Current Events in August 2018

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    Sears says it is closing 46 more stores

    A once dominant department store chain continues to shrink

    Sears Holdings says it will close an additional 46 Sears and Kmart stores by November. Sears has shuttered about 400 U.S. locations in the last 15 months as it continues efforts to stem a rising tide of red ink.

    In May, Sears announced the closing of 63 stores and hinted that more closings could be announced later this year. That hint became a reality today.

    "We continue to evaluate our network of stores, which is a critical component to our integrated retail transformation, and will make further adjustments as needed," the company said in a statement.

    Sears served notice in January that it was in dire financial straits. It identified 150 unprofitable stores targeted for possible closing. So far, 99 have either closed or are among those that will close by November.

    In a way, Sears is a victim of consumers' growing reliance on Amazon, but that doesn't fully explain it. In the last two weeks, both Walmart and Target have reported robust earnings, demonstrating that traditional brick and mortar stores can make themselves more appealing to consumers and compete with the online retail giant.

    CNBC reports that Sears is considering a hedge fund proposal to purchase the Kenmore appliance brand in an effort to pump new cash into the business. The retailer previously spun off its Craftsman Tool division.

    Stores that are closing

    Here is the list of the latest Sears and Kmart stores targeted for closing:

    • Kmart 935 Sweetwater Road Spring Valley Calif.

    • Kmart 1075 Shaw Avenue Clovis Calif.

    • Kmart 3625 East 18th Street Antioch Calif.

    • Kmart 6310 W 3rd Street Los Angeles Calif.

    • Kmart 589 Bridgeport Avenue Milford Conn.

    • Kmart 301 College Square Newark Del.

    • Kmart 3231 Chicago Road Steger Ill.

    • Kmart 11 South Kings HWY 61 Cape Girardeau Mo.

    • Kmart 2308 Highway 45 N Columbus Miss.

    • Kmart 605 Old Country Road Riverhead N.Y.

    • Kmart 440 NW Burnside Road Gresham Ore.

    • Kmart 101 Great Teays Blvd Scott Depot Wva.

    • Kmart 2150 South Douglas HWY Gillette Wyo.

    • Sears Flagstaff Mall, 4800 N US HWY 89 Flagstaff Ariz.

    • Sears Capitola Mall, 4015 Capitola Road Santa Cruz Calif.

    • Sears 2424 Highway 6 And 50 Grand Junction Colo.

    • Sears 2266 University Square Mall Tampa - University Fla.

    • Sears 1625 NW 107th Avenue Doral / Miami Fla.

    • Sears Coastland Ctr, 2000 9th Street N Naples Fla.

    • Sears Oglethorpe Mall, 7810 Abercorn St Savannah Ga.

    • Sears 2860 Cumberland Mall Atlanta Ga.

    • Sears 100 Mall Blvd Ste 300 Brunswick Ga.

    • Sears 1631 E Empire Street Bloomington Ill.

    • Sears 4201 Coldwater Road Fort Wayne Ind.

    • Sears 3000 Mall Road Florence Ky.

    • Sears 1914 Hammond Square Drive Hammond La.

    • Sears 50 Holyoke Street Holyoke Mass.

    • Sears Silver City Galleria Taunton Mass.

    • Sears 1250 Jackson Xing I-94 Jackson Mich.

    • Sears 4601 Glenwood Avenue Raleigh - Crabtree N.C.

    • Sears 77 Rockingham Park Boulevard Salem N.H.

    • Sears 1500 South Willow Street Manchester N.H.

    • Sears 4409 Black Horse Pike Mays Landing N.J.

    • Sears 200 Eastview Mall Victor N.Y.

    • Sears 578 Aviation Road Queensbury / Glen Falls N.Y.

    • Sears 1400 Union Turnpike New Hyde Park N.Y.

    • Sears 2700 Miamisburg Centerville Road Dayton Ohio

    • Sears 9505 Colerain Avenue Cincinnati - Northgate Ohio

    • Sears 11800 SE 82nd Avenue Happy Valley / Portland Ore.

    • Sears 400 Memorial City Way Houston - Memorial Tex.

    • Sears Post Oak Mall College Station - Bryan Tex.

    • Sears 7453 S Plaza Center Drive West Jordan Utah

    • Sears 12000 Fair Oaks Mall Fairfax Va.

    • Sears 8800 NE Vancouver Mall Drive Vancouver Wash.

    • Sears 4720 Golf Road Eau Claire Wisc.

    • Sears Valley View Mall, 4200 US HWY 16 La Crosse Wisc.

    Sears Holdings says it will close an additional 46 Sears and Kmart stores by November. Sears has shuttered about 400 U.S. locations in the last 15 months a...

    Fed minutes reveal concern about tariffs' impact on the economy

    But policymakers say the economy is strong enough to keep raising rates

    Minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting, held in late July and early August, show the central bank intends to remain on track with its policy of gradually raising interest rates.

    The Fed declined to raise its federal funds rate at that meeting but is expected to do so at the September meeting. The rate, which is charged to banks for loans, is currently between 1.75 percent and 2 percent.

    Earlier this week President Trump criticized Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, whom he appointed, for his policy of raising rates. Trump said rising rates will threaten the economy.

    However, plenty of economists disagree. A bigger threat to the economy may come from tariffs, the result of Trump's confrontational trade policy.

    Tariffs raise the cost of imported goods for U.S. consumers, while retaliatory tariffs imposed by U.S. trading partners have reduced demand for U.S. agricultural products and some other exports because it makes them more expensive for consumers in other countries.

    Watching tariffs closely

    The Fed minutes show that the central bank is watching the tariff impact closely, but so far has not seen an impact that would stop it from raising rates. In fact, things look pretty good.

    “Job gains have been strong, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has stayed low,” the minutes read. “Household spending and business fixed investment have grown strongly. On a 12-month basis, both overall inflation and inflation for items other than food and energy remain near 2 percent. Indicators of longer-term inflation expectations are little changed, on balance.”

    It should be noted that the current federal funds rate, raised several times since December 2016, is still very low on a historical basis. Now at 2 percent or less, the rate hovered around 5.25 percent throughout 2006 until the Fed began to lower it in 2007 as the Great Recession began.

    Eight years at zero percent

    After the financial crisis of 2008, the Fed slashed the rate to zero percent and kept it there for eight years as the economy slowly recovered.

    While it has little effect on mortgage rates, banks' prime lending rates are closely tied to the federal funds rate. The rate also influences the interest rate consumers pay on credit cards and car loans.

    In addition to fallout from tariffs, the Fed minutes reveal policymakers are also concerned about a drop in demand in the housing market and a corresponding slowdown among homebuilders.

    Minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting, held in late July and early August, show the central bank intends to remain on...

    Many teens think they spend too much time using their phone

    ​Teens are ‘‘hyperconnected’’ with their phones, new research suggests

    A study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Centers finds that more than half of teenagers (54 percent) think they spend too much time using their phone.

    Pew found that 72 percent of the 743 teens surveyed either always or sometimes look at their phones right after they wake up. When forced to be without their phone, 56 percent said they felt either anxious, lonely, or upset.

    Fifty-two percent of teens said they’ve made a conscious effort to scale back on the amount of time they spending using their phone; 57 percent did the same with social media.

    About two-thirds of the 1,058 parents involved in the study expressed concern over how much time their children use their devices, with more than half stating that they have put restrictions on how often their teen can use their smartphone.

    However, teens noted that their parents are often just as guilty of becoming distracted by screens.

    Parents concerned about their own phone use

    More than half of teens (51 percent) said they often or sometimes find their parents or caregivers distracted by screens when trying to have a conversation with them (72 percent of parents felt the same way about their teens).

    Fifty-seven percent of parents said they check messages or notifications as soon as they wake up, and one-third of all parents polled admitted to using their phones "excessively."

    ‘‘Kids don’t always do what we say but they do as we do,’’ said Donald Shifrin, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, who was not involved in the Pew study. ‘‘Parents are the door that kids will walk through on their way to the world.’’

    Combating tech addiction

    This isn’t the first study in which teens have expressed concern over their own device use.

    In 2016, a survey by Common Sense Media found that more than half of U.S. teenagers believed they are addicted to their phones. Teens surveyed said they often felt pressure to respond to text messages immediately.

    In response to the growing discontent surrounding devices and their addictive qualities, big tech companies have added new tools to make it easier for users to monitor and take control over how much time they spend using their device.

    Apple announced in June that it will be releasing software that helps iPhone users monitor how much time they spend on their devices. Google recently announced that it will introduce “digital wellbeing” tools, such as screen time limits and a wind down option, to help users spend less time in front of their phones before bed.

    A study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Centers finds that more than half of teenagers (54 percent) think they spend too much time using their phone...

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      Polaris recalls ACE 150 and Ranger 150 ROVs

      The front suspension lower ball joint can separate over time

      Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 5,900 Model year 2017-2018 Polaris ACE 150 and model year 2018 Polaris Ranger 150 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).

      The front suspension lower ball joint can separate over time, posing a crash hazard.

      The company has received 10 reports of joints separating. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves model year 2017-2018 Polaris ACE 150 and model year 2018 Polaris Ranger 150 recreational off-highway vehicles. The recalled vehicles were sold in red and white.

      The recalled ACE 150 vehicles have “POLARIS” stamped on the front grille, a “POLARIS” decal on the bottom of the cab frame and an “ACE” decal on the rear fender. The VIN is located on the vehicle frame in the left rear wheel well and the model number is printed on the emissions label on the frame in the left front wheel well.

      The recalled Ranger 150 vehicles have “POLARIS” stamped on the front grille, a “150” decal on the front fender and a “RANGER” decal on the rear fender. The VIN is located on the vehicle frame in the left rear wheel well and the model number is printed on the emissions label on the frame in the right front wheel well.

      Polaris Model Year 2017 - 2018 ACE & Ranger 150

      Year

      Model Number

      Model/Color

      2017

      A17HAA15A7

      ACE 150 EFI INDY RED

      2017

      A17HAA15B7

      ACE 150 EFI INDY RED (CA)

      2018

      A18HAA15B2

      ACE 150 EFI, BRIGHT WHITE, LE

      2018

      A18HZA15B4

      RANGER® 150 EFI SOLAR RED

      2018

      A18HAA15B7

      ACE 150 EFI, INDY RED

      The ROVs, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from December 2016, through July 2018, for between $3,800 and $5,000.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ROVs and contact a Polaris dealer to schedule a free repair. Polaris is contacting all registered owners directly.

      Consumers may contact Polaris at (800) 765-2747 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off Road Safety Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      In addition, consumers should check their vehicle identification number (VIN) on the “Product Safety Recalls” page to see if their vehicle is included in any recalls.

      Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 5,900 Model year 2017-2018 Polaris ACE 150 and model year 2018 Polaris Ranger 150 recreational off-...

      Lipari Foods recalls Premo brand turkey & cheese wedge sandwiches

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Lipari Foods is recalling Premo brand turkey and cheese wedge sandwiches produced and packaged by sister company JLM.

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

      Premo brand's turkey and cheese wedge sandwiches, produced on August 8, 2018, and distributed to food service and retail stores throughout Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin and West Virginia, are being recalled:

      Product #Enjoy By DateLot #UPC
      91551608/31/201808201808612510002018

      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 may call customer service at (800) 729- 3354, 8:15 am – 4:30 pm (EST) Monday through Friday.

      Lipari Foods is recalling Premo brand turkey and cheese wedge sandwiches produced and packaged by sister company JLM.The product may be contaminated wi...

      Chrysler recalls Dodge Grand Caravans, Journeys, and Jeep Cherokees & Compass vehicles

      The rear brakes may not perform properly

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 154,335 model year 2018-2019 Dodge Grand Caravan and Jeep Compass, model year 2018 Dodge Journey, and model year model year 2019 Jeep Cherokee vehicles.

      The rear brake caliper pistons on these vehicles may have an insufficient coating causing gas pockets to form, potentially reducing rear brake performance, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will bleed the vehicle's brake system, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin September 28, 2018.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is U86.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 154,335 model year 2018-2019 Dodge Grand Caravan and Jeep Compass, model year 2018 Dodge Journey, and model year model y...

      Radagast Pet Food expands cat food recall

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Radagast Pet Food of Portland, Ore., is expanding its earlier recall to include an additional quantity of Rad Cat Raw Diet across all varieties with Best By dates of 10/19/18 through 12/3/19.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No pet or human illnesses caused by consumption of or exposure to the recalled products have been reported to date.

      The following products, which were shipped to distributors in the U.S. and Canada between May 10, 2017, and August 9, 2018, are being recalled:

      • Rad Cat Raw Diet Grass-Fed Beef Recipe (1oz sample, 8oz, 16oz, 24oz)
      • Rad Cat Raw Diet Free-Range Chicken Recipe (1oz sample, 8oz, 16oz, 24oz)
      • Rad Cat Raw Diet Pasture-Raised Lamb Recipe (1oz sample, 8oz, 16oz, 24oz)
      • Rad Cat Raw Diet Natural Pork Recipe (1oz sample, 8oz, 16oz, 24oz)
      • Rad Cat Raw Diet Free-Range Turkey Recipe (1oz sample, 8oz, 16oz, 24oz)
      • Rad Cat Raw Diet Pasture-Raised Venison Recipe (1oz sample, 8oz, 16oz, 24oz)

      The recall includes products starting with and including lot number 62763, through and including lot number 63101. The Lot Number and BB Date can be found on the bottom of each container.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should check the lot codes on their containers and return them to the specialty retailer where purchased for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact Radagast Pet Food (877) 567-3001 Monday - Friday from 9:00am - 5:00pm (PT).

      Radagast Pet Food of Portland, Ore., is expanding its earlier recall to include an additional quantity of Rad Cat Raw Diet across all varieties with Best B...

      New EPA coal rules could lead to 1,400 more deaths per year

      Officials at the EPA say that rules governing pollution can help to reduce those numbers

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a 289-page report yesterday detailing the impact of President Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule.

      The new rule effectively reverses President Obama’s efforts to cut power plant carbon pollution under the proposed Clean Power Plan. The Obama administration was working to instate federal regulations to cut carbon dioxide emissions and use less coal in favor of clean energy sources. The Clean Power Plan was blocked by court battles in 2016, as many Republican attorneys general thought the federal government was overstepping its power.

      While the Trump administration touts ACE as a way to create new jobs and eliminate government regulations, the EPA has found that it could lead to 1,400 premature deaths every year by 2030, in addition to up to 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis, and tens of thousands of missed school days.

      The agency also noted that the new regulations would “increase emissions of carbon dioxide” and “increase the level of emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health.”

      By contrast, the EPA previously reported that the Clean Power Plan would have helped avoid up to 300,000 missed school and work days, 3,600 premature deaths, and 90,000 child asthma attacks by the year 2030.  

      The Affordable Clean Energy rule

      Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed ACE into effect earlier this week and reported that the rule allows each state to make its own regulations regarding their emission standards for coal-fired plants. One of the main goals is to have less involvement from the federal government. According to Wheeler, ACE would allow “the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump’s goal of energy dominance.”

      Critics were quick to comment on the rule, as many see it as a step backwards in the fight to tame global warming.

      “The Trump administration sees political value in this rollback, but our health and the economic promise of clean energy is at stake,” said former Vice President Al Gore.

      In the report, the EPA did not address the numbers previously reported regarding the Clean Power Plan. Instead, it focused on comparisons to today’s levels -- which are in a downward trend.

      “Compared to the world as it stands now, the ACE rule will result in dramatic reductions in emissions, including CO2, mercury, and fine particulate matter precursors, as well as any resulting mortality and morbidity effects (like asthma hospitalizations),” the statement said.

      The plan

      In the ACE proposal, the Trump administration has detailed several different ways states can go about regulating coal-fired power plants, as well as what the health-related consequences would look like in each scenario.

      It is in the situation the agency considers most likely to occur where the premature death toll would increase, as would heart and lung disease and chronic problems like asthma and bronchitis. The Trump administration’s analysis found that 48,000 new cases of what it describes as “exacerbated asthma” would occur each year by 2030.

      According to Mr. Wehrum, a former coal industry attorney, there would be “collateral effects” on pollutants compared to the Obama administration’s proposed plan.

      “We have abundant legal authority to deal with those other pollutants directly, and we have aggressive programs in place that directly target emissions of those pollutants,” Wehrum said.

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a 289-page report yesterday detailing the impact of President Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule...

      FDA extends expiration dates of some EpiPens amid shortage

      Certain lots of the devices may still be good for four months beyond their expiration date

      In an effort to combat the ongoing shortage of EpiPens, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is extending the expiration dates of certain batches of the epinephrine auto-injectors.

      The agency says some EpiPens may be stable for an additional four months beyond their expiration date. Pfizer, which manufacturers the EpiPan for Mylan, said the extensions apply to the 0.3 mg dose of EpiPen and its authorized generic version with expirations dates between April and December 2018. The extension does not apply to EpiPen Jr.

      "We are doing everything we can to help mitigate shortages of these products, especially ahead of the back-to-school season," Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

      "We're hopeful this action will ensure patients have access to this important medication and provide additional peace-of-mind to parents as the agency works with the manufacturer to increase supply."

      The FDA said it made the decision to extend the expirations dates of some EpiPens -- which have a shelf life of around 20 months -- after reviewing stability data provided by Mylan.

      Spot shortages

      The move comes a week after the agency announced its approval of the first generic competitor to the EpiPen. Teva Pharmaceuticals’ generic version of the emergency allergy drug isn’t expected to hit the market for a few months.

      By extending the expiration dates of certain lots of EpiPens, the FDA hopes to cover shortages that may be causing some parents to panic as the start of a new school year looms.

      “While product is currently available, multiple factors, including regional supply disruptions and manufacturer issues, have contributed to EpiPen’s limited availability in certain areas in the U.S.,” the FDA said.

      The FDA’s list of the EpiPen lots with newly extended expiration dates can be viewed here.

      In an effort to combat the ongoing shortage of EpiPens, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is extending the expiration dates of certain batches of the...

      Woman sues Cabela’s for a crossbow lesson that ended with weapon recoiling into her eye

      A Texas woman claims she was not given proper instructions before shooting a crossbow for the first time

      A Texas woman’s first attempt to shoot a crossbow went horribly wrong, according to a lawsuit she filed against the retail chain Cabela’s, where she had her botched lesson.

      Tonya Kuykendall says in her lawsuit that she visited Cabela’s, the hunting and fishing store owned by Bass Pro Shops, in 2016 and asked to test out a crossbow equipped with a scope.

      The employee at the Waco, TX location where she visited, identified in the suit only as “Austin,” took her to the store’s shooting range. Kuykendall says she told him that it would be her first lesson.

      “In the range, as Ms. Kuykendall shot the bow for the first time, the bow recoiled and the equipped scope hit her left eye, causing her to scream in pain,” says the lawsuit, filed in the 74th State District Court in Texas and obtained by the Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper.  

      The suit alleges that Austin ignored Kuykendall as she screamed in pain.

      “In response to Ms. Kuykendall’s screams, ‘Austin’ began to laugh and asked if Ms. Kuykendall would like to shoot the bow again,” it says.

      “Virtually no recoil”

      Kuykendall says the injury required serious medical attention. She received a black eye, she alleges, and later needed to visit the emergency room to undergo a brain MRI and neurological exams. In addition to the eye injury, she says she also sustained nausea, headaches, and blurry vision, all symptoms of a concussion.

      The lawsuit says that Cabela's employees did not provide proper training and failed to render medical aid after the accident. Store managers told the Tribune-Herald that they could not comment and deferred the paper to corporate headquarters.

      The Bass Pro media line has not yet returned messages left by ConsumerAffairs.

      Crossbows are often portrayed as the safer alternative to hunting with rifles. Recoil, or when a weapon is forced backward after firing off at a target, can potentially injure the shooter if they are not properly trained. But recoil is typically thought of something that only happens with certain firearms, not crossbows.

      An owners manual put out by Cabela’s for one crossbow product claims that hunters should use the scope without worrying at all about any recoil.

      “For optimum accuracy, follow through your shot by aiming and watching the arrow hit your target through your scope,” the owner’s manual says. “There is virtually no recoil in a crossbow, so relax and hold the crossbow comfortably.”

      A Texas woman’s first attempt to shoot a crossbow went horribly wrong, according to a lawsuit she filed against the retail chain Cabela’s, where she had he...

      Verizon blames employee error for firefighters' data interruption during California fires

      During California’s biggest wildfire on record, a fire department vehicle’s service was compromised

      When a fire department vehicle’s wireless service was interrupted in the midst of California’s biggest wildfire, the wireless provider -- Verizon -- pointed its fingers at a customer service error.

      In a court filing this week, the Santa Clara Fire Department said one of its crews had its service significantly affected as it was fighting a wildfire at the Mendocino Complex.

      “County Fire has experienced throttling by its ISP, Verizon,” Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote in the filing. “This throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services. Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire’s ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services.”

      Recent issues with Verizon

      The fire department paid for an unlimited plan with Verizon but allegedly experienced a great deal of throttling until the plan was upgraded.

      “The internet has become an essential tool in providing fire and emergency response, particularly for events like large fires which require the rapid deployment and organization of thousands of personnel and hundreds of fire engines, aircraft, and bulldozers,” Bowden wrote.

      Bowden noted that Verizon’s throttling affected “OES 5262” -- a control and command that aids in tracking and deploying resources for firefighters wherever the need is greatest around the state and country.

      “In the midst of our response to the Mendocino Complex Fire, County Fire discovered the data connection for OES 5262 was being throttled by Verizon, and data rates had been reduced to 1/200, or less, than the previous speeds,” Bowden wrote. “These reduced speeds severely interfered with OES 5262’s ability to function effectively.”

      After communicating with Verizon about the throttling, Bowden said the wireless provider’s representatives said the issue wouldn’t be resolved until the fire department switched to a new plan -- at double the cost.

      Verizon released a statement earlier this week, admitting to being at fault for throttling the services. It labeled the issue as a miscommunication.

      “Like all customers, fire departments choose service plans that are best for them. This customer purchased a government contract plan for a high-speed wireless data allotment set at a monthly cost. Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle. Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations,” Verizon said.

      “We have done that many times, including for emergency personnel responding to these tragic fires. In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us. This was a customer support mistake. We are reviewing the situation and we will fix any issues going forward.”

      Net neutrality

      Earlier this week, 22 state attorneys general filed a brief asking the appeals court to reinstate the net neutrality laws that were founded under the Obama administration. Bowden’s declaration was submitted as an addendum to the brief that was filed with the states, the District of Columbia, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission.

      There was much speculation that Verizon’s service interference was a product of net neutrality regulations, as opposed to what they are calling a customer service error. The beginnings of Verizon’s service throttling was documented in fire department emails on June 29 -- just weeks after the repeal of net neutrality.

      All major carriers implemented some form of network throttling -- even when net neutrality laws were in place -- when customers went over their data threshold on unlimited plans. While such instances were limited to times of network congestion, the Santa Clara Fire Department reported throttling at all times once going over their allotted 25GB a month.

      When a fire department vehicle’s wireless service was interrupted in the midst of California’s biggest wildfire, the wireless provider -- Verizon -- pointe...

      Southwest and JetBlue Airlines both up passenger fees

      Rising costs for fuel and operational costs shoulder some of the blame

      Both Southwest and JetBlue are following United’s announcement on fee bumps with ones of their own.

      First, Southwest said sayonara to its much-loved peanuts. Now, the airline will be moving from its flat $15 for Early Bird Check-In to $15, $20, or $25 per one-way route starting on August 29, 2018. What the flier pays is based on the length of the flight and what Southwest considers the popularity of that flight’s Early Bird Check-In.

      According to its website, Southwest warns that while its Early Bird option "doesn't guarantee an A boarding position, it improves your seat selection options to help you get your favorite seat."

      Travel+Leisure reported that Southwest raked in more than $350 million in 2017 off of Early Bird Check-In fees alone. By bumping the flat $15 fee to as much as $25, the airline has the potential to make another $100 million or two.

      JetBlue’s fees rise across-the-board

      JetBlue fliers might also be raising some eyebrows due to changing baggage, pet, change, and cancel fees, which are all likely to change sometime before September, 2018. These fees don’t stem from greed, however. JetBlue is trying to cut costs by $300 million a year and has braced its employees for layoffs and buyouts.

      "If you have upcoming travel with JetBlue that you might need to change or cancel, it could be a good idea to do so before the end of the month when these new fees are likely to take effect," advises ThePointsGuy.

      While fee changes haven’t been updated at JetBlue’s website, the Points Guy reports the increases should roll out over the next several weeks.

      Playing the airline game can’t be much fun

      Despite passenger air travel projected to continue its upswing through 2030, airlines are taking hits from rising fuel prices and the major carriers are taking a beating from low-cost carriers and regional airlines that have set the industry on its ear with inventive low-fare business prototypes.

      "Notwithstanding the fact that airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair have steadily eaten into the market share of major transportation companies," wrote Statista in its analysis of global air traffic passenger demand.

      "Aviation demand is set to be fueled by the rising affluence of the middle classes in emerging markets. Consequently, the air traffic industry is forecast to grow most significantly in Latin America and Africa."

      While not a fee increase, American Airlines announced on Tuesday that it’s cutting back on some of its money-losing flights to China. However, the company will also be adding flights to its more profitable European routes.

      Both Southwest and JetBlue are following United’s announcement on fee bumps with ones of their own.First, Southwest said sayonara to its much-loved pea...

      Coconut oil is ‘pure poison,’ says Harvard professor

      Health experts say the hype surrounding the product may be unfounded

      Sales of coconut oil have soared in recent years, driven by claims that the product can help with weight loss and brain function. Now, one Harvard professor says the numerous health claims surrounding the so-called superfood are unsubstantiated.

      In a 50-minute lecture delivered in German and translated by Business Insider, Karin Michels of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health called coconut oil “pure poison.”

      “It is one of the worst foods you can eat,” she said in a lecture titled “Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Errors,” which has racked up almost a million views on YouTube.

      Michels said the popular product poses a bigger heart health risk than lard due to the fact that it’s comprised almost entirely of saturated fatty acids, which can block arteries. Additionally, nutrition experts say there is little scientific evidence to support claims that coconut oil has health benefits.

      “There’s virtually no data to support the hype,” Alice Lichtenstein, a Tufts University professor of nutrition science and policy who is also vice chair of the federal government’s dietary guidelines advisory committee, told The New York Times.

      Can raise bad cholesterol

      While coconut oil isn’t “poison” in a literal sense, a study conducted in 2017 by the American Heart Association (AHA) data found that more than 80 percent of the fat in coconut oil is saturated. For comparison, butter is 63 percent saturated fat and pork lard is 39 percent.

      “Because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD (cardiovascular disease), and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil,” the AHA said in an advisory last year.

      The organization recommends consuming no more than six percent of saturated fat as part of total caloric intake each day.

      Healthier cooking oils

      Health experts say flaxseed oil and grapeseed oil are good alternatives to coconut oil since they are comprised of a significant amount of unsaturated fatty acids. Soybean, sunflower, and corn oil are also better for cholesterol levels than coconut oil.

      “What we do know is that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats like vegetable oil, olive oil and sunflower oil, and their spreads, has been shown as an effective way to help reduce LDL cholesterol levels, so this would be a healthier choice,” Victoria Taylor, a senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, told The Guardian.

      “For the time being, if you like the taste of coconut oil, then, as with butter, it’s fine to use it every now and then. However, it’s best to restrict yourself to small amounts and use unsaturated oils as an everyday choice instead,” Taylor said.

      Sales of coconut oil have soared in recent years, driven by claims that the product can help with weight loss and brain function. Now, one Harvard professo...

      Facebook deletes another 652 pages and accounts

      The company said it removed accounts that were engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior"

      Facebook says it has removed 652 pages and accounts from its platform after determining their owners aren’t real, but groups based in Russian and Iran.

      The purpose of the posts on those pages, Facebook said, was to spread misinformation and sow discord ahead of the U.S. midterm elections. The company said the owners of the accounts were engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior."

      The company said the owners of the accounts were carrying out distinct campaigns and so far, it has not established any kind of direct link between the groups. But it was clear they were using the same or similar tactics and were trying to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing.

      Determined and well-funded

      "We ban this kind of behavior because we want people to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook," the company said in a blog post. "And while we’re making progress rooting out this abuse, as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge because the people responsible are determined and well funded."

      Facebook said it is investing in people and technology and working more closely with law enforcement. It announced those steps earlier this year when it revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a political marketing firm, made unauthorized use of Facebook data to target ads during the 2016 presidential election.

      Facebook said it received a tip last month from FireEye, a cybersecurity firm, warning that it identified a group called Liberty Front Press as a potential bad actor. Facebook says a subsequent investigation was able to link the account to Iranian state media through publicly available website registration information, as well as the use of related IP addresses and Facebook Pages sharing the same administrators.

      One part of the network, a Facebook group called Quest 4 Truth, identified itself as an independent Iranian media organization. But Facebook said its investigation showed it was connected to Press TV, an English-language news network affiliated with Iranian state media.

      Not who they say they are

      The overarching theme, says Facebook, is that the account owners portray themselves as independent media organizations when they are not.

      Earlier this week Microsoft reported that it had taken control of six domains owned by the Russian hacker group APT28, which was using the domains to spoof government and conservative websites.

      Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says his company has moved from a reactive stance to a proactive one. In a conference call with reporters, Zuckerberg said it's the only way to stay one step ahead of groups trying to use social media platforms to spread discord among Americans.

      Facebook says it has removed 652 pages and accounts from its platform after determining their owners aren’t real, but groups based in Russian and Iran....

      Uber reportedly settles harassment charges filed by employees

      The company will pay $1.9 million to 56 current and former workers

      Uber has agreed to pay $1.9 million to settle harassment complaints brought by 56 current and former employees, according to the lawyers for plaintiffs, who say the agreement has been submitted to a judge.

      The workers -- not drivers, but people who worked on the corporate side of the ride-sharing technology company -- will be compensated an average of more than $33,000.

      It's another indication that Uber, beset with unrest in its ranks in recent years, is trying to put the unpleasantness behind it. Bloomberg News reports about 500 female and minority engineers who are parties to a class action suit filed last year, alleging pay discrimination, will get nearly $11,000 each in the form of a final settlement.

      The complaints go back several year when Uber founder Travis Kalanick was still in charge. Kalanick stepped aside in 2017 after former engineer Susan Fowler went public with charges of sexual harassment at Uber.

      Went public in February 2017

      In a blog posting published in February 2017, Fowler said the company blamed her after she filed a number of reports detailing gender discrimination. She further claimed her supervisor received little more than a warning after a number of women reported sexual harassment.

      Not long after, Uber’s head of human resources resigned in the wake of an investigation into her handling of racial discrimination claims at the company.

      As ConsumerAffairs reported last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has reportedly opened an investigation into Uber's pay and hiring practices. The probe reportedly began a year ago when the EEOC began interviewing present and former employees.

      At the time, Uber told TechCrunch that it has made a number of positive changes in the last 18 months, including a structure to make pay more equitable.

      Uber has agreed to pay $1.9 million to settle harassment complaints brought by 56 current and former employees, according to the lawyers for plaintiffs, wh...

      BMW recalls model year 2018 BMW M5s

      The fuel gauge may read higher than the actual level

      BMW of North America is recalling 1,645 model year 2018 BMW M5s.

      The fuel level sensor in the fuel tank may become stuck against an in-tank fuel line, causing the fuel gauge to display an inaccurate and possibly larger amount of fuel than is actually available.

      An incorrect fuel reading may lead to the vehicle stalling and increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will secure the in-tank fuel line to keep the fuel line from contacting the fuel level sensor, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin September 10, 2018.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 1,645 model year 2018 BMW M5s.The fuel level sensor in the fuel tank may become stuck against an in-tank fuel line, c...

      Torrent Pharmaceuticals recalls Valsartan/Amlodipine/HCTZ tablets

      Trace Amounts of N-Nitrosodimethylamine impurity were found in an active pharmaceutical ingredient

      Torrent Pharmaceuticals Limited is recalling 14 lots of Valsartan/Amlodipine/HCTZ tablets.

      Trace Amounts of N-Nitrosodimethylamine impurity were found in an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API).

      NDMA is classified as a probable human carcinogen (a substance that could cause cancer).

      The company has not received any reports of adverse events to date related to this recall.

      Valsartan is used to control high blood pressure and for the treatment of heart failure. In combination with amlodipine plus hydrochlorothiazide, it is used to control high blood pressure.

      The following products, packaged in bottles and distributed nationwide, are being recalled:

      NDCProduct DescriptionLot/BatchExpiration Date
      NDC 13668-325-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 10mg/320mg/25mg, 30 TabletsBBX2D025Nov-2019
      NDC 13668-325-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 10mg/320mg/25mg, 30 TabletsBBX2D026Nov-2019
      NDC 13668-325-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 10mg/320mg/25mg, 30 TabletsBBX2E001Jan-2020
      NDC 13668-325-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 10mg/320mg/25mg, 30 TabletsBBX2E002Jan-2020
      NDC 13668-325-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 10mg/320mg/25mg, 30 TabletsBBX2E003Jan-2020
      NDC 13668-325-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 10mg/320mg/25mg, 30 TabletsBBX2E004Jan-2020
      NDC 13668-325-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 10mg/320mg/25mg, 30 TabletsBBX2E005Jan-2020
      NDC 13668-328-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 10mg/160mg/25mg, 30 TabletsBBX9D004Nov-2019
      NDC 13668-328-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 10mg/160mg/25mg, 30 TabletsBBX9E001Jan-2020
      NDC 13668-326-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 5mg/160mg/12.5mg, 30 TabletsBBY1E001Dec-2019
      NDC 13668-326-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 5mg/160mg/12.5mg, 30 TabletsBBY1E003Mar-2020
      NDC 13668-327-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 10mg/160mg/12.5mg, 30 TabletsBBY2E001Mar-2020
      NDC 13668-329-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 5mg/160mg/25mg, 30 TabletsBBY4D004Nov-2019
      NDC 13668-329-30Amlodipine, Valsartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 5mg/160mg/25mg, 30 TabletsBBY4E001Jan-2020

      The products can be identified by checking the product name, manufacturer details and batch or lot number on the bottle.

      What to do

      The company is arranging for return of all recalled products to Qualanex LLC, with instructions for returning recalled products given in a recall letter being sent out.

      Consumers with questions regarding this recall or reporting an adverse event may contact Torrent at (800) 912-9561 from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, or by email at Medinfo.Torrent@apcerls.com.

      For general questions regarding the return of the recalled products, contact Qualanex at (800) 505-9291 from 8 am -5:30 pm (ET).

      Torrent Pharmaceuticals Limited is recalling 14 lots of Valsartan/Amlodipine/HCTZ tablets.Trace Amounts of N-Nitrosodimethylamine impurity were found i...