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    Missouri files motion in duck boat case

    State seeks to block Ripley Entertainment action to move suit to federal court

    Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has filed a motion opposing a move by Ripley Entertainment and Branson Duck Vehicles to move the suit against them from state to federal court.

    The two companies are defendants in the state's lawsuit in connection with the tragic sinking of a duck boat in Branson, Missouri in July that claimed 17 lives. Hawley responded to a motion by the defendants to dismiss the case in state court and move it to federal court.

    In his motion, Hawley contends the Taney County Circuit Court is the proper venue to hear the case and argued the companies' actions were designed to “hamper and delay the state’s enforcement action” as well as “thwart judicial review of their actions and evade any court order that would bar them from resuming the operation of their deadly enterprise.”

    Charged with violating state consumer laws

    The two companies face charges of violating Missouri's Merchandising Practices Act, the state's primary consumer protection law. Hawley previously filed a motion to bar the companies from operating duck boats in Missouri. He also cited what he said were numerous safety violations in the accident.

    The duck boat sank when it encountered a storm with high winds, producing large waves on the lake. The boat took on water and sank before many of the occupants could get off.

    In the aftermath of the accident, a St. Louis-based private vehicle inspector said he warned the company there were design flaws in the amphibious vehicles that increased their danger of sinking.

    In a 2017 report, Steve Paul of Test Drive Technologies warned the craft's engines and pumps could be prone to failure in rough seas. Normally, the duck boats are operated on calm lakes.

    Harsh language

    In unusually harsh language, Hawley's motion accuses the defendants of "misleading statements, fraudulent concealment, and unfair trade practices in connection with commercial operations." Because the Coast Guard has no regulatory authority over the companies, Hawley says state consumer laws apply.

    “Protecting Missouri consumers is hugely important to this office,” Hawley said. “This tragedy should not have happened—and we must do all that we can to ensure it cannot happen again.”

    The defendants have called Hawley's lawsuit against them "irresponsible." Ripley Entertainment issued a statement in response to the attorney general's motion, saying it was disappointed by Hawley's "inflammatory language.

    Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has filed a motion opposing a move by Ripley Entertainment and Branson Duck Vehicles to move the suit against them fr...
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    New study shows air pollution might be linked to increased dementia risk

    Participants who lived in areas with higher nitrogen oxide levels were 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia

    A team of London-based researchers recently published a study looking at the effects air pollution has on developing dementia. In the study -- entitled “Are noise and air pollution related to the incidence of dementia? A cohort study in London, England” and published in the British Medical Journal -- the researchers evaluated data from 130,978 adults aged 50-79 in 2004 to see if areas of heavy traffic and noise pollution affect dementia diagnoses.

    According to the research, dementia is the leading cause of death in England and Wales, accounting for 12 percent of registered deaths. Based on the study, the group found a correlation between air pollution across residential London and dementia diagnoses.

    The researchers deemed the relationship to be “unexplained by known confounding factors.”

    The study

    Prior to the study, air pollution was found to be a known cause of respiratory problems, as well as heart disease and stroke. However, the effect it had on cognitive diseases, like dementia, was a previously under researched area.

    The research team looked at anonymous health records from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD), which has been collecting data from general practices across London for over 30 years.

    At the start of the study, the participants had not been diagnosed with dementia. Though each participant’s health was monitored for roughly seven years, their removal from the survey was contingent on one of the following:

    • Willing removal from the study

    • Dementia diagnosis

    • Death

    Additionally, the researchers only looked at patients that went to doctors with addresses near the M25 motorway in London. In choosing this specific location, the scientists were able to narrow down just how much exposure to air pollution these participants had, as well as how close they were to high traffic areas. Specifically, the researchers looked at how nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter, and ozone affected each of the participants.

    Limitations

    Physicians have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of dementia, and the researchers pointed out in their study that many factors are at play in the final diagnosis.

    Moreover, the observational nature of the study could make the researchers’ findings only applicable to the area in which the study took place. The findings are also limited strictly to the patients observed in this study, thus making the long-term effects -- as well as the overall impact of air pollution on dementia -- still unknown.

    The findings

    Overall, the researchers found that their observational findings lined up with other leading factors of dementia -- namely diabetes and smoking.

    Throughout the course of the study, 2,181 patients (1.7 percent) were diagnosed with dementia.

    However, patients’ location played a rather significant role in their diagnoses. Compared with those who lived in areas in the bottom fifth of nitrogen oxide levels, those who lived in areas with the top fifth of nitrogen oxide levels were 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia. The results were similar in areas with high levels of fine particulate matter.

    A team of London-based researchers recently published a study looking at the effects air pollution has on developing dementia. In the study -- entitled “Ar...
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    Sears CEO floats last ditch effort to keep company alive

    The retailer is told it needs to raise cash and restructure debt

    Sears CEO Eddie Lampert is hopeful the struggling retailer can somehow raise some cash to keep the company's turnaround efforts alive.

    Lampert, who is also the company's largest shareholder, has proposed that Sears Holdings sell additional assets and restructure its debt. In a public filing ESL, Lampert's hedge fund, said the retailer "must act immediately to have sufficient runway to continue its transformation," suggesting the company is running short on time.

    "We continue to believe that it is in the best interests of all stakeholders to accomplish this as a going concern, rather than alternatives that would substantially reduce, if not completely eliminate, value for stakeholders," ESL said.

    Company is considering it

    The Sears Holdings board of directors has acknowledged receiving the proposal, confirming it regards liability management and some real estate transactions as a possible course of action.

    "The Board has directed the company's management and its legal and financial advisors to work closely with ESL, its advisors and the company's other stakeholders to seek to pursue liability management transactions of the nature described in the proposal, subject to advice of the company's legal and financial advisors and approval of any final transaction by the Related Party Transactions Subcommittee of the Board and the full Board," the company said in a statement.

    Lampert's hedge fund underscores the serious nature of the retailer's problem. It warns the company is running out of cash and faces a $134 million payment due October 15 and reserve requirements on October 1.

    The proposal from ESL suggests Sears Holdings sell $3.22 billion in assets, including $1.47 billion in real estate. Part of the deal includes ESL buying the real estate if it hasn't sold after 12 months.

    'No assurances'

    Sears' board said it would consider the proposal but added, "There can be no assurance that any transaction will be consummated or on what terms any transaction may occur."

    The company has closed dozens of stores so far this year and has more targeted for closing by November. However, the emerging consensus on Wall Street is that it won't be enough to stop the flow of red ink.

    Sears Holdings stock fell nearly 9 percent Monday and investment site Seeking Alpha reiterated its sell rating, concluding, "We do not expect the company to be able to emerge from the current situation characterized by: comparable sales decline, unsustainably high operating expenses, and high debt levels."

    Sears CEO Eddie Lampert is hopeful the struggling retailer can somehow raise some cash to keep the company's turnaround efforts alive.Lampert, who is a...
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      Nissan recalls model year 2019 INFINITI QX50s

      The passenger-side knee air bag cover may detach during deployment

      Nissan North America is recalling 1,671 model year 2019 INFINITI QX50s.

      In the event of a crash in very cold temperatures, the trim cover may separate unexpectedly from the passenger-side knee air bag module instead of splitting at the trim cover tear seam as designed.

      If the passenger-side knee air bag cover detaches during deployment, the risk of injury can increase.

      What to do

      INFINITI will notify owners, and retailers will replace the passenger-side knee air bag module, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin October 22, 2018.

      Owners may contact INFINITI customer service at 1-800-662-6200.

      Nissan North America is recalling 1,671 model year 2019 INFINITI QX50s.In the event of a crash in very cold temperatures, the trim cover may separate u...
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      Junior's Smokehouse Processing Plant recalls beef jerky

      The product may be contaminated with pieces of hard metal

      Junior’s Smokehouse Processing Plant of El Campo, Texas, is recalling approximately 690 pounds of ready-to-eat teriyaki beef jerky.

      The product may be contaminated with extraneous materials -- specifically pieces of hard metal.

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

      The following ready-to-eat teriyaki beef jerky item, produced on August 9, 2018, is being recalled:

      • 4 oz. plastic pouches of “BUC-EE’S HILL COUNTRY BRAND TERIYAKI BEEF JERKY, MADE IN TEXAS FROM SOLID STRIPS OF BEEF, READY TO EAT,” labeled with BEST BY 08-09-2019, and a lot code of 220-272.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST. 48213” 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 may contact Scott Chambers at (979) 533-3544.

      Junior’s Smokehouse Processing Plant of El Campo, Texas, is recalling approximately 690 pounds of ready-to-eat teriyaki beef jerky.The product may be c...
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      Ticketmaster caught partnering with scalpers, hiding tickets from fans

      Scrutiny of a Bruno Mars show and an undercover investigation appear to show how scalpers and Ticketmaster profit at the expense of fans

      Concert and sporting event tickets could become even more expensive if Ticketmaster gets its way.

      The ticketing behemoth has been accused of using its near-monopoly on the market to form a profitable relationship with scalpers, according to a new report by The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Toronto Star.

      Because Ticketmaster also operates a ticket reselling service, going into business with scalpers allows Ticketmaster to collect numerous, hefty fees on the same ticket.

      Undercover journalists posing as scalpers attended a ticketing industry conference this summer in Las Vegas, where Ticketmaster employees approached them with an odd business opportunity: an invitation to game Ticketmaster’s site without worrying about getting caught.

      Accused of encouraging scalpers

      According to the journalists, Ticketmaster salespeople assured scalpers at the event that they wouldn’t get caught for using bots, false identifies or other tricks to hog ticket sales.  

      "It's not something that we look at or report,” a Ticketmaster representative is quoted as saying.

      It’s not a secret that Ticketmaster has been able to aggressively inflate the cost of concert tickets thanks to its 2010 merger with concert promoter Live Nation and a notorious fee-based model. Some government research suggests that Ticketmaster and Live Nation fees inflate the price of concert tickets by as much as 27 percent.

      Music fans may love to hate Ticketmaster, but they often have no choice but to pay its fees if they want to see a show at one of the hundreds of venues across the country operated by Live Nation.

      Artificially creating higher demand

      Fees now only appear to be telling part of the story behind Ticketmaster’s success.

      An analysis of a Bruno Mars concert in Canada by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation also suggests that Ticketmaster arbitrarily keeps hundreds of seats unavailable and raises prices hours or days after they initially go on sale, part of an attempt to artificially create higher demand.

      As for scalping, it’s not a secret that Ticketmaster has ties to the industry. Ticketmaster for years has operated a resale service of its own in an attempt to compete with firms like StubHub.

      But consumers who buy resold tickets through Ticketmaster may not realize how much higher the fees will be.

      On one ticket, ”Ticketmaster collected $25.75 on a $209.50 ticket on the initial sale,” the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation says. “When the owner posted it for resale for $400 on Ticketmaster, the company stood to collect an additional $76 on the same ticket.”

      In a statement responding to the new reports, Ticketmaster distanced itself from the ticketing business altogether. Taking a page out of the sharing economy playbook, Ticketmaster instead characterized itself as a simple online service that connects people.

      “Ticketmaster is a technology platform that helps artists and teams connect with their fans. We do not own the ticket sold on our platform nor do we have any control over ticket pricing,” the company said.

      Concert and sporting event tickets could become even more expensive if Ticketmaster gets its way. The ticketing behemoth is using its near-monopoly on...
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      Government will set airline seat standards

      FAA told to set minimum standards for width of seats and legroom

      Congressional conferees have agreed upon a measure funding the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and it contains a few perks for air travelers.

      The measure funding the agency for the next five years requires the FAA to set minimum standards for the width of seats and for legroom. Currently, airlines can make the configuration of the aircraft cabin as cramped as they like, as long as they meet safety standards.

      The measure would also prohibit airlines from involuntarily bumping passengers after they have already boarded a plane. The bill is a compromise between House and Senate versions of the legislation but still must be passed by both houses of Congress.

      Consumer advocates wanted the legislation to also bar airlines from imposing "unreasonable" fees but that didn't make it into the compromise version.

      Victory for consumers

      The provision requiring the FAA to regulate seat size and leg room is a major victory for consumers, and one that is somewhat unexpected. Back in July, the consumer group Flyer's Rights held out little hope it would be included in the FAA reauthorization bill.

      “We call it torture class,” Paul Hudson, FlyersRights.org’s president, recently told The Telegraph of London. “It has been going on for the last 10 to 15 years, seats have been getting smaller as people get larger. Our view is they have been shrinking seats to get more passengers on a plane to get more revenue. They are also trying to make it so uncomfortable that people will upgrade and pay far higher fares.”

      In fact, the FAA had previously declined to tell airlines how large the seats had to be and how much legroom they should give passengers. Congress, however, appears to be forcing their hand.

      Despite the apparent benefits for consumers in the legislation, the airline industry appears to be happy with it. The trade group Airlines for America urged lawmakers to quickly pass the compromise reauthorization bill, noting it contains a lot of money to support commercial aviation.

      Support from industry

      "The long-term reauthorization is essential for the FAA to advance projects and implement programs that advance our country's status as the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world," said Airlines for America CEO Nicholas Calio.

      He said the bill will give employers, manufacturers, and consumers the certainty required to keep building and investing in the U.S. aviation industry.

      Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said he expects Congressional passage of the bill before FAA funding expires September 30.

      Congressional conferees have agreed upon a measure funding the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and it contains a few perks for air travelers.The...
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      Facebook Dating makes its debut

      Privacy concerns won’t go away, but Facebook is doing everything it can to get ahead of any potential issues with the new app

      Facebook has officially entered the dating world, albeit only in Colombia for the time being.

      With one out of every three people dating online and a $1.3 billion online dating market, Facebook -- or any platform for that matter -- would have a tough time not taking advantage of the opportunity.

      That, of course, raises the question: does Facebook want to be all things to all people?

      It may well.

      The social media platform may be drooling over the prospect of gaining more face time with Millennials who reportedly spend more than 10 hours a week using dating apps, not to mention getting back the ex-pats who left when Facebook’s privacy issues reared their ugly head earlier this year.

      The company tries to straddle the fence between benefit for its users and benefit for its bottom line by pointing to research that says social media leads to social change. With scrutiny regarding privacy following Facebook everywhere it goes, a venture into online dating just adds more questionable breadcrumbs on that privacy path.

      Facebook users are hesitant at best. More than half of Facebook users ages 18+ admit they’ve adjusted their privacy settings in the past year, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

      “Facebook is pretty safe I think, but will a dating app make it sleazy?,” wrote one poster. Another chimed in with, “I am not entirely sure what I expect from this. Only good things… right?”

      How Facebook’s dating app will function

      Inside Facebook’s walls, its employees have purportedly been testing “Facebook Dating” for months. More like e-Harmony and Match.com, but less like Tinder, Facebook Dating is a simple I-like-you-and-you-like-me recipe, but with a couple of added flourishes.

      For one, Facebook dating will allow users to create a separate “dating” profile. For another, the social media kingpin says the mobile version would offer a way for people attending events to make their profile visible in hopes of making a real-time connection.

      If there’s any question that a Facebook dating app raises, it’s how to thwart stalking. Facebook is reportedly testing a dating feature in Colombia designed to curb the stalking element.

      According to reports, the app’s developers have built in mechanisms that require users to tie messages to a piece of content which should cut down on trollers who have nothing more to offer than a cute pickup line, plus the added safety net that keeps users from following others who don’t respond in kind.

      Facebook has officially entered the dating world, albeit only in Colombia for the time being.With one out of every three people dating online and a $1....
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      Used car sales are up, but so are sales of luxury models

      Edmunds report shows luxury car sales make up nearly 12 percent of the market

      Rising prices for new cars, and the depreciation hit consumers take when they drive off the lot, are sending more car shoppers to the used car lot.

      The Wall Street Journal reports demand for used cars was unusually heavy over the summer and cites industry analysts who expect that demand to remain strong for the rest of 2018.

      With the average transaction price now around $35,000 for a new vehicle, consumers find they can save about $15,000 by purchasing a three year-old model with low mileage.

      But not everyone is settling for a used car. Automotive publisher Edmunds reports sales of luxury cars may set a record this year.

      Luxury SUVs in demand

      Edmunds says 1.3 million new luxury vehicles were sold through August, making up 11.4 percent of all new vehicle sales. Edmunds credits an expanding lineup of SUVs for fueling the growth. Sales of luxury SUVs accounted for 62 percent of all luxury vehicle sales.

      "Luxury SUVs are a winning strategy all around right now," said Jeremy Acevedo, manager of industry analysis at Edmunds. "Car buyers are willing to consider an SUV in pretty much any form they can get them, and the premium price tags SUVs command make for nice profit engines for automakers."

      But Edmunds analysts also say since all new cars are getting more expensive, it's blurring the line between mainstream and luxury models. The price gap between the two has narrowed from 58 percent to 48 percent in the last 10 years.

      The Edmunds research found consumers who purchase a Jaguar, Porsche, BMW, or Audi usually only consider buying a luxury car. Lincoln, Volvo and Acura shoppers are most likely to consider a mainstream brand as well.

      According to Kelley Blue Book (KBB), the average transaction price for a luxury compact SUV in August was $45,139. But the average cost of a full-size luxury SUV was nearly double, at $87,112.

      Rising prices for new cars, and the depreciation hit consumers take when they drive off the lot, are sending more car shoppers to the used car lot.The...
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      New FDA report finds first evidence of ESBL-producing E. coli in U.S. meat

      The researchers tested against 14 antimicrobials and nine beta-lactam agents

      As resistance to antibiotics continues to be a popular topic among scientists and researchers, Daniel Tadesse of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) worked with his colleagues from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the FDA, and Texas Tech University to publish the article “Whole Genome Sequence Analysis of CTX-M Containing Escherichia coli Isolates from Retail Meats and Cattle in the United States.”

      Published in Microbial Drug Resistance -- a peer-reviewed journal by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. publishers -- the researchers’ findings are on the cutting-edge of new findings regarding E. coli in retail meat in the United States.

      “This interesting and well-documented paper by Daniel Tadesse and colleagues provides convincing and alarming evidence of the ‘arrival’ to the dining room table of meat products contaminated by multidrug resistant E. coli,” said Editor-in-Chief Alexander Tomasz, PhD (The Rockefeller University) in a press release. “This paper brings ‘home’ the seriousness of the issue of antimicrobial drug resistance.”

      The study and findings

      The group tested extended spectrum beta lactamase (ESBL) producing E. coli from cattle for food production and retail meat products using whole genome sequencing and antimicrobial sequencing. The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) was responsible for collecting the ESBL E. coli isolates, which came from ground beef, pork chops, chicken breast, and ground turkey.

      ESBLs are enzymes produced by certain types of bacteria that break down the active ingredients in antibiotics, making them ineffective. While there are currently over 200 ESBLs, the first reported infection involving ESBLs didn’t occur until 1960, so researchers are still learning more about them.

      According to the researchers’ report, since then, the number of infections because of ESBL-resistant bacteria -- including salmonella and E. coli -- has increased exponentially and has become a worldwide issue. Based on reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these bacteria have caused approximately 26,000 infections and 1,700 deaths every year.

      In this study, the researchers tested the ESBLs against 14 antimicrobials and nine beta-lactam agents, and concluded that they all resisted at least three antimicrobials.

      The researchers also found that the meat samples carried CTX-M type ESBL genes. This particular enzyme has been responsible for many patient hospitalizations, and has grown in its commonality across the world. Additionally, the presence of these genes in meat samples could be an indication of even more infections to come.

      Recent E. coli outbreaks

      Considering the recent E. coli outbreaks, the new research findings come at a very opportune time.

      Earlier this month, Publix Super Markets recalled ground beef products made from chuck after finding they were contaminated with E. coli O26. The majority of cases were in Florida and occurred mainly between July 5-25, 2018.

      Back in May, an E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce affected people in 29 states. Health officials began warning consumers in April when a federal investigation out of a Yuma, Arizona farm that had grown lettuce linked to food poisoning in a prison in Alaska.

      By mid-May, the CDC reported a total of 172 cases of E. coli because of the bad romaine. Seventy-five people were hospitalized because of the infection, and one person died. At the time, the CDC said the number of hospitalizations for E. coli were higher than usual with this particular outbreak.

      As resistance to antibiotics continues to be a popular topic among scientists and researchers, Daniel Tadesse of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wor...
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      New tariffs on China take effect today

      $200 billion in Chinese imports will likely cost more

      The latest round of escalating tariffs on Chinese imports took effect today, meaning thousands of products may cost more.

      The Trump administration placed a 10 percent duty on $200 billion in Chinese imports as it tries to obtain trade concessions from the U.S. trading partner. But in nearly every case, the added cost will be passed along to U.S. consumers who purchase the products.

      There are more than 5,700 items on the tariff list. It includes many food products, including seafood. Trout, Pacific salmon, Atlantic and Danube salmon, halibut, sole, and yellowfish tuna are just a few of the seafood items that will cost 10 percent more when purchased in the U.S.

      Some items could make U.S.-produced products more expensive. For example, printed circuit boards are on the tariff list. In 2017, the U.S. imported close to $12 billion worth.

      Pricier computers

      Other computer parts are also the subject of the new tariff. Last year the U.S. spent $3.15 billion on them.

      The U.S. also imports a lot of finished electronic goods from China and many are included in the tariff. For example, desktop computers will carry the 10 percent tariff. The U.S. imported nearly $4.5 billion in desktop computers last year.

      Metal and wooden furniture from China will also cost more, thanks to the tariff. Last year the U.S. imported around $3 billion in wooden furniture and almost $4 billion in metal furniture.

      In a tweet, Trade News Centre reported a number of Apple products, produced in China, are also covered under the new round of tariffs. On the list are the Apple Pencil, mice, trackpads, iPhone case, iPod Hi-Fi, and iPad Smart Case. The iPhone is not subject to the tariff.

      Consumers likely to pay

      Earlier this month, Apple warned that U.S. tariffs could increase the price to consumers of many Apple products, including Airpods and the Apple Watch. Business Insider reports Walmart executives have sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, warning that the escalating tariffs will raise prices for U.S. consumers.

      The latest round of tariffs may have been imposed to bring China to the negotiating table but so far, it isn't working. China today imposed its own tariffs on U.S. imports, and The Wall Street Journal reports Chinese officials have cancelled a meeting to discuss a resumption of trade talks.

      The latest round of escalating tariffs on Chinese imports took effect today, meaning thousands of products may cost more.The Trump administration place...
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      New study finds emissions from most European diesel cars greatly exceed testing levels

      ​The issue goes beyond just Volkswagen

      A new MIT study that was recently published in Atmospheric Environment found that 10 major auto manufacturers, aside from Volkswagen, produced diesel cars that create more emissions -- up to 16 times more -- on the road than in the laboratory setting.

      The study focused on vehicles manufactured between 2000 and 2015, and though the emissions levels exceed European limits, they are technically legal under EU law.

      Steven Barrett, the Raymond L. Bisplinghoff Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, was the lead researcher on the study, and he and his fellow researchers focused on the emission of nitrogen oxides -- which is produced in diesel exhaust.

      “Initially, manufacturers were able to genuinely meet regulations, but more recently it seems they’ve almost tweaked knobs to meet the regulations on paper, even if in reality that’s not reproduced on the road,” Barrett said in a press release. “And that’s not been illegal in Europe.”

      Study details

      The researchers at MIT were focused on the health effects these emissions might have on the public in the future. They found that not only can these emissions affect residents in neighboring countries, but they could potentially cause 2,700 premature deaths across Europe every year.

      From there, the group researched the top ten diesel car manufacturers across Europe whose emissions levels for both in-lab and on-road testing were available. The study looks at: Toyota, Hyundai, Fiat, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, Daimler, Peugeot-Citroën, BMW, and Renault.

      Using emissions data from each manufacturer in both lab testing and on-road tests, the researchers calculated the exact amount of excess emissions each automaker’s diesel models produced. Then, looking at the total number of cars sold between 2000 and 2015 in each EU country, the group was able to calculate each specific model’s excess emissions.

      Lastly, to accurately gauge the health risk on future populations, the researchers analyzed epidemiological work of four major groups: adults with lung cancer, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and stroke.

      Based on the nitrogen oxide emissions, nearly 2,700 in the affected areas will lose at least 10 years off their lives.

      “The solution is to eliminate [nitrogen oxide] all together,” Barrett added. “We know there are human health impacts right down to pre-industrial levels, so there’s no safe level. At this point in time, it’s not that we have to go back to [gasoline]. It’s more that electrification is the answer, and ultimately we do have to have zero emissions in cities.”

      Volkswagen scandal

      This MIT study sheds light on the recent Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, which has been ongoing for nearly three years now.

      In September 2015, Volkswagen admitted to equipping over 11 million of its diesel vehicles with illegal software to cheat the U.S. emissions tests. Not only has Volkswagen lost billions of dollars along the way, but several top executives have since been indicted.

      To settle the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal and civil charges, the automaker paid out $4.3 billion. The company also paid $1.5 billion in separate civil resolutions, as well as a $2.8 billion criminal penalty.

      The scandal continues to rock the company, as late last month an independent auditor complained he wasn’t getting enough information out of VW. Larry Thompson was appointed by the Justice Department to monitor the carmaker’s efforts to comply with the settlement charges and said that the company was relying too heavily on privacy and attorney/client privilege to withhold any information.

      Most recently, former CEO Martin Winterkorn was accused of being too slow in initially addressing the cheating scandal. Judge Christian Jaede reported that Winterkorn was aware of the breadth of the scandal -- as well as the timing of it -- and dragged his feet on the issue.

      A new MIT study that was recently published in Atmospheric Environment found that 10 major auto manufacturers, aside from Volkswagen, produced diesel cars...
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      Twitter bug may have exposed some users’ direct messages

      The company says it found a bug that may have caused private messages to be shared with unauthorized developers

      On Friday, Twitter revealed that it recently discovered a bug that may have caused some users’ direct messages and private tweets to be sent to unauthorized third-party developers.

      The company said the bug has been in effect since May 2017 and was patched only recently. It affected less than 1 percent of users on the platform, which works out to around three million of the site’s 336 million monthly active users.

      Twitter said it found the bug in its Account Activity API, which gives registered developers the ability to build tools to help businesses communicate with customers on Twitter.

      “If you interacted with an account or business on Twitter that relied on a developer using the AAAPI to provide their services, the bug may have caused some of these interactions to be unintentionally sent to another registered developer,” Twitter said in a blog post.

      Affected users will be contacted

      The company tweeted that although it hasn’t found any instance where data was sent to the incorrect party, it can’t rule out the possibility that some users’ may have had their messages accidentally sent to the wrong recipient.

      Direct Messages that could have been exposed were between users and companies that use Twitter for customer service interactions, Twitter said.

      “In some cases this may have included certain Direct Messages or protected Tweets, for example a Direct Message with an airline that had authorized an AAAPI developer,” Twitter said. “Similarly, if your business authorized a developer using the AAAPI to access your account, the bug may have impacted your activity data in error.

      The microblogging platform added that people who were potentially affected by the bug will be contacted directly through an in-app notice and on Twitter’s site.

      Twitter said it has contacted its developer partners to make sure they delete any information they received in error.

      “Our investigation is ongoing. We will continue to provide updates with any relevant information,” Twitter said, adding that it’s “very sorry this happened.”

      Back in May, Twitter disclosed that it had found a glitch that caused user passwords to be stored in plain text. At the time, it advised all of its users to change their passwords.

      On Friday, Twitter revealed that it recently discovered a bug that may have caused some users’ direct messages and private tweets to be sent to unauthorize...
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      Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations recalls Firestone and Bridgestone tires

      The tires' steel cords may be exposed

      Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO) is recalling 2,707 Firestone FS818 tires with date codes 2318-2418, Bridgestone M854 tires with date codes 2418-2518, Bridgestone M860A tires with date code 2518, and Bridgestone M864 tires with date codes 2318-2418, all of size 425/65R22.5.

      The sidewall steel body cords may be exposed, which can cause unexpected rapid air loss during use, increasing the risk of a crash..

      What to do

      BATO will notify owners, and replace the tires with a comparable replacement, free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact BATO customer service at 1-800-847-3272.

      Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO) is recalling 2,707 Firestone FS818 tires with date codes 2318-2418, Bridgestone M854 tires with date codes 2418...
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      The new iPhones are out. What do you do with your old one?

      Patience may prove a virtue if you’re willing to wait a few months

      Apple paraded out its new iPhone models on Friday. As the clock struck 8am local time around the world, the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and Apple Watch Series 4 went on sale.

      Buying -- and keeping up with -- technology has turned into a pricey game. When Apple released its first iPhone in 2007, the price was $499 for the 4 GB model and $599 for the 8 GB model. Now, customers are looking at nearly double that price if they want to buy the new iPhone XS with 64 GB.

      Granted, the improvements Apple has made -- like fixes for the microphone and battery issues -- along with the bells and whistles it’s added over the years, make keeping up with the Joneses alluring. But, what about that older model iPhone you have? Does it have enough value to trade it in or sell it on the open market?

      It depends.

      ConsumerAffairs researched the values a consumer could expect to get from selling or trading in their old iPhones. If you trade your phone in directly to Apple, the values run from $70 for an iPhone 6 to $525 for the most recent iPhone X.

      But it’s worth doing some shopping, as other online tech buyers might offer more. When ConsumerAffairs checked prices for that same iPhone 6 on certain exchange sites, we found better prices than those that Apple offered, but lower values than Apple was allowing for factory unlocked iPhone 7 models.

      For consumers who are Apple diehards and wouldn’t give an Android phone the time of day, Apple has a program called the “iPhone Upgrade Program” which allows consumers to get a new iPhone every year with AppleCare+ included for as little as $37.41 a month.

      Patience may be a virtue

      MacWorld cautions against buying an iPhone the moment a new model is launched.

      “You might be happy to wait a month or two after the launch and wait for supply to catch up with demand, and for any problems with the new phones to be identified and (hopefully) fixed,” wrote MacWorld’s Karen Haslam.

      “We'd say that it's worth buying a new iPhone within nine months of it launching, but by June/July we'd recommend putting off your purchase until the autumn - unless your current iPhone is broken and won't tide you over for three or four more months. It is our experience that after the event the prices of the current-generation iPhones will drop. And if you're really not bothered about specs, you might be able to pick up an even older iPhone that Apple has discontinued as mobile phone companies discount those models to clear stock.”

      Haslam also reminds consumers that Apple no doubt has a Black Friday promotion up their sleeve. While Apple might not drop prices on its phones, it’s possible the company may offer an additional gift card.

      Thought about repurposing your old phone?

      If you’re insulted by the prices companies are offering for older model smartphones, there are dozens of ways to turn them into something useful.

      If you have Wi-Fi handy, phones can be repurposed into TV remotes, dedicated Skype stations, baby monitors, or even digital cookbooks.

      “In general, it’s a good idea to keep an old smartphone as a backup in case your shiny new model breaks for any reason,” suggests BensBargains, “but you can certainly reuse it elsewhere in your life at the same time.”

      Don’t forget the possible tax deduction

      For consumers who are small business owners or use their phones for business purposes, buying a new phone might provide a tax deduction.

      However, buyers should be aware of a caveat involved in pursuing that option.

      “If people have used their phones for a business and have written off the cost on their taxes, they may be surprised to learn that the trade-in value is now considered taxable income,” wrote Morris Armstrong, an Enrolled Agent licensed by the IRS and tax practitioner, in comments to ConsumerAffairs.

      “If a consumer bought an iPhone for $1,000 and took that amount as a tax deduction, then trades it in against a new model for, say, $400, that $400 is taxable income!”

      Apple paraded out its new iPhone models on Friday. As the clock struck 8am local time around the world, the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and Apple Watch Serie...
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      The Weekly Hack: Japanese cryptocurrency exchange loses nearly $60 million worth of coins

      Equifax is facing fines from UK regulators

      A major cryptocurrency exchange in Japan is missing 5,966 Bitcoins after an apparent hacking attack. The theft is equal to roughly $59 million and included $19.6 million worth of coins that belonged to clients, the exchange Zaif confirmed this week in a statement through Tech Bureau Corp, the firm that owns the exchange.

      The firm, in response, said it is selling its shares in Zaif to make up for the lost money. Japan is home to the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. The exchanges are registered through regulators there, but even so, the markets still appear unprepared to handle the numerous security risks of trading virtual coins.

      Newegg

      Anyone who purchased computer parts or other electronics from online retail giant Newegg between August 14 and September 18 should check their credit card statements, according to outside researchers.

      Two security firms found evidence of a code-based credit card skimmer used on Newegg consumers. The researchers said the hackers were likely the same group behind recent attacks on Ticketmaster and British Airways customers.

      However, Newegg has yet to confirm whether or not a breach occurred.

      Equifax is fined

      The credit firm that dropped the ball on online security and unintentionally exposed half of the United States to hackers is now facing fines -- but not here. Regulators in the United Kingdom said this week that Equifax "failed to take appropriate steps" to protect UK consumers. The fine totals £500,000.

      Last year, in the midst of hacking investigations, Equifax initially said that only “limited information” from “certain UK and Canadian residents” was compromised. When pressed, Equifax clarified that 400,000 UK residents were affected by the data breach. The number was then revised to 700,000 residents, and then, finally, 14.5 million records.

      Even so, Equifax maintained that it wasn’t misleading the public with its varying estimates, claiming that the 14 million records accessed in the UK weren’t sensitive enough to affect as many consumers.

      "This information does not change the number of consumers affected or any of the UK figures/statements already provided,” Equifax insisted. Call it Equi-logic.

      A major cryptocurrency exchange in Japan is missing 5,966 Bitcoins after an apparent hacking attack. The theft is equal to roughly $59 million and included...
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      Wells Fargo cutting its workforce

      The bank may eliminate up to 26,000 jobs

      Wells Fargo is trimming its ranks as it adapts to the new banking environment in which consumers are performing many traditional banking services for themselves with digital tools.

      The bank has announced plans to reduce its workforce by up to 10 percent in the next three years, eliminating as many as 26,000 jobs. The force reduction will be achieved through layoffs and attrition.

      Company CEO Tim Sloan said the move is designed to making the bank more “customer-focused,” streamlined, and in a better position to achieve long-term success.

      “We are continuing to transform Wells Fargo to deliver what customers want – including innovative, customer-friendly products and services – and evolving our business model to meet those needs in a more streamlined and efficient manner,” Sloan said

      Keeping up with customer preferences

      The CEO said Wells Fargo is simply keeping up with customer preferences, including the demand for more digital self-service capabilities, a trend that is growing throughout the banking industry. Mobile banking tools, allowing customers to deposit checks using their phones, is reducing the need for physical locations, as well as people to staff them.

      Wells Fargo is only two years removed from a major scandal that resulted in the firing of 5,000 employees and the early retirement of its CEO. In 2016 the bank revealed that employees had opened millions of checking and credit card accounts in customers' names without their knowledge.

      That was followed by revelations the bank had sold auto loan customers insurance coverage they didn't need and had wrongly foreclosed on as many as 400 homeowners. The bank has paid well over $3 billion in fines and settlements since 2016. It has also had to fend off a number of class-action lawsuits.

      Two years of progress

      Sloan says the bank has made progress over the last two years to improve customer service and efficiency. These efforts have been reflected in its recent advertising campaign, noting the company has a long history but effectively became a new bank, with a new commitment to customers, in 2018.

      “We are addressing past issues, enhancing our focus on customers, strengthening risk management and controls, simplifying our organization, and improving the team member experience – all in the spirit of building a better Wells Fargo for our customers,” Sloan said.

      Wells Fargo is trimming its ranks as it adapts to the new banking environment in which consumers are performing many traditional banking services for thems...
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      Tesla Model 3 receives five-star overall safety rating from NHTSA

      The car earned top marks for front and side impact protection, as well as rollover prevention

      Tesla’s entry-level Model 3 electric sedan has received a five-star crash test safety rating across the board from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

      The rear-wheel drive version of the vehicle earned the agency’s highest rating following several tests. In the first, it was launched against a fixed barrier to simulate a head-on collision at 35 mph. The car successfully protected the front occupants.

      Its side impact protection was tested by way of simulation where it was thrown against a side barrier at 38 mph. The vehicle held up well and was able to protect the front and rear occupants. For the last test, the NHTSA rolled the vehicle over and was again impressed.

      Some of the car’s driver assistance features -- such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning, crash imminent braking, and dynamic brake support -- also tested well, although they were not used during the crash tests.

      In response to the news of the vehicle’s perfect score, CEO Elon Musk tweeted, “@NHTSAgov will post final safety probability stats soon. Model 3 has a shot at being safest car ever tested.”

      Autopilot not evaluated

      While the vehicle fared well in performance tests, the agency didn’t evaluate the automaker’s controversial Autopilot feature.

      The feature, which has been involved in several high-profile crashes, has elicited criticism from consumer groups who argue that Tesla markets the feature in a way that oversells the technology and misleads consumers.

      The NHTSA is still investigating whether Autopilot was to blame for a crash that occurred in May where the driver broke her ankle.

      The agency previously determined that Autopilot was not to blame for a crash that resulted in the death of Joshua Brown, which occurred in July of 2016. However, the National Transportation Safety Board disagreed, arguing that Tesla had not considered the “human element” of its technology.

      Tesla’s previous cars have also earned perfect ratings from the federal agency. In 2017, the Model X SUV received five stars in all categories and subcategories. Back in 2013, the automaker’s Model S earned a rating of 5.4 stars.

      The NHTSA is one of two main institutions that administer crash test ratings in the US. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which is typically more stringent, hasn’t yet published its crash test safety results for the vehicle.

      Tesla’s entry-level Model 3 electric sedan has received a five-star crash test safety rating across the board from the National Highway Traffic Safety Admi...
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