Current Events in October 2018

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    Cabot brand oysters recalled

    The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

    3301861 Nova Scotia Limited is recalling Cabot brand oysters that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

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

    The following products, sold in Nova Scotia, Quebec and possibly nationally throughout Canada, are being recalled:

    Brand NameCommon NameSizeCode(s) on ProductUPC
    CabotOysters (Crassostrea Virginica)75 countHarvest Date: 16-09-2018
    Packed on date: 17-09-2018
    Harvest Location: 1387 (lease)
    None
    CabotOysters (Crassostrea Virginica)100 countHarvest Date: 16-09-2018
    Packed on date: 17-09-2018
    Harvest Location: 1387 (lease)
    None

    What to do

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

    3301861 Nova Scotia Limited is recalling Cabot brand oysters that may be contaminated with Salmonella.There have been no reported illnesses associated...

    Model year 2018 Mercedes-Benz E63S AMG 4MATICs recalled

    The front passenger seat can be adjusted beyond its intended limit

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 22 model year 2018 Mercedes-Benz E63S AMG 4MATICs.

    The front passenger seat can be adjusted beyond its intended limit posing an increased risk of injury to the occupant in the event of a crash.

    What to do

    MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the adjustment range, and if needed, install a mechanical adjustment range limitation or update the seat control unit software, free of charge.

    The recall is expected to begin October 19, 2018.

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

    Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 22 model year 2018 Mercedes-Benz E63S AMG 4MATICs.The front passenger seat can be adjusted beyond its intended l...

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      FDA seizes thousands of documents from e-cigarette maker Juul in surprise inspection

      The agency is taking more actions to curb the use of e-cigarettes by young people

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Tuesday that it seized more than a thousand pages of documents from e-cigarette maker Juul during an unannounced inspection of the company’s headquarters in San Francisco on Friday.

      The news comes a week after the agency announced that it was considering a ban on the online sale of e-cigarettes, which would primarily be an effort to drive down the number of minors who are able to acquire and use the products.

      Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called the widespread use of e-cigarettes among teens an “epidemic” and said easy access to the products is only fueling the trend.

      “E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous ‒ and dangerous ‒ trend among teens," Gottlieb said in a statement. "The FDA won't tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products."

      Scrutiny of marketing practices

      The agency has requested that e-cigarette manufacturers, including Juul, submit plans to curb youth use of their products within 60 days.

      Last week, the FDA said it was looking into how e-cigarette manufacturers market their products -- especially flavored products, which tend to appeal to kids. Gottlieb said at an event hosted by Axios that the FDA will be releasing data in November that shows a “disturbingly sharp rise” in the number of teens using e-cigarettes.

      That announcement came a month after the agency revealed that it had sent more than 1,300 warning letters to retailers who were found to have illegally sold Juul and other e-cigarette products to minors during “an undercover blitz" of both brick-and-mortar and online stores that occurred over the summer.

      Friday’s surprise investigation was an attempt to seek “further documentation related to Juul's sales and marketing practices, among other things," the FDA said in a statement. The investigation “resulted in the collection of over a thousand pages of documents," the agency said.

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Tuesday that it seized more than a thousand pages of documents from e-cigarette maker Juul during...

      Facebook's latest data breach could be costly

      European fines could exceed $1 billion

      Facebook's data breach, disclosed last week, will likely be costly for the social media giant as European privacy regulators demand answers.

      On Friday, Facebook announced that a security breach compromised about 50 million login credentials but said the issue had been resolved. But Europe has the world's toughest privacy rules and the European Union could impose fines that – by some estimates – could be in excess of $1 billion.

      Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC) complained that Facebook's initial disclosure of the breach was light on details. The DPC said Facebook appears unable to tell users the extent of the risk they face.

      The DPC said it wants answers from Facebook and those replies will determine whether there will be fines and how much they are. Later, the commission tweeted that Facebook had begun to fill in some blanks.

      “Facebook issued a blog on Friday last indicating that 50 million accounts were potentially affected by a security issue,” the agency wrote. “We understand that the number of EU accounts potentially affected is less than 10 percent of that. Facebook has assured us that they will be in a position to provide a further breakdown in relation to more detailed numbers soon.”

      General Data Protection Regulation

      The EU's General Data Protection Regulation took effect in May and imposes heavy penalties on companies found to be in violation of it. Offenders can be required to pay $23 million or 4 percent of the previous year's international revenue. Under that formula, Facebook could face a fine in excess of $1 billion.

      This isn't the first time Facebook has had to deal with a privacy issue. It faced a harsh backlash in March, when it revealed that personal information on millions of users had fallen into the hands of a political marketing firm.

      In that case, there was no breach of its system. A third-party app developer had been granted access to the data but was not allowed to give it to anyone else. Facebook said the developer then sold the data to Cambridge Analytica, a political marketing firm.

      At its developer conference in May, Facebook reaffirmed its commitment to protecting user data. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company would take a “broader view” of its responsibility to protect users' privacy.

      Facebook's data breach, disclosed last week, will likely be costly for the social media giant as European privacy regulators demand answers.On Friday,...

      California becomes first state to require women on corporate boards

      Most corporate board members in California and elsewhere are men

      People may disagree over whether corporations count as people, but there’s little debate that whatever they are, they tilt decidedly male.

      In California, for instance, only 16 percent of people on corporate boards are women. Businesses that are based in the state with the fifth largest economy in the world are now going to have to prepare for some modest changes.

      On Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law requiring publicly-traded companies whose primary offices are in California to have at least one woman on their board by the end of 2019.

      That quota will go higher depending on how many board members a given company has. By 2021, companies with at least five directors will have to have two women and those with seven will have to have three women. Companies that don’t comply will be fined $100,000.

      "Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it's high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the 'persons' in America," Brown said when signing the law.

      Providing more gender balance

      State senators Hannah-Beth Jackson and Toni Atkins, who sponsored the bill, said they had tried to encourage corporations to bring on more women with voluntary measures back in 2013, but the gender imbalance has barely changed since then.

      The legislation sparked a debate over whether requiring women leadership by law would be insulting and lead to ineffectual “token” positions.

      “This is an incredibly emotional topic for both the corporations as well as for women,” venture capitalist Jillian Manus told the San Jose Mercury News. “On one hand, I think it’s an insult, and on the other it’s an advantage.”

      The California Chamber of Commerce and associations that represent the restaurant industry, the construction industry, the police garage industry, grocery stores, and ambulance companies opposed the measure, claiming that mandates to bring more women on boards would hurt other diversity efforts.

      “We are concerned that the mandate…. that focuses only on gender potentially elevates it as a priority over other aspects of diversity,” the groups said.  “Our companies are not focused on only one particular classification, but rather all classifications.”

      But proponents noted that the #MeToo movement has exposed numerous companies and industries for allowing the abuse of female employees and other women. Jackson, the state senator, argued that it was “no coincidence” that disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein had no women on the board of his production company.

      The new law will also affect Silicon Valley. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Susan Desmond-Hellmann are the only two women on the company’s nine-member board. Google and Apple have a respective 11 and eight people on their boards, but each only have two women.

      People may disagree over whether corporations count as people, but there’s little debate that whatever they are, they tilt decidedly male.In California...

      MoviePass tries to 'restore' users’ accounts without permission

      Is this the movie subscription service’s last trick?

      Will the last MoviePass subscriber leaving the theatre, please turn out the lights?

      The neverending saga of MoviePass may have reached the end. Or, at least, one might hope so.

      MoviePass has decided to add insult to injury by taking one last swing at keeping the lights on.  According to the Verge, the company’s latest last gasp effort comes in the form of pinging a “select test group” of customers who the company says didn't opt into its latest three-movies-a-month deal.

      The ultimatum

      In the emails to those customers, MoviePass was heavy-handed, saying that those subscribers' accounts will be reactivated unless they officially opt-out by jumping through the hoop of clicking on a specific link.

      “To be clear, unless you opt out, your unlimited subscription will be restored and you will begin enjoying unlimited movies again (up to 1 new movie title per day based on existing inventory) at $9.95 a month, and your credit card on file will be charged on a monthly basis beginning Friday, October 5, 2018,” said the email.

      Month after month, the movie subscription service has been thought to be on the brink of closing its doors for good, but it always seems to come up with some twist that keeps its financial hope, albeit faint, alive. Only a couple of weeks ago, the company made a last gasp play at staying afloat via a proposed one-for-500 reverse stock split. As of yet, the gimmick hasn’t worked and MoviePass’ stock still sits below 2 cents a share.

      Be sure to check your email

      ConsumerAffairs hasn’t heard from any customers who previously “officially” cancelled their MoviePass membership but still received the “auto-renewal” email.

      Still, with the tone of this ploy and the ever-present technical wrinkles, consumers should double-check their inboxes to make 100 percent sure they’re not being re-enrolled and set up for automatic -- and recurring -- billing.

      Will the last MoviePass subscriber leaving the theatre, please turn out the lights?The neverending saga of MoviePass may have reached the end. Or, at l...

      Southwest Airlines kicks off its three-day sale

      Dozens of round-trip tickets will cost less than $100

      Airlines have begun to raise travel costs again, but Southwest is running counter to that trend, at least for three days.

      Consumers who book by October 4 can book some round-trip flights for less than $100. The flights must depart between November 28 and December 19 or from January 3 through February 13.

      The discount fares begin at $49 one-way on relatively short flights. As the flights get longer, the fares rise to $79, $99, and $129.

      Southwest traditionally offers the sale two times each year in an attempt to fill planes during off-peak travel periods. For example, the fares do not apply for travel during the typically busy Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

      Exclusions apply

      There are other exceptions as well. The discount fares are not available for flights on Fridays and Sundays. There are additional limits on some of the airline's warm weather destinations. All Orange County, California flights are also excluded.

      You can check out all the fine print here.

      As you start looking at the schedule of eligible flights, you'll also notice they all are non-stop trips. Destinations that require connections aren't part of the promotion, though the airline said that some of the fares may be lower than usual during the promotion periods.

      Consumers aren't guaranteed the discount fare, even if they book within the three-day window. Some seats have already been booked by full-fare passengers. Once the remaining seats are booked the flight will be full and unavailable for the promotion.

      Travel costs are going up

      With rising rule prices, air travel got more expensive over the summer, with several airlines adjusting fees instead of fares. Research has shown that consumers often choose a flight based on the cost of the fare without fully considering the fees involved.

      In August, United, Southwest, and JetBlue made fee adjustments, with Southwest increasing its flat $15 for Early Bird Check-In to $15, $20, or $25 per one-way route starting on August 29. 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.

      Last month, Delta increased the fee for the first checked bag to $30 for U.S. domestic travel, an increase of $5. The fee for a second checked bag is $40.

      Before choosing a flight, travelers should look at all of the airlines' fees and add the applicable ones to the cost of the fare.

      Airlines have begun to raise travel costs again, but Southwest is running counter to that trend, at least for three days.Consumers who book by October...

      Amazon to raise minimum wage to $15 per hour next month

      The move follows criticism of the company’s wage and employment practices

      On Tuesday, Amazon announced that it will be raising its minimum wage for U.S. workers to $15 per hour beginning November 1.

      The e-commerce giant said in a statement that the new minimum wage will benefit more than 250,000 full-time and part-time Amazon employees across the country, as well over 100,000 seasonal workers who will be hired to work at the company’s fulfillment centers this holiday.

      The announcement follows harsh criticism of online retailer’s working conditions and pay. At the end of August, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Ver.) engaged in a public feud with the company over its pay and work environment at warehouses and fulfillment centers.

      The Vermont Senator said at the time that Amazon had been “less than forthcoming with information about their employment practices.”

      “What we do know is that Amazon’s median employee pay is only $28,446 — 9 percent less than the industry average and well below what constitutes a living wage in the United States,” he said. “Further, we believe that many of Amazon’s workers are employed by temporary staffing agencies and contractors and make even less than the median Amazon employee.”

      Public pressure to raise minimum wage

      “We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”

      Senator Sanders praised the company’s minimum wage hike, calling it “enormously important.”

      "Today I want to give credit where credit is due," Sanders said in response to the new hourly wage. "What Mr. Bezos has done today is not only enormously important for Amazon's hundreds of thousands of employees, it could well be, and I think it will be, a shot heard around the world."

      Amazon also announced that it will be lobbying for an increase in the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour. Sanders said he hopes that other executives and firms around the country will follow Amazon’s lead.

      Target announced earlier this year that it would raise its minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2020. In January, Walmart said it planned to raise its starting wage to $11 per hour.

      On Tuesday, Amazon announced that it will be raising its minimum wage for U.S. workers to $15 per hour beginning November 1. The e-commerce giant said...

      Students can now fill out the FAFSA on their phone

      Experts hope the new feature will encourage more people to apply for aid

      For the first time, college students now have the option to fill out the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (or FAFSA) form on their smartphone or tablet.

      The federal Education Department says filling out the document, a crucial first step in receiving federal student aid, may be a little easier for some students who may not have access to an internet-connected computer.

      About 95 percent of U.S. consumers have a mobile device of some sort, according to the Federal Student Aid office. In launching the new digital options, the Education Department hopes to expand student access to free aid money.

      Leaving money on the table

      In 2017, over $2.3 billion in free federal grant money was left on the table as a result of students not renewing their FAFSA form throughout college or in graduate school, according to an analysis by Nerdwallet.

      "Students should be able to complete their FAFSA easily on their phones and in one sitting. They should receive expert, tailored advice about their options. It's called 'student aid,' after all. And throughout the life of their loans, students should be able to communicate directly — by texting or chatting or whatever the most current method is — with professionals whose primary duty is to them," Secretary Betsy DeVos told financial aid professionals in a speech last November, when the app was announced.

      "We will make the financial aid process modern, streamlined, more accessible and simply easier for students — and you,” Devos added.

      The myStudentAid app can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store or from Google Play for Android devices. Additionally, the FAFSA website has been updated with a new “mobile-friendly” design.

      The FAFSA for the 2019-2020 school year officially became available on October 1.

      For the first time, college students now have the option to fill out the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (or FAFSA) form on their smartphone or...

      Study finds domestic violence more common than you think

      Despite how widespread it is, researchers say Americans don't like to talk about it

      More than 62 percent of Americans believe domestic violence is a serious problem, but one-third are reluctant to discuss it.

      A new report from the Allstate Foundation shows the percentage of people who don't want to discuss the subject has actually increased since the last survey on the topic four years ago.

      The foundation says the subject needs airing, especially in light of statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) which indicate that 25 percent of U.S. women have been targets of violence by an intimate partner.

      Happens every day

      "Domestic violence happens every day, it doesn't discriminate and it affects every class, race and community, which is why The Allstate Foundation is committed to breaking the cycle of domestic violence," said Elaine Denslow, an Allstate agent in Washington state. "Domestic violence comes in many forms, whether that's physical, emotional, sexual, or the most common form, financial abuse."

      Denslow and other agents in several western states are collecting clothing and household items for survivors and have raised more than $150,000 to support domestic violence programs.

      The Allstate Foundation study found that 55 percent of people it questioned said they have been a domestic violence victim or knew someone who had. The study also found that not all of the abuse is physical.

      "Financial abuse is the most common form of domestic violence,” Denslow said. “It's an invisible weapon that often goes unnoticed, making it the leading cause of family homelessness."

      Men are also victims

      NCADV statistics show that women between the ages of 18 and 24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner, but men can also be victims. In fact, the group says one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

      Their data indicates that 20 percent of women said they had been raped at some point. Nearly half said the perpetrator was someone they knew. The same report shows one in seven men said they had been raped,.

      The Mayo Clinic points out that domestic violence directed against men is not always easy to spot. It says these incidents often begin with insults and name-calling, interfering with family relationships and friendships, and fits of jealousy that escalate into physical encounters.

      More than 62 percent of Americans believe domestic violence is a serious problem, but one-third are reluctant to discuss it.A new report from the Allst...

      Verizon says that its 5G network is ready for home Wi-Fi

      The carrier is inviting residents in four U.S. cities to sign up

      The race to make your current wifi network completely obsolete is now underway.

      Verizon announced that its 5G home Wi-Fi network was launching October 1. According to the company, customers can expect average Wi-Fi speeds of 300 mbps and can test the service out with a three-month free trial.

      Service is currently limited to only four cities in the United States -- Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. Verizon began inviting people in the selected cities to sign up last month.

      For now, the service is available for homes only. Verizon and other carriers have yet to launch a 5G mobile network, but the industry is clearly trying to build excitement for one with frequent promises that 5G mobile service will come in the future.

      In September, AT&T said that it will provide mobile 5G in 12 cities by the year's end.

      The race to make your current wifi network completely obsolete is now underway.Verizon announced that its 5G home Wi-Fi network was launching October 1...

      Fewer hours of daylight could lead to increased risk of postpartum depression

      Researchers say women in their third trimester should be mindful of getting enough natural light

      In a new study published in Springer, researchers found that women who are in their last trimester of pregnancy during the darker months of the year -- and are thus seeing fewer daylight hours -- are more likely to experience postpartum depression both during the last trimester and after their babies are born.

      Some previous research has linked lack of natural light to depression in adults, but the complete breadth of research has been far from conclusive. Nevertheless, researcher Deepika Goyal and her team from the University of San Francisco conducted a sleep trial to provide further evidence.

      The trial consisted of 293 women -- all first-time mothers and all from California -- both before and after pregnancy.

      “Among first-time mothers, the length of day in the third trimester, specifically day lengths that are shortening compared to day lengths that are short, long, or lengthening, were associated with concurrent depressive symptom severity,” said Goyal, lead researcher of the study out of San Jose State University.

      Need for natural light

      The researchers used the daylight hours in the northern hemisphere. In this system, “shortening days” run from August 5 through November 4; “short days” last from November 5 through February 4; and “lengthening days” ran from February 5 to May 4; and “long days” are May 6 through August 4.

      With those guidelines, the study found that the women whose third trimester consisted of more “short days” experienced the most depression symptoms at 35 percent. Once the babies were born, the researchers found the depression symptoms peaked.

      Conversely, for those women whose final trimester was during months with longer daylight hours, the depression risk was at its lowest (26 percent). The study also found 30 percent of all participants to be at risk for developing depression.

      When conducting the trials, the researchers evaluated risk factors associated with depression, such as how long each woman slept, history of depression, socioeconomic status, age, and recorded daylight hours during the final trimester.

      Getting creative with light exposure

      The researchers found that women who are exposed to more natural light in their final months of pregnancy -- and immediately following childbirth -- posed less of a risk for developing depression-related symptoms.

      However, for women who have a history of mental health problems, have experienced symptoms of depression, or whose final months of pregnancy are during months with fewer daylight hours, the researchers suggest a number of different solutions to help with risks of depression.

      “Women should be encouraged to get frequent exposure to daylight throughout their pregnancies to enhance their vitamin D levels and to suppress the hormone melatonin,” Goyal said. “Daily walks during daylight hours may be more effective in improving mood than walking inside a shopping mall or using a treadmill in a gym.”

      Goyal also encourages utilizing light boxes -- a popular method used for light therapy -- and spending as much time outside as possible.

      In a new study published in Springer, researchers found that women who are in their last trimester of pregnancy during the darker months of the year -- and...

      TerraTrike recalls adult tricycles

      The right hand wheel hubmount can bend or break

      TerraTrike of Grand Rapids, Mich., is recalling about 600 adult tricycles (trikes).

      The right hand wheel hubmount can bend or break, causing the user to lose control of the trike, which can result in serious injury or death.

      The firm has received seven reports of the hub mounts bending or breaking. No accidents or injuries have been reported.

      The recalled TerraTrike adult, pedal powered, orange, green or yellow tricycles have two wheels in the front and one wheel in the back and a black canvas seat.

      Recalled models include: TerraTrike Rambler x16 (orange), Rambler All Terrain (green) and Rambler E.V.O. (yellow). The trikes, depending upon model, come with either three 20-inch wheels or three 24-inch wheels.

      The model names are located on the outrigger tubes that come out of the main tube and connect to the front wheels. The serial numbers included in this recall are listed on the firm’s website at www.terratrike.com and are located under the main tube on a barcoded sticker near the rear wheel.

      The serial numbers are also stamped into the head (vertical) tube of the outrigger.

      The trikes, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at authorized TerraTrike dealers, independent bicycle dealers and recumbent bicycle specialty stores nationwide and online at www.TerraTrike.com from May 2018, through August 2018, for between $2,000 and $3,500.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using these recalled trikes and return them to the place of purchase for a free repair.

      Consumers may contact TerraTrike at (800) 945-9110 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.terratrike.com and click on “Important Safety Recall” for more information.

      TerraTrike of Grand Rapids, Mich., is recalling about 600 adult tricycles (trikes).The right hand wheel hubmount can bend or break, causing the user to...

      Mercedes-Benz recalls GLC class vehicles with LED headlights

      The front turn signals may have an incorrect color

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 4,702 model year 2018 GLC300 4MATIC Coupes, GLC300s, GLC300 4MATICs, GLC350e 4MATICs, GLC43 AMG 4MATIC Coupes, and GLC43 AMG 4MATICs equipped with LED headlights.

      The front turn signals may have an incorrect color of pink or violet.

      Turn signals that are the wrong color may not be as easily recognized by other drivers, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the color of the turn signal, replacing the LED module as necessary, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin November 9, 2018.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 4,702 model year 2018 GLC300 4MATIC Coupes, GLC300s, GLC300 4MATICs, GLC350e 4MATICs, GLC43 AMG 4MATIC Coupes, and G...

      BMW recalls model year 2018-2019 X6 vehicles

      The vehicles' wheel bolts may not have been tightened properly

      BMW of North America is recalling 33 model year 2018-2019 BMW X6 sDrive35i, X6 xDrive35i, X6 xDrive50i, and X6M vehicles.

      The wheel bolts on thee vehicles may not have been properly tightened.

      Improperly tightened wheel bolts may loosen and break, affecting vehicle handling and control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace and tighten all of the wheel bolts, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin November 1, 2018.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 33 model year 2018-2019 BMW X6 sDrive35i, X6 xDrive35i, X6 xDrive50i, and X6M vehicles.The wheel bolts on thee vehicl...

      Feds sue California over net neutrality law

      The Justice Department says states can't regulate the internet

      The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the state of California, charging that its newly enacted net neutrality law places “unlawful burdens” on the federal government's efforts to deregulate the internet.

      The suit was filed within hours of California Gov. Jerry Brown signing the net neutrality bill into law.

      California’s net neutrality law cleared both houses of the legislature by wide margins. The law reimposes the standard enacted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Obama administration in 2015. It requires all internet service providers to treat all internet traffic the same.

      For example, under the previous national policy, overturned by the Trump administration last December, networks could not charge more to companies offering video streaming services. They also could not slow down a service like Netflix while providing faster speeds to their own streaming services.

      California State Senator Scott Wiener spearheaded the drive to reimpose net neutrality in the state and said the final product constituted “the strongest net neutrality standards in the nation."

      The Justice Department suit takes a different view, saying the California law attempts to regulate the internet, which is now contrary to federal law.

      FCC supports the suit

      “I’m pleased the Department of Justice has filed this suit,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who led FCC efforts to overturn the federal net neutrality policy. “The Internet is inherently an interstate information service. As such, only the federal government can set policy in this area. And the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently reaffirmed that state regulation of information services is preempted by federal law.”

      Pai makes the claim that net neutrality, as envisioned by the California law, hurts consumers. He says that under the law, large ISPs like Verizon and AT&T would be prohibited from offering some free data plans he says allow consumers to stream video and music, exempt from any data limits.

      “They have proven enormously popular in the marketplace, especially among lower-income Americans,” Pai said. “But notwithstanding the consumer benefits, this state law bans them.”

      But supporters of net neutrality argue they are the ones defending a free and open internet. Without it, they say corporations will decide what you can see online and how fast you can see it.

      The argument probably won't be settled anytime soon, and when it is it will probably be the Supreme Court that settles it.

      The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the state of California, charging that its newly enacted net neutrality law places “unlawful burdens” on...

      Sprint sees grim future without merger

      The company tells the FCC it hasn't been able to ‘turn the corner'

      If regulators are looking for a reason to approve the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, Sprint is offering one. It says it can't guarantee its survival as an independent company.

      According to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing, the smallest of the four major carriers, said it is losing customers at a rapid rate. Losses have mounted in recent years, requiring Sprint to slash $10 billion from its operating budget.

      In its filing, the company said there is no more left to cut, leaving it with no way to make the investments required to keep up with technology developments, including 5G service.

      Sprint told the FCC that it has not been able to “turn the corner” with regard to its core business and sees its best hope by joining forces with T-Mobile.

      Review is on 'pause'

      The FCC is currently considering the two companies' merger proposal but has hit the pause button, extending the 180-day review period. The FCC said it needs the additional time because the two companies submitted a “substantially revised network engineering model,” explaining how they would combine technical operations.

      Even without the merger, both telecoms would have to make significant infrastructure investments to provide 5G wireless service. Both Verizon and AT&T are rolling out 5G service this year in a limited number of cities.

      The need for a robust 5G network that can compete with its two larger rivals was a principal reason T-Mobile offered in April when it announced plans to merge with Sprint.

      Currently, the FCC is considering the engineering aspects of the proposed union. Whether a merger would violate antitrust laws will be determined by the Department of Justice, which has yet to begin its review.

      There's already some opposition on that front. A group of Democratic Senators led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has expressed concern that reducing the number of major carriers from four to three would harm low-income consumers, who make up a large percentage of the two companies' subscribers.

      If regulators are looking for a reason to approve the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, Sprint is offering one. It says it can't guarantee its survival as an...

      Artificial sweeteners are toxic to the digestive system, study finds

      Researchers say that several FDA-approved products could be harmful to consumers

      A recent study has determined that several artificial sweeteners -- all of which are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- are toxic to consumers’ digestive systems.

      The sweeteners, which included aspartame, acesulfame potassium-K, neotame, advantame, saccharine, and sucralose, and 10 sports supplements that contain these flavors, have gained popularity because they don’t have as much sugar. However, many people are unaware the foods and drinks they’re consuming have these sweeteners in them.

      “The results of this study might help in understanding the relative toxicity of artificial sweeteners and the potential negative effects on the gut microbial community, as well as the environment,” said Professor Ariel Kushmaro, John A. Ungar chair of Biotechnology Engineering in the Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering.

      Toxic to the digestive system

      Researchers from Ben Gurion University used bioluminescent bacteria from E. coli to test the effects of the six sweeteners and the 10 sports supplements on the digestive system.

      “We modified bioluminescent E. coli bacteria, which luminesce when they detect toxicants, and act as a sensing model representative of the complex microbial system,” Prof. Kushmaro said.

      After interacting with just one mg/ml of the sweeteners, the bacteria in the digestive system was found to be toxic.

      “This is further evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely affects gut microbial activity, which can cause a wide range of health issues,” noted Prof. Kushmaro.

      Artificial sweeteners making headlines

      The effects artificial sweeteners have on consumers’ health continues to be a popular area of research, as many of the findings from previous studies have been inconclusive or conflicting. While many are drawn to the promise of lower calories, researchers have found some health risks associated with the flavorings.

      Last April, a study found that consuming low-calorie, artificial sweetener in excess could cause your body to accumulate more fat.

      “From our study, we believe that low-calorie sweeteners promote additional fat formation by allowing more glucose to enter the cells, and promotes inflammation, which may be more detrimental in obese individuals,” said Dr. Sabyasachi Sen, an Associate Professor of Medicine and Endocrinology at George Washington University, and the study’s lead researcher.

      Sen was particularly concerned because these findings were more prominent in people who were already obese and consuming the low-calorie sweetener in an effort to lose weight. People with diabetes or prediabetes were also exposed to increased risk due to the increase of glucose in the cells.

      However, where weight loss is concerned, a study at the end of 2016 found that in the short-term, deciding between sugary beverages and beverages with artificial sweetener produce the same result.

      The researchers found that insulin levels, daily energy, and glucose levels remained the same for all 30 male participants in their trial, regardless of whether they consumed a beverage with sugar, aspartame (a plant-derived artificial sweetener), or monk fruit. The researchers believe the reason to be that the food consumed throughout the day made up for the calories not found in the artificially-sweetened beverages.

      However, a key finding was the short-term nature of this study, as the researchers did point out that artificial sweeteners do affect body weight and energy levels in the long-term.

      A recent study has determined that several artificial sweeteners -- all of which are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- are toxic to con...