the e-commerce giant.

      Sources say Amazon is focusing on the end result of growing its presence in India by first looking at growth instead of thinking in terms of profitability.

      “Amazon has had its eyes and ears firmly on the ground and has been carefully planning its strategy. India is one of its fastest growing geographies and Amazon will not be left behind,” the source said.

      Amazon is investing more money in growing its presence in India, a market of 1.3 billion people expected to be worth $200 billion within a decade. Afte...
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      Apple announces plan to crack down on ad trackers

      The company’s latest software improvement will help users keep their browsing private

      Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose is a forum for the company to showcase its latest strides in technological advances, as well as show consumers what’s to come from the tech giant. The conference opened yesterday, and Apple is showing its commitment to customers’ privacy right out of the gate.

      At last year’s conference, Apple introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), a desktop Safari feature that monitors how often users visit certain sites; if a website isn’t visited for 30 days, Safari will automatically purge the cookies.

      This year, Apple is building off of this software in an attempt to become a leader in the arena of consumer privacy. The company’s next rollout of updates will allow consumers to block Facebook, Google, and other platforms from tracking them across different websites based off of “likes” or “shares.”

      “We’ve all seen these like buttons and share buttons,” said Apple software VP Craig Federighi. “Well it turns out, these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not. So this year, we’re shutting that down.”

      At the conference, Federighi demonstrated how the newest updates to Safari will show a pop-up window that asks users whether or not they want to allow a plugin to track their browsing. It will also have a feature that counters browser fingerprinting techniques that track users from site to site, which happens even when users clear their cookies.

      “Data companies are clever and relentless,” he said. “It turns out that when you browse the web, your device can be recognized by a unique set of characteristics like its configuration, its fonts you have installed, and the plugins you might have installed on a device.”

      Apple’s stance on privacy

      Apple’s initiatives to protect its customers line up with many of its past actions. Back in 2010, then-CEO Steve Jobs said that his company “always had a very different view of privacy than some of [its] colleagues in the Valley.”

      “Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain English and repeatedly,” Jobs said. “I believe people are smart and some people want to share more data than other people do. Ask them. Ask them every time. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data.”

      In the eight years since then, Apple hasn’t changed its tune.

      “I think that the privacy thing has gotten totally out of control and I think most people are not aware of who is tracking them, how much they’re being tracked, and the large amounts of detailed data that are out there about them,” said current CEO Tim Cook. “We think privacy is a fundamental human right.”

      Facebook strikes back

      While Apple’s latest move may protect users from many different online platforms that may be loose with their data, Facebook didn’t take to Apple’s announcement too kindly.

      The social media giant took a huge hit earlier this year following a scandal that left over 87 million users’ data repurposed by Cambridge Analytica. Though CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent a great deal of time answering questions from Congress and promised that his company is recommitting itself to stricter privacy regulations, Facebook continues to be a target due to what critics say are rather lenient privacy settings.

      Following Apple’s announcement, Facebook’s chief security officer Alex Stamos took to Twitter to question whether Apple was really committed to protecting privacy or the move was “just cute virtue signaling.”

      Facebook continues to take heat over revelations about its data privacy practices. Just before Apple’s announcement, the New York Times reported that Facebook’s data-sharing partnerships with various phone and device developers was going strong -- despite the company’s claim that they ended these data sharing practices in 2015.

      “It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission,” said former FTC chief technologist Ashkan Soltani.

      Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose is a forum for the company to showcase its latest strides in technological advances, as well as...
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      Volkswagen says it will stop funding experiments on animals

      The pledge is the company’s latest effort to recover from its emissions cheating scandal

      Volkswagen has vowed to stop funding experiments that test the effects of diesel exhaust on animals, the New York Times reports.

      The pledge follows the company’s emissions cheating scandal and pressure from animal rights groups. In January, it was revealed that the company funded a study that put 10 monkeys inside airtight chambers and exposed them to fumes from a diesel VW Beetle and an old pickup truck for four hours.

      The company’s pledge to stop financially supporting animal testing came in a letter to the German branch of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA says the automaker promised it won’t conduct experiments on animals unless it is required by law.

      PETA praised the move

      In the letter, Herbert Diess, Volkswagen’s chief executive, said that the company’s decision to conduct experiments on primates was ethically questionable. However, he maintained that the tests did not violate any U.S. laws.

      “Research projects and studies must always be balanced with consideration of ethical and moral questions,” Diess wrote. “Volkswagen explicitly distances itself from all forms of animal abuse. In the future, we will rule out all testing on animals, as long as there are no pressing — such as legal — reasons that would make this necessary.”

      PETA said Volkswagen “did the right thing” by vowing to stop conducting tests on animals.

      “PETA is calling on other carmakers that still test on animals to follow suit and embrace modern and humane, animal-free research methods instead,” said Kathy Guillermo, a senior vice president for PETA.

      Recovering from emissions-cheating scandal

      The German automaker’s pledge to stop funding animal testing is its latest effort to recover from the emissions-cheating scandal, which became public nearly three years ago.

      At that time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that about a half million Volkswagens equipped with diesel engines had been found with on-board software to defeat pollution controls.

      The scandal resulted in tens of billions of dollars in settlements and fines, as well as the imprisonment of former top company executives. Volkswagen is also facing a lawsuit fi