Current Events in August 2018

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    Mercedes-Benz recalls GLE350s, GLE350 4Matics, and GLE43 AMGs

    The panoramic sunroof may detach

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling four model year 2018 GLE350s, GLE350 4Matics, and GLE43 AMGs.

    During manufacturing, components of the panoramic sunroof may have been installed with a bonding primer that was incorrectly made, possibly affecting the long-term adhesion to the vehicle.

    If the front cover and/or rear fixed glass are not properly adhered, they may detach, creating a road hazard and increasing the risk of a crash.

    What to do

    MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the panoramic sunroof, replace it if necessary, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin September 30, 2018.

    Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling four model year 2018 GLE350s, GLE350 4Matics, and GLE43 AMGs.During manufacturing, components of the panoramic s...

    United Airlines to start charging for seats near the front of its planes

    No frills are included, but there’s serious money to be made

    Following the lead of American and Delta, United Airlines is placing a premium price on select reserve seats near the front of its airplanes.

    However, unlike its competitors, passengers won’t get anything special like roomier legroom that comes with United’s "Economy Plus" option -- they’re just seats near the front that give fliers the advantage of not having to walk so far to their seat and departing sooner when the flight lands.

    On a typical flight on one of United’s 737 planes, those seats would start behind the eight rows of Economy Plus seats. According to reports, elite-level frequent fliers and some of United’s corporate clients can reserve these seats for free as part of a new corporate perks program that the company announced last week.

    Do I have a choice?

    On its face, the move simply looks like another way for United to beef up its bottom line.

    In its second-quarter 2018 financial results, United reported that its consolidated total revenue per available seat mile (TRASM) increased 2.8 percent year-over-year. In the dog-eat-dog airline business, every positive percentage point can go a long way, especially when you consider that the profit margin for the major carriers is only around 9 percent.

    Paying for seats is always the customer’s choice. For example, Delta’s reservation FAQs state that "You will get a seat assignment for free after you check in for a flight via delta.com, a Delta airport kiosk or with a Gate Agent within 24 hours of departure."

    Of course, certain seats are made available to travelers who require extra room, a child traveling alone, or a flier who has a disability.

    "We're happy to assist our customers with disabilities in securing a comfortable seat that best fits their needs in the same class of service. We highly encourage customers to submit their request more than 24 hours in advance of the scheduled flight," United said.

    Following the lead of American and Delta, United Airlines is placing a premium price on select reserve seats near the front of its airplanes.However, u...

    Twenty-two states ask appeals court to reinstate net neutrality rules

    Regulators are concerned about the effects for consumers

    Late last night, 22 state attorneys general filed a brief asking the appeals court to reinstate the net neutrality rules that were founded under the Obama administration. President Trump’s administration has effectively worked to overturn those regulations, and the group is trying to prevent individual states from creating their own regulations.

    The attorneys general argued that the decision made in January by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was not well thought out and will eventually “cause [inevitable harms] to consumers, public safety, and existing regulatory schemes.” The senders also assert that the commission “entirely ignored many of these issues” when the decision was made.

    The group is primarily concerned about consumers’ public safety, as it is one of the agency’s main tenets.

    Additionally, the attorneys general wrote that the FCC deliberately disregarded clear evidence that proved internet providers aren’t as honest as they claim to be when consumers are concerned. Despite “substantial record evidence showing that [broadband] providers have abused...and will abuse their gatekeeper roles in ways that harm consumers and threaten public safety,” the FCC accepted industry promises.

    Abdicating responsibility to consumers

    The brief was led by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who was joined by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

    The regulators’ arguments supplement an ongoing lawsuit against the FCC, and they are joined by several other groups including: Mozilla, Vimeo, Etsy, Free Press, and the National Hispanic Media Coalition, among others. These groups filed a separate brief last night, in which they called the FCC’s actions “a wholesale abdication of its statutory responsibilities.”

    With the lawsuit, the states are hoping to overturn the 2017 decision by ruling it “arbitrary and capricious.” Doing so would indicate that the FCC didn’t consider the full extent of consequences this decision would have. Federal agencies are given clearance to make decisions -- so long as they are within legal authority -- but the agencies must be able to justify all such decisions. With regards to net neutrality, the FCC must prove the decision to eliminate the regulations was done properly.

    Push to reinstate net neutrality

    The main goal of the lawsuit is to reinstate net neutrality. However, should the courts not grant that request, the states are looking to instate their own net neutrality regulations and have the court do away with part of the FCC’s order that bans states from having their own rules.

    Despite members of Congress, state officials, tech companies, and advocacy groups fighting to keep net neutrality, it was officially overturned in June. Though the Senate voted in May to keep net neutrality, the vote was mostly symbolic and the final decision had to be voted through the Republican majority House of Representatives.

    Late last night, 22 state attorneys general filed a brief asking the appeals court to reinstate the net neutrality rules that were founded under the Obama...

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      Federal Reserve reports consumers taking on more debt

      Except for millennials, most are handling it well

      The Federal Reserve has issued two reports showing that consumer debt is surging this year and that millennial consumers are having the hardest time handling it.

      The New York Fed reports total household debt hit a new high in the second quarter of this year, rising by $82 billion to reach $13.29 trillion. Mortgage debt was the main driver, reaching $9 trillion. Car loans rose by $9 billion to $1.24 trillion, continuing a six-year upward trend.

      At the same time, balances on home equity lines of credit (HELOC) went down by $4 billion. These debts have been declining for nearly a decade but accelerated now that the interest on these loans, secured by the equity in consumers' principal residences, is no longer tax deductible.

      Even though total household debt rose for the 16th straight quarter and is now higher than the previous record reached just before the financial crisis, there are fewer danger signs now than at that time. Wilbert van der Klaauw, senior vice president at the New York Fed, says consumers aren't having as much trouble keeping up with payments.

      Delinquency rates are stable

      "While overall delinquency rates have remained stable at relatively low levels, transition rates into delinquency have fallen noticeably for student debt over the past year, reflecting an improved labor market and increased participation in various income-driven repayment plans," van der Klaauw said.

      Even credit card delinquency rates were down slightly, with 7.9 percent of balances 90 or more days delinquent as of June 30, versus 8.0 percent at the end of the first quarter.

      A second report, from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, finds people born in the 1980s -- largely the millennial generation -- are having the hardest time in today's economy, despite increasing economic growth and strong employment.

      The study found that all generations lost wealth during the Great Recession, but millennials seemed to be hit the hardest.

      Loss of wealth

      "Wealth in 2016 of the median family headed by someone born in the 1980s remained 34 percent below the level we predicted based on the experience of earlier generations at the same age," the authors write. "The corresponding shortfalls of the 1960s cohort (–11 percent as of 2016) and the 1970s cohort (–18 percent) are worrying but are much smaller than their respective 2010 and 2013 shortfalls."

      The study found that the typical millennial family lost ground between 2010 and 2016, falling even further behind the typical wealth life cycle. The authors say this represents a missed opportunity because asset appreciation is unlikely to be as rapid in the near future as it was during the recent period.

      Perhaps because of this trend, millennials’ view of buying a home has turned negative, according to a survey by ValueInsured. In the third quarter of this year, only 48 percent of all millennials said buying a home in America today is a good investment, a record low.

      That's down from 54 percent in the second quarter. The previous high was 77 percent two years ago.

      The Federal Reserve has issued two reports showing that consumer debt is surging this year and that millennial consumers are having the hardest time handli...

      Barnum’s Animals crackers drops cartoon cages on packaging after PETA complains

      The century-old brand agreed to redesign its packaging to show animals roaming free

      The 116-year-old company behind animal crackers is ditching cages. Mondelez International, the company that now owns Nabisco and the Barnum’s Animals cracker brand, recently unveiled new packaging that shows wild animals roaming in grassland, marking the first major change to the packaging since Barnum’s Animals first came on store shelves in 1902.

      The original vintage cartoon design, showing wild animals locked in cages as they head to the circus, was ingrained in many consumers’ heads as the official image of animal crackers.

      But in 2016, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said that it was time to let the cartoons roam free.

      In a letter to Nabisco, PETA argued that depicting animals heading to the circus reflected a pastime that was cruel and no longer popular with American consumers.

      At that time, PETA had already successfully lobbied the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey to stop using live elephants in its shows. The following year, low ticket sales forced the circus company to stop putting on shows altogether.

      Numerous cities in the United States subsequently banned the use of live animals in circuses.

      As far as circuses of the animal cracker variety are concerned, Nabisco was sold on PETA’s pitch to shut operations down. But what the new  food packaging design would look like remained a mystery until now.

      The new package uses the same logo as the original but now features a giraffe, gorilla, zebra, lion, and an elephant standing together in the wild.

      ‘‘When PETA reached out about Barnum’s, we saw this as another great opportunity to continue to keep this brand modern and contemporary,’’ Jason Levine, a marketing officer with Mondelez International, told the Associated Press.

      PETA told the publication that they were pleased because ‘‘the new box for Barnum’s Animals crackers perfectly reflects that our society no longer tolerates the caging and chaining of wild animals for circus shows.”

      The 116-year-old company behind animal crackers is ditching cages. Mondelez International, the company that now owns Nabisco and the Barnum’s Animals crack...

      Netflix announces new changes to its platform

      It’s the end of user reviews and the beginning of promo videos

      Over the last few days, Netflix announced two new changes that will alter users’ experience moving forward.

      For starters, the platform stated months ago that it would be doing away with user reviews, and that time has finally come. Additionally, though just in the testing phases as of right now, the company has started showing short promo videos of Netflix shows in between episodes of other Netflix shows.

      Consumers have been exceptionally vocal -- particularly regarding the second issue -- as the updates have the potential to change the familiar Netflix experience.

      User reviews

      Netflix announced in early July that it would doing away with user reviews on its website come the end of the month.

      In an email to users that had recently left reviews, the company said that the feature was being eliminated due to lack of use in recent months. Many speculated that Netflix didn’t want to give subscribers the power to publicly disparage shows or movies. The company has also reported issues with users who bombard the comments sections because they disagree with the content of certain movies or shows.

      Earlier this year, Netflix removed it’s five-star rating system and changed it to a simple thumbs up or thumbs down, and this option remains available to users.

      Backlash over ads

      There have been rumors flying around online that Netflix was going to start showing commercials in the middle of shows.

      The company began showing commercials between shows and movies -- strictly as a test -- and users were able to skip them with a quick click. The ads were only during shows Netflix produced -- not during shows produced by outside production companies. Users were less than pleased with this test, but Netflix was quick to dispel the rumors and provide insight.

      “We are testing whether surfacing recommendations between episodes helps members discover stories they will enjoy faster,” a Netflix spokesperson said. “It is important to note that a member is able to skip a video preview at anytime if they are not interested.”

      Reddit quickly became a popular forum for users to share their frustrations.

      “If I get ads shoved in my face on Netflix then I fully expect the service to be free without paying anything for it,” one user wrote. “Plenty other sites that deliver quality content without pushing ads in the customers face.”

      This same discussion saw many users touting Hulu for their transparency in offering customers both ad-free and ad-supported options.

      Netflix attempts to quash concerns

      Some users took to Twitter to express their concerns, with some users who weren’t affected by the testing threatening to leave the streaming service.

      “I’ll be one of the millions to say it,” one user tweeted. “If you introduce any ads to your service that we pay for, I am cancelling my subscription that I had for years and move on somewhere else.”

      Netflix did rebut, though. On top of informing users that this feature is strictly in the testing phases and does not affect all users, the company also released an official statement. “A couple of years ago, we introduced video previews to the TV experience, because we saw that it significantly cut the time members spend browsing and helping them find something they would enjoy watching even faster,” the company said.

      To opt out of future Netflix testing, users can go to netflix.com/donottest at any time and provide information to avoid promotional materials.

      Over the last few days, Netflix announced two new changes that will alter users’ experience moving forward.For starters, the platform stated months ago...

      Walmart removing some paint remover products from store shelves

      Products containing methylene chloride are suspected of toxicity

      Walmart says it is phasing out paint removal products long criticized by environmentalists as being toxic to humans.

      Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies the products as legal, Walmart says it will stop selling paint-stripping products with the chemicals methylene chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) at U.S. stores, as well as stores in Canada, Mexico, and Central America.

      Walmart joins Lowe's, Home Depot, and Sherwin-Williams in taking that step. Walmart says all such products will be removed by February 2019.

      The retailer said it is reacting to customers' expectations and notes the company has worked with suppliers and industry groups in other areas of sustainability. Nearly a decade ago it stopped selling plastic children's products containing Bisphenol A (BPA).

      Zach Freeze, senior director of strategic initiatives for sustainability at Walmart, says the company has consistently gone "above and beyond" what's legal when it comes to sustainability, a practice that gained the notice of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

      Environmental groups praise

      “Walmart’s action to save lives by no longer selling dangerous paint strippers is a significant step forward in protecting public health," said Sujatha Bergen, Policy Specialist with NRDC. "We now live in a nation where retailers like Walmart are acting more quickly to protect public health from these toxics than the EPA."

      Walmart's move also won praise from the Environmental Defense Fund, which cited the retailer for being a leader in promoting sustainability in chemical products.

      "We applaud this recent step to expand that area of focus and to remove paint strippers with methylene chloride and NMP from store shelves," said Boma Brown-West, senior manager of consumer health at EDF.

      Methylene chloride is clear and colorless liquid that emits highly toxic fumes of phosgene when heated to decomposition, according to the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It's assessment of the chemical is that it's a "possible mutagen and is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."

      Walmart says it is phasing out paint removal products long criticized by environmentalists as being toxic to humans.Even though the Environmental Prote...

      Google facing lawsuit over its location tracking feature

      The suit alleges the company tracks users’ location regardless of their privacy settings

      Google has been hit with a lawsuit over claims that it monitors the whereabouts of iPhone and Android users despite their “Location History” settings being turned off.

      “Google represented that a user ‘can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.’ This simply was not true,” the complaint, filed late Friday in San Francisco federal court, said.

      The lawsuit accuses the tech giant of violating the privacy of its users and cites a report last week that found these claims to be accurate.

      As part of an investigation by the Associated Press, computer science researchers at Princeton University were able to create a visual map of the movements of the study’s subject as he moved around with his Android phone that had Location History toggled off.

      The map included the subject’s “train commute on two trips to New York and visits to the High Line park, Chelsea Market, Hell’s Kitchen, Central Park, and Harlem. To protect his privacy, The AP didn’t plot the most telling and frequent marker -- his home address.”

      Google updates location history language

      After the report was released, Google altered the help section of its website to clarify that turning location history off “does not affect other location services on your device, like Google Location Services and Find My Device.” The company noted that location data may also be tracked for use in other services such as maps or search.

      Previously, the page had indicated that turning location history off ensured that places visited were not logged by Google.

      “We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers,” Google said in a statement to the Associated Press.  

      Violation of privacy

      The plaintiff, Napoleon Patacsil of San Diego, is seeking unspecified damages, as well as class-action status on behalf of all U.S. iPhone or Android users who turned off the location history feature with the belief that it would grant them privacy.

      The suit alleges that Google is in violation of California's Invasion of Privacy Act.

      "Google expressly represented to users of its operating system and apps that the activation of certain settings will prevent the tracking of users' geolocations," the lawsuit said. "This representation was false."

      Google has been hit with a lawsuit over claims that it monitors the whereabouts of iPhone and Android users despite their “Location History” settings being...

      Despite economic turmoil, gold prices remain low

      The precious metal has fallen below $1,200 an ounce

      Remember when every little jewelry and pawn shop on the block had a sign in the window saying "we buy gold." Haven't seen those signs lately, have you?

      That's because the price of gold is at a recent low point, dipping below $1,200 an ounce last week. The price of the precious metal usually rises, however, when we are in the midst of the kind of international turmoil we're in now.

      The trade war with China and other trading partners might be a good reason for investors to flock to gold as a safe haven. The political uncertainty created by investigations of a U.S. president and the looming midterm elections should also give gold a boost. Neither have pushed gold prices higher.

      Instead, international investors are pouring money into U.S. Treasury bonds, keeping yields stable while sending the value of the U.S. dollar soaring. Because gold is priced in dollars, it now takes fewer of them to buy it.

      In fact, all commodities priced in dollars are losing pricing power. Platinum has fallen to its lowest price since 2003, in part because of a strong dollar and in part because of oversupply issues.

      Effects of a strong dollar

      The same is true for oil. Despite an increase in U.S. demand, a strong dollar has kept the price of oil relatively stable, which is one reason consumers haven't seen wild price fluctuations at the gas pump this summer.

      The price of copper has fallen by more than 20 percent over the course of the summer, something economists point to as a bad sign for the economy. A growing economy normally needs more copper so the market price goes up.

      In the background is an economic crisis in Turkey and a general economic slowdown in emerging market economies.

      In general, a strong dollar is good for U.S. consumers, since it tends to increase their purchasing power, especially for imported goods. But not always, like when we happen to be in a trade war. Some imports are carrying a 25 percent tariff, which is usually passed along to consumers.

      Gold prices are also an inflation indicator. When prices of everything start to rise, gold gets more expensive.

      That's reason enough to keep an eye on the price of the precious metal and perhaps be ready to buy some if inflation rears its ugly head.

      Remember when every little jewelry and pawn shop on the block had a sign in the window saying "we buy gold." Haven't seen those signs lately, have you?...

      Zakah Life recalls various Kratom products

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Zakah Life of Ankeny, Iowa, is recalling a variety of Kratom products that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

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

      The following products, distributed nationwide in retail stores and through mail orders, are being recalled:

      Product NameQuantity and Dosage FormPackagingLot #
      Super Green Maeng Da Premium Kratom Powder100 g4 oz. black and clear organic rice paper bag containing 100g of kratom

      BSG01

      0118

      Powerful Red Vein Bali Premium Kratom Powder100 g4 oz. black and clear organic rice paper bag containing 100g of kratom

      BPR01

      0118

      Super Green Maeng Da Premium Kratom Capsules90 capsules275 cc plastic bottlesSG050118
      Powerful Red Vein Bali Premium Kratom Capsules90 capsules275 cc plastic bottlesPR050118

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at (877) MY-ZAKAH Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm (CT).

      Zakah Life of Ankeny, Iowa, is recalling a variety of Kratom products that may be contaminated with Salmonella.No illnesses have been reported to date...

      Netflix tries to shut down rumors about it adding commercials

      The streaming service is testing out video promotions between episodes and movies, but they can be skipped by the viewer

      Netflix hopes that binge-worthy, not cringe-worthy, will remain the name of its game after the movie platform suffered through a beta test of running what appeared to be commercials between episodes and movies.

      The move created a serious backlash from subscribers even though they could “skip” the message with the click of a button.

      "We are testing whether surfacing recommendations between episodes helps members discover stories they will enjoy faster," a spokesperson for Netflix said. "It is important to note that a member is able to skip a video preview at anytime if they are not interested."

      Netflix users voiced their frustration on a Reddit discussion.

      “If I get ads shoved in my face on Netflix then I fully expect the service to be free without paying anything for it. Plenty other sites that deliver quality content without pushing ads in the customers face,” wrote one embittered subscriber. Others went as far as suggesting that people pirate Netflix’ content.

      In the same discussion, disgruntled users applauded Hulu’s transparency for offering both ad-supported and ad-free tiers to its service. “Scummy of Netflix to just slip it into their sub with no warning,” wrote one user in the Reddit conversation.

      In response to the public outcry, Netflix stated that the new promotional materials were simply all part of its normal process.

      "At Netflix, we conduct hundreds of tests every year so we can better understand what helps members more easily find something great to watch. A couple of years ago, we introduced video previews to the TV experience, because we saw that it significantly cut the time members spend browsing and helped them find something they would enjoy watching even faster," a company representative told ConsumerAffairs.

      "Since then, we have been experimenting even more with video based on personalized recommendations for shows and movies on the service or coming shortly, and continue to learn from our members."

      A tempest in a teapot?

      It’s hard to gauge how this dust-up will affect Netflix, but the company seems to be determined to create a new revenue stream off the backs of its enormous audience -- estimated by Statista at over 130 million.

      Close to a year ago, the streaming service boosted rates on two service plans which had the potential of lining its pockets with an extra $100 million a month. ConsumerAffairs also reported that Netflix appeared to be testing a new tier called “Netflix Ultra” in European markets with a price point of approximately $16.99 a month.

      Watch up or hush up?

      Netflix has pulled back when it comes to consumer comments lately. First, in July, it removed reviews from its website. In the recent Reddit discussion about the inclusion of ads, Netflix put the kibosh on the discussion and locked the thread so only Netflix moderators could manage the posts.

      If Netflix is looking in its rearview mirror, it has to be seeing other services -- especially Hulu -- gaining ground. Thanks to exclusive shows like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ Hulu now has more than 20 million subscribers, an 18 percent increase since the fourth quarter of 2017. In a recent survey, 23 percent of respondents stated that they had an active Hulu Plus subscription, with the service being a favorite amongst millennials.

      Hulu also has a leg up on Netflix and is edging closer to becoming a "real" network by offering live TV in addition to streaming, including content from Disney, NBC, and Fox -- all of which are Hulu shareholders.

      Netflix hopes that binge-worthy, not cringe-worthy, will remain the name of its game after the movie platform suffered through a beta test of running what...

      Gmail introduces 'Confidential Mode' for sensitive mobile messages

      ​But privacy advocates question how secure it really is

      Google's redesigned Gmail platform has a confidentiality mode feature that is now available on mobile versions.

      Using it, a sender can place restrictions on sent messages. The recipient of an email with Gmail Confidentiality Mode activated won't be able to print or forward the message.

      The sender can also place an expiration date on the message that will automatically remove it from the recipient's inbox on a certain date. It may even require two-step security system in which the recipient must enter a code, received via text message, before the email can be opened.

      Google said it developed Confidential Mode to help organizations protect sensitive information from unauthorized or accidental access. But the company admits there are some limitations.

      "Although confidential mode helps prevent the recipients from accidentally sharing your email, it doesn't prevent recipients from taking screenshots or photos of your messages or attachments," the company said in a support message. "Recipients who have malicious programs on their computer may still be able to copy or download your messages or attachments. This feature isn't available for G Suite customers at this time."

      Privacy group express doubts

      The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a privacy advocate, says the new email feature isn't quite as secure as it might seem. In a recent review, EFF points out that the message isn't encrypted from end-to-end, so Google could read the contents. The authors of the analysis also say the expiration date won't affect Google -- the message will reside on Google servers indefinitely.

      The authors conclude that the only totally secure email system would rely on robust technologies, such as end-to-end encryption "which provide actual mathematical assurances of confidentiality." They say the term "Confidential Mode," under these circumstances, could be misleading.

      However, the new Gmail feature provides a layer of security currently lacking in the standard system and in some other email platforms. To try it out, Google provides these instructions.

      Google's redesigned Gmail platform has a confidentiality mode feature that is now available on mobile versions.Using it, a sender can place restriction...

      PepsiCo agrees to acquire SodaStream for $3.2 billion

      The beverage giant has gained a foothold in the personalized in-home beverage market

      PepsiCo is doubling down on the growing consumer preference for carbonated non-cola drinks by agreeing to purchase SodaStream for $3.2 billion.

      SodaStream makes equipment that allows consumers to carbonate water at home, producing both flavored and unflavored drinks. The purchase price of $144 a share represents a 32 percent premium on Friday's closing price.

      In recent years, beverage companies like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have expanded beyond cola beverages to produce and market water, teas, and fruit juices. PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi says the union is an inspired match.

      "Daniel and his leadership team have built an extraordinary company that is offering consumers the ability to make great-tasting beverages while reducing the amount of waste generated," she said. "That focus is well-aligned with Performance with Purpose, our philosophy of making more nutritious products while limiting our environmental footprint. Together, we can advance our shared vision of a healthier, more-sustainable planet."

      SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum also hailed the merger, saying it is a "validation of our mission to bring healthy, convenient and environmentally friendly beverage solutions to consumers around the world."

      Coke has its own product

      SodaStream competitor Keurig Kold introduced a soda-making device three years ago and aligned with Coke, which owns a large piece of Keurig's parent company. SodaStream already had a relationship with Pepsi.

      The alignments with Keurig and SodaStream are an acknowledgment by the cola giants that consumers have a growing preference for no-calorie carbonated drinks that contain a hint of natural flavors; La Croix has taken an increasingly large gulp of the U.S. beverage market. The fact that many carbonated waters provide the same hydration benefits as plain water has helped the trend grow.

      The way PepsiCo sees it, acquiring SodaStream complements its existing business and expands the company's growing water portfolio. Ramon Laguarta, PepsiCo's incoming CEO, says it also gives the company a foothold in the personalize in-home beverage market.

      The merger has been approved by the boards of both companies and is scheduled to close in January 2019.

      PepsiCo is doubling down on the growing consumer preference for carbonated non-cola drinks by agreeing to purchase SodaStream for $3.2 billion.SodaStre...

      Amazon is looking to buy a chain of movie theaters

      Movie theaters could be Amazon’s next big venture

      Amazon is currently in the running to buy Landmark Theaters -- a private movie theater chain with 56 locations across the country that specializes in independent and foreign films. Currently, the company is run by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner’s company 2929 Entertainment.

      According to Bloomberg, which first broke the story last week, talks could still fall apart, as Amazon is one among several other interested parties at this point. Amazon, 2929 Entertainment, and Landmark have yet to comment on the proceedings.

      “This is probably a move to get broader distribution of film content,” said Leo Kulp, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets LLC. “Netflix had been discussed as a potential buyer of Landmark for a similar reason.”

      Why Amazon would move to the movies

      While many are scratching their heads as to why Amazon’s next big thing would be movie theaters, several analysts see it as a smart next move for the company.

      Though known primarily as an internet shopping service, the company has since branched out to include Whole Foods under its umbrella, and it has never shied away from expansion opportunities.

      “For the first 25 years of the internet we’ve seen the world in two competing domains: digital and physical,” said Gene Munster, managing partner with venture capital firm Loup Ventures. “Amazon clearly believes the future of the internet lies in the convergence of digital and physical offerings to meet customer needs.”

      Jonathan Kuntz, a film historian and lecturer at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television believes acquiring Landmark could help bolster Amazon’s reputation in a new arena.

      “Amazon is buying a little bit of prestige -- the quality end of the market,” Kuntz said.

      The Landmark deal could also bring new users to Amazon’s Prime platform. According to Eric Wold, an analyst at B. Riley FBR, regular theatergoers may not currently be Prime members -- the subscription service needed to stream Amazon Prime Video content. The theaters could serve as a physical space to screen Amazon’s content, while also encouraging theatergoers to subscribe to Prime.

      Bloomberg predicts the price for Landmark would be small, but Amazon is likely to get a huge buzz for entering the physical consumer world in a new realm.

      “I don’t know the dollar values involved here, but they are not betting the whole company on the Landmark deal,” Kuntz said.

      Amazon is currently in the running to buy Landmark Theaters -- a private movie theater chain with 56 locations across the country that specializes in indep...

      California bill seeks to ban restaurants from serving sugary drinks to kids

      The bill would make water or milk default beverages for kids at restaurants

      A California bill that aims to cut down on children’s sugary drink consumption at restaurants passed the Assembly on Thursday and is currently heading to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

      If passed, the measure would limit restaurants to serving only water or milk to kids, with the goal of preventing obesity. The American Cancer Society is among the advocacy groups that support state Senate Bill 1192.

      "Some of these kids are drinking up to three sodas a day. This is setting them up for tremendous cancer risks down the road. Because now we know that 20 percent of all cancers are tied to being overweight," Stephanie Winn of the American Cancer Society told CBS affiliate KOVR.

      Some lawmakers and parents object

      Although the law would not override parents’ wishes, opponents of the bill argue that it’s not the government’s place to determine what kids should eat or drink.

      "I think the government shouldn't determine what's available when I as a mother know what's best with my child," Inez Deocio told CBS.

      “Seriously, like, what’s next?” Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, asked, according to the Sacramento Bee. “Are we going to insist that you have to have kale in your salad unless you specifically ask otherwise?”

      Soda consumption linked to obesity

      Two-thirds of children drink at least one sugar-sweetened beverage a day, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency said it found an association between frequent soda consumption and weight gain, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, non-alcoholic liver disease, tooth decay, and cavities.

      The bill, “would require a restaurant, as defined, that sells a children’s meal that includes a beverage, to make the default beverage water, sparkling water, or flavored water, as specified, or unflavored milk or a non-dairy milk alternative, as specified.”

      “The bill would not prohibit a restaurant’s ability to sell, or a customer’s ability to purchase, an alternative beverage if the purchaser requests one,” according to the text of S.B. 1192.

      In July, a measure similar to S.B. 1192 was passed in the city of Baltimore. The ban prohibits restaurants in the city from including sugary beverages on kids’ menus. Several cities in California have implemented similar restrictions at restaurants.

      A California bill that aims to cut down on children’s sugary drink consumption at restaurants passed the Assembly on Thursday and is currently heading to G...